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The Work of the Spirit


To understand what the Holy Spirit is like, what He does and why it is important.

Scripture Basis:

John 14-17, 1 Cor 12-14


Packers "Knowing God", chapter 6

Inclusion Activity:

Christians often speak of God as a "trinity". Do you know what the word means. The word, though not found directly in scripture, comes from the Latin language. In Latin the word is Trinitas ... and it means "three-ness"

It is sometimes assumed that because the concept of the Trinity is mysterious and difficult if not impossible to understand, it is something that can generally be ignored. Some say, "I believe in God but not in Jesus". Others will tell us not to worry about God the Father, or the Holy Spirit, just focus on Jesus. And others will tell us focus ourselves on the Holy Spirit and His power. Is it necessary to deal with all three persons of the Trinity today?

John thought so. In his Gospel he throws us right into the whole concept of the Trinity in the first few verses. In previous chapters we studied God the Father, the first person of the Trinity and Jesus, the second person of God incarnate in a Man. In this chapter we will take another step into John and look at the importance of the third person of God, the Holy Spirit. But first take a minute and answer the following three questions.

  1. What does the Holy Spirit do?
  2. What is the Holy Spirit like?
  3. What is important about the Holy Spirit today?

Students Teach Students:

Now lets look up some of the most common references describing the Holy Spirit.

Expand on each of these ..

John 14:15-17Counselor/Comforter / Spirit of Truth / World cannot accept it does not see him.
John 14:25-26 Counselor/Comforter / Father sends / teaches & reminds
John 15:26-27 Counselor/Comforter / Christ sends from the Father / testifies about Christ
John 16:7-15 Counselor/Comforter / convicts / guides / speaks not of his own / brings glory to Christ.
Gal 5:22Enables love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, Goodness and faithfulness

The Holy Spirit also .....

.. gives birth to spirit John 3:6
... speaks words of God John 3:34
... teaches all things John 14:26
... reminds us of Christ's teaching John 14:26
… tells of what's to come John 14:26
… guides in truth John 16:13
... speaks not of his own John 16:7-15
... brings glory to Christ John 16:7-15
... teaches & reminds John 14:25-26
... testifies about Christ John 15:26-27 also Heb 10:15 1 John 5:6
... makes witnesses Acts 1:8
... speaks the word of God Acts 4:31
... gives wisdom Acts 6:10
... strengthens & encourages Acts 9:31
... gives son ship Rom 8:15
... testifies we are Gods children Rom 8:16
... searches all things 1 Cor 2:10
... know thoughts of God 1 Cor 2:11
... helps us understand what God has given 1 Cor 2:12
... expresses spiritual truths 1 Cor 2:13
... given for the common good 1 Cor 12:7
... gives message of wisdom and knowledge 1 Cor 12:8
... praises God 1 Cor 14:15-16
... seals us 2 Cor 1:22 Eph 4:30
... guarantees what is to come 2 Cor 1:22 & 5:5
... enables belief & testifying 2 Cor 4:13
... leads Gal 5:8
... sanctifies 2 Thes 2:13
... gives power love & discipline 2 Tim 1:7
... enlightens Heb 6:4
... gives right to eat from the tree of life Rev 2:7
... saves us from the 2nd death Rev 2:11
... gives hidden manna, white stone and a new name Rev 2:17

Key Message: It is clear from these passages that the Holy Spirit's work is very broad. He works in many areas yet all of them have something in common. They are focused on bringing people to Christ and supporting them once they have come. Packer suggests -

  1. Were it not for the Holy Spirit, there would be no followers of Christ save those who met Him personally. John 16:7-15
  2. Were it not for the Holy Spirit, there would be no scripture, no gospel. 2 Tim 3:16
  3. Were it not for the Holy Spirit, none would believe. There would be no faith. John 6:65

Whereas conservative Christians tend to focus on the "work" of the Spirit, the charismatic movement tends to focus on the "gifts" of the Spirit. These are those abilities the Lord gives us through the Holy Spirit. Lets look at these in Scripture.

Now both the "work" of the Spirit and the "gifts" of the Spirit are scriptural concepts. Is their a balance in the way we should look at them.? Yes there is. You see, Paul had some difficulty with his friends at the church of Corinth. They were getting caught up in measuring their "faith" by the gifts they could exercise. Paul used this occasion to write 1 Cor 12-14 to clarify the balance. Lets go there.

-> Ask Students to turn to 1 Cor 12:1 and have them read in a rotation Chapters 12, 13 and 14.

Here we learn a number of things ;

Chapter 12 teaches us that the "body" of Christ exists as the sum of its parts. Not all aspects of the body (or the kingdom) apply to everybody. God works through people on earth as his agents and gives each a different ability and a different call to service. We are not to get caught up in measuring each others spirituality by comparing our gifts.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. 1 Cor 12:4 -11 (NIV)

Chapter 13 teaches us that the gift of the Spirits are not valuable outside of love for the Lord and each other. If the goal of the "gifts" is to enable the "work" (i.e. bringing people to Christ and building each other up) then they must be guided by love and be used to bring about the "work" of the spirit.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Cor 13:1-4 (NIV)

And finally Chapter 14 gives us specific teaching on the gift of tongues and how and where this gift is appropriately used. It also describes the value of honoring God with our mind as well as our spirit.

So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the Church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. 1 Cor 14:15 -19 (NIV)

Key Message: The "gifts" of the Spirit are to enable the "work" of the Spirit. They are not for measuring ones spirituality or defining whether one is a Christian or is not. Indeed, we personally have nothing to do with deciding which gifts we are given.

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. 1 Cor 12:11 (NIV)


Once we realize how significant a role the Holy Spirit plays in the life of the Church, we may have a tendency to just let go and let the Holy Spirit do it all.

Packer writes:

"It is not for us to imagine that we can prove the truth of Christianity by our own arguments .... It is the sovereign prerogative of the Holy Spirit to convince men's consciences of the truth of the Gospel."

Jesus said:

"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Luke 10:22 (NIV)

If this is so .. should we then conclude that witnessing is not necessary? The answer is No. Christ commanded us to go and preach the gospel. It is the Spirit that enables faith, but for some reason God has chosen people to take His message of salvation to the world and given them gifts withg which to do it. We should be obedient and go out an share, but we must also realize that there is a difference between obedience and ownership.

Jesus said:

" But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8 (NIV)

Yet Paul writes ;

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power. 1 Cor 2:1-5 (NIV)