The Ministries of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirits Present
Work In The World
Dr. David Clifford is currently engaged In International Bible teaching end presently makes his home In Plantation, Florida. This Is the seventh of his series of studies on the Holy Spirit.
“The age of the Spirit” is the name which is often given to this present age in which we live. It is also called the age of grace, because although God is Holy and just, He is now coming out in grace to the sinner and offering salvation to “whosoever will.” Again, this time period is referred to as the “Church age,” because during this present time since the cross and the coming of the Spirit as resident at Pentecost, God had been calling out of the world a people for Himself, and Christ is fulfilling His all-important promise: “I will build my Church.”
The Master-builder is on the throne, but He is doing His work on earth faithfully and efficiently through His All-knowing and Omnipresent Spirit. Similarly, the Spirit is presently building the Church universal through the efforts of His servants. It is His indwelling presence and power which is the enabling for the evangelist (and for witnesses of Christ generally), to bring others to Him, so that the Spirit may build them into the Church on behalf of Christ. That is, to join them to the “Body of Christ” as living stones (1 Peter 2:5), and they are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the Chief Corner Stone (Ephesians 2:20). The time period, however, is called “the age of the Spirit” because of many other works He undertakes in the world at this time.
His Restraining Grace
He is the restrainer of evil in the world. Mankind’s extreme bias to sin and wickedness must be restrained if people are to live on the earth at all, and the Holy Spirit has undertaken this all-important work. God, therefore, is still in control over the forces of Satan and evil, and this restraining work is likewise accomplished by the Spirit through His own. The godly lives of Christians, the witness of the Gospel in its many forms, all by the Spirit’s enabling, have a great effect wherever and whenever they are seen working. Believers are, therefore, the salt of the earth, restraining the decadence; they are the “light in the Lord,” and in holding forth the Word of truth they bring light into the darkness (see Psalm 112:4) and brighten the corners of an otherwise dismal scene.
The key passage concerning the Holy Spirit’s restraining work is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10; “He Who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.” Here is a personal restrainer, stronger than the Man of sin, for He hinders his appearance until the Church is complete. He is Eternal (and, therefore, God) because He has been restraining through the ages. He is Omnipresent because His work is throughout the whole world, and it has always been the work of the Spirit of God to restrain evil (John 16:7-11 and 1 John 4:4).
It will be readily noted that the reverse of Pentecost is to happen when the Spirit is taken away at our Lord’s appearing. He will leave as the resident One in the Church, but He must always be Omnipresent as God. At this present time His restraining work goes on night and day mainly, but not exclusively, through the testimony of His own. This is one of the many purposes of His indwelling.
His Convicting And Enlightening
The Lord Jesus promised that when He, the Spirit came, He would convict (or “enlighten”) the world of its sin. —“No man can come to Me,” He also said, “unless the Father… draw him” (John 6:44). The Father does His drawing to Christ through the Spirit’s working, in both convincing men of sin (and thereby revealing to them their need of a Saviour) and then presenting to them a worthy object for their faith (for faith must have an object to trust and Christ is the only worthy One and the One in Whom alone salvation is found). “He will convict the world of sin,” said our Lord, adding: “Of sin because they believe not on Me,” and someone will immediately say: “So it is not now the SIN question but the SON question.” That, however, cannot be a right deduction because the Apostle by the Spirit says, “For because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6), and again twice over in Revelation (20:12, 13) the judgment and condemnation is “according to their deeds.” It is true that the chief sin of mankind, and that which will be at the top of the list of sins in the day of the Judgment of the Great White Throne, is that of the rejection of Christ, the only Saviour for men.
The redeeming work of Christ is certainly not put to a man’s account unless and until he believes in Christ.
Another work of the Spirit in the world is that of “convincing of righteousness.” The Saviour said in this context that He was going to the Father, and, of course, He Himself was God’s standard of righteousness while He was in the world. Peter once said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” and on another occasion the accusers of the woman who had sinned simply melted away, and went out from the Presence of the One Who was called, “Jesus Christ the Righteous.”
The Holy Spirit in this age will work again and again on the consciences of men to instruct them as to what is right before God and what is not.
The Holy Spirit’s present work in the world includes the enlightenment of men concerning judgment, that is, the judgment which has come. When our Lord added, “because the prince of this world is judged,” He spoke as though His victory in death, over the enemy, was already a ‘fait accomplie.’ He had not only told His own of His death but of His resurrection on the third day, and that spelled the Devil’s doom (see Hebrews 2:14 and 15), and the gracious Holy Spirit also makes that truth real to the seeking soul.
His Regenerating And Indwelling
The power of the Spirit is known in the world, more than in any other way perhaps, through His work in regenerating those who believe in Jesus. He not only quickens the dead spirit of the unsaved the moment they believe, but He Himself comes into the life to bring with Him the Divine nature (see 2 Peter 1:4 and John 3:5). These are the Spirit’s main ministries in the world today.