The opening chapters of all four of the Gospels mention the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit Who announces the birth of Jesus Christ; Who prophecies over the first of many people to serve Jesus’ ministry – John the Baptist – and Who confirms Jesus as the Son of God during His baptism. Throughout the New Testament, we read how the Holy Spirit empowers and guides the Early Church. So, how is the Holy Spirit involved with the daily lives of Christians today?
Jesus introduced the Spirit
During His ministry, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit on a number of occasions. He makes clear that the Spirit is available to help us (Matthew 10:20; 28:19); can be given to us in response to prayer (Luke 11:13), is essential to our entry into the Kingdom of God (John 3:5), and gives life (John 6:63). Shortly before He is crucified, Jesus explains why it is important that He Himself should leave, and “make room” for the arrival of the Holy Spirit. “[..] the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
Jesus, the Son of Man, while He was on earth, could only ever be on one place at a time. The Holy Spirit, our promised Helper and Comforter, however, was able to be on many places simultaneously. As He indwelled each of the apostles, He enabled them to spread the Gospel. Today’s Christians need the Holy Spirit for the same purpose, and much more.
What the Spirit does
Whereas God and Jesus Christ are seated in heaven, it is the Holy Spirit Who is here on earth to assist Christians with spiritual growth, and their everyday lives. Basically, the Spirit picks up where Jesus left off. The Spirit bears fruit in Christian lives (Galatians 5:22-23) and provides comfort, strength, and (spiritual) guidance. Christians can rely on the Holy Spirit to help them with all of life’s decisions, specifically in matters of faith. Christians need Him to guide them through challenges, and to be that lamp to [their] feet and a light to [their] path that Psalm 119:105 speaks of.
The Book of Acts mentions the Holy Spirit over 50 times. Most importantly, Acts records how the apostles were filled with the Spirit (Acts 2) at Pentecost and how He transformed their initial fear after the crucifixion of Jesus, into courage. But it quickly becomes clear how important He is to the development of the church.
Spirit in the Early Church
Peter received wisdom from the Spirit to address the Sanhedrin Council (Acts 4) and Stephen was given strength at his time of great anxiety (Acts 7). In Acts 8, we read how Philip was directed by the Spirit to speak to the Ethiopian, leading him to faith. Peter, acting on instructions from the Spirit, led the household of Cornelius to faith in Jesus Christ.
Sometimes the Spirit told the apostles to go somewhere (Paul and Barnabas were directed to travel to Cyprus, in Acts 13), and other times, NOT to go somewhere (in Acts 16, Paul and Timothy were specifically prevented from speaking in Asia and Bithynia. Why this was, we are not told).
On various occasions, the Spirit revealed to apostles what was ahead. In Acts 20, He prepared Paul for tribulations, and on another occasion, the Holy Spirit used a prophet (named Agabus) to inform Paul that he would be arrested (Acts 21).
How can the Spirit help?
It is clear that the Holy Spirit interacted with the apostles about decisions that had to do with the promotion of the Gospel. The Spirit guided them to “open doors” – individuals or groups of people who were ready to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. The Spirit also identified places where no such “open doors” existed, or where the apostles may have been exposed to danger. This is not to say that the Spirit will always steer Christians away from difficult situations.
But, if Christians do encounter problems, the Spirit will be there with them, and will never forsake them (God’s promise in Hebrews 13:5). Christians can prayerfully invite the Spirit to provide guidance. One example of such guidance is to ask God to reveal in Scripture, through the Spirit, which action they should take. Or to provide wisdom, if they are not sure what to think of a certain situation (James 1:5).
How does it work?
Guidance from the Spirit starts with a prayer to God, for instance before starting your daily Bible reading. Pray for the Spirit to draw your attention to verses that may be of importance now, or that you may need in the (near) future. Don’t be surprised if a year later, the Spirit points out different verses in that same section of the Bible!
Sometimes, the Spirit takes the initiative and inspires someone to give you a message. Perhaps the pastor at your church who, in his sermon, addresses precisely what you needed to hear. Several of the apostles heard the Spirit speak to them. But God’s Word remains the most important source of “spiritual information”. Jesus, during His ministry, referred to verses that the Spirit had given to Bible authors hundreds of years earlier. Whichever way the Spirit’s guidance reaches you, it is important to remember that the message must always line up with what the Bible says. If information contradicts what the Bible says, it is not from the Spirit…!
How important is the Holy Spirit?
Christians receive the Spirit the moment they receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. He connects Christians with God Who is Spirit. From that moment on, the Spirit can be invited to help with decisions, provide spiritual growth, strength and inner peace, and lead the way to others who might need help. Or, to others who might need to hear the Gospel! Indeed, God’s will shall be done, if Christians listen to the Spirit. The Spirit has access to knowledge that people do not have, given to Him by God. Christians have a valuable Companion in the Holy Spirit!