The third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, in cooperation with the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ, does important work in people’s lives. Yet there is a mystery to the Spirit’s ministry because people can’t see it, which is why Jesus likened his work to the wind (John 3:8). Even though the Spirit’s ministry is often out of sight, the Bible reveals the nature, purpose, and operation of what he does.
The work of the Holy Spirit involves convicting unbelievers of people of sin and then sealing, assuring, and sanctifying God’s children. Other ministries he does include promoting Christlikeness, interceding in prayer for believers, and endowing them with spiritual gifts.
How does the Holy Spirit regenerate people? What does the Greek word for “sealing” mean? Does the Spirit give every Christian a spiritual gift? Why isn’t the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the list? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Also see What is Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit? to learn more.
The Ministry of the Holy Spirit in People’s Lives
The Bible teaches that one God exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, who is Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Though each member has distinct roles and functions, they are one essence, which unites their nature, will, and purposes. Therefore, what the Holy Spirit does isn’t detached from the person of the Father or the Son, though it is uniquely his work.
The 12 works listed below are descriptions of the Holy Spirit’s ministry according to the New Testament. Studying the passages cited in detail will give readers more understanding and insight.
1. The Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers of sin
The Holy Spirit works in the lives of unbelievers to persuade them that they are sinners in need of a Savior, who is Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). The Bible teaches that everyone sins and falls short of meeting God’s moral standards (Rom. 3:23). To become a Christian, a person must confess their sin, turn away from it, and trust Jesus for forgiveness and salvation (Mark 1:15; 1 John 1:9).
Jesus said that one of his purposes for sending the Holy Spirit after his ascension was to convict people of sin. John 16:7-8 reads, “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. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (ESV, emphasis added).
2. The Holy Spirit regenerates unbelievers
According to the Bible, all people are born sinful (Rom. 3:23; cf. 1 Kings 8:14). One consequence of people’s sinful state is that they can’t enter the kingdom of God. Therefore, to attain eternal life, a person must be regenerated or born a second time, which occurs through repentance and belief in Jesus (Mark 1:15; John 3:16). “Regenerate” means to “start anew” or “originate again.”
In their famous conversation about sin and salvation, Jesus told Nicodemus that the Holy Spirit must regenerate him. John 3:5-7 reads, “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” (ESV).
Also see What Are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit? to learn more.
3. The Holy Spirit seals believers
The Apostle Paul taught that the Holy Spirit seals believers (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13). In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “seal” (sphragizo) sometimes refers to a literal wax seal (e.g. Rev. 10:4). Wax seals often contained the initials or emblem of the scroll owner. It also secured the written content. In relation to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, “seal” figuratively refers to ownership and protection.
2 Corinthians 1:22 contains the noun form of the term when it says that Jesus put “his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” Ephesians 1:13 contains the verb form of the word: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (emphasis added).
4. The Holy Spirit assures believers of salvation
An essential work of the Holy Spirit is promising believers that they belong to God. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “assurance” as being certain and having confidence. For various reasons, sometimes Christians doubt God has forgiven their sins and granted them salvation. Though God calls believers his children (John 1:12), people wonder if they are genuinely his sons and daughters.
Romans 8:16, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Pastor John Piper explains, “The assurance of the believer is not that God will save him even if he stops believing, but that God will keep him believing – God will sustain you in faith, He will make your hope firm and stable to the end. He will cause you to persevere.”
Also see What Does the Holy Spirit Feel Like? to learn more.
5. The Holy Spirit sanctifies believers
The term “sanctification” describes the process by which God, through the Holy Spirit, helps a person grow in holiness and Christlikeness. The word “sanctify” in the English translations of the Bible comes from the same Greek word as “holy” (hagiasmos). The basic meaning of the word is to “be set apart.” The Spirit is constantly at work in the lives of believers, helping them grow and mature in their faith.
In one passage, Peter describes Christians as “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood” (1 Pet. 1:2, emphasis added). Similarly, he tells the Thessalonians, “God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13, emphasis added).
6. The Holy Spirit promotes Christlikeness in believers
In Romans 8:29, Paul writes that God’s plan for believers is that they would resemble his son, Jesus. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Maturity in the Christian life has a goal: to be more like Jesus in word, deed, motive, desires, values, priorities, loves, and much more.
Christians can read the Gospels to learn more about Jesus’ character. Other New Testament descriptions of Christian faith and conduct imply Christlike virtues. For example, demonstrating the fruits of the spirit if showcasing Christlike behavior. Galatians 5:22-23 reads, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
See the meaning of Where the Spirit of the Lord Is, There is Freedom
7. The Holy Spirit intercedes for believers
The Holy Spirit prays for believers. Sometimes when life is difficult, or confusion arises, Christians don’t know what to say to God. They may be weak, desperate, exhausted, or lacking direction. God doesn’t abandon his sons and daughters at such times. Instead, the Holy Spirit intercedes for them.
In Romans 8:26-27, Paul writes, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” The NLT translation says, “the Holy Spirit prays for us.”
8. The Holy Spirit illuminates the Bible for believers
God inspired the writing of the Bible, and people need the Holy Spirit to understand it. While any reader can understand the plot line of a story or the meaning of a proverb, it takes illumination from the Spirit to grasp its ultimate meaning, which leads to faith in Jesus. Illumination may give birth to understanding, insight, conviction, belief, application, and more.
In 1 Corinthians 2:12-13, Paul writes, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”
Also see What Is A Familiar Spirit? to learn more.
9. The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to believers
God gives every Christian a spiritual gift. Paul writes that the Holy Spirit “apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor.12b, emphasis added). When people respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells them. One result of the Spirit’s indwelling a person is endowing them with a spiritual gift, though it’s common for people to have more than one.
Paul emphasizes that the Holy Spirit is the source of every spiritual gift. “There are a variety of gifts but the same Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:4). He adds that “it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:6). Later, he says again, “all these are empowered by one and the same Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:11a). This fact promotes unity because every gift has the same source and purpose, which is to serve the Church.
10. The Holy Spirit guides believers
The Holy Spirit gives Christians direction, advice, and counsel to help them make decisions. Sometimes the Spirit’s guidance helps believers choose righteousness over sinfulness. Other times, Christians must choose between two righteous options, and the Spirit, through things like prayer, studying Scripture, and seeking wisdom, help them make a decision.
In Galatians 5:16-18, Paul writes, “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” (emphasis added).
11. The Holy Spirit unites believers
Christian author Joni Eareckson Tada once said, “Believers are never told to become one; we already are one and are expected to act like it.”  Unity among Christians glorifies God because it demonstrates that he is more worthy than people’s preferences and biases on other matters.
In Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul writes, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (emphasis added).
Also see Wondering How To Pray in the Holy Spirit? to learn more.
12. The Holy Spirit gives believers their resurrected bodies
Like the Holy Spirit enabled dry bones to come to life in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek. 37:1-14), he will resurrect people’s mortal bodies in the end times. In Romans 8:11, Paul writes, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Doesn’t the Holy Spirit baptize people?
Baptism of the Holy Spirit is an important New Testament teaching. Some believe people are baptized with the Spirit at the moment of their conversion. Others hold that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second work that occurs after a person has already become a Christian.
Either way, though the Spirit is the element of the act, Jesus is the one who performs the baptism. John the Baptist states, “I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit‘” (John 1:33, emphasis added).
Also see How Do You Know If You Blasphemed the Holy Spirit? to learn more.
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