Lesson 21: The Practical Benefits of Union with Christ, Part 2 | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 21: The Practical Benefits of Union with Christ, Part 2

In Lesson Twenty, we studied three of the practical benefits of union with Christ, each of these the result of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the believer. [They were perseverance (the believer will continue in the faith), assurance (the believer is confident that he is saved), and sanctification (the believer progressively grows in godliness).] The Holy Spirit is the source of all practical benefits of union with Christ. The purpose of this lesson is to introduce you to the Bible’s teaching on the nature and work of the Holy Spirit and to examine some additional benefits the believer experiences as a result of His ministry. In this lesson, we will study:

1. The nature of the Holy Spirit [i.e. what the Holy Spirit is like]

2. The work of the Holy Spirit [ i.e. what the Holy Spirit does]

I. The Nature of the Holy Spirit

There are many misconceptions as to the nature of the Holy Spirit. Because of the teachings of some cults and Eastern religions, some have concluded that the Holy Spirit is simply a force or another word for the power of God.

[It’s not just cults and pagan religions who have done this. Some so-called Christian denominations deny the trinity (e.g., United Pentecostals). They teach modalism, that is, that God manifests Himself in 3 different ways. This is wrong. Unitarians began by denying the trinity, and are now more or less agnostics.]

The Bible, however, presents two very clear truths about the Holy Spirit’s nature:

A. The Holy Spirit is a person .

1. The Holy Spirit possesses the components of personality.

Lesson One identified three distinct components of personality: thinking (mind), acting (will), and feeling (emotion). The Bible indicates that the Holy Spirit possesses all three.

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit. – Romans 8:27

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.   1 Corinthians 12:11

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.   Ephesians 4:30

[Remember that the components of personality are intellect, emotion and will.]

2. The Holy Spirit is referred to with masculine personal pronouns.

The Holy Spirit is called “he,” not “it.”

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.   John 16:13

[In the KJV, the Holy Spirit is occasionally referred to as “it” (c.f. Rom 8:16). But this is because the Greek word pneuma is a neuter word, which means a pronoun modifying it must also be neuter, hence, “it.” Newer versions render the word “he.” ]

B. The Holy Spirit is God .

1. The Holy Spirit is closely associated with God.

Certain passages associate the Holy Spirit with God the Father and God the Son.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.   Matthew 28:19

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.   2 Corinthians 13:14 (See also 1 Peter 1:2.)

[In these verses the Holy Spirit is put on equal footing/status with God and Jesus.]

2. The Holy Spirit possesses the attributes of God.

Among these attributes are omnipresence (Psalm 139:7), omnipotence (Luke 1:35), and eternality (Hebrews 9:14).

3. The Holy Spirit is equated with God.

The Bible sometimes uses the words “God” and “Holy Spirit” interchangeably.

Then Peter said, “You have lied to the Holy Spirit . . . . You have not lied to men but to God.”   Acts 5:3 4

II. The Work of the Holy Spirit

A. The work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is not as fully developed in the Old Testament as in the New. This is due to the fact that the Old Testament emphasized the unity of God in order to counteract the tendency of the people to worship many gods (polytheism). [“poly” means “many.” There are a few indications of the Triunity of God in the OT; the NT is where this doctrine is fully expounded.] This does not mean, however, that there are no references to the Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament.

1. The Holy Spirit was active in Creation .

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters   Genesis 1:2

2. The Holy Spirit gave prophecies and Scripture .

For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.   2 Peter 1:21

3. The Holy Spirit enabled men to perform specific tasks.

The Old Testament frequently refers to the Spirit of God “coming” upon the leaders of Israel to enhance their ability to govern the nation. Since Israel was to be under God’s rule (a theocracy), theologians call this the “ theocratic

anointing .”

So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.   1 Samuel 16:13

[Note that David was already saved and indwelt (permanently reside within) by the Holy Spirit at this point. This was a special anointing of God for a certain job – to be king.

The Holy Spirit also enabled men to perform other tasks (Exodus 31:1-5).

4. The Holy Spirit was active in the salvation of men .

Old Testament revelation of the Holy Spirit’s work in salvation is sparse. Furthermore, the Old Testament often uses different words to describe salvation than those found in the New Testament. Nevertheless, the Bible indicates that the Holy Spirit was instrumental in the salvation of Old Testament believers in many of the same ways in which He is involved in our salvation today. He regenerated (John 3:3 10) [this context is still part of the OT dispensation], indwelt (Numbers 27:18), and guided (Psalm 143:10) the Old Testament believer.

Note: Some falsely conclude from David’s words in Psalm 51:11 (“Do not take your Holy Spirit from me.”) that the Holy Spirit did not permanently indwell the Old Testament believer. However, David’s concern is the loss of the Holy Spirit’s theocratic anointing, not the loss of His permanent indwelling.

[Some teach that the Holy Spirit came upon and then left OT believers rather than indwell them permanently as the NT teaches. We believe that He both regenerated and indwelt like He does today. It would be nearly impossible to explain the spirituality of the OT believer without regeneration and indwelling.]

B. The work of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christ

1. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”   Luke 1:34 35

2. Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit “came upon” Jesus at His baptism. This was the culmination of the Old Testament theocratic anointing, enabling Him to function as the perfect prophet, priest, and king.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.   Matthew3:16

3. Jesus ministered by the power of the Holy Spirit.

But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. – Matthew 12:28

C. The work of the Holy Spirit in the world

1. The Holy Spirit applies common grace .

The Holy Spirit limits the progress of sin in the world (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7) and extends God’s goodness to all men (Matthew 5:45).

[Remember what “common grace” is? It’s the fact that God does not allow man to be as sinful as he could be. God restrains sin and allows people do some measure of civic or cultural “good,” although this “good” is not meritorious. It’s common because it extends to all men in common.]

2. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin .

When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.   John 16:8

Note: This passage is the climax to a series of statements made by Christ concerning the work of the Holy Spirit through the apostles to produce Scripture. Thus, conviction occurs through the Word of God.

[Note that we tie a subjective, “feeling” type of thing to the Word of God. Conviction should lead to repentance of sin and a changed life, i.e., sanctification. So sanctification/spiritual growth is tied directly to access to the Word of God.

Also, conviction is specifically tied to sin and salvation. The Holy Spirit does not convict about decisions in general. I.e., we should not say that God convicted us about going to a certain college or marrying a certain person. E.g., “I really felt convicted that God wanted me to buy this car.”]

D. The work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the New Testament believer

Below are some additional benefits the Holy Spirit applies to the believer as a result of his union with Christ.

[These are the “practical benefits” mentioned in the title of the lesson.]

1. The Holy Spirit indwells believers.

Believers have a personal and permanent relationship with God through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. The Holy Spirit’s indwelling occurs at the moment of salvation and continues throughout the believer’s life.

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.   Romans 8:9

[God resides in the believer. Should we expect to “feel” the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit? No. How then do we know that He’s there? By faith. We believe what God said.]

2. The Holy Spirit illumines the believer’s mind.

The Holy Spirit teaches the believer the significance of Scripture. This means that He convinces us of our need to obey the Scriptures (see Lesson Six).

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit  just as it has taught you, remain in him.   1 John 2:20, 27

[We differentiate between the “meaning” and the “significance” of a text. Anyone who can use the language can get the meaning of a text. But only those who are saved can appreciate the significance of a text. Significance has to do with the application of the meaning. The Holy Spirit illuminates our minds to the significance of God’s word.]

Note: The above reference does not imply that one does not need to study the Bible for himself (2 Timothy 2:15) or be taught biblical truth by others (1 Timothy 3:2). The “anointing” mentioned above is a reference to the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination.

[The anointing is not some extra kick or jolt of power for soul-winning or preaching. It is the ability to understand and apply the Scripture to your life.]

3. The Holy Spirit enables believers to serve the church.

The Holy Spirit gives at least one spiritual gift to each believer for the purpose of ministry in the local church (1 Corinthians 12).

[There are lots of people today who want to exercise their gifts for the building up of the universal body of Christ. They kind of “free float” without any connection to a church, which is wrong. One is to exercise his gifts in the context of an organized group of believers, i.e., a church.]

Learning to Live It

1. A friend of yours tells you that ever since he trusted Christ he has been praying to receive the Holy Spirit. What should you tell him?

If he has trusted Christ, he already has the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9). One receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. One need not pray to receive him. If one does not have the Holy Spirit, he is not saved.

2. “Church is a human organization. I don’t need to be taught by men  I have the Holy Spirit to teach me.” What is wrong with such thinking?

1. The church is not essentially a human organization. Christ called it “my church.” 2. Christians are commanded to be a part of a local church and serve there. 3. As part of a church, one should be willing to be taught by others. Pastors are set over the flock to teach them. 4. It’s this kind of thinking that leads to heresies and cults. It’s a blatantly inaccurate statement in light of such verses as 1 Timothy 3:2

The Holy Spirit does teach us, but He uses the Word of God and the teaching of others as the means whereby He does so. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit’s job is to convince us of the significance of Scripture, not the meaning. It is our job to ascertain the meaning of Scripture via our personal Bible study and the teaching of others.

3. Some people teach that David’s prayer in Psalm 51:11 (“Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.”) is proof that one can lose his salvation. What is wrong with such an interpretation of this verse?

David is not speaking of losing the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, but of losing the Holy Spirit’s theocratic anointing. He is asking God not to do to him that which He did to his predecessor, Saul (1 Samuel 16:1, 13-14).

4. A pastor is leading his congregation into some debatable practices. When the deacons question some of his decisions, he responds by quoting 1 Chronicles 16:22 (“Do not touch my anointed ones.”). Does this verse teach that the pastor has a special anointing from God?

no, it refers to the king in the theocratic kingdom, not the church. Here is where it is necessary to make a clear distinction between Israel and the church..

Why were men in the Old Testament anointed by the Holy Spirit?

to enable them to lead the theocracy. Those serving in the offices of prophet, priest, or king were anointed.

Who was the last person to receive the theocratic anointing?



  1. M J Bailey says:

    Thanks! This is sound instruction concerning God's Holy Spirit in our lives. In addition to Romans 8:9 for question # 1, please consider also Ephesians 1:13. Thanks again for your labor of love.
    Because of Him,

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