“Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor. 1:21, 22).
We have in these verses, suggested at least, every operation of the Holy Spirit of God that is brought before us elsewhere in the New Testament. There is absolutely no ministry of the Holy Spirit as far as the believer is concerned that is not touched on here. In the Revised Version there is a slight change which helps to make it clearer. “Now He which establisheth us with you into Christ, and hath anointed us, is God.”
When we think of establishment into Christ by the Holy Spirit, we necessarily think, if we are intelligent in the understanding of the truth of Scripture, of three very definite operations of the Holy Spirit. We think first of all of conviction, or sanctification by the Spirit. Secondly, we think of the new birth by the Spirit through the Word. And thirdly, we think of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. All these operations are involved in the establishment of a believer into Christ. No one is in Christ by natural birth.
“As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). All men naturally are in Adam. To be in Adam means that we have received life from Adam. He was our federal head; we belong by nature to Adam’s race, and that entire race is under judgment because of sin. To be in Christ means that we have received life from Christ, and that He, the risen exalted One in heaven, is the Head of a new race, a new creation to which we now belong. The steps by which we enter into that new creation are laid down very clearly in the Word.
First of all, no one would ever come to Christ if it were not for the convicting, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit of God. Unless the Spirit of God awakens a man, unless the Spirit of God brings him to see his lost condition, convicts him of the tremendous truths of Holy Scripture, no man would ever of himself turn to Christ. That is a very solemn fact, but it is a fact nevertheless. “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy” (Rom. 9:16). On the other hand, it is quite possible for the Spirit of God to operate in convicting power on the heart of man and yet that man do what the Jews did in Stephen’s day. It is written of them, “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51). So it is possible to be convicted by the Spirit and yet to resist the Spirit. But there must be the convicting work of the Spirit of God or no one would ever come to Christ. Jesus Christ said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will convince (or convict) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:7, 8). Conviction is far more than a mere emotional breakdown. People often confound conviction with that. Such a breakdown may be there, and we are glad sometimes when it is. Most of us are so cold and stony-hearted that it is refreshing to see people break down and weep over their sins. The saintly Rutherford complained in his day that there were so few who ever had a sick night for sin. There must be first a recognition of one’s utterly lost condition. The Spirit of God has come to convict of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Our Lord Jesus says, “Of sin, because they believe not on Me.” The great damning sin that is sending men down to perdition is the rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not told that the Spirit of God was sent particularly to convict men of sins of the flesh and sins of a general character. Every man’s conscience convicts him of the sinfulness of licentiousness, of immoral living, of lying, of drunkenness, of pride and vanity, and all these other things, and if a man’s conscience should be so dulled by continual sinning that it seems to cease to register, still there is God’s holy law with its stern “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” which will convict any honest man of the sinfulness of a wicked life.
The Holy Spirit came to convict of the sin of rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ. God took the entire sin question into account when the Lord Jesus Christ hung on Calvary’s cross, and because of what Christ did then and there, God is able to “be just and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). But if men reject the Lord Jesus Christ, if men refuse to put their trust in Him, they have to go on to judgment, to face their own sins when they will be judged, every man according to his works. Some men rather pride themselves on their morality, on their respectability, and say, “I do not know that I need the salvation of God. I have never been guilty of breaking the moral code.” Let me ask you this: Have you received the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s blessed Son, as your own personal Saviour? If not, if you are still rejecting Him, you are guilty of the worst sin that any one can possibly commit, for God has given Heaven’s best, in sending His blessed Son to earth to bleed and die for your redemption. Can there be any greater sin, any worse offense in the eyes of a holy God, than to reject that Saviour, to trample on His grace, and spurn His loving-kindness? It is the work of the Spirit of God to convict men of the sin of the rejection of Christ, and then to convict of righteousness. That is, to show men that though they have no righteousness of their own God has provided one for them in His risen Son. And so the apostle cries, “I would be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:9). Yet Saul of Tarsus did not feel that way in his unconverted days. It was not until the Spirit of God convicted him of righteousness that he said, “Now I see it. I gladly part with every pretension to righteousness of my own; I would be found in Christ.”
The Holy Spirit comes to convict of judgment. Not merely of judgment to come, but of the fact that this world is already under judgment, and that every believer is brought out from that judgment, and is raised up with this risen Christ, and so is called to walk apart from the world. Jesus said, “Because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:11). Satan is the prince of this world, and at the cross the ancient prophecy was fulfilled, “It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). At the cross Satan bruised the heel of the Son of God, but there his own head was bruised, and now he is a judged prince, and the entire scene that recognizes his authority is under judgment. You and I are called by grace to step out from it all and take our place with the Christ whom the world rejected.
Scripture sometimes uses another term for the convicting work of the Spirit of God; it speaks of the sanctification of the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 6:11 the apostle mentions some very ungodly people, and then he says, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
Sanctification means to be set apart. You who are in Christ, do you not remember when you were part of this ungodly world? You lived for the world and for self, and then the hour came when earthly things began to pall upon you, you lost your appetite for the pleasures of the world and you were deeply concerned about your sinful and lost condition. You said, “I cannot live like this; I want something better than the world has ever given me,” and your trouble went on until you came to Christ and believing in Him you were justified. That was the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit of God that thus led you to Christ. When people come to Christ, when the Spirit of God leads them to His blessed feet and they believe the gospel, what takes place? They are immediately born again. “Being born again,” says Peter, “not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:23).
Our Lord Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). People get confused about the water in that verse. They imagine sometimes that it means baptism, but Christian baptism had not been instituted when the Lord Jesus used those words. The best way to find out what it means is to go through John’s writings and see how he speaks of water. You remember Jesus said to the woman at the well, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst: but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Whatever water means in John 3 it means exactly the same in John 4, and Jesus is not talking about drinking the water of baptism. Even when we are immersed we close our lips; we do not drink the water. But He is speaking of another kind of water altogether. We read in Revelation 22:17: “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” What is the water of life? It is the offer of life that Jesus gives, the message that we have here in the Word of God. That Word has cleansing and refreshing power, and when we receive the Word in the simplicity of faith we are regenerated “by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). So then, the Spirit convicts, sanctifies, and regenerates through the Word, and more than that, the Spirit puts us into the Body of Christ.
“By one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body” (1 Cor. 12:12). Some time ago we were just so many units utterly uninterested in one another, but through grace we have been led not only to know that we are saved ourselves, but we have been brought into a blessed and hallowed unity with all fellow-believers. We are members of that one Body of which our Lord Jesus Christ is the Head. That is what it is to be established into Christ.
And then notice the next operation of the Spirit mentioned here: “And hath anointed us.” The anointing is for service and illumination. You remember in Old Testament times three kinds of people were anointed with oil: prophets, priests, and kings; and oil is the recognized type of the Holy Spirit. After His baptism in the Jordan, Jesus was anointed by God with the Holy Ghost and with power. When the Spirit of God descended upon Him in a special way, that was His anointing for His threefold office. He was Prophet on earth, He is Priest in Heaven, and He will be King when He comes again, and this blessed ministry is all in the power of the Holy Spirit. Though our Lord Jesus Christ was God, yet as to His Manhood He chose to do all His works in the Spirit’s power, and so as believers we are anointed by the Spirit, and even the youngest believer has this anointing. You may have been converted only a day or two ago, but the Spirit of God now dwells in you as the anointing, and when you want instruction and power for service, look up to God that He by the Spirit may give you the instruction you need through the Word, and that He may empower you to serve Him.
In the next place we read, “Who hath also sealed us.” A seal speaks of ownership. The same Holy Spirit who regenerated us, who baptized us into the Body of Christ, who is our anointing for service and our illumination, dwells within us as the seal that we belong to God. As I look at a group of people I cannot tell a Christian from one who is not converted, but as God looks down He sees every believer in whom the Holy Spirit dwells and says, “That is one of Mine,” and wherever the Holy Spirit is not dwelling in a person, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom. 8:9). The seal is the mark that we belong to Him, “After that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13). And again we are told in that same epistle to the Ephesians (4:30), “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Notice two things: first, how clearly it brings out the personality of the Holy Spirit. You cannot grieve anything that is not personal. You can grieve those you love the most by bad behavior or coldness or indifference; and so, you may grieve the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit dwells in you to claim you for Christ, and if you are careless in your life as a believer, allowing worldliness or carnality or anything that is un-Christlike a place in your life, you are grieving the Holy Spirit of God. You might expect it to go on, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, lest He leave you, lest you grieve Him away,” but it says, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” This suggests the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit of God. “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). When He is come, our Saviour tells us, He shall “abide with you for- ever” (John 14:16). The very reason you should not grieve Him is that He remains within you whether grieved or ungrieved, but if your behavior is such that you are grieving the Holy Spirit, you are going to be a very unhappy Christian. The happy Christian is the one living in the power of an ungrieved Spirit. It is absolutely impossible to live carelessly and be happy. The happy Christian is the holy Christian.
The apostle adds, in closing this passage, “And given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” The Holy Spirit dwelling within us is the earnest of that full blessing which we are to have at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him, and the more the Holy Spirit is given His right of way in our lives now, the more we are permitted to enjoy of that which shall be ours in all its fulness some day. And so we see that the filling of the Holy Spirit is connected with the earnest. “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). He lives within us, and everything that we enjoy of a spiritual nature we enjoy through the indwelling Holy Spirit. “But,” someone says, “I feel so limited at times; there is so much I ought to enter into, so much more God has for me that I do not seem to lay hold on.” Eight here comes the admonition, “Be filled with the Spirit.”
Every believer has the Holy Spirit in him as the earnest. Someone says, “But you mean we need more of the Holy Spirit.” No, I do not mean that at all. The Holy Spirit is a Person, and He lives in you, and so I do not say you need more of the Holy Spirit, but I do say the Holy Spirit wants to possess more of you. That is the trouble with so many of us, we crowd the Spirit of God off into some one corner of our hearts. A great many of us live our lives almost in airtight compartments. The Holy Spirit can have His place in our religious lives, but what about the home life, the business life, the social life, and even the church life? We often live our lives in these compartments, and when at home we live one way, when at business another, in our social obligations another, and when we go to church another, and then we have our little time of spiritual devotion. There can be no happy, triumphant Christian life until all these partitions are broken down and your life comes entirely under the Spirit of God. Let Him have His way in everything, and there will be a life of victory and blessing. That is what it means to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
The story is told of a young man who was ashamed of his childhood home and of his mother. He built a beautiful home and had a little place built in the attic for his mother and brought her there to live. But he kept the secret even from his wife as to who she was, until one day she found it out and said to him, “What is this? Your mother hidden away up there in the attic? I never dreamed who was up there.”
“Well, you know,” he said, “she has never had any education; she isn’t accustomed to our way of living, and so I thought it better that she should be hidden away up there.”
“No,” said the wife, “we will never treat her like that. Your mother is to come down from the attic, and is to have the run of the house and enjoy herself to the fullest degree.”
The Holy Spirit of God lives in you, believer. Is He hidden away in the attic of your life or has He the run of the house? Has your life been surrendered to Him? Are you yielded to His control?
You have seen how every operation of the Spirit of God is suggested. But somebody says, “What about the gifts of the Spirit?” He is not speaking here of gifts, but all the gifts are linked with the anointing of the Spirit, and so God has given various gifts to different believers, but it is all through the anointing of the Holy Spirit of God who fits us for any special service which the Lord may have for us.