December 10, 2020

The Holy Spirit is the Giver of Life

III. The Giver of Life

The Holy Spirit of God gives life to us in Christ and puts to death the sin nature that is killing us.

Jesus gave the Holy Spirit the name, “the Giver of Life” (John 6:63). This name was later brought into the Nicene Creed to identify the third person of the Holy Trinity. In summary, the Holy Spirit gives everyone life in the first place. He then gives renewed life to all who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Christ’s Spirit will raise our bodies from the dead. God’s Spirit brings us into eternal communion with God the Trinity as well as with all the other saints who have ever been and ever will be.

The Apostle Paul tells us even more about how the Giver of Life gives life, and how we are personally involved in his work upon us. In Romans 8 and Galatians 5, he says the Spirit both gives life to us and kills sin within us.

The Church’s divines—Catholic and Reformed as well as Baptist—variously used the language of mortification and vivification to describe this process. “Mortification” speaks of the putting to death of the desire for sin within us. “Vivification” speaks of the way life works itself into us. The sin nature, which Paul calls “flesh,” must be mortified or “put to death” by the Spirit. Our new nature, which Paul says is characterized by the Spirit’s fruit, must be vivified or “come to life” by the Spirit.

And the Spirit does all this, as our Pastor has continually reminded us, by focusing our faith upon Jesus Christ. In Romans 8:1-13, Paul writes:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 
For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. Now the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace. The mindset of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  
You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you. 
So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 
In conclusion, we find that the Holy Spirit of God gives life in Christ to us and puts to death the sin nature that is killing us. Death is in the flesh. Life is in the Spirit. The Spirit offers you both life and the fruit which demonstrates there is life in the root.

(Theological Note: Paul distinguishes between “flesh” [sarx] and “body” [soma] in this passage. While the flesh refers in this passage and in Galatians 5 to the sin nature, the body is itself raised by the Spirit into life. The ancient pagan and modern concept of the body as inherently evil does not agree with Paul. The material body is not inherently evil, although it may act in evil ways through the influence of the sin nature. Note also that Paul can use flesh without direct reference to the sin nature [Gal 2:20]. For Paul, the body is typically a reference to the physical person, while the flesh is typically a reference to the sin nature that leads us toward sin.)

(This is the third in a four-part short series on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. For part one, concerning the Spirit as Love, click here. For part two, concerning the Spirit as Intimate, click here.)

December 8, 2020

The Holy Spirit is God Intimate

II. Intimate

At the deepest place in every single human heart is the need for intimacy with a person totally safe, entirely powerful, incredibly close—A confidant, a protector, a hero. Alas, many of us carry indescribable wounds, because we trusted a friend, a relative, a lover—We gave somebody our heart, and we were betrayed. We need intimacy; we fear treachery.

When men and women became friends with Jesus, they found one upon whom they could really rely. He was trustworthy in his intentions, and he had the power to meet their every need. John, the artistic apostle, knew Jesus as beauty itself. He self-identified as “the one whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). He also leaned against his very breast. Mary Magdalene knew Jesus as the only man who ever spoke to her with purity. He also healed her soul with power. Lazarus was the friend for whom Jesus wept. And Jesus also raised Lazarus from death. Jesus healed people, fed people, gave them the all-fulfilling words of life.

The powerful, faithful intimacy of Jesus is why his disciples, his friends, were distraught when he told them he must leave. He encouraged them in John 14, “Let not your heart be troubled” (v 1). Christ promised them that he was going to prepare a place for them in God the Father’s eternal mansion. And, at some point, he was coming back to get them. He also told them he would soon be with them in a way they never imagined.

True friendship is deep intimacy, oneness with another which cannot let go. Sometimes, when Karen is out of my sight, even if only feet away in another room, I miss her terribly. Jesus frankly told them he was leaving the world, leaving their sight. He was leaving them in one way, but coming to them in another way. 

Indeed, he promised that he would come in a way not unlike the relationship God the Father has with his Son. The Father and the Son are so intertwined that to see one is to see the other. “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:11). The words and the works of the Son are the words and works of the Father! “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father!” (John 14:9).

And there is a third Person just as intimately bound with the Godhead as the Father and the Son. Jesus promised his distraught disciples, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16-18).

In Romans 8, Paul used the same language to describe the union of Christ with the believer and the union of the Spirit with the believer. If the Spirit of God is in you, then Christ also is in you. The indwelling of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit are coterminous personal relationships. To have “Christ in you” (Rom 8:10) is to be “in the Spirit” (Rom 8:9) and to have the Spirit reside “in you” (Rom 8:11). The Holy Spirit who indwells us is “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom 8:9). 

The Spirit is distinct from Christ; but the Spirit is also one with Christ. “The Lord is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:17). Therefore, although Jesus departed in body, he came through the presence of his Spirit to be, in an even more intimate way, present to his followers: To John, the apostle whom he loved, Jesus came in the Spirit. To Mary, who could not let go of him when she saw he had risen from death itself, Jesus dwelt in the Spirit. To Peter, the one friend who had horribly betrayed him in his hour of greatest need, not once but three times, Jesus resided by the Spirit.

Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ came to live “in” and “with” John and Mary and Peter. But this promise of intimacy with the divine is not only for them then. For even now the all-powerful Spirit of God offers to live in us, to heal us of every affliction, to feed us forever, to ensure us of eternal life. The Spirit offers you intimacy with the eternal Christ himself. If Christ is “God incarnate,” then the Spirit is “God intimate.” Have you been born again by faith in Christ? If so, the Spirit desires to fill your life with his immediate, powerful, saving presence.

(This is the second in a four-part short series on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. For part one, concerning the Spirit as Love, click here. For part three, concerning the Spirt as the Giver of Life, click here.)