This is part six of a series exploring the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.
We’re looking topically now at things the Spirit does to people. I am mostly presenting the scriptures with minimal comment. Read the whole series here. The next topic pertains to how . . .
The Spirit Influences the Human Psyche
Yes, the indwelling Spirit can affect your thoughts and feelings. We’ll start with a metaphor. Paul says that a true Jew is one whose heart has been circumcised “by the Spirit.” (Romans 2:29). This spiritual circumcision is a permanent change in the way we think and feel. Paul further says God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Romans 5:5). How beautiful, that our love for other people can find its source in God himself and flow through us! Romans 8 encourages believers to walk (or live) not according to (or controlled by) the flesh, but the Spirit, setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.
In a similar passage, Paul proclaims:
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. . . But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. . . Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-18, 22-25).
Just as in Romans 8, Paul explains here that the Spirit enables us to be better and do better than we would on our own. He also pronounces the following blessing:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13).
I think part of what he’s getting at is that the indwelling Spirit changes our character from within so we can reflect the character of Christ. Regarding this transformation, he says:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
The indwelling Spirit can affect us more deeply and positively than alcohol: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18). The Spirit can bring us joy that we might not be able to muster on our own. Paul tells his friends that “In spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).
May the Holy Spirit give you joy, and may it be better than that given by spirits (alcohol)!
The Spirit and the Heart
In the Bible, the heart is the seat of your will. God’s Spirit affect your will, your wants. It helps you want better things than your fleshly animal body wants for you. “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”” (Galatians 4:6). Paul says a true Jew is one whose heart has been circumcised “by the Spirit” (Rom. 2:29). And he says “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:5). “[God] anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
The Spirit is in our hearts. Do you feel him in there?
The Spirit Intercedes
I do not know exactly what this passage means, but I find it comforting nonetheless:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. . . the Spirit intercedes for the saints. (Romans 8:26-27).
It is good to have God’s Spirit on our side!
The Spirit and Providence
Some scriptures speak of the Spirit as the agent for crafting God’s providential affects on the world. Paul is pretty confident that God will use his imprisonment for something good: “I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” (Philippians 1:19).
The Spirit Sanctifies and Seals
The Bible also contains the idea that the Spirit sets us apart as something special (sanctifies) and as something belonging to God (a seal of ownership). Consider that “From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). The same idea is found in 1 Peter 1:2, where it says God’s elect are “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.” (See also Romans 15:16, “sanctified by the Holy Spirit”).
Paul says that “some of you” were once lost heathens. “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
So the Spirit makes us clean so we can be fully God’s. This idea of ownership is expressed through the metaphor of a seal. And belonging to God has benefits. Paul explains that “[God] anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). He goes on to say that “it is God who made us for this very purpose [of bodily resurrection] and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 5:5). “Having believed, you were marked in him (Christ) with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.” (Ephesians 1:13-14). Finally, another reference to the Spirit as a seal is Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
In other words, the presence of the indwelling Spirit is proof we belong to God and that God’s promises will ultimately be ours.
The indwelling Spirit is not inert! According to scripture, the Spirit affects your thoughts and feelings. And, from God’s perspective, the Spirit is his seal of ownership that sets you apart as one of his dear children.
I haven’t said much about these amazing passages, but I invite you to ruminate on them and turn them into prayers for your life. In the next installment, we’ll get into some more mysterious stuff and recap the whole study. God be with you until then!
Like this post? Share it! And read about what God’s indwelling Spirit does for you in my book, Heaven’s Muscle.
Bren Hughes (M.A., M.Div., J.D.) is a lawyer and former minister who lives in the hills of Kentucky.