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The Ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Church Age

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(By Mark Fontecchio)

The eternal depth of God’s love and grace can be significantly seen in the ministry of the Holy Spirit for Church Age believers.  It is to our great advantage that we seek to properly understand the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer in Christ.  Three areas of substantial confusion for many Christians include: the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the filling of the Holy Spirit.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a beautiful doctrine from the Word of God.  The Apostle Paul teaches, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).  The Holy Spirit living inside of us is a gift from God for every Church Age believer.  This truth is so important to understand that Paul goes on to teach, “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Rom. 8:9b).  This undoubtedly teaches us that the Spirit of God indwells every believer at the moment we are converted; otherwise this statement from Paul could not be true.  It also teaches us that if someone does not have the Spirit of God living in them then they do not belong to Christ.  Someone without the Spirit is not saved.  This precious gift of receiving the Spirit of God is not something that we as Church Age believers need to fear losing.  Paul confidently proclaims, “having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:13b-14).  Paul means that we can be confident of our possession of the Spirit of God as long as we are in this world.  Even when we sin the Spirit of God still lives within us.  This is why Paul admonished the church at Corinth by telling them, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19).  The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance.

The baptizing of the Holy Spirit is also grossly misunderstood today.  Like the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit is also a onetime event that takes place at the moment of conversion.  Part of the reason for the tremendous confusion that exists is a lack of understanding of what baptismis.  “Theologically, baptism may be defined as an act of association or identification with someone, some group, some message, or some event” (Ryrie 488).  Water baptism is not the same as the baptizing of the Holy Spirit.  Water baptism is an ordinance of the church that gives a public testimony of our faith and identifies us with a local body of believers.  It is a public profession of the personal faith in Jesus Christ that has already taken place.  The baptism of the Spirit identifies us with Jesus Christ.  It is the work of the Spirit whereby He places the believer into union with Christ and consequently into the body of Christ, the Church.  Tragically, many are teaching that the baptism of the Spirit is a second blessing or a second work of grace that we must strive for.  Paul corrected this teaching long ago when he taught, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).  Every believer in the Church Age has been baptized by the Holy Spirit.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit never took place before the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.  This points us to another reality of the blessings we have in Jesus Christ.

Considerable confusion also surrounds the doctrine of the filling of the Spirit.  A typical (and wrong) understanding is that we can have less or more of the Holy Spirit in us (almost like having more or less water in a glass).  A key passage on the filling of the Spirit is found in Ephesians where Paul explains, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).  The wording does not mean that believers can get more of the Spirit, but rather it is a command to let the Spirit of God have control in your life.  Paul was teaching that instead of being controlled by alcohol we should submit or yield ourselves to the Spirit of God.  “It amounts to letting the Holy Spirit who indwells us control us completely” (Constable Eph. 5:18).  Unlike the baptism of the Spirit and the indwelling of the Spirit this is not a onetime event.  This is a repeated action in the life of the believer as you obey and yield to the Holy Spirit in your daily life.  This is why the Apostle Paul wrote, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

At the moment of conversion every believer in Jesus Christ is both indwelt by the Holy Spirit and baptized by the Holy Spirit.  The filling of the Holy Spirit is the continual yielding of ourselves to Him and is a part of the progressive sanctification of the believer.  Recognizing these important distinctions should assist us as we seek to walk with our Lord!

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The Holy Bible: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Constable, Tom. Tom Constable's Expository Notes on the Bible. Galaxie Software, 2003.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999


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