What is the work of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life? The Holy Spirit is involved in creation in the beginning and also inspires man to be creative. He is also involved in man’s redemption, salvation, transformation, and glorification.
For many, the Holy Spirit is a New Testament revelation. However, the Holy Spirit’s presence is from the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation.
The Holy Spirit is not new to the pages of Scripture; He plays a vital role in God’s plan of redemption, from creation to eternity. In Genesis 1:2, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, hovered over the formless void of creation. In the last chapter of Revelation, the Holy Spirit invites humanity to partake in God’s redemption (Revelation 22:17).
The Holy Spirit, along with the Son and Father are co-equal, or One God in Three Persons, sharing a single Divine essence or being. The term coined to describe this relationship is Trinity, although the word Trinity is not in the Bible, the term best describes the nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One God revealed in three persons.
As the Christian faith spread throughout the Roman and pagan worlds, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit came into question by some. They claimed the Holy Spirit was just the influence of God and not a person (John, 1954: 5). This research will discuss the works of the Holy Spirit.
We see the active work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for Spirit is xwr Ruwachmeaning wind or breath. The wind like the Spirit of God is unseen and active in the world. In the Old Testament, He is referred to as the Spirit of God, or the Spirit of the Lord, My Spirit, or just the Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:11, Isaiah 63:10,11).
According to Fairchild (2012), in the New Testament, the Greek word for Spirit is Pneuma, which like the Hebrew is derived from the meaning of wind or breath. The Holy Spirit is also called the Comforter or Helper, translated from the Greek word, paravklhtoß Parakletos, meaning one who comes alongside to plead the case before the judge (John 14:16,26;15:26). He is also called the Spirit of Jesus (Phil. 1:19).
Both Old and New Testaments testify to the divinity of the Holy Spirit, that He is not merely a force of God, but God Himself. A sampling of the many scriptures illustrates this point.
In the Old Testament times, the Spirit of God was active and selectively filled people, to accomplish the task. God’s Holy Spirit was involved in the creation of the universe; He gave prophetic utterances to the prophets and “filled” the Lord’s servants to accomplish the task at hand (Exodus 28:3, 31:3). Only through the Spirit of the Lord could Samson kill the charging Lion, the Spirit gave him this ability, empowering him, for God’s glory.
In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, knows all things and dwells in those who believe.
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God (I Corinthians 2:10-11).
The Holy Spirit dwelling in the Believer causes our very body to become the Temple of God since God the Holy Spirit is dwelling there.
As the Bible makes a distinction between the Father and the Son, both being distinct “persons”, the Holy Spirit is also a distinct person. One God, three-person, co-equal of one nature and essence, this is the nature of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit dwells in the believer, perfecting us for the day of Redemption (Schultze, 2000).
The attributes given to the Spirit can only be given to a person, not an inanimate force. For example, the Holy Spirit grieves, searches, talks, and teaches.
- He grieves with our actions and language. (Hebrew 10:29)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).
- He intercedes for us with groaning, prompting us to pray, (Romans 8:26)
- He searches our hearts (Romans 8:27)
- He talks to us (Acts 13;2, 16:6-7, Revelation 2:7)
- He teaches all things (John 14:26)
- He reminds us of scripture (John 14:26)
The ministry of the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son, and yet unified in purpose and plan. These distinctions are clear in the Gospel of John, the Holy Spirit, proceeds from the Father, sent by Jesus.
These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14:25-26
But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. John 15:26
The Holy Spirit also has a mind, (Romans 8:27, I Cor. 2:10-11, 12:11). The Holy Spirit executes God’s will in our life, sent from the Father, through the redemption of the Son.
The Holy Spirit was in the beginning, He was involved in the creation, and He is involved in humanities’ redemption, salvation, transformation, and glorification. When we understand the role of the Holy Spirit in redemption, we are enabled to plug into the vast power of God’s Holy Spirit.
McQuilkin (2000), has categorized the work or activities of the Holy Spirit, into ten activities, seven of which focus inward, and three of which are focused outward. The inward activities of the Holy Spirit, transform fallen humanity, allowing them to go forward and accomplish the outward activities of the Spirit in a fallen world.
Many times, this works or process can be painful and a learning experience depending on how much we cooperate with him along the way. Trials are sent to build up our faith and teach us to trust in the God we now have a personal relationship with.
Creative work of the Holy Spirit
The Spirit of God was with Father and the Son at the creation of the Universe, in Genesis 1:2, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”. Verse 26, God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;”. We are in the image of God, we have the characteristics of God, we create, we love, we have anger and we become jealous. God modeled us after Himself (Genesis 9:6).
Gaffin (1979), noted that when Adam and Eve fell, all mankind fell, though we were made in God’s image, our nature had become fallen. Darkness came upon all the descendants of humanity, God however promised the eventual redemption of humanity through the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15-17), the Messiah.
The fallen nature of humanity is demonstrated before and after the flood, before the flood, every thought of man was continually violent (Genesis 6:13), and after the flood, the descendants of humanity were corrupted again. God’s image, man conflicts with God’s Spirit (Genesis 6:3) For this reason, God scattered humanity after the tower of Babel, throughout the earth. Our iniquities separated us from God, causing a separation between humanity and the Creator, without God-man, are completely lost.
God however put a plan of redemption in place, which involved the revealing work of God’s Holy Spirit, who through prophets, proclaimed God’s salvation to the nations.
Revelation work of the Holy Spirit
Following the fall, our ability to know and understand God, let alone ourselves was damaged and corrupt. Apart from God, we could not even know who we are, or where we came from. This “blindness” is demonstrated by the thousands of different theories and religions, which have developed over the millennia (Wayne, 1994). When in his illustration asked the following questions. How did we get here? Where are we going? Both science and religion attempt to find the answers to these questions. Did we come from nothing? Were we created by the Sun? Are we animals? The questions go on and on.
Only through God’s revelation of Himself, could we ever know who we are. Isaiah paints the picture of our lost condition, like blind men we grope along the walls. We are lost and without hope.
Therefore justice is far from us, Nor does righteousness overtake us; We look for light, but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness! We grope for the wall like the blind, And we grope as if we had no eyes; We stumble at noonday as at twilight; We are as dead men in desolate places. Isaiah 59:9-10
God revealed Himself to us through His Spirit, who spoke through the prophets, Moses through the Spirit of God revealed God’s will to Israel (Numbers 11:17), the people through whom God would work Redemption for all humanity.
For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21
Without being aware of our condition, our need for redemption, and the provision for salvation, we would remain in the lost state. Just having the word of God is not enough, we are still blind without the Holy Spirit’s light. The Holy Spirit leads a lost person to redemption, the Holy Spirit reveals the light and leads us to it, so we can understand the Word.
Redemption work of the Holy Spirit
Before we can be redeemed, we need to know we need redemption. In his book, Elwell Walter (1997) stated that the problem for many, who rely on their works, is they have a false sense of security. They don’t see their need for redemption, as far as they are concerned, they are not lost.
The Pharisees illustrate this point, being lost and not knowing it, since they relied on their works and self-righteousness, they saw no need for redemption. Contrast this to the tax collectors and harlots; they knew they were lost because their works did not blind them.
Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. “For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him. Matthew 21:31-32
The Holy Spirit has a two-fold part in redemption, first, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, then the Holy Spirit leads us to repentance of sins. We can’t repent if we don’t think we need repenting. In the same vein, we limit the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, once we rely on our righteousness.
Therefore, when we rely on God’s righteousness and mercy, we are led to redemption, this occurs when the Holy Spirit dwells in us.
Indwelling work of the Holy Spirit
Once we realize we are lost and need redemption, the Holy Spirit leads us to repentance and salvation. Then the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our bodies because we now have the righteousness of Christ. We are “Born Again” of the Spirit (John 3:3,6,8), our bodies are now the Temple of God because God’s Holy Spirit dwells in us (I Cor. 3:17).
Now with God dwelling inside our earthly bodies, we have the power of the Holy Spirit, we no longer need to rely on our power. We can now have victory over the flesh, because of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. Romans 8:8-9
Without the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we are outside of Christ, we do not have His redemption, we have only our works. With the Spirit, God gives us the ability to have our lives transformed.
Understanding the dynamics of the Holy Spirit and the mechanics of His relationship with the believer could be illustrated by comparing two sailors. One sailor knows how the oceans and winds operate in relation to his boat, allowing him to sail the waters, while a second sailor ignorant of the winds and sailing mechanics can find himself destroyed by any unexpected storm (Macchia, 2006).
We in many ways are sailors in the ocean of life, though we are saved when we know Christ, there is still a method to living a successful Christian walk, as opposed to living without a method. Jesus could calm the storms, because He was the author of creation (John 1:1-3). Through God’s Spirit, we have the power of Christ, dwelling in us.
God operates according to His Word; He has given us His word, that we may know Him. He wants us, to use His word that we might have His light in this dark world, and become His representatives to the lost and dying.
If we strive to understand the Holy Spirit, and how God’s Spirit functions, we can become master sailors in the sea of life, powered by the wind of God’s Spirit, rather than our own power and strength. Many Christians try to sail the ocean of life in their strength and power, they miss the dynamic power of God’s Spirit, which is within every saved person.
Gaffin, Richard B. Jr. (1979), Perspectives on Pentecost. P&R Publishing.
John F. Walvoord, (1954). The Holy Spirit, Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Macchia, Frank D. (2006), Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
Mary Fairchild, (2012). Divine Works of the Holy Spirit. About.com: Christianity Guide.
McQuilkin, Robertson. (2000), Life in the Spirit, Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Rudem, Wayne. (1994), Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
Schultze, Reimar (2000), The Work of the Holy Spirit. Kokomo, USA: Schultze.org, 2000.