The Holy Spirit: It’s Purposes

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
John 16:13-14

What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives today?

Of all the gifts given to mankind by God, there is none greater than the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has many functions, roles, and activities. First, He does a work in the hearts of all people everywhere. Jesus told the disciples that He would send the Spirit into the world to “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-11). Everyone has a “God consciousness,” whether or not they admit it. The Spirit applies the truths of God to minds of men to convince them by fair and sufficient arguments that they are sinners. Responding to that conviction brings men to salvation.

Once we are saved and belong to God, the Spirit takes up residence in our hearts forever, sealing us with the confirming, certifying, and assuring pledge of our eternal state as His children. Jesus said He would send the Spirit to us to be our Helper, Comforter, and Guide. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever” (John 14:16). The Greek word translated here “Counselor” means “one who is called alongside” and has the idea of someone who encourages and exhorts. The Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence in the hearts of believers (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 12:13). Jesus gave the Spirit as a “compensation” for His absence, to perform the functions toward us which He would have done if He had remained personally with us.

Among those functions is that of revealer of truth. The Spirit’s presence within us enables us to understand and interpret God’s Word. Jesus told His disciples that “when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). He reveals to our minds the whole counsel of God as it relates to worship, doctrine, and Christian living. He is the ultimate guide, going before, leading the way, removing obstructions, opening the understanding, and making all things plain and clear. He leads in the way we should go in all spiritual things. Without such a guide, we would be apt to fall into error. A crucial part of the truth He reveals is that Jesus is who He said He is (John 15:26; 1 Corinthians 12:3). The Spirit convinces us of Christ’s deity and incarnation, His being the Messiah, His suffering and death, His resurrection and ascension, His exaltation at the right hand of God, and His role as the judge of all. He gives glory to Christ in all things (John 16:14).

Another one of the Holy Spirit’s roles is that of gift-giver. First Corinthians 12 describes the spiritual gifts given to believers in order that we may function as the body of Christ on earth. All these gifts, both great and small, are given by the Spirit so that we may be His ambassadors to the world, showing forth His grace and glorifying Him.

The Spirit also functions as fruit-producer in our lives. When He indwells us, He begins the work of harvesting His fruit in our lives—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These are not works of our flesh, which is incapable of producing such fruit, but they are products of the Spirit’s presence in our lives.

The knowledge that the Holy Spirit of God has taken up residence in our lives, that He performs all these miraculous functions, that He dwells with us forever, and that He will never leave or forsake us is cause for great joy and comfort. Thank God for this precious gift—the Holy Spirit and His work in our lives!

Should we worship the Holy Spirit?

We know that only God should be worshiped (see Exodus 34:14 and Revelation 22:9). Only God deserves worship. The question of whether we should worship the Holy Spirit is answered simply by determining whether the Spirit is God. If the Holy Spirit is God, then He can and should be worshiped.

Scripture presents the Holy Spirit as not merely a “force” but as a Person. The Spirit is referred to in personal terms (John 15:26; 16:7–8, 13–14). He speaks (1 Timothy 4:1), He loves (Romans 15:30), He chooses (Acts 13:2), He teaches (John 14:26), and He guides (Acts 16:7). He can be lied to (Acts 5:3–4) and grieved (Ephesians 4:30).

The Holy Spirit possesses the nature of deity—He shares the attributes of God. He is eternal (Hebrews 9:14). He is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7–10) and omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10–11). He was involved in the creation of the world (Genesis 1:2). The Holy Spirit enjoys intimate association with both the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19; John 14:16). When we compare Exodus 16:7 with Hebrews 3:7–9, we see that the Holy Spirit and Yahweh are the same (see also Isaiah 6:8 as compared to Acts 28:25).

Since the Holy Spirit is God, and God is “worthy of praise” (Psalm 18:3), then the Spirit is worthy of worship. Jesus, the Son of God, received worship (Matthew 28:9), so it stands to reason that the Spirit of God would also receive worship. Philippians 3:3 tells us that believers “worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus.” There is one God who eternally exists in three Persons. When we worship God, we naturally worship all three members of the Godhead.

How do we worship the Holy Spirit? The same way we worship the Father and the Son. Christian worship is spiritual, flowing from the inward workings of the Holy Spirit to which we respond by offering our lives to Him (Romans 12:1). We worship the Spirit by obedience to His commands. Referring to Christ, the apostle John explains that “those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 John 3:24). We see here the link between obeying Christ and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, convicting us of our need to worship by obedience and empowering us to worship.

What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?

Believers have the indwelling Spirit of Christ, the Comforter who proceeds from the Father (John 15:26). The Holy Spirit assists believers in prayer (Jude 1:20) and “intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:27). He also leads the believer into righteousness (Galatians 5:16–18) and produces His fruit in those yielded to Him (Galatians 5:22–23). Believers are to submit to the will of God and walk in the Spirit.

A “walk” in the Bible is often a metaphor for practical daily living. The Christian life is a journey, and we are to walk it—we are to make consistent forward progress. The biblical norm for all believers is that they walk in the Spirit: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25, KJV; cf. Romans 8:14). In other words, the Spirit gave us life in the new birth (John 3:6), and we must continue to live, day by day, in the Spirit.

To walk in the Spirit means that we yield to His control, we follow His lead, and we allow Him to exert His influence over us. To walk in the Spirit is the opposite of resisting Him or grieving Him (Ephesians 4:30).

Galatians 5 examines the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer. The context is freedom from the Law of Moses (Galatians 5:1). Those who walk in the Spirit “eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope” (verse 5) and are free from the Law (verse 18). Also, those who walk in the Spirit “will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (verse 16). The flesh—our fallen nature under the power of sin—is in direct conflict with the Spirit (verse 17). When the flesh is in charge, the results are obvious (verses 19–21). But when the Spirit is in control, He produces godly qualities within us, apart from the strictures of the Law (verses 22–23). Believers “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (verse 24), and now we walk in the Spirit (verse 25).

Those who walk in the Spirit are united with Him and are the bearers of the fruit the Spirit produces. Thus, those who walk in the Spirit walk in love—they live in love for God and for their fellow man. Those who walk in the Spirit walk in joy—they exhibit gladness in what God has done, is doing, and will do. Those who walk in the Spirit walk in peace—they live worry-free and refuse anxiety (Philippians 4:6). Those who walk in the Spirit walk in patience—they are known for having a “long fuse” and do not lose their temper. Those who walk in the Spirit walk in kindness—they show tender concern for the needs of others. Those who walk in the Spirit walk in goodness—their actions reflect virtue and holiness. Those who walk in the Spirit walk in faithfulness—they are steadfast in their trust of God and His Word. Those who walk in the Spirit walk in gentleness—their lives are characterized by humility, grace, and thankfulness to God. Those who walk in the Spirit walk in self-control—they display moderation, constraint, and the ability to say “no” to the flesh.

Those who walk in the Spirit rely on the Holy Spirit to guide them in thought, word, and deed (Romans 6:11–14). They show forth daily, moment-by-moment holiness, just as Jesus did when, “full of the Holy Spirit, [He] left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” to be tempted (Luke 4:1).

To walk in the Spirit is to be filled with the Spirit, and some results of the Spirit’s filling are thankfulness, singing, and joy (Ephesians 5:18–20; Colossians 3:16). Those who walk in the Spirit follow the Spirit’s lead. They “let the word of Christ dwell in [them] richly” (Colossians 3:16, ESV), and the Spirit uses the Word of God “for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Their whole way of life is lived according to the rule of the gospel, as the Spirit moves them toward obedience. When we walk in the Spirit, we find that the sinful appetites of the flesh have no more dominion over us.

How can I recognize the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told His disciples that He would send one who would teach and guide all those who believe in Him (Acts 1:5; John 14:26; 16:7). Jesus’ promise was fulfilled less than two weeks later when the Holy Spirit came in power on the believers at Pentecost (Acts 2). Now, when a person believes in Christ, the Holy Spirit immediately becomes a permanent part of his life (Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13–14).

The Holy Spirit has many functions. Not only does He distribute spiritual gifts according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7–11), but He also comforts us (John 14:16, KJV), teaches us (John 14:26), and remains in us as a seal of promise upon our hearts until the day of Jesus’ return (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). The Holy Spirit also takes on the role of Guide and Counselor, leading us in the way we should go and revealing God’s truth (Luke 12:12; 1 Corinthians 2:6–10).

But how do we recognize the Spirit’s guidance? How do we discern between our own thoughts and His leading? After all, the Holy Spirit does not speak with audible words. Rather, He guides us through our own consciences (Romans 9:1) and other quiet, subtle ways.

One of the most important ways to recognize the Holy Spirit’s guidance is to be familiar with God’s Word. The Bible is the ultimate source of wisdom about how we should live (2 Timothy 3:16), and believers are to search the Scriptures, meditate on them, and commit them to memory (Joshua 1:8). The Word is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17), and the Spirit will use it to speak to us (John 16:12–14) to reveal God’s will for our lives; He will also bring specific Scriptures to mind at times when we need them most (John 14:26).

Knowledge of God’s Word can help us to discern whether or not our desires come from the Holy Spirit. We must test our inclinations against Scripture—the Holy Spirit will never prod us to do anything contrary to God’s Word. If it conflicts with the Bible, then it is not from the Holy Spirit and should be ignored.

It is also necessary for us to be in continual prayer with the Father (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Not only does this keep our hearts and minds open to the Holy Spirit’s leading, but it also allows the Spirit to speak on our behalf: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26–27).

Another way to tell if we are following the Spirit’s leading is to look for signs of His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23). If we walk in the Spirit, we will continue to see these qualities grow and mature in us, and they will become evident to others as well.

It is important to note that we have the choice whether or not to accept the Holy Spirit’s guidance. When we know the will of God but do not follow it, we are resisting the Spirit’s work in our lives (Acts 7:51; 1 Thessalonians 5:19), and a desire to follow our own way grieves Him (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit will never lead us into sin. Habitual sin will cause us to miss what the Holy Spirit wants to say to us through the Word. Being in tune with God’s will, turning from and confessing sin, and making a habit of prayer and the study of God’s Word will allow us to recognize—and follow—the Spirit’s leading.

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