The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” —Luke 11:13

THE HOLY SPIRIT is the holy power of God. It is not a ‘third person’ in a trinity of gods. In the Old Testament the word spirit is a translation of a Hebrew word which literally means ‘breath’, or ‘wind’, and was thus used by the ancients. The same is true in the New Testament with respect to the Greek word translated spirit. However, this does not mean that the Holy Spirit is a holy wind. While originally the words translated wind meant only this one thing, through use the meaning was expanded to describe any invisible power or influence. Since the Spirit of God is an invisible power or influence, these Greek and Hebrew words were properly used to designate it.

In the Genesis account of creation we are informed that “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; and God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” (Gen. 1:2,3) Here the Spirit of God, his invisible power, is shown in a creative role, accomplishing the mighty acts of creation. In connection with the building of Israel’s Tabernacle and its furnishings, the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver; and in brass.”—Exod. 31:24

Another interesting use of the word spirit is in Ecclesiastes 11:5, which reads, “As thou knowest not what is the way of the sprit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.” This is particularly true with respect to the workings of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of God’s people.

Through the Word

The Holy Spirit of God as it works in the lives of his people during the present time is largely the power of his thoughts, his mind; and God’s holy thoughts are transmitted to us through his written Word. It was the Holy Spirit of God that enabled the ancient prophets to communicate their messages to us, and these now constitute much of the Old Testament. Jesus was directed by the Holy Spirit in the things which he said and did. The record of his life and teaching is, therefore, a further revealment of the thoughts of God as they pertain to his will for his people throughout the Gospel Age. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the waiting apostles, inspiring them to communicate further the holy thoughts of God. Thus we see that the entire Bible is very much a product of the Holy Spirit.

This means that when we study the Bible we are studying the thoughts of God, not the thoughts of man. “My thoughts are not your thoughts,” the Lord said, “… for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it to bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my Word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”—Isa. 55:8-11

We can be assured from this passage of Scripture that the Holy Spirit, working through the Word of truth, accomplishes all his good purposes in our lives. The Scriptures themselves, however, reveal that in cooperation with the written Word, the power of the Lord overshadows his people through his providences. Many of his providences are in the hands of God’s holy angels, and we read that “the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.”—Ps. 34:7

Indeed, the providences of Jehovah helped to shape our affairs in connection with our being drawn to our Lord Jesus, and to the point in our experiences of making a full consecration to do God’s will. (John 6:44) Probably all of us can look back and note how wonderfully the Lord did thus lead us—how he brought us into contact with his Word of truth, and prepared our hearts to be receptive to its message.

We cannot comprehend the ways of the Lord in connection with his dealings, for “we know not the way of the Spirit.” What we do know, and can appreciate, is that we were drawn to him, and through the power of the truth were impelled to make a full consecration to do his will.

These providences of the Lord continue with us as a comfort and guide. We are incapable of judging what shipwreck we might make of our Christian lives were it not for the Lord’s protecting care as it is ministered to us by the holy angels and otherwise. And this is an important part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The Begetting of the Spirit

We are able to understand only in part just how the Holy Spirit accomplishes God’s work in our hearts and lives. However, in order that we might grasp a little more clearly than otherwise what it accomplishes, the Bible uses a number of illustrations. One of these illustrations is contained in the word, “begat.” It is a translation of the Greek word gennao, and, except for the genealogy in Matthew 1, in the New Testament, it is translated “begat” but five times. All the other times it is used in the New Testament it is translated, “born.”

Begetting is the conception of a new life, and one of the things accomplished in us by the Holy Spirit is the beginning of a new life. The Apostle James wrote, “Of his own will begat he us with the Word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:18) It is the will of God that we should be thus begotten, and he accomplishes his will in us through the Word of truth.

It was by the miraculous power of God, his Holy Spirit, that the Bible was provided. It was also by his invisible power, operating by ways and means known and controlled by him, that we were brought into contact with the written Word. In the Word we found the plan of God revealed, that plan in which we see and appreciate the wisdom, justice, love, and power of God. We learned that this plan provided for the restoration of the human race to life on the earth during the thousand years of Christ’s kingdom. We also learned that the footstep followers of Christ during the Gospel Age were called to give up their human lives, and to receive a heavenly life to be with Jesus. We learned that this called for a full dedication of all that we have and are, to the Lord, and to the doing of his will; and we learned that his will was that we lay down our lives following in the footsteps of Jesus.

These simple but glorious truths made a strong appeal to us, so strong that we reached the point, eventually, of full surrender to the Lord. It is only in the fully surrendered heart that the Word of God can have its full and intended effect. As long as there is the slightest opposition to the thoughts of God having full control of our lives, the power of the Word is weakened so far as we are concerned.

We had already learned about the “exceeding great and precious promises” whereby we are made partakers of the divine nature, but we knew that these promises did not belong to us as long as we were holding back from the doing of God’s will. But when we did surrender, and presented our all to the Lord in sacrifice, to do with us as he desired, then we knew from the Word of truth that all its exceeding great and precious promises did belong to us, and the power of these promises went to work in our surrendered hearts.

The result of this was that we had hope of a new life. We knew that while our outward man would perish, our inward man, the new mind of the Spirit, would be renewed day by day, and in the resurrection would reach its birth, when we would be made like Jesus, exalted to “glory and honor and immortality.”—Rom. 2:7

Involved in thus becoming a New Creature in Christ Jesus there are two miracles. The first was the provision of the Word of truth through the Law, the prophets, our Lord Jesus, and the apostles. Then there was the miracle which took place in our own hearts which prepared us to receive the begetting power of the Word of truth. Thus it is proper to say that we were begotten by the Holy Spirit. Following natural begettal there is the growth of the embryo and so it is, symbolically, with us as New Creatures in Christ Jesus.

However, there is a difference in that in the case of the natural embryo it is a new body that is developed first, whereas with us it is a new mind. This new mind is quickened, energized by the Spirit, and nourished by the Word of truth. That is why it is essential for us to feed upon the Word, and to take into good and honest hearts all its lifegiving nourishment that we may grow strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. The birth of this new mind into a full fledged New Creature in Christ is brought about by a further ministry of the power of God, a use of divine power that is beyond the power of the Word.

The Anointing of the Holy Spirit

Another ministry of the Holy Spirit is its anointing power in our lives. In Isaiah 61:1,2 we read, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.” Jesus quoted this passage, with the exception of proclaiming the day of vengeance, and applied it to himself as the Head of his body; and we know that it also applies to us as his body members, for we have received this anointing from him.

The anointing illustration is based upon the ancient custom of the Israelites, under God’s instructions, to anoint their kings and priests to office. It was their official designation of appointment to office. This is the main thought in connection with our being anointed by the Holy Spirit. Whereas the begetting of the Holy Spirit is related to our new life, the spirit’s anointing pertains to our service as New Creatures. Through this illustration, and otherwise, we learn that the Lord has something for us to do, that he has authorized us to serve in connection with the outworking of the divine plan.

We come under this ‘anointing’ because we are members of the body of Christ. John wrote, “The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you.” (I John 2:27) We also receive this anointing, or authorization, of the Holy Spirit, through the Word of truth. Jesus said of himself, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) To his disciples he said, “Ye are the light of the world.” (Matt. 5:14) This is Jesus’ authority for our proclaiming the glad tidings of the divine plan. It is, shall we say, one of the ‘anointing texts’ of the Bible.

Paul wrote to the brethren at Philippi, saying, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless [Margin, ‘sincere’], the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world holding forth the Word of life.” (Phil. 2:14-16) This is another anointing text of Scripture, one which authorizes the followers of the Master to faithfulness in bearing glad tidings to the meek.

Another statement by the Apostle Paul authorizing us to be representatives of Christ in the outworking of the divine plan, reads, “All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”—II Cor. 5:18,19

Knowledge Important

In writing to the Hebrew brethren, Paul said, “For the time [you have been in the truth] ye ought to be teachers.” (Heb. 5:12) The fact that these brethren had not yet qualified to be teachers did not mean that this was not the Lord’s purpose in calling them. Paul points out that they needed themselves to be taught again “the first principles of the oracles of God.” Those who are anointed should indeed know these first principles of the truth. It is for this reason that we study, for only thus can we show ourselves approved unto God, workmen that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.—II Tim. 2:15

The Witness of the Spirit

The Apostle Paul wrote, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Rom. 8:16,17) The witness of the Spirit is the testimony of God’s Word that we have been begotten to sonship, and are his children. Paul declares that we have this witness, this testimony, “if so be that we suffer with him.”

The Apostle Peter wrote concerning the testimony of the Holy Spirit as given through the prophets of the Old Testament, and said that one of the points of truth it testified was “the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.” (I Pet. 1:10) The Apostle Paul wrote that he filled up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ. (Col. 1:24) There is abundant testimony in the Scriptures that the followers of the Master share with him in the sufferings foretold by the prophets. This means that if we are sharing in those sufferings because of our faithfulness to him, the testimony of the Holy Spirit on this point applies to us, and therefore is saying to us that we are the children of God.

And there are many other testimonies of the Word of God which serve as a “witness of the Spirit” to the faithful followers of Jesus. The Apostle John wrote, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” (I John 3:14) We should pay careful attention to the ‘ifs’ stated and implied in these wonderful testimonies of the Word. If we do not love the brethren, then we do not have this witness of the Spirit that we are God’s children. It is just that simple. If, through lack of zeal for the Master’s service, we are not placing ourselves in a position where we feel the opposition of the world, hence are not in any way suffering with Christ, but enjoying the friendship of the world, then we do not have this witness of the Spirit.

Paul again wrote, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14) Are we allowing the Spirit of God, through the Word, to lead us day by day in the paths of righteousness? The Lord, by his Spirit, and through his providences, leads his people sometimes beside the still waters and sometimes through the “valley of the shadow of death.” (Ps. 23) At times we may be able to trace his providences and understand their meaning; and at other times we will simply have to trust him where we cannot trace him. Like Job, we may look for the Lord on the right hand and on the left hand, ahead of us and behind us, but will be unable to find him. But if our faith is strong, we will be able to say from the heart, “He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”—Job. 23:8-10

If we are being led by the Holy Spirit, we will be quick to respond to any indications from the Word as to what the Lord would have us be and do. The general testimony of the Word concerning the disciples of Christ is that they are to follow him in sacrifice, even unto death. (Rev. 2:10; 14:4,5) We cannot expect that the Spirit will lead us along paths that are pleasant to the flesh, but otherwise. There will be trials and disappointments; but as New Creatures in Christ Jesus we will rejoice in the Lord, knowing that as long as we follow the directions of his Word we cannot go astray. Knowing this, we will have the assurance, the witness, that we are the sons of God.

The Seal of the Spirit

Ephesians 1:13 reads, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the Word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” In some instances the thought of a seal is used with respect to the impression of the divine likeness in the Christian life. But in this text the thought seems to be based on the custom of sealing letters and important documents as a means of guaranteeing their contents. So the thought seems to be that by, or through, the Holy Spirit, God has guaranteed to his faithful people that they shall receive all that he has promised. In verse 14 this “seal” is referred to as “the earnest of our inheritance”; that is, a sort of down payment on what we are eventually to receive if we are faithful even unto death.

Paul says that we are sealed “with that Holy Spirit of promise.” The Holy Spirit came upon the waiting disciples at Pentecost by promise. However, its manifestation to us is through the written Word of truth, and the many promises which it contains. And how wonderful are the promises which the Holy Spirit, through the Law, the prophets, our Lord Jesus, and the apostles, has recorded for our encouragement! These promises do indeed guarantee us victory in Christ. They assure us that not only is the one who called us faithful, but that he will accomplish on our behalf all his good will.—Heb. 10:23

And how all-comprehensive are the promises of God! We know that we are weak and imperfect, unworthy of his grace and love, but he has assured us that our iniquities are covered by the robe of Christ’s righteousness. We may look ahead with fear to the many trials which we know we must endure, and wonder if we will have the strength to endure them in a way pleasing to our Father, but we have the assurance that he will not permit us to be tested above that which we are able to bear; and that when the trials become too severe he will provide a way of escape.—I Cor. 10:13

We know that arrayed against us are the formidable enemies the world, the flesh, and the Devil. As we consider their combined strength and strategy invoked to separate us from the love of God, and to destroy us as New Creatures in Christ Jesus, we might well become fearful. But the Holy Spirit, through the Word, reminds us that greater is He who is for us than all that be against us, and that nothing will be permitted to separate us from the Father’s love.—Rom. 8:31-39

How blessed and reassuring are these sealing texts of the Word of God, recorded for our encouragement by the Holy Spirit! According to these promises, nothing can prevent us from attaining that for which we have been called by God—nothing, that is, but our own unfaithfulness. They assure us that as long as we keep ourselves in the love of God, and do the best we can in following the leadings of the Holy Spirit, we will ultimately have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Truly the assurance by Jesus that the Heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him is abundantly verified in our experiences as the children of God. Through the Holy Spirit he has begotten us to a new life; he has anointed us to be co-workers with him; he has given us his testimony that we are his children; and he has assured us of final victory in the race course, as we run for the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus. May we then continue humbly to follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit, knowing that, while at present it is leading us through a narrow way of sacrifice, eventually it will lead us to “glory and honor and immortality,” to live and reign with Christ a thousand years.—Rev. 20:6

Dawn Bible Students Association
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