National policy of religious tolerance facing headwinds
A decision to prevent citizens of Indonesia from being able to access a Bible application for cell phones and mobile devices is sparking arguments amid that nation’s openly tolerant campaign to allow people to choose their own faith and practice it.
The worldwide Christian ministry Barnabas Fund is reporting that the Bible application for the Minangkabau people was removed from the Google Play Store for residents of Indonesia following a demand from Irwan Prayitno, the governor of West Sumatra.
He claimed it was causing discomfort in the Minangkabau people who are living in his province, the majority of whom are Muslim.
Only about 1.43% of the people there, about 69,000, are Christian.
The Indonesian Ulema Council supported the censorship by the nation’s Communication and Information Ministry, with a statement of secretary general Anwar Abbas that said, “The guidance of the Minangkabau people is not the Bible. Hopefully there will not be a Bible [published] in the Minangkabau language.”
“The decision to ban the Minangkabau Bible App failed to take into account the rights of Minangkabau Christians,” the Barnabas Fund reported.
And the decision was criticized by the chief of the nation’s longtime Agency for Pancasila Ideology Education, which advocates for tolerance.
That agency’s opinion is that holy books could be translated into any language as long as they were not misinterpreted.
The chief of the agency said, “Every individual is given the freedom to observe their beliefs as long as they do not cause disruption in the public. And, of course, some of the residents of West Sumatra are also Christian, and the governor himself is governor to everyone, not a certain ethnicity or religious belief.”
Pancasila is a formal doctrine instituted in Indonesia to encourage tolerance for religions – and discourage extremism. It prevailed for many years, with Christians and Muslims living as equals. That started changing only a few years ago.
Then, Barnabas Fund reported, the nation saw “a rise in hard-line Islamic ideology in recent years. A generation ago, Muslims and Christians lived peaceably as equals in accordance with Pancasila.”
“In 2019, the government took several steps to counter the spread of fundamentalism by urging members of the public to report extremist content posted online by civil servants and taking action to replace school textbooks deemed to contain radical material.”
That battle against “hard-line Islamist ideology” includes requests to the public to “report extremist content posted online by civil servants and taking action to replace school textbooks deemed to contain radical material,” Barnabas Fund said.
Indonesian Communications Minister Johnny G. Plate said the intention was “to bring together and improve the performance of our civil servants, as well as to foster higher levels of nationalism.”
Indonesia has the world’s biggest population of Muslims, and reports suggest that 19% of civil servants and 3% of military personnel favor an Indonesia under Islamic rule. About 18% of private employees and 23% of students share the view.
We open the Word of God now to the 8th chapter of Romans to continue our look at life in the Holy Spirit. We have been endeavoring to bring the wonderful, blessed Holy Spirit into a clearer picture in our understanding. Given the fact that much today in the evangelical church is said about the Holy Spirit, I’m afraid that most of it is a misrepresentation of His person and His work. I said at the very beginning a bold statement, and I will repeat it, that our Lord Jesus condemned the leaders of Israel for attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to Satan, and in the modern Pentecostal movement of today, the reverse is occurring where works of the devil are being attributed to the Holy Spirit. It’s a very sad, sad insult, a grief to the Holy Spirit and in some cases even a blasphemy of the blessed Holy Spirit.
When we worship God, we worship the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Somehow, the Holy Spirit has been trailing behind in terms of emphasis when in reality, the Holy Spirit is the member of the Trinity most personally, intimately involved in the life of a believer.
We’ve been learning that in this 8th chapter of Romans. We find ourselves now down in the middle of the chapter, and I want to read for you verses 24 through 30 – verses 24 through 30. We’ve already looked at verses 24 and 25 but we need to read them for context, and we won’t go into verses 29 and 30 but, again, they give us the full picture of this section.
Romans 8:24: “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
In earlier studies of this chapter, we have learned the marvelous height and breadth and length and depth of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to a believer in whom He dwells. We found in verses 2 and 3 that He frees us from sin and death. In verse 4, we are taught that He enables us to fulfill God’s holy law. In verses 5 through 11, we are told that He changes our nature. In verses 12 and 13, He empowers us for righteous living. In verses 14 to 16, we learn that He confirms our adoption as sons of God, and that brought us to verse 17, and the lengthy section from verses 17 to 30 emphasizes the work of the Spirit in securing our eternal glory, securing our eternal glory. And we have just read, essentially, the means by which the Spirit works to secure that glory, and we’ll look into it more deeply when we get to verse 26 in a moment.
But let me give you the foundation for today’s thinking. The greatest blessing God has given to believers is the secure promise of eternal life in heavenly glory. We already know from the opening of the chapter that we are in a no condemnation status before God. That is reiterated to us in verse 34 when the rhetorical question is asked, “Who condemns?” Is there some higher court than Christ or God? Again we are told nothing can separate us from that love of God which is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord. So the theme of this chapter from the beginning to the end is that we exist in a situation before God that is unalterable and unchangeable. It is a permanent no condemnation status. That is to say, those of us who belong to Christ will be glorified. We saw it essentially summed up in verse 29. We are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. That means we go from being predestined to being called to being justified to being glorified, and nobody falls through the cracks.
I can tell you, beloved, no doctrine of Scripture is more comforting than that, more strengthening than that, more encouraging than that, and that is why we live with hope. We live with hope. Not a wish but a hope that is a fixed certainty, based on the promises of God.
A comparative passage to this is very instructive for us. The words of Peter in his first epistle, chapter 1 and verse 3, are a kind of benediction, a kind of doxology, in contemplation of this reality of our secure glory. Where Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who according to His 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 protected by the power of God.” No wonder he burst into a doxology. We have the promise of future glory, we are protected by the power of God through faith to that glory. That is to say we have been given by God sovereignly a faith that will not fail, a faith that will not die. That faith that is secured to us by the power of God, and the power of God is none other than the Holy Spirit Himself.
In John 6, Jesus essentially said the same thing when He said, “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me, I will not turn away.” “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me” and “I will lose none of them, but raise them at the last day.” He said, “This is the will of the Father.” The New Testament calls this, for example, in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians, the sealing of the Spirit, sealing us safely to future glory. Paul speaks of it in this way: “He who began a good work in you will perfect it to the day of Jesus Christ.” But perhaps there’s no greater or stronger text on this great doctrine than the one that is before us. We groan for the reality of our glorification, we’ve been learning that, haven’t we? We live in a cursed world.
We ourselves, though regenerate on the inside, are still incarcerated in unredeemed flesh, and we groan in our humanity. The things we want to do, we don’t do. The things we do, we don’t want to do. We have a body of death attached to us, as Paul says in Romans. We still, as He says in 1 Corinthians 15, have a corruptible body, a perishable body that we long to get rid of. We want the perishable to put on that which is imperishable, the mortal to put on that which is immortal, the corrupt to put on that which is incorruptible. We long for glory.
And so starting in verse 19, running down all the way to verse 23, Paul talks about the groaning of creation, how the world itself, both the created world, animate and inanimate but impersonal, groans under the burden of the curse of the fall of Adam and Eve. Not only does the creation groan, but we groan, verse 23 says, we ourselves groan within ourselves, longing to be all that we have been promised to be in full glory. We feel the weight of our sin, we feel the curse of God, we feel the power of corruption within us. We understand the decay and the inevitability of death that stalks us all. We groan; creation groans. As I told you last week, the whole creation is groaning, waiting for the glorious manifestation of the sons of God, the revealing of the sons of God, all of that that’s going to happen when there is the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, and all the curse will fade away in some kind of an uncreation, kind of an atomic implosion, the elements melt with fervent heat. Everything in this universe created by God goes out of existence, and in its place a new heaven and a new earth and no curse.
Creation is personified as feeling the pain, waiting, longing for that day, and we genuinely long for that day. As I look at heaven, it’s not about golden streets – although I’m happy to live there – it’s about the absence of sin; it’s about the absence of temptation; it’s the absence of ignorance that is appealing about heaven. We all groan for glory.
But there’s a third groaning in this passage that is quite remarkable, and it is the groaning of the Holy Spirit. It is the groaning of the Holy Spirit. The blessed Holy Spirit in whom we enjoy – with whom we enjoy fellowship, called the fellowship of the Holy Spirit – is also groaning, groaning, waiting for our glorification. Creation is pained by the curse. We are pained by the curse. And even the Holy Spirit suffers the unfulfillment of the believers in whom He dwells until the curse is removed.
As we’ve gone through this chapter, we are essentially learning this, that the Holy Spirit is responsible for three marvelous ministries in our lives. First of all, the ministry of regeneration. He gave us life. We are born of the Spirit, born of the Spirit. He gave us life when we were dead – regeneration.
Secondly, the ministry of sanctification. It is He who increasingly conforms us to the image of Christ. Second Corinthians 3:18 puts it from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next, to the next, as we gaze on Christ as revealed in Scripture, who is the perfect model of Spirit-filled humanity. As we see Him as the example, as we gaze at Him in His full expression of deity and humanity, the Spirit changes us increasingly into His image from one level of glory to the next. That’s His work of sanctification.
And along with that work of sanctification, the third ministry that He has in this era of grace is the ministry of security. He secures us until that final ministry, the ministry of glorification when as the Spirit raised Christ from the dead, He will also raise us to be in His very likeness.
I think about the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, regenerating, sanctifying and securing me to future glory. What a blessed ministry. And all the while I’m thinking about that, I’m grieved over the amazing irony – amazing irony – that it is these very ministries of the Holy Spirit, which are so precious to us and so clearly revealed in Scripture, that are denied by the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. They claim to be the movement of the fullness of the Holy Spirit. They claim to have some kind of corner on the Holy Spirit. They claim to have an experience with the Spirit that we don’t have. And yet they deny the very work that the Spirit does in the life of the believer.
First of all, they deny the work of regeneration. The Bible teaches us that we are all dead in trespasses and sin, we are unable to give ourselves life. We must be born from above, born of the Spirit, and that is totally a work of God, not of the will of the flesh, not of the will of man, but of God. The Holy Spirit blows where He will, like the wind; does what He will with whom He will. This is a sovereign, mighty, divine work. Charismatics would want us to believe that it is a synergistic work, that the Spirit must be involved in it but that the sinner has the power in himself to make the necessary steps to bring life to himself in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. They also deny His mighty work in sanctification. They are little interested in the internal work of the Holy Spirit, little interested in His perfecting us into the likeness of Christ, little interested in His cultivating the love of holiness, the love of righteousness, the love of purity. They’re much more interested in the externals.
It’s called the holiness movement, but it’s really not about holiness. It’s called the Holy Spirit movement, and it’s really not about the Holy Spirit. Very little interest in internal holiness and purity that is the Spirit’s true work and almost exclusive interest in the external phenomena that they attach to the Holy Spirit, which in reality have nothing to do with Him, such as supposed miracles, tongues, falling down, hearing voices, barking like dogs, laughing uncontrollably, material prosperity, worldly success. And because that is not a paradigm for sanctification, the movement is loaded with scandal, sex, greed, corruption, and perversion.
You know, doing a little bit of reading on the history of this movement is a very interesting thing. If I asked you, “What is the fastest-growing form of religion in the world?” you probably wouldn’t give me the right answer. The right answer is Pentecostalism. That is the fastest-growing religion in the world. It didn’t exist in 1900. Just a handful of people launched something in 1901 in Topeka, Kansas, followed up by something in 1906 here in Los Angeles. And by this time now, the estimate is there are a half a billion people that would identify with this movement – from nobody in 1900 to half a billion people. Falls into three forms. There’s traditional Pentecostalism, there is Neo-Pentecostalism, and there is the Charismatic movement from 1960 on, but it all kind of blends together.
What happened in this movement is the center of interest was shifted from the gospel to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The center then was shifted from the Bible to experience, to a false experience with a false theology. Worship, then, was radically recast away from what was worship in spirit and in truth to what was simply an inducing of emotional highs. People became bored with the Bible, bored with preaching, and so preaching began to fade away. Sound doctrine had to be eliminated because the movement couldn’t survive under the scrutiny of sound doctrine. And so in the place of preaching the Bible and sound doctrine was wild, emotionally charged music and manipulated feelings. The truth was replaced with lies, and it is its own judgment. It is its own judgment.
The work of the Holy Spirit has been so totally misrepresented. There are essentially three forces in Christianity. This is called the third force: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Pentecostalism. And we have said much through the years, the church has, about the errors of Roman Catholicism. We have said a whole lot less about the errors of Pentecostalism because they threaten us with accusations of being divisive, and that causes some people to be silent.
I’m not defending the truth for the sake of my own church or the sake of my own opinion. I’m eager to defend the truth for the sake of the Holy Spirit, not that He needs me as a defender, but He needs me to not grieve Him and not quench Him and not insult Him and certainly to recognize what dishonors Him. I feel like the psalmist who said, “The reproaches that fall on you have fallen on me.” When the Holy Spirit is dishonored, I feel the pain, and it seems to be a very popular sport to do that.
So let’s look at the true ministry of the Holy Spirit with regard to His groaning related to our security. It’s an amazing section of Scripture, particularly in verse 26. “In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness for we don’t know to pray as we should. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” This text has to be one of the great biblical treasures. It describes the means by which the Holy Spirit supports and secures us in our grace journey to final glory. This is one of the most abused texts in the New Testament by the Charismatics. I always expect my Bible to bleed here because it’s been wounded so many times. They want us to believe that this is an advocacy for – advocacy text for speaking in tongues, this “groanings too deep for words.” They want us to believe that what this verse is saying is that when you don’t know how to pray in words that you do understand, launch off into glossolalia in words that you don’t understand and this is the Holy Spirit doing what you can’t do. That is not what this verse means, as you will see in a moment. It’s utterly foreign to the reality of the meaning of this text to impose that on it.
Let’s pick up the context: “In the same way the Spirit” – “in the same way.” What do you mean “in the same way”? In the same way that creation groans, waiting for the glorious manifestation of the sons of God, in the same way that we ourselves groan, waiting for the adoption of sons, the redemption of our body, so the Holy Spirit groans. We saw the groaning of creation, the groaning of the believer, now the groaning of the Holy Spirit – and all of this groaning in the direction of our future glory. It would be one thing for the creation to want to be glorified, one thing for the believer to want to be glorified, but those two in themselves wouldn’t necessarily guarantee that glory, but here comes the most important groaning of all, the groaning of the Holy Spirit for our future glory. In the same way, the Spirit groans “with groanings too deep for words.” It’s an amazing thought.
The Holy Spirit is intimately involved in the agonizing reality of the burden and the weight of sin in the lives of those in whom He lives. He unites with our desire to be free from the flesh, our unredeemed humanity, and to receive full salvation; full sonship; full, righteous perfection. Our eternal glory is secured, then, by this groaning intercession of the Holy Spirit. This is necessary. Go back to verse 26. It says that the Spirit “helps our weakness.” We’ve already identified our weakness. We groan within ourselves, back in verse 23. We have the down payment on our future glory, the firstfruits, but we groan under the debilitating weakness of our remaining sin. The Holy Spirit helps our weakness.
This doesn’t mean weak prayers; doesn’t mean weak prayer life. It doesn’t mean a kind of a weak understanding of what’s going on. It’s the whole debilitating power of our fallenness that remains in us. It’s our general weakness as fallen beings. It’s a comprehensive word. The whole scope of our sinfulness is a weight to us, and it is such a burden, such an overwhelming burden that we don’t even know how to pray as we should. We don’t even have a strategy to cope with it. We are so helpless in our sin and so helpless in our suffering, we don’t know how to overcome the power of our fallenness. We don’t have what it takes to guard our own souls.
I was reading one popular Charismatic theologian who said this: “I believe the Spirit is very strong, but His seal can be broken if a person with his own free will has chosen to live life on the darker side. Sins can keep Christians out of heaven. If you can’t stay loyal to your spouse, you can’t stay loyal to your Lord, and will not be able to stay loyal to Him even after you enter heaven. Like Satan and the angels, you may be thrown out.” Really? Just how insecure is insecure? I can’t be loyal on my own here, and I can’t be loyal on my own in heaven, and I might get thrown out? That is to completely, completely ignore the Holy Scripture that describes the securing ministry of the Spirit.
Let me say it simply: If you could lose your salvation, you would. If I could, I would. In fact, if I had to do anything to keep it, I couldn’t keep it at all. I don’t have the power. I don’t even know how to arm myself. I’m way too weak. I’m not kept by my own power. I’m not kept by my own prayers. Yes, “watch and pray lest you enter into temptation,” but on my own, unaided by the power of God, that’s not going to do it.
This is illustrated to us in the 22nd chapter of Luke where Peter is on the brink of his classic failure around the fires at the trial of our Lord, and Jesus gives him warning. Jesus tells him in verse 31 of Luke 22: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.” “Satan’s coming after you,” and he certainly did. But verse 32 says, “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” What was Peter’s attitude going into this temptation? He said it this way: “If everybody fails You, I won’t.” Self-confidence. He didn’t know how to pray for himself. He didn’t understand the profound nature of his own weakness. He had no ability to understand the forces that he was going to encounter. He was secured not by his own faith. He was secured not by his own will power. He was secured because the Lord Jesus prayed for him that his faith would not fail. That’s the intercessory work of the Lord Jesus Christ that secured Peter, and that’s a model of His high priestly work. He ever lives to make intercession for us.
The reason that you’re going to make it to glory, the reason that you stay saved, that you are secure, is because you have a high priest in heaven continuing to intercede for you. And you also have a second intercessory priest living in you; namely, the Holy Spirit. Just how much power does it take? How much divine power does it take to get a believer from grace to glory? It involves the continual, unending, relentless intercession of the Son and the Spirit.
Do you think that you can hang on by yourself? We could never attain to the resurrection of glory by the strength of our own flesh. We could never overcome our own sinfulness. We could never protect ourselves from failure unless we had been given by God a faith that would not fail, and it is sustained by Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit. That is why, as Grace was singing a little while ago, it doesn’t matter what comes at us, our faith doesn’t fail. Illustration: Job. Our faith doesn’t fail.
In this case, verse 26, how does the Holy Spirit help our weakness and the fact that we don’t know how to defend ourselves, even through prayer, even tapping into the divine power? “The Spirit Himself intercedes,” “the Spirit Himself intercedes.” Huperentunchano, a strong compound word, means to rescue someone in very great danger with no resources on his own, like somebody floating down the stream headed for Niagara. That’s the extremity of this verb. We need somebody beyond us and above us with far greater insight, far greater power than we have, and it is the Spirit Himself. I love that pronoun, auto, which points back to the Spirit Himself, not someone delegated by the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit Himself. It’s His work. This is His work. It was He who gave us life. It is He who conforms us increasingly to the image of Christ. It is He who secures us.
How does He do it? “With groanings too deep for words.” “With groanings too deep for words.” Please – this is not speaking in grunts and gibberish and tongues; this is not ecstatic speech; this isn’t anybody saying anything that can be heard. This is the Holy Spirit saying things that can’t be heard. It says it, “too deep for words.” Groanings, not of men, but groanings of the Spirit. The magnificent beauty of this is that the heart of the Holy Spirit aches for the glorification of every believer. And that aching, compassionate longing for the glorious manifestation of the children of God causes the Holy Spirit to speak silently to the Father in inter-Trinitarian conversation about the well-being of believers. We are not secure because God said it. We are secure because God said it, and God makes sure through the work of His Son and His Spirit that it happens.
The Holy Spirit understands our flesh, understands our weakness, understands temptation. Would never, ever lead us into some situation we couldn’t handle, right? “No temptation is taken you but such is as common to man.” God will always make a way of escape. John 18 is an illustration of that. When they came to arrest Jesus, He wouldn’t let them arrest the disciples because the Scripture needed to be fulfilled that none of them would defect, and so they were never going to be in a position where defection would happen. It’s a securing that is not simply a stated fact. It is a securing that is a constant work by the intercession of the Son and the Spirit. The Holy Spirit yearns for our final glory.
This is the heart of God, really. I was reading Hosea chapter 11 and I came across verse 8 where God says, “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel?…. My heart is turned over within Me. All My compassions are kindled.” And, you know, in the true sense, God never does give up Israel, does He? He’s going to bring Israel back. That’s the heart of God. How can I give you up?
These groanings have content. They have meaning. They have purpose. They are individually expressed, inter-Trinitarian, wordless communications that transcend language, that secure your place in heaven. And who is the Holy Spirit speaking to? Go back to verse 27: “He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is.”
Who is that? Who’s He who searches the hearts? Well, 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” First Kings 8:39 says, “You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men.” First Chronicles 28:9 says, “The Lord searches every heart, understands every motive.” Psalm 139: “Lord, You have searched me and known Me. You know when I sit down; You know when I rise up.” The entire psalm lays that out. Proverbs 15:11: “Even Sheol and Abaddon are open before the Lord.” Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, exceedingly corrupt. Who can know it?” The answer: “I, the Lord search the mind.” Acts 1:24: “Lord, You know every man’s heart.” There’s no creature, says the writer of Hebrews, hidden from God’s sight. “All things are open and laid bare to Him with whom we have to do.” So the Holy Spirit is interceding for us in this wordless communication from His own eternal, holy mind to the Father and His mind. The One who searches the hearts, God, knows the mind of the Spirit, perfect communion, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
What is the will of God for the saints? What is God’s Will for us? That we be glorified? Is that His will? Was His will that whomever He predestined He would call? Whoever He called He would justify? Whoever He justified He would glorify? Is it His will to bring to heaven a redeemed humanity? Is that His will? Is that His purpose? Is that the plan? Absolutely the plan. The Father planned it. The Son provided for it. And the Holy Spirit preserves it, protects it. So the Spirit is praying for our glory in consistency with the Father’s will. The Father planned our glory, the Son provided our glory, and the Spirit protects our glory. This is just an astonishing verse.
As you go through your life, you think about a lot of things around you and outside of you. Do you ever think about anything inside of you? Do you ever think about the ongoing, intercessory work of the Spirit of God who never slumbers or sleeps because God never slumbers or sleeps? Do you think about the fact that in all the vicissitudes and struggles and issues of life, the Spirit of God is relentlessly interceding on your behalf, silently, in perfect communion with the mind of God to effect the purposes of God? And that you even have an advocate against every accusation brought against you, namely Jesus Christ, who stands at the Father’s right hand in your defense as the One who paid in full the price for all your sins? That’s why you get to glory. That’s why no one can ever condemn you.
Now, all of that produces the truth of verse 28. All of that gets us to verse 28. And I know that verse 28 is a popular verse, everybody knows it that’s been in the church any length of time. And it sort of gets isolated a little bit, but the context gives the rich meaning of this verse, and you must see it in the context. “And we know” – this is sequential, this is subsequent, this is connected. It is because of the groaning, intercessory ministry of the Holy Spirit in perfect harmony with the purposes of God to bring us to eternal glory. It is because of the Spirit’s intercessory work and because of God’s divine purpose that God Himself, in answer to the Spirit’s pleas, “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And let me just say – because we can’t go into all of this – I’ve done that in years past about verse 28. You can go on and on about it because it’s one of those expandable verses – very expandable verses. But let’s just say for the moment that the “good” being referred to here is eternal glory. The “good” being referred to here is eternal glory because it is eternal glory that is the goal of everything, as verse 30 indicates, “glorified”; verse 19, “the revealing of the sons of God”; verse 21, “the glory of the children of God,” that’s the theme; verses 24 and 25, our “hope.” The good being spoken of here is our eternal glory.
The point is this: Because of the plan of God and the provision of Christ and the protection of the Holy Spirit through His intercessory ministry, God is causing all things to work together for our final, eternal, ultimate good. Not everything in this life works out for good – far from it. Oh, you might draw a good lesson from it. You might draw a good outcome from it. You might be drawn to the Lord. It might increase your prayer life. It might strengthen you. It might give you patience. It might perfect you, mature you. It might make you able to counsel other people and strengthen them because you can comfort those with whom you’ve been comforted by God in the same struggles.
All of those are wonderful realities, but that’s not the good that’s being spoken of here. The good that dominates this passage is that ultimate, final good that is the glorification of true believers. We are secured to that final good, that which is the best. “God causes all things” – in response to the intercessory work of the blessed Holy Spirit – “to work together for good.” The extent of security. There it is, the extent of security – “all things” – “all things” – “all things.” What does that mean? Nothing can change the ultimate good – nothing. That’s the positive way of saying we’re in a no condemnation status. There are no limits on that. “All things,” pantos, whatever the nature, whatever the number, whatever the extent, whatever the character of whatever may come in a fallen, corrupt world to people who still bear the weight of the curse in their unredeemed humanness – all of it. Everything that comes – everything – is woven together by God for our final good.
“Works together” is sunergei, from which we get synergy. God is the great synergizer. We could say that’s what providence is, God’s providence. All things are not necessarily good in themselves, all things don’t necessarily combine to produce good in this life. Some of you are living with that. Life’s not being good – illness, loss of jobs, loss of houses, loss of lots of things, friends. But in the end, there is a good, the ultimate good, eternal glory, that will come to pass. That’s the good that is the theme here, and it’s attached to the hope mentioned in verses 24 and 25, our eternal hope.
And this is good in the moral sense, not kalos, which is kind of good in the appeal to the eye. This is agathos, good in the moral sense; the true goodness, the real goodness, the ultimate goodness so that we can say good things – and life is full of many good things, obviously; we’re blessed. Good things work together for our good. But so do bad things. Bad things work together for our good – suffering, struggling with temptation, even sin. God gets a hold of all of these things and works them, in response to the intercessory work of the Holy Spirit, to our final good.
So that’s the extent of our security. How could we ever lose our salvation if everything that happens to us works together for our eternal good? There’s no other option.
So that’s the extent of security. Who are the recipients of this? The recipients of this security, this promise – just quickly. Verse 27 tells us that the Spirit is interceding “for the saints” – “for the saints,” the holy ones who have been covered with the righteousness of Christ, and thus before God are holy. But then in verse 28, it further defines them this way: “to those who love God.” “To those who love God.” They’re the recipients of this.
You ever kind of ask yourself the question, “How do you know if somebody is a Christian? How do I know if somebody – you know, they prayed a prayer, they go to church.” How do you know if someone’s a Christian? Here’s the answer: They love God. They love God. They love God. Why do they love God? Because they’re the called. That’s an effectual call. That’s an effectual call. That’s not an invitation like in Matthew 22 when the Lord invites people to come. That’s an effectual call. That is an absolute call. Verse 30: “Whom He called, He justified.” This is the call to life from spiritual death. This is the effectual call, as theologians have called it. All those who have been called in that way, called into life, called into salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit are then described as those who love God.
How can you tell a true Christian? They love God. They love God. Basic – they love God; they love Christ. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be damned,” 1 Corinthians 16:22 says. Being Christian is about loving Christ, loving Christ. We’re like that woman in Luke 7 who loved much because we’d been forgiven much. The great command of the Old Testament is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. We desire to do that. We don’t do that, but we do love God. All through Scripture, true believers are described as those who love God. “We love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you.” We love God. We love Jesus Christ.
It is a love that meditates on His majestic glory. It is a love that longs to worship, to sing His praises. It is a love that seeks the fellowship of others who love Him. It is a love that loves those who love Him and are loved by Him. It is a love that seeks communion with God, intimate communion. It is a love that seeks the knowledge of God in the Word of God, to know Him more. It is a love that is sensitive to God’s honor and God’s dishonor. It is a love that hates what God hates and loves what God loves. It is a love that grieves over sin and rejoices over righteousness. It is a love that rejects the world. It is a love that longs for the coming of Jesus Christ. But mostly, it is a love that obeys the Scripture. “If you love Me” – Do what? – “keep My commandments.” “Whoever keeps My Word, he it is that loves Me.”
For all those true believers who love the Lord, the promise is a wonderful promise. The Holy Spirit is interceding in perfect harmony with the will of God so that God is causing everything that happens in the life of those who love Him to come together in the end for their eternal good and eternal glory because that was His purpose from the very beginning. Predestined to that purpose. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. I think it’s time in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to give honor to the Holy Spirit, to worship Him, to love Him, to ascribe to Him the glory that He is due and to stop the nonsense that brings dishonor on His holy name.
We do a lot about worshiping God. We say a lot about worshiping God. We seem particularly in this current era to celebrate, and could neither be over-celebrated, neither the Father or the Son; to celebrate the cross and the work of Christ, and you could never do that too much. But in the midst of all of this, seems to me the Holy Spirit has been left behind. And He is equally God and equally to be honored and adored.
These are things that are confidences that we have. Verse 28 says, “We know.” “We know.” This isn’t a maybe; we know this. This is the certainty of our security. “We know.” How do we know? Because we know the purpose of God to predestine, call, justify, and glorify a redeemed people. This is the plan. Christ provided the necessary sacrifice, and the Spirit makes the plan work all the way to the end.
Now, verses 29 and 30 are two profound verses for next time. But I want you to listen to me right now. Usually, when I finish going through the Word of God with you, I have prayer and then you all just jump up and run. I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t know what’s so urgent. I just assume it’s deep conviction, and whoever gets up first is the most convicted. So we’re going to ask you, because when you teach the Word of God, the Spirit of God is working, don’t you believe that? And sometimes it just ends, and so what we’re going to do is I’m going to have a final prayer with you at the end of our service and let you know the prayer room is available and open for any help you need spiritually, anything you need there. The member center is open for membership, baptism information, you know all that.
But I’m going to ask you after this closing prayer to sit quietly and meditatively and think about what you heard while Steve plays for about 30 seconds or so, just some quiet background. And let’s just try to capture some moments of personal examination, okay? And then when he hits the foot pedals with both feet, that’s the signal that you can begin to move. Can we do that? And just kind of close in that meditative way after this prayer?
Father, thank You for – thank You for this. What can we say? What can we say? What can we even comprehend of this magnificence of this generous grace, of this overwhelming mercy that You have given to us? We thank You for not only giving us Christ as our heavenly defender, but giving us the Holy Spirit as our earthly intercessor who cries out for our glory. And You hear and You answer, and we’re secure by a supernatural protector. We give glory to You, O Son of God, for the mighty work on the cross, for the purchase price of our redemption. We give You glory, O blessed Holy Spirit, for regenerating us, sanctifying us, securing us, and one day glorifying us. We want to honor You, the triune God, in every way and live lives that adorn all that is true about You, as much as is possible for weak humans such as we are. Thank You that You’ve made us Your children, adopted us as sons, and we, too, groan until the day of our glory when we can fall at Your feet and worship You, O God, in full righteousness. That’s our prayer. In anticipation of that, we offer You the rest of this grace journey in obedience to You, that Christ may be honored and lifted up and draw others to Himself. We pray in His name.
Let’s open the Word of God to the 8th chapter of Romans and we’re going to look – essentially, we’re going to look at just two verses – just two verses. But in order to set it in your mind, I want to read three verses, verses 28, 29, and 30. They really do go together. We’ve pretty much covered verse 28 already and at least the second half of verse 29, but I want to read them for you.
Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. And these whom He predestined, He also called. And these whom He called, He also justified. And these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
Now, as we have been learning, just to give you the broad picture again, I don’t want to belabor this point, but it is an urgent point to make. As we have been learning, the gracious, mighty, wondrous work of the Holy Spirit on behalf of every Christian is sufficient to motivate full-hearted, joyous, grateful worship, and worship is the priority for the believer. We are first and foremost worshipers. The Father is seeking true worshipers, and we are those who worship in the Spirit, according to the apostle Paul. We are first and foremost worshipers. The object of our worship is the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And basically speaking, we are well-informed in the worship of God the Father. We understand His attributes, we understand His mighty works, and we celebrate them in our expressions of worship, both individually and corporately. We’re well-informed on the worship of the Son of God. We understand His life and ministry. We understand His death and His resurrection, ascension, His intercessory work, His return. We do well to worship the Son. But we don’t understand fully, at least in the evangelical church, the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And consequently, we do not worship the Spirit as we should and, therefore, we do not worship the triune God in the fullest measure that He is worthy to receive.
Our worship of the Holy Spirit, like our worship of the Father and our worship of the Son, is only as true, only as pure, and only as accurate and only as extensive as our knowledge of the Spirit’s person and work. And since that is a very glaring problem in the evangelical world today, we’ve been endeavoring to take a good look at the ministry of the Holy Spirit for which He is to be worshiped. And I want to say at the very outset that the Holy Spirit is no less the sovereign than the Son or the Father. He is no less sovereign, He is no less in authority, than any other member of the Trinity. He is to be obeyed as are the Son and the Father. He is to be honored and submitted to as are the Son and the Father.
But the general, evangelical church in our time has been cheated of the understanding of the Holy Spirit as to His person and His work, His ministry. And consequently, our worship of the Holy Spirit is convoluted – or functions in ignorance. The Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, which starts at the beginning of the 20th century, has produced endless misconceptions about the Holy Spirit, endless misrepresentations of the Holy Spirit, much abuse and blasphemy of His holy name. And in the name of unity and in the name of love and in the name of acceptance, the evangelical church has decided not to correct this vast realm of propagated error. That is a serious thing to avoid. This needs correction; it needs exposure.
The Holy Spirit is perceived in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, no matter what might be said. The Holy Spirit is nonetheless perceived not as the sovereign God, not as the sovereign Spirit ruling, commanding the believer, not as the one to whom we submit, whose word we obey, but rather the Holy Spirit is presented almost in an impersonal way as a kind of a force, a kind of metaphysical force that serves the believer and submits to the will of the believer, the wish of the believer, the desire of the believer, the words of the believer and even, I suppose, the commands of the believer. Personal desires, personal wants, personal wishes, personal ambitions, desires for health, wealth, prosperity, a longing for mystical experiences, esoteric feelings are supposed to be the actions of the Spirit which are basically activated by the believer’s demands, by the believer’s words.
For example, perhaps as influential as any in the Charismatic movement is Benny Hinn. Here are a few quotes from Benny. “No, no, never ever go to the Lord and say, ‘If it be Your will.’” Here’s another one: “The activity of the Holy Spirit is dependent on my words. He will not move until I say it.” So he is sovereign and the Holy Spirit is a metaphysical force that functions in response to his words. You will see that all the way through to all the word-faith positive confession preachers, all the way through to Joel Osteen, all the way – this all goes back to the – sort of the launch point of Kenneth Hagin, who stole these ideas from E. W. Kenyon, who twisted them out of Christian Science metaphysics. But that’s the attitude. The Spirit is barely personal, a kind of force.
Benny Hinn actually says that this anointing of the Holy Spirit comes on him, particularly when he visits the grave of two dead women, heretical preachers, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Kathryn Kuhlman, that when he gets by their graves, the Holy Spirit anointing comes on him. He says this anointing is so strong on him that he can take his coat off, rub his coat on himself, the anointing goes into the coat, flail the coat in the air and say “Bam, bam, bam,” and people in massive audiences all fall down because he’s wielding this power called the Holy Spirit. This is what it means to be slain in the Spirit. People fall over individually; they fall over in groups under the wielding of this power. In fact, these evangelists like him are so in control of the Holy Spirit that they can demand that the Holy Spirit show up in a certain theater at 7:30 on a Wednesday night and they can throw Him around at their will.
This is a false system. Again, it’s metaphysics. It’s the idea that the Holy Spirit is a mystical force and that there are certain laws that operate in the universe metaphysically and if you engage those laws, then the Holy Spirit moves in power. The Holy Spirit’s name is used to give legitimacy to a false teacher. There may be spirits there, but they’re not the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit’s name is used because that makes the preacher seem legitimate. It also makes him famous and then it makes him rich. And he is honored and the Holy Spirit is dishonored.
How serious is this? In Exodus chapter 20 verse 7, where the ten commandments are laid out, one of them says this: “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.” That’s a very dangerous thing to do, but that’s precisely what this kind of metaphysical treatment of the Holy Spirit is. It is taking His name in vain. It says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes his name in vain.” I’m not the final court on what happens to these people but God is, and they will not go unpunished. One could only wish that the punishment would come sooner rather than later for the sake of the people who are deceived.
Scripture ascribes to the Holy Spirit every attribute that is ascribed to the Son and the Father. Fully God, sovereign over all believers. He does not obey us, He does not fulfill our will. He does not act in response to certain metaphysical laws that we set into motion. He does not move according to our verbal confessions. He is not some kind of neutral force waiting for us to get Him going. The Holy Spirit is sovereign over the believer. We are to obey His words, submit to His authority. We are to walk in the Spirit, live in the Spirit, obey the Spirit, and be filled constantly with the Spirit. He is the authority of God in us and over us.
And we have been looking at the true ministry of the Holy Spirit in Romans chapter 8, so let’s go there at this point. Here, we’re learning the elements of His gracious work in believers. We could sum it up and say it this way – and I think, you know, giving you these sort of big pictures is important. The Father initiated the salvation plan in eternity past. The Father initiated the salvation plan, the Son validated it on the cross and demonstrated it in His life. He demonstrated what perfect humanity looks like. He demonstrated what a saved and fully sanctified and even glorified person looks like.
So the Father initiates this salvation plan. The Son both validates it at the cross and demonstrates it in His life, but it is the Holy Spirit who activates it. We don’t activate the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit activates the work of God in us and that is inclusive. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to repentance. He convicts of sin and righteousness and judgment. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us, gives us life and understanding so that we can believe. Therefore, it is the Holy Spirit who both convicts us of sin and regenerates us. It is then the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us. It is also the Holy Spirit who secures us; that is, guarantees our future glory, and then it is the Holy Spirit who glorifies us. He will raise us by the power of the Spirit as He raised Jesus.
So the whole work, the whole activation of the work of salvation, initiated by God, validated and demonstrated by Christ is then activated by the Holy Spirit. Another way to say it is the Father purposed to save an elect people, the Son provided the sacrifice to make that salvation possible, and the Spirit produces that salvation. He brings us to conviction, regeneration, sanctification and will one day glorify us. The Holy Spirit then regenerates, sanctifies, secures, and glorifies the believer. That’s His true work.
Now, we’ve been looking at the work of the Holy Spirit in the chapter that’s before us, all the way down now to this section in verses 28-30. And since we hit verse 17, we’ve been looking at one particular work of the Holy Spirit and that is this: the work of securing us. We talked about His work of regenerating us. We talked about His work of sanctifying us, separating us from sin and death, enabling us to fulfill the law, changing our nature, causing us to behave in a righteous fashion, adopting us into the family of God and making us sons, all of these elements of sanctification and identity and union with Christ.
We’re now looking at the final work that is laid out for us, and that is the Holy Spirit’s work of guaranteeing or securing our eternal glory. This is from verse 17 all the way down to verse 30. We look at this ministry of the Spirit of God by which He secures your eternal salvation, your place in heaven. And I read you from 1 Peter purposely because I wanted to remind you that you have been secured to your future inheritance which is reserved for you. It is protected by the power of God, namely the Holy Spirit. It’s there waiting, imperishable, cannot be defiled, cannot fade away, reserved for you, and you’re protected so that one day you’re going to be there. That is the securing work of the Holy Spirit. He is, therefore, called the Spirit of promise. He is the guarantee, the down payment, the engagement ring, the seal of God that will bring you to final glory.
So starting in verse 17, the theme then moves from regeneration and sanctification to glory. In verse 17, we begin to talk about being glorified with Him. In verse 18, the glory that is to be revealed in us. Verse 21, the glory of the children of God. We all begin to look to the future. We come into the hope for that glory in verse 24. Again, hope in verse 25, and all the way down to verse 30 where we see the word “glorified.” So the theme of 17 to 30 is our future glory and the emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit who secures us to that future glory.
Now, it is demonstrated here that He does that in a most remarkable way in verses 26 and 27. He intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. He is our intercessor. He goes before the Father continually in an unspoken language, an inner Trinitarian communion without words. It is the Spirit speaking to the Father without words – too profound for human language. Human language would limit this communion, and the Spirit is speaking without words, communing with the Father in perfect harmony with the Father’s will. Verse 27, He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God and He who searches the hearts – that is God – knows the mind of the Spirit. So you have the plan of the Father, known by the Spirit, the Spirit interceding within the framework of that plan according to the will of God, and thus in that marvelous intercessory ministry of the Spirit, we are secured to glory.
The Spirit is groaning for us to gain glory. The creation groans in verses 19 to 22. Believers groan in verse 23 to 25. But neither of those groanings are efficacious. But the groaning of the Holy Spirit is an efficacious groaning, it is a powerful groaning that secures us to final glory. This is what the Holy Spirit does for us. And because of this intercessory ministry of the Spirit of God, the Father Himself – verse 28 – works all things for our eternal good because this was His purpose and because He called us to Himself to love Him forever.
So we are seeing that the picture shifts to future glory, the glorious revealing of the sons of God, which is what God planned at the beginning, right? Now, that takes us to verses 29 and 30, just that brief summary. And we looked already at the purpose of salvation in verse 29. Let me touch it lightly. The purpose is to conform us. This is the secondary purpose, the penultimate, to conform us to the image of His Son. His secondary purpose, God’s secondary purpose in saving people through all of redemptive history, His secondary purpose was to conform them to the image of His Son.
It is maybe best to be understood in this way: The whole of redemptive history is about the Father seeking a bride for His Son. The Father loves the Son, He loves the Son perfectly, He wants to give to the Son a gift of love. That gift will be a redeemed humanity that constitute a loving bride – a loving, submissive, joyous bride. And so all through redemptive history, the Father is drawing the bride – drawing the bride. Even when we get to heaven, the New Jerusalem is called the Bridal City, it comes down out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. The church is seen to be the bride, the redeemed are the bride. Even the believing in Israel of old were the wife of Jehovah, to be the wife of the Son.
So the Father is seeking a bride. There’s a price for the Son to pay, as there was in ancient times. When you took a bride, you paid a price for that bride and the price the Son was to pay was his own life. Not silver and gold, as Peter says, but the precious blood that flowed in His own veins as He gave up His life to pay the purchase price for the bride that the Father had desired to give Him. And so what is going to be heaven is going to be the collection of the bride brought to the bridal city. When the bride is complete, redemptive history will end, and all the bride will gather around the Son. They will love Him, adore Him, serve Him, worship Him, and with another element, they will reflect His glory. They will be in His image. We looked at that in detail, so we won’t cover it any more. That’s the secondary purpose. Then the primary purpose, the ultimate, in verse 29, so that He, the Lord Jesus, would be the preeminent one among many brethren. The ultimate goal is the preeminence of Christ. In the end, God will give Him a name above every name. And at His name, every knee will bow.
What is the purpose of redemptive history? The Father loves the Son, determines to give a bride as a gift of love to the Son that will serve Him and adore Him and worship Him and love Him and reflect His glory. And in some way, the reflection of that glory is greater than it would be without the redemption of that bride – if for no other reason than the fact that they will demonstrate something that without them would never be demonstrated and that is the grace of God. In order for God to put all the panoply of attributes on display that are part of His grace and mercy, He has to redeem unworthy sinners. And that’s the purpose of salvation. In the end, we’ll give all glory to Christ. We’ll cast our crowns, as they did in Revelation, at His feet, will confess Him as Lord, preeminent one. That’s the purpose of salvation. In the end, Christ will be all in all. And then you know how the story really ends. After the bride has been presented to Christ for His glory and His honor, Christ will take Himself and the bride and return them all to the Father in an act of reciprocal love. It’s a staggering thing to be caught up in this.
Now, what about the progress to this end? That is the purpose of salvation. The secondary purpose is that we might be made into the image of Christ, the primary purpose is that He then might become the preeminent one, the exalted one. But the process to get to that is laid out for us in these two verses, 29 and 30. Now, just to kind of help you, sometimes you hear about Reformed theology, you hear that phrase, or the Doctrines of Grace, or Calvinism, and you wonder just exactly what that is. Okay, in a nutshell, it’s what it says here – it’s right here. This is the best summary of the Doctrines of Grace, of the essence of Reformed Soteriology, of the essentials of Calvinism, this is it. This is it in the saving side of it, and it’s all bound up in a sequence, in a process.
It goes like this: Verse 29: “Whom He foreknew, He also predestined.” Then go to verse 30: “These whom He predestined, He also called. These whom He called, He also justified. And these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification. Those are five cardinal realities that make up the great redemptive purpose of God in salvation, these five things.
By the way, again we are amazed at the economy of words which the Holy Spirit uses to bring these five things together in those few sentences. I might add that millions and millions of pages have been written on these five things. But let’s take a look at them. Let’s try to understand the process, if we can call it a process, because nothing’s a process in God’s mind because He sees everything in its fullness and completion. But for us, it’s a sequence and that’s the way it’s presented to us here in the language.
Where does salvation begin? What’s the primitive point at which it all launches? Verse 29: “For those whom He foreknew – For those whom He foreknew.” Now, for some people, this is a meltdown point for accepting the sovereignty of God in salvation. They say, “Oh, that’s the key. He foreknew.” He, because He knows everything that’s going to happen, looked ahead and He saw what people were going to do of their own free will, and since He knew what they were going to do, He chose them to be His own.
Is that what foreknowledge is saying? He saw what was going to happen – now let me tell you, He does know the future. He knows the end from the beginning. He knows everything that’s going to happen before it’s going to happen – that is true. He does have prescience, if you want to call it that. He does have knowledge of what hasn’t happened, full knowledge of it. But is that what this is talking about? Did God just look ahead at these fully independent people and say, “Well, they’re going to believe and they’re not going to believe, so since I know who is going to believe, those are the ones I’m going to elect.”
Well, there’s several responses I have. First of all, that would make the word “elect” nonsense because He didn’t choose anything. So forget the doctrine of election because He didn’t choose anything. It would be the doctrine of a reaction. I don’t know if you want to try to preach the doctrine of divine reaction. Or perhaps you’d like to preach the doctrine of human sovereignty. Then you have to ask the question: By what power did they overcome their fallenness? By what power did these people that He looked at in the future, who had free will, overcome their depravity, their fallenness, their deadness, their blindness, their darkness? And then you’d have to ask this: If God looked ahead and saw that people would not choose the gospel and would not choose to believe and would therefore go to hell, why did He go ahead and create them? Because, you see, the only reason people come up with this idea that God simply reacted to what He knew would happen is to get Him off the hook for what happens. They’re trying to save God from a bad reputation, like being responsible for people who go to hell. So they want to say we can’t do that to God, so He’s just reacting to what people do. But then if nobody’s been created, why did He go ahead and create the people He knew would do that? Or you could even ask a tougher question: Why did He create people who had the potential to do that unless He had a purpose for that happening? You don’t get God off the hook in the end any way you try. What’s happening is within His purpose.
Well, then what do you mean by foreknowledge? What do we mean by that? Well, we all understand that it doesn’t mean that God just knew what would happen and then He just reacted. We get that. Why? Because in John 3, Jesus says to Nicodemus, “You must be born from above.” You must be born from above. In John chapter 6, Jesus says, “No man comes unto Me except the Father draw Him.” At the end of the chapter, verse 65, He said, “The only people who come to Me are the people the Father draws to Me.” We understand that. Listen to Matthew 11 and verse 27: “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
Wow. The only way you can ever know God is if the Son reveals Him to you, and the only way you can ever know the Son is if the Father draws you to Him. And by the way, did you notice the word “know” there? This is the first key. No one knows the Son except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son. You say, “Well, whoa, whoa, whoa. We know about the Son. We have information about the Son. Holy angels have information about the Son. Demons have information about the Father and the Son. What do you mean no one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son?” The word “know” must be different than having information. Okay? It must mean something different than having information because holy angels, fallen angels, and even people have information about the Father and information about the Son but it’s not knowing. What do you mean knowing?
How about John 10? This is a passage that speaks using the same word. Verse 14, John 10, “I’m the Good Shepherd, I know My own and My own know Me and the Father knows Me and I know the Father.” What kind of knowing is this? You mean when Jesus says, “I know My own,” is He saying, “I have information about them” as if He has no information about anybody else? In Amos 3:2, God says, “Israel only have I known.” Israel only have I known. What do you mean? You know everything. Israel only have I known. This is something different. In John 10:26, “You don’t believe because you’re not My sheep.” Wow. “My sheep hear My voice and I know them.” I know them. What kind of knowing? What are we talking about here? John 17, verse 25, “O righteous Father, the world hasn’t known You. I have known You and these have known that You sent Me. I have made Your name known to them.” What kind of knowing are we talking about?
Let me give you a helpful analogy. Genesis 4 – don’t turn to it. Genesis 4 in the original language says this: “Cain knew his wife and she bore a son.” Cain knew his wife. In the beautiful, veiled, euphemistic language of Scripture, that’s a carnal knowledge. That’s an intimate love relationship. And the shocking thing for Mary when Gabriel showed up and told her she was going to have a baby was that she had never known Joseph. She had never known him. This is the knowledge that we’re talking about here. We’re talking about a knowledge of intimacy. Hosea 13:5: “I knew you in the wilderness.” What do you mean? I set My love on you. I established a love relationship with you in the wilderness.
This is seen in so many places in New Testament. “Many will say unto Me, ‘Lord, Lord, we did this, we did that, we did the other.’” Matthew 7. “And Jesus says, ‘Depart from Me I never” – what? “Never knew you.” Didn’t know who you were? Of course He knew who they were. He knows who they are. I never had an intimate love relationship with you, that’s the kind of knowing we’re talking about.
Let me show you a couple of verses – you might want to write these down because this question comes up a lot about foreknowledge, and I’m trying to help you to be able to answer it in your own mind and the minds of those that you can help. But listen to 1 Corinthians 8:3. It’s very simple. It says it all. “If anyone loves God, he’s known by Him.” Got it? That’s it. Put an asterisk by that. If anyone loves God, He’s known by Him.
Let me ask you a question. We love Him because what? He first loved us. He first loved us, we love Him back, that means He knows us. When the Bible says that you are known by God, the Son says, “I know the Father, the Father knows Me” – intimate love. In John 17, Jesus says, “The believers are known by the Father and known by Me.” Intimate love. I mean that’s what this knowledge is about. Why is it fore knowledge? Because before that love could ever happen, before anyone was ever born, it was ordained. That’s why it’s fore knowledge. That’s foreordination. That’s established before it ever happened.
Galatians 4:9 speaks of salvation this way: “Now you have come to know God, or rather” – I love this – “to be known by God.” What does it mean to be saved? It means to be known by God. What does it mean to be known by God? That He knows you exist? That He has information about you? No, that He has established a love relationship with you. Even in Romans chapter 11, that really significant chapter on the whole issue of sovereign election, at the very beginning of the chapter – verse 2 – “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.” God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. What does that mean? Whom He predetermined to love.
Go back to the writing of Moses. The question comes up, Why Israel? Why Israel? As Richard Wolffe once said, “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” Why Israel? He says, “I set My love upon you not because you were greater than any other people but because I chose to love you.” That’s a predetermined act of sovereign, uninfluenced love. That’s foreknowledge. And we read about it in 1 Peter. “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, we have been sanctified by the Spirit, sprinkled with His blood.” The primitive truth and reality in the scheme of salvation, it starts with a sovereign determination to love certain people. And as John 13 says, to love them to the max, that’s foreknowledge. It is a predetermined, foreordained, and, of course, foreseen determination to love.
I just read from 1 Peter but I didn’t read the whole chapter, so let me read you again 1 Peter 1:2: “We have been saved according to the foreknowledge of God.” Listen to this. Over in verse 19 and 20, same chapter, same writer, it says this: “We were saved, redeemed with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world.” What does foreknown mean regarding Christ? Did God just look ahead and say, “Oh, wow, look at that. He’s going to end up on a cross. I’ve got to do something with that.” To say Christ was foreknown before the foundation of the world, to be offered as a lamb unblemished and spotless is to say that God determined it, established it, fixed it. And He has appeared in these last times for your sake. That’s how foreknowledge works. God determines it in eternity past and it occurs in time.
One other illustration of the use of this term that helps us in Acts 2:23, Peter’s preaching concerning Christ on the Day of Pentecost, and he talks about Christ’s death and the people nailing Him to a cross, but he says that Christ was delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, delivered over to you to be crucified by the predetermined plan of God. Now, mark it. Peter is the one who wrote what I just read and Peter’s the one who preached this. Peter understood the meaning of foreknowledge. He, this Christ, was nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put to death by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God. The word plan is boul. It’s used in classical Greek for a decision, a prescribed course of action coming from a decision. Predetermined is horiz, from which we get horizon, a line of demarcation. Something predetermined means to mark out the boundaries or the limits. God established by His own counsel the boundaries. He made the determination.
Another way to translate predetermined would be destined. By the destined purpose, plan, decision of God, marked out, pre-decided. And then he adds, “And foreknowledge of God.” That’s prognosis in English, prognosis. It is God’s foreordained decision marked out to save, to establish a love relationship with certain people. Set His love on them as He did Israel, before the foundation of the world. That’s foreknowledge. It’s a fact, it’s an established fact.
Now go back to Romans 8. In Romans 8 – and I just wanted you to get that foreknowledge because the others we can kind of draw out of our resource. We’ve talked about them in the past. “Whom He foreknew” – verse 29 – “He also predestined.” What is predestined? Well, that speaks of the end, the destiny. By the way, predestined is prooriz. It’s an intensified form of marking out the boundaries. This is the final purpose. He predestined, tells us, to become conformed to the image of His Son so that He would be the preeminent one among many. So by a decision marked out, foreordained, and established in eternity past, God predetermined an intimate love relationship with certain people. He established it by His decree, and based on that decision in the past, He predestined the future, the end, the final purpose. He marked out from the beginning the very end. Our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8, Revelation 17:8 says that. All that God intended to do was determined at the very beginning and predestined to its very end. That’s the big picture right there. In fact, it was in Acts 4:28 that we read that God does whatever His hand and His purpose predestines to occur. Acts 4:28. Whatever He predestines to occur will occur.
So foreknowledge speaks of His choice. You might say that’s election. Predestination speaks of the result of that choice, the end. So whoever He foreknew, He predestined. Therefore, drop down to verse 30, “These whom He predestined He also called.” Now we move into time. Now we move into human history. Those whom He called. What do you mean called? Well, we don’t mean like an invitation. We don’t mean like it says in the gospels many are called, go out and call them to come in. No, this is not that kind of a call. This is a different kind of call. We know from verse 28 in the same context that this is a calling connected, it says in verse 28, to His purpose. God works all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Now we’re talking about what theologians call an effectual call or an effective call or a powerful call or – I love these historic words – an irresistible call. It’s a gracious call. But it is nonetheless an effectual call. It is not an external call. It is not a call that comes to the ears to be rejected or accepted; it is an internal call, and that’s what sets it apart.
It is really the mighty work of the Holy Spirit in the full scope of regeneration. It is God’s saving call. And that’s how we are referred to so often – Romans 1:7 – “To all who are beloved of God, called” to be holy, called saints. “To all who are beloved of God, called.” That puts it together. Since God predetermined a love relationship with you, He called you internally, regenerated you, saving, redeeming, regenerating call.
Listen, every time you see the idea of call in the epistles and the writings post-gospel, wherever you see that, it always refers to this saving act of the Spirit of God in regeneration. And it follows all the way through that we are called. Romans 8:28 being as good as any: “To those who are called according to His purpose.” It is a call connected to His purpose. His purpose is to save and He calls to fulfill that purpose. In fact, in the New Testament and even now, of course, we follow that up, we’re called the church. You know what church is? It comes from a Greek word ekklesia, which is a noun that draws from the verb ekkaleo. Kaleo is call, ek is out of. Ekkaleo, we are the church because we’re called out, out of the world, out of death, out of darkness, out of ignorance. We’re the called. This is the grace of God to us, to fulfill His eternal purpose.
Listen to – you can’t really improve on 2 Timothy, I don’t think, in chapter 1, I think it’s verse 9 – yes – “who saved us.” The power of God, that would be the Holy Spirit, who is the power of God, “who saved us and called us with a holy calling.” That means it’s a calling to holiness. It’s a real transformation. It’s a true regeneration, calling to holiness. Calling to ultimate holiness. Calling to final perfection. Calling to eternal glory. And it comes by the gospel. It doesn’t happen apart from the gospel. Isn’t it – you know this, right? Faith comes by what? Hearing the Word concerning Christ, so they have to hear, they have to have a preacher, the preacher has to be sent. So the calling comes by the gospel.
Listen to 2 Thessalonians 2:13: “We should always give thanks to God for you, beloved by the Lord.” I just enjoy that phrase, “beloved by the Lord.” That’s a phrase that ties into His election. He set His love upon us before we were ever born, before anything was ever created. But we now are beloved by the Lord because God has chosen you from the beginning. He has chosen you from the beginning for salvation. Then he says this, “It was for this He called you through our gospel that you may gain the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s all there. He chose you. Then He called you by the gospel in order that He might glorify you. Again, this is a sovereign call. This is an effectual call. This is the call that we know as salvation. “Whom He called” – back to verse 30 – “He also justified.”
And now we come to the fourth of these great realities, the great truth of justification. What is that? That we have been declared righteous before God. It’s a legal term that God is satisfied with the sacrifice of Christ for all our sins, and since God is satisfied with that sacrifice, the penalty paid in full, justice is satisfied, divine justice. Our sins have been paid for in full, imputed to Christ in His death. By grace, God imputes His righteousness to us. And that’s what causes us to be declared righteous. Not that we are then righteous in ourselves, not that we have any inherent righteousness, but we are granted righteousness in an act by which God declares us just based upon the sacrifice of Christ which covers the punishment that we are due and based upon the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us. He covers us with the very righteousness of God in Christ. We know a lot about that. He became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Corinthians 5:21.
So God foreknows in the sense that He predetermines a love relationship in an intimate, eternal relationship with a certain group of people, He predestines that that relationship will end up in eternal glory, all of that before time began. In time, He calls those whom He has chosen and He justifies those whom He calls. And then the final – verse 30 – “These whom He justified, He also” – what? – “glorified.” We all get to glory, folks. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me and I will lose none of them,” Jesus said. He intercedes for us against all accusations. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us from within us and secures us to eternal glory.
Would you just notice something? All the verbs in that verse are past tense. That works for foreknowledge. He foreknew, that’s a past tense verb. Works for predestination because those happened in the past. But what about called? Shouldn’t it say He “will” call? What about justified? Shouldn’t it say He “will” justify? I mean He’s not done. And by the way, what about glorified? Why are these all in a past tense? That is another little nuance of the Greek. One writer calls it a proleptic aorist, and that is a wonderful reality that you see in Scripture, the use of the past tense to speak of something so secure that you can talk of it as if it had already happened. Your glory is as secure as predestination. Predestination happened in the past. Foreknowing happened in the past. And as far as God is concerned, both your calling and your justification will produce your final glory, and He can speak of it as if it has already happened.
I hope you’re feeling secure. The work of the Holy Spirit – what is the work of the Holy Spirit? To secure us, to intercede for us, to witness that we’re the children of God, to enable us to fulfill the law of God, to live righteously, to cry “Abba, Father,” enjoying our sonship, our intimacy with God, to sustain us supernaturally.
What do you think about when you think about the comfort of the Spirit? After all, the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, isn’t He? Jesus said, “When I go away, I’ll send another Comforter.” Where does the comfort of the Holy Spirit come from? Are you looking for a buzz? Are you looking for that like something doesn’t go right in your life and you’re saying, “Where’s the Comforter?” Look, I do think the Holy Spirit ministers grace to us in times like that, but your comfort by the Holy Spirit comes from the knowledge of what the Holy Spirit is doing in your life to secure your future glory. Is that comforting enough for you? Is there anything more precious than that, than to know that your eternity is secure in the care of the Comforter? That’s your greatest comfort. There is no comfort equal to that.
Any other comfort is a temporary comfort, and I believe the Spirit of God dispenses those kinds of things. I think casting all your care on Him because He cares for you is a real experience that believers have. I think the Spirit of God ministers comfort, but I think that comfort doesn’t sort of come, you know, just out of nowhere. That’s why we read the comfort of the Scriptures. It’s when we know the work of the Holy Spirit, connected to the work of the Son, connected to the will of the Father, that our comfort is secured. He is our Comforter. He comforts by the assurance that His gracious power will bring us to eternal glory. Now, I don’t know how you respond to that, but if you think that’s pretty good, wait until we get to verse 31 and the rest of this chapter next time.
Now, as we’ve been saying the last couple of weeks, I’m going to pray and then we’re going to have you just kind of wait meditatively and quietly while the organ plays for a few moments, and let these things sink in. But I do want to say that our prayer room is open to my right. We would love to minister to you there. The visitors center is out there. The members center, for those of you interested in baptism or church membership, any spiritual need, salvation, anybody to pray with you, you need someone to do that, you need some counsel, some help, please, we’re here to serve you in that way but particularly if you’re not sure that you have the Holy Spirit, that you’re on your way to heaven, we would love to talk to you about salvation. So let’s pray and then you can meditate a while and let these things settle in your heart.
Father, we thank You for all that overwhelms us, floods us in the great glories of this sweeping redemptive purpose. And what is so staggering about it is how we have been brought into it, due to nothing of our own, no choice of our own, no accomplishment of our own, no merit of our own. You have determined to set Your love on us and to love us forever and give us the privilege of knowing You in the intimate sense and loving You forever and being loved by You and by Your Son. And we are now loved by the Holy Spirit who loves us and loves You enough to secure us forever. Thank You for the power of the Word of God to deliver these truths that become our comfort, and may we rejoice in that comfort and do all we can to demonstrate that joy in this life, even in the midst of trials, even though various trials, as we read from Peter, shall strike us here. And help us to love these truths enough to share them with those who don’t yet know the truth of the comfort of eternal glory that can be found in faith in Christ. Use us to that end, we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
The truth behind why satan hates you should make you want to blush!
Anyone who’s ever read the Bible knows that satan hates people, vehemently. But why? Why does satan hate you and me so passionately?
Many years ago, before my revelation of the dark side of horror movies, I wanted my husband to watch a scary film I once saw when I was younger. It was hugely popular in its day for how frightening it was. I warned him that the movie would be very scary, especially the bad guy.
Once the movie was over, I asked him, “Wasn’t that scary?!”
He chuckled with a, “No.”
Baffled, I questioned, “Well, you don’t think the bad guy was scary? Everyone I know who’s watched it said the bad guy was terrifying!”
Then, my husband broke it down to me like this, “Jenny, that man wasn’t scary! All he did was convince some lady to do his dirty work for him, and she did it. She shouldn’t have listened to him. It was stupid! And no, it wasn’t scary.”
He was on to something and didn’t even know it! By the time he got done speaking, my little invisible antennas started popping up on my head. I asked myself, “Well, gee, that sounds a whole lot like how the devil does things!”
The devil uses us, but not in a good way–not like God does. The enemy uses us to do his dirty work if he sees us as being “useable”. A part of our job is to never appear useable to satan, ever!
If satan uses us to do his bad deeds, why does he still hate us? There are many reasons why satan hates you, but I will list for you only five:
1. Satan Hates You Because You Look Like God
“And God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Did you know that you look like God? Not only do you resemble Him, but you were made in His image.
You may say, “But what about the angels, they look like humans, too. Wouldn’t that mean they’re in God’s image also?” Nope! God has a body (Jesus), spirit, and soul (great discussion for the Holy Trinity) just like humans. Angels lack one thing: a body.
So, every time satan looks at you, He sees God, and he can’t stand it. This is why he tries to make us believe that we’re worthless, ugly, stupid, no good, etc. Because he knows that we aren’t that. He knows that we’re God’s finest creation, but the lie is to make us believe that we’re something we’re not, so we’d never know our fullest potential. This is why satan hates you.
2. You Can Have Authority
Jesus tells us to speak to a mountain without doubting, and it will move (Mark 11:23). He also spoke to the winds and the seas and they obeyed Him (Mark 4:41). The same Spirit and power that is in Jesus Christ lives inside of us; therefore, He commands us to do the same works, and greater (John 14: 12-14).
Over the years, I developed a fear of tornados. In 2019, the Lord called my family and I to move out west to Colorado from Connecticut. So, on June 26, 2020, we had only been in our new place for a few months when the sky grew dark in the afternoon, and bolts of lightning flooded the sky, shaking the ground.
Our family watched nature’s show from windows all over the house in amazement, until an emergency alert began beeping from the television. “Tornado Warning in the Colorado Springs area. Seek lower shelter!”
By this time, I’m on the backyard deck checking out the sky and see nothing. Then, my husband yells to me from the front of the house to come to the front door and check out the sky.
“What’s that?“, my husband asked as he pointed to a weird-shaped cloud in the sky.
“It’s a tornado trying to form!“, I shouted.
Remember, I was terrified of tornados, but like the Bible says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8).
All fear completely left my body (fear and faith can’t work together)! I darted out the door, stretched my hand out, and began to speak to that supercell, rebuking its existence in the name of Jesus! I didn’t care which neighbors were watching or what they’d say. Our youngest daughter heard me praying and rebuking, so she ran outside alongside me, stretched her hand out, and gave it divine orders.
As she and I shouted at that cloud, blasting Jesus’ name through the atmosphere, miraculously, the supercell, would-be tornado slowly began to curl up and recede! It was a four-minute battle.
God has given us authority over the earth and satan knows this, but his job is to keep us from knowing it. He wants us out of his way, but once we learn our authority in Christ Jesus over him and things on earth, we are absolutely capable of foiling satan’s plans. This is why satan hates you.
3. You Are A Threat
That’s right, satan hates you because you are a threat or potential threat to him and his kingdom, and he knows this. A child of God (one who is born-again) is a threat to the enemy because a child of God has access to the power of God. When I say access, I mean the power of God literally lives inside of them. The devil was stripped from having God’s power when the Lord gave him “the boot” from heaven.
Those who are not born-again believers are potential threats because anyone can accept Jesus Christ at anytime, no matter how messy their life may seem.
One of the devil’s strategies against a born-again believer is to never allow him or her to know the power they have in Jesus’ name to cast satan down, dismantling him and his little minions.
People must understand that satan is extremely clever, and again, will use whoever he can to get the job done. He will often use those high ranking in the religious field. Starting from the top, trickling down. Ie. The devil will whisper to a minister disinformation about God or the Bible to their congregation, the congregation spreads it to their family and children, and their family and children then spread it to their friends, and so on and so forth. And the lie that’s spread is for the enemy’s benefits and our dismantling. It should be the other way around.
I once heard a story shared by a very respectable evangelist about a man he met on the street. This evangelist was ministering on the street when he approached a satanist in about his 20s or 30s. He asked the young man if he could pray for him and the satanist agreed. During this same conversation, the evangelist prayed against an illness that the young man was suffering from and he was healed that very instant.
Then the evangelist asked the young satanist what made him lean to witchcraft. The man then began to explain how he was raised in a Christian household and went to church every Sunday. But in his teenage years, he was having a very difficult time with certain aspects of life, so he went to his pastor for help. He asked his pastor one question, “Does God still perform miracles?” When his pastor answered, “No”, the young man said that was all he needed to hear. So he went to witchcraft where he knew supernatural things (evil ones) were taking place.
That young man has since left the occult and now pastors his own church, but as you can see, it was the devil’s cunning deception that dismantled the ex-satanist. This is why satan hates you.
By the way, God has NEVER left the miracle-working business! The power of Holy Spirit Who lives inside of us is far more powerful than that of the power within the occult. The devil knows this also.
4. You Have His Old Job
Before satan was kicked out of Heaven, his name was Lucifer, and was the lead worshipper of Heaven. The Bible describes him as being an instrument of praise, some believe he even had musical instruments all inside of him (Ezekiel 28:11-19). But when he tried to overthrow the Lord Almighty, Jesus describes satan’s exile in Luke 10:18 saying, “I beheld satan as lightning falling from heaven!”
Once he was taken care of, it was as if God said, “I’m going to make Me those who will worship Me, and I’ll make a lot of them!” So He created mankind. He created us to sing praises, dance, and make music to His holy name. (Did your mind just go to King David, just now? Mine did.)
If you haven’t realized it yet, the devil is a very jealous being, as well as a sore loser, which is why we see so much repulsion in music today. He tries all that he can to infiltrate the music world so it’s perverted and directed away from God. Music was created in Heaven to worship God, but satan has hijacked it.
This is the same reason why there is often so much “behind-the-scenes” strife and competition on praise and worship teams and church choirs because he wants to disrupt God’s praise. But praise the Lord that they always seem to pull it together in the end.
When the Bible says “Jealousy is as cruel as the grave” (Song of Solomon 8:6), that originated with satan’s jealousy for us taking on his old position as worshipper and being made in God’s image.
Also, since satan wanted to be worshipped so much, he uses people to accomplish his ghastly goal. He tempts mankind to crave fame, popularity and notoriety, knowing that this will, in return, will lead to the worship of self and man, as opposed to the one, true God. Remember, satan was the worshipper, now that’s our job. This is why satan hates you.
5. Satan Hates You Because God Loves You
Last, but certainly not least, satan hates you because God loves you (John 3:16). He hates you because you’re the apple of God’s eye (Deut. 32:10) and he can’t stand it. The reason why satan wants to hurt mankind is that he knows that in hurting us, it painfully hurts God.
Have you ever had anyone tell you that they’d die for you? If so, think about how that made you feel. Jesus actually did that for you.
Have you known anyone so desperate for something that they’d do whatever it took to get it? Well, God the Father was so desperate for us that He gave up Someone Who was dearest to Him…His only Son, Jesus. All of which was to save your soul from an eternal hell and for you to become a part of His family, forever.
Do you see why satan hates us so much? But, who cares how he feels, we’ve got better things to do. We’ve got souls to save!
Let’s open the Word of God to the 8th chapter of the book of Romans, that beloved, wonderful treatise of the apostle Paul on the gospel and all the aspects of it. And we’re looking at Romans 8 because that’s the chapter on the Holy Spirit, and this would be Part 6, or message number six, in the study of the life of the Holy Spirit, life and ministry of the Holy Spirit in the believer – in the believer. What the Holy Spirit does in us. And I began this series because of all the misrepresentations of the Holy Spirit that abound in the contemporary Christian world. It is so terribly misrepresented, so insulted, so grieved, so quenched – to borrow biblical language – and so blasphemed. If you watch the current Charismatic lineup of Holy Spirit anointed people, you would have absolutely no idea what the Holy Spirit does. It seems as if they are the victims of an unholy spirit rather than a holy spirit, the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t make people worldly, carnal, boastful, slick, unaccountable, outrageous, et cetera, et cetera. The Holy Spirit has one objective, and that is to make people holy – holy. So if somebody says that he is or she is anointed by the Holy Spirit, what should be manifest in that person is evident holiness. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. That’s why He’s called the Holy Spirit.
In Isaiah’s famous trihagion, he hears the angels in antiphonal worship and they’re saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” And that can be trinitarian. Holy is the Father, holy is the Son, holy is the Spirit. That’s why there are three of them. This is angelic recognition that the Trinity is essentially holy, and the work of the Holy Spirit is essentially to produce that holiness in human beings, in us.
To better understand that, I want us to look at verses 14 to 16 of Romans 8. I’m going to read them and we’ll come back to them in a while. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God, for you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’. The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God.” Several references there to the Holy Spirit as there have been in the previous 13 verses because, as we’ve been saying, this, in Paul’s great letter to the Romans, is the chapter that deals with the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers.
But let’s go back to the starting point that we were talking about. God the Father is holy, God the Son is holy, and the Spirit is holy. With regard to the Father, Leviticus 19 says, “I, the Lord your God, am holy.” And that, by the way, is repeated dozens of times in the Old Testament, God testifying to His own holiness. The Son of God is deemed to be holy in Luke chapter 1, He is called the holy child. And in the book of Hebrews, He is called holy and undefiled. And in looking at the third member of the Trinity, the Spirit of God, we read in Romans 1:4 that one of His names is the Spirit of holiness. So it is true, holy, holy, holy is a trinitarian confession. They’re all holy; all members of the holy Trinity are by nature and essence and substance holy.
But there is a particular work of God the Spirit with regard to reproducing holiness in believers. That’s His work. He works in what we call sanctification, which is separation from sin, to transform believers into holiness or, if you will, into the likeness of Jesus Christ. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not body work. It can’t be visibly seen in the way you wiggle or move or sway or fall over backwards or mumble or put your hands in the air. It is soul work, it is heart work. In the Old Testament, we would say the work of the Holy Spirit was to produce godliness. In the New Testament, we would say the work of the Holy Spirit is to produce Christlikeness. The message of the Old Testament is be like God. The message of the New Testament is be like Christ. The agent of that is the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps the single-most clarifying verse on this is 2 Corinthians 3:18, a verse upon which I wrote a book once when I was asked, “Could you write a small book on the most important verse for Christians in the New Testament?” And I said, “Well, I don’t know if I can know that but there’s one I could pick,” and I picked this one, 2 Corinthians 3:18: “We all with unveiled face, we have no obstructions, nothing blocking our view, behold as in a clear glass the glory of the Lord.” As we look at the Lord, as we look at the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, and it’s being done by the Lord who is the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit transforms us into Christlikeness as we gaze at the Lord Himself, moving us from one degree to another, one level of glory to another, to another, to another. That is His work. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. That’s why He is called the Holy Spirit uniquely, or the Spirit of holiness, to produce holiness in us. As I said, in the Old Testament, the term was godliness. In the New Testament, it is Christlikeness. It’s the sanctification. The Holy Spirit is – the theologians would say it this way: The Holy Spirit is the efficient cause – the Holy Spirit is the efficient cause; Scripture is the instrumental means that the Holy Spirit uses.
Let’s back up a little bit and talk about this. I want you to get the big picture, okay? Because you need to understand that this work of the Holy Spirit is the purpose of God in redemption. This is not part of, this is not a sub-category, this is the purpose of God in redemption, to make a people who are holy, godly, Christlike. That’s the prize of the upward call. That’s the goal of redemption. The goal is not accomplished at justification; it is only accomplished at glorification when we all become perfect in holiness. And the work of the Spirit in the meantime is to make us more and more holy in this life until we reach that perfect holiness in the life to come. But let’s back up a little bit and understand from the very beginning what God is doing.
Man created in God’s image is the message of Genesis 1 and 2, is it not? Genesis 1:26 and 27: “God made man in His own image,” in His own likeness, for one purpose, to reveal God, to reflect God’s glory, to express God’s character, to put His glory on display. Chapter 3, man falls – man falls, and that purpose is lost because now you have mankind sinful, incapable of reflecting or expressing the glory of God. That is why Romans tells us that we have all come short of what? The glory of God. That is universally true of fallen humanity. We can’t do what we were created to do. Made in the image of God for the purpose of reflecting, expressing the glory of God; fallen into sin, corrupted, marred, distorted, perverted. We can’t do it. And if you look at ancient history, after Adam, you see a few people who were rescued out of that condition and who truly became people who could reflect the glory of God. Enoch who walked with God one day and just kept walking right into heaven and didn’t die. The sons of Seth who were a godly line, but there were so few people in that marred, perverted, corrupted humanity – listen to this – that a few generations later, God drowned the entire human race because there were only eight people who could reflect His glory. Only eight out of millions. He wiped them out, started all over again. That’s how profound fallen corruption is.
God the Father then determined from that eight people to restore the terribly distorted, the terribly marred image of God in humanity by sovereignly and supernaturally and graciously transforming those sinners. It wasn’t a superficial job. It wasn’t a paint job. It wasn’t something on the outside. Had to be something on the inside. He had to re-create them to be capable of manifesting His glory. Peter describes it in words that are very, very important, and very clear. Peter says in 2 Peter 1:4: “You have escaped the corruption.” You have escaped being marred. You have escaped being in that perverse condition, you have escaped that by becoming – listen to this – partakers of the divine nature. Wow – partakers of the divine nature. The very nature that is God’s has been given to you in a rebirth.
That is the purpose of salvation. The purpose of God’s redemptive plan is to recover humanity from its inability to give Him glory. The purpose of salvation is to overturn the Fall and make men capable of glorifying Him. And for that, God has to re-create them. They have to be born all over again, spiritually. They have to have a new nature. They have to become new men. All that’s biblical language. They have to have a new birth. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us. That whole work of doing that is the work of the Holy Spirit. We celebrate the cross, and rightly we should. We celebrate the love of God, the greatness of God, we sing hymns of praise to God. We sing about the cross and rightly we should, but in the middle of all of this, we forget that the real efficient cause, the divine source of everything that we are as Christians is in fact the Holy Spirit.
The plan of God is to take corrupt sinners who cannot glorify Him, who have no capacity, who come short of being able to do that, in whom the divine image is marred. It is marred to such a degree – here’s how much it’s marred – that apart from regeneration, all those marred people are so useless to God for the purpose for which He made man that He throws them into the trash heap of the universe, which is an everlasting burning pit called Gehenna which was the name of the trash heap in Jerusalem, where they burn forever because they are useless, without the possibility of any escape. How severe is the marring? Severe enough to throw humanity on the dump as absolutely useless. Let it be everlastingly consumed. The plan of redemption is to rescue some of those people, redo them, give them new life, regenerate them, re-create them, restore them, transform them, put them through a spiritual metamorphosis and make them partakers of the divine nature. That’s such a great statement. That’s God’s plan. He initiated it.
Now, when God does that, what does a truly regenerated person who becomes a full partaker of the divine nature look like? I’ll give you the answer in one word: Jesus. God initiated it and Jesus demonstrated it. When you look at Jesus, you see the perfect image of God in human form. Could He glorify God? John 1:14 says: “We beheld His glory.” And what glory was it? “The glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” He put God on display like God had never been put on display before. If you want to see the perfect work of the Holy Spirit in an individual, look at Jesus Christ. Remember what Jesus said. Everything He did was the work of the Holy Spirit in Him, right? Everything.
In His condescension, He yielded up all those prerogatives of His own and yielded Himself to the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit so that everything He did, He did by the power of the Holy Spirit. Even offering self in death and even rising from the dead was the work of the Holy Spirit. Because He becomes then the perfect model of the work of the Holy Spirit and the end result of that is a perfect humanity. And what will it look like? It will look like Jesus Christ. That’s why it says when you go to heaven, you’re going to have a body like unto His glorious body, and you’re going to be like Him because you’ll see Him as He is, and the day you see Him as He is, you’ll be made like Him. That’s the goal. So what is the purpose of redemption? To create a humanity that is like Christ. Not that we are God, we will always be a glorified humanity, but we will be as much like Jesus Christ as glorified humanity can be. We will be perfect in the image of God in human form. So God initiated it, Jesus demonstrated it, and the Holy Spirit effects it. In the end, it is the Holy Spirit who raises us. We already saw that in this chapter.
It is the Holy Spirit who raises us. Verse 11 tells us that. So He will raise us to glory. We’ll see more about that in future verses here. It is the Holy Spirit who raises us to glory and makes us, in the end, like Christ. We will then be that fully restored, glorious, perfect, righteous, holy humanity forever. But in the meantime, the Holy Spirit leaves us here so that we can do the work of evangelism, right? Because we are the source that God has determined to do the work of evangelism, but as long as He leaves us here, He has to get us into the sanctifying process. That’s 2 Corinthians 3:18, from one level of glory to the next by degree, by degree, by degree. When you go to heaven, it’s instant, you’re immediately perfect. In the meantime, it’s a progress done by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit starts it by giving us birth – we’re born of the Spirit. He regenerates us. He is the one who gives us that new life. He’s the one who rescues us from our corruption and our perversity and our wickedness. And He’s the one who rescues us from being so hopelessly marred that we should end up on the trash heap of hell forever. He rescues us, gives us new life, re-creates us. He is the efficient cause of that, and the instrumental means that He uses is the Scripture. We are begotten again by the truth. We are sanctified by the truth. This is His work, and He will glorify us. So He regenerates us, sanctifies us, and glorifies us. He’s the one, in a sense, who delivers to God this perfected, redeemed humanity.
Now, that’s kind of the big picture. The Spirit’s work, then, is the restoration of the image of God in man, ultimately in the glory of perfection in heaven when we’re made like Christ. But in the meantime, in this life, He is committed to moving us by degree from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next. Now, there’s another component in this that I want you to understand as I expand on that idea a little bit. I’m going to go back through that idea and extend it just a bit.
If you were to look at the Old Testament and ask the question: “What does it say about sanctification?” you wouldn’t find anything in the Old Testament that says the goal of sanctification is to make you like Christ because they hadn’t seen Christ, right? So the word that you need to use when you talk about Old Testament sanctification is godliness – godliness. The objective of the Old Testament was to have a people who were like God. In Leviticus, for example – and that’s kind of the key place for this – starting in chapter 11 or even earlier and running all the way through to chapter 20 or so – ten or so chapters – you hear this: “Be holy for I am holy.” “Be holy for I am holy.” “Be holy for I am holy.” This is repeated and repeated and repeated. Godliness, be like God, be holy like God is holy. How does that happen? Well, Leviticus gives us a critical insight into that in a number of places, but I’ll just use two of them, or one to start with. Leviticus 20 and verse 8. In verse 7, there’s that familiar statement: “Be holy for I am the Lord your God and I’m holy.” But in verse 8 it says this: “You shall keep My statutes and practice them. I’m the Lord who sanctifies you.”
Do you understand what that’s saying? Sanctification is done by the Lord in a context of obedience. “You have to know My statutes and practice them.” So again, the Scripture is the instrumental means by which the Lord sanctified His people, even in the Old Testament. He gave them His Word, they were to obey His Word, they were to practice what He said, and that is the means by which the Lord sanctified His people.
In chapter 21 verse 8, he talks about the same thing. “You shall be holy for I, the Lord who sanctifies you, am holy.” Again, “I want you holy because I’m holy.” And “I will sanctify you insofar as you believe and obey My Word.” The instrumental means of sanctification is the Word.
Now, let me take it even a step further. To understand sanctification in the Old Testament, you have to understand one basic truth, and that is this: God was endeavoring in the process of sanctification by the work of the Holy Spirit to produce a family resemblance in His people, a people who are like God. In the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, He said this – chapter 5 of Matthew, verse 45: “Be like your Father who is in heaven.” If you forgive your enemy, those who harm you, you will be like your Father who is in heaven. That’s an Old Testament perspective on sanctification. Be like God. Be like God.
Another one in the same sermon – chapter 5 – is this: “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” If you belong to God, if you are a child of God, there should be a family resemblance, right? That’s the essence of understanding Old Testament sanctification. Sanctification in the Old Testament is seen as part of a true covenant relationship to God, and that covenant relationship is a family relationship. You’ve come into the family of God, and the process of sanctification is designed to make you more and more like your Father. That’s sanctification in the Old Testament, godlike. That’s what godliness is. The goal is the restoration of the divine image.
Now, what happens in the New Testament is very important but easy to understand. In the New Testament, the emphasis is not so much be like God, but what? Be like Christ. Why? Is that different? No. It is this, that Christ is the perfect representation of what a human being who is totally godlike looks like, right? This is a human being, fully human and godlike. John 1:14 again: “We beheld His glory,” He was like God, He was full of grace and truth. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. He makes godly people Christlike people. Sanctification equals godliness equals Christlikeness. That’s what holiness is, separating from sin unto godliness, unto Christlikeness.
So the wondrous reality of a life of Christ lived here on earth is you get to see what godliness looks like, what perfect godliness in a human being looks like. And that’s the model, and that’s why the apostle Paul said, “Be followers of me as I am of Christ.” Or Christ says, “Follow Me, I’m the pattern.” God spoke in time past, revealing Himself through the writers of the Old Testament, but in these last days, Hebrews 1 says, “He’s spoken to us in His Son who is the exact representation of His person.” So when somebody says to me, “I want to be godly. What does that look like?” I say, “It looks exactly like Jesus Christ.” You want to see godliness in a human form? Christ. That’s why we’re told in 2 Corinthians 3:18 to look at the glory of the Lord because that is the standard of holiness and sanctification. And the Holy Spirit, as that vision becomes clear to us and dominates our minds, will move us from one degree to the next, to the next, to the next, even in this life. The divine miracle of regeneration is done by the Holy Spirit. The divine miracle of glorification is done by the Holy Spirit. And the divine miracle in the middle of sanctification is also done by the Holy Spirit and it is no less miraculous.
What the Holy Spirit does is He shows us the things of Christ. Remember Jesus said that in the Upper Room? He will show you the things of Christ. Why? Because it’s only as you look at Christ that you see the full representation of God. It’s only as you look at Christ you understand what godliness, holiness, sanctification is, and as you gaze on that all-absorbing perfection in human form, that becomes the model and the standard to which the Spirit of God forms you.
So when somebody says, “I’m anointed by the Holy Spirit,” they ought to look a lot like Christ. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in every believer. The goal of the Holy Spirit is to produce sons of God who have a family resemblance who are like their Father and like their Brother, Jesus Christ, who is not ashamed to call them brother. That’s the goal of the death of Christ and the resurrection. The goal of the death of Christ, the goal of the resurrection, was to go back to heaven having provided sufficient atonement and send the Holy Spirit. The goal of the death of Christ, the resurrection, was to send the Holy Spirit for the purpose of regenerating, sanctifying, and glorifying those who believe.
It’s about family and it’s about family resemblance that we’re talking here, and if you go back with me to Romans 8 – we finally got there – you will see that the main theme here is that the Holy Spirit is doing the work of adoption. You have the reference to sons of God in verse 14. You have the reference to adoption as sons in verse 15. And then you have the reference to sons of God or children of God again in 16. This is about being in the family, about this covenant relation to God that makes you a member of the family. And the work of the Holy Spirit is to make you look like the rest of the family, like your Father and like your perfect Brother. It’s about family likeness.
It was no less than John Calvin, who had a pretty good grip on theology, who said, “This gift of sonship is the highest privilege of redemption and the primary work of the Holy Spirit.” John Calvin said this is the primary work of the Holy Spirit. It is. Can I be so bold as to say even His work of inspiring the Scripture was a means to accomplishing His work of sanctifying and glorifying a people? The Scripture is a means to an end and not an end. This is the end. It is the highest privilege of redemption to become a son of God, and it is the primary work of the Holy Spirit to make sons of God by regenerating them, glorifying them, and in the middle, sanctifying them so that their testimony is believable. That’s why we’re here.
Well, this is powerful and foundational truth. We should know this. It’s not only here in Paul’s writing to the Romans, but he makes a similar reference to the urgency and the importance of understanding this at the end of chapter 6 in 2 Corinthians when he says, “‘Come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord” and He’s borrowing that, of course, from Isaiah. “‘And don’t touch what is unclean and I’ll welcome you and I’ll be a Father to you and you’ll be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord almighty.” God is making a family. God is redeeming a family. God is regenerating a family – listen – who will be able to demonstrate His glory by the image of God that is in them. In order to restore the image of God, we have to be re-created. We have to be reborn. And that’s what regeneration and new birth is all about.
It will help you, I think, to understand the nature of adoption because you’re probably saying to yourself, “Well, adoption, you know, it talks about that in verse 15, adoption, but adoption is kind of a second-class deal.” You know, we read in the newspapers about the people who adopt kids and then put them on a plane and ship them back because they don’t want them. Wow. And people say this all the time. You never know what you’re going to get, you know, you can go through the legal deal and you can adopt a child but you can’t change a child’s heart. So you get what you get. And it may not work out very well and adopted children may turn out to be a disaster and a terror in the home, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, because you can’t really control what they are in the inside. You can do all the legal work on the outside.
You need to understand that the way the Bible talks about adoption is so complete and so comprehensive that it shuts out all those criticisms, and I’ll explain that to you. In the 1st century, if you were adopted, that didn’t make you a second-class child, that made you a first-class child. And this is basic, okay? In all honesty, when you have babies in your family, you get what you get. Right? You might look at one kid and say, “Wow, we could use a little more brain power there. We could use a little less rebellion there. We could use a little patience there. But we got what we got.” And I talk to enough parents to know that if they had been given a list of what they wanted, they might have been happy to put it in if they knew it would get the results they could expect. And that’s why, actually, today people who go to those banks and buy sperm want sort of a genetic profile because they want to orchestrate the kind of kid they’re going to have, they want to sort of manage that. But I mean reality is you get what you get. And that’s okay because you understand that, you love those children. But in the ancient world, if you adopted somebody, you were adopting a son, in most cases. It wasn’t rescuing kids from the street, they didn’t adopt kids off the street as a rescue operation. You adopted a son because you found somebody who exceeded in capability the ones that you had. This is first-class stuff. An adopted son was deliberately chosen by an adopting father to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate.
This might be how you dealt with a delinquent. You just adopted a noble young man to become your son. No way was that adopted son inferior. On occasions it might have been a daughter, but for the most part it was a son because they were the ones to whom the estate and responsibility passed. This would be typical. You chose this son because of his superior ability to represent the family, to manage the family’s future, and to inherit the family’s estate. This adopted son may well have been the apple of his father’s eye, the joy of his father’s heart. He may have received the best of his father’s affection and education more so than a born son and may have even demonstrated his father’s virtue and his father’s training more perfectly than the others.
The whole point of the picture is to say this: You’ve been adopted. That’s a divine choice. Not because before you were adopted you were so noble that God couldn’t continue to keep His kingdom in motion without you. By sovereign, divine choice, God preferred you and He preferred me. Free, voluntary election. It’s an amazing thing.
Let me tell you how it worked. A Roman adoption was a very formal event. It was difficult because in the Roman law, there was this rule called patria potestas, the father’s power. That’s Latin. And the father’s power meant that he had absolute power over the family. He had absolute right to dispose of his children in the early stages of the Roman Empire, kill his children if he wanted, absolute control over them. In regard to a Roman son, he never came of age in the sense that he ever had any independence from his father’s power. No matter how old he was, no matter if he was married, he was always under the absolute power of his father. If you were a son or a daughter, you were under absolute possession, absolute control by your father.
This made adoption very difficult because if you found a son that you wanted, you wanted because you could use him in your business, in your estate, in your family, for the well-being of your family’s future, how you going to get the other father to let him go? If he’s a noble enough son for you to want him so much, how is that going to happen? Well, some negotiations were involved in that. He had to formally pass out of the patria potestas of the man to whom he was born and pass into the patria potestas of the adoptive father. Two steps. Interesting. Step number one was called mancipatio, from which we get emancipation.
Mancipatio was carried out by a symbolic sale. A symbolic sale, actually, in which scales and pieces of copper were used, and three times a little ceremony went on. Three times there was a symbolic sale. Here’s the boy, and the money was placed on the scale. First time, the father would then take him back and say, “No, no.” And then he would do it again, and the money would be put on the scale, and he would take him back again. And this was to demonstrate reluctance and to communicate that he wasn’t just throwing this child away – this son away. Third time, however, he didn’t take him back, and he was emancipated from the patria potestas of his birth father.
Then there followed a ceremony called vindicatio. The adopting father would go the praetor, who would be the Roman official or magistrate, present a legal case for the transference of the son from one family to the next. When it was all complete, adoption was complete. Very formal.
Now, here’s what happened. This is important. Four very important things took place. One, the adopted person lost all rights in his former family. Had no rights, had no existence in that former family, and he gained all the rights of his new family. Couldn’t go back and try to get something from his former family. All was completely cut off from the past, and he had all the rights of a fully legitimate son in his new family.
Secondly, he became heir to his new father’s estate. He became heir to his new father’s estate. That’s why this was done. And when he became an heir to his new father’s estate, even afterward, if other sons were born, they could make no claim against it because they were natural-born sons. It didn’t affect the adopted son’s rights.
Thirdly, the old life of the adopted person – listen to this – was completely obliterated. It was as if he never lived. All his debts were cancelled on the spot. All his records were obliterated. It was as if he was born the day he was adopted. Everything else went out of existence. He was like a new person who just started his life.
And fourthly, in the eyes of the law, the adopted person was permanently and absolutely the son of his new father. Does that sound like salvation to you? That’s exactly what it is depicting, this concept of adoption. All our rights to our former family and our former father, the devil, are cancelled. We gain all the rights, fully legitimate sons in our new family, heirs of Christ, joint heirs with Christ of all that the Father possesses. We are the inheritors of His estate. Everything from our old life is wiped out, right? Isn’t the debt that was against us cancelled at the cross? And aren’t we the true sons, everlastingly the true sons of our new Father?
This is amazingly beautiful. And if you’re still bothered a little bit by the fact that this seems still to be somewhat superficial, let me help you with that. You can adopt a child, but you have to realize that when you adopt a child, you can’t change their nature, that child’s nature. And we see that kind of problem all the time. “Well, we adopted this child thinking the best and this kid is incorrigible, this kid is rebellious, this kid is angry, this kid is” – you make up the letters, ADD, ADHD, bipolar, psychotic – whatever. And, you know, you went through all the deal to figure out the legal aspect of this thing, but you couldn’t change the heart. That’s where the biblical work of the Spirit of God is so different from adoption. Listen, we become sons by adoption but we also become sons by regeneration. Adoption gives us the name and the title and the rights, regeneration gives us the nature of our new family, the spiritual genetics of our new family.
The emphasis on adoption is to show that we were chosen. And it’s the analogy that all the past is cancelled. It’s as if we were born again and just started to live. That’s why adoption is such an important thing because it speaks of selection, election, choice. And then it speaks of cancelling everything in the past and a new family but not to the exclusion of regeneration. Adoption confers the name and the title; regeneration confers the nature. In other words, we now have become not just adoptive children but partakers of the divine nature. It’s a staggering thing. And the Holy Spirit is doing all of this – all of this.
Now, let’s look at these three verses. You know where we’re going to go with it. so that’s fine. How does the Holy Spirit demonstrate this adoption? One, by leading us, all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Or flip it over, whoever is a son of God is being led by the Holy Spirit. The first mark of adoptive sons is they’re led by the Holy Spirit. They’re led by the Holy Spirit. They’re directed by the Holy Spirit. Their lives are controlled by the Holy Spirit. We are introduced to this marvelous reality that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in our lives and internally, He is directing us. He doesn’t lead by violence – listen – He doesn’t lead by violence, He leads by inclination. He generates in us inclination, bending, changing our will, changing our desires, changing our longings, changing our affections, shifting our interests. This is miraculous and this is part of what it is to be a partaker of the divine nature. We love what the divine nature loves, all of a sudden. We love the law of God, Paul says in Romans 7; we delight in the law of God, Psalm 119 – 175 times, David says it. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
How does He lead us? Two ways. Externally, by the Scripture – externally, by the Scripture, Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.” Show me the truth of Scripture. Externally by Scripture, internally by sanctification. Those two ways. Externally, Scripture; internally, sanctification.
What do you mean, the Spirit stirs the heart? I don’t know – that’s a miracle category, right? That’s the miraculous. You’re a living miracle. It wasn’t just a miracle that you’re saved, it’s a miracle that you’re being sanctified, and it’s a miracle when you’re glorified. You know the miracle of glorification. You know when you leave here and go to heaven and you receive a glorified body and you’re in the presence of the Lord, that miracle nobody would argue about. And we understand the miracle of regeneration. But the miracle of sanctification is equally miraculous because you’re being moved from one degree of glory to the next, to the next by the Holy Spirit. Externally, His instrumental means is the Scripture, and internally, He works to sanctify you.
That’s why David prays in Psalm 143:10: “Teach me to do Your will.” “Teach me to do Your will. Be my internal teacher.” Or Psalm 119:35: “Make me to go in the path of Your commandments.” “Make me go that way,” and that’s what the Holy Spirit does. Or Psalm 119: “Order my steps in Your Word.” “Shove me that way.” That internal work of the Holy Spirit whose temple we are. Verb tenses, we are being led, it’s all the time, all the time, all the time, constant. Being led by the Spirit is not a moment of ecstasy, it’s not some kind of moment of emotional elation. It’s a way of life – invisible miracle, conforming you more and more to Christlikeness by bending your will and your desires in that direction.
Second thing the Holy Spirit does is give you intimate access to God. Verse 15: “You have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again.” When you were an unregenerate person, when the image of God was so marred that you were doomed for the trash heap of the universe, the trash heap of eternity in hell, you lived in fear. You lived in dread. You lived in the anticipation of judgment. You were in bondage to sin; therefore, you were in bondage to guilt, anxiety, fear, trepidation, judgment. That’s how you lived.
What happened when you were regenerated and the Spirit began a work of sanctification is this: You received a spirit of adoption or perhaps better, the Spirit of adoption, which some theologians say is the supreme name for the Holy Spirit. If you wanted to take the name of all names to give the Holy Spirit, He should be called the Spirit of adoption because it is His work of bringing us into the family and conforming us to the family resemblance that dominates what God has given Him to do, what the Father has given Him to do. We have in – by the Holy Spirit, you can’t decide whether it’s speaking about the Holy Spirit or the human spirit, it can be either one, but I like to think it’s both. It is the Spirit of adoption who gives us a Spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry, “Abba, Father.” You didn’t just rush into the presence of an infinitely holy God and say, “Papa.” That’s what Abba means, Papa. That kind of intimacy with God? That would shake the Jews to their sandals. “What? God is distant and holy and here comes this person rushing in, ‘Papa, Papa, Abba Father.’” There’s no fear, right? There’s no fear. You have intimate access.
One of the great joys, the great joy, I guess, in some ways of being a grandfather is that amazing, unhindered, unrestrained affection that comes from grandchildren. Some people think I’m an important person; they don’t. Some people think I’m hard to get to know; they don’t. Some people think you should kind of keep your distance; they don’t. Is there anything more precious than little children running up and throwing their arms around you as a parent or a grandparent in those times of basically unlimited, unhindered, unquestioning affection? “Papa.” They come flying at me from every direction. And that’s exactly what we have here. There’s a sense in which we just rush in without fear to the presence of God because the Holy Spirit has made us sons by birth and sons by adoption with all full access to the Father.
There’s a third ministry of the Holy Spirit in this work of sonship and that is not only is He leading us and giving us intimate access but He’s assuring us. He gives us assurance. Verse 16: “The Holy Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” He testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. The Holy Spirit comes to us, takes up residence in us, and confirms to our hearts that we belong to God.
Let me tell you where this comes from. In the adoption process in ancient Rome, seven witnesses had to be there. Seven witnesses. Seven eyewitnesses of the transaction in its fullness. Why? Well, what happens when the father dies and all the born children resent the adopted son who is the heir? There’s going to be a battle. And so the children who are born to the father are going to say, “He’s not legitimate, he’s making an illegitimate claim,” and somewhere there will be seven people who were eyewitnesses to this very legal transaction who can affirm the truthfulness and legitimacy of that.
We don’t need seven. We just need one, the Holy Spirit who has sealed us to the day of redemption, which means we are protected until the day of redemption. No one can ever take our inheritance, it’s reserved and set apart for us, as Peter says, right? Undefiled and laid up in heaven for you. The Holy Spirit is the seal, the Holy Spirit is the arrabon, the engagement ring, the guarantee, and the Holy Spirit is the first fruits. In other words, the guarantee of the full inheritance. That is what verse 16 is saying. He testifies with us that we are the children of God. He bears witness along with our spirit. There is an internal confidence that all is well. This, in a word, is called hope. We have a strong hope, don’t we? And that’s the work of the Holy Spirit, to give us that strong hope.
I don’t live daily fearing I might not make it to heaven. Never enters my mind. Why? Because the internal witness of the Holy Spirit gives me hope – gives me hope. If you were a child out in the streets or in a very difficult, abusive, perishing family, what you would want would be someone who would lead you and guide you in the right way, someone who would take all the fear out of your life, all the anxiety out of your life, and have all the resources that you could ever hope for, ever need, and far more, and somebody who would assure you of a future. If you could find somebody like that, that would make an adoptive child happy.
Well, you have that and more because that is what God promises you, and not only does He take you in by adoption, but He changes your nature, and then He begins to make you look like the Father and the Brother, Christ Himself. This is the blessed work of the Holy Spirit. Nothing less gives Him the honor He is due than to understand this.
Father we have been blessed this morning in so many ways, to know each other and fellowship with each other and sing together and listen to the beauty of such glorious, rapturous music, and now to be put in touch with these profound and wonderful truths that speak to us about us. How blessed are we. How unimaginably blessed are we and it’s all by grace. We thank You, we bless Your name, and we pray, teach me, O Lord, to do Your will, along with David. Bend me that way, O Holy Spirit, incline my heart that way. Control my affections, my desires, my longings. Move me from one level of glory to the next, to the next, so that I might reflect the glory of God in an image of God, restored through the work of regeneration until the day of glorification. Thank You for such a high calling and such an amazing gift. You’ve not only given us Christ, Father, but You’ve given us the Spirit, to make us a living and growing, progressing miracle. May we ever be thankful to you, O blessed Holy Spirit, for this work. Thank You for living in us and effecting this. We are unworthy, we acknowledge that, but we are profoundly grateful. And may it be that the work that You are doing will be manifest to those around us so that they can look at us and see Christ. And we pray in His name. Amen.
What makes you happy? What makes you laugh out with great joy, from the depths of your heart? Have you ever checked the reasons for your laughter? Or, have you just strung along life and gone with the flow?
So many believers, born into “christian” families, have never bothered to examine their lives. Which is why many are found struggling with mental and emotional issues. How to examine? Looking at Jesus who walked the earth as the only example to emulate. Studying the word of God to seek God in prayer for the things inspired by the Holy Spirit.
If laughter is the best medicine, what is causing that laughter is critical. Movies and Internet media have contaminated the minds and hearts of people with their “roasts” and “stand-ups”. Do these bring you joy? True christians do not seek after false joy; they know where to find real joy.
There is so much joy when a team wins in sports or games. This joy too is carnal and earthly. These systems were created to fill us with duplicate joy and steal our time away from God. We also know most of these games are fixed to make money.
Love rejoices in the truth
“rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;” (1 Corinthians 13:6)
The wicked love lies and sin. The righteous love the truth. Those who enjoy truth, also are sanctified by the power in the truth of the word of God.
How can we rejoice and enjoy the presence of God? When we humble ourselves in prayer and fellowship. When we keep God before us, He gives our body rest too; not just our spirit and soul. The true way of this life is found in the presence of God. God reveals it to us.
“I have set the LORD always before me: Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: My flesh also shall rest in hope. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: In thy presence is fulness of joy; At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:8-9, 11)
A new day is a day of rejoicing because this is the day He has made (Psalms 118:24). The truth about the new day is, it’s a gift. A gift to come closer to Him, be fruitful.
Be filled with the joy of the Lord, and in the power of His might. When God fills us with the Holy Spirit, our rejoicing is powered by love, God’s love.
Prepare yourself for the day of greatest joy for all those who seek His coming. The rapture is near, the groom is all set to pick the bride the Holy Spirit prepares. Maranatha, Praise God and Amen.
Last Sunday, I began a series on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, looking at the person of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit so that we can worship Him in the way He deserves to be worshipped. And at that time when I began the series last week, I mentioned to you that the Holy Spirit is the most – in my mind at least, the most abused member of the Trinity. There are so many people who blame the Holy Spirit for their behaviors, their words, their experiences, and the Holy Spirit has no part whatsoever.
It is a strange kind of thing to realize, having read what we did in John chapter 14, 15, and 16 about the Spirit of Truth, to see so much untruth connected to the Holy Spirit. So many lies, so many deceivers, so many deceptions are basically assigned to the Holy Spirit in order to gain necessary ground with people for those who have illegitimate desires and goals. The Holy Spirit is blamed for so many terrible things.
We are warned about that in the Bible. We are warned about the danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. In spite of that warning, it goes on. We are warned about – and I’ll say more about this next week, about insulting the Holy Spirit, we are warned about resisting the Holy Spirit, we are warned about grieving the Holy Spirit, we are warned about quenching the Holy Spirit, and all those verbs are addressed at the way we refer to the Holy Spirit Himself. But it is not just a matter of trying to avoid blasphemy and abuse and attributing to the Holy Spirit things that He would have no part of. It’s more than that. We need not only to avoid certain errors regarding the Holy Spirit, but we need certainly to worship the Holy Spirit fully for what He has done and who He genuinely is.
Just last week, I was reading an article from the year 1657 and it was written by John Owen, the great English Puritan who is so prolific, who wrote volumes and volumes that enrich us in understanding of Scripture and theology. One very important treatise that John Owen wrote is an analysis of what it means to commune with God, what it means to really worship God. His title, in the sort of standard Puritan vernacular, is this: Of Communion with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Each Person Distinctly, in Love, Grace, and Consolation – that’s a typical Puritan title. He also gave an alternate title – or The Saints’ Fellowship with the Father, with the Son, with the Holy Spirit Unfolded.
In this treatise written by John Owen, he calls for the realization that we have received from, individually and specifically and particularly, each member of the Trinity certain specific benefits. And as we have received these benefits from each of the members of the Trinity, we are required to respond to those gifts to each member of the Trinity so that our Trinitarian worship is not so much blended as it is separated. There is a passage of Scripture that might help us to see this. If you look at the very last verse in the last chapter of 2 Corinthians, you would read this: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” That is a Trinitarian benediction that sorts out the individual features of the ministry of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit to us as believers. It is the love of God. Coming from God is that divine, sovereign love. It is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Son who provides divine, sovereign grace. And it is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. From the Father comes divine love; from the Son, divine grace; and from the Spirit, divine fellowship.
And the apostle Paul separates these individual members of the Trinity and identifies aspects of their ministry. Our communion is initiated by the love of the Father, ratified by the grace of the Son, and communicated by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. And while we would agree that throughout Scripture there is overlapping in the work of the Trinity, there is still an emphasis on those specific works which each member does in some unique way.
I think for most of us who worship God in the true way, knowing that He is a triune God and who recognize that He is one essence but three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we tend to sort of blend everything together and worship Him as the triune God, and that, of course, is a legitimate way to worship God. But what Owen is calling for is for us to start separating these persons in the Trinity as to the recognition of what it is that they have provided for us and how it is that we should respond specifically to those specific provisions. In regard to the Holy Spirit, John Owen writes, “The Spirit’s ministry consists in bringing the promises of Christ to remembrance, glorifying Him in our hearts, shedding abroad the love of God in us, witnessing with us that we belong to God as to our spiritual state and condition, sealing us to the day of redemption, being the earnest or the guarantee of our final inheritance, anointing us with comfort, confirming our adoption and being present with us in our supplications.”
Then Owen responds to the work of the Spirit by saying this: “Here is the wisdom of faith, to find out and meet with the Comforter in all these things, not to lose their sweetness by lying in the dark as to their author, nor coming short of the returns which are required of us.” Each member of the Trinity, having done these specific things for us, is to be worshiped in specific response to the work that each as done.
It isn’t just that we don’t want, as believers, to quench the Holy Spirit, which believers can do. It is not only that we don’t want to grieve the Holy Spirit, which believers can do. We don’t want to resist the Holy Spirit. It isn’t just what we don’t want to do. It is that in our regular communion and our regular worship and our regular praise, we need to identify the three persons of the godhead in meditation, in prayer, and in submission. We need to dwell on the special mercy and the special ministry of each person of the Trinity toward us, and we need to make a specific response of love and submission and joy and gratitude distinctly to each member of the Trinity. This, says John Owen, is full-orbed communion with God.
Another of my favorite Puritans is Thomas Goodwin. Thomas Goodwin writes: “Our worship is sometimes with our Father, then with the Son, and then with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes our hearts are drawn out to consider the Father’s love in choosing us. Sometimes our hearts are drawn to the love of Christ in redeeming us. And sometimes the love of our hearts is drawn toward the Holy Spirit who searches the deep things of God and reveals them to us” – and then I love this line – “and takes all the pains with us.” Have you ever thought to thank the Holy Spirit for taking all the pains to work on your sanctification? “Thank You, Holy Spirit – thank You, Holy Spirit, for teaching me, thank You for warring against the flesh, thank You for interceding for me, thank You for sealing and securing me, thank You for guiding me away from the path of temptation, thank You for empowering me in the face of sin.”
Now, that’s what Thomas Goodwin is calling for and Goodwin says, “It is only when we understand the work of each member of the Trinity distinctly that we have a true communion with God.” He says, quote, “We should never be satisfied until all three persons lie level in us.” A beautiful way to say that. So that we sit, as it were, in the midst of them while they all manifest their love to us. This is the highest experience that ever Christ promised in this life, to sit in the midst, as it were, of the Trinity and be the recipient of all the love coming from the Father, all the love coming from the Son, and all the love coming from the Spirit on our behalf. This is true worship.
We have spent a lot of time – and we do, I think, as believers – thinking about the love of the Father, the electing love, the sovereign love, thinking about the sacrifice of the Son, the grace that is given to us. There are a lot of ways to look at it. The Father initiates our salvation, the Son ratifies our salvation, the Holy Spirit communicates our salvation. The Father chooses us for life, the Son provides the sacrifice that leads to life, and the Holy Spirit gives us the life. And being able to recognize the ministry of each member of the Trinity is being able to have full-orbed worship and full-orbed communion.
So what we’re trying to do is, in this brief series, get a better understanding of the work and ministry of the blessed Holy Spirit that we might enhance and enrich our own gratitude and thanks and worship to Him. Maybe one of the most amazing verses that our Lord ever spoke or ever recorded from His lips is in John 16. I read it to you earlier. It really is a startling verse, if you stop and think about it. This is what our Lord said in John 16:7: “I tell you the truth” – as He always did – “it is to your advantage that I go away.”
And we’ll just stop right there for a minute and ask the question, “How would the disciples have received that?” Since they had been with the Lord essentially 24/7 for a period of three years, He was everything to them, absolutely everything. On one occasion, according to John 6, Jesus said after a group of people left, “Will you also go away?” and Peter, speaking for the rest, said, “To whom shall we go? You and You alone have the words of eternal life. We’re not about to go anywhere. Everything we want to know, everything we want to see, everything we need You have, You are.” How in the world could they handle the statement, “It’s to your advantage if I go away”? What could be better than that?
And when you think about the fact for literally millennia, people had been waiting for the coming of the Messiah and every generation of Jewish people who knew the Messiah was going to come had wished that they would be the people alive when He came, and yet when He did come, the people at that time rejected Him as we know fully. But there was a group of people, His followers and His disciples, who embraced Him, and this was the fulfillment of all of redemptive history, going all the way back to the time of the fall and the promise that one would come and bruise the serpent’s head, how wonderful that the Messiah had come, how wonderful that He was there. They didn’t want Him to go anywhere. They didn’t want Him to leave. They wanted Him to stay and set up His kingdom and that would be the end and the culmination and the fulfillment of everything.
Yet in that last evening together when they were meeting in the Upper Room before He was taken and crucified, He says to them, “I’m leaving, I’m going to go away, and you’re not going to be able to get to Me, but I’m going to tell you something, it’s to your advantage that I go away.” That’s an amazing statement. How could that be true? He says this: “If I do not go away, the helper will not come to you. But if I go, I’ll send Him to you.” What is better than having Jesus? Having the Holy Spirit – having the Holy Spirit. “You mean the Holy Spirit wasn’t around?” No. I also read to you from the same portion of Scripture, “He has been with you, He will be” – where? – “in you.” The Holy Spirit was always around. The Holy Spirit was the Creator, He moved on the face of the waters in Genesis and created. The Holy Spirit’s always been the life-giver, the Holy Spirit’s always been the convictor. He’s been striving with men, it says in Genesis 6.
The Holy Spirit has always been the one that brought life to spiritually dead people and all men have been dead since the fall. There would be no salvation in the Old Testament, no believing faith, no redeeming repentance, no genuine conversion apart from the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit was around to give leading and guiding. The ministry of the Holy Spirit can be seen in the Old Testament period to some degree. He is with you might be a way to understand that for those necessary things like salvation and sanctification, the Holy Spirit was required.
But here comes the Son. Isn’t that a better thing? Isn’t it even a more wonderful thing to be in the very presence of the incarnate Son of God? One would certainly think so. So maybe that’s a step beyond what they had in the Old Testament. The Spirit was there, the Son was promised, now the Spirit is still doing His work and the Son is also there. How can Jesus say, “It’s better if I go away”?
The answer to that is because the Holy Spirit brings to the believers, from the time of the founding of the church on, a ministry that has never been known before. It isn’t that the Holy Spirit wasn’t here, it’s not a question of absent and present, it’s a question of degree, extent. The best thing that could ever happen to any people, better than having Jesus Christ in their midst, is to have the Holy Spirit. And that’s us. We’re living in that marvelous, marvelous realization. “It’s better that I go so I can send the Holy Spirit.”
Boy, if that’s true, then the Holy Spirit is very, very special. And indeed He is. And instead of the terrible things that are assigned to the Holy Spirit, we want to take a look at the genuine ministry of the Holy Spirit so we can worship Him and they can – all members of the Trinity, as Goodwin said, can lie level in us and receive equal praise.
Where do we go in the Word of God to get in touch with the ministry of the Holy Spirit? Well, we’ve chosen to look at Romans 8. So with that brief introduction, I want you to turn to Romans 8, and we’re going to take a look at the ministry of the Holy Spirit that flows through this chapter. And as we go, we may digress a little bit and talk about some of the other things, but obviously we’re not going to try to cover every passage in the New Testament regarding the Holy Spirit but those things are which most essential and important to us. And in Romans chapter 8, we have a great starting point for this because the ministry of the Holy Spirit is presented here with regard to salvation.
Remember, in the opening seven chapters of Romans, the themes are all salvific. It’s all about salvation. It starts in chapter 1 verse 16 with the gospel. Paul’s not ashamed. He preaches. It’s the power of God unto salvation. Then he starts to unpack the essence of the gospel. Talks about sin and judgment and then talks about the futility of trying to achieve righteousness on your own. Talks about grace and faith, uses Abraham as an illustration. Talks about the meaning of the cross and our union with Christ, and it’s all about salvation all the way up to chapter 8. And now we come into chapter 8, and we shift into a section that is the final summation of the glory of salvation. It is the final summation of what it means to be saved. Here is the ultimate good news, and it all is secured to us by the Holy Spirit – by the Holy Spirit.
Let’s at least begin in verses 1 and 2, and let’s see what it is that the Holy Spirit does for us. I’m going to give you kind of a grocery list of things the Holy Spirit does that flow out of this chapter. But you have to understand where it all begins. Romans 8 verse 1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” How can that be possible that there’s no condemnation for sinners? How can that be possible? Answer, in verse 2: “For the law or the principle of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” There’s no condemnation to those who are in Christ because of something the Spirit of life has done. The Spirit of life is the Holy Spirit. So we meet the Holy Spirit in verse 2 and here’s the first point: The Holy Spirit frees us from death by giving us life. The Holy Spirit frees us from death by giving us life. That’s the first feature of a no-condemnation life.
But let’s back up into that first verse and recognize the word “therefore” ties this in with everything that had come before. All that has been said about salvation in all its glory and all its beauty – he’s not going back to verse 25 of 7, he’s not going back just to chapter 7, he’s going back all the way to chapter 1 verse 16 where he started talking about the gospel, all of that gospel teaching therefore means there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That’s the summation of the gospel. That’s the good news. You can be before an infinitely holy God as an utterly corrupt sinner and not be condemned at all, not now, and not ever. That is the good news.
And to understand that good news, you have to understand the bad news. The bad news is that Scripture designates every human being born into this world as a child of wrath – child of wrath, Ephesians chapter 2 verse 3. You’re children of wrath. You’re all children of wrath. Well, that’s a kind of a Hebrew way of speaking. In other words, you’ve inherited the nature of those who will be damned. That’s what that means. If you’re a son of corruption, it simply means your nature is corrupt. If you’re a son of wrath, it means you are sentenced to judgment. All men are children of wrath. They are under condemnation, and it is a miserable condition.
What are the elements of this condition? Well, we’re overpowered by sin. We all come short of the glory of God. We’ve all sinned and we’ve all come short of the glory of God. We’re all cursed. We are dominated; we are literally overwhelmed by, overpowered by sin. Sin is a defiling disease that cripples the soul of every human being, degrades every person, disquiets every person, steals peace and joy, replacing it with trouble, pain, fear. It plants in every heart the killing principle of corruption that no man can ever overcome and no human person can ever cure.
It is even worse than that. Not only are we incurably sinful and wicked but we are controlled by Satan who is the angel of wickedness, who is the devil himself. We are members of his kingdom. We are part of his family. John 8:44: “Your father is the devil.” We are the devil’s children. We are ruled by the prince of the power of the air – Ephesians 2:2 – the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience. He’s operating in all human beings who are not only corrupt in their own nature but further corrupted by the work of Satan in them. And that’s why Jesus said, “His lusts you do.” What he lusts for, you do.
As a result of this, we are subject to vanity, it says in Romans 8:20. What that means is that in that condition where we are overpowered by sin and dominated by Satan, we are subject to all that is bad, all that is horrible. This is the futility of life, emptiness, bitterness, sorrow, pain. We’re born to trouble. We have no peace. We fear death. We’re full of anxiety, hopeless. And as such, Hebrews 10:27 says there remains nothing but a fearful looking for a fiery judgment. All humanity has to look for is hell – hell. Damned forever, according to Revelation 20 verse 14, by the second death and the Lake of Fire. That is he misery of all human beings.
And when that punishment falls, it is a just condemnation – it is a just condemnation. Romans 3 says that in verse 8 and 9, it is a just condemnation. We have broken the law of God. Galatians 3 says if you break one law, you’ve shattered the whole law. Our condemnation is just. Like the thief on the cross, we indeed suffer justly. That’s what He said.
So as a result, you sum all that up and you have the fact that the sinner stands as a child of wrath, under the condemnation of a holy God who is offended at every sin and renders a just judgment. The inevitable end, then, is hell forever. And that’s the condition of every person until the Holy Spirit arrives. And in our text, in the darkness of this picture, our text brings glorious light. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the principle or the power or the influence of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Honestly, the Bible is a very condemning book, very condemning. In the 5th chapter of Romans, it says in Adam, all died. That we all inherited the sin nature from Adam. Romans 5 says that over and over again. Second Thessalonians chapter 1 gives us a frightening picture of the final future judgment that’s going to fall on all sinners when it says that the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the Lord and from the glory of His power.
There are two aspects of eternal hell. One is sense; that is, real pain. The other is absence, the absence of God. That’s a real hell. And you say, “Well, didn’t God send His law so we’d have standards to live up to? And if you live up to those standards we’re going to be okay, we’re going to get to heaven?” That is the misunderstanding that is most popular in the world and equally a damning misunderstanding because as holy as the law is, and it is perfectly holy because it’s simply a reflection of God, it’s the ethics of God’s nature codified, written out and spelled out. The law, however, can’t make us holy. The law can’t deal with our sin, and the law cannot give us a way to escape condemnation.
Listen to what it says in Romans 3: “Whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become accountable to God.” All the law does is shut your mouth when you make any claim to goodness. “Because by the works of the law, no flesh will be justified in His sight, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” All the law does is give you the knowledge of sin. That’s all God’s law does, is show you sin. It is not the path to overcome sin. It is not the path to escape the condemnation that your sin produces. It cannot do that. It cannot alter your condition; it can only reveal it. And it cannot change your condemnation; it can only enforce it.
In fact, the law makes things worse because the law expands the violations. So no one by the law is going to be made right with God. Rather by the law, our guilt is increased, our sin is expanded. There is, therefore, condemnation and only condemnation to those who are under the law because the law can’t save, the law can’t remove condemnation, the written law. That’s what verse 3 means when it says, “What the law couldn’t do, weak as it was through the flesh.” In other words, the law can’t operate in human beings to any saving end. Condemnation here is the word katakrima and it focuses on the punishment after the sentencing more than just the judgment itself. There’s another Greek word that speaks about the judgment or the adjudication itself. This is a word that stretches beyond the sentencing to the actual punishment.
And what is said here is this: There is no punishment for those who are in Christ Jesus. In spite of all the violations, in spite of breaking God’s law, in spite of being in a condition where condemnation would be just and righteous and holy and correct and deserved, in spite of that, in spite of our corruption, in spite of our belonging to the kingdom of darkness and Satan himself, we can be in a condition by salvation where there is no condemnation. “No” is a strong negative, a strong word. There’s a lot of ways you could say no in Greek; this is a very strong one. Absolutely, unequivocally, no condemnation.
Now, let me tell you, that is the good news. That’s the gospel. That as sinful as you are, there is the possibility of coming into a condition in which there is no condemnation, not any at all. What is that condition? What is that place? Being in Christ. Verse 1: “To those who are in Christ.” Or verse 2: “In Christ Jesus.” It’s about union with Christ. What does it mean to be in Christ? It means to be in Him in a very real sense, spiritually. Go back to the 6th chapter of Romans for a minute, verse 3: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized” – or immersed – it’s not talking about water baptism here but using the word to mean immersed into in a metaphoric sense – “all of us who have been immersed into Christ Jesus have been immersed into His death. Therefore, we’ve been buried with Him through that immersion into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” In other words, we literally are placed into Christ in His death and into Christ in His resurrection. We die in Him, we rise in Him.
Verse 5: “We have become united with Him in the likeness of His death and we shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. As a result, our old self was crucified with Him in order that our body of sin might be done away, terminated, and we would no longer be slaves to sin, for he who died is freed from sin. If we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, knowing that Christ having been raised from the dead is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him, for the death that He died, He died to sin once for all, but the life He lives, He lives to God. So consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” In Christ we die, we rise again. This is our union with Christ. And that is what is being stated.
And that’s all been unpacked and unfolded, as I just read in chapter 6, but all of that leading up to this point, so we don’t have here a definition of what it is to be in Christ because that’s all been explained. All we need to know here is: For those who are in Christ, there is no condemnation – none. Literally, we have been placed beyond the reach of condemnation – beyond the reach of condemnation. That’s how the chapter begins, and it’s how it ends. If you go to the end of chapter 8, what do you read? “What will separate us” – verse 35 – “from the love of Christ, tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword?” No. Verse 38: “I am convinced that neither death, life, angels, principalities, things present, things to come, powers, height, depth, any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In other words, list everything real, everything imaginable, things that are, things that are only imagined. None of them can change our condition. None of them can alter the no-condemnation status. We have been placed beyond the reach of condemnation. And this whole chapter is a long and really thrilling proof of the safety of believers. That’s what it’s about, it’s about the safety and security of those who are in Christ from any condemnation, now or ever. Even if Satan shows up, it says later in the chapter, who is going to bring a successful accusation against us before God? No one, ever, we are beyond the reach of condemnation. And this is all going to be attributed in a wonderful way to the Holy Spirit who does this for us. The reason we are beyond condemnation is because – verse 2 says – the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
The word “law” here is not in a biblical sense, not in a codified sense, but it’s used in the sense of a principle, a dominating power, the dominating power of the Spirit of life has set you free from the dominating power of sin, which leads to death. It’s just an amazing, clear, specific statement on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Those of us who are in Christ are really in Christ. We are joined to Him.
How did we get into Christ? We literally have been placed into Him by the Holy Spirit who took us out of a condition of sin that leads to death and gave us life. That’s why He’s called the Spirit of life, the regenerating Spirit, the Spirit who is life – the life-giving Spirit. All those are used as phrases to describe the Holy Spirit.
It was Martin Luther who said, “For a man to be a Christian without having Christ is impossible and if he has Christ, he has at the same time all that is in Christ. What gives peace to the conscience is that by faith our sins are no more ours but Christ’s, upon whom God hath laid them all, and that on the other hand, all Christ’s righteousness is ours to whom God hath given it. Christ lays His hand upon us and we are healed. He casts His mantle upon us and we are clothed, for He is our glorious Savior, blessed forever.” This union that we have now with Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit. He takes us out of a condition of death and puts us in the union with Christ. We are then alive in Christ.
This happens by faith. We understand that. Luther goes on to say, “Unites the soul with Christ as a spouse with her husband. Everything which Christ has becomes the property of the believing soul, everything which the soul has becomes the property of Christ. Christ possesses all blessing and eternal life. They are thenceforth the property of the soul. The soul has all its iniquities and sins, they become thereafter the property of Christ. It is then that a blessed exchange commences. Christ who is both God and man, Christ who has never sinned and His holiness is perfect, Christ the almighty and eternal, taking to Himself by His nuptial ring of faith all the sins of the believer. Those sins are lost and abolished in Him, for no sins dwell before His infinite righteousness, and thus by faith the believer’s soul is delivered from sin, is clothed with eternal righteousness, the righteousness of her bridegroom Christ.” Oh, happy union. Who does that? That is the work of the Spirit of life who removes us from the union with sin and Satan, which produces death, and gives us life. This is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. That’s what verse 2 means.
Go back again for just a moment, looking at the end of it, we have been set free from the principle, the dominating principle of sin that produces death. The condition of spiritual death as a result of sin. How are we set free? By the dominating power of the Spirit of life, and that can only refer to the blessed Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of life. And He is so designated in 2 Corinthians chapter 3. You can read through that, the law kills, the letter kills, the letter kills, the Spirit gives life, the Spirit gives life. Verse 6, verse 17, verse 18, Galatians 6:8, the life-giving Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us life.
And if you’re still wondering about that, what did Jesus say to Nicodemus? You want to enter the kingdom of God? You must be born of the water and the Spirit. You must be born from above. The Spirit is the source of life. He is the one who gives life. He is the regenerator.
Look at Titus for a moment. In Titus, there’s a wonderful statement about salvation that we can see will lay some weight on what I’ve been saying and perhaps some clarity. But notice that we were foolish – verse 3 Titus 3:3 – that we were disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts, pleasures, spending our life in malice – that’s evil – envy, hateful, hating one another. That’s a description of every human being. Not a pretty picture. “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared” – so here you have the kindness of God, everything starts from the love of God, works through the grace of Christ and ends up with the fellowship of the Spirit. “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us.”
How did He save us? How did He rescue us from the condition of corruption and cursing? How did He rescue us from the domain of Satan? How did He rescue us from the tyranny of sin? How did He do it? “He saved us not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness.” Okay, it wasn’t by the law then. It wasn’t by our goodness. “But according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and the renewing” – by whom? – “by the Holy Spirit whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” I don’t know that we really know the full richness of the Holy Spirit, but we’re going to work on understanding it together. How did this renewal come? How did this washing come? How did this regeneration come? How did this life come? How, by whom have we been made alive? None other than the Spirit of life.
How did He do it? Well, first I read you in John 16, He convicts us of sin and righteousness and judgment. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, the work of convicting the sinner. Then He brought to us the gospel. The Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. God breathed, comes from the pneuma, the Spirit of God. Holy men were moved by the Holy Spirit, Peter says, and they wrote the Scripture. So the Spirit is the author of holy Scripture. So one, the Holy Spirit convicts the sinner. Two, the Holy Spirit, who is the author of the gospel, brings the gospel so that we’re begotten again, according to James 1:18, by the Word of Truth. First Peter 1, the same thing. We’re begotten by the Word of Truth. The Spirit is the convictor; the Spirit is the author of the gospel which is brought to us. The Spirit becomes our teacher, opens our minds by His regenerating power, and we believe the gospel, we turn from sin. That’s all the work of the Holy Spirit. He is the life-giving Spirit, the Spirit who gives life, the Spirit of life.
I don’t know if you’ve ever really spent time thanking the Holy Spirit for what He gave you, for convicting you of sin and righteousness in judgment, for writing the holy Scripture, the glorious gospel, the Word of Truth, the Spirit of truth who brought you the Word of Truth, and then who gave you life and understanding so that you heard the truth, you came alive, you repented, you believed the truth, and you literally were delivered out of a condition of sin and death into a condition of life. And now your condition in life is a condition not only of being alive, but having been clothed with the very righteousness of Christ, you are beyond the possibility of condemnation – beyond that possibility.
How could the Spirit do this? How can the Holy Spirit do this? He can do it because of the provision of verse 3, which we’ll look at a little more next time, but just to introduce it to you. The law couldn’t do it. It was weak because the law couldn’t empower the flesh. The law couldn’t make a better man. It could set the perfect standard, but it couldn’t make a man that could keep it. So it was weak through the flesh. In other words, it’s weak not in its own self but in the sense that flesh can’t keep it. But God did what the law couldn’t do and He did it through His Holy Spirit, and He did it by the sacrifice of Christ, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as an offering for sin. He condemned sin in the flesh.
Let me show you the difference. See that last line, “He condemned sin in the flesh”? You know what the law can do? The law can condemn the sinner. The law does condemn the sinner. The cross condemned sin. See the difference? The law can’t condemn sin, only the cross condemned sin. The law sentences the sinner to death, the cross sentences sin to death. Sin dies, it’s no longer our master, it is no longer our power – a dominating force. It no longer can call for a just punishment and execution. The law condemns the sinner; the cross condemns sin.
How does it do that? Because at the cross, Jesus pays the penalty in full. Sin’s requirement, which was established by God Himself, is paid in full. That’s what it means when it says we were identified with Him in His death. When He died, all our sins were there and paid for in full. The law couldn’t do that. Believe me, the law condemns every sinner. The law can’t condemn sin, but the cross condemns sin for those who are in Christ. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
I was looking around this week for some hymns on the Holy Spirit because there are a few songs to the Holy Spirit. They’re kind of schmaltzy, syrupy, sentimental songs. But I was digging around, I figured I’ll go to a Presbyterian hymnal. A Presbyterian is usually a little more theological. And I found this, I’ve never heard it, I don’t know what – I could hum the tune but that wouldn’t help anybody. But here’s an old hymn to the Holy Spirit, it’s the only one I found, and it goes like this: “Spirit, we would worship You, crowning gift of resurrection sent from Your ascended throne, fullness of the very godhead, come to make Your life our own.” That’s exactly what the Holy Spirit did. He came to make the life of God our own life.
And then this writer – who, by the way, is Margaret Clarkson, you may know a little bit about her. The hymn goes on, and I’ve edited it a little bit, but speaking to the Holy Spirit, “You who in creation’s dawning, brooded on the lifeless deep, still across our nature’s darkness moves to wake our souls from sleep. Moves to stir, to draw, to quicken, thrusts us through with sense of sin. Brings to birth and seals and fills us, saving advocate within. You Yourself, the living author, wakes to life the sacred Word, reads with us its holy pages and reveals our risen Lord. You it is who works within us, teaching rebel hearts to pray. You whose holy intercession rises for us night and day.” That’s absolutely true, and that’s reason to give honor to the Holy Spirit. Amen?
Father, we thank You for our time this morning to think about these things, and we’re just kind of scratching the edges of these great truths, but we have so much that we already know that we can fill in to this and grasp that all that Christ did on the cross made it possible for the Holy Spirit to give us life. The fact that He had borne in His own body our sins on the tree, the fact that He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, chastisement for our peace fell on Him, by His stripes were healed, that He who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, the fact that He became a curse for us. All of these great realities of the substitutionary work of Christ, the necessary provision, the necessary ratification of divine initiative make it possible for the application and communication of the Holy Spirit to give us life and give us life that puts us beyond the possibility of condemnation, knowing that Christ was fully condemned for our sins. Nothing can ever condemn us. What incredibly glorious news.
How we thank You, Father, for such initiating love. We thank You, O Christ, for such a sacrifice of grace. And we thank You, O Holy Spirit, for giving us life and sustaining that life until we see Christ face-to-face and are like Him. We worship You, our triune God, and we do so with joy and gratitude. Amen.
Introduction: In this sermon on Pentecost, John A. Huffman, Jr. uses the story of Pentecost from Acts 2 to explain the power that comes to The Church through the Holy Spirit. By receiving God’s power, the church is able to pursue and fulfill God’s plans for it. Begin planning to preach on Pentecost with this outline and sermon illustrations on the Holy Spirit.
Let me ask you a question. Give it serious consideration before you present your answer. The question is this: If we had to forego the celebration of Christmas, Good Friday, Easter or Pentecost, which one would seem the least crucial?
Take your time.
Most of us, myself included, would have a tough time picturing a year with no Christmas, no Holy Thursday/Good Friday or no Easter. Many Christians, because of the congregational and cultural emphasis of the first three, would probably say, “Well, if I must choose, I can do without Pentecost.”
Absolutely not! The bottom line of what I’m trying to say from the Bible today is that without Pentecost the other three would not be celebrated at all!
There could not have been a Good Friday without the advent of Christ’s coming which we celebrate at Christmas. Good Friday would have been a meaningless martyrdom without the victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ which we celebrate at Easter. But it is Pentecost that enables the gift of faith by which you and I can know that the birth, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ are for us! Jesus was not finished when He rose from the dead and ascended to be glorified. He came back to give the greatest gift of all — the gift of His own Spirit to live in us.
It is with the excitement of this reality that we focus today on Pentecost, with our theme from Acts 2 being “Receiving God’s Power.”
You’ve heard me preach for 20 years. You know I’m not one given to the homiletical practice of alliteration, starting each of my sermon points with the same letter. However, it makes sense for today. Let’s look at five aspects of receiving God’s power in: the promise of Pentecost, the posture of Pentecost, the picture of Pentecost, the preaching of Pentecost and the practice of Pentecost.
First, let’s look at the promise of Pentecost in receiving God’s power.
The promise is quite straightforward. Jesus gave it in His last words to the disciples when He declared, “‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 1:8).
That’s the obvious promise. But there were earlier promises of the Spirit of God coming in Pentecostal power. Hundreds of years before, the prophet Joel quoted God as saying:
“Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will My people be shamed. And afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:27-32).
In case you question such reaching back into the Old Testament to find such a future promise, I refer to no lesser authority than the Apostle Peter who in his Pentecost sermon in Acts 2:16-21 quotes this prophesy of Joel verbatim.
You and I who have repented of sin and put our trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation are promised God’s Pentecostal power. This is not a divine energy that is restricted to some movements and denominations that go by the label charismatic or Pentecostal. How sad it is if we relegate to others that divine energy that God wills for all of us.
Second, let’s look at the posture of Pentecost in receiving God’s power.
The biblical record tells us that this is a posture of a people who are ready to receive God’s power. Acts 1:14 tells us, “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” Acts 2:1 declares, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” There is no substitute for Christian community!
Every few months I read the results of polls that declare that a high percentage of Americans are professing believers in Jesus Christ. Add to that the number of people who claim to have a “deep spirituality,” and you will find that an overwhelming percentage of our fellow citizens see themselves as the people of God. Why then is there not a greater impact on our society and world?
I am convinced that there is a neglecting of this biblical profile of what is the posture of a people who are open to receive the fullness of the power of God’s Spirit and to continue to receive the fullness of that power. This posture has at least four aspects to it.
One aspect is that of being together in one place. You can’t go it alone in the Christian life. You need your brothers and sisters. So many people who claim spirituality are pursuing it on a Lone Ranger basis.
A second aspect is the necessity of being in a spirit of prayer. We need times alone in prayer. We need times together in prayer. We need to open our hearts to God, allowing God to capture our attention. Some of us are so busy running around doing things that we haven’t taken the time to listen, to be open, to receive that divine power and energy that God wants to give us through His Spirit.
A third aspect is to be taking seriously what the Scriptures have to say. I’m fascinated at the fact that during these days between the ascension of Jesus and Pentecost this group of 120 close followers of Jesus heard the Scriptures taught. Peter expounded the Old Testament teachings to them. It’s a posture of receptivity to God’s teachings.
And a fourth aspect is that they were waiting expectantly for God to act. Is there that dimension of waiting in your life? We live in a culture of instant gratification. If something goes wrong in our life we automatically tend to blame God, forgetting that God can use those things that are so puzzling to us to actually get our attention.
I listened to a tape of Elisabeth Elliot, a contemporary writer, who has faced a lot of tragedy in her life. She describes her first year on the mission field in Ecuador. She faced three major blows to her faith. The informant who was helping her with the native language was murdered. All of her language materials, everything that went into the writing of a language that had never been written down before, were stolen. And the station on which her fiance, Jim Elliot, had been working went down the river in a flood. Now decades later, as one who has had many more tragedies, including the murder by Aucas tribesmen of her husband Jim, the death of her second husband and many other trials, she has a track record of waiting upon God. In that same taped message, she declares: “When I was 12 years old, I told the Lord that I wanted Him to work out His will in my life at any cost. When He set about doing that, I was amazed. I didn’t think it was going to be that way. We never do. The will of God is never exactly what you expect it to be. It may seem to be much worse; but in the end, it’s going to be a lot better and a lot bigger. What is your desire?”
Is yours a posture of being together on a regular basis with other believers? Is yours a posture of prayer? Is yours a posture of having the Bible open before you in personal, daily meditation and in corporate teaching environments? Is yours a posture of waiting upon God, trusting Him to, in His time, fulfill His promises in a way that you do not get overly self-impressed with the victories of your life and overly discouraged at what appear to be the losses and tragedies that come your way?
Let me assure you that if you are not in this kind of posture you will find other postures that will quench the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life.
There are all kinds of weird spirituality mesmerizing contemporary men and women in our culture. Tuesday’s Orange County Register has a fascinating article describing persons who are hiring experts to check the energy balance of their homes and offices. People hunger for power. Deep within our hearts there is a need for energy and the right energy balance. This article describes a “feng shui” practitioner who, for a hundred dollars an hour, will stroll through your home and tell you what to add and take away to bring the energy into balance. This priest comes into your home or office and arranges items, moves doors, puts up mirrors and all sorts of other manipulations to achieve “good chi.” It’s an endeavor to attract good spirits and repel evil spirits.
I received a letter this week from one of our St. Andrew’s community who is an architect. She wrote about university classes that are being taught on feng shui. She has had clients that have wanted her to do this to venues she was designing. She writes about a friend of hers who worked in an office that was feng shui’d by a priest whose claim to fame was that he had feng shui’d the White House for President Clinton. The posture of receiving God’s power is not through such pagan exercises as feng shui, astrology, palm reading and fortune-telling. It’s by gathering with brothers and sisters in Christ in the spirit of prayer, with a Bible that is open and a heart that is waiting and receptive to God’s guidance.
Third, let’s look at the picture of Pentecost with a people receiving God’s power.
There were three great Jewish festivals to which every male Jew who lived within 20 miles of Jerusalem was legally bound to come. They were Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. The name Pentecost means “the fiftieth.” And another name for Pentecost was “The Feast of Weeks.” It was so-called because it fell on the fiftieth day, after a week of weeks — 7 weeks, each having 7 days, after Passover. Passover fell in the middle of April. Therefore, Pentecost fell at the beginning of June. By that time traveling conditions were at their best. The rainy season was over. Some scholars say that there may very well have been more people in Jerusalem at Pentecost than there were during Passover.
The Feast had two main significances. One, it had a historical significance in that it commemorated the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Two, it had an agricultural significance in that at Passover the first omer of barley of the crop was offered to God, and at Pentecost two loaves were offered in gratitude for the completed and in-gathered harvest. No work was to be done on that day. It was a festive holiday occasion and the streets were filled with people.
Luke paints the picture for us in Acts 2:2-13. Let me read some of his words. “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sifting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:2-4).
Luke goes on to describe how there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation who heard the sound and came and gathered in bewilderment, each hearing disciples speak in their own languages. Some, deeply perplexed, wanted to know, “What does this mean?” Others made fun of the disciples declaring, “They have had too much wine.”
The Hebrew word for spirit and wind is ruach. The wind had been an emblem of the Spirit for the Hebrew people throughout the generations. This wind of God was present at the creation. It was this wind of which Ezekiel spoke of in the valley of dry bones in which a dejected, defeated people would be brought back to life (Ezekiel 37). Jesus used the image of the wind for the Spirit when He was describing to Nicodemus what it is to be born-again by the Spirit (John 3). In the Upper Room, the wind was blowing, rushing with an irresistible force. Perhaps Nicodemus was among those who heard and saw this undeniable evidence of the wind. New thought, new energy, new vitality, new creativity, new emotion came to life by this in-filling of the Holy Spirit. God was bringing to life His people, individually and corporately. He was birthing His church.
Not only was wind part of the picture. Also tongues of fire were part of the picture. The text says, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them” (Acts 2:2). The fire of the Holy Spirit purges, burns away the chaff, all that debilitates and prevents you and me from becoming what God created you and me to become. Not only is the chaff burned away. The Holy Spirit refines us, as does the melting process that burns off the dross bringing out the pure metal. The Bible talks about the “refiner’s fire” that purges us and enables us to live with the warmth of God’s Spirit emanating from our lives. This fire of the Holy Spirit helps us to love others, being a people who are more giving, more consistent in our Christian lives, more forgiving of others.
There is a third picture here. It is that of speaking in tongues. Some would distinguish between tongues being the kind of ecstatic utterance that is not really an intelligible language except wherein it is interpreted by someone who has the gift of understanding that otherwise unintelligible language. A second understanding of tongues is literally the capacity to communicate with people in ways that go beyond human understanding. Gathered in Jerusalem were men and women from many different nations, speaking many different languages. Here were these Galileans, not very sophisticated people, who were conveying the Gospel of Jesus Christ in ways intelligible, understandable to others.
How can I get across this picture of Pentecost? How does the wind, fire, tongues apply to us today?
The best way I can summarize it is in trying to paint a picture of those times in life when a person outdoes himself. Take the young football player who in the last two minutes of the game, with the score against his team, runs faster than his legs have ever carried him before, farther than he ever dreamed of running and scores the winning touchdown. When he comes out of the game, the coach says to him, “I didn’t know you had it in you.” If he is honest, his reply would be, “I didn’t. I was picked up and carried by something outside of myself.” That’s the picture of what happens to you and me when we are open to the fullness, the power of the Holy Spirit, allowing His wind to propel us, His fire to purify us and His endowment of communication capabilities to help us convey the objectivity of His truth and our experience of our relationship with Him to others.
The danger of organized Christianity today is that it can become powerless! There is nothing more boring than empty theological words. There is nothing more enervating, life-sapping, than dry institutional religion that simply becomes a head trip and a business. Jesus did not come to found a new religion called Christianity. Jesus said, ‘”I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”‘ (John 10:10).
Fourth, let’s look at the preaching of Pentecost of a people receiving God’s power.
We hear a lot of talk today in political circles about staying on message.” It’s important that we, as followers of Jesus, have a Pentecostal power that enables us to stay on message.
There are four types of preaching, all of which are very important. Each of these should be part of the normal fare of biblical preaching.
One is kerugma. This literally means the herald’s announcement. It is a clear, plain statement of the facts of the Christian message about which there can be no argument and no denial. Second is what is called didache. This literally means teaching. It explains the meanings and significance of the facts which have been proclaimed. Third, there is what is called paraklesis, which means exhortation. This is that call to men and women of the duties, obligations which are to be the ethical outcroppings of lives which have been touched by the kerugma and didache. Fourth, there is what is called homilia, which means the treatment of any subject or department of life in the light of the Christian message.
Every church, if it’s faithful to Jesus Christ and the scriptures, has in its life all four kinds of preaching and teaching. In fact, I personally believe that every sermon, even though it may be concentrating in one area in particular, should have a little bit of each of the other. For example, as we’re teaching through the Book of Acts, this would be considered didache. At the same time, as we’re learning about the early church, there will be the ongoing, recurrent theme of the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, calling men and women to repentance. We will see an ethical exhortation to apply this in one’s daily life. And we will see that there is no area of life that is not impacted by the Gospel. Ours in a holistic faith, and the Lordship of Jesus Christ involves every area of our life.
Acts 2:14-41 is the record of a sermon that Peter preached on that day of Pentecost. His main thrust was kerugma. It would be as if Billy Graham was standing up and preaching on the theme “Four Steps to Peace with God” or Bill Bright of Campus Crusade was standing up and declaring “The Four Spiritual Laws.”
Peter gets up and addresses the crowd, declaring that these men and women are not drunk. It’s only nine in the morning. What’s happening before your eyes, he is saying, is the fulfillment of what the prophet Joel and others predicted. Then he zeros in on the person and work of Jesus Christ. He declares,
“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” (Acts 2:22-24)
Then Peter quotes from David who in the Old Testament prophesied the resurrection of Jesus. The promised Messiah had come. The atoning work had been accomplished. Peter declares, ‘”Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ”‘ (Acts 2:36).
This preaching is kerugmatic. This preaching is Christ-centered. This preaching is biblically based, quoting the authoritative Scriptures. That’s very important, that preaching be biblically based.
My father was doing doctoral work at Harvard University when Billy Graham came to New England back in 1949 and 1950. Huge crowds came to hear Billy Graham preach. Night after night, he filled Mechanics Hall. Then he filled the Boston Garden. Then some 50,000 people gathered on the Boston Commons. Then Graham went all over New England. Huge crowds came to hear him preach.
My father recalls how his professors, many who did not believe in Jesus Christ but were academicians of religion, church history and theology, noted that Billy Graham said, “The Bible says.” Some suspicioned that he didn’t really believe this. That was his escape clause. The fact was, Billy Graham was simply preaching Jesus Christ as the Scriptures declared Jesus Christ. By the Holy Spirit of God, people were coming to faith.
This kind of preaching is evocative of a response. Some of the people who heard Peter that day of Pentecost were, according to Luke, “cut to the heart,” and they said to Peter and the other apostles, “‘Brothers, what shall we do?”‘ (Acts 2:37). Peter replied, “‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call”‘ (Acts 2:38-39). Peter continued to preach, warning them of the corruptness of this generation.
What was the result of this preaching? Luke writes, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41).
That is kerugmatic preaching that had with it strands of teaching, exhortation, and application to all of life.
Fifth, let’s look at the practice of Pentecost of a people who have received God’s power
Luke shows us four specific practices of a living, Holy-Spirit-filled church. Luke records, as history, the practice in these words ofActs 2:42-47: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Four practices stand out. One, it was a learning church. There were 3,120 people devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching. They took the didache seriously. This was not some mystical experience that caused them to neglect theology. The fullness of the Holy Spirit is not anti-intellectualism. Today we do not have the apostles, but we do have the apostles’ teachings. We have the prophetic teachings of the Old Testament, which the early church had, and we have the apostles’ teaching as recorded and preserved for us by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. A Spirit-filled church is a biblical church, committed to the Word of God.
Two, it was a caring church. They were involved in the practice of fellowship. They came together in intimate groupings. They saw everything they had was God’s, given to them to use. They shared with each other, as common, all that they had. Some sold their possessions and goods. Not all did because it tells us later that they met in each other’s homes. The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was the sin of hypocrisy and lying which came out of covetousness. The church is not a Marxist organization. You and I have to decide how we deal with what God has given to us in a way that serves the greater good of the kingdom of God. We’re called to be concerned about the poor, both within the church and outside of the church. We’re called to have a sense of global concern, aware that one-fifth to one-sixth of the world lives below the poverty level.
Third, it was a worshiping church. These early believers met together regularly to break bread and pray together. Their worship was formal in the Temple. And their worship was informal, meeting in their individual homes. Their worship was both joyful and dignified, celebrative and reverent.
And fourth, it was an evangelizing church. The teaching that nourished the believers was balanced by a continuing emphasis on the kerugma that called others to repentance and faith. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Evangelism is central to our work. You and I are called to share our faith individually and corporately.
Let me conclude with the same question with which I opened this message. If we had to forego the celebration of Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, or Pentecost, which one would seem least crucial? As essential as is Christmas, as is Good Friday, as is Easter, these three would not be celebrated at all if it were not for Pentecost. Just as in incarnation God came in human form, and in the crucifixion God died for the sins of the world, and in the resurrection God triumphed over sin and death, even so in Pentecost God empowers you and me and His church universal to live to His glory and to do His work until He comes again.
Will you join me in praying this prayer? “Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me, empowering me and us to be and do all you dream of us being and doing!”
Today I want to look at a man who had his priorities right and was a blessing to his entire household.
I wish more Christians would follow these priorities for the home.
In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout, God- fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. One afternoon about three o’clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. “Cornelius!” the angel said. Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel. And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.” As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants. He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.
Matthew 5:6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, (righteousness) for they will be satisfied.
God only fills clean, empty vessels. – God uses people who have made room for more of Him.
Have you ever wanted something really bad? — Cake, car, home?
– When I was 16 I wanted a motorcycle more than anything I’d ever wanted.
– Some of my friends rode motorcycles and I wanted one.
Dad said forget it! — I wasn’t going to have one.
– He thought my reactions were too slow and I’d just get killed.
– There are 2 kinds of motorcycle riders — THE QUICK AND THE DEAD!
I asked Mom for help, but that didn’t do any good.
That didn’t stop my wanting a motorcycle — I used to lie in my bed at night pretending I owned a beautiful Harley Davidson motorcycle.
– I’d visualize it, pray for it, read magazines — that’s all that occupied my mind.
– I couldn’t do my homework because I was dreaming about a motorcycle.
Finally, I found an old wreck of a motorcycle, actually several motorcycles!
– 1927 frame, 1934, 45 cubic inch motor, 1947 tanks and transmission taken from a 3 wheeler — (I was the only one with reverse)
– a ’59 ignition switch
– What a conglomeration!
– The motor hadn’t been started for so long that the gas in the tanks had
turned to varnish.
– I bolted an old iron tractor seat to the back fender for a “buddy seat.” — no springs!
It was “the Frankenstein” of motorcycles.
My longing for a motorcycle was partially satisfied, but soon I wanted more……
– I wanted a real motorcycle that didn’t look like a mechanic’s nightmare thrown together.
That’s how we are with God — We find Him, love Him, but soon we want and need more of Him.
There’s a natural longing in the human heart for God.
– Our hearts hunger to connect with Him more.
– We want more intimacy with God.
– God built that into us and nothing will satisfy that hunger but God.
We long to connect with God, but we don’t know how to go deeper with Him.
Because of things we’ve done or things we’ve failed to do, we wonder how to get close to God or how God will respond to us?
– How can we see God working in our lives and the lives of others?
We pretend to be satisfied with a lesser walk with God, but something’s missing.
– Russ answered, “GREAT!” when it was obviously not great at all.
We try to content ourselves with a shallow relationship with God.
– But, something’s missing — we’re dissatisfied and defeated.
Paul’s struggle: Romans 7:14-25 NLT 14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. 18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. 21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
(Romans 7:24 (KJV) O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?)
Paul was referring to the Roman practice of chaining 2 prisoners together for life If one died the other had to drag and carry him until he died too.
Imagine being chained to a decaying corpse rotting away—who will deliver me from the body of this death?!
Paul found the answer:
25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Romans 8:1-17 1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. 5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. 9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. 12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.
John Wesley said the new convert will realize there’s something more they need within the first week or 7 days.
We call this the 2Nd Work of Grace (Being sanctified.)
Root system represents inbred sin or carnal nature.
Sanctification is allowing God to remove that root system.
Soil is still there so Satan will try to replant seeds of rebellion.
That’s why a daily walk is so important. Keep weeds out of soil!
When we’re fully committed to Jesus and filled with the Spirit we’ll have more of God — we’ll see greater things.
Acts 10: 2 men wanted more of God.
– Because they were personally ready, God used them and allowed them to experience more of God.
God uses people who are ready and willing to let go of everything keeping them from being what God wants them to be.
— Jeremiah 33:3 “Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secretsyou do not know about things to come.”
Matthew 5:6 —“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Being ready for more of God starts with a commitment to surrender to GOD’S Will.
As a centurion, Cornelius pursued excellence as a leader — he also pursued God as a man devoted to prayer.
– He was committed to his faith — he wanted a closer relationship with Jesus.
– He longed for a closer relationship with God, and was ready to totally surrender to God.
To have more of God takes an investment on your part.
Acts 10:2-6 He was a devout, God- fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. One afternoon about three o’clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. “Cornelius!” the angel said. Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel. And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.”
Obey now! Cornelius immediately followed the angel’s instructions.
– He didn’t argue or wait for a better time.
We must be willing to pay a cost:
– Cornelius sent three men; two servants and a devout soldier. – He could’ve sent fewer people or less qualified people, but he responded by giving God his best.
Some people worry God will ask them to give up too much — only your all!
Jim Elliot – “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Notice Prayer preceded the vision.
– When we follow Jesus, we can expect great things, but 1st it’ll take prayer.
– Prayer precedes readiness and vision — Prayer gets us ready!
If you want God to move in your life — pray first!
What set Cornelius apart was his prayer life — that’s also what set Peter apart.
While God was dealing with Cornelius, He was preparing Peter for a special assignment.
Acts 10:9-21 The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.” “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.” But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” The same vision happened three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven. Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Simon’s house. Standing outside the gate, they asked if a man named Simon Peter was staying there. Meanwhile, as Peter was puzzling over the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, “Three men have come looking for you. Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation. Don’t worry, for I have sent them.” So Peter went down and said, “I’m the man you are looking for. Why have you come?”
God was changing some of the Old Testament restrictions in diet.
The people had wandered on the desert and had to be extremely careful what they ate because of disease and food poisoning.
For example, pork, not processed properly will bring Trichinosis which is caused by eating raw or undercooked pork and wild game infected with larvae of a parasitic worm.
The contaminated meat is infected with the larvae of a worm called Trichinella spiralis. The initial symptoms of trichinosis are stomach discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue and fever. The Bible is awesome for real life answers but in this case it’s really more (time) sensitive.
They didn’t have the science at the time to understand the dangers and they had no refrigeration so it was wise to stay away from this type of food because it could kill them via (bacteria) so in God’s ultimate wisdom He simply said to abstain for their own good.
Peter wanted God to control his life.
– Peter was raised with a prejudiced towards Gentiles.
– God used this vision to open Peter’s eyes — Gentiles could be part of God’s Church too.
Gentiles were unclean — unfit to be part of God’s Family “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.”.
God showed Peter Gentiles were part of God’s Plan of Salvation too.
Peter woke from his vision and was wondering what it meant when the 3 Gentiles arrived at the door.
They came to bring Peter to Cornelius’ house to teach them how to have more of God in their lives.
THESE WERE GENTILES! PETER HAD NEVER DEALT WITH GENTILES!
Peter could’ve argued with God, but he wanted to obey God.
– Peter was ready for God to do More in his life.
God uses people who are ready for more! — Empty, clean vessels — Devoted, Willing, Obedient, Generous, Prayerful, Teachable.
John 5:20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished.
How does this apply to us?
Pursue God: Make an effort on purpose to pray for God to fill you with His Spirit and be ready to obey.
Make the investment: Be ready to rid the clutter in your life and be ready to say yes to God, “What is it, Lord?” — Acts 10:4
It’s the Holy Spirit Who brings us to God and prepares us for the work ahead—all who follow Him are given new life.
Jesus told Nathaniel he’d “see even greater things than that” — John 1:50.
I want to see “even greater things.”
– Do you?
– Do you want to have God do greater things in your family?
– In your marriage?
– At work?
– In your life?
I do, but it will only happen as we surrender our will to Him and follow Him.
– It doesn’t happen with a half-hearted commitment or just a passing interest.
– It happens when we put aside the things of this world, and say, “I’m in. I’m all in.You can count on me!”
Cornelius was the head of his household.
He understood the importance of Christ being in charge of his home.
What a blessing! His entire household turned to God!
Do you understand Christ must be in charge of your life and your home to have a successful home full of love and peace?
We have been studying together the Gospel of John, and just going through verse by verse, paragraph by paragraph. Typically, when we come to Christmas Sunday, I stop whatever series I’m in and do a special Christmas message. I’ve done that for 40 plus years with an occasional Sunday prior to Christmas when we stayed in the series because there was something in the text that connected to well with Christmas. And that is the case this year. So, we’re going to look at John chapter 6 today, John chapter 6.
I looked ahead a few weeks ago and just kind of planning and anticipating what I might present to you, and I began to carefully prepare reading through John 6 for our regular studies. And it struck me that this would be a very powerful and wonderful and helpful text to stay in. So, for the last number of weeks, we’ve been working our way through John 6, and we’ll continue to do that, and when we pick it up again after the holidays. But I want to draw your attention to the sixth chapter of John, and particularly verses 32 to 59 where our Lord gives this great sermon on, I Am the Bread of Life. He repeats that several times. I am the Bread of Life. He is the true Christmas bread.
Bread is starting to pile up at the McArthur house, I will admit. Every Christmas this happens to us. We get it in the mail. We get it from FedEx. We get it stuck on the porch. We get it from folks at the church. Last Sunday I went home with bread in two arms, and there’ll probably be a little more bread today. And that’s good by me; I love bread. We get bread in boxes. We get bread in cans. We get bread in paper bags around Christmas, so it’s like a maniacal carb experience [laughter] to consume all this bread, but I’m a bread lover.
There’s something about Christmas and bread I guess just in a general sense, and you might wonder, where does that come from? Why is there so much interest in bread around Christmas? Well, it does have some interesting history. It really does. If you’re from Germany, you’ve heard of stollen, S-T-O-L-L-E-N, which is a German Christmas bread that was first prepared in 1545 for the Council of Trent. And since then, has been the standard traditional Christmas bread baked and consumed by German folks around the world.
If any of you come from Poland or more of Eastern Europe, you may know about oplatki, which is a Christmas bread that the Polish launched in the tenth century. And it’s still being prepared every Christmas.
Now, for all of you Italians, you know about Panettone, Panettone bread. Panettone comes from two words, the Italian word for bread is “panne” and “Tony” is the Italian word for the guy who fixes your car. [laughter] So, you’re not buying that? Actually, actually, back in the 15th century, the 1400s, there was a baker by the name of Tony. That’s where it came from. And he wanted to impress the king because he wanted to marry his daughter, so he baked some bread. Hence, Panettone bread. I don’t really think that’s the best way to impress a king about what you might offer to his daughter. I don’t know how well it all came out for Tony. [laughter] But Tony made a mark on history because if you go into any Italian market or almost any market, you find a section with Panettone.
Interesting to note also that the word “Bethlehem” in Hebrew means “house of bread”, “house of bread.” So, bread has been associated with Christmas. In this chapter, the sixth chapter of John, however, we find the true Christmas bread who is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. And I’m going to do something this morning that I rarely do, and that is to cover a rather extended portion of Scripture. So this will be an experience that you cannot count on ever happening again. [laughter] I want to read this great sermon. It’s one great sermon starting in verse 32 of John 6. “Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.’ Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, always give us this bread.’”
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose none, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.’”
“Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’? Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Be not grumbling among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.’”
“Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.’ These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.”
A shocking day toward the end of the Galilean ministry of Jesus as He taught the Jewish people in the synagogue at Capernaum. The most compelling statement around which all of this is built is the repeated statement, “I am the Bread of life. I am the Bread of life.” That’s His claim, verse 32, verse 33, verse 48. This is the first, by the way, of 7 “I AMs” in the Gospel of John, in which our Lord takes the tetragrammaton YHWH, the verb “to be” in Hebrew, the name of God who is the I AM that I AM, and applies it to Himself and adds a metaphor. “I am the Bread of life. I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Vine. I am the Way. I am the Truth. I am the Life. I am the Resurrection and the Life.” All of those I AMs are efforts on the part of our Lord to make clear that He is one in the same as God.
This is the first of those seven I AMs, in which He takes the name of God, and in this case applies as He does on several of those occasions, a metaphor to explain something about His nature and His work. Now, you have to understand how monumental this sermon was given in the Capernaum synagogue. He’s talking to Jewish people, and He presents this powerful claim that He has come down from heaven. And that they have to eat His flesh and drink His blood if they want to have eternal life. Now, the Jews all understood the issue of eternal life, life in the Kingdom, life forever, life in heaven, life with God, blessed life, joyous life. They understood that.
Jesus is saying, “I and I alone are the means by which that eternal life can become yours.” This is a long passage, but it can be easily divided into two very familiar components. And that’s what we’ll do this morning. It’s full of repetition because it was so stunning and, remember, they were listening. And repetition is even more important to an audience that is listening. And so John records a fullness in this sermon that we don’t always find in the Gospel record became this is such a stunning claim.
We’re going to see Him saying the same things over and over and over so that they might register with His listeners and with us. The two parts that we need to look at here, very simple, divine provision of the bread, human appropriation of the bread. Divine provision of the bread, human appropriation of the bread.
You need to have your Bible open and you need to be looking at your Bible because we’re going to be looking for those two elements in these verses. This is going to be more like a Bible study than a sermon. I can’t preach a sermon on a sermon. This is a sermon. I can’t make metaphors on metaphors. This is a metaphor. So, we’re going to take it at face value and see if we can’t examine it.
To say that He is bread is to use really a metonym for food, nourishing food that gives life and sustenance. Jesus used the word “bread” to refer to that when He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” Bread, then, was simply a word that encompassed all nutritious food. Jesus is saying that, “I am your food. I am your true soul food.” First of all, let’s look at the divine provision of the bread. This is God’s side here, the divine side, the heavenly side. God’s provision.
Several features are indicated here about God’s provision of this bread. First of all, this bread is divinely preexistent, divinely preexistent. And I want you to watch this because this is why this works so well as a Christmas section because it continually repeats the reality of the incarnation. Let me help you to see that. Look for the phrase, “came down out of heaven.” You will find it, for example, in verse 32 at the very beginning of the message. “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.”
Verse 33, “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven.” Verse 38, “I have come down from heaven.” Now, he switches from the metaphor, the bread has come down, and applies it to Himself and says, “I have come down.” Verse 41, there’s a lot of shock about that, but I just want you to notice they understood exactly what He was saying. The Jews are grumbling because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” In verse 42, they are wondering how this man whose parents they know can say, “I have come down out of heaven.”
Verse 46, again says, “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God.” He has come down out of heaven. Verse 50, “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven.” Verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven.” Verse 58, “This is the bread which came down out of heaven.” Every time you see that, and it’s repeated again and again, you are hearing a statement affirming the incarnation of a preexistent person. He didn’t come into existence. He came down out of heaven. Anyone who claims that falsely is a lunatic or a deceiver, who would have a hard time convincing people.
Over and over and over Jesus speaks of His preexistence. John began his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” the Word meaning Christ. Therefore, Christ was there preexistent with God, coexistent with God, self-existent with God eternally. You cannot ever reduce Jesus to a created being. Yes, His body was prepared by God for Him, but as a person He is the eternal Son of God. He existed everlastingly in the presence of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He is God of very God. That’s why John 1:14 says, “We beheld His glory and it was the same glory as the Father.”
If you go back to John, chapter 3, there’s a helpful statement our Lord makes in the conversation with Nicodemus. He says, “No one has ascended into heaven. No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven,” and who is that? The Son of Man. I think of that verse every time I see another silly book about somebody who went to heaven and came back. No one has done that. No one has ascended into heaven and come back to teach us. Paul, you say, is he an exception? Absolutely. He was caught up into the third heaven. He came back. He didn’t tell us anything. He said, “I can’t even speak of the things that were there.” The saints that came out of the grave at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we don’t know who they were. We don’t know where they went. They certainly did not deliver any messages from heaven. Those exceptions prove the rule. Nobody goes into heaven and comes back to instruct us.
Back to verse 46. “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God. He has seen the Father.” I remind those people again. You did not go to heaven and you did not see God, and you do not have a message for us. That is exclusively the right of the Son of God, the preexistent one. Don’t believe lies about people going and coming from heaven. Don’t buy those silly books and waste your time. No one, not even the most holy saint has gone up to heaven to bring the Word of God down to us. The only One who has come from heaven is the One who was always there. The only One who has brought us heavenly things is the One who descended from heaven, namely the Son of Man.
This is the claim that Jesus makes repeatedly in John 8:42. Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me for I proceeded forth and have come from God. He sent Me.” Which means that He existed in the presence of God from all eternity. In the thirteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, and this is so foundational, I want it embedded in your mind. John 13:3, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God.” That’s the night of the upper room discourse with his disciples, that great thirteenth chapter begins with the declaration that Jesus has come from heaven and is going to return there.
In John 16, verse 28, Jesus says, “I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world. I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.” In the seventeenth chapter and the fifth verse, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” Eternity past. Verse 8, “For the words which you gave Me, I have given to them, and they have received them, and truly understood that I came forth from You. And they believed that You sent Me.”
The first thing then to understand about the divine provision of the bread is that the bread was preexistent. The bread was eternal. Jesus is not a created being who came into existence like you and I do at the point of conception. He always existed as God the Son. So there is divine preexistence. In the coming of the bread, secondly, there is divine purpose. There is divine purpose tied to the eternal preexistence of the Lord Jesus Christ is the reality that He came because the Father purposed for Him to come. It’s not casual. It’s tied up in divine planning, and I can show you that. It’s such a clear statement repeated again and again that it’s unmistakable.
Verse 32 at the end of the verse, “It is my Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.” Verse 33, “The bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven.” It is there called the bread of God. It is God who sends the bread. The bread is God’s to start with to give. Verse 38, “I have come down from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Verse 39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me.” Verse 40, “This is the will of My Father.” And again in verse 57, “As the living Father sent Me.” So you have here divine preexistence and divine purpose. The Father sending the Son.
Now, it is not only the coming of the Son of God that the Father purposed. That’s kind of a general reality. That is true obviously, but it is more than just a general reality that God sent his Son and sort of let things then happen whatever way man would decide they would happen. Not so. God not only purposed to send His Son, He purposed what His Son would accomplish when He arrived. The specificity of it is in verse 37. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and him who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out.” Verse 39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given me, I lose none, but raise Him up on the last day.” Verse 40, “This is the will of My Father.” Again, verse 44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise Him up on the last day.”
And this is consistent with Old Testament prophesy. Verse 45, “It is written in the prophets and they shall all be taught of God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Now, are you starting to see the plan? God purposes to send the Son, and then God purposes to draw certain people to the Son. The Son receives the people, keeps the people, raises the people from the dead to fulfill the Father’s plan. It is not a plan to begin something. Listen, it is a plan to complete it. It is the plan for the complete glorification of those the Father draws.
Jesus made statements that affirm this in His ministry, such as in chapter 10, verse 29, “My Father who has given them to Me. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” Are you starting to see the picture? The Father draws, the Father gives, the Son receives, the Son keeps, the Son raises, and no one can snatch whoever is in the Father’s will and the Son’s hands out of his hands. This is crystal clear.
Chapter 17 again, that great high priestly prayer of our Lord, verse 2 says, “Even as you gave Him authority over all flesh,” meaning the Son, “that to all whom you have given Me, He may give eternal life.” Verse 6, “I manifested Your name to the men whom you gave Me out of the world. They were Yours. You gave them to Me and they have kept Your Word.” Verse 9, “I ask on their behalf. I don’t ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” Then verse 24, “Father, I desire that they also whom You have given Me be with Me where I am.”
Over and over again, “You gave them to Me. You gave them to Me. You gave them to Me. They were Yours. You gave them to Me.” How did they become God’s? By divine election. He chose them before the foundation of the world, wrote their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life. In time, He draws those who belong to Him by His own sovereign choice. He draws them to Christ. Christ receives them, Christ keeps them, Christ raises them. That resurrection is not merely a spiritual resurrection; it’s a physical resurrection as well. In the last day, they are resurrected. So that is the diving purpose, from election to resurrection. It starts when God determines who is His, and it goes through the drawing and the receiving and the keeping and securing and ultimately gathering into heaven and even raising from the dead.
Verse 45 is a very important verse, often overlooked I think. It’s a quote from Isaiah, Isaiah 54:13. “It is written in the prophets and they shall all be taught of God.” The only way anybody can come to the truth is if God is his teacher. “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” People don’t come to God under the powerful sway of human reason. The preacher is not the means. The preacher is only a tool to present the truth. The drawing is divine. The Father is the true teacher. The Father is the instructor of the heart and the mind.
So we have this bread, preexistent, this bread that is provided for those who are within the purpose of God. So the bread comes down from heaven, comes to earth to fulfill the will of the Father; not just in a general sense that His will was to send. His will was to send His Son and then by means of His Son, draw – give to His Son, and ultimately bring to eternal glory spiritually and in resurrected form. That’s the full picture. Understanding this bread then, divinely preexistent and fulfilling divine purpose.
Thirdly, in looking at God’s provision, divine promise. Divine promise. Why do we want this bread? Well, what does this bread do for us? Well, what does Christ do for us? Why is He important? Well, go back to verse 33. “The bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives – ” what? Life to the world. Life, zoe. Not bios, not biological life. Zoe, spiritual life. That’s why He came. The promise connected to the bread is spiritual life. And He is the only bread of God, the only living bread, the only bread of life, the only one who has come down, the only source of life for the whole world. Notice please, the phrases that are used to describe this.
In verse, well, how many verses have we seen? Verse 32 and 33 talk about the bread that comes down and the bread that gives life and then we don’t go very far until we hit verse 35 and again, “I am the bread of life.” And then verse 40, again we see, “This the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have – ” Now life is expanded with a descriptive, “ – eternal life.” Eternal life. Now, we’re talking about eternal life. Verse 47, “I say, he who believes has eternal life.” Verse 50, “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven so that one may eat of it and not die.” Not die.
Verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever, and the bread which I give,” again he says, “I give for the life of the world.” It’s life and it’s eternal life. Verse 53, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.” 54, “He who eats My flesh, drinks My blood, has eternal life. And I will raise him up on the last day.” Life, life, life, life. Eternal life. Verse 58 at the end, “He who eats this bread will live forever.” How is this possible? Because of verse 56, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him.”
How do we get eternal life into these mortal bodies? Because we come into real union with Christ. Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, I live yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” “He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit.” We are one in Christ. And so His eternal life is in us, granting us eternal life. Really incredible promises. Jesus repeated those same promises a number of times about His union with His people. For example, in that upper room the night of His betrayal, He says in John 14:20, “In that day you will know that I am in My Father and you in Me, and I in you.”
Do you know that if you are truly regenerate and you belong to God through faith in Christ that the eternal life which you possess is the eternal life of Christ in you? In you. And as we read in John 10, no one is powerful enough to break that union. That’s the security of every believer. So, divine promise. What’s the promise? Life. What kind of life? Eternal life. What is the source of that eternal life? A union with living eternal Christ.
We don’t follow just the teaching of a noble religious leader. We’re on our way to death unless He lives in us, unless His eternal life takes over. So the bread of life is heavenly bread. The Lord Jesus Christ comes from divine eternal preexistence into time and into space to fulfill the divine purpose of the Father, which is to provide salvation for His chosen people. That salvation is dependent on a union with Christ that is a true spiritual reality and is why we live forever.
And it culminates in a resurrection. Several times Jesus says, “I’ll raise him at the last day. I’ll raise him at the last day. I’ll raise him at the last day.” It is a union that will not only be a union in spirit, but it will be a union in spiritual body. Philippians 3, “We will have a body like unto His glorious body. We will reflect His glory. We will be made like Christ when we see Him as He is,” right? This is what it means to be a Christian. It’s not following the teachings of a man. It’s having His life in us. This is the work of God. This doesn’t happen unless you’re taught of God, as verse 45 says. This does not happen unless God the Father draws you.
You say, “Well, what are we supposed to do?” Well, that’s just one side of this amazing duality. That’s the divine provision. Let’s talk about the human appropriation. What’s our responsibility? Sit around hope it happens? No, no. In the wonderful mystery of salvation, we are commanded to appropriate this bread. Please notice in verse 34, the Jewish people who were listening to Jesus said, “Lord, give us this bread.” Most likely, they were talking about the physical bread because He had been creating food for them. They wanted the bread that would satisfy their constant hunger physically, but Jesus isn’t really talking about that. He’s talking about Himself as the bread they really need.
So in verse 35, He says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me.” Isn’t that interesting? “He who comes to Me.” You just said, “Nobody can come unless the Father draws him,” and yet here it says, “He who comes to Me.” So the first requirement is to come, to come. Yes, verse 37 clarifies, “All that the Father gives Me will come, and the one who comes to me, I will not reject.” Not so much because the person is of value, but because the gift of the Father is of value. So the first thing is to come. And since no one can know whether they’ve been chosen, the message is far and wide to be preached to the ends of the earth telling sinners to come, to come, come.
Secondly, to look. Notice verse 40, “This is the will of My Father that everyone who beholds the Son,” everyone, everyone. There aren’t limitations here based upon our understanding of the doctrine of election. All who come, all who come, anyone who comes, I will not reject. Everyone who beholds. What does the word “behold” mean? It’s a Greek verb, theoreo, which basically means to look at intently, to scrutinize, to study, to gaze on. It’s not a passing glance kind of word, not just a brief look. Very strong word. In fact, the same verb, theoreo, is used in John 8:51 for a statement about seeing death. Seeing death means experiencing death. I t is also used, the same verb, in John 17:24 where Jesus says, “I want them to come to heaven, those who believe in Me so they can see My glory.” That means full exposure, full experience.
So, what is the human’s responsibility? Our responsibility laid out for us in a series of commands and invitations, come, come. Come to Me, come to Me. And when you get there, experience it, gaze at it, scrutinize it, look carefully, thoughtfully, see who I am. A lot of the people who were listening to Him in the synagogue that day had done just that. They had come to Him, and they had attached to Him. They were following Him. They were watching Him. They were listening to Him. They were scrutinizing Him.
So you come, you look, and you look carefully at Jesus. But there’s another word that’s really the critical word. Look at verse 35, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will not hunger and he who –” and here’s the word, “believes in Me. He who believes in Me.” Verse 40, “This is the will of my Father that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.” Verse 47, “I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 5:24 says the same thing. The theme verse for the whole gospel of John, “These things are written that you may know that Jesus is the Christ, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing have life in His name.” It’s about believing. It’s about believing. Another way to understand it would be John 1:12, “As many as received Him.” You have to come. You have to look. You have to be exposed to the truth, but you must believe. Going back to the metaphor of the bread, go to verse 50, and from verse 50 on is really the closing invitation of this sermon.
“This is the bread which comes down out of heaven so that one may eat,” and now we’re back into the metaphor. Believing is eating. Taking in, receiving, appropriating. Verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” Verse 57, “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.” Again, verse 58, the end of the verse, “He who eats this bread will live forever.” I mean this is a powerful metaphor that everybody understands. You have to take Me in. It’s not enough to come and listen. It’s not enough to admire to get some kind of information. You have to eat. You have to appropriate. You have to receive Me. That’s our responsibility.
Since we don’t know who God has chosen, we can only know we have all been held accountable to come, see, and believe. Believe what? That I am the bread. He says that over and over, “That I am the bread that came down out of heaven, that I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” So it starts with believing in the person of Christ, okay? Believing in His preexistence, His incarnation, God in human flesh, believing in the person of Christ. But let me tell you something quickly, believing in the person of Jesus Christ as the living bread is not enough. Not enough. Something else.
You not only have to believe in Him as living bread, you have to believe in Him as dying blood. What? Verse 51, “I am the living bread. I came down out of heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. And the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Now, he’s talking about giving up His life. Very specific terms. Verse 53, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourself.” 54, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.” Verse 55, “For My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink.” Verse 56, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me in and I in him.”
I have to tell you, this is so shocking for the Jews in the synagogue that day that I’m surprised there wasn’t a riot. Leviticus, first of all, Leviticus 17, Deuteronomy 12, Deuteronomy 15 forbids Jews drinking blood. So this is just – this is, if nothing else, really insensitive. But He’s not really talking about drinking blood. This is, of course, a chapter that has been mutilated by the Roman Catholic Church, and they have used this to develop the Mass where Christ is re-sacrificed again and again and again. And you eat His flesh and drink His blood, just exactly what He’s not talking about. Blood is simply a metonym for His death, as it is throughout the New Testament. So what is He saying? You must accept the person that I am and the death that I died.
You can believe in Jesus as the preexistent Son of God who came into the world and is the source of eternal life, but unless you believe in His sacrificial death, you cannot be saved. You cannot possess eternal life. As bread, He nourishes. As blood, He cleanses. Blood, then, speaks of His death. These Jews had a big, big problem with this issue. The idea that their Messiah would die as a sacrifice, a huge problem for them. They were utterly unwilling to accept that. Even the disciples struggled with that, right? When Jesus said, “I’m going to die,” no, no, no, no Lord. Peter says, “No, no,” and Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!”
And it was only after the resurrection that He met them on the Emmaus Road, took them back to the Old Testament to show them from the Old Testament the Messiah must suffer and die. And when they went out to preach in the book of Acts, they were preaching to the Jews initially the Messiah had to suffer and die. He had to be the divine Lamb providing the atonement that satisfied the wrath of God for His own. Again, we don’t worship a noble human teacher. We worship God in human flesh. But we don’t worship Him just for the nobility of His divine teaching. We also worship Him as our sacrifice for our sins who died in our place.
You have to be able to eat His flesh in the sense that you take Him as the one who nourishes the soul. And you have to be willing to drink His blood in the sense that you accept his sacrificial death. This is all way too much, way too much for Jewish people to handle, and you can see their reaction later in the chapter. It’s just over the top. Verse 52, they can’t even get to the part about eating His flesh, let alone the part about drinking his blood or accepting His death.
And so in verse 60 saying they were having difficulty with this, “Jesus conscious that His disciples grumbled at this said to them, ‘Does this cause you to,’ what? ‘stumble?’” Well, what was he talking about? The blood. Are you stumbling over the fact that you’re going to have to accept My death? The answer to the question is yes, that’s why the apostle Paul said that the cross, the preaching of the cross, I Corinthians 1, to the Jews is a stumbling block, a stumbling block.
So, as a result, verse 66, “Many of his disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” They came, they looked, they believed. Maybe they could eat the bread part, maybe they could accept who He was. The blood? Too much, too much. But this is what is necessary to appropriate the bread. So Jesus is the true Christmas bread. To believe in His person, to believe in His death is to receive eternal life.
So Jesus said to the Twelve in verse 67, “You don’t want to go away also do you?” Simon Peter answered for all of them, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” And then this, “We have,” What? “believed.” “We believe it all. We know You are the Holy One of God.” The Jews were grumbling. All the way back in verse 36 Jesus said, “I said to you that you’ve seen Me. You’ve come. You’ve looked, and you don’t believe. Verse 41, he says, “They’re grumbling,” John does. Verse 42, they’re still grumbling. Verse 43, Jesus says, “Stop doing it.” Verse 52, they’re arguing, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Verse 61, even the disciples are grumbling. Verse 66, they leave. Vacate the synagogue, leaving only Peter and the Twelve who believed.
Just in conclusion, a few things to think about. Eating is necessary. If you want eternal life, eating is necessary. You can’t just come. You can’t just admire. People do this all the time, all the time. Oh yeah, I have a lot of respect for Jesus, a lot of respect for Jesus. You can’t just come and admire. You have to eat, which is to believe fully. But eating is in response to hunger. So, the people who eat are the people who are what? Hungry! What is hunger? It’s the aching of the heart of one who knows he’s empty. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit to make the heart hungry. That’s where the Father starts to draw. The hungry heart sees the bread.
And, by the way, eating is personal. It’s not a group event. You can all go out to dinner, but the food has to go in your mouth. Lots of people can do lots of things for you. They can come over and change the curtains, fix the room. People can do a lot of things to help you. You have to eat. You can’t do that by proxy. Eating is necessary. Eating is in response to hunger. Eating is personal and eating is transformational. If you don’t eat physically, you will die. If you eat, food you take in transforms you, and that’s what Christ does.
I don’t know what kind of bread is at your house, but I hope you’ve all partaken of the true Christmas bread. Let’s pray together. This has been such a wonderful day and it’s not over yet as we again celebrate tonight, but Lord we thank You that Your Word is so powerful and so clear and so consistent. Its divine authorship is unassailable. Thank You for giving us the truth.
I pray for those who are here who maybe have come, looked, or are looking, but haven’t believed, received, eaten, accepting Christ not only as the bread that nourishes the soul, but the blood that cleanses the soul. May nothing about the gospel be a stumbling block, but may the gospel be a welcome message fully embraced. May it be today that there’s some persons who’ve heard this who will eat, who will receive Christ as Lord and Savior and receive with Him the eternal life. We thank You that we are secure in that life because if we do believe, if we do come, it’s because You’ve drawn us. Father, You’ve given us to the Son, and you blessed Son will keep us and hold us and raise us at the last day. We thank You for the glory of the gospel and the opportunity we have to celebrate it again today.
Father, now we ask that You would do Your work in Your way. Father, draw many to Yourself. We give You praise for privilege, undeserved, unearned, the gift of grace that has granted us salvation when we were Your enemies. We thank You, Lord, that You once made us desperately hungry and then You showed us the bread of life, Father. And we learned from You as You taught us and You drew us. We thank You that Christ received us and holds us until the resurrection when we’re fully glorified in Your presence forever. Thank You for this great truth and may it ring in our hearts as we celebrate in these days of Christmas. We give You praise, in Christ’s name. Amen.