When I sit down with a cup of cold water (my version of coffee! 😉 ) and open the pages of the Bible, I usually equip myself with a few tools. Highlighters, pens, commentaries, notebooks, and more litter my study desk, ready and waiting to dissect the wonders of Scripture.
With all these resources, one Person is still needed to make this “quiet time” with God effective—the Holy Spirit.
Since the moment we trust in Jesus, the Holy Spirit makes His home in us, with the mission of sanctifying us as we walk closer and closer to eternity.
My pastor, John MacArthur, has been preaching the last several weeks about the significance of the lofty theological word we know as “sanctification.”
So often we focus on the ideas of “justification,” that God has made us righteous by faith in Christ, and “glorification,” that we will someday be united with our beloved Savior in heaven.
Yet, between those two points—belief and bliss—there is a journey to become more like Christ in all we do. To bear witness about His grace and reflect His love in a broken world.
How does this growth happen? How do we live as new, redeemed creations and follow in the footsteps of our Savior?
In addition to prayer (see Romans 8:26-27), one primary way the Holy Spirit accomplishes His sanctifying work is through our study of the Word.
Every time we prayerfully and humbly open the Scriptures, He moves to open our eyes, transform our mind, and stir our heart to obey God’s truth.
Just think – anyone can read the Bible, but not all can understand it. Why? It is the Holy Spirit that brings the words to life in our heart, because they are the words of God, and we cannot grasp them without God Himself.
The Holy Spirit works in us to set us apart as God’s people, or increase our holiness for Christ and to be like Christ. Consider this imagery:
“For to this day, at the reading of the old covenant, the same veil remains; it is not lifted, because it is set aside only in Christ. 15 Even to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts, 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
18 We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:14-18
With this in mind, here are 3 ways the Holy Spirit uses our Bible study time:
The Holy Spirit…
1. Illuminates the Word
For the believer, the Holy Spirit turns what many consider a scholarly, ancient text into a living, breathing letter from God (Hebrews 4:12). He provides a greater depth of understanding we previously lacked before faith, giving purpose to every passage.
As Jesus said: “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come.” John 16:13
Each time we consider God’s revelation in the Bible, especially the message of the Gospel within it, the Holy Spirit brings insight. That’s true even for something as complicated as Leviticus!
With that said, don’t be discouraged if you don’t understand a book or verse right away. Piece by piece the Spirit allows for comprehension over time, as we diligently pray for it, learn the whole redemptive story of the Word, and listen to faithful teachers and preachers gifted by the Spirit.
[Also see my 5 Simple Tips for Reading the Old Testament.]
2. Applies the Word to our Heart
Once we see intent behind a portion of Scripture, the Holy Spirit then convicts our heart. He may show us outright sin that lies there—whether it be our failure to do what God has asked (sins of omission, i.e. failing to witness to others), or do what He forbids (sins of commission, i.e. lying).
He also may call us to worship Christ more deeply, more purely, more specifically, by highlighting the attributes of God.
When we resist these convictions and calls, we are walking in the flesh. Being faithful to be in the Word, to spend “quiet time” with God, softens our heart to His will and gives us greater opportunity to walk with the Spirit.
“I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:16-18
3. Magnifies the Grace of Christ
Lastly, as we behold God’s truth, acknowledging our unworthiness and sin, the Holy Spirit lovingly points us to Jesus. We see Christ’s mercy at the cross and stunning resurrection, once again showing us their infinite worth and promising us hope.
Even in the darkest of passages, the Holy Spirit finds a way to exalt Christ, and reminds us how He redefines our entire life.
“[The Holy Spirit] will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you.” John 16:14
So next time you go to read the Word, remember you are not alone—the Holy Spirit is in you. The Spirit seeks to fulfill your name Christian, which means “little Christ,” and this should be the strongest desire and greatest goal of our lives.
Remember, Jesus gave us this blessed challenge:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Then, He gives us the Great Comforter to see us through:
“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 14:15-17 (ESV)
For more Scriptures on the Holy Spirit: consider 1 Corinthians 2:8-16, Romans 8:5-6, Romans 8:13, Galatians 5:22-23.
Resources I used to write this:
How the Spirit Sanctifies by Desiring God
How the Holy Spirit Helps You Read the Word of God by Bible Study Tools
To Be Gospel-Centered, You Need the Holy Spirit by Tim Brister