The Holy Spirit’s Work In The Believer
By R. A. Torrey
“Power belongeth unto God” (Psa. 62:11). The Holy Spirit is the person who imparts to the individual believer the power that belongs to God. This is the Holy Spirit’s work in the believer, to take what belongs to God and make it ours. All the manifold power of God belongs to the children of God as their birthright in Christ: “All things are yours” (1 Cor. 3:21). But all that belongs to us as our birthright in Christ becomes ours in actual and experimental possession through the Holy Spirit’s work in us as individuals.
To the extent that we understand and claim for ourselves the Holy Spirit’s work, to that extent do we obtain for ourselves the fullness of power in Christian life and service that God has provided for us in Christ. Let us study the Word of God, to find out what the Holy Spirit has power to do in men.
1. “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. 12:3).
The Holy Spirit has power to reveal Jesus Christ and His glory to man. When Jesus spoke of the Spirit’s coming He said: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me” (John 15:26). It is only as He does testify of Christ that men will ever come to a true knowledge of Christ.
We will send men to the Word to get a knowledge of Christ, but it is only as the Holy Spirit takes the Word and illuminates it that men ever get a real living knowledge of Christ. If you wish men to see the truth about Jesus, do not depend upon your own powers of exposition and persuasion, but cast yourself upon the Holy Ghost and seek His testimony.
2. “When He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11).
The Holy Spirit has power to convict the world of sin. It is by showing Jesus and His glory and His righteousness, that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Note the sin of which the Holy Spirit convicts, “Of sin, because they believe not on Me.” You can never convict any man of sin because that is the work of the Holy Spirit. You can reason and reason, and you will fail. The Holy Spirit can do it very quickly.
But it is through us that the Spirit produces conviction. In John 16:7-8 we read: “I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” It is ours to preach the Word and to look to the Holy Spirit to produce conviction. (See Acts 2:4-37).
3. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).
The Holy Spirit has power to renew men or make men new, to regenerate. Regeneration is the Holy Spirit’s work. He can take a man dead in trespasses and sins, and make him alive. He can take the man whose mind is blind to the truth of God, whose will is at enmity with God and set on sin, whose affections are corrupt and vile, and transform that man, impart to him God’s nature, so that he thinks God’s thoughts, wills what God wills, loves what God loves, and hates what God hates.
It is through us that the Holy Spirit regenerates others (1 Cor. 4:15). No amount of preaching, no matter how orthodox it is, and no amount of mere study of the Word will regenerate, unless the Holy Spirit works. Just as we are utterly dependent on the work of Christ for us in justification, so we are utterly dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit in us in regeneration.
4. “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).
Compare the above verse with John 7:37-39. Water here means the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit then has the power to give abiding and everlasting satisfaction. The world can never satisfy. Of every worldly joy it must be said: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again.” But the Holy Spirit has power to satisfy every longing of the soul. The Holy Spirit and He alone can satisfy the human heart. If you give yourself up to the Holy Spirit’s inflowing or upspringing in your heart, you will never thirst. Oh, with what joy unutterable and satisfaction indescribable the Holy Spirit has poured forth His living water in many souls. Have you this living fountain within? Is the spring unchoked? Is it springing up into everlasting life?
5. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).
The Holy Spirit has power to set us free from the law of sin and death. We all know this law of sin and death. We have all been in bondage to it. Some of us are still in bondage to it, but we do not need to be. God has provided a way of escape. That way is by the Holy Spirit’s power. When we give up the hopeless struggle of trying to overcome the law of sin and death, of trying to live right in our strength, in the power of the flesh, and in utter helplessness surrender to the Holy Spirit to do all for us, when we live after Him and walk in His blessed power – then He sets us free from the law of sin and death.
There are many professed Christians today living in Romans 7. Some go so far as to maintain that this is the normal Christian life, that one must live this life of constant defeat. This would be true if we were left to ourselves, for in ourselves we are “carnal sold under sin.” But we are not left to ourselves. The Holy Spirit undertakes for us what we have failed to do ourselves (Rom. 8:2-4).
In Romans 8, we have the picture of the true Christian life, the life that is possible to us, and that God expects from each one of us, the life where not merely the commandment comes, as in chapter 7, but where the mighty Spirit comes also and works obedience and victory. The flesh is still in us, but we are not in the flesh. We do not live after it. We “live after the Spirit.” We, “through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13). We “walk after the Spirit,” and do “not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).
It is our privilege, in the Spirit’s power, to get daily, hourly, and constant victory over the flesh and over sin. But the victory is not in ourselves, not in any strength of our own. Left to ourselves, deserted of the Spirit of God, we would be as helpless as ever. It is all in the Spirit’s power.
Has the Holy Spirit set you free from the law of sin and death? Will you let Him do it now? Simply give up all self-effort to be free from “the law of sin and death,” to give up sinning. Believe in the divine power of the Holy Spirit to set you free, and cast yourself upon Him to do it. He will do it. Then you can triumphantly cry with Paul: “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom. 8:2).
6. “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16).
The Holy Spirit strengthens the believer with power in the inward man. The result of this strengthening is seen in verses 17-19. Here the power of the Spirit manifests itself not merely in giving us victory over sin, but (a) in Christ’s dwelling in our hearts; (b) our being “rooted and grounded in love;” (c) our being “made strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadths and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.” It all ultimates in our being “filled unto all the fullness of God.”
7. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). The Holy Spirit has power to lead us into a holy life, a life as “sons of God,” a Godlike life. Not merely does the Holy Spirit give us power to live a holy life, a life well pleasing to God when we have discovered what that life is: He takes us by the hand, as it were, and leads us into that life. Our whole part is to surrender ourselves utterly to Him to lead and to mold us. Those who do this are not merely God’s offspring, which all men are (Acts 17:28), neither are we merely God’s children. “These are sons of God.”
8. “The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16).
Note that Paul does not say that the Spirit bears witness to our spirit, but with it – “together with our spirit,” is the exact force of the words used. There are two who bear witness to our sonship: first, our spirit bears witness that we are children of God; second, the Holy Spirit bears witness together with our spirit that we are children of God.
How does the Holy Spirit bear His testimony to this fact? Galatians 4:6 answers this question: Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba Father.”
9. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).
The Holy Spirit brings forth in the believer Christlike graces of character. All real beauty of character, all real Christlikeness in us, is the Holy Spirit’s work. It is His “fruit.” He bears it, not we.
This life is not natural to us, and it is not attainable by any effort of “the flesh,” or nature. The life that is natural for us is set forth in the three preceding verses (19-21). But when the indwelling Spirit is given full control in the one He inhabits, when we are brought to realize the utter badness of the flesh, and give up in helpless despair of ever attaining to anything really good in its power, when we come to the end of ourself and give over the whole work of making us what we ought to be to the indwelling Holy Spirit – then these holy graces of character are His “fruit.” This is “sanctification of the Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Thes. 2:13).
10. “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall guide you into all truth; for He shall not speak from Himself; but what things soever He shall hear, these shall He speak: and He shall declare unto you the things that are to come” (John 16:13).
The Holy Spirit has power to guide the believer “into all truth.” No amount of mere human teaching, no matter who our teachers may be, will give us a correct apprehension of the truth. Not even a diligent study of the Word, either in the English or the original languages, will give us a real understanding of the truth. We must be taught of the Holy Spirit. And we may be thus taught – each one of us.
11. “But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you” (John 14:26).
The Holy Spirit has power to bring to remembrance the words of Christ. This promise was made primarily to the apostles, and is the guarantee of the accuracy of their report of what Jesus said. But the Holy Spirit does a similar work with each believer who expects it of Him and looks to Him to do it. He brings to mind the teachings of Christ, and the words of Christ, just when we need them, for either the necessities of our own life or of our service.
12. “But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yeah, the deep things of God. For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God. But we received, not the spirit of the world but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged” (1 Cor. 2:10-14).
In these verses we have a twofold work of the Spirit: (a) The Holy Spirit reveals to us the deep things of God, which are hidden from and foolishness to the natural man. It is pre-eminently to the apostles that He does this, but we cannot limit this work of the Spirit to them; (b) The Holy Spirit interprets His own revelation, or imparts power to discern, know and appreciate what He has taught.
Not only is the Holy Spirit the author of Revelation – the written Word of God. He is also the interpreter of what He has revealed. How much more interesting and helpful any deep book becomes when we have the author of the book right at hand to interpret it to us! This is what we always may have when we study the Bible. The author – the Holy Spirit – is right at hand to interpret.
To understand the book we must look to Him. Then the darkest places become clear. We need to pray often with the Psalmist, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law” (Psa. 119:18).
It is not enough that we have the objective revelation in the written Word; we must also have the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit to enable us to comprehend it. It is a great mistake to try to comprehend a spiritual revelation with the natural understanding. It is the foolish attempt to do this that has landed so many in the bog of the higher criticism.
To understand God’s Word we must empty ourselves utterly of our own wisdom, and rest in utter dependence upon the Spirit of God to interpret it to us (Matt. 11:25). When we put away our own righteousness, then, and only then, we get the righteousness of God (Phil. 3:4-7, 9; Rom. 10:3). When we put away our own wisdom, then, and only then, we get the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 3:18; Matt. 11:25; 1 Cor. 1:25-28).
13. “I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:1-5).
The Holy Spirit enables the believer to communicate to others in “power” the truth he himself has been taught. We not only need the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth in the first place and in the second place, to interpret to us as individuals the truth He has revealed, but in the third place we also need the Holy Spirit to enable us to effectually communicate to others the truth He Himself has interpreted to us. We need Him all along the line.
One great cause of real failure in the ministry, even when there is seeming success, and not only in the ministry but in all forms of service by Christian men and women, is from the attempt to teach by “inciting words of man’s wisdom,” that is, by the arts of human logic, rhetoric or eloquence, what the Holy Spirit has taught us. What is needed is Holy Ghost power, “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
We need, we are absolutely dependent upon, the Holy Spirit all along the line. He must teach us how to speak as well as what to speak. He must be the power as well as the message.
14. “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20).
The Holy Spirit guides the believer in prayer. The disciples did not know how to pray as they ought so they came to Jesus, and said: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). “We know not how to pray as we ought,” but we have another Helper at hand to help us. “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmity” (Rom. 8:26). He teaches us to pray.
True prayer is prayer “in the Spirit,” that is, the prayer which the Spirit inspires and directs. When we come into God’s presence to pray, we should recognize our infirmity, our ignorance of what we should pray for or how we should pray, and in the consciousness of our utter inability to pray aright, look up to the Holy Spirit and cast ourselves utterly upon Him to direct our prayers, to lead out our desires, and to guide our utterance of them.
We must wait for the Holy Spirit, and surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit. The prayer that God the Holy Spirit inspires is the prayer that God the Father answers. From Romans 8:26-27 we learn that the longings which the Holy Spirit begets in our hearts are often too deep for utterance, too deep for clear and definite comprehension on the part of the believer himself in whom the Holy Spirit is working.
God Himself must “search the heart,” to know “what is the mind of the Spirit” in these unuttered and unutterable longings. But God does know “what is the mind of the Spirit.” He does know what those Spirit-given longings mean, even if we do not, and these longings are “according to the will of God,” and He grants them. So it comes that He is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20).
15. “Be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:18-20).
Not only does the Spirit teach us to pray, He also teaches us to render thanks. One of the most prominent characteristics of the Spirit-filled life is thanksgiving.
16. “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).
Prayer is not worship, thanksgiving is not worship. Worship is a definite act of the creature in relation to God. Worship is bowing before God in adoring acknowledgement and contemplation of Himself. Someone has said, “In our prayers we are taken up with our needs, in our thanksgivings we are taken up with our blessings, in our worship we are taken up with Himself.” There is no true and acceptable worship except that which the Holy Spirit prompts and directs.
To worship aright we must “have no confidence in the flesh.” We must recognize the utter inability of the flesh, that is, our natural self as contrasted with the divine Spirit who dwells in and should mold everything in the believer, to worship acceptably. In utter self-distrust and self-abnegation, we must cast ourselves upon the Holy Spirit to lead us aright in our worship.
17. “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed into Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus” (Acts 13:2-4).
The Holy Spirit calls men and sends them forth to definite lines of work. How shall we receive the Holy Spirit’s call? By desiring it, seeking it, waiting upon the Lord for it, and expecting it. God speaks often in a still small voice. Only the listening ear can catch it. Have you definitely offered yourself to God to send you where He will?
18. “And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot” (Acts 8:27-29).
The Holy Spirit guides in the details of daily life and service, as to where to go and where not to go, what to do and what not to do. It is possible for us to have the unerring guidance of the Holy Spirit at every turn in our lives.
Here are five steps to getting guidance: First, we must be conscious of and fully admit our own inability to decide wisely. Second, we must desire to know God’s way, and be willing to do God’s will. Third, we must ask, definitely ask guidance. Fourth, we must confidently expect guidance. Fifth, we must follow step by step as the guidance comes.
19. “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).
The Holy Spirit has power to give us boldness in testimony for Christ.
Two things are manifest from what has been said about the power of the Holy Spirit in the believer. First, how utterly dependent we are upon the Holy Spirit at every turn of Christian life and service. Second, how perfect is the provision for life and service that God has made, and what the fullness of privilege that is open to the humblest believer, through the Holy Spirit’s work. It is not so much what we are by nature that is important, but what the Holy Spirit can do for us, and what we will let Him do.
Christian life is not to be lived in the realm of natural temperament, and Christian work is not to be done in the power of natural endowment; but Christian life is to be lived in the realm of the Spirit, and Christian work is to be done in the power of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit is eagerly desirous to do for each of us His whole work. He will do for each of us all we will let Him do.
– From How To Find Fullness Of Power In Christian Life And Service by R. A. Torrey.