The Holy Spirit: Working Behind the Scenes

Lesson 2 *January 7–13

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Ezek. 37:5, 9; Gen. 1:2; Job 26:13; Exod. 31:1–5; John 16:13, 14; Gal. 5:16–23.

Memory Text: “ ‘He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you’ ” (John 16:14, NKJV).

The Holy Spirit does not receive the same prominent attention in Scripture as do the Father and the Son. Nevertheless, the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit was present at significant moments throughout sacred history. At the beginning, at God’s creation of this world, He was at work, but more in the background. He was active in the inspiration of God’s prophets, thus playing a key role in the writing of God’s Word. He was also involved with the conception of Jesus Christ in Mary’s womb.

Yet, He is not at the center of the biblical record, and we know amazingly little about Him. He remains in the background, and that’s because His role is to advance the work of Someone else in the Godhead—Jesus, the Son of God—and to give glory to God the Father. All this so that fallen human beings might be saved from the eternal death that sin would otherwise bring them.

From the testimony of Scripture, we learn that the Holy Spirit willingly and gracefully accepts a supporting, helping, sustaining, and equipping behind-the-scenes role. No matter whether it is in creation or redemption or mission, He does not seek to stand in the spotlight, regardless of His crucial role.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 14.

Sunday January 8

The Elusiveness of the Holy Spirit

Read John 3:3–8 and Ezekiel 37:5, 9. Why is the wind a fitting picture for the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit?

By comparing the Holy Spirit’s actions to that of the wind, Jesus describes the Spirit’s elusiveness. The movements of the wind have something mysterious about them. It is difficult to predict with exactness where the wind comes from and where the wind is going. Who hasn’t at times been baffled by the sudden appearance of wind, seemingly out of nowhere?

Yet, we can learn to become somewhat familiar with the movements and patterns of the wind. In a similar manner, the Holy Spirit is active where He wills. No one can control Him. Yet, we can know where He is active and at work. Just like the wind, the Holy Spirit is invisible but can be most powerful. We, of course, can feel the presence of the wind and can often see its effect, even if we can’t see the wind itself. From a light breeze to deadly blasts, wind can be a very powerful force. When the Holy Spirit is described as wind, His activity has been connected with the idea of bringing life to the dead. This assumes power to the highest potency, something that only God is capable of doing.

How this is accomplished remains a mystery. God and His workings through the Holy Spirit are greater than what we can fully comprehend, as are so many things both secular and sacred.

This does not mean that we cannot know what the Holy Spirit accomplishes. But we have to acknowledge that the appropriate virtue in dealing with divine mysteries is humility. Humility appreciates the grandeur of God, recognizes our creaturely limitations, and accepts our need for divine revelation.

Ellen G. White has aptly stated: “The mysteries of the Bible, so far from being an argument against it, are among the strongest evidences of its divine inspiration. If it contained no account of God but that which we could comprehend; if His greatness and majesty could be grasped by finite minds, then the Bible would not, as now, bear the unmistakable evidences of divinity.”—Ellen G. White, Education, p. 170.

What are some unseen forces in nature that can impact our lives? What should this teach us about the reality of unseen yet powerful influences in our world?

Monday January 9

The Holy Spirit at Creation

The first major work of God on this planet was its Creation. The Bible clearly mentions God (Gen. 1:1) and Jesus Christ (Col. 1:16, 17) as the Creator of heaven and earth and of all that, in fact, was made (John 1:1–3). Yet, the Bible also mentions the presence of the Holy Spirit in the work of Creation.

Read Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13; 33:4; Psalms 33:6; 104:29, 30. What was the role of the Holy Spirit at Creation? How is the Spirit of God related to the creation of life?

The Creation story in Genesis 1:2 mentions the presence of God’s Spirit at Creation. Job 26:13; 33:4; Psalm 104:29, 30; and Psalm 33:6 support the active role of the Holy Spirit in the supernatural Creation of the earth. While the Bible clearly mentions God the Father and His divine Son, Jesus Christ, as being active in the Creation of the world (see Isa. 64:8; Col. 1:16, 17), the Holy Spirit is present also, although in a more subtle manner.

He does not appear as the central actor in the Creation story. Instead, He is “hovering” over the void, and through His moving He is present at the genesis of life on this earth. The Hebrew word for “moving over,” or “hovering” (merahepeth) over, the surface of the earth that is used in Genesis 1:2 is the same word that is used in Deuteronomy 32:11, where God is compared to an eagle hovering over its nest of young. The Holy Spirit is intimately involved in the creation of life on this earth and takes care of the newly created living beings as an eagle would do for its young. Psalm 104:30 suggests that the Creation act was possible only through the work of the Holy Spirit and that He played an active part during this process.

The Holy Spirit was not only present at the Creation of this world; He is also active in the process of our re-creation, in which He gives us a new heart and new mind. How are both of these activities related? What does the Sabbath tell us about this work of Creation and re-creation?

Tuesday January 10

The Holy Spirit and the Sanctuary

“And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Exod. 25:8).

After the act of Creation, God’s plan of salvation is of prime importance in the Bible. In a fallen world, what good would Creation be without the plan of Redemption? As sinners, we need not just a Creator but also a Redeemer. How thankful we should be that we have that Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Without Him, we would be without hope in a world that, in and of itself, offers us none.

In the Old Testament it was the sanctuary and its service that illustrated God’s forgiveness of sin and foreshadowed the work of Jesus, our Redeemer. It was here that the plan of salvation was revealed to the ancient Israelites (see Heb. 4:2). While much of the sanctuary service pointed to Jesus and His death for the forgiveness of sin, the Holy Spirit is depicted as being actively involved by enabling specific people to build the sanctuary according to the pattern God had revealed to Moses.

Read Exodus 31:1–5. How was the Holy Spirit involved in the building of the sanctuary? How did the Holy Spirit assist those who constructed God’s dwelling place?

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit was also present at the building of the sanctuary, the central place where reconciliation between God and human beings took place and a holy God met sinners. It was God who communicated to Moses His plan to build the earthly sanctuary according to the heavenly original (Exod. 25:9, 40).

The sanctuary was God’s model to illustrate His plan of salvation. God was going to dwell amid His people in a special way, and He was going to do it in the sanctuary, which He told them to build. And it was the work of the Holy Spirit to enable human beings to accomplish,with artistic skill and with beauty, what God had told them to do. Without His help, Israel would not have been able to accomplish this artistic craftsmanship.

Considering the power of the Holy Spirit, He certainly didn’t need human help in building the sanctuary, but He enabled other people to do it with skill and beauty. How and where can you encourage and assist other people to use their talents to further the kingdom of God to God’s glory?

Wednesday January 11

The Holy Spirit in Glorifying Jesus Christ

The Holy Spirit was active during Old Testament times, although it does not appear that His work was as extensive as it was in the New Testament era. With the coming of Jesus, the promised Messiah, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is intensified, and He gives His gifts to all believers. While the New Testament tells us that the Holy Spirit is active in many different ways in our spiritual lives and in the life of the church, His most important work is to glorify Jesus Christ.

Read John 16:13, 14 and John 15:26. What does Jesus say is the work of the Holy Spirit? How is all other work of the Holy Spirit related to this central work?

Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit speaks not of Himself but of Jesus. His work consists in elevating the redemptive work of Jesus. He keeps Himself in the background and puts the floodlight on Jesus. It has been aptly said that “the Spirit’s message to us is never ‘Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me’ but always ‘Look at Him, and see His glory; listen to Him, and hear His word; go to Him, and have life; get to know Him, and taste His gift of joy and peace.’ The Spirit, we might say, is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker, whose role it is to bring us and Christ together and ensure that we stay together.”—J. I. Packer, Keep in Step With the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk With God, revised and enlarged edition (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2005), pp. 57, 58.

This is highly significant. Any emphasis upon the work of the Holy Spirit that detracts from the Person and work of Jesus Christ is not from the Holy Spirit. As important as the Holy Spirit is for our spiritual lives, He should never take the place that is due in our thinking and for our salvation only to Jesus Christ. Wherever Jesus is exalted, the Holy Spirit is at work. This is why we are called Christians—that is, followers of Christ (compare with Acts 11:26)—rather than “Pneumians,” that is, followers of the Spirit (see Graham A. Cole, He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit [Wheaton, Ill.: Crossways Books, 2007], p. 284).

Why is it so important for us to uplift the risen Lord in all that we do? After all, think about what Jesus has done for us. We owe everything to Him. How can we show our gratitude (see, for instance, 2 Thess. 1:11, 12)?

Thursday January 12

The Holy Spirit and Christ

The Holy Spirit effected the incarnation of Jesus (Luke 1:34, 35). He anointed Jesus for His mission (Luke 3:21, 22). The anointing of Jesus endued Him with power to fulfill His Messianic mission and qualified Him to bestow the Holy Spirit on His disciples. The Holy Spirit guided and sustained Jesus in His temptations (Mark 1:12; Matt. 4:1; Luke 4:1, 2, 14) so that Jesus “is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:18, NKJV; compare with 4:15, 16). The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus for this redemptive work (Heb. 9:14) and made Jesus’ resurrection possible (1 Pet. 3:18). In all this, the Holy Spirit remained in the background and helped to bring Jesus Christ to prominence.

Read Luke 24:44–49; Galatians 5:16–23; and Ephesians 4:23, 24. What do we learn about the work of the Holy Spirit in these passages? How does the Holy Spirit glorify Jesus?

The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus in at least the following ways:

  1. By teaching about Him in the Holy Scriptures in a trustworthy and reliable manner. Nothing that is necessary for us to know about Christ and His salvation is missing or misleading. It’s all there in the Word of God, if we would but read it in faith and submission.
  2. By drawing men and women into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit gently works on people’s hearts and minds. He gives them understanding so that they understand spiritual things and so that they will be willing to place their trust in Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Leader and Redeemer.
  3. By reproducing Christ’s character in us. He thus brings to life Christlike virtues in our lives (Gal. 5:22, 23). Through the blood of Jesus we are given victory over sin (compare Rev. 12:11), and the Holy Spirit enables us to walk in faithfulness to God’s commandments.
  4. By enabling us to live a Christlike, selfless, and loving life of service to others. He calls men and women into specific lines of work for God and enables us to reach out to others in the attractive Spirit of Christ.

How does the work of reproducing the character of Christ in our lives bring glory to the Father?

Friday January 13

Further Thought: No question, the work of the Holy Spirit is crucial to our walk with the Lord. Again, we might not be able to see Him work, but we can see the effect of His work in our lives and in the lives of others. If your life has been changed through faith in Jesus, it has been changed only through the work of the Holy Spirit in it. “While the wind is itself invisible, it produces effects that are seen and felt. So the work of the Spirit upon the soul will reveal itself in every act of him who has felt its saving power. When the Spirit of God takes possession of the heart, it transforms the life. Sinful thoughts are put away, evil deeds are renounced; love, humility, and peace take the place of anger, envy, and strife. Joy takes the place of sadness, and the countenance reflects the light of heaven.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 173.

These are wonderful promises, and an untold number of lives have shown just how real they are. But the work of the Holy Spirit is not instantaneous. We don’t automatically become the kind of people we ought to be. A life of faith and submission to the Lord is a life of struggle, of surrender, and of repentance when we fail. The Holy Spirit is the Divine Agent that works in our lives to make us new creatures in Christ. This is, though, the work of a lifetime. Although our faults and weaknesses should spur us on to a greater surrender to our Lord, we must not let the devil use them to discourage us in our Christian life, which he is always eager to do. When taunted by our sins, we must always remember the death of Jesus on behalf of sinners. It’s precisely because we are what we are—sinners in need of grace—that Jesus died for us and gives us that grace.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  What can the Holy Spirit’s example teach you about ministering from behind the scenes? That is, doing the work of the Lord in a manner that many people don’t know about, see, or even appreciate?

  2.  How does the Holy Spirit elevate Jesus and put Him into focus? How can you elevate Jesus without putting yourself at the center of attention? Why is that sometimes so hard to do? How can we fight the natural inclination to self-promotion?