If someone asked you to teach your church about the Holy Spirit, where would you go in the Bible? And when was the last time you taught, or were taught, about the work of the Holy Spirit?
I’ve spent the last two weeks preaching Ezekiel 36 and then Ezekiel 37 for the morning congregation at St Matthias. If you wanted to preach about the work of God’s Spirit, you could do much worse than these passages. Here is a list of key observations about the work of the Spirit from these chapters (plus some helpful New Testament cross references):
- God promises to send his Spirit because of the problem of hard-heartedness and sin. The Spirit comes to transform people to live in obedience (Ezek 36:22-27; cf. Rom 8:12-14; Gal 5:16-26). He is not called the Holy Spirit for nothing!
- God sends the Holy Spirit for the sake of his glory, not for our self-glorification (Ezek 36:22-23; cf. John 16:12-15; 1 Cor 12:3). There’s a great rebuke here about the unimportance of our giftedness and the significance of Christ.
- The effect of the Spirit’s work is to see your own sin like you’ve never seen it before. So if you feel saddened by your sin, give thanks for the work of God’s Spirit in you (Ezek 36:31-32). This is a profoundly helpful pastoral insight.
- The Spirit and the word work together to give life to the dead (Ezek 37:4-5, 9-10). The New Testament tells us that this involves both spiritual life now (Eph 2:1-10) and the promise of future bodily resurrection (Rom 6:5, 8:11).
One final step: if the Old Testament promises are fulfilled in Jesus and then in us (which is probably a subject for another post some time), then we would expect to see God fulfil this stuff in Jesus before he fulfils it in us. What do we learn about Jesus and the Spirit in the New Testament? Mary conceives her famous son by the work of the Spirit (Luke 1:34-38), the Spirit comes upon Jesus at his baptism (Luke 3:21-22), the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness (Luke 4:1), the Spirit brings Jesus back to preach (Luke 4:14-15), Jesus offers himself unto death by the work of the Spirit (Heb 9:14), the Spirit is involved in raising Jesus from the dead (Rom 1:3-4; cf. 8:11), and then the risen Jesus pours out the Spirit on us (Acts 2).
The work of God’s Holy Spirit is to bring us to Jesus, to change us to live for his glory and to bring us the promise of final resurrection. There’s more than enough for a couple of sermons, I reckon. But more importantly, all this is a cause for great repentance and joy.