So far in this series of articles we’ve studied how the Holy Spirit worked during biblical times, and have seen that the Bible shows that the most well known facet of the work of the Holy Spirit – miraculous spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues and healing the sick – was done only in biblical times and was prophesied to end when the Word of God was made complete by the end of the first century AD (1 Cor. 13:8-10; cf. James 1:25; Rom. 12:2).
However, the Bible also speaks of “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” which was promised to all who are called by God and obey him (Acts 2:38-39; 5:32). God calls people through the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14), which is his power to save (Rom. 1:16) those who obey it from spending eternity in hell (2 Thess. 1:7-9). The gospel commands people to believe in Christ, repent of their sins, and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:16; Luke 24:47), which is exactly what Peter told those who believed his message to do in order to receive “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38-39). People are still being saved through being called by God through the gospel and obeying its commands to believe, repent, and be baptized, and so “the gift of the Holy Spirit” is still being given today. We therefore know it is different from the miraculous “spiritual gifts” given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands to first century Christians (1 Cor. 12-14; Acts 6:1-6, 8; 8:5-18; 19:5-6; Rom. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:6), because those gifts were prophesied to end when the Word of God was complete.
So what is “the gift of the Holy Spirit” that is still being given today? To understand what it is (and therefore how the Holy Spirit still works in the lives of Christians today), we must see what other works besides miraculous spiritual gifts are biblically assigned to the Holy Spirit. First, we see that the Holy Spirit “convict(s) the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-8). He does this through the preaching of the Word of God. We know this because we have the example of the Spirit directly and miraculously giving Peter the ability to speak the Word of God to the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2:4). The result of this preaching was the conviction of three thousand Jews that they had sinned and were in need of salvation (Acts 2:37-42). While that was done miraculously, we still see today that God’s Word – whose writers were inspired by the Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21; Eph. 3:3-5; cf. 1 Cor. 14:36-37) – convicts people of their sin. It is designed to produce faith (Rom. 10:17; Col. 1:5-6) and still God’s power to save (Rom. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 1:18; James 1:21). Therefore, the Holy Spirit is still very much involved in his work of convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment…every single time a soul hears, believes, and obeys God’s Word.
Another work the Spirit is involved with today is renewing those who respond to the preaching of God’s Word. The Spirit does this by saving them through the washing of regeneration (or rebirth), which is obedience to the gospel command of penitent baptism (Tit. 3:4-6; cf. John 3:3-5; Acts 22:16; 2:38). Scripture teaches that we are born again only after being taught God’s Word (1 Pet. 1:22-23), which exists because the Holy Spirit inspired its authors (2 Pet. 1:20-21). Thus, every time someone is baptized after being taught God’s Word, we see the Holy Spirit at work renewing and regenerating them.
The Spirit also sanctifies, or sets apart, those who are saved. This begins at baptism (1 Cor. 6:11), and continues on as the Spirit-inspired Word of God continues to be taken into one’s heart (John 17:17; Acts 20:32; cf. Eph. 3:3-5). When one is baptized and becomes a Christian, he is sanctified or set apart from the rest of the world because he is now a child of God. If he continues to take the Word of God into his heart and obey it, he will continue to be set apart from the rest of the world (Ps. 119:11); otherwise, he will fall back into the sin of the world (2 Pet. 2:20-22).
The Spirit also intercedes on behalf of the Christian when he prays, because we do not know how to pray as we should (Rom. 8:26-27). He does not do this by playing the part of a “middle man” between us and God, “editing” our prayers so that they will meet God’s approval when we don’t pray as we should. This is because Christ is the only mediator between men and God (1 Tim. 2:5), and Christ makes intercession for us (Heb. 7:25). Furthermore, God knows what we will pray for before we do so (Matt. 6:8), and so the Father does not need the Spirit to “interpret” or “edit” our prayers. Rather, the Holy Spirit aids our knowing how to pray through the Scriptures. Remember, the Scriptures come from the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21), and it is the Scriptures that teach us to pray in the first place (Col. 4:2), as well as how to pray (Matt. 6:7-15; James 4:1-3).
There are several blessings that come into the lives of Christians because of the work the Holy Spirit accomplishes in their lives. One of these blessings is the Spirit himself, which is given to all who obey God (Acts 2:38; 5:32). One receives the gift of the Holy Spirit when one due to their faith in God’s Word obeys the Spirit-inspired commands of Scripture (Rom. 10:17). Thus, the Spirit dwells within the Christian (Rom. 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 6:19), causing them to have the ability to overcome sin (Rom. 8:12-13; Eph. 3:16, 20; Phil. 2:12-13). This does not happen in some miraculous way or in a way in which we have no control over ourselves, but rather when we allow the Spirit-inspired Word of God to dwell in our hearts and we obey it (2 Pet. 1:20-21; Ps. 119:11; cf. Matt. 4:1-11).
The Holy Spirit also seals the Christian, marking them as belonging to God (Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:22). This is done only when one “listens to the message of truth” (Eph. 1:13), God’s Word (John 17:17), and obeys it. As a result, that person will have the fruit of the Spirit in their lives (Gal. 5:22-23)…the characteristics that were evident in Jesus, the characteristics that show that the Holy Spirit dwells within the Christian because the Christian is treasuring the Spirit-inspired Word of God in their heart. Only when one “walks by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16-18; Rom. 8:5-6) will one have the fruit of the Spirit as the dominant traits of their life and a deepening love for God as their Father (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15-16). Once again, this is only accomplished when one continually obeys God’s Word (John 14:15).
To sum up, we see that “the gift of the Holy Spirit” promised to all who obey the gospel consists of the continuing work of the Spirit through God’s Word in our lives today which brings these wonderful blessings into our lives. The Holy Spirit is a deep subject, and these three articles posted today and yesterday have only scratched the surface. I encourage us all to continue this study, for it can truly enrich us, especially if we have been “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). Have you done so? Have you repented of your sins and been baptized for the forgiveness of your sins in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? (Acts 2:38)