Study 6 THE HOLY SPIRIT IN GALATIANS
(Scripture Portion: Galatians 3: 1-29)
In Galatians, the Holy Spirit is mentioned at least thirteen times – look up Galatians 3: 2,3,5,14; 4: 6,29; 5: 5,16,17,18,22,25; and 6:8. Of course, the Holy Spirit is a real Person. It is important to emphasise this as many think of Him only as a great power or influence. Possibly this is due to such verses as Acts 1:8, which speak of His power. But He is a real Person, and in the Bible He is spoken of over and over again as “He”, “Him”, “His”, and His name is always given a capital S; moreover, He is spoken of as doing things which only a person could do. Read the references to the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John, chapters 14, 15 and 16, and notice the indications of personality which are shown in the things that He does. But the Holy Spirit is not only a real Person; He is a divine Person, He is God, the third Person in the Godhead. This does not mean that He is of lesser importance than God the Father and God the Son, but He is third in order, or in succession. A reference to Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 3:17 and 13:14; and a comparison between Exodus 17:2-7 and Hebrews 3:7-9, make it clear that the Holy Spirit is God.
What does the Holy Spirit do for, in, with and through the believer, the child of God? The theme of Galatians is that salvation becomes ours through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ – that is, by believing. When we believe, what happens? What is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer?
1. The Holy Spirit performs the miracle of the new birth in the believer.
We learn this from Galatians 4:29. Notice the two contrasting phrases – “born in the ordinary way…” and “born by the power of the Spirit”; and compare John 3:3-7, particularly noticing verses 5 and 6. The miracle of the new birth is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. We can never place ourselves in the family of God and make ourselves Christians, but when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and receive Him as our Saviour, then we are born of God, born again, and we become members of God’s family – look up John 1:12-13.
2. The Holy Spirit communicates the Divine life to the believer.
In Galatians 5:25, we have the expression, “we live by the Spirit”, and this reminds us of the fact that when we are born again and are constituted members of God’s family, the very life of God is communicated to us, imparted to us, by the Holy Spirit. By our natural birth we received physical life; when we were born again we received spiritual life – compare 2 Peter 1:4. A Christian is not just a religious person, not one who tries to follow the example of Christ, but he is one who is alive from the dead! By nature we are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), and that is why it is we need to be born again and to receive a new life – look up John 5:39-40; 10:10 and 1 John 5:11-12.
3. The Holy Spirit personally indwells every believer.
The implication of Paul’s question in Galatians 3:2 is that all the believers in the church at Galatia had received the Holy Spirit – and so they had! How had they received Him – and when? By the hearing of faith. In other words, the moment they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit came to dwell within them for ever, for the Holy Spirit indwells every believer – look up the following scriptures which make this very clear; (1) John 7:37-39; (2) John 14:16-17; (3) Romans 5:5; (4) Romans 8:9; (5) 1 Corinthians 6:19; (6) 1 Corinthians 12:13 and (7) 1 Thessalonians 4:8.
4. The Holy Spirit gives the believer the assurance of sonship.
Galatians 4:6 tells us this, and notice that the first part of the verse confirms what we have just been emphasising under the previous heading. But what does the Holy Spirit do for us when He enters into our hearts? According to this verse, and a parallel verse in Romans 8:14, we learn that He creates within us the consciousness of our relationship with God, and He gives us the assurance that we are His children. We cry out to Him, “Abba, Father!” – just as a small child says, “Daddy!”
5. The Holy Spirit leads the believer into a life of victory over sin and self.
Galatians 5:16-17 tells us this. When we are born again, immediately a warfare begins. The apostle Paul also knew it in experience – look up Romans 7:18-25. What is the way of deliverance from the sinful nature? How can the believer be victorious over sin and self? The Holy Spirit gives us the victory when we do three things:
- When we walk in fellowship with Him – Galatians 5:16. This means going along in harmony with Him look up Amos 3:3.
- When we submit to His leading – Galatians 5:18. It is when we recognise His lordship and yield ourselves to His control that we experience His victory.
- When we exercise discipline in our lives – Galatians 6:7-8. It is possible for us to sow to the sinful nature or sow to the Spirit – look up Romans 13:14.
6. The Holy Spirit makes the believer like the Lord Jesus.
In Galatians 5:22, we have a “cluster” of the fruit of the Spirit, and this fruit can only be produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit. To put it in a very practical way, we can only become like the Lord Jesus – loving, joyful, peaceful, longsuffering, gentle – as the Holy Spirit makes us like Him. We do not become like Jesus by struggling and striving. Having been born of the Spirit, we are also sanctified by the Spirit – look up Galatians 3:3. How does fruit grow on a tree? Not by struggling and striving. When the branch is in union with the vine and in communion with the vine, then the fruit gradually but certainly appears – look up John 15:1-8.
7. The Holy Spirit is the inspiration and the power of the believer’s service.
In Galatians 3:5, Paul tells us that when he lived and laboured amongst the Galatians, all his ministry was in the power and energy of the Holy Spirit. We can never serve God effectively in the energy of the flesh, but we can serve Him effectively in the power and might of the Holy Spirit – look up Zechariah 4:6 and compare Acts 1:8.