Divine Revelation

Our initial point is that God himself wills to reveal himself. He himself wills to attest his revelation. He himself — not we — has done this and wills to do it.1


We will now study the subject of God revealing Himself to humanity—the doctrine of revelation. Revelation can be defined as “God’s supernatural disclosure to human beings of truth they would not otherwise know and are incapable of discovering on their own.” This communication may be either oral or written. Revelation is usually understood as God’s written communication to humankind.

The term “revelation” comes from the Greek word apokalupsis, which means “a disclosure” or “an unveiling.” The word was used in other contexts to describe the unveiling of a statute upon its completion. It has the idea of disclosing something that was previously unknown.

Revelation is the opposite of scientific research or human reasoning. The knowledge that God has revealed about Himself to humankind could never be attained through any type of scientific experiment or logical reasoning. It is entirely a supernatural disclosure from God.

Only God reveals the truths of revelation. He alone is the source of knowledge about Himself and His plan. Revelation is, therefore, an act of God. Jesus said:

All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).

Therefore divine revelation is a work of God alone.2

General Revelation

Also known as Universal revelation, general revelation deals with how God can be understood through his creation. More specifically, this can be manifest in physical nature, human nature, and history. General revelation does not impart truths that are necessary for salvation (e.g. sinfulness of humanity, the atonement, etc...), however, it is argued that God's existence, transcendence, immanence, self-sufficiency, eternality, power, goodness, and hate for evil can be comprehended and seen through his creation.3

Physical nature

The book of Psalms says that, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands" (Psalm 19:1). Later on it says that, "The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory (Psalm 97:6). Paul told men that God had given testimony of Himself in that he has shown kindness by giving them rain from heaven, crops in their seasons and even provides them with their food (Acts 15:15-17). A clearer passage states that, "What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Romans 1:19-20).

Human nature

Because humans are made in God's image (Genesis 1:27), something about God can be learned from the study of human nature. Most evident is the moral and spiritual qualities found within humankind that reflect the character of God. Paul says that even the law is written on the hearts of people who do not have the specially revealed law (Romans 2:11-16).


Some theologians note that history is His - story. The Bible clearly indicates in numerous places that God is moving the course of history and is controlling the destinies of nations (Job 12:23; Psalm 47:7-8, 66:7; Isaiah 10:5-13; Daniel 2:21; Acts 17:26). It should then be possible to sense God at work within history. A careful analysis of the history of the nation of Israel should provide more evidence than is needed.

Special Revelation

Special revelation is distinguished from general revelation in that it is direct revelation from God. Examples include God's direct speech to various people (e.g., prophets; cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21), the incarnation (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2), and the Bible. Such revelation is sufficient to communicate the gospel, unlike general revelation, and thus salvation is possible only through special revelation.

3-Fold Method of Divine Revelation

The Doctrine of Revelation must embrace the whole process of God revealing himself to us. The role of the Scriptures is foundational, but they are not the whole of the process. It is, of course, possible for God to reveal himself completely outside of the Bible, as he did to Abraham. But without having the Scriptures to validate one's experience with God one can never be sure that one is appropriating the knowledge of God. So the Bible has a part, but to read the Bible without the other ingredients is to read mere human words, devoid of any possibility of achieving the Knowledge of God. John Calvin summarized it this way--one needed the "spectacles of faith" and the Holy Spirit to read the Bible properly.

For the purposes of study, theologians have divided the doctrine of Revelation into a process characterized by three stages: Manifestation, Inspiration, and Illumination. The figure above gives a simplified overview but other factors, such as preaching, mission, and evangelism also play a part in appropriating the Word of God. Before discussing these phases, however, it is necessary to present an important caveat:

God is always in control of the process of revelation. He remains hidden from attempts by science or philosophy to probe Him (Eccl. 8:17). God also reserves his "secret things" (Deut. 29:29). So the doctrine of Revelation acknowledges God's sovereignty in how and when He reveals himself. That is, God chooses to reveal himself, and is always the initiator in that process. A theologian once said that, were God to do otherwise, He would loose His freedom and would no longer be God. God must be free to reveal or not reveal at His own pleasure. God's revelation always glorifies God, not some human scientist, theologian, or philosopher. 4

  1. Manifestation

God initiates the process of revealing himself by some form of act. This stage is so named because God "manifests" himself in a way that impacts history and which is witnessed by one or more human observers.

The following are the ways upon which God manifested Himself in the Bible

  1. Direct voice

    • Genesis 2:16-17, to Adam

    • Genesis 6:13, to Noah

    • Gen. 12:1, to Abram

    • Genesis 26:2, to Isaac

    • Genesis 35:1, to Jacob

    • Exodus 3:4-10, to Moses

  1. Apparition - Exodus 33:11

  2. Direct writing - Exodus 31:18

  3. Dreams - Genesis 40, Numbers 12:6, Daniel 1:17

  4. Visions – Acts 10

  5. Salvation History – It is the history of God’s redemptive work with His chosen community of faith. Genesis-Esther; Matthew 1:16-17; Hebrews 11:39-40

  1. Inspiration

The biblical writer witnessing a manifestation of God then writes down that which has been seen and/or heard. This is done in the writer's own words and necessarily within the context of that person's culture and experience. This step of the revelatory process is not a purely human activity, however. The writer functions under the influence of the Holy Spirit, which enables the written text to have the intended interpretation of the manifestation. Any observer at the crucifixion might be able to write "Jesus died." But an inspired writer will be able to say "Jesus died for our sins." The Holy Spirit, operating through inspiration, enables the writer to interpret the event the way God intends it to be understood.

Inspiration properly embraces a larger process than just writing down the right words. The words may be placed in an oral tradition that is later written down, or the work of writing may fall to a protégé. It also includes the process that leads to the adoption of the text in the canon of Scripture. The Holy Spirit should be seen as guiding this entire process in order that the biblical text that is passed along to us is exactly as God intends it. Therefore inspiration functions as a means for God to produce a written record of His manifestation to the ancients.

    • Amos 3:7

    • Ephesians 3:3-5

    • 2 Tim 3:16-17

  1. Illumination

This final stage takes place in "real time," as the contemporary reader scans the Bible and attempts to appropriate it as the Word of God. The Holy Spirit guides the reading and contemplation of the text. This is absolutely essential for the Christian life, as one needs the Word of God, not just the ancient, inspired words. The Holy Spirit guides the reader "into all truth" (Jn. 16:13). That is, the doctrine of Illumination converts the inspired Scripture into words that enable the contemporary believer to interpret contemporary events and formulate contemporary responses as he or she co-operates with God. It is only at this point that the Bible becomes the "sword" of Heb. 4:12.

    • Luke 24:32

    • 1 Cor. 2:12

    • Acts 8

God’s ultimate revelation in Christ

Christ is the centerpiece of God’s revelation whereupon He Himself is the Immanuel. God in flesh, God walking among us God revealed physically and is the way to be in fellowship with the God who revealed Himself to the ancients a testified to in Scripture.

God has chosen more than one method to reveal Himself to humankind. The writer to the Hebrews said.

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe (Hebrews 1:1,2).

According to the New Testament, divine revelation also consists of revealing secrets that had been hidden for long ages that are now disclosed. Paul wrote.

Now to the One who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith (Romans 16:25,26).

Paul also wrote.

The mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:26,27).


When God reveals to humanity truth that we would not otherwise know it is called “revelation.” Human reason or intuition could never know these truths – they can only be revealed by God Himself. The purpose for our existence, and the plan of God for our salvation, can only be known through divine revelation.

To bring this Word to humankind, the Lord chose a group of people to be the ones through whom He would speak. They were known as the prophets. The prophets revealed God’s truth to humanity over a long period of time in a number of different ways. The revelation given in Scripture tells humanity everything that it needs to know about God and his plan. God’s Word to humankind is therefore both sufficient and complete.


Peter Jensen, The Revelation of God, Contours of Christian Theology (InterVarsity Press, 2002)

Paul Helm, The Divine Revelation: The Basic Issues (Crossway, 1982)

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 1, chs. 1-10

Colin Gunton, A Brief Theology of Revelation (T&T Clark, 1995)

J.I. Packer, God Has Spoken: Revelation and the Bible (Hodder & Stoughton, rev. ed., 1993)

B.B. Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration (Oxford, 1927)

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Divine Discourse: Philosophical Reflections on the Claim that God Speaks


1 Barth, Karl - Homiletics p. 50.

3 Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 1,019; cf. Romans 1

4 http://www.hccentral.com/drev.html

Spiritual Gifts


After the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, of all the other gifts given to mankind by God, there is none greater than the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has many functions, roles, and activities. One of His roles is that of gift-giver. First Corinthians 12 describes the spiritual gifts given to believers in order that we may function as the body of Christ on earth. All these gifts, both great and small, are given by the Spirit so that we may be His ambassadors to the world, showing forth His grace and glorifying Him. 1

Spiritual gifts are given by God to believers for the purpose of ministry within the church. The English term comes from two Greek words, charismata and pneumatika. The root of charismata is charis, which means “grace” and speaks of something undeserved or unearned. The second word, pneumatika, means “spirituals” or things given by the Spirit of God.2

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes the church as the body of Christ. All believers are joined into one body, stressing its unity, even as the physical body works as one. In this context, the Holy Spirit administers spiritual gifts for the good of the whole body: “The manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7). The body of Christ is the place where the Holy Spirit teaches a new Christian to grow, learn and serve.

Through the work of the Holy Spirit, “to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit. There are differing gifts but the same Spirit… the same Lord… the same God, works in all men. (Romans 12:4) There are four lists of gifts given in the New Testament, showing some differences and some overlap. Each Christian has at least one gift, others more, but always, gifts are the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.3

In the New Testament, the first place we would run into the term "spiritual gift" is in Romans 1:11, 12. Writing to the church at Rome, Paul says, "I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine." The translation "impart to you some spiritual gift" is misleading because it sounds like Paul wants to help them have a gift, but the text actually means that he wants to give them the benefit of his gifts. "I long to see you, that I may use my gifts to strengthen you."

The first and most obvious thing we learn from this text is that spiritual gifts are for strengthening others. This, of course, does not mean that the person who has a spiritual gift gets no joy or benefit from it. But it does suggest that gifts are given to be given. They are not given to be hoarded. "I desire to share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you." What does strengthen mean? He's not referring to bodily strength but strength of faith. The same word is used in 1 Thessalonians 3:2, where Paul says,

We sent Timothy, our brother and servant in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen you in your faith and to exhort you that no one be moved by these afflictions.

To strengthen someone by a spiritual gift means to help their faith not give way as easily when trouble enters their life. We have spiritual gifts in order to help other people keep the faith and maintain an even keel in life's storms. If there is anybody around you whose faith is being threatened in any way at all, take stock whether you may have a spiritual gift peculiarly suited to strengthen that person. 4

The Nature of Spiritual Gifts

A. Who is the source of spiritual giftedness?

  1. 1 Corinthians 12:11

  2. 1 Corinthians 12:28

B. Who is the source of spiritual giftedness?

1 Peter 4:10

C. What is the purpose of spiritual gifts?

  1. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

  2. 1 Corinthians 14:12

  3. 1 Peter 4:10-11

    1. Spiritual gifts referred to in Scripture.

1 Corinthians 12:1-14

1 Corinthians 12:27-30

Romans 12:6-8

Ephesians 4:11

  • Wisdom

  • Knowledge

  • Discerning of spirits (human, angelic, and satanic)

  • Prophecy

  • Speaking in tongues

  • Interpretation of tongues

  • Faith

  • Working of miracles

  • Healing

  • Apostleship

  • Prophecy

  • Teaching

  • Working of miracles

  • Healing

  • Helps

  • Administration

  • Speaking in tongues

  • Prophecy

  • Ministry

  • Teaching

  • Exhortation

  • Giving

  • Leading

  • Showing mercy (compassion)

  • Apostleship

  • Prophecy

  • Evangelism

  • Pastoring

  • Teaching

The Gifts Defined

Gifts of the spirit are clearly distinguished from the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). Jesus predicted the occurrence of false gifts, particularly in the end time (Matthew 24:24, 7:22,23). Hence while spiritual gifts are very important for a Christian, the fruit of the spirit is a better test of the genuineness of a person.

Apostle: One sent by God with a holy mission to fulfill; and the supernatural power and spiritual gifts to fulfill the mission. Known by the fruit of the spirit overflowing. Apostolic ministry involves laying foundation. In the case of Paul and Barnabas, we see this expressed in 'church planting' by preaching the Gospel in new areas. Apostles in scripture worked in teams. An apostolic team shared a 'measure of rule' in churches started through their ministry in regions where they are the first to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. (II Corinthians 10.)

Prophet: One who speaks, or communicates a message, authoratively, as moved by the Holy Ghost. Known by their good fruit.

Evangelist: Someone who desires that all should come to know the truth that God loves everyone so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for their redemption, or someone who is gifted to proclaim this message.

Pastor: A word that means 'shepherd.' Pastors are gifted to lead, guide, and set an example for other Christians.

Teacher: Someone able to understand the more difficult things of God and explain them in a way that is easy to understand and live by in daily life.

Service: Supernatural ability to do for others whatever needs to be done. Divine ability to carry another burden or task without notice or earthly reward.

Exhortation: the ability to motivate Christians to do the works of Christ.

Giving: being blessed by God with resources or time and being able to give them where and when they are needed with a cheerful heart.

Leadership: God-given insight into when something needs to be done, who can do it, how it can be completed, and how to lead those people to get it accomplished.

Mercy: A heart to care for and encourage those who are not able to care for themselves and whom no one else would care for. Knowing who to help and when to help.

Word of wisdom: A message, concept, or bit of wisdom that God reveals supernaturally to the recipient. It may or may not be shared with others.

Word of knowledge: A message, concept, or bit of knowledge that God reveals supernaturally to the recipient. It may or may not be shared with others.

Tongues: First use is a supernatural ability to speak another language not known by the believer speaking it. Second use is a supernatural ability to speak another language not known by the believer speaking it; to build up the body of Christ when the message is interpreted. It is the language of the Holy Spirit.

Interpretation of tongues: Supernatural ability to make tongues a clear message to all that are present to edify, exhort and comfort the body of Christ.

Prophecy: Supernatural ability to receive a message from God to edify, exhort and comfort the body of Christ or a believer. To speak as moved by the Holy Spirit. Not all prophecies contain predictions about the future.

Working of miracles: The ability to perform supernatural acts by the Spirit of God.

Gifts of healing: Supernatural ability to bring or release healing to a person in their body or soul.

Ability to distinguish between spirits: Supernatural ability to know what is from God and what is not from God. Divine ability to reveal a demonic spirit or influence and bring God's power (Jesus' blood) and God's love (Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection) in its place.

Faith: Knowing what you hope for, having a conviction about things you cannot see, trusting God, believing God’s words (in the Bible), and obeying God. (See Hebrews 11)

How does God distribute spiritual gifts?

Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12 make it clear that each Christian is given spiritual gifts according to the Lord’s choice. Spiritual gifts are given for the purpose of the edification of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:12). The exact timing of when these gifts are given is not specifically mentioned. Most assume that spiritual gifts are given at the time of spiritual birth (the moment of salvation). However, there are some verses that may indicate that God sometimes gives spiritual gifts later as well. Both 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6 refer to a “gift” that Timothy had received at the time of his ordination “by prophecy.” This likely indicates that one of the elders at Timothy’s ordination spoke under God’s influence of a spiritual gift that Timothy would have as an enablement for his future ministry.

We are also told in 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 and in 1 Corinthians 14:12-13 that it is God (not we) who chooses the gifts. These passages also indicate that not everyone will have a particular gift. Paul tells the Corinthian believers that if they are going to covet or long after spiritual gifts, they should set aside their fascination with the “spectacular” or “showy” gifts, and instead strive after the more edifying gifts, such as prophesying (speaking forth the word of God for the building up of others). Now, why would Paul tell them to strongly desire the “best” gifts if they already had been given all that they would be given, and there was no further opportunity of gaining these “best” gifts? It may lead one to believe that even as Solomon sought wisdom from God in order to be a good ruler over God’s people, so God will grant to us those gifts that we need in order to be of greater benefit to His church.

Having said this, it still remains that these gifts are distributed according to God’s choosing, not our own. If every Corinthian strongly desired a particular gift, such as prophesying, God would not give everyone that gift simply because they strongly desired it. Why? Where would be those who are needed to serve all of the other functions of the body of Christ?

There is one thing that is abundantly clear, God’s command is God’s enablement. If God commands us to do something (such as witness, love the unlovely, disciple the nations, etc.), He will enable us to do it. Some may not be as “gifted” at evangelism as others, but God commands all Christians to witness and disciple (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). We are all called to evangelize whether or not we have the spiritual gift of evangelism. A determined Christian who strives after learning the Word and developing his teaching ability will become a better teacher than one who may have the spiritual gift of teaching, but who neglects the gift.

In summary, are spiritual gifts given to us when we receive Christ, or are they cultivated through our walk with God? The answer is both. Normally, spiritual gifts are given at salvation, but also need to be cultivated through spiritual growth. Can a desire in your heart be pursued and developed into your spiritual gift? Can you seek after certain spiritual gifts? 1 Corinthians 12:31 seems to indicate that this is possible - “earnestly desire the best gifts.” You can seek from God a spiritual gift and be zealous after it by seeking to develop that area. At the same time, if it is not God’s will, you will not receive a certain spiritual gift no matter how strongly you seek after it. God is infinitely wise, and knows with which gifts you will be most productive for His kingdom.

No matter how much we have been gifted with one gift or another, we are all called upon to develop a number of areas mentioned in the lists of spiritual gifts...to be hospitable, to show acts of mercy, to serve one another, to evangelize, etc. As we seek to serve Him out of love, for the purpose of building up others for His glory, He will bring glory to His name, grow His church, and reward us (1 Corinthians 3:5-8; 12:31-14:1). God promises that as we make Him our delight, He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4-5). This would surely include preparing us to serve Him in a way that will bring us purpose and satisfaction.

The difference between a talent and a spiritual gift

There are similarities and differences between talents and spiritual gifts. Both are gifts from God. Both grow in effectiveness with use. Both are intended to be used on behalf of others, not for selfish purposes. 1 Corinthians 12:7 states that spiritual gifts are given to benefit others...not one's self. As the two great commandments deal with loving God and others, it follows that one should use his talents for that purpose. But talents and spiritual gifts differ in whom they are given to and when. A person (regardless of his belief in God or in Christ) is given a natural talent as a result of a combination of genetics (some have natural ability in music, art, or mathematics) and surroundings (growing up in a musical family will aid one in developing a talent for music), or because God desired to endow certain individuals with certain talents (for example, Bazeleel in Exodus 31:1-6). Spiritual gifts are given to believers by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:3, 6) at the time of their placing their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. At that time the Holy Spirit gives to the new believer the spiritual gift(s) He desires the believer to have (1 Corinthians 12:11). There are three main lists of spiritual gifts...

Romans 12:3-8 lists the spiritual gifts as follows: prophecy, serving others (in a general sense), teaching, exhorting, generosity, leadership, and showing mercy. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 lists the gifts as: the word of wisdom (ability to communicate spiritual wisdom), the word of knowledge (ability to communicate practical truth), faith (unusual reliance upon God), the working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues (ability to speak in a language that one has not studied), and interpretation of tongues. The third list is found in Ephesians 4:10-12, which speaks of God giving to His church apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. There is also a question as to how many spiritual gifts there are, as no two lists are the same. It is also possible that the Biblical lists are not exhaustive, that there are additional spiritual gifts beyond the ones the Bible mentions.

While often one may develop his talents and later direct his profession or hobby along those lines, spiritual gifts were given by the Holy Spirit for the building up of Christ's church. In that, all Christians are to play an active part in the furtherance of the gospel of Christ. All are called and equipped to be involved in the "work of the ministry" (Ephesians 4:12). All are gifted so that they can contribute to the cause of Christ out of gratitude for all He has done for them. In doing so, they also find fulfillment in life through their labor for Christ. It is the job of the church leaders to help build up the saints so they can be further equipped for the ministry that God has called them to. The intended result of spiritual gifts is that the church as a whole can grow, being strengthened by the combined supply of each and every member of Christ's body.

To summarize the differences between spiritual gifts and talents: (1) A talent is the result of genetics and/or training, while a spiritual gift is the result of the power of the Holy Spirit. (2) A talent can be possessed by anyone, Christian or non-Christian, while spiritual gifts are only possessed by Christians. (3) While both talents and spiritual gifts should be used for God’s glory and to minister to others, spiritual gifts are focused on these tasks, while talents can be used entirely for non-spiritual purposes.

How do I know what my spiritual gift is?

There is no magic formula or spiritual gift test that can tell us exactly what our spiritual gifts are. The Holy Spirit distributes the gifts as He determines (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). At the same time, God does not want us to be ignorant of how He wants us to serve Him. The problem is that it is very easy for us to get so caught up in spiritual gifts that we only seek to serve God in the area in which we feel we have a spiritual gift. That is not how the spiritual gifts work. God calls us to obediently serve Him. He will equip us with whatever gift or gifts we need to accomplish the task or tasks He has called us to.

Identifying our spiritual giftedness can be accomplished in various ways. Spiritual gift tests or inventories, while not to be fully relied upon, can definitely help us understand where our gifting might be. Confirmation from others also gives light to our spiritual giftedness. Other people who see us serving the Lord can often identify a spiritual gift in use that we might take for granted or not recognize. Prayer is also important. The one person who knows exactly how we are spiritually gifted is the gift-giver Himself – the Holy Spirit. We can ask God to show us how we are gifted, that we might better use our spiritual gifts for His glory.

Yes, God calls some to be teachers and gives them the gift of teaching. God calls some to be servants and blesses them with the gift of helps. However, specifically knowing our spiritual gift does not excuse us from serving God in areas outside our gifting. Is it beneficial to know what spiritual gift(s) God has given us? Of course it is. Is it wrong to focus so much on spiritual gifts that we miss other opportunities to serve God? Yes! If we are dedicated to being used by God, He will equip us with the spiritual gifts we need.


1 Ryrie, Charles - The Holy Spirit as quoted in http://www.gotquestions.org/Spirit-today.html

2 McArthur, John – Fundamentals of the Faith p. 67

3 Little, Paul – Know What You Believe p. 87

4 Piper, John – Spiritual Gifts - http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1981/288_Spiritual_Gifts/

5 Stanley, Charles – Spirit-Filled Life

The Ministry of the Holy Spirit


In the previous lesson learned about the Holy Spirit who is the 3rd person in the Godhead, and learned of Deity, personality and revelation in the Scriptures. Now we will learn further about the Holy Spirit and His work in the context of our lives as individual Christians.

  1. The Old Testament foretold His pouring

In the Old Testament The Holy Spirit came on individuals temporarily, generally for a particular task and for a period of time, as it was in the case of Saul, (1 Samuel 16:14) and Samson (Judges 16:20).

Throughout its pages the writers of the Old Testament expressed a longing for help, God’s power, and an ultimate relationship with Him. The psalmists and the prophets poured out their hearts over and over and God responded unerringly. God’s interventions were attributed to the Spirit of the Lord, God’s Spirit, the Spirit of God, or simply, the Spirit. Only three times is the “Holy Spirit” used in the Old Testament (Psalm 51:11; Isaiah 63:10). The New Testament uses “Holy Spirit” over 250 times when referring to God’s Spirit. 1

Just as the truth of the Trinity is hinted at in the Old Testament but awaits its fullest expression in the New, so with truth about the Holy Spirit. His personality and deity are evident in the Old Testament, but the full expression of His activity is given only in the New Testament. The New Testament completes this picture.

The Spirit’s work in the Old Testament was foretelling the sublime fulfillment of God’s covenant promised to Israel and poured out on “all people.” 2

    1. Isaiah 44:3

    2. Ezekiel 36:26-27

    3. Joel 2:28-29

  1. Arrival of the Promised Gift

Following His death and resurrection, Jesus gave His disciples His last instructions: “Wait for the gift my Father promised…you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)3

    1. Acts 2:4 (Joel 2:28-32)

    2. Acts 2: 36

    3. Acts 15:7-10

  1. The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

A. Among non-believers

You may be surprised to know that the Spirit is involved in the unsaved world. He works among the unsaved at all times. As a matter of fact, in one of the letters to the Thessalonians, we read that He is actively involved in restraining sin (2 Thessalonians 2:7) Do you have any idea how much evil would be on this earth if the Spirit of God were suddenly removed? His omnipresence is like a worldwide envelope of righteousness, a bubble of invisible restraint. He holds a great deal of evil in check. But when He is removed, literally all hell will break loose on this globe!4

But the Holy Spirit’s work does not merely stop with restraining all wickedness in the world, John 16:8-13 gives Jesus’ outline of the Spirit work so far as humanity is concerned:

  • The Holy Spirit convicts of guilt in regard to sin (John 16.8-9). Without the unveiling of the Holy Spirit we would not believe we are really sinning. Why should the sight of a man crucified 2,000 years ago tear at the heart of people centuries later? This is the work of the Holy Spirit or else we would not know of our need of a Savior.

  • The Holy Spirit is the one who brings conviction of sin to an individual (John 16:8; Acts 2:37). Whenever a person comes to a sense of his own sinfulness, whether by the preached, written, or personally spoken word the Spirit of God has been at work.

  • The Holy Spirit convicts of righteousness (John 16:11). The meaning of this is only clear when we see the righteousness of Jesus Christ, who gave His life for the world. The sting of sin and the imperative of righteousness for all of us is found on the cross. The Spirit’s work is to reveal what the holiness of God desires for us The Spirit’s work is to reveal what the holiness of God desires for us. Through Christ’s death He gives to us His righteousness; He makes us sensitive to any antithesis (the direct opposite of something, Webster) of God’s revealed righteousness.5

  • The Holy Spirit convicts of judgment to come (John 16:12). Only through the work of the Spirit in our lives can we understand the imperative of judgment. In the moral world, the prospect of judgment is certain and brought Jesus Christ to take our judgment upon Himself on the cross. Through the Spirit, we are thus awakened to faith in Jesus. Through the Spirit, we recognize the crucified Jesus as the risen and ascended Lord. Through the Spirit, we say “Yes” to Jesus from the depths of our hearts.6

B. Among Believers

1. Regeneration

One of the most important areas of the Spirit’s work is with respect to God’s plan of salvation, which is unveiled in John 16:7-8, by whom sinners are born into God’s kingdom (John 3:5-8).

The conviction by the Holy Spirit is His work of regeneration, the new birth: “So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). He indwells everyone who is in the church of Jesus Christ by the new birth. It is empathically true that if anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9). Equally true is that every Christian has the Holy Spirit with His counseling, help and conviction, beginning from the time of belief and commitment.7

Regeneration is something that God does through the power of the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:5-6), the power that enables us to be “born again” or “born from above,” as is Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus (John 3). Being regenerated does not mean that we are no longer tempted to sin; the tendency to sin lives on. The apostle Paul wrote, “ I do not do what I ant, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). Being regenerated means that we are no longer controlled by sin or are “slaves” to sin. (Romans 6:20-23).8

2. The Sealing of the Holy Spirit

A seal was an ancient device, usually a signet ring or cylinder seal engraved with the owner’s name or with a particular design used to seal goods, demonstrate ownership, attest a document’s authenticity, or impress an early form of a trademark.

The seal indicated ownership and security. It is the guarantee of future blessings. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is God’s promise of our inheritance I the future! 9

The Bible also tells us also that we are baptized with the Holy Spirit upon the moment of our conversion upon which we are also sealed until the arrival of our ultimate redemption in the End of the Age. (Ephesians 1:13-14; 1Corinthians 12:13).

3. The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

1. Romans 8:9 - The Bible also tells us that there is a special relationship between the individual Christian and the Holy Spirit which can be summed up in the theological term which is called sanctification, which comes from the word sanctify, which means “to make holy.” It refers to the Holy Spirit’s continuing work that enables believers to grow in purity. As with regeneration, sanctification does not mean that one no longer sins. The battles in the flesh continue, but through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit the Christian grows in obedience to God and in righteousness and in holiness. Thus it is completely impossible for a person to be a Christian and not be indwelled by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:12-14

IV. Our response – to be filed with the Holy Spirit

  1. Ephesians 4:30

  2. 1 Thessalonians 5:19

  3. Ephesians 5:18

To be filled with the Spirit is to be “under His total domination and control.”

To be filled with the Spirit involves confession of sin, surrender of will, intellect, body, time, talent, possessions and desires. It requires the death to selfishness and the slaying of self-will.”

To be filled with God’s Spirit is to be filled with His Word. And as we are filled with God’s Word, it controls our thinking and action.”10

When the Holy Spirit does His work of producing His fruit in us, we find that all the fruits in Galatians 5:22-23 are ours as we submit to the mind of Christ, the example of His life, and the internal guidance of the Spirit.

Every Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and He is a constant guide to the individual Christian: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). We are instructed to “live by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). His leadership is one of the signs that an individual is really a child of God: He leads us today as He led and guided the early Christians in the Book of Acts. 11

Application - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20


1 Little, Paul – Know What You Believe p. 84

2 Ibid

3 Ibid

4 Swindoll, Charles – Growing Deep in the Christian Faith p.184

5 Ibid

6 Myers, Benjamin - http://faith-theology.blogspot.com/2006/09/theology-for-beginners-16-spirit.html

7 Ibid

8 Schwarz, John – Handbook of the Christian Faith p. 199

9 McArthur, John – Fundamentals of the Faith p.50

10 McArthur, John

11 Ibid

The Holy Spirit: An Introduction


Of the three persons in the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit is doubtless the least known and understood. Yet He is most vitally and intimately involved in our initial conversion and birth into the family of God and in our ongoing development as Christians. Our awareness of His work in our lives as Christians can ripen into a relationship with Him that brings us power, joy and hope.

Of primary importance is the truth: the Holy Spirit is as much a person as God the Father and God the Son. He is not an impersonal “it,” nor an influence, a phantom or an apparition.1

The Holy Spirit is God. The Bible identifies Him as one of the three Persons existing as one God that is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. 2

In Christian theology the study of the Holy Spirit is called pneumatology, from two Greek words, pneuma meaning "wind," "breath," or "spirit" and logos meaning "word," or "logic." Generally this includes such topics as the personality of the Spirit, the deity of the Spirit, and the work of the Spirit as presented in the Bible.3

The Person and work of the Holy Spirit

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. “4

How, therefore, can we come to a right knowledge, as revealed by God, of the Holy Spirit? First, we must accept that the truth of the existence of the third person of the Trinity is at the heart of the most impenetrable divine mystery. Certitude about the existence of the Holy Spirit and His activities can never be found in the realm of speculative or positive theology. 5 It can only be found in God’s self-revelation in the Scriptures.

A. The Holy Spirit

The Old Testament calls it Ruach (Hebrew). The New Testament calls it Pneuma (Greek). We get the word Pneumatic (of, relating to or of using air or wind, Webster) from the New Testament Greek word. The English Bible however doesn’t translate either one as air. Usually, its breath. “God breathed into man the breath of life.” Or its called wind. “Like a mighty wind”. Or it is translated spirit – as in the “spirit of man” or “the Holy Spirit.”

A number of synonyms are used for Spirit – words like helper, advocate, comforter, convicter, restrainer, exhorter, and reprover.6

B. The Holy Spirit is a Person

1. John 14:14-17 depicts Him using pronouns like “He” or “Him” are used to refer to the Holy Spirit rather than “it.”

2. The Holy Spirit exhibits attributes of personality

  1. Intellect. The ability to know and understand reality. (Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-11)

  2. Emotion. The ability to experience emotion. (Ephesians 4:30)

  3. Volition. The ability to determine or act decisively. (1 Corinthians 12:7,11; Acts 13:2 ; 15:28-29)

C. The Holy Spirit is God

1. The Holy Spirit exhibited divine attributes

  1. Omniscience – (Isaiah 40:13-14)

  2. Omnipresence – (Psalm 139:7)

  3. Eternality – (Hebrews 9:14)

  4. Truth – (1 John 5:6-8; John 16:13)

2. Statements of His Deity

  1. 1 Corinthians 3:17

  2. Acts 5:3-4

D. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

The Holy Spirit – Holy “Ghost,” from the Old English gast, meaning “spirit” – is the Third Person of the Trinity. In the Old Testament, the Spirit was active in creation (Gen.1:2 ; Psalm 104:30; Psalm 33:6; Job 33:4), in the lives of the Judges (Judges 3:10; 14:6), in the lives of the kings (1 Sam. 16:13-14), and in the lives of the prophets (Isaiah 61:1) 7

Furthermore the Holy Spirit also gave wisdom and skill for particular works including those of a non-spiritual nature (Exodus 31:2-5).

The work of the Spirit also inspired the prophets. Which can be noticed whenever a prophet would proclaim “Thus saith the Lord!” (Numbers 11:29; Ezekiel 2:2; Acts 28:25)

E. The Holy Spirit in the New Testament

1. The earthly ministry of Christ

In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit was the creative agent in the conception of Jesus (Luke1:35), was present in Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:22), and was active in the lives of the apostles (Acts 2:4). 8

2. The Holy Spirit Bears Witness of Christ

The Holy Spirit attests that Jesus is the Christ (John 15:26). He also discloses or reveals Christ (John 16:14). He will not speak of Himself but of Christ (John 16:13).

The Holy Spirit Working among the Disciples

When Christ left the world, He committed His cause to His disciples. He made them responsible for going and making disciples of all nations. “Ye… shall bear witness,” He told them in the upper room (John 15:27 KJV). “You will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth,” were His parting words to them on Olivet, before He ascended (Acts 1:8). Such was their appointed task. But what sort of witnesses were they likely to prove? They had never been good pupils; they had consistently failed to understand Christ and missed the point of His teaching throughout His earthly ministry; how could they be expected to do better now that He had gone? Was it not virtually certain that, with the best will in the world, they would soon get the truth of the gospel inextricably mixed up with a mass of well-meant misconceptions, and their witness would rapidly be reduced to a twisted, garbled, hopeless muddle?

The answer to this question is no – because Christ sent the Holy Spirit to them, to teach them all truth and so save them from error, to remind them of what they had been taught already and to reveal to them the rest of what their Lord mean them to learn. “The Counselor… will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when the Spirit of truth, comes He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears” (that is He would make known to them all that the Father had instructed Him to tell them: see John 12:49-50; 17:8,14) “ and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16:12-14). In this way “He will testify about me” (to you, my disciples, to whom I send Him); and (equipped and enabled by His testifying work.) “you must also testify (15:26-27)

The promise was that, taught by the Spirit, these original disciples should be enabled to speak as so many mouths of Christ so that, just as the Old Testament prophets had been able to introduce their sermons with the words, “Thus saith the LORD Jehovah,” so the New Testament apostles might with equal truth be able to say if their teaching, oral or written, “Thus saith the Lord Jesus Christ.” 9 (2 Peter 1:20-21)

As Chuck Swindoll interestingly points out:

Let me pass along something I hope you never forget. If you get involved in a ministry that glorifies itself instead of Christ, the Spirit of God is not in that ministry. If you follow a leader that is getting the glory for that ministry, instead of Christ, the Spirit of God isn’t empowering his leadership. If you’re part of a Christian school or a mission organization or a Christian campaigning ministry in which someone other than Christ is being glorified, it is not being empowered by the Spirit of God. Mark it down: THE SPIRIT GLORIFIES CHRIST.” 10

Our proper response

Do we honor the Holy Spirit by recognizing and relying on His work? Or do we slight Him by ignoring it, and thereby dishonor not merely the Spirit but the Lord who sent Him?

In our faith: Do we apply the authority of the Bible, the prophetic Old Testament and the apostolic New Testament, which He inspired? Do we read and hear it with the reverence and receptiveness due to the Word of God? If not, we dishonor the Holy Spirit.

In our life: Do we apply the authority of the Bible and live by the Bible, whatever anyone may say against it, recognizing that God’s Word cannot but be true, and that what God has said He certainly means, and He will stand behind it? If not, we dishonor the Holy Spirit, who gave us the Bible.

In our witness: Do we remember that the Holy Spirit alone, by His witness, can authenticate our witness, and look to Him to do so, and trust Him to do so, and show the reality of our trust, as Paul did, by eschewing the gimmicks of human cleverness? If not, we dishonor the Holy Spirit.

Can we doubt that the present bareness of the church’s life is God’s judgment on us for the way we have dishonored the Holy Spirit? And, in that case, what hope have we of its removal till we learn in our thinking and our praying and our practice to honor the Holy Spirit? “He shall testify…”

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.”11

Recommended readings

Paul Little – Know What You Believe, Chapter 6: The Holy Spirit

John McArthur – Fundamentals of the Faith, Lesson 7: The Person & Ministry of the Holy Spirit

J.I. Packer – Knowing God, Chapter 6: He Shall Testify

John Schwarz – A Handbook of the Christian Faith, Chapter 7: Christian Beliefs

Charles Swindoll – Growing Deep in the Christian Life, Chapter 10: The Spirit Who is Not a Ghost




1 Little, Paul – Know What You Believe p.79

2 McArthur, John – Fundamentals of the Faith p.47

3 http://www.theopedia.com/Holy_Spirit

4 The Nicene Creed,

5 Maloney, George A. – The Spirit Broods Over the World p. 6

6 Swindoll, Charles – Growing Deep in the Christian Life p. 177

7 Schwarz, John, - A Handbook of the Christian Faith, p.198

8 Ibid

9 Packer, J.I. – Knowing God p.70

10 Swindoll, Charles – Growing Deep in the Christian Life p.188

11 loc cit