TheoThought 300

David W. Hegg


God the Spirit in the New Testament and Today



Introduction: With the coming of Jesus Christ, God the Spirit’s presence is heightened. In John 16:13 Jesus predicted the Spirit’s ministry would be focused, not on himself, but on the Savior’s person and work.


John 16.13 When  the Spirit of truth comes,  he will  guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but  whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.


This is crucial to understand as we begin our study of the multi-faceted activity of God the Spirit in the New Testament era and today. The Spirit’s purpose is never self-promoting, nor does he act except in relationship to the redemptive plan of the Father through the Son.


1. The Appearances of the Spirit:


There are two prominent and representative appearances of God the Spirit in the New Testament and they align with those of the Old Testament:


A. At the Baptism of Jesus:


Each of the 4 Gospel writers make mention of the attendance of God the Spirit at the baptism of Jesus, while Matthew and John make special mention that the Spirit remained on him.


Matt. 3.16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold,  the heavens were opened to him,  and he  saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;


Mark 1.10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he  saw  the heavens being torn open  and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.


Luke 3.22 and  the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and  a voice came from heaven,  “You are my beloved Son;  with you I am well pleased.”


John 1.32 And John bore witness:  “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and  it remained on him.


like a dove bodily:Luke alone represents the Spirit as having “somatiko eidei.” This phrase is only found here and in 1 Timothy 4:8 (bodily training). The sense here is not that an actual body of a dove descended, although some believe that to be so. Rather, the sense is that the coming of the Spirit was a visible experience.


What was visible was not a dove, but rather what was seen is compared to a dove since (hos, as) is an adverb of manner … The manner of the Spirit’s descent was like the way a dove floats gracefully through the air. Luke alone lacks a verbal reference to the sighting of a dove-like entity, in that he does not use eiden (eiden, “he saw”) as Matt. 3:16 and Mark 1:10 do. In this way Luke minimizes the vision like aspects of the account …” (Darrell L. Bock, Luke, vol 1, pg. 338).


In this appearance of God the Spirit in the New Testament we see the continuation of the mediums used in the Old Testament by which he allowed himself to be experienced as visibly present.


B. Pentecost:


Certainly the most significant appearance of God the Spirit occurs on the day of Pentecost, recounted in Acts 2:1ff.


Before this, Luke records several preliminary and necessary assertions by Jesus to his disciples that serve to explain the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost:


1) Jesus taught his disciples through the Holy Spirit:

Acts 1.1  In the first book, O  Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began  to do and teach,  2 until the day when  he was taken up, after he  had given commands  through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.


2) Jesus predicted they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit:

Acts 1.5 for John baptized with water,  but you will be baptized  with  the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”


3) The result of the coming baptism with the Holy Spirit, the apostles would be empowered to be Christ’s witnessing proclaimers:

Acts 1.8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and  you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and  Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”


4) Pentecost: Acts 2


Acts 2.2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like  a mighty rushing wind, and  it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  3 And divided tongues  as of fire appeared to them and rested  on each one of them.  4 And they were all  filled with the Holy Spirit and began  to speak in other tongues  as the Spirit gave them utterance.


Acts 2.6 And  at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.


Acts 2.11 … we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”


Note: The heightened presence and experience of God the Spirit is introduced here, in fulfillment of Joel’s prediction in Joel 2:28-32, which Peter rightly determines and declares (see: Acts 2:16ff). The components of this fulfillment are found in the fact that 1) The Spirit (rushing wind and fire) came upon ordinary men, not kings, prophets or judges, but ordinary men called to be witness proclaimers of Jesus. Here we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction concerning their witnessing of him.


2) The Spirit rested on the Apostles enabling them to proclaim the mighty things of God. In this we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction that they would be “baptized” with the Holy Spirit which would, subsequently, endue them with power to proclaim Jesus as his witnesses.



Note: The significance of these two appearances is very important. Taken together they show God’s validation of the Son as his representative, and the empowering of the Apostles as the Son’s representatives as witnessing proclaimers.


In this we see the basis for the Spirit’s ongoing ministry: He manifests the presence of God in the world, and effectively validates and enables the proclamation of the Gospel. As we will see, this includes several ministries in and through individual Christ-followers and the church.



2. The Activities of the Spirit:


Understanding the Economy of the Trinity:


The activities of God the Spirit in the New Testament and today both continue and heighten what we learned about his activity in the Old Testament era. The fact that the ministry of the Spirit expands so visibly is due to the economic aspect of the Trinity. By this is understood that, while The Triune God is always one, it is also true that some activities are understood to be primarily the work of one of the Persons of the Godhead. When we specify certain activities as primarily the work of one of the persons, we are speaking of the economic aspect rather than the essential nature of the Triune God.


For example, we understand that God the Son died on the cross, not the God the Father, even though the Triune God shares one consciousness and exists in perichoresis (the mutual intersecting or interpenetration of the Godhead). Thus, we can identify those activities in which God the Spirit is described as being primary.


That the Spirit’s ministry is visibly heightened in the New Testament stems from the fact that his primary tasks relate to validating and enabling the proclamation of the finished work of Jesus Christ. Only after the work of the Son was finished could the work of the Spirit be recognized in its fullness.


Jesus underscored this economic perspective in John 16:7:


John 16.7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for  if I do not go away,  the Helper will not come to you. But  if  I go,  I will send him to you.


From this we understand that the bulk of God the Spirit’s activities were always meant to be in support of the work of Christ, and could only come to the forefront once Jesus had accomplished his earthly work and returned to heaven. While the activities/ministries of God the Spirit are many and varied, the vast majority can be grouped under the following areas:


A) Conviction:


God the Spirit is the agent of true conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment.


Conviction is that work of the Spirit whereby the confrontational truth of God regarding his commands and standards are made known to us in a way that brings about actionable belief.


John 16:7-11: Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for  if I do not go away,  the Helper will not come to you. But  if  I go,  I will send him to you. 8  And when he comes, he will  convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin,  because they do not believe in me; 10  concerning righteousness,  because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11  concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world  is judged.


Here we see that a primary work of God the Spirit is to being conviction to hearts concerning sin, righteousness and judgment.


sin: First, God the Spirit is the agent of conviction of sin. It is important for us to understand that, while there may be many forms of conviction, true conviction of sin is a work of the Holy Spirit.


1Th. 1.5 4 For we know,  brothers  loved by God,  that he has chosen you,  5 because  our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and  in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.


2Tim. 2.24 And  the Lord’s servant  must not be quarrelsome but  kind to everyone,  able to teach, patiently enduring evil,  25 correcting his opponents  with gentleness. God  may perhaps grant them repentance  leading to a knowledge of the truth,  26 and they may come to their senses and escape from  the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.


• righteousness: Second, God the Spirit not only opens minds and hearts to the reality of sin, but also to the existence of righteousness, its necessity before Almighty God, and the reality that such righteousness is impossible for the sinner to achieve by self-effort.


• judgment: Lastly, God the Spirit is the agent by which minds and hearts are awakened to the justice of God’s judgment on sin. Those who come to see their own sin, and compare it to their understanding of God’s demand of righteousness, also come to recognize that God’s judgment on sinners is just.


Note: All of this is essentially what comes in the “box” marked “repentance”, which is itself the necessary soil from which faith springs. A Holy Spirit-produced sense of sin, righteousness and judgment, creates the soil of repentance from which saving faith springs.


B) Regeneration/Sealing/Sanctifying


Already in the Old Testament we recognized that God the Spirit was the agent of regeneration. By this we understand that it is through the Spirit’s action that God brings about new life in that which has died.


It can be helpful to understand the economy of the Triune God in redemption in this way:


God the Father planned redemption.

God the Son accomplished the redemption planned by the Father.

God the Spirit applies the redemption planned by the Father and accomplished by the Son, to the lives of those chosen by God in eternity past and recognized in time by virtue of their repentance and faith.


God the Spirit is active all aspects of the eternal life God grants to those who believe:


1) regenerating spiritual life: regeneration


God the Spirit is the agent that brings new life to those chosen by God for salvation, and evidenced through repentance and faith.


Regeneration: The monergistic, secret work of God the Spirit whereby new life is given to those dead in sin; biblically to be “born again.”


John 3.5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born  of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6  That which is born of the flesh is  flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  7  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You  must be born  again.’ 8  The wind  blows  where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”


John 6.63  It is the Spirit who gives life;  the flesh is no help at all.  The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.


2Cor. 3.6 who has made us sufficient to be  ministers of  a new covenant, not of  the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but  the Spirit gives life.


Titus 3.5 he saved us,  not because of works done by us in righteousness, but  according to his own mercy, by  the washing of regeneration and  renewal of the Holy Spirit, 


2) sustaining spiritual life: sealing


God the Spirit, once having regenerated the dead soul, remains as the guarantor of eternal inheritance, himself being the sign and seal of God’s promise that nothing can separate the believer from the love of God in Christ.


Eph. 1.13 In him you also, when you heard  the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him,  were sealed with the  promised Holy Spirit,


Eph. 4.30 And  do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,  by whom you were sealed for the day of  redemption.


Rom. 8.26   Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For  we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but  the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.


3) perfecting spiritual life: sanctification


As God the Spirit is the agent of regeneration, resulting in justification (being declared righteous before Almighty God on the basis of the redemptive work of God the Son), he is also the agent of sanctification as he indwells the Christ-follower and works more and more to make him or her like Christ.


Sanctification: The progressive and cooperative work of God the Spirit in the Christ-follower through which become more and more “holy unto God” and thereby, more and more adverse to, and free from, sin.


Rom. 15.16 to be  a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles  in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that  the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.


1Cor. 6.11 And  such were some of you. But  you were washed,  you were sanctified,  you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.


2Th. 2.13   But  we ought always to give thanks to God for you,  brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you  as the first fruits   to be saved,  through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.


Rom. 8.3-17 For  God has done what the law,  weakened by the flesh,  could not do.  By sending his own Son  in the likeness of sinful flesh and  for sin,  he condemned sin in the flesh,  4 in order that  the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,  who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  5 For  those who live according to the flesh set their minds on  the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on  the things of the Spirit.  6 For to set  the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is  hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law;  indeed, it cannot.  8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.


Rom. 8.9   You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact  the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Anyone who does not have  the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  11 If the Spirit of  him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus  from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies  through his Spirit who dwells in you.


Rom. 8.12   So then, brothers,  we are debtors,  not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you  put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  14 For all who are  led by the Spirit of God are  sons  of God.  15 For  you did not receive  the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of  adoption as sons, by whom we cry,  “Abba! Father!”  16  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  17 and if children, then  heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,  provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 


Heb. 10.29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one  who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned  the blood of the covenant  by which he was sanctified, and has  outraged the Spirit of grace?


1Pet. 1.1,2 To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,  2 according to  the foreknowledge of God the Father,  in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and  for sprinkling with his blood:   May  grace and  peace be multiplied to you.


C) Baptism and Filling


God the Spirit’s place and power in the lives of Christ-followers are often defined in these three ways:


1) The Baptism of/with/in the Holy Spirit:


The baptism of/with/by the Holy Spirit, occurring at the time of regeneration, is a one-time event by which God the Spirit brings the repentant sinner into the family of God.


John 1.33 I myself did not know him, but  he who sent me to baptize  with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain,  this is he who baptizes  with the Holy Spirit.’


1Cor. 12.13 For  in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves  or free—and  all were made to drink of one Spirit.


Acts 1.5 for  John baptized with water,  but you will be baptized  with  the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”


Acts 8.14   Now when  the apostles at Jerusalem heard that  Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John,  15 who came down and prayed for them  that they might receive the Holy Spirit,  16 for  he had not yet  fallen on any of them, but  they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  17 Then  they laid their hands on them and  they received the Holy Spirit.


Acts 10.44   While Peter was still saying these things,  the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.  45 And the believers from among  the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because  the gift of the Holy Spirit  was poured out even on the Gentiles.  46 For they were hearing them  speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared,  47  “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit  just as we have?”  48 And he  commanded them  to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.


Acts 19.4 And Paul said,  “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people  to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”  5 On hearing this,  they were baptized in  the name of the Lord Jesus.  6 And  when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and  they began speaking in tongues and  prophesying. 


Note: As the Apostles move out from Jerusalem, according to Jesus’ command and in the power of God the Spirit, each time the Gospel goes to a new realm, the sign that the Spirit has come is made visible through the gift of tongues. But this is not seen in 2nd generation believers in the same realm. Thus, the sign gifts were not essentially attached to the baptism in/with/by the Holy Spirit, but rather were given initially to validate the Apostles as authentic witnessing proclaimers of Christ.


2) The Filling of/with the Holy Spirit:


The ongoing empowering of the Christ-follower by the indwelling Spirit of God, so that the progressive renewing of the image of God in him/her is accomplished is described as the filling of/with the Holy Spirit.


Note: This “filling” does not mean we can get “more or less” of the Spirit. Rather, the idea is of the extent to which the Spirit is being allowed to “fill” each area of our lives. To be filled with the Spirit, or filled by the Spirit is to allow the presence and power of the Spirit to be the controlling force in every area of our lives. This is described in Scripture as being led by the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, etc. The filling of the Spirit is an ongoing, cooperative activity between God the Spirit and the Christ-follower.


Eph. 5.18 And  do not get drunk with wine, for that is  debauchery, but  be filled with the Spirit,  19 addressing one another in  psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,  20  giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father  in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,  21  submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.


Gal. 5.16   But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify  the desires of the flesh.


Rom. 8.14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are  sons  of God.


D) Empowerment


In his work of making the presence of God known in the world, God the Spirit empowers, both miraculously in specific situations, and also in way that all Christ-followers experience in common.


1) Miraculous Empowerment


a) Mary


God the Spirit was the agent through which the supernatural conception and virgin birth of Jesus was accomplished through Mary. The Spirit so superintended (overshadowed) Mary that she conceived apart from any interaction with a human male, and brought forth, as the product of her womb, the Living Word.


Luke 1.35   And the angel answered her,  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of  the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born  will be called  holy— the Son of God.


b) Jesus


The ministry of the Spirit is the life of Jesus is certain while unclear. At times Jesus is said to perform miracles by himself while at other the Spirit is mentioned as a participant. It is also true that the Spirit was active in leading and guiding Jesus during his earthly ministry.


Matt. 4.1    Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness  to be tempted by the devil.


Luke 4.14    And Jesus returned  in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and  a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.


Matt. 12.28 But if it is  by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then  the kingdom of God has come upon you.


Luke 10.21    In that same hour  he rejoiced  in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father,  Lord of heaven and earth, that  you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and  revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for  such was your gracious will.


However, it must be remembered that, in the end, the Spirit is understood to be sent by the Son into the world to testify of him, and to empower witnessing proclaimers in the world-wide ministry of the Gospel.


c) Apostles


God the Spirit also empowered the Apostles in ways not common among all Christ-followers.


i) As Authors of Scripture


God the Spirit so superintended the human authors of Scripture that, using their own vocabulary, style, and thoughts, what they wrote was “one for one” with what God had “breathed out” (inspired).


This action of God the Spirit is known as revelation.


Revelation: The action of God by which new and necessary information is directly communicated to a human being for personal direction and/or public proclamation. Such communication is always recognized without question as from God, and is therefore understood to be fully inspired, inerrant, and absolutely authoritative.


In the case of the human authors of Scripture, the truth of God was communicated to them, and worked out perfectly through then, through the agency of God the Spirit.


2Tim. 3.16  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  17 that  the man of God  may be complete,  equipped  for every good work.


2Pet. 1.20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  21 For  no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God  as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.


ii) As validated spokesmen for God through miracle


In the same was as we encountered in the Old Testament, God the Spirit empowered the Apostles in the working of the miraculous as a means of validating their unique role in the early stages of the proclamation of the Gospel.


Acts 1.8 But you will receive  power  when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and  you will be  my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and  Samaria, and  to the end of the earth.”


2Cor. 12.12  The signs of a true apostle were performed among you  with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.


2) Common Empowerment


By “common empowerment” is meant the empowering work of God the Spirit that all Christ-followers experience.


i) Illumination/Teaching


When Jesus was finishing his earthly redemptive mission, he taught his disciples concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit. He accomplishes this through illumination and teaching.


Illumination: The work of God the Spirit whereby he makes the truth of God knowable through Scripture. He “opens our eyes” to the meaning God intends be taken away from his word.


Teaching: God the Spirit is the Christ-follower’s resident “truth teacher” as he brings to our hearts and minds the truth of what we have learned, allowing us to live righteously in the various situations we face in this broken world. This is an essential component in the Spirit’s work of guidance in the life of the Christ-follower.



John 14.26 But the  Helper, the Holy Spirit,  whom the Father will send in my name,  he will teach you all things and  bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.


John 16.13 When  the Spirit of truth comes,  he will  guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but  whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.


1Cor. 2.12 Now  we have received not  the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  13 And we impart this  in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit,  interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.


1Cor. 2.14   The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are  folly to him, and  he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.


Eph. 1.17 that  the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,  may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,  18  having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is  the hope to which he has called you, what are  the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe,  according to the working of  his great might


ii) Guidance


As we have seen, direct communication of God to a human being is known as revelation. When the indwelling Spirit uses previously revealed information, we understand this as guidance.


Guidance: The work of God the Spirit in the Christ-follower whereby he directs our decisions and actions, through the understanding of Scripture as well as through feelings, impressions, remembrances, and impulses. Given that this direction includes our understanding and response, we can never say that this “guidance” is therefore infallible, inerrant, or that our impressions and feelings are authoritative for ourselves or others.


In the following verses we find the action of the Spirit defined in ways less than direct, assured command. These, then, are examples of guidance:


Acts 15.28 For it has seemed good  to the Holy Spirit and  to us  to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:


Acts 16.6   And  they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.


Acts 20.22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by  the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there,  23 except that  the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that  imprisonment and  afflictions await me.


2Cor. 2.12   When  I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though  a door was opened for me in the Lord,  13 my spirit  was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.  


“We must rely upon the Holy Spirit to direct and guide us in the understanding and application of God’s will as revealed in Scripture, and we must be constantly conscious of our need of the Holy Spirit to apply the Word effectively to us in each situation. The function of the Holy /spirit in such matters is that of illumination as to what the will of the Lord is, and of imparting to us the willingness and strength to do that will … As we are the subjects of this illumination and are responsive to it, and as the Holy Spirit is operative in us to the doing of God’s will, we shall have feelings, impressions, convictions, urges, inhibitions, impulses, burdens and resolutions. Illumination and direction by the Spirit through the Word of God will focus themselves in our consciousness in these ways … It is here, however, that careful distinction is necessary. The moment we desire or expect or think that a state of our consciousness is the effect of a direct intimation to us of the Hoy Spirit’s will, or consists in such an intimation and is therefore in the category of special direction from him, then we have given way to the notion of special, direct, detached communication from the Holy Spirit. And this, in respect of its nature, belongs to the same category as belief in special revelation. The only way whereby we can avoid this error is to maintain that the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit is through the means which he has provided, and that his work is to enable us rightly to interpret and apply the Scripture in the various situations of life, and to enable us to interpret all the factors which enter into each situation in the light of Scripture.” (John Murray, Collected Writings, vol. 1; pp 188, 189)


iii) Proclamation


The coming of God the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost declares that the primary work of the Spirit is to enable, through the church, the worldwide proclamation of the Gospel. Jesus promises the Spirit who will empower the disciples to be witnessing proclaimers. Then, the Spirit comes and what happens is best understood as a “pre-enactment” of the accomplishing of the Great Commission: all the “world” hears, in their own languages, the mighty acts of God.


Acts 1.5 for  John baptized with water,  but you will be baptized  with  the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” … 8 But you will receive  power  when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and  you will be  my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and  Samaria, and  to the end of the earth.”


Acts 2.1   When  the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.  2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like  a mighty rushing wind, and  it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  3 And divided tongues  as of fire appeared to them and rested  on each one of them.  4 And they were all  filled with the Holy Spirit and began  to speak in other tongues  as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5   Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven … 11 both Jews and  proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”


Note: The Old Testament action of “laying on hands” was used to represent the transfer of something. This included transferring sin from the people to the bull or goat, as well as the transfer of the power of God from Moses to Joshua. In the New Testament we see the “laying on of hands” used when setting a man apart for the proclamation of God’s Word. The symbolism represents the idea that God’s hand is now on the man, representing God the Spirit’s empowerment to preach the Word.


1Tim. 4.14  Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you  by prophecy when the council of elders  laid their hands on you.


1Tim. 5.22  Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and  thereby share  responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself  free from sin.


2Tim. 1.6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,


It is apparent here then, that while the Spirit empowers each believer in the proclamation of the things of God, there is also that empowering that accompanies a man’s appointment to a preaching/teaching office in the church.


iv) Service


God the Spirit, indwelling each Christ-follower, also empowers him or her to service to both the world through proclamation and to the church through spiritual gifts. Those Christ-followers who are endeavoring to be “filled with the Spirit” will evidence his filling in the way they appropriate both their gifts and opportunities to use them in service to the church and the world.


Rom. 12.3   For through  the grace given to me I say to everyone among you  not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to  each a measure of faith.  4 For  just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,  5 so we,  who are many, are  one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  6 Since we have gifts that  differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly …


1Cor. 12.4   Now there are  varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.  5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.  6 There are varieties of effects, but the same  God who works all things in all persons.


1 Peter 4.10  As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good  stewards of the manifold grace of God.  11  Whoever speaks, is to do so  as one who is speaking the  utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving   by the strength which God supplies; so that  in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ,  to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.


v) Unity


God the Spirit, through regeneration, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, his indwelling presence, and his sanctifying power constitutes the agency through which Christ-followers are bound together in loving unity. To divide the Body of Christ is to rebel against the Spirit of God.


1Cor. 3.16    Do you not know that  you are a  temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?


1Cor. 6.19 Or  do you not know that  your body is a  temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from  God, and that  you are not your own?


Note: In both 1Cor. 3:16 and 6.19 “you” is plural, speaking of the united church as the dwelling of God the Spirit.


Eph. 4.1   Therefore I,  the prisoner of the Lord,  implore you to  walk in a manner worthy of the  calling with which you have been  called,  2 with all  humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another  in love,  3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the  bond of peace.




As we have seen the activities of God the Spirit are many and varied. Yet, their common foundation is the work of making the presence of God known in the world and the church, especially through the proclamation of the redemptive story. God the Spirit is always seen in relationship to the plan of the Father and the redemption accomplished by Christ. God the Spirit takes what the Son has finished and applies it and promotes it in and through those in whom he takes up his dwelling, empowering and preserving them through the end of the age, to the Glory of God.












Luke, vol. 1; Darrell L. Bock (Grand Rapids: Baker Books), 2004


Systematic Theology; Wayne Grudem (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 1994


Collected Writings, vol. 1; John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth) 1977


Baptism and Fullness, 3rd edition; John Stott (Downers Grove: InterVarsity) 2006


The Holy Spirit in the New Testament; Henry B. Swete (Grand Rapids: Baker) 1964