The work of the Holy Spirit presents confusion to many. Questions swirl concerning His activity. When and how does He indwell a person? Can a believer lose the Spirit? What differences are there between His activity in the Old and New Testaments? By briefly considering four works of the Spirit, I believe Christians can have a better understanding of its role in their lives.
All too often, the Holy Spirit is relegated to an inferior status. It is seen as the weakest link in the Trinity. Scripture indicates otherwise. It pictures the Spirit being a part of the Godhood from the beginning of time. Genesis 1:1-2 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” Mark it down. The Holy Spirit is not a small, tertiary matter in the Christian life. He has existed since eternity past. He had a pivotal part in the creation of all things, and He has a role in your life today.
During Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit came upon the people of God on special occasions. While we may say that He inhabits New Testament believers at salvation, it is appropriate to say that He only inhabited Old Testament believers for special acts of service. When Saul was anointed King of Israel, the Spirit of God came upon him to help him with His royal responsibilities (1 Samuel 10:6 and 11:6). It would later leave him when God’s purposes were complete (1 Samuel 16:14). Gideon had a similar experience with the Third Person (Judges 6:24). David did too. That’s why, after his extramarital affair with Bathsheba, he prayed that God would not take His Holy Spirit from Him (Psalm 51:11).
Some Christians struggle with what they see in the Old Testament. Can God’s Spirit leave us? Does He only come upon us on special occasions? Must we work to conjure His power and presence? These questions can be answered by looking at plain teaching from the New Testament. Shortly before ascending into heaven, Jesus promised to send His Spirit, and He said it would never leave us (Matthew 28:20)! The moment one places his or her faith in Christ for salvation, the Spirit enters into the soul (Galatians 3:2). Our lives are sealed in an irreversible way (Ephesians 1:13). The Spirit doesn’t treat us like a hotel room — checking in and out as He pleases. He treats us like a home. He makes a permanent abode within our hearts. Now we have the comfort, guidance, conviction, strength, and instruction of the One who has said, “I will never leave you or abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5)!
End of Time
There is a coming day in which the Spirit will work in ways previously unseen. God has assigned special tasks for Him in reference to the fulfillment of end time events (Revelation 1:4; 4:5;5:6; 11:1; 14:13 and 22:17). While it is difficult for us to perceive all things related to God’s last days program, we do know that the Third Person will help accomplish God’s plan. What an amazing thought — the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who has a part in creation and the end of time, resides within our hearts! Surely we can say with Paul, “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Dr. Patrick Latham