Saturday Nov 04, 2023

Soteriology Lesson 23 - The Role of God the Holy Spirit in Regenerating, Indwelling, Baptizing, and Sealing New Believers

The Spirit’s Regeneration, Indwelling, Baptizing, and Sealing Ministry

At the moment of salvation, God the Holy Spirit performs several acts for new believers, which include regeneration (John 3:6; Tit 3:5; 1 Pet 1:3), indwelling (John 14:16-17; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19), baptizing (1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27), and sealing (Eph 4:30).


The word regeneration itself occurs only twice in the Bible (Matt 19:28 and Tit 3:5). In both places the Greek word used is paliggenesia (παλιγγενεσία), which means, “the state of being renewed… [the] experience of a complete change of life, rebirth of a redeemed person.”[1] Regeneration means new believers receive spiritual life at the moment they trust in Christ alone as their Savior. Geisler states, “The new birth of which Jesus speaks is the act of regeneration, whereby God imparts spiritual life to the believer’s soul (1 Peter 1:23).”[2] Paul Enns agrees, saying, “Succinctly stated, to regenerate means ‘to impart life.’ Regeneration is the act whereby God imparts life to the one who believes.”[3] Ryrie notes:

  • "Although the word regeneration is used only twice in the Bible (Titus 3:5, where it refers to the new birth, and Mt 19:28 where it refers to the millennial kingdom), the concept of being born again is found in other passages, notably John 3. Technically, it is God’s act of begetting eternal life in the one who believes in Christ. While faith and regeneration are closely associated, the two ideas are distinct, faith being the human responsibility and the channel through which God’s grace is received, and regeneration being God’s supernatural act of imparting eternal life."[4]

David Anderson adds:

  • "The NT uses a number of different words and images to convey the doctrine of regeneration. The noun palingenesia is used just twice: Matthew 19:28 and Titus 3:5. In Matthew, Jesus is speaking of the regeneration which will occur at His second coming. He refers to setting up His kingdom, placing the twelve over the twelve tribes of Israel, and rewarding those who have sacrificed for His cause. But in Titus 3:5, we have a direct reference to the rebirth of the believer: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”[5]

To the concept of regeneration, the Greek words anothen (ἄνωθεν) and anagennao (ἀναγεννάω) can be added. Jesus, while speaking to Nicodemus, said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [anothen] he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3; cf., John 3:7). The word anothen (ἄνωθεν) generally means “from a source that is above.”[6] That is, from a heavenly source. (At least two English translations, NET & YLT, render the word “from above”). Because Nicodemus confused physical birth with spiritual birth (John 3:4), Jesus clarified His statement, saying, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Jesus was talking about spiritual birth, or regeneration, which comes from the source of heaven. Peter used the Greek word anagennao (ἀναγεννάω) when he wrote about Christians who have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3), and who “have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet 1:23). The basic meaning of anagennao (ἀναγεννάω) is to “beget again, cause to be born again.”[7] In both instances the word denotes imparting new life.

This work of the Spirit is directly related to the believer’s salvation. According to Walvoord, “The work of regeneration can be assigned to the Holy Spirit as definitely as the work of salvation can be assigned to Christ.”[8]And the believer’s new life is the basis for a new walk with the Lord. Ryrie notes, “Regeneration does not make a man perfect, but it places him in the family of God and gives him the new ability to please his Father by growing into the image of Christ. Fruit from the new nature is proof that regeneration has occurred (1 John 2:29).”[9] Lighter states:

  • "The means by which regeneration is accomplished eliminates all human endeavor. Though personal faith in Christ as Savior is necessary, faith does not produce the new life; it does not regenerate. Only God regenerates. Human faith and divine regeneration occur at the same time, but the one is man’s responsibility as he is enabled by the Holy Spirit, and the other is the work of God imparting the divine life."[10]


The indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit for every believer was an innovation that was future from the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38). And John tells us, “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39). The Spirit would begin His special ministry on the day of Pentecost, and it would involve His personal indwelling of every believer. Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus spoke of this, saying, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). Notice that Spirit would not only be with them, would be in them. Merrill Tenney writes, “This distinction marks the difference between the Old Testament experience of the Holy Spirit and the post-Pentecostal experience of the church. The individual indwelling of the Spirit is the specific privilege of the Christian believer.”[11]

This new indwelling ministry by God the Holy Spirit is different than His work in believers in the OT. Under the Mosaic Law, only a select few received the Holy Spirit (Ex 31:1-5; Num 11:25; 27:18; 1 Sam 16:13), and that was conditioned on His sovereign purposes. But now, in the dispensation of the church age, God the Holy Spirit would personally indwell both the local church (1 Cor 3:16-17), as well as each individual believer (1 Cor 6:19). Paul wrote to the Christians living in Corinth, saying, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16). Concerning the Spirit’s indwelling the church in 1 Corinthians 3:16, Radmacher states:

  • "There are two words translated temple in the NT. One refers to the temple building and all its courts; the other refers strictly to the Most Holy Place where no one but the high priest could go. Paul uses the latter term to describe the local church, in whom God dwells. Unlike 1 Corinthians 6:19, where the word temple refers to the individual believer, and Ephesians 2:21, where the word speaks of the church universal, these verses speak of the local church as God’s temple. God takes very seriously our actions in the church. destroy: Any person who disrupts and destroys the church by divisions, malice, and other harmful acts invites God’s discipline (1 Cor 11:30-32)."[12]

Paul also describes the Spirit’s indwelling each Christian in 1 Corinthians 6:19, where he wrote, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” According to Constable, “Previously Paul taught his readers that the Corinthian church was a temple (naos; 1 Cor 3:16). The believer’s body is also a temple. The Holy Spirit is actually indwelling each of these temples (Rom 8:9; cf. Matt 12:6; 18:15–20; 28:16–20; Mark 13:11; John 14:17, 23).”[13] What we find in the church age is that all three Persons of the Godhead indwell every believer (John 14:16-17, 20, 23); however, the Holy Spirit has a special ministry which began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-4; 11:15-16; 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:26-28), and will continue until the church is raptured to heaven (2 Th 2:7; cf. John 14:1-3; 1 Th 4:13-18; Tit 2:13). Chafer states:

  • "The Spirit made His advent into the world here to abide throughout this dispensation. As Christ is now located at the right hand of the Father, though omnipresent, so the Spirit, though omnipresent, is now locally abiding in the world, in a temple, or habitation, of living stones (Eph 2:19-22). The individual believer is also spoken of as a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). The Spirit will not leave the world, or even one stone of that building until the age-long purpose of forming that temple is finished…The Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost and that aspect of the meaning of Pentecost will no more be repeated than the incarnation of Christ. There is no occasion to call the Spirit to “come,” for He is here."[14]


The subject of baptism has been, and continues to be, a subject of confusion. The word baptize is a transliteration of the Greek verb baptizo (βαπτίζω) which broadly means to “plunge, dip, [or] wash,”[15] and is often used “of the Christian sacrament of initiation after Jesus’ death.”[16] The Greek noun baptisma (βάπτισμα) refers to the result of a dipping or immersing. In Classical Greek literature, the verb baptizo (βαπτίζω) “was used among the Greeks to signify the dyeing of a garment, or the drawing of water by dipping a vessel into another.”[17] The Greek poet Nicander (ca. 200 B.C.) used both bapto (βάπτω) and baptizo (βαπτίζω) when describing the process of making pickles. According to James Strong, “When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism.”[18] 

There are numerous baptisms mentioned in the Bible, some are wet and some are dry. John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water” (Matt 3:11a), clearly making the baptism wet. But then, John the Baptist spoke of Jesus, saying, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11b). These latter two baptisms are both dry, where no one gets placed into water. A few other baptisms mentioned in Scripture include the baptism of the cross (Mark 10:35-38; Luke 12:50), the baptism of Moses (1 Cor 10:1-2), and the baptism of Christians (Matt 28:16-20). For the Christian, water baptism is a picture of the believer’s spiritual union and identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 6:3-7; Col 2:11-12). Water baptism does not save (1 Cor 1:17). It never has and never will. God saves at the moment believers place their faith solely in Jesus (John 3:16; 1 Cor 15:3-4). At the moment of faith in Christ, God the Holy Spirit unites new believers spiritually to Christ, adding them to the church, the body of Christ. Paul wrote, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:12-13). Lewis Chafer states, “As a ground upon which the certainty of eternal security rests, the baptism of the Spirit should be recognized as that operation by which the individual believer is brought into organic union with Christ. By the Spirit’s regeneration Christ is resident in the believer, and by the Spirit’s baptism the believer is thus in Christ.”[19] Merrill F. Unger comments:

  • "This momentous spiritual operation is set forth in the NT as the basis of all the believer’s positions and possessions “in Christ” (Eph 1:3; Col 2:10; 3:1–4; etc.). The operation is prophetic in the gospels (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16–17; John 1:33–34, where Christ is the baptizer), historic in the Acts (cf. Acts 1:5 with Acts 11:16), and doctrinal in the epistles (1 Cor 12:13, where the Spirit is named specifically as the agent; Rom 6:3–4; Gal 3:26–27; Col 2:9–12; Eph 4:5). The Spirit’s baptizing work, placing the believer “in Christ,” occurred initially at Pentecost at the advent of the Spirit, who baptized believing Jews “into Christ.” In Acts 8, Samaritans were baptized in this way for the first time; in Acts 10, Gentiles likewise were so baptized, at which point the normal agency of the Spirit as baptizer was attained. According to the clear teaching of the epistles, every believer is baptized by the Spirit into Christ the moment he is regenerated. He is also simultaneously indwelt by the Spirit and sealed eternally, with the privilege of being filled with the Spirit, as the conditions for filling are met."[20]


Several times Paul used the Greek verb sphragizo (σφραγίζω) when writing to Christians. Paul wrote of God “who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge” (2 Cor 1:22). To the Christians at Ephesus he wrote, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:13), and “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30). In each of these uses the verb sphragizo (σφραγίζω) means “to mark with a seal as a means of identification…so that the mark denoting ownership also carries with it the protection of the owner.”[21] Laney Jr., states, “In ancient times a seal was used as an identifying mark, indicating the rightful ownership of the object sealed. And so the sealing ministry of the Spirit marks believers as God’s own possession, guaranteeing their security for eternity.”[22] Concerning Paul’s use of sphragizo (σφραγίζω) in Ephesians 1:13, Harold Hoehner comments:

  • "God seals the believers in Christ with the promised Holy Spirit when they have not only heard but also believed the gospel of salvation. The sealing with the Spirit must not be confused with the other ministries of the Spirit. The indwelling of the Spirit refers to his residence in every believer (Rom 8:9; 1 John 2:27). The baptizing ministry of the Spirit places believers into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13). The filling by the Spirit is the control of the Spirit over believers’ lives (Eph 5:18). The sealing ministry of the Spirit is to identify believers as God’s own and thus give them the security that they belong to him (Eph 1:13; 4:30; 2 Cor 1:22). The very fact that the Spirit indwells believers is a seal of God’s ownership of them."[23]

The Holy Spirit is Himself the seal that marks us as owned by God and guarantees our future redemption and glory (Eph 1:13-14; 4:30). These blessings are completely the work of the Holy Spirit for the benefit of Christians and occur at the moment believers trust Jesus as their Savior. These are facts based on objective statements in Scripture and are accepted by faith, not ever-changing subjective feelings. Though Christians can grieve and/or quench the Holy Spirit with personal sin (Eph 4:30; 1 Th 5:19), and though they may suffer divine discipline because of personal sin (Heb 12:5-11), they cannot grieve Him away. Joseph Dillow notes:

  • "The ancient practice of using seals is behind the figurative use of the word here. A seal was a mark of protection and ownership. The Greek word sphragizō is used of a stone being fastened with a seal to “prevent its being moved from a position” (BDAG). In fact, this was apparently the earliest method of distinguishing one’s property. The seal was engraved with a design or mark distinctive to the owner. The seal of ownership or protection was often made in soft wax with a signet ring. An impression was left on the wax signifying the owner of the thing sealed. When the Holy Spirit seals us, He presses the signet ring of our heavenly Father on our hearts of wax and leaves the mark of ownership. We belong to Him. He certifies this by His unchangeable purpose to protect and own us to the day of redemption. In Ephesians 1:13-14, we are told that the Holy Spirit Himself is the seal. He is impressed upon us, so to speak. His presence in our lives is thus a guarantee of God’s protection and that we are owned by God. A broken seal was an indication that the person had not been protected. The Holy Spirit cannot be broken. He is the seal of ownership. In Ephesians 4:30, we are told that we are sealed unto the day of redemption. This sealing ministry of the Spirit is forever and guarantees that we will arrive safely for the redemption of our bodies and entrance into heaven (Romans 8:23). He is the seal that we are now owned and protected by God until the day of redemption."[24]

Dr. Steven R. Cook



[1] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 752.

[2] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Three: Sin, Salvation (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2004), 123.

[3] Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989), 338.

[4] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine (Chicago: Moody Press, 1972).

[5] David R. Anderson, Free Grace Soteriology, ed. James S. Reitman, Revised Edition. (Grace Theology Press, 2012), 235.

[6] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 92.

[7] Ibid., 59.

[8] John F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit, 131.

[9] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine (Chicago: Moody Press, 1972).

[10] Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology: A Historical, Biblical, and Contemporary Survey and Review, 199.

[11] Merrill C. Tenney, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 9, 147.

[12] Earl D. Radmacher, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary, 1464–1465.

[13] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), 1 Co 6:18.

[14] Lewis S. Chafer, He that is Spiritual (Grand Rapids, Mich. Zondervan Publishing, 1967), 26.

[15] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 164.

[16] Ibid., 164.

[17] W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 50.

[18] James Strong, βάπτω bapto, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995).

[19] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 3, 337.

[20] Merrill F. Unger and R.K. Harrison, “Baptism of the Spirit,” The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988).

[21] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 980.

[22] Charles R. Swindoll and Roy B. Zuck, Understanding Christian Theology (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003), 206.

[23] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 240.

[24] Joseph C. Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of the Servant Kings, 4th Edition (Houston, TX: Grace Theology Press, 2018).

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