Study 3 CLEAR TEACHING ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT
THE LETTERS OF JOHN
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: 1 John 2:20-29)
The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is a major biblical doctrine. We read of His ministry throughout the whole of the Bible. In recent times there has been a renewal of interest in His work in the child of God, and for this we should be thankful. However, there is some unscriptural teaching around on this subject. Some are placing undue emphasis on certain aspects of His ministry, giving an unbalanced presentation of the teaching of God’s Word. What is needed is clear teaching that fully accords with scripture and “correctly handles the word of truth” – look up 2 Timothy 2:15. It is significant that the apostle John gives us a clear outline of such teaching in his First Letter. He does not set out to give a complete body of truth on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, but having written so much about the Holy Spirit’s work in his Gospel, he now writes much basic truth on this subject for our learning in his First Letter. To begin with, turn up the following references to the Holy Spirit – in 1 John 2:20,27; 3:24; 4:2,4,13; 5:6-8,10, What do we learn from them when we place them against the background of the teaching on this subject in the rest of God’s Word?
1. The Holy Spirit is a Divine Person who is one with God the Father and God the Son in the Holy Trinity.
We need to be clear about three basic truths concerning the Holy Spirit, all of which are emphasised by the apostle John in this letter:
- The Holy Spirit is a Person. He is not just an influence. Notice the word ‘He’ in 1 John 4:4 (KJV) – not ‘it’; and compare the pronouns referring to the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and the disciples in John 14:16-17,26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15. Now see from these verses what He does. He teaches, reminds, testifies, bears witness, convicts, guides, speaks, hears, shows, glorifies Christ. Only a person can do these things. In 1 John 2:20 and 27 we read that He is our teacher; in 1 John 5:6-8 that “it is the Spirit who testifies”; and in 1 John 5:10 (KJV) that He is the “witness” within.
- He is a Divine Person. That is, He is God the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from “the Holy One” (Christ) – look up 1 John 2:20; and who is called “the Spirit of God” – look up 1 John 4:2. See also Acts 5:3-4, where the Holy Spirit is also said to be God.
- He is one with the Father and the Son in the Trinity. Several times in this epistle we read of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit – look up 1 John 1:2,3; 2:1. The Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son in the unity of the Godhead.
2. The Holy Spirit is God’s Gift to every one of His children.
John was writing to all believers, all born again ones, all who were in the family of God, and not just to a select few. See the force of the words “you have” in 1 John 2:20. You cannot be a child of God and not have the Holy Spirit – look up Romans 8:9, and compare John 14:16; Acts 2:37-39. So, if you are a child of God, He has given you the Holy Spirit – but where is He?
3. The Holy Spirit indwells every one of God’s children.
He is not only with us – He is in us. It is important to emphasise this because some have taught that Acts 19:2 proves that one can be a Christian, a child of God, and not have the Holy Spirit. It does nothing of the kind! The twelve in Acts 19 were not Christians at all, in the full sense of the word, until Paul explained the gospel to them, and then, when they believed, they received the Holy Spirit – as you did when you believed! – again look at 1 John 2:20 (“you have”); and 2:27 (“you…in you“); and compare John 14:17 (last two words – “in you”); 1 Corinthians 6:19. So if you are a child of God, He is now in you!
4. The Holy Spirit permanently indwells every child of God.
Does the Holy Spirit indwell the child of God and then leave him? In the old dispensation David prayed, “Do not…take your Holy Spirit from me” – look up Psalm 51:11; but we do not need to pray this prayer now, nor should we, for He who indwells us has come to ‘abide’, that is to stay, in us – John 14:16 (KJV). That settles it! Of course, when we sin we “grieve” Him – look up Ephesians 4:30; and when we disobey Him we quench Him – look up 1 Thessalonians 5:19. In both cases we restrict His operations in and through us; but we do not drive Him away.
5. The Holy Spirit is the source and supplier of all that we need for holy living and for effective service.
Notice the three special ministries of the Holy Spirit referred to by John:
- He assures us. He gives us the absolute assurance that we are born again and are members of God’s family. He does this through the Word of God (outwardly) – look up 1 John 5:13; but also by His indwelling (inwardly) – look up 1 John 5:10; 3:24; 4:13; and compare Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:6.
- He teaches us. Think about the wonderful truth revealed in 1 John 2:20,27. Within us we have the fountain of all wisdom! The ‘Spirit of truth Himself’ – look up 1 John 2:18-27, and compare John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13. This is the explanation of such promises as Psalms 25:12; 32:8; Isaiah 28:26; Luke 12:12; and read the testimony of the psalmist in Psalm 119:99. How wonderful to have this great Teacher with and in us!
- He fortifies us. The indwelling Holy Spirit is greater than the Devil or anything outside us – as 1 John 4:4 tells us! The Devil is certainly great in his power – a real, diabolical personality, the enemy of God and of God’s children – look up John 8:44; 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; and compare 2 Corinthians 11:14; 1 Peter 5:8 – but the Holy Spirit within us is greater! The power to live a life of holiness, victory and service, which is glorifying to the Lord, lies not in us but in Him, the Person of God the Holy Spirit – look up Isaiah 59:19, and compare Zechariah 4:6.