Understanding the Work of the Holy Spirit

Clarence L. Haynes Jr.
| Contributing Writer
21 Aug
Man with his hands over his heart

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Over the years, I have discovered that one of the most misrepresented and misunderstood members of the trinity is the Holy Spirit. Many times, he is blamed for things that he has absolutely nothing to do with. However, because the Holy Spirit is such an essential part of our Christian walk, it makes sense to really understand who he is and how he operates.

I am going to focus primarily in how he operates in the lives of believers. Just for the record, the work he does in a believer is completely different than the work he does in an unbeliever. As Christians, you must know and recognize the way the Holy Spirit wants to operate in your life. If you allow him to do the work he really wants to do, there will be a dramatic difference in in how you live and how you walk out your faith from day to day.

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Man with his hands over his heart

Who Is the Holy Spirit?

Just to be clear so there is no confusion, the Holy Spirit is God. In fact, he is God, the Holy Spirit. Co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existing with God the Father and God the Son or Jesus.

The reason it is so important to recognize him as God is that first of all, that’s who he is. But second it is so we can give him the respect he deserves. Every trait attributed to God, such as omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, love, joy, mercy, peace, patience, graciousness, all are characteristics of the Holy Spirit, because he is God. Any understanding of who the Holy Spirit is and the way he works must start there.

Now that we have that settled, let’s now turn our attention to how he works. (For a good Bible study on this, you can look up all the scriptures that point to the Holy Spirit being God. I could just give them to you but that would take all the fun away.)

The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Believer

Before I dive into the work of the Holy Spirit, can I say that this is nothing you have to be scared of or worried about. I know you have probably seen people do some “interesting” things in the name of the Holy Spirit. Let me assure you that the true work of the Holy Spirit is nothing to fear, but something that should be embraced.

For the record, there are ongoing debates among Christians (Charismatics vs Non-charismatics) about the way the Spirit works in relationship to the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of what side of that debate you fall on, here is one fact that cannot be denied. When a person gives their life to Christ, the very moment they do that, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in that person’s heart. If you are a Christian then the Holy Spirit dwells within you because if he doesn’t, you are not saved.

“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9).

Now that we are all on the same page (hopefully) let’s look at six important works of the Holy Spirit in your life.

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Man with his hands over his heart

6 Important Works of the Holy Spirit

1. He Solidifies or Confirms Your Relationship

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16).

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

“This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13).

Why can you have confidence that you are a child of God? Why can you be sure of your eternal home in heaven? It’s because the Holy Spirit confirms it within you. The above verses tell me that you can be sure of your salvation. You don’t have to run around worrying am I saved or am I not saved. The Holy Spirit places a confirmation and check in your heart that you are a son or daughter of God, regardless of how you feel at any given moment.

If you have placed your faith completely in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, then you are a child of God. The Holy Spirit will confirm that in your heart, so you never have to ask that question again.

2. He Assists You in Prayer

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

If you have ever been stuck in prayer, here’s good news. The Holy Spirit can help you get unstuck. The Holy Spirit will help you to pray. In fact, before you begin praying it is perfectly ok to ask God how should you pray or who you should pray for. Because the Holy Spirit knows the will of God he will help you pray in accordance with God’s will.

Why is this important? If you remember 1 John 5:14-15, everything you ask for that is in alignment with God’s will he will do. The Spirit of God can help your prayers line up with the will of God and God will always do what is in line with his will.

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Man with his hands over his heart

3. He Reveals to You the Truth of Scripture

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).

Do you want to revolutionize your Bible studying? One way to do that is to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of God’s word to you. After all he is the one who wrote it (2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21) so I think he can tell you what it means and what he meant. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use additional Bible study aids and tools to help you, I use them all the time. Just recognize you have the one who can reveal truth to you living inside you.

The way you understand Biblical truth is not by education anyway, it comes by revelation. That revelation comes from the Holy Spirit. Remember this then next time you read the Bible, not by education, but by revelation. Education can give you the facts, but revelation gives you understanding and this is what the Holy Spirit will give you.

4. He Helps You Overcome Sin

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

If you have ever struggled to overcome sin, the problem is not willpower. The problem is Spirit power. Simply put, you have been trying to do it yourself. I can assure you from years of trying and failing that your will alone is not enough. If it was we wouldn’t need the Holy Spirit, but we do. That’s why God sent him.

As you learn to surrender more and more to the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, you will find the strength to overcome your sinful nature. There may be some other practical steps you can take and the Holy Spirit will show you what those are. Most importantly he will give you the strength to accomplish them.

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Man with his hands over his heart

5. He Gives You Boldness to Witness

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).

One of the things the Holy Spirit will do is not only give you the boldness to witness, he can even tell you what to say. The greatest example of a person moving from fear to boldness is Peter. At the time of Jesus' crucifixion, he went from denying Christ to just a few people, to standing before thousands boldly proclaiming the gospel after the resurrection. The difference in Peter was the Holy Spirit. 

Are you struggling to stand up for what you profess? Maybe you are a little nervous to reveal to people around you that you are a Christian. The answer for you my friend is the Holy Spirit. He wants to and will give you the boldness to do it. This doesn’t mean you stand up on your desk at work and start preaching the gospel (that probably won’t keep you employed). But it does mean you can walk with confidence and boldness, unashamed or unafraid to identify with the one in whom you believe. The Holy Spirit can give you that boldness. All you have to do is ask.

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Man with his hands over his heart

6. He Transforms Your Character

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Ultimately the major work of the Holy Spirit is to transform your character. He wants to take your life and make it look life Christ’s life. The fruit or characteristics of the Holy Spirit are clearly defined in Galatians and this is the work he wants to do in you. Imagine if every Christian had more love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You know who we would look like? Jesus.

God wants his character reflected in you so that you can remind people of Jesus and draw them to him. The best part is he places his Spirit in you as the one who possesses these characteristics. All you have to do is increase your cooperation with the Holy Spirit and by doing that you will increase your transformation.

You see as I said at the beginning, the work of the Holy Spirit isn’t scary or even worrisome. You can embrace what he wants to do in your life. You agree with his work in your life through prayer, studying the Bible, and walking in obedience. When you do that you will see your life change. The power of God in the person of the Holy Spirit will work in you making you the person God designed you to be all along. I will leave you in the same place I started:

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Now I think you understand why this is so important.

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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com

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