The Ministries of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit’s Present Work In The Christian
Dr. David Clifford is currently engaged in international mole teaching and presently makes his home in Plantation, Florida. This is his ninth study in his series on the Holy Spirit.
There are more than twenty direct Scripture references which declare the fact that every believer in the Lord Jesus possesses the Holy Spirit, that is, from the moment he believes. Thus the Christian’s body becomes a temple because of the presence of the Spirit within him. The one basic reference on this subject is to be seen in Romans chapter eight and verse nine: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him”, or as the N.E.B. states it so clearly: “He who has not the Spirit of Christ is not a Christian.”
No second work of grace will bring the gift of the Spirit to any Christian or to any saint who may be striving to be more saintly than others, for every Christian is a partaker of that precious gift. “There is no separable Gospel of the Spirit,” says Handley Moule, “not for a moment are we to advance, as it were, from the Lord Jesus Christ to a higher or deeper region, ruled by the Holy Ghost.”
The invitation given by our Lord to His disciples and other listeners: “How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13), was given before Pentecost, before the Spirit came to abide with His own forever. Since that time, Christians do not ask the Father for the One Whom they already possess, nor do they strive for some spiritual experience to receive Him, but they must of necessity, acknowledge (and that daily) the presence of the Holy Spirit Who is already within them. This is the secret of spiritual growth and blessedness.
“Go my soul in search of Him,
Thou wilt not find Him there—
Not in the depths of shadow dim
Or heights of upper air.
“For not in far-off realms of space
The Spirit has His throne;
In Christians’ hearts He findeth place
And waiteth to be known.
O, Gift of gifts! O Grace of grace,
That God should condescend
To make thy heart His dwelling place,
And be thy daily Friend!
Advantages Through His Presence
There are many reasons for the Lord Jesus saying what He did say to His own before He went away: “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Comforter shall not come to you” (John 16:7). He himself, for instance, was by their side day after day, having fellowship with them, but the Spirit would be in them when He came. Again, he explained that He would only be with them for a short while, but the Spirit would be with them forever, once He had come. Furthermore, the Lord Jesus was limited in the bodily sense (and in that sense only), being in one place at one time, but the Spirit would be with and in His own and all His awn, wherever they might be. Again, in their present state at that time, there were many things that the Saviour wanted them to learn and know, but they were not able to receive this knowledge then; however, He assured them that the Spirit later on would not only bring to their remembrance things that he had taught them, but would Himself teach them much more and tell them of things to come.
The ministry of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling for the Christian must be distinguished from His other ministries, although the others generally depend on and proceed from the particular one. The indwelling being a feature of salvation and secured by saving faith is common to all regenerate persons alike, for the Holy Spirit is received but once and never departs. “He will abide with you forever” (John 14:16-17, KJV).
The significance of some of the titles of the Holy Spirit should be mentioned here in connection with His indwelling. If the HOLY Spirit is within, then that must spell the Christian’s holiness. He is not only clothed with the righteousness of Christ, but also he has the Spirit of Christ in all His holiness within, making him a partaker of His holiness (see Hebrews 12:10). If the Spirit of LIFE indwells the Christian, then there is the source of the “Life more abundant” he has been promised. The Spirit not only reveals to His own the mind of God but He brings to them the life of God.
The Christian, it must be said, is seen to be absolutely shut up or entirely dependent upon the indwelling Spirit for all his need for life and service. The Spirit has been given to indwell all who believe to undertake all for them, for what they themselves can do by their own efforts means nothing to God and “no man shall boast before God” (1 Corinthians 1:29). “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
His Work Portrayed in Romans Chapter Eight
In this one chapter alone there are twelve ministries of the Spirit for and in the life of the Christian. In verse 2 He sets the Christian free from the law of sin in his members. Not that the law of sin is eradicated (Paul often opposed that doctrine), but it is made inoperative as the Almighty Spirit is given control within. In verse 4 He sanctifies (experientially) the life He controls, so that “the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us.” Not by us, but by the Holy Person Who is both indwelling and working holily, that is, when he is yielded to and obeyed.
In verse 10 He quickens the spirit of the believer with the life of God, because, until He comes to indwell a person, his own spirit is dead toward God. In verse 11 we see that the Spirit through His indwelling thrills the body with a new life. In the context we see that this is the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and, of course, it would be an impossibility for this Almighty One to possess a body completely without the person having a feeling of spiritual ecstacy and strength pulsating through the veins.
In verse 13 it is revealed that the only way to mortify and put to death the deeds of the body is to have the Spirit of God operating within. In verse 14 He leads those who belong to Christ. He guides them into all truth and, in dependence upon Him, they study the Word of God, the finality of truth written. He leads them also in their lives and worship and service, as they obey His promptings within. In the same verse we see that He assures them of sonship, and brings them into spiritual maturity, making them by His enabling, grown up sons of God.
In verse 15 He unites them in adoption to the Father. They, by His authority, are “placed as sons,” for such is the literal meaning of the word “adoption.” In Roman law it was possible for a man to disinherit his own son, but an adopted son could never suffer that fate, and that is the reason why, in the same verse, we read that there is no need to ever fear again. Indeed Christians can now address God in the dearest and most confident terms and cry: “My own dear Father.”
In verse 16 the fact is stated that the Spirit within bears witness with the spirit of the believer by continually assuring him (“endorses our inward conviction,” Phillips) that he is God’s own child.
In verse 17 we see the Spirit going even further still to assure His own in this that they are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ; that the realization of glory in its fulness is awaiting them in the future.
In verse 26 the Holy Spirit Himself intercedes for praying saints … according to the will of God. Paul speaks here of both their weakness and their ignorance as to the will of God in relation to prayer, but there is One Who not only understands them, but understands the will of God for them, and He actually indwells them, assisting them in their praying.
For the Holy Spirit’s final work for the believer as seen in this chapter we need to turn back to verse 23 where we see that the One Who indwells them will one day bring to completion God’s full salvation for them by redeeming and transforming their bodies. In the same verse there is the reminder that the Spirit Himself is the “first fruits” of the glory which is to follow, and then the redemption of their bodies will therefore be His concluding work for them at the first resurrection, at the coming of Christ into the air for His own. This is the first stage of His reappearing, when they will enter fully into the glory not yet revealed. “How great is Thy goodness which Thou hast stored up for those who fear Thee” (Psalm 31:19).
Additional Ministries of The Spirit
As we turn to other references, however, we find that we cannot leave the work of the indwelling Spirit for the Christian to the details we have seen in Romans 8 alone. Add to this, therefore, His gracious enabling for every kind of Christian ministry. Concerning the influence of the Spirit in the service of the child of God, our Lord said: “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water… this He spoke of the Spirit, Whom those who believed in Him were to receive” (John 7:38, 39). All that is living and, therefore, life-giving must come from God the Holy Spirit, for He is the only one Who regenerates and makes alive. It is only in the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit that real Christian service is accomplished.
In the list of gifts as given in 1 Corinthians 12, verses four to eleven, there is unity in the diversity of the gifts, but the unity is by the one Spirit by whose power all the gifts are wrought. The passage concludes thus: “But one and the same Spirit works all these things.” The work of restoring wayward Christians to their first love must also be by the Spirit’s enabling through those who walk after the Spirit: “You who are spiritual restore such an one” (Galatians 6:1).
Then there is the Spirit’s teaching ministry, continually given where and when He is given liberty to work in this way: “He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13), said our Lord. The Apostle John takes up the theme in these words: “You have an anointing from the Holy One and you all know … His anointing teaches you about all things” (1 John 2:20 and 27). The wisdom of the world is said to be ignorance with God, and in 1 Corinthians 2 this is put in contrast to that wisdom which Christians receive from God: “We have received, not the Spirit of the world, but the Spirit Who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, things… taught by the Spirit” (vv. 12 and 13).
No one and nothing save the Divine indwelling Spirit produces Christian character in the life, for He is the Spirit of Christ given to reveal Christ, not only to the trusting soul, but in him and through him also (see Ephesians 3:14-19). The ninefold fruit of the Spirit becomes a reality in the life of those who submit themselves to His control. The first three: love, joy and peace are in relation to personal experience, and joy is love’s cheerfulness, while peace is love’s confidence. The second list of three: patience, kindness and goodness are in relation to social conduct. Patience is love’s composure, kindness is love’s consideration and goodness is love’s character. The final three are in relation to the believer’s inward character: faithfulness which is love’s constancy, meekness which is love’s comeliness and in conclusion self-control, which is love’s conquest.