The Work of the Holy Spirit
This is our first Friday of the month look at one of the booklets that are provided by The Committee on Christian Education (CCE) of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
Today’s booklet is, The Work of the Holy Spirit by Richard B. Gaffin Jr. There are a few copies of this booklet in the bookcase at the church building in the foyer if you would like a hard copy. You can also read it online here:
The booklet is divided into five sections. I will briefly give a few thoughts on each section.
The author rightly points out that we live in a world today that claims a form of spirituality that is based on personal belief, but it is a spirituality that is against the Bible’s teaching. Scripture gives us two realities about spirituality. 1) We are spiritually dead in sin. 2) Only Jesus Christ can make us spiritually alive.
“But how do we listen to the Spirit? Is that even possible? Where can I hear what the Spirit has to say and know for sure it’s the Spirit I’m hearing? The answer to that crucial question does not come from any person or church claiming to speak with final authority for or about the Spirit. Nor is it found in my or anyone else’s experience of the Spirit. Rather, the answer — the only answer — is, in that memorable phrase, “the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.10). The Bible alone is God-breathing today, from beginning to end, because of its unique, “God-breathed” origin in the past (2 Timothy 3:16).” Gaffin
That is a rather lengthly quotation, and I usually don’t like to quote that much in a review. But if you don’t read anything else that follows, or go on to read the booklet I do hope that you read the message of how we hear the Spirit speaking to the Church today. We look to the Scriptures alone and how God’s Spirit speaks through them to our lives.
2. The Gift of the Spirit:
The author begins this section by placing the book of Acts in its historical context. We are to look to the book of Acts as the God-ordained plan of Apostolic activity in God laying the foundation of the message of the Gospel being spread to the ends of the earth.
“Acts, then, is not an open-ended chronicling of loosely chosen episodes from the earliest days of the church’s history (“when Christians were really Christians”!) for our emulation today. Acts is not amenable to an added chapter 29 (or more) or a Part 3 to Theophilus needed to complete the narrative it presumably leaves unfinished. Rather, it ends where Luke intended, with the completion of the worldwide apostolic task he set out to document.” Gaffin
Pentecost in Acts 2 is clearly the highpoint of the book as a whole. Rather than an event to be replicated, Acts 2 states this pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh as Peter recounts the prophesy from Joel. God gave to His Church the gift of the Holy Spirit.
“Four events are linked here: Jesus’ resurrection (revealing the saving efficacy of his messianic ministry culminating in the cross, verses 22-31), his ascension, his receipting of the Spirit from the Father, and his outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost….Pentecost is no more capable of being repeated in individual Christian experience than Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension are capable of such repetition.” Gaffin
3. Sharing in the Gift of the Spirit:
“The outpouring of the Spirit that took place on Pentecost completes Christ’s once-for-all work for the church’s salvation. Therefore, the whole church — one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church at all times and in every place, not just one or other denomination — is the Pentecostal church. All Christians, not just some, are Pentecostals.” Gaffin
All in the church have been baptized with the Spirit. All who are Christians have that gift in common. The answer to when this takes place is, that all believers receive this gift of God’s Spirit the moment they are united to Christ by faith.
Gaffin distinguishes between the “gift” of the Holy Spirit, given to all believers, and “gifts” of the Holy Spirit, which are variously distributed to believers. God gives different gifts to different believers.
4. Living Out of the Gift of the Spirit:
We do not rely upon our works to save us, but we are commanded to do good works. As believers in Christ we are to strive in our sanctification to obey all of God’s Word. Also with the Spirit we have been given a gift of God’s presence within us, but we are also commanded in God’s Word to not “quench” the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19), not to “grieve” the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
Ephesians 5:18 gives a command, “Be filled with the Spirit.” Gaffin gives a good exposition of Ephesians 5:18-6:9 to show how one is to be filled with the Spirit.
“This brief survey of Ephesians 5:22-6:9 brings to light an exceedingly important point, one that must not be missed, particularly in light of so much current misunderstanding about what it means to be filled with the Spirit. His filling presence does not result, as least in the first place, in some unusual or remarkable experience or set of experiences. Rather, as this passage shows, it is a matter of what happens in the basic responsibilities and routines of everyday living. We are filled with the Spirit, not in special religious experiences at the edge of our lives, so to speak, but in our common, daily relationships and the activities they involve.” Gaffin
5. How to Be Filled with the Spirit:
First, prayer— We should pray continually for that filling of the Spirit.
Second, God’s Word— Let God’s Word dwell in you richly.
Do we devote ourselves to the things that God has provided to build us up in our common faith?—Prayer and God’s Word.
I encourage you to take the time to read through this booklet on the Holy Spirit and the work of God’s Spirit in our lives. Many Christians today are confused by the work and role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Gaffin’s booklet cuts through that confusion and points us back to the Word of God.