First Principles Part Six: The Holy Spirit

WE INDEED HAVE VICTORY through the blood of Christ. First, we surrender our will and our life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He is the one and only source for living a life free from the bondage of sin. Overcoming our sin nature requires living a life that does not thirst after the world. When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are born-again and perfected by the Word of God. It is only through Jesus that we can be restored to favor and become adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Because Christ overcame the flesh for us, we can walk in victory over sin. But this hinges on our willingness to crucify the flesh and start walking by the Holy Spirit. In the Book of Acts, Luke wanted to highlight the central significance of the Spirit of God in our conversion-initiation. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that makes one into a Christian (Acts 2:38-39). We are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). At the day of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, as Peter was preaching the Holy Spirit descended upon the crowd and filled everyone. They were all filled with Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4). Today’s lesson will explore the vital and powerful ministry of the Spirit of God.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead. The word spirit (Gr. pneuma) is the word used in ancient times to explain the presence of “divine power.” Under the Old Covenant, the Spirit of God operated on individuals and in situations, but He did not enter or indwell anyone. The story of Christianity has been unfolding since the beginning of all creation, and the thread of God’s plan for redemption is seen in all of Scripture. It was not until the fulfillment of that plan that the Holy Spirit could make a home in the hearts of believers. Although the term “Christian” first appeared at Antioch (Acts 11:26), Christianity officially began with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. (Acts 2:2-4; 17-18). Paul said, “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 1:21-22).

In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul speaks of us becoming ministers of the New Covenant, noting we are made “…sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). We cry out, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17). We have been given the Holy Spirit as promised by Christ: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17). This was one of the upper room promises delivered by Jesus before His crucifixion. Matthew Henry writes that the Holy Spirit is not given to the world, but only to those who are followers of Jesus. He writes, “This is the favour [sic] God bears to his chosen. As the source of holiness and happiness, the Holy Spirit will abide with every believer for ever.”(1)

Why Did the Holy Spirit Come?

To further understand who the Holy Spirit is, we turn to the Greek word paraklétos (παράκλητος) used by Christ (John 14:16). The NKJV and ESV translations use the word “helper,” which is on point with the true definition. A paraklétos comes alongside as one’s advocate, advisor-helper, and intercessor. It is a masculine noun that literally means, “called to one’s aid.” The American Standard Version, Darby Translation, King James Version, and New King James Version translate paraklétos as “comforter.” Eugene Peterson’s The Message uses the word “friend.” Most other translations use either “helper,” “advocate,” or “counselor,” all of which are consistent with the words spoken by Christ to the twelve disciples at the Last Supper.

“The Holy Ghost is the advocate in men’s hearts. Ah! I have known men reject a doctrine until the Holy Ghost began to illuminate them. We, who are the advocates of the truth, are often very poor pleaders; we spoil our cause by the words we use; but it is a mercy that the brief is in the hand of a special pleader, who will advocate successfully, and overcome the sinner’s opposition.”(2)

The Holy Spirit is our guarantee of God’s complete salvation (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14). He is the “first-fruits” of God’s final harvest of men (Rom. 8:23). He represents the first installment of the believer’s inheritance of the Kingdom of God (Rom. 8:15-17; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 15:42-50; Gal. 4:6-7; 5:16-18; 21:23; Eph. 1:13-14). Paul tells us the gift of the Spirit commences a lifelong process of sanctification that will not end until we have been brought completely under the Spirit’s direction (Rom. 8:11, 23; 1 Cor. 15:42-49; 2 Cor. 3:18, 5:1-5). The life that begins with the Spirit of God depends on the Spirit. Indeed, to receive the Holy Spirit is to begin the Christian life (Gal. 3:2-3). To be baptized in the Holy Spirit is to become a member of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13)—a divine “seal” that established the bond between God and the believer. Paul identifies our justification by faith and the promise of the Spirit as “the blessings of Abraham” (Gal. 3:1-14). There is a great deal of eschatological tension between “walking by the Spirit” and “walking in the flesh.”

We are enabled by the Holy Spirit to do the works of Christ (Phil 4:13). Through the Spirit, God provides our every need of according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus that we might further the gospel (Phil. 4:19). Accordingly, we are able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think through the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us (Gal. 3:20). God’s Spirit is grieved by bitterness, wrath, anger, speaking evil of others, malice. He is excited by kindness, tenderness, forgiveness, grace, and community. Rather than grieve the Holy Spirit, we must cooperate with Him in the interest of teaching and guiding one another in all truth. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to witness and to defend the reason for our faith. We receive Him by asking in faith. Our relationship with Him is strengthened by our confession. Jesus said, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13).

The Spirit of Christ

We have restoration with the Father through the Holy Spirit. Out of the diversity of God’s Spirit we have unity of the church. Paul explains how the church becomes a community of believers which is carried forth by the Holy Spirit. Under the New Covenant, the Spirit is now seen as the Spirit of Jesus. “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom. 8:9). God has sent us the Spirit of His Son (Gal. 4:6). Paul told us that to live is Christ. He writes, “…for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance” (Phil. 1:19). We are talking about the Spirit that bears witness to Jesus (John 15:26; 16:13014; 1 Cor. 12:3). This same Spirit empowered Jesus Christ to carry out His earthly ministry. It is the Spirit of sonship that restores our relationship with the Father. Romans 8:15-17 says we are children of God, joint-heirs with Christ.

Steven Barto, B.S. Psy., M.A. Theo.

(1) Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Entire Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1997), 1006.
(2) C.H. Spurgeon, A Sermon (No. 5) Delivered January 21, 1855, New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, UK.

Unless otherwise specified, all Scripture references contained herein are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

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