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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Holy Spirit: How He Works

Don Stewart :: How Does the Holy Spirit Work?

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How Does the Holy Spirit Work?

The Holy Spirit: How He Works – Question 1

According to Scripture, the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, is always at work. We can make the following observations about this biblical truth.

1. There Is Always Something Happening with the Holy Spirit

Whenever we find the Holy Spirit at work in Scripture something is always happening. Whether it be in the physical universal, in the life of an unrepentant sinner, or in the believer, when the Holy Spirit is at work things are happening. He is the “Executor” of the Trinity – the One who carries out God’s work.

Therefore, when we come across the Holy Spirit in the Bible we find “God in action.” He is the member of the Godhead that carries out God’s work in our world.

2. The Holy Spirit Works beyond Our Understanding

Not only does the Holy Spirit work, He works in ways that are beyond our understanding. In fact, Jesus compared the Spirit to the wind.

Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit (John 3:8 NLT).

The blowing wind is something which is unexplainable. In the same manner, the working of the Holy Spirit is also without explanation. Although something is always occurring when He works, the Holy Spirit works in ways which are beyond our understanding. Yet when He works and why He works cannot be comprehended.

3. The Holy Spirit Works as He Desires

The Holy Spirit works in a sovereign manner. He works in the ways which He desires. The work of the Spirit is in accordance to the purposes of God. As the wind blows where it wishes so the Spirit of God works where He desires.

4. The Holy Spirit Works Differently in Each Life

Many people think that the Holy Spirit should work in the lives of others as He does in their own life. But this is not the case. God’s Spirit works as He wills – not how we think He should. His work is special for each human being. This is something which each of us must appreciate.

5. He Works Both Visibly and Invisibly

Some Bible students have divided the work of the Holy Spirit into two categories – indwelling and outgoing. The indwelling works are the works of the Spirit that are invisible to the human eye while the outgoing are those that are visible to humanity.

The indwelling works are in the eternal realm while the outgoing works have been accomplished in the physical realm. While this has been the way certain people categorize the work of the Holy Spirit we do not find the Bible dividing His work in this manner.

6. The Holy Spirit Works in Every Sphere: Physical and Moral

The work of God the Holy Spirit is in both the physical and moral spheres. The Holy Spirit not only created the universe and now sustains the physical universe which He created.

In addition, He also convicts sinners of their need for Jesus Christ, indwells those who believe, and sets them apart for service to the Lord. His ongoing work is performed everywhere.

7. The Holy Spirit Has Worked from the Beginning

There is a popular misconception that the main work of God the Father was in creation, God the Son, Jesus Christ, did His main work in redeeming the world through His death on the cross, and God the Holy Spirit is presently working in the salvation of the believer.

Putting it another way, the Old Testament was the era of the Father, the New Testament was the era of the Son, and the present era is the era of the Holy Spirit. This would indicate the Holy Spirit was relatively silent until the present age. Is this what the Bible teaches?

This common idea is simply not true. The Bible teaches that in every work of God, in all ages, each of the three members of the Trinity was intimately involved. Each member of the Trinity has been personally involved in creation, in redemption, and in salvation.

Likewise the members of the Holy Trinity were all active in the Old Testament age, the New Testament era, and at the present time.

8. The Holy Spirit Is Involved in Every Divine Activity

We can put it this way. The Bible teaches that in every activity of God, God the Father authors it, the Son, Jesus Christ, arranges it, and the Holy Spirit brings it to completion. Therefore the Holy Spirit is working in every phase of divine activity.

9. The Holy Spirit Is Always Connected to Jesus

The work of the Holy Spirit is always in close connection to what God the Son, Jesus Christ, accomplished upon the earth some two thousand years ago. The Spirit of God is the one who presently does the work of God the Son here upon the earth.

When the Spirit of the Lord is at work, it is the presence and power of God as He is known in the Person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus returned to heaven the Bible says that He sent the Holy Spirit to create the church – made up of both Jew and Gentile. The Apostle Paul wrote the following to the Ephesians.

For Christ himself has made peace between us Jews and you Gentiles by making us all one people. He has broken down the wall of hostility that used to separate us. By his death he ended the whole system of Jewish law that excluded the Gentiles. His purpose was to make peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new person from the two groups (Ephesians 2:14, 15 NLT).

Thus, a new work was created; a group of believers in Christ who were both Jew and Gentile.

The church is called the body of Christ. Paul used this designation in his letter to the Corinthians when he wrote the following.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it (1 Corinthians 12:27 NRSV).

The metaphor “body of Christ” describes well the function of believers. It speaks of a group of members performing separate functions under the control of one living power. When God the Son, Jesus Christ, was on the earth, the Holy Spirit worked through His human body. Today, He works through the human bodies of those who have believed in Jesus – the church.

10. The Holy Spirit Calls Out People for the Sake of Jesus Christ

While the Spirit of God was involved in creating and sustaining the universe, the distinctive work of the Holy Spirit in this age is to call out a people for Jesus Christ’s name. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon believers in a unique way.

Indeed, in the first chapter of the Book of Acts we read the following promise of Jesus to His disciples shortly before He ascended into heaven.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8 TNIV).

Thus, the Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus to His disciples. He would give them power to testify about Jesus Christ.

On the Day of Pentecost that prophecy began to be fulfilled. The Bible records what took place in the following manner.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4 NKJV).

The Holy Spirit came down in a unique way on the Pentecost.

The number of believers in Christ grew when Peter invited the multitude to trust in Jesus. The Book of Acts says.

Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church—about three thousand in all (Acts 2:41 NLT)

Three thousand people believed that particular day when the Holy Spirit filled the believers.

At the council of Jerusalem, James, the brother of Jesus, explained what God is doing in this age – He is calling out a people to follow Him. James said.

Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself (Acts 15:14 NLT).

When this is accomplished, and the full number of the Gentiles will be in the kingdom, then the Lord Jesus will return from heaven.

Paul wrote about this to the Romans.

Brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery so that you won’t become arrogant. The minds of some Israelites have become closed until all of God’s non-Jewish people are included (Romans 11:25 God’s Word).

The Holy Spirit convicts Jews, as well as Gentiles, of their need for Jesus Christ. Therefore, in this present age, the Holy Spirit is the primary member of the Trinity who makes Himself known to human beings.

Summing up the Work of the Holy Spirit

In the Old Testament God is portrayed as One who is awesome and powerful. He sits on His throne in the heavens. When God worked with humanity it was through His Spirit – He is the One who executed the plan of God.

When we come to the New Testament, we find that God the Son became a human being in Jesus Christ. The human Jesus accomplished His mission by the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit. Once Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven He sent the Holy Spirit to represent Him upon the earth.

Hence in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit carried out God’s will, in the gospels He empowered Jesus to do His work, and today He lives inside of the people of God and speaks to them about Jesus.

Summary – Question 1
How Does the Holy Spirit Work?

Whenever we encounter the Holy Spirit in Scripture we discover that something is happening. He works in the lives of people as well as in the physical universe.

Although something is always occurring when He works, the Holy Spirit works in ways which are beyond our human understanding. When He works and why He works is beyond our comprehension. We must accept that fact.

In our present age, the works of the Holy Spirit are always connected with that of God the Son, Jesus Christ. When Jesus left the earth after His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to do His work upon the earth. The Holy Spirit will continue to do the work of Jesus Christ until the time when Christ returns to the world.

The Holy Spirit has been at work from the beginning. He has been intimately involved in the creation of the universe and was busy throughout the remainder of the Old Testament era.

Likewise the Holy Spirit was involved in redeeming the world through the work of Jesus Christ.

In our present age, He is also intimately involved in bringing people to faith in Jesus. Therefore, it is wrong to limit His work to the present age, as it is wrong to limit God the Father to the Old Testament period, and God the Son to the New Testament.

In the Old Testament period the Holy Spirit carried out God’s work. In the Gospels, He empowered Jesus Christ to do His work. Today, He lives inside those who have believed in Jesus, the New Testament church. The Holy Spirit is the One who carries on the work of Jesus in our present age.

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