The Holy Spirit Continues the Work of Christ

In the previous article of this series, I looked at how the Holy Spirit was sent in the place of the resurrected Christ who was now reigning at the Father’s right hand. I pointed to a few passages in John’s Gospel – from chs. 14, 15 and 16 – which contain many words of Jesus on the role of the Holy Spirit once He returned back with the Father.

And the promised One – this time being the Holy Spirit – was poured out at the Feast of Pentecost, as we read about in Peter’s first address in Acts 2:

Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. (Acts 2:33)

This is important. The Spirit has come to be another Helper in the place of Christ, just as if Christ were still with us. It’s hard to fully grasp the implications of that statement – as if Christ were still with us. But maybe that is another article.

While we can point to many facets of the Spirit’s work that is part and parcel in continuing the ministry of Jesus, in this series I am trying to highlight how the Spirit has come to continue the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching ministry of Christ.

In Ephesians 4:11-13, we read that Christ gave five (or four) specific gifts to the church, to help equip them and move towards unity in the faith. Those ministry gifts were apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd (pastor), and teacher. It was important for Jesus to give these giftings to the body because 1) He functioned in all five of these ministries and 2) He expected His body to continue with those ministries to accomplish all that Christ initiated.

Even more, He was the greatest of these five. But, when He ascended back to the Father, Christ was intent to send the Spirit to continue this work. Therefore, though we might have never thought of Him in this way, the Holy Spirit is the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching Spirit.

Therefore, below, I wanted to take a moment and show how the Spirit fulfiled all five of these ministry roles mentioned in Ephesians 4, of which Christ was the greatest.

The Holy Spirit in His Apostolic Role

In my article on Christ as apostle, I mentioned that an apostle is essentially one who was sent out. Jesus was the great ‘sent one’ from the Father (Mark 9:37; Luke 4:43; John 3:34). And, so, with regards to the Spirit’s work, we can easily see His apostolic role in that He was sent from both the Father and Christ:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. (John 15:26)

The Spirit was sent with a mission to accomplish – glorify Christ, bear witness about Christ and continue the work of Christ. Thus, there can be no denying that the Holy Spirit is the apostolic Spirit.

The Holy Spirit in His Prophetic Role

We obviously know that it is the Spirit who uses God’s people in the gift of prophecy (see 1 Corinthians 12:8-11). With a passage I already quoted above, we also see the Spirit’s ‘prophetic’ role in bringing to remembrance what Christ had taught:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)

This should not be seen as just a cognitive exercise of the brain, but an actual ministry of the Holy Spirit. And we can even see this in our lives as, many times, we do not have a Bible with us, yet the Spirit brings to remembrance a specific passage that becomes relevant and speaks into our specific situations.

There is also another interesting phrase from the book of Revelation that we should consider about prophecy:

For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Revelation 19:10)

In all things, prophecy is to point us to Jesus. It does not mean that every prophecy must specifically mention the name of Jesus. But, the ultimate purpose of prophecy is to help us see Christ clearer and clearer, being drawn more and more into an understanding of Him, the Scriptures and His purposes. This specific goal of the prophetic function of the Spirit is also seen through passages like this:

He [the Spirit] will glorify me [Jesus], for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:14)

So, we can see that, as Jesus did, so does the Holy Spirit function as both apostle and prophet.

The Holy Spirit in His Evangelistic Role

Just for review sake, the word evangelist (Greek euaggelistes) simply means ‘a bearer of good news’. And, it is the word gospel (Greek euaggelion) that means ‘good news’. Therefore, the Holy Spirit definitely has an evangelistic role in getting the good news out to the nations. It is He that was sent to empower God’s people to accomplish such a mission:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

The proclamation of the good news cannot be left down to our clever ideas and competent public speaking skills. The gospel is the ‘power of God for salvation’ (Romans 1:16) and we need the Holy Spirit to empower us in accomplishing such a task (check out 1 Thessalonians 1:5).

The Holy Spirit in His Shepherding Role

Whereas we might have never thought of Jesus as a ‘pastor’, we saw that He truly had a shepherding role, for He was the Good Shepherd (see John 10). The same stands true for the Holy Spirit. We know that, in Christ’s stead, He is shepherding God’s sheep. In Jesus’ excursus on the Holy Spirit in John 14-16, we see such a pastoral role:

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)

The Greek word, which we translate as Helper, Comforter or Advocate, is parakletos. The word literally means, ‘one called alongside’. That is a very helpful description of the Holy Spirit in His shepherding role. He is one called alongside the body of Christ, even dwelling within them, to strengthen, encourage, exhort, and even rebuke when needed.

Interesting to note is that the Greek word for encouragement is parakaleō, which means ‘to call alongside’. Thus, we can see that the Holy Spirit is given a role of encouragement, and one would expect such a ministry from such a shepherd.

The Holy Spirit in His Teaching Role

We have already noted this passage quite a few times in regards to the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit, but we quote it one more time:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)

Though regular study of the Bible and theology is very important, along with considering the many writings of scholars and theologians through the years, what we ultimately need in understanding the things of God and the Scripture is for the Holy Spirit to teach us. God forbid that we ever become a people that study the Scriptures without reliance upon the revelatory and illuminating ministry of the Spirit!

Some Summary Thoughts

As I have noted continually, Christ was the greatest apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher in the history of mankind! He fulfilled these five roles with such grace, such humility and such power. He was the faithful One.

But the Father and Son purposefully sent the Holy Spirit to be in the place of the resurrected and ascended Christ. It was to be as if Christ never left! Thus, we should only expect the Spirit to function in an apostolic, a prophetic, an evangelistic, a shepherding and a teaching ministry. And that is what He does!

Therefore, as the Spirit has been sent to indwell and empower God’s people, fulfilling the role of Christ, we would expect that God’s people, as a whole body, are called to be apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teachers of the truth. This is what I shall consider in my next post.


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