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What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is fully God, distinct from God the Father and God the Son. It is inappropriate to refer to the Holy Spirit as an “it” as if he is some impersonal force. No, he is not some impersonal force, but rather a person who acts and can be grieved. Below you can find a list of some of the things the Holy Spirit does and how to respond to his work. The content below is a modified and edited version of a lesson I gave on the Holy Spirit. Prooftexts are provided for further study. This is a brief overview, not an exhaustive list.

What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

In no particular order. All Bible verses below are from the English Standard Version. 1

1. The Holy Spirit opens the hearts of God’s elect to show them the truth of Jesus.

“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

2. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin.

“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).

3. The Holy Spirit seals all believers.

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).

4. The Holy Spirit adopts God’s elect into the people of God.

“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!’”(Romans 8:14-15)

5. The Holy Spirit helps God’s people.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16).

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).

6. The Holy Spirit sanctifies God’s people.

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

7. The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to God’s people to edify the church.

“All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11).

8. The Holy Spirit guides God’s people.

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2).

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1).

9. The Holy Spirit empowers God’s people for ministry.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

10. The Holy Spirit intercedes for God’s people.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

11. The Holy Spirit teaches.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).

Comment: No, this specific verse is not aimed toward you. It’s for Jesus’ disciples, whom he’s talking to in this context. And yet, we cannot deny that, when God’s people open God’s Word today, the Holy Spirit aids us in learning.

Not to mention, the Holy Spirit will give you words to say if you’re persecuted for Jesus: “for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12).

12. The Holy Spirit sets apart qualified men for the work of the ministry.

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2). And again: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

Responding to the Holy Spirit’s Activity

1. Continually ask him to fill you.

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,” (Ephesians 5:18).

The footnote in the ESV Study Bible on Ephesians 5:18 is helpful: “The command in Greek (plerousthe) is a present imperative and does not describe a onetime ‘filling’ but a regular pattern of life.”

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

2. Ask him to empower you to obey God.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

“And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:27).

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you grow in godliness, to help your grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit works in your life to help you become more like Jesus as you appropriate the means of grace.

You may also like:

  1. God is Spirit 
  2. John Stott’s Daily Prayer

Notes:

  1. “Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.”

About David Qaoud

David Qaoud (MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary) is associate pastor of Bethesda Evangelical Church in St. Louis, Missouri, and founder of gospelrelevance.com. His work has appeared on The Gospel Coalition, For the Church, and Banner of Truth. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and son. Learn more.