Have you ever wished that you had the power to change someone? Maybe you have a friend who has traveled down the wrong road and made terrible decisions. Don’t you wish that you could keep him or her from their failures and be assured of their future? Although you do not have that kind of power, there is One who does.
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. His person and work have been the subject of much controversy since His coming on the Day of Pentecost. Article 7 of the Mennonite Confession of Faith 1963 deals with the work of the Holy Spirit. Article 7 is by no means exhaustive or controversial but is consistent with historical church orthodoxy. It can be divided into three main points.
- The work of the Spirit between man and God. “We believe that Christ as Lord and Saviour does His work through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin. Through the Holy Spirit those who believe are born again. The supreme ministry of the Spirit is to lead men to Christ and His salvation. As Christians yield to Christ and obey His Word, the Holy Spirit transforms them into the spiritual image of Jesus Christ, and enables perseverance in faith and holiness.”
The work of Christ was to redeem us. He took our punishment by dying in our place. He rose the third day and at this very moment is at the right hand of the Father. Salvation is complete, but Christ still works through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus promised the disciples that when He left them the Holy Spirit would come and “convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (John 16:8) The sin in this verse is a very specific sin: the sin of unbelief. Men engage in all kinds of immoral, godless behavior, but their greatest sin is rejecting Christ as Savior and Lord. The Spirit first convicts men of their sin. At this point, two things begin to happen: either the heart starts to soften toward salvation, or it starts to harden toward damnation.
The Spirit regenerates, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6). “Regeneration” means new life or new birth. The word “renewing” has the idea of renovation or complete change. Like a house that is totally gutted so that it can be remodeled, the sinner comes to Christ to be born again. The Holy Spirit washes, gives life, and completely renovates the sinner into a new creation–that looks a lot like its Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Spirit enables our perseverance. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). Where do you receive your desire to do right? Where do you get your will to obey? From God. You must obey. You have to act. You need to move with a sense of fear and reverence, but it is the Holy Spirit who prompts and enables you to live, grow, and persevere in righteousness.
- The Spirit’s work in human relationships. “He empowers them as effective witnesses to Christ and His salvation, fills their hearts with love for all men, and moves them to practice Christian discipleship. The Holy Spirit bestows upon each believer such gifts as He wills for the building up of the body of Christ.”
The Great Commission is as relevant for us as it was for the eleven disciples. And the promise that was given them is given to us: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). How is Christ with us? “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27). Every believer has the Spirit of God in them. The Spirit is testifying of the truth of the Word. We bear witness of that truth first recorded by those who witnessed it – the disciples.
The first fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22). John says that we should love one another, “and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Who regenerates us? How are we born again? By the Holy Spirit through faith in the finished work of Christ. Love should be spilling out of the believer and onto everyone around. The Spirit produces the fruit of love in the life of a believer – love for a brother and love for an enemy.
The Holy Spirit bestows supernatural gifts that are for the benefit of the church. The church is made up of many members and, “there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Cor 12:4). The gifts are “given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Cor 12:7b).
- The Holy Spirit’s work for eternity. “The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is God’s seal of ownership of the Christian believer. He is God’s guarantee that He will also redeem the bodies of believers on the day of Christ.”
God places His seal of ownership upon each believer. In ancient history kings and lords would have a stamp or a signet ring made of some hard material that they would use to make an impression upon wax or clay. The wax or clay would be attached to a piece of property like a letter or deed signifying ownership. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is God signifying ownership of us.
In the same manner that Christ was raised from the dead, we too will rise again (Romans 8:11). God will restore you, and spirit and body will be glorified together in the presence of Christ (1 John 3:2).
For the one who turns to Christ in repentance, there is a great Helper. The Holy Spirit regenerates, sanctifies, and seals. He certainly has the power to bring about lasting change.
|Milton Hershey resides in Elnora, IN with his wife Rachel and son Philip. As a WI boy who likes cool weather, Indiana summers can feel hot (to put it mildly). As well as being a full time husband and father, he works at K&K Industries as a mechanic/semi driver. He is currently in a pastoral apprenticeship under the direction of Truth and Grace Mennonite Church. He thinks reading books are a great way to stretch one’s mind and imagination. It will also improve your vocabulary and attention span. Amen.