There are a lot of different ideas floating around in the religious world concerning the Holy Spirit and how he works in the lives of Christians today. In order to separate truth from fiction, we must go to God’s Word and God’s Word alone to find out how the Holy Spirit works in Christians’ lives, because God’s Word is truth (John 17:17).
God’s Word has a lot to say about the Holy Spirit. He is mentioned 88 times in 23 books of the Old Testament. The New Testament refers to him 264 times. Matthew through John refers to him at least 60 times, Acts alone mentions him 57 times, and all but three of the epistles make mention of him a total of 132 times. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that the Christian needs to understand the Holy Spirit as much as humanly possible, if for no other reason than to understand much of the Bible itself. What information does God’s Word give about the work of the Holy Spirit?
Scripture reveals that, among other things, the Holy Spirit was involved in revealing the will of God during biblical times. The prophets of the Old Testament spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21; cf. 2 Sam. 23:2). In fact, Peter would say that the Holy Spirit was in these prophets, testifying of what was to come in the future (1 Pet. 1:10-11). We find an example of this in Isaiah’s prophecy about the suffering the future Messiah would endure on our behalf (Is. 53). Likewise, the Spirit continued to reveal the will of God in New Testament times. Jesus told his apostles that the Spirit would guide them into all the truth (John 14:26; 16:12-13), which the Spirit did after his death, resurrection, and ascension (1 Cor. 2:10-13; Eph. 3:3-5; cf. 1 Tim. 4:1-3).
One fact that many in the religious world fail to realize about the Holy Spirit is that the work the Holy Spirit was involved in was temporary in nature, taking place two thousand years ago during biblical times. However, some of the work of the Spirit described in the New Testament goes on today and will continue to occur until Christ comes again at the end of time. There is a distinct difference, and it is important to understand this difference because a lot of falsehood is being taught about the Holy Spirit that revolves around a misunderstanding of this subject.
Concerning the temporary work of the Holy Spirit as revealed in the New Testament, it should first be noted that that this work was promised in both Testaments. Joel prophesied about it (Joel 2:28-32), a prophecy which was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost after Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension (Acts 2:16-21). Joel had prophesied of many miraculous things occurring as a result of the Spirit being poured out. On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit gave the apostles the ability to miraculously speak in other languages, causing some of their hearers to believe them to be drunk; Peter then explained what was really happening (Acts 2:1-15). He attributed the miracles he and his fellow apostles could perform as a result of the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy about the Holy Spirit.
Jesus also defined the temporary work of the Holy Spirit to his apostles on three separate occasions during his last conversation with them in the upper room before his arrest. He told them that the Spirit would “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26), “testify about me” (John 15:26-27), “convict the concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…(and) guide you into all the truth” (John 16:7-8, 13).
The Spirit convicted the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment by miraculously inspiring the apostles to preach the Word of God (Acts 2:4; Matt. 10:19-20; cf. Acts 24:25). He testified with the apostles by causing them to perform miracles to confirm the Word they were preaching (Mark 16:17-18, 20; Heb. 2:3-4). What many fail to understand is that while the Spirit still convicts the world through the preaching of the gospel today, his doing so by directly and miraculously inspiring the speaker no longer occurs today. Likewise, his testimony with the apostles through miracles to confirm the Word has also ceased. The next article in this series will go into further detail about that.