Four Basic Works of the Holy Spirit

Did you know that there are four basic works of the Holy Spirit that we are growing in? 

Which ones do you need to grow in, in order to experience the full abundant life in Jesus Christ?

Here is a short video clip introducing these four basic works. 

Also, if you want to go a little deeper in the biblical basis for this, read the following summary from the Dunamis Project Manual.

The Dunamis Project is a wonderful opportunity to not just learn about what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit but to grow in experiencing the work of the Holy Spirit.

This deepens your relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ and prepares you to take part in growing the Church and advancing the Kingdom of God on earth. For the Dunamis Project Equipping events near you, in UK, USA, Canada,  South Korea,  Latin America, go to www.prmi.org/events.  


Four Basic Works of the Holy Spirit

  1. Justification – born into the Kingdom - John 1:12-13, John 3:1-8, I Corinthians 12:3
  2. Sanctification - II Corinthians 3:17-18, Galatians 5:22-23, Romans 12:1-2
  3. Empowerment - Acts 1:8, Luke 24:49, I Corinthians 12:4-11
  4. Koinonia - Acts 2:41, I John 1:3-4, I Corinthians 12:12-31, Ephesians 4:4, Ephesians 4:15-16

1. Justification: Our New Birth into the Kingdom of God

In a nighttime conversation with Jesus, this was Nicodemus' question: How do I get into the Kingdom of God. John 3:1-15

He knew that Jesus was sent from God and had the keys to the Kingdom of God.  But how would one enter into the Kingdom?  How would one bridge the gap between knowing about the Kingdom and being in the Kingdom?

There is a door and a way in.  It is Jesus Christ.  We must somehow get inside of Jesus and have Jesus inside of us!

John Calvin says:

First we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us.[1]

The way that we enter in and are connected to Jesus Christ is through the agency of the Holy Spirit.

Calvin calls the Holy Spirit

"The bond by which Christ effectually unites us to Himself."[2]

Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again.  When asked the very natural question of "How is this possible?"  Jesus answers,

"Truly truly I say to you unless one is born of Water and the Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God." (John 3:3)  

Here we touch a mystery as deep as the mystery of Jesus Himself being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary. 

By the same Holy Spirit, we are born into the family of God as sons and daughters. The Holy Spirit thus makes the whole Christian life possible. Without the Holy Spirit, entrance into the Kingdom of God, and sharing in the new life in Jesus Christ, would all forever be beyond our reach.

How does the Holy Spirit bring us to be born again?

Nicodemus wanted to know the same thing and was given the answer, that it is a mystery.  Truly, it is a mystery, but we must push to the limits of our understanding and uncover the depths of the mystery.

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  (John 1:12-13)

The principle work of the Holy Spirit is giving us faith in Jesus Christ.

Calvin says,

"But faith is the principal work of the Holy Spirit."[3]

In reflecting on Ephesians 1:13 Calvin further says, Paul shows the Spirit to be the inner teacher by whose effort the promise of salvation penetrates into our minds, a promise that would otherwise only strike the air or beat upon our ears.[4]

In Revelation 3:20 we find this well-known image of Christ knocking at the door.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  

While this image has been interpreted to refer to the church as a whole, it may also apply to individuals. There is contained in this passage the mystery of human freedom and the sovereignty of God.  God has given us freedom and with it responsibility.  We must decide to get up and open the door and let Jesus come into our hearts. 

But it is not within our will nor capacities to hear Jesus' voice.  The ability to hear and to open the door is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit.

The justifying work of the Holy Spirit is symbolized by baptism.

Through faith, given by the Holy Spirit, we are joined with Jesus Christ. We share in His death and are raised to new life. 

This is symbolized by baptism with water.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3)

All who are born again into the Kingdom of God have the Holy Spirit within them.

"...Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." (Romans 8:9)

Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says 'Jesus be cursed!' and no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit.  (I Cor. 12:3)

We can conclude that anyone who knows Christ as Lord and Savior has the Holy Spirit living within him. 

Likewise, a Christian by definition is one who has the Holy Spirit within them.

2. Sanctification: Producing the Fruit of the Spirit.

Through the Holy Spirit we are born again, we enter the Kingdom of God as children of God.  Whether our birth took place with all the drama of one who was lost being found, or nearly imperceptibly as a "child of the Covenant" in the loving embrace of a Christian family, it should be celebrated as a great and glorious thing, a miracle and a mystery. 

Being born again, however, is not the consummation of our life in Christ but the beginning.  It is a birth, and afterwards spiritual children like natural children must grow and mature. 

This also is the work of the Holy Spirit indwelling within us who shapes our character into the image of Jesus Christ.  We are sanctified, made holy, set apart as God's sons and daughters.

Scripture describes this work of the Holy Spirit with several powerful images.

  1. The Old Person Being Put To Death the New Person Being Raised Up

Sanctification is the process of the old self being put to death and a new self being raised up. (Romans 6:1-11) We have been bought with a price; we no longer belong to ourselves.  This fact redirects our life to live for the glory of God.

  1. Bearing the Fruit of the Holy Spirit

Paul also speaks of this work of the Holy Spirit in terms of enabling us to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

..but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22)

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is an expression of our own character transformation brought by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and our relationship with Christ.  This is also a description of the variety of ways that we live out Christ's love in the context of community.

Being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ and yielding the fruit of the Holy Spirit is not a sudden complete experience; rather, it is a lifelong process.

And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another: for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:17-18)

This work of the Holy Spirit has to do with holiness of life and character formation. Both justification and sanctification may be referred to as the "inward work of the Holy Spirit" because the images used to describe them are of the Spirit living inside of us.

This is the fulfillment of the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel who looked to the day when there would be established a new covenant in which the Spirit of God would be within the hearts of God's people. 

3. Empowerment: Receiving the Holy Spirit's Power for Service and Witness

The third aspect of the Holy Spirit's work is giving us the power and gifts that we need in order to fulfill the mission of being witnesses to Jesus Christ. Through us Jesus continues his work on earth as prophet, priest, and king.  Jesus promises us,

"Truly truly I say to you, he who believes in me, will do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do because I go to the Father."  (John 14:12)

Jesus also clearly commissions us with the same mission that the Father had given Him.

"Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.'" (John 20:21)

Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.'  (Matthew 28:18-20)

This is all possible because we may have the Holy Spirit "upon us" for power just as Jesus did.

This working of the Holy Spirit is foreseen in the following verses:

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:46-49)

And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which he said, ‘you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 1:4-5)

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

This third work of the Holy Spirit is distinct from the justifying and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and has to do with equipping and empowering that we may carry out the mission Jesus has given us.

R.A. Torrey sums up this third operation or work of the Holy Spirit as follows:

The baptism with the Holy Spirit is a definite experience of which one may and ought to know whether he has received it our not…A man may be regenerated by the Holy Spirit and still not be baptized with the Holy Spirit…The baptism with the Holy Spirit is an operation of the Holy Spirit distinct from and subsequent and additional to His regenerating work.  In regeneration there is an impartation of life, and the one who receives it is saved; in the baptism with the Holy Spirit there is an impartation of power and the one who receives it is fitted for service…”Baptized with the Holy Spirit," "Filled with the Holy Spirit," "The Holy Ghost fell on them," "The gift of the Holy Ghost was poured out," "Receive the Holy Ghost," "I send the promise of my Father upon you," “Endued with power from on high," are used in the New Testament to describe one and the same experience.[6]

The "one and the same experience" to which Torrey refers is the Holy Spirit upon us for the gifts and power to do the work of Jesus.

Peter describes the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost by recalling the words of the prophet Joel:

And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and our daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yea and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.  And I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day.  And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  (Acts 2:17-21, Joel 2:28-32)

Just as the spirit of God "came upon" the great prophets, judges, and kings of the Old Testament giving God's power for action and service, now in like manner in the New Covenant the Holy Spirit continues to empower His people.  There is a decisive difference however. 

This empowering is not just for the select few; it is for all God's people from the greatest to the least. The empowering work of the Holy Spirit is given to all Christians. The empowering work of the Holy Spirit is not just for the first disciples or the great saints but for all of God's people.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter affirms that the promise of the empowering work of the Holy Spirit is given to all that the Lord calls to Himself.  

And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the gift is for you and to your children and to all that are far off, everyone whom the Lord calls to him.'  (Acts 2:38-39)

Paul also assumes that all Christians may expect the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

To each is given a manifestation of the Holy Spirit for the common good.  (I Corinthians 12:7)

Further, Paul commands us all:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. (Ephesians 5:18-20)

This operation of the Holy Spirit has to do with empowerment for action and service.  The Biblical images used to communicate this are consistently that of the Spirit upon a person.  This is in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of Joel and Moses who looked to the day when the Spirit of God would be upon all of God's people as He was upon the great prophets.

4. Koinonia: The Community of God.  

To these first three operations of the Holy Spirit, we may add a fourth: koinonia. The result of being born into the Kingdom, of beginning the process of sanctification, and being empowered to witness to Jesus Christ, is that dynamic fellowship is established between the persons of the Trinity and between those persons born again. 

There is a "synergy" of all the operations of the Holy Spirit that is more then the sum of the parts, and may be defined by the Greek term, koinonia. 

Another way to say this is that there is the creation and growth of the "Body of Christ."

In Acts, after Pentecost, we find that the overall result of the dynamic life of the Holy Spirit is the creation of an extraordinary loving, growing community of believers.

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.  And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.... And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.  (Acts 2:42-47)

This fourth operation of the Holy Spirit is vitally important for a complete understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit, for it moves from the work of the Holy Spirit in individuals to His work in community. 

One may, however, question whether this should be a distinct category at all. 

From the Biblical perspective, the first three operations of the Holy Spirit have koinonia both as their context and result. The overarching intention of the Holy Spirit is building koinonia.  This forth operation is in according with his intention as He weaves the individual and the individual's experience into the fabric of the whole community. 

In the book of Ephesians, we find two clear visions of this cooperate working of the Holy Spirit. 

The first has to do with bringing the Gentiles into the body of Christ through the koinonia operation of the Holy Spirit.

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in him you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.  (Ephesians 2:17-22)

The second passage uses the image of the Body of Christ.

There is one body and one Spirit... Rather speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love. (Ephesians 4:4, 15-16)

In all these operations of the Holy Spirit, God is working out His holy purposes to extend the koinonia of the Kingdom to include all creation.

For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:9-10)

Building and extending koinonia thus becomes the basic motive behind Christian missions and evangelistic outreach:

. ...that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship (koinonia) with us; and our fellowship (koinonia) is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.  And we are writing this that our joy may be complete. (I John 1:3)

Adapted from From:  The Dunamis Project: Gateways to Empowered Ministry – The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit [1] John Calvin Institutes Book 3, Chapter I, sec. 1 pp. 537- 538. [2] John Calvin Institutes Book 3, Chapter I, sec. 1 page 537- 538 [3] John Calvin, Institutes Book 3, Ch I, 4  p. 541 [4] John Calvin, Institutes Book 3, Ch I, 4  p. 541 [5] Jeremiah 31:31,  Ezekiel 36:26 [6] R.A Torrey, What the Bible Teaches About the Holy Spirit  (New York:  Revell, 1898), pp. 270-271.

Tags: Holy Spirit

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