The Holy Spirit is "God with us" now, today. He is the Spirit of God living within us once we have have believed in God, Christ, understanding and accepting that Jesus came, lived, died, and was resurrected. Jesus who was the ultimate sacrifice for the redemption of mankind.
I want to discuss a few things that are important to the believer and follower of Christ and how the Holy Spirit is critical to these topics and for our transformation into mature men and women of God.
The first is sanctification. Sanctification is the process of becoming sanctified, to be made holy. Sanctification is the work of God's free grace (2 Thess. 2:13) whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God (Eph. 4:23-24) and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness (Romans 6:4, 6, 8:1).
Anthony A. Hoekema (1913-1988), in Saved by Grace, defines it as follows: That gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, involving our responsible participation, by which he delivers us from the pollution of sin, renews our entire nature according to the image of God, and enables us to live lives that are pleasing to him.
The verb "sanctify" means to be set apart, to be made holy. We are to be set apart to be used for God's Kingdom, for sharing the good news, spreading the Gospel. We are to be set apart to be stewards of His mercy and grace, love and compassion for a lost and dying world. How can we do this? We cannot of our own strength, power and will. This is just one of many reasons God has given us the gift of His Holy Spirit!
The Work of the Holy Spirit in Sanctification
The Bible teaches, that the Holy Spirit works through the Word in the conviction and conversion of the alien. We affirm that he continues his work of sanctifying the Christian through the same means. Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them in the truth: thy word is truth" (Jn. 17:17).
Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles into all truth. He said, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth" (Jn. 16:13). If Jesus did what he promised, the inspired New Testament writers received, by the Holy Spirit, everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). All was revealed, including all that pertains to our sanctification. He has given complete instructions and guidance in the inspired written revelation. The Holy Spirit is God's agent in the work of sanctification but the means used by the Spirit is the word of truth.
Christians have a responsibility in their own sanctification. Peter said, "Be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living" (1 Pet. 1:15). Sanctification is not something imposed by the Holy Spirit apart from the obedient will and action of the Christian. In speaking of unequal yokes with sinful people in sinful practices, Paul said, "Come ye out from among them and be ye separate saith the Lord" (2 Cor. 6:17). The individual must act in separating himself from sin and he must act in being holy. The Holy Spirit in the written Word has told us how it is to be done. Our part is to give diligence to present ourselves approved unto God (2 Tim. 2:15), and to be doers of the word, and not hearers only (Jas. 1:22). We are to put away filthiness and malice and with meekness receive the implanted word, which is able to save our souls (Jas. 1:21). Wherein we fall short and fail we receive forgiveness by God's grace and in Christ as we meet the conditions for forgiveness. In none of these passages are we told that the Holy Spirit does any of his work of sanctification through a direct intervention or indwelling. He sanctifies us by leading and directing us through the word.
This should confirm to every believer that we need BOTH the Word of God and His Spirit residing in us to live a victorious life. One without the other will render us useless in the Kingdom of God. We often come upon others who are not true followers of Christ, who have a great deal of knowledge of His Word, but lack the Spirit within them to bring them into repentance and true sanctification and holiness, a true pursuit of righteousness, i.e. right living, actions, thoughts, deeds, etc. As we study the Word of God, i.e. the Bible and have it stored in our memories, the Holy Spirit will bring it to remembrance when we need it, using it to help steer us in the right direction, down the straight and narrow - and will convict us of both righteousness and sin. Which is our next topic.
Does the Holy Spirit Convict?
Absolutely! The first work of the Holy Spirit as noted in John 16:8, is the conviction of the world of right and wrong. Right being "righteousness" and wrong being "sin". The purpose of this conviction is to bring people to repentance. Understanding what is right and wrong, by the Holy Spirit as noted above. Having this understanding, the sinner would then come into repentance, which is the turning away from wrong/sin and turning toward God. The goal being salvation, acceptance of this free gift which would also include, grace and righteousness. To bring a person back into right relationship and standing with God, of whom they rightfully belong through the price paid and sacrifice made on Calvary by Jesus Christ, the One and Only Begotten Son of God.
John 16:13 (Phi) "Yet when that one I have spoken to you about comes--the Spirit of truth--he will guide you into everything that is true." The Holy Spirit guides us into ALL truth (as some translations say) this means that He WILL convict us of sin, that is to say convince us of sin. If we sin against God, the Holy Spirit must fulfill His purpose and convince us of that sin, at the same time convincing us of what is Right - literally teaching us what is right from wrong. This process of sanctification, the convicting/convincing of sin, of right and wrong is to continually bring us into a state of repentance or turning away from wrong and turning toward what is right, which ultimately is God.
The Holy Spirit never encourages our carnal nature--the flesh. The truth is, our carnal desires and nature must die. We are wicked people. Since we long to fellowship with an utterly holy God, somebody has got to change, and it will not be God. God offers eternal encouragement by the way of the Gospel: death, burial, and resurrection. The starting point is the truth. The truth convicts: we are guilty of sin. Conviction is the first step in the cycle of sanctification, and we should expect it and welcome it as it does its deadly work on the old man.
Phil 4:8 (NIV) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure...
John 8:32 (Phi) "...and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."
Does this Conviction continue after we are saved?
Absolutely! The conviction of sin and of righteousness doesn't stop when we are saved. In fact, if anything it increases. When we are saved we are literally like new born babies, having been "born again" as we covered in Part 1 - we still need to learn to walk, talk, think, become wise and live right before God.. If we stayed in this infant stage the rest of our spiritual lives, we wouldn't be much good to the Kingdom of God now would we? The goal of this conviction by His Spirit is to sanctify us, to make us holy as we just covered. When we are being sanctified, we begin to live more holy lives, to live righteously. The righteousness that God freely gave us, His own righteous cannot be seen or heard by others, it is our free gift given to us by His grace, that we might be and are saved. In response to this, we must pursue righteous, right living, as an outward testimony of God, His truth, His ways, and His life for Him and for His Kingdom that others might also come into the knowledge of Him who has saved us! If we are true children of God, then we will also seek to live and act, say and do accordingly. This includes living a righteous life, one that has been sanctified and made holy by His Spirit and our yielding to the same.
In summary of both Parts 1 & 2, the Holy Spirit as I have discussed so far, is required for the convicting of sins to the world, that the world might be saved through Him (Jesus Christ). This conviction teaches us the difference between right and wrong, righteousness and unrighteousness. We can say He opens our eyes to the sin in our life, that we might know the difference and as a result turn away from sin, which keeps us separated from God. Once we accept the free gift of salvation we are born again. Being new born babies in Christ, we must mature and grow up. This accomplished by our study of the Word (written Word of God) and by the Living Word of His Spirit residing within us. We can receive power by the baptism of His Spirit as we have also discussed, empowering us for ministry, to share the good news of Christ and His Kingdom. The Holy Spirit is a vital requirement not only for salvation but for living sanctified, holy, victorious lives.
I will wrap up with Part 3, which will cover various biblical references to the nature, characteristics, personality and roles of the Holy Spirit and how He accomplishes that in our daily lives as we journey toward holiness in God!