The Work of the Holy Spirit
1 Corinthians 2:14
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him,
and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. NASB
Praise be to the Most High God for the blessing of His Holy Spirit, whom He has given to us. In His great mercy, Christ has not orphaned us, but in fact abides in us through the blessed Holy Spirit of God, the third member of the Holy Trinity.
Last time I was with you, we discussed the Person of the Holy Spirit, looking at both the deity and also the personality of the Holy Spirit. In the Word we saw that the Holy Spirit was fully God, possessing all of the divine attributes of God and we also saw that He is ascribed in Scripture as third person of the Godhead, possessing His own unique personality and ministry in the great work of redemption.
Today, we will be discussing the Work of the Holy Spirit. I will briefly mention the various works of the Holy Spirit which are spoken of in scripture, but I will focus specifically on His work of illumination, His teaching and revealing ministry to us.
It is important to recognize that after Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit is now the primary manifestation of the Godhead to us in the New Covenant age. He is said to be the One who convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.
John 16:7-11 – 7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. NASB
He is said to indwell the believer and live inside of us as we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God has come to dwell in this temple not made with hands, that is, the human soul, by the person of the Holy Spirit.
When we speak about the work of the Holy Spirit in the plan of redemption, it is important to note that He is the One who applies redemption to us. The Father planned it, the Son purchased it, and the Spirit applies it to us. Of course the primary way He does this is through regeneration (John 3:3-7, 6:63, 1 Pet 1:3, Tit 3:5). Regeneration is a sovereign act of God by his Spirit in which the sinner is given the capacities needed to understand, believe, and lay hold of the
Even though regeneration is the primary work of the Spirit in applying redemption to us, it is only one of many works attributed to the Holy Spirit in scripture. He is also said to…
· Baptize us into the body of Christ – 1 Cor 12:13
· Indwell us – 1 Cor 6:19
· Effectually call us unto salvation – Rom 8:28-30
· Sanctify us – Rom 8:13, 8:29, 1 Cor 6:11, 2 Cor 3:18, Gal 5:22-23, Phil 2:12-13, 2 Thess 2:13, 1 Pet 1:2
· Empower us for living and ministry – Acts 10:38, Rom 7:6, 8:4, 8:15-16, 8:26, 15:19, 1 Cor 12:7-11
· Seals us unto the day of redemption – Eph 1:13-14, 2 Cor 1:22
· Inspires the text of Scripture – Heb 3:7, 1 Pet 1:10-12, 2 Pet 1:19-20
· Reveals and teaches us divine truth – John 14:26, 16:13-14, 1 Cor 2:9-16
Of course there are many other ways in which the work of the Holy Spirit is described in Scripture. But for the purpose of today’s brief study, we will move on to the topic of focus which is the Spirit’s work in illumination.
When it comes to the spiritual discernment and understanding of the mysteries of divine truth and the
John 14:26 – 26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. NASB
When describing the scope of this teaching Jesus went on to say that the Spirit will “guide us into all truth.” This guidance, Jesus said was into “all truth.” As He described that guidance, Jesus said the Spirit will “disclose” the truth to us. The Greek used here for “disclose” is anaggello, meaning; to announce (in detail):–declare, rehearse, report, show, or speak.
John 16:13-14 – 13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 “He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you. NASB
John also wrote of the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit describing it as very comprehensive in its scope.
1 John 2:27 – 27 And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. NASB
Here John tells us that “you have no need for anyone to teach you,” because “His anointing teaches you about all things.” Here the “anointing” is a clear reference to the Holy Spirit, whose gifts and graces are frequently seen in relation to the sacred anointing oil of the Law and prophets. John is not saying that we don’t need human teachers in the church to serve us and help to explain and clarify God’s truth, but that ultimately it is the work of the Holy Spirit to give us that divine insight that only He can give, for human insight only serves to help us see, but the light of the knowledge of the truth comes from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:10).
In fact, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth who will “bear witness” of Jesus unto His disciples.
John 15:26-27 – 26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, 27 and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning. NASB
This is in fact one the great ways in which the Helper helps us, He bears witness of the God’s eternal heavenly truth. As the text says, “He will bear witness of me.” Jesus is the truth, and the Spirit bears witness to us revealing the glory and preeminence of Jesus. He is the ultimate revelation of truth, and the Spirit bears witness of this to us. This is also how John tells us that we know the Spirit of God, by this testimony and witness of Christ.
1 John 4:2-4 – 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. NASB
And so we have seen here that it is the Holy Spirit who “teaches” us all things concerning God’s truth and His kingdom, and that He is the One who gives specific testimony of the person and work of Christ to us. Moreover, it is important to realize that the very revelation of divine mysteries is the work of the Spirit. He is the one who illumines our minds or brings light to the “eyes of our heart.” This is what Paul prays for concerning the Ephesians in
Ephesians 1:17-18 – 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, NASB
Consider with me that we do not have physical eyes in our hearts. What then is the meaning of the Apostle’s words, “eyes of the heart?” Obviously, he speaks of our spiritual eyes, the eyes with which we see the spiritual realities of God’s truth and His kingdom, and discern heavenly mysteries which cannot be understood in the earthly natural mind of man. This is what we sing in that great hymm “Holy, Holy, Holy,”…. “thought the eyes of sinful man, thy glory may not see.” This is because only the Spirit of God can give us illumination to divine mysteries. And the natural man, the unbeliever, has not received the Holy Spirit through regeneration, that is what makes him a natural man. This of course is in contrast to those who have been born again by the Spirit, having become regenerate, and been made new creations in Christ by the might power of God’s Spirit. This is the discussion of the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 2:9-16. There He writes…
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 – 9 but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. NASB
Here the Apostle speaks of things which have never entered into “eyes,” or “ears” or even the “hearts” of the natural man which he describes as “all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” Surely here he is describing the heavenly mysteries of God’s eternal Kingdom, our union with Christ and the riches of the grace of God which are ours eternally because of Christ, world without end. And he further describes why we know these things, in contrast to those who have never, see, or heard, or thought of these mysteries. It is because “to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.” Consider that God has “revealed them through the Spirit.” Here see the work of the Spirit in illumination. He has revealed with light to the eyes of our hearts divine truth which we could have in no other way seen, except by this work of the Holy Spirit. Light is “that which causes the eye to see.” Illumination is to have things exposed to one’s eyes by the means of light. Here see how the Spirit shines the light of the truth into our hearts to “see” even “all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” He allows us to see “even the depths of God!” What glorious light is this that we received by the work of the Spirit? The Apostle goes on.
1 Corinthians 2:11-13 – 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. NASB
See here that because we have been given the Spirit of God, we can now know the very thoughts of the Most High God. And he explains the purpose of the giving of the Spirit here, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God.” The very purpose of the giving of the Spirit in this context is for illumination of the “things freely given to us by God.” Let us learn here, that revelation knowledge of the divine mysteries of God comes to us only by the power of God’s Spirit to enlighten our minds to His truth. This Paul describes as being “taught by the Spirit,” when he says, “which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” Again we see the teaching and revealing ministry of the Spirit to us, and how these things are not according to “human wisdom,” but “spiritual thoughts and words, taught” to us by the Spirit. Praise God for His blessed Spirit! The Apostle continues showing the great contrast then between the born again spiritual man in Christ, compared to the fallen natural man who has not received the Spirit by regeneration.
1 Corinthians 2:14-16 – 14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. NASB
See here, that “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, they are foolishness to Him.” Note the fallen state of man is darkness, he does not accept the things of God because his eyes are blinded to those realities until he is born again. See here regeneration precedes faith. A man “does accept the things of the Spirit of God” until the Holy Spirit has worked the His mighty power of illumination in the eyes of His heart and cause him to see the divine realities. And this the Apostle says, is not a question of WILL not, but that he “cannot.” Seeing things of the Spirit of God is not a matter of man’s will, but of his ability. The Apostle writes, “they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Why are the things of the Spirit “foolishness to him?” Because he “cannot understand them.” It is not a question of willing ness, but a question of ability. The natural man does not have the ability to ascend to the knowledge of God because of his foolish darkened heart which CANNOT see the glory of Christ. He being dead in his transgressions and sins, needs the powerful, life giving and illuminating work of regeneration in his heart in order to see (Eph 2:1-6). Learn then also, that those of us who have received the Spirit of God, are by His power able to appraise the things of the Spirit, having our eyes opened to the heavenly majesties of Christ. This the Apostle says, “But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” Here the Apostle has even attributed to us the very “mind of Christ.” Here he explains that we have insight into divine spiritual knowledge that we could otherwise no way have, except that God has imparted His mind to us by the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination. What wondrous love is this? What heavenly gift has been bestowed upon us? Praise Him who makes a New Creation in Christ!
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