Theology in a nutshell
The Holy Spirit, the Christian's Helper
By Ken Horn
Editor’s note: This sixth article in the series “Theology in a nutshell” is on pneumatology, the study of the Spirit of God.
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us. …” These words by the Jerusalem Council when making an important church decision in Acts 15:28 (NKJV) are a pattern for Christian living today. When Christians make important decisions, they must make them based upon, first of all, what seems good to the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is not a distant third in the Trinity. He is the One who was given specifically to the church when Jesus ascended into heaven. He is the other Helper that Jesus promised. Our relationship with Him should be close and intense.
The Holy Spirit is the Christian’s Guide.
“When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13, NIV).
The Spirit’s guidance is available to every believer. It is God’s desire that we be able to hear His voice. Then we can say with confidence, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit’s guidance is available for large things and for small, for things expected or unexpected, for longstanding difficulties and spontaneous needs. It is important that we live with spiritual ears attuned to His voice, that we “walk in the Spirit.” If we do so, we will not only have positive direction, but protection against sin. “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, NKJV).
The Holy Spirit has appointments for believers.
Lay soul-winner Walt Hanson wrote this excellent advice to the Evangel in 1997: “All Christians should start the day with a prayer that the Lord will lead us to someone who needs salvation — and then, anticipate the appointments the Holy Spirit will arrange.”
The Holy Spirit is a Person.
It is reassuring to know that the Holy Spirit is not a mysterious force; He is a close Friend who will guide our lives on the right paths. He is “the Spirit Himself” (Romans 8:16) — not “the Spirit itself” as in an earlier version.
The Holy Spirit is God, the Third Person of the Trinity.
There is ample evidence that the Holy Spirit is God. He has the names and titles of deity, the attributes of God, and does works only God can do.
And He is expressly identified as God. One example will serve: What the Lord said in Isaiah 6:8-13 is ascribed to the Holy Spirit in Acts 28:25-27.
The Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures.
Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” “Inspiration of God” is one Greek word, theopneustos, literally meaning “God-breathed.” It is a special word, used nowhere else in Scripture, that emphasizes the work of the Breath or Wind of God, the Holy Spirit, in producing the Bible.
The Holy Spirit empowered the fledgling Church.
When Jesus’ physical presence was gone, His people could become His body. Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). Most scholars consider Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, to be the birthday of the Church. 1
This other “Helper” is the Greek paraclete meaning someone called to one’s side. It came to mean helper, supporter, even comforter.
All Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:9 makes this clear: “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” All those who have made Jesus Lord and Savior have the Spirit living within them.
There is a second, separate work of grace called the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus told His followers, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The experience in the Book of Acts was described variously as being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (1:5), “filled with the Holy Spirit” (2:4), receiving “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38), and the Holy Spirit falling upon them (10:44).
The Baptism is a definite experience that is subsequent to salvation. This is clearly seen among both the Samaritan and Ephesian believers in Acts 8:14-17 and 19:1-6.
The initial, physical evidence of the Baptism is speaking in tongues.
We see this repeatedly in the Book of Acts, first of all in 2:4. In Acts 10:45,46 the Christians know that “the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also” because “they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.”
But speaking in tongues is not enough. There is more to being Spirit-filled than that.
Spirit-filled believers are empowered for greater service.
They are energized for overall service, with an emphasis on witnessing (Acts 1:8).
But they are not better than Christians who are not Spirit-filled. When a believer is filled, it just makes that believer stronger in the Lord. Being filled with the Spirit is not about comparison with other believers — that is pride. It is about being all one can be, with all of the spiritual resources available being active in one’s life.
Throughout the Bible and church history, those who received this experience became more vigorous and effective than they were prior to the Baptism.
Spirit-filled believers are empowered to defeat problems that they could not overcome in their own strength.
My father had smoked since he was a young child. Through the years he tried numerous times to quit … and always eventually went back to the old habit. Until something happened. Late one Sunday night, when I was at Bethany College in Scotts Valley Calif., Dad called to tell me he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. He never smoked again.
It was the Holy Spirit’s power that overcame the enemy he couldn’t beat on his own.
All can receive this Baptism.
“Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) is a joyful imperative for the believer. George Holmes put it this way: “It’s like saying to a sick person, ‘Be filled with health.’ Or to struggling parents with a large family, ‘Here’s a million dollars.’ ”2
Holy Spirit fullness is not a one-time thing.
Pentecostals don’t believe in “once filled, always filled.” Speaking in tongues once does not mean filled always.
Ephesians 5:18 literally means, “Be being filled,” or “Keep on being filled with the Spirit.” It’s a continuous process. “The initial impetus comes from the Spirit,” explains Assemblies of God scholar Anthony Palma, “but the responsibility for being continually filled with the Spirit rests with the Christian as he cooperates with the Spirit.” 3
“Keep being filled” also implies there is a measure of the Holy Spirit’s presence, based on our capacity (which is further limited if there are lots of other things in our life).
The gifts of the Spirit are for today.
Some people believe that the gifts of the Spirit were only for the first-century church. They base this upon a wrong interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13. (click here for more info.)
Samuel Chadwick, in The Way to Pentecost, said it well: “There are no reasons why the gifts of the Spirit should be operative in one dispensation and not in another. They did not cease at the close of the Apostolic Age. They have been manifest in all ages of the Church.”4
The fruit of the Spirit are active in varying degrees in the lives of all Christians.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22,23). The word “fruit” here is singular. The nine come as a package. These, together, are the true sign of spiritual maturity. It is up to each individual believer to cultivate them as he or she would a fruit vine, by a deep relationship with Jesus.
The Holy Spirit convicts of sin.
The Spirit’s role is a major one in all genuine revivals. “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8, NIV).
“Repentant tears,” said revivalist Brownlow North, “are the waters upon which the Spirit of God moves.”
The “unpardonable sin” is sin against the Holy Spirit.
According to Mark 3:28-30, it is coming to so severe a separation from God and rejection of Christ that one attributes the works of the Holy Spirit to the devil. “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation, because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’ ”
J. Oswald Sanders offers these important observations: “(1) It is a calculated sin, not one of impulse. (2) It is a sin of knowledge, not ignorance, but a sin against spiritual knowledge and light (Hebrews 10:26-32). (3) It is not an isolated act but a habitual attitude. (4) It is a sin of the heart, not merely of the intellect or the tongue. (5) It is a sin of finality — complete rejection of Christ.” 5
The harsh term “blasphemy” indicates a deliberate and godless rejection of the saving power and grace of God.
As James Bridges has said, “The capacity to have concern regarding whether or not one has committed the unpardonable sin is a certain indicator the person has not done so.”6
The Holy Spirit reveals and glorifies Jesus.
Perhaps no verse illustrates this better than Acts 4:13: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John [newly Spirit-filled], and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”
At the height of his ministry, Charles Spurgeon drew so many to his church that tickets were needed to get in. One man had traveled a great distance only to find there was no more room. A sympathetic church member gave the traveler his ticket.
“What did you think of my pastor?” the church member asked the visitor after the service.
“I didn’t see your pastor,” the man replied.
The church member was somewhat disturbed by this until the man explained. “Though your pastor preached,” he said, “I saw only Jesus.”
This is the primary role of the Holy Spirit … not to call attention to himself, but to glorify Jesus. The believer who seeks more of Jesus receives more of His Holy Spirit.
1. Systematic Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective, Stanley M. Horton, ed. (Springfield, Mo.: Logion Press, 1994), p. 528.
2. Questions and Answers about the Holy Spirit, Hal Donaldson, Ken Horn and Ann Floyd, eds. (Springfield, Mo.: PE Books, 2001), p. 35.
3. “Keep on being filled,” Advance (February 1981), p. 26.
4. Samuel Chadwick, The Way to Pentecost (Fort Washington, Pa.: CLC Publications, 2000) pp. 146,147.
5. Cited in 50 Tough Questions, Hal Donaldson and Ken Horn, eds. (Springfield, Mo.: PE Books, 2002), p. 32.
Ken Horn is managing editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.
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