For over a week my family and I have been considering the work of the Holy Spirit in our family Bible reading time, guided by Wayne Grudem’s discussion of it in Chapter 30, “The Work of the Holy Spirit,” of his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). In this and my next post I’ll share just a little of what we read there. However before beginning I’ll note that the chapter is as good a survey of the work of the Holy Spirit as I’ve read anywhere and recommend it to anyone wanting to know just what the Holy Spirit does.
Grudem defines the work of the Holy Spirit thus: “The work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world, and especially in the church” (page 634). Even in the Old Testament God promised that that His Holy Spirit would bless His people; for example, through Isaiah He told them, “I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants” (Isaiah 44:3, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV). Grudem examines five ways in which the Holy Spirit brings evidence of God’s presence and blesses, four of which I’ll consider in this and my next post: (1) the Holy Spirit empowers; (2) the Holy Spirit purifies; (3) the Holy Spirit reveals; and (4) the Holy Spirit unifies.
The Holy Spirit Empowers
One way in which the Holy Spirit empowers is by giving life, both by giving and sustaining physical life and by giving new life in regeneration:
– “When you send forth your Spirit, they [land animals, man, and sea creatures] are created, and you renew the face of the ground” (Psalm 104:30).
– “It is the Spirit who gives life [spiritual life]; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:63).
Another way in which the Holy Spirit empowers is by giving power for service. The Old Testament gives numerous examples of the Holy Spirit’s empowering people for special service and of His helping His people against their enemies:
– “The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day [his being anointed by Samuel] forward” (1 Samuel 16:13).
– “Be strong all you people of the land … for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not” (Haggai 2:4-5).
And the New Testament tells how the Holy Spirit empowered both Jesus and His disciples in their ministry:
– “And Jesus returned [from being tempted in the wilderness] in the power of the Spirit [who had descended on him when he was baptized and was with him during his temptation] to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country” (Luke 4:14).
– “Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit … was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some … rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (Acts 6:5-10).
It also tells how the Holy Spirit empowers us by giving us spiritual gifts to equip us for ministry and making our prayers effective:
– “All these [recipients of the spiritual gifts listed in verses 8-10] are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11).
– “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do no know what to pray for as we ought, but the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
The Holy Spirit Purifies
As befits His being called the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit cleanseths us from sin and produces a growth in holiness in us:
– “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV).
– “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
In my next post I’ll consider how the Holy Spirit reveals and unifies.