Reading Systematic Theology with Wayne Grudem – What are the distinctive activities of the Holy Spirit throughout the history of the Bible?

This post is part of a 50+ post series from the classic work by Wayne Grudem (PhD, Cambridge), Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. The aim of each post is to provide an overview of each chapter in the book and related resources for each topic.

Synopsis of Chapter

In this chapter, Wayne Grudem focuses on the work of the Holy Spirit in Scripture. He says “the work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world, and especially in the church.” There is more emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost compared to before, but he was active in both Testaments.  

Grudem outlines four separate areas of the work of the person of the Holy Spirit: how he empowers, how he purifies, how he reveals, and how he unifies. And finally we can see the Holy Spirit more powerfully or weakly depending on our response to him.     

The Holy Spirit Empowers

To begin, the Holy Spirit empowers people. There are several ways the Holy Spirit gives power to people in the Old and New Testaments. The Holy Spirit gives…

  • Power for life: “When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” (Psalm 104:30)
  • Power for regeneration: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63)
  • Power for extraordinary service: “The Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel.” (Judges 3:10a)
  • Power for Christ: “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.” (Luke 4:14)
  • Power for ministry: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
  • Power in spiritual gifts: “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:11)
  • Power to cast out demons: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28)

The Holy Spirit Purifies

In addition to the Holy Spirit’s role in empowering people, he also purifies his people. Also called sanctification, the Holy Spirit makes people holy. 

When referring to the sinfulness of some people before salvation, Paul said, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11). The Spirit goes on to give increasing “fruits” of holiness in the lives of believers. Those “fruits of the spirit” include “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22).

The Holy Spirit Reveals

In addition to the Spirit’s role in purifying people, he also reveals truth to God’s people. Peter tells us about how prophets spoke: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21). In a similar way, he revealed himself to the apostles when it’s said he would guide them into all truth. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:13)

The Holy Spirit reveals God in the lives of individual believers. For instance, Paul said, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6). Sometimes the Holy Spirit provides individual direction as when he tells Philip to “Go up and join this chariot.” (Acts 8:29). At other times, believers “walk by the spirit” and have the sense of being led (Galatians 5:16). There are other ways the Holy Spirit reveals the Trinity to believers.

The Holy Spirit Unifies

A final role of the Holy Spirit is to unify the community of believers. In Acts, the Holy Spirit acted as a great unifier within a disparate group of believers – so much so they held “all things in common” (Acts 2:44). In other ways, the Holy Spirit brings peace, love and a harmony in God’s people (Romans 5:5, Colossians 1:8). Indeed, the body of Christ is unified by the Holy Spirit, regardless of the former backgrounds of the believers.  

Application: The Holy Spirit is More Evident Depending on Our Response

Though the Holy Spirit moves upon God’s people in various ways, there seems to be a cooperative aspect to how the Holy Spirit works. Sometimes people can resist the work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51), grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), or quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). In all these ways, we can stop the Holy Spirit’s work from being visible.

But in another sense, we can partner with the Holy Spirit by submitting to his will. The early church is described as “walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31). May we, as the church, do the same as we are led by God’s Spirit and see his work more clearly. 

“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:28)

Special Terms

  • blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
  • filled with the Holy Spirit
  • Holy Spirit
  • in the Holy Spirit
  • manifestation of God’s active presence

Resources: Wayne Grudem

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