The Holy Spirit in the Epistles & Revelation

Lesson ▪ 2000
Tags: Holy Spirit; Epistles; Salvation; Divine revelation; Fellowship with God; Spiritual growth; Church; Ministry
Excerpted from The Holy Spirit in the New Testament
Related Resources: A Balanced Approach to Spiritual GiftsThe Filling of the SpiritPaul’s Directives in 1 Corinthians 14Speaking for the Lord: The Prerequisite of Spiritual Fullness


Introduction

The Holy Spirit occupies a prominent place in the epistles and Revelation, being mentioned more than 100 times. A study of these references shows that the Spirit ministers both to believers and unbelievers.

Salvation

The Spirit plays a major role in the execution of God’s salvation plan.

  • The Spirit was the Mediator of Christ’s sacrifice to God for the sins of mankind (Heb 9:13-14).
  • The Spirit is active in communicating the gospel to the unsaved (1 Thess 1:5; 1 Pet 1:12). He witnesses concerning the identity of Jesus Christ as Son of God (1 Jn 5:5-9). He joins the Bride--the church--in inviting the lost to come to Jesus (Rev 22:17). As “the Spirit of grace” He is offended when Christ’s atoning sacrifice is rejected (Heb 10:29).
  • The Spirit is the Source of life (2 Cor 3:6). He imparts that life to those who come by faith to Jesus Christ (Gal 3:13-14). Possession of the Spirit is thus a telltale sign of genuine faith (Rom 8:9; 8:15; Jude 17-19). The Spirit’s continuing presence means that the believer’s body is His temple (1 Cor 6:19-20).
  • The Spirit is implanted in believers’ hearts as a pledge or deposit guaranteeing future redemption; this indwelling constitutes a seal (Rom 8:9-11; 8:23; 2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:13-14; 4:30).
“The image of God’s sealing his people combines all these meanings--authenticity, ownership, mystery, worthiness, preservation (2 Cor 1:22). [. . .] The Holy Spirit’s coming as promised is a seal and down payment, proof that God’s people are sealed for the day of redemption (Eph 1:13-14; 4:30)” (“Seal”).
  • Believers are washed, sanctified, justified, renewed, and baptized by the Spirit (1 Cor 6:11; 12:13; 2 Thess 2:13; Tit 3:5).

Mediation of Spiritual Truth

There is much evidence to suggest that the Holy Spirit is the Mediator of spiritual truth.

  • The Spirit is said to be responsible for several specific portions of the Old Testament. The author of Hebrews attributes to Him the symbolism behind the Old Testament tabernacle (9:6-8), the book of Psalms (3:7-11; cf. Ps 95:7-11), and the book of Jeremiah (10:15-17; cf. Jer 31:33-34). Peter attributes the whole of Old Testament prophecy to the moving of the Spirit (2 Pet 1:20-21). In addition, he specifically credits the Spirit with revealing Messianic prophecies to the prophets (1 Pet 1:10-11).
  • In the New Testament period the Spirit revealed the mystery of the church to apostles and prophets (Eph 3:4-6). Paul attributed his message to Timothy to the Spirit’s voice (1 Tim 4:1). The Spirit gave John the information contained in the book of Revelation through visions, speech communication, and transportations (Rev 1:10; 4:2; 14:13; 17:3; 21:10). The messages to the seven churches of Asia are attributed to Christ as well as the Holy Spirit (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). In sum, the Spirit is the Mediator of God’s mysteries to the believer (1 Cor 2:6-16).
  • The Spirit accompanies believers as we proclaim the gospel (1 Pet 1:12). He confirms our message by attesting to the reality of Jesus’s incarnation (1 Jn 4:1-3) and to His identity as Lord (1 Cor 12:3).

Fellowship with God

As believers we enjoy fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Through Him we enjoy fellowship with the Father and the Son.

  • The Spirit is a Person believers can grieve (Eph 4:30) and quench (1 Thess 5:19). Obviously, then, we have a personal relationship with Him (cf. 2 Cor 13:14; Phil 2:1).
  • The Spirit mediates our access to God the Father on the basis of Christ’s death (Eph 2:18). He nurtures our relationship with the Father by affirming our identity as His children (Rom 8:15-17; Gal 4:6-7).
  • The Spirit is instrumental in mediating believers’ worship (Phil 3:3) and prayer (Eph 6:18; Jude 20-21). In fact, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf so that our prayers actually serve to accomplish God’s will in our lives (Rom 8:26-27).

Spiritual Growth

One of the Spirit’s most predominant roles is that of enabling Christians to achieve spiritual growth.

  • Believers receive the Spirit by exercising faith in God’s message, not by performing the works of the law. The same is true of spiritual growth: It is a work of the Spirit brought about by faith, not works (Gal 3:2-5). We should not infer from this, however, that we have no responsibility in the matter. In fact, we are called on to sow to the Spirit--that is, to make provisions for spiritual health and growth (Gal 6:7-8).
  • The Holy Spirit empowers believers to overcome the sinful habits of the flesh (Rom 8:3-6, 12-13). We avail ourselves of the Spirit’s power by walking in Him. By walking in Him we suppress the works of the flesh and produce the Spirit’s fruit (Gal 5:16-25; cf. Eph 5:9; Rom 14:17).
“[. . .] walking at a more figurative level becomes a prime metaphor for [. . .] a person’s lifestyle (with the image of walking suggesting continuing progress in time and in a chosen direction)” (“Walk, Walking”).
  • Believers are instructed to arm themselves with spiritual armor (Eph 6:10ff). One of the elements of this armor, God’s Word, is referred to as the Spirit’s sword (Eph 6:17). From this we may infer that the Spirit carries out warfare on our behalf.
  • Believers are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). The Spirit’s filling is associated with wisdom and discernment of God’s will (v 17); freedom from intoxication (v 18); praise and thanksgiving (vv 19-20); and mutual submission (v 21).
  • The Holy Spirit ministers to believers in other ways. For example, He interacts with our consciences to bring about assurance of righteous behavior (Rom 9:1-2). By implication, He also convicts us when we are in sin. In addition, He is our source of inner strength (Eph 3:16).

Edification of the Church

The New Testament shows that the Holy Spirit is vitally involved in the development of the church.

  • In the New Testament period the Spirit demonstrated His concern for the well-being of local churches by advising them concerning their strengths and weaknesses (Rev 2:7; 2:11; etc.). The Spirit is no less concerned for churches’ spiritual health today. We should seek out His direction in the life of our church.
  • The Spirit baptizes believers into the body of Christ, the church (1 Cor 12:12-13), and gifts them for service within it (vv 4-11). The Spirit is active in building up the church to be a fitting dwelling place for God (Eph 2:19-22). The local church body is a temple where the Spirit dwells (1 Cor 3:16). His presence demands holiness on the part of the church’s members (v 17).
  • The Spirit performs a bonding work among Christians of diverse backgrounds and personalities (Eph 4:1-4). Among the things Christians have in common is that we are all equally related to the one Spirit (v 4). We should endeavor to live out the reality of our oneness by maintaining visible unity among brothers and sisters in Christ (v 3). This necessarily involves practicing humility and patience (vv 1-2).
  • The Spirit revealed the mystery of the church to apostles and prophets who would serve as the church’s foundation (Eph 3:5-7; cf. 2:20). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit calls men to the sacred trust of administering His Word (2 Tim 1:14; cf. 1 Tim 6:20).

Empowerment for Ministry

Ministry is impossible outside the context of the working of the Spirit. The Spirit directs every aspect of believers’ service to God, one another, and the world.

  • The ministry of the new covenant is the ministry of the Spirit (2 Cor 3:4-6). The Spirit is given to those who turn to the Lord through the preaching of the gospel (vv 12-17). Interestingly, it is the Spirit who empowers preachers to share the message of Christ, so that the ministry is carried out, in a sense, by the Spirit Himself (vv 1-3, 18).
  • The preaching of the early church was carried out “by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (1 Pet 1:12). Paul carried out the entirety of his ministry “by the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 6:6). Paul enjoined Timothy to keep the ministry that had been entrusted to him by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 1:14).
  • The salvation message of Christ’s apostles was reinforced by the Holy Spirit through miracles and spiritual gifts (Heb 2:3-4). The Spirit gives a variety of gifts to believers for the benefit of the church. These are distributed according to His sovereign will (1 Cor 12:4-11).
  • The Holy Spirit empowered Paul’s speech and actions so that his ministry was fruitful from Jerusalem to Illyricum. The Spirit’s manifestation evidently included both miraculous phenomena and the power of spiritual persuasion (Rom 15:18-19). The Spirit made Paul’s ministry in Corinth effective. He did not approach the Corinthians with his own rhetorical devices, but with the power of God (1 Cor 2:4-5). Paul’s ministry of the gospel to the Thessalonians was no mere speech communication. In fact, it was carried out with the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 1:5).

Conclusion

The whole of the Christian’s experience--from new birth to resurrection, both individually and corporately--is bound in up in the working of the Holy Spirit. We overlook His vital role in our lives to our own spiritual detriment.

Learning Objectives

  1. To survey the roles the Spirit plays in salvation, sanctification, and service.
  2. To persuade participants of their need to seek the Spirit’s direction and power for continued growth.
  3. To motivate participants to cultivate a closer relationship with the Spirit.
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