Christ incarnate revealed God fully because even in Him humanity, Jesus is fully God. “In Him [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). The many Old Testament prophecies and promises of the coming Messiah were fully realized in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
We can see in Christ everything we need to know about God. That includes the full array of God’s attributes—such characteristics as omniscience, miracle-working power, the ability to heal the sick and raise the dead, compassion for sinners, and unflinching justice and holiness.
That climactic, divine self-revelation was evident to the writer of Hebrews: “God, after He spoke long ago the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son (Hebrews 1:1–2). “In these last days” is a familiar phrase the Jews would have understood as meaning the Messianic age. Thus, in the time of Messiah, God ceased speaking in fragments and instead presented His complete revelation in the person of His Son. That, of course, established Jesus as superior to previous revelation. The partial revelation of the Old Testament issued from imperfect prophets; the complete and perfect revelation of the New Testament was embodied in the person of the sinless Son of God. Jesus Christ, as the full expression of His Father, could say, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Once the writer of Hebrews presents Jesus as God’s Son, he immediately gives us a sevenfold summary of the preeminence of Jesus Christ: “whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:2–3). That is the grand summation and definitive list of the characteristics that really identify the Child who entered the world at Bethlehem. Anyone who truly confesses Jesus as Lord and Savior affirms the truth of each of those elements.
The Heir of All Things
The first aspect of Jesus Christ’s preeminence concerns His inheritance: “whom He appointed heir of all things.” That is an unqualified statement asserting that God has planned for Jesus ultimately to inherit absolutely everything. It adheres to Jewish inheritance laws that said the firstborn child received the wealth of the family’s estate.
We need to be careful when thinking of Christ as God’s firstborn (or as Colossians 1:15 refers to Him, “the firstborn of all creation”). The Greek word for “firstborn” can refer to one who was born first chronologically, but most often refers to preeminence in position or rank. Scripture makes it clear that Christ is eternal and without origin (John 1:1–3). Thus Jesus is the firstborn in the sense that He possesses the right of inheritance over all creation as the “heir of all things.” Christ is the heir of all that God has. The psalmist prophetically articulate this very reality: “I [God] will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession” (Psalm 2:8). Everything in the created order, whether material or spiritual—everything God has ever created—belongs to Jesus Christ.
It’s amazing to think that a Galilean carpenter, crucified on a cross outside Jerusalem, is actually the heir to the universe. When Jesus was on earth He owned little to nothing. One of His few possessions was His tunic, which the Roman soldiers confiscated and squabbled over while He was on the cross. He was even buried in a borrowed grave. But someday, all that exists will belong to Christ, and everyone—people, angels, and all powers in the universe—will bow before Him. “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10).
It’s also incredible to realize that believers will be joint heirs with Christ: “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16–17). If you know Christ, you are a part of His bride, the church; and He, the Bridegroom, allows you to share His inheritance. And someday you will see Him return as King of kings and Lord of lords to make final claim of His inheritance and exercise sovereign, everlasting rule over all that exists. Therefore, once you say Jesus is Lord, you also confess that He is the heir of all things.
The Creator of All Things
The writer of Hebrews goes on to tell us that Christ is not only the ultimate recipient of all things, He is the originator of all things. The second preeminence of Christ that Hebrews 1 gives is His power in creation: “through whom also He made the world” (Hebrews 1:2). That statement is perfectly consistent with John 1:3, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (cf. Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 11:3). Jesus created everything, both the material and nonmaterial parts of the universe. And His creatorship is a characteristic of our Lord—second only to His sinlessness—that really sets Him apart from us.
The Greek word rendered “world” in Hebrews 1:2 does not mean the material world but “the ages,” as it is usually translated elsewhere. Christ created not only the physical earth, but also time, space, energy, and every variety of matter. He effortlessly created and finished the entire universe as something good. That is why creation, marred by humanity’s sin in the Fall, longs to be restored to its original glory (Romans 8:22)—and one day Christ will create a new and perfect heaven and earth. It’s staggering to consider that the babe in the manger was also the Creator, and will yet be the re-creator, of the universe.
As amazing as all that is, the writer of Hebrews hadn’t yet exhausted the features of Christ’s preeminence. Next time we’ll consider what it means for Christ to be “the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3).
Can you really prep for the Great Tribulation? What are the chances if it was so?
This world has gone stark crazy! My husband and I like to joke and say that we’re living in the Matrix, but I wonder if there’s some truth to that. Since world powers and entities have designed such a state of panic and chaos over the very soil God gave us dominion over, it has birthed widespread pandemonium! In response, thousands have begun to prep for The Great Tribulation mentioned in the Book of Revelation.
What does it mean to “prep”? It simply means to prepare. But an important question must be asked, “Can you really prep for the Great Tribulation considering its severity?” And more importantly, “Did Jesus tell us to prep for it?” Let’s dive into it.
If You Plan to Prep for the Great Tribulation, Consider the Following:
So, if you’re hoping to hide out off-grid for seven years during the Great Tribulation, and build yourself a nice sturdy compound in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest, you may be out of luck.
Living Off-Grid Has Become Illegal
Since we’re on the topic of off-grid living, did you know that living off-grid is now illegal? Well, in the Divided United States it is.
There are some people who just want to live a life away from all of the hustle and bustle; therefore, they choose to live with nature. Building their own homes, growing their own food, chopping their own wood while enjoying the ease of having solar panels for energy—this has become good enough for them. But since these are the End Times—based on the Word of God and the fulfillment of prophecy, these God-given human rights have come under attack.
An 81-year-old man named David Lidstone from New Hampshire was recently arrested and placed in jail for living in the woods, off-grid for 27 years. The cabin that had been his home for almost three decades is in grave jeopardy of being demolished. But this is only one of many stories!
Therefore, if you’re planning on living off-grid during the Great Tribulation, more than likely you will be sought out, as it’s now (pre-Tribulation) criminal to keep your private residence…private! An existence without government knowledge will be far more illegal than it is now.
I’m not certain on this one as of yet, therefore, it’s hearsay. But there’s been chatter about body scanners that will detect if a person has been injected with the COVID19 “jab”. Whether it’s true or not, it’s an idea that’s out there. If it’s already out there, that means it’s likely a consideration.
I personally believe that the “jab” is a precursor to the Mark of the Beast. (No, I do not believe the current vax is the “mark”.) Remember, the devil is the great imitator. Just like God does dress rehearsals, the enemy copies. What am I saying here? If there’s talk of body scanners for the “jab”, then there will more than likely be body scanners for the Mark of the Beast. Therefore, if that would be the case, it would be extremely difficult to fake the “mark” if that would be a part of your prepping plan.
Comparable to WWII, the Nazis had dogs trained to smell out those hiding in complex places and spaces, and this included underground shelters and bunkers. Some dog breeds can pick up scents and odors 40 feet deep. So, if you were thinking about hiding underground for seven years, you’re going to need more than your standardized shovel.
Sure, you’ve got your firearms ready, you may even know a little martial arts, but ask yourself, “Would bullets and Kung Fu be able to stop robotic policemen and dogs with unbelievable strength?” That’s already been established.
One of the most popular End Time words floating around nowadays is “prep”. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with prepping, especially for known upcoming shortages or possible emergencies. I have friends who are prepped with enough water, food, and firewood for a year, and I’m impressed! Our family stocks up as well, it doesn’t hurt—but would it hold during the Great Tribulation?
Let’s weigh it based on the Holocaust of the 1930s thru the 1940s. During the reign of Adolf Hitler, Nazi soldiers were ordered to go door-to-door looking for Jews. If they were found, they were taken from their homes (most times) unwillingly. Not only were they, themselves ripped from their houses, but their belongings were confiscated, as well.
People can prep for the Great Tribulation until the cows come home, but if that time period will be the worst the world will ever experience, then the Holocaust would be minuscule compared to what’s to come. Therefore, everything you’ve prepped for will eventually be in the possession of the anti-Christ. Whatever was done during WWII will be repeated, enhanced, and polished for the devil’s inevitable “field day” on earth.
With all that being said, you cannot prep for the Great Tribulation, unless you:
Take the Mark of the Beast with zero chance of making it to Heaven
Plan on getting decapitated
Somehow, skillfully figure out how to make it through seven years of the most dangerous times in history
Be ready for Jesus Christ to rescue you instead of having to go through the Great Tribulation
All hands on deck, I choose #4!
When I read through the Old Testament of when the Lord rescued Noah and his family from the Great Flood after warning them to be ready, and how God sent his angel to snatch Lot and his family from Sodom and Gomorrah after warning them of its destruction, I fell in love with Jesus all over again!
He never goes outside of His character and neither does He change. The fact that He rescued the righteous while giving them a “heads up” coincides with what He also instructs us to do in Matthew 24:42-44:
“Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord will come. But know this, that if the owner of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for in an hour when you least expect, the Son of Man is coming.”
We are instructed to watch and be ready for Jesus to take us to be with Him. If you’re are prepping for the Great Tribulation, you’re looking for the anti-Christ instead of the Christ.
The Bible says the children of God aren’t subject to God’s wrath (1 Thess. 5:9), which is why we aren’t the ones crying out, “Hide us from the wrath of the Lamb”, in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 6:12-17). Jesus urged us to pray that we are found worthy to escape the horrors to come (Luke 21:36).
Don’t forget that Jesus also assured us that, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). That’s His promise to us that He’s going to take us to be with Him to a place He’s prepared for us.
All throughout scripture, the Lord has a great track record of protecting and withdrawing His children from great catastrophes. I was amazed when I read the surety of Isaiah 26:19-21 when the Lord tells us to come into His chambers for a little while until the indignation passes. And who can forget the famous scripture:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
1 Thess. 4:17
And it’s concluded with, “Comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18). There’s no comfort at all in going through a real-life horror show for seven whole years! But Jesus Christ promised us an escape, a way out, and that is only through Him. We don’t want to be like the five foolish virgins who didn’t make it into the chambers of the Bridegroom (Matt. 25:1-13). We want to be the ones always watching, waiting, ready, and prepping for His promise to gather us up in the sky with Him. (It doesn’t sound crazy when you remember that Enoch, Elijah,and Jesus wereraptured up, too.)
This is the second in a series of posts excerpted from my new book, Preparing Your Heart for Marriage, a devotional for engaged couples. The second half of the book goes through every phrase of the traditional marriage vows so that when couples exchange their vows on their wedding day, they’ll have thought through, prayed through, and talked through all that they are saying. This week’s post is based on the importance of managing your money.
Money, Money, Money
“For richer, for poorer…”
Did you know that Jesus talked about managing your money more than he talked about heaven and hell combined? Close to 800 scriptures discuss money. About one-fourth of Jesus’ parables are about money, and one out of every seven verses in the Gospel of Luke discuss money.
Here’s the real shocker, one that people can hardly believe: Jesus actually talked about managing your money more than he talked about love.
Why do you think this might be true?
Money carries a spiritual weight that can lift you up or hold you down. It will bless you as a couple or it can become a deep divide.
Every one of us has a unique relationship with money that rarely gets discussed and that usually remains unconscious. Our feelings about money are visceral, deep-seated in the core of our being, and many of us don’t even recognize the way these feelings motivate us. Some of us deeply fear losing our money, and we react with panic and anger if it is threatened. Others of us are driven by greed to always have a little bit more, and we will sacrifice some of our most intimate relationships to make more time and energy available to procure more money. I have seen some literally sacrifice their health and peace of mind to bring “just a little bit more” into what already looks like an abundant pile of resources. For still others of us, we’re driven by a simple selfishness that insists “what’s mine is mine” and are robbed of the tremendous joy found in giving. A few blessed souls have found that generosity with money brings great freedom.
The Bible does speak favorably of sensible saving (Genesis 41; Proverbs 21:20; Ecc. 11:12) but even more about generous giving (Deut. 15:10; Psalm 112:5; Prov. 22:9; Mal. 3:10; 2 Cor. 9:6-10). It seems to suggest that managing your money is a wise thing to do (Prov. 27:23-27) and exalts hard work over laziness (2 Thess. 3:10; Prov. 24:33-34). It also suggests that wanting to leave an inheritance behind is a good thing (1 Tim. 5:8; Prov. 13:22). All these together suggest that managing your money in a God-honoring way will bless you and nurture your marriage, while ignoring Scriptural truths about handling money may bring much misery, frustration, and pain into your life and marriage. Not thinking about the best ways to manage your money will likely lead you to the default position of mishandling your money.
You and your future spouse will be combining your financial assets, so to become one you’re going to have to talk about your relationship with money. Even if you keep your money separate (though I hope you don’t), how you are managing your money will impact each other. Take an honest look into your own soul to discover just how you feel about money, in a way you may never have thought about it before.
What gives you the most joy: a certain level of savings? Knowing that you’ve given away a certain amount? Seeing others smile when you meet a need? Getting to buy something you’ve wanted to buy for a very long time?
What gives you the most security? A certain credit score and a consistently growing retirement account? A secure job? Knowledge that your heavenly father has promised to provide all your needs?
When working with premarital couples, I usually find that their giving is rather haphazard. They often give primarily on the spur of the moment, without a plan, when someone presents a dramatic need. If they had a close relative die of cancer, it is likely that they give a yearly donation to a cancer foundation of some kind. Others will say they take advantage of a charity their employer will match. Still others like to simply claim that they “tithe” with their time, and therefore don’t really worry about how much money they give away.
As a Christian couple, you need to give, generously and often. Sometimes, it should hurt. At the end of the year, when you add up all that you gave for tax purposes, it’s okay to lose your breath for a second and think, “But we could have bought x, y, or z with that,” and then remind yourself, “Yet giving it to God’s work was the best thing we could have done.”
Where you give your money reflects your heart. It’s understandable that you would want to contribute to research to stop the spread of a disease that has afflicted a loved one; it’s a good thing to want to support a local symphony or library. Yet Christians are told to seek first (primarily, above all other good things) “the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). We should be all about living for and celebrating the spread of Christ’s kingdom. That’s why my wife and I like to focus on works that glorify Jesus and spread his word. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever give to “civic” charities or medical pursuits. We do and we have. But it does mean that we want to invest most of what we give to work where God is the hero, and where God is specifically exalted.
The reason I call evaluating your relationship with money “spiritual preparation” is that if you learn the lessons Andy talks about (there are three sermons; they would make for three great date night discussions), money will be a positive force for good in your marriage rather than something that rips you apart.
Since money troubles are a major factor in marital break-ups, it’s a wise investment at this stage of your relationship for you and your future spouse to spend a few hours examining your hearts and the Scriptures, and making a plan to be wise stewards of the resources God brings your way. Let your upcoming wedding be the launching pad for a new relationship with money.
If money was important enough for Jesus to talk about so much, it should be important enough for you to search out his teachings on the subject and discover just why he emphasized our relationship with money.
Heavenly Father, let our upcoming union call us to a thoughtful awareness about our relationship with money. Help us to understand our fears and motivations and beliefs about money, and give us hearts that honor you and your truth when it comes to how we should handle, save, and give our money. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Christians have debated for centuries over whether a truly saved person can lose their salvation. Probably the strongest Biblical passage for that position is Hebrews 6:4-6. This is what the text says,
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
Now, exactly what does this passage mean? It seems to indicate that a saved person who has experienced all the blessings in vs.4-5 can in the end fall away and be lost. In this blog I want to refer you to two principles of Biblical interpretation:
1) Remember that Scripture will never contradict Scripture; and
2) Remember that context rules
Scripture Will Never Contradict Scripture:
That first rule of interpretation about Scripture not contradicting Scripture comes into play because there are other passages in Hebrews which seem to teach the opposite position. Let’s take a look at a few other passages which seem to teach that a born again Christian can’t lose their salvation, because they will persevere in faith to the end.
For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end (Heb. 3:14)
This text speaks about something that has already taken place (have become partakers of Christ) if the following condition is met (we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end). The text is not saying that we will become a partaker of Christ if we go on to hold fast the assurance of our faith until the end. Rather, we have already become partakers of Christ if we go on to persevere in faith. Thus, a person who does not hold fast their assurance firm until the end never became a partaker of Christ. Thus Hebrews 3:14 seems to be saying the exact opposite of Hebrews 6:4-6. Now, two mutually exclusive positions can not both be true. Either one of them is wrong, or both are wrong, but both can’t be true. Either it is possible for a true believer to fall away and lose their salvation, or it is not possible for a true believer to fall away and lose their salvation, but it is one or the other.
Furthermore, Hebrews 10:14 says, For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (ESV).
If it is true that Jesus’ offering up of Himself on the cross has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified, then it is not possible for those same persons to fall away and lose their salvation. For those who are indwelt, regenerated and sanctified by the Spirit, they possess a perfect standing before God based on the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, and it is “for all time”! They were not perfected until they fall away, but for all time.
Hebrews 13:20-21 tells us,
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen
This text mentions the “eternal covenant.” Well, in Jeremiah 32:40 we also read of the “everlasting covenant”, which I would presume refers to the same thing. What is the nature of the everlasting covenant?
I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.
This covenant includes two things:
1) God will not turn away from them to do them good; and
2) Those with whom this everlasting covenant is made will not turn away from God because God will put the fear of Him in their hearts.
Now, if God promises that He will never turn away from them, and that they will never turn away from Him, what is our only conclusion? That these people will never fall away and be lost.
I’ve said all of this to highlight our first principle of Biblical interpretation – “remember that Scripture will never contradict Scripture.” It appears that Scripture is contradicting Scripture. But that’s just it. It must be only an appearance of a contradiction. Our understanding of one or more of these texts must be wrong, because God who inspired all of these texts is a God of truth, and doesn’t contradict Himself. So what are we to do? We need to go back to the drawing room, and decide if we have understood Hebrews 6:4-6 correctly.
In order to do that, let’s utilize our second rule of Biblical interpretation – “remember that context rules.” So, let’s go back and look at the context of this passage to see if we can uncover any clues as to its proper interpretation.
Hebrews 5:11-14 – in this section we discover several things about the recipients of this letter.
1) they were dull of hearing
2) they should have advanced to teachers by then
3) instead they needed someone to teach them the elementary principles of the Word of God
4) they were spiritual infants and unable to consume anything except for milk
5) they were spiritually immature.
Now, remember the whole situation in which this letter was written. The Letter to the Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were being tempted to forsake Christ and go back to Judaism. That’s why all the way through the author keeps emphasizing the word “better.” Christ is better than the angels, better than Moses, better than the Aaronic priesthood, He brings in a better covenant, a better hope, better promises, and is a better sacrifice. The author of this letter is urging these new Jewish believers not to forsake Christ and go back to Judaism, for that would mean their spiritual destruction.
Hebrews 6:1-3 – Here the author exhorts his readers to press on to maturity (vs. 1). In other words, they must make progress in their faith. They should have been at the point where they could be teaching others, but were still spiritual babies. They needed to mature.
Hebrews 6:4-6 – Notice that vs. 4 begins with the word “for”, which tells us that the author is giving us a reason why the readers must press on to maturity. It is because if they have received great and precious privileges and blessings, and then have fallen away, they are lost forever. This is a very serious and solemn passage. The author of Hebrews is urgently exhorting his readers to mature in their faith and bear fruit of their salvation, because it is possible that some of them who do not do this may “fall away” and prove that they were never truly saved to begin with.
But you might be thinking, “Brian, how in the world can verses 4-5 be speaking of a person who is not truly saved? Well, let’s look at them. What are these great blessings they had experienced?
2) Tasted of the heavenly gift (probably the gift of the Holy Spirit- Acts 2:38)
3) Partakers of the Holy Spirit
4) Tasted the good word of God
5) Tasted the powers of the age to come
Notice that these readers had “tasted” several of these blessings. Is it possible for someone to taste something, swish it around in their mouth for a while, and then spit it out? Of course it is. No doubt these readers were participating in a Christian church in which the gospel was preached (enlightened, tasted the good word of God), and the power of the Holy Spirit was manifest (tasted the heavenly gift, partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the powers of the age to come). So, if we were to boil down these blessings we could reduce them to two – the gospel was proclaimed and the Spirit was working. And these professing Christians had continually heard the Word and seen the Spirit work. Yet, there was still the possibility that they could “fall away” and find it impossible to be renewed again to repentance.
Many find the expression “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance” to be ironclad proof that these people were truly saved. After all, they had already repented. However, in 2 Cor. 7:10 Paul says, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Evidently there are two kinds of sorrow – one leading to salvation and the other leading to death. Just as there is a saving faith which ushers in a life of good works, and a non-saving faith which does not usher in good works, so there is a true repentance which leads to salvation and a worldly repentance which is merely regret for the misery their sin has caused them.
The author goes on to say, “since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” Note the little word “and.” These people had once put the Son of God to open shame by valuing other things of the world more than Him. Then they professed faith in Christ and conversion. If they fell away after that, they would be doing the same thing they had done originally, by showing that they valued the rituals and laws of Judaism more than Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 6:7-8 – Notice again that vs. 7 begins with the word “for.” That tells us that he is going to explain what he meant in verses 4-6. Here he gives a little parable of two different kinds of fields. Both of these fields received abundant rains. However, only one field brought forth useful vegetation, while the other brought forth only worthless thorns and thistles. The first kind of field receives a blessing from God, while the latter is close to being cursed and ends up being burned. The author is explaining the person in vs. 4-6 who received the abundant rains of hearing the Word of God, and seeing the works of the Spirit. However, if he did not produce fruit in his life his end would be that of being “cursed” and “burned” (Mt.25:41). This brings us to the final piece of context which we need to examine.
Hebrews 6:9-12 – The author says in vs. 9, “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.” The author believed that his readers were the fruitful and blessed field, not the barren and cursed field. Notice how he puts it – “we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation.” Now, what are the “better things” he’s referring to? Fruitfulness and persevering faith! And, notice that these are the things that “accompany salvation.” When an individual receives salvation, he will produce fruit, and he will persevere to the end, which is exactly what Hebrews 3:14; 10:14; 13:20-21 and Jer. 32:40 all teach.
So, to sum up, I believe that Hebrews 6:4-6 is a strong, sobering, warning for any professing Christian who seems to remain in a spiritually immature condition, rather than pressing on to maturity, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, and persevering in faith to the end. To any professing Christian who has heard the Word of God continually, and seen the powers of the Holy Spirit, and then falls away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. Why? Because they have already received all the light they can receive, and then they have turned their backs on it, and deserted Christ to go back from where they came. They have proven that the things of the world are more valuable to them than Jesus. Thus, repentance becomes impossible for them. [ The author seems to outline an unpardonable sin of falling away which seems to contradict the teaching of the Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-31 ]
I hope this blog is more than an exercise in Biblical Hermeneutics for you. I hope it gives us all a needed and sobering reminder that true saving faith always results in a transformed life, and that we “must show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end (Heb.6:11).” None of us want to hear those terrifying words out of the mouth of our Lord, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness”!
I. Opening Video Information. A Testimony. An Outspoken Jew for Jesus. Dec 3, 2007. The 700 Club. Bob Siegel was a Jew whose mind was poisoned against Jesus at an early age. Then, in college, two strangers shared a message that changed his heart.
II. Subject scripture. Rev 17:5. There are many opinions of this verse. We will discuss the factors of the verse, as well as those of the total 17th Chapter of Revelation. We will consider the worldwide ecumenical religion that is driven by the forces of the antichrist, that will be responsible for the persecution and murder of Jews and Gentiles which choose not to become a follower of this worldwide religion, and will not worship the image of the beast (Rev 13:4-17), but whom come to saving faith in Christ during the tribulation.
A. Revelation 17:5 (NKJV)
5 And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
B. Revelation 17:5 (NAS77)
5. and upon her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”
III. Consider “mystery.”
A. Text. Matthew 13:11 (NAS95)
11 Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.
B. Note. MacArthur Study Bible. the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. “Mysteries” are those truths which have been hidden from all ages in the past and revealed in the NT.
1. Consider “kingdom.” The following verses relate to mysteries being revealed during the time of the Gospels and following times. The Kingdom Of God had been taught to Jews by Old Testament writers. Christ began teaching on the Kingdom Age, which was a mystery to those whom were in His audience of Jews. It was the Gospel of the Kingdom that Christ directed His disciples to teach to Jews (Matt 10:1-8). It is the Gospel of the Kingdom Age that must be taught to all during the tribulation, and will precede the return of Christ to earth at the end of the tribulation (Matt 24:14). It is important to know that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God was taught to Jews prior to his ascension to Heaven (Acts 1:3-7). It is the context of Isa 2:2 (below) that tells of the Kingdom Age (the Kingdom of God). The Gospel of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, with evidence of His being seen (1 Cor 15:1-8), is the “good news” (Gospel) that the apostles and their disciples began to teach to unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, in obedience to Christ’s “great commission” (Acts 1:8, Matt 28:18-20).
2. Consider the “Kingdom Age” mystery, which is also known as the “thousand year” Millennial Reign Of Christ.
a. Isaiah 2:2. (NAS77)
2 In the last days, The mountain of the house of the Lord Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it.
b. Note. MacArthur Study Bible. 2:2 in the latter days. The “latter (or last) days” is a time designation looking forward to the messianic era (Ezek. 38:16; Hos. 3:5; Mic. 4:1).
c. Other Mystery Texts. Mark 4:11; Luke 8:10; Rom 11:25, 16:25. 1 Cor 2:7, 15:51; Eph 1:9, 3:3-4, 3:9, 5:32, 6:19; Col 1:26-27, 2:2, 4:3; 2 Thes 2:7; 1 Tim 3:9, 16; Rev 1:20, 10:7, 17:5, 17:7.
d. Note. 4:11 mystery…parables. A “mystery” in the NT refers to something previously hidden and unknown but revealed in the NT
3. Consider scripture translation of Rev 17:5. “a mystery, Babylon” and “MYSTERY, BABYLON.”
a. Greek Interlinear states, “a mystery” Babylon https://biblehub.com/interlinear/revelation/17-5.htm
b. NIV, NASB, CSB, NET translations state, “a mystery, Babylon.” (The NIV 2011 translation).
c. NKJV, KJV, KJV 2000, American KJV, ASV, ERV translations state, “MYSTERY, BABYLON.”
d. Necessary conclusions.
(1) What is the correct Bible translation that relates to Rev 17:5?
(2) What is the mystery of Babylon?
4. Location Considerations.
a. The city of Babylon.
b. There are 259 OT scriptures that identify the literal place of Babylon. In the NT, the following verses clearly identify the literal location of Babylon (Matt 1:11, 12, 17; Acts 7:43; 1 Pet 5:13; Rev 18:10).
(1) 1 Peter 5:13 (NASB) “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark.”
(2) Rev 18:10, “Babylon, the strong city!” 18:21, “Babylon, the great city.”
IV. Full Text. Revelation 17 (NASB) (Notes taken from MacArthur Study Bible).
A. The Doom of Babylon. Chapters 17, 18 focus on one aspect of those bowl judgments, the judgment of Babylon.
1. Verses 1-7.
1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.” 3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, 5 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” 6 And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly. 7 And the angel said to me, “Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
2. Notes: 17:1-7.
vs 1: “great harlot.” Prostitution frequently symbolizes idolatry or religious apostasy. “sits on many waters.” This picture emphasizes the sovereign power of the harlot. The picture is of a ruler seated on a throne, ruling the waters, which symbolize the nations of the world (see v. 15)
vs 2. “committed fornication.” The harlot will ally herself with the world’s political leaders. Fornication here does not refer to sexual sin, but to idolatry. All the world rulers will be absorbed into the empire of Satan’s false christ. “wine of her fornication.” The harlot’s influence will extend beyond the world’s rulers to the rest of mankind. The imagery does not describe actual wine and sexual sin, but pictures the world’s people being swept up into the intoxication and sin of a false system of religion.
vs 3. “a woman.” The harlot of v. 1, Babylon. “scarlet beast.” The Antichrist, who for a time will support and use the false religious system to effect world unity. Then he will assume political control (cf. v. 16). “having seven heads and ten horns.” This pictures the extent of Antichrist’s political alliances.
vs 5. “forehead.” It was customary for Roman prostitutes to wear a headband with their name on it. The harlot’s forehead is emblazoned with a 3-fold title descriptive of the world’s final false religious system. “MYSTERY.” A NT mystery is truth once hidden, but in the NT revealed. Spiritual Babylon’s true identity is yet to be revealed. Thus, the precise details of how it will be manifested in the world are not yet known. “BABYLON THE GREAT.” This Babylon is distinct from the historical, geographical city of Babylon (which still existed in John’s day). “MOTHER OF HARLOTS.” All false religion stems ultimately from Babel, or Babylon (cf. Gen. 11; see note on 14:8).
vs 6. “the blood of the saints…martyrs of Jesus.” Some see the first group as OT saints, and the second as NT saints—an unimportant distinction since this pictures the martyrs of the Tribulation. John’s point is that the harlot is a murderer. False religion has killed millions of believers over the centuries, and the final false system will be far more deadly than any that preceded it.
vs 7. “mystery.” Not that Babylon is a false system of religion, because that is already known, but that the beast will fully support the harlot and together exert vast influence over the whole earth.
3. Verses 8-13.
8 “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. 9 Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, 10 and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. 11 The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. 12 The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. 13 These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.
4. Notes: Verses 8-13.
vs 8. “The beast.” Both a king and kingdom are referred to by this term. was, and is not, and will ascend. A reference to the Antichrist’s false resurrection (13:3, 4, 12–14). “out of the bottomless pit.” After his “resurrection,” the Antichrist will become possessed by a great demon from the abyss. “perdition.” “Eternal destruction. “This is the lake of fire, the place of Antichrist’s destruction (19:20). “Book of Life.” Written in eternity past by God.
vs 9. “seven mountains.” The Gr. word is often used of hills. the final worldwide system of false religion includes. the 7 mountains in context likely symbolize the 7 kingdoms and their kings of v. 10.
vs 10. “seven kings.” Representatives of the 7 great world empires (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and that of the Antichrist). Cf. Daniel’s image in Dan. 2:37–45. Five have fallen, one is, and the other. When John wrote, the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Greek empires had gone out of existence; Rome still existed; and the Antichrist’s empire had not yet come. When it does, it will be brief (12:12; 13:5) and he will end in perdition.
vs 11. “and is not…the eighth.” The Antichrist’s kingdom is said to be both the seventh and eighth kingdoms because of his supposed demise and resurrection. He is the seventh king before and the eighth king after his “resurrection” when he destroys the harlot’s religious empire and demands exclusive worship of himself (v. 16).
vs 12. “ten kings.” (cf. Dan. 2:41, 42). These kings are sub-rulers under the Antichrist, whose empire will apparently be divided into 10 administrative districts. “no kingdom as yet.” Thus, the kings cannot be identified with any historical figures. “one hour.” Symbolic of the brief 3½ year period of time (cf. 11:2, 3; 12:6, 12, 14; 13:5; 18:10, 17, 19).
B. Victory for the Lamb.
1. Verses 14-18.
14 These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” 15 And he *said to me, “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. 16 And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. 17 For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled. 18 The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
2. Notes. Verses 14-18.
vs 14. “make war.” A reference to the battle of Armageddon (16:14–16), where the Lamb will utterly destroy the kings (19:17–21). “Lord of lords and King of kings.” A title for God (19:16) that emphasizes His sovereignty over all other rulers to whom He has delegated authority.
vs 16. “these will hate the harlot.” After using the false religious system to unify the world kingdoms and gain control of all, the Antichrist—with the help of his 10 sub-rulers—will turn against the system, plunder and destroy it, and seize all power and worship for himself. They will be carrying out God’s will (v. 17). Cf. Gen. 50:20.
vs 18. “great city.” Here is another identification of the capital city of Babylon, centerpiece of Antichrist’s empire.
A. Conclusion 1. “Babylon means Babylon.” The NIV (2011 Translation), NASB, CSB, and NET are correct in their translation of Rev 17:5, “a mystery, Babylon.” The closing video, that is provided by Dr. Andy Woods, provides a clarifying discussion of this subject. Check out my Equipping Site Page, “About Sources,” to see Andy’s credentials, “degrees and linked experiences.”
B. Conclusion 2. The MacArthur note on verse 7 provides the answer to the question about the mystery of the text: “mystery.” Not that Babylon is a false system of religion, because that is already known, but that the beast will fully support the harlot and together exert vast influence over the whole earth.
VI. Closing Video.
A. This video digs deep into the facts that reveal the location of Rev 17 Babylon.
B. Closing Video. This video has a duration of 29:31.
Andy Woods – Revelation (Crash Course) Part IX: Chapter 17-19. Oct 11, 2019. 29:31.
Unravelations. Dr. Andy Woods teaches 10 sessions of 30 minutes covering the entire Book of Revelation. These presentations were featured on the College of Biblical Studies’ TV program entitled “Up With the Son.”
In their book, What If the Bible Had Never Been Written, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe write:
“The impact of the Bible on our culture, on our nation, on world history has been enormous. Author and former Yale professor Williams Lyons Phelps observed, ‘Our civilization is founded upon the Bible. More of our ideas, our wisdom, our philosophy, our literature, our art, and our ideals come from the Bible than from all the other books combined.’
“But what if the Bible had never been written? That’s a frightening thought! And yet, with Christian-bashing the only safe form of bigotry in practice today, it seems that many people wish that were the case.”
Indeed, many do wish that were the case. Last week, various news media carried the shocking story of Portland protesters burning stacks of Bibles and the American flag.
Twitter user Ian Cheong, who posted a video of the Bible burning, asked, “I don’t know what burning the Bible has to do with protesting against police brutality. Do not be under the illusion that these protests and riots are anything but an attempt to dismantle all of Western Civilization and upend centuries of tradition and freedom of religion.”
Amidst the destruction of the sacred Scriptures, there were silent voices which weren’t that way a decade ago when the pastor of Dove World Outreach Center, Terry Jones, announced his plan to burn copies of the Koran.
Then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decried the plan, saying that it was “outrageous and distressful,” and a “disgraceful plan.”
Then-President Barack Obama said of Jones, “I just hope he understands that what he is proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans, that this country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance.”
Crickets. Crickets. Where are these voices today on the burning of Bibles? What does it say about the Democratic Party when its flag bearers are mute on an issue of such significance? Seems the Presidential nominee for the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, is silent too. Does silence equal violence in this case?
No book in human history has suffered more from suppression and the attempt to destroy it than the Bible. Evil men hate it because of its essential goodness. It advocates the rights of the individual, claiming that even the humblest and lowest of society is of the utmost value to God. Its content has always been, and will forever remain, a rebuke and irritant to the tyrannical.
Over and again, throughout the centuries, there have been efforts to get rid of the Bible.
Roman emperors decreed that along with the early church and its sacred writings, the Scriptures should be hunted down and torched.
Later came the nefarious forces inside the church itself that bitterly opposed every effort to translate the Bible into the common language and make it readily available to the masses. The worst of this opposition, unfortunately, came from the religious authorities. Thank God for courageous men like John Wycliffe, the English scholar and theologian, whose purpose was to translate the Bible and get it into the hands of everyone possible. He was so despised for his work and love of the Bible, after his death his body was exhumed and burned.
William Tyndale, who was also well-known for his translation of the Bible from its original languages, was the object of much disdain. He was tied to a stake, strangled with a rope, and then burned. The bishop of London had ordered that every copy of Tyndale’s translation be collected and burned. Nevertheless, the Scriptures and Tyndale’s translation for the commoners survived and would later be immortalized in the King James Version.
Foxes Book of Martyrs tells the stories of a seemingly exhaustive number of people who gave their lives at a time when even the possession of Holy Writ was a crime. Yet despite the persecutions, and the Bible burning that went on in those days, the sacred book lives on.
In more recent years, at least until Portland, the attack on the Bible was less direct, and more of an effort to discredit its content. There have been assaults on its historicity, claims that it is anti-science and full of myths and fables. But repeatedly, contrary to the claims of the so-called experts, the sciences have proven the Bible’s claims, and never successfully disproven any of them.
John Clifford’s poem, The Anvil of God’s Word, has a pointed message for the current generation of Bible haters:
Last eve I paused beside a blacksmith’s door, And I heard the anvil ring the vesper chime; Then looking in, I saw upon the floor, Old hammers worn with beating years of time.
“How many anvils have you had,” said I, “To wear and batter all these hammers so?” “Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye, “The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”
“And so,” I thought, “The Anvil of God’s Word, For ages skeptic blows have beat upon, Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard, “The Anvil is unchanged, the hammers gone.”
The Bible burners in Portland have no concept of the futility to which they set their hands when they literally and symbolically struck a match to its pages.
“What if the Bible had never been written? Consider the implications of such a scenario,” concluded Kennedy and Newcombe. All of these things came about because of the Bible:
“There would be no salvation, no Salvation Army, no YMCA, virtually no charity, no modern science, no Red Cross. There would likely be no hospitals, for hospitals as we know them were born in the Christian era, and Christians have built hundreds of hospitals all over the globe. There would be no universities; they were created in the Middle Ages in order to reconcile Christian theology with the writings of Aristotle. There would probably be no capitalism, no accounting, no free enterprise. Millions of people would have been killed off by STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) – without any kind of inhibition against sexual promiscuity. Literacy and education might well be the exclusive domain of the elite. Many of the languages around the globe would never have been written down because there would have been no motive to do so. Many of the barbarians the world over would have never been civilized. Cannibalism and human sacrifice and the abandonment of children would still be widespread, even as abortion and infanticide plague us as we continue to move away from the Bible. Slavery might still be practiced, as it is in pockets of the world where the Bible is forbidden. And we might not even be in the New World – as Columbus clearly stated, it was the Lord who inspired him to make his historic voyage. If the Bible had never been written, there would be no Wilberforces, no George Washingtons, no Lincolns, no Dantes, no Miltons, no Shakespeare’s, no Dickenses. [We might also add no Frederick Douglas’, no Booker T. Washingtons, no Martin Luther King, Jrs.] Above all, if the Bible had never been written, we would be cut off from God, groping in the darkness and without hope.”
Burning Bibles is not just wishing away its incomparable message on vast subject matter fundamental to human happiness; its not only wishing away what made Americans the most liberated people on record, its the same as wishing away hope!
God forbid that these foolish people would be allowed to deprive us of our hope. The Bible will survive their assaults, but we won’t survive without the Bible.
Rev. Mark H. Creech is executive director of the Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina Inc.
I’ve been meditating on this series that we’re doing on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, of how serious a thing it is to attempt to worship God in a way that He rejects. And I keep going back in my mind to the book of Exodus and in the 32nd chapter of Exodus, while Moses was up on the mountain, getting the law of God, communing with God, people down below made a golden calf, and they had sort of an interesting explanation. When Moses came down and found this golden calf made out of everybody’s gold thrown into a fire, the answer of the people was something like this: “Well, you know, we just threw it all in a fire and – look what came out.” And that was their explanation, that it was some kind of an esoteric experience.
And the Lord spoke to Moses and said, “You’re going to have to go down there because the people have corrupted themselves. They have made for themselves a molten calf and worshipped it, sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’”
This was a total misrepresentation of the nature of God. And it was more than that; it was a total misrepresentation of the work of God because they began to do things that were ungodly, immoral, and ugly around that golden calf, and God called for the slaughter of thousands of them, as you remember, and before the day was over, many thousands died, and a promise came from God that many more thousands would die as well. The point being: You can’t make God into any form you would like Him to fit into. You can’t make God in your own image, according to your own specifications.
And in a sense, that is precisely what has been going on for a number of years now in the so-called Charismatic movement, and particularly, they have not only tampered with God seriously, as the Father, stripping Him of His sovereignty, stripping Him of His absolute authority, they’ve done some serious tampering with the person of Jesus Christ, reducing Him from the all-glorious One that He is, but particularly, they have decided to make a kind of golden calf out of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit in the Charismatic movement is completely unrecognizable when compared with the biblical teaching concerning this third member of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit that they talk about, that they have created, is a golden calf. Oh, it just happened, they just sort of threw themselves into the fires of human experience and look what Holy Spirit came out. And I would submit that no movement in the last 50 years has done more to damage the cause of the gospel, the cause of the kingdom, and the cause of biblical truth than the Charismatic movement. It’s had far-reaching implications.
First of all, that movement, with its aberrant view of God, who is not sovereign, its aberrant view of the gospel, an Armenian view of the gospel, that man can pull himself up by his own bootstraps, and certainly an aberrant view of the Holy Spirit, that movement has demanded acceptance. It has demanded to be accepted in the mainstream of evangelicalism, and largely, evangelicalism has rolled over and said, “Come on, you can get in bed with us, we’re just all one in Christ.” It has demanded acceptance and with the acceptance of the Charismatic movement comes the Trojan Horse, and the Trojan Horse gets inside the city and the horse is opened and the troops are set loose and a myriad of things die. The church is then corrupted by a thousand different attacks, and its discernment is blunted, and its will to expose error is stilted.
And so what happens is the church literally becomes the haven for all kinds of error and all kinds of self-promoters whose brash egotism drives these errors. They have spilled over with that brash egotism into the mainstream church so that even people who aren’t part of that movement have picked up their self-promoting ways. It has given place to wild emotion-driven music that is called worship but may be the farthest thing from it, and much of it is offered to not the Holy Spirit genuinely but a golden calf misrepresentation. It has polluted the biblical doctrine of prayer seriously. I’m going to talk about that in a couple of Sunday nights, the corruption of the doctrine of prayer in this movement. It has corrupted the concept of faith, made faith some kind of creative power by which you can speak into existence whatever you want. It has given an opportunity for every imaginable and unimaginable form of unbiblical teaching to find its way into popularity, and at the same time, it continues to condemn the people who fight for biblical integrity.
In earlier generations, the Charismatic movement would have been labeled as heresy. Instead, they now set the rules for what is acceptable and dominate the media with their deviations. They claim – and this is the amazing part – to be the purest, most powerful, and truest form of Christianity, and they make sure that they get massive crowds so it appears that God is blessing them. And all who reject them, they say, are in danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
Well, there’s the rub, isn’t it? They who blaspheme the Holy Spirit accuse us of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. They are doing what I said is the opposite of what the Pharisees did. They attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. These people attribute the work of Satan to the Holy Spirit. No group has done more to misrepresent the Holy Spirit than this movement in its public face, its media face for sure. And in the light of that, I just feel like I’m not here, as I said last week, to defend the Holy Spirit, He can take care of Himself very well, and judgment is certainly being pronounced as to when it will fall, one can only wait to see. But the incessant misrepresentation of supposed miracles by the Holy Spirit, supposed visions given by the Holy Spirit, people who see past things, past sins on a screen, prophecies from the Holy Spirit, trips to heaven, trips to hell, divine revelations in a myriad of forms, 3D dreams that are divine revelation. All of this all over the place in this movement and dribbling over the edges into the broader world of evangelicalism like some kind of a fountain. Very serious way to treat the Holy Spirit, who is not a part of these things.
There’s a word in the New Testament that I will call to your attention. Turn to Hebrews 10:29 before we get to Romans 8. In Hebrews 10:29, there is a word, and it’s a word that you would not necessarily pull out of the text because it just looks at first kind of like a little addition at the end of a very important set of words. In verse 29 of Hebrews 10, it’s very serious to read “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who trampled underfoot the Son of God?” We get that far and we say, “Wow.” That means there’ll be degrees of punishment in hell – and I’m going to preach on hell as well in a few weeks. There will be degrees of punishment in hell. Hell will not be the same experience for everyone who is there. There will be severe degrees, and more severe degrees, and more severe degrees for those who are in hell. There will be degrees of punishment in hell.
The severest degree of punishment will be upon those who trampled underfoot the Son of God and regarded as unclean the blood of the Covenant. In other words, treated His sacrifice on the cross ratifying the New Covenant, providing salvation, treating it with disdain, trampling it, seeing it as unclean, that will bring about the hottest hell. That is to say that somebody living in some part of the world that never heard about Christ will perish and go to hell because without Christ, people go to hell, but that hell of that person will not be as severe a time of punishment as the one who heard the gospel, knew the gospel, understood the gospel, and rejected the gospel.
And we get that far in the verse and we say, “That is such a very frightening verse,” but we don’t often get to the end of it, which says, “and insulted the Spirit of grace.” Here is an equally severe pronunciation of judgment on somebody who insults the Holy Spirit. In this immediate verse, it is obvious that it is an insult to the Holy Spirit to reject Christ and His sacrifice because, as I pointed out in Hebrews last week, He offered Himself by the Spirit. The Spirit was empowering through His whole life all that He did and said and was even there empowering Him, strengthening Him through His death. And the Spirit points to Christ after the cross, points to His death, points to His resurrection, points to Him as the only Savior. That’s what Jesus said: “The Spirit will point to Me. He will direct you to Me. He will bring My words to your remembrance. He will glorify Me.” So when you reject Christ, you commit an insult against the Holy Spirit. You’re insulting the Holy Spirit by treating lightly and demeaning the fact that He is pointing to this glorious work of Christ.
That introduces the concept: What does it mean to insult the Spirit of grace? Keep in mind that He’s called the Spirit of grace. The whole idea is that He wants to do something that is a gift of grace. You have insulted the Spirit of grace. The word here in the Greek is an interesting word, enubriz is how it sounds in Greek, enubriz. It has a root verb hubriz. You know that word – at least you’ve heard that word – because there’s an English form of hubriz and it’s the English word “hubris.” Have you seen that word or read that word? It’s not used often but it is a very good word. Hubris is an English word that means audacity. It means to be insolent. It means to treat with contempt, to have an attitude of animosity. In fact, the Greek verb – you can look in the lexicon, will tell you this, hubriz is to outrage, to insult. The hottest hell is going to be for people who insulted the Holy Spirit. This is not hubriz, which means to outrage or to insult. This is enubriz, and whenever you put a preposition at the front of a Greek verb, you get an intensification of the word. That’s how those prepositions function.
So enubriz is to violently insult – to violently insult. You don’t want to violently insult the Holy Spirit, and yet anybody who rejects Jesus Christ, rejecting the knowledge of the gospel, and turning his or her back on Jesus Christ has committed a violent act of outrageous audacity and insolence against the Holy Spirit. No wonder hell will be hottest. You not only have committed an act of audacious insolence against the Father who said, “This is My beloved Son,” but against the Son Himself by trampling underfoot the blood of the Covenant, but you’ve also been audaciously insolent and outrageously condemning to the very word of the Holy Spirit Himself. A violent insult. I don’t think people understand that you just can’t tread on the Trinity. This warning is very clear. For people who insult the Holy Spirit, there is a warning of severe judgment.
Now, I know that the context here is talking about those who insult the Holy Spirit by rejecting Christ. But any insult against the Holy Spirit constitutes a breach of what is appropriate response to the blessed, pure Holy Spirit. Such outrages occur against Him all the time. He is to be worshipped, He is to be honored, He is to be exalted, He is to be praised, He is to be thanked. He is to be glorified at all times, as is the Father, as is the Son equally, for all that He is and all that He does. He is yet the – on the one hand, the forgotten person in the Trinity by many and on the other hand, the abused person in the Trinity by many. So I think it’s time for us to get the sense of what He does right. He is to be loved and honored by the people He serves. He is to be adored and worshipped as the one who gave us life and lives in us and sanctifies us and leads us and empowers us and enables us and seals us to eternal glory in the day that He, the Holy Spirit, raises us from the dead.
All of that is here in Romans 8, and I read it to you. This is an overview of His gracious and powerful help, the Spirit of grace. Who would ever insult – outrageously, audaciously insult the Holy Spirit? Only a fool.
Now let’s go to Romans chapter 8 with those in our minds, those passages, one from the Old, one from the New. Romans chapter 8 starts with this great statement of confidence: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That sets the tone at the beginning of the chapter. We are in a no-condemnation status. If we’re in Christ Jesus, we will never be condemned – never. That’s how the chapter begins and also how it ends. If you go over to verse 34, it asks the final question, “Who is the one who condemns?” Well, it’s not Christ and then it’s not anything else, and it goes through the litany of things all the way down to the end where nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. So it begins by saying we’re not under condemnation. It ends by raising all of the possible ways we could be condemned and eliminating every one of them. So it’s a no-condemnation affirmation from verse 1 to verse 39.
This is one of those chapters that every believer ought to live in. You ought to live in this chapter. This is all glorious promise for no condemnation for those who are in Christ. This is your security here. This is where you need to live and rejoice that you are set for eternal glory. And how does it all happen? By the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Yes, yes, based upon the will of the Father. The Father chose. Yes, based upon the sacrifice of Christ, who provided the necessary substitution for our punishment, but also through the application of the Holy Spirit. The whole plan designed by the Father, ratified by the Son, and applied by the Spirit. I am what I am today in Christ because God chose me, Christ died for me, but I am what I am today in Christ because the Holy Spirit re-created me. This is the magnificence of this ministry of the Trinity.
So as we come into chapter 8 and we talk about what has happened in our salvation to put us into this no-condemnation status and to take us all the way to glory, we are going to be introduced to the fact that this is all being done by the Holy Spirit. And I’m going to take you through this chapter, and this is what you’re going to learn: that the Holy Spirit frees us from death. We saw that last time, right? Verses 2 and 3, the Holy Spirit frees us from death – from sin and its consequence, death. Today we’re going to learn that the Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the law by changing our nature. The Holy Spirit frees us from sin and death, gives us life. The Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the law by changing our nature here and now. Thirdly, the Holy Spirit will raise us one day to immortality. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit empowers us for victory over sin. The Holy Spirit confirms our adoption, guarantees our glory, and aids our prayers. And that is why we end up with a no-condemnation status – because of the work of the Holy Spirit.
You know, the odd irony is that the people who celebrate all of this crazy stuff that they attribute to the Holy Spirit largely deny this true work of the Holy Spirit. They don’t necessarily believe that regeneration is a divine work; they think that there is in man enough prevenient grace that it all comes down to his willingness to believe, that it’s not the work of the Holy Spirit, it’s the faith of every individual. That’s Armenian theology. They would also say that as fast as you could do something to gain that salvation, you could just as fast do something to lose it. You have no guarantee of glory. In fact, if you die with an unconfessed sin, you’re probably going to go to hell. You are not actually in a no-condemnation status as an absolute and permanent fact. You are in a no-condemnation – only in a conditional sense. As you meet the conditions, you will stay in a no-condemnation status. As soon as you stop meeting the conditions, you will be condemned.
So the people who advocate all the wrong things about the Holy Spirit get the theology as wrong as they get the rest of it. They do not have any idea of what the Holy Spirit is doing in permanently and for good, freeing us from death and giving us everlasting life, enabling us to fulfill the law by permanently changing our nature, one day raising us to immortality. In the meantime, empowering us for victory, confirming our adoption as permanent, guaranteeing our eternal glory and, in the meantime, securing that glory by interceding for us always according to the Will of God, and as a result of all that, securing our salvation everlastingly.
So if you’re going to buy the Charismatic version of the Holy Spirit, you’re not going to find Him in Romans 8. If you’re going to come to Romans 8, you’re going to get the true Holy Spirit; not the golden calf. This is the real work of the Holy Spirit.
Now, last time, we talked about the fact that He frees us from sin and death by giving us life – verses 2 and 3 – “For the law of the Spirit of life” – there, He’s called the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus because “He sets you free from the law of sin and death.” The word “law” here is not used in the moral code sense, or the legal sense, but as a principle, the principle or the reality or the dominating power. So it would read like this, “For the reality of the Spirit of life, or the power of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, to set you free from the power of sin and of death.” You’ve been taken out of the realm of sin, which produces spiritual death and ultimately eternal death, and you’ve been given life by the Spirit of life.
How could He do that? The law couldn’t do it, verse 3 says. The law couldn’t do it because the flesh is too weak. You can’t keep the law. So God did it. How did He do it? He sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as an offering for sin and condemned sin in the flesh. We said last time the law can condemn the sinner, the law condemns the sinner, that’s its purpose, that’s what it does, but it can’t condemn sin. But God condemns sin in Christ. Christ came in the likeness of the sinful flesh, though not sinful, and was a sacrifice for us, the substitute, took our place, and because Christ took the penalty for all the sins of all who will believe, the Spirit then gives them life because the justice of God has been satisfied. This is the great doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the doctrine of imputed righteousness that’s given to us on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ.
So God did, by the death of Christ, what the law couldn’t do. The law can’t save because the flesh is weak, can’t keep the law. Romans 3: “By the deeds of the law, no flesh will be justified.” But God did what the law couldn’t do. The law could condemn the sinner, but Christ in His death condemned sin. The law kills the sinner, but God in Christ kills the power of sin. Amazing truth, and that is the work of the Holy Spirit.
You will live forever in heaven. You have been forgiven. You have been covered with the righteousness of Christ. You have gone from being dead to being alive, spiritually dead to being spiritually alive, eternally dead to being eternally alive, and that by the work of the Holy Spirit, decided by God, ratified by Christ, and applied by the Holy Spirit. You are a product of the Spirit’s work. That’s the first thing.
Now, there’s a second aspect that I’m going to try to talk to you about a little bit, but there’s a lot to say. Number two, here is what happens as a result: He enables us to fulfill God’s law by giving us a new nature – He enables us to fulfill God’s law by giving us a new nature. He changes us. Now, listen to this because it’s really very foundational, very important truth. Verse 4: “So that” – this is consequence. Because you’re now alive, been given life, been justified, your sins paid for, death satisfied, justice satisfied, wrath satisfied, you are now alive by the Holy Spirit, you have been born again, given life, regenerated. That’s possible because of the sacrifice of Christ. So as far as you’re concerned, sin is condemned, you are not.
Now, what are the results? This is such a dramatic change, that’s talking about imputed righteousness, but it’s such a dramatic change and it is regeneration, that it has another component which we could call imparted righteousness. You don’t want to mingle the two because they’re different. But notice verse 4: “So that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” Not in Christ. The requirement for the law was first fulfilled in Christ, and what did the law require? The wages of sin is what? Is death, so that requirement was fulfilled in Christ. He took our sin, died our death, paid our penalty, received our punishment.
But now, as a result, the requirement of the law can be fulfilled in us. This is because we aren’t the same persons we used to be. It is not just a forensic thing, this salvation. It is not just a divine declaration. It is not just a change in your status. It doesn’t just move you from one sort of divine box to another. It isn’t only categorical, and that’s what I mean by forensic or legal. It is also real, experiential. That’s what conversion is.
Some years ago I did a series on being delivered, all the ways we are literally transferred, transformed. Now look what can happen. The righteousness of the law – that is, the righteousness of the law is nothing more than the righteousness of God, which is reflected in His law. Do you understand that? God’s law is simply a reflection of His own righteous nature. Whatever is right or wrong as indicated in the revelation of His law is a reflection of the One who Himself is perfect holiness. How can that be? How can the righteousness of the law be fulfilled in us? Because before this miracle of life from the Holy Spirit, we couldn’t fulfill the law. Romans 3 says none righteous, no not one, none that does good, none that seeks God, can’t do anything right, your righteousness is filthy rags, Isaiah says. By the deeds of the law, no flesh can be justified. You cannot please God. You’re alienated from the life of God. You’re corrupt, you do what your father, the devil, does. His desires and lusts you follow. How in the world can we now all of a sudden do the things that are in the law?
That’s the second great work of the Holy Spirit – that’s the second great work of the Holy Spirit. You not only have been forensically separated from the consequence of sin, but you have been actually separated from the power of sin. This is sanctification. Something real happened. You had a death. Go back to Romans 6, right? You died with Christ. And you rose to walk in what? Same old life? No, newness of life. You rose to walk with a new life. You’ve been born again. You’re not the same. You’re a new creation. Second Corinthians tells us, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation” – chapter 5 verse 17. So you’re new and here’s how your newness is defined – listen to this – back to verse 4. How is it that you can now fulfill the requirement of the law? “Because you do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” You have an entirely new resident power. You’re a new creation, and you now are the temple of the Spirit of God. It’s a combination of a new person, you, and a new person, the Holy Spirit, being in you.
Please, folks, that’s a fact, that statement at the end of verse 4. It’s a fact, notice it, it’s not a command, it’s not a request, it’s a fact. You do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. When you’re a Christian, you’re different. I’ve been trying to get this across for 40 years. Don’t tell me you’re a Christian if you’re not different, don’t tell me you’re a Christian if you’re walking according to the flesh. Don’t tell me you’re a Christian if your life looks like all the other people who are not Christians, with the exception that you show up at church once in a while.
This is not a responsibility here. Oh, we’ll get to that when we get to verses 12 and 13 because there will be a responsibility, just like with salvation. That’s an act of God but not apart from our faith. Sanctification is a work of the Sprit but not apart from our obedience. The Bible is written by the Holy Spirit but not apart from the writer’s willingness. You’re secure to heaven but not apart from your perseverance. That always comes in, doesn’t it? There’s always that human-responsibility side to every one of those great truths. But for now, what the Word is saying is, “You do not walk after the flesh anymore, you walk after the Spirit.” Walk is the most ancient expression to describe daily direction, daily conduct, one’s disposition, one’s bent. It’s a fact – it’s a fact.
In fact, verse 5 expands the fact. “Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh. Those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” So here’s – here’s an expansion. You walk according to the Spirit because your mind is set according to the Spirit. You think differently and so you act differently. That’s not, again, a request, not a command, that’s a fact. It’s like Ephesians 2:10, that you have been saved by grace through faith, that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works that any man should boast, but unto good works which God has before ordained that you should walk in them. The inevitability is your life will change and your direction will change, your disposition will change, your bent will change, your behavior will change, your affections will change, everything will change – everything.
This is such a critical verse. I don’t know how we could even come up with anything more helpful to understand the foundation realities of who we are in Christ than to get this right. We’re not talking here about personal virtue, some kind of isolated thing that you hope a believer is going to kind of have show up in his life. We’re saying this is how you will live if you’re a believer. This is how you will live. And in all honesty, this is why a true penitent, a true believer, comes to Christ to start with. There are two things going on there. What do you want when you came to Christ? What are you looking for? Well, one, you wanted to be rescued from eternal hell. Is that fair? Two, you wanted to be delivered from your sin. It’s a beatitude attitude. The people who were in the kingdom hungered and thirsted after righteousness, and they mourned over their sin, and they were distraught over their wretchedness.
Look, if the preacher says God wants you to be happy, then multitudes of the people who want to be happy will flock to Jesus. “Jesus, make me happy.” If the preacher says if you’re sick, you’ve got a marriage problem, financial frustration, or loneliness, “Look to Jesus, who will satisfy the desires of your heart.” Then all the people who are lonely and have bad marriages and don’t want to be lonely will come running to Jesus. Each conceives of the ultimate joy as personal satisfaction, right? The ultimate joy would be to be well. Or the ultimate joy would be to be happy. Or the ultimate joy would be to be married to the perfect man. Or the ultimate joy would be to have that house that I want so much. The ultimate joy would be to get a promotion. Well, if that’s what you offer people in the name of Jesus, you’ll fill up a Houston stadium and they’ll all come running in. They’ll sing all the songs and they’ll run to Jesus, and Jesus, they hope, will give them all the things that’ll make them happy.
People who are saved aren’t looking for happy, they’re looking for holy. That’s what they’re looking for. Big difference – big difference. They’re looking for holy. They want to escape the power and the penalty of their sin. That’s why Hebrews 12:14 says, “Follow holiness, without which no man will see the Lord.” You don’t get there coming the path of happy; you get there coming in the path of holy. Until people are compelled by their sin to seek a Savior and pursue righteousness, they don’t come to Christ truly, truly. Christ met the penalty of the law of God for us so that we could keep the law of God by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Christ met the penalty for us; the Spirit fulfills the law in us.
When the sinner leaves the court of God, the court of God’s pure justice, with a pardon for sin, he’s not finished with the law. He’s not finished with the law. Not at all. The moral law of God runs right through the heart of the kingdom. It runs right through the heart of every true Christian. The moral law of God is nowhere – listen – more at home than in the middle of the kingdom of grace because God’s law is a reflection of Him and his Will. The moral law can’t make us holy, but God can enable us by regeneration in the presence of the Holy Spirit to progressively become holy and to fulfill the law. This is a fact. If you’re a believer, you are in the process of this progressive sanctification.
What aids that? What enables that? Exposure to truth, right? Second Corinthians 3:18: “As you gaze at the glory of the Lord” – where do you see that? Where do you look and find the glory of God? Where is it revealed? Scripture. The more you gaze at that, the more you’re changed into His image from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next, by the Holy Spirit. What tool does the Holy Spirit use to sanctify you? The Word. As you gaze at the Word and you see the majesty and glory of Christ and God and the Holy Spirit in the Word, the glory that’s revealed there, you literally are shaped into that image from one level of glory to another, ascending, ascending. That’s progressive sanctification and that’s the work of the Holy Spirit.
And what does it mean to be sanctified and separate from sin? It means to become obedient to the law of God, obedient to the will of God, to do what pleases God and He’s revealed what pleases Him. Listen, law obedience is not – cannot be the ground of our justification, but it is the fruit of our justification. And it is the evidence of our sanctification. Those who are justified are also sanctified under the influence of the Holy Spirit by whose power we now live and we can fulfill the divine law, and it’s not burdensome. What did David say? “Oh, how I love Your law. Your law is my delight,” Psalm 119, over and over, 175 times, and then a final verse on his own admitted wretchedness. We love the law. It’s our bent. It’s our desire. It’s our hunger. It’s what we want.
You can think of it this way, sort of in the big-picture sense: God’s loving commands, which are right and true and holy and good, He revealed to Adam for the sake of Adam’s fellowship and joy in the Garden. You understand that Adam didn’t know anything intuitively. You don’t find God intuitively. That’s why God walked and talked with Him in the cool of the day every evening. What was that about? I’ll tell you what, it wasn’t Adam telling God anything. It was divine revelation. It was God unloading the agenda on Adam. Adam knew that when he woke up that morning and there was a creature there the likes of which he had never seen, he was supposed to take her as a wife because God told him. Adam knew what his responsibility in the Garden was because God told him. Adam knew what he wasn’t supposed to do because God told him. Adam knew what he knew because God told him. God was always the source of truth. God gave Adam behaviors that were reflection of the Will of God and what would please God.
So we would say this, that God’s loving commands, which He gave to Adam, were for the purpose of Adam’s joy as he obeyed them, right? Then the fall, then what happened? The rules don’t change. The law’s the same but now it’s negative, it’s restrictive, it’s prohibitive, and it doesn’t produce fellowship with God, it produces separation from God. Everything’s gone bad. It doesn’t bring about joy, it brings about sorrow. It doesn’t have a future anticipation of continued blessing, it has a future anticipation of damnation. Same law, same God revealing the same things in Eden produces love, fellowship, joy, hope, blessing. Same law after the fall, negative, prohibitive, restrictive, separates the soul from God, condemns man, makes him guilty, without peace, without hope, headed for judgment.
Then comes the gospel. Same commands, exact same commands that God gave in the Old Testament, consistent with His nature, that damned us and condemned us now become the very things that we long to do because they define our fellowship with God, our joy with Him, don’t they? “These things I write unto you,” John said, “that your joy may be full.” “Happy is the man who hears My Word and keeps it.” If you want a relationship with God, if you want joy in that relationship, blessing in that relationship, hope in that relationship, then you do the things that please Him. And the things that please Him and honor Him are the things that He has revealed as right and good and holy. Before you couldn’t do that, so it was all condemnation. Now, you have been given life, you are a new creation. You have a capacity now to do what you could never do in the past. Not only do you have a capacity to do it because you’re a new creation, but you have an attending, divine helper: the Holy Spirit.
It was Augustine who said, “Grace was given that the law might be fulfilled.” And it can be fulfilled because the Holy Spirit has changed our nature and taken up residence in us. I don’t want to overstate this, but do you understand that’s a very personal ministry? Very, very personal ministry to every single one of us? Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit – not just the church collectively but you as an individual. The Spirit is there aiding and helping that new creation to fulfill the law of God. That’s your bent, that’s your disposition, that’s what you love, that’s what you want if you have been born again. The comfort which comes to us from the Holy Spirit is connected to our obedience. The assurance which comes to us from the Holy Spirit is connected to our obedience. Joy is connected to our obedience. Absence of fear and anxiety and doubt is connected to our obedience. And we have the capacity because we have been made new and we have the resident Holy Spirit empowering us. What an amazing gift.
Now let’s go back for just a moment to verse 5. There are only two kinds of people in the world – and we’ll get in to verse 5 next time more – those who are according to the flesh, and they set their minds on the things of the flesh, and those who are according to the Spirit, who set their mind on the things of the Spirit. And, of course, the mind set on the flesh is death and the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.
This might simplify your world for you a little bit. I want to give you a worldview helper here. Two kinds of people in the world, my grandpa used to say, the saints and the ain’ts. That may be sort of a little oversimplification, but there are only two kinds of people in the world. The two kinds of people in the world are those who function according to the flesh and those who function according to the Spirit. The people who function according to the flesh, who do what the flesh tells them to do – the lust with the eyes, the pride of life, the lust of the flesh – those are things in the world, 1 John tells us. They’re the people who follow that, who follow their father, the devil. They’re liars like him and they’re killers like him, at heart if not actually. They follow his lusts. That’s one kind of people, the people who operate according to the flesh.
There, then, are the only other kind of people in the world: those who operate according to the Spirit. Listen to this: God never divides people by race – never. God never divides people by sex. He does divide them by sexual preference because that’s sin, but He never divides people by culture, education, race, sex, economic status, social status – none of that. All people are divided into two categories, those who live according to the flesh and those who live according to the Spirit. Those who mind the things of the flesh, those who mind the things of the Spirit. Those who walk according to the flesh, those who walk according to the Spirit. Christians are the people who function in the Spirit, they live in the Spirit, they think in the Spirit, they walk in the Spirit. That’s it. That’s the only difference God recognizes. In Christ, there’s neither Jew, Gentile, Greek, male, female, bond, free. That’s what I love about our church. We don’t make any distinctions here except this one.
David Brown, many years ago, wrote: “Men must be under the predominating influence of one or the other of these two principles. And according as the one or the other has the mastery will be the complexion of their life and the character of their actions.” And then Hodge, the great theologian, said: “The bent of the thoughts, affections, and pursuits is the only decisive test of character.” The bent of the thoughts, affections, and pursuits. What do you think? What do you want? How do you walk?
And as I said, you can just take another look at verse 5 – and we’ll look at this more. You can see there in verse 5 the word mind, set their minds, and then you see it again in verse 6, mind, and then you see it again in verse 7, mind, twice in verse 6. Mind, mind, mind, mind – what produces walk, walk, walk, walk is mind, mind, mind, mind. Walk, that’s behavior. Mind, that’s thinking. According to, that’s nature. So if you walk according to the flesh, that’s your unconverted, unregenerate nature, and you think fleshly things, and you do fleshly things; however, if you are according to the Spirit as to your nature, you think the things of the Spirit and you walk in the ways of the Spirit. That’s marvelous clarity there in the flow of Paul’s thought. So here we are, wanting with all our hearts, desiring, longing to fulfill the law of God because we have desires coming up out of us that we didn’t have before we were converted, and they’re placed there by the transformation of our nature and by the ever-resident Holy Spirit. What a gift – what a gift.
Let’s treat the Holy Spirit the way He deserves to be treated. Let’s honor Him for what He’s truly doing and not assign to Him all kinds of horrible things that He would never ever accept. Let us never be guilty of insulting Him. More next time.
Father, we thank You again this morning. Your Word is a light to us and life. How rich we are because of the truth that we have brought before us week after week. Just amazing, glorious truth, and our hearts hunger for it, embrace it, love it. When we chew on it and meditate on it, it brings us joy. It directs us. It produces in us praise and worship and song. Thank You for all of this. Thank You, O Holy Spirit, for Your work. Be honored in this generation. Be honored, be exalted, be lifted up. You’re worthy. Amen.
As you know, we are in a study of the person and work of the Holy Spirit, the member of the Trinity that often gets overlooked by some, and by others, things are attributed to Him which He would have nothing to do with. We started out kind of talking about contemporary blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, grieving of the Holy Spirit, quenching of the Holy Spirit, and even showing disdain toward the Holy Spirit just to kind of give you the picture of what’s out there so that we know how important it is for us to have a true and correct understanding of the Holy Spirit.
I want to continue our study, and we are going to continue in Romans chapter 8& nbsp;– that’s kind of our anchor passage for this – but I’m doing more than just expositing Romans 8. We’ve done that through the years. I’m trying to draw out of this those things that are important for us to understand about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Why is that important? Why is that critical? Because you are, as a believer, the temple of the Holy Spirit. You have been baptized by the Holy Spirit, placed into the body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit has subsequently taken up residence in you, lives in you. You are commanded to be filled with the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, to manifest faithfully the gifts of the Spirit, to give honor to the Holy Spirit. It would be true to say that the very power of your spiritual life is the Holy Spirit, and so for us to understand the true ministry of the Holy Spirit over against those things that are falsely attributed to Him is very, very important.
And as I was thinking about a way that we can kind of come to grips with the full ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives, I was drawn to the fact that the best way to understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is to understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus Christ, in the life of our Lord and our Savior. And that’s what I want to do this morning, and we’re going to end up in the next little section in Romans 8 verses 12 and 13 but not for a while.
The Holy Spirit was Christ’s inseparable companion – inseparable companion. One writer put it this way: “From womb, to tomb, to throne.” All activities in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, all activities in His life from His birth through His death, through His resurrection, until His ascension occurred in the full presence and by the full power of the Holy Spirit.
We often talk about the fact that Christ is our model. He is the one that is our example. Paul says, “Be followers of me as I am of Christ, that in understanding of the person of Christ and the life of Christ sets for us the course as to how to live.” But I don’t hear that discussed very often in the light of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Lord Jesus Christ, but that is the best way to understand the Christian life, to understand that Christ lived the life that He lived because of the ministry of the Spirit of God, and then to understand that you having the Spirit in you can follow the pattern that is demonstrated in Christ. He’s the model of the Spirit-controlled life. He’s the model of the Spirit-filled life. He’s the model of the Spirit-empowered life. He shows us what that is in its perfection. In its perfection.
We have to start at the beginning. Let’s look at Luke chapter 1 – Luke chapter 1 verse 26. In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel comes to earth from the presence of God in heaven and arrives in Galilee at a town called Nazareth, and he comes to a young virgin, probably around 12 or 13 years of age, and he wants to make an announcement. She is engaged to a man named Joseph. They are both descendants of David. Her name is Mary. He comes to this young girl and says, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you. A visitor from heaven.” This never happened. This is shocking. She is perplexed. She’s trying to figure out what’s going on. The angel says in verse 30: Don’t be afraid, you’ve found favor with God. You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great. He will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His Father David and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. You’re going to be the mother of the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
Now, this whole thing is staggering beyond comprehension, but the first problem is the one that hits her immediately. “How am I going to be pregnant? I don’t yet have a husband and I’m a virgin.” She’s a pretty practical girl. It all sounds wonderful but “I’m a virgin.” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Those are synonymous statements. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The power of the Most High is the same thing as the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s power in motion, the ruach of God, remember that? The violent force and energy and power of God. When the Holy Spirit comes on you, it is in His person the arrival of the power of the Most High. It will overshadow you. It will hover over you. Does that sound like a familiar scene? If you go back to the creation, you have the Holy Spirit hovering over the formless void of the material elements that God was going to create from, and the Holy Spirit hovers and moves over the face of the waters and brings it into specific creation as identified in the six actual days of divine creation.
In the same way, in the same kind of a creative act and expression of power, supernatural power, the Holy Spirit will come, and divine power will hover over you. And for that reason, for the reason of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Most High God, the holy child shall be called the Son of God. You’re going to have a child by the creative power of the Holy Spirit while you’re still a virgin with no man involved. This is a divine, creative act, and that child will be the Son of God. That child will be a holy child. The very incarnation, the initial creation of the incarnate Son of God is a work of the Holy Spirit. A work of the Holy Spirit. The birth of Jesus Christ, an act of the Holy Spirit. Even more importantly, the conception of Christ, the Son of God, the God-man in the womb of Mary, a creative act by the Holy Spirit. And from that moment, the Holy Spirit never left the presence of that life. Through nine months in the womb and through the rest of his life to the ascension, the Holy Spirit is the constant, inseparable companion to the incarnate One, the Son of God. He is born holy. He is born holy.
Then you look at His youth and you ask, “What about those 30 years between His childhood, His infancy, and the beginning of His ministry? What’s going on in His life?” Well, we get a glimpse of that. We only have one incident and it is at the age, as you remember, of 12 when He goes with His parents to the temple. But although it is only one incident, if you look at the next chapter of Luke, you will find that it describes an entire period of His life, an entire process of His life. In the second chapter of Luke and verse 40, we read this, referring to Christ: “The child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him.” And then you read in verse – later in verse 49: “He has an awareness that God is His Father. His theology is now clear in His mind and He has to be in His Father’s house, doing His Father’s business. And in verse 52, “He kept increasing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” Although that is one occasion in His life at the age of 12, it describes His entire life, the entire period of His development and His growth. And just mark the words: He becomes strong, increasing in wisdom, grace is upon Him, knowledge increases as He becomes aware of His Father’s business and gives Himself to it. He increases in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man.
What is the power that is producing that? If you go back into the Old Testament, you find the answer to that question. In the 11th chapter of Isaiah, there is a wonderful prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah writes in chapter 11 verse 1 that a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, Jesse being the father of David, and the far son of David, the Messiah, would come out of the line of Jesse, a branch from his roots will bear fruit. And this is a messianic prophecy. And notice what it says. Without regard to some period of time or some events in the life of Jesus, this is a definitive statement about Him. “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him.” And if I may add what exactly the Spirit of God Himself has Isaiah write, it is “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of the knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and He will delight in the fear of the Lord.”
The growth of Jesus, His development, His strength, His wisdom, His knowledge, the grace of God being upon Him is a direct result of the fact that from the beginning of His conception on through all the years of His life, the Spirit of the Lord was resting on Him. The Spirit was resting on Him.
In the 42nd chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy, in another messianic prophecy, it says this: “Behold My servant whom I uphold,” again referring to the suffering servant, the Messiah. “My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him.”
Do we understand that any kind of spiritual growth in any of us is the product of the work of the Holy Spirit? Then we have to understand that in the incarnation, Jesus sets aside the independent exercise of His own attributes and fully submits Himself, becomes a slave of God, empties Himself of all those prerogatives and comes all the way down to a servant, all the way down to submit completely to the plan of the Father, through the power of the Spirit. And everything that happens in His life is a product of the working of the Spirit in the God-man, the increase in wisdom, the increase in knowledge, the increase in grace, the increase in comprehension of the Father’s plan, all of that is the work of the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge and strength and power that rests on Him.
So at the point of His conception, through His birth, through His life, the Spirit of God is the resource that develops Him into the one that God has ordained that He would be. You could say it this way: The Spirit is shaping Him because He is obedient to the Spirit’s power in setting aside His own attributes and allowing the Spirit to mold Him and make Him according to the plan of the Father. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that produces in Him the spiritual development and maturity that we read of in Luke 2.
After those years of preparation are complete, the first event that we need to note in His public ministry as it begins is in the first chapter of Mark. Mark chapter 1, a very significant event, Mark chapter 1 and verse 10, coming up out of the water at His baptism, John the Baptist has baptized Him, coming up out of the water He saw the heavens opening and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon Him. The Spirit is not a dove. There was no dove there. It’s okay if you have a dove somewhere in your house to symbolize the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit has never been a dove, never appeared in dove form. He came down and lit on Jesus in some visible form, the way a dove might come down and gently settle on a man’s shoulder. That’s the idea, like a dove might come out of the sky and rest. It’s just an analogy or a metaphor. But what you see here is the Spirit descending upon Him.
The Spirit has already been with Him. The Spirit has been there since His conception. He goes on in His life in progress because of the shaping work of the Holy Spirit in Him. And yet here, the Holy Spirit comes down. What does this signify? First of all, it signifies the approval of heaven. Verse 11: “A voice out of heaven, the voice of the Father, ‘You’re My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.’” This is the official announcement that this man Jesus is the Son of God. He is the Son of God.
Another official announcement comes in verse 15. “The time is fulfilled.” The long time of waiting for the arrival of the Messiah has come to pass. “The kingdom of God is at hand” because the King is here. “Repent and believe in the gospel.” So what you have here, then, is the Holy Spirit affirming His deity. The Father declaring His deity, He is identified as the long-awaited Messiah. He is the Son of God. He is the suffering servant. And He is anointed in a special way for specific service. He is the anointed one. Again, it’s “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel.” “The Spirit is on Me, He’s anointed Me to preach the gospel,” that’s Isaiah 61. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,” Isaiah 42. “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me” – Isaiah 61 – “to preach the gospel.”
So He has the Holy Spirit as a constant companion, an inseparable companion, and yet in addition to that, there is an official declaration, affirmation, visible indication that He is being granted a ministry and a special anointing. We would understand that from the Old Testament when David prays, “Take not Your Holy Spirit from Me,” as we saw in Psalm 51. He’s not saying, “Don’t take the Holy Spirit away from Me,” in My spiritual life because He couldn’t survive. Even Old Testament saints were sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit. He’s saying, “Don’t take the Holy Spirit away” in the sense of “My anointing, My special calling for special service.”
So the Holy Spirit is the one who hovers over the body of Mary and by a divine miracle creates an embryo in her womb and He follows the development of that embryo with His presence in the womb and at the birth and through His life and becomes the one who shapes Jesus into the perfect Messiah, the perfect Savior, the perfect servant of God, the manifest Son of God, fully realized holiness – fully realized holiness, shaped on the submissive Son by the perfect Holy Spirit. And then there is this anointing as the Holy Spirit sets Him apart in addition to His work on the inside for a particular ministry that He needs to do on behalf of the world.
The next event in the ministry of our Lord comes in the next verse, verse 12 of Mark 1. This is a very important thing. Immediately after His baptism and after the Father had declared Him His beloved Son, the Spirit drove Him – the verb is to drive – drove Him into the wilderness. And when He went into the wilderness 40 days, tempted He was by Satan. The Holy Spirit is there in His temptation. The Holy Spirit is not only there in His temptation, the Holy Spirit is not there to pick up the pieces of the temptation, the Holy Spirit is the one who drove Him into the conflict, okay? Everything Jesus did in His life was driven by the Holy Spirit. Remember the ruach Elohim? The violent force of God is operating in the person of Jesus Christ, driving Him into conflict with Satan. At the end of that conflict, Matthew 4:10 says that Jesus dismissed Satan. He had vanquished him. The Holy Spirit is the one who drove Jesus into the conflict. The Holy Spirit, in a sense, is the battle planner. He’s the strategist who maps out the battle terrain and directs the warrior king, Jesus Christ, into the holy war.
Why does He do this? To demonstrate the invulnerability of Jesus Christ, to declare His triumphant conflict with Satan. The conflict didn’t end there. He waged war with the kingdom of darkness throughout His whole ministry, didn’t He? Casting demons out, day after day after day for the period of three years of His ministry, but always He was triumphant. There’s a sense in which what the Holy Spirit is doing here is driving Him into conflict with Satan so that He can give evidence of His power to take over all enemy territory. And He’s going to take over all the enemy’s territory for His own kingdom one day and bind Satan with a chain at first, and then cast him forever into the Lake of Fire. The Holy Spirit literally drives Him into conflict so He can overcome the enemy and be triumphant and claim territory for His own kingdom that belonged to Satan.
After that temptation, He began His ministry. How did He begin His ministry? He began His ministry, Luke tells us, the same way everything else had occurred in His life. Luke 4:14, the devil had finished every temptation he could throw at Jesus unsuccessfully and then immediately after that, in Luke 4:14, Jesus returned to Galilee – here’s the key – He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit – in the power of the Spirit. It was in the power of the Spirit – verse 15 – that He began teaching in the synagogues. His whole ministry was in the power of the Spirit. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit. That power was demonstrated in His ability to do miracles, cast out demons, dismiss disease, overcome death, do physical miracles. It was all the power of the Holy Spirit – all the power of the Holy Spirit.
The testimony to that is given by Peter. Peter was there for all those three years. Listen to what Peter says in Acts 10:38 – Peter is preaching to Gentiles and he’s talking about Jesus Christ – and he says, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power.” Okay? “God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and that meant that God was with Him because that’s the Spirit of God.
All these passages remind us the essence of the incarnation is such a total self-emptying that Jesus is completely submissive to the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, who is shaping Him in every sense into the holy one that God has designed Him to be. Whatever He did, whether He was teaching, He was teaching under the power of the One He called the Spirit of truth. He referred to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth many times. Or He was healing. It was in the power of the Holy Spirit. Or He was casting out demons in the power of the Holy Spirit, or calming storms in the power of the Holy Spirit. That is why when the Jews said, “You do what You do by the power of Satan,” in Matthew 12, He said, “You blaspheme not Me, but You blaspheme the Holy Spirit.” He is the sinless one. He is the holy one. He is the incarnation of fully realized holiness. He walks perfectly in the Spirit. He displays all the fruit of the Spirit. He uses all the gifting of the Spirit. It is all the power of the Spirit coming through Him. This is His life. This is His ministry.
Even when He comes to His death, if you look at Hebrews chapter 9, and He faces the cross, and all that’s involved, this amazing statement, Hebrews 9:14, says that the blood of Christ was offered without blemish to God. Christ offered His blood as a sacrifice, a blameless, without-blemish sacrifice to God – verse 14 – through the eternal Spirit. Even the power that took Him through the Garden, even the power that caused Him to endure the cross was the power of the Holy Spirit – was the power of the Holy Spirit.
It was the Holy Spirit that gave Him the power to say, “Not My will be Yours be done.” It was the Holy Spirit who gave Him power to say, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they do.” It was the power of the Holy Spirit that allowed Him to stay there until He could say it is finished. It was in the power of the Holy Spirit that He said, “Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.”
What about His resurrection? Well, if you go back to Romans 1, we are introduced in Romans 1 verse 3 to the Son of God, born of a descendant of David according to the flesh. Mary was a descendant of David. But please notice verse 4, Romans 1:4: “who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness.” Who raised Him? The Spirit. The Holy Spirit raised Him from the dead.
First Timothy chapter 3 gives us that wonderful hymn at the end of the chapter, an early church hymn, no doubt, because of the structure in the Greek. The mystery of godliness that is the amazing mystery of God in Christ, the God-man, fully man, fully God. And then it looks at His resurrection. This is a hymn on the resurrection. He was revealed in the flesh. He had a bodily resurrection. And this bodily resurrection was a vindication in the Spirit. Here again, testimony to the fact that it is the Holy Spirit who was the power that raises Jesus from the dead. It is His power.
You say, “Well, after His resurrection, did He take over? Did He say, ‘That’s good enough, Holy Spirit, You’ve certainly done Your share. I can handle it from here’?” Turn to Acts chapter 1. After His resurrection, 40 days went by and then He ascended into heaven. Forty days went by, and you can see what He did for 40 days in chapter 1 verse 3. Chapter 1 verse 3: “For a period of 40 days He was speaking of things concerning the kingdom of God.” He was preaching and teaching His own. For 40 days, He was preaching and teaching. Back to verse 2: “Until the day when He was taken up to heaven after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.” Who was the power of the 40 days’ teaching? The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit continued to empower Him for 40 days, it says that. He was giving orders to the apostles, which is another way of saying He was speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God, and it was all by the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know if you ever looked at the ministry of Christ and the life of Christ in this way, but it’s a stunning thing, it really is. And can you imagine this? They’re used to this. They’re used to this – they know He attributes all of this to the Holy Spirit. They know the Jews have attributed it to Satan and He said, “You blaspheme the Holy Spirit.” They were there. Do you remember when in the Upper Room discourse, Jesus said to them, “He has been with you,” speaking of the Holy Spirit? The Spirit of truth, “He has been with you”? Chapter 14 verse 17: “He shall be” – where? – “in you.” You remember when He said that? There’s something there that maybe you haven’t thought about. “He has been with you” is a very special statement. How had the Holy Spirit particularly been with them? In Christ. “Has been with you.” “I’ve been with you, He’s been with you.” “He’s been with you” and it’s been wonderful – it’s been wonderful. You’ve seen it all, you’ve heard it all. What an incredible experience. “He has been with you.” But He also said, “He shall be” – where? – “in you.” That’s better. “You’ve seen Him in Me and He’s going to be in You.” “You’ve seen His power in Me; the same power is going to be in you.”
I mean this is a stunning promise. That’s why in John 16:7, He says to them, “It’s better for you if I go away because if I don’t go away, that’s not going to happen. But if I go away, I will send the Holy Spirit and He will be in you.” If I had been standing there when He was talking like that, I’d have been overwhelmed with expectations. Right here in Acts 1, Jesus says in verse 5, “You’re going to be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” “A few days, it’s going to happen.”
Earlier, in John 20, after His resurrection, during that 40 days, He said to them in verse 22, “Receive the Holy Spirit” and breathed on them, like power is coming Your way. Earlier than that, back in the seventh chapter of John and verse 37, “If any is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me as the Scripture says from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” Again, this is power. This is a force. “This He spoke of the Spirit whom those who believed in Him were to receive for the Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” That’s the same idea. “You’re going to have a powerful rushing river inside of you and you haven’t received that, you’ve seen it in Me. I’ve been with you and He’s been with you, but when I am glorified I will send the Holy Spirit and He will be in you.”
Back to Acts 1. What’s going to happen when that happens? Verse 8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” “You will receive power.” What did we learn in Romans 8? “That if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, He’s none of His.” That’s kind of where we were last time. So if you’re a believer, you have the Holy Spirit, right? Haven’t we been saying that? Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in you. That’s what happened on the day of Pentecost. It’s incredible. It happened just a few days. Chapter 2 verse 1, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place; suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind.” We know who that is, don’t we now? The ruach Elohim, the violent rushing wind, symbol of the Holy Spirit.
And not only that, not only is there a violent rushing wind, there are little pieces of fire that look like dancing tongues of fire on top of people. Another symbol of the force and power of the Holy Spirit. And verse 4: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And the promise that Jesus gave had come to pass. And every single believer since that day has received the Holy Spirit, and with the Holy Spirit, the power comes.
Now, let’s use Jesus as our model because the same things that Jesus saw the Spirit of God do in His life are the very things the Spirit does in your life. Let’s start at the beginning. He gave life to the incarnate Christ and He gives us life. “You must be born of the Spirit.” He’s the one who regenerates. It is the Holy Spirit who grew Jesus in wisdom and knowledge. It is the Holy Spirit who grows us. Second Corinthians 3:18: As we gaze at the glory of the Lord, as we gaze at the glory of Christ, we’re moved from one level of glory to the next “by the Lord who is the Spirit.” The Spirit is the one growing you up. The Spirit is the one teaching you, He’s the anointing from God. The Spirit is the one who grows you in grace and wisdom and knowledge. Not only does He give you the resource in the Word, but He’s the internal teacher that illuminates you. He’s the force of growth in your life.
It was the Spirit who came down at Jesus’ baptism, and it is, according to 1 Corinthians 12, the Holy Spirit who is the means by which Christ places us into the body of Christ. We’re baptized by the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion into the body of Christ. And we become especially a part of the body of Christ, and we bear the anointing that falls on Him, and we take up His responsibility in the world. We are Christ in the world. He’s our head. We’re His body. We are sort of the church, the second incarnation of Christ. We’ve been set apart for special service in the world as Christ to the world by the baptizing of Christ through the means of the Holy Spirit.
It is the Holy Spirit, by the way, who provides the path of victory in the midst of conflict with Satan, right? It is the Holy Spirit who gives us power. We defeat all of the wiles of the devil, all of the tactics of the enemy by the sword of the Spirit. Not only by the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, but by the power of the Spirit within us. He gives us the victory in our temptation. He is the one who helps us overcome. The promise of Scripture is this: “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.”
When Jesus went to the cross, it was the Holy Spirit who gave Him power over the pain, power over the suffering, to endure the cross. And He is the same Spirit who gives us power in our suffering for the sake of the cross. That’s why Peter said in 1 Peter that if you suffer for the sake of Christ – listen – the Spirit of grace and glory rests on you. The reason you can endure suffering and pain, all the difficulties of life that come, is because the Holy Spirit gives you strength. He is the Spirit of grace and glory that rests on you. And when Christ came out of the grave, it was the Holy Spirit that raised Him from the grave, and so it is with us, and that’ll get us to Romans 8.
Romans 8 verse 11: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.” Do you see that? “Through His Spirit who dwells in you.” He gave you life, He grows you into Christ’s likeness, He baptizes you, He provides victory in the face of temptation, power to defeat Satan, He gives you power to go through suffering, and one day He will raise you immortal from the grave.
In the meantime, there’s one other thing that He does and that’s Acts 1:8: “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall be” – what’s the next word? – “witnesses.” He empowered Christ to preach. He empowered Christ to proclaim. And He does the same with us. He empowers us to proclaim. And if you question that, look at Acts chapter 2 and see what happens. This is kind of the end product. What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit giving us life? What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit growing us into Christ’s likeness? Placing us into the body? Providing victory over sin and Satan? What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit in making us mature through sufferings, through victory and suffering? What is His purpose in all of that? His purpose is to make us effective witnesses so that – listen – so that the great commission can be fulfilled. You know when Jesus said, “Go into the world and preach the gospel to everyone”? That was to fulfill an Old Testament promise that He would be a light to the Gentiles, that God – Psalm 2 – listen to me – would give Him the nations as His inheritance. Give Him the nations as His inheritance.
What the Holy Spirit wants to do in the end is to make you a powerful witness to the glory of Christ and the transforming power of the gospel. And you get a preview of it on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit comes down and what happened? What happened was there were – verse 5 – people there from every nation under heaven. People there from every nation under heaven. And what happened, the sound occurred, the mighty rushing wind, the crowd came together, and every one of them was hearing the 120 believers speak in His own language. You know what this demonstrates? That the purpose for which the Spirit does His work in Christ and in you is to fulfill the great commission to take the message of salvation to the ends of the earth, and the preview of that is at the very moment the Spirit first comes.
And all of a sudden, people start hearing. Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, districts of Libya, around Cyrene, visitors from Rome, Jews, proselytes, Cretans, Arabs, and they’re all hearing in their own language the mighty deeds of God, the great redemptive story, the salvation story, empowered by the Holy Spirit. And you get a preview there of the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
When the Father promised the Son, “I will give You the nations for Your inheritance,” do you think He’ll keep that promise? Go to Revelation and get a glimpse of people from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation gathered around the throne. And the means by which that prophecy will be fulfilled and the Father will give the nations as an inheritance to His Son is the work of the Holy Spirit through believers like you and me. A staggering thing. It’s a staggering thing.
Talk about important. You just happen to be the greatest force in the world for the fulfillment of the plan of the Creator and Redeemer of men. What does the Holy Spirit want to do in your life? He wants to shape you into the very image of Christ. Now, He’s got a whole lot less to work with than He had with Jesus. When you were born, no one said, “Oh, another holy one.” This is what He desires to do, is to take you from one level of glory to the next, to the next, increasing in the image of Christ. One day He will raise you and make you exactly like Christ. In the meantime, He’s working on it.
Now, with that in mind, look at Romans 8. Just a comment. You say, “Oh, this is great. I know what to do, I’ll just relax and let Him do His work.” Oh yeah, that’s the old – let go and let God. That was a whole movement, you know, Keswick movement, deeper life, Quaker quietist movement. No. Verse 12, with all this incredible work the Holy Spirit is doing with us, brethren, we’re under obligation. You have an obligation. You have a debt – that’s the word for debt. What’s your debt? Certainly not to live according to the flesh, right? You don’t owe the flesh anything. What did the flesh ever do for you? If you’re living according to the flesh, you’re going to die, that’s describing a non-believer. But you don’t have any obligation to your flesh. What that means is there are no excuses now because the power of the flesh has been broken. It is not a dominating force. There are no excuses.
You live by the Spirit, and if you live by the Spirit, you are putting to death the deeds of the body. You will live. Another way to say it, you have life. What do believers do? They kill the remaining deeds of the body. This is what we call remaining sin. You know, you’re not like Christ who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, the Holy One. We have to battle sin. But in the same way that the Lord Jesus triumphed over Satan, we have the power of the same Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit who will fight the battle in us, but you can’t let go and let God, that’s not in the New Testament. You don’t find that attitude anywhere. That idea of surrender is not in the Bible.
What the Bible says is beat your body into submission so you don’t become a cast-out. What the Bible says, Paul says, is: I run, I run a race; I box, I fight with all my might. I work to the point of sweat and exhaustion. I labor hard, he says. Over and over again he says things like that. The language here, “Put to death the deeds of the body,” you have to kill these things. This isn’t a matter of floating around. The Holy Spirit is at work in this mighty way, and your responsibility is to use all the powers that you have in His strength to kill remaining sin in your life. That’s what people who live do. That’s what people in the power of the Spirit do.
Father, we thank You that we’ve been able to consider some of these things, just some ways. Lightly, compared to all the richness that these things contain. But I ask that You’ll help these dear folks to grasp, maybe in a new way, in a fresh way, the reality of Your wonderful ministry in us as believers. May we love You more, thank You more consistently, pray for Your grace and filling and empowering. May we, as Christ did, manifest the fruit of the Spirit. May we, as Christ did, use the gifts of the Spirit that have been given to us. May we be faithful to the calling that is given to us as He was faithful to the calling that was given to Him by Your Spirit.
O Holy Spirit, we ask that we would bring honor to the Son. That’s Your desire as You shape us into His image, as You show us Christ and we gaze at His glory. May we increasingly be like Him that the world may see Him on display and be drawn to Him.
Thank You for all the work that You do in us, and we are so unworthy of it all but so grateful. May we be faithful to kill the remaining sin that is in us so that we can be everything that would please You and the Son and the Father. Amen.
We have been going through a series on the Holy Spirit that was generated by my own heart concern for the terrible ways that the Holy Spirit is dishonored in the name of evangelicalism today. The Charismatic movement sort of leads the parade on abusing the Holy Spirit, grieving the Holy Spirit, insulting the Holy Spirit, even blaspheming the Holy Spirit. And it just seems to be unbridled, relentless abuse that is heaped upon the Holy Spirit. As I said very early on in the series, the unpardonable sin that Jesus addressed in the gospel of Matthew was attributing to Satan the works of the Holy Spirit. And I think there is a reverse of that sin today, and that is attributing to the Holy Spirit the works of Satan. This is rampant in our world and the abuses are obvious for all of us to see.
It’s very popular today to say anything you want to say about the Holy Spirit, to assign to the Holy Spirit anything you wish to assign to Him to gain power over people. Dishonoring the Holy Spirit is a kind of an open sport now. There are attacks on God the Father. Open theism, that’s a theological attack that basically says God is not omniscient, He doesn’t know everything, doesn’t know the future. That’s a theological attack. There are attacks on God the Son. One, called a Pauline perspective, denies the actual atoning death of Christ on the cross. It assaults the nature of God, open theism does. It assaults the nature of the work of Christ, the Pauline perspective, and an assault on the doctrine of atonement, imputation, justification.
There have always been those attacks of a theological nature coming from within the church on the Father and the Son. The attacks on the Holy Spirit, while they are doctrinal don’t come across as doctrinal. They’re not identifiable as doctrinal. They’re just relentless things that are blamed on the Holy Spirit of an experiential nature. They’re tragically attacking God, the glorious God who is three in one. The Charismatic movement has, in essence, rejected the true identity of the Holy Spirit, rejected the true, glorious work of the Holy Spirit and substituted a false God. There is a false God identified as the Holy Spirit who is not the Holy Spirit, it’s a God of the making of people in the church today. It’s a golden calf, it’s a misrepresentation of God the Spirit.
And the movement freely ignores the truth about the Holy Spirit and with reckless license puts up an idol spirit in the house of God, blaspheming the Holy Spirit in His own name. There are so many illustrations of this that one can barely keep up with them. There is a new book that is the current bestseller, top of The New York Times list. It is a book that comes out of the Christian world called Heaven Is For Real. It is a book that chronicles, supposedly, the trip of a four-year-old during an appendectomy to heaven. He went to heaven, came back. You would think that a book like that couldn’t fall off a shelf, let alone have somebody take it off a shelf and buy it. But five million were sold in the first nine months. Five million books in which a four-year-old describes what he saw in heaven while he visited there during his appendectomy.
He saw the Father, he says, who has wings like Gabriel. He saw Jesus, who has blue eyes and is only half as tall as Michael and shorter than Gabriel, but though He’s really short, He’s more powerful than the rest of them and He rides a rainbow horse that only He can ride. And he saw the Holy Spirit, too. And the Holy Spirit is a blue transparent fog floating around up there who shoots out power toward the earth. Five million of those in nine months? This is where we get our view of the Holy Spirit and God the Son and God the Father and heaven? From a hoax? Fraud? Four-year-old whose imagination is prompted and expanded by his parents, no doubt?
The Holy Spirit has been turned into the latest transformer toy. He can become whatever you want Him to be. Whatever shape you want Him in, whatever comforts you, whatever interests you, whatever allows you to manipulate people for your own ends, you can blame it on the Holy Spirit. This is a kind of blasphemy and insult. We’ve talked about that the last few weeks, that is unworthy of any true Christian and certainly inconsistent with what Scripture says, whether it’s a severe heresy regarding the Holy Spirit or some frivolous experience and misrepresentation. In any case, whatever the misrepresentation, whatever the untruth is, it brings dishonor on the Holy Spirit, who’s worthy of all honor and all praise and all glory.
So we’ve been trying to sort of get a clear view of who the Holy Spirit is and what His ministry is so that we can worship Him in spirit and in truth. And for the starting point of our series, textually, we’ve gone to Romans 8. So you can turn in your Bible now, if you will, to Romans 8. I’ve been very encouraged at the response to the series. You’ve given us wonderful feedback that this is a blessing to you and that you’re seeing things in a fresh and new way and that it’s altering the way you view the Holy Spirit and the way you worship Him, the way you worship in general, which is so very, very central to our Christian life.
As we come to the 8th chapter of Romans, of course, the book of Romans is about the gospel, and the opening five chapters talk about the gospel. The opening couple of chapters talk about the need for the gospel, the sinfulness of man, and then from chapter 3:21 to chapter 5, the end of chapter 5, verse 21, talks about the salvation offered in Christ to meet that need. So it’s a book about the gospel. The opening chapter presents the gospel of God, verses 1 to 17. Then comes the sinfulness of man, then comes the solution in the wonderful sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So by the time you come to the end of chapter 5, we’ve pretty well gone through the fact that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, not by works, and that’s made very, very clear. So the way of salvation is laid out.
When you get to chapter 6 in the book of Romans, you’re now going to talk about the benefits of the gospel, and they run all the way through verse 39 of chapter 8. So we have chapter 6, chapter 7, chapter 8 on the benefits of the gospel. In a very general sense, we could say this: 6 and 7 deal with the negative benefits and 8 deals with the positive benefit. Six and 7 deal with the negative benefits in this sense: It’s a no-longer section. You’re no longer under the law. You’re no longer a bond slave or a slave to sin. You are no longer under the curse. You are no longer dead, you’ve come to life. You are no longer a victim of your flesh. So 6 and 7 give the negative aspects, which are certainly positive in their effect, but they’re articulated in a negative way – freedom from the law, freedom from sin, freedom from punishment, freedom from death.
When you come into chapter 8, now you get into the positive aspects and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit becomes the theme of chapter 8. This is that which the Holy Spirit does in us, for us, with us. And we found that in chapter 8, it’s more than a text within itself, it’s a launching point that sends us all over the New Testament to find comparative passages that expand on everything it says. We’re not going to do a lot of that – we’re trying to restrain ourselves to work our way through this 8th chapter. But nonetheless, we see the vastness of the things that are here revealed about the Holy Spirit and how they can be elucidated from other portions in the New Testament in particular.
So we’re looking at the benefits section of what salvation brings us, and this is where the work of the Holy Spirit begins to really become clear to us. The Father made the plan, the Son made the plan possible, and the Holy Spirit makes the plan work. Okay? The Father designed it, the Father initiated salvation, the Son validated salvation, and the Holy Spirit applies the reality of salvation. The Father is the one who chose us, the Son is the one who redeemed us, the Spirit is the one who sanctifies us. Election is the work of the Father, justification is the work of the Son, sanctification is the work of the Spirit. The Trinity engaged in this wondrous reality of salvation.
So as you come into chapter 8, and you’re looking at the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, as He positively sanctifies the believer, it comes down to this: We’re moving from grace to glory. Okay? We’re no longer under condemnation. That’s how verse 1 starts. We’re no longer under the sentence of death by the law. We have been delivered from the law of sin and death. We have been given new life. We have been regenerated. We are born again. Now we begin to experience the powerful ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit as He moves us from grace to glory. And this is so critical for us to understand because this is where we live.
A right understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is necessary to worship the Spirit of God for the very things that He is at this time doing in our lives. You cannot truly worship the Holy Spirit as you should and you must unless you understand what it is that He is doing and what makes Him so worthy of worship.
So in the 8th chapter, this is what we find out. Verses 2 and 3, He is freeing us from death, from sin and death. Verse 4, He’s enabling us to fulfill the law. It’s not the negative of being free from the curse of the law, it’s the positive of being enabled to fulfill the law. Verses 5 to 11, He’s changing our nature. Verses 12 and 13, He is empowering us continually for righteousness. Verses 14 to 16, He is confirming our adoption as sons of God. And that leads us now to verse 17 where we find the last identifiable ministry of the Holy Spirit in this chapter; He is guaranteeing or securing our future eternal glory. He is guaranteeing or securing our future eternal glory, and that, of course, is the ultimate gift of God, a salvation that is inviolable.
We have a guarantee of eternal glory. This is the best of all the elements of salvation, for what would a salvation be that we could forfeit? And as I’ve often said, if we could forfeit it, we would forfeit it. If it depended on us in any way, we would lose it because none of us could do whatever it would take to secure to ourselves by our own merit a salvation from God. So the only hope we have for eternal glory, the final part of our salvation, the final chapter, is to be secured by the same God who chose us, called us, justified us, and will one day glorify us.
It is the Holy Spirit then who, while sanctifying us, is at the same time securing us. So we could say that the two works of the Holy Spirit are sanctification and security. Down through verse 13, we could say we are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, starting in verse 14 where we get into being adopted as children of God, which is a permanent relationship, we could say the work of the Holy Spirit is in securing us. He progressively conforms us to a righteous standard, which is modeled perfectly by Jesus, we saw that, and He secures us, He keeps us. That’s what Ephesians 1:13 means when it says we’re sealed by the Spirit. That seal can’t be broken. We have a seal of the Spirit. We have the pledge of the Spirit. We have the guarantee of the Spirit. Or it says here in verse 23, we have the first fruits of the Spirit; that is, God gives us the first fruits of a full crop to come in glory. That’s our guarantee of future glory.
The Holy Spirit, then, does this twofold work in us of sanctifying us, which is conforming us to Christ, who is the model. Remember, we said that Christ lived a life of 33 years in order to establish the model of what sanctification looks like to which we seek to be conformed under the power of the Holy Spirit. So He is in that work of conforming us to Christ, which will only be perfected when we see Him face-to-face. But here, we’re going to see He secures us to our future glory.
Anybody who tells you that you can lose your salvation doesn’t understand salvation. Anybody who says that you can have salvation and lose it doesn’t understand salvation. Salvation is a gift given by God before the foundation of the world, and everyone – we will read in a minute – in this category of being chosen by God will be glorified for whom He predestined, He called, and whom He called, He justified, and whom He justified, He glorified. Jesus says, “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me, and I will lose none of them, but raise Him up on the last day,” John 6. We are then indebted to the blessed Holy Spirit for regenerating us, giving us life and then for sanctifying us and securing us until the day that He Himself transforms us. We will be raised to our eternal condition by the power of the same Holy Spirit that regenerated us at our conversion. It’s a work that the Father designed and the Son validated and the Spirit effects.
Now look at verses 17 and following. We come into this section on the securing, guaranteeing ministry of the Holy Spirit by which we can be confident that we will reach eternal glory. Let me read it to you, starting in verse 17. “If children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” And with that last line, Paul introduces the concept of eternal glory. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons the redemption of our body. 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 know what the mind of the Spirit is because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
This is all about future glory. It was launched with the last statement of verse 17, which we’ve already considered, being glorified with Him. Verse 18 talks about the glory that is to be revealed to us. Verse 19, the revealing of the sons of God again in glory. Verse 21 at the end of the verse, the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Verse 23 ends that we are waiting for the redemption of our body. Verse 24 and 25 talk about our hope for glory yet to come for which we eagerly wait.
So we’re now introduced to a category of ministry of the Holy Spirit which secures us to future glory. Verse 23 indicates that at the heart of this is the gift of the Holy Spirit, a down payment on future glory. We also learn in verses 26 and 27 that the Spirit is interceding for us, which again is His work to secure us. A constant interceding on our behalf.
One word jumps out at you when you read this passage, and it’s the form of the word “groan.” There’s a lot of groaning in this passage. Creation is groaning in this passage in verse 19. The creation groans is one way to translate that. This one says the anxious longing of the creation, but the Authorized talks about the groaning of creation. And then you find in verse 23 that we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we groan. And then down in verse 26, we have the groaning of the Holy Spirit. This indicates that the creation and us and the Holy Spirit are going through certain groanings, certain agonies, until the final realization of glory. That’s the whole point of this passage. The Holy Spirit lives within us as a down payment on our future glory, and the Holy Spirit is the one who carries us to that future glory. That’s His ministry. There is no greater gift that God could ever give us than this. As I said, what would a salvation be worth that we could forfeit? We would surely do it because we have not the power in us to secure our own salvation in any sense.
So here, the creation groans in verses 19 to 22, the believer groans in verses 23 to 25, and the Holy Spirit groans in verses 26 to 27. And all of those groanings are some indication of an unfulfilled reality. All of creation feels the unfulfillment. Believers feel the unfulfillment. Even the blessed Holy Spirit experiences that unfulfillment. This is wonderful truth. There’s so much here, it’s daunting for me to try to get our arms around it in one morning, and we’re not going to be able to do that, but I’ll take you as far as I did the people in the first service, so that’s the standard always for you guys.
Let’s look at the groaning of creation – let’s look at the groaning of creation. Verse 19: “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” Creation is groaning in verse 19. Creation is mentioned in verse 20. Creation is mentioned again in verse 21. Creation is mentioned again in verse 22. So in those four verses, creation is the subject. Creation is groaning. What is this talking about? And in what sense is the creation groaning?
I think the readers, if they were Jewish, would have some kind of an understanding of this. This is about – this is the groaning of anticipation. This is the groaning of unfulfillment. This is a kind of suffering condition waiting for the promise to be fulfilled, and the Jews would certainly recognize it because they talked about two eras of redemptive history, the present age and the age to come. It was pretty simple. There was the present age and the age to come. The present age was the age of sin and suffering and decay and corruption and fallenness and sin. And the age to come was the age of the new heaven and the new earth and righteousness and purity and holiness and virtue and glory and the absence of death and decay and disease. It was the Isaiah 65:17: “I will create new heavens and a new earth.”
People who knew the Word of God and waited for the fulfillment of this understood what it was to be living in a groaning world. And even nature is seen as groaning. Nature here is personified. Verse 19: “For the groaning” – or the anxious longing, as the NAS puts it – “of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.”
Now, what are we talking about when we’re talking about creation here? In what sense is creation groaning? And it’s mentioned, as I said, all the way down to verse 22. What part of creation? Angels? They’re created beings. No. They’re not groaning. Holy angels are not groaning because it’s never going to get any better for them, right? They’re around the throne of God now, they’re in eternal perfection and eternal holiness. They’re not subject to corruption, they’ve never been subject to corruption; therefore, they don’t have hope for anything because nothing could get any better than it is.
What about demons? Is he talking about the created angels who fell and are the demons? No. They’re not groaning in hope for their liberation because there is no liberation, there’s no salvation, there’s no deliverance, there’s no forgiveness, there’s no better future for demons, only the Lake of Fire.
Well, maybe he’s talking about believers. No, he’s not talking about believers because there’s a distinction made between the creation and believers. Please notice, verse 19, the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God; therefore, the creation is distinct from the sons of God. Verse 23, the creation wants to be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. So the creation that is moaning and groaning and waiting and eagerly anticipating is distinct from believers.
Well, maybe it’s unbelievers, is that who it is? Is it unbelievers? No, because unbelievers are not hoping in Christ, they’re not hoping for glory, they’re not hoping or expecting something better from heaven. They don’t have any information about that, they have no desire for that. And furthermore, if you look at verse 20, they were not subjected to futility unwillingly. No, that’s not true of unbelievers. They are willing sinners. They are willing to feed their own corruption.
Bottom line, the creation that groans is no part of the rational creation – no part of the rational, personal creation. What is left is non-rational creation, animate and inanimate. So what you have here is a personification of creation, the material heavens, the material earth, and everything that’s in them, heaven and all the bodies that are in it, earth, water, land, grass, flowers, animals, bugs, fish, rivers, streams – everything that is in the animate and inanimate, impersonal, non-rational creation. Creation is given an identity here. It’s personified in a sort of poetic fashion.
For example, in Isaiah 35:1, Isaiah says, “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad.” Well, how could a wilderness and a solitary place be anything consciously? But this is personification. Or even more richly, the wonderful, familiar words of Isaiah 55:12: “The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” And I promise you, that if you ever hear the mountains singing and the trees clapping their hands, they’re going to take you away in a white coat, so that’s not talking about something that is a reality but is a kind of a poetic personification.
Creation, that non-rational, impersonal, animate and inanimate, that is to be identified as living things and non-living things, rocks and animals, that creation is anxiously longing, earnestly expecting, waiting eagerly. That’s the groaning of creation. And the language here is very strong. That statement, “anxious longing” there is a Greek verb that means to – literally it’s a strange combination of components. It means to watch away from the head. It means to sort of stretch your head, get on your tiptoes to look into the future, into the distance what you cannot see immediately, stretching to see something that you wait eagerly for.
So this is a kind of expectancy. It’s as if creation is up on its tiptoes looking out for something that it longs to see and who is it? It’s persons. It’s the revealing of the sons of God, the unveiling of the sons of God. That’s the time when we are all glorified. That would be at the end of all human history, the end of the Millennial kingdom, the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth. Creation is waiting for that. In verse 21, it’s put this way: “The freedom of the glory of the children of God.” When all the children of God are glorified, creation is going to get the benefit of it, right? Because there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
All creation, then, is viewed as up on its tiptoes eagerly looking and waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. An amazing statement – a cosmological statement of massive proportions, inanimate and animate creation standing on its tiptoes to catch the first glimpse of the persons that it longs to see, waiting for the unveiling, the manifestation, the revelation of the sons of God in their full glory, and it will come. Daniel 12:3 says it will shine like the stars and Matthew 13:43 says will shine like the sun, will be blazing glory. The whole creation is looking for that event, eagerly anticipating it.
Why? Why is creation doing that? Go back to verse 20 for a minute. Because the creation was subjected to futility. The creation was subjected to futility, or vanity, mataiots, means aimlessness, emptiness, uselessness, futility, inability to reach a goal, the inability to achieve a purpose. It can’t be what it wants to be. All creation was originally good, right? When God created in Genesis 1, it was good, remember? He said – and He looked and it was good, and He saw it and it was good. And then at the end, in chapter 1:31 He says it was all very good. But it was subjected to futility. It can’t fulfill its purpose. It is no longer what it should be, what it would be, what it could be.
And by the way, when it says in verse 20 it was subjected, it is a verb that indicates a past tense. It’s correctly translated in the NAS. It was a point in time. A definite event happened in past time in history at which the creation went from being purposeful and perfect to being purposeless and futile. It was subjected to decay, to corruption, to frustration, to death and decay, destruction.
Now, can we blame the creation? Is this just – it’s just that something went wrong in the evolutionary cycle? Is that what it was? What happened?
Well, go back to verse 20 again. It was subjected to futility not willingly – not willingly. The creation isn’t at fault. Whatever subjected creation to its aimlessness, whatever subjected creation to its decay and its inability to be glorious as the original created goal was intended, whatever, it wasn’t creation’s fault. Creation is an involuntary victim. Something else did this to creation. Someone else did it to creation. Who? Keep reading. “Not willingly but because of Him who subjected it.” Who’s that? God. God subjected creation to its futility. God, according to Genesis 3:17, 18, and 19 pronounced a curse on the creation. Why? Because of the sin of Adam and Eve.
When Adam and Eve sinned, a plague came on them, a deadly plague, a plague that was so infectious no human being who ever walks on this planet will escape it. A plague that is so contagious that no one can avoid it. Like living in the midst of a city that had been hit by the Black Plague in the Middle Ages. The plague was not only in the people, but the plague dominated their environment. The plague was not only in the man lying in the bed in the house, dying; the plague was everywhere in the house. It was not only everywhere in the house, it was everywhere in the street, and it was everywhere in the city, and it was everywhere in the countryside, and there was no escape because the environment was under the corruption. So it was when Adam sinned, the plague was everywhere on the planet, and it continues to this day. Decay, disaster, pollution, disruption, degeneration – those are not the result of some evolutionary fluke; those are the result – because it’s supposed to get better, according to the evolutionists, some anomaly, some bad mutation. The things are the way they are in the world because God cursed this entire creation. He cursed it so that man is left to face every waking moment of his life the deadly, destructive, corrupting realities of sin.
As Isaiah 24:6 – a curse devours the earth. As Jeremiah 12:4 says, the land mourns. Nature’s destiny is inseparably linked with man’s, and because man sinned and fell into a corrupt condition, so the domain of man is in the bondage or the slavery of corruption. See that phrase there in verse 21? That the creation itself is in slavery to corruption. Intimate connection between man’s sin and the decay to which the whole universe is subject.
Environmentalists aren’t going to turn that over. They’re not going to reverse that, they’re not going to mitigate that. Nice try, but it won’t work. Solar energy won’t do it. Eliminating carbon footprints is not going to do it. Getting rid of fossil fuels isn’t going to do it. Education isn’t going to do it. This is a divine curse. We’re not on an upward trend; we’re on the way down from perfection. Listen: We’re on the way down from perfection to total destruction and there’s no stopping point. That is a world view that is biblical because when man sinned, he was punished by not being allowed to enjoy purity because he chose sin and not even being allowed to enjoy the benefits of a perfect environment as king of the earth. He was now a king who lost his crown and tried to rule over an unruly, corrupt, decaying, and deadly creation. God cursed his entire environment.
You know, Isaiah has so much to say about this, I can hardly resist reading some of the things that are there. But one of them, I’ll resist a little bit. Isaiah 24:4: “The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers, the exalted of the people of the earth, they fade away. The earth is polluted by its inhabitants. They transgress laws, violate statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse devours the earth and those who live in it are held guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned and few men are left.” Then he goes on to talk about even more disastrous elements of trying to live and survive in this world; 34th chapter of Isaiah, he says even more about it; 33rd chapter, the whole creation is cursed. So the principle of corruption is everywhere, so the creation is groaning because it has been subjected to futility, not of its own will but as an accommodation, a necessary accommodation, to the curse of God on Adam and Eve and on all humanity, and it cannot do anything to reverse its slavery to corruption. This is an act of God.
“But,” you say, “why is creation up on its tiptoes?” End of verse 20: “In hope” – in hope – “in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption.” Beautiful imagery. The whole creation standing on its tiptoes, longing to be what it was originally created by God to be and knowing it will never happen until the glorious manifestation of the children of God, the freedom of the glory of the children of God, until the final eternal state. That’s what all creation is waiting for. They are looking for a better future.
That’s the kind of world we live in. We live in a very difficult world. I’m working on a book that will come out in a few months, it’s called Twelve Unlikely Heroes. People seem to want to buy books that have “twelve” in the title, so I’m just going to keep writing books that have “twelve” in the title – Twelve Ordinary Men, Twelve Extraordinary Women – so I think they like “twelve,” so Twelve Unlikely Heroes. One of the heroes is Enoch. And you look at Enoch, you say, “Well, wait a minute. A hero has got to be somebody who has some kind of impact on a lot of other people, and Enoch seemed a kind of a solitary figure.” He was walking with God. It was just the two of them. He was walking, and one day he just walked to heaven, didn’t die, remember that? Enoch, just like Elijah, carried in a chariot of fire to heaven. That’s a very rare situation. But what makes Enoch a hero? Why would you think of Enoch as a hero? What level of influence? What range of influence? What about him is so heroic? He was a righteous man who walked so intimately with God that God just took the walk right into heaven one day. What makes him special?
I’ll tell you what. Do you understand this, that the entire generation in which Enoch lived were all drowned in the flood except for eight people? Do you know how rare a bird Enoch was? Do you know what it is to be the only guy in the world that walks with God? You’re looking at a hero if ever there was a hero. You’re looking at a man who lived against the grain of a culture that was so corrupt, God killed millions of them in one fell swoop. That’s why it’s heroic. For Enoch, it was that he walked with God. And for us, how do we survive this corrupt world? Look, lower your expectations, will you, for the world? Will you? Lower your expectations for the world, for its education, its politics, its social structures – just lower your expectations. Get them down somewhere like those in Genesis where God saw the world and it was only evil continually. Just get them down there and you’ll be okay. And then walk with God.
God protected Enoch through a corrupt world, and that’s the work of the Holy Spirit. God is still doing that, not by walking with us, but by living in us, and it’s the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us in the midst of this corrupt world. Paul even calls it a crooked and perverse generation. That’s the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This whole creation is waiting for the deliverance, the freedom of the glory of the children of God when it will also be set free from the slavery to corruption that has cursed it.
How is this going to happen? How is it going to happen? Well, the psalmist talked about it in Psalm 102. You might overlook this if you didn’t look closely, but it’s a wonderful statement, Psalm 102 verse 25. It says, speaking to God, “O my God,” he says, and then he says, “You founded the earth and the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure. All of them will wear out like a garment, like clothing; you’ll change them and they’ll be changed but You are the same.” You created it, it will go out of existence and something new will come, that’s Psalm 102. And it is described in careful detail in 2 Peter 3. Second Peter 3 gives us these words, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in which the heavens will pass away” – exactly what the psalmist said – “with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat and the earth and its works will be burned up.” That will be literally the atomic explosion of the created universe made up of atoms.
And it tells us even further in verse 12: “The heavens will be destroyed by burning and the elements will melt with intense heat.” And the world and the earth and heavens, as we know it, will go out of existence. I call it the uncreation. “And in its place will come a new heaven and a new earth.” That’s what Peter said. Revelation 20 says it, 21 says it, 22 says it. So creation is awaiting a cosmic regeneration.
In fact, looking to the future, there is no hope for any change in the creation from the way it is until the glorious freedom of the children of God. Look, the creation went down with the Fall of man, and the creation will come back again in the exaltation of man, okay? Between – in the first three chapters of Genesis, you have the cursed creation. Cursed because man is corrupt. In the last three chapters of Revelation, you have the new creation in perfection and righteousness because you have glorified humanity. And in between is the sad, long history of sin and corruption. The two are linked. What happened to man in the Garden happened to the creation. What happens to man in glory will happen to the creation as well. It will be liberated. So all creation groans, waiting for that to happen.
Verse 22 sums it up. “The whole creation groans, all of it, because all of it is cursed, and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” A verb that means pains of childbirth. And childbirth pain is a positive pain, right? I mean, it has a positive result. Some pain has negative result. You’re feeling bad and you’re going to feel worse, you’re going to die maybe. But childbirth pain basically is the kind of pain that anticipates something wonderful, like great event, something blessed, and that’s the kind of pain that the creation feels.
You don’t need to take care of the creation, folks. Can I tell you that again? I’ve said this before. Step on the grass, kill a deer, do what you want, you don’t need to protect the creation. It’s here for you. You don’t need to be stupid about it, you don’t need to be evil about it, but you have to understand, this is a cursed creation. It still is allowed to yield riches and blessing for us. God’s going to take care of His creation until the time when He destroys the entire thing. Okay? So don’t get carried away with trying to preserve the creation in the condition it’s in. You will be much better served when it doesn’t even exist. Okay? Not that you could hurry it or delay it, that’s in God’s plan.
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “I wonder whether the phenomenon of the spring supplies us with a part answer. Nature, every year, as it were, makes an effort to renew itself, to produce something permanent. It has come out of the death and the darkness of all that is so true of the winter. In the spring, it seems to be trying to produce a perfect creation, to be going through some kind of birth pangs year by year. But unfortunately, it doesn’t succeed, for spring leads only to summer, summer leads to autumn, and autumn back to winter. Poor old nature tries every year to defeat the vanity, the principle of death and decay and disintegration that is in it, but it can’t do it. It fails every time. It still goes on trying as if it feels things should be different and better, but it never succeeds, so it goes on groaning and travailing in pain. It has been doing that for so very long.”
So very long but it still reappears and reenergizes the effort every year. Be kind. Don’t blame your grass, don’t blame your flowers, it’s the nature of it. They make a good try, he says, every spring. Creation groans for glory.
Secondly, and just briefly – couple of minutes. Believers groan for glory – verse 23. “Not only this” – that meaning creation – “but we also ourselves. We ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, namely the redemption of our body.”
Look, we understand the groaning of creation in its imperfection because we’re part of creation and we are living imperfections. We groan in ourselves, lamenting our cursed situation. Paul says, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:24. You remember 2 Corinthians 5:4 where Paul also says, “In this tent we groan, desiring not to be unclothed but to be clothed upon with our new body, that this mortal shall put on immortality, that death shall be swallowed up in life.” David groaned in Psalm 38:9: “All my desire is before You and my groaning is not hid from You.” We know what it is to groan. We groan.
What are we waiting for? What are we groaning for? Well, he says in verse 23, “Our adoption as sons.” You say, “Wait a minute, we were already adopted. You told us that in 14 to 16 in this chapter, that we have been adopted.” Yes, we have been adopted but we don’t have our inheritance yet. True? And what is our inheritance connected to? End of verse 23, the redemption of what? Our body. We’ve already been adopted formally into the family of God. We are the children of God. We have the Holy Spirit leading us now – verse 14. We have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of adoption, in us by which we cry, “Abba, Father.” We sense that intimacy with God. The Spirit is testifying with our spirit – verse 16 – that we’re the children of God. So we have been adopted but we have not received our inheritance.
You remember 1 Peter 1:3-4? We have an inheritance that fades not away, reserved in heaven for us, not yet received – not received until the glorious freedom of the children of God. So we groan. We groan for the day when this mortal shall put on immortality, when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, when death shall be swallowed up with life, right? First Corinthians 15. We groan for that experience. We want to be clothed with our heavenly body, like unto His glorious body, Philippians chapter 3. Paul even calls these vile bodies, our flesh, our fallenness, our humanness, our sin. We can’t wait. Thankful for grace but we can’t wait to go from grace to glory – from grace to glory.
Are we going to make it? We are – verse 23 says – because we have already the first fruits of the Spirit. That doesn’t mean something that comes from the Spirit, not first fruits from the Spirit, but the first fruits of the future promise from God who is the Spirit. The Spirit is the first fruits, the first fruits of the Holy Spirit. He is the first installment. First fruits was the little bit of the crop that the farmer pulled first, the first part that came in while the rest was still reaching its full bloom. He would pull in the first and he would know what the future crop would be like by the first that came. The Holy Spirit is the first fruits of the full crop that God has prepared for His people. He is the installment, the down payment, the arrabon, the engagement ring, the seal, the pledge, all that language is found in Paul’s writings. And He is the Spirit of promise. That’s the hope of the redeemed. Colossians 1:27: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
We then groan until that is fulfilled. And the older you get, the more you groan, right? Really, the more you groan. You groan more because you can do less. You groan more because you have more to groan about. Not only personally in your own body, but things are going on around you that make you groan. I didn’t used to groan so much about the way things were in the world when I was a lot younger. I didn’t groan so much about the loss of life and the challenges. Between services I sat and prayed with John James whose wife had a stroke, a brain leak, and after 62 years of marriage went to heaven this week unexpectedly, and I sat and felt the groaning and agony of his own heart as he tried to explain to me what it was like to lose his wife. He’s been in our church with her since 1972 and how much the church has meant to them. And it’s a groaning life and the longer you live it, the more you accumulate about the groaning of it. And we all live in hope, but that hope burns brighter as we grow older and experience more of living in a corrupt and fallen world. I’m not trying to fix the world. I’m just waiting for the day when the Lord puts it to an end and creates a new heaven and a new earth. We live in hope. Verse 24: “In hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he already sees?”
In other words, we’re saved by faith, but we’re saved in hope, right? Because our salvation is not full yet. You’re nearer now – Romans 13 – nearer to salvation. Your salvation is nearer than when you believed, that is the future aspect of it. So we live in hope for what we don’t see. But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we eagerly wait for it.
What keeps our perseverance strong? What keeps our hope bright? It’s the ministry of the Spirit of God in us, the first fruit deposit of the Holy Spirit. He is the one leading us, He is the one confirming our adoption, the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, “Abba, Father.” He is the one testifying with our spirit that we’re the children of God. He holds us, secures us, causes us to have a persevering hope with which we wait for the return of Christ. And we wait for our own future glory. So creation groans and believers groan.
In verses 26 and 27, the Holy Spirit groans. But that’s such a great section, and I’m going to save that for next time because it leads into all things working together for good which is a familiar verse, verse 28. Such a wonderful thing to look honestly and truthfully at the ministry of the blessed Holy Spirit in our lives and get past the folly and the foolishness of childish imaginations about the blessed and marvelous, magnificent Holy Spirit. To reduce Him to some kind of a blue fog is foolishness, misrepresentation of the intention of our understandings of Him.
And I speak of that as a golden calf because it turns God into some kind of visual image. And you never want to think about the Holy Spirit in a visual way. You never want to think about God in a visual way. You’re entitled to think about Jesus Christ as a man. Salvation includes faith which looks back to the finished work of Christ, and it includes hope, which looks forward to the unfinished work of Christ. It is a faith walk and it is a hope walk as well.
Father, we thank You for our time together today and for all the wonderful music that we enjoyed and participated in, the wonderful fellowship with those around us and yet even more as we fellowship when things are over here and through the day. Thank You for the opportunity to come back again tonight for the ministry of the Word and to worship and to honor You. We thank You, blessed Holy Spirit, for all that You do in us to sanctify us and to secure us unto eternal glory. Thank You, O Christ, for the provision You made on the cross that renders this possible. And, Father, we thank You for the wondrous plan that You ordained before the world began. Thank You to our blessed Savior for sending the Spirit that He might do His sanctifying and securing work in us until that day when we are glorified in the new heaven and the new earth. We long for that reality, not only for our own sakes; we long for that reality for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who is worthy of honor for the sake of the Holy Spirit, even God the Father who deserves to be worshiped forever and ever. And that will be what heaven is, the true worship of the Trinity forever. We can’t even comprehend it, but we pray, Lord, that You will cause us to be faithful in hope to wait for that day when You will surprise us every moment of eternity with Your glory and Your goodness. Thank You for calling us, thank You for justifying us, thank You for promising to glorify us. In the name of our Savior, we pray. Amen.