“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the Law of Sin and Death” (Romans 8:1).
The Holy Spirit is identified as God. He has no name given to Him except for descriptive names like: “Comforter,” “Intercessor,” “Consoler,” “Advocate.” He is also called the Spirit of God, Spirit of Truth, Spirit of Life, Spirit of Adoption, Spirit of Promise and the Spirit of Grace.
I do not know of any verse of Scripture that would be more central or would focus more attention on answering the question: “What is the Holy Spirit doing today?” In fact, Romans Chapter 8 is foundational for understanding the work and the ministry of God the Holy Spirit today. Here, in this verse, we are introduced to the “Law of the Spirit!”
The Law of the Spirit! Whoever heard of the Law of the Spirit before this? Prior to this, the focus was always on the Law of Moses. Now here, in the New Testament, unexpectedly, we have a NEW LAW – the Law of the Spirit, with new information! NO! The Holy Spirit is not being ignored nor has He hid His works in the Old Testament, even though the phase Holy Spirit occurs only three times in the Old Testament. His work is, nevertheless, evidenced there; consider Genesis 1:2, 6:3, and Job 25:13, Isaiah 32:15, 11:1-5, 42:1-9 Numbers 27:18, Judges 3:10, 6:34, 13:25, 14:6, and Ezekiel 2:2. Comparing the Old Testament and New Testaments, it is obvious that God has shifted gears (Progressive Revelation) with NEW and multiple manifestations of God the Holy Spirit with this new law. Think of the millions of believers in Acts 19:3 who, “Had not so much as heard whether there is any Holy Ghost.” Who would have ever anticipated a Law of the Spirit – a Law that would set us free from the Law of Sin and Death?
What is the Holy Spirit doing today? Well, for one thing, the Holy Spirit gives the believing sinner a standing of righteousness before God, something which could never have been accomplished through the energy and activity of the flesh.
“For what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3- 4).
“For they that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit; for to be carnally minded is death but to be spiritually minded [to be controlled by the Spirit] is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity [opposed to] against God; for it is not subject to [not under the authority] the Law of God, neither, indeed, can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you” (Rom. 8:5-9a).
Think of it! Who had ever heard it? Who had ever dreamed that every believer could be indwelt by the Holy Spirit?
“Now if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His and If Christ be in you the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is Life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also give life [quicken, make alive] to your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors [we are in debt] not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [put to death] the deeds of the body, ye shall live; For as many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the [adult] sons of God; For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of Adoption [the placing of an adult son] whereby we cry, Abba Father [dear Father]. The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children [born ones] of God” (Rom. 8:9b-16).
The Holy Spirit’s Ministry is Progressively Revealed
Just as salvation is dependent on faith and trust in the finished work of Christ alone, so also the believer is dependent upon the work and ministry of God the Holy Spirit for growth, blessing, victory and power in our life.
From a historical viewpoint, “Progressive Revelation” is a stage on which the dispensational actions are performed. It is important for us to see that, as history unfolds, the Holy Spirit’s work and His ministry has NOT ALWAYS been revealed in total or at a singular moment in time. For example, we do not see the Holy Spirit working today as He once worked in the past. Neither will He work in the future as He is working today. The Bible is an inspired Book and the ministry of the Holy Spirit becomes increasingly full and meaningful by following this Great Highway, verse by verse, in order to accumulate the full knowledge of His ministry. For example: “For the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17; 14:16-17; 26:16-24). This is a matter of what we call “Progressive Revelation” (Heb. 1:1-2). Things are different now! Our salvation is NOW based on faith in the shed blood of Christ and not in the blood of bulls and goats. Today our worship is NOT based on the Law, ceremonies, or rituals but on the work of the Holy Spirit. When we observe closely the process of revelation, we will see the close connection between dispensationalism and interpretation.
God had a stewardship program that, as time unfolds, has changed. If we miss that, then a great deal of misunderstanding occurs simply because the ministry of the Holy Spirit has not been recognized or dealt with on the basis of Progressive Revelation. And, there are, of course, times when the Holy Spirit’s ministry does change with the changing of the dispensation and sometimes not. Many people know what the Holy Spirit is not doing but how many of us know what He is doing today?
“Seeing then that we have such hope we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, but the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished; but that minds were blinded; for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which veil is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:12-17).
I believe acknowledging “Progressive Revelation” is necessary to arrive at correct Biblical interpretation! Certainly, a great deal of confusion concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit is eliminated if, like in other areas of Bible Doctrine, we would “rightly divide” the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:15). Remember, today the Holy Spirit reveals Himself in ways distinct from dispensations in the past: we are living in a new dispensation – The “Dispensation of Grace” – The Mystery (Eph. 3:2). If this is true, it is of absolute, supreme importance if we are to know what the Holy Spirit is doing today.
The Holy Spirit’s Pre-Cross Ministry
The Old Testament saints had the promise of the Holy Spirit; many times this promise is repeated (Jer. 31 and 33; Joel 2). They had been promised that the Messiah and His Kingdom would come in a future age; then God the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon all believers. Jesus said that: “…you being evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children how much more shall your Father in Heaven give you the Holy Spirit if you ask Him” (Lk. 11:13). During this period of time, they had the offer – if you will ask, you will get. But you know what? Those stubborn Disciples didn’t have any more spiritual insight, depth, and perception than many Christians today … when the gift was offered they refused it! Can you imagine, the Disciples did not ask to be filled or to have the Holy Spirit? Therefore, the Lord Jesus asked on their behalf. He said: “The Father and I will ask Him to send you the Comforter” (Jn. 14:16). Then finally the Lord Jesus said: “He breathed on them and said receive ye the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:22); and so, they received the Holy Spirit in a special way. Do you think anybody receives the Holy Spirit that way today? NO, NOT SO! But, thank the Lord, they received the Holy Spirit in a unique fashion – which was the exception to the rule!!
Now, during the pre-Cross ministry of Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, the Twelve, the Seventy, and the Holy Spirit announced the “Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Throughout that time, they had a three-fold ministry of the Holy Spirit of how the believer ought to live: 1) born of the Spirit; 2) walking in the Spirit; and 3) working in the Spirit – “…not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit saith the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was with all believers but He was not in all believers. In fact, it was not God’s intention for every Old Testament believer to have the Holy Spirit. No provision was made! Furthermore, in the Old Testament, no instruction was ever given to show how an Old Testament believer might have the Holy Spirit. In fact, God’s program in that day was to dwell among men in the Tabernacle/Temple. The exception was the Prophet Elijah, who prayed to have the Holy Spirit and was indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit’s Post-Cross Ministry – After Pentecost
We do not have any other, real or lasting offer of the Kingdom until after the Cross. In fact, that is the whole testimony of the Book of Acts. Christ had gone into a “far country to receive for Himself a Kingdom, and to return” (Lk. 19:12). However, the citizens and the rulers hated Him saying, “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Lk. 19:14). They hated Him and persecuted His followers. They imprisoned them: Stephen was stoned to death and James was killed by a sword!
The Book of Acts is the offer of the Kingdom and the Jews and the nation of Israel repeatedly said, ‘‘No! No! No!” (Rom. 1:18-32) until finally, God gives them up saying, “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46; 18:6, 28). The promised Kingdom is in suspension, and will not come until the judgment is poured out on the “great and terrible day of the Lord” (Rev. 8:9; Mt. 24:29-31).
During this period of time, God has promised a baptism by the Holy Spirit which came packaged with miracles, signs, and wonders: “a pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17). Pastor Otis Wasson called this “The Second Coming of the Holy Spirit.” These great manifestations of the Holy Spirit pointed forward to the coming Kingdom. God made this promise of the Kingdom to Abraham and the nation of Israel. This is the reason why we have over 100 recorded miracles, signs and wonders in the Book of Acts. It was like a flashing, warning light saying, “The Kingdom is coming! The Kingdom is Coming!” However, by way of opposition, the Antichrist’s working in the Tribulation will be according to “the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9) and will stand in bold contrast to the Holy Spirit’s mighty miracle ministry.
The Book of Hebrews records the Jews living on the Day of Pentecost “were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come” (Heb. 6;5). Notice they only tasted: it was a foretaste. The full ministry must yet await the coming of the Kingdom of God. This was a very special ministry of God the Holy Spirit, especially addressed to the nation of Israel. Now there were those who are anxious to have the work and power of the Holy Spirit (and rightly so!) who were taught that you can ask for the Holy Spirit and He will give Him to you – like on the Day of Pentecost. No, you can’t! Not today! There are thousands of people, who, on Sunday morning, will kneel at an altar or go to a prayer closet and pray saying, “Dear God, please give me the Holy Spirit” – You can’t get Him that way!
Furthermore, once you have the Holy Spirit you cannot lose Him as was possible in the Old Testament. This was King David’s concern because of the heavy burden of his sin of adultery and murder. He prayed, “Lord, take not Thy Spirit from me” (Psa. 51). This was David’s confessional to God of personal sin and said to be one of the greatest confessionals that have ever been written; in the Old Testament, they could lose the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit’s Ministry in the Tribulation
Now, I want to skip over the Church Age because that is what we want to talk about in more detail. But I want you to see in contrast the whole picture before we come to what the Holy Spirit is doing today.
The day will come when the Body of Christ will be removed from the earth (1 Thess. 4:16-18), by the beginning of seven years of tribulation on the earth. The Tribulation is a time when God’s wrath will be poured out on the earth (Mt. 24:21-29). During the Tribulation period, the Holy Spirit is removed. At the Rapture, the sanctifying restraint on sin reverts to an Old Testament form of ministry. He will only indwell and empower a few, such as some workmen: a king, prophet or a priest, but that is all. You think the conditions of the work are bad today, you haven’t seen anything yet. The Tribulation will be the Devil and the demons’ heyday! In the Tribulation period, the Holy Spirit will empower, indwell, seal, anoint, and protect only a few. For example 1) the 144,000 Jews (not Jehovah’s Witnesses); and 2) the Two Witnesses.
At the end of the Tribulation period, we have an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and immediately after the Tribulation, all Jews will be saved. “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, there shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26).
I believe that in the Tribulation period (the time of Jacob’s trouble – Jer. 30:7), Israel will be saved spiritually and then, likely, toward the end of the Tribulation period, they will be gathered nationally, at which time, God said that Israel will pray and “before they call I will answer.” “Call upon Me and I will show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not” (Jer. 33:3). God says that a soon as they pray, God will deliver them from the oppressing armies and “will pour out His Spirit upon them and their sons and their daughters will dream dreams and have visions” (Acts 2:17).
A lot of people want to have dreams and visions today and that God will speak to them through a dream or vision. Not so! Not according to the ministry of the Holy Spirit today! I don’t know where or how people get these dreams or visions. Now, I have dreams, occasionally, but it usually is the result of having eaten sauerkraut and wieners before I went to bed. Or, it could be caused by some medication, or some traumatic, psychological, emotional experience. And, if someone were to look me in the eye and say they had a vision, I’d never say I don’t believe you because I believe they did. But, I do know one thing – it was, not at all, like the dreams and visions God the Holy Spirit gives! It had nothing to do with the ministry of the Holy Spirit today – NOTHING!
The Holy Spirit’s Ministry in the Kingdom
There will come a time when a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit will begin (which is the baptism by the Holy Spirit). There was a foretaste of it on the Day of Pentecost. However, when the Kingdom comes, the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit will be fulfilled. The world hasn’t seen anything like this yet when it comes to miracles, signs, and wonders. Do you know that the Kingdom is going to be a happy, joy-filled place because every believer will be indwelt, empowered, and associated with the ministry of God the Holy Spirit? I’ll tell you what – the Kingdom is going to be great!! Why? Because it is in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.
Now, you and I will not feel the enjoyment of the Millennial Kingdom like the nation of Israel. Why? Because we are members of the Church, the Body of Christ and we have a different inheritance and a different promise. I’m not saying we will not be celebrating with the Kingdom saints but not in the same sense as Israel; i.e., the Church, the Body of Christ will reign with Christ, ‘‘seated with Him in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10) far above the earthly Kingdom! But Oh!! Never minimize God’s blessings and promises to Israel! God promised them, in the Abrahamic, Davidic, Palestinian, and the New Covenant, things that are way beyond our ability to comprehend. And, when God pours out His Spirit upon all believing flesh, it is going to be like Heaven on earth. It’s the Golden Age!
Unbelievers will NEVER SEE or enjoy the Kingdom. The modernist, the liberal, the unsaved educator, the atheistic leaders of the world governments, unconverted health officials who work for a world without disease, sickness, poverty, ignorance, illiteracy – a world without God – the unbeliever WILL NEVER SEE it because they “sought it not by faith” (Rom. 9:32) in the resurrected Christ and through the unregenerate nation of Israel. Again, they will never see the Kingdom!
During the Kingdom, there will be a great spiritual awakening. One of the reasons being – the Devil is gone (Rev. 20:2)! He’s locked up for 1,000 years and the demons are removed from the earth. Can you imagine what this would be like right now if the Devil and the demons were gone? Yes, the Kingdom will result in a great spiritual revival – A great knowledge of the Bible. In Ezekiel Chapters 35 and 36 it says that the Holy Spirit will gather godly men, like the sacrificial flocks. Multitudes of men will be saved in the Millennium. Everybody going into the Millennium is saved at the start. The Lord Jesus Christ will sit in the Temple and He will be filled with the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2) and the Lord Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will also teach Bible doctrine daily. Talk about a teacher! The Lord Jesus will do it. The Bible says that the ‘‘earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9) … the filling of the Holy Spirit!
Now, I pray for what they used to call, in my youth, a Heaven-sent, spontaneous. Holy Spirit Revival.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if America would turn back to God? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a God-consciousness in our community? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you would pick up the paper and have an awareness that even those who are making the news are interested in God and surrendering to God’s plan? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a revival? You know it happened once in America. There was a time when people realized that without God we would perish as a nation. There was a time when people got on their knees and prayed as believers. God help us to know the Word of God. God help us to preach to Word. God help us to be soul winners. You know there was a great revival, great soul winning when hundreds and thousands of churches were built and modernism was set back. Our Grace-Movement churches were planted during that time of controversy between liberalism and fundamentalism. We need that kind of revival again! I pray believers will get serious about the things of God, to study the Word of God and to be Spirit-filled soul winners.
Do you know we are all supposed to be soul winners? Now, we know that we are not operating under the Great Commission but we have a Pauline Commission (2 Cor. 5:14-21). To whom, do you suppose God gave the ministry of reconciliation? He gave it to us – the Church, the Body of Christ! Not only corporately but individually. We are to be ministers of reconciliation – not just the preacher, evangelist, choir leader, Sunday School teacher, Church Board member – BUT EVERYBODY. You know it is going to take that. We are not only going to have to preach Pauline truth but we are going to have to practice it. Every believer has a responsibility to do what God has given to us: a commission to be ministers of reconciliation. This is what we are to do. That is one of the reasons why we are praying, working and laboring for souls to be saved. It is needed! We need to rekindle the flame! I have a responsibility to be an ambassador for Christ and also the Sunday School teachers, the Board members, the members of the Church. There will never be a time when we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and be able to come up with one excuse for not giving the gospel to the lost. We’ll not be able to say, “Well, Lord, I didn’t know you wanted me to be a soul winner.” You cannot divorce the ministry of the Holy Spirit from God’s interest in souls. That is where it all starts. Pastor J.C. O’Hair used to say, “Listen, you cannot teach them until you win them.” The fact that we have a ministry of God the Holy Spirit is the fact that, “God is not willing that any should perish” (2 Pet. 3:9). And, oh, I pray, “Dear God, give us a revival.” I’m saying that to myself. I need a revival in my heart, a new interest, a new enthusiasm, a new zeal.
That’s what the Holy Spirit is doing today!