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1. The Holy Spirit’s Personhood

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Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is not a force, energy, or power, as some have wrongly believed. He is a person! Charles Ryrie describes how some have tried to deny his personhood throughout history:

Denial that the Spirit is a person often takes the form of substituting the concept that He is a personification of, say, power—much like claiming that Satan is a personification of evil. This denial of His personality has occurred throughout church history, first by the Monarchians, the Arians, the Socinians, and today by Unitarians, liberals, and some neo-orthodox theologians. But there is a great deal of evidence that He is a person. 1

In talking about the Holy Spirit’s personhood and encouraging believers to pursue intimacy with him, R.C. Sproul said this:

Do you know who the Holy Spirit is? Do you understand the Holy Spirit in terms of a personal relationship? Or does the Spirit remain for you a vague, misty, abstract concept or an illusive, amorphous force? Forces in and of themselves are impersonal. But the Holy Spirit is not simply an abstract force. He is a person who empowers the people of God for the Christian life.2

The Holy Spirit’s personhood is especially important to note, as the concept of pantheism is widespread. Pantheistic thought teaches that God is in everything. God is part of the trees, part of the earth, and part of every human being. To pantheist, god is an energy, not a personality. Though the Bible does teach that God is omnipresent—that he is everywhere—that doesn’t mean he is everything. In fact, Scripture clearly teaches against the worship of objects, which is often seen in pantheistic thought.

How do we know that the Holy Spirit is a person? There are many evidences.

Masculine Pronouns Used for the Holy Spirit

A strong evidence for the Holy Spirit’s personhood is the Greek grammar used to refer to him. Instead of using neuter pronouns like “it,” which are used for objects, masculine pronouns are used to refer to him. Consider how Christ speaks of the Holy Spirit in John 16:13-14:

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come. He will glorify me, because he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you.

Instead of using the pronoun “it,” Christ used the pronoun “he.” Similarly, Paul uses the pronoun “who” in reference to the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 1:13-14, he says:

And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation)—when you believed in Christ—you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.

Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit is a person, not a “force,” as seen by the use of personal and masculine pronouns for him.

Are there other evidences of the Holy Spirit’s personhood?

The Spirit’s Association with Jesus’ Work

Certainly, there is evidence in the Holy Spirit’s association with the work of Jesus Christ. Consider what Christ said about the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the disciples. In John 14:16, Christ said, “Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.” Christ was saying that when he left the disciples, he would send them an Advocate or Counselor just like him. This is made clear by the Greek word used for “another.” It literally means “another of the same kind.”3 Tony Evans said this about Christ’s choice of words:

Jesus' choice of words emphasizes the unique work of the Spirit in continuing what He had begun while on earth without any loss of character, quality, power, or intimacy. Jesus could promise this because the Spirit is of equal divine essence with Jesus Himself.4

The Holy Spirit would do the same ministry that Jesus did with the disciples. He would teach, convict, comfort, lead, and empower them.

In fact, Christ taught that the disciples were better off with the Holy Spirit’s continual presence than if Christ stayed on the earth with them. In John 16:7, Christ said, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you.”

When Christ was on the earth, he was limited by locality because of his human body, but when the Holy Spirit came, the Spirit would uniquely be with each disciple, no matter the locality. For us, we may not have seen Christ or heard him teach in person; however, we lack nothing, because Christ has given us a Counselor just like him—someone who will be with us at all times. We can seek the Spirit’s help, ask him questions, and he will minister to us, just as Christ did with the disciples.

Again, the Holy Spirit’s personhood is, first of all, seen in the personal pronouns used of him and, secondly, in his association with Christ’s work. The Holy Spirit comes alongside us to minister to us, just as Christ did with the disciples when he was on the earth. Thank you, Lord!

The Spirit’s Association with Humanity

We also see evidence of the Holy Spirit’s personhood in the way he associates with humanity. Several passages demonstrate this. In describing how the apostles, elders, and the Jerusalem church (cf. Acts 15:22) discerned that the Gentiles should not practice the Mosaic law, Acts 15:28 says, “For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules.” They came to this conclusion through a work of the Holy Spirit in them—no doubt, as they discussed and sought God through prayer.

We also see the Holy Spirit’s association with humanity in how he ministers to unbelievers. In John 16:8, Christ said this about the Holy Spirit: “And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”

The Spirit’s Demonstration of Personality

Another evidence for the Holy Spirit’s personhood is the fact that he demonstrates aspects of personality such as will, intelligence, and emotions. He also demonstrates personality through his moral ministries. We will consider these further through various texts.

Will

The Holy Spirit’s will is demonstrated in how he directs believers in carrying out God’s plans. For example, in Acts 13:1-2, the Holy Spirit calls for the elders of the Antioch church to set apart Paul and Barnabas for missionary work. It says:

Now there were these prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen (a close friend of Herod the tetrarch from childhood) and Saul. While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Likewise, the Holy Spirit demonstrates his “will” as he distributes spiritual gifts to each person in the body of Christ. First Corinthians 12:11 says, “It is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things.”

The Holy Spirit knows what gifts will serve each believer best; he knows what gifts a person will need in the future when his church needs an administrator, small group leader, or children’s pastor. We can be excited about our spiritual gifts because the Holy Spirit knows all things and distributes gifts for the glory of God. The Holy Spirit demonstrates personality as he makes decisions.

Intelligence

The Holy Spirit demonstrates intelligence as he teaches and guides believers. In John 14:26, Christ said this about him: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.” In order to teach others, one must have intelligence, including knowledge and wisdom. The Holy Spirit is our teacher and as such generously distributes knowledge to us.

Intellect is also demonstrated in how the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-11, Paul said this about the Holy Spirit:

But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.

Paul said the Spirit knows the “deep” things of God (v. 10). There are many things that we cannot understand about God because they are too deep. We even struggle with what is revealed: “How can God be three persons in one, the Holy Trinity?” “How can God be in control of everything and yet we make free decisions?” and “How can Jesus be fully God and yet fully man?” We can’t fully understand these mysteries, but the Holy Spirit understands, as he knows the deeps things of God.

When Paul says the Holy Spirit “searches” and “knows” the things of God (v. 10-11), this demonstrates both the Holy Spirit’s distinctness from God the Father and their unity. Paul parallels the Holy Spirit’s knowledge of God with a person’s spirit knowing that person (v. 11). Certainly, this is a mystery.

Clearly, the Holy Spirit demonstrates personality through intellect. He knows God and his will and reveals it to people.

Emotion

The Holy Spirit also demonstrates personality through his emotions. Ephesians 4:29-30 teaches that the Holy Spirit can be grieved. It says:

You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

No doubt, many things grieve the Holy Spirit, but here Paul talks about how we shouldn’t grieve him by our speech. Since the Holy Spirit indwells believers, he is with us when we curse others, complain, or speak sexual jokes. All this grieves the Holy Spirit and therefore should grieve us. Again, this demonstrates his personality.

In addition, Galatians 5:22 says the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, and patience, which are not only dispositions but emotions. Also, Scripture says the Holy Spirit experiences jealousy. James 4:4-5 (NKJV) says:

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

Though there is disagreement over what the word “Spirit” refers to, many see this as referring to the Holy Spirit being jealous over us. The Spirit demonstrates the same type of righteous jealousy a husband experiences when his wife cheats on him. The Holy Spirit demonstrates personality through his emotions.

The Spirit’s Moral Ministries

Finally, the Holy Spirit’s personality can be seen through his moral ministries. He teaches believers (John 14:26), prays for them (Rom 8:26), and guides them (Rom 8:14, Matt 4:1). Later, we will consider some of his other ministries such as his illuminating, sealing, dwelling, filling, and baptizing ministries.

Application

Why is the Holy Spirit’s personhood important, and how should we apply this reality? Daryl Aaron illustrates the importance of this doctrine:

This is important practically because we cannot have a personal relationship with a thing, only with another person. Being a Christian means we are in a personal relationship with the triune God—three persons in one divine essence. As is true of any relationship that matters to us, we should want to nurture our relationship with God the Father and with God the Son and with God the Spirit.5

In light of this, because the Spirit is a person, we should develop a sensitivity to him and his activity, as we do with other people. As mentioned, Scripture says we can “grieve” the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:29-30). We should learn to sense his grief when we are committing sin or in a spiritually unhealthy environment or relationship. It seems like Jeremiah was aware of God’s displeasure. In Jeremiah 6:11, he said:

I am as full of anger as you are, LORD, I am tired of trying to hold it in.” The LORD answered, “Vent it, then, on the children who play in the street and on the young men who are gathered together. Husbands and wives are to be included, as well as the old and those who are advanced in years.

Often, we should feel the Spirit’s anger or grief over our sins, the sins of our friends, church, or nation. At other times, we may sense his power or presence. In Luke 4:18, Christ, quoting Isaiah, said this about himself:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed…

Christ could discern the Holy Spirit’s presence on him to do ministry. As we cultivate our relationship with God, we should be able to discern more of the Spirit’s work as well, in our lives, churches, and communities.

Reflection

  1. What stood out most in the reading and why?
  2. What are evidences of the Holy Spirit being a person and not a force or energy?
  3. Why is recognizing that the Holy Spirit is a person as opposed to a force so important?
  4. How should we apply the fact that the Holy Spirit is a person?
  5. What questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 Ryrie, C. C. (1999). Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (pp. 394–395). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

2 Sproul, R. C. (2012). Who Is the Holy Spirit? (Vol. 13, p. 13). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

3 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 352). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

4 Evans, Tony. Theology You Can Count On: Experiencing What the Bible Says About... God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Angels, Salvation... Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

5 Aaron, Daryl. Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day: How can I know God? Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)

2. The Holy Spirit’s Deity

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The Bible also teaches that the Holy Spirit is God. He is the third person of the Trinity and, therefore, equal in every way to the Son and the Father. What are scriptural evidences for the Holy Spirit’s deity?

The Spirit Is Called God

In many Bible passages, the Holy Spirit is called “God.” For example, in Acts 5:3-4, when Peter confronted Ananias about lying to God, he called the Holy Spirit, “God.” The text says:

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back for yourself part of the proceeds from the sale of the land? Before it was sold, did it not belong to you? And when it was sold, was the money not at your disposal? How have you thought up this deed in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God!”

By lying to the Holy Spirit, Ananias was lying to God.

The Interchangeability of the Names Holy Spirit and God

Further evidence for the Holy Spirit’s deity is seen in how Scripture often uses the names Holy Spirit and God interchangeably. For example, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 6:19 describe believers as being God’s temple and the temple of the Holy Spirit:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If someone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, which is what you are.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

The Spirit’s Association of Equality with Jesus and God

Another evidence of the Spirit’s deity is his continual association with God the Father and God the Son on an equal basis. A great example of this is in the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:19, Christ said: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Likewise, 2 Corinthians 13:13 says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Also, in 1 Peter 1:1-2, God, Jesus, and the Spirit are put on an equal basis in the introductory blessing of the letter:

From Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those temporarily residing abroad (in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, the province of Asia, and Bithynia) who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by being set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with Jesus Christ’s blood. May grace and peace be yours in full measure!

The fact that the Holy Spirit is associated with the Father and Son on an equal basis is proof of the Spirit’s deity.

The Spirit’s Divine Attributes

Another evidence of the Spirit’s deity is the fact that the Holy Spirit has divine attributes. He is eternal. Hebrews 9:14 calls him the “eternal Spirit.” Likewise, Deuteronomy 33:27 calls God “the everlasting God.” The Holy Spirit is omnipotent. In Psalm 104:30 (ESV), the author ascribes the creation of animals to the Holy Spirit. The Psalmist said, “When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” Even Christ said that he cast out demons through the power of the Spirit (Matt 12:28) and called for the disciples to wait to receive the Spirit’s power for ministry (Acts 1:8). Though these verses do not clearly say the Spirit is omnipotent, they demonstrate that the Spirit has the same power as God, who also is attributed with creation (Gen 1, John 1:1-3), empowering his disciples (Phil 2:11-12, 2 Cor 12:9), and other great works. In Matthew 19:26 (ESV), Christ said this about God, “…with God all things are possible.” The Holy Spirit is also omniscient—all-knowing. As considered earlier, 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 says the Spirit searches the deep things of God and knows the thoughts of God. This would make the Spirit all-knowing because God is all-knowing (1 John 3:20). The Spirit is also omnipresent. In Psalm 139:7-10 (ESV), David said this:

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

As God is everywhere (1 Kgs 8:27, Jer 23:23-24), so is the Holy Spirit. The fact that the Spirit has the attributes of God is proof of his deity.

References of Relation to Jesus and God

The final evidence of the Spirit’s deity is the fact that he is often mentioned in relation to the other persons of the Godhead. Sixteen times the Spirit is related by name to the other two persons of the Trinity.1 For example, Acts 16:7 says, “When they came to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this.” And, 1 Corinthians 6:11 says, “Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The Holy Spirit is referred to both as the “Spirit of Jesus” and the “Spirit of God.” His being related to the other persons of the Trinity clearly demonstrates the Spirit’s deity.

Application

How should we apply the fact that the Holy Spirit is God? Because the Holy Spirit is God, we should worship him, pray to him, and honor him. Though there is never a clear example of praying or worshiping the Spirit in Scripture, since he is co-equally God, with the Father and the Son, we should offer him the same honors. It seems especially prudent to pray to the Spirit for the specific ministries Scripture attributes to him.2 We should ask for him to illuminate God’s Word (1 Cor 2:12-13), fill us with power (Eph 5:18), and give us boldness to share God’s Word (Acts 4:31). With that said, since praying to the Holy Spirit is not a New Testament pattern, it probably should not be the primary emphasis in our prayer life.3

Reflection

  1. What stood out most in the reading and why?
  2. What are scriptural evidences for the Holy Spirit’s deity?
  3. How should we apply the fact that the Holy Spirit is God?
  4. Should we pray to the Spirit? Why or why not?
  5. What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 Ryrie, C. C. (1999). Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (p. 397). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

2 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 381). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

3 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 381). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)

3. The Holy Spirit’s Ministries, Part I - Inspiration, Illumination, Conviction, Intercession

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We’ve considered the Spirit’s personhood and deity, and now, we will consider his various ministries.

Inspiration of Scripture

Though Scripture has human authors, they were all inspired by the Holy Spirit—guided by him in the exact words they used and kept from error. Consider what Peter said in Acts 1:16 about the Spirit speaking through David’s writing of a Psalm: “Brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit foretold through David concerning Judas—who became the guide for those who arrested Jesus.” In addition, in 2 Peter 1:20-21, Peter said this about Scripture:

Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

The writers of Scripture were “carried along” by the Holy Spirit. In Acts 27:15, “carried along” (translated “driven along” in NET) was used of how those sailing in a ship could not control it because of strong winds, so they let go and allowed the wind to guide the ship.

Likewise, in John 16:12-13, Christ spoke of the Holy Spirit’s work in leading the apostles in their writing and teaching of the New Testament:

I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come.

The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of Scripture—guiding the authors in what was written and keeping them from error.

Illumination of Scripture

The Holy Spirit illumines Scripture, in that he enables us to understand it. In 1 Corinthians 2:12-14, Paul said this:

Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God. And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

This text describes both inspiration and illumination. As the apostles wrote, the Spirit gave them words which didn’t come from human wisdom but from the Spirit (v. 13)—words like election, justification, sanctification, and glorification. Then, it describes how the Spirit enables “spiritual people”—believers— to understand God’s Word (v. 13), which is why unbelievers (people without God’s Spirit) cannot understand them and therefore reject them (v. 14).

Tony Evans’ comments on the Holy Spirit’s illumination are challenging:

In His role as the Illuminator, the Spirit enlightens us so that we are able to grasp, experience, and apply God's Word to our lives. Anybody who can do that, we need to be close to. The Spirit can connect us to the mind of God.1

Anointing

Another aspect of the Holy Spirit’s Illumination ministry is the believers “anointing.” Anointing is a word used primarily in the Old Testament meaning “empowerment” for something. The king was anointed with oil, symbolizing the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to lead; likewise, the priest and prophet were anointed to minister. The Holy Spirit also anoints every believer, probably in various ways, but specifically to understand Scripture and protect us from false teaching.

When talking about false teachers and their followers who had left the church of Ephesus, in 1 John 2:19-21, John said this:

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us, because if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But they went out from us to demonstrate that all of them do not belong to us. Nevertheless you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you that you do not know the truth, but that you do know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

These people had left the church to follow cultic doctrine. However, John explained that part of the reason the remaining church members didn’t leave was because they had an “anointing from the Holy One” and knew the “truth” (v. 20). Instead of believing heretical errors about Christ, like those who left the church, the other members stayed because they were truly saved and had an anointing to understand Scripture. Now, this doesn’t mean true believers won’t have different understandings of Scripture, especially on minor doctrines. It just means that the Holy Spirit is always guiding believers to the truth and keeping them from damning errors, which would equate to denying the faith. In John 10, Jesus said his sheep hear his voice and they would not follow the voice of another (v. 3-8, 14-16). This is true because of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of leading believers into truth (John 16:12-13). True believers have an anointing—an empowerment to understand Scripture and discern error. This especially protects them from errors concerning the gospel and other foundational truths, which can affect one’s salvation.

Application

How should we respond to the Illuminating work of the Holy Spirit? Because of the Spirit’s illuminating ministry, we should constantly pray to understand God’s Word. We should pray before, while, and after we read or listen to Scripture, including the teaching of it. As David prayed in Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes so I can truly see the marvelous things in your law!”, we should constantly pray the same way, which demonstrates our dependence on the Spirit for illumination.

Conviction

As the Holy Spirit illuminates Scripture for us, he convicts us of sin—showing us where we are wrong and drawing us to repentance. In John 16:8, Christ said this about the Holy Spirit’s ministry to unbelievers, “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” Though this describes his work with unbelievers, it is true of believers as well. As believers study God’s Word, the Holy Spirit illuminates it, revealing ways that we have sinned against God or others. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says:

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.

“Reproof” or “rebuke” refers to how the Word shows us what is wrong, so we can repent. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin through the Word, so we can become holy, as he is holy.

Intercession

Not only does the Holy Spirit illuminate God’s Word and convict us by it, the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. Romans 8:26-27 says:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will.

Though expressed in groans, the Spirit prays according to God’s will that we may, no doubt, grow in holiness, serve God and others, bear fruit for God’s kingdom, and be protected from the evil one, amongst many other wonderful things. William MacDonald’s insights on this are encouraging:

We are often perplexed in our prayer life. We do not know how to pray as we should. We pray selfishly, ignorantly, narrowly. But once again the Spirit comes alongside to assist us in our weakness, interceding for us with groanings which cannot find expression. In this verse it is the Spirit who groans and not we who groan, though that is also true.

There is mystery here. We are peering into the unseen, spiritual realm where a great Person and great forces are at work on our behalf. And although we cannot understand it all, we can take infinite encouragement from the fact that a groan may sometimes be the most spiritual prayer.2

Reflection

  1. What stood out most in the reading and why?
  2. What is the doctrine of inspiration, and why is it important?
  3. What is the doctrine of illumination? How should we apply this ministry of the Spirit practically?
  4. What is conviction? How does the Holy Spirit convict?
  5. What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 Evans, Tony. Theology You Can Count On: Experiencing What the Bible Says About... God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Angels, Salvation... Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

2 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1712). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)

4. The Holy Spirit’s Ministries, Part II - Indwelling

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Indwelling

For believers, the Holy Spirit indwells us at conversion. It is from this ministry that many of his other ministries flow. Jesus mentioned the Spirit’s indwelling to his disciples before his death and resurrection. In John 14:17, Christ said, “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you.” From Christ’s words, it is clear the Spirit was already with the disciples but would be with them in a different way after his death, resurrection, and ascension. Likewise, in John 16:7, Christ said, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you.”

Old Testament & New Testament

Considering that the disciples and other Old Testament saints had the Holy Spirit and experienced his ministries before Christ’s ascension into heaven (cf. Acts 1-2), what is the difference between the Holy Spirit’s ministry to believers in the OT and the NT? Because of Christ’s words that the Holy Spirit was “with” the disciples and in the future would be “in” them (John 14:17), some have said the difference is simply that in the OT the Holy Spirit was “with” or “on” believers, but in the NT, he dwells “in” them. However, further study of the OT tells us that claim is not correct. The Holy Spirit also indwelled people in the OT. Consider a few examples: Genesis 41:38 says Joseph had God’s Spirit in him. “So Pharaoh asked his officials, ‘Can we find a man like Joseph, one in whom the Spirit of God is present?’” Numbers 27:18 (ESV) says the same about Joshua. “So the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.” Likewise, Daniel 4:8 (NKJV) says the same about Daniel. “But at last Daniel came before me (his name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; in him is the Spirit of the Holy God).”

Then, what is the difference between the Holy Spirit’s dwelling ministry in the New Testament versus the Old Testament? Two things:

1. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit’s dwelling is universal and not selective.

In the OT, God’s Spirit came upon select people such as the king, the priest, and the prophet, but in the NT, the Spirit indwells all believers. Consider John 7:37-39:

On the last day of the feast, the greatest day, Jesus stood up and shouted out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’” (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.)

The Spirit would be given to all those who believe in Christ. Likewise, Peter said this in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In fact, to not have the Holy Spirit means that one is not born again. Romans 8:9 says, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him.” Also, Jude 19 describes false teachers this way: “These people are divisive, worldly, devoid of the Spirit.” If we do not have the Spirit of God, then we are not saved.

Are there any other differences between the Spirit’s indwelling in the OT and the NT?

2. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit’s dwelling is eternal and not temporary.

Consider these descriptions of the Holy Spirit in the OT: In 1 Samuel 16:14, it says this about King Saul, “Now the Spirit of the LORD had turned away from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.” Also, in Psalm 51:11, David prayed, “Do not reject me! Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me!” Clearly, the Holy Spirit came upon believers in the OT and dwelled within them, but at times departed. With Saul, the Spirit left him because of his rebellion against God. The Spirit’s leaving him represented a lack of empowerment to lead Israel as God’s representative.

What about the Spirit’s ministry in the New Testament? Will the Spirit ever leave a believer? In John 14:16, Christ said this about the Spirit’s new ministry, “Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.” When describing the Spirit’s ministry to the disciples, Jesus described a change that was significantly different from the Spirit’s Old Covenant ministry: God’s Spirit would dwell with his disciples forever.

The difference between the Holy Spirit’s indwelling ministry in the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is that in the New Covenant, the Spirit indwells all believers and indwells them permanently.

Why is the Spirit’s ministry of “indwelling” so important? As mentioned, the Holy Spirit’s indwelling is essential to his other ministries. Because the Spirit indwells believers, he also convicts, enlightens, seals, empowers, and gifts, among other things.

Application

How should this Spirit’s indwelling ministry affect us?

1. The Holy Spirit’s indwelling reminds us of God’s great love for us.

One of the greatest symbols in our societies of love is living together. Families live together. Two singles meet, fall in love, get married, and move in together for the rest of their lives. Likewise, God loved us so much, he moved in with us permanently. In fact, since Scripture teaches that in heaven, we are no longer married nor given in human marriage (Matt 22:30), the Holy Spirit’s indwelling ministry is an even greater residency than we ever experience on earth. It’s eternal! Again, this reminds us of how much God loves us. This is especially important when tempted by the devil to doubt God’s love or his plan for our lives. Christ died for us, married us, and indwells us forever, through his Spirit.

2. The Holy Spirit’s indwelling reminds us to be good hosts.

Ephesians 4:30 says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” We should give careful attention to our words, thoughts, actions, relationships, entertainment, etc., in order to not grieve God’s Spirit who indwells us. In fact, we must go above simply not sinning but also seek to live God-honoring, righteous lives that please God. In this way, God’s Spirit can be at home within us, instead of being treated as a neglected (or abused) visitor.

3. The Holy Spirit’s indwelling reminds us of our eternal security.

If the Holy Spirit indwells us forever (John 14:16) and has sealed us until the day of our redemption (Eph 4:30), then this means that true believers will never lose their salvation. God will never leave us as orphans; we shall be part of his family and dwell with him forever.

Reflection

  1. What stood out most in the reading and why?
  2. What is the doctrine of the Spirit’s indwelling, and why is it so important?
  3. What is the difference between the Spirit’s ministry to believers in the Old Testament and the New?
  4. What are some applications we can take from the Spirit’s indwelling of believers?
  5. What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)

5. The Holy Spirit’s Ministries, Part III - Sealing, Deposit, Restraining

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Sealing

Another ministry of the Holy Spirit is his being the seal of our salvation. In Ephesians 1:13, it says, “And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation)—when you believed in Christ—you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.” Likewise, 2 Corinthians 1:22 (NIV) says God “set his seal of ownership on us.”

What does the sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit refer to?

1. As a seal, the Holy Spirit represents authenticity—he proves that a believer’s salvation is genuine.

John MacArthur said this:

The sealing of which Paul speaks here refers to an official mark of identification that was placed on a letter, contract, or other important document. The seal usually was made from hot wax, which was placed on the document and then impressed with a signet ring. The document was thereby officially identified with and under the authority of the person to whom the signet belonged.1

Today, official brands will often have a logo—a mark of authentication (cf. Coke vs. cola), which proves it is genuine and not a fake. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is God’s official seal on a believer—proving his or her authenticity. Romans 8:9 says, “…Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him.” The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom 8:16). He authenticates us by changing us and making us more into Christ’s image (cf. 2 Pet 1:5-10). He gives us new desires—desires to pray, serve, love God and others, and to read his Word (cf. Matt 5:6). If professing believers don’t have these types of holy affections, then they are not truly saved—they are missing the seal of the Holy Spirit.

2. As a seal, the Holy Spirit represents God’s ownership.

In those days, slaves and cattle would bear the seal of the owner. The Holy Spirit not only authenticates us but demonstrates God’s ownership of believers.

As a seal, the Holy Spirit represents the security of a believer.

Seals were also used as a form of security. Often kings or those in authority would seal something to say that it should not be touched or tampered with. John MacArthur’s comments are helpful here as well:

In ancient times the seal of a king, prince, or noble represented security and inviolability. When Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, King Darius, along with his nobles, placed their seals on the stone placed over the entrance to the den, “so that nothing might be changed in regard to Daniel” (Dan. 6:17). Any person but the king who broke or disturbed that seal would likely have forfeited his life. In a similar way the tomb where Jesus was buried was sealed. Fearing that Jesus’ disciples might steal His body and falsely claim His resurrection, the Jewish leaders obtained Pilate’s permission to place a seal on the stone and to guard it with soldiers (Matt. 27:62–66).2

This is one of the reasons we know that a true believer’s salvation is secure. The Holy Spirit seals him. Consider what Paul said in Ephesians 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Even though we were redeemed from slavery to sin at salvation, our ultimate redemption awaits our resurrected bodies. The Holy Spirit seals us until that final work happens, and so does Jesus and the Father. Jesus said this in John 10:27-30:

My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit work to secure and protect a believer’s salvation.

4. As a seal, the Holy Spirit represents authority.

To have a king’s signet ring or seal meant to hold his power and authority (cf. Esther 8:8-12). For example, when Joseph was promoted to second in command over Egypt, he was given Pharaoh’s signet ring (Gen 41:41-42), which enabled him to make decisions with Pharaoh’s full power and authority. In the same way, God’s seal on believers represents their authority to teach the Word of God, defend it, use their spiritual gifts to build God’s kingdom, and conquer Satan, among other things. Christ said this when he ascended to heaven:

Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

Because we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, we have the authority of the King to do his ministry.

Deposit

The Holy Spirit is also called the believer’s deposit, earnest, or down payment. In Ephesians 1:14 (NIV), Paul says the Holy Spirit is our “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.” Second Corinthians 1:22 (NIV) says God “put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

What does the Holy Spirit being a believer’s “deposit” refer to?

1. As a deposit, the Holy Spirit guarantees our future inheritance.

The word deposit can be translated earnest or even engagement ring.3 An engagement ring is a promise for future marriage. An earnest is “the down payment to guarantee the final purchase of some commodity or piece of property.”4 When people bought a piece of property in those times, they put down earnest money. This money guaranteed that the rest of the money was coming. If one failed to pay, they would lose their earnest. It is often similar in purchasing property today. A person will put down 10%, 20%, or more, as a guarantee that the remaining balance will be paid.

The Lord gave us the Holy Spirit as our earnest. He is our guarantee that we will fully receive every spiritual blessing in Christ, including eternal life.

2. As a deposit, the Holy Spirit is a foretaste of our inheritance in heaven.

An earnest is part of a future payment. In the same way, the Holy Spirit is a foretaste of our future heavenly inheritance. In Romans 14:17, Paul said, “For the kingdom of God does not consist of food and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Heaven will be full of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. These are all things that the Holy Spirit wants to give us now. He wants to fill us with righteousness and get rid of sin in our lives. He wants to give us peace and joy—no matter the trials we encounter. Our experience now in the Holy Spirit is a taste of our heavenly future.

Restraining

Another ministry of the Holy Spirit is that of restraining sin and evil on the earth. Tony Evans said this about the Spirit’s restraining ministry:

The Holy Spirit's restraint of sin is like the atmosphere around us. It's helping to sustain this world as we know and experience it. The only reason sin isn't as bad as it could be worldwide is because of the Spirit's restraint.5

In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-7, Paul seems to be referring to this ministry as he talks about the end times. He says:

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the rebellion comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God. Surely you recall that I used to tell you these things while I was still with you. And so you know what holds him back, so that he will be revealed in his own time. For the hidden power of lawlessness is already at work. However, the one who holds him back will do so until he is taken out of the way

In the end-times, the Antichrist will launch the greatest onslaught of evil and destruction the world has ever seen, but currently, Satan’s work through him is being held back by a person (v. 7). It is evident that no human can hold back Satan’s work and that only God can do it. For this reason, many believe that Paul is referring to the person of the Holy Spirit. Currently, the Holy Spirit is restraining Satan’s full, destructive plan for the earth, but one day the Spirit will be taken out of the way to allow Satan’s evil plan to happen.

When and how will the Holy Spirit be taken out of the way? Some believe this refers to a time right before Christ returns during the end times. In John 16:7, Christ said this about the Holy Spirit’s coming to indwell the disciples in a new way: “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you.” Since the Spirit couldn’t come unless Christ left, it makes sense that right before Christ returns to the earth, the Spirit will again leave. He will be present in the same way he was in the Old Testament. No doubt, he will still be restraining sin in some manner, but not in the same manner that he is currently doing it through Christ’s disciples, the church. It is for this reason that some believe this refers to the rapture of the church happening sometime before Christ returns. When Christ ascended to heaven, the Spirit began to indwell the church in a special way—empowering them to be salt and light to the world (Matt 5:13-14), aiding in restraining sin and promoting righteousness. Before Christ returns, the Holy Spirit will return to the Father with believers (yet still be present and ministering, but in an Old Covenant way). After a period of Satan’s wrath on the earth through the Antichrist, Christ will return with his saints to judge the earth.

Is there any other evidence of God’s restraining ministry through the Holy Spirit? It appears that the Spirit was performing some type of restraining ministry right before God judged the earth by the world-wide flood. Because of the world’s great sins, in Genesis 6:3 (NIV), God said: “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” The word for “contend” in the Hebrew also means to “shield” or “protect.”6 Essentially, God had for years been protecting humanity from sin and its consequences through the Spirit. But, because of their continual rebellion, God handed them over to their sin and rebellion—allowing them to reap the consequences of their defiance by unleashing the flood.

In Romans 1:28-32, Paul describes something similar in the ancient Roman world. He says:

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.

Essentially, because of the world’s continual rebellion, God hands them over to depraved thinking (v. 28), leading to worse sin and its consequences. This introduces another way the Holy Spirit restrains sin: he restrains it through humanity’s God-given conscience (Rom 2:14). The conscience is meant to be a moral guide in humanity which affirms us when we do right and condemns us when we do wrong. When God hands us over to our evil desires, our mind and conscience cease to work properly, and we start to approve even great evils. People start to declare that right is wrong and wrong is right, as their hearts become hardened. As in Genesis 6:3, God’s Spirit will not contend with people forever; eventually he allows them to have what their evil hearts want, including reaping the consequences of those evil desires. Likewise, God’s Spirit will do the same during the end-times.

What are some other ways the Holy Spirit restrains sin? (1) Other than the conscience, (2) the Holy Spirit restrains sin through the teaching, studying, and practicing of God’s Word, as he convicts believers and unbelievers of sin (2 Tim 3:16-17). (3) He restrains sin through government authorities, as they discipline wrongdoers and reward the righteous (Rom 13:1-7). (4) The Spirit restrains sin through families, as they discipline and raise children according to godly guidelines (Eph 6:4). (5) The Spirit restrains sin through direct intervention, as the Spirit simply sets boundaries on Satan’s work, as in the story of Job (Job 1:12, 2:6). (6) Finally, as mentioned previously, the Spirit restrains sin through the godly witness of the church (Matt 5:13-16). In the end times, all of these areas will be less effective, as the Spirit’s ministry is removed to some extent (2 Thess 2:3-7).

Application

How should we respond to the reality of the Holy Spirit’s restraining ministry?

1. The Holy Spirit’s restraining ministry reminds us to not resist the Spirit when he convicts us of sin, because there are drastic consequences for resisting his warnings.

To resist the Spirit’s ministry leads to God handing us over to our evil desires and reaping the consequences of those desires. Again Romans 1:28-29 says:

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips…

Certainly, this is being experienced in many societies around us, as people continually reject God’s Word and embrace evil.

2. The Holy Spirit’s restraining ministry reminds us that God wants to use us, as believers, to restrain sin amongst our friends, family, church, and society.

When we compromise or remain silent when evil is practiced, we hinder the Holy Spirit’s work through us, which negatively affects those whom we are meant to bless. We are called to be salt and light to the earth (Matt 5:13-15)—restraining sin, promoting righteousness, and glorifying God through our lives.

Reflection

  1. What stood out most in the reading and why?
  2. In what ways is the Holy Spirit the believers’ seal?
  3. In what ways is the Holy Spirit the believers’ deposit?
  4. What is the Holy Spirit’s restraining ministry, and how should this ministry challenge us?
  5. What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 34). Chicago: Moody Press.

2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 34–35). Chicago: Moody Press.

3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 36). Chicago: Moody Press.

4 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 13). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

5 Evans, Tony. Theology You Can Count On: Experiencing What the Bible Says About... God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Angels, Salvation... Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

6 See NET Footnotes on Genesis 6:3

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)

6. The Holy Spirit’s Ministries, Part IV - Baptism In The Spirit

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Baptism in the Spirit

Another ministry of the Holy Spirit is the baptism “in” or “with” the Spirit. The baptism in the Spirit is a very important and controversial doctrine in the church. Historically, Spirit baptism refers to Christ, through the agency of God’s Spirit, placing believers into the body of Christ. In it, we become part of the body of believers, and Christ becomes our head. Tony Evans described the baptism this way:

Jesus is the One doing the baptizing. He is the baptizer, not the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the means by which this baptism takes place, the means by which believers enter into this new realm or environment called the body of Christ or the family of God.1

However, in some denominations such as Pentecostalism, it refers to a second experience of the Holy Spirit after salvation where believers experience power for the Christian life, and it is often accompanied by tongues. Charles Ryrie describes this view, which has changed at times throughout history:

Whereas old Pentecostalism uniformly taught that the baptism of the Spirit was an endowment for power, tongues being the evidence of the experience, newer Pentecostalism sees two baptisms. One is that of [1 Corinthians 12] verse 13, which all believers experience and which is accomplished by the Spirit and places people in the body of Christ. The other is the baptism seen in the book of Acts and is accomplished by Christ to place people in the Spirit for experiences of power. The first happens at conversion and results in a position; the second occurs later and can be repeated and is for power. The first does not require speaking in tongues; the second ideally does.2

John the Baptist initially predicted the baptism into the Spirit. In Mark 1:8, he said, “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Also, Christ predicted it before he ascended into heaven in Acts 1:4-5:

While he was with them, he declared, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

This happened in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit fell on the waiting disciples. They experienced fire above their heads, as symbols of the Spirit’s empowerment, and speaking in tongues, which allowed them to proclaim God’s goodness in different languages. Those visiting Jerusalem during Pentecost stood in awe of them (Acts 2:6-11). Peter confirmed that their experience at Pentecost was in fact the baptism of the Spirit, as predicted by Christ. In Acts 11:15-16, he said:

Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as he did on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, as he used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

In addition, other believers throughout the book of Acts, who were not in Jerusalem at Pentecost, had similar experiences at later dates when the Spirit fell upon them and enabled them to speak in tongues, symbolizing their baptism in the Spirit (Acts 8:14-17, 19:1-6).

The concept of baptism means to identify or associate with something or someone.3 As believers, we are baptized with the Spirit into Christ’s body at salvation. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV), Paul said this, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” “All” believers are baptized and not “some.” It is not a secondary work that some experience; it is a primary work that all believers experience when they are saved.

Results of the Baptism

What are the results of being baptized in the Spirit?

2. The baptism in the Spirit provides believers with a new identity and position in Christ.

Because of this baptism, Paul constantly refers to the new identity of believers as “in Christ.” In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul said, “So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away—look, what is new has come!” Because we are in Christ, we are new creations. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Because we are in Christ, we will not be condemned by God for our sins. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.” Because we are in Christ, we now are the righteousness of God. Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.” Because we are “in Christ,” we have every blessing in heavenly places. Ephesians 2:6 says, “and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Our being raised and seated in Christ in the heavenlies seems to not only refer to our new position but our new authority in Christ, as we are above all rule, authority, and power in this age and the age to come (cf. Eph 1:20-22). Likewise, in Romans 6:3-4, Paul says our baptism into Christ associates us with his death, burial, and resurrection, therefore setting us free from the power of sin to live a new life in Christ. He says,

Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.

Our identity in Christ radically changes everything about us including how God sees us and how we should see ourselves and other believers. This new identity happens as we are baptized in the Spirit into the body of Christ.

2. The baptism in the Spirit provides believers with a new union with the church.

In Ephesians 2:14-15, Paul describes how God unified Jews and Gentiles in Christ:

For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this ‘to create in himself one new man out of two,’ thus making peace

In Spirit baptism, Christ took two hostile people groups—believing Jews and Gentiles, which encompasses all nationalities—and made them one in Christ. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” The reality is that being from different cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds makes the church prone to discord. However, because God has made us one in Christ, through God’s Spirit, we must labor to live out this unity. In Ephesians 4:3-5, Paul said, “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” The “one baptism” probably refers to Spirit baptism, of which water baptism, ultimately, symbolizes.

3. The baptism in the Spirit provides believers with spiritual gifts.

Since it’s through Spirit baptism that believers become part of the body, Paul associates it with the distribution of spiritual gifts. Consider 1 Corinthians 12:10-13 (ESV):

to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

It is as we become a member of the body that we are assigned a specific gift or role in the body. One person is the arm, another the foot, another the eye, and so on. In Spirit baptism, we are not only unified into the body but also empowered to serve the body with a gift.

Two Views

Why are there two views—the traditional view and the Pentecostal view? The Pentecostal view, which sees Spirit baptism as a second experience after salvation, is derived explicitly from the Acts narrative when the Spirit fell on believers and they spoke in tongues both at Pentecost and at later dates (cf. Acts 1:4, 2:4, 11:15-18, etc.). If our understanding of Spirit baptism is derived from the Acts narrative alone, Spirit baptism being a work following salvation seems to be the best conclusion.

However, there are many problems with the Pentecostal view:

1. From a hermeneutical standpoint, narratives are not meant to be prescriptive but descriptive. They are meant to tell us what happened, not tell us how things should be or what they mean. When doctrines are made out of narratives, it’s a dangerous way to study the Bible. Professing Christians who believe in polygamy—a husband having multiple wives—take their proof from historical narratives, like the stories of Abraham, Jacob, and David. However, the authors of those narratives meant for them to be descriptive of what happened, not of what should have happened or what should be modeled. This is especially dangerous in the book of Acts because it is a transitional book. It is transitioning from Israel to the church, from Jews being God’s primary conduit of redemption to it being Jew and Gentile, from Old Covenant regulations to New Covenant regulations, and so on.

2. Again, from a hermeneutical standpoint, doctrinal books like the Epistles are meant for forming doctrines. In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul explains what happened at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell on believers. God, through the Holy Spirit, was forming the body of Christ. Paul said to the Corinthians that “all” of them had been baptized in the Spirit (12:13), and he also shared that not all of them spoke in tongues, which many believe is an enduring sign of the baptism (12:30). The experience in Acts was not meant to be the continual experience of believers. When those who were not at Pentecost (such as Cornelius in Acts 10) experienced the baptism in the Spirit, it was very similar to the Numbers 11 narrative where Moses brought seventy elders to a mountain to receive a portion of his anointing so they could lead Israel. When the Spirit fell, they prophesied as a sign of experiencing the Spirit. Later on, the Spirit of God caught up to two who were not on the mountain, and they also prophesied. The same happened at Pentecost. The believers who were there experienced the baptism and those who were not, received it later, often after being prayed over. Again, the experience was not meant to be normative, as 1 Corinthians 12:13 explains. Believers are now baptized in the Spirit at salvation, when they become part of Christ’s body.

3. The Pentecostal view actually teaches the opposite of what happens in the baptism in the Spirit. The baptism unifies all believers into one body. That is why Paul teaches that we “all” have been baptized in one Spirit into one body (1 Cor 12:13). The Pentecostal view divides the body into baptized and non-baptized believers (or “filled” and “unfilled” believers, as some call them). In some churches, the baptized believers are considered the spiritually mature, with tongues being their proof of maturity.

4. As mentioned, some have tried to distinguish between the baptism John and Christ predicted (Mk 1:8, Acts 1:4-5) and the baptism Paul described in 1 Corinthians 12:13. They would say John and Christ predicted the baptism in the Spirit, which happened at Pentecost and throughout the book of Acts, and Paul described the baptism into Christ’s body, which happens at salvation. In the first, Christ is the baptizer and the Spirit the sphere. In the second, the Spirit is the baptizer and Christ is the sphere.4 However, the baptisms John, Christ, and Paul described have an almost identical construction in the Greek.5 The only difference is Paul said, “one Spirit” instead of “the Holy Spirit.” Otherwise, all the other words are exactly the same.6 There is no need to create two baptisms—in the Spirit and in Christ. Some English Bible versions have translated 1 Corinthians 12:13 to say, “baptized by one Spirit” (e.g. NIV), which is often cited to create a second baptism for believers; however, it is best to translate it “with” or “in one Spirit.” Christ is the baptizer and the Spirit is the medium of the baptism. Paul is simply explaining the baptism that John and Christ predicted (Mk 1:8, Acts 1:4-5) happened in Acts 2, as God formed his church through the baptism in the Spirit.

With that said, even if the original authors meant to distinguish between Christ baptizing and the Spirit baptizing, it doesn’t necessarily mean they refer to a different baptism. It’s common in the New Testament for the persons of the Godhead to be described as doing the same work, since they are one. We are God’s temple, but we are also the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16, 6:19). Likewise, Christ also dwells in us (Eph 3:17, Rev 3:20). God holds us in his hand to keep our salvation, and Christ does the same (John 10:28-29). Also, the Holy Spirit seals us, again keeping our salvation (Eph 4:30). God created the earth, but Christ did as well; and the Spirit was involved (Gen 1:1-2, John 1:3, Ps 104:30). They are all involved in the same work. Therefore, even if the original authors meant to distinguish between baptizers and the medium of the baptism (Christ and the Holy Spirit), it does not necessarily mean it refers to a different work. Most likely, they are the same, especially since they essentially have the same grammatical construction and describe identical or very similar activities.

5. If the Pentecostal view is correct—that believers need to seek a second baptism—wouldn’t there be one command in Scripture to seek the baptism of the Spirit? But there isn’t. Believers are called to be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). However, the verb for “filled” is present tense. It’s a continual experience we must pursue of being empowered and controlled by God. It is compared to being drunk with wine because it is similar in that it is a temporary experience that must be attained and maintained. It is dissimilar in that drunkenness leads to sin but being filled with the Spirit leads to righteousness.

6. Finally, the fact that John the Baptist introduced Spirit baptism as representing salvation confirms it is not a secondary experience that only some believers achieve. In Matthew 3:11-12, after challenging the Pharisees and Sadducees to produce fruit worthy of repentance, John said:

I baptize you with water, for repentance, but the one coming after me is more powerful than I am—I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clean out his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the storehouse, but the chaff he will burn up with inextinguishable fire.

John said Christ would baptize people with the “Holy Spirit and fire” (v. 12). Some say that “Holy Spirit” and “fire” both refer to the baptism in the Spirit. In support, they point to the initial Spirit baptism at Pentecost and how “tongues of fire” appeared above the disciples’ heads (Acts 2:3). However, John doesn’t seem to be referring to that, since the previous mention of “fire” in verse 10 referred to eternal judgment. He says, “Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” “Fire” also refers to eternal judgment in verse 13. In context, John is referring to two distinct baptisms. In verse 13, John explains both: the baptism with the Spirit represents salvation, as the wheat is gathered into the storehouse, and the baptism with fire represents eternal judgment, as the chaff is burned (cf. Matt 13:36-43). Essentially, as John called people to true repentance, he said, “The Messiah is coming! Are you ready? When he comes, you will either be baptized in the Spirit and thus saved, or you will be baptized in fire and thus judged!” This equates with how Paul handled the baptism in the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:13. After the baptism in the Spirit at Pentecost and the initial forming of the church, the baptism happens at salvation to all believers. It is when believers become part of the body of Christ, and Christ becomes their head.

Proper Terminology

For those who claim to have experienced a second work of the Spirit—resulting in transformation and power—it would be more biblical to use the term “filling of the Spirit” instead of “baptism in the Spirit.” Being filled with the Spirit refers to daily being empowered and controlled by the Spirit. It may, at times, result in special power and unique phenomena, especially in crisis situations. For instance, when the Spirit came upon Saul, he prophesied (1 Sam 10:10). When the Spirit came upon Samson, he struck down 1000 Philistines (Judg 15:14-16). In Acts 4:31, after corporate prayer, the disciples were “filled with the Spirit” and spoke “the word of God courageously.” In Acts 19:6, when the Spirit came upon John the Baptist’s disciples, after being prayed for by Paul, they spoke in tongues and prophesied. For those who have experienced a transforming, charismatic experience (or experiences) after salvation, it would be more biblical to use the term “filled with the Spirit” rather than “baptized in the Spirit.”

Reflection

  1. What stood out most in the reading and why?
  2. What is the baptism in the Spirit and the results of it for believers?
  3. What is the difference between the two views of the baptism in the Spirit—the traditional and Pentecostal view?
  4. Which view (traditional or Pentecostal) do you think is most biblical and why?
  5. Have you ever experienced being “filled with the Spirit,” which resulted in greater power or some type of charismatic phenomena? If so, how did it happen, and what led to the experience?
  6. What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

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1 Evans, Tony. Theology You Can Count On: Experiencing What the Bible Says About... God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Angels, Salvation... . Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

2 Ryrie, C. C. (1999). Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (pp. 419–420). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

3 Aaron, Daryl. Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day: How can I know God? (Location 2271-2278). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

4 Ryrie, C. C. (1999). Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (p. 420). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

5 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 766). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

6 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 767). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)

7. The Holy Spirit’s Ministries, Part V - Spiritual Gifts

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Spiritual Gifts

Another one of the Spirit’s ministries is giving spiritual gifts. What is a spiritual gift? Tony Evans succinctly described spiritual gifts this way: “A spiritual gift is a divinely bestowed ability given to every true believer in Jesus Christ in order to serve the church.”1 Charles Ryrie defined it as a “God-given ability for service.”2 The apostle Peter said spiritual gifts are channels by which God’s “grace” comes to the church.3 In 1 Peter 4:10, he said, “Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God.” The “one another” refers to believers in the church. When a person is using their spiritual gift, God’s grace comes through them to bless his people. In fact, the Greek word used for spiritual gifts is “charisma,” which comes from a “family of words related to grace and therefore means something like ‘grace gift’ or ‘free gift.’”4 It’s not that spiritual gifts don’t bless unbelievers—they do, especially the gift of evangelism. However, they seem to be primarily given by God to build up the church. For example, in 1 Corinthians 4:12, and 12:4-7, Paul explains that “manifestations of the Spirit” are given for “building up the church” and for the “common good”:

So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.”

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Later, in 1 Corinthians 12:11-16 (ESV), Paul says the Holy Spirit distributes gifts to believers, and because of this, the church is like a body—one person is the eye, another the hands, and another the feet. It says:

It is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

In considering the Spirit’s distribution of gifts to each believer, Daryl Aaron said this:

This means God has given each and every Christian a role and responsibility in the body of Christ and the supernatural ability, in the form of a spiritual gift or gifts, to fulfill it. He knows best how to orchestrate this, and we should be content with the gifts he chooses for us.5

Tony Evans’ comment about spiritual gifts are also helpful:

The reason the Spirit bestows His gifts on the church is that we are the ones charged with carrying out God's program in this age. When Jesus arose and ascended to heaven, He gave to His management team, the church, those tools necessary to pull off His kingdom work.6

Receiving Gifts

When do we receive spiritual gifts? It is clear from 1 Corinthians 12:13 that each person receives at least one gift at the baptism in the Spirit. Though a controversial doctrine, this refers to the moment when believers are made part of the body of Christ, which happens at salvation. At salvation, each person is made a part of Christ’s body, the church, and given a spiritual gift or gifts to serve Christ and his church.

With that said, there is evidence that God may also give spiritual gifts later on in life. For example, in 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul talks about his disciple, Timothy, receiving a gift through the elders laying hands on him: “Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you.” This may be referring to Timothy’s ordination by elders into pastoral ministry. Apparently, he received some type of gift during that prophetic ministry.

In addition, we have various Old Testament examples of people receiving gifts later in life. Moses received the gift of miracles at his calling to lead Israel. Elisha received a double portion of Elijah’s gifts when he replaced Elijah as the chief prophet to Israel. Also, the language used in 1 Corinthians about spiritual gifts implies that believers can still receive them after salvation. In 1 Corinthians 12:31, the church was called to “be eager for the greater gifts.” And, in 1 Corinthians 14:1, they are also called to “be eager for the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” The fact that believers are called to desire them (and probably pray for them) implies that God may still impart them at strategic times after one’s salvation to meet the needs of a church, community, or nation. Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 14:13, we read that the person with the gift of tongues is told to pray for the ability to interpret—asking the Lord for a complementary gift which, at that time, he did not have. It says, “So then, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret.” We should also desire greater gifts and seek them through prayer, not to honor ourselves, but so that we can more effectively help others and build God’s church.

Lists of Gifts

What are the spiritual gifts? There are four major lists recorded in three different New Testament books: 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30, Romans 12:6-8, and Ephesians 4:11. Collectively, they are:

Administration/Ruling

Giving

Miracles

Apostleship

Healing

Pastor/Teacher

Discernment of Spirits

Helps/Serving

Prophecy

Evangelism

Interpretation of Tongues

Teaching

Exhortation

Knowledge

Tongues

Faith

Mercy

Wisdom

However, it should be noted that these lists are not meant to be exhaustive. For instance, Paul mentions celibacy, the ability to stay single, and, by implication, marriage as gifts in 1 Corinthians 7:7. He says, “I wish that everyone was as I am. But each has his own gift from God, one this way, another that.” Also, Daniel and Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams (Dan 2, Gen 41). Bezalel had ability, by the Holy Spirit, to be an expert craftsmen and work on the artistic crafts for the tabernacle (Ex 35). Therefore, it is clear that Paul and Peter weren’t trying to be exhaustive in the four major lists. It is probable that there are many other gifts, such as: intercession (the ability to be burdened and pray for long periods until God answers), casting out demons, leading worship, and many more.

Descriptions of Major Gifts

What exactly are the major giftings? Though most are clear, with a few, there is considerable debate over what exactly the gift is and how it manifests.

  • Administration/ruling is the ability to oversee and administrate in the church including event planning, overseeing budget and people, developing strategic ministries, etc.
  • Apostleship probably refers to the ability to build and oversee effective ministries for the kingdom (cf. 1 Cor 3:10, Eph 2:20). People with this gift typically serve as missionaries, church planters, and leaders of large ministries or denominations. They are often entrepreneurial by nature, multi-gifted, and shepherds of leaders. With that said, the gift of apostleship is different from the office of apostle, which was held by a limited number of people in the early church (Mk 3:13-19, 1 Cor 15:7-9, Rev 21:14). The original apostles established the foundation of the church through their teaching, mission work, leadership, and writing of Scripture (Eph 2:20). To become an apostle, they had to have seen the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:21–25, 10:39–41, 1 Cor 9:1, 15:7–8), been chosen by him for apostleship (Mk 3:14, Lk 6:13, Acts 1:2, 24, Gal 1:1), and worked miracles as a proof (2 Cor 12:12, Matt 10:1–2).7 Now that the foundation of the church has been established, it seems that the office of apostle has ceased (cf. 1 Cor 15:7-9)—though the gift of apostleship continues. The word “apostle” in the Greek (apostolos) simply means “sent one.” Therefore, those who are called, commissioned, and sent by a church or ministry organization to reach people in local or foreign lands may have the gift of apostleship. In addition, though a pastor is gifted to care for a local church, a person with the gift of apostleship may be especially gifted to care for and minister to churches in a region or even the universal church. Certainly, many gifted leaders, since the original apostles, have especially blessed, corrected, and protected the broader church through their teachings, writings, mission work, and leadership—people like Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley, William Carey, and Hudson Taylor, among others.
  • Discernment refers to the ability to discern spirits that are not of God by weighing their fruit against Scripture. Those with this gift have often been called the “watch dogs” of the church. When members are in danger of accepting hazardous teachings or activities in the church, the “watch dogs” identify the false spirits/doctrines and sound the alarm.
  • Giving refers to the ability to live sacrificially and therefore give generously to those in need and to help make disciples in the local church and abroad.
  • Knowledge probably refers to the ability to discern previously unknown information about a person (or situation) in order to speak God’s word to him or her. An example of this can be seen in how Peter prophetically rebuked Simon in Acts. He said to him, “For I see that you are bitterly envious and in bondage to sin” (8:23). This may be a picture of the “word of knowledge.” Others believe “knowledge” may refer to the original ability of the prophets and apostles to write Scripture. If this is true, this gift would no longer be in operation, since the Canon is complete.
  • Wisdom simply refers to the ability to give intelligent, enlightened counsel. In Scripture, people like Joseph, Solomon, and Daniel clearly had this gift, as they wisely counseled and guided people and organizations.
  • Mercy refers to the ability to feel and show compassion to those who are suffering or in need. In Acts, Dorcas is an example of someone with this gift; she was known for doing good and helping the poor (9:36).
  • Exhortation refers to the ability to encourage and challenge people in their relationship with God. Some people will not grow without being pushed by others. When Paul called the Corinthians spiritual “infants,” he was using his gift of exhortation, as he challenged and rebuked them for being worldly (1 Cor 3:1-4).
  • Prophecy refers to the ability to give a relevant and direct word from God. In the Old Testament prophetic books, most prophecy is “forthtelling” instead of “foretelling.” Forthtelling is properly diagnosing a person or situation and proclaiming an authoritative word from God that instructs or exhorts, based on Scripture. Foretelling refers to revealing previously unknown information about an individual, people, place, or event. In Acts 11:28, a prophet named Agabus prophesied about a severe famine that would afflict the land.
  • Teaching refers to the ability to understand and explain Scripture.
  • Helps/service refers to the ability to discern needs and the willingness to help in various situations. People with this gift are exceptional servants.
  • Pastor refers to the ability to spiritually care for and shepherd God’s people. These people often have some measure of the gift of teaching, which is one of the primary ways they care for people.
  • Evangelism refers to the ability to share the gospel and win people to Christ. These people often feel very comfortable around the lost. Christ was called a “friend of sinners,” as he commonly ate and drank with them (Matt 9:11, 11:19).
  • Singleness refers to the desire and ability to remain single in order to give a greater devotion to serving God and others. People with this gift typically feel very content being single and also have a greater control of their sexual desires (cf. 1 Cor 7:8-9).
  • Marriage refers to the desire and ability to commit to someone of the opposite sex in an exclusive union to honor God (cf. 1 Cor 7:7). Those with the gift of marriage will be more effective in building God’s kingdom in the marriage union than in singleness. It provides both protection from sexual temptation as well as a partner to serve God with.
  • Tongues refers to the ability to speak a previously unknown language as a form of worship and prayer to God. First Corinthians 14:2 says, “For the one speaking in a tongue does not speak to people but to God, for no one understands; he is speaking mysteries by the Spirit.” There is much debate over how this gift manifests. Some only believe it is demonstrated in human languages as seen in Acts 2:6-11, when the apostles spoke in unknown yet human languages as they praised God before unbelievers. Others believe tongues refers to a heavenly or angelic language, which can only be understood by one with the gift of interpretation (1 Cor 14:5, 13, 27). Some see both of these possibilities as true manifestations of tongues. In 1 Corinthians 13:1, when Paul talked about the tongues of men and angels, he was probably referring to these two manifestations of tongues.8
  • Interpretation refers to the ability to interpret the gift of tongues (1 Cor 14:13, 27).
  • Miracles refers to the ability to do supernatural works. When Moses parted the Red Sea and brought water out of a rock, these acts were manifestations of the gift of miracles. Likewise, when Paul blinded Elymas the sorcerer to stop him from hindering God’s message, that was a miracle (Acts 13:8-11).
  • Healing refers to a special ability to be used by God to heal those who are sick. When Peter and Paul healed people in Acts, these were manifestations of the gift of healing (3:6, 28:8). (Although they had this gift, they could not always heal people (2 Tim 4:20). Healing is always based on the will of God.)
  • Faith refers to the ability to believe God for his promises. Sometimes people with this gift become pioneers—starting churches, schools, mission organizations, and other ventures to reach people for God’s kingdom.

Gifts and Commands

It should be noted that many of these gifts are ministries every believer is called to do. All believers are called to evangelize, be merciful, serve, and teach others. People with these specific gifts help other believers in the body achieve what they are called to do. By being around evangelists, we are challenged to grow in evangelism. By listening to a teacher, it helps us understand and teach Scripture as well. When being around those who are merciful, we learn to care for those who are hurting and in need. Therefore, when we use our spiritual gifts, we build up the body in many ways, including helping others obey God in those particular areas. Conversely, when we don’t use our gifts to serve the body, by default, we weaken the church.

Finding Our Gifts

How do we find our spiritual gifts? We find our spiritual gifts, in part, by understanding why God gives them. They are given to edify and serve others. First Corinthians 12:7 says, “To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all.” They are also given for our personal benefit, as seen with the gift of tongues. In 1 Corinthians 14:4, Paul says, “The one who speaks in a tongue builds himself up, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.” Likewise, when people use their gifts of teaching to study and present God’s Word, they are edified. Also, when they serve others, those with the gift of mercy are often edified, as well. The fact that we are edified by serving in a specific capacity is one of the indicators that it might be our gift.

Although our spiritual gifts typically edify both others and ourselves, an exception to that is the gift of tongues. It seems that this gift only edifies the person using it. The gift of tongues has to be interpreted in order to edify other people, which is why Paul cautions against using it in a corporate gathering without an interpreter (1 Cor 14:23, 27-28). The fact that tongues only edifies the person speaking them is probably why Paul placed it last on his list of gifts (1 Cor 12:27-30). In 1 Corinthians 14, his primary argument is that the church should seek prophecy over tongues because it edifies others and not just oneself. That seems to also be true when comparing tongues with every other gift.

Therefore, to discern giftings, people should try serving in various ways—youth ministry, children’s ministry, administration, evangelism, and leading. While serving, people will find out what edifies others. If we teach and everybody falls asleep, then that may not be our gift. Also, while serving, people will discover what edifies them—what they enjoy and don’t enjoy.

It is good to remember that, as we are faithful with using our gifts, often God will expand our ministry, including giving us more gifts to use for his glory. In the Parable of the Talents, the man who invested his five talents and made ten, God gave him one more talent because of his faithfulness (Matt 25:28-29). Another great example of this principle is Philip, the evangelist. In Acts 6, because of his character, Philip was initially enlisted to provide food for hungry widows. However, in Acts 8, it is clear that Philip became a miracle worker and an evangelist. Most likely, as he was faithful with the little God gave him—feeding widows—God expanded his ministry. God will often do the same with us.

Time Frame of Gifts

There is some argument amongst believers about whether some gifts have ceased. Cessationism is the belief that the sign gifts such as tongues, prophecy, miracles, and healing are no longer valid today. They are called sign gifts because they were often used to authenticate the ministry of a prophet or apostle. Moses did miracles to authenticate his ministry, as did other prophets, Jesus, and the apostles. (1) Cessationists would argue that these gifts ceased when the apostolic age ended (when the last apostle died in the first century) and the Bible was complete. Now there is no need for these gifts. (2) Also, they point to how prophecy, tongues, and miracles seemed to disappear soon after the first century. (3) In addition, they commonly point to how these “gifts” are often counterfeited and abused today, including how they routinely appear in pagan religions.9

Continuationism is the belief that all spiritual gifts will continue, in some form or other, until Christ returns, or the eternal state comes. It is estimated that about eighty percent of Protestant Christians are continuationists.10 (1) One of their primary arguments is the lack of a clear biblical text that says the sign gifts were temporary and not meant for the church throughout history.11 (2) Further support for continuationism is found in verses that seem to demonstrate the continuation of spiritual gifts throughout the church age and beyond (cf. 1 Thess 5:19-20, 1 Cor 14, Rev 11:1-14). For example, 1 Corinthians 1:7 and 13:8-12 say:

so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Love never ends. But if there are prophecies, they will be set aside; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be set aside. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.

First Corinthians 1:7 implies that spiritual gifts will continue at least until Christ comes. Certainly, this is pictured in the Parable of the Talents where the Lord returns and rewards or judges believers based on what they did with his gifts, including spiritual gifts (Matt 25:14-30, cf. Lk 19:11-27). With that said, 1 Corinthians 1:7 does not directly say that gifts will end when Christ comes. In fact, in the Parable of the Talents, Christ took the talent away from the unfaithful servant and gave it to the faithful one, to use in the master’s service (Matt 25:28). This implies that our gifts will still be used, at least initially, as we rule with Christ in the millennial kingdom (Is 11:9, 29:18, Jer 23:4, Rev 20).

First Corinthians 13:10 directly declares when spiritual gifts, and specifically sign gifts, will cease. They will end “when what is perfect comes, the partial [such as knowledge, prophecy, and tongues] will be set aside” or “come to an end” (HCSB). Since the word “perfect” is neutral and not masculine, instead of referring to the second coming of Christ, most likely it refers to the eternal state12, when God brings the new heaven and earth (Rev 21-22). There we will see God “face to face,” have full knowledge of him and his will, and gifts will no longer be needed (1 Cor 13:12; cf. Rev 21:4, Matt 5:8, Ps 17:15). Spiritual gifts are currently just a foretaste of the coming perfect kingdom where we will experience perfect knowledge, health, faith, and mercy, among other blessings, as we worship and serve our King.

Unfortunately, the way believers have often handled their differences on the issue of the continuity or discontinuity of sign gifts has been unhelpful and divisive. Daryl Aaron gives some prudent advice for believers who hold different views on the subject, as well as other secondary doctrines:

Ironically, the manner in which this controversy about the miraculous spiritual gifts has been handled—by both sides—has often been divisive, contrary to the Spirit’s own work to bring unity to the church (Ephesians 4:3). Everyone needs to (and most do) acknowledge that this issue is of secondary importance. For the sake of unity, we are to be gracious in holding our convictions while accepting and loving anyone with whom we may disagree.13

Reflection

  1. What stood out most in the reading and why?
  2. What are spiritual gifts? How are they received? Why are they given?
  3. How many spiritual gifts are there?
  4. How do we discern our spiritual gifts?
  5. Have some of the spiritual gifts ceased? Why or why not?
  6. What are your spiritual gifts, and how has God called you to use them?
  7. What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 Evans, Tony. Theology You Can Count On: Experiencing What the Bible Says About... God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Angels, Salvation... . Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

2 Ryrie, C. C. (1999). Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (p. 423). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

3 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 957). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

4 Aaron, Daryl. Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day: How can I know God? Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

5 Aaron, Daryl. Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day: How can I know God? Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

6 Evans, Tony. Theology You Can Count On: Experiencing What the Bible Says About... God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Angels, Salvation... . Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

7 MacArthur, J., & Mayhue, R. (Eds.). (2017). Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (p. 756). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

8 Fee, G. D. (2014). The First Epistle to the Corinthians. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (Revised Edition, p. 699). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

9 Aaron, Daryl. Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day: How can I know God? Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

10 Clark, Randy. The Spiritual Gifts Handbook: Using Your Gifts to Build the Kingdom (p. 34). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

11 Aaron, Daryl. Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day: How can I know God? Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

12 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (p. 365). Chicago: Moody Press.

13 Aaron, Daryl. Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day: How can I know God? Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.]

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)

8. The Holy Spirit’s Ministries, Part VI - The Filling Of The Spirit

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The Filling of the Spirit

What does it mean to be “filled with the Spirit?” In Ephesians 5:18-21, Paul says:

And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for each other in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This is a commonly misunderstood teaching; therefore, we will begin with what “being filled with the Spirit” does not mean.

Common Misunderstandings

1. To be filled with the Spirit is not describing a crazy, ecstatic experience, such as falling on the floor, shaking uncontrollably, or barking like a dog.

Scripture says one of the fruits of the Spirit is “self-control” (Gal 5:23) and the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets (1 Cor 14:32). This means when the Spirit of God moves in one’s life, it ignites and enables self-control—not lack of control. The Spirit-filled person is able to control his lust, language, emotions, and body.

In 1 Corinthians 12:3, Paul says, “So I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” The implication from Paul’s statement is that the Corinthians were accepting many counterfeits in the church. They probably were so excited about power and charismatic gifts that they accepted everything without question. Paul says, “No, the Spirit of God won’t say Jesus is cursed!” In the same way, many churches today are so excited about the things of the Spirit, they lack discernment.

One of the tricks of the Anti-Christ in the end times will be counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders (2 Thess 2:9). The enemy deceives people with these types of wonders even today. People in churches are barking like dogs, roaring like lions, falling down, shaking, and other outlandish displays. John commanded believers to test the spirits to see if they are of God (1 John 4:1). We do this by analyzing the spirit’s fruit. One question we must ask is, “Does this ‘spirit’ produce self-control or lack of control?”

2. To be filled with the Spirit is not the same as the baptism in the Spirit.

When a person becomes born again, Christ baptizes him with the Spirit into the body of Christ. First Corinthians 12:13 (ESV) says, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” It is a one-time experience, during which we become part of Christ’s body. Some believe the baptism is a second experience that believers must seek and that it is commonly associated with speaking in tongues. However, 1 Corinthians 12:13 says that we have all been baptized in the Spirit, and at the end of the chapter, it says that not everybody has the gift of tongues (v. 28-31). Another evidence that all believers have been baptized with the Spirit is the fact that Scripture never commands us to seek the baptism. If it were an important experience for all believers to pursue, wouldn’t there be at least one command for us to seek it? But there is no command. The baptism in the Spirit is a one-time experience that happens at salvation, and therefore, Scripture doesn’t command us to seek it.

Sadly, because the filling of the Spirit is commonly associated with baptism in the Spirit, in some circles, it has led believers to create two tiers of Christians—Spirit-filled and un-Spirit-filled. In some churches, Christians who don’t speak in tongues are looked upon as second-class citizens. This results in the opposite of what the baptism in the Spirit is meant to do. The baptism makes us one body—not two. This misunderstanding of being baptized with the Spirit divides what God actually unified through Spirit baptism.

What Is the Filling of the Spirit?

Well then, we must ask, what is the filling of the Spirit? Whereas with the baptism in the Spirit, we become part of the body of Christ, in the filling of the Spirit, we offer our body to God. Whereas baptism in the Spirit is a one-time experience, the filling of the Spirit is a continual experience of believers. For believers, there is one baptism and multiple fillings. This is seen in the Greek tense of the word “fill.” It is a present imperative. It can actually be translated “keep on being filled.” It is also passive, meaning, “we do not fill ourselves but permit the Spirit to fill us.”1

Warren Wiersbe’s comments on the word “filled” are helpful:

In the Bible, filled means “controlled by.” “They … were filled with wrath” (Luke 4:28) means “they were controlled by wrath” and for that reason tried to kill Jesus. “The Jews were filled with envy” (Acts 13:45) means that the Jews were controlled by envy and opposed the ministry of Paul and Barnabas. To be “filled with the Spirit” means to be constantly controlled by the Spirit in our mind, emotions, and will.2

The filling of the Spirit brings power into the Christian life to be holy, to witness, and to accomplish all God calls for us to do. It should be the continual endeavor and experience of every believer. Believers should constantly seek this experience in their lives. If they don’t, they will produce little fruit for God’s kingdom.

Becoming Filled

How should believers seek the filling of the Spirit?

1. Believers are filled through yielding to the Spirit’s control.

Again, the word “fill” is passive, meaning that the Holy Spirit fills us. Therefore, in order for the Spirit to control us, we must yield to his will in our lives, by obeying Scripture and the Spirit’s promptings, and not grieving the Spirit through sin. We must offer our bodies as living sacrifices unto God, as Romans 12:1 says. This is where many Christians fail. They continually hold back their best from God—not wanting to fully submit to him for fear of what he might say or where he might lead. As long as believers hold back full obedience to God, they cannot be filled as they should be.

Are you yielding to the Spirit? Or are you holding back full obedience?

2. Believers are filled through dwelling in the Word of God.

Colossians 3:16-18 says,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

It is hard not to notice the similarities between Colossians 3:16-18 and Ephesians 5:18-21. The results of being filled with the Spirit and letting the Word of Christ dwell richly in us are almost synonymous. The results are worship, thanksgiving, and submission to others.

Since the Spirit is the author of Scripture, to be filled by him means to dwell in the Word of God. The word “dwell” actually means “to feel at home.”3 Many Christians can’t be filled and empowered by the Spirit because the Word of God is not “at home” in their lives. It is more like a visitor than a resident. They visit the Word of God on occasion. They say, “Maybe, I’ll read the Bible today or maybe I won’t.” Therefore, they don’t have Spirit-enabled power in their lives, and they struggle with self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit.

If we are going to be filled with the Spirit, we must daily dwell in the Word of God (Psalm 1:2-3). There the Spirit instructs and equips us for all righteousness (2 Tim 3:16-17).

3. Believers are filled through prayer.

In Acts 4:29-31, the church gathered to pray because of the persecution they suffered for preaching the gospel. The text shows their prayer and the result:

And now, Lord, pay attention to their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your message with great courage, while you extend your hand to heal, and to bring about miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God courageously.

When they finished praying, the place was shaken, and they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word of God courageously. Instead of fearing the threats of men, they had spiritual power to continue God’s ministry.

How do we get filled and empowered by the Spirit of God? We get filled and empowered by having a thriving prayer life. Our ability to serve God, be holy, and have joy will often be proportionate to our time in prayer. Prayer is one of the ways the Spirit fills us.

As we consider Acts 4, we must also see the importance of corporate prayer. Even Jesus, when confronted with the cross, called a prayer meeting to prepare for what was coming (Mk 14:34-42). We should do the same when encountering trials and temptations in our lives. Corporate prayer is one of the ways that God fills and empowers us.

4. Believers are filled through worship.

In 2 Kings 3:15 (ESV), Elisha was approached by Jehoshaphat and Ahab, who were seeking God’s wisdom about going to war. Elisha responded, “‘But now bring me a musician.’ And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him.” Elisha was filled by God and empowered as he worshiped. It is the same for us; God empowers us through worship. In another story, God routed an invading army while Jehoshaphat and his army worshiped (2 Chr 20).

The Bible says God inhabits the praises of his people (Psalm 23:3 ESV). Wherever there is true worship, God manifests and empowers his people.

5. Believers are filled through faithfully enduring trials.

We get a picture of this with Christ in the wilderness. Matthew 4:1 says he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. But Luke 4:13-14 says this about his leaving: “So when the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him until a more opportune time. Then Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the surrounding countryside.” When Christ left the wilderness after faithfully enduring temptation, the Spirit of God empowered him.

It is no surprise that the believers whom God used greatly in Scripture, were often first sent into the wilderness—trials—to be filled and empowered. Trials empty us of our self-reliance, so we can fully rely on God’s strength. God said this to Paul about his thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

God uses trials to weaken us so the power of his Spirit may be made perfect in us. With that said, for some, trials can cause them to turn away from God. Instead of running to God for his strength and comfort, they run to something else, such as alcohol, smoking, overeating, a relationship, or some other addiction. They forfeit God’s power and give something or someone else control of their lives.

Are we drawing near God in our trials, or near to something else? Our trials are strategic. It is there that God empowers and equips us for service.

Results of Being Filled

What are the results of being filled by the Spirit according to Ephesians 5:19-21? We might think the results would be such things as miracles, prayer that moves mountains, or healing, but they are not. In Ephesians 5:19-21, Paul shares the results of being filled with the Spirit:

speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for each other in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

A result of being filled is corporate worship.

Paul said speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. MacDonald’s comments are helpful:

While some see all three categories as parts of the Book of Psalms, we understand only psalms to mean the inspired writings of David, Asaph, and others. Hymns are noninspired songs which ascribe worship and praise directly to God. Spiritual songs are any other lyrical compositions dealing with spiritual themes, even though not addressed directly to God.4

It must be noted that Paul says, “speak to one another.” Corporate worship is focused on God, but in it, we also speak to and edify one another. We see this commonly in the Psalms. Psalm 95:1-3 says:

Come! Let’s sing for joy to the LORD! Let’s shout out praises to our protector who delivers us! Let’s enter his presence with thanksgiving! Let’s shout out to him in celebration! For the LORD is a great God, a great king who is superior to all gods.

This reminds us that when we sing to God, it blesses him, but it also blesses others. As we raise our voices in worship, we speak to others about the greatness of God, and we edify them. Additionally, when we do not sing, we rob others of their blessing. Certainly, some are more gifted at singing than others, but Spirit-filled singing has nothing to do with being in tune or singing well. Spirit-filled singing is a manifestation of the heart that honors God and loves others.

2. A result of being filled is individual worship.

Paul said, “making music in your hearts to the Lord.” When filled with the Spirit, we find ourselves continually praising God—humming songs in our heart throughout the day. This is true because the Spirit’s passion is to glorify Christ and God (cf. John 16:14).

3. A result of being filled is thankfulness.

When a person is critical and complaining, they are not filled with the Spirit, but with the flesh (cf. Gal 5:19-21, Phil 2:14). When the Spirit fills us, we give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for our lives (1 Thess 5:18).

4. A result of being filled is submission.

Instead of constantly seeking our rights and our glory, like Christ, we lay our rights down to serve and honor others. Philippians 2:3 says, “Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.” This includes submitting to our authorities but also to those under our authority. When Christ washed the feet of his disciples, he essentially submitted to them as a servant. That is why the disciples were so shocked and refused his ministry (John 13:1-17). Like Christ, we must humbly submit to others, even those who submit to us.

Additional Means of Being Filled

Finally, in considering these results, it is worth noting that some commentators believe they are not results of being filled with the Spirit but a means of being filled.5 Certainly, they are both. When we worship individually and corporately, we are filled with God’s Spirit, even as Elisha was empowered while the musician played the harp in worship (2 Kgs 3:15). When we are thankful, we are filled with the Spirit. But when we complain, we “…. quench the Spirit” (1 Thess 5:18-19 NIV). When we submit to one another, God fills us, but when we are selfish, prideful, and in discord, we forfeit his filling.

As believers, we must keep an awareness of the Spirit’s filling, for we need it to worship, to be thankful, to submit to God and others, and ultimately to accomplish everything God commands of us.

Reflection

  1. What stood out most in the reading and why?
  2. What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit, and why is it important for the Christian life?
  3. What does it mean to be baptized in the Spirit, and how is it sometimes confused with being filled with the Spirit?
  4. What are the results and means of being filled with the Spirit?
  5. How is God calling you to daily pursue being filled with the Spirit?
  6. What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 48). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

2 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 48). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

3 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 139). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

4 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1946). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

5 Evans, Tony (2009-01-01). Free at Last: Experiencing True Freedom Through Your Identity in Christ (Kindle Locations 1817-1819). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)

Appendix 1: Study Group Tips

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Leading a small group using the Bible Teacher’s Guide can be done in various ways. One format for leading a small group is the “study group” model, where each member prepares and shares in the teaching. This appendix will cover tips for facilitating a weekly study group.

  1. Each week the members of the study group will read through a select chapter of the guide, answer the reflection questions (see Appendix 2), and come prepared to share in the group.
  2. Prior to each meeting, a different member can be selected to lead the group and share Question 1 of the reflection questions, which is to give a short summary of the chapter read. This section of the gathering could last from five to fifteen minutes. This way, each member can develop their gift of teaching. It also will make them study harder during the week. Or, each week the same person could share the summary.
  3. After the summary has been given, the leader for that week will facilitate discussions through the rest of the reflection questions and also ask select review questions from the chapter.
  4. After discussion, the group will share prayer requests and pray for one another.

The strength of the study group is the fact that the members will be required to prepare their responses before the meeting, which will allow for easier discussion. In addition, each member will be given the opportunity to teach, which will further equip their ministry skills. The study group model has distinct advantages.

Appendix 2: Reflection Questions

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Writing is one of the best ways to learn. In class, we take notes and write papers, and these methods are used to help us learn and retain the material. The same is true with the Word of God. Obviously, all the authors of Scripture were writers. This helped them better learn the Scriptures and also enabled them to more effectively teach it. As you reflect on God’s Word, using the Bible Teacher’s Guide, take time to write so you can similarly grow both in your learning and teaching.

  1. How would you summarize the main points of the text/chapter? Write a brief summary.
  2. What stood out to you most in the reading? Did any of the contents trigger any memories or experiences? If so, please share them.
  3. What follow–up questions did you have about the reading? What parts did you not fully agree with?
  4. What applications did you take from the reading, and how do you plan to implement them into your life?
  5. Write several commitment statements: As a result of my time studying God’s Word, I will . . .
  6. What are some practical ways to pray as a result of studying the text? Spend some time ministering to the Lord through prayer.

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