The Bible also describes the Holy Spirit as very active in man’s salvation. In fact, the Spirit is indispensable for anyone to be saved. His work can be divided into three general categories of activity: his pre-conversion work, conversion work and post-conversion work.
The Pre-Conversion Work of the Holy Spirit
Prior to anyone placing his or her faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is involved in setting the conditions that allow for someone’s faith response to the gospel. One of these roles is the convicting of sin and truth. John states, “And He (The Helper = Holy Spirit), when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:8-10; NASB). One could supplement this idea with the concept that the Holy Spirit speaks to individuals though the preaching of the gospel. Paul writes to the Thessalonians “our gospel did not come to you merely in words, but in power and in the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess 1:5).3
The Conversion Work of the Holy Spirit
Regeneration may be defined as “the impartation of new life” or “the washing of the new birth.” This washing and new life is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. The primary verse that supports this is from Paul’s letter to Titus. He states, “He [God] saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). While some theologians place regeneration prior to faith which results in conversion, it’s probably better to see regeneration as equated to conversion itself. In Acts Peter states, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Here, the gift of the Holy Spirit is conditioned upon repentance in relation to the gospel preaching of Peter.
Upon conversion the believer in Jesus Christ is said to be baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. This baptism is a one time event in which metaphorically speaking Christ becomes our head and we are joined with believers as fellow members of the body. Paul states, “For in [or by] one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). This baptism forms our union with Christ and with fellow believers. Related to the baptism of the Spirit is the indwelling of the Spirit. Upon and after conversion, the Holy Spirit indwells the life of the believer. Paul reminds the Corinthian church, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor 3:16). In the book of Romans Paul adds, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him” (Rom 8:9). One could say that the indwelling Spirit is the definition of a Christian.
Believers, who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, are also sealed with the Holy Spirit. Paul writes, “And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation) – when you believed in Christ – you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:13-14). Sealing communicates God’s mark of permanent ownership on us. The Holy Spirit is also described in these verses as a pledge or down payment that insures that God will complete his salvific work in us.