Right after the creation process, God desired to have a close relationship with man, whom He had created as His agent to manage everything on the earth. Sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross, has opened the door for us to again be in fellowship with God. The All-Knowing God blessed all believers with His Spirit to be the indwelling Teacher and Helper, for He was aware that the devil would again try and mislead mankind to sin. In this way we are under His guidance and get strength also from Him and the Holy Spirit throughout life and keep on getting transformed into His image and likeness.
Start of the work of the Holy Spirit in anyone – God created Adam and Eve and then did not abandon them but continued to be with them every day. Even after the fall He was available to man to bless them and Cain and Abel could thus carry their offerings to Him. The permission to construct the Tabernacle and the Temple was given by God to be with His people and accept their worship. The Son of God became man to redeem us from the clutches of sin and the devil and to lead us back to God to be made part of His family. But not everyone has accepted even this offer of forgiveness of sins and a large number refuse to accept Lord Jesus as a Savior.
God ‘chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons, by Jesus Christ to Himself’ (Ephesians 1:4-5). God decided to adopt us as His children before we could be or do anything for Him and it is as per His pleasure and His Divine will. This choosing is outside ourselves and excludes all sorts of personal merit or good. In God’s creation there are some ‘whose minds the god of this age (Satan) has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). Lord Jesus emphasized this through the parable of the sower wherein is the devil’s action of snatching the word from the heart of the unbeliever (Matthew 13:18-23). Even among the chosen ones also there are three categories; one, who receive the word, believe, obey and reach out to others; second, who believe and are content and third, who believe but wait for an appropriate time of their own choosing to work for the kingdom of heaven.
The various steps of transformation in a believer’s life are, foreknowledge of God about him; predestination to be His child; calling to believe; justification; sanctification and finally glorification. In all these steps the Holy Spirit acts in the individual.
Those who are already chosen, He works in them to lead them to the Son of God. This is the external work of the Spirit of God. In this there will be three general categories of people – First, these are the ones who have great potential and would be ready to reach out to win souls for the Lord but in their present situation they may also do great harm to the disciples. The first disciples and Apostle Paul fall into this category and in most such cases the free will given by God would be suppressed by God. The prophet Jeremiah was ordained to be ‘prophet to the nations’ before his birth with the command to go to those to whom sent and speak whatever God would command (Jeremiah 1:5-8). Lord Jesus called out to Simon (Peter) and his brother and later John and his brother, ‘Follow Me’ and with this command their choice was suppressed by God and their potential was diverted to be ‘fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:18-23).
Saul of Tarsus, was a member of Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme council, and voted for crucifiction of the Lord as also for death by stoning of Stephen. While on his way to Damascus, to arrest the believers there under the authority of the Chief Priests, he was confronted by the Lord and told, ‘Arise, and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do’. His free will was suppressed for he was the chosen vessel of the Lord to witness ‘before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel’ and to suffer many things for the Lord’s name. Keeping in mind the great potential of the disciples and Apostle Paul, their call to the service of God was sudden and immediate. The Holy Spirit works very closely with such chosen people
Second category is of people who have the potential but are left by the Lord till a certain level of preparedness is reached in them through suffering due to sin or till they get fed up of their life of sin. I was presented the Holy Bible by a Pastor in June 1978 for that was the call and I ignored that for years on end till I was left with no option but to turn to the Lord. In such people the call will come but it is gradual leading into His light. The third category is of people who will believe with no contribution towards the heavenly kingdom beyond their own life. In such people the Holy Spirit continues the work of ‘teaching all things’ as per their obedience whereas in the first two groups His involvement is very active.
Work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification of a believer – After an individual is called and led into the faith, the next step is justification which is forgiveness of all sins in the Son of God through His shed blood on the cross. In this the finished work of the Lord works while the believer rests in that in faith, a gift from the Holy Spirit. King David understood the aim of his calling to declare, ‘I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me’ (Psalm 57:2-3). God’s purpose of calling is twofold, to reveal Himself to the believer and to strengthen and guide him to witness to others. God blesses a believer not for his own self but ‘for the profit of all’ and He gives gifts to believers ‘individually as He wills’ (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). These gifts are as per the calling of each individual and the role assigned by God; to some wisdom, to another the word of knowledge, to another faith, to another gift of healing (healing the body and soul), to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kind of tongues, and to another interpretation of tongues. These nine gifts are distributed as per God’s purpose for their life.
Lord Jesus’ coming was prophesied more than 750 years before and He was decreed to be filled with the Spirit of God with wisdom, understanding, counsel and might and of knowledge and fear of the LORD(1 Corinthians 12:7-11). Through the gifts the Holy Spirit ministers to each individual for He is our Teacher of all things and reminds us about the words of Lord Jesus (John 14:26).
Pouring out of the Holy Spirit on an individual is at his baptism, when he commits himself into a relationship with God. The gift of speaking in tongues is one of the gifts and is not the only indicator of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Since there was to be a gap of ten days between the day of ascension to heaven of the Lord and the Day of Pentecost, He breathed on the disciples and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ so that the work of the Spirit would commence in them (John 20:22). The disciples were warned not to depart from Jerusalem till they ‘receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you’ (Acts 1:4 & 8).
Justification through forgiveness of sins of the past, present and future through the blood of the Lord is a gift from God to every believer. Sanctification or setting apart for God is the process of transformation of a believer into the image and likeness of the Son of God and this process continues throughout one’s life on earth. The Holy Spirit convicts a person of sin at different stages; at the thought process itself, during deliberation and planning, at the time of commission of the act and afterward to lead to repentance and seeking forgiveness (John 16:8). This is the continuous process of change being affected in a believer. This change brings about a daily subtle change in the behavior and attitude of the believer. The result of this process is through bearing fruit of the Spirit and these are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness , gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Lord Jesus has promised us to be with us ‘to the end of the age’ and this function is fulfilled by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:20). The only recorded prayer of the Lord to our heavenly Father covers various aspects of a believer’s life (John 17:17-18). He prayed for our sanctification by ‘Your truth, Your word is truth’.
Another part is about empowerment of a believer for we are sent by Lord Jesus in the same manner that He was sent into the world by the Father in heaven. The Holy Spirit descended on the Son of God at His baptism and thereafter He started his ministry and we are also sent in the same manner. David was filled with the Spirit to defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17) and Potiphar, an Egyptian, could recognize that Joseph, his slave was blessed, ‘that the LORD was with him and the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand’ (Genesis 39:3).
The Holy Spirit gives technical skills to perform great feats for the heavenly kingdom. Bezalel was ‘filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship’ (Exodus 31:2-6). With him Aholiab and all gifted artisans were also similarly equipped to work for making all articles for the Tabernacle.
The Holy Spirit leads where one is required by the LORD – Philip was in Samaria when he was led onto the Gaza road to preach to and baptize an Ethiopian high official returning from Jerusalem after worshipping God (Acts 8:29). Apostle Paul and Silas were ‘forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia’ for they were needed more in Macedonia (Acts 16:6).
Holy Spirit gives revelations which otherwise cannot be seen – Lord Jesus promised that the believers, when facing trials for His kingdom work will be taught by the Holy Spirit ‘in that very hour what to say’ (Luke 12:12). Apostle Paul was given extraordinary visions and revelation while being taken into the ‘third heaven’ (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). The Book of Revelation written by Apostle John while being in exile in Patmos Island is about visions provided by the Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit touches peoples’ hearts to change their behavior – Since God wanted to punish the Egyptians for their treatment of the Israelites, He hardened Pharaoh’s heart to not allow the Jews to leave (Exodus 7:3). On the Day of Pentecost, all those who heard Apostle Peter, ‘were cut to the heart’ and three thousand accepted the Lord as their Savior (Acts 2:37-38).
Testing of faith and confirmation for a higher calling – After His baptism and anointing with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, from heaven, Lord Jesus was ‘led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil’ (Matthew 4:1). The devil attacks during our weak moments and came to Lord Jesus in the wilderness, after He had fasted for forty days and nights.
God wants to have a close relationship with His chosen people and His communication with the believers’ is through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. The more we draw closer to Him, the more we are empowered by Him to witness for the Gospel.
Receiving the Holy Spirit – Every believer is blessed with the Teacher, the indwelling Holy Spirit at baptism but His gifts are given as per one’s calling. ‘There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit’ and ‘the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all’ (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). Gifts of the Holy Spirit are an act of grace by God for He has declared ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy’ and no one can lay claim for this (Romans 9:15).
Though every believer is blessed with the indwelling Holy Spirit on the day of baptism and in some cases even without baptism, Cornelius, the Centurion, and his entire household were filled with the Hoy Spirit as soon as they heard the word of God preached by Apostle Peter. But this is a special case for these people were Gentiles and would have not otherwise been accepted into the faith by Apostle Peter and other Jewish believers who were with him.
Since on the Day of Pentecost the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was immediately followed by the disciples speaking in tongues, this is treated in some denominations as the only indicator of presence of the Holy Spirit in a believer. Many then pretend to speak some gibberish to impress others about their gifts. The Scripture is very clear, to one some gift, to another some other gift and gifts are given as per the role assigned by God to each believer. As and when there is a change in role additional gifts would be given.
As a believer I would pray for the fullness of the Holy Spirit and all the gifts while being willingly surrendered to God for any role with His choice of gifts. Prophet Isaiah ‘heard the voice of the LORD, ‘whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ The call was an open call but he immediately volunteered ‘Here am I! Send me’ (Isaiah 6:8). Moses, Jeremiah and others had the direct call from God but came up with various reasons to express their unsuitability. Lord Jesus sent the disciples to the villages only after equipping them with power. Apostle Paul in his last epistle to Timothy, his son of faith, assured him that the Holy Spirit is ‘not of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind’ (2 Timothy 1:7).
How do we get fullness of the Holy Spirit? – From the throne of God and of the Lamb, a river of pure water flows out and water is about cleansing and represents the abundance of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 47:1-12 & Revelation 22:1). The depth of the river was measured four times and it ranged from ankle deep, to knee deep, to waist deep and then it was ‘too deep, water in which one could swim, a river that could not be crossed’. It is up to the believer how much he wants to get into the river by seeking and using the gifts, for God is willing to give ‘life of abundance’. This immense power can only be exercised with self control and love. The Holy Spirit leads a person to Lord Jesus, gives him faith to believe and empowers the believers and that is the normal course of His working in a believer.
Every evening during the ‘cool of the day’ God would visit Adam and Eve to fellowship with them, encourage, guide and strengthen them. From the beginning God was aware that man cannot face the lies of Satan on his own. Coming of Lord Jesus on the earth was to provide the real ‘image, as though in a mirror’ to man to help him identify with that and get transformed. God makes us a part of His family and bestows on us the right to seek and communicate with Him through His Spirit. We receive His power and knowledge based on the closeness or distance that we maintain from Him!