God the Father initiated the plan of redemption; Christ performed all that was necessary to effect our redemption; and the Holy Spirit applies the redemptive work of Christ to us and makes it ours by imparting new life to spiritually dead souls, which is called “regeneration” or “being born again.” The apostle Paul told the Ephesians, “And you God made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).
Although man is born physically alive, he is born spiritually dead. Jesus told Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Jesus was not introducing a new idea here. Even believers in the OT era, like Abraham and David, were saved by regeneration, which is the only reason why they believed! Since we are naturally dead to the things of God, the only way to become a believer (a Christian) is through the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit’s work begins with regeneration, which produces in us faith by which we are justified; then the Spirit’s work continues throughout our lives in the process of sanctification, making us holy as God is holy. The culmination of the Holy Spirit’s work is glorification, when we will be completely conformed to God’s image, free forever from the very presence of sin!
Notice that it is the Spirit to whom the title “Holy” is attached. In Scripture, it is clear that holiness is an attribute that belongs equally to each member of the Trinity, but is specially attributed to the Spirit because of His ministry. He is the One whom God sends to make us holy.
Not only did the Holy Spirit inspire the sacred Scripture, the writing of the Bible, He also illumines it: “No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11); “no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). The Holy Spirit helps us understand Scripture by shedding light into our dark minds. He is our supreme teacher of the truth of God. He is the One who convicts us of sin and of righteousness. He is our Helper whom Christ promised to give His church (John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:7-15).
Jesus’ Upper Room Discourse (John 14-17) is the final teaching session Jesus had with His disciples. It took place the night in which He was betrayed, the eve of His execution. He knew His disciples were discouraged because He was going away. So He said, “I will ask the Father, and He will you give you another Helper [Paraclete], to be with you forever” (John 14:16). The Helper, of course, is the Holy Spirit (John 15:26).
The Greek word paraclete literally means one who is called to come alongside of someone else. In Greek culture, a paraclete was a family attorney (an advocate) who came to defend family members accused of wrongdoing.
For there to be “another” Helper or Advocate, there had to have been a previous one. Jesus Christ is the first Advocate. “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate [paraclete] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Jesus is both our Judge and our Advocate who will defend us before the Father.
We also need a defender in the midst of this hostile world. Jesus promised His followers. “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). This is why Jesus promised to send another Advocate – another Comforter to encourage us, to defend us, to strengthen us in the heat of the battle, and cause us to be faithful in the midst of trouble.
Christ kept this promise on the Day of Pentecost, when He sent the Holy Spirit to His people, the church. Therefore, when persecution came, the church of Christ blossomed. His people were consciously aware of the strength that Christ had given them to stand against a hostile world.
Paul wrote that in Christ we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).
To sum up: The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to apply the work of Christ to His people, and He does this by sanctifying us, by revealing the truth of God to us, and by coming to us in strength (John 14:25-27; 16:12-15).
[Adapted from Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul]