Some time ago I came across a post with a question something like, “Do you believe in the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit or do you believe He is inactive today?” I can’t remember exactly how it was worded, but I do remember it was presented as an either/or proposition: either you believe in what we call the “sign gifts” – speaking in tongues, miraculous healings, etc. – or you believe the Holy Spirit has been basically sitting on the sidelines since the first century.
But that’s an unfair proposition. The Bible presents a number of activities or ministries of the Holy Spirit.
He helps believers.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17a, ESV. KJV says “Comforter”).
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7.
He assures believers of their relationship with God.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:15-17.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 1 John 4:13.
He helps us in prayer.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27.
He helps us to hope.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13.
He pours God’s love into our hearts.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5.
He teaches us.
But 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 (KJV says Comforter rather than Helper).
He guides us.
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.
He glorifies Christ.
He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:14.
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. John 16:7-11.
He is involved in our salvation.
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:5-6.
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-5.
You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:2-3.
He baptizes us into the body of Christ.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13.
He gifts us for service.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.
He dwells within us.
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39.
And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:9-11.
He seals us.
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30.
He fills us.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18.
He produces fruit in us.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23.
And this isn’t even an exhaustive study! Some of these things take place once at salvation, some are continuing ministries until we get to heaven (I probably should have separated them into those categories, but this has already gotten much more involved than I planned. Perhaps I’ll come back and do that another time. I’ve come across several things I need to study more just in this brief study.)
My purpose here is not to go into which ministries or gifts of the Holy Spirit are still active today. The great majority of these are still active. The ones that are disputed (tongues, interpretations, healings, miracles. God does still heal and work miracles; the question is whether He uses healers or miracle-workers to do so) have been better handled by others elsewhere, and there is not time and space to deal with them right now anyway. I personally know dear people who love God with all their hearts on both sides of the issue.
My point, rather, is to call attention to all the other things the Holy Spirit does. He is quite active in our day. Why do we get so fixated on those few gifts? Are we just as happy to have the Holy Spirit guide us, teach us, work in us love and gentleness and self-control, glorify Christ in and through us? Or do we prefer the “flashier,” seemingly more exciting and unusual gifts?
Whatever you believe about the “sign gifts” of the Holy Spirit, don’t neglect to study and appreciate all of these other things He does in God’s children.