How does the Holy Spirit work in the lives of believers?

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Galatians 3:26; 4:6 

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith”

Galatians 3:26

 “ Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Galatians 4:6 

When a person becomes a Christian, they automatically become an adopted son of God and is indwelt with the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:15-16

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

Romans 8:15-16

Paul explains it is the witness of the Holy Spirit with our spirit that allows us to know that we are God’s children. This obviously entails that God exists.

Paul elsewhere uses the Greek word Plerophoria which means complete confidence, complete assurance in order to indicate that the believer has knowledge as a result of the spirit’s work. He uses this word in Colossians 2:2 and 1 Thessalonians 1:5. This is normally called “assurance of salvation” and this entails certain truths: 

  1. God forgives my sin
  2. Christ has reconciled me to God
  3. I am a child of God

The Apostle John makes it clear that the Holy Spirit living within us that gives believers conviction of the fundamental truth of Christianity.

1 John 2:20, 27

“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth”.

1 John 2:20

“As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him”.

1 John 2:27

It is the Holy Spirit that teachers the believer the truth of divine things. John is clearly echoing the teachings of Jesus himself he records in the Gospel.

John 14:26

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

John 14:26

The truth that the Holy Spirit teaches us is not the fine points of Christian doctrine. There are many spirit filled Christians who disagree doctrinally. John could perhaps be referring to the inner assurance that the Holy Spirit gives of the basic truths of the Christian faith. One might call these the “great truths of the Gospels”. Assurance doesn’t come from human arguments, but from directly form God himself.

Some would disagree with this statement I’ve just made

1 John 4:1-3

Some might think this verse implies that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit is not self-authenticating and that you need to test it

’Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”

1 John 4:1-3

Some might think this verse implies that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit is not self-authenticating and that you need to test it. However, this is a misunderstanding. This passage isn’t talking about testing the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, something which John himself and other Christians enjoy. John is referring to testing people who come to you claiming to be speaking by the Holy Spirit and therefore he points out that there are many false prophets that have gone out into the world so you have to be careful and test their spirit. 

John speaks of these people in 1 John 2:18-19

“Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”

1 John 2:18-19

John isn’t saying to doubt the inner witness in your own heart, he’s just saying to test those who claim to speak from the Holy Spirit external from you.

John also underlines other teachings by Jesus about the work of the Holy Spirit found in the Gospel of John.

John 14:16-17, 20

Jesus says it is the indwelling Holy Spirit that will give the believer the certainty of knowing that Jesus lives in him in the sense of being united with Jesus

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you”.

John 14:16-17

“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you”

John 14:20

John echoes this same teaching in 1 John 3:24; 4:13

“The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us”

1 John 3:24

“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

John uses this characteristic phase “by this we know” to emphasise that as Christians we have a confident knowledge that our faith is true, that we really do abide in God and that God really does abide in us. 

John goes as far as to contrast the confidence which the witness gives to the evidence of human testimony

1 John 5:6-10

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.”

1 John 5:6-10

In this passage, the water probably refers to Jesus’ baptism and the blood refers to the cross. These are the bookends of Jesus’ earthly ministry, marking the beginning and end. When John talks about the testimony of men, he is talking about nothing less than the apostolic testimony to the events of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. In the Gospel of John 21:24, John emphasises the importance of the apostolic testimony to the events. He writes:

“these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and by believing have life in his name”

John 21:24

Even though we quite rightly receive the testimony of men, the apostolic testimony to the historical Jesus, nevertheless the inner testimony of the spirit is even greater, it is even greater than the apostolic testimony.

So as Christians we have the testimony of God living within us, the indwelling Holy Spirit who bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God

Although evidence and arguments might be used to support or confirm the believers faith, they are not the proper basis of that faith. For the believer, God is not just the conclusion of a syllogism as said earlier, he is the living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, living within us.

So with the unbeliever we can say “I know Christianity is true because of the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit living within me and he gives me a fundamental knowledge and assurance that it’s true” We can be candid and open with the unbeliever on this. Now after this, you could show them that Christianity is true with arguments and evidence 

You can distinguish this by “knowing” Christianity to be true and “showing” Christianity to be true

What about those who are Christians but arn’t living a spirit filled life?

There are people who are saved but aren’t living very sanctified lives, for example, the Corinthian Church to which Paul calls Christians but aren’t living a very Christian life. Carnal Christians do exist, Paul seems to agree with that statement, there are people still living under the power of the flesh. People who have never moved in from the fringes of their Christian belief


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