Design a site like this with
Get started

VIDEO The Law-Fulfilling Power of the Holy Spirit

By John MacArthur Nov 6, 2011

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.

VIDEO The Spirit-Empowered Life of Christ

By John MacArthur Nov 20, 2011

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.

VIDEO Hope That Transcends the Groaning

John MacArthur Jan 1, 2012

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 3:1718, 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 MenTwelve 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.

VIDEO Conforming to the Glory of Christ

John MacArthur Jan 15, 2012

We’re looking at Romans chapter 8 – Romans chapter 8 and we are talking about living in the Spirit, living in the Holy Spirit.  For those of you who haven’t been with us for the previous nine weeks that we have discussed this, this is message number ten.  I don’t know about you but it’s going fast for me, and we’re having a wonderful time in the preparation of these messages.  But the goal of this and the objective of this series in Romans 8 is to help you understand the true ministry of the Holy Spirit in a time when, in the evangelical Christian world, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is misunderstood and misrepresented. 

That is largely the legacy of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, which is kind of a third force in Christianity.  There’s Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Pentecostalism.  Those are the three sort of forces and, obviously, we understand the errors in Roman Catholicism.  That’s why Protestantism exists because it was a protest against their errors.  But we haven’t made the protest yet, as we should have made the protest, against the Pentecostal aberrations of Scripture.  I’ve been endeavoring to carry on a rather small protest for many years, years ago writing a book called The Charismatics, following it up with a book called Charismatic Chaos.  Many of you have read that second book.  It’s still around even today and hopefully helping people who are caught up in that movement and its doctrinal deception. 

So what we have tried to do in this little series is to bring the Holy Spirit into the light of the Scripture and get Him out of the shadows of the Pentecostal misrepresentations.  To be able to know the truth about the Holy Spirit is to be able to worship God properly.  God is supposed to be worshiped for who He is and for what He has done in full Trinitarian expression.  We are to worship the Father truly, the Son truly, and the Spirit truly, and we are to worship in Spirit and in truth.  A right understanding of the Holy Spirit is essential. 

It is a strange paradox that the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement claims to be the movement of the Holy Spirit and it is the one most guilty of misrepresenting who He is and what He does.  It’s almost as if they think if they just keep talking about the Holy Spirit, people will be convinced that they do possess the power of the Holy Spirit when in fact we call that into question because of the doctrinal deviations that are so much a part of that movement that really define it.  And most of them have to do with the Holy Spirit, although they’re not limited to that.  There are deviations in that movement on the doctrine of Scripture, or the doctrine of divine revelation.  That is no small issue.  They are convinced that God is still revealing Himself, God is still speaking, giving visions, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, revelation to people is still going on, and that calls into question the singularity of holy Scripture and brings into our minds the warning at the end of the book of Revelation that “if anything is added to this book, shall be added to the ones who do that addition the plagues that are written in it.”  Confusing divine revelation is a serious error, and that is rampant in that movement. 

And then there’s the issue of interpretation.  How do you interpret the Scripture in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement?  It is largely a matter of not just superficial interpretation but spiritualizing it, interpreting the Bible by intuition, by experience, reading into it, we call that eisegesis, reading into the text whatever it is that you want the text to say.  There is also grave error in the issue of authority.  What has authority in the church?  Does somebody’s experience have authority?  Does somebody’s feeling have authority?  Is truth determined by existential experience?  Is truth validated by existential experience?  Is power in the person to create his own world?  Do we have the authority to speak our own world into existence, like positive confession tells us in that movement?  Can we create our own reality?  Do we have even authority over God to force God to do certain things because we have spoken them and by our faith we force Him to act on our behalf?  The issue of authority is a huge issue misrepresented in that movement. 

The issue of apostolic uniqueness is another one.  According to the Pentecostal movement, there are still apostles, there are still prophets.  Apostles still have the signs of an apostle.  There’s a new wave of so-called apostles who are supposedly able to do miracles and read people’s minds and hear revelations from God.  This calls into question the uniqueness of the apostolic ministry of those true apostles that saw the resurrected Jesus and were so designated in the New Testament. 

There are other issues that are concerning.  Externalism, more preoccupation with external phenomena than internal sanctification.  But it seems that no one area of misrepresentation is any more vast than that concerning the Holy Spirit.  So much of what goes on is supposed to be the power of the Spirit/the work of the Spirit when in fact it is not that at all. 

Against this backdrop of a dominating influence of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement in the Christian media, it’s important for us to understand the true ministry of the Holy Spirit.  And apart from that, as believers who desire to worship the Lord, we want to understand who it is we worship and why we worship Him, and that goes for the Holy Spirit as well.  I think most all of us have an understanding of God, the nature of God, the glory of God, we worship God, we know His attributes.  We all have an understanding of Christ, the person, the work of Christ, what He’s done, we celebrate that.  But there’s so much more confusion and cloudiness about the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  As I told you, I guess it was a week ago about the book supposedly written by a four-year-old about his trip to heaven who came back to report that the Holy Spirit is a transparent, blue fog and that book sold five million copies in nine months.  There is such confusion about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  If we get to the Scriptures, we can see clearly the Holy Spirit identified for us and His ministry delineated. 

That’s what we’re endeavoring to do by looking at Romans chapter 8, so you can turn to Romans 8, if you’re not already there.  It isn’t that Romans 8 is sort of the only location for this instruction – in fact, it’s all over the Scripture – but this is a great sort of focal point because so much is said here.  You almost have all of those things that are important about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life sort of pulled together in this one great chapter, which I like to call the Holy Spirit’s own chapter – the Holy Spirit’s own chapter. 

The error that launched the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement in 1901 was a misrepresentation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  They invented something they called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which has nothing to do with the true work of Christ – baptizing by means of the Holy Spirit every believer at the point of saving faith into the body of Christ, that’s what the New Testament teaches – but they came up with the idea that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is an event.  It’s a repeatable event that happens after your salvation, you seek it, you try to find it, and when you get it, you know you get it because you speak in gibberish and you have more power and you’re elevated to a higher level of spiritual power. 

In fact, if you get a big enough dose of this supposed baptism of the Holy Spirit, you can enter into what they call Christian perfectionism where you don’t sin willfully.  You may make mistakes unintentionally, but you don’t intentionally sin.  This is a complete misrepresentation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is a simple description of the work of Christ placing you at the point of your salvation into the body of Christ, the church, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  That’s once at the time of salvation for every believer and never repeatable and never to be sought. 

But again, the whole movement starts with this aberrant view and then goes on to other aberrant views as well.  We don’t want to get stuck in that movement, we want to get out of it, but I only play off of it because I want you to understand that this is a huge, huge movement.  I told you that as of now, a hundred years after it starts, they are supposedly – and this is statistics that I saw just in the last few days – there are about a half a billion people who claim to be a part of this movement.  That is a very amazing growth for this aberrant movement. 

So we’ve been looking at Romans chapter 8, getting in touch with the true and genuine ministry of the Holy Spirit.  And I encourage you that these are all available to you.  You can download them on the website if you want to get the series or you can order them from Grace To You on CD;, it’s all available there. 

We come now to Romans 8:26-30 – Romans 8:26-30.  We’ve been looking at verses 26, 27, and 28.  We’re going to pick it up there again.  Let me read the section to you so you have it in mind:  “In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we should but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is because He intercedes for the saints according to the Will of God.  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.  And these whom He predestined He also called, and these whom He called He also justified, and these whom He justified He also glorified.” 

This particular portion of Scripture, you might even say is the summation and foundation in some ways of all that we understand about Reformed theology.  You might say that Calvinism could basically be birthed out of this portion of Scripture.  All of the components that we’ve come to understand as biblical with regard to salvation, foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, glorification are all mentioned here.  And, of course, they’re not obscure and it is not oblique and it is not hard to understand.  It is a very clear word of Scripture. 

When we are into this particular section of Romans 8, we are looking at this ministry of the Holy Spirit.  He guarantees our future glory.  All right?  We’ve already seen previously in this chapter other things that He does.  He frees us from death, from judgment.  He enables us to keep the law, fulfill the law, to behave in a righteous way.  He changes our nature.  He adopts us as sons into the family of God.  And then when we came down starting in verse 17, really, we began to hear about being glorified.  And from verse 17 to verse 30, the whole section is about how the Holy Spirit secures us for eternal glory – secures us for eternal glory.  This is the greatest of all blessings. 

We read Ephesians 1, “We are blessed with all blessings in the heavenlies.”  Well, in my list of all the blessings, this security is at the top.  To be blessed with a salvation that cannot be revoked, that cannot fail, is the greatest of all blessings.  And that means, as Ephesians 1:12 put it, that we hope in Christ – we hope in Christ.  That’s where our hope is.  And the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit of promise – verse 13, Ephesians 1 – given to us as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession to the praise of His glory.  The Holy Spirit is the down payment, the guarantee, the engagement ring, God’s first installment on our future glory.  The gift of the Holy Spirit is a gift of protection.  Peter said, “We are kept by the power of God unto glory, to receive our inheritance.”  The power of God that keeps us is not impersonal.  The power of God that keeps us is none other than the Holy Spirit.  This is the greatest of all blessings in our salvation. 

Having said that, listen to this quote.  This is a quote from a well-known leader in the Pentecostal movement.  He says this, quote:  “The greatest deception which has been devised by Satan is the false doctrine of once saved, always saved.”  That’s a pretty serious accusation.  The greatest deception devised by Satan is that salvation is permanent?  Is that a satanic deception?  That is at the foundation of their theology.  It is a profound lie to say that the doctrine of the security of the believer is a satanic deception, that Christian believers can lose their salvation.  And in this chapter and in the very section that is in front of us, I’m going to show you the absolute, inviolable, incontrovertible, non-contradictable proof that your salvation is forever. 

When I think about people who sit in those kinds of environments, looking for the next external phenomena to bolster their fears and their doubts, it’s a sad experience for me.  People in that situation live in needless fear, fear that they’re going to defect, fear that they’re going to lose their salvation.  And so they have to ask questions like this:  How do I keep myself saved?  How do I hang on?  And the very asking of those kinds of questions assumes a power for the human will that the human will doesn’t have.  If it’s up to you to hang on, it’s not going to happen.  It’s up to you to keep yourself saved, it’s not going to happen.  These dear folks live in fear, needless fear, for the loss of a salvation that is forever.  It insults the Holy Spirit whose ministry it is to secure Christian believers through grace to glory.  People in that movement live with discomfort, dread, doubt, fear.  That’s why they look for external phenomena, to bolster their weak faith and to eliminate their fear. 

Let’s start in verse 28 because we’ve already looked at verses 26 and 27.  But in verse 28 it says, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good,” and that good, I told you last time, is our eternal good, our eternal glory.  “God causes all things to work for our eternal glory to those who love God,” that being a designation of true believers, “to those who are called according to His purpose.”  That verse is very, very important.  All things, God causes to synergize – that’s the verb, synergize – for our eternal good.  That means nothing can produce a negative outcome.  Everything – good things, bad things, and indifferent things – God works together for our eternal good. 

Why?  Why does He do that?  And this is the key, and I want you to get that if nothing else this morning, and I’m going to come around this point a lot.  The reason that happens is because that’s His purpose.  End of the verse:  God causes all things to work together for good, our eternal good, to those of us who love God – not for people who don’t; that’s a designation of true believers – to those who are loving God because they’ve been called to do so.  This all works out because that’s according to His purpose.  Salvation is what God purposed it to be.  Can we start there?  Salvation is what God purposed it to be, what He planned it to be based upon His own intention.  We are secure because that’s how God designed salvation.  Whatever it is at the end will match exactly what it was at the beginning.  Whatever God intended for His salvation plan to be is what it will be. 

There are no variables in this.  There are no loose ends in this.  That is why Jesus says in John 6, “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me, and him that comes to Me I will not turn away, and all that the Father gives to me will come to Me, and I will lose none of them, but raise them at the last day.”  There’s no loss here.  Whatever God purposes to happen is going to happen.  So the end of salvation will be determined from the beginning of it.  Let me show you this in a very important portion of Scripture that you should be familiar with.  It’s in the 46th chapter of Isaiah, back into the Old Testament and the 46th chapter of Isaiah.  Early in my study of the Word of God and endeavoring to understand all of these truths, this particular portion of Scripture really came across as a powerful and convincing statement with regard to the nature of salvation and the purpose of God.  It was really a life-changing portion of Scripture to me. 

Verse 9 of Isaiah 46.  And God, of course, is comparing Himself here to the idols of Babylon.  “Remember the former things long passed, for I am God and there is no other.  I am God and there is no one like Me.”  That’s monotheism, there is only one God.  And here’s what distinguishes God as God in this passage, “Declaring the end from the beginning.”  In other words, that statement means that at the beginning, God can tell you exactly what the ending is going to be.  That is God’s omniscience, and His omniscience stretches through all the way to the end. 

It doesn’t matter whether things have happened or not happened.  It doesn’t matter whether they can be historically recorded or not recorded.  It doesn’t matter whether anybody has known them or experienced them, they are known to God.  God knows what hasn’t happened as well as He knows what has happened.  God knows the future as well as He knows the past.  He knows the future as perfectly as He knows the past.  There is nothing He doesn’t know.  The fact that it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean that He doesn’t know it’s going to happen.  I’ll even go a step further.  Not only does God know what’s going to happen, He determines what’s going to happen.  He determines the end at the beginning.  So whatever God’s determined end was for salvation is indeed what that end will be. 

Keep reading there.  Verse 10 says, “Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not yet been done saying”  – here’s the key – ‘My purpose will be established and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’”  That is God’s own declaration of the absolute determination that He has, to do what He plans to do.  At the end of verse 11, “Truly I have spoken, truly I will bring it to pass.  I have planned it, surely I will do it.”  Take that and apply it to salvation.  Whatever God planned is what will be done.  And what did God plan?  What did He plan?  What is the purpose of salvation?  Well, before I answer that question, I want to go back and seal your understanding of this concept of the purpose of God – the purpose of God.  That’s critical for us to understand. 

We’re going to talk about the purpose of God in salvation this morning, and then next Sunday we’re going to talk about the process of God in bringing that purpose to pass.  So the purpose today, the process next time. 

Let’s go back to Ephesians 1 for a moment, and I read that because of its connection.  Ephesians chapter 1.  And I just want you to draw out of that wonderful passage that you have in your mind now because I read it that you’re dealing here with this whole story of salvation.  You’ve got adoption and you’ve got grace and redemption and the blood of Christ and the forgiveness of sins – all of those things that we know to be connected to salvation – but I want you to understand what is driving this is a divine plan. 

Verse 4:  “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.”  What did He choose us for?  What was His purpose?  “That we would be holy and blameless before Him.”  That isn’t going to happen in this life, is it?  That is not going to happen.  Oh, I know the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us in this life as we live through this period of grace, but the end goal of predestination was a holy people standing before Christ.  So “He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ according to the kind intention of His Will.”  It all starts with His Will.  But notice verse 6.  Where is this going?  “To the praise of the glory” – of His what? – “of His grace.”  So the goal of salvation is to save people by grace, keep them by grace, bring them to glory, so that forever and ever and ever He can put His grace in their behalf on display. 

And even the angels will be the objective of that.  Paul talks about the angels looking into the glory of the gospel because they’ve never experienced grace.  If there weren’t sinners being redeemed by grace, then that aspect of God’s nature would never be put on display.  And so for the praise of the glory of God, for the praise of the glory of His grace, He redeems sinners and brings them into His eternal presence to put His grace forever on display.  That’s His will.  That’s the kind intention of His will.  It’s kind because we get to be the beneficiaries of it.  It’s kind toward us, but it’s intended for His praise, the glory of His grace. 

Further, verse 7:  We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, the riches of His grace are lavished on us, all of these kinds of things.  Why is He doing this?  Verse 11:  We have an inheritance, we’ve been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His Will.”  He had a purpose.  He predestined us to that purpose.  He works everything according to that purpose, according to His Will – verse 12 – “to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.”  In other words, the end is that all the people He predestined will be saved and will be glorified and will be forever to the praise of the glory of His grace.  That’s His purpose, that’s His intention, that’s His plan, and that’s exactly what He’s doing.  And He gave us a guarantee.  Verse 13, the end of the verse, we were sealed in Christ, sealed, protected, with the Holy Spirit of promise who is the pledge of our inheritance, the guarantee, “with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession” – which we are, again – “to the praise of His glory.” 

If you don’t understand the concept of the security of the believer in the bigger context of the divine power of God and the purpose of God and the omniscience of God, you will not get the grasp that you need to have of this massive cosmic reality. 

In the 6th chapter of Hebrews, there is another very compelling testimony given to the security that we possess because of the purpose of God.  In Hebrews chapter 6 and verse 17 – by the way, earlier in chapter 6, talking about people who fell away from the truth, who were not true believers who fell away even though they were exposed to all revelation, they are worthless, cursed, burned, verse 8 says.  But then turns the table and begins to talk to believers in verse 9, “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you.”  And speaking of us, drop down to verse 17, “In the same way, God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath.” 

This is amazing.  God wanted to show the heirs of the promise the promise of God for eternal glory.  We are the heirs waiting for the full inheritance.  He wanted to show us the unchangeableness of His purpose.  It’s not going to change.  Whatever He purposed, He will do.  “He interposed with an oath so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”  What are the two things?  A promise and an oath.  God promised and then He swore to be faithful on His promise.  And by those two unchangeable things, God declares the unchangeableness of His purpose, and as a result, He who cannot lie has allowed us to take refuge with strong encouragement, gripping tightly the hope that is set before us.  This hope, verse 19 says, is an anchor of the soul. 

I don’t know how people live under teaching that threatens them with the loss of their salvation.  We have an anchor that is literally all the way – the next two verses say in Hebrews 6 – all the way in the Holy of Holies, all the way in the veil connected to Christ.  We have an unchangeable God who has made unchangeable promises and then He added an oath on top of a promise so that by two unchangeable realities, the God who cannot lie has pledged to us the promise of eternal glory and thus He has given to us the hope that is secure.  And we are kept secure by the intercession of the Son of God at the right hand of God and by the ongoing intercession of the Spirit in us, verses 26 and 27, by which the Spirit continually prays according to the Will of God and thus we are secured, first of all, by the promise of God; secondly, by the priestly work of Christ; and thirdly by the intercession of the blessed Holy Spirit in a personal way for us. 

Your salvation is eternal because that’s the way God designed it.  That’s the way He planned it, and that’s the way it will occur.  Everything works, then, together for our good because that’s consistent with the purpose of God.  So what is the purpose of God in our salvation?  What is it?  Well, you say, “To get us into heaven.”  Well, that’s a little short of the real purpose.  I mean that’s on the way to getting there.  I think so many people think it’s just a matter of trying to get there, just get to heaven and hope, you know, when they pass out the harps you get, you know, at least a small one to play and, you know, like a small cloud to sit on and you can pluck away forever in a perfect environment.  That’s a long way from grasping the realities of heaven.  That’s part of the foolishness that comes out of these books that are written by people who take trips to heaven. 

I’m on the brink of writing another book, and it’s going to be on do-you-want-to-know-the-truth-about-heaven because when you compare all these crazy stories about people who went to heaven, none of them agree.  So wherever they’re going, it isn’t heaven or they would all agree because heaven is what heaven is and it’s not what all these people say who all disagree.  The truth is in the Word of God.  And when you do go to heaven, what is going to be the goal?  What is going to be the objective? 

I want you to see this, so let’s go back to Romans 8 and just in a few minutes here, look at the purpose – the purpose.  God’s purpose will be fulfilled, that’s the point we’ve been making, the fact of His purpose, the fact of His purpose is established before the foundation of the world.  He predetermined it and that’s how it’ll turn out.  Whatever He plans is the way it will be.  The end will be the same as the beginning.  But what is this goal?  What is the objective?  Why is God working all things to get us into eternal glory?  Why is that His purpose?  Why have we been called to that end?  Why have we been foreknown, predestined?  Here’s the answer, middle of verse 29, here’s the secondary goal, the secondary objective:  That we would become conformed to the image of His Son.  That we would become conformed to the image of His Son – did you hear that?  That we would become conformed to the image of His Son. 

In the book by the little four-year-old, he says, “Heaven is just full of children running all over everywhere.”  Really?  Heaven is just full of children running all over everywhere?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think so.  Whoever is in heaven is conformed to whose image?  Christ.  Full, glorified manhood, womanhood, humanity.  This is the secondary goal of salvation, that we would become conformed to the image of His Son.  That’s the purpose.  What does that mean, that we would be like Christ?  It doesn’t mean you look like Him in terms of facial features.  What it does mean is that as much as glorified humanity can be like incarnate deity, we’ll be like Him.  Philippians 3:20-21 says we’ll have a body like unto His glorious body, right?  First John 3:1 and 2, we’ll be like Him, for we see Him as He is.  That is the prize of the upward call.  Philippians 3:  “I press toward the mark for the prize of the upper call.”  What is the prize of the upper call?  Christlikeness. 

Now, right now, the Holy Spirit is conforming us, isn’t He?  From one level of glory to the next.  We’ve been working through that.  Shaping us into the image of Christ as we gaze at His glory in the Scripture.  As Christ becomes more glorious to us, as we know more about Him, the Spirit literally shapes us into His image, but that won’t be complete, that won’t be perfect until we are raised and the redemption of our body takes place as mentioned earlier in the chapter.  But when we do get to heaven, the goal is that we would be conformed – the verb means to bring into the same form, just exactly what it says – to bring into the same form as the image of Christ.  Image is eikn from which we get icon.  It’s used four times in the New Testament with similar reference to Jesus Christ.  It is the verse used – the word used in 2 Corinthians 3:18, that we would be conformed in His image from one level of glory to the next.  It’s used again in chapter 4, speaking again of the form of Christ.  Colossians 1, Colossians 3, this form is a derived form, not an accidental or an incidental form.  In other words, it isn’t oops – He showed up to look a lot like Jesus, as some coincidental similarities might occur in human life.  This is a derived form.  Literally, we are brought into the same form intentionally.  And again it doesn’t mean that we will all have the same exact physical features as Christ, but it means we will essentially be what He is and that is perfect, mature, righteous, holy, pure humanity. 

And remember, we talked about this, didn’t we?  That Christ becomes the model for us.  He is the perfect human.  He shows us what perfect purity, perfect holiness, perfect righteousness looks like.  He’s the standard.  He was in the form of God, He then took on the form of man.  He came into the world, yes, to validate God’s plan by providing a sacrifice for sin.  But He also came to demonstrate God’s plan.  So when you think about heaven, think about Christ and think about the fact that everything you see to be true about Christ will be true about you.  That’s a longshot, wouldn’t you think?  That’s a stretch.  But essentially He shows us what perfect humanity looks like, what absolutely holy, righteous humanity is.  And the purpose of God was to conform us to that image.  It’s not about incidental things, it’s about being like Christ.  Being like Christ.  As we gaze at Him, the Holy Spirit little by little shapes us into His image – little by little.  Paul says, “Not as though I have attained” – Philippians 3 – “but I press toward the mark.”  But one day, we will be like Him. 

That is the secondary purpose of God – that is the secondary purpose of God.  What’s the primary purpose?  Keep reading.  Back to verse 29.  The primary purpose is so that He – the secondary purpose is so that you would be conformed to His Son; the primary purpose is so that He, His Son, would be the firstborn among many brethren.  Now, you say, “Well, that doesn’t sound too important, firstborn among many brethren.  That sounds kind of mundane.”  That’s because you don’t understand the word “firstborn.”  And in some ways, I wish that was not the way they translated this because prtotokos means so much more than what is assumed when you see that, like the first child born in a family.  That’s kind of how we handle it in our culture because we don’t do like the ancients do, we don’t give special merit typically to the firstborn son in a family as the primary child. 

You know, hey, we were raised in a democracy where everything is supposed to be equal, and, you know, we divvy up everything equal to the kids.  In ancient times, when you passed the estate on, you passed it on to the most mature child, which would be the firstborn son, the one who had the strength and the abilities to manage the family estate and he’d take all the assets and everything, the liabilities that they had, and make sense out of it all and continue the family estate and care for all the extended family that would be a part of that in those ancient cultures.  So you gave it to the firstborn, the one who had the most experience, who had the most maturity, who had the age, he was considered to be the premier one.  That’s kind of where that word comes from, but it means so much more than that. 

The word firstborn, I would love to just have you think of it as the preeminent one – the preeminent one – so that you would read it to say that He might be preeminent among many brethren.  You know, it’s amazing that in Hebrews chapter 2, the Lord is not ashamed to call us His brothers, believers.  We’ve been adopted into the family of God.  We are sons of the family.  We are brothers to Christ, in a sense.  We are partakers in the divine nature – however a glorified humanity can be like incarnate deity, that we will have, that we will experience.  I don’t know the essence of all of that, but I do know that the reality of it is holiness, absolute perfect holiness, purity, righteousness. 

So that will be ours, and there’s no reluctance on the part of God to give that to us, to give His own righteousness to us.  He’s already imputed it to our accounts in justification, and it’ll be a reality in glorification.  He’s not reluctant to give us that, in a sense, to share His glory with us ultimately.  In fact, He will conform us to the image of His Son so that we will actually reflect the Son’s glory.  But in the end, though we are brothers, Christ will be the prtotokos.  He will be the preeminent one.  That, dear friend, is the goal of salvation.  The goal of the mission of God in the world is to create a preeminence for His Son, the Son of His love, the beloved one, in an eternal heaven where He will forever be exalted by those who love Him and adore Him.  You say, “Well, the angels could have done that.”  Not from the vantage point of grace.  Not from the vantage point of mercy.  And He cannot put on display forever the praise of the glory of His grace unless He creates man, redeems sinners, takes them to heaven. 

In the end, and I’ve said this through the years, the whole purpose of salvation was that the Father loved the Son so perfectly, so infinitely, so gloriously, so majestically – so perfectly that He had to demonstrate that love.  And how was the Father going to demonstrate His love to the Son?  He was going to give Him a vast glorified corps of saints who forever and ever and ever would praise Him and honor Him.  That’s why He did this.  It’s secondary that you are conformed to His image.  It’s primary that because you’re now conformed to His image, you can glorify Him forever.  The preeminence of Christ is everything.  That’s why Philippians 2 says He gave Him a name that’s above every name; that at the name of Jesus, every knee bows. 

In Colossians 1, there is a statement – it really starts in verse 15:& nbsp; “He is the image of the invisible God, He is the prtotokos of all creation – the firstborn of all creation.”  Well, He’s not the first person created.  You had all the people created before Jesus was created, the eternal Son, of course, never was created but the man Jesus was created in the womb of Mary.  He’s not the firstborn chronologically of all creation, but of all that have ever been created, He’s the prtotokos, He’s the premier one.  He’s the preeminent one, that’s what it means.  And to go on to define that, He is the prtotokos of all creation, for by Him all things were created in heaven and earth, visible, invisible, thrones, dominions, rulers, authorities, all things have been created through Him and for Him, He’s before all things.  In Him, all things hold together.  He’s the head of the church.  He is the beginning.  He is the prtotokos of the dead; that is, of all that have ever been raised from the dead, He is the premier and preeminent one.  He therefore has Himself first place in everything. 

And then this:  “For it was the Father’s good pleasure.”  What did God want?  It was His pleasure to honor His Son.  It was His pleasure to bring that about by redeeming sinners who would constitute an eternal corps of people who would honor His Son, glorify His Son, serve His Son, and even reflect the very glory of His Son.  That was His purpose.  His purpose was not to get people halfway to heaven and have them fall off and go to hell.  His purpose was not to save them for a while.  His purpose was not to bring the gospel to them, hope they believe, and hope they could hang on.  His purpose was to create a redeemed humanity of saints who came to heaven by grace who would forever and ever and ever praise the One who died to make that possible:  the Son of God. 

God gives us joy, peace, heaven, but not just for us.  We’re the secondary purpose.  But the apex of the divine purpose is that so all of us who are there forever can glorify His Son.  Christ is the central focal point in the history of redemption.  He is eternally to be glorified and honored.  Purpose of salvation then is Christ.  It’s the Father’s love for the Son.  I’ve often put it this way:  The Father set out in redemption to find a bride for His Son.  That’s why heaven is called the bridal city, the New Jerusalem, right?  Adorned as a bride.  That’s why the church is called the bride of Christ and He’s the bridegroom.  The whole of redemptive history is the Father finding a submissive, loving bride for His Son who will praise and honor Him forever and ever and ever.  That’s the purpose of God and that’s what He’s doing. 

Back to Isaiah 46, “I plan it, I do it.”  And then back to John 6, Jesus said, “All the Father gives Me will come to Me, I will lose none of them.  Raise them up in the last day.”  Consequently, “Whomever God foreknew” – verse 29 – “He predestined and He predestined them to become conformed to the image of His Son so that His Son would be the preeminent one among many brethren.”  And then the process:  He predestined, He called, He justified, He glorified.  There’s no loss.  Whomever He predestined, He called.  Whomever He called, He justified.  Whomever He justified, He glorified. 

And by the way, verse 31:  “If God is for us” – what?  If this is the plan, do you think somebody is going to mess it up?  So rejoice in your security, rejoice in the intercessory work of Christ at the throne of God on your behalf, rejoice in the ongoing intercessory work of the Spirit in your heart, rejoice in the magnanimous, gracious, wondrous purpose of God, which will come to pass.  Now, some of you are looking at those words, “foreknowledge,” “predestination,” “calling,” and wondering, “How does that all work?”  So that’s next Sunday.  Okay?  That’s next Sunday. 

Now, I’m going to pray in just a minute, but we’re going to keep doing what we did last week.  I’m going to pray and then I want you to just sit quietly, don’t leave, and as I said last week, this is a time for meditation.  This is a time for you to think about what was said.  You know, we get kind of in a habit around here of hurrying off to the next event.  I want you to just sit quietly while Jan plays the organ for a little while and think about the things that you’ve heard.  And then as it gets loud, you’ll know you can move on to fellowship.  And before I close in a word of prayer, just a reminder, tonight is time around the Lord’s Table, and what a wonderful time that is going to be.  It’s just going to be a time of celebrating the cross and coming before the Lord at His table.  So be with us at 6:00 tonight.  And know this:  The prayer room is open to my right for any of you who have any spiritual needs.  We’d love for you to come.  There are folks there who would desire to speak with you.

Now, Father, we are so grateful for time this morning to try to talk about these things.  I feel so weak and so feeble and so incapable of even beginning to express the grandeur and the greatness of these truths.  This preacher is ill-equipped to grasp the infinite majesty of these realities.  We can only pray, Lord, that somehow our humble words, our feeble efforts can be enhanced and enriched by, again, the wonderful teacher that resides in us, the anointing we have from God, the Holy Spirit Himself, to take us down even deeper into the glories of these redemptive realities.  Thank You for the folks who are here who are rejoicing in a true salvation that is forever, who are living in a confident hope, whose hope is anchored, their souls are anchored, because their salvation is real.  Lord, there will be some people here who don’t have the confidence that they have a true salvation, who are struggling, maybe some people who know they don’t have a salvation, they have no hope, they are hopeless without God in the world, and headed for judgment.  I pray, Lord, that they would turn to Christ and to the promise of eternal life in Him.  And there are others who have doubt, questions, wondering whether they’re really saved or not.  I pray, Lord, that You will draw them genuinely and savingly to Christ and that You will give them that true hope.  May the Spirit witness with their spirit that they are truly the children of God.  Thank You for all that You have deposited in our minds today, and may it go from our minds to our hearts that it might come forth in worship and obedience.  We pray in Christ’s name.  Amen.

VIDEO The Modern Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

By John MacArthur Oct 23, 2011

Well, now that I don’t have to preach on anything but what I want to preach on, since I finished the New Testament, I find myself all over the place, trying to decide what to preach on in sequence.  It’s a new kind of experience for me and I’m working on some kind of sequence that makes sense over the future.  But I am sort of at the liberty point of my life where whatever is on my heart is where I can go, and this is a wonderful opportunity for me.  And there is a subject that has concerned me for a long time, and I have wanted to address this subject, but it hasn’t been a part of the preaching through the gospels in the way that it can be now and that is the subject of the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit. 

After all the emphasis of so many years, 25 years of preaching through the four gospels, and much emphasis, of course, on the person of Christ, as it should be, much emphasis on the character of God and the nature of God as manifest in Christ and is seen elsewhere in Scripture, it is time now to give honor to the third member of the Trinity; namely, the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the most forgotten, the most misrepresented, the most dishonored, the most grieved, the most abused, and I might even say the most blasphemed of the members of the Trinity.  That’s a sad thing. 

When our Lord cleansed the temple in John 2, He said that He was, in a sense, fulfilling the attitude of David from Psalm 69:  “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up, the reproaches that fall on you are fallen on Me.”  And what our Lord was saying was, “When God is dishonored, I feel the pain.”  “You have taken My Father’s house, which is to be a house of prayer, and turned it into a den of robbers.  You’ve corrupted My Father’s house.  You’ve blasphemed My Father’s name.  You’ve dishonored My Father.”  And I can say that I have long felt that same thing with regard to the Holy Spirit.  Yes, I grieve when God is dishonored.  It is a constant grief to me.  I grieve when Christ is dishonored. 

But in this contemporary sort of Christian evangelical church world, people are a little less reluctant to bring dishonor on the name of God and the name of Christ, but they think they have a free run at dishonoring and abusing the Holy Spirit, apparently, because so much of that goes on.  I’m not here to defend the Holy Spirit; He can defend Himself.  But I am here to say that reproaches that are falling on His holy name are falling on me as well, and mostly this comes in the professing church from Pentecostals and Charismatics who feel they have free license to abuse the Holy Spirit and even blaspheme His holy name – and they do it constantly. 

How do they do it?  By attributing to the Holy Spirit words that He didn’t say, deeds that He didn’t do, and experiences that He didn’t produce, attributing to the Holy Spirit that which is not the work of the Holy Spirit.  Endless human experiences, emotional experiences, bizarre experiences, and demonic experiences are said to come from the Holy Spirit.  Visions, revelations, voices from heaven, messages from the Spirit through transcendental means, dreams, speaking in tongues, prophecies, out-of-body experiences, trip to heaven, anointings, miracles – all false, all lies, all deceptions – attributed falsely to the Holy Spirit. 

You know enough to know that God does not want to be worshiped in illegitimate ways.  God wants to be worshiped for who He is, for what He has done in the way He has declared.  It is open season on abusing the Holy Spirit, outrageous dishonor of the Holy Spirit, claiming He is saying things and doing things and generating things that have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit at all.  It is a reckless kind of movement.  It is a shameful and dangerous sin to heap such abuse on the Holy Spirit.  In fact, the idea of bringing dishonor on the Holy Spirit ought to make any thinking person tremble.  People seem less interested, I think, in claiming that God is doing certain things or saying certain things or that Christ is doing things or saying certain things than they are at saying the Holy Spirit did this, the Holy Spirit said this, the Holy Spirit is producing and generating this, that there just seems to be no restraint on the things that are blamed on the Holy Spirit. 

A way to perceive this would be to see it as a contrast to what we see in Matthew chapter 12, for example.  The leaders of Israel committed the unpardonable sin, and what was that unpardonable sin?  It was attributing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit.  Remember that?  It was attributing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 12:31-32.  What’s going on today is the opposite.  Attributing to the Holy Spirit the work of Satan.  That’s what’s going on.  Attributing to the Holy Spirit the work of Satan.  Satan is alive and at work in deception, false miracles, bad theology, lying visions, lying dreams, lying revelations, deceptive teachers who are in it for the money and power and influence.  Satan is alive and well, and the work of Satan is being attributed to the Holy Spirit.  That is a serious blasphemy, just as attributing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit is a serious blasphemy. 

I couldn’t even begin to give you all the illustrations.  You have enough of them in your own mind.  You can turn on your television and see any litany of them that you would choose.  And in order to give credibility to all these things, all these lies, they attach them to the Holy Spirit as if it’s a freebie, as if there’s no price to pay for that kind of blasphemy. 

The latest wave of this – I’ll just give you one illustration.  The latest wave of this that is gaining traction and has entered into sort of national news is a new form of Charismania, bringing reproach on the Holy Spirit called the New Apostolic Reformation, NAR, the New Apostolic Reformation.  It is not new, it is not apostolic, and it is not a reformation, by the way.  It is like Grape Nuts – it’s not grapes and it’s not nuts.  It’s like Christian Science – it’s not Christian and it’s not scientific.  Well, the New Apostolic Reformation isn’t new, it isn’t apostolic, and it isn’t a reformation.  But it is a rapidly expanding movement being generated by some of the same old troubling false teachers and false leaders that have been around in Charismania for decades, always dishonoring the Holy Spirit, always dishonoring the Scripture, always claiming miracle signs, wonders, visions, dreams.  Peter Wagner, the Kansas City “Prophets,” Mike Bickle, Cindy Jacobs, Lou Engle, and on and on and on it goes. 

In fact, this is exploding so fast that they have a 50-state network that are now involved in this.  This is a new kind of Charismania, it’s sort of on steroids.  One writer said it’s Charismania with shots of adrenalin.  And here’s what their basic claim is:  that the Holy Spirit has revealed to them that in the year 2001, we entered into the second apostolic age – in the year 2001 we entered into the second apostolic age.  What does that mean?  It means that the long-lost offices of New Testament prophet and New Testament apostle have been restored, the Holy Spirit has given the power of prophecy and the power and authority of an apostle to certain people in this generation of the church since 2001.  It seems very odd to me that the Holy Spirit would give that to people whose theology is unbiblical and totally aberrant.  I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit wouldn’t authenticate false teachers, so we know it’s not the Holy Spirit, but that’s what they claim.  But the Holy Spirit gets blamed for everything; this is just the newest one. 

For example, they have authority equal to the apostles, they have the same power the apostles had through the Holy Spirit to do miracles and to exercise that power, and they’ve had it since 2001.  Some of them fall into the prophet category, some of them fall into the apostle category.  They speak what the Holy Spirit reveals to them with the same authority the apostles have.  This authority and this power has been demonstrated in the world because one of the apostles stopped mad cow disease in Germany – so he claims.  The movement is marked by super-excess ecstatic, bizarre behavior.  Emotionalism ran amok, all kinds of crazy revelations, behaviors.  Peter Wagner is the father of this, as he has been involved in all kinds of other aberrations through the years, including starting the Church Growth Movement, which gave life to the Pragmatism movement, which, as we know, is so ubiquitous.  Their influence has been growing and recently jumped into the political realm, and I’ll tell you how. 

There was a couple of weeks ago, a few weeks ago now, a prayer breakfast in the city of Houston that you may have read about.  It was an event sponsored by the New Apostolic Reformation and their leaders and the guests, and the main speaker there was Rick Perry, who is a candidate for the Republican Party for President.  At this event, sponsored by the New Apostolic Reformation, two pastors were leading in this event.  They are apostles.  They have been given apostleship by the Holy Spirit.  They called Rick Perry’s office, as governor of the state of Texas, and told him that the Lord had revealed to them through the Holy Spirit that Texas is the state that God has chosen to lead the United States into revival and godly government and Rick Perry is to play a key role.  And at that event, these two apostles of the New Apostolic Reformation Movement laid hands on Rick Perry and prayed over him.  They claim that God speaks directly to them specific instruction – specific instruction.  And if people fail to listen to this divine revelation that comes through them, there will be more earthquakes, more terrorist attacks, and worse economic conditions. 

However, if we listen, good things will happen because they gave us an illustration of that because they were the ones who gave a little bit of rain to Texas after the draught.  I mean if you didn’t know better, you’d think somebody opened the back door of the nut house.  One of these apostles says the Democratic Party is controlled by Jezebel and three lesser demons.  They see demons in public places.  They engage in confrontation of these demons and they do it with elaborate rituals, branding irons, stakes, and plumb lines.  They’ve gone all over the state of Texas pounding stakes into the ground, branding certain things and claiming every county in Texas for God.  One of them says, and I quote, “We are called to world dominion.”  They have gone to every Masonic Lodge in Texas to cast out the demon Baal because the demon Baal controls Free M asonry. 

They had a meeting in 2009 in Houston.  Under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, Jezebel was visible.  They saw Jezebel.  Actually, a woman named Alice Patterson, one of these apostles who has written a book called Bridging The Racial and Political Divide, which sounds like a political book, published in 2010, she said that she saw Jezebel, and Jezebel lifted up her skirt, and when Jezebel lifted up her skirt – this is a quote – “She exposed little Baal, Asherah, and a few other demons who were small, cowering, trembling little spirits only ankle high on Jezebel’s skinny legs,” end quote.  This is in a book called Bridging the Racial and Political Divide, and this is all attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit who is revealing all these things. 

Now, you know where this all comes from.  This is again attributing to the Holy Spirit the work of Satan.  I don’t know what Rick Perry knows or doesn’t know about all of this.  You know, in a campaign year, you take prayers from anybody, especially if you’re not sure what this is all about.  But this is just one illustration of the aberrations that continue to be placed on the back of the Holy Spirit as if these are things that He is doing.  It is such a frightening, frightening form of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  There are other forms of it, but that’s just the latest one that’s in the media. 

I remember in the early years of ministry when I came out of seminary, for many years I traveled around when I graduated, even when I was in seminary.  Graduated from college and during my seminary years and for a number of years afterwards, I traveled around and I spoke to young people’s groups and college groups and all kinds of different groups and student ministries and ministries in churches, and inevitably, one of the themes that everybody wanted me to talk about was the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  It was constant.  I was constantly talking about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Everybody was asking about sanctification.  How do I get rid of sin in my life?  How do I progress spiritually?  How do I grow more to be like Jesus Christ?  How do I separate from the world?  How do I gain victory over temptation?  What is the path?  How can I manifest the fruit of the Spirit?  How can I walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh?  I mean they were – that’s just plain old New Testament sanctification, and young people were asking those questions.  It was constant. 

I would be in conference after conference on campuses and in various places, talking to students, and inevitably the subject would be:  How can I be sanctified?  How can I become more like Christ?  How can I beat sin in my life?  How can I grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ?  What does it mean to be Spirit-filled?  What does it mean to be baptized by the Spirit?  Sealed by the Spirit?  Indwelt by the Spirit?  What is the role the Spirit plays in my life? 

I’m not asked to do that anymore.  That doesn’t seem to ever be a topic of conversation.  That doesn’t seem to be a subject anybody cares about.  The Charismatic movement has stolen the Holy Spirit and created a golden calf, and they’re dancing around the golden calf as if it were the Holy Spirit.  It is a false form of the Holy Spirit.  They’ve exploited the Holy Spirit and demanded to be able to do that in an uncriticized manner.  Nobody can say anything against them.  That’s divisive, unloving, cantankerous.  That’s why Benny Hinn said about me, “If I had my way, I’d take my Holy Ghost machine gun and blow his brains out.”  You’re not allowed to question anything they say about the Holy Spirit.  They have coopted the Holy Spirit and demanded to do that without being criticized, without being confronted, and they go on with their exploitation and so proved testimony concerning the Holy Spirit is pushed and repressed underground because it’s going to be divisive, they’re not going to like it, it’ll offend somebody. 

So the Charismatic version of the Holy Spirit is that golden calf who is not God.  Not God, the Holy Spirit, but a false creation, an idol around which they dance in their dishonoring exercises.  And here we are in this, you know, interest in Reformed theology, in this kind of new evangelical wave that’s going, and there’s very little talk about the Holy Spirit, very little discussion about the Holy Spirit.  No strong doctrine of sanctification, no consuming desire for holiness, separation from the world.  In fact, it seems to me that much of this new evangelical movement looks more worldly all the time.  It seems to be indifferent to the work of the Holy Spirit.  You know, if you get the gospel right, you get a free pass on everything else.  Very little interest in talking about what is the baptism of the Spirit, what is the filling of the Spirit, the sealing of the Spirit?  What does it mean to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh?  What does biblical separation mean?  Personal holiness?  Sanctification?  There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in that. 

Wherever the Holy Spirit is, there’s humility.  Wherever you see the exaltation of a man, that’s not the work of the Holy Spirit.  When you can look at a movement that claims to be evangelical, and you can see the exploitation, the exaltation of men, that is not the work of the Holy Spirit.  Where there is the work of the Holy Spirit, there’s the exaltation of Jesus Christ and everybody else fades.  Of all the ages in the history of the church, this is the one most capable of feeding pride.  Why?  Because there are so many ways to stick yourself in front of people’s faces across the planet.  This is an easy time for proud people to make the most of themselves.  There just doesn’t seem to be interest in the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit. 

There is even a toleration of a view of the Holy Spirit that’s downright heretical and that is what I guess you could call modalism.  I know that’s a technical term but that’s simply to say that there’s only one God, He’s not three persons, He’s one God who appears in three modes, not at the same time but separately.  Sometimes He’s the Father, sometimes He’s the Son, sometimes He’s the Spirit, He’s never three in one.  That’s the view, for example, of T.D. Jakes.  Sabellianism, Modalism.  Doesn’t seem to bother lots of folks that he has a God who’s not the God of the Bible, that his view of the Holy Spirit is a heresy, his view of the Son and the Father equally heretical.  We have to get the Trinity right, and we have to give due worship to the Holy Spirit, equal to the Son, equal to the Father. 

So these things have been on my mind and a lot of things in addition, but I think you get the picture.  And we haven’t really looked down hard at the ministry of the Holy Spirit to see what it is that we need to worship Him for and what we need to be focused on in terms of giving Him the praise and the honor that He is due. 

The disinterest in the Holy Spirit is what gives rise to Pragmatism.  We have replaced supernaturalism, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, with Pragmatism.  We’ve committed the sin of the Galatians.  Galatians 3, Paul says, “Having begun in the Spirit, are you made perfect by the flesh?”  In other words, there’s no way to get saved except by the work of the Holy Spirit.  Now that you’re saved, are you now taken over with the flesh?  You’re going to accomplish everything through the flesh.  Pride has defeated humility, and that’s always an affront to the Holy Spirit.  Where are the meek and where are the humble and where are the lowly?  Where the Holy Spirit is, Christ will be exalted.  It will be Christ and it will be Christ and it will be Christ again who receives all the praise and all the honor and all the glory.  The Holy Spirit is grieved if Christ is not exalted.  His work is quenched when the flesh is elevated. 

So we could have done this, perhaps, through the years and we have touched on, of course, all the New Testament teaches about the Holy Spirit.  Eventually we would have covered it all over the last 40 years or so.  But I want to take a look at the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the next few weeks.  I don’t know how long it’s going to take me.  I have no idea.  And that’s okay.  But we’re going to go to one chapter instead of running all over the place because I don’t want to lead you everywhere.  We’re going to look at Romans 8, so you can just kind of keep that in your mind.  If you turn there now, you’re going to be a little frustrated.  But go ahead – it’ll make you feel more comfortable to have your Bible open.  I’m not going to get there, but just have your Bible open, it’s good, it’s good.  And I’ll make a couple of references to Romans 8.  But that’s going to be our chapter. 

And why don’t we look at it for just a second?  And let me just point out why I’m picking this chapter to learn about the Holy Spirit – pretty obvious.  Verse 2 talks about the Spirit, you see it there, Romans 8:2, referring to the Spirit.  And you come down, verse 4 refers to the Spirit.  Verse 5 refers to the Spirit.  Verse 6 refers to the Spirit.  Verse 9 refers to the Spirit.  Verse 11 refers to the Spirit.  Verse 13 – and so it goes.  Verse 14, verse 16 – this is the Spirit’s chapter, all the way down into verse 26, the Spirit helps our weakness, He’s mentioned again, interceding for us.  So the Holy Spirit is the main player in this 8th chapter of Romans, and so it gives us the opportunity to sort of build a sound theology of the ministry and the work of the Holy Spirit.  We could call this chapter “Life in the Spirit.”  Life in the Spirit. 

We’re going to have a great time working through this chapter, as you will see.  But before we do that, I just want to kind of give you an overview.  Before we go down to the worm’s-eye view, give you kind of a bird’s-eye view.  The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force, not an “it.”  The Holy Spirit is not an influence.  The Holy Spirit is not some kind of energy emanating from God.  The Holy Spirit is God, a member of the Trinity, a person completely the essence of God with an entity and a personality of His own.  Scripture is clear about this.  He is equal in nature and attributes – let me say that again – He’s equal in nature and attributes to the Father and the Son.  He is not diminished in any sense, is fully God in the same way the Father and the Son are. 

He has personality.  Sometimes people refer to “it,” the Holy Spirit.  That is inaccurate.  He possesses intellect, emotion, and will.  And evidences of that in the Scriptures are ample everywhere in Scripture.  For instance, He knows the deep things of God, 1 Corinthians 2.  In other words, He’s plumbed the full depth of divine knowledge.  He has knowledge equal to that of the Father, equal to that of the Son.  That’s 1 Corinthians 2.  He loves the saints, and His love is equal to that love which is characteristic of Christ and God, Romans 5:5.  He makes choices, divine choices, sovereign choices.  First Corinthians 12:11, He decides what He will give to what believer with regard to spiritual capacities and spiritual gifts.  He speaks – He speaks.  He speaks the truth always.  He prays for us – Romans 8 – as we’ll find out in verse 26.  He teaches us all things.  He is the anointing that comes from God – John 14, 1 John 2 – so that we don’t need a human teacher because He teaches us everything.  John 16:13 says He guides us.  Here in Romans 8, it says He leads us, as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they’re the sons of God. 

He commands.  His commands are given, for example, in Acts 16:6-7.  He fellowships with us.  Second Corinthians chapter 13 verse 14 talks about the fellowship of the Spirit.  Ephesians 4:30 says He can be grieved.  All these indicate He’s a person.  He can be grieved.  Acts 5:3, He can be lied to, as Ananias and Sapphira did, “Why have you lied to the Holy Spirit?”  He can be tested.  That’s the same passage.  “Why are you testing the Holy Spirit?”  He can be vexed, angered, you might say, according to Isaiah 63:10.  He can be resisted.  Acts 7:51, “Why do you resist the Holy Spirit?”  And in Mark 3 as in Matthew 12, He can be blasphemed.  First Thessalonians 5:19, He can be quenched; that is, His efforts thwarted, hindered.  All of these are evidences that this is a person, one who thinks and feels and acts and makes decisions in every capacity, as a person does. 

There also is no doubt about His deity, that He is absolutely God.  And I’ll show you just one illustration of that, though there are many.  Turn for a minute to Acts chapter 5, and let’s go back to that fascinating account of Ananias and Sapphira who lied to the Holy Spirit saying, you know, that they gave everything they got from the sale of the property when the truth is they kept back some of the money for themselves.  So in chapter 5 verse 3, Peter confronts them on the Lord’s Day at the church.  “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?”  Now, just pick that right up there, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?”  Now go down to verse 4, end of the verse.  “You have not lied to men, but to God.”  God is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is God.  There you have it, the deity of the Holy Spirit, absolutely, clearly indicated. 

You have Trinitarian formulas in Matthew 28:19, “Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” all equal members of the Holy Trinity.  They cannot be separate members.  Modalism is a ridiculous idea, the idea that God is sometimes the Father and then He puts on His Son hat, and then He puts on His Holy Spirit hat.  How do you explain the baptism of Christ where Christ is being baptized, the Father is saying, “He’s My beloved Son,” and the Spirit’s descending like a dove?  A little problem for the Modalists there because all three show up at the same time. 

He is God.  How do we know that?  He has attributes of God.  In Hebrews 9:14, it says He is the eternal Spirit – the eternal Spirit.  He is as eternal as God is because He is eternally God.  He is omniscient.  And again, that goes back to John 15-16, also John 14, He’s the source of all truth, He leads you into all truth, reveals all truth.  First Corinthians 2:  He knows the deep things of God that are known only to God and only to the Spirit of God.  So He is eternal, He is omniscient.  And He’s omnipotent – He is omnipotent.  How powerful is the Holy Spirit?  He’s equally powerful to God.  How do we know that?  He’s the creator of everything that exists.  That’s Genesis, right?  In the beginning, the creation was without form and it was void, it was tohu and bohu, it was emptiness and nothingness, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters and creation began. 

Even more astounding to see the power of His creation is in the first chapter of Luke and verse 35 when the Angel came to Mary and said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” – “the Holy Spirit will come upon you” – listen to this – “and with Him the power of the Most High.”  In other words, the power of the Most High God, El Elyon, the supreme sovereign God of the universe, the power of the supreme God resides fully in the Holy Spirit.  That’s the power of the Most High God dispensed through the Holy Spirit.  He created everything that is created in the same way that God created it and the Son created it.  Omnipotence, omnipresence.  Psalm 139 verse 7, “Where will I go from Your Spirit?”  Remember when the psalmist said that?  Where am I going to go from Your Spirit?  How can I find a place anywhere in the universe that’s away from Your Spirit?  There is no such place.  He is everywhere all the time. 

In Romans 1:4, He’s called the Spirit of holiness.  God is holy, holy, holy.  Holy is the Father, holy is the Son, holy is the Spirit, that’s the trihagion of Isaiah 6.  He is the Spirit of holiness.  First Peter 4:14, He’s called the Spirit of glory.  He’s like the God of glory, like the glory of God shining gloriously in the face of Jesus Christ, He is the Spirit of glory.  Second Corinthians 3:6, He’s called the life-giving Spirit.  He’s the source of life.  These are all attributes that belong to God, and the Holy Spirit has them, and therefore, the Holy Spirit is God.  As God, He is to be worshiped as God, He is to be honored as God, He is to be revered as God, He is to be treated as God.  In the same way you would treat God the Father and God the Son, you would treat the Holy Spirit.  As I said, people seem to be a little more reluctant to blaspheme the Father and the Son.  They don’t seem to have any problem making a joke and a mockery out of the name of the Holy Spirit. 

If you talk about the titles which the Holy Spirit bears, that kind of adds to your understanding a little bit.  Many times He is called God.  I just read you that in Acts chapter 5 verse 4.  Many times He is called Lord.  For example, in 2 Corinthians 3:18, one of my favorite verses – those of you who know me, know that – it says, “That as we gaze into the glory of the Lord, being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord the Spirit” – “the Lord the Spirit.”  The Spirit is the Lord.  He is called God and He is called Lord, titles of deity. 

There are other titles that He bears.  He is called the Spirit of God, Genesis 1:2.  “The Spirit of God moves upon the waters,” Matthew 3:16.  He’s called the Spirit of the Lord in Luke 4.  He’s called His Spirit, that is, God’s Spirit, Numbers 11:29.  He’s called the Spirit of Yahweh in Judges 3:10.  He’s called the Spirit of the Lord God in Isaiah 61, the Spirit of your Father in Matthew 10:20, and the Spirit of the Living God in 2 Corinthians 3:3.  He is given all the titles that belong to deity.  That’s the point here.  He’s called the Spirit of Jesus in Acts 16:7; the Spirit of Christ right here in Romans 8 verse 9, and in Galatians 4:6, the Spirit of His Son.  Philippians 1:19, the Spirit of Jesus Christ.  This is clearly indication that He is fully God. 

Now, the more I think about this and go over this as I was doing the last few days, the more my heart aches over the way that the Holy Spirit is being mistreated.  And again I say, look, I’m not here to defend the Holy Spirit, He can defend Himself.  But I am here to tell you that you do not want to be sucked up into this mockery of the blessed Holy Spirit.  You want to worship Him for who He is. 

People sometimes say to me, “Can we pray to the Holy Spirit?”  Of course – of course, He’s God.  “Don’t we have to pray to the Father only?”  No, pray to the Father, pray to the Spirit, pray to the Son, pray to all three, pray to any two.  “Can we worship the Holy Spirit?”  Absolutely, fall down and worship the Holy Spirit, the same way you would Christ and the Father.  You wouldn’t say a word against the Father, you wouldn’t say a word against the Son, don’t say a word against the Holy Spirit.  Don’t attribute anything to God that isn’t true of Him, don’t attribute anything to Christ that isn’t true of Him, and don’t attribute anything to the Holy Spirit that isn’t true of Him.  Boy, if we just got rid of that, it would change the face of the church. 

When you think about the works of the Holy Spirit, you have to start with creation.  And then in the Old Testament, you see Him convicting people.  Remember in Genesis 6, “My Spirit will not always strive with man”?  He’s striving to bring conviction in the same way that I read from John 16:8:  When the Spirit comes, He’ll convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. 

In the Old Testament you see Him indwelling certain people for certain service.  He regenerated people in the Old Testament because you couldn’t be regenerated unless it was a divine miracle, and He’s the Spirit that gives life, the life-giving Spirit.  He is that Spirit.  So in the Old Testament, He’s seen as the Creator, He’s seen as the regenerator of those who believe.  He is seen as the one who convicts men of sin.  He is seen as the one who enables men to serve.  Read Exodus 31, Judges 3, Judges 6, “And the Spirit of God comes to enable people to serve.”  That’s why David in his Psalm 51 about his sin said, “Take not Your Spirit from me.”  He wasn’t talking about the fact that all of a sudden the Holy Spirit who had regenerated him and empowering him for his spiritual life would be gone; he was speaking in the language of that special work of the Holy Spirit in which He came on people for certain ministry, enabling men to do certain things. 

But the one thing that stands out in His ministry in the Old Testament, of course, from a New Testament perspective is that He’s the author of Scripture.  No scripture is the result of any private interpretation, Peter says, right?  Second Peter 1:21, no private interpretation but holy men of God were moved by the Spirit of God.  That’s how the Old Testament was written.  The Spirit of God is the author through human instrumentation.  That’s how the New Testament is written as well.  It’s God-breathed, the word breath is pneuma.  It’s God’s Spirit that writes holy Scripture.  And you can find places throughout the Scripture that speak about the Holy Spirit saying this and the Holy Spirit saying that.  He is the author of Scripture.  Scripture is God-breathed.  It is the revelation of God through the Holy Spirit. 

One illustration, Acts 1:16, “The Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit foretold.”  Whenever the Scripture said something, it was the Holy Spirit saying it.  And by the way, we read in John 15-16 that the primary task of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ, right?  He’s the Spirit of truth but He points to Me, He glorifies Me, and when you read the Scripture, that’s what all Scripture does.  Even the Old Testament.  That’s why Luke 24 is so important, beginning at Moses, the prophets, and all the holy writings, He spoke to them of the things concerning Himself written in the Old Testament.  All through the Old Testament, as well as the New, the Holy Spirit, who is the author, is pointing to Christ – Christ, Christ.  So wherever you see a work that is really the ministry of the Holy Spirit, you will see men humbled and Christ exalted – men humbled and Christ exalted. 

And then in the life of Christ, you see the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  He’s there giving Him life.  He’s there at His baptism, the Holy Spirit descending like a dove upon Him.  He’s there to launch His ministry.  The Holy Spirit comes upon Him and He launches His public ministry at the age of 30.  The Holy Spirit is there in His temptation.  You remember that the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness and through that temptation and out the other side.  He is the anointing in Acts 10:38.  They were preaching about Him and they said He was anointed with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit came upon Him.  That’s why He said, “If you deny the works that I do as being of God, you blaspheme the Holy Spirit because it’s the Holy Spirit working through Me.” 

Do you know, actually, that was the Holy Spirit teaching through Christ?  That’s how much of a self-emptying there was.  He yielded up even His teaching to that which the Spirit did through Him.  John 3:34, “He whom the Father has sent speaks the words of God for He gives the Spirit without measure.”  He speaks the words of God because He has the Spirit working through Him.  The miracles Christ did and the message that He preached was the ministry of the Spirit through Him.  He was in perfect agreement with it but it was the message from the Father through the Spirit.  It was the Spirit that was the power behind His miracles; that’s why it was a blasphemous thing to say they were from Satan. 

Do you know that even His death, even the death of Jesus Christ that we talk about so often, was a work of the Holy Spirit?  I don’t know if you ever thought about that but you will now.  Hebrews 9 verse 14:  “How much more will the blood of Christ” – listen to this – “the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God?”  Every miracle He did was through the power of the Spirit.  And even His death was through the power of the Spirit.  His birth was through the power of the Spirit.  His life was through the power of the Spirit.  His miracles were through the power of the Spirit.  His teaching was through the power of the Spirit.  And His death was through the power of the Holy Spirit.  And what about His resurrection?  You’re in Romans 8 still?  Look at verse 11:  “The Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead.” 

When you start to get your arms around the ministry of the Holy Spirit, it’s so incredible, staggering, far-reaching, and we haven’t even gotten to the part about us.  So let’s get to that.  What does He do in the world?  What does the Holy Spirit do in the world?  Well, He convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  Genesis 6:3:  “He strives with sinners,” so He’s the convicting power.  According to 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, He calls sinners – that’s an effectual call – He actually calls them.  Furthermore, He regenerates – John 3 – “You must be born of the Spirit.”  So in the world He convicts, He calls, He gives regenerating life and also witnesses to the truth of Christ, Acts chapter 5 verses 30-32.  So it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit that comes to the sinner, convicts the sinner, calls the sinner when the sinner understands the glories of Christ and then He regenerates the sinner. 

Now, what does He do in the believer?  Glorifies Christ, exalts Christ through the Word, but beyond that, He indwells the believer.  Verse 9 of Romans 8:  “The Spirit of God dwells in you.”  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6, “You’re the temple of the Holy Spirit.”  He indwells us.  Now we’re getting personal here.  Ephesians 5:18 says, “Be being kept filled with the Spirit.”  He fills us, which is a power statement, like the wind filling the sails and moving the ship.  That’s that analogy.  He seals us, He secures us, Ephesians 1 says, for eternity.  He imparts fruit to us, the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control.  Gives us love, Romans 5:5

He gives us gifts of the Spirit—Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12.  Several gifts divided equally among His people.  He teaches us.  He leads us into all truth, guides us into the understanding of Scripture, anointing that we have from God, so that we know all things.  Romans 8:26, He prays for us.  Galatians 5:17, He makes war against our flesh and against sin on our behalf.  John 14:16, “He comforts us.”  Romans 8:14, I mentioned it earlier, “He leads and guides us.”  Galatians 3, He sanctifies us.  Acts 1:8, He empowers us for witness and evangelism.  All these things, the Holy Spirit does. 

We need to understand all these marvelous, rich things.  There was a time when this was a very important part of Christian ministry, Christian thinking.  Try to write a book on the definitive ministry of the Holy Spirit today and find a place for it in a Christian bookstore.  Might be a losing proposition if you really took on all the error that was there.  I don’t expect, except among us and whoever we can influence, to stem the tide of this terrible abuse of the Holy Spirit, but I think we as a church and we as believers need to give honor to the Holy Spirit in the way that He is worthy to be honored and to replace this frivolous, superficial, abusive approach and more than that, to get Him out of the shadows so that He’s not the forgotten member of the Trinity who never receives the worship that He is due. 

The whole matter of you living your Christian life is a work of the Holy Spirit.  All the ministry of spiritual gifts, everything I do – everything I do, everything you do, everything anybody does in the kingdom in the body of Christ that has any effect or any impact or any purpose or any goal or any success is the work of the Holy Spirit.  How can we ignore that and replace that with such crazy things that dishonor Him?  Well, that’ll get us to Romans 8, and next week we’ll go back to that chapter.

Our Father, we thank You for the time this morning to worship You.  It’s been so refreshing.  Thank You for this blessed church, these precious people, love for You and Your Word. 

Thank You, O Holy Spirit, for just this incomprehensible work that You’ve done, not just in creation but in regeneration.  You gave us life.  You gave us salvation, forgiveness, and You empowered us, now You sanctify us and You’ll bring us to glory.  We’ll be glorified by Your power.  We’ll be changed by Your power.  We’ll be fit for heaven by Your power.  In the meantime, You’re there producing fruit and energizing our gifts and empowering our witness and fighting against our flesh and praying for us and making everything work together for good, securing us and sealing us to the day of redemption. 

We love You, we honor You, we worship You, we exalt You.  And we are deeply grieved, as You must be, at the way You are misrepresented.  Help us, Lord, to be all that we should be as we worship You, our Trinitarian God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  May we worship You in truth as You truly are and with all our might, both in praise itself and in obedience.  What can we say, O Holy Spirit, for all that You’ve done for us and You are doing even as we speak and will do until we see Jesus face-to-face and by Your power are made perfect into His image? 

We give You our worship today and we ask that You would be honored, not only in our lives and in our midst but in Your church, the church which You regenerated, to which You have given life, the church through which You work, the church in which You can do exceeding, abundantly above all we ask or think according to the power that works in us, even that power that raised Jesus from the dead, even the power of You, O blessed Holy Spirit.  Show Your power in Your church and be honored and glorified, we pray.  Amen.

VIDEO Groanings Too Deep for Words

John MacArthur Jan 8, 2012

We open the Word of God now to the 8th chapter of Romans to continue our look at life in the Holy Spirit.  We have been endeavoring to bring the wonderful, blessed Holy Spirit into a clearer picture in our understanding.  Given the fact that much today in the evangelical church is said about the Holy Spirit, I’m afraid that most of it is a misrepresentation of His person and His work.  I said at the very beginning a bold statement, and I will repeat it, that our Lord Jesus condemned the leaders of Israel for attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to Satan, and in the modern Pentecostal movement of today, the reverse is occurring where works of the devil are being attributed to the Holy Spirit.  It’s a very sad, sad insult, a grief to the Holy Spirit and in some cases even a blasphemy of the blessed Holy Spirit. 

When we worship God, we worship the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Somehow, the Holy Spirit has been trailing behind in terms of emphasis when in reality, the Holy Spirit is the member of the Trinity most personally, intimately involved in the life of a believer. 

We’ve been learning that in this 8th chapter of Romans.  We find ourselves now down in the middle of the chapter, and I want to read for you verses 24 through 30 – verses 24 through 30.  We’ve already looked at verses 24 and 25 but we need to read them for context, and we won’t go into verses 29 and 30 but, again, they give us the full picture of this section. 

Romans 8:24:  “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.  In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;  and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” 

In earlier studies of this chapter, we have learned the marvelous height and breadth and length and depth of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to a believer in whom He dwells.  We found in verses 2 and 3 that He frees us from sin and death.  In verse 4, we are taught that He enables us to fulfill God’s holy law.  In verses 5 through 11, we are told that He changes our nature.  In verses 12 and 13, He empowers us for righteous living.  In verses 14 to 16, we learn that He confirms our adoption as sons of God, and that brought us to verse 17, and the lengthy section from verses 17 to 30 emphasizes the work of the Spirit in securing our eternal glory, securing our eternal glory.  And we have just read, essentially, the means by which the Spirit works to secure that glory, and we’ll look into it more deeply when we get to verse 26 in a moment. 

But let me give you the foundation for today’s thinking.  The greatest blessing God has given to believers is the secure promise of eternal life in heavenly glory.  We already know from the opening of the chapter that we are in a no condemnation status before God.  That is reiterated to us in verse 34 when the rhetorical question is asked, “Who condemns?”  Is there some higher court than Christ or God?  Again we are told nothing can separate us from that love of God which is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.  So the theme of this chapter from the beginning to the end is that we exist in a situation before God that is unalterable and unchangeable.  It is a permanent no condemnation status.  That is to say, those of us who belong to Christ will be glorified.  We saw it essentially summed up in verse 29.  We are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.  That means we go from being predestined to being called to being justified to being glorified, and nobody falls through the cracks. 

I can tell you, beloved, no doctrine of Scripture is more comforting than that, more strengthening than that, more encouraging than that, and that is why we live with hope.  We live with hope.  Not a wish but a hope that is a fixed certainty, based on the promises of God. 

A comparative passage to this is very instructive for us.  The words of Peter in his first epistle, chapter 1 and verse 3, are a kind of benediction, a kind of doxology, in contemplation of this reality of our secure glory.  Where Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you who are protected by the power of God.”  No wonder he burst into a doxology.  We have the promise of future glory, we are protected by the power of God through faith to that glory.  That is to say we have been given by God sovereignly a faith that will not fail, a faith that will not die.  That faith that is secured to us by the power of God, and the power of God is none other than the Holy Spirit Himself. 

In John 6, Jesus essentially said the same thing when He said, “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me, I will not turn away.”  “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me” and “I will lose none of them, but raise them at the last day.”  He said, “This is the will of the Father.”  The New Testament calls this, for example, in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians, the sealing of the Spirit, sealing us safely to future glory.  Paul speaks of it in this way:  “He who began a good work in you will perfect it to the day of Jesus Christ.”  But perhaps there’s no greater or stronger text on this great doctrine than the one that is before us.  We groan for the reality of our glorification, we’ve been learning that, haven’t we?  We live in a cursed world. 

We ourselves, though regenerate on the inside, are still incarcerated in unredeemed flesh, and we groan in our humanity.  The things we want to do, we don’t do.  The things we do, we don’t want to do.  We have a body of death attached to us, as Paul says in Romans.  We still, as He says in 1 Corinthians 15, have a corruptible body, a perishable body that we long to get rid of.  We want the perishable to put on that which is imperishable, the mortal to put on that which is immortal, the corrupt to put on that which is incorruptible.  We long for glory. 

And so starting in verse 19, running down all the way to verse 23, Paul talks about the groaning of creation, how the world itself, both the created world, animate and inanimate but impersonal, groans under the burden of the curse of the fall of Adam and Eve.  Not only does the creation groan, but we groan, verse 23 says, we ourselves groan within ourselves, longing to be all that we have been promised to be in full glory.  We feel the weight of our sin, we feel the curse of God, we feel the power of corruption within us.  We understand the decay and the inevitability of death that stalks us all.  We groan; creation groans.  As I told you last week, the whole creation is groaning, waiting for the glorious manifestation of the sons of God, the revealing of the sons of God, all of that that’s going to happen when there is the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, and all the curse will fade away in some kind of an uncreation, kind of an atomic implosion, the elements melt with fervent heat.  Everything in this universe created by God goes out of existence, and in its place a new heaven and a new earth and no curse. 

Creation is personified as feeling the pain, waiting, longing for that day, and we genuinely long for that day.  As I look at heaven, it’s not about golden streets – although I’m happy to live there – it’s about the absence of sin; it’s about the absence of temptation; it’s the absence of ignorance that is appealing about heaven.  We all groan for glory. 

But there’s a third groaning in this passage that is quite remarkable, and it is the groaning of the Holy Spirit.  It is the groaning of the Holy Spirit.  The blessed Holy Spirit in whom we enjoy – with whom we enjoy fellowship, called the fellowship of the Holy Spirit – is also groaning, groaning, waiting for our glorification.  Creation is pained by the curse.  We are pained by the curse.  And even the Holy Spirit suffers the unfulfillment of the believers in whom He dwells until the curse is removed. 

As we’ve gone through this chapter, we are essentially learning this, that the Holy Spirit is responsible for three marvelous ministries in our lives.  First of all, the ministry of regeneration.  He gave us life.  We are born of the Spirit, born of the Spirit.  He gave us life when we were dead – regeneration. 

Secondly, the ministry of sanctification.  It is He who increasingly conforms us to the image of Christ.  Second Corinthians 3:18 puts it from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next, to the next, as we gaze on Christ as revealed in Scripture, who is the perfect model of Spirit-filled humanity.  As we see Him as the example, as we gaze at Him in His full expression of deity and humanity, the Spirit changes us increasingly into His image from one level of glory to the next.  That’s His work of sanctification. 

And along with that work of sanctification, the third ministry that He has in this era of grace is the ministry of security.  He secures us until that final ministry, the ministry of glorification when as the Spirit raised Christ from the dead, He will also raise us to be in His very likeness. 

I think about the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, regenerating, sanctifying and securing me to future glory.  What a blessed ministry.  And all the while I’m thinking about that, I’m grieved over the amazing irony – amazing irony – that it is these very ministries of the Holy Spirit, which are so precious to us and so clearly revealed in Scripture, that are denied by the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.  They claim to be the movement of the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  They claim to have some kind of corner on the Holy Spirit.  They claim to have an experience with the Spirit that we don’t have.  And yet they deny the very work that the Spirit does in the life of the believer. 

First of all, they deny the work of regeneration.  The Bible teaches us that we are all dead in trespasses and sin, we are unable to give ourselves life.  We must be born from above, born of the Spirit, and that is totally a work of God, not of the will of the flesh, not of the will of man, but of God.  The Holy Spirit blows where He will, like the wind; does what He will with whom He will.  This is a sovereign, mighty, divine work.  Charismatics would want us to believe that it is a synergistic work, that the Spirit must be involved in it but that the sinner has the power in himself to make the necessary steps to bring life to himself in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.  They also deny His mighty work in sanctification.  They are little interested in the internal work of the Holy Spirit, little interested in His perfecting us into the likeness of Christ, little interested in His cultivating the love of holiness, the love of righteousness, the love of purity.  They’re much more interested in the externals. 

It’s called the holiness movement, but it’s really not about holiness.  It’s called the Holy Spirit movement, and it’s really not about the Holy Spirit.  Very little interest in internal holiness and purity that is the Spirit’s true work and almost exclusive interest in the external phenomena that they attach to the Holy Spirit, which in reality have nothing to do with Him, such as supposed miracles, tongues, falling down, hearing voices, barking like dogs, laughing uncontrollably, material prosperity, worldly success.  And because that is not a paradigm for sanctification, the movement is loaded with scandal, sex, greed, corruption, and perversion. 

You know, doing a little bit of reading on the history of this movement is a very interesting thing.  If I asked you, “What is the fastest-growing form of religion in the world?” you probably wouldn’t give me the right answer.  The right answer is Pentecostalism.  That is the fastest-growing religion in the world.  It didn’t exist in 1900.  Just a handful of people launched something in 1901 in Topeka, Kansas, followed up by something in 1906 here in Los Angeles.  And by this time now, the estimate is there are a half a billion people that would identify with this movement – from nobody in 1900 to half a billion people.  Falls into three forms.  There’s traditional Pentecostalism, there is Neo-Pentecostalism, and there is the Charismatic movement from 1960 on, but it all kind of blends together. 

What happened in this movement is the center of interest was shifted from the gospel to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The center then was shifted from the Bible to experience, to a false experience with a false theology.  Worship, then, was radically recast away from what was worship in spirit and in truth to what was simply an inducing of emotional highs.  People became bored with the Bible, bored with preaching, and so preaching began to fade away.  Sound doctrine had to be eliminated because the movement couldn’t survive under the scrutiny of sound doctrine.  And so in the place of preaching the Bible and sound doctrine was wild, emotionally charged music and manipulated feelings.  The truth was replaced with lies, and it is its own judgment.  It is its own judgment. 

The work of the Holy Spirit has been so totally misrepresented.  There are essentially three forces in Christianity. This is called the third force: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Pentecostalism.  And we have said much through the years, the church has, about the errors of Roman Catholicism.  We have said a whole lot less about the errors of Pentecostalism because they threaten us with accusations of being divisive, and that causes some people to be silent. 

I’m not defending the truth for the sake of my own church or the sake of my own opinion.  I’m eager to defend the truth for the sake of the Holy Spirit, not that He needs me as a defender, but He needs me to not grieve Him and not quench Him and not insult Him and certainly to recognize what dishonors Him.  I feel like the psalmist who said, “The reproaches that fall on you have fallen on me.”  When the Holy Spirit is dishonored, I feel the pain, and it seems to be a very popular sport to do that. 

So let’s look at the true ministry of the Holy Spirit with regard to His groaning related to our security.  It’s an amazing section of Scripture, particularly in verse 26.  “In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness for we don’t know to pray as we should.  But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”  This text has to be one of the great biblical treasures.  It describes the means by which the Holy Spirit supports and secures us in our grace journey to final glory.  This is one of the most abused texts in the New Testament by the Charismatics.  I always expect my Bible to bleed here because it’s been wounded so many times.  They want us to believe that this is an advocacy for – advocacy text for speaking in tongues, this “groanings too deep for words.”  They want us to believe that what this verse is saying is that when you don’t know how to pray in words that you do understand, launch off into glossolalia in words that you don’t understand and this is the Holy Spirit doing what you can’t do.  That is not what this verse means, as you will see in a moment.  It’s utterly foreign to the reality of the meaning of this text to impose that on it. 

Let’s pick up the context:  “In the same way the Spirit” – “in the same way.” What do you mean “in the same way”?  In the same way that creation groans, waiting for the glorious manifestation of the sons of God, in the same way that we ourselves groan, waiting for the adoption of sons, the redemption of our body, so the Holy Spirit groans.  We saw the groaning of creation, the groaning of the believer, now the groaning of the Holy Spirit – and all of this groaning in the direction of our future glory.  It would be one thing for the creation to want to be glorified, one thing for the believer to want to be glorified, but those two in themselves wouldn’t necessarily guarantee that glory, but here comes the most important groaning of all, the groaning of the Holy Spirit for our future glory.  In the same way, the Spirit groans “with groanings too deep for words.”  It’s an amazing thought. 

The Holy Spirit is intimately involved in the agonizing reality of the burden and the weight of sin in the lives of those in whom He lives.  He unites with our desire to be free from the flesh, our unredeemed humanity, and to receive full salvation; full sonship; full, righteous perfection.  Our eternal glory is secured, then, by this groaning intercession of the Holy Spirit.  This is necessary.  Go back to verse 26. It says that the Spirit “helps our weakness.”  We’ve already identified our weakness.  We groan within ourselves, back in verse 23.  We have the down payment on our future glory, the firstfruits, but we groan under the debilitating weakness of our remaining sin.  The Holy Spirit helps our weakness. 

This doesn’t mean weak prayers; doesn’t mean weak prayer life. It doesn’t mean a kind of a weak understanding of what’s going on.  It’s the whole debilitating power of our fallenness that remains in us.  It’s our general weakness as fallen beings.  It’s a comprehensive word.  The whole scope of our sinfulness is a weight to us, and it is such a burden, such an overwhelming burden that we don’t even know how to pray as we should.  We don’t even have a strategy to cope with it.  We are so helpless in our sin and so helpless in our suffering, we don’t know how to overcome the power of our fallenness.  We don’t have what it takes to guard our own souls. 

I was reading one popular Charismatic theologian who said this:  “I believe the Spirit is very strong, but His seal can be broken if a person with his own free will has chosen to live life on the darker side.  Sins can keep Christians out of heaven.  If you can’t stay loyal to your spouse, you can’t stay loyal to your Lord, and will not be able to stay loyal to Him even after you enter heaven.  Like Satan and the angels, you may be thrown out.”  Really?  Just how insecure is insecure?  I can’t be loyal on my own here, and I can’t be loyal on my own in heaven, and I might get thrown out?  That is to completely, completely ignore the Holy Scripture that describes the securing ministry of the Spirit. 

Let me say it simply:  If you could lose your salvation, you would.  If I could, I would.  In fact, if I had to do anything to keep it, I couldn’t keep it at all.  I don’t have the power.  I don’t even know how to arm myself.  I’m way too weak.  I’m not kept by my own power.  I’m not kept by my own prayers.  Yes, “watch and pray lest you enter into temptation,” but on my own, unaided by the power of God, that’s not going to do it. 

This is illustrated to us in the 22nd chapter of Luke where Peter is on the brink of his classic failure around the fires at the trial of our Lord, and Jesus gives him warning.  Jesus tells him in verse 31 of Luke 22:  “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.”  “Satan’s coming after you,” and he certainly did.  But verse 32 says, “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”  What was Peter’s attitude going into this temptation?  He said it this way:  “If everybody fails You, I won’t.”  Self-confidence.  He didn’t know how to pray for himself.  He didn’t understand the profound nature of his own weakness.  He had no ability to understand the forces that he was going to encounter.  He was secured not by his own faith. He was secured not by his own will power. He was secured because the Lord Jesus prayed for him that his faith would not fail.  That’s the intercessory work of the Lord Jesus Christ that secured Peter, and that’s a model of His high priestly work.  He ever lives to make intercession for us. 

The reason that you’re going to make it to glory, the reason that you stay saved, that you are secure, is because you have a high priest in heaven continuing to intercede for you.  And you also have a second intercessory priest living in you; namely, the Holy Spirit.  Just how much power does it take?  How much divine power does it take to get a believer from grace to glory?  It involves the continual, unending, relentless intercession of the Son and the Spirit. 

Do you think that you can hang on by yourself?  We could never attain to the resurrection of glory by the strength of our own flesh.  We could never overcome our own sinfulness.  We could never protect ourselves from failure unless we had been given by God a faith that would not fail, and it is sustained by Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit.  That is why, as Grace was singing a little while ago, it doesn’t matter what comes at us, our faith doesn’t fail.  Illustration: Job.  Our faith doesn’t fail. 

In this case, verse 26, how does the Holy Spirit help our weakness and the fact that we don’t know how to defend ourselves, even through prayer, even tapping into the divine power?  “The Spirit Himself intercedes,” “the Spirit Himself intercedes.”  Huperentunchano, a strong compound word, means to rescue someone in very great danger with no resources on his own, like somebody floating down the stream headed for Niagara.  That’s the extremity of this verb.  We need somebody beyond us and above us with far greater insight, far greater power than we have, and it is the Spirit Himself.  I love that pronoun, auto, which points back to the Spirit Himself, not someone delegated by the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit Himself.  It’s His work.  This is His work.  It was He who gave us life.  It is He who conforms us increasingly to the image of Christ.  It is He who secures us. 

How does He do it?  “With groanings too deep for words.”  “With groanings too deep for words.”  Please – this is not speaking in grunts and gibberish and tongues; this is not ecstatic speech; this isn’t anybody saying anything that can be heard.  This is the Holy Spirit saying things that can’t be heard.  It says it, “too deep for words.”  Groanings, not of men, but groanings of the Spirit.  The magnificent beauty of this is that the heart of the Holy Spirit aches for the glorification of every believer.  And that aching, compassionate longing for the glorious manifestation of the children of God causes the Holy Spirit to speak silently to the Father in inter-Trinitarian conversation about the well-being of believers.  We are not secure because God said it. We are secure because God said it, and God makes sure through the work of His Son and His Spirit that it happens. 

The Holy Spirit understands our flesh, understands our weakness, understands temptation.  Would never, ever lead us into some situation we couldn’t handle, right?  “No temptation is taken you but such is as common to man.”  God will always make a way of escape.  John 18 is an illustration of that.  When they came to arrest Jesus, He wouldn’t let them arrest the disciples because the Scripture needed to be fulfilled that none of them would defect, and so they were never going to be in a position where defection would happen.  It’s a securing that is not simply a stated fact. It is a securing that is a constant work by the intercession of the Son and the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit yearns for our final glory. 

This is the heart of God, really.  I was reading Hosea chapter 11 and I came across verse 8 where God says, “How can I give you up, O Ephraim?  How can I surrender you, O Israel?…. My heart is turned over within Me.  All My compassions are kindled.”  And, you know, in the true sense, God never does give up Israel, does He?  He’s going to bring Israel back.  That’s the heart of God.  How can I give you up? 

These groanings have content.  They have meaning.  They have purpose.  They are individually expressed, inter-Trinitarian, wordless communications that transcend language, that secure your place in heaven.  And who is the Holy Spirit speaking to?  Go back to verse 27:  “He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is.” 

Who is that?  Who’s He who searches the hearts?  Well, 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”  First Kings 8:39 says, “You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men.”  First Chronicles 28:9 says, “The Lord searches every heart, understands every motive.”  Psalm 139: “Lord, You have searched me and known Me.  You know when I sit down; You know when I rise up.”  The entire psalm lays that out.  Proverbs 15:11: “Even Sheol and Abaddon are open before the Lord.”  Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, exceedingly corrupt.  Who can know it?”  The answer:  “I, the Lord search the mind.”  Acts 1:24: “Lord, You know every man’s heart.”  There’s no creature, says the writer of Hebrews, hidden from God’s sight.  “All things are open and laid bare to Him with whom we have to do.”  So the Holy Spirit is interceding for us in this wordless communication from His own eternal, holy mind to the Father and His mind.  The One who searches the hearts, God, knows the mind of the Spirit, perfect communion, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

What is the will of God for the saints?  What is God’s Will for us?  That we be glorified?  Is that His will?  Was His will that whomever He predestined He would call?  Whoever He called He would justify?  Whoever He justified He would glorify?  Is it His will to bring to heaven a redeemed humanity?  Is that His will?  Is that His purpose?  Is that the plan?  Absolutely the plan.  The Father planned it.  The Son provided for it.  And the Holy Spirit preserves it, protects it.  So the Spirit is praying for our glory in consistency with the Father’s will.  The Father planned our glory, the Son provided our glory, and the Spirit protects our glory.  This is just an astonishing verse. 

As you go through your life, you think about a lot of things around you and outside of you.  Do you ever think about anything inside of you?  Do you ever think about the ongoing, intercessory work of the Spirit of God who never slumbers or sleeps because God never slumbers or sleeps?  Do you think about the fact that in all the vicissitudes and struggles and issues of life, the Spirit of God is relentlessly interceding on your behalf, silently, in perfect communion with the mind of God to effect the purposes of God?  And that you even have an advocate against every accusation brought against you, namely Jesus Christ, who stands at the Father’s right hand in your defense as the One who paid in full the price for all your sins?  That’s why you get to glory.  That’s why no one can ever condemn you. 

Now, all of that produces the truth of verse 28.  All of that gets us to verse 28.  And I know that verse 28 is a popular verse, everybody knows it that’s been in the church any length of time.  And it sort of gets isolated a little bit, but the context gives the rich meaning of this verse, and you must see it in the context.  “And we know” – this is sequential, this is subsequent, this is connected. It is because of the groaning, intercessory ministry of the Holy Spirit in perfect harmony with the purposes of God to bring us to eternal glory.  It is because of the Spirit’s intercessory work and because of God’s divine purpose that God Himself, in answer to the Spirit’s pleas, “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” 

This doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  And let me just say – because we can’t go into all of this – I’ve done that in years past about verse 28. You can go on and on about it because it’s one of those expandable verses – very expandable verses.  But let’s just say for the moment that the “good” being referred to here is eternal glory.  The “good” being referred to here is eternal glory because it is eternal glory that is the goal of everything, as verse 30 indicates, “glorified”; verse 19, “the revealing of the sons of God”; verse 21, “the glory of the children of God,” that’s the theme; verses 24 and 25, our “hope.”  The good being spoken of here is our eternal glory. 

The point is this:  Because of the plan of God and the provision of Christ and the protection of the Holy Spirit through His intercessory ministry, God is causing all things to work together for our final, eternal, ultimate good.  Not everything in this life works out for good – far from it.  Oh, you might draw a good lesson from it.  You might draw a good outcome from it.  You might be drawn to the Lord. It might increase your prayer life. It might strengthen you. It might give you patience. It might perfect you, mature you.  It might make you able to counsel other people and strengthen them because you can comfort those with whom you’ve been comforted by God in the same struggles. 

All of those are wonderful realities, but that’s not the good that’s being spoken of here.  The good that dominates this passage is that ultimate, final good that is the glorification of true believers.  We are secured to that final good, that which is the best.  “God causes all things” – in response to the intercessory work of the blessed Holy Spirit – “to work together for good.”  The extent of security.  There it is, the extent of security – “all things” – “all things” – “all things.”  What does that mean?  Nothing can change the ultimate good – nothing.  That’s the positive way of saying we’re in a no condemnation status.  There are no limits on that.  “All things,” pantos, whatever the nature, whatever the number, whatever the extent, whatever the character of whatever may come in a fallen, corrupt world to people who still bear the weight of the curse in their unredeemed humanness – all of it.  Everything that comes – everything – is woven together by God for our final good. 

“Works together” is sunergei, from which we get synergy.  God is the great synergizer.  We could say that’s what providence is, God’s providence.  All things are not necessarily good in themselves, all things don’t necessarily combine to produce good in this life.  Some of you are living with that.  Life’s not being good – illness, loss of jobs, loss of houses, loss of lots of things, friends.  But in the end, there is a good, the ultimate good, eternal glory, that will come to pass.  That’s the good that is the theme here, and it’s attached to the hope mentioned in verses 24 and 25, our eternal hope. 

And this is good in the moral sense, not kalos, which is kind of good in the appeal to the eye.  This is agathos, good in the moral sense; the true goodness, the real goodness, the ultimate goodness so that we can say good things – and life is full of many good things, obviously; we’re blessed.  Good things work together for our good.  But so do bad things.  Bad things work together for our good – suffering, struggling with temptation, even sin.  God gets a hold of all of these things and works them, in response to the intercessory work of the Holy Spirit, to our final good. 

So that’s the extent of our security.  How could we ever lose our salvation if everything that happens to us works together for our eternal good?  There’s no other option. 

So that’s the extent of security.  Who are the recipients of this?  The recipients of this security, this promise – just quickly.  Verse 27 tells us that the Spirit is interceding “for the saints” – “for the saints,” the holy ones who have been covered with the righteousness of Christ, and thus before God are holy.  But then in verse 28, it further defines them this way: “to those who love God.”  “To those who love God.”  They’re the recipients of this. 

You ever kind of ask yourself the question, “How do you know if somebody is a Christian?  How do I know if somebody – you know, they prayed a prayer, they go to church.”  How do you know if someone’s a Christian?  Here’s the answer:  They love God.  They love God.  They love God.  Why do they love God?  Because they’re the called.  That’s an effectual call.  That’s an effectual call. That’s not an invitation like in Matthew 22 when the Lord invites people to come.  That’s an effectual call.  That is an absolute call.  Verse 30:  “Whom He called, He justified.”  This is the call to life from spiritual death.  This is the effectual call, as theologians have called it.  All those who have been called in that way, called into life, called into salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit are then described as those who love God. 

How can you tell a true Christian?  They love God.  They love God.  Basic – they love God; they love Christ.  “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be damned,” 1 Corinthians 16:22 says.  Being Christian is about loving Christ, loving Christ.  We’re like that woman in Luke 7 who loved much because we’d been forgiven much.  The great command of the Old Testament is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  We desire to do that.  We don’t do that, but we do love God.  All through Scripture, true believers are described as those who love God.  “We love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you.”  We love God.  We love Jesus Christ. 

It is a love that meditates on His majestic glory.  It is a love that longs to worship, to sing His praises.  It is a love that seeks the fellowship of others who love Him.  It is a love that loves those who love Him and are loved by Him.  It is a love that seeks communion with God, intimate communion.  It is a love that seeks the knowledge of God in the Word of God, to know Him more.  It is a love that is sensitive to God’s honor and God’s dishonor.  It is a love that hates what God hates and loves what God loves.  It is a love that grieves over sin and rejoices over righteousness.  It is a love that rejects the world.  It is a love that longs for the coming of Jesus Christ.  But mostly, it is a love that obeys the Scripture.  “If you love Me” – Do what? – “keep My commandments.”  “Whoever keeps My Word, he it is that loves Me.” 

For all those true believers who love the Lord, the promise is a wonderful promise.  The Holy Spirit is interceding in perfect harmony with the will of God so that God is causing everything that happens in the life of those who love Him to come together in the end for their eternal good and eternal glory because that was His purpose from the very beginning.  Predestined to that purpose.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  I think it’s time in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to give honor to the Holy Spirit, to worship Him, to love Him, to ascribe to Him the glory that He is due and to stop the nonsense that brings dishonor on His holy name. 

We do a lot about worshiping God.  We say a lot about worshiping God.  We seem particularly in this current era to celebrate, and could neither be over-celebrated, neither the Father or the Son; to celebrate the cross and the work of Christ, and you could never do that too much.  But in the midst of all of this, seems to me the Holy Spirit has been left behind.  And He is equally God and equally to be honored and adored. 

These are things that are confidences that we have.  Verse 28 says, “We know.”  “We know.”  This isn’t a maybe; we know this.  This is the certainty of our security.  “We know.”  How do we know?  Because we know the purpose of God to predestine, call, justify, and glorify a redeemed people.  This is the plan.  Christ provided the necessary sacrifice, and the Spirit makes the plan work all the way to the end. 

Now, verses 29 and 30 are two profound verses for next time.  But I want you to listen to me right now.  Usually,  when I finish going through the Word of God with you, I have prayer and then you all just jump up and run.  I don’t know where you’re going.  I don’t know what’s so urgent.  I just assume it’s deep conviction, and whoever gets up first is the most convicted.  So we’re going to ask you, because when you teach the Word of God, the Spirit of God is working, don’t you believe that?  And sometimes it just ends, and so what we’re going to do is I’m going to have a final prayer with you at the end of our service and let you know the prayer room is available and open for any help you need spiritually, anything you need there.  The member center is open for membership, baptism information, you know all that. 

But I’m going to ask you after this closing prayer to sit quietly and meditatively and think about what you heard while Steve plays for about 30 seconds or so, just some quiet background. And let’s just try to capture some moments of personal examination, okay?  And then when he hits the foot pedals with both feet, that’s the signal that you can begin to move.  Can we do that?  And just kind of close in that meditative way after this prayer? 

Father, thank You for – thank You for this.  What can we say?  What can we say?  What can we even comprehend of this magnificence of this generous grace, of this overwhelming mercy that You have given to us?  We thank You for not only giving us Christ as our heavenly defender, but giving us the Holy Spirit as our earthly intercessor who cries out for our glory. And You hear and You answer, and we’re secure by a supernatural protector.  We give glory to You, O Son of God, for the mighty work on the cross, for the purchase price of our redemption.  We give You glory, O blessed Holy Spirit, for regenerating us, sanctifying us, securing us, and one day glorifying us.  We want to honor You, the triune God, in every way and live lives that adorn all that is true about You, as much as is possible for weak humans such as we are.  Thank You that You’ve made us Your children, adopted us as sons, and we, too, groan until the day of our glory when we can fall at Your feet and worship You, O God, in full righteousness.  That’s our prayer.  In anticipation of that, we offer You the rest of this grace journey in obedience to You, that Christ may be honored and lifted up and draw others to Himself.  We pray in His name.

VIDEO Guaranteed Glory

John MacArthur  Jan 22, 2012

Let’s open the Word of God to the 8th chapter of Romans and we’re going to look – essentially, we’re going to look at just two verses – just two verses.  But in order to set it in your mind, I want to read three verses, verses 28, 29, and 30.  They really do go together.  We’ve pretty much covered verse 28 already and at least the second half of verse 29, but I want to read them for you. 

Romans 8:28:  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.  And these whom He predestined, He also called.  And these whom He called, He also justified.  And these whom He justified, He also glorified.” 

Now, as we have been learning, just to give you the broad picture again, I don’t want to belabor this point, but it is an urgent point to make.  As we have been learning, the gracious, mighty, wondrous work of the Holy Spirit on behalf of every Christian is sufficient to motivate full-hearted, joyous, grateful worship, and worship is the priority for the believer.  We are first and foremost worshipers.  The Father is seeking true worshipers, and we are those who worship in the Spirit, according to the apostle Paul.  We are first and foremost worshipers.  The object of our worship is the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

And basically speaking, we are well-informed in the worship of God the Father.  We understand His attributes, we understand His mighty works, and we celebrate them in our expressions of worship, both individually and corporately.  We’re well-informed on the worship of the Son of God.  We understand His life and ministry.  We understand His death and His resurrection, ascension, His intercessory work, His return.  We do well to worship the Son.  But we don’t understand fully, at least in the evangelical church, the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  And consequently, we do not worship the Spirit as we should and, therefore, we do not worship the triune God in the fullest measure that He is worthy to receive. 

Our worship of the Holy Spirit, like our worship of the Father and our worship of the Son, is only as true, only as pure, and only as accurate and only as extensive as our knowledge of the Spirit’s person and work.  And since that is a very glaring problem in the evangelical world today, we’ve been endeavoring to take a good look at the ministry of the Holy Spirit for which He is to be worshiped.  And I want to say at the very outset that the Holy Spirit is no less the sovereign than the Son or the Father.  He is no less sovereign, He is no less in authority, than any other member of the Trinity.  He is to be obeyed as are the Son and the Father.  He is to be honored and submitted to as are the Son and the Father. 

But the general, evangelical church in our time has been cheated of the understanding of the Holy Spirit as to His person and His work, His ministry.  And consequently, our worship of the Holy Spirit is convoluted – or functions in ignorance.  The Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, which starts at the beginning of the 20th century, has produced endless misconceptions about the Holy Spirit, endless misrepresentations of the Holy Spirit, much abuse and blasphemy of His holy name.  And in the name of unity and in the name of love and in the name of acceptance, the evangelical church has decided not to correct this vast realm of propagated error.  That is a serious thing to avoid.  This needs correction; it needs exposure. 

The Holy Spirit is perceived in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, no matter what might be said.  The Holy Spirit is nonetheless perceived not as the sovereign God, not as the sovereign Spirit ruling, commanding the believer, not as the one to whom we submit, whose word we obey, but rather the Holy Spirit is presented almost in an impersonal way as a kind of a force, a kind of metaphysical force that serves the believer and submits to the will of the believer, the wish of the believer, the desire of the believer, the words of the believer and even, I suppose, the commands of the believer.  Personal desires, personal wants, personal wishes, personal ambitions, desires for health, wealth, prosperity, a longing for mystical experiences, esoteric feelings are supposed to be the actions of the Spirit which are basically activated by the believer’s demands, by the believer’s words. 

For example, perhaps as influential as any in the Charismatic movement is Benny Hinn.  Here are a few quotes from Benny.  “No, no, never ever go to the Lord and say, ‘If it be Your will.’”  Here’s another one:  “The activity of the Holy Spirit is dependent on my words.  He will not move until I say it.”  So he is sovereign and the Holy Spirit is a metaphysical force that functions in response to his words.  You will see that all the way through to all the word-faith positive confession preachers, all the way through to Joel Osteen, all the way – this all goes back to the – sort of the launch point of Kenneth Hagin, who stole these ideas from E. W. Kenyon, who twisted them out of Christian Science metaphysics.  But that’s the attitude.  The Spirit is barely personal, a kind of force. 

Benny Hinn actually says that this anointing of the Holy Spirit comes on him, particularly when he visits the grave of two dead women, heretical preachers, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Kathryn Kuhlman, that when he gets by their graves, the Holy Spirit anointing comes on him.  He says this anointing is so strong on him that he can take his coat off, rub his coat on himself, the anointing goes into the coat, flail the coat in the air and say “Bam, bam, bam,” and people in massive audiences all fall down because he’s wielding this power called the Holy Spirit.  This is what it means to be slain in the Spirit.  People fall over individually; they fall over in groups under the wielding of this power.  In fact, these evangelists like him are so in control of the Holy Spirit that they can demand that the Holy Spirit show up in a certain theater at 7:30 on a Wednesday night and they can throw Him around at their will. 

This is a false system.  Again, it’s metaphysics.  It’s the idea that the Holy Spirit is a mystical force and that there are certain laws that operate in the universe metaphysically and if you engage those laws, then the Holy Spirit moves in power.  The Holy Spirit’s name is used to give legitimacy to a false teacher.  There may be spirits there, but they’re not the Holy Spirit.  But the Holy Spirit’s name is used because that makes the preacher seem legitimate.  It also makes him famous and then it makes him rich.  And he is honored and the Holy Spirit is dishonored. 

How serious is this?  In Exodus chapter 20 verse 7, where the ten commandments are laid out, one of them says this:  “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.”  That’s a very dangerous thing to do, but that’s precisely what this kind of metaphysical treatment of the Holy Spirit is.  It is taking His name in vain.  It says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes his name in vain.”  I’m not the final court on what happens to these people but God is, and they will not go unpunished.  One could only wish that the punishment would come sooner rather than later for the sake of the people who are deceived. 

Scripture ascribes to the Holy Spirit every attribute that is ascribed to the Son and the Father.  Fully God, sovereign over all believers.  He does not obey us, He does not fulfill our will.  He does not act in response to certain metaphysical laws that we set into motion.  He does not move according to our verbal confessions.  He is not some kind of neutral force waiting for us to get Him going.  The Holy Spirit is sovereign over the believer.  We are to obey His words, submit to His authority.  We are to walk in the Spirit, live in the Spirit, obey the Spirit, and be filled constantly with the Spirit.  He is the authority of God in us and over us. 

And we have been looking at the true ministry of the Holy Spirit in Romans chapter 8, so let’s go there at this point.  Here, we’re learning the elements of His gracious work in believers.  We could sum it up and say it this way – and I think, you know, giving you these sort of big pictures is important.  The Father initiated the salvation plan in eternity past.  The Father initiated the salvation plan, the Son validated it on the cross and demonstrated it in His life.  He demonstrated what perfect humanity looks like.  He demonstrated what a saved and fully sanctified and even glorified person looks like. 

So the Father initiates this salvation plan.  The Son both validates it at the cross and demonstrates it in His life, but it is the Holy Spirit who activates it.  We don’t activate the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit activates the work of God in us and that is inclusive.  It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to repentance.  He convicts of sin and righteousness and judgment.  It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us, gives us life and understanding so that we can believe.  Therefore, it is the Holy Spirit who both convicts us of sin and regenerates us.  It is then the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us.  It is also the Holy Spirit who secures us; that is, guarantees our future glory, and then it is the Holy Spirit who glorifies us.  He will raise us by the power of the Spirit as He raised Jesus. 

So the whole work, the whole activation of the work of salvation, initiated by God, validated and demonstrated by Christ is then activated by the Holy Spirit.  Another way to say it is the Father purposed to save an elect people, the Son provided the sacrifice to make that salvation possible, and the Spirit produces that salvation.  He brings us to conviction, regeneration, sanctification and will one day glorify us.  The Holy Spirit then regenerates, sanctifies, secures, and glorifies the believer.  That’s His true work. 

Now, we’ve been looking at the work of the Holy Spirit in the chapter that’s before us, all the way down now to this section in verses 28-30.  And since we hit verse 17, we’ve been looking at one particular work of the Holy Spirit and that is this:  the work of securing us.  We talked about His work of regenerating us.  We talked about His work of sanctifying us, separating us from sin and death, enabling us to fulfill the law, changing our nature, causing us to behave in a righteous fashion, adopting us into the family of God and making us sons, all of these elements of sanctification and identity and union with Christ. 

We’re now looking at the final work that is laid out for us, and that is the Holy Spirit’s work of guaranteeing or securing our eternal glory.  This is from verse 17 all the way down to verse 30.  We look at this ministry of the Spirit of God by which He secures your eternal salvation, your place in heaven.  And I read you from 1 Peter purposely because I wanted to remind you that you have been secured to your future inheritance which is reserved for you.  It is protected by the power of God, namely the Holy Spirit.  It’s there waiting, imperishable, cannot be defiled, cannot fade away, reserved for you, and you’re protected so that one day you’re going to be there.  That is the securing work of the Holy Spirit.  He is, therefore, called the Spirit of promise.  He is the guarantee, the down payment, the engagement ring, the seal of God that will bring you to final glory. 

So starting in verse 17, the theme then moves from regeneration and sanctification to glory.  In verse 17, we begin to talk about being glorified with Him.  In verse 18, the glory that is to be revealed in us.  Verse 21, the glory of the children of God.  We all begin to look to the future.  We come into the hope for that glory in verse 24.  Again, hope in verse 25, and all the way down to verse 30 where we see the word “glorified.”  So the theme of 17 to 30 is our future glory and the emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit who secures us to that future glory. 

Now, it is demonstrated here that He does that in a most remarkable way in verses 26 and 27.  He intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  He is our intercessor.  He goes before the Father continually in an unspoken language, an inner Trinitarian communion without words.  It is the Spirit speaking to the Father without words – too profound for human language.  Human language would limit this communion, and the Spirit is speaking without words, communing with the Father in perfect harmony with the Father’s will.  Verse 27, He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God and He who searches the hearts – that is God – knows the mind of the Spirit.  So you have the plan of the Father, known by the Spirit, the Spirit interceding within the framework of that plan according to the will of God, and thus in that marvelous intercessory ministry of the Spirit, we are secured to glory. 

The Spirit is groaning for us to gain glory.  The creation groans in verses 19 to 22.  Believers groan in verse 23 to 25.  But neither of those groanings are efficacious.  But the groaning of the Holy Spirit is an efficacious groaning, it is a powerful groaning that secures us to final glory.  This is what the Holy Spirit does for us.  And because of this intercessory ministry of the Spirit of God, the Father Himself – verse 28 – works all things for our eternal good because this was His purpose and because He called us to Himself to love Him forever. 

So we are seeing that the picture shifts to future glory, the glorious revealing of the sons of God, which is what God planned at the beginning, right?  Now, that takes us to verses 29 and 30, just that brief summary.  And we looked already at the purpose of salvation in verse 29.  Let me touch it lightly.  The purpose is to conform us.  This is the secondary purpose, the penultimate, to conform us to the image of His Son.  His secondary purpose, God’s secondary purpose in saving people through all of redemptive history, His secondary purpose was to conform them to the image of His Son. 

It is maybe best to be understood in this way:  The whole of redemptive history is about the Father seeking a bride for His Son.  The Father loves the Son, He loves the Son perfectly, He wants to give to the Son a gift of love.  That gift will be a redeemed humanity that constitute a loving bride – a loving, submissive, joyous bride.  And so all through redemptive history, the Father is drawing the bride – drawing the bride.  Even when we get to heaven, the New Jerusalem is called the Bridal City, it comes down out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband.  The church is seen to be the bride, the redeemed are the bride.  Even the believing in Israel of old were the wife of Jehovah, to be the wife of the Son. 

So the Father is seeking a bride.  There’s a price for the Son to pay, as there was in ancient times.  When you took a bride, you paid a price for that bride and the price the Son was to pay was his own life.  Not silver and gold, as Peter says, but the precious blood that flowed in His own veins as He gave up His life to pay the purchase price for the bride that the Father had desired to give Him.  And so what is going to be heaven is going to be the collection of the bride brought to the bridal city.  When the bride is complete, redemptive history will end, and all the bride will gather around the Son.  They will love Him, adore Him, serve Him, worship Him, and with another element, they will reflect His glory.  They will be in His image.  We looked at that in detail, so we won’t cover it any more.  That’s the secondary purpose.  Then the primary purpose, the ultimate, in verse 29, so that He, the Lord Jesus, would be the preeminent one among many brethren.  The ultimate goal is the preeminence of Christ.  In the end, God will give Him a name above every name.  And at His name, every knee will bow. 

What is the purpose of redemptive history?  The Father loves the Son, determines to give a bride as a gift of love to the Son that will serve Him and adore Him and worship Him and love Him and reflect His glory.  And in some way, the reflection of that glory is greater than it would be without the redemption of that bride – if for no other reason than the fact that they will demonstrate something that without them would never be demonstrated and that is the grace of God.  In order for God to put all the panoply of attributes on display that are part of His grace and mercy, He has to redeem unworthy sinners.  And that’s the purpose of salvation.  In the end, we’ll give all glory to Christ.  We’ll cast our crowns, as they did in Revelation, at His feet, will confess Him as Lord, preeminent one.  That’s the purpose of salvation.  In the end, Christ will be all in all.  And then you know how the story really ends.  After the bride has been presented to Christ for His glory and His honor, Christ will take Himself and the bride and return them all to the Father in an act of reciprocal love.  It’s a staggering thing to be caught up in this. 

Now, what about the progress to this end?  That is the purpose of salvation.  The secondary purpose is that we might be made into the image of Christ, the primary purpose is that He then might become the preeminent one, the exalted one.  But the process to get to that is laid out for us in these two verses, 29 and 30.  Now, just to kind of help you, sometimes you hear about Reformed theology, you hear that phrase, or the Doctrines of Grace, or Calvinism, and you wonder just exactly what that is.  Okay, in a nutshell, it’s what it says here – it’s right here.  This is the best summary of the Doctrines of Grace, of the essence of Reformed Soteriology, of the essentials of Calvinism, this is it.  This is it in the saving side of it, and it’s all bound up in a sequence, in a process. 

It goes like this:  Verse 29:  “Whom He foreknew, He also predestined.”  Then go to verse 30:  “These whom He predestined, He also called.  These whom He called, He also justified.  And these whom He justified, He also glorified.”  Foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.  Those are five cardinal realities that make up the great redemptive purpose of God in salvation, these five things. 

By the way, again we are amazed at the economy of words which the Holy Spirit uses to bring these five things together in those few sentences.  I might add that millions and millions of pages have been written on these five things.  But let’s take a look at them.  Let’s try to understand the process, if we can call it a process, because nothing’s a process in God’s mind because He sees everything in its fullness and completion.  But for us, it’s a sequence and that’s the way it’s presented to us here in the language. 

Where does salvation begin?  What’s the primitive point at which it all launches?  Verse 29:  “For those whom He foreknew – For those whom He foreknew.”  Now, for some people, this is a meltdown point for accepting the sovereignty of God in salvation.  They say, “Oh, that’s the key.  He foreknew.”  He, because He knows everything that’s going to happen, looked ahead and He saw what people were going to do of their own free will, and since He knew what they were going to do, He chose them to be His own. 

Is that what foreknowledge is saying?  He saw what was going to happen – now let me tell you, He does know the future.  He knows the end from the beginning.  He knows everything that’s going to happen before it’s going to happen – that is true.  He does have prescience, if you want to call it that.  He does have knowledge of what hasn’t happened, full knowledge of it.  But is that what this is talking about?  Did God just look ahead at these fully independent people and say, “Well, they’re going to believe and they’re not going to believe, so since I know who is going to believe, those are the ones I’m going to elect.” 

Well, there’s several responses I have.  First of all, that would make the word “elect” nonsense because He didn’t choose anything.  So forget the doctrine of election because He didn’t choose anything.  It would be the doctrine of a reaction.  I don’t know if you want to try to preach the doctrine of divine reaction.  Or perhaps you’d like to preach the doctrine of human sovereignty.  Then you have to ask the question:  By what power did they overcome their fallenness?  By what power did these people that He looked at in the future, who had free will, overcome their depravity, their fallenness, their deadness, their blindness, their darkness?  And then you’d have to ask this:  If God looked ahead and saw that people would not choose the gospel and would not choose to believe and would therefore go to hell, why did He go ahead and create them?  Because, you see, the only reason people come up with this idea that God simply reacted to what He knew would happen is to get Him off the hook for what happens.  They’re trying to save God from a bad reputation, like being responsible for people who go to hell.  So they want to say we can’t do that to God, so He’s just reacting to what people do.  But then if nobody’s been created, why did He go ahead and create the people He knew would do that?  Or you could even ask a tougher question:  Why did He create people who had the potential to do that unless He had a purpose for that happening?  You don’t get God off the hook in the end any way you try.  What’s happening is within His purpose. 

Well, then what do you mean by foreknowledge?  What do we mean by that?  Well, we all understand that it doesn’t mean that God just knew what would happen and then He just reacted.  We get that.  Why?  Because in John 3, Jesus says to Nicodemus, “You must be born from above.”  You must be born from above.  In John chapter 6, Jesus says, “No man comes unto Me except the Father draw Him.”  At the end of the chapter, verse 65, He said, “The only people who come to Me are the people the Father draws to Me.”  We understand that.  Listen to Matthew 11 and verse 27:  “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” 

Wow.  The only way you can ever know God is if the Son reveals Him to you, and the only way you can ever know the Son is if the Father draws you to Him.  And by the way, did you notice the word “know” there?  This is the first key.  No one knows the Son except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son.  You say, “Well, whoa, whoa, whoa.  We know about the Son.  We have information about the Son.  Holy angels have information about the Son.  Demons have information about the Father and the Son.  What do you mean no one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son?”  The word “know” must be different than having information.  Okay?  It must mean something different than having information because holy angels, fallen angels, and even people have information about the Father and information about the Son but it’s not knowing.  What do you mean knowing? 

How about John 10?  This is a passage that speaks using the same word.  Verse 14, John 10, “I’m the Good Shepherd, I know My own and My own know Me and the Father knows Me and I know the Father.”  What kind of knowing is this?  You mean when Jesus says, “I know My own,” is He saying, “I have information about them” as if He has no information about anybody else?  In Amos 3:2, God says, “Israel only have I known.”  Israel only have I known.  What do you mean?  You know everything.  Israel only have I known.  This is something different.  In John 10:26, “You don’t believe because you’re not My sheep.”  Wow.  “My sheep hear My voice and I know them.”  I know them.  What kind of knowing?  What are we talking about here?  John 17, verse 25, “O righteous Father, the world hasn’t known You.  I have known You and these have known that You sent Me.  I have made Your name known to them.”  What kind of knowing are we talking about? 

Let me give you a helpful analogy.  Genesis 4 – don’t turn to it.  Genesis 4 in the original language says this:  “Cain knew his wife and she bore a son.”  Cain knew his wife.  In the beautiful, veiled, euphemistic language of Scripture, that’s a carnal knowledge.  That’s an intimate love relationship.  And the shocking thing for Mary when Gabriel showed up and told her she was going to have a baby was that she had never known Joseph.  She had never known him.  This is the knowledge that we’re talking about here.  We’re talking about a knowledge of intimacy.  Hosea 13:5:  “I knew you in the wilderness.”  What do you mean?  I set My love on you.  I established a love relationship with you in the wilderness. 

This is seen in so many places in New Testament.  “Many will say unto Me, ‘Lord, Lord, we did this, we did that, we did the other.’”  Matthew 7.  “And Jesus says, ‘Depart from Me I never” – what?  “Never knew you.”  Didn’t know who you were?  Of course He knew who they were.  He knows who they are.  I never had an intimate love relationship with you, that’s the kind of knowing we’re talking about. 

Let me show you a couple of verses – you might want to write these down because this question comes up a lot about foreknowledge, and I’m trying to help you to be able to answer it in your own mind and the minds of those that you can help.  But listen to 1 Corinthians 8:3.  It’s very simple.  It says it all.  “If anyone loves God, he’s known by Him.”  Got it?  That’s it.  Put an asterisk by that.  If anyone loves God, He’s known by Him. 

Let me ask you a question.  We love Him because what?  He first loved us.  He first loved us, we love Him back, that means He knows us.  When the Bible says that you are known by God, the Son says, “I know the Father, the Father knows Me” – intimate love.  In John 17, Jesus says, “The believers are known by the Father and known by Me.”  Intimate love.  I mean that’s what this knowledge is about.  Why is it fore knowledge?  Because before that love could ever happen, before anyone was ever born, it was ordained.  That’s why it’s fore knowledge.  That’s foreordination.  That’s established before it ever happened. 

Galatians 4:9 speaks of salvation this way:  “Now you have come to know God, or rather” – I love this – “to be known by God.”  What does it mean to be saved?  It means to be known by God.  What does it mean to be known by God?  That He knows you exist?  That He has information about you?  No, that He has established a love relationship with you.  Even in Romans chapter 11, that really significant chapter on the whole issue of sovereign election, at the very beginning of the chapter – verse 2 – “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.”  God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.  What does that mean?  Whom He predetermined to love. 

Go back to the writing of Moses.  The question comes up, Why Israel?  Why Israel?  As Richard Wolffe once said, “How odd of God to choose the Jews.”  Why Israel?  He says, “I set My love upon you not because you were greater than any other people but because I chose to love you.”  That’s a predetermined act of sovereign, uninfluenced love.  That’s foreknowledge.  And we read about it in 1 Peter.  “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, we have been sanctified by the Spirit, sprinkled with His blood.”  The primitive truth and reality in the scheme of salvation, it starts with a sovereign determination to love certain people.  And as John 13 says, to love them to the max, that’s foreknowledge.  It is a predetermined, foreordained, and, of course, foreseen determination to love. 

I just read from 1 Peter but I didn’t read the whole chapter, so let me read you again 1 Peter 1:2:  “We have been saved according to the foreknowledge of God.”  Listen to this.  Over in verse 19 and 20, same chapter, same writer, it says this:  “We were saved, redeemed with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.  For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world.”  What does foreknown mean regarding Christ?  Did God just look ahead and say, “Oh, wow, look at that.  He’s going to end up on a cross.  I’ve got to do something with that.”  To say Christ was foreknown before the foundation of the world, to be offered as a lamb unblemished and spotless is to say that God determined it, established it, fixed it.  And He has appeared in these last times for your sake.  That’s how foreknowledge works.  God determines it in eternity past and it occurs in time. 

One other illustration of the use of this term that helps us in Acts 2:23, Peter’s preaching concerning Christ on the Day of Pentecost, and he talks about Christ’s death and the people nailing Him to a cross, but he says that Christ was delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, delivered over to you to be crucified by the predetermined plan of God.  Now, mark it.  Peter is the one who wrote what I just read and Peter’s the one who preached this.  Peter understood the meaning of foreknowledge.  He, this Christ, was nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put to death by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.  The word plan is boul.  It’s used in classical Greek for a decision, a prescribed course of action coming from a decision.  Predetermined is horiz, from which we get horizon, a line of demarcation.  Something predetermined means to mark out the boundaries or the limits.  God established by His own counsel the boundaries.  He made the determination. 

Another way to translate predetermined would be destined.  By the destined purpose, plan, decision of God, marked out, pre-decided.  And then he adds, “And foreknowledge of God.”  That’s prognosis in English, prognosis.  It is God’s foreordained decision marked out to save, to establish a love relationship with certain people.  Set His love on them as He did Israel, before the foundation of the world.  That’s foreknowledge.  It’s a fact, it’s an established fact. 

Now go back to Romans 8.  In Romans 8 – and I just wanted you to get that foreknowledge because the others we can kind of draw out of our resource.  We’ve talked about them in the past.  “Whom He foreknew” – verse 29 – “He also predestined.”  What is predestined?  Well, that speaks of the end, the destiny.  By the way, predestined is prooriz.  It’s an intensified form of marking out the boundaries.  This is the final purpose.  He predestined, tells us, to become conformed to the image of His Son so that He would be the preeminent one among many.  So by a decision marked out, foreordained, and established in eternity past, God predetermined an intimate love relationship with certain people.  He established it by His decree, and based on that decision in the past, He predestined the future, the end, the final purpose.  He marked out from the beginning the very end.  Our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world.  Revelation 13:8Revelation 17:8 says that.  All that God intended to do was determined at the very beginning and predestined to its very end.  That’s the big picture right there.  In fact, it was in Acts 4:28 that we read that God does whatever His hand and His purpose predestines to occur.  Acts 4:28.  Whatever He predestines to occur will occur. 

So foreknowledge speaks of His choice.  You might say that’s election.  Predestination speaks of the result of that choice, the end.  So whoever He foreknew, He predestined.  Therefore, drop down to verse 30, “These whom He predestined He also called.”  Now we move into time.  Now we move into human history.  Those whom He called.  What do you mean called?  Well, we don’t mean like an invitation.  We don’t mean like it says in the gospels many are called, go out and call them to come in.  No, this is not that kind of a call.  This is a different kind of call.  We know from verse 28 in the same context that this is a calling connected, it says in verse 28, to His purpose.  God works all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  Now we’re talking about what theologians call an effectual call or an effective call or a powerful call or – I love these historic words – an irresistible call.  It’s a gracious call.  But it is nonetheless an effectual call.  It is not an external call.  It is not a call that comes to the ears to be rejected or accepted; it is an internal call, and that’s what sets it apart. 

It is really the mighty work of the Holy Spirit in the full scope of regeneration.  It is God’s saving call.  And that’s how we are referred to so often – Romans 1:7 – “To all who are beloved of God, called” to be holy, called saints.  “To all who are beloved of God, called.”  That puts it together.  Since God predetermined a love relationship with you, He called you internally, regenerated you, saving, redeeming, regenerating call. 

Listen, every time you see the idea of call in the epistles and the writings post-gospel, wherever you see that, it always refers to this saving act of the Spirit of God in regeneration.  And it follows all the way through that we are called.  Romans 8:28 being as good as any:  “To those who are called according to His purpose.”  It is a call connected to His purpose.  His purpose is to save and He calls to fulfill that purpose.  In fact, in the New Testament and even now, of course, we follow that up, we’re called the church.  You know what church is?  It comes from a Greek word ekklesia, which is a noun that draws from the verb ekkaleo.  Kaleo is call, ek is out of.  Ekkaleo, we are the church because we’re called out, out of the world, out of death, out of darkness, out of ignorance.  We’re the called.  This is the grace of God to us, to fulfill His eternal purpose. 

Listen to – you can’t really improve on 2 Timothy, I don’t think, in chapter 1, I think it’s verse 9 – yes – “who saved us.”  The power of God, that would be the Holy Spirit, who is the power of God, “who saved us and called us with a holy calling.”  That means it’s a calling to holiness.  It’s a real transformation.  It’s a true regeneration, calling to holiness.  Calling to ultimate holiness.  Calling to final perfection.  Calling to eternal glory.  And it comes by the gospel.  It doesn’t happen apart from the gospel.  Isn’t it – you know this, right?  Faith comes by what?  Hearing the Word concerning Christ, so they have to hear, they have to have a preacher, the preacher has to be sent.  So the calling comes by the gospel. 

Listen to 2 Thessalonians 2:13:  “We should always give thanks to God for you, beloved by the Lord.”  I just enjoy that phrase, “beloved by the Lord.”  That’s a phrase that ties into His election.  He set His love upon us before we were ever born, before anything was ever created.  But we now are beloved by the Lord because God has chosen you from the beginning.  He has chosen you from the beginning for salvation.  Then he says this, “It was for this He called you through our gospel that you may gain the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  It’s all there.  He chose you.  Then He called you by the gospel in order that He might glorify you.  Again, this is a sovereign call.  This is an effectual call.  This is the call that we know as salvation.  “Whom He called” – back to verse 30 – “He also justified.” 

And now we come to the fourth of these great realities, the great truth of justification.  What is that?  That we have been declared righteous before God.  It’s a legal term that God is satisfied with the sacrifice of Christ for all our sins, and since God is satisfied with that sacrifice, the penalty paid in full, justice is satisfied, divine justice.  Our sins have been paid for in full, imputed to Christ in His death.  By grace, God imputes His righteousness to us.  And that’s what causes us to be declared righteous.  Not that we are then righteous in ourselves, not that we have any inherent righteousness, but we are granted righteousness in an act by which God declares us just based upon the sacrifice of Christ which covers the punishment that we are due and based upon the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us.  He covers us with the very righteousness of God in Christ.  We know a lot about that.  He became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Corinthians 5:21

So God foreknows in the sense that He predetermines a love relationship in an intimate, eternal relationship with a certain group of people, He predestines that that relationship will end up in eternal glory, all of that before time began.  In time, He calls those whom He has chosen and He justifies those whom He calls.  And then the final – verse 30 – “These whom He justified, He also” – what? – “glorified.”  We all get to glory, folks.  “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me and I will lose none of them,” Jesus said.  He intercedes for us against all accusations.  The Holy Spirit intercedes for us from within us and secures us to eternal glory. 

Would you just notice something?  All the verbs in that verse are past tense.  That works for foreknowledge.  He foreknew, that’s a past tense verb.  Works for predestination because those happened in the past.  But what about called?  Shouldn’t it say He “will” call?  What about justified?  Shouldn’t it say He “will” justify?  I mean He’s not done.  And by the way, what about glorified?  Why are these all in a past tense?  That is another little nuance of the Greek.  One writer calls it a proleptic aorist, and that is a wonderful reality that you see in Scripture, the use of the past tense to speak of something so secure that you can talk of it as if it had already happened.  Your glory is as secure as predestination.  Predestination happened in the past.  Foreknowing happened in the past.  And as far as God is concerned, both your calling and your justification will produce your final glory, and He can speak of it as if it has already happened. 

I hope you’re feeling secure.  The work of the Holy Spirit – what is the work of the Holy Spirit?  To secure us, to intercede for us, to witness that we’re the children of God, to enable us to fulfill the law of God, to live righteously, to cry “Abba, Father,” enjoying our sonship, our intimacy with God, to sustain us supernaturally. 

What do you think about when you think about the comfort of the Spirit?  After all, the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, isn’t He?  Jesus said, “When I go away, I’ll send another Comforter.”  Where does the comfort of the Holy Spirit come from?  Are you looking for a buzz?  Are you looking for that like something doesn’t go right in your life and you’re saying, “Where’s the Comforter?”  Look, I do think the Holy Spirit ministers grace to us in times like that, but your comfort by the Holy Spirit comes from the knowledge of what the Holy Spirit is doing in your life to secure your future glory.  Is that comforting enough for you?  Is there anything more precious than that, than to know that your eternity is secure in the care of the Comforter?  That’s your greatest comfort.  There is no comfort equal to that. 

Any other comfort is a temporary comfort, and I believe the Spirit of God dispenses those kinds of things.  I think casting all your care on Him because He cares for you is a real experience that believers have.  I think the Spirit of God ministers comfort, but I think that comfort doesn’t sort of come, you know, just out of nowhere.  That’s why we read the comfort of the Scriptures.  It’s when we know the work of the Holy Spirit, connected to the work of the Son, connected to the will of the Father, that our comfort is secured.  He is our Comforter.  He comforts by the assurance that His gracious power will bring us to eternal glory.  Now, I don’t know how you respond to that, but if you think that’s pretty good, wait until we get to verse 31 and the rest of this chapter next time. 

Now, as we’ve been saying the last couple of weeks, I’m going to pray and then we’re going to have you just kind of wait meditatively and quietly while the organ plays for a few moments, and let these things sink in.  But I do want to say that our prayer room is open to my right.  We would love to minister to you there.  The visitors center is out there.  The members center, for those of you interested in baptism or church membership, any spiritual need, salvation, anybody to pray with you, you need someone to do that, you need some counsel, some help, please, we’re here to serve you in that way but particularly if you’re not sure that you have the Holy Spirit, that you’re on your way to heaven, we would love to talk to you about salvation.  So let’s pray and then you can meditate a while and let these things settle in your heart.

Father, we thank You for all that overwhelms us, floods us in the great glories of this sweeping redemptive purpose.  And what is so staggering about it is how we have been brought into it, due to nothing of our own, no choice of our own, no accomplishment of our own, no merit of our own.  You have determined to set Your love on us and to love us forever and give us the privilege of knowing You in the intimate sense and loving You forever and being loved by You and by Your Son.  And we are now loved by the Holy Spirit who loves us and loves You enough to secure us forever.  Thank You for the power of the Word of God to deliver these truths that become our comfort, and may we rejoice in that comfort and do all we can to demonstrate that joy in this life, even in the midst of trials, even though various trials, as we read from Peter, shall strike us here.  And help us to love these truths enough to share them with those who don’t yet know the truth of the comfort of eternal glory that can be found in faith in Christ.  Use us to that end, we pray in Christ’s name.  Amen.

VIDEO The Spirit of Adoption

By John MacArthur Dec 4, 2011

Let’s open the Word of God to the 8th chapter of the book of Romans, that beloved, wonderful treatise of the apostle Paul on the gospel and all the aspects of it.  And we’re looking at Romans 8 because that’s the chapter on the Holy Spirit, and this would be Part 6, or message number six, in the study of the life of the Holy Spirit, life and ministry of the Holy Spirit in the believer – in the believer.  What the Holy Spirit does in us.  And I began this series because of all the misrepresentations of the Holy Spirit that abound in the contemporary Christian world.  It is so terribly misrepresented, so insulted, so grieved, so quenched – to borrow biblical language – and so blasphemed.  If you watch the current Charismatic lineup of Holy Spirit anointed people, you would have absolutely no idea what the Holy Spirit does.  It seems as if they are the victims of an unholy spirit rather than a holy spirit, the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit doesn’t make people worldly, carnal, boastful, slick, unaccountable, outrageous, et ceteraet cetera.  The Holy Spirit has one objective, and that is to make people holy – holy.  So if somebody says that he is or she is anointed by the Holy Spirit, what should be manifest in that person is evident holiness.  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.  That’s why He’s called the Holy Spirit. 

In Isaiah’s famous trihagion, he hears the angels in antiphonal worship and they’re saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.”  And that can be trinitarian.  Holy is the Father, holy is the Son, holy is the Spirit.  That’s why there are three of them.  This is angelic recognition that the Trinity is essentially holy, and the work of the Holy Spirit is essentially to produce that holiness in human beings, in us. 

To better understand that, I want us to look at verses 14 to 16 of Romans 8.  I’m going to read them and we’ll come back to them in a while.  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God, for you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’.  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God.”  Several references there to the Holy Spirit as there have been in the previous 13 verses because, as we’ve been saying, this, in Paul’s great letter to the Romans, is the chapter that deals with the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers. 

But let’s go back to the starting point that we were talking about.  God the Father is holy, God the Son is holy, and the Spirit is holy.  With regard to the Father, Leviticus 19 says, “I, the Lord your God, am holy.”  And that, by the way, is repeated dozens of times in the Old Testament, God testifying to His own holiness.  The Son of God is deemed to be holy in Luke chapter 1, He is called the holy child.  And in the book of Hebrews, He is called holy and undefiled.  And in looking at the third member of the Trinity, the Spirit of God, we read in Romans 1:4 that one of His names is the Spirit of holiness.  So it is true, holy, holy, holy is a trinitarian confession.  They’re all holy; all members of the holy Trinity are by nature and essence and substance holy. 

But there is a particular work of God the Spirit with regard to reproducing holiness in believers.  That’s His work.  He works in what we call sanctification, which is separation from sin, to transform believers into holiness or, if you will, into the likeness of Jesus Christ.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not body work.  It can’t be visibly seen in the way you wiggle or move or sway or fall over backwards or mumble or put your hands in the air.  It is soul work, it is heart work.  In the Old Testament, we would say the work of the Holy Spirit was to produce godliness.  In the New Testament, we would say the work of the Holy Spirit is to produce Christlikeness.  The message of the Old Testament is be like God.  The message of the New Testament is be like Christ.  The agent of that is the Holy Spirit. 

Perhaps the single-most clarifying verse on this is 2 Corinthians 3:18, a verse upon which I wrote a book once when I was asked, “Could you write a small book on the most important verse for Christians in the New Testament?”  And I said, “Well, I don’t know if I can know that but there’s one I could pick,” and I picked this one, 2 Corinthians 3:18:  “We all with unveiled face, we have no obstructions, nothing blocking our view, behold as in a clear glass the glory of the Lord.”  As we look at the Lord, as we look at the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, and it’s being done by the Lord who is the Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit transforms us into Christlikeness as we gaze at the Lord Himself, moving us from one degree to another, one level of glory to another, to another, to another.  That is His work.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit.  That’s why He is called the Holy Spirit uniquely, or the Spirit of holiness, to produce holiness in us.  As I said, in the Old Testament, the term was godliness.  In the New Testament, it is Christlikeness.  It’s the sanctification.  The Holy Spirit is – the theologians would say it this way:  The Holy Spirit is the efficient cause – the Holy Spirit is the efficient cause; Scripture is the instrumental means that the Holy Spirit uses. 

Let’s back up a little bit and talk about this.  I want you to get the big picture, okay?  Because you need to understand that this work of the Holy Spirit is the purpose of God in redemption.  This is not part of, this is not a sub-category, this is the purpose of God in redemption, to make a people who are holy, godly, Christlike.  That’s the prize of the upward call.  That’s the goal of redemption.  The goal is not accomplished at justification; it is only accomplished at glorification when we all become perfect in holiness.  And the work of the Spirit in the meantime is to make us more and more holy in this life until we reach that perfect holiness in the life to come.  But let’s back up a little bit and understand from the very beginning what God is doing. 

Man created in God’s image is the message of Genesis 1 and 2, is it not?  Genesis 1:26 and 27:  “God made man in His own image,” in His own likeness, for one purpose, to reveal God, to reflect God’s glory, to express God’s character, to put His glory on display.  Chapter 3, man falls – man falls, and that purpose is lost because now you have mankind sinful, incapable of reflecting or expressing the glory of God.  That is why Romans tells us that we have all come short of what?  The glory of God.  That is universally true of fallen humanity.  We can’t do what we were created to do.  Made in the image of God for the purpose of reflecting, expressing the glory of God; fallen into sin, corrupted, marred, distorted, perverted.  We can’t do it.  And if you look at ancient history, after Adam, you see a few people who were rescued out of that condition and who truly became people who could reflect the glory of God.  Enoch who walked with God one day and just kept walking right into heaven and didn’t die.  The sons of Seth who were a godly line, but there were so few people in that marred, perverted, corrupted humanity – listen to this – that a few generations later, God drowned the entire human race because there were only eight people who could reflect His glory.  Only eight out of millions.  He wiped them out, started all over again.  That’s how profound fallen corruption is. 

God the Father then determined from that eight people to restore the terribly distorted, the terribly marred image of God in humanity by sovereignly and supernaturally and graciously transforming those sinners.  It wasn’t a superficial job.  It wasn’t a paint job.  It wasn’t something on the outside.  Had to be something on the inside.  He had to re-create them to be capable of manifesting His glory.  Peter describes it in words that are very, very important, and very clear.  Peter says in 2 Peter 1:4:  “You have escaped the corruption.”  You have escaped being marred.  You have escaped being in that perverse condition, you have escaped that by becoming – listen to this – partakers of the divine nature.  Wow – partakers of the divine nature.  The very nature that is God’s has been given to you in a rebirth. 

That is the purpose of salvation.  The purpose of God’s redemptive plan is to recover humanity from its inability to give Him glory.  The purpose of salvation is to overturn the Fall and make men capable of glorifying Him.  And for that, God has to re-create them.  They have to be born all over again, spiritually.  They have to have a new nature.  They have to become new men.  All that’s biblical language.  They have to have a new birth.  If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us.  That whole work of doing that is the work of the Holy Spirit.  We celebrate the cross, and rightly we should.  We celebrate the love of God, the greatness of God, we sing hymns of praise to God.  We sing about the cross and rightly we should, but in the middle of all of this, we forget that the real efficient cause, the divine source of everything that we are as Christians is in fact the Holy Spirit. 

The plan of God is to take corrupt sinners who cannot glorify Him, who have no capacity, who come short of being able to do that, in whom the divine image is marred.  It is marred to such a degree – here’s how much it’s marred – that apart from regeneration, all those marred people are so useless to God for the purpose for which He made man that He throws them into the trash heap of the universe, which is an everlasting burning pit called Gehenna which was the name of the trash heap in Jerusalem, where they burn forever because they are useless, without the possibility of any escape.  How severe is the marring?  Severe enough to throw humanity on the dump as absolutely useless.  Let it be everlastingly consumed.  The plan of redemption is to rescue some of those people, redo them, give them new life, regenerate them, re-create them, restore them, transform them, put them through a spiritual metamorphosis and make them partakers of the divine nature.  That’s such a great statement.  That’s God’s plan.  He initiated it. 

Now, when God does that, what does a truly regenerated person who becomes a full partaker of the divine nature look like?  I’ll give you the answer in one word:  Jesus.  God initiated it and Jesus demonstrated it.  When you look at Jesus, you see the perfect image of God in human form.  Could He glorify God?  John 1:14 says:  “We beheld His glory.”  And what glory was it?  “The glory as of the only begotten of the Father.”  He put God on display like God had never been put on display before.  If you want to see the perfect work of the Holy Spirit in an individual, look at Jesus Christ.  Remember what Jesus said.  Everything He did was the work of the Holy Spirit in Him, right?  Everything. 

In His condescension, He yielded up all those prerogatives of His own and yielded Himself to the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit so that everything He did, He did by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Even offering self in death and even rising from the dead was the work of the Holy Spirit.  Because He becomes then the perfect model of the work of the Holy Spirit and the end result of that is a perfect humanity.  And what will it look like?  It will look like Jesus Christ.  That’s why it says when you go to heaven, you’re going to have a body like unto His glorious body, and you’re going to be like Him because you’ll see Him as He is, and the day you see Him as He is, you’ll be made like Him.  That’s the goal.  So what is the purpose of redemption?  To create a humanity that is like Christ.  Not that we are God, we will always be a glorified humanity, but we will be as much like Jesus Christ as glorified humanity can be.  We will be perfect in the image of God in human form.  So God initiated it, Jesus demonstrated it, and the Holy Spirit effects it.  In the end, it is the Holy Spirit who raises us.  We already saw that in this chapter. 

It is the Holy Spirit who raises us.  Verse 11 tells us that.  So He will raise us to glory.  We’ll see more about that in future verses here.  It is the Holy Spirit who raises us to glory and makes us, in the end, like Christ.  We will then be that fully restored, glorious, perfect, righteous, holy humanity forever.  But in the meantime, the Holy Spirit leaves us here so that we can do the work of evangelism, right?  Because we are the source that God has determined to do the work of evangelism, but as long as He leaves us here, He has to get us into the sanctifying process.  That’s 2 Corinthians 3:18, from one level of glory to the next by degree, by degree, by degree.  When you go to heaven, it’s instant, you’re immediately perfect.  In the meantime, it’s a progress done by the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit starts it by giving us birth – we’re born of the Spirit.  He regenerates us.  He is the one who gives us that new life.  He’s the one who rescues us from our corruption and our perversity and our wickedness.  And He’s the one who rescues us from being so hopelessly marred that we should end up on the trash heap of hell forever.  He rescues us, gives us new life, re-creates us.  He is the efficient cause of that, and the instrumental means that He uses is the Scripture.  We are begotten again by the truth.  We are sanctified by the truth.  This is His work, and He will glorify us.  So He regenerates us, sanctifies us, and glorifies us.  He’s the one, in a sense, who delivers to God this perfected, redeemed humanity. 

Now, that’s kind of the big picture.  The Spirit’s work, then, is the restoration of the image of God in man, ultimately in the glory of perfection in heaven when we’re made like Christ.  But in the meantime, in this life, He is committed to moving us by degree from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next.  Now, there’s another component in this that I want you to understand as I expand on that idea a little bit.  I’m going to go back through that idea and extend it just a bit. 

If you were to look at the Old Testament and ask the question:  “What does it say about sanctification?” you wouldn’t find anything in the Old Testament that says the goal of sanctification is to make you like Christ because they hadn’t seen Christ, right?  So the word that you need to use when you talk about Old Testament sanctification is godliness – godliness.  The objective of the Old Testament was to have a people who were like God.  In Leviticus, for example – and that’s kind of the key place for this – starting in chapter 11 or even earlier and running all the way through to chapter 20 or so – ten or so chapters – you hear this:  “Be holy for I am holy.”  “Be holy for I am holy.”  “Be holy for I am holy.”  This is repeated and repeated and repeated.  Godliness, be like God, be holy like God is holy.  How does that happen?  Well, Leviticus gives us a critical insight into that in a number of places, but I’ll just use two of them, or one to start with.  Leviticus 20 and verse 8.  In verse 7, there’s that familiar statement:  “Be holy for I am the Lord your God and I’m holy.”  But in verse 8 it says this:  “You shall keep My statutes and practice them.  I’m the Lord who sanctifies you.”

Do you understand what that’s saying?  Sanctification is done by the Lord in a context of obedience.  “You have to know My statutes and practice them.”  So again, the Scripture is the instrumental means by which the Lord sanctified His people, even in the Old Testament.  He gave them His Word, they were to obey His Word, they were to practice what He said, and that is the means by which the Lord sanctified His people. 

In chapter 21 verse 8, he talks about the same thing.  “You shall be holy for I, the Lord who sanctifies you, am holy.”  Again, “I want you holy because I’m holy.”  And “I will sanctify you insofar as you believe and obey My Word.”  The instrumental means of sanctification is the Word. 

Now, let me take it even a step further.  To understand sanctification in the Old Testament, you have to understand one basic truth, and that is this:  God was endeavoring in the process of sanctification by the work of the Holy Spirit to produce a family resemblance in His people, a people who are like God.  In the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, He said this – chapter 5 of Matthew, verse 45:  “Be like your Father who is in heaven.”  If you forgive your enemy, those who harm you, you will be like your Father who is in heaven.  That’s an Old Testament perspective on sanctification.  Be like God.  Be like God. 

Another one in the same sermon – chapter 5 – is this:  “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  If you belong to God, if you are a child of God, there should be a family resemblance, right?  That’s the essence of understanding Old Testament sanctification.  Sanctification in the Old Testament is seen as part of a true covenant relationship to God, and that covenant relationship is a family relationship.  You’ve come into the family of God, and the process of sanctification is designed to make you more and more like your Father.  That’s sanctification in the Old Testament, godlike.  That’s what godliness is.  The goal is the restoration of the divine image. 

Now, what happens in the New Testament is very important but easy to understand.  In the New Testament, the emphasis is not so much be like God, but what?  Be like Christ.  Why?  Is that different?  No.  It is this, that Christ is the perfect representation of what a human being who is totally godlike looks like, right?  This is a human being, fully human and godlike.  John 1:14 again:  “We beheld His glory,” He was like God, He was full of grace and truth.  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.  He makes godly people Christlike people.  Sanctification equals godliness equals Christlikeness.  That’s what holiness is, separating from sin unto godliness, unto Christlikeness. 

So the wondrous reality of a life of Christ lived here on earth is you get to see what godliness looks like, what perfect godliness in a human being looks like.  And that’s the model, and that’s why the apostle Paul said, “Be followers of me as I am of Christ.”  Or Christ says, “Follow Me, I’m the pattern.”  God spoke in time past, revealing Himself through the writers of the Old Testament, but in these last days, Hebrews 1 says, “He’s spoken to us in His Son who is the exact representation of His person.”  So when somebody says to me, “I want to be godly.  What does that look like?”  I say, “It looks exactly like Jesus Christ.”  You want to see godliness in a human form?  Christ.  That’s why we’re told in 2 Corinthians 3:18 to look at the glory of the Lord because that is the standard of holiness and sanctification.  And the Holy Spirit, as that vision becomes clear to us and dominates our minds, will move us from one degree to the next, to the next, to the next, even in this life.  The divine miracle of regeneration is done by the Holy Spirit.  The divine miracle of glorification is done by the Holy Spirit.  And the divine miracle in the middle of sanctification is also done by the Holy Spirit and it is no less miraculous. 

What the Holy Spirit does is He shows us the things of Christ.  Remember Jesus said that in the Upper Room?  He will show you the things of Christ.  Why?  Because it’s only as you look at Christ that you see the full representation of God.  It’s only as you look at Christ you understand what godliness, holiness, sanctification is, and as you gaze on that all-absorbing perfection in human form, that becomes the model and the standard to which the Spirit of God forms you. 

So when somebody says, “I’m anointed by the Holy Spirit,” they ought to look a lot like Christ.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit in every believer.  The goal of the Holy Spirit is to produce sons of God who have a family resemblance who are like their Father and like their Brother, Jesus Christ, who is not ashamed to call them brother.  That’s the goal of the death of Christ and the resurrection.  The goal of the death of Christ, the goal of the resurrection, was to go back to heaven having provided sufficient atonement and send the Holy Spirit.  The goal of the death of Christ, the resurrection, was to send the Holy Spirit for the purpose of regenerating, sanctifying, and glorifying those who believe. 

It’s about family and it’s about family resemblance that we’re talking here, and if you go back with me to Romans 8 – we finally got there – you will see that the main theme here is that the Holy Spirit is doing the work of adoption.  You have the reference to sons of God in verse 14.  You have the reference to adoption as sons in verse 15.  And then you have the reference to sons of God or children of God again in 16.  This is about being in the family, about this covenant relation to God that makes you a member of the family.  And the work of the Holy Spirit is to make you look like the rest of the family, like your Father and like your perfect Brother.  It’s about family likeness. 

It was no less than John Calvin, who had a pretty good grip on theology, who said, “This gift of sonship is the highest privilege of redemption and the primary work of the Holy Spirit.”  John Calvin said this is the primary work of the Holy Spirit.  It is.  Can I be so bold as to say even His work of inspiring the Scripture was a means to accomplishing His work of sanctifying and glorifying a people?  The Scripture is a means to an end and not an end.  This is the end.  It is the highest privilege of redemption to become a son of God, and it is the primary work of the Holy Spirit to make sons of God by regenerating them, glorifying them, and in the middle, sanctifying them so that their testimony is believable.  That’s why we’re here. 

Well, this is powerful and foundational truth.  We should know this.  It’s not only here in Paul’s writing to the Romans, but he makes a similar reference to the urgency and the importance of understanding this at the end of chapter 6 in 2 Corinthians when he says, “‘Come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord” and He’s borrowing that, of course, from Isaiah.  “‘And don’t touch what is unclean and I’ll welcome you and I’ll be a Father to you and you’ll be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord almighty.”  God is making a family.  God is redeeming a family.  God is regenerating a family – listen – who will be able to demonstrate His glory by the image of God that is in them.  In order to restore the image of God, we have to be re-created.  We have to be reborn.  And that’s what regeneration and new birth is all about. 

It will help you, I think, to understand the nature of adoption because you’re probably saying to yourself, “Well, adoption, you know, it talks about that in verse 15, adoption, but adoption is kind of a second-class deal.”  You know, we read in the newspapers about the people who adopt kids and then put them on a plane and ship them back because they don’t want them.  Wow.  And people say this all the time.  You never know what you’re going to get, you know, you can go through the legal deal and you can adopt a child but you can’t change a child’s heart.  So you get what you get.  And it may not work out very well and adopted children may turn out to be a disaster and a terror in the home, et ceteraet ceteraet cetera, because you can’t really control what they are in the inside.  You can do all the legal work on the outside. 

You need to understand that the way the Bible talks about adoption is so complete and so comprehensive that it shuts out all those criticisms, and I’ll explain that to you.  In the 1st century, if you were adopted, that didn’t make you a second-class child, that made you a first-class child.  And this is basic, okay?  In all honesty, when you have babies in your family, you get what you get.  Right?  You might look at one kid and say, “Wow, we could use a little more brain power there.  We could use a little less rebellion there.  We could use a little patience there.  But we got what we got.”  And I talk to enough parents to know that if they had been given a list of what they wanted, they might have been happy to put it in if they knew it would get the results they could expect.  And that’s why, actually, today people who go to those banks and buy sperm want sort of a genetic profile because they want to orchestrate the kind of kid they’re going to have, they want to sort of manage that.  But I mean reality is you get what you get.  And that’s okay because you understand that, you love those children.  But in the ancient world, if you adopted somebody, you were adopting a son, in most cases.  It wasn’t rescuing kids from the street, they didn’t adopt kids off the street as a rescue operation.  You adopted a son because you found somebody who exceeded in capability the ones that you had.  This is first-class stuff.  An adopted son was deliberately chosen by an adopting father to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate. 

This might be how you dealt with a delinquent.  You just adopted a noble young man to become your son.  No way was that adopted son inferior.  On occasions it might have been a daughter, but for the most part it was a son because they were the ones to whom the estate and responsibility passed.  This would be typical.  You chose this son because of his superior ability to represent the family, to manage the family’s future, and to inherit the family’s estate.  This adopted son may well have been the apple of his father’s eye, the joy of his father’s heart.  He may have received the best of his father’s affection and education more so than a born son and may have even demonstrated his father’s virtue and his father’s training more perfectly than the others. 

The whole point of the picture is to say this:  You’ve been adopted.  That’s a divine choice.  Not because before you were adopted you were so noble that God couldn’t continue to keep His kingdom in motion without you.  By sovereign, divine choice, God preferred you and He preferred me.  Free, voluntary election.  It’s an amazing thing. 

Let me tell you how it worked.  A Roman adoption was a very formal event.  It was difficult because in the Roman law, there was this rule called patria potestas, the father’s power.  That’s Latin.  And the father’s power meant that he had absolute power over the family.  He had absolute right to dispose of his children in the early stages of the Roman Empire, kill his children if he wanted, absolute control over them.  In regard to a Roman son, he never came of age in the sense that he ever had any independence from his father’s power.  No matter how old he was, no matter if he was married, he was always under the absolute power of his father.  If you were a son or a daughter, you were under absolute possession, absolute control by your father. 

This made adoption very difficult because if you found a son that you wanted, you wanted because you could use him in your business, in your estate, in your family, for the well-being of your family’s future, how you going to get the other father to let him go?  If he’s a noble enough son for you to want him so much, how is that going to happen?  Well, some negotiations were involved in that.  He had to formally pass out of the patria potestas of the man to whom he was born and pass into the patria potestas of the adoptive father.  Two steps.  Interesting.  Step number one was called mancipatio, from which we get emancipation. 

Mancipatio was carried out by a symbolic sale.  A symbolic sale, actually, in which scales and pieces of copper were used, and three times a little ceremony went on.  Three times there was a symbolic sale.  Here’s the boy, and the money was placed on the scale.  First time, the father would then take him back and say, “No, no.”  And then he would do it again, and the money would be put on the scale, and he would take him back again.  And this was to demonstrate reluctance and to communicate that he wasn’t just throwing this child away – this son away.  Third time, however, he didn’t take him back, and he was emancipated from the patria potestas of his birth father. 

Then there followed a ceremony called vindicatio.  The adopting father would go the praetor, who would be the Roman official or magistrate, present a legal case for the transference of the son from one family to the next.  When it was all complete, adoption was complete.  Very formal. 

Now, here’s what happened.  This is important.  Four very important things took place.  One, the adopted person lost all rights in his former family.  Had no rights, had no existence in that former family, and he gained all the rights of his new family.  Couldn’t go back and try to get something from his former family.  All was completely cut off from the past, and he had all the rights of a fully legitimate son in his new family. 

Secondly, he became heir to his new father’s estate.  He became heir to his new father’s estate.  That’s why this was done.  And when he became an heir to his new father’s estate, even afterward, if other sons were born, they could make no claim against it because they were natural-born sons.  It didn’t affect the adopted son’s rights. 

Thirdly, the old life of the adopted person – listen to this – was completely obliterated.  It was as if he never lived.  All his debts were cancelled on the spot.  All his records were obliterated.  It was as if he was born the day he was adopted.  Everything else went out of existence.  He was like a new person who just started his life. 

And fourthly, in the eyes of the law, the adopted person was permanently and absolutely the son of his new father.  Does that sound like salvation to you?  That’s exactly what it is depicting, this concept of adoption.  All our rights to our former family and our former father, the devil, are cancelled.  We gain all the rights, fully legitimate sons in our new family, heirs of Christ, joint heirs with Christ of all that the Father possesses.  We are the inheritors of His estate.  Everything from our old life is wiped out, right?  Isn’t the debt that was against us cancelled at the cross?  And aren’t we the true sons, everlastingly the true sons of our new Father?

This is amazingly beautiful.  And if you’re still bothered a little bit by the fact that this seems still to be somewhat superficial, let me help you with that.  You can adopt a child, but you have to realize that when you adopt a child, you can’t change their nature, that child’s nature.  And we see that kind of problem all the time.  “Well, we adopted this child thinking the best and this kid is incorrigible, this kid is rebellious, this kid is angry, this kid is” – you make up the letters, ADD, ADHD, bipolar, psychotic – whatever.  And, you know, you went through all the deal to figure out the legal aspect of this thing, but you couldn’t change the heart.  That’s where the biblical work of the Spirit of God is so different from adoption.  Listen, we become sons by adoption but we also become sons by regeneration.  Adoption gives us the name and the title and the rights, regeneration gives us the nature of our new family, the spiritual genetics of our new family. 

The emphasis on adoption is to show that we were chosen.  And it’s the analogy that all the past is cancelled.  It’s as if we were born again and just started to live.  That’s why adoption is such an important thing because it speaks of selection, election, choice.  And then it speaks of cancelling everything in the past and a new family but not to the exclusion of regeneration.  Adoption confers the name and the title; regeneration confers the nature.  In other words, we now have become not just adoptive children but partakers of the divine nature.  It’s a staggering thing.  And the Holy Spirit is doing all of this – all of this. 

Now, let’s look at these three verses.  You know where we’re going to go with it. so that’s fine.  How does the Holy Spirit demonstrate this adoption?  One, by leading us, all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  Or flip it over, whoever is a son of God is being led by the Holy Spirit.  The first mark of adoptive sons is they’re led by the Holy Spirit.  They’re led by the Holy Spirit.  They’re directed by the Holy Spirit.  Their lives are controlled by the Holy Spirit.  We are introduced to this marvelous reality that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in our lives and internally, He is directing us.  He doesn’t lead by violence – listen – He doesn’t lead by violence, He leads by inclination.  He generates in us inclination, bending, changing our will, changing our desires, changing our longings, changing our affections, shifting our interests.  This is miraculous and this is part of what it is to be a partaker of the divine nature.  We love what the divine nature loves, all of a sudden.  We love the law of God, Paul says in Romans 7; we delight in the law of God, Psalm 119 – 175 times, David says it.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit. 

How does He lead us?  Two ways.  Externally, by the Scripture – externally, by the Scripture, Psalm 119:18:  “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.”  Show me the truth of Scripture.  Externally by Scripture, internally by sanctification.  Those two ways.  Externally, Scripture; internally, sanctification. 

What do you mean, the Spirit stirs the heart?  I don’t know – that’s a miracle category, right?  That’s the miraculous.  You’re a living miracle.  It wasn’t just a miracle that you’re saved, it’s a miracle that you’re being sanctified, and it’s a miracle when you’re glorified.  You know the miracle of glorification.  You know when you leave here and go to heaven and you receive a glorified body and you’re in the presence of the Lord, that miracle nobody would argue about.  And we understand the miracle of regeneration.  But the miracle of sanctification is equally miraculous because you’re being moved from one degree of glory to the next, to the next by the Holy Spirit.  Externally, His instrumental means is the Scripture, and internally, He works to sanctify you. 

That’s why David prays in Psalm 143:10:  “Teach me to do Your will.”  “Teach me to do Your will.  Be my internal teacher.”  Or Psalm 119:35:  “Make me to go in the path of Your commandments.”  “Make me go that way,” and that’s what the Holy Spirit does.  Or Psalm 119:  “Order my steps in Your Word.”  “Shove me that way.”  That internal work of the Holy Spirit whose temple we are.  Verb tenses, we are being led, it’s all the time, all the time, all the time, constant.  Being led by the Spirit is not a moment of ecstasy, it’s not some kind of moment of emotional elation.  It’s a way of life – invisible miracle, conforming you more and more to Christlikeness by bending your will and your desires in that direction. 

Second thing the Holy Spirit does is give you intimate access to God.  Verse 15:  “You have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again.”  When you were an unregenerate person, when the image of God was so marred that you were doomed for the trash heap of the universe, the trash heap of eternity in hell, you lived in fear.  You lived in dread.  You lived in the anticipation of judgment.  You were in bondage to sin; therefore, you were in bondage to guilt, anxiety, fear, trepidation, judgment.  That’s how you lived. 

What happened when you were regenerated and the Spirit began a work of sanctification is this:  You received a spirit of adoption or perhaps better, the Spirit of adoption, which some theologians say is the supreme name for the Holy Spirit.  If you wanted to take the name of all names to give the Holy Spirit, He should be called the Spirit of adoption because it is His work of bringing us into the family and conforming us to the family resemblance that dominates what God has given Him to do, what the Father has given Him to do.  We have in – by the Holy Spirit, you can’t decide whether it’s speaking about the Holy Spirit or the human spirit, it can be either one, but I like to think it’s both.  It is the Spirit of adoption who gives us a Spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry, “Abba, Father.”  You didn’t just rush into the presence of an infinitely holy God and say, “Papa.”  That’s what Abba means, Papa.  That kind of intimacy with God?  That would shake the Jews to their sandals.  “What?  God is distant and holy and here comes this person rushing in, ‘Papa, Papa, Abba Father.’”  There’s no fear, right?  There’s no fear.  You have intimate access. 

One of the great joys, the great joy, I guess, in some ways of being a grandfather is that amazing, unhindered, unrestrained affection that comes from grandchildren.  Some people think I’m an important person; they don’t.  Some people think I’m hard to get to know; they don’t.  Some people think you should kind of keep your distance; they don’t.  Is there anything more precious than little children running up and throwing their arms around you as a parent or a grandparent in those times of basically unlimited, unhindered, unquestioning affection?  “Papa.”  They come flying at me from every direction.  And that’s exactly what we have here.  There’s a sense in which we just rush in without fear to the presence of God because the Holy Spirit has made us sons by birth and sons by adoption with all full access to the Father. 

There’s a third ministry of the Holy Spirit in this work of sonship and that is not only is He leading us and giving us intimate access but He’s assuring us.  He gives us assurance.  Verse 16:  “The Holy Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.”  He testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.  The Holy Spirit comes to us, takes up residence in us, and confirms to our hearts that we belong to God. 

Let me tell you where this comes from.  In the adoption process in ancient Rome, seven witnesses had to be there.  Seven witnesses.  Seven eyewitnesses of the transaction in its fullness.  Why?  Well, what happens when the father dies and all the born children resent the adopted son who is the heir?  There’s going to be a battle.  And so the children who are born to the father are going to say, “He’s not legitimate, he’s making an illegitimate claim,” and somewhere there will be seven people who were eyewitnesses to this very legal transaction who can affirm the truthfulness and legitimacy of that. 

We don’t need seven.  We just need one, the Holy Spirit who has sealed us to the day of redemption, which means we are protected until the day of redemption.  No one can ever take our inheritance, it’s reserved and set apart for us, as Peter says, right?  Undefiled and laid up in heaven for you.  The Holy Spirit is the seal, the Holy Spirit is the arrabon, the engagement ring, the guarantee, and the Holy Spirit is the first fruits.  In other words, the guarantee of the full inheritance.  That is what verse 16 is saying.  He testifies with us that we are the children of God.  He bears witness along with our spirit.  There is an internal confidence that all is well.  This, in a word, is called hope.  We have a strong hope, don’t we?  And that’s the work of the Holy Spirit, to give us that strong hope. 

I don’t live daily fearing I might not make it to heaven.  Never enters my mind.  Why?  Because the internal witness of the Holy Spirit gives me hope – gives me hope.  If you were a child out in the streets or in a very difficult, abusive, perishing family, what you would want would be someone who would lead you and guide you in the right way, someone who would take all the fear out of your life, all the anxiety out of your life, and have all the resources that you could ever hope for, ever need, and far more, and somebody who would assure you of a future.  If you could find somebody like that, that would make an adoptive child happy. 

Well, you have that and more because that is what God promises you, and not only does He take you in by adoption, but He changes your nature, and then He begins to make you look like the Father and the Brother, Christ Himself.  This is the blessed work of the Holy Spirit.  Nothing less gives Him the honor He is due than to understand this.

Father we have been blessed this morning in so many ways, to know each other and fellowship with each other and sing together and listen to the beauty of such glorious, rapturous music, and now to be put in touch with these profound and wonderful truths that speak to us about us.  How blessed are we.  How unimaginably blessed are we and it’s all by grace.  We thank You, we bless Your name, and we pray, teach me, O Lord, to do Your will, along with David.  Bend me that way, O Holy Spirit, incline my heart that way.  Control my affections, my desires, my longings.  Move me from one level of glory to the next, to the next, so that I might reflect the glory of God in an image of God, restored through the work of regeneration until the day of glorification.  Thank You for such a high calling and such an amazing gift.  You’ve not only given us Christ, Father, but You’ve given us the Spirit, to make us a living and growing, progressing miracle.  May we ever be thankful to you, O blessed Holy Spirit, for this work.  Thank You for living in us and effecting this.  We are unworthy, we acknowledge that, but we are profoundly grateful.  And may it be that the work that You are doing will be manifest to those around us so that they can look at us and see Christ.  And we pray in His name.  Amen.

VIDEO Giving Thanks to the Spirit

By John MacArthur Oct 30, 2011

Last Sunday, I began a series on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, looking at the person of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit so that we can worship Him in the way He deserves to be worshipped.  And at that time when I began the series last week, I mentioned to you that the Holy Spirit is the most – in my mind at least, the most abused member of the Trinity.  There are so many people who blame the Holy Spirit for their behaviors, their words, their experiences, and the Holy Spirit has no part whatsoever. 

It is a strange kind of thing to realize, having read what we did in John chapter 14, 15, and 16 about the Spirit of Truth, to see so much untruth connected to the Holy Spirit.  So many lies, so many deceivers, so many deceptions are basically assigned to the Holy Spirit in order to gain necessary ground with people for those who have illegitimate desires and goals.  The Holy Spirit is blamed for so many terrible things. 

We are warned about that in the Bible.  We are warned about the danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.  In spite of that warning, it goes on.  We are warned about – and I’ll say more about this next week, about insulting the Holy Spirit, we are warned about resisting the Holy Spirit, we are warned about grieving the Holy Spirit, we are warned about quenching the Holy Spirit, and all those verbs are addressed at the way we refer to the Holy Spirit Himself.  But it is not just a matter of trying to avoid blasphemy and abuse and attributing to the Holy Spirit things that He would have no part of.  It’s more than that.  We need not only to avoid certain errors regarding the Holy Spirit, but we need certainly to worship the Holy Spirit fully for what He has done and who He genuinely is. 

Just last week, I was reading an article from the year 1657 and it was written by John Owen, the great English Puritan who is so prolific, who wrote volumes and volumes that enrich us in understanding of Scripture and theology.  One very important treatise that John Owen wrote is an analysis of what it means to commune with God, what it means to really worship God.  His title, in the sort of standard Puritan vernacular, is this:  Of Communion with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Each Person Distinctly, in Love, Grace, and Consolation – that’s a typical Puritan title.  He also gave an alternate title – or The Saints’ Fellowship with the Father, with the Son, with the Holy Spirit Unfolded. 

In this treatise written by John Owen, he calls for the realization that we have received from, individually and specifically and particularly, each member of the Trinity certain specific benefits.  And as we have received these benefits from each of the members of the Trinity, we are required to respond to those gifts to each member of the Trinity so that our Trinitarian worship is not so much blended as it is separated.  There is a passage of Scripture that might help us to see this.  If you look at the very last verse in the last chapter of 2 Corinthians, you would read this:  “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  That is a Trinitarian benediction that sorts out the individual features of the ministry of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit to us as believers.  It is the love of God.  Coming from God is that divine, sovereign love.  It is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the Son who provides divine, sovereign grace.  And it is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.  From the Father comes divine love; from the Son, divine grace; and from the Spirit, divine fellowship. 

And the apostle Paul separates these individual members of the Trinity and identifies aspects of their ministry.  Our communion is initiated by the love of the Father, ratified by the grace of the Son, and communicated by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.  And while we would agree that throughout Scripture there is overlapping in the work of the Trinity, there is still an emphasis on those specific works which each member does in some unique way.

I think for most of us who worship God in the true way, knowing that He is a triune God and who recognize that He is one essence but three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we tend to sort of blend everything together and worship Him as the triune God, and that, of course, is a legitimate way to worship God.  But what Owen is calling for is for us to start separating these persons in the Trinity as to the recognition of what it is that they have provided for us and how it is that we should respond specifically to those specific provisions.  In regard to the Holy Spirit, John Owen writes, “The Spirit’s ministry consists in bringing the promises of Christ to remembrance, glorifying Him in our hearts, shedding abroad the love of God in us, witnessing with us that we belong to God as to our spiritual state and condition, sealing us to the day of redemption, being the earnest or the guarantee of our final inheritance, anointing us with comfort, confirming our adoption and being present with us in our supplications.” 

Then Owen responds to the work of the Spirit by saying this:  “Here is the wisdom of faith, to find out and meet with the Comforter in all these things, not to lose their sweetness by lying in the dark as to their author, nor coming short of the returns which are required of us.”  Each member of the Trinity, having done these specific things for us, is to be worshiped in specific response to the work that each as done. 

It isn’t just that we don’t want, as believers, to quench the Holy Spirit, which believers can do.  It is not only that we don’t want to grieve the Holy Spirit, which believers can do.  We don’t want to resist the Holy Spirit.  It isn’t just what we don’t want to do.  It is that in our regular communion and our regular worship and our regular praise, we need to identify the three persons of the godhead in meditation, in prayer, and in submission.  We need to dwell on the special mercy and the special ministry of each person of the Trinity toward us, and we need to make a specific response of love and submission and joy and gratitude distinctly to each member of the Trinity.  This, says John Owen, is full-orbed communion with God. 

Another of my favorite Puritans is Thomas Goodwin.  Thomas Goodwin writes:  “Our worship is sometimes with our Father, then with the Son, and then with the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes our hearts are drawn out to consider the Father’s love in choosing us.  Sometimes our hearts are drawn to the love of Christ in redeeming us.  And sometimes the love of our hearts is drawn toward the Holy Spirit who searches the deep things of God and reveals them to us” – and then I love this line – “and takes all the pains with us.”  Have you ever thought to thank the Holy Spirit for taking all the pains to work on your sanctification?  “Thank You, Holy Spirit – thank You, Holy Spirit, for teaching me, thank You for warring against the flesh, thank You for interceding for me, thank You for sealing and securing me, thank You for guiding me away from the path of temptation, thank You for empowering me in the face of sin.” 

Now, that’s what Thomas Goodwin is calling for and Goodwin says, “It is only when we understand the work of each member of the Trinity distinctly that we have a true communion with God.”  He says, quote, “We should never be satisfied until all three persons lie level in us.”  A beautiful way to say that.  So that we sit, as it were, in the midst of them while they all manifest their love to us.  This is the highest experience that ever Christ promised in this life, to sit in the midst, as it were, of the Trinity and be the recipient of all the love coming from the Father, all the love coming from the Son, and all the love coming from the Spirit on our behalf.  This is true worship. 

We have spent a lot of time – and we do, I think, as believers – thinking about the love of the Father, the electing love, the sovereign love, thinking about the sacrifice of the Son, the grace that is given to us.  There are a lot of ways to look at it.  The Father initiates our salvation, the Son ratifies our salvation, the Holy Spirit communicates our salvation.  The Father chooses us for life, the Son provides the sacrifice that leads to life, and the Holy Spirit gives us the life.  And being able to recognize the ministry of each member of the Trinity is being able to have full-orbed worship and full-orbed communion. 

So what we’re trying to do is, in this brief series, get a better understanding of the work and ministry of the blessed Holy Spirit that we might enhance and enrich our own gratitude and thanks and worship to Him.  Maybe one of the most amazing verses that our Lord ever spoke or ever recorded from His lips is in John 16.  I read it to you earlier.  It really is a startling verse, if you stop and think about it.  This is what our Lord said in John 16:7:  “I tell you the truth” – as He always did – “it is to your advantage that I go away.” 

And we’ll just stop right there for a minute and ask the question, “How would the disciples have received that?”  Since they had been with the Lord essentially 24/7 for a period of three years, He was everything to them, absolutely everything.  On one occasion, according to John 6, Jesus said after a group of people left, “Will you also go away?” and Peter, speaking for the rest, said, “To whom shall we go?  You and You alone have the words of eternal life.  We’re not about to go anywhere.  Everything we want to know, everything we want to see, everything we need You have, You are.”  How in the world could they handle the statement, “It’s to your advantage if I go away”?  What could be better than that? 

And when you think about the fact for literally millennia, people had been waiting for the coming of the Messiah and every generation of Jewish people who knew the Messiah was going to come had wished that they would be the people alive when He came, and yet when He did come, the people at that time rejected Him as we know fully.  But there was a group of people, His followers and His disciples, who embraced Him, and this was the fulfillment of all of redemptive history, going all the way back to the time of the fall and the promise that one would come and bruise the serpent’s head, how wonderful that the Messiah had come, how wonderful that He was there.  They didn’t want Him to go anywhere.  They didn’t want Him to leave.  They wanted Him to stay and set up His kingdom and that would be the end and the culmination and the fulfillment of everything. 

Yet in that last evening together when they were meeting in the Upper Room before He was taken and crucified, He says to them, “I’m leaving, I’m going to go away, and you’re not going to be able to get to Me, but I’m going to tell you something, it’s to your advantage that I go away.”  That’s an amazing statement.  How could that be true?  He says this:  “If I do not go away, the helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I’ll send Him to you.”  What is better than having Jesus?  Having the Holy Spirit – having the Holy Spirit.  “You mean the Holy Spirit wasn’t around?”  No.  I also read to you from the same portion of Scripture, “He has been with you, He will be” – where? – “in you.”  The Holy Spirit was always around.  The Holy Spirit was the Creator, He moved on the face of the waters in Genesis and created.  The Holy Spirit’s always been the life-giver, the Holy Spirit’s always been the convictor.  He’s been striving with men, it says in Genesis 6. 

The Holy Spirit has always been the one that brought life to spiritually dead people and all men have been dead since the fall.  There would be no salvation in the Old Testament, no believing faith, no redeeming repentance, no genuine conversion apart from the Holy Spirit.  And the Holy Spirit was around to give leading and guiding.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit can be seen in the Old Testament period to some degree.  He is with you might be a way to understand that for those necessary things like salvation and sanctification, the Holy Spirit was required. 

But here comes the Son.  Isn’t that a better thing?  Isn’t it even a more wonderful thing to be in the very presence of the incarnate Son of God?  One would certainly think so.  So maybe that’s a step beyond what they had in the Old Testament.  The Spirit was there, the Son was promised, now the Spirit is still doing His work and the Son is also there.  How can Jesus say, “It’s better if I go away”? 

The answer to that is because the Holy Spirit brings to the believers, from the time of the founding of the church on, a ministry that has never been known before.  It isn’t that the Holy Spirit wasn’t here, it’s not a question of absent and present, it’s a question of degree, extent.  The best thing that could ever happen to any people, better than having Jesus Christ in their midst, is to have the Holy Spirit.  And that’s us.  We’re living in that marvelous, marvelous realization.  “It’s better that I go so I can send the Holy Spirit.” 

Boy, if that’s true, then the Holy Spirit is very, very special.  And indeed He is.  And instead of the terrible things that are assigned to the Holy Spirit, we want to take a look at the genuine ministry of the Holy Spirit so we can worship Him and they can – all members of the Trinity, as Goodwin said, can lie level in us and receive equal praise. 

Where do we go in the Word of God to get in touch with the ministry of the Holy Spirit?  Well, we’ve chosen to look at Romans 8.  So with that brief introduction, I want you to turn to Romans 8, and we’re going to take a look at the ministry of the Holy Spirit that flows through this chapter.  And as we go, we may digress a little bit and talk about some of the other things, but obviously we’re not going to try to cover every passage in the New Testament regarding the Holy Spirit but those things are which most essential and important to us.  And in Romans chapter 8, we have a great starting point for this because the ministry of the Holy Spirit is presented here with regard to salvation. 

Remember, in the opening seven chapters of Romans, the themes are all salvific.  It’s all about salvation.  It starts in chapter 1 verse 16 with the gospel.  Paul’s not ashamed.  He preaches.  It’s the power of God unto salvation.  Then he starts to unpack the essence of the gospel.  Talks about sin and judgment and then talks about the futility of trying to achieve righteousness on your own.  Talks about grace and faith, uses Abraham as an illustration.  Talks about the meaning of the cross and our union with Christ, and it’s all about salvation all the way up to chapter 8.  And now we come into chapter 8, and we shift into a section that is the final summation of the glory of salvation.  It is the final summation of what it means to be saved.  Here is the ultimate good news, and it all is secured to us by the Holy Spirit – by the Holy Spirit. 

Let’s at least begin in verses 1 and 2, and let’s see what it is that the Holy Spirit does for us.  I’m going to give you kind of a grocery list of things the Holy Spirit does that flow out of this chapter.  But you have to understand where it all begins.  Romans 8 verse 1:  “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  How can that be possible that there’s no condemnation for sinners?  How can that be possible?  Answer, in verse 2:  “For the law or the principle of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”  There’s no condemnation to those who are in Christ because of something the Spirit of life has done.  The Spirit of life is the Holy Spirit.  So we meet the Holy Spirit in verse 2 and here’s the first point:  The Holy Spirit frees us from death by giving us life.  The Holy Spirit frees us from death by giving us life.  That’s the first feature of a no-condemnation life. 

But let’s back up into that first verse and recognize the word “therefore” ties this in with everything that had come before.  All that has been said about salvation in all its glory and all its beauty – he’s not going back to verse 25 of 7, he’s not going back just to chapter 7, he’s going back all the way to chapter 1 verse 16 where he started talking about the gospel, all of that gospel teaching therefore means there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  That’s the summation of the gospel.  That’s the good news.  You can be before an infinitely holy God as an utterly corrupt sinner and not be condemned at all, not now, and not ever.  That is the good news. 

And to understand that good news, you have to understand the bad news.  The bad news is that Scripture designates every human being born into this world as a child of wrath – child of wrath, Ephesians chapter 2 verse 3.  You’re children of wrath.  You’re all children of wrath.  Well, that’s a kind of a Hebrew way of speaking.  In other words, you’ve inherited the nature of those who will be damned.  That’s what that means.  If you’re a son of corruption, it simply means your nature is corrupt.  If you’re a son of wrath, it means you are sentenced to judgment.  All men are children of wrath.  They are under condemnation, and it is a miserable condition. 

What are the elements of this condition?  Well, we’re overpowered by sin.  We all come short of the glory of God.  We’ve all sinned and we’ve all come short of the glory of God.  We’re all cursed.  We are dominated; we are literally overwhelmed by, overpowered by sin.  Sin is a defiling disease that cripples the soul of every human being, degrades every person, disquiets every person, steals peace and joy, replacing it with trouble, pain, fear.  It plants in every heart the killing principle of corruption that no man can ever overcome and no human person can ever cure. 

It is even worse than that.  Not only are we incurably sinful and wicked but we are controlled by Satan who is the angel of wickedness, who is the devil himself.  We are members of his kingdom.  We are part of his family.  John 8:44:  “Your father is the devil.”  We are the devil’s children.  We are ruled by the prince of the power of the air – Ephesians 2:2 – the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience.  He’s operating in all human beings who are not only corrupt in their own nature but further corrupted by the work of Satan in them.  And that’s why Jesus said, “His lusts you do.”  What he lusts for, you do. 

As a result of this, we are subject to vanity, it says in Romans 8:20.  What that means is that in that condition where we are overpowered by sin and dominated by Satan, we are subject to all that is bad, all that is horrible.  This is the futility of life, emptiness, bitterness, sorrow, pain.  We’re born to trouble.  We have no peace.  We fear death.  We’re full of anxiety, hopeless.  And as such, Hebrews 10:27 says there remains nothing but a fearful looking for a fiery judgment.  All humanity has to look for is hell – hell.  Damned forever, according to Revelation 20 verse 14, by the second death and the Lake of Fire.  That is he misery of all human beings. 

And when that punishment falls, it is a just condemnation – it is a just condemnation.  Romans 3 says that in verse 8 and 9, it is a just condemnation.  We have broken the law of God.  Galatians 3 says if you break one law, you’ve shattered the whole law.  Our condemnation is just.  Like the thief on the cross, we indeed suffer justly.  That’s what He said. 

So as a result, you sum all that up and you have the fact that the sinner stands as a child of wrath, under the condemnation of a holy God who is offended at every sin and renders a just judgment.  The inevitable end, then, is hell forever.  And that’s the condition of every person until the Holy Spirit arrives.  And in our text, in the darkness of this picture, our text brings glorious light.  There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the principle or the power or the influence of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 

Honestly, the Bible is a very condemning book, very condemning.  In the 5th chapter of Romans, it says in Adam, all died.  That we all inherited the sin nature from Adam.  Romans 5 says that over and over again.  Second Thessalonians chapter 1 gives us a frightening picture of the final future judgment that’s going to fall on all sinners when it says that the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the Lord and from the glory of His power. 

There are two aspects of eternal hell.  One is sense; that is, real pain.  The other is absence, the absence of God.  That’s a real hell.  And you say, “Well, didn’t God send His law so we’d have standards to live up to?  And if you live up to those standards we’re going to be okay, we’re going to get to heaven?”  That is the misunderstanding that is most popular in the world and equally a damning misunderstanding because as holy as the law is, and it is perfectly holy because it’s simply a reflection of God, it’s the ethics of God’s nature codified, written out and spelled out.  The law, however, can’t make us holy.  The law can’t deal with our sin, and the law cannot give us a way to escape condemnation. 

Listen to what it says in Romans 3:  “Whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become accountable to God.”  All the law does is shut your mouth when you make any claim to goodness.  “Because by the works of the law, no flesh will be justified in His sight, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.”  All the law does is give you the knowledge of sin.  That’s all God’s law does, is show you sin.  It is not the path to overcome sin.  It is not the path to escape the condemnation that your sin produces.  It cannot do that.  It cannot alter your condition; it can only reveal it.  And it cannot change your condemnation; it can only enforce it. 

In fact, the law makes things worse because the law expands the violations.  So no one by the law is going to be made right with God.  Rather by the law, our guilt is increased, our sin is expanded.  There is, therefore, condemnation and only condemnation to those who are under the law because the law can’t save, the law can’t remove condemnation, the written law.  That’s what verse 3 means when it says, “What the law couldn’t do, weak as it was through the flesh.”  In other words, the law can’t operate in human beings to any saving end.  Condemnation here is the word katakrima and it focuses on the punishment after the sentencing more than just the judgment itself.  There’s another Greek word that speaks about the judgment or the adjudication itself.  This is a word that stretches beyond the sentencing to the actual punishment. 

And what is said here is this:  There is no punishment for those who are in Christ Jesus.  In spite of all the violations, in spite of breaking God’s law, in spite of being in a condition where condemnation would be just and righteous and holy and correct and deserved, in spite of that, in spite of our corruption, in spite of our belonging to the kingdom of darkness and Satan himself, we can be in a condition by salvation where there is no condemnation.  “No” is a strong negative, a strong word.  There’s a lot of ways you could say no in Greek; this is a very strong one.  Absolutely, unequivocally, no condemnation. 

Now, let me tell you, that is the good news.  That’s the gospel.  That as sinful as you are, there is the possibility of coming into a condition in which there is no condemnation, not any at all.  What is that condition?  What is that place?  Being in Christ.  Verse 1:  “To those who are in Christ.”  Or verse 2:  “In Christ Jesus.”  It’s about union with Christ.  What does it mean to be in Christ?  It means to be in Him in a very real sense, spiritually.  Go back to the 6th chapter of Romans for a minute, verse 3:  “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized” – or immersed – it’s not talking about water baptism here but using the word to mean immersed into in a metaphoric sense – “all of us who have been immersed into Christ Jesus have been immersed into His death.  Therefore, we’ve been buried with Him through that immersion into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”  In other words, we literally are placed into Christ in His death and into Christ in His resurrection.  We die in Him, we rise in Him. 

Verse 5:  “We have become united with Him in the likeness of His death and we shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.  As a result, our old self was crucified with Him in order that our body of sin might be done away, terminated, and we would no longer be slaves to sin, for he who died is freed from sin.  If we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, knowing that Christ having been raised from the dead is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him, for the death that He died, He died to sin once for all, but the life He lives, He lives to God.  So consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  In Christ we die, we rise again.  This is our union with Christ.  And that is what is being stated. 

And that’s all been unpacked and unfolded, as I just read in chapter 6, but all of that leading up to this point, so we don’t have here a definition of what it is to be in Christ because that’s all been explained.  All we need to know here is:  For those who are in Christ, there is no condemnation – none.  Literally, we have been placed beyond the reach of condemnation – beyond the reach of condemnation.  That’s how the chapter begins, and it’s how it ends.  If you go to the end of chapter 8, what do you read?  “What will separate us” – verse 35 – “from the love of Christ, tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword?”  No.  Verse 38:  “I am convinced that neither death, life, angels, principalities, things present, things to come, powers, height, depth, any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

In other words, list everything real, everything imaginable, things that are, things that are only imagined.  None of them can change our condition.  None of them can alter the no-condemnation status.  We have been placed beyond the reach of condemnation.  And this whole chapter is a long and really thrilling proof of the safety of believers.  That’s what it’s about, it’s about the safety and security of those who are in Christ from any condemnation, now or ever.  Even if Satan shows up, it says later in the chapter, who is going to bring a successful accusation against us before God?  No one, ever, we are beyond the reach of condemnation.  And this is all going to be attributed in a wonderful way to the Holy Spirit who does this for us.  The reason we are beyond condemnation is because – verse 2 says – the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 

The word “law” here is not in a biblical sense, not in a codified sense, but it’s used in the sense of a principle, a dominating power, the dominating power of the Spirit of life has set you free from the dominating power of sin, which leads to death.  It’s just an amazing, clear, specific statement on the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Those of us who are in Christ are really in Christ.  We are joined to Him. 

How did we get into Christ?  We literally have been placed into Him by the Holy Spirit who took us out of a condition of sin that leads to death and gave us life.  That’s why He’s called the Spirit of life, the regenerating Spirit, the Spirit who is life – the life-giving Spirit.  All those are used as phrases to describe the Holy Spirit. 

It was Martin Luther who said, “For a man to be a Christian without having Christ is impossible and if he has Christ, he has at the same time all that is in Christ.  What gives peace to the conscience is that by faith our sins are no more ours but Christ’s, upon whom God hath laid them all, and that on the other hand, all Christ’s righteousness is ours to whom God hath given it.  Christ lays His hand upon us and we are healed.  He casts His mantle upon us and we are clothed, for He is our glorious Savior, blessed forever.”  This union that we have now with Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit.  He takes us out of a condition of death and puts us in the union with Christ.  We are then alive in Christ. 

This happens by faith.  We understand that.  Luther goes on to say, “Unites the soul with Christ as a spouse with her husband.  Everything which Christ has becomes the property of the believing soul, everything which the soul has becomes the property of Christ.  Christ possesses all blessing and eternal life.  They are thenceforth the property of the soul.  The soul has all its iniquities and sins, they become thereafter the property of Christ.  It is then that a blessed exchange commences.  Christ who is both God and man, Christ who has never sinned and His holiness is perfect, Christ the almighty and eternal, taking to Himself by His nuptial ring of faith all the sins of the believer.  Those sins are lost and abolished in Him, for no sins dwell before His infinite righteousness, and thus by faith the believer’s soul is delivered from sin, is clothed with eternal righteousness, the righteousness of her bridegroom Christ.”  Oh, happy union.  Who does that?  That is the work of the Spirit of life who removes us from the union with sin and Satan, which produces death, and gives us life.  This is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.  That’s what verse 2 means. 

Go back again for just a moment, looking at the end of it, we have been set free from the principle, the dominating principle of sin that produces death.  The condition of spiritual death as a result of sin.  How are we set free?  By the dominating power of the Spirit of life, and that can only refer to the blessed Holy Spirit.  He is the Spirit of life.  And He is so designated in 2 Corinthians chapter 3.  You can read through that, the law kills, the letter kills, the letter kills, the Spirit gives life, the Spirit gives life.  Verse 6, verse 17, verse 18, Galatians 6:8, the life-giving Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us life. 

And if you’re still wondering about that, what did Jesus say to Nicodemus?  You want to enter the kingdom of God?  You must be born of the water and the Spirit.  You must be born from above.  The Spirit is the source of life.  He is the one who gives life.  He is the regenerator. 

Look at Titus for a moment.  In Titus, there’s a wonderful statement about salvation that we can see will lay some weight on what I’ve been saying and perhaps some clarity.  But notice that we were foolish – verse 3 Titus 3:3 – that we were disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts, pleasures, spending our life in malice – that’s evil – envy, hateful, hating one another.  That’s a description of every human being.  Not a pretty picture.  “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared” – so here you have the kindness of God, everything starts from the love of God, works through the grace of Christ and ends up with the fellowship of the Spirit.  “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us.” 

How did He save us?  How did He rescue us from the condition of corruption and cursing?  How did He rescue us from the domain of Satan?  How did He rescue us from the tyranny of sin?  How did He do it?  “He saved us not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness.”  Okay, it wasn’t by the law then.  It wasn’t by our goodness.  “But according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and the renewing” – by whom? – “by the Holy Spirit whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”  I don’t know that we really know the full richness of the Holy Spirit, but we’re going to work on understanding it together.  How did this renewal come?  How did this washing come?  How did this regeneration come?  How did this life come?  How, by whom have we been made alive?  None other than the Spirit of life. 

How did He do it?  Well, first I read you in John 16, He convicts us of sin and righteousness and judgment.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit, the work of convicting the sinner.  Then He brought to us the gospel.  The Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.  God breathed, comes from the pneuma, the Spirit of God.  Holy men were moved by the Holy Spirit, Peter says, and they wrote the Scripture.  So the Spirit is the author of holy Scripture.  So one, the Holy Spirit convicts the sinner.  Two, the Holy Spirit, who is the author of the gospel, brings the gospel so that we’re begotten again, according to James 1:18, by the Word of Truth.  First Peter 1, the same thing.  We’re begotten by the Word of Truth.  The Spirit is the convictor; the Spirit is the author of the gospel which is brought to us.  The Spirit becomes our teacher, opens our minds by His regenerating power, and we believe the gospel, we turn from sin.  That’s all the work of the Holy Spirit.  He is the life-giving Spirit, the Spirit who gives life, the Spirit of life. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever really spent time thanking the Holy Spirit for what He gave you, for convicting you of sin and righteousness in judgment, for writing the holy Scripture, the glorious gospel, the Word of Truth, the Spirit of truth who brought you the Word of Truth, and then who gave you life and understanding so that you heard the truth, you came alive, you repented, you believed the truth, and you literally were delivered out of a condition of sin and death into a condition of life.  And now your condition in life is a condition not only of being alive, but having been clothed with the very righteousness of Christ, you are beyond the possibility of condemnation – beyond that possibility. 

How could the Spirit do this?  How can the Holy Spirit do this?  He can do it because of the provision of verse 3, which we’ll look at a little more next time, but just to introduce it to you.  The law couldn’t do it.  It was weak because the law couldn’t empower the flesh.  The law couldn’t make a better man.  It could set the perfect standard, but it couldn’t make a man that could keep it.  So it was weak through the flesh.  In other words, it’s weak not in its own self but in the sense that flesh can’t keep it.  But God did what the law couldn’t do and He did it through His Holy Spirit, and He did it by the sacrifice of Christ, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as an offering for sin.  He condemned sin in the flesh. 

Let me show you the difference.  See that last line, “He condemned sin in the flesh”?  You know what the law can do?  The law can condemn the sinner.  The law does condemn the sinner.  The cross condemned sin.  See the difference?  The law can’t condemn sin, only the cross condemned sin.  The law sentences the sinner to death, the cross sentences sin to death.  Sin dies, it’s no longer our master, it is no longer our power – a dominating force.  It no longer can call for a just punishment and execution.  The law condemns the sinner; the cross condemns sin. 

How does it do that?  Because at the cross, Jesus pays the penalty in full.  Sin’s requirement, which was established by God Himself, is paid in full.  That’s what it means when it says we were identified with Him in His death.  When He died, all our sins were there and paid for in full.  The law couldn’t do that.  Believe me, the law condemns every sinner.  The law can’t condemn sin, but the cross condemns sin for those who are in Christ.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit. 

I was looking around this week for some hymns on the Holy Spirit because there are a few songs to the Holy Spirit.  They’re kind of schmaltzy, syrupy, sentimental songs.  But I was digging around, I figured I’ll go to a Presbyterian hymnal.  A Presbyterian is usually a little more theological.  And I found this, I’ve never heard it, I don’t know what – I could hum the tune but that wouldn’t help anybody.  But here’s an old hymn to the Holy Spirit, it’s the only one I found, and it goes like this:  “Spirit, we would worship You, crowning gift of resurrection sent from Your ascended throne, fullness of the very godhead, come to make Your life our own.”  That’s exactly what the Holy Spirit did.  He came to make the life of God our own life. 

And then this writer – who, by the way, is Margaret Clarkson, you may know a little bit about her.  The hymn goes on, and I’ve edited it a little bit, but speaking to the Holy Spirit, “You who in creation’s dawning, brooded on the lifeless deep, still across our nature’s darkness moves to wake our souls from sleep.  Moves to stir, to draw, to quicken, thrusts us through with sense of sin.  Brings to birth and seals and fills us, saving advocate within.  You Yourself, the living author, wakes to life the sacred Word, reads with us its holy pages and reveals our risen Lord.  You it is who works within us, teaching rebel hearts to pray.  You whose holy intercession rises for us night and day.”  That’s absolutely true, and that’s reason to give honor to the Holy Spirit.  Amen?

Father, we thank You for our time this morning to think about these things, and we’re just kind of scratching the edges of these great truths, but we have so much that we already know that we can fill in to this and grasp that all that Christ did on the cross made it possible for the Holy Spirit to give us life.  The fact that He had borne in His own body our sins on the tree, the fact that He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, chastisement for our peace fell on Him, by His stripes were healed, that He who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, the fact that He became a curse for us.  All of these great realities of the substitutionary work of Christ, the necessary provision, the necessary ratification of divine initiative make it possible for the application and communication of the Holy Spirit to give us life and give us life that puts us beyond the possibility of condemnation, knowing that Christ was fully condemned for our sins.  Nothing can ever condemn us.  What incredibly glorious news. 

How we thank You, Father, for such initiating love.  We thank You, O Christ, for such a sacrifice of grace.  And we thank You, O Holy Spirit, for giving us life and sustaining that life until we see Christ face-to-face and are like Him.  We worship You, our triune God, and we do so with joy and gratitude.  Amen.

VIDEO I Am the Bread of Life

John MacArthur Dec 22, 2013

We have been studying together the Gospel of John, and just going through verse by verse, paragraph by paragraph.  Typically, when we come to Christmas Sunday, I stop whatever series I’m in and do a special Christmas message.  I’ve done that for 40 plus years with an occasional Sunday prior to Christmas when we stayed in the series because there was something in the text that connected to well with Christmas.  And that is the case this year.  So, we’re going to look at John chapter 6 today, John chapter 6. 

I looked ahead a few weeks ago and just kind of planning and anticipating what I might present to you, and I began to carefully prepare reading through John 6 for our regular studies.  And it struck me that this would be a very powerful and wonderful and helpful text to stay in.  So, for the last number of weeks, we’ve been working our way through John 6, and we’ll continue to do that, and when we pick it up again after the holidays.  But I want to draw your attention to the sixth chapter of John, and particularly verses 32 to 59 where our Lord gives this great sermon on, I Am the Bread of Life.  He repeats that several times.  I am the Bread of Life.  He is the true Christmas bread. 

Bread is starting to pile up at the McArthur house, I will admit.  Every Christmas this happens to us.  We get it in the mail.  We get it from FedEx.  We get it stuck on the porch.  We get it from folks at the church.  Last Sunday I went home with bread in two arms, and there’ll probably be a little more bread today.  And that’s good by me; I love bread.  We get bread in boxes.  We get bread in cans.  We get bread in paper bags around Christmas, so it’s like a maniacal carb experience [laughter] to consume all this bread, but I’m a bread lover. 

There’s something about Christmas and bread I guess just in a general sense, and you might wonder, where does that come from?  Why is there so much interest in bread around Christmas?  Well, it does have some interesting history.  It really does.  If you’re from Germany, you’ve heard of stollen, S-T-O-L-L-E-N, which is a German Christmas bread that was first prepared in 1545 for the Council of Trent.  And since then, has been the standard traditional Christmas bread baked and consumed by German folks around the world.

If any of you come from Poland or more of Eastern Europe, you may know about oplatki, which is a Christmas bread that the Polish launched in the tenth century.  And it’s still being prepared every Christmas. 

Now, for all of you Italians, you know about Panettone, Panettone bread.  Panettone comes from two words, the Italian word for bread is “panne” and “Tony” is the Italian word for the guy who fixes your car.  [laughter]  So, you’re not buying that?  Actually, actually, back in the 15th century, the 1400s, there was a baker by the name of Tony.  That’s where it came from.  And he wanted to impress the king because he wanted to marry his daughter, so he baked some bread.  Hence, Panettone bread.  I don’t really think that’s the best way to impress a king about what you might offer to his daughter.  I don’t know how well it all came out for Tony.  [laughter]  But Tony made a mark on history because if you go into any Italian market or almost any market, you find a section with Panettone. 

Interesting to note also that the word “Bethlehem” in Hebrew means “house of bread”, “house of bread.”  So, bread has been associated with Christmas.  In this chapter, the sixth chapter of John, however, we find the true Christmas bread who is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  And I’m going to do something this morning that I rarely do, and that is to cover a rather extended portion of Scripture.  So this will be an experience that you cannot count on ever happening again.  [laughter]  I want to read this great sermon.  It’s one great sermon starting in verse 32 of John 6.  “Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.’ Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, always give us this bread.’”

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose none, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.’”

“Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven.’  They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?  Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Be not grumbling among yourselves.  No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.  Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.  Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.’”

“Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’  So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.  This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.’  These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.”

A shocking day toward the end of the Galilean ministry of Jesus as He taught the Jewish people in the synagogue at Capernaum.  The most compelling statement around which all of this is built is the repeated statement, “I am the Bread of life.  I am the Bread of life.”  That’s His claim, verse 32, verse 33, verse 48.  This is the first, by the way, of 7 “I AMs” in the Gospel of John, in which our Lord takes the tetragrammaton YHWH, the verb “to be” in Hebrew, the name of God who is the I AM that I AM, and applies it to Himself and adds a metaphor.  “I am the Bread of life.  I am the Good Shepherd.  I am the Vine.  I am the Way.  I am the Truth.  I am the Life.  I am the Resurrection and the Life.”  All of those I AMs are efforts on the part of our Lord to make clear that He is one in the same as God.

This is the first of those seven I AMs, in which He takes the name of God, and in this case applies as He does on several of those occasions, a metaphor to explain something about His nature and His work.  Now, you have to understand how monumental this sermon was given in the Capernaum synagogue.  He’s talking to Jewish people, and He presents this powerful claim that He has come down from heaven.  And that they have to eat His flesh and drink His blood if they want to have eternal life.  Now, the Jews all understood the issue of eternal life, life in the Kingdom, life forever, life in heaven, life with God, blessed life, joyous life.  They understood that.

Jesus is saying, “I and I alone are the means by which that eternal life can become yours.”  This is a long passage, but it can be easily divided into two very familiar components.  And that’s what we’ll do this morning.  It’s full of repetition because it was so stunning and, remember, they were listening.  And repetition is even more important to an audience that is listening.  And so John records a fullness in this sermon that we don’t always find in the Gospel record became this is such a stunning claim.

We’re going to see Him saying the same things over and over and over so that they might register with His listeners and with us.  The two parts that we need to look at here, very simple, divine provision of the bread, human appropriation of the bread.  Divine provision of the bread, human appropriation of the bread. 

You need to have your Bible open and you need to be looking at your Bible because we’re going to be looking for those two elements in these verses.  This is going to be more like a Bible study than a sermon.  I can’t preach a sermon on a sermon.  This is a sermon.  I can’t make metaphors on metaphors.  This is a metaphor.  So, we’re going to take it at face value and see if we can’t examine it.

To say that He is bread is to use really a metonym for food, nourishing food that gives life and sustenance.  Jesus used the word “bread” to refer to that when He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”  Bread, then, was simply a word that encompassed all nutritious food.  Jesus is saying that, “I am your food.  I am your true soul food.”  First of all, let’s look at the divine provision of the bread.  This is God’s side here, the divine side, the heavenly side.  God’s provision. 

Several features are indicated here about God’s provision of this bread.  First of all, this bread is divinely preexistent, divinely preexistent.  And I want you to watch this because this is why this works so well as a Christmas section because it continually repeats the reality of the incarnation.  Let me help you to see that.  Look for the phrase, “came down out of heaven.”  You will find it, for example, in verse 32 at the very beginning of the message. “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.”

Verse 33, “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven.”  Verse 38, “I have come down from heaven.”  Now, he switches from the metaphor, the bread has come down, and applies it to Himself and says, “I have come down.”  Verse 41, there’s a lot of shock about that, but I just want you to notice they understood exactly what He was saying.  The Jews are grumbling because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.”  In verse 42, they are wondering how this man whose parents they know can say, “I have come down out of heaven.”

Verse 46, again says, “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God.”  He has come down out of heaven.  Verse 50, “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven.”  Verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven.”  Verse 58, “This is the bread which came down out of heaven.”  Every time you see that, and it’s repeated again and again, you are hearing a statement affirming the incarnation of a preexistent person.  He didn’t come into existence.  He came down out of heaven.  Anyone who claims that falsely is a lunatic or a deceiver, who would have a hard time convincing people.

Over and over and over Jesus speaks of His preexistence.  John began his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” the Word meaning Christ.  Therefore, Christ was there preexistent with God, coexistent with God, self-existent with God eternally.  You cannot ever reduce Jesus to a created being.  Yes, His body was prepared by God for Him, but as a person He is the eternal Son of God.  He existed everlastingly in the presence of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  He is God of very God.  That’s why John 1:14 says, “We beheld His glory and it was the same glory as the Father.” 

If you go back to John, chapter 3, there’s a helpful statement our Lord makes in the conversation with Nicodemus.  He says, “No one has ascended into heaven.  No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven,” and who is that?  The Son of Man.  I think of that verse every time I see another silly book about somebody who went to heaven and came back.  No one has done that.  No one has ascended into heaven and come back to teach us.  Paul, you say, is he an exception?  Absolutely.  He was caught up into the third heaven.  He came back.  He didn’t tell us anything.  He said, “I can’t even speak of the things that were there.”  The saints that came out of the grave at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we don’t know who they were.  We don’t know where they went.  They certainly did not deliver any messages from heaven.  Those exceptions prove the rule.  Nobody goes into heaven and comes back to instruct us. 

Back to verse 46.  “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God.  He has seen the Father.”  I remind those people again.  You did not go to heaven and you did not see God, and you do not have a message for us.  That is exclusively the right of the Son of God, the preexistent one.  Don’t believe lies about people going and coming from heaven.  Don’t buy those silly books and waste your time.  No one, not even the most holy saint has gone up to heaven to bring the Word of God down to us.  The only One who has come from heaven is the One who was always there.  The only One who has brought us heavenly things is the One who descended from heaven, namely the Son of Man. 

This is the claim that Jesus makes repeatedly in John 8:42.  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me for I proceeded forth and have come from God.  He sent Me.”  Which means that He existed in the presence of God from all eternity.  In the thirteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, and this is so foundational, I want it embedded in your mind.  John 13:3, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God.”  That’s the night of the upper room discourse with his disciples, that great thirteenth chapter begins with the declaration that Jesus has come from heaven and is going to return there.

In John 16, verse 28, Jesus says, “I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world.  I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”  In the seventeenth chapter and the fifth verse, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”  Eternity past.  Verse 8, “For the words which you gave Me, I have given to them, and they have received them, and truly understood that I came forth from You.  And they believed that You sent Me.” 

The first thing then to understand about the divine provision of the bread is that the bread was preexistent.  The bread was eternal.  Jesus is not a created being who came into existence like you and I do at the point of conception.  He always existed as God the Son.  So there is divine preexistence.  In the coming of the bread, secondly, there is divine purpose.  There is divine purpose tied to the eternal preexistence of the Lord Jesus Christ is the reality that He came because the Father purposed for Him to come.  It’s not casual.  It’s tied up in divine planning, and I can show you that.  It’s such a clear statement repeated again and again that it’s unmistakable.

Verse 32 at the end of the verse, “It is my Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.”  Verse 33, “The bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven.”  It is there called the bread of God.  It is God who sends the bread.  The bread is God’s to start with to give.  Verse 38, “I have come down from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”  Verse 39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me.”  Verse 40, “This is the will of My Father.”  And again in verse 57, “As the living Father sent Me.”  So you have here divine preexistence and divine purpose.  The Father sending the Son.

Now, it is not only the coming of the Son of God that the Father purposed.  That’s kind of a general reality.  That is true obviously, but it is more than just a general reality that God sent his Son and sort of let things then happen whatever way man would decide they would happen.  Not so.  God not only purposed to send His Son, He purposed what His Son would accomplish when He arrived.  The specificity of it is in verse 37.  “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and him who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out.”  Verse 39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given me, I lose none, but raise Him up on the last day.”  Verse 40, “This is the will of My Father.”  Again, verse 44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise Him up on the last day.”

And this is consistent with Old Testament prophesy.  Verse 45, “It is written in the prophets and they shall all be taught of God.”  Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.  Now, are you starting to see the plan?  God purposes to send the Son, and then God purposes to draw certain people to the Son.  The Son receives the people, keeps the people, raises the people from the dead to fulfill the Father’s plan.  It is not a plan to begin something.  Listen, it is a plan to complete it.  It is the plan for the complete glorification of those the Father draws. 

Jesus made statements that affirm this in His ministry, such as in chapter 10, verse 29, “My Father who has given them to Me.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”  Are you starting to see the picture?  The Father draws, the Father gives, the Son receives, the Son keeps, the Son raises, and no one can snatch whoever is in the Father’s will and the Son’s hands out of his hands.  This is crystal clear. 

Chapter 17 again, that great high priestly prayer of our Lord, verse 2 says, “Even as you gave Him authority over all flesh,” meaning the Son, “that to all whom you have given Me, He may give eternal life.”  Verse 6, “I manifested Your name to the men whom you gave Me out of the world.  They were Yours.  You gave them to Me and they have kept Your Word.”  Verse 9, “I ask on their behalf.  I don’t ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.”  Then verse 24, “Father, I desire that they also whom You have given Me be with Me where I am.”

Over and over again, “You gave them to Me.  You gave them to Me.  You gave them to Me.  They were Yours.  You gave them to Me.”  How did they become God’s?  By divine election.  He chose them before the foundation of the world, wrote their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  In time, He draws those who belong to Him by His own sovereign choice.  He draws them to Christ.  Christ receives them, Christ keeps them, Christ raises them.  That resurrection is not merely a spiritual resurrection; it’s a physical resurrection as well.  In the last day, they are resurrected.  So that is the diving purpose, from election to resurrection.  It starts when God determines who is His, and it goes through the drawing and the receiving and the keeping and securing and ultimately gathering into heaven and even raising from the dead.

Verse 45 is a very important verse, often overlooked I think.  It’s a quote from Isaiah, Isaiah 54:13.  “It is written in the prophets and they shall all be taught of God.”  The only way anybody can come to the truth is if God is his teacher.  “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”  People don’t come to God under the powerful sway of human reason.  The preacher is not the means.  The preacher is only a tool to present the truth.  The drawing is divine.  The Father is the true teacher.  The Father is the instructor of the heart and the mind.

So we have this bread, preexistent, this bread that is provided for those who are within the purpose of God.  So the bread comes down from heaven, comes to earth to fulfill the will of the Father; not just in a general sense that His will was to send.  His will was to send His Son and then by means of His Son, draw – give to His Son, and ultimately bring to eternal glory spiritually and in resurrected form.  That’s the full picture.  Understanding this bread then, divinely preexistent and fulfilling divine purpose.

Thirdly, in looking at God’s provision, divine promise.  Divine promise.  Why do we want this bread?  Well, what does this bread do for us?  Well, what does Christ do for us?  Why is He important?  Well, go back to verse 33.  “The bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives – ” what?  Life to the world.  Life, zoe.  Not bios, not biological life.  Zoe, spiritual life.  That’s why He came.  The promise connected to the bread is spiritual life.  And He is the only bread of God, the only living bread, the only bread of life, the only one who has come down, the only source of life for the whole world.  Notice please, the phrases that are used to describe this. 

In verse, well, how many verses have we seen?  Verse 32 and 33 talk about the bread that comes down and the bread that gives life and then we don’t go very far until we hit verse 35 and again, “I am the bread of life.”  And then verse 40, again we see, “This the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have – ”  Now life is expanded with a descriptive, “ – eternal life.”  Eternal life.  Now, we’re talking about eternal life.  Verse 47, “I say, he who believes has eternal life.”  Verse 50, “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven so that one may eat of it and not die.”  Not die. 

Verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever, and the bread which I give,” again he says, “I give for the life of the world.”  It’s life and it’s eternal life.  Verse 53, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.”  54, “He who eats My flesh, drinks My blood, has eternal life.  And I will raise him up on the last day.”  Life, life, life, life.  Eternal life.  Verse 58 at the end, “He who eats this bread will live forever.”  How is this possible?  Because of verse 56, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him.”

How do we get eternal life into these mortal bodies?  Because we come into real union with Christ.  Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ.  Nevertheless, I live yet not I, but Christ lives in me.”  “He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit.”  We are one in Christ.  And so His eternal life is in us, granting us eternal life.  Really incredible promises.  Jesus repeated those same promises a number of times about His union with His people.  For example, in that upper room the night of His betrayal, He says in John 14:20, “In that day you will know that I am in My Father and you in Me, and I in you.” 

Do you know that if you are truly regenerate and you belong to God through faith in Christ that the eternal life which you possess is the eternal life of Christ in you?  In you.  And as we read in John 10, no one is powerful enough to break that union.  That’s the security of every believer.  So, divine promise.  What’s the promise?  Life.  What kind of life?  Eternal life.  What is the source of that eternal life?  A union with living eternal Christ. 

We don’t follow just the teaching of a noble religious leader.  We’re on our way to death unless He lives in us, unless His eternal life takes over.  So the bread of life is heavenly bread.  The Lord Jesus Christ comes from divine eternal preexistence into time and into space to fulfill the divine purpose of the Father, which is to provide salvation for His chosen people.  That salvation is dependent on a union with Christ that is a true spiritual reality and is why we live forever. 

And it culminates in a resurrection.  Several times Jesus says, “I’ll raise him at the last day.  I’ll raise him at the last day.  I’ll raise him at the last day.”  It is a union that will not only be a union in spirit, but it will be a union in spiritual body.  Philippians 3, “We will have a body like unto His glorious body.  We will reflect His glory.  We will be made like Christ when we see Him as He is,” right?  This is what it means to be a Christian.  It’s not following the teachings of a man.  It’s having His life in us.  This is the work of God.  This doesn’t happen unless you’re taught of God, as verse 45 says.  This does not happen unless God the Father draws you. 

You say, “Well, what are we supposed to do?”  Well, that’s just one side of this amazing duality.  That’s the divine provision.  Let’s talk about the human appropriation.  What’s our responsibility?  Sit around hope it happens?  No, no.  In the wonderful mystery of salvation, we are commanded to appropriate this bread.  Please notice in verse 34, the Jewish people who were listening to Jesus said, “Lord, give us this bread.”  Most likely, they were talking about the physical bread because He had been creating food for them.  They wanted the bread that would satisfy their constant hunger physically, but Jesus isn’t really talking about that.  He’s talking about Himself as the bread they really need.

So in verse 35, He says, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me.”  Isn’t that interesting?  “He who comes to Me.”  You just said, “Nobody can come unless the Father draws him,” and yet here it says, “He who comes to Me.”  So the first requirement is to come, to come.  Yes, verse 37 clarifies, “All that the Father gives Me will come, and the one who comes to me, I will not reject.”  Not so much because the person is of value, but because the gift of the Father is of value.  So the first thing is to come.  And since no one can know whether they’ve been chosen, the message is far and wide to be preached to the ends of the earth telling sinners to come, to come, come. 

Secondly, to look.  Notice verse 40, “This is the will of My Father that everyone who beholds the Son,” everyone, everyone.  There aren’t limitations here based upon our understanding of the doctrine of election.  All who come, all who come, anyone who comes, I will not reject.  Everyone who beholds.  What does the word “behold” mean?  It’s a Greek verb, theoreo, which basically means to look at intently, to scrutinize, to study, to gaze on.  It’s not a passing glance kind of word, not just a brief look.  Very strong word.  In fact, the same verb, theoreo, is used in John 8:51 for a statement about seeing death.  Seeing death means experiencing death.  I t is also used, the same verb, in John 17:24 where Jesus says, “I want them to come to heaven, those who believe in Me so they can see My glory.”  That means full exposure, full experience. 

So, what is the human’s responsibility?  Our responsibility laid out for us in a series of commands and invitations, come, come.  Come to Me, come to Me.  And when you get there, experience it, gaze at it, scrutinize it, look carefully, thoughtfully, see who I am.  A lot of the people who were listening to Him in the synagogue that day had done just that.  They had come to Him, and they had attached to Him.  They were following Him.  They were watching Him.  They were listening to Him.  They were scrutinizing Him. 

So you come, you look, and you look carefully at Jesus.  But there’s another word that’s really the critical word.  Look at verse 35, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me will not hunger and he who –” and here’s the word, “believes in Me.  He who believes in Me.”  Verse 40, “This is the will of my Father that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.”  Verse 47, “I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 5:24 says the same thing.  The theme verse for the whole gospel of John, “These things are written that you may know that Jesus is the Christ, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing have life in His name.”  It’s about believing. It’s about believing.  Another way to understand it would be John 1:12, “As many as received Him.”  You have to come.  You have to look.  You have to be exposed to the truth, but you must believe.  Going back to the metaphor of the bread, go to verse 50, and from verse 50 on is really the closing invitation of this sermon.

“This is the bread which comes down out of heaven so that one may eat,” and now we’re back into the metaphor.  Believing is eating.  Taking in, receiving, appropriating.  Verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”  Verse 57, “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.”  Again, verse 58, the end of the verse, “He who eats this bread will live forever.”  I mean this is a powerful metaphor that everybody understands.  You have to take Me in.  It’s not enough to come and listen.  It’s not enough to admire to get some kind of information.  You have to eat.  You have to appropriate.  You have to receive Me.  That’s our responsibility.

Since we don’t know who God has chosen, we can only know we have all been held accountable to come, see, and believe.  Believe what?  That I am the bread.  He says that over and over, “That I am the bread that came down out of heaven, that I am the bread that came down out of heaven.”  So it starts with believing in the person of Christ, okay?  Believing in His preexistence, His incarnation, God in human flesh, believing in the person of Christ.  But let me tell you something quickly, believing in the person of Jesus Christ as the living bread is not enough.  Not enough.  Something else.

You not only have to believe in Him as living bread, you have to believe in Him as dying blood.  What?  Verse 51, “I am the living bread.  I came down out of heaven.  If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever.  And the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”  Now, he’s talking about giving up His life.  Very specific terms.  Verse 53, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourself.”  54, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.”  Verse 55, “For My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink.”  Verse 56, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me in and I in him.” 

I have to tell you, this is so shocking for the Jews in the synagogue that day that I’m surprised there wasn’t a riot.  Leviticus, first of all, Leviticus 17, Deuteronomy 12, Deuteronomy 15 forbids Jews drinking blood.  So this is just – this is, if nothing else, really insensitive.  But He’s not really talking about drinking blood.  This is, of course, a chapter that has been mutilated by the Roman Catholic Church, and they have used this to develop the Mass where Christ is re-sacrificed again and again and again.  And you eat His flesh and drink His blood, just exactly what He’s not talking about.  Blood is simply a metonym for His death, as it is throughout the New Testament.  So what is He saying?  You must accept the person that I am and the death that I died.

You can believe in Jesus as the preexistent Son of God who came into the world and is the source of eternal life, but unless you believe in His sacrificial death, you cannot be saved.  You cannot possess eternal life.  As bread, He nourishes.  As blood, He cleanses.  Blood, then, speaks of His death.  These Jews had a big, big problem with this issue.  The idea that their Messiah would die as a sacrifice, a huge problem for them.  They were utterly unwilling to accept that.  Even the disciples struggled with that, right?  When Jesus said, “I’m going to die,” no, no, no, no Lord.  Peter says, “No, no,” and Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!”

And it was only after the resurrection that He met them on the Emmaus Road, took them back to the Old Testament to show them from the Old Testament the Messiah must suffer and die.  And when they went out to preach in the book of Acts, they were preaching to the Jews initially the Messiah had to suffer and die.  He had to be the divine Lamb providing the atonement that satisfied the wrath of God for His own.  Again, we don’t worship a noble human teacher.  We worship God in human flesh.  But we don’t worship Him just for the nobility of His divine teaching.  We also worship Him as our sacrifice for our sins who died in our place. 

You have to be able to eat His flesh in the sense that you take Him as the one who nourishes the soul.  And you have to be willing to drink His blood in the sense that you accept his sacrificial death.  This is all way too much, way too much for Jewish people to handle, and you can see their reaction later in the chapter.  It’s just over the top.  Verse 52, they can’t even get to the part about eating His flesh, let alone the part about drinking his blood or accepting His death.

And so in verse 60 saying they were having difficulty with this, “Jesus conscious that His disciples grumbled at this said to them, ‘Does this cause you to,’ what? ‘stumble?’”  Well, what was he talking about?  The blood.  Are you stumbling over the fact that you’re going to have to accept My death?  The answer to the question is yes, that’s why the apostle Paul said that the cross, the preaching of the cross, I Corinthians 1, to the Jews is a stumbling block, a stumbling block.

So, as a result, verse 66, “Many of his disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”  They came, they looked, they believed.  Maybe they could eat the bread part, maybe they could accept who He was.  The blood?  Too much, too much.  But this is what is necessary to appropriate the bread.  So Jesus is the true Christmas bread.  To believe in His person, to believe in His death is to receive eternal life. 

So Jesus said to the Twelve in verse 67, “You don’t want to go away also do you?”  Simon Peter answered for all of them, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have words of eternal life.”  And then this, “We have,” What? “believed.”  “We believe it all.  We know You are the Holy One of God.”  The Jews were grumbling.  All the way back in verse 36 Jesus said, “I said to you that you’ve seen Me.  You’ve come.  You’ve looked, and you don’t believe.  Verse 41, he says, “They’re grumbling,” John does.  Verse 42, they’re still grumbling.  Verse 43, Jesus says, “Stop doing it.”  Verse 52, they’re arguing, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  Verse 61, even the disciples are grumbling.  Verse 66, they leave.  Vacate the synagogue, leaving only Peter and the Twelve who believed. 

Just in conclusion, a few things to think about.  Eating is necessary.  If you want eternal life, eating is necessary.  You can’t just come.  You can’t just admire.  People do this all the time, all the time.  Oh yeah, I have a lot of respect for Jesus, a lot of respect for Jesus.  You can’t just come and admire.  You have to eat, which is to believe fully.  But eating is in response to hunger.  So, the people who eat are the people who are what?  Hungry!  What is hunger?  It’s the aching of the heart of one who knows he’s empty.  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit to make the heart hungry.  That’s where the Father starts to draw.  The hungry heart sees the bread.

And, by the way, eating is personal.  It’s not a group event.  You can all go out to dinner, but the food has to go in your mouth.  Lots of people can do lots of things for you.  They can come over and change the curtains, fix the room.  People can do a lot of things to help you.  You have to eat.  You can’t do that by proxy.  Eating is necessary.  Eating is in response to hunger.  Eating is personal and eating is transformational.  If you don’t eat physically, you will die.  If you eat, food you take in transforms you, and that’s what Christ does.

I don’t know what kind of bread is at your house, but I hope you’ve all partaken of the true Christmas bread.  Let’s pray together.  This has been such a wonderful day and it’s not over yet as we again celebrate tonight, but Lord we thank You that Your Word is so powerful and so clear and so consistent.  Its divine authorship is unassailable.  Thank You for giving us the truth.

I pray for those who are here who maybe have come, looked, or are looking, but haven’t believed, received, eaten, accepting Christ not only as the bread that nourishes the soul, but the blood that cleanses the soul.  May nothing about the gospel be a stumbling block, but may the gospel be a welcome message fully embraced.  May it be today that there’s some persons who’ve heard this who will eat, who will receive Christ as Lord and Savior and receive with Him the eternal life.  We thank You that we are secure in that life because if we do believe, if we do come, it’s because You’ve drawn us.  Father, You’ve given us to the Son, and you blessed Son will keep us and hold us and raise us at the last day.  We thank You for the glory of the gospel and the opportunity we have to celebrate it again today. 

Father, now we ask that You would do Your work in Your way.  Father, draw many to Yourself.  We give You praise for privilege, undeserved, unearned, the gift of grace that has granted us salvation when we were Your enemies.  We thank You, Lord, that You once made us desperately hungry and then You showed us the bread of life, Father.  And we learned from You as You taught us and You drew us.  We thank You that Christ received us and holds us until the resurrection when we’re fully glorified in Your presence forever.  Thank You for this great truth and may it ring in our hearts as we celebrate in these days of Christmas.  We give You praise, in Christ’s name. Amen.

%d bloggers like this: