This is part 7 of a 10 part series on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. This reformed systematic theology for children was prepared for my own family. Much of the content is based on Bruce Ware’s Big Truths for Small Hearts. This article reviews the teachings about the Holy Spirit in the Bible.
The Works of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
The Holy Spirit came upon just a few people: Moses, the seventy, Bezalel, some prophets, Saul, David, etc. The Spirit’s coming was (1) selective, (2) task-oriented, and (3) of limited duration, tied to the duration of the task.
Holy Spirit comes upon prophets
“And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him.” (Numbers 24:2)
“Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.” (2 Kings 2:15)
Holy Spirit comes upon leaders of Israel
“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.” (Numbers 11:16-17)
“So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.” (Numbers 27:18)
“And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled.” (1 Samuel 11:6)
“Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.” (1 Samuel 16:13)
Holy Spirit comes upon judges
“The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.” (Judges 3:10)
“But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him.” (Judges 6:34)
“Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites.” (Judges 11:29)
“Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done.” (Judges 14:6)
Holy Spirit comes upon craftsman building Tabernacle and Temple
“And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship” (Exodus 31:3)
“And he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship.” (Exodus 35:31)
Old Testament Promises of Future Spirit Transformation
The Spirit’s work in Old Testament times tended to be upon a select number of people, primarily to empower them to carry out specific callings or tasks, and when the task or calling ended, most likely the Spirit-empowerment also ended. When we look at Old Testament teaching about the future coming of the Spirit in an age to come, all three of these features are overturned.
- The Spirit’s coming will no longer be on a select few of God’s people but on all.
- The Spirit’s coming will not merely empower tasks to be done or callings to be carried out, but now the Spirit will transform God’s people to become holy and obedient.
- The Spirit’s coming will not be limited in duration but be forever.
“Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (Isaiah 32:15-18)
“But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.” (Isaiah 44:1-5)
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 36:22-28)
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.” (Joel 2:28-29)
The Spirit on Jesus and His Followers
The New Testament begins with the Spirit being poured out on Jesus. As his ministry began, at his first opportunity, Jesus read the opening verses of Isaiah 61.
Jesus could have read from Isaiah 53 to announce that he was the Suffering Servant, but instead he chose Isaiah 61. Being seen as the Spirit-anointed Messiah was so important to a correct understanding of who Jesus is that he chose Isaiah 61 as his opening passage.
“And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38)
Jesus told His disciples it was good news that he was leaving. What is better than having Jesus living with you and walking alongside you day by day? The answer is having Jesus, by his Spirit, living his own life within you.
“ And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. ” (John 14:16-17)
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)
Forty days after Jesus had died and been raised, on the Day of Pentecost, Jesus poured out the Spirit upon all those who believed in him. The day of the pouring out of the Spirit on all of Jesus’ followers finally happened. These Spirit-filled believers began telling other people about God’s wonderful saving work in Jesus, and they were able to say all of this in languages they had never learned.
“Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” (Acts 2:33)
The Holy Spirit gives us power to tell others about Jesus’ death and resurrection for their sin. The Spirit gives us power to share the good news of the gospel with those who need to hear it.
Holy Spirit Gives New Life in Christ
When we are born into this world as babies, we are alive physically, but we are actually born spiritually dead.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:1-2)
We must be born again. We must be born not only physically but also spiritually. Only if we are born of the Spirit can we be alive spiritually. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves become spiritually alive. The Spirit must cause us to be born again.
“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)
If the Spirit must work for us to be born again, the only thing we can do is bow our heads and admit before God that we are helpless to save ourselves. We need to put our hope in the kindness of God, his mercy toward sinners, and his power to save those who admit they cannot save themselves.
“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)
Holy Spirit Unites Believers Together in Christ
The Bible uses both family and body as illustrations of how the Holy Spirit unites believers together in Christ.
A New Family
The Holy Spirit brings believers together with all other believers so that they become a “family” of new brothers and sisters in Christ.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-2)
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are a child of God. The Holy Spirit plays a very important role in this adoption process.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14-17)
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:4-6)
A New Body
The Holy Spirit works to unite believers together in Christ is by putting them together into one new “body” in Christ.
“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)
We need each other, and so the Spirit puts us together, even giving each of us special gifts so we can help each other grow in our relationship with Christ (1 Corinthians 12:4–26).
Those who come together in Christ are often very different from each other. Because believers are united as brothers and sisters in Christ, they are to accept and love all believers, even if they are from a different culture or their skin is a different color or they speak a different language.
Holy Spirit Fills Believers to Live for Christ
After giving people new life and uniting them together and with Christ, the Holy Spirit continues his work in each believer’s life. The Bible speaks about this part of the ongoing work of the Spirit as the filling of the Spirit.
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-21)
Instead of drinking too much wine that ends up influencing you to speak and act in ways that are sinful, let the Spirit be such a strong influence in your life that you end up speaking and acting in ways that are holy and honoring to Christ.
Since the Holy Spirit is the One who has used his great power to give sinners new life in Christ, so the Spirit is the One who also gives believers that same power to live lives that are pleasing to Christ.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25)
The Spirit will have a greater influence and will provide more direction in our lives as God’s Word dwells more and more within us. Our reading of his Word and our time spent memorizing and meditating on Scripture is one tools that the Spirit uses to help us think and act in ways that are pleasing to Christ.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17)
Basic Christian Beliefs Series
|Part 1||Who Is God?|
|Part 2||What Is the Trinity?|
|Part 3||God the Sovereign Creator|
|Part 4||Our Human Nature and Sin|
|Part 5||Person of Jesus Christ|
|Part 6||Works of Jesus Christ|
|Part 7||Holy Spirit|
|Part 8||Our Salvation|
|Part 9||Church of Jesus Christ|
|Part 10||Second Coming of Jesus Christ|