Lesson 8 The Spirit Of God: His Work In Believers

The Spirit of God is the powerful provision of the risen Christ for His people to live the life that they are called to live on earth. “ ‘Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:38-39 NIV). Here was the power and wisdom of God provided to reside within us. As the One alongside, He would encourage, guide, teach, enable and pray on our behalf, just as Jesus did when He was on earth. He would be “another Comforter,” like the One who walked the Holy Land and ministered tirelessly to His disciples as well as to needy souls. This is a Person, not an influence, not a mystic cosmic energy, not an enlightened part of man. He is God within us.

The work of the Spirit begins before the child of God is ever born again. When Peter preached his famous sermon on Pentecost that led to the conversion of about 3000 souls, there was a profound impact through the Spirit’s ministry. “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven’ “ (Acts 2:37-38 NIV). What the people experienced is called conviction of sin. Without it, there is not likely to be repentance, which the Lord Jesus said was essential lest they perish (Luke 13:3). The Spirit’s ministry is to convince the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment (John 16:8). He has also come to regenerate the soul of fallen man and bring him to eternal life (John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5).

What the Spirit Does at the New Birth

1. Indwelling. The Lord Jesus promised that after the Holy Spirit came He would be in believers to abide there forever (John 14:16-17). This continual indwelling is uniquely true since Pentecost and repeatedly affirmed (Romans 8:11; 2 Timothy 1:14; 1 Corinthians 2:12; Galatians 4:6; 1 John 3:24; 4:13). If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ within, he does not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). Only the unsaved do not have the Spirit (Jude 19). The Spirit enters at the new birth. The indwelling makes every believer’s body the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God lives in people, not in buildings, today.

2. Sealing. When someone believes the gospel of salvation, he is marked with a seal, which is the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). The Holy Spirit seals us until the day of redemption when Christ returns for His saints (Ephesians 4:30). This indicates the permanency of genuine new birth. It is a seal of God’s ownership (2 Corinthians 1:22). The same word is used of the sealing of Christ’s tomb by the Roman guard (Matthew 27:66) and indicates security of a true believer in Christ.

3. Earnest. The word “earnest” is also translated “deposit,” indicating a pledge or guarantee that the transaction of salvation will be completed by God (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14). Each believer has been bought by the precious blood of Christ and will be claimed by Him when He returns. The Spirit will not depart from the believer, any more than Jesus would leave us (Hebrews 13:5). This is entirely different from the pre-Pentecostal work of the Spirit.

4. Anointing. In the Old Testament kings and priests were anointed with oil to indicate consecration of their service unto God. Today believers are anointed with the Spirit to set them apart for His sacred purposes. Jesus Christ has made all believers kings and priests unto God (Revelation 1:6). Therefore, every believer is anointed of God, not just a few preachers with special spiritual abilities or power (1 John 2:20).

5. Baptism. This term was used by John the Baptist to predict a future activity of the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:7-8; John 1:33). The ascended Christ repeated the prophecy in Acts 1:5 to make clear that it was soon to come on Pentecost (Acts 2). No person is plainly identified as being baptized by, in, or of the Spirit before Pentecost. Thus Pentecost fulfilled the earlier prophecy of the Lord (John 7:39; 14:16-20). The only Scripture which deals with the baptism of the Spirit doctrinally is 1 Corinthians 12:13 where we are told that by one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body. That Body is elsewhere identified as the Church (Ephesians 5:23,30-32), formed at Pentecost. This indicates that the Baptism of the Spirit unites us to the Body of Christ, and all Christians have been included. Baptism of the Spirit is a once-for-all action that takes place at the new birth.

Nowhere is a believer exhorted to seek the Baptism of (in) the Spirit. The 120 believers tarried in the upper room in Acts 2 to “wait” for the Spirit’s coming. Their tarrying did not cause the Spirit to descend, nor was it a sign of spiritual attainment for them. All received the baptism as a group. No single believer is ever seen in Scripture as seeking by some spiritual means to receive the Baptism of the Spirit or any of the spiritual gifts. The believer is not exhorted to do this nor instructed in how to do it. The Samaritans (Acts 8:14-20), Gentiles (Acts 10) and disciples of John (Acts 19:1-6) received the Spirit as groups, according to the will of God and not their seeking.

The question still remains as to why there were three separate baptisms for the groups mentioned above. Why did they not receive the baptism when the others did at Pentecost? The first believers in Christ were Jews. They were shown that Gentiles were also to be welcomed into full participation in the Body. Further, they were shown that a despised and hated group called Samaritans were equally to be received. This entire body of Samaritans was taken into the Church as a group. The supernatural signs were to prove their acceptance by God to a people who would not otherwise have received them as full-fledged Christians. Samaritans cannot properly be used as examples of Christians today who lack the Holy Spirit and need to individually seek “the baptism.” Similarly, the disciples of John the Baptist were not Christians until they as an entire group were given the Spirit through the laying on of hands by the Apostles amid supernatural signs. No believer today has been baptized with John’s baptism, nor could he say that he had not so much as even heard of the Holy Spirit.

It must be stated that so-called “Pentecostal” or “charismatic” believers understand baptism in/by/with the Spirit in an entirely different way. They insist that this baptism is a deeper spiritual experience, subsequent to and distinct from salvation, usually signified by speaking with tongues. They urge others, even unbelievers in some cases, to seek “the Baptism,” usually by means of seeking the “tongues” gift. The tongues are often demonstrated in church or elsewhere and then instruction given in how to receive the gift. Glowing experiences are cited as proof of the doctrine. Public healing services are also used as supportive evidence. However, there are several problems with their use of Scriptures on baptism of the Spirit.

a. They freely confuse and interchange words which are not synonyms. “Filling of the Spirit,” as in Ephesians 5:18, is made to be the same as “baptism.” Yet here the word is “be continuously filled” and does not refer to a single event such as baptism. Moreover, filling occurred prior to the baptism’s institution. Filling is repeated with the same person (Acts 2:4; 4:8,31). Baptism is a single event. Believers are exhorted to be filled with the Spirit. No believer in Jesus Christ is exhorted to seek the baptism of the Spirit, or even to seek to speak in tongues. The confusion of terms is made possible by the fact that filling and baptism happened simultaneously at Pentecost.

b. They consider the Samaritans, Gentiles and disciples of John to be examples of powerless believers in churches today who, though saved, have not experienced the baptism of the Spirit. They utterly ignore the historic setting in Acts and the necessity of accrediting these groups in a public way. They further ignore the lack of instruction to seek the baptism of the Spirit in any of the epistles, particularly in passages about spiritual life.

c. The Bible does not divide the Body of Christ into “charismatic” and “non-charismatic” groups. The Scriptures do not teach that there are two baptisms: one into Christ (conversion) and one into the Spirit (subsequent to salvation).

What the Spirit Commands the Believer

1. Definition Of Filling. “Be filled with the Spirit,” we are urged (Ephesians 5:18). The verb “be filled” indicates continuous action in the believer’s life, not a single experience. We understand what it means to be filled with the Spirit by understanding how the word “filled” is used elsewhere in Scripture. For example, the word “filled” is used to express controlling emotion such as being filled with wrath, fear, madness, sorrow, joy, envy or amazement. It also expresses the idea of saturation, such as a sponge with sour wine, a house with odors or a city with a certain teaching. It is also used to express a dominating trait, such as to be filled with deceit, grace or truth. The sum of these uses, as well as the special use in connection with the Spirit, makes clear that the control of our daily lives in a powerful way by the Spirit of God is what is meant by being filled with the Spirit. The term “filling” means “control.” It does not mean getting more of the Holy Spirit.

2. Hindrances To Filling. Anything that hinders the free working of God in our lives runs counter to the filling of the Spirit. Resisting the Spirit in an open way seems to be especially the activity of unbelievers (Acts 7:51). Quenching the Spirit, as water upon a fire, may be done by an entire church or its leadership (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Grieving the Spirit is something to be avoided by devout believers (Ephesians 4:30). The word indicates the sensitivity of the Lord to unbecoming, fleshly conduct. The Spirit will not work in power and blessing when treated in such a manner.

3. Nature Of Filling. Since the blessing and power of God depend upon the Spirit’s control or filling, how shall we experience the filling? It must be recognized that the Spirit is sovereign and may act entirely apart from any activity of man. This is illustrated by the fact that John the Baptist was filled from the womb (Luke 1:15). The Lord Jesus, as the Perfect Man, was always filled with the Spirit (Luke 4:1). Filling takes place when we seek to live, act or speak under God’s direction, without necessarily seeking the experience of filling itself. For example, when the apostles prayed for boldness to speak God’s Word, against great opposition, they were filled with the Spirit and testified with great power. The filling was not something that was rare. It was a requirement for the work of deacons (Acts 6:3) and present in every devout believer (Acts 11:24). It was sometimes manifested in surprising ways. Paul was filled in order to denounce a wicked man (Acts 13:9). Filling is for the accomplishment of God’s purposes, not man’s ambitions.

The Spirit possesses us, rather than our possessing Him. He directs our life in an unhindered way to do God’s will, not to assert spiritual superiority.

4. Conditions To Filling. Conditions seem to be related in most cases to the response of our souls to God’s work as He seeks to bring us into conformity with Christ (Roman 8:29; Galatians 4:19). A Spirit-filled life comes from:

a. The rich indwelling of the Word of Christ (Colossians 3:16; cf. Ephesians 5:18 ff).

b. Reckoning ourselves dead to sin but alive unto God (Romans 6:11).

c. Presenting our bodies to Christ for His purposes (Romans 12:1-2; 6:13).

d. Obedience flowing from the Lordship of Christ (Luke 6:46; John 14:21). We cannot expect to pray some kind of set prayer or go through a church ritual and expect thereby to become filled with the Spirit while by-passing the study of the Word and clinging to defiling habits. Filling or control of the Spirit is the effect of a vital relationship with Christ rather than a seeking for an experience.

5. Results Of Filling. The effect of the Spirit upon our lives depends upon our openness to His ministry. A Spirit-controlled life is one in which believers grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), not an instant spirituality brought about by a crisis experience.

Results of the filling are seen in many of the practical expressions listed below:

a. Character change or “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).

b. Spiritual learning, especially from the Word (John 16:12-15; 1 John 2:27; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

c. Knowing and doing God’s will (Romans 8:14; 12:1-2).

d. Effective prayer life (Ephesians 6:18; Romans 8:26-27).

e. Boldness in witnessing (Acts 4:29-31).

f. Outflow of blessing for others (John 7:38-39).

g. Overflow in worship, song, praise (Ephesians 5:19).

h. Christ-centered living (Galatians 2:20).

What the Spirit Does for the Believer

There are other specific ministries of the Spirit which include:

1. Glorifying Christ. The special ministry of the Spirit is to magnify not Himself but the Son to every believer (John 16:14).

2. Teaching. If we are to learn anything from the Word or about the Lord’s ways, it must be taught through that Great Illuminator, the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27; 1 Corinthians 2:9-14).

3. Guiding. Without direction we are like the spiritually blind. He is able to take us down the right path as we wait upon Him and listen to His counsel, whether given directly or through His servants (John 16:13; Proverbs 3:5-6).

4. Assuring. The Word is the basis of knowing our salvation, but inner conviction comes from the witness of the Spirit to our spirit (Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:24; 4:13; Galatians 4:6).

5. Praying. When we are far from praying the right things, the Spirit will intercede with what is needful (Romans 8:26).

6. Sanctifying. He is the Spirit of holiness. His very presence within our bodies is both an incentive to holiness (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) and an enabler of holy living.


Christian life is a personal relationship with God on a day-by-day basis. The Object of our faith is the Lord Jesus Christ. When we make Him the King of life and live under His Lordship, yielded to His every will, then the Spirit of God controls our lives and directs in the paths that honor God. Such a relationship brings the blessed fruit of the Spirit which are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). It is in seeking to glorify the Lord Jesus and being submissive to Him that we are victorious in our daily walk.

The Spirit Of God: His Work In Believers

l. What is the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to Christ and why is it necessary (John 16:7-8; 3:5-9; Titus 3:5)?

2. What term is used in Matthew 3:11 to indicate a future activity of the Holy Spirit?

From 1 Corinthians 12:13, how many are viewed as having been “baptized into one body”?

From the context of 1 Corinthians 12, what “body” is the Apostle Paul speaking of?

What conclusions, then, do you make of the “baptism with (in) the Spirit”?

3.How are seals used in relation to official documents today and what does that tell you about the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)?

4.Ask a realtor about “earnest money.” What is the “earnest” of the Spirit (Ephesians 1:14)?

5.What personal assurance do you gain from Ephesians 1:13-14 and 2 Corinthians 1:22?

6.From Romans 8:8-11 we can draw several conclusions about the indwelling of the Spirit. See if you can list one for each verse.





What personal application can you make from 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20?

7.How does the Holy Spirit continue to minister to the believer after his conversion?

John 16:13

Romans 8:14

Romans 8:26-27

8.Compare Ephesians 5:18-25 with Colossians 3:16-19. Notice that both passages begin with a command (Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16) and then list a series of actions that should result from obeying that command. The first command (Ephesians 5:18) is to “be filled with the Spirit.” By comparing these two commands in the two passages, what do you think it means to be “filled with the Spirit”? What part do you have in the “filling”?

9.Identify the hindrances to the Spirit-filled life:

Ephesians 4:30 1 Thessalonians 5:19

What hindrances have you dealt with in your own life?

10. What are the marks of a Spirit-filled Christian (Galatians 5:22-23)?

According to this description, are you living a Spirit-filled life? Why, or why not? What practical steps can you take to more fully live under the Spirit’s control?