I am what some call a cessationist. That is, I believe the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit ended in the days shortly following the close of the New Testament. I believe the Bible makes that teaching clear in passages like 1 Corinthians 13:8-11, Ephesians 4:7-16, and 2 Timothy 3:16-17. I believe it because of the Bible’s testimony as to how the miraculous measure of the Holy Spirit was administered in New Testament times as seen in Acts 8:16-19, Acts 19:5-6, and Romans 1:11.
I also believe it based on the absence of miracles seen today that in any way resemble or could be compared to those as seen in the New Testament. We do not see the lame walk, the blind receiving their sight, nor the dead raised. We may hear claims of such, but the paucity of evidence claims otherwise.
But just because I believe the age of miracles is past does not mean I do not believe in the present work of the Holy Spirit! Today’s reading contains Jesus’ promise to the apostles to send the Holy Spirit to “convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (v 8). But how did He do this then, and how does He do it now?
The Holy Spirit did not convict the world of sin by some direct operation on their hearts. Rather, He convicted the world of sin through the lives and preaching of the apostles (Acts 2:37) and other disciples (Acts 7:54). He still convicts men through those same means today, either through the taught or written word.
In John’s first epistle, he reminded his little children that they had an anointing from the Holy One and knew all things (2:20). Moreover, he did not write because they did not know the truth, but because they did know it (2:21). Finally, that anointing taught them all things (2:27).
Today, we have the same promise that we can know the truth (John 8:31-32). Today we are taught all the things we need to know concerning life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). But these things are not revealed to us directly by the Spirit as they were in those days. Rather, we are made complete and furnished to every good work through the teaching of the New Testament (2 Tim 3:16-17). The Holy Spirit is still at work; He just changed his mode of operation as through the Word.