The subject of the Holy Spirit is a very emotional and divisive one in today’s church. This is because it concerns the experience that people have. However, our claims must always be tested by the teaching of the Bible (1 Thessalonians 5:21, 1 John 4:1). This does not quench the Spirit because it is what the Spirit has commanded in the Word! We have been warned to expect there will always be false prophets (Matthew 7:15, 24:24, 2 Peter 2:1, 1 John 4:1).
(1) Without the powerful work of the Holy Spirit no one would become a Christian. Write down the words that describe what the Holy Spirit does: convict the world (John 16:8); preaching comes with conviction of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4, 1 Thessalonians 1:5); washing and regeneration of the sinner (Titus 3:5, remember John 3:1-8); and holy (= being set apart, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2).
(2) The Holy Spirit comes to permanently indwell every Christian (John 14:17, Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Timothy 1:14). Christ came to save us from our sins so that we might receive the Spirit as the central gift of the new covenant (read Ezekiel 36:26-27, John 7:39, Acts 2:33, 2 Corinthians 3:8, Galatians 3:14). If you have not received the Holy Spirit then you are not a Christian. How can you know if the Spirit lives in you? Speaking in tongues is not the evidence, as tongues was not a gift given to all (see 1 Corinthians 12:30). In Romans 8:12-17 three evidences are given: every Christian kill the deeds of the body by the Spirit (vv.12-13); is led by the Spirit in this way of fighting against sin (vv.14-15); and experiences the Spirit witnesses with his spirit that he is a child of God (vv.16-17).
(3) This personal indwelling of the Spirit in every Christian is so important as it is the assurance God gives us of final glory in heaven. So the Spirit’s indwelling is described as seal (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13, 4:30), guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5, Ephesians 1:14), and first-fruits (Romans 8:23). Each of these three words emphasize the spiritual security of the one who has received the Spirit.
(4) Many wrongly think that to be “baptized” with the Spirit is an experience after conversion. Rather, to be baptized with the Spirit is a way of describing part of our conversion. Baptism means to be dipped into something, so it is to say that the Spirit powerfully indwells the believer. This was the experience of all the Corinthians and it united them (1 Corinthians 12:13). When Cornelius was baptized with the Spirit it was the evidence of repentance unto life (Acts 11:18).
(1) We are also dependent upon the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in our Christian lives. We are to filled by the Spirit as the One who gives us power to live our lives (Galatians 5:16,25). Paul prays that Christians might be walk/live through the Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). The Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17, 15:26), who teaches us spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:13-16, Ephesians 1:17). It is the Spirit who enables us to pray (Ephesians 2:18, 6:18, Jude 20); who gives us strength to put our sins to death (Romans 8:13); and who enables us to wait for our hope to be realized (Galatians 5:5). But above all the Spirit is the One who enables us to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
- The Bible does not teach that we can become holy by a special experience of the Spirit, or by a special act of surrender on our part. Rather, producing fruit is our responsibility because the Holy Spirit of God indwells us (see Philippians 2:12-13). This sanctification, or becoming holy like Christ, is a life-long struggle against sin, which will only be complete when the Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies in the resurrection from the dead (Romans 8:11).
- Some people claim they are ‘Spirit-filled’ because they have had some experience. But to be “filled” with the Spirit is to be controlled by Him and the sort of life that is lived by such a person is described in Ephesians 5:18-33. It has nothing to do with having certain spiritual gifts. For example, what does verse 20 say a ‘Spirit-filled’ person will do? Give thanks always to God What does verse 25 say a
‘Spirit-filled’ husband will do? Love his wife.
- All true Christians have a common experience of the Spirit indwelling. This is the basis of our unity in the church (1 Corinthians 12:13, see Ephesians 4:3). Therefore our unity as Christians is a spiritual unity, and is expressed in the local church.
- For the benefit of each member of the local church the Spirit gives gifts. The purpose of spiritual gifts is not for the individual but for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7). Over and over again, in the discussion of the use of the gifts prophecy and tongues, the principle of building is the basis (1 Corinthians 14:3-5,12,17,26). Who gives each Christian the gift/gifts as he wishes? The Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:11).
- Lists of spiritual gifts are given in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, and Ephesians 4:11. We should not suppose that every gift must be present today. For example, there are no more apostles because they are the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20). No one today has the qualifications for an apostle as laid out in Acts 1:21-22, especially that of being an eye-witness of Christ’s resurrection. And other gifts that were so closely identified with the apostles have also ceased, such as prophecy and tongues (both being revelation from God), and ability to work miracles.
- If you are a Christian, you have at least one spiritual gift. The Holy Spirit has given this to you to use in the edification of your brethren (1 Corinthians 12:5). In what ways are you serving in the local church? There are two types of gift, speaking and serving gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11). Peter’s exhortation is that you do not keep it to yourself, but use it for one service. Examine yourself to see if you are using any of the gifts you have been given.
Write true or false for each of the following statements:
________We can be sure our experiences are genuine without going to the Bible.
________ If I have not received the gift of the Spirit, I am not a Christian.
________ The Spirit’s indwelling is the guarantee of glory.
________ Spiritual gifts are not given for the benefit of the individual.
________ I do not need to struggle against sin if I am filled with the Holy Spirit.
The following books are recommended on the subject of the Holy Spirit:
- Octavius Winslow, The Work of the Holy Spirit;
- Edgar Andrews, The Spirit Has Come;
- David Budgen, Charismatics and the Word of God;
- Walter Chantry, Signs of the Apostles;
- Palmer Robertson, The Final Word.