God On The Net

The Work of the
Holy Spirit in Believers

The Holy Spirit makes anew or regenerates the believer.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

John 3:3-5 [3] In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." [4] "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" [5] Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit."

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Regeneration is the Holy Spirit's work. Regeneration is the impartation of life, spiritual life, to the one "dead in trespasses and sins." It is the Holy Spirit who imparts this life.

Ephesians 2:1 [1] As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, [2] in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

John 6:63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

Note 1In 2 Corinthians 3:6, we are told that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. This is sometimes interpreted to mean that the literal interpretation of the Scripture kills, but that the interpretation that gives the spirit of the passage gives life. It means nothing of the kind, as the context shows. This is a favorite perversion of Scripture with those who do not like to take the Bible as meaning just what it says. Still another false interpretation is that the letter means the old covenant, the law; the spirit, the new covenant, the Gospel. But this is not the thought. The contrast, as is seen from verse 3 is between the mere written word written with ink, and the living word written in the heart "with the Spirit of the living God." This much is true in the second interpretation, that the law was "the ministration of death." (verse 7), because unaccompanied by the Spirit's power, and the gospel is a ministration of life, because it is a ministration of the Spirit. But the Gospel is a ministration of the Spirit and of life only when the Gospel is preached "not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Corinthians 2:4) or as Paul puts it in another place (1 Thessalonians 1:5) when the Gospel comes "not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost." The mere letter of the Gospel will merely condemn and kill unless accompanied by the Spirit's power. The ministry of many an orthodox preacher and teacher is a ministry of death. It is true that the word of the Gospel is the instrument God uses in regeneration.

Compare James 1:18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

1 Peter 1:23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

1 Corinthians 4:15 Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.

But it is not the bare word, but the word made a living thing in the heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. No amount of preaching, no matter how orthodox it may be, no amount of mere study of the Word, will regenerate unless the Holy Spirit works. It is He and He alone who makes a man a new creature. This He is ever ready to do when the conditions are supplied. But we are utterly dependent upon Him. Just as we are utterly dependent upon the work of Christ for us in justification, so we are utterly dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit in us for regeneration. Regeneration is the impartation of a new natureGod's nature.

2 Peter 1:4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

It is the Holy Spirit who imparts this to us, makes us partakers of the divine nature.

Compare Luke 1:35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

This is done through the Word.

2 Peter 1:4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

1 Corinthians 4:15 Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.

To put it in a word: The human heart is the soil, the preacher or teacher plants the seed, the word of God is the seed, the Spirit of God causes the seed to grow, and the Divine nature is the result.

Note 2The Spirit of God dwells in the one thus born of the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?

Some say that it is not the individual believer, but the church in which the Spirit of God dwells. But consider:

1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

This shows that Paul conceives of the individual believer as the temple of the indwelling Spirit. In the indwelling of the Spirit we have an advance upon the work of regeneration. That is a momentary act, the impartation of life, the implantation of a new nature. But in the indwelling Spirit is an abiding presence.

John 14:16-17 [16] And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—[17] the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

The Holy Spirit dwells in everyone who belongs to Christ.

Romans 8:9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

The Corinthian believers were very imperfect believers, but Paul told them that they were temples of the Holy Spirit even when dealing with them concerning gross immorality.

See 1 Corinthians 6:15-19 [15] Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! [16] Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." [17] But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. [18] Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. [19] Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

The Holy Spirit dwells in every child of God. In some, however, He dwells back in the hidden sanctuary of their spirit and is not allowed to take possession as He desires of the whole manspirit, soul and body. Some, therefore, are not distinctly conscious of His indwelling, but He is there. What a solemn but glorious thought. If we are children of God we are not so much to pray that the Spirit may come and dwell in us; for He does that already. We are rather to recognize His presence, His gracious and glorious indwelling, and give Him complete control of the house He already inhabits, and strive to so live as not to grieve this Holy one, this Divine guest. We shall see later that it is right to pray for "the filling" or "baptism" with the Spirit. What a thought it gives of the hallowedness of life and of the sacredness of the body, to think of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. How carefully we ought to walk so as not to grieve Him. How considerately we ought to treat these bodies, and how sensitively we ought to shun everything that will defile them.

Note 3This indwelling Spirit is a source of everlasting satisfaction and life.

John 4:14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Compare John 7:37-39 [37] On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. [38] Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." [39] By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

It is clear that the water here spoken of is the Holy Spirit. The one who drinks of this water "shall never thirst" or literally shall not thirst for eternity. He has a fountain within. No need now to go outside for satisfaction. He is independent of environment for life and joy. Why then do so many professed Christians feel compelled to run into the world for their satisfaction?

The Holy Spirit sets the believer in Christ free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:1-2 [1] Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, [2] because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

In the preceding chapter we see what the law of sin and death is. (Romans 7:9-24) Paul had been aroused by the law of God to see what was holy and just and good. He delighted in this law after the inward man. (verse 22) and strove to keep it. But he found that there was not only this "holy and just and good" law without him, but he found there was another law in his members warring against the law of his mind. This law of sin and death was, that when he would do good evil was present. (verse 21) "To will is present to me, but to do that which is good is not." (verse 18) In this wretched position of approving of the law in his mind, but in servitude to the law of sin and death in his actions, Paul found himself until he discovered in Christ Jesus a third law, "the law of the Spirit of life." This law set him free from the law of sin and death so that now he not only could "will" but also "do," and the righteousness of the law was fulfilled in him who walked not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:3) It is the work of the Holy Spirit when we give up trying to live right in our own strength --, i.e., in the energy of the fleshand surrender to the Holy Spirit to live after Him and walk in his blessed power, to set us free from this awful law of sin and death.

There are many professed Christians today living in Romans 7:9-24. Some even go so far as to reason that this is the normal Christian life. But in verse 9 Paul tells us distinctly that this was "when the commandment came," and again in verse 14 that this was his experience as "carnal, sold under sin," but in Romans 8:9 he tells us how not to be in the flesh but in the Spirit. In the eighth chapter of Romans we have the picture of the true Christian life, the life that is possible to and that God expects from every on of His childrenthe life where not merely the commandment comes, but the Spirit comes and works obedience and victory. Life not in the flesh but in the Spirit, where we not only see the beauty of the law, but where the Spirit imparts power to keep it. (Romans 8:4) We still have "the flesh," but we do not live after it; we "through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body." (Romans 8:13) We walk after the Spirit and do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16) We "have crucified the flesh with the passions and lusts thereof." (Galatians 5:24) It is thus our privilege in the Spirit's power to get daily, hourly, constant victory over the flesh and over sin. But this victory is not in ourselves, not in any strength of our own. Left to ourselves, deserted of the Spirit of God, we would be as helpless as ever. It is still true that in us, that is, in our flesh, no good thing dwells. (Romans 7:18) It is all in the Spirit's power. The Spirit's power may be in such fullness, that one is not conscious even of the presence of the fleshit seems dead and gonebut it is only kept in the place of death by the Holy Spirit's power. If we try to take one step in our own strength we fall. We must live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit if we are to have victory. (Galatians 5:16, 25)

Notein John 8:32, it is the truth that sets us free and gives victory over sin, and in Psalms 119:11, the indwelling word. In this, as in everything else, what is attributed to the Spirit in one place is attributed to the word elsewhere.

The Holy Spirit strengthens the believer with power in the inner man.

Ephesians 3:16 [16] I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

The result of this strengthening is seen in the following:

Ephesians 3:17-19 [17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, [18] may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, [19] and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

The Holy Spirit leads us into a holy life - a life as sons of God, a godlike life.

Romans 8:13-14 [13] For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, [14] because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Not merely does the Holy Spirit give us power to live a holy life, a life well pleasing to God when we have discovered what that life is; He takes us as it were by the hand and leads us into that life. Our whole part is simply to surrender ourselves utterly to Him to lead and mold us. Those who do this are not merely God's offspring which all men are, neither are we merely God's children. "These are sons of God."

The Holy Spirit bears witness together with the spirit of the believer that the believer is a child of God.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.

Note that Paul does not say that the Spirit bears witness to our spirit but with it"together with our spirit," is the exact force of the word used. That is, there are two who bear witness to our sonship; first our spirit bears witness that we are children of God; second, the Holy Spirit bears witness together with our spirit that we are children of God.

How does the Holy Spirit bear His testimony to this fact?

Galatians 4:6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."

It is only when "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law is fulfilled" in me "who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit" (v. 4) and I "through the Spirit of God do mortify the deeds of the body" (v. 13) and when I am surrendered to the Spirit's leading (v. 14)it is then and only then that I can expect (v. 16) to be realized in my experience, and to have the clear assurance of sonship that comes from the Spirit of God testifying together with my spirit that I am a child of God. There are many seeking this testimony of the Holy Spirit in the wrong placei.e., as a condition of their surrendering wholly to God and confessing the crucified and risen on as their Savior and Lord.

The Holy Spirit brings forth fruit in the believer in Christ-like graces of character.

See The Fruit of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit quickens the mortal body of the believer.

Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

This, as the context shows, refers to the future Resurrection of the body. This is the Spirit's work. The glorified body is from Him. It is a spiritual body. We now have the first fruits of the Spirit, but are waiting for the full harvest, the redemption of the body.

Romans 8:23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Note.There is a sense in which the Holy Spirit even now quickens our bodies.

Matthew 12:28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Acts 10:38 [37] You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—[38] how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

James 5:14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.

By His Holy Spirit God imparts new health and vigor to these mortal bodies in the present life.

Psalms 104:29-30 [29] When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. [30] When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.


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