Ministry Resources

The Holy Spirit: A Wise Administrator

Have you ever wondered why Jesus said to His followers, “It is for your good that I am going away” (John 16:7)? It was because He was limited in His humanity and could be in only one place at a time. However, He knew that when the Holy Spirit came to replace Him, there would be no limitations on the time He could stay or in the work that He could do.

Thus, through the Holy Spirit, God not only commissions us with a job but also stays with us and enables us to get the job done. More than this, He takes up residence in us and gives us personal guidance, fellowship, comfort, and enablement for all of our spiritual needs.

In previous lessons we have seen God’s concern for the redemption of man. In our last lesson, we saw that Christ loved each man and woman so much that He stooped low to become a man. Now as we turn our attention to the Holy Spirit, we observe the same love for man and the same amazing qualities of personality.

As you study this lesson, I pray that the full impact of the Spirit’s person and work will come to you with greater meaning than ever before. As this happens, your personal relationship with Him will develop and be reflected in your ministry to others (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Deity Of The Holy Spirit

In our consideration of God’s nature in Lesson 1, we discussed His essence and noted these things:

1. God is spirit.

2. He is one God.

3. He has personality.

4. He is the triune God.

5. He is eternal.

6. He is unchanging.

We also saw that these qualities of God refer equally to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The three Persons are equal in glory, and the majesty they share is co-eternal. Since the Persons in the Godhead share these features, we did not repeat them in our consideration of Christ, nor is there need to repeat them in full in our treatment of the Holy Spirit. However, we do want to reemphasize briefly the fact that the Holy Spirit is truly God and that He has the distinguishing characteristics of personality. First we will discuss His deity.

The deity of the Holy Spirit is established by His characteristics, His relationships with the other Persons in the Trinity, the divine names that are given to Him, and the works which He performs.

His Characteristics of Divine Nature

The Holy Spirit possesses the characteristics of divine nature. For example, He is eternal. The word eternal means “infinite in duration: that which is without a beginning, or ending, or limitation.” It is thus a characteristic of God. The inspired writer to the Hebrews states that He is the eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14). Eternal as it is used here is the same word that is used elsewhere to describe the eternity of God the Father and of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The Holy Spirit also has the following characteristics:

1. He is everywhere-present (omnipresent). The Psalmist David declared, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7- 10).

2. He is all-knowing (omniscient). Paul, in describing this divine characteristic to Corinthian believers, observes that “no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). Moreover, He who knows the thoughts of God also knows the will of God, and He enables us to pray according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

3. The Holy Spirit is all-powerful (omnipotent). That is, He has the power and ability to bring about everything God wills, without any limitations (Luke 1:35; Acts 1:8).

His Titles of Divine Nature

It is interesting to note that when the apostle Peter addressed the deceitful Ananias, he said that when Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit he was lying to God (Acts 5:4). Thus the apostle Peter ascribes deity to the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul also affirms this fact by stating that we are being transformed into Christ’s likeness by the Holy Spirit who is the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:17- 18). In Paul’s time only Deity was addressed as Lord. In fact, Roman emperors and Egyptian rulers of that period would not permit their subjects to use the term Lord when addressing them until they officially took for themselves the status of deity. This usage confirms the fact that when Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit as Lord, he recognizes His deity.

His Associations of Divine Nature

Several Scripture verses reveal the deity of the Holy Spirit by His associations. In the first two examples listed below, the deity of the Holy Spirit is assumed through His association with the other Persons of the Trinity. We see here an essential equality of persons as well as essential deity.

1. Matthew 28:19—the baptismal formula: “. . . baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

2. 2 Corinthians 13:14—the apostolic benediction: “. . . the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit . . . .”

3. 1 Corinthians 12. In this chapter, we see the church as the body of Christ (v. 27). Over this church God has appointed ministries to help in its development (v. 28). And it is the Holy Spirit who sovereignty (with highest power) dispenses gifts for this body (v. 11). The interrelationship we see here can only be explained on the basis of the full equality of each Person in the blessed Trinity. Only on this basis could the Holy Spirit exercise the rights of deity, distributing gifts sovereignly as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 11).

4. Acts 28:25-28. Paul offers helpful insight into this matter when he says that the Holy Spirit spoke the words recorded in Isaiah 6:9-10, words that according to Isaiah were spoken by God. Compare these two Scriptures. This comparison reveals that since the Holy Spirit is the representative or agent of God the Father, He acts in behalf of the Father on earth. This is further shown in these examples: He draws men to Christ (John 6:44), He reveals truth (John 14:26; 16:13), and He guides (Romans 8:14).

5. Genesis 1. The combined effort of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is seen in Genesis 1:26, where God says, “Let us make man in our image.” The use of plural pronouns indicates the plurality of persons in the Godhead, as we have seen in Lesson 1. The implication is that all three were active in Creation.

These references which deal with the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the other Persons in the Trinity demonstrate scripturally that the Holy Spirit is God equally with the Father and the Son.

The Personality Of The Holy Spirit

Essential Components of Personality

We observed in Lesson 1 that there were three essential components of personality: 1) intellect (the ability to think); 2) sensibility (the ability to feel), and will (the ability to make decisions). Let’s examine the Scriptures which refer to the Holy Spirit and see how these characteristics apply to Him.

The Bible clearly speaks to us concerning the personality of the Holy Spirit. In his masterful discourse on life through the Spirit, the apostle Paul concludes by referring to the “mind of the Spirit” (Romans 8:27), which identifies the intellectual faculty of the Spirit. The apostle also ascribes sensibility to the Spirit (Romans 15:30). That is, he refers to the Spirit’s ability to feel—in this case, to feel love, and His ability to express feeling. Finally, the apostle speaks to Corinthian believers about the sovereign actions of the Holy Spirit as He demonstrates the faculty of will, giving gifts to believers as He determines or wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). These Scriptures show that the Holy Spirit possesses the essential qualities of personality.

Other Elements of Personality

In addition to these essential components of personality, some other elements exist which contribute to our understanding of personality. They are 1) personal associations, 2) personal acts, 3) personal names, 4) personal pronouns, and 5) personal treatment. All of these characteristics can be applied to the Holy Spirit, as we will see.

1. Personal association. We have already noted that in the baptismal formula and the apostolic benediction the Holy Spirit is identified with the Father and the Son. This association with other persons implies personality. Wouldn’t it seem foolish to command someone to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the “force,” “breath,” “power,” or “wind” (Matthew 28:19)? It certainly would, for only a personality can associate and act with other personalities.

This is most certainly the basis on which the apostles and elders at the Jerusalem Council wrote these words: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements . . .” (Acts 15:28). The personality of the Holy Spirit is clearly implied by His association with the other Persons of the Trinity.

2. Personal acts. As we consider the activities of the Holy Spirit revealed in Scripture, we will see how they give a more complete meaning to His personality. Be sure to read each of these Scriptures.

3. Personal names. On the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus disclosed to His disciples that He would be leaving them. Knowing that His departure would take from them His leadership, assurance, and counsel, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor” (John 14:16).

Jesus immediately identified the One who would take His place as the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). Also, Jesus affirmed that just as He had come to declare the Father, so the Holy Spirit would explain, reveal, and interpret Jesus’ nature and will to man. (Compare these Scriptures: John 14:15-18, 26; 15:26; and 16:13-15). We see, then, that the Holy Spirit was called the Counselor, and He was sent to take the place of Jesus and perform Christ’s ministry as another Counselor. This responsibility required a discerning, feeling, and sensitive personality, who could act on behalf of the Son of God.

The Holy Spirit was sent by the Father at the request of the Son (John 15:26) to glorify the Son and minister to the spiritual needs of believers. He is called the Spirit of truth (John 14:17), the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2), the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29), the Spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5-7), the Spirit of promise (Acts 1:5), the Spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4), and the Advocate (1 John 2:1, KJV) or Counselor (John 14:16, 26). The One who bears all these names is the same Holy Spirit who glorifies Jesus, makes Him real to us, and continues His work on earth.

The Counselor is also called the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7), the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:19), and the Spirit of God (1 John 4:2). Although the name may differ, the reference is to the same Person. The various names simply identify different aspects of His nature and work.

4. Personal pronouns. Possibly you have already noted the focus on the Holy Spirit in John 14, 15, and 16. It is significant that John uses personal pronouns to draw attention to the personality of the Holy Spirit. For example, the masculine pronoun ekeinos is used in John 16:13 to refer to the Holy Spirit, thus recognizing His personality. This is the same pronoun which is used in referring to Jesus in 1 John 2:6; 3:3,5,7, and 16.

5. Personal treatment. Finally, the fact that the Holy Spirit is subject to personal treatment also points to His personality. Scriptures demonstrate that He can be tested or tempted (Acts 5:9), grieved (Ephesians 4:30), lied to (Acts 5:3), blasphemed and spoken against (Matthew 12:31,32), resisted (Acts 7:51), and insulted (Hebrews 10:29). An impersonal force is not subject to such treatment and would not be capable of these responses in attitude.

Recognizing the personality of the Holy Spirit is significant. When we realize that He is a distinct personality of the Godhead, we see that He is worthy of our worship, our faith, our love, and our honor. Our concern should be to allow Him to possess us and use us for His honor and glory.

The Ministry Of The Holy Spirit

We have already seen one aspect of the Holy Spirit’s ministry as He acted with the Father and the Son in Creation. In reference to this involvement the Psalmist says, “When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:30). This reference, you will notice, also speaks of the Spirit’s role in maintaining or caring for His creation.

When the prophet Isaiah discusses the infinite greatness of God’s power in Creation and providence (divine guidance or care), he asks, “Who has understood the Spirit of the Lord, or instructed him as his counselor?” (Isaiah 40:13). In considering this question we begin to recognize the limitations of man’s ability to know the mysteries of God. Therefore, we can only respond to this question by saying that we can’t understand much about the Holy Spirit, but we can be touched, blessed, and directed by His presence and enabled by His power. We can see the effects of His ministry, just as we can see the effects of the wind, even though we don’t understand it’s mysteries (John 3:8).

While finite man cannot understand the full extent of the infinite Spirit’s activities, he can examine some general areas of His activities that are revealed in Scripture. These scriptural disclosures give a fairly complete picture of the Holy Spirit’s person and the broad range of His ministry. We shall consider His ministry in relation: 1) to the non-believing world, 2) to the individual believer, and 3) to the church as a whole.

In Relation to the Non-Believing World

Beyond His involvement in Creation and providence, the Holy Spirit is also involved in the non-believing world. According to John 16:8-11, He convicts men of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

1. Convicts of sin. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes, “He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me . . .” (John 16:8-9). The Holy Spirit convicts men of the sinfulness of not believing in Jesus Christ.

2. Convicts of righteousness. “In regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer” (John 16:10). That is, the Holy Spirit reveals to men the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ and the unrighteousness of all others. He reminds them that it is because of Jesus’ triumph over sin that God now declares sinners righteous and enables them to become righteous through faith in Him.

3. Convicts of judgment. “And in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned” (John 16:11). The Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers of judgment by showing the relation between Christ’s death and resurrection and the judgment of the world. Through His death and resurrection He became victor over the enemy, Satan, who is condemned to eternal death. Thus, the cross signifies the payment of a debt: the penalty for sin. It also signifies providing atonement for all who will receive it and the cancellation of the power of sin and Satan.

Jesus’ teaching about the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:5-15) leads us to conclude that in the absence of our Lord Jesus from this earth and in behalf of the Father, the Holy Spirit is the one who witnesses to the unbeliever. The Spirit convicts him of sin and draws him to Christ (John 6:44). Then He enlightens the believer concerning his spiritual responsibilities (1 John 1:9).

In Relation to Individual Believers

His Help

Let’s consider the Holy Spirit’s ministry to believers under two categories: 1) His help, and 2) His baptism. Jesus told the disciples that it was best for Him to leave them because the Holy Spirit would then help them (John 16:7). I am amazed to see how many different kinds of help believers can receive from Him.

1. We become believers through the work of the Holy Spirit. As unbelievers, we were spiritually dead, but when we came to God in repentance and faith we were born spiritually. We became a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). We were born again by the Spirit of God and we received a new nature. This experience is called regeneration by theologians. (John 3:5-7, Ephesians 2:5, and Titus 3 5.)

2. We receive power from the Spirit for witnessing (Acts 1:8). Problems arise when we make the decision to share the good news with others. Circumstances, people, and evil spirits try to hinder us. We must have special power to overcome all the obstacles. The Spirit of God is the power source we need to draw upon for effective witnessing.

3. The Holy Spirit ministers to us as a teacher (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). I may not belong to a privileged class, but when I come to the Spirit for help, He will teach me. He is just as willing to reveal God’s truths to me as to anyone else (1 Corinthians 2:12-14).

4. We also receive the Spirit’s help through His intercession on our behalf. This means He represents our needs before our heavenly Father. Have you not felt, as I have, that you just did not know how to pray in certain situations? Sometimes we feel as if we cannot pray at all. In such moments we can count on the Holy Spirit’s prayer (Romans 8:26).

5. The Spirit guides us day by day toward a victorious, Christlike life. When we are regenerated and the Holy Spirit takes up His abode in our life, we discover that we have two natures: one concerned with the natural or physical, and one concerned with the spiritual. We discover that our body is still subject to the temptations of the flesh. The struggle we experience between the good and evil within us is described in detail in Romans chapter 7. In this Scripture Paul says, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18). Here the apostle has not taken into account the help of the Spirit, but in chapter 8, he mentions the Holy Spirit 19 times in connection with the victorious life. The Holy Spirit’s rule in the life of the Christian is the secret of victory over sin. The Spirit is committed to our spiritual development; He wants to show us how to overcome our selfish nature (Romans 8:1-14).

The place and importance we give to the Holy Spirit in our life will determine our character. Man is not born with fixed habits. Character results from the habits we develop by repeated actions. The character of the natural man who lives only to satisfy his body is a disgusting and pathetic spectacle. The character of the spiritual man who allows the Holy Spirit to guide his life is entirely different, as we shall see. The solution given by the apostle Paul is this: “Walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, RSV).

6. The Holy Spirit produces the blessed fruit of the Christian life. A friend once asked me why a group of people who claimed to have a very close relationship with the Holy Spirit boasted to others about their own spirituality. He said that he could not imagine the Holy Spirit bragging about Himself. I thoroughly agreed with him. To avoid either carnality (yielding to the desires of the flesh) or superficial spirituality, we need to walk by the Spirit.

Walking by the Spirit implies that one depends constantly on Him and believes in His ability to provide deliverance in any area of a person’s life. While we are not promised a life of sinless perfection, we will be marvelously transformed as we are filled with and controlled by the Spirit. Instead of manifesting the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), we will produce the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). These qualities, or fruit, are characteristics of the Holy Spirit. We should take a close look at our attitudes, our relationships, and our actions to see if they portray these characteristics or if they show a lack of such fruit. (For an extended study of the fruit of the Spirit, see the ICI Christian Service course entitled Abundant Living—A Study of Christian Character.)

His Baptism 

The intimate relationship of the Holy Spirit with the believer has been illustrated in the Bible with several descriptive terms. One is called a baptism, as we saw earlier, which means “an immersion” (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5). What happens when a person is immersed in water? He gets thoroughly wet! Water is all over him. How glorious to know that it is possible for us mere humans to have God completely saturate us (fill us completely) with Himself!

Another term used to describe the relationship of the believer with the Spirit is that of a filling (Acts 2:4; 4:31). When a bowl is full, it has no capacity to receive more. In the same way, the Spirit desires to give us so much of His power and glory that we will be unable to receive any more. Then we will have the power, wisdom, and anointing necessary to please God and to serve effectively within the body of Christ. We can be filled with the Spirit on repeated occasions, just as the early Christians were. As our capacity grows, He will continue to fill us to new levels with His divine fullness. Believers are admonished: “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). May we desire to stay full of the Spirit!

A third way of looking at this relationship is to say that the Spirit is poured out upon us (Joel 2:28-29). Joel talks about the autumn rains the farmers in Israel anxiously looked for, so that their crops would develop fully in time for harvest. May we be just as desirous to have an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our churches and our lives, so that we may develop all the potential we have for promoting the glory of God.

The New Testament indicates that for the special work of the Holy Spirit to be started in our lives, as indicated by the terms I have just presented, we must have an initial (first) experience. However, initial baptism should not be viewed as the climax of our walk with the Spirit.

From the experience of believers in the Acts record, we know that after the initial baptism (Acts 2), they experienced additional fillings (Acts 4:31). Having been introduced into life in the Spirit, they walked with Him and grew in spiritual stature. For example, compare 2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:29, and 2 Peter 3:18. This relationship should get more beautiful every day. We should see genuine spiritual growth as time passes. Having begun a good work in us, the Holy Spirit will carry it on to completion as we walk with Him (Philippians 1:6).

His Symbols 

We could not conclude this study on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit to believers without mentioning biblical symbols which describe some aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit. Turn to each of the Scriptures on the next page to discover how the symbol is used.

Verse                                Symbol                                Description

1. Matthew 3:11                Fire                 Fire burns away what is not pure.

2. Matthew 3:16              Dove                A dove represents gentleness.

3. 1 Kings 19:16; 1 John 2:20     Anointing oil Anointing by Holy Spirit

Old Testament kings and prophets were often anointed with oil as a sign of the Lord’s approval of their service.

4. Luke 11:13                  Gift         The Holy Spirit is the Father’s gift to us.

5. John 7:37-39         Streams of living water.      The Holy Spirit fills us to overflowing with new life.

6. 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14      Seal or deposit         The Holy Spirit is given as a guarantee of our eternal life with the Father.

7. John 20:22; Ezekiel 37:9, 14                     Breath, Wind             The Holy Spirit is the breath of God which gives us life.

In Relation to the Church

Our discussion of ways the Holy Spirit ministers to the nonbelieving world and to believers gives us a basis for looking at His ministry to the body of Christ as a corporate or whole unit.

In the Old Testament period, the people of God benefited greatly from the ministry of the Holy Spirit as He anointed selected persons for special service. However, in the New Testament era this ministry is even more evident, for it is continual and unlimited to any specific group of believers. Let’s see how and why the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament period differs from His activity in Old Testament times.

On the occasion of Jesus’ baptism, John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as the one who would be the baptizer in the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). As a result of His redemptive work, Jesus opened the way for His followers to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and to receive the Counselor. He was Jesus’ own representative, who would abide with them forever (John 14:16). After His resurrection, Jesus announced to His disciples that they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit within a few days, and that as a result they would receive power (Acts 1:5,8).

Unlike the special anointing for a specific task of Old Testament times, this new experience, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, was to be the believers’ basic enablement for consistent and effective spiritual life and service. The Spirit’s presence would not be limited to the achievement of a specific task or to a certain occasion, as it was in Old Testament times. Rather, He was to be a permanent resident in those who received Christ (John 7:38-39; 14:17). The result of this new indwelling and powerful presence was dramatic growth, as the followers of Jesus shared their faith and experience with others.

Thus, in New Testament experience believers may have the Holy Spirit residing within them, enabling them to live holy lives and to serve God acceptably. No longer do they have simply an external model (the Law) to live by, as in Old Testament times, with no enablement to fulfill its requirements except their own good intentions. As the Spirit indwells the members of the church and directs their corporate activities, they have the ability to carry out the work and will of God on earth.

Not only were followers of Jesus enabled to be effective witnesses, but they were also empowered successfully to defend the gospel. This was a direct fulfillment of Mark 13:9-11. On an earlier occasion, Peter had been powerless to defend his relationship to Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75). However, after several significant experiences, which included witnessing the resurrection and being filled with the Spirit at Pentecost, he received boldness to preach (Acts 2) and boldness to give a reasoned defense of his faith (Acts 4:8-20).

In addition, the Holy Spirit controls the evangelistic mission of the church, directing His servants where to go and where not to go (Acts 13:2; 16:6-7). Through His direction, early Christians reached important centers that became vital in the continued mission of the church, which was to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). In the first missionary evangelistic effort of the church, it was the Holy Spirit who set apart Paul and Barnabas for service and ordained them for this ministry (Acts 13:2).

The Holy Spirit also directed in the proper administration of the church. As the church grew and crossed national, cultural, and religious boundaries, questions arose which required answers consistent with Scripture and Christian love. Natural human prejudice threatened to divide the body of Christ, but the leadership of the Holy Spirit enabled James and the apostles to resolve the difficulties and give wise counsel (Acts 15:28-29). This enabled the church to grow even more rapidly and develop a spirit of unity.

Through His continued direction, the Spirit led Paul and others to give encouragement, comfort, doctrinal teaching, warning, and to prescribe discipline to the church through the inspired Epistles. For example, Paul dealt with the specific question of conduct in the Corinthian church in terms of social responsibilities (1 Corinthians 7:40). The writer to the Hebrews explained discipline as a growth process by which God leads believers toward spiritual maturity (Hebrews 12:4-11).

In the maturing process, the Holy Spirit, as the all-wise administrator, equips each believer with the gifts that are necessary to carry out his function in the world and in the church, the body of Christ. Compare Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12:1-28, and Ephesians 4:11-16. Paul says, “God gives ability to everyone for their particular service. The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all” (1 Corinthians 12:6-7, TEV).

The Holy Spirit, thus, provides the church with these strengths:

1. Power to evangelize

2. Wisdom and courage necessary to defend the faith

3. Appropriate gifts for ministry to the entire body of Christ, as well as to individual members

4. Human leadership to direct the work

5. The vision and inspiration necessary to fulfill the Great Commission

Do you see how much we must depend on the Holy Spirit for spiritual life, strength, vision, effectiveness in service, help in time of trials, and working for our personal victory and maturity? Worship the Holy Spirit. Love His presence in your life. Desire to grow and develop into the spiritual person He wants you to be. May you always be aware of this Person who has come to live in you. Be sensitive to His voice, His pleadings, His correction, and His admonitions. May your every thought, conversation, and deed reflect your awareness of His place of leadership in your life. Then your way will become spiritually prosperous and your life will be truly successful.