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Christian Character Holiness Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit, Part 2: No Spirit No Church

The Holy Spirit, not an inspirational speaker, preacher, or writer, is the One Who stirs up the hardened conscience (1 Corinthians 2:13). The Spirit is the one Who softens the heart to recognize the need for repentance and bear good fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). The Spirit illuminates the mind to desire the truth of God’s Word in faith concerning the hope and salvation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 4:6). It is not by the words, methods, cleverness, or intelligence of men. God has ordained one method only to change the heart of stone–the hearing of the Word of God by faith. (Romans 10:17; Galatians 3:2). In fact, the Church itself could not exist without the Holy Spirit, as John Owen writes,

In this promise he founded the Church itself, and by it he [built] it up. And this is the hinge on which the whole weight of it turns to this day. Take this away; suppose it to cease, as to actual accomplishment, and there is an end of the Church of Christ in this world. No dispensation of the Spirit, no Church. He that would utterly separate the Spirit from the word, had as good burn his Bible. The bare letter of the New Testament will no more produce faith and obedience in the souls of men, than the letter of the Old Testament does among the Jews, 2 Cor. 3:6, 8., p. 93, A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit

Owen here says that without the Holy Spirit there is no Church. In the letter to the Corinthians Paul teaches this when he writes, “…who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6 ESV). The Spirit is the One Who gives life through faith in God’s Word, not the outward methods of men. Owen writes,

The kingdom of Christ is spiritual, and in the animating principles of it, invisible. If we fix our minds only on outward order, we lose the rise and power of the whole. It is not an outward visible ordination by men (though that be necessary by rule and precept,) but Christ’s communication of his Spirit, that gives being, life, usefulness, and success to the ministry…, p. 109-110, A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit

And upon this act of faith, when the Holy Spirit gives this life by entering the new believer, He dwells within him permanently (1 Corinthians 6:19), supernaturally sealing him and sanctifying Him until the day of redemption when Christ returns (Ephesians 4:30), building Him up into greater and greater degrees of holiness in the peace of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).

How unbelievable a thing it is to imagine that the very Spirit of God might condescend to dwell within sinful flesh! But this is the overflowing generosity of God toward sinners, who otherwise seek a joy from from a source that gives no joy, a hope from a place that gives no hope, and a peace from a place that gives no peace. Without the work of the Spirit, a person knows only to seek happiness in serving himself and his interests. For all we like sheep have gone astray, says Isaiah. Each one has turned to his own way, but the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

But through the Lord Jesus, He sets us free by the Holy Spirit so that the believer no longer lives for himself, but rather for Jesus Christ Who lives even today (2 Corinthians 5:15), and although every day the believer will have struggles in the flesh both great and small, as he endures and perseveres through his trials, his joy will be greater than his struggles. All of this is possible only through the supernatural work of God the Spirit.

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Christian Character Holiness Holy Spirit

The Love That God Desires

The Father in heaven has great love for His children. The Lord God is a merciful God, choosing the least of peoples for His own. He chooses the insignificant, the downcast, the vile, the desperate, and the unregarded. There is no sinner too great for the love of the Father. He seeks to work in us and through us, drawing near to us as we cry out to Him for mercy each day. And He only requires of us a daily abiding love for Him, which is not burdensome or heavy, and even that requirement is made possible as a gift by grace through faith. Consider the words of our Savior,

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:27-30 ESV)

Those that know the Father know Him because the Son has chosen to reveal the Father to them. This knowledge is a gift of grace. The call to know the Father through the Son is given to all. It is a gentle and gracious calling for all to find their rest in Christ, whereby the righteousness of God and the pursuit of holiness grants rivers of peace and rest in one’s heart, as they turn away from the burdensome nature of sin. Sin wastes away life, but righteousness restores the soul and heals the mind, as Solomon himself learned by inspiration of the Holy Spirit,

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but envy makes the bones rot. (Proverbs 14:30 ESV)

To turn away from the desires of the world, to turn away from sin and living for self, to pursue the fear of God, these are what will bring healing to one’s soul and refreshment of one’s mind. Sin brings envy and causes rottenness of the bones, but the peace of God heals in the pursuit of goodness and truth.

The pursuit of God will be hard. Jesus Himself said that the way is hard that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14). The world will hate us for loving God. The world will reject and despise His Word. But do not lose heart in doing good, for in due time, we will reap (cf. Galatians 6:7-9). If you fall, get up. Keep going. Keep pursuing the peace of God in your heart. Fight. Do not be slothful in zeal. Be fervent in spirit. (Romans 12:11) Be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:19) As the apostle Paul said,

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)

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Christian Character Holiness Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit, Part 1

The work of God the Spirit is not independent of the work of God the Father or God the Son. They have different roles, but they work together toward the same goal. (John 16:5-15) The Father sends the Son. (John 6:44; 8:18) The Father and Son send the Spirit. (John 14:26; 15:26). The Spirit carries out the will of God in and through His chosen ones, sealing them until the fullness of their inheritance. (Ephesians 1:4; 1:13-14)

The astounding work of the Holy Spirit is then found to be absolutely necessary to complete the work of Christ in His chosen people. The Father and Son send the Spirit Who now lives in the hearts of those who love God. (Romans 5:5) The Spirit, having been poured out in our hearts, enables God to work directly within us for the salvation of our souls, keeping us so that we endure until the end. (Matthew 10:22; Ephesians 1:13-14) It may be said then that without the Holy Spirit salvation is impossible. This doctrine also reveals the importance of working out one’s salvation with fear and trembling, because in doing so, we prove that the Spirit of Christ is in our hearts. (Acts 7:51; Romans 8:9-11)

To add to this John Owen says,

This work of the Spirit being not an original but a perfecting work, it supposes the love, grace, counsel and eternal purpose of the Father […] But in the new creation, God intends the special revelation of each person [of the Trinity] distinctly, in his peculiar distinct operations; a full discovery of the economy of the Holy Trinity, with superior light to what was afforded under the Old Testament. We find in the saints of old, vigorous actings of faith and ardent affections in their approaches to God; but as to a clear access to the Father—through the Son—by the Spirit, Ephesians 2:18, (wherein the life of our communion with God consists) we hear nothing of it. Herein therefore God plainly declares, that the foundation of the whole was him even as they honour the Father, John 5:23; and the actual application of all to the souls of men is by the Spirit [Ephesians 2:22], that they may be partakers of the grace designed in the counsel of the Father, and prepared in the mediation of the Son. And herein is the Holy Ghost to be glorified, that he, together with the Father and Son, may be known, adored, and worshipped. [emphasis mine] (A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit, pg. 107-108)