The previous blog post dealt with the question: Who is the Holy Spirit? We concluded by saying that the Holy Spirit is the dynastic successor of Jesus Christ. Where Jesus guided, trained, and commissioned the disciples , the Holy Spirit now guides, trains, and empowers the Church. We learned from John 14:16 that the Holy Spirit is the parakletos that Jesus was referring to. He is the “one who is called to another's side to aid him, as an advocate in a court of justice, a helper, a councilor”. Also, we pointed out the word “another” referred to “one of the same kind”. In summary, the Holy Ghost is the 3rd person of the Holy Trinity who leads the Church, just as Jesus led the disciples.
Now that we have reviewed WHO HE IS, let’s move forward. Let’s take a look at WHAT HE DOES.
In essence, this question involves uncovering the basics of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I agree that the ministry of the Spirit is multifaceted. However, to build a house, we must start with the foundation. If we were to boil the work of the Spirit down to a simple definition, what would it be? In order to arrive at the lowest common denominator where the ministry of the Spirit is concerned, we can’t include every single thing the Word says concerning the Spirit. We can’t include the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit and the conviction of the Spirit and things of such nature. The truth be told, these are not the basic ministries of the Spirit, they are the EFFECTS or the RESULTS of the Spirit’s ministry in the life of a Christian. The Church tends to maximize the effects of the Spirit, and miss the fundamental purpose behind WHAT HE IS DOING. When we live in the effects, and miss the point, we end up existing in extremes, as was stated earlier. So then, our purpose now is to arrive at a simple and straight forward definition of the basic ministry of the Holy Spirit.
With this in mind, turn in your Bible to the book of Galatians. Paul’s letter to the Galatian church is a detailed examination of the spiritual direction that the church had taken. Paul teaches that Christians must order their lives in such a way that the Holy Spirit’s ministry remains fully active and completely effective. When Paul left the churches of Galatia to continue his ministry elsewhere, they were a thriving, functioning, ministering body of Christ. However, sometime later, Paul received word that these churches had strayed from the true Gospel of Grace, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and began following the gospel of a group of false teachers that Paul called Judaizers. The gospel of the Judaizers, which was no gospel at all, was based in the Jewish faith. They taught that a gentile could come to Christ, but they must become a Jew first. In other words, they could come to the cross, but they had to come through the gateway of Judaism. The Judaizers were attempting to convince the Galatian believers that they needed to obey the Old Testament laws, keep the Old Testament festival days, keep the Old Testament Sabbath, and if they were male, they must be circumcised. After a Gentile became a Jew, then they could continue into Christianity. This line of thinking was in direct opposition to the Gospel of Grace through Faith that Paul had preached to the Galatians.
When Paul realized what was happening he became distraught over the spiritual condition that the Galatian believers had fallen into, and at the same time, he became incensed over the crafty misdirection and false guidance of the Judaizers. In the book of Galatians, Paul is pleading with the Galatians to recall where they came from, and what set them free to begin with. He spends time teaching them about grace and law and re-teaching them about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, which had been halted in a drastic way due to the path the Galatian church had chosen to follow. With this in mind, let us turn our attention to one particular verse that will help us formulate the beginnings of a definition of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 4:19 says:My little children, for whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
The phrase “my little children” is not one of condescension. Paul is not calling them childish or immature. Instead, this is a term of endearment. It is better translated “my born ones”. Here, Paul is revealing his heart where the believers in Galatia are concerned. When Paul looks at them, it’s as if he is looking at his own children. This parent/child theme is carried over into the next phrase of verse 19… ”for whom I travail in birth again”. Paul is painting the picture that these groups of believers are in effect his own spiritual children that he both birthed and raised in the faith. Most of us have some level of understanding when it comes to the pain and labor of child birth. There is a very obvious reason why this process isn’t called “leisure”…no, it’s called “labor”…and that is an understatement, if you ask me. These are passionate words the great apostle is using. He is in effect saying that he had already gone through the travail of birthing them into the kingdom before, and now he was in agony over the prospect of having to go through this arduous task again. It is important that the emotional and spiritual connection between Paul and his “born ones” be understood, for in the proceeding 6 words of verse 19 Paul will elaborate on why he is so distraught.
I realize that when you read this simple verse, you see no references to the Holy Spirit, or His ministry. On the surface, this is true. However, if you will take the time to digest the following paragraphs, I believe you will find there is more to this verse than meets the eye. So put your thinking cap on….we are about to speak in Greek!!
The words “be formed” are very important and deserve some fleshing out. First of all, the Greek language is much more descriptive than our English. In verse 19, “be formed” is better translated…to give an outward expression of one’s inward character. In other words, to let the thing on the inside be seen on the outside. For our study, I will replace “be formed” with “be expressed outwardly”. So our verse would read…”until Christ be expressed outwardly in you”.
Now, allow me to illustrate this so that it becomes clear. Tiger Woods is arguably the greatest golfer of this generation. Whether you are a golf fan or not, it would be interesting to watch Tiger Woods give an exhibition of his golfing skills. Personally, I would enjoy observing anyone who is considered the best performer in their craft. So, if you and I were allowed a private moment to watch Tiger Woods hit golf balls, the following conversation might take place…
ME: Whoa! Did you see how far that ball flew?
YOU: Amazing, and he makes it look so easy.
ME: He can practically make the ball land exactly where he wants too, I’m jealous!
YOU: Okay, be quiet, here comes another swing.
ME: Wow, he has amazing form.
Amazing form…we all know what that means. When we observe an athlete or dancer or performer at the top of their craft, we say they have good form. This is pointing to the idea that all the skill and training and understanding and talent and drive that is bottled up inside them, is expressed outwardly in a precise, articulated motion. What is on the inside is expressed on the outside…good form. Okay, you got it? This is the point Paul is making to the Galatians. Due to their leaving the Gospel of Christ to follow the gospel of the Judaizers, Jesus was no longer being expressed outwardly from them. They were saved; Paul had seen to that when he was leading them in person. They had Jesus on the inside, but he was no longer being expressed on the outside. This fact was grieving the heart of the great apostle, and no doubt the heart of God also.
Now, let’s go deeper into this verse, it’s about to get a bit technical, but I’ll explain so don’t tune this part out…here’s where the Holy Spirit comes into play.
In the Greek language, the word “formed” is written in a grammatical type called the PASSIVE VOICE. When a word is written in the PASSIVE VOICE, we must identify the subject of the verb. Let’s look at our verse again and identify the subject of the verb “formed”
”until Christ be formed in you.”
The verb is formed…so what is the subject of our verb? If you said Christ, you are absolutely right. Christ is the subject of the verb formed.
Okay, when a verb is written in the PASSIVE VOICE, the subject of the verb is identified as PASSIVE or INACTIVE. In other words, THE SUBJECT DOES NOT PERFORM THE ACTION. This means that Christ is the one being expressed outwardly; however, Christ is not the one performing the expressing. Christ is passive, He is not expressing Himself. So, the obvious question that a good Bible student would ask at this point might be…“if Christ is not expressing Himself…then who is expressing Him?”
And the correct answer is????? THE HOLY SPIRIT!!!!!
Great! So we have built an expanded translation of Galatians 4:19. Let’s put it all together…
My born ones, concerning whom I am again striving with intense effort like unto child birth, until the Holy Spirit outwardly express Christ in you again.
This is a great revelation that points to a foundational aspect of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Let’s put it bluntly, what is the Holy Spirit’s job? To outwardly express Christ through you!!! When the Holy Spirit is free to perform His work in your life, Jesus Christ will be expressed out of you like a great spot light shooting out of your heart, into a darkened world. However, the inverse is also true. If the Holy Spirit is not given this freedom, Christ cannot be expressed out of you. Evidently, this is what happened to the Galatian church. They had “quenched the Spirit”, they had “frustrated the Spirit”, and to the outside world, Jesus was no longer being seen through them.
I spoke earlier of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul also teaches about in the book of Galatians (5:22-23). Now we can draw a direct line between the true ministry of the Spirit and the results that abound when that ministry is being carried out. If the Spirit is free to work, then the fruit of the Spirit is evident. What is the fruit of the Spirit? It can easily be said that the fruit of the Spirit is the characteristics of Jesus Christ that is being expressed outwardly from the believer. If this is not taking place in a believer’s life, the only alternative is that the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) are manifested through the life of the Christian. This was the case with the Galatian church, and this is the case with all believers that do not allow the Holy Spirit to perform His work. Christ is no longer expressed and the flesh is. When this is taking place, to the on looking world, we no longer look like a child of God…instead we look like a child of the World.
Ok, take a deep breath. That’s a lot of teaching. But through it, we have begun to develop a definition of the true ministry of the Holy Spirit. WHAT DOES HE DO?: the Holy Spirit expresses Christ through you. In the next installment, we are going to continue building this definition. We are going to expand a step further on the question...WHAT DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT DO?