THE ROLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
This short article is meant to explain the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The article does not purport to contain everything the Holy Spirit does but it is meant to lay a foundation of understanding of the Holy Spirit and hopefully stimulate a desire on the part of the reader to learn more about the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is a Person
Why do we say that the Holy Spirit is a person (i.e. not a thing)? He has a mind, a will and emotions. He is as much God as the Father and Jesus (see Acts 5:3-4).
(a) The Holy Spirit has a mind
In Romans 8:27 [AMP] the Bible says “And He Who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the [Holy] Spirit [what His intent is], because the Spirit intercedes and pleads [before God] in behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God’s will.”
This would not happen without the Holy Spirit having a mind.
(b) The Holy Spirit has a will
1 Corinthians 12:11 tells us that it is the Holy Spirit who distributes spiritual gifts and that He alone decides which gift each person should have. This is evidence of an exercise of His will.
(c) The Holy Spirit has emotions
Ephesians 4:30 [NLT] says: “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember; He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.”
Clearly, the Holy Spirit has emotions.
From these 3 Scriptures, we see that the Holy Spirit is a person.
How Does the Holy Spirit Come into Our Lives?
As soon as we receive Jesus Christ into our lives, i.e. we are born again by confessing Him to be our Lord and Saviour, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. Ephesians 1:13 [NLT] says: “And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom He promised long ago.”
The Bible tells us that our bodies (as born again believers) are the temple of the Holy Spirit (therefore He lives in us). It says “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself.” [1 Corinthians 6:19 NLT]
Not only does the Holy Spirit live in us, but He also lives with us. [John 14:17] In other words, He is in us and around us.
1. What does the Holy Spirit do in our lives?
1. He is sent by God to be our helper. In John 16:7, Jesus told His disciples that it is best that He should go away because if He didn’t, the Comforter [or as some Bibles put it, the Advocate] would not come (referring to the Holy Spirit). If we study the meaning of the reference to “Comforter”, we find that it means He is our “helper”. Jesus, while He was on earth could only be in one place at a time (being in a physical body) but the Holy Spirit is everywhere and can be received by every person who believes in Jesus.
How Does the Holy Spirit Help Us?
1.1 He convicts unbelievers of the sin of unbelief
Before we even believe in Jesus Christ, it is the Holy Spirit who convicts us (as unbelievers) of the sin of unbelief in Jesus Christ; of righteousness (right-standing / relationship with God); and of the judgment that is to come. [John 16: 7-11] This means before we receive the gift of salvation, it is the Holy Spirit who makes us realise in our heart (spirit) that we need to repent and restore our relationship with God by inviting Jesus Christ into our lives and He reminds us that if we do not do so, God will judge us. Simply put, He prompts us to reconcile with God by inviting Jesus into our lives.
1.2 He helps us to pray in a deeper dimension
By praying in the Spirit (allowing the Holy Spirit to pray for us as we say our prayers, commonly referred to as “praying in tongues”) we allow the Holy Spirit to on our behalf. Romans 8:26-27 [NLT] says: “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.”
This scripture is one of many that confirm that the concept of “praying in tongues” (i.e. praying in the Spirit) is biblical.
1.3 He helps us to bear the fruit of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit helps us to exhibit the following qualities in our character (which are referred to as the fruit of the Spirit):
[Galatians 5:22-23 NLT]
It is the manifestation of these qualities that identify us as Christians (not just our “say so” that we are “Christian”). Jesus said: “A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes.” [Luke 6:44 NLT]
1.4 He gives us the gifts of the Spirit
In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, we find that the Holy Spirit is the source of various spiritual gifts which He distributes in His will to each person [verse 11]. These gifts are given to us so that we can help one another [verse 7]. These gifts are:
• The word of wisdom (i.e. spiritual insight to apply knowledge correctly)
• The word of knowledge (i.e. supernatural knowledge of facts/circumstances)
• The gift of (great) faith
• The gift of healing
• The power to perform miracles
• The ability to prophesy
• The ability to discern spirits (i.e. the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit)
• The ability to speak in unknown languages (“tongues”)
• The ability to interpret tongues
1.5 He shows us things to come (and leads us)
The Holy Spirit will show us what is to come in our lives. The best example of this in the Bible is in the book of Acts where we see how the Holy Spirit guided the Apostle Paul in his ministry, telling him where and where not to go, what was to happen to him and where he would preach the gospel in the future. [Acts 13, 16, 21]
1.6 He guides us into all spiritual truth
In John 16:13, Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit will guide us unto all truth. This refers to the Holy Spirit revealing to a born again person the truth about Jesus and of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will tell us only what He (the Holy Spirit) hears from Jesus.
Jesus said: “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you unto all truth. He will not speak on His own but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever He receives from Me. All that belongs to the Father is mine, this is why I said, “The Spirit will tell you whatever He receives from Me.” [John 16:13-15 NLT]
Therefore, whatever the Holy Spirit tells us, is what Jesus is saying to us. Evidently, from what Jesus says, we can hear from God (through the Holy Spirit).
2. How Do We Hear from The Holy Spirit?
The following biblical examples of how God has revealed Himself to man indicate to us how we can expect the Holy Spirit to communicate with us and/or guide us as He helps us.
2.1 Through a still small voice (in our hearts) – “and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” 1 Kings 19:12 [NKJV] In this Scripture we see how God revealed Himself to the prophet Elijah in a still small voice. We can expect the Holy Spirit to speak to us in a still small voice in our spirit (heart). This is confirmed by Romans 8:16 [NKJV] which says: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,…” (my emphasis). As a born again Christian, if you have a conflict between your mind and your heart, follow your heart. The still small voice in your heart will tell you the truth and that truth will be in line with the Word of God.
2.2 Through prophecies, visions and dreams – “In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Acts 2:17 [NLT]
We must test prophecies, accepting and holding on only to what is good (i.e. what lines up with the Word of God) – 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21. The reason is that there are also false prophets in this world: “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.” [Matthew 7:15 NLT] See also Matthew 24:11 and Matthew 24:24.
A prophecy should strengthen, encourage and comfort – 1 Corinthians 14:3
2.3 The Holy Spirit will guide us through peace in our hearts: “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.” Colossians 3:15 [NLT] If whatever we intend to do results in a lack of peace in our hearts, that is an indication from the Holy Spirit that something is wrong and we should not continue on the same course of action we planned. We should seek an alternative in which we have peace (which may even mean doing nothing). We need to be guided by the Holy Spirit to the path that gives us inner peace.
2.4 Through an audible voice. [1 Samuel 3:4-10] In the same way that God spoke to Samuel in an audible voice, the Holy Spirit can also speak to us in an audible voice (i.e. hearing a voice through your ears when there is physically no human being speaking to you). This is not usual but it does happen. The writer is aware of a number of testimonies of people who have had such an experience.