Chapter 5- His Ministries to the Believer (Part 2)
“I don’t know what God wants me to do in the local church!”, my friend Ismael said. “How am I supposed to serve? Where am I supposed to serve?” “May I ask you,” I said, “what are your spiritual gifts?” Ismael said, “Great question! I don’t have a clue!”
Let’s look at six further ministries of the Spirit of God in this chapter.
(1) The Teaching Ministry of the Holy Spirit
We have a wonderful section called “the Upper Room Discourse” in which Jesus gives us much information about God the Holy Spirit (John 14-16). We learn a great deal about Jesus’ sending the Spirit as His replacement and as our Teacher. We see in John 14 that the Holy Spirit is a gift to the disciples, requested of the Father by the Son (14:16). He comes to help and to indwell Jesus’ followers (14:16) as the Spirit of truth (14:17). He is the manifestation of the absent Christ to them (14:18) so that they will not be orphans. Sent from the Father, the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, will teach the disciples all things and will remind them of all Jesus had taught them (14:26).
In John 15 we learn that the Spirit of truth whom Jesus will send from the Father will testify about Christ (15:26). That is His curriculum. And the disciples are to pass on that testimony (15:27).
John 16 has the most information about the Spirit of God and the disciples. We learn —
1. It is for the disciples’ benefit that Jesus is going back to the Father, for “unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you” (16:7). The Holy Spirit’s presence necessitated Jesus’ absence.
2. The Spirit’s work will be that of proving the world wrong! The world is wrong regarding sin and righteousness and judgment (16:8). Each of these areas is explained: the world is wrong about sin because people don’t believe in Jesus; about righteousness because He is going to the Father where the disciples can see Him no longer; about judgment because the prince of this world now stands condemned (16:9-11).
3. The Spirit’s guidance is promised — “He will guide you into all the truth” (16:12). He won’t speak on His own but will only speaks what He hears and will tell you what is yet to come (16:13). There is on-going communication between the members of the Trinity!
4. We learn that the Spirit’s role is to glorify the Son (16:14). Jesus says, “He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you” (16:14).
The Spirit is very much the believer’s Teacher in this age. We will have more to say about His illuminating ministry later in this chapter.
(2) The Filling Ministry of the Holy Spirit
While some Christians overemphasize the Holy Spirit, many overlook Him. Our study of what some have called the “Shy Member of the Trinity” has already shown that as a Person we can have a relationship with Him. And as God, we can and should worship Him.
There are many ministries that the Holy Spirit has to the follower of Jesus. We’ve thought about His indwelling ministry. As the “other Comforter” (or “Advocate”), the Spirit of God comes alongside us to help us or to put His divine finger on something in our lives that needs to change.
Let’s notice the Holy Spirit’s ministry of filling the believer. There are many verses in the book of Acts showing the Spirit’s filling of the early Christians:
Acts 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!”
Acts 4:31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Acts 9:17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 13:9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said,
Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
While the filling of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was unique, the Bible does not teach that all believers should speak in other tongues (Acts 2).
In our other passages we learn that the Holy Spirit’s filling enables believers to speak clearly before those in authority (Acts 4:8) and with boldness (Acts 4:31; 13:9).
Frequently being filled with the Spirit is coupled with another characteristic (joy, Acts 13:52; full of the Spirit and wisdom, Acts 6:3; full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, Acts 6:5; full of God’s grace and power, Acts 6:8, power to die, Acts 7:55; full of the Holy Spirit and faith, Acts 11:24).
Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. It is interesting that this verse (including the verses above) doesn’t tell the believer HOW to be filled with the Spirit. In his article entitled “How to Be Filled with the Spirit”, Pastor John Piper suggests what he calls the closest parallel: “Don’t be drunk with wine; be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). How do you get drunk with wine? You drink it. Lots of it. The wine of Paul’s day was so weak you would have to drink for hours to get drunk. So how then shall we get drunk (filled) with the Spirit? Drink it! Lots of it. Paul said in I Corinthians 12:13, ‘We were all . . . made to drink of one Spirit.’ Jesus said, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Then John writes, ‘Now this he said about the Spirit.’” (John 7:37-39).
How do you drink of the Spirit? You set your mind on the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5). We set our minds on things above (Col. 3:1-2). “So drinking the Spirit means seeking the things of the Spirit, directing your attention to the things of the Spirit, being devoted to the things of the Spirit.”
The things of the Spirit refers to the teachings of the apostles about God and to the words of Jesus. Doing this long enough will get us drunk with the Spirit. We will develop a wonderful Spirit-dependency.
Lastly, Piper says, “The Holy Spirit is not like wine because he is a person and is free to come and go where he wills (John 3:8). Therefore Luke 11:13 must be added. Jesus said to his disciples, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” If we want to be filled with the Spirit, we must pray for it. And that is just what Paul does for the Ephesians in 3:19. He asks his Father in heaven (verse 14) that the believers might be “filled with all the fullness of God.” Drink and pray. Drink and pray. Drink and pray.”
(3) The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
There is so much to be done in the local church! How are the various “ministries” supposed to get accomplished? God in His brilliance equips the people of God to do the work of God. And His equipping of the saints is called the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Every believer in Christ has been gifted with some talent or ability to build up the Body of Christ. Four key passages speak about those gifts — and the sovereign Holy Spirit who distributes those gifts (Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and I Peter 4). We will briefly look at each of those four primary texts and draw certain conclusions about this work of the Third Person of the Trinity.
Let’s take a brief look at Romans 12 —
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Notice here in Romans 12 the following — 1. We should view our bodies as living sacrifices to God, the very definition of “true and proper worship” (v. 1).
2. We must be aware that the world around us wants to squeeze us into its mold, but we need the transforming work of God to renew our minds (v. 2).
3. Choosing to transform rather than conform means that we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is for us (v. 2).
4. Our attitude in using our gifts is critical! We are to look at ourselves with “sober judgment,” being mindful of “the faith” which God has distributed to each of us (v. 3).
5. In Christ we are one body with many members. And those members (who belong to each other) have different functions (vv. 4-5).
6. Different gifts according to the grace given to us include: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, and showing mercy (vv. 6-8).
7. We are to use those gifts “in accordance with our faith.” We are give generously, lead diligently, and show mercy cheerfully (vv. 6-8).
What do we learn about the Spirit and the gifts in I Corinthians 12?
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
We realize that this is a lengthy passage, but let’s see what we can learn, not so much about the gifts, but about the Giver, God the Holy Spirit:
1. First of all, it is He who distributes the gifts (v. 4).
2. Although there are different gifts, the same Lord is at work (v. 6).
3. Every believer is given a gift (also known as a “manifestation of the Spirit”) for the common good (v. 7).
4. Several gifts (nine specifically) are listed (vv. 8-10- a message of wisdom, a message of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, the interpretation of tongues). But the point is made that “all these are the work of one and the same Spirit” (vv. 11). The oneness of the Spirit’s distribution is important here.
5. We also learn of His will — He distributes these gifts “just as He determines” (v. 11).
6. The baptizing work of the Spirit is brought up, presumably to emphasize the oneness of the Body of Christ (v. 12). “We were all given the one Spirit to drink” (v. 13).
7. There is no room for jealousy regarding the gifts or for one to feel unnecessary. Why not? Because we need all the body parts to function properly and “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (v. 18). “God” here certainly seems to refer to the Third Member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
8. The sovereign assembling of the body by the Holy Spirit should not lead to division in the body but “equal concern for each other” (v. 25).
9. Again we are reminded that “God has placed in the church” certain people and gifts. “God” in verse 28 seems to refer to the Spirit of God. The people and gifts mentioned in verses 28-30 are: apostles, prophets; teachers; miracles; gifts of healing, helping, guidance; and of different kinds of tongues. [I find it interesting that three gifts — healing, helping, guidance — seem to be a small category of gifts].
10. Lastly, this same Spirit who disburses different gifts, longs for unity among believers. Several questions are asked in verses 29-30 to show that there are different gifts among the people of God.
Let’s take a brief look at our third passage — Ephesians 4 —
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
In this third passage on spiritual gifts, we see that the emphasis is on the “unity of the Spirit” (v. 3). Paul stresses the oneness of the body and of the Spirit and of “the hope when you were called, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (vv. 5-6).
We learn that Christ (through the Spirit) “gave gifts to his people” (v. 8). The gifts listed in this text are: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers (v. 11).
Why are these gifts given? We are clearly told “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (v. 12). But building up the body also involves strengthening the body to no longer be infants in its beliefs (vv. 14-16).
Let’s look at the last of our four passages, I Peter 4 —
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
What do we learn here about God the Holy Spirit? Actually He is not specifically mentioned in this last text on spiritual gifts, but we may infer several truths:
1. We are told to “use whatever gift you have received to serve others” (v. 10). And we know from our other texts that the Spirit is the Giver of the gifts.
2. We are to be “faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (v. 10). It is the Spirit of God who is the grace-giver, “grace” referring to the gifts themselves.
3. One question would be: Who is the “God” being referred to in verse 11? We read, 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Could “God” in this verse be referring to the Third Member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit? If so, the one who has the gift of speaking should do so as one “who speaks the very words of God” (the Holy Spirit). After all, it is the Spirit who led the Apostles to write the New Testament. Now, it does not appear that verse 11 is saying that new revelation is being given or that it should be added to the divine canon of Scripture.
Further, the one who serves should serve “with the strength God [the Holy Spirit?] provides.” Why? “So that in all things God [the Holy Spirit?] may be praised through Jesus Christ.” Could this be another reference to the Third Member of the Trinity? He is worthy to be praised and to receive “glory and power for ever and ever.”
The Challenge: In all four of these texts on the spiritual gifts, it appears that much of the work which the Spirit of God is doing in the church and in the world is through God’s gifted-people.
(4) The Fruit of the Holy Spirit In our Christian lives we are so often like the drunk cowboy who gets on his horse and falls off on the right side, promptly remounts and falls off on the left side. When it comes to God the Holy Spirit, some believers overemphasize Him while others overlook Him. We want a balanced view of the Third Member of the Trinity.
We have suggested that because He is personal, we can speak to Him. And because He is divine, we can worship Him. Neither of these actions are at the expense of our first love, the Lord Jesus, the One the Spirit came to glorify.
The Holy Spirit is invisible, so how do we know that He is real and that He is working in our lives? While invisibility does not equal non-existence, the Spirit shows His presence by the works He does in and through believers. One of His primary works is to produce FRUIT in the Jesus-follower’s life.
We read in Galatians 5 —
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
In this section Paul is contrasting the Spirit and the flesh. “The flesh” here refers to our sinful nature which desires what is contrary to the Spirit. The Spirit is not uninvolved — He desires what is contrary to the flesh (v. 17). This conflict between the Spirit and the flesh is “fleshed out” in verses 19-26.
The “acts of the flesh” are obvious and are listed as the Filthy Fifteen: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, and orgies. And, as if that list isn’t enough, Paul adds, “and the like” (v. 21). Notice that these “acts” have to do with sexual purity, who or what we worship, dabbling with the demonic, internal attitudes like hatred and jealousy, the improper use of our temper, self-centered living, loss of self-control, and complete abandonment to immorality.
We then have an opposite list of the fruit of the Spirit. This list entails nine Spiritual Attitudes which inevitably manifest themselves in how we relate to others. The fruit include: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The Challenge: Claim to be filled with the Spirit, led by Him? Check for fruit in your life!
(5) The Illumination of the Holy Spirit
“He illumines the believer? What in the world are you talking about?”, you might say. It seems to me that some Christians either overemphasize the Spirit while others overlook Him. We need a biblical balance in understanding His ministries in the world . . . and in us!
We know that the Spirit of God was sent by Jesus as His substitute Teacher. We read the following in the Upper Room Discourse (John 14-16):
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, 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.” (Jn. 14)
26 “When the Advocate 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.” (Jn. 15)
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (Jn. 16)
We must make several points about these verses in John 14-16-
1. The Spirit of God will teach the disciples all things and will remind them of everything Jesus had said to them (Jn. 14:26).
The primary application of this verse is to the original Apostles and seems to be a reference to their being taught and guided into writing the New Testament Scriptures.
A secondary application which seems valid is that this verse applies to all believers who pay attention to what the Lord Jesus said. They will receive the Spirit’s help in focusing upon Christ’s teachings.
2. The Spirit of God is “the Spirit of truth” and “will testify” about the Lord Jesus (Jn. 15:26).
There is a definite curriculum for the Substitute Teacher and it is . . . the Lord Jesus.
3. This “Spirit of truth” will “guide [the disciples] into all the truth” (Jn. 16:12). His teaching ministry will not be a solo work — “He will speak only what He hears.”
There is an order in the Trinity that no one, especially theologians, understands. But John 16 indicates that the Spirit’s role is to “glorify” the Son. And the Spirit “will receive from [the Lord Jesus] what He will make known to you” (Jn. 16:15).
So, what does this have to do with ILLUMINATION? The Spirit of God is intimately involved in the believer’s studying the words of the Lord Jesus, and, by extension, his or her diligent study of any of the written Word of God.
Another key text in regard to this illuminating ministry is . . . — a text we will examine in our next post!
The Challenge: Get into God’s Word today — and let the Spirit of God teach you something new or remind you of something you have forgotten!
Overemphasized or overlooked? That’s the question regarding God the Holy Spirit that we need to answer. Many of us need a refresher course in the ministries and Person of the Third member of the Trinity. Because He is God, He can and should be worshiped. Because He is personal, we can have a personal relationship with Him.
This personal relationship with the Holy Spirit is in addition to our relationship with the Lord Jesus. The Spirit comes to glorify Christ, not Himself. So Jesus should receive our primary attention. But “primary” does not mean “exclusive.” As we examine the ministries of the Holy Spirit, we want to think a bit more this morning on His ministry of illumination.
We’ve seen from the Upper Room Discourse (Jn. 14-16) that the Spirit of God was sent by Jesus as His substitute Teacher (14:26), that He is the “Spirit of truth” and “will testify” about the Lord Jesus (Jn. 15:26). This means His primary curriculum is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself! His teaching ministry will not be a solo work — “He will speak only what He hears.” And we saw that the Spirit “will receive from [the Lord Jesus] what He will make known to you” (Jn. 16:15).
We concluded that the Spirit of God is intimately involved in the believer’s studying the words of the Lord Jesus, and, by extension, his or her diligent study of any of the written Word of God.
There is another key text about the Spirit’s ministry of illumination and it is found in I Corinthians 2 where we read —
6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him—
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
This is a difficult passage to understand. But what do we learn specifically here about the Spirit of God?
1. The Spirit reveals truths to us — truths that are not discovered by the wise of this world, a mystery none of the rulers of this age understood (vv. 6-8).
2. These truths surpass what the eye has seen and the ear has heard and the human mind is able to conceive. These are the things God has prepared for those who love Him. And these things have been revealed to us by His Spirit (vv. 9-10).
3. These “thoughts of God” are those which no one knows “except the Spirit of God” (v. 11). We have received this Spirit “so that we may understand what God has freely given us” (v. 12).
4. Our speaking these truths ought to be not with words of human wisdom but “in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words” (v. 13).
5. But what about the unsaved person? We are told that “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (v. 14). There is a discernment that only the Spirit of God can give. And He gives that discernment only to those who “have” the Spirit.
The person without the Spirit does not “accept the things that come from the Spirit but considers them foolishness.” The word “accept” is a verb that means to “warmly embrace.”
Conclusion: The illuminating ministry of the Spirit of God involves His helping the believer warmly embrace the truths of God. It is not a substitute for the diligent study of the Word. It is not a substitute for proper principles of interpretation (hermeneutics). The Spirit of God works with the believer in not only understanding God’s truth, but applying God’s truth to himself and others.
The Challenge: What passage of the Bible are you presently studying? Not just reading, but pouring over, meditating on, carefully examining? Ask God the Holy Spirit to help you as only He can in that important work!
(6) The Sealing of the Holy Spirit
We are thinking about the Third Member of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit. We are convinced that some Christian tend to overemphasize Him, while others of us tend to overlook Him. We need a balanced, biblical view of our relationship with the Holy Spirit. And we are suggesting that we can speak with Him (for He is a Person) and we can worship Him (for He is God).
Neither of these two actions ought to be understood as taking the place of our primary calling of worshiping the Lord Jesus. The Spirit’s major role is to glorify the Lord Jesus!
One ministry of the Spirit I’ve heard virtually nothing about is His SEALING ministry. But we read the following in the Scriptures —
John 6:27 “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
1 Corinthians 9:2
Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Ephesians 1:13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,
Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
We learn from John 6 that God the Father placed His seal of approval on the Son of Man. Paul declares in I Corinthians 9 that the Corinthians “are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.”
We are told in 2 Corinthians 1 that God has “set his seal of ownership on us . . .” How has He done that? The passage goes on and says, “and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (v. 22).
Ephesians 1 makes it clear that after we believed we “were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (v. 13). Paul then tells us in chapter 4 that we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, “with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (v. 30).
GotQuestions.org has the following helpful summary: Question: “What is the seal of the Holy Spirit?” Answer: The Holy Spirit is referred to as the “deposit,” “seal,” and “earnest” in the hearts of Christians (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30). The Holy Spirit is God’s seal on His people, His claim on us as His very own. The Greek word translated “earnest” in these passages is arrhabōn which means “a pledge,” that is, part of the purchase money or property given in advance as security for the rest. The gift of the Spirit to believers is a down payment on our heavenly inheritance, which Christ has promised us and secured for us at the cross. It is because the Spirit has sealed us that we are assured of our salvation. No one can break the seal of God.
The Holy Spirit is given to believers as a “first installment” to assure us that our full inheritance as children of God will be delivered. The Holy Spirit is given to us to confirm to us that we belong to God who grants to us His Spirit as a gift, just as grace and faith are gifts (Ephesians 2:8-9). Through the gift of the Spirit, God renews and sanctifies us. He produces in our hearts those feelings, hopes, and desires which are evidence that we are accepted by God, that we are regarded as His adopted children, that our hope is genuine, and that our redemption and salvation are sure in the same way that a seal guarantees a will or an agreement. God grants to us His Holy Spirit as the certain pledge that we are His forever and shall be saved in the last day. The proof of the Spirit’s presence is His operations on the heart which produce repentance, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), conformity to God’s commands and will, a passion for prayer and praise, and love for His people. These things are the evidences that the Holy Spirit has renewed the heart and that the Christian is sealed for the day of redemption.
So it is through the Holy Spirit and His teachings and guiding power that we are sealed and confirmed until the day of redemption, complete and free from the corruption of sin and the grave. Because we have the seal of the Spirit in our hearts, we can live joyfully, confident of our sure place in a future that holds unimaginable glories.
The Challenge: Thank the Holy Spirit today for His sealing you until the day of redemption! And enjoy your freedom in Christ today!
1. How do we best cooperate with the teaching ministry of the Spirit of God?
2. Are we to pray for the filling of the Holy Spirit? Write out a sample prayer of your praying for His filling.
3. What gift or gifts has the Holy Spirit given you? How do you know?
4. What specific fruit of the Spirit are you working on right now in your life?
5. How is the truth of the Spirit’s sealing ministry a comfort to you?