Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Holy Spirit

I've been blessed this semester by the Scripture meditations assigned by Dr. Ware for Systematic Theology III. For almost five weeks now, in conjunction with our study of the person and work of the Holy Spirit and the doctrine of salvation, everyone in the class has been reading John 15:18-16:15, Romans 8, and Ephesians 1:3-14 three times weekly. The goal is to meditate on these passages with a view to applying them to our lives and ministries. Here's what I've learned so far about the person and work of the Holy Spirit:

In John 15:18--16:15, Romans 8, and Ephesians 1:3-14, I notice several attributes of the Holy Spirit, several privileges the believer receives through the Holy Spirit, several ways the Holy Spirit helps believers grow, and several marks of a true Christian which involve the Holy Spirit.

In these passages we learn several things about the Spirit’s person and his relationships with the other members of the Godhead. Christ sent the Holy Spirit from heaven to minister to believers, for John 15:26 tells us that the Spirit was sent by the Son from the Father, and that he “proceeds from the Father.” He could not be sent until Jesus had departed (Jn. 16:7). His ministry is to declare the message which Christ gives him (Jn. 16:14). The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of truth” (Jn. 15:26), “the Helper” (Jn. 16:7), “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:10), and “the Spirit of adoption”, (Rom. 8:15). These names teach us that the Spirit is true, his ministry is to comfort or exhort the believer, he is from Christ, and he is the one through whom we are adopted into God’s family. We learn in Rom. 8:27 that the Spirit has a mind, and that God the Father knows the Spirit’s thoughts--clear indications that he is a person. I am encouraged when I think of the Holy Spirit as a person sent from Christ as a gift to me! He dwells in me, ministers to me, helps me, and blesses me. I ought to be more conscious of his presence and work in my life.

Believers receive many privileges through the Holy Spirit. By the law of the Spirit we are set free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), for those who walk according to the Spirit fulfill the requirements of the law (Rom. 8:4). The one whose mind is set on the Spirit receives life and peace with God, and is empowered to submit to God (Rom. 8:7). It is the Holy Spirit who will raise us from the dead on the last day (Rom. 8:13). Through the Spirit we address God as Father and receive assurance that we are indeed children of God (Rom. 8:15-16). The Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know how to pray (Rom. 8:26-27). He is the “firstfruits” (Rom. 8:23) and the “guarantee” (Eph 1:14) of our future inheritance, and the seal which shows we belong to God (Eph. 1:13). I acknowledge that before this meditation exercise I did not think to praise and thank the Spirit for the many benefits he bestows upon me. I must remind myself of these things regularly and thank the Spirit for the privileges I receive through his work!

The Holy Spirit helps believers grow. In fact, the Spirit’s ministry is so great that Jesus could tell his disciples that his departure was for their good, because when he left he would send the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:7). The Holy Spirit is our Helper (Jn. 15:26), who bears witness about Christ (Jn. 15:26) and glorifies Christ (Jn 16:14). The Spirit leads us (Rom. 8:14), and guides us into all truth (Jn. 16:13). The Spirit convicts the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn. 16:8), making our witness effective. And by the power of the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13). I give praise to the Spirit for any growth in grace which has happened in my life and take responsibility myself for the lack. And I pray that he would bless me with yet more growth--that through the Spirit I would see more of Christ’s glory, experience greater effectiveness in my witness, and progress in putting to death the deeds of the body. May it be so!

Finally, we may discern whether someone is really a believer by observing the presence and activity (or lack thereof) of the Holy Spirit in his or her life. A true believer sets his mind on the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5). The Holy Spirit dwells in all true believers, thus anyone who is not indwelt by the Spirit does not belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9). The life of a true child of God is marked by Spirit-enabled obedience to God (Rom. 8:7-8) and Spirit-enabled putting to death of fleshly deeds (Rom. 8:13).

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