Ask the Preacher: Holy Spirit and Salvation

Q: What is the role of the Holy Spirit in salvation?

A: The primary role of the Holy Spirit in the salvation process is to convict a lost sinner concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn. 16:8-11). This is done through the Spirit-revealed message, the gospel (Rom. 1:16; Eph. 3:3-5). As someone has said, the leading of the Holy Spirit is never ripped loose from the revealed Word (1 Cor. 2:11-13; 14:37; Heb. 3:7; Acts 7:50-51; etc.). Consequently, the work of the Holy Spirit points to an objective standard, not subjective feelings, in convicting and converting people to Christ.

Another way of looking at this is that people convert to Christ when their faith causes them to obey the gospel. Faith comes from hearing the Word (Rom. 10:17). Biblical faith involves three components: a) conviction of mind; b) trust of heart; and c) surrender of the will. Yet the Holy Spirit has produced powerful tools, all embedded in the revealed Word, to bring about this faith. There is evidence to support conviction — eyewitness testimony, supernatural claims, and miraculous works (all backed by Holy Spirit guidance and power). Trust comes from a realization of the trustworthiness of the Lord — provided by God’s faithful track record and noble intentions toward us (all revealed in the Word). Finally, surrender results from the conditions of salvation being clearly spelled out — again, a function of the revealed Word. The Spirit continues to speak through the Word (Heb. 3:7). The Hebrew writer is citing Psalm 95 here, which was about a thousand years old at the time he cites it.

When we obey the gospel, we are transferred from darkness into the kingdom (Col. 1:13), we receive “remission of sins” and “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38), and we are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13). 1 Cor. 12:13 says that “in one Spirit” we are “baptized into one body.” Somehow the Spirit “sanctifies” us, setting us apart for divine service and making us a part of God’s chosen people (1 Pet. 1:2; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Rom. 15:16). Since we are also sanctified “by the washing of water with the Word” (Eph. 5:26), some brethren think that revealing the Word is all that the Spirit does for us in sanctification. I am inclined to think that there is more at work here, and that the Holy Spirit has a role in identifying us with the faithful, but strictly on the level of the heavenly transaction that takes place when we are added to the church and our names are added to the Book of Life. In any case, Paul mentions the “washing of regeneration” (baptism) and “renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Tit. 3:5-6). Ultimately, the conviction and conversion process in the sinner’s heart still takes place through the agency of the revealed Word, after which one obeys the gospel. The Holy Spirit renews such a person. The Spirit sanctifies him, marking him out to belong to God.

Now connected to God spiritually, as a cord is plugged into an electrical outlet, the person who is saved is energized (Phil. 2:13) and receives many spiritual blessings. The Spirit then works in his life in a powerful way, in keeping with the revealed Word. The Spirit seals us until our redemption (Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30; 2 Cor. 5:5; Rom. 14:17; 2 Cor. 1:22); provides our access to God (Eph. 2:18); leads us through revealed truth and a Spirit-tuned vision (Rom. 8:14-16; Gal. 5:25-26; 2 Cor. 3:18); strengthens our inner selves (Eph. 1:18-19; 3:16-19); empowers us in our warfare against evil (Eph. 6:10-18; Rom. 8:13); helps us in our infirmities (Rom. 8:26-27); and will ultimately play a role in raising us to life (Rom. 8:11, 23). Our attitude and behavior should represent the Spirit’s presence in our lives from that point forward (Gal. 5:25-26; Eph. 4:30-32; 5:18-19).

 —Mike Wilson


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