Biblical Hermeneutics - Lesson 11

Role of the Holy Spirit (Part 2)

You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in relation to believers, the church, and the world. The lesson covers the Holy Spirit's work in the regeneration and sanctification of believers, empowering and guiding them, unifying the church, bestowing spiritual gifts, the conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and drawing people to God. The conclusion summarizes the Holy Spirit's impact on all aspects of life.

Robert Stein
Biblical Hermeneutics
Lesson 11
Watching Now
Role of the Holy Spirit (Part 2)

The Role of the Holy Spirit - Part 2

I. Introduction

A. Explanation of the Role of the Holy Spirit

II. The Work of the Holy Spirit in Relation to Believers

A. The Holy Spirit's role in Regeneration and Sanctification

B. The Holy Spirit's role in Empowerment and Guiding Believers

III. The Work of the Holy Spirit in Relation to the Church

A. The Holy Spirit's role in Unifying the Church

B. The Holy Spirit's role in Bestowing Spiritual Gifts on the Church

IV. The Work of the Holy Spirit in Relation to the World

A. The Holy Spirit's role in Conviction of Sin, Righteousness and Judgment

B. The Holy Spirit's role in Drawing People to God

V. Conclusion

A. Summary of the Holy Spirit's role in the lives of Believers, the Church, and the World

Class Resources
  • Understanding the roots of the English language and knowing the history of the English translations of the Bible gives you a context that can help you understand the meaning of the passage you are reading. 

  • After William Tyndale published the first Bible in English in 1539 that was translated from the Hebrew and Greek texts, King James of England assembled a team of top scholars to create an English translation that was published in 1611. More recent translations are still being made to reflect new manuscript discoveries and changes in the English language. 

  • There is no such thing as an exact word equivalent when going from one language to another. Different languages as well as different cultures pose a challenge for translators. It's important to use the best manuscripts for your translation.

  • A few of the challenges that translators face are for the translation to be accurate but understandable, contemporary but universal, and to avoid a theological bias. Contemporary languages are always changing, and each translator holds theological beliefs based on years of training and experience. 

  • Inerrancy of the Bible is an important foundation for the process of translation. Some translations focus more on "word-for-word" equivalents and some focus more on "thought-for-thought" equivalents. Some translations include footnotes to explain a verse that is ambiguous or controversial. 

  • The three components that determine meaning in written communication are the author, the text and the reader. In determining the meaning of Biblical passages, it's important to know as much as possible about all three components. 

  • The author of a passage made an intentional effort to communicate a message. It is the job of the reader to determine the meaning and implications of the message by studying the text itself, then evaluating the literary form and other contextual factors. 

  • The first step in interpretation is to focus on the pattern of meaning the author consciously willed to convey by the words they used. Then, the implications of the text may also include meanings in the text of which the author was unaware but fall within the author's pattern of meaning.

  • It's important to define your terms when you are determining the interpretation and application of Biblical passages. Your goal is to begin by hearing the message of a passage as the author intended it and the first readers would have understood it. 

  • The written word correctly interpreted is the objective basis of authority. The inward illuminating and persuading work of the Holy Spirit is the subjective dimension. When 1 Cor. 2:14 says that an unspiritual man cannot understand Scritpure, it is referring to his lack of acceptance rather than his mental grasp of the words. 

  • You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in relation to believers, the church, and the world. The lesson covers the Holy Spirit's work in the regeneration and sanctification of believers, empowering and guiding them, unifying the church, bestowing spiritual gifts, the conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and drawing people to God. The conclusion summarizes the Holy Spirit's impact on all aspects of life.

  • Your presuppositions about whether or not the miracles in the Bible took place as they are recorded will affect the way you look at the Bible and at specific events. Three approaches to this question are the supernatural approach, rationalist approach and the mythical approach. 

  • Kinds of meaning and types of meaning are two of the main ideas in the book, "The Language and Imagery of the Bible," by G. B. Caird. Proverbs are short, pithy sayings that express a general truth. Exceptions are allowed. A good example of an exception to a proverb is the book of Job.

  • Judgment prophecy assumes that, even if not stated, if the people repent, judgment will not come. Prophets also tend to speak in figurative language, using cosmic terminology. 

  • The prophets use figurative and metaphorical language to describe future events and spiritual reality. They also use cosmic language to describe God acting in history. 

  • Dr. Stein discusses the possibility of a sensus plenior in some passages. In Mark 13, Jesus talks about coming events that are also prophesied in the Old Testament. 

  • Judges chapters 4 and 5 describe the same events. Chapter 4 uses prose, chapter 5 uses poetry. The book of Psalms is a collection of songs, prayers and reflections about human emotions, and God, his character and his work in the world. 

  • Jesus uses parallelism in the Gospels to illustrate and emphasize who God is and what the kingdom of God is like. In order to understand an idiom, you first need to identify it as an idiom and then determine what the meaning is in the culture.  

  • Exaggeration is overstatement. Hyperbole is literally impossible. When using exaggeration, both parties must agree that the expression is an exaggeration. Jesus uses exaggeration to emphasize and illustrate important teachings. 

  • Jesus uses exaggeration to make his point clear, especially on matters of morality, but doesn't take the time to discuss possible exceptions. Jesus also uses all-inclusive and universal language, as well as idiomatic language that no longer bears its original meaning. 

  • Some of the early church writers and the reformers interpreted parables, like the parable of the Good Samaritan, as allegories. 

  • Adolf Jülicher taught that parables tend to have one basic point of comparison, and the details are just there to make the story interesting. So you should try to understand what’s the main point of the parable. To begin with, seek to understand the parable as the first century audience would have. Consider what the Gospel writers were trying to teach. Ask how it applies to you in your current situation. 

  • In the parable of the hidden treasure and the parable of the pearl of great price, the message of the value of the kingdom of God is more important than the character of the man. In the parable of the ten virgins and the parable of the dishonest manager, it's important to focus on the main point of the parable and not to get distracted by the details. The parable of the lost sheep teaches us to pursue the lost. 

  • When interpreting the parable of the workers, determine the main characters, consider the rule of end stress and pay attention to what gets the most press. 

  • Some parables are best interpreted as an allegory. It's important to ask if Jesus with his audience would have attributed meaning to these details and if the audience of the Gospel writers would have understood the details as being allegorical. 

  • When you are determining how you should apply the parable of the final judgment in Matthew 25: 31-46, who Jesus is referring to when he says, "...just as you did it to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me." In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus makes a point about what causes people to believe in him or to not believe in him. 

  • You read and interpret a passage that is historical narrative differently than a passage that is prophecy, poetry or a parable. Much of the historical information in the Bible is confirmed by archaeological discoveries including literature from other contemporary cultures. In the 1700's there was a group of scholars that began questioning whether the miraculous events in the Bible were supernatural. They tried to find meaning in the stories without saying that a miracle happened assumed that the real meaning is not the same as the author's literal intention. They did this by finding the meaning of the words, then conducting a historical assessment of what really happened. 

  • Supernaturalists believe that the miracles the Gospel writers recorded were supernatural events. The rationalists believe that either the Gospel writers knew that miracles did not take place, but they were accommodating their readers who did believe in miracles, or that they really believed them but they were just myths. This would require the Gospel writers to be liars or not very smart, neither of which seem consistent with the care and precision with which the Gospels were written. When you are preaching a narrative passage, it's important to include the whole context when you are interpreting the meaning of the events.

  • When interpreting the epistles, it's important to identify which words are used frequently, what the meaning of the words are and how the author uses them. It can be helpful to study the etymology of words and the meaning of words in their historical context. The process of moving from norms of language to norms of utterance is important. 

  • We can get information about the meaning of words from studying ancient Greek literature, the writings of early church fathers and the translators of the Hebrew Old Testament. We can also compare letters written by the same author, and also how the word is used within the same letter or passage. It can be helpful to look at the way different authors use the same word. 

  • Once you determine the meaning of the words, it's important to recognize how they are used in the sentence and how the clauses in the sentence are related. Understanding the different ways clauses can be used will help you determine the meaning of each sentence. The distinction between "means" and "cause" is significant. 

  • Romans 13:1-7 is a good example of the development of a logical argument. Most of the epistles follow the form of an ancient letter, which is greeting or salutation, thanksgiving or prayer, body of the letter and conclusion. 

  • Two types of covenants are the parity covenant and suzerain covenant. Covenant language is used in both the Old Testament and New Testament. The parts of a covenant, illustrated in the Mosaic covenant in Exodus 20, are the preamble, prologue, stipulations, provision for continual reading and witnesses.

  • God renews his covenant with Israel in Joshua 24. The three types of laws in the Old Testament are civil laws, cultic laws and moral laws. 

  • The book of Psalms is divided into five sections. The Psalms were written by different people at different times for different purposes. Some were for public worship and some were the result of personal reflection in times of joy, distress or repentance. 

  • In Jesus's day, the Scripture was the books of the Old Testament. Many of the books of the New Testament were written before 70 a.d. The Gospel writers produced a written record of the life of Jesus. Paul and other apostles wrote to churches to encourage and teach them. Eusebius, a church historian in 325a.d., recorded a list of the books that are currently in the New Testament.

  • Factors in recognizing the books that make up the New Testament were apostolic authorship, use in the church over time, unity and agreement and the superintendence of the Holy Spirit. The writing of the books of the Bible was inspired by God and it is inerrant. 

Dr. Robert Stein covers the history of the English Bible and then moves into the rules for interpreting the biblical text, including the role of the Holy Spirit in the hermeneutical process. He then spends considerable time moving through the different genres of literature (e.g., proverbs, poetry, parables, narrative). Dr. Stein did not provide us the notes he refers to in the class, but we did place links for the books he used as a basis for the class on the class page under the Recommended Reading heading.

Recommended Books

Biblical Hermeneutics - Student Guide

Biblical Hermeneutics - Student Guide

How do you even start to study your Bible? What are the guiding principles? Are the rules for interpreting narrative any different from parables and apocalyptic literature?...

Biblical Hermeneutics - Student Guide

Dr. Robert Stein
Biblical Hermeneutics
Role of the Holy Spirit (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript


The fact of sin does affect us sometimes, especially when we have existential involvement in texts. For instance, some people might not want to understand what Paul’s clear meaning in Romans 1 is about homosexuality. That might get in the way. So unbelievers may have an axe to grind that keeps them from the willingness to see the text. But that’s not one sided. You have Christians who are so prejudiced to their way of an interpretation that there is no way that any text can open their minds. You almost need an axe to do that. They are so set in their ways.

You have therefore the problem of sin that affects probably – I don’t know the percentage – you can say, but it works on both sides. But think for a minute. You non-Christian friend that you explained the Gospel to. When you prayed for them, what are praying? Are you praying that they may understand the Gospel or that the Spirit of God would bring conviction of their need of the Gospel and open their hearts so that they can receive it? It’s the latter isn’t it?

At a Bible study when you come together and say you are all Christians – what do you pray before you start the Bible study? Do you pray “Heavenly Father, we have had no time to look up a dictionary or a commentary and say ‘We don’t really know what these words mean but we pray through your Spirit you would give us this meaning’” or do you pray “Lord. Help us to see how this text and its meaning applies to our lives.” We usually tend to pray about those areas which we would call implications and significance.  We assume that the meaning is fairly clear and open. 

Now let us go to this other issue. For instance, supposing the next paper would be for the same two groups. What are some of the implications involved in what Paul means in Romans 4:1-5? Would there be a significant difference with respect to the grading of those papers?  I‘m not sure about that either because I think hypothetically they could work out, you know, Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith as correct. That would mean that there is no thing that people can do to earn their salvation. In fact any attempt to do so would be itself sinfulness.

I think in the abstract level of hypothetical implications – be not drunk with wine, some of them would come up “Uh. It probably means not to be drunk with whisky,” even though he didn’t know what whisky was.  I think they can arrive at that.

But there are some areas where apart from the Spirit I don’t think we will ever know. Those areas would be personal implications. Not broad specific general kinds of things, but that specific one. So an unbeliever could very well be able to look at Acts 1:8, “But you shall be my witnesses – after the Spirit has come upon you, you shall be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, in Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth” and then you could say “It means that for a Christian they are to spread the Gospel throughout the world. But that means that some probably are going to be missionaries. Some will be pastors. Some will be teachers. Etc.”

But as a Christian prays about this and asks God for how he or she will fulfill that command in their own lives, we start finding that specific kind of implication that God wants us to be a missionary. Not just a missionary in general but a missionary to Africa, to a particular country in Africa or to South America or to the inner city and the like. And so specific personal implications, I think are something that only the Spirit can give to us. General implications – yes anyone can have an idea of that but no the specific.

And then the significance in which we respond and say yes. That is something given by the Holy Spirit.  And when we put these together, we have another word that is not in our vocabulary. We looked at it once before. Personal implications and significance – application. So it is in this area that I think the Holy Spirit is especially guiding and giving us direction.  Now that brings us back then to the definition that the Reformers gave about the role of the Spirit in providing illumination and conviction.

Conviction fits very nicely in what we are saying. But illumination is something else. Remember a number of times meeting with Millard Erickson as he wrote these things. Colleague of mine and friend and asked him to explain what illumination meant. And for him it somehow had to do with understanding. And specifically and I say “How does the Spirit provide understanding for a believer and not an unbeliever as they read this text?”

And I’m sure he would think that he had explained it adequately and maybe he had, but I didn’t understand at all what he meant by that. It was a very fuzzy word and time and time again it looked like illumination started to be equated with significance or conviction. And in fact in one of the quotations, he does say that say that illumination takes place when we are convicted of the truth of what is being said. So I think really for a lot of people, illumination and conviction meld together and involve the general area in what we call significance in that regard. 

If you want to redefine understanding and qualify it as truly understanding, fully understanding, a saving understanding, an authentic understanding, a real understanding, a deeper understanding, and so forth and so on. No problem with that but notice that there is always a qualification.  And that qualification indicates something and I think it indicates that an unbeliever can understand. It all depends on what we mean by the word understand. And again I remind you we are talking about a definition which means that understand – which says that understanding is a correct mental grasp.

That is all mental understanding is. We have a separate word for the conviction of the truthfulness of that. Significance. And that simple sense in which we use the word understand and unbeliever can do that. Now if you say that should not be the right definition of understanding.  For me understanding means not only to have a correct mental grasp but to know the truthfulness of something. That’s what I mean by understanding.

Well then I would have to stop putting a not in front of all of these. Not truly understanding. Not fully understanding. Not savingly understanding and so forth and so on for the others. So its how you define it in part. There are times when sin begins to affect a person so much that what is so evident and clear, they refuse to see and almost refuse to understand.

I know that.  That is true for a believer and for unbelievers many times. I think for instance on some of these politically correct issues everybody want the Bible to support them. So if you are practicing a homosexual lifestyle, you really don’t want to have to say, “Well. You know I know the Bible says that this is a damnable thing and that it is going to be judged by God and it is not approved by God.”

No one is especially eager that – there are some people however who come and say, “Let us not kid ourselves. That is exactly what the Bible says and that’s why I hate that Bible so much. Its prejudicial. Its narrow minded viewpoint.”  And some people who practice a certain lifestyle will say, “This is the way I live. The Bible teaches otherwise, but I don’t care about the Bible.”  So they understand. They just reject it.

Let me read for you something from Martin Luther as he writes to Erasmus. He use different vocabulary which will translate into ours but notice what he says.

“To put it briefly, there are two kinds of clarity in Scripture, just as there are also two kinds of obscurity: one external and pertaining to the ministry of the Word, the other located in the understanding of the heart. If you speak of the internal clarity, no man perceives one iota of what is in Scriptures unless he has the Spirit of God. All men have a darkened heart, so that even if they can recite everything in Scripture, and know how to quote it, yet they apprehend and truly understand nothing of it. They neither believe in God, nor that they themselves are creatures of God, nor anything else. As Psalm 14:1 says: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no god.’” For the Spirit is required for the understanding of Scripture, both as a whole and in any part of it. However if, on the other hand, you speak of the external clarity, nothing at all is left obscure or ambiguous, but everything there is in the Scriptures has been brought out by the Word into the most definite light, and published to all the world.’”

There is an external clarity. Anyone who reads the Bible can know what it teaches about what they need to do to be saved and what is in general a life pleasing to God and how it is to be lived out. However to be convicted of the truthfulness of this, only with the Spirit of God can that take place.

And so we are talking here, whether you talk about irresistible grace that brings that about or prevenient grace that brings it about, everyone is convinced that it’s the grace of God who through the Spirit of God brings the person to know that this is true and brings the divine enabling that somehow allows them to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus.

Alright now let me show some quotations that come out of the Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard text, with regard to the role of the Spirit in this whole process. I think every now and then I find statements that look like they don’t agree with one another. Here are two on the same page,

“If the Bible is God’s revelation to His people, then the essential qualification for a full understanding of this book is to know the revealing God.”

Don’t try to copy this down. Just put page 82, 2/3rds down – 2/10ths down to 3/10ths down.

“Only the one who believes and trust in God can truly understand what God has spoken in His Word.  This makes sense, for how can one understand a text from the Bible that purports to be a word from God if one denies that there is a God or that the Bible comes from God?”

This looks like that apart from the Holy Spirit, a person cannot truly understand the meaning of Scripture. There is footnote on that page however,

“The difference between the findings of unbelieving versus believing scholars is often one of volition …”


“… not cognition.”

Understanding – mental.

“… through their careful work, both may come to the same understanding of a text’s meaning.  But due to their different faith commitments, only the believer can perceive the text’s true significance and be willing to obey the truth conveyed.”

So here you have – unless you start putting the word, “truly understand” or something like that they are saying that a believer and an unbeliever both can understand the meaning of a text.  But apart from the Spirit there is no true understanding and that true understanding involves a correct mental grasp plus a conviction of its significance.

Some other comments and quotations from them,

“We cannot genuinely understand what a text meant without it impacting our lives.”

Another adverb that we hadn’t come across so far.

“Regardless of the pre-understanding, the addition of faith to the interpreter’s pre-understanding allows her to see new meanings in the text.”

“From the position faith the interpreter can see that the Bible records the words and activities of the transcendent God in human history.”

I’m not sure exactly what is meant by “new meanings”. If they are talking about, well, what might they be talking about? Well, significance – yeah maybe I was thinking of implications. Now that might be true. But I am unsure as to exactly what “new meanings” in the text and how that should be understood and interpreted.

Then he goes on,

“Illumination does not provide data or information. The Holy Spirit does not provide further revelation to the interpreter. Nor does illumination guarantee a correct understanding of the meaning of the passage. Given the spiritual nature of the Bible only a spiritual interpreter can accurately assimilate its contents. All other will simply miss the spiritual dimension. They may even ignore it altogether whether consciously or unconsciously.”

So here I think we are going further than simply a correct mental grasp when you are talking about assimilated contents, we are dealing with the area of significance again in that regard. So I think we would have a lot in common with the Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard for the most part.

Let me be overly simplistic. I don’t want to be disrespectful but I want to be as simple as I can. If you what this word means in the Bible, don’t say anything out loud please.  Matthew 6:24 in the King James Version reads,

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Now – don’t anybody if you know what the word means, say it.

Alright now we all have King James Bibles and we don’t know what the word mammon means. So we are going to divide up into teams. We are going right down the middle and you can choose which side you want according to your spirituality when I define the sides ok.

This group over here will be the prayer and fasting group.  And you as a group are going to go to the Alumni chapel and you are going to pray. You are all going to pray that God through His Spirit will help you to understand what the word mammon means. Ok?

I’m on this side over here and we are not a very spiritual group. We are going to Baskin and Robbins and getting hot fudge sundae and as we go, I want you to bring our Bible dictionary with you and after we have eaten our first hot fudge sundae and we are ordering the second, we will look up in the Bible dictionary the word mammon.

Now who will have a correct mental grasp of the text?  The spiritual group or the unspiritual hot fudge sundae group? 

Now you are going to open the Bible dictionary and you look up the word mammon and it will say, an Aramaic word meaning things. Ah – Jesus says you cannot serve God and at the same time serve possessions. 

Now what about our group over here?

We are praying and we are asking God through the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom as to the meaning of that word.  Now I don’t believe that it is impossible that as you are praying a voice comes from Heaven and it says, the word mammon is an Aramaic word and it means “things or possessions”.

No – really – I don’t think that’s impossible.  A voice could come from Heaven and also could say, “Go to Baskin and Robbins. They have got a Bible dictionary over there. They know what the word means.”


Excuse me.

Now knowing what the word mammon means, what about you as a group as you pray and you speak and share with one another, what that means in my life. What does it mean that I cannot serve God and things?

And you begin to reflect on what might be the things that are keeping you from serving God fully. We are simply having hot fudge sundaes. Is it not true that the Spirit of God will honor that concern and bring an understanding to you as to implications – personal implications – of what that means in your life?  The work of the Spirit is very important in showing how texts personally apply in bringing significance and causing us now to repent and remove those idols in our lives – those things – that mammon, that’s keeping us from serving as we ought.

Here we are only interested in the academic – yeah we know what it means – it means things and so what? That’s where the Spirit is active. And I think to note this - what we have here and never get to the desire to see how that applies specifically in our lives and if anything its worse than nothing to know when not to care.

An example in my own life, I was a Christian at the time and what I understand to be the role of the Spirit in the interpretation of the Bible. I was a junior in college at Rutgers University. It was spring in New Brunswick, New Jersey and we have a meeting across town on the women’s campus at Douglas College and so I was walking there early.  And as I was walking some Bible verses were coming through my mind and John 3:16 came to my mind,
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

And as that verse came into my mind, something convinced me of the fact that that meant God really loved Bob Stein. And I became convinced that God personally loved me as I walked through the town. And the blue of the sky became deeper and richer and the sun became more golden and I think we would have here what I would call, that personal implication of the text that the Spirit brought to me that day.

But if you asked me does John 3:16 mean that He loves the whole world, before that day, I would have said, “Of course.”

And you say “Are you included in that?”

I would have said, “Of course.”

I knew. I had a correct mental grasp of John 3:16, but there was something about the personal implication of that and the deep conviction of the significance that I had not had before. But it was not in the area of the cognitive as much as the recognition in the heart that the Bible really says “God loves me.”

God loves me and I came to be convinced of it. I think some of you have had experiences like that where something which academically you may have known now the Spirit of God brought home to you and you were convinced of it. I think that’s what I would call one of the major works of the Spirit interpretation.