The Baptist Faith and Message first describes the Holy Spirit’s relationship to Scripture. Having concluded that paragraph by discussing the Holy Spirit’s use of Scripture to convert sinners, the next paragraph about the Holy Spirit focuses on his relationship to the church, both individual Christians and local congregations. “He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.”
The Holy Spirit in the Individual Christian
The Holy Spirit cultivates Christian character. Paul famously talks about this as the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit produces these fruits to replace the works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these (Gal 5:19-21). The works of the flesh characterize non-Christians. Works are the flesh are things that come naturally for us as sinners. However, the fruits of the Spirit are unnatural to us in sin; they are the result of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing grace in our lives, as he dwells in us and empowers us to grow in righteousness (Gal 5:16-18, 24-25). Paul also wrote about the Spirit’s work in Christians’ lives in Romans 8. Our bodies are still dead because of sin, but the Holy Spirit within us is giving us life (Rom 8:10). The Spirit has set us free from the law (Rom 8:2) so that we Christians no longer live for the passions of the sinful flesh (Rom 8:12) but rather put to death those sins that once characterized us so that they characterize us no longer (Rom 8:13).
The Holy Spirit also comforts us Christians. The Holy Spirit’s comfort is the emphasis of the next verses in Romans 8:
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him(Rom 8:14-17)
The Holy Spirit assures us of our adoption as God’s sons. He doesn’t make us fear that we are slaves of sin. He bears witness to us that we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. He comforts us as we suffer for Christ that we will one day be glorified with Christ. He comforted the early church so that it multiplied (Acts 9:31). He comforts us Christians with his constant presence (John 14:16). He also comforts us by teaching us through the Scriptures (John 14:26; 15:26).
The Holy Spirit bestows spiritual gifts on Christians. In fact, the gifts are “spiritual” gifts precisely because they come from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:1-11; Rom 12:3-8; 1 Pet 4:10-11). Whether a gift is more extravagant or more low-key; whether a gift is to speak or to serve physically; whether a gift blesses many people or only a few, all spiritual gifts come from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives each Christian spiritual gifts so that the church may be built up and strengthened.
Finally, the Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee of our salvation. Paul calls the Holy Spirit “the guarantee of our inheritance” (Eph 1:14; cf. 2 Cor 1:21-22). The Holy Spirit is the evidence we need that the Lord Jesus one day will come again and make all things new. God has also similarly sealed us with the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13; 4:30). We can know that we will in fact persevere to the end and be saved because the Holy Spirit is indwelling us.
The Holy Spirit in the Church
As the Holy Spirit indwells each individual Christian, so the Spirit is also active in the church as a whole. “He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.” The Holy Spirit empowers the church’s worship. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). The Holy Spirit causes us to worship God, and he enables us to worship God (Phil 3:3). We have access to God only because of the Spirit (Eph 2:18). We pray to God “in the Spirit” (Eph 6:18).
The Holy Spirit also empowers the church’s evangelism. Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would bear witness to him, and they would bear witness to him (John 15:26-27). This progression of thought implies that the Holy Spirit empowers Christian evangelism. After his resurrection, Jesus instructs his disciples not to go out and bear witness beyond Jerusalem until they have received power from the Holy Spirit to do so (Acts 1:8). Later, the Holy Spirit fills Christians so that they continue to speak the word of God with boldness in the face of increasing persecution (Acts 4:31).
Finally, the Holy Spirit empowers the church’s service. The spiritual gifts mentioned above point to this reality. Furthermore, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and subsequent conversion of thousands of people resulted in Christians being “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). The Holy Spirit birthed the church in Thessalonica and empowered them to forsake idols for the living God and to be a very united church in spreading the gospel in their area (1 Thess 1:4-10).
We at Friendship Baptist Church are thankful for God’s gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are thankful for the fruit he has graciously produced in our lives so far, and we trust that he will continue to produce more and more fruit in our lives that glorify God. We also long to be faithful to follow the Spirit’s leadership in equipping us for worship, evangelism, and service. May we be faithful temples of the Holy Spirit every day of our lives, to the glory of God and for the sake of spreading his gospel!