What Does the Holy Spirit Do?
When you think about the Holy Spirit, what comes to mind?
This question is asked and asked in this way because Christians have a lot of different answers for it. Over the last hundred years, the charismatic Pentecostal denomination has claimed a premium on the Holy Spirit, and many Christians believe that to understand the Holy Spirit better, you must listen to them. So, I've listened, but what I've heard hasn't given me any new or unique insight into the person and work of the Holy Spirit—only insight into a group of people set on seeing signs and wonders performed. They don't have a premium on the Holy Spirit. For the most part, they see Him as a supernatural force they must catch and use for signs and wonders. And that amounts to the majority of our understanding of Him as well: an impersonal supernatural force. The Bible doesn't see Him as such, and my hope is our thinking shifts so we fundamentally believe the Bible has a premium on the Holy Spirit.
To understand how the Holy Spirit works in our lives, we must first begin with His character and nature. Who is the Holy Spirit? Simple answer: God. The Holy Spirit is just as much part of the Trinity as the Father and the Son are. The Trinity is three persons in one essence: they are three different persons sharing the same perfect attributes and will. Each person has a role, and they relate differently to each other. God the Son is eternally begotten of the Father, and from them comes the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God in His attributes in that He is perfectly holy, righteous, sovereign, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and love. Whoever the Father and the Son are, so is the Holy Spirit. He is not impersonal, and He cannot be manipulated by us to do our bidding.
What does the Holy Spirit do?
As part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit's role in creation is different from the Father and the Son, and He relates to us differently than the Father and the Son, but not separately. In creating the world, God the Father spoke creation into existence by His Word which, as we find out from the apostle John, is God the Son. God, the Holy Spirit, was also on the scene in creation, hovering over the waters (Genesis 1:2). In the new birth, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as causing new life (John 3:5-8; 6:63). He is effective and powerful in creating and shaping new life.
The Holy Spirit is by no means a distant power. He works within us. He is the one who relays to our hearts the blessings of the Father and the Son. Paul tells us the Holy Spirit pours God's love into our hearts (Romans 5:5). Jesus tells us He is our comfort and help, the extension of the Father and the Son to us personally:
"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you" (John 14:16-17).
In that passage, Jesus assures His disciples that though He will leave them, His influence will remain, not with them, but within them. What Jesus did for His disciples in His ministry to them, the Holy Spirit continues seamlessly in their hearts.
Jesus tells us the Holy Spirit will do two things for us. The first is comfort. Paul explains this when he writes to the Ephesians:
"In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14).
The Holy Spirit comforts us by assuring us of our salvation. He does this by sealing us in our faith, pledging us an inheritance, keeping us as God the Father's own. To the Romans, Paul tells us the Holy Spirit works in our Spirit to recognize and relate to God as our Father, to help us in our fellowship with Him (Romans 8:14-17).
Second, the Holy Spirit guides us in the truth. Jesus speaks about Him as the "Spirit of truth" (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13) who guides us into truth. He does this by convicting us of sin, reminding us of our righteousness in Christ, and reminding us Christ defeated Satan on the cross (John 16:8-11).
By being the Holy Spirit, holiness is fundamental to His work. He produces good fruit in us by reminding us of the truth and assuring us we are in Christ, righteous before God, and children of God. He does not do this in a distant, hopeful way, but in an immanent and persuasive way, within us, forming and shaping us.
The Holy Spirit works most closely with us, pouring the blessings of the love of the Father and the gentle care of the Son into our hearts. He is our comforter, assuring us we are the children of God. He is our helper, guiding us into the truth and conforming us to it.