Question: I know that the Holy Spirit brought me to faith in Christ, but what does the Holy Spirit do after that? What role does the Holy Spirit play in the believer’s daily life?
Answer: The same Holy Spirit who breathed physical life into the first human beings at creation breathes spiritual life into God’s chosen people today. God has saved us “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7, NKJV). Yet the Spirit’s work does not come to an end with the regeneration He gave us at our baptisms. The Holy Spirit still plays a central role in the believer’s daily life, preserving us in the new life of faith unto everlasting life.
Believers continue to need the Holy Spirit every day. The apostle Paul reminds us, “No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:6). That does not change once a person is brought to faith. The Christian’s struggle against the desires of the sinful flesh, the “Old Adam,” never ceases. In Romans 7, the apostle Paul described his own inner conflict between his new life in Christ and his sinful human nature: For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice (Romans 7:18-19). We experience the same kind of conflict in our own lives. The “Old Adam” in each of us continues putting the self ahead of God and others, doubting God’s promises, and desiring everything that runs contrary to God’s will. The work of the devil and the evil world around us complicate our daily struggle, adding fuel to the fire.
The Holy Spirit is our only hope. As our Counselor and Comforter, the Holy Spirit stands by our side, continually working to preserve us in the new life of saving faith in Christ. Ultimately, He does this by connecting us to Christ. As “the Spirit of truth” who guides us into all truth (John 16:13), the Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus (John 15:27). He reminds us of all that Christ did to secure our salvation—His sinless life, His death on the cross, His resurrection on the third day. In so doing He strengthens our faith, bearing witness with our own spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Beyond that, the Holy Spirit enables Christ Himself to dwell in our hearts and ground us in God’s love, filling us with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19).
The results of the Spirit’s work in our hearts show forth in our lives. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22). Apart from God, we are incapable of doing anything truly good on our own. Yet day by day He continues to sanctify us and enable us to live more and more according to the will of God.
The Holy Spirit accomplishes all of these things through the Word of God and the Sacraments. In the remembrance of God’s grace in our baptisms, He enables us to drown the “Old Adam” with its sinful desires and lusts. Through the preaching and study of Scripture, the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17), the Holy Spirit points us to Christ—both to our need for Him and to the assurance of our salvation in Him. At the Lord’s table, in the body and blood of Christ under the bread and the wine, the Spirit comforts us with the forgiveness of our sins. This is why we call the Gospel proclaimed in the Word and the Sacraments the means of grace. Through them, the Spirit shares with us God’s undeserved love in Christ.
Sometimes worship, Bible study, and coming to the Lord’s Supper can seem mundane. Yet do not underestimate the Spirit! His greatest work is the work He does every day among us through those means of grace. Through these, the Holy Spirit sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith unto life everlasting.
Rev. S. Piet Van Kampen