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Doctrine of the Holy Spirit - The work of the Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Part 2) Print E-mail
Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

I.  Introduction:

We will be continuing our look at the work of the Spirit in the letters of Paul tonight. I want to cover from Galatians to Philemon, which is no small task. I want to specifically look at texts that talk about unique aspects of the work of the Spirit in the life of the believer. We will begin with the book of Galatians.

II. Passages:

A. Galatians 3:1-6, 14 In the book of Galatians Paul deals with the fact that the original recipients of the letter were being tempted to believe in works righteousness, specifically the work of circumcision and keeping the Law. He writes to correct this error by showing that life in Christ, which began with the Spirit, is also lived in and through the Spirit. We are not perfected by keeping the Law or being circumcised, but by walking in the Spirit who leads us to obey the law of Christ. Paul emphasizes that it is only by faith that we have received the Spirit and it is only by faith that we can walk in the Spirit and obey Christ. We should also note that Paul speaks of the Spirit who works miracles among you. Even though the miracles are not identified by Paul in this context, we should not try to deny that they were indeed miraculous and supernatural and a vital part of the Spirit’s work in the churches of Galatia. Fee comments:

“Our own experience of the church tends to cause us to be either unfamiliar or quite uncomfortable with such phenomena. We would prefer to believe that the Pauline churches were more like ours and less like the Pauline and Lukan documents suggest they really were. But the evidence in this case seems incontrovertible: the Spirit lay near the center of Pauline theology precisely because the experience of the Spirit in the life of the believer and the church was such a central feature of their experience and existence as believers.”

B. Galatians 5:16-26, 6:8 Paul has just been commenting on the freedom that we have in Christ from the Law, but he makes it clear that such freedom is not meant to lead to sinful living. Rather, we are to live by the Spirit who enables us to not gratify the desires of the flesh. The Spirit will help us live out the victory over sin that Christ has won for us. Paul contrasts the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit and concludes that if we belong to Christ then we have crucified the flesh. Since the Spirit has given us new life in Christ, we are to walk by the Spirit. Walking by the Spirit leads to eternal life, but walking in the flesh will only lead to death and corruption.

C. Ephesians 1:13-14 We have mentioned this idea before, so I just want to quickly point out that Paul once again speaks of the Spirit as our seal and guarantee of what is to come. He is the assurance of our future inheritance.

D. Ephesians 2:18, 22 We looked last week at Paul’s teaching in Romans 8 that the Spirit intercedes for us and we see that here. He gives both Jew and Gentile access…to the Father. Likewise, the Spirit is transforming us into a dwelling place for God, which seemingly refers to the Spirit’s work of sanctifying and purifying the Church.

E. Ephesians 3:16 Paul connects the believer being strengthened with power with the Spirit in this passage. This is not the only place where he connects the two. We need to see that the Spirit empowers believers in their following after Christ. Particularly here, we are strengthened to be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

F. Ephesians 4:1-6 We see that we are united in Christ by the Spirit and Paul tells us to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit. Our unity as believers is established by our union with Christ through the Spirit.

G. Ephesians 4:30 We have to ask: what does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit and how do we avoid it? In context, Paul is calling the Ephesians and us to live out our faith in Christ. We are not to live as we did before we knew Christ. Instead of walking in darkness and in sin, we are to walk in the light and in righteousness. If we do not walk in righteousness as believers then we will grieve the Holy Spirit. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that the indwelling Spirit does not care how we live. No, He calls us and equips us and enables us to live righteously. When we stubbornly go our own way, then He is grieved and convicts us and calls us back to obedience.

H. Ephesians 5:18-21 Some read this passage and the contrast Paul makes with being drunk and conclude that we are to be ‘drunk in the Spirit.’ Such an interpretation can be applied in many different directions and can be used to justify erratic behavior. Yet, is that what Paul means by this comparison? Fee comes to a different conclusion. Instead of picturing a person who is ‘drunk in the Spirit,’ Fee pictures “a person—and in this case, a community!—whose life is so totally given over to the Spirit that the live and deeds of the Spirit are as obvious in their case as the effects of too much wine are obvious in the other.” We, as individuals and as a community, are to be so filled with the Spirit that it is unmistakable to any who would spend time among us that we indeed belong to Christ. Paul identifies some specifics of this in verses 19-21. Thus, we evidence the indwelling Spirit through our singing, thanksgiving, and submitting.

I. Ephesians 6:17-18 As has often been pointed out, the only offensive weapon we are given as believers in the fight against the rulers and powers is the sword of the Spirit, which Paul identifies as the word of God. When we preach, teach, or proclaim the Word of God it is the Spirit that empowers such activity to be effective. In the same way, we pray in the Spirit for one another and others that they will boldly proclaim this very Word to a world and that the Spirit will empower this proclamation as well.

J. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-7 Two ideas that I want to point out here. First, Paul once again connects the Spirit with power, particularly referencing preaching. The power and conviction that comes through the preached Word is from the Spirit. He does what we cannot do if left to ourselves. We must depend upon His power and not our own arguments or reasoning when it comes to changing the hearts of men. Second, Paul later says that they were able to have joy in their suffering through the Spirit. In doing so, they became an example to others (including us).

K. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 Verse 19 is one of the main reasons why I wanted to do further study on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. What does it mean to quench the Holy Spirit? In context, the next phrase warns against despising prophecies. Thus, we are hard pressed to conclude that these two prohibitions are not connected. Seemingly, Paul is telling us not to quench the Holy Spirit and warns that at least one way we can do that is by despising prophecies. Of course this brings up another question: what does Paul mean by prophecy? I am not ready to go into that fully, but I will say that I think it refers to more than just preaching or teaching. We will look at it further during our discussion of 1 Corinthians 12-14. Paul also tells us in this context to text everything, which likewise points to 1 Corinthians 12-14. We do not just accept anything that anybody says is prophecy or from the Spirit. No, we test it and accept what is good while abstaining from what is evil. We will so more along these lines, but we need to see that prophecy must not be despised or untested, lest we quench the Spirit. Are we doing either one?

L. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 Here again Paul speaks of the work of the Spirit in our sanctification. He empowers us to become more like Christ.

M. 2 Timothy 1:14 Our perseverance is dependent upon the Spirit. He enables us to guard the good deposit, or remain faithful, to the gospel.

III. Implications:

A. We are empowered by the Spirit to live as Christians. Yes the Spirit is active in our conversion, but as Paul shows us in Galatians, He is just as active in the rest of our lives as believers. He is at work in our sanctification and victory over sin. He enables us to have joy in suffering and comfort in trials. He works miracles in our midst. And He empowers the Church in their preaching and teaching and worship. All of this is the work of the Spirit in the life of a believer according to Paul.

B. We are unified by the Spirit as believers. It is the Spirit that unites us with Christ and such union is the basis of our unity. Thus, we are not called to invent unity, but rather we are called to maintain the unity that has been given to us by the Spirit.

C. We are not to grieve or quench the Spirit, but we are to test all things and continually be filled with the Spirit. Paul tells that we can grieve the Spirit by our sin and quench the Spirit by our unbelief which leads us to despise His work among us. We are to avoid both. Yet, we must also be aware that the Spirit can be misused as well. Thus, we must test all things. Fee brings this together when he states: “Despite the fact that the ministries of the Spirit can be abused in the Christian community, Paul’s own deep appreciation for the central role of the Spirit in individual and corporate life will not allow for correcting abuse by commanding disuse. Rather, the antidote for abuse is proper use.” We must wrestle with these truths as a community and ask God to keep us from abusing the Spirit. At the same time, we must pray that we are never ignoring the Spirit, but are continually filled with His presence and power.

IV. Conclusion:

We have brought up some issues that we will need to address further as we continue to look at what the New Testament says about the work of the Spirit. Let me close tonight by asking you a question: are you more guilty of abusing the Spirit or ignoring the Spirit? For me, this is a challenging question. It is not the only question, we should also ask if there is any unconfessed sin in our lives that is grieving the Spirit? These questions should humble us and drive us to our knees before God and His Word. May He grant us the grace to answer honestly and change accordingly. Amen.

Last Updated ( Monday, 27 April 2009 )

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