The Holy Spirit
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
John 14:16, 17, 26:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
As we study the New Testament we will see that each member of the Godhead has a specific part to play in our salvation. According to the great commission that Jesus gave in Matthew 28:19, He told His disciples that when believers are baptized, it should be done in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
The reason that is done is because all three Persons of the Godhead are involved in our salvation and the whole of heaven is concerned about our salvation.
In our study of the Bible, we discover God the Father’s part in the plan of salvation. For example, we read in John 3:17 that God sent His Son not to condemn us but to save us:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Then, in John 6:38, Jesus said:
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
In Galatians 4:4-5, Paul says:
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
So the Father is the Director of the plan of salvation.
The Son, Jesus Christ, is the Saviour of all men. In Luke 2:11, the angel, speaking to the shepherds, announced to them:
Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
In John 4:42, Jesus is referred to as the Saviour of the world:
They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.”
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:10 describing Jesus as the Saviour of all men:
...(And for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe.
Christ, and in His doing, dying, and resurrection has reconciled us to God; He has redeemed us; He has rewritten our history, so that in Christ every one of us can come to God boldly without fear, with full assurance, because there in Christ we stand accepted in the Beloved.
Let us direct our thoughts and our attention to the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Godhead, and look at the part He has to play in our salvation. The Holy Spirit is “The Communicator.” Throughout Scripture, His function is as the active Agent of God in our salvation and He is also the active Agent in other things. While the Father sent Jesus into this world in order that there might be a gospel to be preached, God sends the Holy Spirit to make this gospel real in our experience. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
We will look at two aspects of the Holy Spirit. The first one to consider is the personhood of the Holy Spirit; then we will do an overview of His activity, especially in the area of our salvation. The reason we want to examine the personhood of the Holy Spirit is because there are some who do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a Person. The error of treating the Holy Spirit in an impersonal way may be traced back to about the Third Century A.D. Unfortunately, this has not been brought to an end. Back in the Third Century, the theory was advanced that the Holy Spirit is an influence; He is the revelation of the Divine power, but He is not a Person. Unfortunately, this is still being taught and believed by some today. Therefore, we must go to Scripture.
Both the Old and the New Testament speak of the Holy Spirit not as a mere “Something,” but as a Divine “Someone.” I believe that most of us — I hope all of us — believe in the Holy Spirit as a Person, but we need some evidence. In Romans 8:27, the Apostle Paul speaks about the mind of the Holy Spirit:
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.
In Romans 15:30, Paul talks about the love of the Holy Spirit:
I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.
The Holy Spirit has a mind and He’s capable of loving.
In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit played a very important part in the early Christian church. We read in Acts 8:29 that the Holy Spirit spoke to Philip and an “influence” doesn’t speak:
The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
In Acts 16:6-7, we are told that the Holy Spirit restrained and constrained the Apostle Paul:
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.
None of these things are possible without a personality. A “force,” an “influence” cannot do that.
When we further examine the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, we discover that the Holy Spirit can search. 1 Corinthians 2:10:
...But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
He can cry. Galatians 4:6:
Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
He can pray. Romans 8:26:
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.
He can testify. John 15:26-27:
When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
He can teach. John 14:26:
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
He can lead people into truth. Romans 8:14:
...Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
None of these make sense if we describe the Holy Spirit and limit Him only as an influence or a power. So the Bible is clear that the Holy Spirit is a Person and, because He is a Person, the Bible says that He can be grieved. Ephesians 4:30:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
He can be blasphemed. He can be insulted. Mark 3:29:
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.
And that is, of course, the unpardonable sin.
When we are dealing with the Holy Spirit, we are dealing with a Person, a Person that God has sent to make real, in our experience, the truth as it is in Christ.
The Activities of the Holy Spirit
Let us go through some texts to show the activity of the Holy Spirit. Twelve is the number of the Christian church, and we will study 12 main activities of the Holy Spirit. As we look at these texts, we will see clearly the very important part that the Holy Spirit plays in our salvation.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Here right in the very first chapter of the Bible in Genesis, the second verse, we are told that the Holy Spirit was active in the creation of this world.
You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
It is puzzling to her because she is a virgin, so she asks, “How can this happen?” And this is what the angel says in Luke 1:35:
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
To explain how it all happened, we read in Philippians 2:6 that Jesus was equal with God:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped....
But He did something: He emptied Himself; He gave up His very life to the Father, the Chairman, the Director of the plan of salvation.
The Father took the life of Christ, now totally emptied of self, which means He gave up all His Divine rights, all His Divine prerogatives, voluntarily. He handed Himself over to the Father. The Father took the life of Christ and handed it over to the Holy Spirit who was the active Agent of God. The Holy Spirit brought Christ down — this is a mystery — and planted that Divine life into the womb of Mary. There in that womb humanity and Divinity were united, and Christ now became qualified to be the Saviour of all human beings.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he [the Spirit] has anointed me [has set me aside] to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
All this Christ accomplished, but it was the Holy Spirit that worked in Him. This is important because that same Spirit that fulfilled God’s mission in Christ is made available to us, the very same Spirit. Verse 14 is an example of this. The same chapter, Luke 4, deals with the three temptations of Jesus Christ, which, in a nutshell, sum up all the temptations that come to man. Three basic statements sum up the temptations that come to each one of us. They are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life and these three temptations of Jesus fit into those categories. Luke 4:14 tells us what happened after Jesus had gained the victory over those temptations:
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.
Jesus did not conquer the Devil in His own strength; it was through the power of the Spirit.
For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
That same Spirit that moved the writers of this book, the Holy Bible, must also illuminate us when we study Scripture. It is important that ministers get training, that they understand the original languages, that they get background material, the Old and New Testament, but, when we come to the Word of God, whether we are trained or not trained, whether we are a ministers or laypeople, there is one Person who can guide us into truth. A knowledge of Greek and Hebrew is not enough. It is a useful tool, but it is the Spirit that must guide us into truth. It is a tragedy that the Christian church, the scholars, are moving to a method where they depend on the human rationale to discover truth. Human reason is important but it must be subject to the Word of God. We may be living in the Scientific Age, and the Computer Age, but God knew about science and computers long before we were born, before we were created. He knows much more than we know. Wait until we get to heaven; we’ll be like dwarfs before the angels and other people. Remember, the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible writers and He must illuminate us.
When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment....
We cannot emphasize enough that it is not the work of man to convict people; it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our job is witnessing. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts them of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
The Spirit and the bride [the bride is the people of God being used by the Holy Spirit] say, “Come!“ And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
God has given us the responsibility of witnessing the gospel. We witness and we tell people, “Come and accept the gift,” but it is the Holy Spirit that goes right deep into their conscience and says, “Don’t be a fool; don’t reject this invitation.” He is the One who draws people to Jesus Christ. That is His work and that is why witnessing is not left to the believer. It is left to the Holy Spirit to do His work in and through us.
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
“You must be born again. You must be born of the Spirit.” The new birth is produced by the Holy Spirit.
When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father [the Father is still the Chairman], the Spirit of truth [notice He is called the Spirit of Truth] who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.
The Holy Spirit does not reveal things about Himself. The work of the Holy Spirit is to testify of Jesus Christ. He is to make the gospel real to our experience. Verse 27:
And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
One of three texts which clearly point out that the Holy Spirit is the means of our sanctification is 2 Thessalonians 2:13. Two of them are from the Apostle Paul who believes in sanctification. What He condemns is when we make sanctification meritorious. Sanctification is the fruits of justification. Never does it make any contribution towards justification. We are saved by grace alone through faith. That is why we need to study the book of Galatians, because Galatians is God’s righteous indignation on the Judaizers who were adding works to justification by faith. This text shows the means of sanctification, the Holy Spirit. 2 Thessalonians 2:13:
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord [talking to believers who have accepted Christ], because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
Notice, the Holy Spirit is the active Agent of God in our sanctification. In 1 Peter 1:2, Peter says the same thing. Here he is addressing the Christians of the Middle East, and in verse 2 he says:
...Who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Here it is pointed out that one of the works of the Holy Spirit is to sanctify the believers who have been washed by the blood of Jesus Christ. How does He do it, and what part do we have to play? The third text which answers that question is 2 Corinthians 3:17:
Now the Lord is the Spirit...
In other words, Christ today is represented by the Holy Spirit. Christ Himself is in heaven, but the Spirit is here. We are living in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
And then he explains what kind of freedom is meant here. He’s not talking about political or economic freedom. Look at verse 18 [2 Corinthians 3:18]:
And we, who with unveiled faces all [believers, all of us] reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
When Moses came down from the mountain and spoke to the Jews, they asked him to put a veil between them and him because the glory of God was too much for them to bear. But Paul tells us in Corinthians that, when we come to Christ, this veil is removed because there is no barrier between a holy God and sinful man in Jesus Christ. So, with open, unveiled faces we come boldly to God, “reflecting the Lord’s glory.” When we look in a mirror we see ourselves. We use the law as a mirror, and we see filth. But when we look at the mirror of Christ — when we look at ourselves in Christ — we don’t see filth. We see righteousness, blamelessness, because that is what we are in Christ.
At Jesus’ baptism, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus and God spoke to Jesus from heaven, He said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22:
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Desire of Ages, by Ellen G. White, page 113, says, “This includes all humanity.” That’s good news, because, in Christ, God is well pleased with us. In Him, we stand complete and perfect. As we look at ourselves, not through the law as the mirror, but through the mirror of Jesus Christ, as we behold Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished for the human race, something takes place within us. As we behold the glory of the Lord, we “reflect the Lord’s glory,” and “are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” There is a transformation of our characters to reflect the love and character of our Lord Jesus Christ but notice the last part. It is the Spirit that reproduces the character of Christ in us. We can’t do it; all we can do is hypocrisy. We are shams without the Holy Spirit.
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
When Christ went up to heaven, He bestowed gifts upon the church — making some Apostles, some prophets, some teachers and pastors — for the building up of the church. 1 Corinthians 12:7 tells us that the gifts of the Spirit are for the profit of the whole body:
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
The church is the body of Christ and each member of the body needs each other to grow and be established. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.
By “power from on high” Jesus did not mean some “influence,” because in Acts 1:8 we read,
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.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth.
The word that Jesus used for “Counselor” (or “Comforter” in some translations) is parakletos, which means more than a Comforter. It means somebody who is by your side or in you to be your Helper, to be your Guide, to be your Comforter, to be everything to you. So it’s more than a Comforter. And Jesus said, “I will send you the Holy Spirit to be by your side, to be your parakletos, to be in you, to guide you, to help you, to strengthen you, to direct you and to comfort you.”
We human beings depend on each other for comfort, for being upheld. There will come a time when we will have no other human being to help us. We need to learn to depend on the Holy Spirit for that comfort. Our Pastor may forsake us, our church may forsake us, our Conference President may forsake us, but the Holy Spirit will never forsake us. That is why we need to know that He will by our side.
...The Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him [He’s not something visible; He’s a Person, but He’s a Spirit and He dwells in you] nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
A better translation is, “I will not leave you helpless. I will be with you until I come and take you home, which is still future.”
So from the beginning of the plan of salvation to the end, all three Members of the Godhead are involved. God doesn’t say, “I have saved you in Christ, now I leave the rest to you.” It’s from beginning to end the work of God. We are simply tools, instruments in His hands. In Christ, God saved us. Through the Holy Spirit that salvation is internalized. The crying need of the church is to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
The church today stands challenged. The great pagan philosopher Neitzche, who was the son of a Lutheran Pastor, gave up Christianity and became an atheist. He was one of the greatest philosophers, and addressing the Christian church He said, “If you expect me to believe in your Redeemer, you Christians will have to look a lot more redeemed.” It is only as we allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and to control us as we walk in the Spirit that that will power be manifested. Without that all they will see is the “fair showing of the flesh,” which is worthless.
It is my prayer in Jesus’ name that we will walk in the Spirit and will allow the third Person of the Godhead to accomplish and finish the work He has been assigned to do in our lives.