The Dynamics of the Everlasting Gospel
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 9 – The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

(Part 2)

The element which makes us human belongs is the soul.  Some of these elements are the ability to learn and think, our ideals, love or hate, feelings, discernment, choice and decisions, etc.  Numerous examples are to be found in the Bible in the original languages of the Old and New Testaments where the word “soul” is used to refer to man as a person [Genesis 14:21; Exodus 1:5; Deuteronomy 10:22; Acts 2:41; 7:14; Romans 13:1].  This is because the seat and essence of man’s personality is to be found in the soul, where dwell the faculties of the mind [Job 7:15], the will [Proverbs 2:10, 19], our knowledge [2 Samuel 5:8; Job 10:1; John 12:27], and the emotions.

Since the soul is the seat of our personality, it is the seat of the real “I.”  For this reason, the Scriptures often use the word “soul” in the original as a personal pronoun such as I, you, me [Genesis 12:13; Deuteronomy 23:24; Mark 14:34].  Therefore, our “self” is our soul.  Hence, everything that originates from the soul is polluted with self, which the Bible equates with iniquity (see Chapter 1); that is why self-righteous acts are condemned in the judgment as works of iniquity [Matthew 7:21-23].

Again, since everything originating from man’s soul is infected with self, the Bible often uses the word “soul” to refer to self.  Two examples that may be cited are Leviticus 11:43 and Esther 9:31.

The soul, with its life of self, is man’s natural life and is referred to in the Scriptures as “the flesh” [Galatians 3:3; Romans 8:4].  This is an important fact that all Christians must realize, for it bears greatly upon whether one becomes a spiritual Christian or remains a carnal (fleshly) believer [Romans 8:5-6].  Since the life of the soul is none other than the life of self, the thoughts, desires, opinions, love, feelings, etc., that originate or proceed from the soul are all controlled by self.  This is our natural life, because we inherit it at birth.

Consequently, such a life is the life of the flesh, which is the only life the unconverted man can live; and nothing we do of ourselves can change this life, not even education or culture.  But sad to say, this life of the flesh is also the experience of the carnal believer [1 Corinthians 3:3], a life that is a contradiction to Christ and the life of the Holy Spirit.

In the wholly sanctified man, however, the self-life of the soul is crucified through the application of the cross of Christ [Galatians 5:24].  As a result, that which proceeds from the soul (mind) as well as the behavior of the body is now under the direction and authority of the Holy Spirit which indwells the believer’s spirit.  Such a life is the life of Christ reproduced in the believer, and is well pleasing to God.

This brings us now to our main point and that is the operation or work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.  We have established the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in the spirit of the believer; but it is in the believer’s soul or mind that He operates.  Just as God, in the sanctuary of the Old Testament, dwelt in the Most Holy Place, but directed His people through the ministry of the Holy Place [Urim and Thummim, Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21], so likewise the same procedure is followed in the human temple.  God’s Spirit dwells in the believer’s spirit but operates through his soul.  When this happens, the believer has the mind of Christ [Philippians 2:5].

It must be made clear at this point that the believer’s body — and, therefore, his behavior — is never controlled directly by the Holy Spirit but is done through the soul (mind).  Going back to the earthly sanctuary, we notice that access to the Most Holy Place was only possible through the Holy Place, so that it was impossible to communicate from the Most Holy Place to the courtyard except through the Holy Place.  Similarly, the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer’s spirit (represented by the Most Holy Place) can have access or controls his body only through his soul (symbolized by the Holy Place).

In order to see how this works in actual practice, we must consider the life of Christ, for He is the prototype and our example.  The humanity of Christ was identical to that of ours in every point [Hebrews 2:17], so that the body He received through Mary was a body of sin [Galatians 4:4; Romans 1:3] which was dominated by the law of sin [see Romans 8:2-3].

For this reason, Christ could be and was tempted in all points as we are [Hebrews 4:15] through the lust of the flesh [James 1:14].  However, from His birth or conception Christ was born of the Spirit [Luke 1:35] and, from the very beginning of His earthly existence, He learned to walk in the Spirit, so that Luke could declare, “The child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him” [Luke 2:40].  Thus the mind or soul of Christ from the very start of His human history was under the full control of the Holy Spirit who dwelt in His Spirit [see Luke 4:1, for example].

The temptations of Christ came to Him through the sinful (selfish) desires of His flesh as mentioned above, the same way as do ours.  For example, it was through bodily wants that Satan tempted Him in the wilderness to use His divine power to satisfy self, independent of His Father’s will [Luke 4:2-4]; or again, it was the natural fear of death (self-love of the flesh) that led Jesus to plead thrice with His Father to remove the bitter cup of the cross [Mark 14:34-41].

But the fact is that the self-centered desires of the flesh cannot be satisfied without the consent of the mind or soul; in other words, temptation in and of itself is not sin until the mind consents to the temptation.  “After desire has conceived [in the mind], it gives birth to sin; and sin” [James 1:14-15].  But since the mind of Christ was under the full control of the Holy Spirit, the response of His mind to every temptation was “No!” That is to say, “not my (self) will, but thine [God’s] be done.” Therefore, sin had no part in His life [John 6:38]; but instead He condemned sin (the law of sin) in the flesh [Romans 8:2-3].

Christ’s flesh, being sinful flesh like ours, lusted after sin, but his mind being spiritual, never yielded to sin and therefore He conquered sin in the flesh, through the power of the Spirit.  So likewise, if we have the mind of Christ, or to put it in Paul’s words, if we “clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ,” we will not “think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” [Romans 13:14].

In Hebrews 2:18 we read, “Because he himself [Christ] suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”  Every time Christ was tempted, He suffered.  We know that Christ was tempted as we are, otherwise His being able “to help those who are being tempted” would become meaningless.  But the question we must ask is, where did Christ suffer being tempted?

The answer is found in 1 Peter 4:1, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also [like Christ] with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.”

Please note that the suffering of Christ which Peter is referring to has to do with victory over sin and not His suffering on the cross.  Christ being tempted in the flesh suffered in the flesh [see Hebrews 2:10], but His victory was in the mind.  So also says Peter, if we arm ourselves with the mind of Christ, which was the mind of the Spirit, sin will cease in our lives, but the flesh will suffer [see Romans 8:5-10].  This is because the nature of the flesh, as we will discuss later on in this Chapter, cannot alter, but will always desire to sin and therefore must suffer if not satisfied.

It is in the mind or the soul that Christ gives the believer victory over sin through His indwelling Spirit.  In fact, it is this to which Paul was referring when he declared in Romans 7:25, “So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”  Note also the admonition found in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world [i.e., “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16)], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind [surrendering the mind to the Spirit].  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The mind is surrendered to the Spirit by a continual attitude of prayer.  This is what is meant by “praying in the mind.”

In the unbeliever, the soul as well as the body is under the dominion of sin (self-life), so that perfect harmony exists between the two.  Paul made this clear to the Ephesians when he reminded them of their former or pre-converted life which was “gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts” [Ephesians 2:3].  This is because the life of the soul is also the life of the body in the unconverted man, which life has been contaminated with self, as a result of the fall.  In the carnal Christian who is born of the Spirit but still walking after or in the power of the flesh (self-life), the mind may desire to do the will of God but, unaided by the Spirit, it cannot overcome the law of sin in our members [Romans 7:22-23].

Such a life is therefore also marred by sin, although the person may not be as grievous a sinner as the unbeliever.  But the spiritual Christian is one who is not only born of the Spirit but is by faith absolutely surrendered to the Spirit (has the mind of Christ), so that it is no longer “the old man” but Christ, through His Spirit, that is living in him.  Thus, “the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” [Romans 8:4].

The Body

The body in fallen man is the instrument which gives expression to the self-life of the soul.  What the soul (mind) wills is expressed through the body.

The body as created by God was made to be a servant of the soul, which in turn was to be under the direction and authority of God’s Spirit dwelling in man’s spirit.  Thus, the desires of the body — such as sex, hunger, love, etc.  — as originally created by God were to be controlled by God through the soul (mind) so that man’s behavior would reflect the character of God.

But when man sinned and separated himself from God’s authority, becoming independent, the natural desires of the body, now polluted with self, became lust, satisfying self rather than God.  Thus, man’s nature became perverted so that the lust of the flesh became the controlling factor in man’s life.  Hence, the life of fallen man is in harmony with the principle of self originated by Satan, which is the very opposite of what God originally planned for man.

According to Scripture, our bodies in their sinful condition are referred to as “the body of sin” [Romans 6:6].  This is because the principle of sin — which is the principle of self — has permeated every member of the human body [Romans 6:6; 7:23].

The body in and of itself is not sinful, but it is the self-life that motivates the body and which originates from the unregenerated soul that is sinful and therefore makes our “flesh” sinful.  And this body with its life of sin is beyond repair.  For this reason, the believer looks forward to the Second Advent when our sinful bodies will be redeemed [Romans 8:23; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54].  Until then, the principle of the cross — which is the principle of self-denial — must daily be applied through the Holy Spirit to our sinful lives [Luke 9:23].

The body of sinful man, as well as his soul, are both under the power of self so that at his very best, without God, he is totally self-seeking.  This is the clear teaching of Scripture:  “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way” [Isaiah 53:6; Philippians 2:21; 2 Timothy 3:1-2].  Thus, the natural life of man is the life of the flesh which we must now consider.

The Flesh

The natural self-life of the soul and body together make up the life of the “flesh.” Man becomes flesh by birth [John 3:6].  The natural man, therefore, cannot live any other life but the life of the flesh.  Man may educate himself and become highly cultured, but he will still live the life of the flesh.  That is to say, selfishness in one way or another will be the controlling factor in his life.  The unconverted man is powerless to fulfill any of God’s will being “weakened by the flesh” [Romans 8:3].

In fact, the flesh is hostile to the Spirit of God and will not truly submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot [Galatians 5:17; Romans 8:7].  Every believer must fully realize that the corruption of the flesh is unrepairable [1 Corinthians 15:50-53].  Great though His power is, God will not transform the nature of the flesh into something that is pleasing to Him.  This is because the self-life of the flesh belongs to the realm of Satan, which realm is condemned by God unto destruction.  For this reason, at the cross Christ crucified the flesh [Hebrews 10:19-20].

Both the soul and the body are by nature of the “flesh.” The unbeliever and, unfortunately, many Christians do not understand God’s Word, and are therefore always trying to improve or reform the flesh.  The flesh, being sinful, is deceitful [Jeremiah 17:9], so that it can appear good on the surface to oneself and others; but within it is “full of hypocrisy and wickedness” [Matthew 23:25-28].  Hence all genuine attempts to improve the flesh, either by punishing the body or making promises and resolutions, are bound to meet with failure.  Due to its exceeding corruption, God warns His people to hate “even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” [Jude 23].

“Flesh gives birth to flesh,” said Jesus [John 3:6], and, therefore, it will always remain so.  God recognizes the impossibility of the “flesh” to be changed, improved, or bettered, since its originator, the devil, cannot change.  In saving man, therefore, from the power of sinful flesh, He does not try to change the flesh but has put it to death through the cross of Christ, and instead gives man a new life, the life of His Spirit.  The flesh must be crucified! This is salvation from the power of sin [Galatians 5:24].  Once the self-life of the soul surrenders to the cross of Christ by faith, this makes it possible for the Spirit to take over the faculties of the soul (mind).

It is important at this point that the reader also understand the dual works or behavior of the flesh.  When the lust of the body dominates the life of an individual, such a life is full of wickedness.  However, when the soul dominates a man he may live by high moral standards (like moralists), so that his civic character may be a fairly good one.  Nevertheless, the lives of both of these individuals are the life of the “flesh,” even though their outward characters may be very different.

The acts (or behavior) of the flesh may therefore be divided into two distinct categories: (1) sinful acts and (2) self-righteous acts.  The sinful acts mainly proceed from the lusts of the body and you will find a list of these acts enumerated in Galatians 5:19-21, referred to as “the acts of the flesh.”

The self-righteous acts, on the other hand, proceed from the soul and do not resemble the defiling sins of the body.  On the contrary, they are good, often religious, and commendable acts.  The self-righteous acts of Paul before his conversion are a good example [Philippians 3:4-6].  Believers may hate the sinful acts of the flesh, but often they love the self-righteous acts [Galatians 6:12-13].

But in God’s sight, both these works are condemned as sin or iniquity [Isaiah 64:6; Matthew 7:22-23].  It is only when we realize this that we will be able to appreciate the stand Paul took with reference to his self-righteousness, “But whatever were gains to me [his previous self-righteousness] I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  ...I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” [Philippians 3:7-9].

From the human point of view, the self-righteous acts are highly valued, but from God’s point of view all the good acts of the soul (or flesh) are hostile to the Holy Spirit.  This is because the flesh makes self the center and elevates self-will above God’s will.  The soul may serve God, but always according to its own idea or feelings, not according to God’s.  It may even try to keep God’s law with all its power, yet self never fails to be at the heart of every activity.  In 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, the apostle Paul divides all believers into two classes: the spiritual Christian in whom the indwelling Spirit of God controls the whole person, spirit, soul, and body; and the carnal Christian who has experienced the new birth [see vs. 16] but is still dominated by the life of the flesh.

Consequently, the life of the carnal Christian is not much different from that of the ordinary man (i.e., the unbeliever).  The spiritual Christian, on the other hand, is reflecting the life of Christ, being filled (i.e., wholly controlled) by the Holy Spirit [Luke 4:1; Acts 2:4; 11:24; Ephesians 5:18].

The major problem facing the Christian church today is the problem of carnality.  The churches are full of babies in Christ, even though the believers on the whole are “old” Christians.  According to Paul, this was the problem of the Corinthian and Galatian churches [1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Galatians 3:1-3].  History has repeated itself, sad to say, but thank God it is not too late to repent.  May every believer learn, therefore, that there can be no partnership between the flesh and the Spirit and that the only formula for the Christian life is, “Not I, but Christ.”

Hence, victory over the flesh should be the deep longing of every believer living in these last days, since the glory of God is to lighten the whole world in our day [Revelation 18:1].  And this victory is gained through the deeper work of the cross, as the Holy Spirit daily brings it to bear upon us.  Once a believer has by faith reckoned himself crucified with Christ [Romans 6:11], he must now allow God’s Spirit to put this into effect, crucifying daily the self of the flesh.  Each time self pops up its ugly head, the Spirit will bring conviction; our reaction must not be to defend or excuse ourselves but to surrender this self to the cross of Christ.  When self is completely crucified in God’s people, then the splendor of God’s glory will shine forth through our mortal bodies [Romans 8:11-14].  Such believers are ready to meet their Lord without tasting death.

The deeper work of the cross, which is to remove our self-life so that the Spirit might reproduce in us the character of Christ, is often spoken of in the Bible as fiery trials and chastenings [Hebrews 12:5-11; 1 Peter 4:12-13].  Though painful to the flesh at the time, “later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” [Hebrews 12:11].  It was only through suffering in the flesh that Christ was able to produce righteousness in sinful flesh [Hebrews 2:10, 18; 5:8-9].

Likewise, “because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin” [1 Peter 4:1].  Therefore, we who rejoice in Christ Jesus must also rejoice in His suffering, so that His name may be glorified on earth.  “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus,” so that you no longer live the rest of your life in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God [Philippians 2:5; 1 Peter 4:2].

In concluding this most important section, with reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, I trust it has become clear that there is no aspect of the Christian life that is independent of the Holy Spirit’s influence.  The total life of the Christian is intended by God to be a life guided and controlled by the Spirit of God [Proverbs 3:5-6].  Thus, the Bible clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit is the one who liberates us from this self-life of sin [2 Corinthians 3:17-18], is the means of our sanctification [2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2], guides us into all truth [John 16:13], makes our prayers meaningful [Romans 8:26; Jude 20], and gives us the power to witness the gospel [Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8].  This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer.

Therefore, putting self aside, by surrendering to our death on the cross of Christ, let us make full provision for the third person of the Godhead to communicate unto us the full salvation prepared and provided for us in Christ Jesus.

The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church

The work of the Holy Spirit does not stop in the life of the individual believer, but also involves the life of the whole church.  Every believer has been baptized into the body of Christ, which is the church, by the Holy Spirit:  “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” [1 Corinthians 12:13].  The new birth does not only put us into Christ but also identifies us with His body, so that “in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” [Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 12:12].  Thus, the indwelling Spirit becomes the connecting link that unites all believers together to form the body of Christ, the church.

Hence, according to the New Testament teaching, the church is a closely knit body of believers, with no distinctions whatsoever of race, color, sex, or status [Galatians 3:26-28].  It is a fellowship of men and women who are all by faith one in Christ and who are to be perfectly united and coordinated for the purpose of manifesting the life of God in the same way that Christ manifested it in His human body when He was on this earth [John 14:9; 1 Timothy 3:16].

But sad to say, the Christian church has miserably failed to do this, so that our present world has not really had an opportunity to see what God is like.  For this reason, every believer must come to the realization that salvation in Christ is more than a personal way of escape from eternal damnation.  Every person saved in Christ is saved “to do good works” [Ephesians 2:10; Matthew 5:16; Colossians 1:10; 1 Peter 2:12]; and this is within the framework of the church, which is to be the salt and light of the world.

Unless we who call ourselves Christians know this and are willing to be instruments in the hands of God’s Spirit, the world which consists of more than 75 percent non-Christians will never really witness the power of the gospel, and this means millions will go down into Christless graves.

The apostle Paul makes it clear that every member of the church has a specific function in relationship to the body, as allotted by the Holy Spirit [Romans 12:5-8; 1 Corinthians 12:14-26; Ephesians 4:11-15; 1 Peter 4:10-11].  These texts indicate clearly that every believer has been endowed with one or more gifts of the Spirit through which the church itself is to be ministered to and by which the church as the representative of Christ is to witness Him to the world.  Thus together, the church as the body of Christ, is to manifest God in the flesh.

In other words, it is only through the church as a whole that the life of Christ can be fully displayed.  No individual member can fully display or manifest Christ completely, for the simple reason that no individual member is the total body of Christ.  Therefore, it takes the church as a united body, living in perfect coordination and conformity to the directions of the Holy Spirit, to manifest the totality of Christ to the world.  It is this that will take place before Christ comes, and which the Bible refers to as “the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets” [Revelation 10:7; Colossians 1:25-27].

From the above facts it becomes obvious that, besides His work in the life of the individual believer, the Holy Spirit has a most important work to do in the life of the church.  This work as we have already implied is two-fold.  In the first place, He bestows gifts upon the church for the specific purpose of developing the body of Christ until it grows “to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” [Ephesians 4:13].  Such gifts are prophesy [1 Corinthians 14:3-4]; evangelists, pastors, and teachers, etc.  [Ephesians 4:11-13].  And secondly, the Holy Spirit bestows gifts upon the church in order that she may demonstrate and witness the power of God to a lost world.  Such gifts are miracles, tongues, healing, etc.  [1 Corinthians 12:8-11; 14:22].

After almost 2,000 years of church history, it is both sad and unfortunate that neither has the church grown unto the fullness of Christ, nor has it fully displayed the life of God in the flesh.  In view of this, should we, 20th Century Christians, not come to God in humility and corporate repentance for this failure of the church?

After all, the fault does not lie with God but with men.  It is we who have distorted the truth of the gospel [Galatians 1:6, 7; 1 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; 2 Peter 2:1], and have put the cause of self (including denominational pride) above the cause of Christ.  Speaking of the last days the prophet Joel proclaimed, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people” [Joel 2:28].

The question we need to ask ourselves is, When will God pour out His Spirit upon all flesh?  The answer is given in Joel 2:12-13, 17-18: “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.  Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God.  ...Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar.  Let them say, ‘Spare your people, Lord.  Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations.  Why should they say among the peoples, Where is their God?’”  Then the Lord was jealous for his land and took pity on his people.”

It is this deep heartfelt repentance that God is patiently waiting for from His people.  “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.  So be earnest and repent” [Revelation 3:19].  And when this is realized by the church corporate, then will He pour out His Spirit upon all flesh; and this earth will be “illuminated by his splendor” [Revelation 18:1].

“You will arise and have compassion on Zion [symbol of the church], for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.  ...The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.  For the Lord will rebuild Zion [the church] and appear in his glory” [Psalms 102:13, 15-16].

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:20].

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