We're working through Systematic Theology III, and specifically, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. We’re now talking about the role of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.
Last time we talked about conviction and the Holy Spirit -- namely, that one of the primary jobs of the Spirit in the unbelieving world is to bring an objective, judicial conviction of guilt. We spent our time looking at John 16:8-11.
We saw that the Spirit will bring a conviction concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. So check it out if you didn’t get a chance to listen.
Today we plan to talk about the ministries of the Spirit within the church.
The ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians
8 Primary categories:
- The Holy Spirit is the guarantee, the down-payment, the first-fruits, the seal of God’s work in our life. (*And this is an objective reality.)
Eph. 1:13-14 “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, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.”
Eph. 4:30 – “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
The Scriptures are clear that God will complete the work that He begins in our life (Phil. 1:6). The Holy Spirit is the objective guarantee of this ongoing work, but also the guarantee that God will indeed finish the work that He has promised.
Romans 8:23 - “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”
“The first fruits” is a reference to Israel giving the first of their harvest to the Lord.
It was a way to show their devotion to Him. If they gave their first fruits, the promise is that God would abundantly supply them with their needs.
Well in a similar way, God giving us His Holy Spirit is His way of displaying His devotion to us -- to complete His promised work.
It’s a wonderful verse because it is not we who need to give the first fruits, but God!
He gives us the Spirit (“the first fruits”), which also means that He will give us everything else required to save us.
In other words, He does it all!
- The Holy Spirit gives believers assurance of salvation (*And this is a subjective reality).
Rom. 8:16 – “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
1 John 4:13 - “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”
This is an inner-subjective confidence that we belong to God forever. It is a gift and wonderful privilege for genuine Christians.
Now, the point to understand, however, is that assurance is a privilege for all Christians, but it is not necessarily a reality for all Christians.
Reasons Christians might lack assurance of salvation:
1.) No teaching (or bad teaching) on key passages regarding a Christian’s absolute, eternal security in Christ.
Rom. 8:35-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
1 Pet. 5:1 – “who according to [God’s] great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
2.) Satanic attack.
3.) Physical pain/difficulties from living in a fallen, broken world.
Sometimes this can cause a person to doubt God’s love for them. This can sometimes be due to a poor teaching on God’s love. It can also be the result of not having a proper understanding of how God chastens/disciplines his children for the purpose of perseverance (Heb. 12). Sometimes we think that all pain is bad, when in reality, it may be the very evidence of God’s love-- though still very painful!
4.) Lack of sharing the Gospel, and being a faithful witness.
This was an experience I (Matt Miller) had when in seminary.
I got to a point when all I did was exist in the bubble of academia.
It was a dark time.
One day I shared the Gospel -- and it felt like fresh air was breathed into me.
And when I looked back on that, I realized that it was simply because I was able to articulate the basic truth of the Gospel. When you are forced to articulate it, and reaffirm what you believe, it has a way of reassuring your soul.
This is part of God’s design.
Some Christians go many years without sharing the Gospel. Well it’s no wonder why they lack assurance. It is part of God’s design in keeping us faithful. As a result, we’ll feel subjectly secure in Christ when we are obedient.
5.) Guilt of sin (perhaps a life-style of sin). God can sometimes pull assurance to draw us back to Him.
1 John 3:24 - ““And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”
So one of the roles of the Spirit is to give us subject assurance, but only as we walk in obedience to the commands of Christ. It is possible for a true christian to walk around in incredible guilt.
When they truly possess the spirit of God, but choose to actively remain in sin, they will feel like a schizophrenic at times.
While trapped in their sin, they still hate it. And so, this can be cause for a very miserable life for the Christian, and it is by design.
As a Christian chooses sin over obedience, they will wonder if they are even saved, and lack that subject feeling of assurance.
It is here where a person must make up their mind what they believe. The true Christain will eventually choose obedience, though it may be a long period of time.
But until that time, they will lack assurance, they will doubt God’s love, and wonder if they are even saved. They will even have thoughts, perhaps, of just giving up on following Christ, altogether.
Again, this is simply due to their own guilt of choosing sin instead of obedience.
But when they eventually come out of that sin and choose obedience, it is amazing how much subjective assurance and joy that a Christian will have, almost immediately.
We would also add, in light of 1 John 3:24 - a true Christian will always lack assurance in times of disobedience.
In fact, it is when a person claims Christ, and knowingly lives in sin, and yet has zero doubt over the salvation, that a pastor should become very concerned.
One of the marks (or evidence) that a person truly possesses the spirit of God, is they begin to lack assurance in times of disobedience.
So one of the worst things a pastor (or fellow Christian) can do, is help minimize that convicting work.