Ten Turning Points: The Holy Spirit’s Work

From the series, Ten Turning Points That Make All the Difference

Of all the many things that could be said about the Holy Spirit’s work in the believer, there is one that I think covers them all. 1 Cor. 2:14-3:4 reads,

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

Paul is contrasting three types of people here. First there is the natural person who does not accept the things of the Spirit of God. This person is disconnected from God; he or she is simply a non-believer. Second he mentions the spiritual person. This person “judges all things,” or in other words, has good judgment or discernment concerning all things, by the mind of Christ in him or her. He or she is a maturing Christian, in close relationship with the Spirit of God. The third person of whom Paul speaks is the person “of the flesh.” Paul said this described the Corinthians. They were believers in Christ, but they were “behaving only in a human way…. being merely human.”

The point is not that there are exactly three categories of people in the world. What I want to dwell on here is that the Spirit of God came to lift Christians above being merely human.

This is, after all, the Spirit of God of whom we are speaking, whom Jesus said would come to be with us and dwell in us who believe. So Christians ought to be living as more than mere humans. We ought to be living as if God were in us, directing us and empowering us, for in fact he is there. We can reject his direction and refuse his empowerment, and as a result be persons of the flesh as the Corinthians were. But why would we want to do that?

The work of the Spirit in Christians is not ordinarily to make a spectacular scene, but to lead us on a path of maturing growth towards the fullness of what God wants us to be. His work results in things like harmony among believers, for one thing. Compare the factionalism that Paul was correcting among the fleshly Corinthians. It may seem a small thing for God to do, just getting people to get along with each other. It seems small, that is, until you’ve been around long enough to know how rare it is.

And it’s not a small thing after all when you consider how he brings people together. I will never forget being served Communion by a Vietnamese Christian in northern South Korea. It was an act of real unity with a former enemy of our country. I will never forget the joy of worship services I’ve attended in Leningrad, in Beijing, and Havana. All three of these were in enemy countries (to a greater or lesser degree) to the United States at the time I was there. This was the unity of the Spirit of God among us at work.

I have also seen the Spirit of God unite a fractured church of which I was (and still am, as of this writing) a member right here at home. I won’t go into the reasons for the fracture, except to say that when I’ve explained the situation to ministry and organizational experts, they’ve said something to the effect of, “your church survived all this?” The answer is yes, by God’s grace among us, through the work of the Spirit (and I might add also, a very strong commitment to following God’s word together).

I could run through a Scriptural list of all the other things the Spirit of God came to do: to seal our salvation, to give comfort and encouragement, to guide our prayers, to give power to our witness, and more than that. But what I really want to do is encourage you to pause and reflect on these simple fact (if you are a believer):

God is here. He is right here with me. He is in me. I don’t have to live as a mere human. I can grow beyond that by God’s grace and power through the Spirit.

How? In the first post I wrote on this topic, I linked to a video series that explains it in clear language, better than I could do. I have one more topic yet to add in a couple days (the link will not work until then): why don’t we see more evidence of the Spirit’s work in the world?