Friday, November 29, 2013

What is the job of the Holy Spirit?

This answer is terribly constrained by space. I would refer the reader to The Holy Spirit, by John Walvoord, or any of the other fine works mentioned within this short space.

The Holy Spirit? Too many churches today will hardly talk about this third part of the godhead, and I think it altogether fitting that I talk about at least the main part of what the Holy Spirit does. Emotional extravaganzas have been the excuse for hundreds of years not to talk about the Spirit, and I suppose that we have not changed in that regard in these times. I find an author talking about these problems almost a hundred years ago. “If the Holy Spirit is a person, and a Divine Person, and we do not know Him as such, then we are robbing a Divine Being of the worship and the faith and the love and the surrender to Himself which are His due.”1 It is not the purpose of this answer to talk about possible excesses of saints, both in the present and the past, but rather to point out afresh that he is part of the Trinity, and to saints, a very important part. As Torrey says later in this same passage, “If we think of the Holy Spirit as so many do as merely a power or influence, our constant thought will be, “How can I get more of the Holy Spirit,” but if we think of Him in the Biblical way as a Divine Person, our thought will rather be, “How can the Holy Spirit have more of me?”2

Just how important is the Spirit anyway? Another famous Christian tells us, ” Take away the dispensation of the Spirit, and his effectual operations in all the intercourse that is between God and man; be ashamed to avow or profess the work attributed unto him in the gospel, -- and Christianity is plucked up by the roots.”3 That is a very large statement to say that without the Holy Spirit, Christianity would be plucked up by the roots. But after reflecting on the many jobs of the Spirit, I wonder if John Owen is not understating the case. I base that reflection on two things. The first is that according to Genesis we are told that the Spirit was hovering over the face of the waters. Evidently he too was involved in the very creation of the world. The second thing that makes me think Owen may be understating the importance of the Spirit is found in Paul’s writing to the Thessalonian church, “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way” (2 Th. 2:7, NIV).

The meaning of that verse cannot be overstated. Evidently the Holy Spirit is the one who restrains, or holds back, the very spirit of lawlessness that rules this world now. This restraining work has a specific duration, and is to be taken away and then the “wicked” one, or the man of sin will be revealed. This time will be the start of the 70th week of Daniel, or the beginning of the tribulation. Just how does the Holy Spirit restrain lawlessness? We are not told anything but general things, and need to take clues like when God and Satan are disputing about Job, and God sets limits which Satan cannot exceed in his troubling of Job. In other words, God is restraining Satan with limits. We also see Daniel, when he started praying, that the answer was given at once, but held up until the limits on Satan were somehow overcome. Neither of these examples specifically mention the Holy Spirit, but they are examples of the sort of restraint which probably is applicable. Walvoord says, “Most of the restraining works of the Spirit are revealed as accomplished through various means. The work of the Spirit in revealing truth through the prophets, particularly the warning of judgment to come, and the work of the inspiration of the Scriptures with their power helped to restrain sin.”4 Noah is told that “My Spirit shall not strive with men forever,” and thus the Spirit is spoken of as a Restrainer, even in the Old Testament. Evidently he has been restraining from the beginning, and is a good reason that the world is not in worse condition than we find it.

Now this Holy Spirit is given to every believer, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). And we have been given the Holy Spirit for all of time, for all of eternity. How is it that the Spirit who restrains is removed? Does God break his promise and remove his Holy Spirit from us? Nay, and a thousand times nay! Some scholars believe that when this Restrainer is removed from the world that it will also indicate the removal of all believers at the same time—the rapture takes place, and Christ removes the Holy Spirit and his sheep, taking them to the place that he has prepared for them. “I go now to prepare a place for you, that where I am there you may be also.” The world, without believers or the Holy Spirit, would suddenly become a very dangerous place indeed.

So one of the biggest jobs of the Holy Spirit is restraining the evil one, and the lawlessness which will result when he is given free reign. But there is so much more that the Holy Spirit does! Read these words and see, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 15:26). One of his jobs is to testify of Jesus. In another place Jesus tells us that the Sprit speaks not of himself. Instead his ministry is to glorify God the Son.

The Holy Spirit also does many other things. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:7-11). Here Jesus is telling us that the job of the Holy Spirit is to reprove the world of sin. In other places we are told that no one comes to the Father by himself; rather it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict, or reprove, each individual and to show him his need for salvation.

Specifically spelled out, the Holy Spirit reproves the world of sin because of their unbelief. He does the same for righteousness because Jesus ascended to heaven after taking on the sins of the world. He does the same for judgment because the prince of this world, namely Satan, has been judged and found wanting. Therefore all those who follow Satan, knowingly or unknowingly, are in judgment with Satan, and must believe God in order to escape that judgment.

So, how important is the Holy Spirit? I would say that his importance cannot be overestimated, and that if we remove him from the church, as Owen says, we will tear up the very roots of Christianity. In my many wonderings about that which is to come, I used to sometimes get the feeling that heaven would be terribly lonely, since I might want even for a glimpse of Jesus, and certainly would spend my life at the back of more faithful multitudes with better access to Jesus than I had. But that feeling is not true! I have the Holy Spirit, the very being of God, given to me throughout eternity, and there will be no such loneliness, for I shall have the company of God in me at every moment. No wonder the New Testament writers tell us of the joy inexpressible to come. What a wonderful thing to look forward to!

1. Torrey, R. A. (Reuben Archer) (2011-03-24). The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit (Kindle Locations 37-38). . Kindle Edition.
2. Torrey, R. A. (Reuben Archer) (2011-03-24). The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit (Kindle Locations 42-44). . Kindle Edition.
3. Owen, John (2010-03-23). John Owen on the Holy Spirit (p. 6). . Kindle Edition There are many general and large things that the Holy Spirit seems to be involved in.
4. Walvoord, John F. (2010-12-21). The Holy Spirit: A Comprehensive Study of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit (Kindle Locations 1937-1939). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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