PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
THE HOLY SPIRIT: WHO HE IS AND WHAT HE DOES
Robert D. Pace
Do you love God? I mean do you passionately and wholeheartedly love Him? Jesus said there is a simple test that determines whether you love Him. In verse 15 of our text Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commands.” In other words, the degree of our love for God is measured by our obedience to His Word. It cannot be said that we love God if we deny and disobey God’s Word. We must obey it.
On the other hand, the Bible makes it clear how God showed His love toward man. And the measure of God’s love for man is displayed in His willingness to send His only begotten Son into the world and become incarnate—“God, made flesh.” The Bible reveals that God, through Christ Jesus, has provided us with salvation, grace, mercy, goodness, companionship, and over 1500 promises. What love! No love matches God’s boundless love that He lavished upon us through Emmanuel, “God with us,” Jesus Christ.
But Christ is no longer on earth in His flesh. He ascended to Father where He rules from the Throne of Grace. But there’s Good News. We can still fellowship with Christ. The grand and glorious love of God has provided us with someone that makes Christ present in us today. God has provided us with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Christian’s Chief Partner in life. And as we open ourselves to His presence He empowers us to live the abundant life. That’s why Jesus told the First Century Christians that nothing was more important than staying in Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). God wants every Christian to know that He loves us so much that He’s given His Holy Spirit to dwell within us.
(Transition) But, who is the Holy Spirit and what is His purpose? Why does Christ want every Christian to make room for Him in their lives? That’s what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the Holy Spirit: (1) Who He is and (2) What He does. First, let’s consider who the Holy Spirit is.
I. The Holy Spirit Is a Person
By and large, Scripture uses symbols to personify the Spirit. That’s because symbols can easily explain what the Holy Spirit offers us. For example:
The dove symbolizes His provision of peace.
Fire describes His provision of zeal and enthusiasm.
Rain represents His refreshment.
Wind expresses His unseen strength.
Rivers symbolize His abundant blessings.
Oil typifies His favor.
Clothing represents His immediate presence.
Scripture employs more imagery toward the Holy Spirit than to the Father or Son. But these metaphors don’t mean the Holy Spirit is not a person! As some would suggest, He’s not a force or impersonal power. The Holy Spirit is not the energy of God. The Holy Spirit is a Person. He is the Third Person of the Triune Godhead. For example:
It wasn’t a charge of heavenly power that anointed Jesus to heal the sick, circumvent nature, and resurrect the deceased; it was God the Holy Spirit.
It wasn’t divine energy that overshadowed the Virgin Mary when she conceived Christ; it was God the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit as a Person, not a mere force, spoke to Old Testament Prophets and New Testament Apostles to write the Scriptures.
The Bible shows that the Holy Spirit can be: lied to, grieved, blasphemed, fellowshipped with, walked with, and prayed through.
It describes Him as our Counselor, Helper, and Guide—all unlikely characteristics of an inanimate being or mystical divine energy.
When Jesus described the Holy Spirit He employed skillful use of the Greek language. Notice His words in John 14:16: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.” Note those two words: “another” and “Counselor.” The word, “Counselor” is derived from the Greek word Paraclete. When the translators of Scripture searched for the appropriate English equivalent for the word Paraclete, they were perplexed. The Greek word Paraclete is a wonderful word with a rich and varied meaning. That meant the translators needed to find one English word that could describe the full meaning of Paraclete. But they couldn’t find just one word! The Paraclete Jesus promised Christians is our Counselor, Comforter, Helper, Witness, Advocate, etc. The Paraclete that Christ has for us is too wondrous to be contained in one word!
Let’s continue to investigate what Christ meant about the Paraclete.
(Definition) The Greek word Paraclete describes the “presence of another person or another thing.” It also describes “something that is brought beside another.” We hear this Greek prefix “para” in our English words para-chute, para-medic, para-graph, para-legal, para-phrase, or para-llel. Thus, it’s easy to understand how those words describe “things that are brought beside another.” Here is what’s interesting: When the Greeks of Christ’s day spoke of a Paraclete it described a person who was “called in to assist another; someone that eliminated another’s inadequacies.” The Greeks applied this concept in numerous ways:
A Paraclete was a favorable witness called in before a court.
He was an advocate called in to defend someone facing serious penalty—like a lawyer.
A Paraclete was an expert counselor called in to advise someone desperately needing advice.
A Paraclete was a commander called in to infuse courage and hope within a dispirited battalion of soldiers.
A Paraclete was a conqueror called in to intervene and provide assistance for someone unequal for the task.
Do you see how wonderful this word a Paraclete is? Jesus recognized the nature of this term and that’s why He called the Holy Spirit the “Paraclete”!
The Holy Paraclete is the One right beside us that defends and protects us.
He is as our Teacher, Advocate, and Conqueror.
He is the One Who infuses courage, counsel, and supernatural power for whatever we encounter!
He is the omnipotent Companion that can be called in to eliminate our inadequacies!
No wonder the English translators had such a difficult time finding the one precise word to describe the Holy Spirit. He’s indescribable! And the Holy Spirit is indescribable because He is just like Jesus. Literally, He is just like Jesus. Let me show you what I mean.
In John 14:16 Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, but in 1 John 2:1 the apostle John called Jesus the Paraclete. How can both be correct? When Jesus said in John 14:16 He would provide “another Paraclete” He employed a unique word for “another.” The Greek language offered two words for the English word “another.” (1) Heteros and (2) allos. The word heteros “denotes a qualitative difference; another of a different kind,” such as two different fruits—an apple as opposed to an orange. However, the word allos denotes “another of the same kind.” That is, no qualitative difference—one apple exactly like another apple from the same tree. That means, when Jesus said He would give us “another Paraclete” in John 14:16, He expressly employed the word allos in the Greek language, which meant the Holy Spirit would be of Christ’s exact un-depreciated, divine nature! The Holy Spirit is a person of the same celestial nature as Jesus Christ. He’s everything Jesus is, yet He is omnipresent and always with us.
(Transition) The Holy Spirit is a person! But now let me mention what the Paraclete does. And one of the primary functions of the Holy Spirit is to offer Christians guidance.
II. The Holy Spirit Provides Guidance for Christians
(Illustration) Before the days of modern navigation, when iron ships were relatively new, boats were equipped with two compasses. One was attached to the deck for the captain’s easy access while the other was fastened atop the masthead where crewmembers would climb to inspect it. There was a reason the compasses were separated. The steel and iron on those boats occasionally interfered with the deck compass. But the masthead compass was above metallic influences. That meant the most trusted guidance came from the compass above.
This is the type direction the Holy Spirit provides! As our Heavenly Guide, the Holy Spirit directs our course without any interference from the world. But how does the Holy Spirit do this? In what way does He make known His guidance? I want to mention 5 ways the Holy Spirit directs Christians today.
5 Ways the Holy Spirit Guides Christians
1. He speaks directly to us.
Abraham is a prime example of the direct influence of the Holy Spirit. Genesis 12:1 says, “The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. (2) “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
We don’t know how God spoke “directly” to Abraham. Perhaps it was an audible voice, an angel, or a vision. What we do know is, God clearly communicated with him! And when God spoke, Abraham obeyed.
(Emphasis) One ounce of obedience is better than a thousand pounds of sacrifice! When God speaks, He wants us to obey the Heavenly Counselor’s advice! You won’t be disappointed. You may not know the outcome and the way may be challenging, but God has a divine purpose.
(Illustration) I remember one of many occasions the Holy Spirit furnished me clear direction. It was the last Sunday of October in 1986. I rose early that morning to pray and prepare for my morning evangelistic message. While praying the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: “Today I will show you your next pastorate.” Within an hour the phone rang from a distant city with an invitation to candidate for that church. I hung up the phone and told my wife, “Well, I know where we’re going to pastor.” And four weeks later I had completed my evangelistic itinerary and was driving a moving van toward a pastorate I knew was a divine appointment.
2. God leads through an impression upon our heart.
When God speaks He doesn’t always use words. His guidance comes by placing a strong inner-knowing upon our heart. Amazingly enough, the New Testament Apostles made a major Church decision based on an “impression upon their heart.” Acts 15:28 says, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials.” Do you see what happened here? The Apostles had no vision or angelic affirmation to come to their conclusion. God hadn’t descended in a cloud, like He had done for Moses, and write their Church Bylaws. No! The hearts of the Apostles were simply turned by the Holy Spirit and made to feel comfortable about their decision.
Have you ever prayed about something, and without ever hearing God’s audible voice, you just felt right about taking a course of action? You felt right because during your time of prayer the Holy Spirit, in an unexplainable way, placed a deep deposit of peace and assurance into your heart. This is how the Holy Spirit works.
3. God Leads through Others.
(Illustration) Some years back a young man in my church was seeking employment. His skills were best suited for hospital work and he had twice applied and been denied employment at a particular hospital in the city. As I was praying for him the Lord impressed me to encourage him to reapply for employment at that same hospital. Yes, that would make three applications! He could allowed disbelief to crush his faith and refused to press forward, but he sensed God may have spoken to me. Thus, he applied one more time for employment at that hospital and to his amazement, he was hired!
The Bible says in Proverbs 15:22, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Do you know what Solomon is saying here? He is saying that regardless of how smart we think we are, there are times we need to recruit the advice of others to help us discern God’s will. I openly confess that I have had major decisions to make as a pastor. And many times I have followed Solomon’s advice to seek counsel and insight from other spiritual people. It works! God directs through the wisdom and knowledge of other spiritual people.
4. He directs through anointed preaching and teaching.
Can you believe God uses preachers? The Holy Spirit often furnishes direction and guidance and even warning when anointed preachers or teachers declare God’s Word. How often have you been seeking God’s will and while listening to someone preach or teach God confirmed His direction for your life?
(Illustration) During my senior year in Bible College I committed to earnest prayer concerning God’s specific direction for my ministry. As I prayed I felt the Lord was speaking to me to move to Florida and evangelize. Now what young man wouldn’t want to live in Florida? But I wanted to know the Lord’s will for certain. During that season of prayer I heard a sermon from a well-known preacher just before graduating from College. As he spoke, God’s Word pierced my heart and instantly confirmed that Florida was where I was to minister. Late that night (12:00 pm) a minister from Florida phoned me and encouraged me to move there for ministry. It was this series of events that helped me ascertain God’s Will for my life.
5. The Holy Spirit directs believers through dreams and visions.
I’m sure caution needs to be exercised at this point but caution should be exercised however Christians determine God’s direction. The fact is, God has always directed His people with dreams and visions.
Joseph was warned that Herod would attempt to kill Christ unless they fled to Egypt.
Paul and his companions were directed not to minister in Bythinia and specifically directed to minister in Macedonia.
God gave Peter a vision to direct him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10).
Yes, God indeed uses dreams and visions to guide His people!
(Transition) Thirdly, the Holy Spirit not only is a person and provides guidance, He provides power.
III. The Holy Spirit Provides Power
There’s an entire sermon to be preached on this point so I want to limit my comments. But the main purpose of the Holy Spirit is to empower believers at every point. That’s what Jesus meant in Acts 1:8 when He said: “you shall receive power—ability, efficiency and might—when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” The Holy Spirit is our means of receiving power with God for whatever we face and whatever we do.
Think about how Christ lived on earth. Jesus, the wholly divine Son of God, never used His inherent power to heal the sick or work wonders. The Scriptures are clear on this! When John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus and all Jesus did was done through the power of the Holy Spirit. He healed, worked miracles, lived, died, and was resurrected all by the power of the Holy Spirit.
There is a reason Jesus had to live that way: For Jesus to be our Example He had to be filled with the Spirit and draw upon the Spirit’s power; not draw from His own divine power.
Indulge me to make an indictment of most Corporate Worship services across our land today: By and large, Christians have learned how to “have church.” They know how to set the stage, adjust the lights, sing the choruses, and deliver the message. But it’s often without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. And folks, there is nothing necessarily wrong with any of the aforementioned aspects of worship other than the fact that the Holy Spirit has been shoved aside. Saints of God:
It’s important to have the Spirit’s convicting presence upon a worship service.
It’s important to have the Spirit’s gifts operating in delivering power.
It’s important to have the Spirit’s presence permeate a worship service to the point that everyone knows “of a truth God was in that place!”
But let’s personalize this: Are you, as a Christian, living out your Faith with significant evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power? If so, that’s wonderful! But if not; why not?
I want you to imagine something with me. If God somehow permitted the ancient Prophets of the Bible and the Apostles of the New Testament to return to our generation, do you think they would attempt to live without the power of the Holy Spirit? No! Moreover, here’s my challenge to you: Follow their example! Call for the Holy Spirit to fall upon you in power and use you any way He chooses. Give the Holy Spirit all the space He wants in your life.
The Holy Spirit can divinely impact your life!
He can make you strong in the weak areas of your life.
He can do miracles in the impossible areas of your life.
And the Holy Spirit is waiting to fill you with His power if you will “ask.” Jesus said in Luke 11:13, “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!”
The infilling of the Spirit was an expected part of the New Testament experience and you should never doubt that the Holy Spirit is God’s divine will for your life! In closing, I want to read one final Scripture. Turn to Acts 2:38-39.
for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (39) The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”