Early in my service as a minister, I visited a man who outwardly had every appearance of becoming a solid member of the Church. However, he very quickly let me know that he wanted to be baptized so that he could receive the Holy Spirit and be able to speak in tongues. In counseling with him, I tried to help him understand that the role of the Holy Spirit was so much more than just speaking in tongues. Many mistakenly think of speaking in tongues as the primary or even sole external sign of the Holy Spirit, just as it was displayed on the day of Pentecost in 31ad (see Acts 2).
The principal instruction about the Holy Spirit, however, was given by Jesus Christ at the Passover, reinforcing what He had stated months earlier on the preceding Last Great Day (John 7:37–39). As He sat at dinner with the disciples at their last Passover together, with just over 50 days remaining until Pentecost, Jesus made a promise to those with Him:
“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that [it] may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, [which] the world cannot receive, because it neither sees [it] nor knows [it]; but you know [it], for [it] dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:15–18).
Later at the meal, Jesus reiterated this promise:
“But when the Helper comes… I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth [that] proceeds from the Father, [it] will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26–27).
With these words, Jesus encapsulated for His disciples the necessity of the Holy Spirit and the impact it would have on their lives—and by extension on ours. Jesus goes on in chapter 16 to set out a number of reasons for the giving of the Spirit. These include “convict[ing] the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (v. 9)—of sin, “because they do not believe in Me” (v. 10) of righteousness, “because I go to My Father and you see Me no more” (v. 11) and of judgment, “because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:8–11). Furthermore, the Spirit would “guide you into all truth; for [it] will not speak on [its] own authority, but whatever [it] hears [it] will speak; and [it] will tell you things to come. [It] will glorify Me, for [it] will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (vv. 13–14).
So, having considered this instruction about the Holy Spirit, we can look at how this affects us. Based on what Jesus stated to the disciples, let us consider seven reasons why we need the Holy Spirit.
1. To Develop Christian Relationships
Jesus promised that His disciples would not be left as orphans. Orphans are defined as children who do not have parents; no matter how kind and caring others may be toward them, they lack that parental relationship. We are offered a relationship with Jesus Christ through the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is a relationship that is far greater than that of an orphan somehow regaining a lost parent.
The need for the Holy Spirit to be present abundantly in our lives is given in terms of one of the most intimate relationships possible—marriage. Marriage is a different metaphor than that used by Jesus at the Passover. There we were told that we would not be left as orphans. Now the relationship is deeper as we prepare to be part of the bride of Christ at His return. What is essential? The Holy Spirit. Without it, the door is shut and we have no part. We are left like orphans—outside, alone (Matthew 25:11–13).
The parable of the ten virgins, representing the Church, focuses on our preparedness for the coming of the Bridegroom. The supply of oil in our possession shows our state of preparation! Oil is one of the symbols used to describe the Holy Spirit. It was used for anointing and setting apart from this evil world. It was an essential element for the operation of the Tabernacle and the Temple. It was needed for the offerings, lamps or menorah, and anointing of the priests and kings. Isaiah saw the latter function as being a sign of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 61:1).
Prior to the return of Jesus as the Bridegroom, the Holy Spirit forms a vital function in building Christian relationships. Jesus was able to read from the prophets in the synagogue at Nazareth, possibly on a day of Pentecost. He read from a text in Isaiah noting: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18).
Preaching the Gospel in a Christ-like manner is enabled because of the Holy Spirit with the end results of helping people be healed of their fractured relationships with our Father in Heaven. In reading Isaiah, Jesus was focusing on the use of oil as a light in the Temple. The Holy Place was dark. The absence of windows or open doors prevented the Holy Place being lit by natural daylight. The menorah or candlestick was the only form of light in that darkness. God’s Church is to be that light in this dark world. The return of Jesus Christ—the bridegroom—is set at midnight, a time of darkness. We with our lamps fueled by the Holy Spirit of God are the light.
Notice how Jesus referenced this at the beginning of His ministry:
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14–16).
In Matthew 25:13, the watching we are enjoined to do is linked to our own spiritual condition. Do we have our Father’s Holy Spirit? Are we using it in an appropriate manner? The next question then is: do we have enough? Will we be part of that most joyous occasion?
2. To Take on the Mind of Christ
The apostles were empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel, starting in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. They understood their roles as witnesses to the death and resurrection of the Christ, but realized that something was required of them in return; they had to obey. Note Peter’s comment to the Sanhedrin shortly after the day of Pentecost: “And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32). Peter clearly remembered the instruction that Jesus had given at that last Passover. Obedience was a condition for receiving the Holy Spirit (John 14:15–16). That enabled them to be witnesses (John 15:27). However, the obedience was not just blind obedience. It was to accomplish a purpose—to take on the very mind and thinking of the Being who gave the Spirit.
John recorded in his first epistle a priority for us as followers of Jesus Christ. We are to become those who practice righteousness and become “righteous, just as He [Jesus Christ] is righteous” (1 John 3:7). His righteousness came about by a state of mind, a mind that Paul encourages us to acquire through letting us see that difference between the spirit of this world, that humanity has, and the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:9–15). That is accomplished through one means only—having the Spirit of God within our minds. “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit… from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:11–12).
The avoidance of deception is only available to those who have the Spirit of God within them, enabling them to understand the thinking and approach of our Father (2 Thessalonians 2:2–3, 10–12; 1 John 2:7–9).
3. To Read with Understanding
Jesus promised the Holy Spirit so the apostles could be led into all truth (John 16:12–15). Just knowing Scripture was not enough. Paul before his conversion knew the Scriptures very well, but his limited understanding of them led him to murder and persecute the followers of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:1, 9:1). After his conversion, with the insight provided by the Spirit, he became a man driven to give life to people, healing the sick and even raising the dead (Acts 20:9–13). Paul is an excellent example of how knowledge without the application of the Spirit does not work the righteousness of God.
Another example of this need is that of the Ethiopian eunuch, who declared in response to Philip’s inquiry as to whether or not he understood the Scriptures: “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:31).
Paul even went on to declare that we cannot understand the real nature, role, and purpose of Jesus Christ without the Spirit. He told the Corinthians: “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
4. To Pray Most Effectively
Not only is our study of God’s Word enhanced by God’s Holy Spirit; our prayer life will also be enhanced by the use of that Spirit. Paul explained this to the brethren in Rome:
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit… makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26–27).
Paul’s comment is not that that we do not know how to pray in terms of the mechanics of prayer, but rather we often don’t know the exact needs that should be addressed. For instance, when we pray for someone’s healing, we frequently have no real appreciation of what needs to be corrected so that the person can have full health again. We simply see some symptoms. Or when we pray for the Work to go forth, we have no idea who the Father might call as a result of that prayer. The Holy Spirit, as the power of God, is able to fill those gaps in our understanding. One Greek grammarian states, “the Greek adverb does not refer to the manner of praying, but to the correspondence between the prayer and that which is really needed.”
Paul also encouraged the Ephesian brethren to: “[pray] always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
John encourages us with a similar statement: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him (1 John 5:14–15).
5. To Produce the Fruit To Overcome Sin
Above all else, the Holy Spirit is necessary to help us overcome this world and produce the fruit that our Father desires. Jesus talked about this being accomplished through “abiding in Him,” a concept that involves the presence of the Holy Spirit (John 14:23–26; 15:1–8, esp. v. 8). Once again, Paul reinforces these statements by Jesus Christ in laying out the “fruits of the Spirit” so that we can appreciate them (Galatians 5:22–23).
James also addressed the need for us to receive the “implanted word” so that we can be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves” (James 1:21–22). He then goes on to list the fruits of Christian wisdom, which we could parallel with the fruits of the Spirit (James 3:18). These qualities of Christian wisdom are not available to humanity without the indwelling or implanting of the Holy Spirit:
“…longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:22–26).
6. To Exercise the Father’s Gifts
As He sat discussing the need for the Holy Spirit, Jesus told those with Him that they would accomplish even more than He had done:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:12–14).
How was this to be done? If the fruits of the Spirit are evident in our lives, and we are using those fruits to honor and glorify our Father, He can bestow upon us the gifts of His Spirit—gifts which Paul details at length (1 Corinthians 12:1–31).
Gifts of the Spirit only come as a result of developing the fruit of the Spirit. Evidence of this is given in the account of Simon Magus. Here was a man who wanted to buy the gift that the apostles possessed—but without ever repenting and seeking our Father’s will in his life (Acts 8:18–24)!
Being able to speak in tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit, not a fruit! The man I described earlier had it backwards, as do so many professing Christians today—they desire the gift of tongues without having to produce fruits of the Spirit!
7. To Prepare for Eternal Life
Jesus promised the disciples that His death as the Passover Lamb, His subsequent resurrection and His ascension were so that He could prepare a place for us within His Kingdom (John 14:1–4). His departure was to ensure the future for all humanity who are willing to submit to the Father’s will and accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the payment for sin. The result was a future hope of eternal life ruling in the Kingdom of God, bringing order and peace to this planet and ultimately the entire universe. The Holy Spirit plays an important role in this process (John 14:25–28).
Paul understood this when he wrote these words to the Christians in Rome:
“…that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:4–5).
We need the Spirit in our lives so we walk in the paths of our Father. The result of walking in righteousness is described a few verses later: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you,” followed by “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:11, 13).
We are offered the promise of eternal life because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. If we accept that sacrifice and are willing to submit in obedience to our Father’s instruction, we can receive the Holy Spirit. This will prepare us for a wonderful future with Jesus Christ and our Father, to which we look forward as pictured by the forthcoming “fall” Holy Days.
I look forward to that future time when I can sit down again with the man I mentioned at the start of this article and help him understand all the facets of the Holy Spirit and its use in our lives. As we prepare to keep the Day of Pentecost, let us all recall what Jesus taught His disciples about the Holy Spirit nearly 2,000 years ago. Those teachings are just as relevant to us today as we seek to follow His example of doing all things to the honor and glory of our Father in heaven.