The Apostle Paul declares in Romans 8:6, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” I very much want that “life” and “peace” of which Paul speaks—that daily calm reflecting a meaningful connection with something bigger than me.
Who is the “Spirit” about whom Paul writes? Of course, it is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, the “Helper” (John 14:16) who dwells within all who believe in Jesus. Consider the following reflections upon the Holy Spirit.
Who Is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is God. In the Book of Acts we see the Apostle Peter boldly assert this truth. When confronting the deceptive Ananias, Peter said to him, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Sprit? You have not lied to men but to God” (see Acts 5:3, 4). Elsewhere we see the Holy Spirit given equal status with the Father and with Jesus. So, for instance, in Matthew 28:16-20 we find Jesus claiming that disciples are to be baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). Genesis 1 also recognizes the triune nature of God. Thus, Genesis 1:26 finds God saying, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (emphasis added). This statement follows the unique introduction of the Holy Spirit, or the “Spirit of God,” in Genesis 1:1-2, which reads, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” God is introduced, and before we hear of any direct reference to the Father or Jesus, we hear of the Holy Spirit.
It is important to grasp that the Holy Spirit is in fact God Almighty, and particularly is one of the persons within the monotheistic Godhead. The Holy Spirit is not a force or a ghost or an idea. Indeed, in John 16:13, Jesus amplifies the actual personhood of the Holy Spirit by coupling a masculine pronoun (ekeinos) where we should expect to find a neuter pronoun to match the neuter word pneuma (“Spirit”), attaching personality to the otherwise neutral or generic word for spirit, thus, “When he, the Spirit of Truth comes. . . .”
What Does the Holy Spirit Do? There are a variety of things that the Holy Spirit does for the follower of Jesus Christ. First, Jesus tells us in John 3:6-7 that it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that one is born again. Our salvation, made possible through the work of Christ, is effectual within us because of the influence of the Holy Spirit, and it is made secure because the Holy Spirit permanently dwells within the believer (John 14:17). Secondly, the Holy Spirit provides comfort and counsel to the believer. John 14:16 introduces him to us as the paraklete, or “helper-comforter.” Thirdly, the Holy Spirit amplifies the ministry of Jesus. John 14:26 finds Jesus affirming that the Holy Spirit will “teach . . . all things and bring to . . . remembrance all” that Jesus had said. Next, the Holy Spirit brings conviction regarding sin and righteousness. John 16:7-11 highlight this important role that he has.
Fifthly, the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf when we do not know what to pray, and intercedes for us before the Father. Romans 8:26 and following reveal this truth for us. Next, the Holy Spirit emboldens us with words to speak when we are called to represent our Father. Matthew 10:19-20 amplify this, where Jesus says, “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Moreover, 1 Corinthians 12:8 and following point out that believers are given spiritual gifts “through the Spirit.” He provides the gifts by which we represent and serve Almighty God in this world. Lastly, he produces fruit in our lives as a tangible demonstration of his presence and power (see Galatians 5:22).
How Do We Relate to the Holy Spirit? Three things come to mind here. First, we must welcome his ministry in our lives. Taking hold of the rich truths mentioned above, believing that the Spirit of God makes himself available to us as has been mentioned, sets us apart from those unrelated to the Lord. I often pray something like this: “Father, help me to be sensitive to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, yielding to him and welcoming his presence in my life.”
Secondly, we must walk with the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:25 exhorts us to do this, saying, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Walking implies intimacy, going in the same direction, moving alongside of another, and intentionally engaging another. I often will pray, “Father, help me to walk with the Spirit today, going joyfully wherever he decides to go.”
Thirdly, we must work in partnership with him. His greatest joy is to testify about the person of Jesus. That must be our greatest joy as well, and tapping into the Holy Spirit’s power enables us to do this responsibly and faithfully, leveraging our spiritual gifts and passions for this cause. Thus, I will often pray, “Father, help me to obey the Holy Spirit’s direction, and represent his work in my life so that Jesus may be exalted before men.”
In this way I can enjoy the life and peace about which Paul wrote in Romans 8:6.
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“Write This Down” is a summary of select teaching moments offered by Pastor Matthew. The preceding summary is from the message “Questions Series: The Holy Spirit,” the third part of the sermon series “Not Afraid to Ask,” presented on the weekend of August 19, 2012, at Bethel Church.