The Holy Spirit in Salvation
We regret that through circumstances, it has not been possible to insert consecutively each of these helpful articles on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. The last insertion will be found in the February number, 1959.
Over 100 Years Ago, Dr. Octavius Winslow penned these striking words: “The doctrine of the personal inbeing of the Spirit has been reduced in the creed of some to a mere poetical conception. Assimilation of the character and disposition of the Spirit in that which is amiable, sympathizing, and generous has been made to take the place of an ACTUAL and PERSONAL RESIDENCE of the Holy Ghost.”
As opposed to such error, the Scriptures teach that the Spirit of God actually and personally dwells within the believer, who is thereby richly blessed by the Holy Spirit Himself.
A New Disposition
The Spirit of God introduces a new disposition into the life of every true child of God. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:5). The unregenerate man and the natural bent of his life are lucidly depicted in the first part of this statement, while the new-born man and his distinctively new mind are as succinctly portrayed in the second part.
The incoming of the Holy Spirit brings a new outlook coupled with new desires consistent with the character of the Indweller. He is the Spirit of holiness, and every prompting to purity and godliness emanates from Him. He is sensitive to all that is unclean and unrighteous, and where such is tolerated, the Christian becomes aware of having grieved the Holy Spirit of promise within him (Eph. 4:29-30).
In this Ephesian passage, the enumeration of lying, unholy anger, stealing, corrupt speech, and bitterness shows the reason for the Spirit’s grief. Increasing acquaintance with the Spirit’s ways will beget an increasing tenderness of conscience on the part of those who are His dwelling place.
The Spirit of Love
The indweller is the Spirit of Love, and this essential trait of character will betray His presence (Rom. 15:30. Col. 1:8). The affections of the Spirit-born person gravitate spontaneously towards higher levels. The Father, the Son, the Word of truth, the people of God, the souls of the perishing become the objects of tender and loving thought, and this is nothing less than the minding of the Spirit, which is life and peace (Rom. 8:6).
With the advent of the Spirit also comes the awakening of vital communication with God as Father, and this in general terms is the beginning of true prayer in a believing soul. The words of Galatians 4:6 seem to acquire increasing sweetness the more we reflect upon them: “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” The dawning sense of God’s Fatherhood draws out the filial exclamation, “Father, Father!” It is the Spirit of sonship Who makes us conscious of the Father and of all that is in His loving heart towards His child.
He it is Who dissipates the bondage of fear which held us at such a distance when we were unsaved, and He it is Who now puts us perfectly, yet always reverently, at ease in our Father’s presence. Thus, approach to God in a practical way is begun and this is the true life-centre of prayer.
The Spirit and Prayer
This work, however, the Spirit seeks to encourage and expand. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom. 8:26-27).
The desires and yearnings of a Spirit-born man or woman are something of an entirely new and distant kind. They pay tribute to the divine presence and work in the soul. The mind of the Spirit is in process of expression so that the Christian finds longings arising for which there seems no adequate language. A sigh, a groan, a lifting up of the troubled spirit Godward, these, betimes, are the mind of the Spirit and the intercession of the Spirit within us.
Our gracious Father, with omniscient eye, can read the full meaning of the unuttered groanings, and answers accordingly. In every case where communication with the Lord is cultivated as a daily habit of the believer, everyone else feels the results in spiritual character and Christian influence.
It is encouraging also to know that our loving Father has provided every facility for us to draw near and enjoy His presence; to drink deeply at the well-springs of His love; and to experience gracious answers to our petitions. There is a prevailing Name to plead, Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:1314). There is a faithful promise to assure us: “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). There is a token of access, the precious blood of Christ (Heb. 10:19). Moreover, there is a mighty Helper to inspire the willing petitioner with desires according to the will of God, the Spirit of grace and supplication.
That the main objective of the Spirit’s residence in the Christian is the reproduction of the life of Christ is learned from 2 Corinthians 3:17-18: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
The removal of the veil under the law, done away in Christ, has left room for the ministration of the Spirit, which is rather glorious (1 Cor. 3:8). The illuminated soul now beholds the glory of the Lord in the mirror of truth, and gazing constantly, is being transfigured into the same image even as derived from the Spirit of the Lord.
The contrasted results of the ministration of condemnation (i.e., of the law) and the ministration of the Spirit, serve to bring home to the reader the wonderful end in view of the Spirit’s indwelling. The old brought death; the new brings life. In the old, the glory had to be hidden; it could not be gazed upon. In the new, this is just what is required: the glory of the Lord should be contemplated. The old was transient, while the new is permanent.
Thus we are led up to the primal purpose of the ministration of the Spirit. The unveiled face eloquently tells of a heart where Christ was once unknown and unwanted, but now is known and loved (2 Cor. 4:6).
The “beholding in a mirror” is the believer’s gazing into the Word of Truth in which Christ has been revealed. The change “from glory to glory” is the certain, progressive outcome of the Christian’s occupation with the Lord Jesus Christ. The moral and spiritual transfiguration into the likeness of Christ is the result of the Spirit’s movements in conjunction with the beholding of the Lord’s glory. Here is the gracious process of producing a Christ-like character. It is intended to be carried on from stage to stage of growth in grace, “from glory to glory”.
After His Kind
Very early in the pages of Holy Writ, an abiding and inclusive principle of character is enunciated. “And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind” (Gen. 1:12). The latter phrase is repeated for other types of life, “and God saw that it was good”.
Life on the highest plane is governed by the same principle, the Holy Spirit begets life consistent with Himself. All the virtues of the fruit of the Spirit can be traced to the man Christ Jesus, Who was so perfectly Spirit-anointed, Spirit-filled, and Spirit-directed. “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23) when taken together, present a lively portrait of the highest attainable in spirituality.
Love flowed in every movement of the Christ of God. Joy abounded in the fulfilment of His Father’s pleasure. Peace lifted Him above life’s disturbances. Longsuffering marked His treatment of friend and foe. Gentleness adorned His words and deeds. Goodness revealed the bounty and integrity of His heart. Fidelity He showed to God and man. Meekness betokened the strength of His character, and self-control was in constant and unfailing evidence.
Here is what the Spirit designs to produce in each of us, so that in the most practical fashion, the life of Jesus may be manifest through our lives. Anything inconsistent with the above nine graces can be tabulated at once as a work of the flesh, and when discovered, should be turned over to Him Who alone can enable us to mortify the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13).
To co-operate further with Him, the believer must seek a constant engagement of mind and heart with Christ, and a faithful obedience to every unfolding of Christ in God’s Word by the Holy Spirit. Then will the believer manifest the image of the Lord Jesus Christ in practical Christian living, and thus will be fulfilled the Spirit’s primary purpose and work in salvation.