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Understanding the Ministries of the Holy Spirit


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“Filled with the Spirit,” “baptized by the Spirit,” “anointed with the Spirit”—is there a difference? If so, what is it? There’s a tendency to use these phrases, and others, interchangeably. Since the Holy Spirit plays a central role in the life of the believer, it’s important to understand as precisely as possible the various aspects of that role. The best starting point is an overview of the ministries of the Spirit. Those ministries may be divided by the subjects toward whom they are directed: the non-believer and the believer. The ministries to the believer may be further divided into those which relate to salvation and those which relate to sanctification.

The ministry of the Spirit to the non-believer is set out in John 16:8-11. Verse 8 explains what the Spirit’s work is: He convicts. The word translated “convict” means to “present something to view as a summons to change.” In the NT the change that is desired is repentance (cf. John 3:20; 8:46; Eph 5:11). Verses 9-11 explain what presented—sin, righteousness, and judgment—and the reasons the Spirit’s convicting work is necessary. Because the world did not accept Jesus’ witness, the Spirit convicts concerning sin. Because Jesus is no longer present to do so, the Spirit convicts concerning righteousness. Because the world has chosen to follow Satan, the Spirit convicts concerning judgment.

There are six ministries of the Spirit to the believer in salvation: regeneration, baptism, adoption, sealing, indwelling, and anointing. Each is a one-time ministry.

In regeneration (John 3:3-7; Tit 3:5) the Spirit implants new life in the Christian.

In baptism (Matt 3:11; Acts 1:5; 11:16; 1 Cor 12:13) the Spirit incorporates the Christian into Christ’s body.

In adoption (Rom 8:15, 23; Gal 4:4-6; Eph 1:5) the Spirit incorporates the Christian into God’s family.

In sealing (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13-14; 4:30) the Spirit guarantees the Christian’s final redemption.

In indwelling (Rom 8:9-11; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 1 John 3:24; 4:13) the Spirit provides the Christian with resources for holy living.

In anointing (Acts 10:38; 2 Cor 1:21; 1 John 2:20, 27) the Spirit sets the Christian apart and empowers him/her for service.

There are three ministries of the Spirit to the believer in sanctification: filling, teaching, and leading. Each is a continuing ministry, and the next three posts will explore them.

Written by Dr. John Harvey, Dean of CIU's Seminary & School of Ministry

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