The Dynamics of the
Everlasting Gospel

By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 9 – The Ministry of the Holy Spirit (Part 1)

The work of the Holy Spirit plays a most important role in the subjective gospel, for while salvation full and complete has already been prepared and provided in Christ Jesus (the objective gospel), nevertheless it is the work of the Holy Spirit to communicate this salvation to the fallen human race (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Our Lord made it clear to His disciples at the end of His earthly ministry, that after He would ascend to His Father He would send the Holy Spirit whose work would be to guide them into all truth and make real in their experience that which He had prepared for them (John 16:13-15; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18). Every believer, therefore, should be fully aware of the work of the Holy Spirit, so that he may know how to cooperate with Him in the divine program of salvation in Christ.

In making a study of the work of the Holy Spirit, we will see that it is threefold: (1) in the life of the unbeliever; (2) in the life of the believer, and (3) in the life of the church. We will consider each one separately since these threefold aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work have important distinctions.

The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Unbeliever

The truth of the gospel is beyond the reach of the natural mind, no matter how educated it is (1 Corinthians 2:10-14) and, therefore, it cannot be discovered or derived naturally (Matthew 16:16-17; 1 Corinthians 12:3). Further, the Good News of the gospel is also foolishness to our carnal way of thinking (1 Corinthians 1:18).

In view of all this, the work of the Holy Spirit becomes necessary in the gospel program, for without Him no one could discern the truth as it is in Christ, or be convicted of it, no matter how well he may know the Scriptures. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned; nor could he experience the power of the gospel without the Holy Spirit.

For this reason no Christian can claim that he has “won” so many souls; this privilege belongs solely to the Holy Spirit. Man at his very best can only be a humble instrument in the hands of God through whom the gospel is preached and witnessed. The experience of the disciples at the cross (their failure) and at Pentecost (their success) clearly revealed this (Acts 1:8).

In John 16:8, Jesus indicated clearly what the work of the Holy Spirit would be: “When he [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will reprove the world [the unbelievers] of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” This is the first step in man’s salvation. Sinful fallen man has to be convicted of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to do this through the preaching of the gospel.

Notice that the word “sin” here is not used by our Lord with reference to the transgression of the law (since the world may not be familiar with the law of God), but is spoken of in terms of unbelief. Note verse 9: “Of sin, because they believe not in me,” (see also Romans 14:23). This is because man is not lost because he has committed sins, but because he is without Christ; that is to say, he is born of Adam and therefore already stands condemned in him. This we already discussed in Chapter 4, “The Two Adams,” when we saw how man’s eternal destiny does not rest on what we do (our behavior), but rather on the issue to which humanity we belong.

Consequently, those who are “in Adam” come under the condemnation of the law, since they are constituted or regarded as sinners, while those who by faith are “in Christ” are reckoned as a righteous people and have, therefore, passed from death unto life (John 5:24). Hence, the first work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the unbeliever is to convict him that he is a lost sinner because he is not “in Christ” by faith.

Secondly, and along with the above conviction, the Holy Spirit convicts sinful man that righteousness can only be found “in Christ”; all the righteousness man can produce in and of himself is equated with filthy rags (valueless) in God’s eyes (Isa. 64:6). Going back to John 16:10 we read, “Of righteousness, because I go to my Father.” The going to the Father simply indicates that the work of redemption is a finished work, for we read in Hebrews 10:12, 13, “This man [Christ], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever [a finished work], sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.”

The dispensation of the work of the Holy Spirit in the fullest sense could not begin until the sacrifice of the atonement made through Christ was complete. Now that Christ is in heaven, having prepared salvation full and complete by a perfect sacrifice, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to complete the work of His atonement in sinful man who is willing to believe (Romans 5:11).

Finally, the unbeliever must be convicted of the judgment, “because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:11). All men who hear the gospel must also be made aware that this world under Satan has already been judged unto destruction, and the only hope for the worldly man is to respond by faith to the free gift of salvation in Christ (John 3:16). But there is Good News in this judgment: Jesus explains the “judgment” of the prince of the world as his being “cast out” (John 12:31). The sinner can rejoice to believe that Satan is “cast out” of his life when he exercises faith in the Saviour.

Jesus made it clear in Matthew 25:41 that the everlasting fires of destruction have been prepared only for “the devil and his angels,” but if men reject the free gift of salvation prepared for them in Christ (Matthew 25:34), then God has no alternative but to include these unbelievers in the destruction of this doomed world (Hebrews 10:26-29). For this reason, the preaching of the true gospel, which will be realized once again in these last days (Matthew 24:14; Rev. 14:6), includes the fact that “Babylon the great [symbol of Satan’s world and which includes worldly Christianity] is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils” (Rev. 18:1-3); 14:8). Man’s only hope therefore is to “come out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4).

The church to whom our Lord has commissioned the preaching of the everlasting gospel must realize the threefold process of the work of the Holy Spirit in saving this lost world. Too often our preaching of the gospel is not according to the divine pattern, so that the Holy Spirit is hindered in convicting the world “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” May God give us the wisdom to preach the true gospel to our modern world, wherein millions are without Christ and therefore without hope.

The Experience of Conversion

Before we can proceed to the second aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the believer, it is necessary that we understand the mechanics of the conversion experience. When an individual responds positively to the threefold convictions of the Holy Spirit, repents, believes, or surrenders to the truth as it is in Christ, and is baptized (Mark 1:14, 15; 16:15, 16), a radical change takes place in his life in that the Holy Spirit actually comes and indwells the new believer (Acts 2:37-41).

The Bible refers to this experience as the new birth or regeneration (John 3:3-5; Tit. 3:5; 1 Peter 1:23). This indwelling of the Holy Spirit is, of course, the same as receiving the life of Christ (Romans 8:2, 10); and it is this that really changes man’s position and status from being “in Adam” to being “in Christ,” and which, in turn, qualifies the believer for heaven (Romans 8:9).

Thus, it may be said that the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the unbeliever is from without, while the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is from within. By this I mean that while the convictions of the Holy Spirit with reference to truth in the unbeliever as well as the believer are both felt and experienced in the conscience, nevertheless the unbeliever is not “indwelt” by the Holy Spirit, while the believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19).

This is a most important distinction, for Jesus made it clear to Nicodemus that “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). We will discuss in the next section how the Holy Spirit works within the believer, but at this point it is important that we understand the difference between the unbeliever and the believer with reference to the Holy Spirit.

As long as a person is not “indwelt” by the Holy Spirit, he is in a lost state, even though he may receive the convictions of the Holy Spirit or may even be a church member (Romans 8:9). But to be born again of the Holy Spirit is, on the other hand, to be quickened or made alive from sin’s death (Ephesians 2:1, 5). This is true or genuine conversion, the beginning of the Christian life.

To be converted, therefore, is one and the same thing as being born of the Holy Spirit (new birth), and it is this experience that changes our status from an unbeliever to a believer. Also, it is this experience which justifies a believer (James 5:20) and places him in a position where sanctification is possible, because now he possesses the very life of Christ through the indwelling Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:2).

The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Believer

When we study the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, we will discover that it is to reproduce in the believer the character of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose character was that of God (John 14:9).

Man was originally created with the Holy Spirit dwelling in him so that through Him he might reflect God in his character. But, as a result of the fall, man is born into this world without God, and is, therefore, spiritually bankrupt. The purpose of the gospel, besides saving man, is to undo the damage brought by Adam’s original sin so that the divine image might be restored in man. And the starting point of the gospel as a subjective experience is the new birth.

In other words, the prerequisite for holiness of living is being born of the Holy Spirit, not only for salvation, but also for the purpose of fulfilling God’s original plan for man, which was to reflect His glory of self-sacrificing love.

Every believer must be fully aware of the above facts, and this applies in a special way to this last generation of Christians, for it is through God’s remnant people that this earth is to be lightened with His glory (Rev. 18:1; Rev. 14:12). Full provision for the restoration of God’s image in man has already been made in the humanity of Christ and through His redeeming work. But it is the responsibility and work of the Holy Spirit to make this real in the life of every believer who has become one with Christ and who is living by faith or walking by the Spirit.

As we saw previously, to deliver us from our position in Adam and this doomed world and to establish us into Christ and His church is the first task of the Holy Spirit. Having done this in the case of the true believer, the Holy Spirit now dwells in him or her in order to put into effect the deeper work of the cross of Christ, by which the old life is in reality put to death daily more and more so, that the life of Christ in turn may be increasingly manifested (2 Corinthians 4:10-11; 3:17, 18; Ephesians 3:16-19; 4:4-13).

The work of holiness of living is not left for the believer to produce, but it is the sole work of the Holy Spirit. It is for this reason that Christ has sent Him to indwell every believer. If every Christian would realize this, self-effort would come to an end and we would make room for the third person of the Godhead to manifest in us the life of our Lord. This was the situation of the apostles at Pentecost and this is how it must be with us today.

This second aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work, which is in the life of every converted believer, is referred to in Scripture as the process of sanctification and which, according to the Apostle Paul, involves the spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The significance of this important work can only be understood and appreciated in the light of the spiritual makeup of man. Just as a doctor has to know man’s physical makeup (anatomy) in order to help his physical ailments, so also the believer must be familiar with his spiritual makeup in order that he might cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the work of sanctification.

When we consider man’s physical structure as a doctor does, we discover that he is made up of various components or organs, each having a specific function within the body but which at the same time are closely related to each other. So likewise, when we look at man through the spectacles of Scripture, or as a spiritual being, we will discover that he is made up of three components or organs (spirit, soul and body), each having a specific work in the spiritual realm, but which, at the same time, are closely interrelated to each other.

The great error of the Christian church after the apostolic period was to separate the body from the soul and give the soul a separate existance independent of the body. This concept was borrowed from the Orphic religion of the Greeks and is not a Biblical teaching. According to Scripture, the function of each of these three elements or components is distinct, contributing to the spiritual existence of the whole man, but none of these is able to exist independent of the others, so that at death the whole man, spirit, soul and body dies, or in Bible terminology, sleeps unconsciously (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Eccl. 9:5, 6; 8:8).

In examining the spiritual structure of man as revealed in Scripture, we will find that there exists a definite connection between the tabernacle or sanctuary as outlined in the Old Testament, and the temple of God in the New Testament, which is the Christian himself or herself (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19), because the Sanctuary was a type or symbol of Christ incarnate (Ps. 29:9; John 2:19-21; Rev. 21:3; also compare Ps. 77:13 with John 14:4-6). In turn, He is the prototype of the regenerate believer (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5; Hebrews 3:4-6; 1 Corinthians 6:16).

You will notice in reading your Bible that the promises of God as given under the new covenant are but the reality of the type as seen in the sanctuary of the old covenant (Jer. 31:33, 34; Ezk. 36:26, 27; Hebrews 8:6-13; 2 Corinthians 2-6, RSV).

In the old covenant the law was written on tables of stone and placed in the ark. In the new covenant, the same law is written in our hearts and placed in the “inward man” (Romans 7:22). In the old, God dwelt in the innermost part of the tabernacle, while in the new, God in the person of His Spirit dwells in the innermost part of man (Ezek. 36:27; John 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11). In the old, the sanctuary structure represented the temple of God but, in the new, the Christian himself becomes a temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19).

Thus, as God formerly dwelt in the tabernacle (Ex. 25:8), so the Holy Spirit indwells the believer today. We know that the sanctuary of the old covenant was divided into three parts (Ex. 25:8-27; 18; Hebrews 9:2-4): the courtyard, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. This was a “pattern” of the “true tabernacle” in heaven (Hebrews 8:1-2). Likewise, the believer who in reality represents God’s temple on earth (Isa. 57:15) is divided into three parts. The body with its various members may be compared with the courtyard, occupying an external position with its life visible to all; this is the place of sacrifice (Romans 12:1; Colossians 3:5). Inside is man’s soul, which constitutes the faculties of his mind (i.e., the emotions, the will, and the intellect) through which God operates. This corresponds with the Holy Place, where the daily ministry of the priest was carried out. Innermost and behind the second veil and within man’s self-consciousness lies the human spirit, which may be compared to the Most Holy Place, the dwelling place of God. In the converted man, the Holy Spirit dwells in man’s spirit; it represents for him “the secret place of the Most High.”

The following is a simple diagram of the sanctuary, God’s temple in the old covenant, which was a shadow or type of the Christian who in Christ is the reality, the temple of God in the new covenant. The sanctuary, in other words, typified Christ, in the first place, with the believer in Him (“you in Christ” — the objective gospel), and secondly it also typified the Christian himself (“Christ in you” — the subjective gospel).

Thus we may say that the sanctuary of the Old Testament was God’s model plan of the everlasting gospel which was first fulfilled in Christ and must now be realized in the church, of which each believer is a part. The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is a work accomplished by the High Priest, but it is contingent on the cleansing of the hearts of His people on earth.

Having discovered that spiritually man is constituted of spirit, soul, and body, we can now proceed to consider the place and function of each of these elements and their relationship to the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit

Every believer must realize he has a spirit, otherwise it will be impossible for him to “worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23, 24). Instead he will worship God according to his feelings, the thoughts and emotions of the soul being no true worship, which unfortunately is the problem with much of our worship today. The Bible teaches clearly that every person possesses a spirit. This spirit must not be confused with our breath, nor equated with our soul, nor identified with the Holy Spirit. The following texts give ample proof that man, as created by God, possesses a spirit:

Besides the above texts, many others indicate that man has a spirit; and this was what God had primarily in mind when He declared, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26), for “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24). It is man’s spirit that makes him above all different from the animals; and it is for this reason that we find even the most primitive man worshiping some form of a god. The spirit of man desires to commune with the spirit world, just as our bodies communicate with the material world and through our souls (minds) we are social beings. Man, in other words is a spiritual, social, and physical being because he is made up of spirit, soul, and body.

The spirit of man was created or formed by God in order that He might have a dwelling place in man, as a result of which He could control and direct man’s mind or soul, which, in turn, must control the whole body (Colossians 2:19). Thus the whole man, living in total dependence on God who indwelt him in his spirit, could reflect the very character of God, which character is selfless love (1 John 4:7, 8). This was God’s original plan and purpose for man when He created this world and our first parents.

But, sad to say, the entrance of sin marred this wonderful program. When Adam sinned, the Holy Spirit left him, leaving his spirit vacant. As a result, Adam’s life was plunged into darkenss (selfishness replaces love) and he came under the dominion of Satan (2 Peter 2:19). This is how, unfortunately, all the children of Adam are born, not “indwelt” by God, and slaves to the devil and sin. Thus, using fallen man as his tool, Satan has developed this world in total opposition to God (see Chapter 1). Therefore, men born in this world, uninhabited by God’s Spirit, can only walk “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).

Nevertheless, sinful man has not been left without a hope, for “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). The plan of redemption formulated in the mind of God “before the foundation of the world” (see Ephesians 1:4) was designed to recover man fully from his fallen state and restore in him the image of God. This is what Christ has prepared for each one of us in His humanity, and which now is made available to the believer through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Before conversion, the spirit of man is not filled by God’s Spirit so that its function can hardly be felt, except for the convictions made by the Holy Spirit from without. Consequently, that which dominates the whole man prior to the new birth is the soul with its life of self, or in some cases, the body with its lusts—neither of which life is pleasing to God. However, at conversion the spirit of man is regenerated or made alive by the coming and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Man’s spirit after conversion becomes the dwelling place of God and the seat of His will. This is what we referred to earlier as the new birth experience, which experience is absolutely essential to justification and which is the prerequisite to sanctification; the process by which God’s character is reproduced in man.

The believer who has experienced the new birth is a born-again person who has received the life of Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit. Such an individual is described in Scripture as a babe in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1), who is saved from the guilt and punishment of sin and is accounted righteous (justified) but who has yet to learn to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). Just as a new born baby has to learn to walk on its feet, so also a babe in Christ must now learn to walk in the power of the indwelling Spirit; this is the process of sanctification.

And as the Holy Spirit begins to increase in strength, that is, to control the life of the believer (this is only realized as we learn to walk by faith alone, which is by the spirit), two things will be manifested: a change will be seen in the believer’s character so that it begins to reflect more and more the character of Christ, and the Christian will begin to distinguish between that which proceeds from his spirit and that which comes from the self-life of the soul. This is the separation spoken of in Hebrews 4:12 between soul and spirit, which is produced by the Word.

It is in our spirit that God regenerates us, teaches us, and leads us into His rest. But sad to say, due to long years of bondage to the self-life of the soul, many Christians know very little of their spirit and the “Spirit of life” that dwells in them and which is able to make them “free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). We ought to tremble before God daily, asking Him earnestly to teach us through experience what is spiritual and what proceeds merely from the feelings and emotions of the soul. Even in our Bible study we tend to depend and rely more on our mental ability (hence the emphasis on education and degrees) rather than letting the Spirit guide us into all truth (1 Corinthians 2:12-14; John 16:13).


Home
Study Materials
 
Back
 
Next