Our “Unseen”, Unused”, and “Unappreciated” Helper and Guide – The Holy Spirit
True Christians are distinguished from non-Christians (though they may claim to be) and from the rest of the world’s population as those who have been (1) born again by belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, (2) who have received eternal life, (3) who are baptized into the body of Christ, (4) who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and (5) who are sealed by the Holy Spirit. These works of the Spirit are evident in any true Christian, visibly evident in behavior, attitude, and intent.
Let’s look at the true Body of Christ which includes all those who have genuinely accepted Jesus Christ. It becomes obvious when we carefully observe our brothers and sisters in Christ that all true Christians do not have the same degree of spirituality, or wisdom, or yieldedness to the Lord.
Accordingly, the Scriptures speak of those who are spiritual and those who are fleshly, living in the power and direction of our always present sin nature. The Corinthians who were addressed in 1 Corinthians 1:2 as “those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours” are nevertheless classified as either (1) spiritual or (2) worldly. First Corinthians 3:1 states, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ.”
Spiritual Christians versus Fleshly Christians
So, how can one tell the difference between a Christian who is spiritual and one who is not?
The difference is related to the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart. Every true Christian is indwelt by the Spirit, but every Christian does not heed the direction and instruction of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, those who listen to the world rather than to the Holy Spirit are worldly, or fleshly, and those who are guided by the Holy Spirit can be spiritually minded and enjoy the things of God. Those who are spiritual “live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16), that is, they walk, or live their life, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Christians who have been saved for a long period of time often achieve spiritual maturity when they have grown in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18). The process of spiritual growth toward maturity (sanctification) is revealed in Ephesians 4:11-16:
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Spiritual maturity, however, is not measured by the length of time that one is a Christian, but rather by the extent a Christian grows in the knowledge and fellowship of the Lord.
Old Testament versus New Testament Filling
In the Old Testament, the filling of the Spirit was rare and was usually related to the ability to serve in some particular area. Sinning against God was defined in the Old Testament as grieving the Spirit (Isa. 63:10-11). The Spirit of God in the Old Testament gave men wisdom (Gen. 41:38-40; Num. 27:18; Judg. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 1 Sam. 10:10; 16:13). The Holy Spirit also gave men special skills in the Old Testament, such as the tailors for the priestly garments (Ex. 28:3) and the workmen who built the tabernacle (Ex. 31:3). In the case of Samson, the Holy Spirit’s filling gave him superhuman strength (Judg. 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14).
However and conversely, in the New Testament, the filling of the Spirit takes on more of a work of God on behalf of the spirituality of the individual Christian. In the Old Testament the filling of the Spirit was sovereignly given and was not available for everyone, while in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is given to all of those who are spiritually yielded to God.
In the New Testament, Christians are challenged and commanded to be filled with the Spirit, as it states in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled(keep being filled) with the Spirit.” The filling of the Spirit is not getting more of the Spirit, but it is a question of the Holy Spirit empowering and getting control. In contrast to the permanence of the new birth and the indwelling Holy Spirit, the filling of the Spirit is a repeated experience. That is why Ephesians 5:18 translated literally is “keep being filled.” Peter, who was filled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost…”), was said to be filled again in Acts 4:8, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost…”.
Conditions for Being Filled with the Spirit
Though all Christians are equally saved, not all Christians are equally filled with the Spirit. The epistles of Paul contain exhortations to us to meet the conditions of the filling of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19 the command is given, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.” Speaking of the Holy Spirit as a fire within us, Christians are exhorted not to quench Him or suffocate Him. In the King James Version, it is translated “quench not the Spirit.”
When we are saved, we recognize that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that God is saving us. However, the full implications of putting our faith in God usually come later when we face the issue of whether Christ is really the Lord of our life. As Christ expressed it in the Sermon on the Mount, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24). This is true as Christ stated, “You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt. 6:24). Accordingly, a number of times Christians are exhorted in the Scriptures to yield themselves wholly to God. In Romans 6:13 the exhortation is given, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” The concept is that of offering our bodies as a living sacrifice in contrast to offering a sacrifice of something dead. The two options before Christians are whether we should serve God or whether we should serve wickedness. The verb translated “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin” (Rom. 6:13) is in the present tense. In other words, we should not keep on doing this as Christians, but, as he states, “rather offer yourselves to God.” The exhortation is to stop doing what we are doing wrong and to take a decisive step in allowing our members to be used for righteousness.
A similar truth is stated in Romans 12:1-2. There Paul writes, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” In this passage, as in Romans 6:13, the thought is to present ourselves to God once and for all as a specific act. Presenting or offering ourselves to God takes the form of a living sacrifice. Because we are saved, we have been prepared to do this because God has declared that such a sacrifice is “holy and pleasing to God.”
Having taken this step, Christians are to continue in their spiritual lives by being transformed in their minds, enabling them to detect what God’s will is for their lives. The secret of determining God’s will for our lives is to yield to God wholly first, and then God is free to reveal what He wants us to do.
Therefore, we should not put out the Spirit’s fire or quench the Spirit, but we must present our bodies as a living sacrifice to the Lord. This is viewed as a once-for-all act of committing one’s self to the Lord. That’s fulfilling one specific, important commandment.
A second command, however, is given in Ephesians 4:30. There Christians are commanded, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Unfortunately, in human experience it is difficult to be holy and to continue at all times in situations entirely surrendered to the Lord. When sin enters the life of a Christian, the Holy Spirit is hindered in His ministry and He is “grieved.”
The remedy for this situation is confession as stated in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Because a Christian has already been saved, justified, and promised fellowship with Christ in eternity, when sin enters his experience, confession is the secret of cleansing from this sin.
Unfortunately, few Christians have faced these important doctrinal distinctives; they have not fully yielded themselves to God and have not fully confessed their sins to the Lord. In forgiving a Christian, God is not simply acting mercifully, He is acting justly because Christ has paid the price for our sins and has made it possible for God to restore those to fellowship who have fallen short.
Scriptures warn, however, that if a Christian continues in sin and continues to grieve the Holy Spirit he can experience God’s chastening judgment. This is introduced in connection with the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 : “If we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.” In the previous context (1 Cor. 11:27-30), Paul reveals that if one continues to sin against God, it can result in physical illness or even death. It is, therefore, a dangerous thing for a Christian to live outside the will of God. God is gracious, however, and in many cases does not immediately deal with the matter. But eventually the Christian has to face his departure from God and adjust his relationship to the Lord.
Another passage dealing with this is Hebrews 12:5-6, “You have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.’” As Hebrews makes clear, God may discipline a Christian who has wandered from the path of righteousness. Christians are assured that if they do not confess their sin, God will move in and discipline them for their shortcomings. Through this entire process, however, it is clear that the Christian remains saved because he is saved by grace and not by works; but he will not enjoy his salvation to the full if he is not yielded to God’s Spirit, and he will lose fruit in eternity.
Living by the Spirit
In contrasting a life with God in the power of the Spirit to a life of sin, the apostle Paul establishes a simple principle when he says, “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Gal. 5:16). Literally translated, he says “walk by the Spirit.” The Christian’s life is like a walk where each step is a step of faith and each step that is taken needs to be sustained by strong limbs. Likewise, a Christian who is living by faith is walking a step at a time. In his own strength a believer cannot lead a Christian life; he needs the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit each step he takes. A Christian is warned against fulfilling the desires of the sinful nature, and the acts of the sinful nature are itemized in Galatians 5:19-21 (sexual immorality, idolatry, sorcery, jealousy, divisions, etc.).
So, the spiritual life and the life of being filled with the Spirit involve (1) not resisting or quenching the Holy Spirit, (2) not grieving the Holy Spirit by unconfessed sin, but (3) walking by faith in the Holy Spirit. Because of the high standard of a Christian’s spiritual life as revealed in the New Testament, walking by the Spirit is the secret of a spiritual life that bears testimony to the reality and power of God and is effective for Him.
A Christian has to face evil on various fronts. The world and the world system constantly are attempting to choke the Christian and to divert him to things that have no eternal value. Worldliness will choke the Word and make it unfruitful (Matt. 13:22). Instead, the Christian should view sin through the cross of Christ, as Paul did, which kept him from temptations of the world (Gal. 6:14). A Christian also faces the power of Satan, and many times in the New Testament the truth of Satan’s antagonism and temptations are mentioned. As Paul states in Ephesians 6:12, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Behind the scene and not seen by the natural eye is the continued work of Satan seeking to destroy the Christian. In 1 Peter 5:8-9 Christians are exhorted, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” In the spiritual struggle, all Christians face a world system that is contrary to the things of God, the power of Satan to tempt us to sin, and a sin nature that wants to lead us back to the old life. The Holy Spirit and His power is the secret of victory as the Christian yields to Him and allows the Holy Spirit to lead and direct.
The Effect of Being Filled with the Holy Spirit
In the New Testament it is clear that the entire work of God on behalf of the believer is related to the question of whether he is filled with the Spirit. A number of important results come when a person is filled with the Spirit.
Progressive Sanctification. When a person is saved, he is set apart as holy to God, and this justifies the use of the word “saint” which means “set apart for holy use.” Even in the case of sinning Christians, they are regarded as saints in Scripture. It is God’s purpose, however, that what is true of every Christian in regard to his position as a saint be made effective in his spiritual state so that progressively he is sanctified and becomes more and more like God.
The night before His crucifixion Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). The important experience of becoming a Spirit-filled Christian results in the progressive sanctification of a believer in Christ. The result will be that he will manifest the fruit of the Spirit as stated in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” The filling of the Spirit produces this character-transforming fruit which should be true of every Christian. This fruit is made possible by the filling of the Spirit and the believer’s living union with Christ (cf. John 15:5; 1 Cor. 12:12-13).
Empowering Spiritual Gifts. The effect of being filled with the Spirit not only transforms a Christian’s character but also empowers his spiritual gifts. One of these is the gift of teaching. Christ predicted that His disciples would teach the truth (John 16:12-15), using the Word of God as inspired by the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit of God serves as a teacher to the one who wants to teach, He will guide him into all truth. This is made clear in John 16:12-13, “ I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
Guidance of the Spirit. Another important result of being filled with the Spirit is that the Christian can experience the guidance of God. The matter of guidance comes in where the Word of God is not specific. Christians need guidance in specific decisions that relate to their life and service. As mentioned earlier in Romans 12:1-2, once one is a living sacrifice, he then can be guided into what is God’s perfect will. An illustration of this is the servant of Abraham seeking a wife for Isaac in Genesis 24:27, which states, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.” This illustration indicates that the servant did what he could with information that was in his possession, namely, he went to the family where Rebekah lived, but he needed specific guidance concerning the selection of Isaac’s future wife. Christians who are walking with the Lord experience guidance in their decisions, and this is one of the evidences that their relationship to God is real. Romans 8:14 states, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
Assurance of Salvation. Another important aspect in Christian experience is the doctrine of assurance, that is, the Spirit of God’s working in the life of a yielded Christian can bear witness to the fact that he is actually a child of God. Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” It is God’s intent to assure those who have put their trust in Christ that they are saved and that they can expect God’s salvation to carry them through into eternity. The truth of assurance of salvation is also mentioned in Galatians 4:6, 1 John 3:24, and in 1 John 4:13.
Worship. The act of worship is also a work of the Spirit in the life of a yielded believer. Following the command to be filled with the Spirit, Paul mentions that the Spirit-filled believer should exercise worship of God, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:19-20).
Intercession of the Holy Spirit. Christians also need help in their prayer lives because often we do not know what we should pray for. In this respect, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Rom. 8:26). A major area of ministry of the Holy Spirit is to enable a Christian to serve the Lord. Though believers may have some natural gifts, to be used of God in spiritual service it is necessary for His servants to be guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Christ anticipated this when He predicted that “streams of living water will flow from within [the Spirit-filled believer]” (John 7:38). It is not too much to say that the Holy Spirit of God is the key to effective Christian life and service, and apart from His ministry to us, the Christian life is fruitless and empty.
The Holy Spirit and the Word of God
In 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, Paul states that the only way the Corinthians and you and I can live a wise life is by having the right perspective and power. He will argue that without the light of God’s Spirit, we’ll be in the dark. Scripture is dark without the Spirit shining the light of wisdom so we can see what God is saying to us. Paul begins his lesson by addressing the right perspective in 2:6-9.
- Paul declares that wisdom is found in “the word of the cross”. In order to be truly wise and to consistently exercise a wise perspective, we must have a proper view of wisdom. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 says, “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, ‘things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’”
The word “wisdom” is repeated five times in the first three verses. The apostles (“we”) speak the message of the cross to those who are “mature.” The “mature” are those believers who recognize and embrace God’s wisdom in the cross. Paul argues that we are only mature if we have the right perspective on the cross. Is the cross your solution to church conflict? Is it the means of unity? Then you are mature. Is the cross your solution to your marriage and family difficulties? Is it the means of reconciliation? Then you are mature. Is the cross your solution to work conflict? Is it the means of getting along with your boss and coworkers? Then you are mature. We never move on from the cross of Christ—only into a more profound understanding of the cross.
In these four verses, Paul tells us three aspects of God’s wisdom:
a. The wisdom of God is eternal (2:6). The wisdom that Paul declares is “not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away.” It is not like the wisdom that may come from Oprah or influential political officials. The wisdom they utter is here today and gone tomorrow. However, God’s wisdom is eternal. Isaiah the prophet said it best, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa 40:8). Since God’s wisdom revealed through His Word is eternal, how can we not invest in it?
b. The wisdom of God is beneficial (2:7). Paul informs us that God’s wisdom is a “mystery.” The word “mystery” refers to truth that God had not revealed previously. The message of the cross is a further unfolding of God’s plan and purpose beyond what He had revealed and what people had known previously. Paul makes this clear when he writes that the cross is “the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory.” This stresses the plan and sovereignty of God. It also demonstrates that God has our good in mind—our glorification.
c. The wisdom of God is supernatural (2:8-9). The Jewish and Roman rulers responsible for Jesus’ death did not understand the purpose and significance of the cross, so they crucified “the Lord of glory.” The phrase “Lord of glory” implies the divine fullness. It also ties in with the saints’ glory (“our glory” in 2:7). It is through union with Him that we will experience glory. Paul explains that the reason these authorities crucified Christ was because they lacked the supernatural wisdom of the Spirit. Paul then cites Isaiah 64:4, “…things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him”. This passage is not about heaven, although it’s often used at funerals. It is clear in the context of Isaiah 64 that it means life, here and now. God wants to reveal these things to us. He has done so out of love. Trusting Him for understanding and cultivating this love relationship with Him means that we will grow in greater and greater understanding of wisdom. Yet, without the light of God’s Spirit, we’ll be in the dark.
- True wisdom is Spirit-directed (2:10-16). Paul states that it is the Holy Spirit who reveals deep things to Christians either through experiences or through the Word. Therefore, if we want to grow to maturity in Christ we must rely upon the Holy Spirit’s power.
In 2:10-11 Paul writes, “For to us [the apostles and mature Christians] God revealed them [deep thoughts] through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so, the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” The wonderful mysteries God has prepared for those who love Him are not knowable to anyone except a select group of Christians. Any and every believer can understand and appreciate them because the indwelling Holy Spirit enlightens us. However, without the light of God’s Spirit, we’ll be in the dark.
Paul informs us that the Holy Spirit searches the very depths of the heart and mind of God. He can do this because He is God—the third member of the Trinity. Paul’s point is that the Holy Spirit functions within the Trinity the way our human spirit functions within us. Our spirit is the innermost part of our being. It’s where our deepest, most private thoughts reside.
Therefore, if we really want to know someone perfectly we would have to tune into his or her spirit. The Holy Spirit is tuned in to the deepest thoughts of God. He has access to the innermost workings of the Godhead. So, just as no one knows the deepest thoughts of a person better than his own spirit, no one knows the deepest thoughts of God better than the Holy Spirit.
Since this is true, are we dependent upon the Holy Spirit in our Bible study? In our prayer life, do we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us God’s wisdom so that we can pray effectively? In our marriages and families, is our prayer, ‘Holy Spirit fill me so that I can be who you want me to be?’ Before we make decisions or step out in action, do we seek the Lord’s will? In our church life, do we ask the Holy Spirit how to approach a problem without causing strife?
b. In 2:12-13, we learn that God is pleased to reveal His deep thoughts to us. Paul writes, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” The moment we trusted in Jesus Christ, we were given the Holy Spirit as a “pledge” of our salvation (2 Corinthians 1:22, “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.”; 5:5, “Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”). One of God’s purposes in giving us the Holy Spirit is so that we may know the things He has “freely given” to us. Jeremiah 33:3 tells us, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do not know.” There is no charge attached to the Holy Spirit’s ministry of illumination. It has been provided to every believer so we can get God’s answers to life realities. We have the Spirit of God, who knows the innermost thoughts of God and can communicate these realities to us. This means we don’t need more of the Spirit; the Spirit needs more of us.
c. In 2:14, Paul explains why some people do not respond to the Holy Spirit: “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” A “natural man” is a person who does not have a supernatural dimension—he or she is without the Holy Spirit. Their natural values are physical and material. A person like that cannot understand spiritual things. They are controlled by feelings, moods, urges, felt needs, desires…by natural reasoning, logical choices made on the basis of goals centering on this life—success, wealth, power, and pleasure. Such a person does not “accept” the things of God for they are foolishness to him.” The term “accept” literally means “to welcome.” It is a word that was used frequently of the practice of hospitality. Thus, 2:14 can best be translated, “The unbeliever does not welcome the things of God.”
Paul also states that the unbeliever cannot understand the things of God. There are two different words in Greek that are translated “to understand” in our English Bibles. One means to understand intellectually, while the other is often used to mean understand experientially, or “discern the true nature and importance of something.” It is the latter word which is used here.
Paul is not saying that an unbeliever cannot understand the facts of the Bible or that he cannot grasp basic theology. Rather, what he is saying is that he cannot know the things of God experientially—he can’t discern whether those things are true or good or valuable.
To illustrate Paul’s point consider the concept of radio waves. There are many, many radio waves in this room. But we can’t hear them because we don’t have receivers to pick them up. Our ears are not tuned to those frequencies. The same thing is true in the spiritual realm. The unbeliever doesn’t have the spiritual receiver, the Holy Spirit, to enable him to appreciate God’s truth. He is like a deaf critic of Bach or a blind critic of Michelangelo.
Therefore, we should not get angry when unbelievers act like unbelievers. How else are they supposed to act? The deaf cannot hear, the blind cannot see, the lame cannot walk, the dead cannot move, and the natural man cannot understand the things of God. How sad it is that many Christians castigate unbelievers for sinning when sinning is merely a part of their job description. Yet, we allow believers to live any old kind of life without any rebuke, discipline, or accountability. There seems to be a terrible double standard. We should not become angry, irritated, or impatient with unbelievers. On the contrary, we should have a great empathy and love for them. While we should also have love and empathy for believers, we must stop letting believers live like unbelievers. We need to understand that the only reason we ourselves aren’t still living as natural men and women is that God miraculously entered our lives. It is a gift of grace that we can now see reality. So we have nothing to be proud of; we’re not superior to natural men and women, just saved. That’s the only difference.
Paul has declared that true wisdom is cross-centered and Spirit-directed. It is available to us today if we will merely adopt the right perspective and the right power. Taking this one step further, the Holy Spirit opens up the Word of God to us in order for us to understand God’s will. The process of sanctification is reading the Scriptures with the Holy Spirit leading us, giving us the wisdom to understand where without Him we cannot understand, and molding us into the very image of Christ.
Put simply, the work of the Holy Spirit is to conform all believers to Christ. The Holy Spirit does that work outside of personal intuition, personal revelation, or anything mystical. The Holy Spirit does His work in the believer primarily through right and meaningful understanding of Scripture. And, the only way to learn the truth is to read, study, search, dig, and meditate on the Word of God regularly, daily, without fail. Do we set aside time on a daily basis devoted to reading and studying the Word, or are we too busy, don’t have the time, or need our sleep?
Do we truly know the Spirit of God and His work in our lives? Do we really want Him in our lives? Look at basic Bible study..
It is very important to recognize the importance of the balance between the Word of God and the Spirit of God. The Word of God is closed to our understanding and has little meaning to us apart from the illumination given by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is often hindered by us in speaking clear and life changing truth apart from the Word of God.
When the emphasis on the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God is in proper balance in our lives, the result is a life of power and great fruitfulness in which our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is wonderfully honored and glorified. Christians that are growing in Christlikeness, are increasing in kingdom usefulness, are truly healthy spiritually, are Christians feeding deeply on Bible doctrine at the verse by verse level. Many of us do this, but many are still in need.
Sunday Evening Communion Service
We now turn, this evening, to a significant way we honor and glorify our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – Communion. We do this monthly at Glen Meadows to recognize the New Covenant or Jesus’ death and shed blood on the cross that covers and forgives our sins, but, more importantly, His Resurrection on the third day!
Covenants in general in the ancient Middle East required two parties and a formal blood-sacrifice for ratification wherein both sides agree to abide by the terms specified. A Biblical covenant is an agreement made by God on mankind’s behalf, wherein God undertakes to bless all those who faithfully follow Him. God’s part is two-fold: He supplies blessing (culminating in resurrection and eternal life), and He provides the blood-sacrifice (the gift of His Son, necessary to redeem us from sin so that we may be blessed). Our part is to keep faith with Him and showing that by accepting Christ and continuing to trust Him, believe Him, obey Him, follow Him (Gen.15:6).
Both Old and New Covenants are ratified by blood: the Old through the shadow of animal blood, the New through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross (where the reality of His death on our behalf and in our place symbolized by the phrase “the blood of Christ” (Heb.9:16-22). God promises, formalizes the promises, and pays the most severe price to fulfill the covenants He has established – the price being the sacrifice of His only beloved Son. We benefit from His unconditional and glorious act of grace, if we but trust in Jesus and stay faithful to Him.
Thus “proclaiming the death of Jesus until He comes” (1 Cor.11:26) really is the reason why Jesus gave us this one genuine “sacrament” in which we are to participate, because by doing so we show the world (and remind ourselves) that He has bought us and that we believe in Him and have received the blessings of His work on the cross. That is why Jesus says “keep on doing this in remembrance of Me” (Lk.22:19; 1 Cor.11:24). The context of 1st Corinthians chapter eleven makes very clear the solemnity of this one and only true ritual of the Church wherein Christ’s Person (body = bread) and work on the cross (shed blood = cup) are clearly and graphically represented, and wherein our participation in His Person and work is likewise tangibly and powerfully represented by our eating of these symbols, a very clear representation of our abiding faith in Him and His sacrifice for us (Jn.6:25-59).
Jesus Christ Himself gave us the ceremony of communion (Matt.26:26-28; Mk.14:22-24; Lk.22:17-20; 1 Cor.11:23-26), a ritual of remembrance of Him and His work and the only true Christian ritual, and even this has been abused – for its true purpose is not to “impart” grace or fellowship or anything else, but to “remind” believers of Him and His work and the choice we have made to follow Him.
There is even in evangelical circles the sense that somehow only a communion service presided over by an ordained pastor and occurring in a local church setting could ever be legitimate. Scripture does not support that view. Jesus told His disciples and, by application, told us all, to “keep on doing” communion until He returned in order to preserve our memory of Him and our sense of commitment to Him (and to make that obvious to all the world thereby). That is the point of communion – to proclaim and remind and focus on that koinonia-oneness with the Son whom we believe, love and serve (i.e., “communion” is a translation of koinonia which means “oneness” or “fellowship”).
There is no scriptural reason why believers who, for whatever reason, are not blessed with having a large group with which to fellowship or a church building or a formally ordained pastor should be restricted from practicing communion in their own small group worship. Indeed, the first communion was conducted by our Lord in a small, secular room with a small group of individuals whom the “formal” world regarded as heretics. It is not the size of the group, nor the type of building, nor the academic qualifications of the group leader that matter. Rather, the key to proper communion lies in the hearts and in the spirits of those who partake. Proper understanding of what the ceremony means and reverence in conducting the ceremony are the true points at issue:
(27) Therefore whoever eats the [communion] bread or drinks the [communion] cup of the Lord in an unworthy way is guilty [of offense against] the body and the blood of the Lord. (28) So let [each] person evaluate himself and in this manner (i.e., following confession of all sins remembered in such reflection) let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (29) For the person who eats and drinks eats and drinks judgment for himself if he does not evaluate his body [aright] (i.e., refusing first to repent and confess). (30) It is for this [very] reason that many among you are sick and infirm – and not a few have passed away. (31) But if we were evaluating ourselves [so as to repent and confess], we would not be falling under judgment. (32) And when we are being judged [for this offense], it is by the Lord that we are being disciplined, to the end that we might not be condemned (lit., “terminally judged”) along with the world. (1st Corinthians 11:27-32)
Thus this final point is one of central significance. Communion is the one remaining ceremony authorized for Jesus’ Church, the one time we approach God to remember Him in a formal way. Therefore the seriousness of the event and the extreme importance of our doing so in a sober and serious way cannot be understated (Lev.10:1-3). And it is certainly fitting when we remember Him in communion to remind ourselves that we are here to walk as He walked.
There is certainly value in doing all this in a formal church setting. But as long as we have examined ourselves first, and as long as this ritual of remembrance is conducted “decently and in good order” and in full understanding of the significance of the Person and work of our Lord as represented in the communion elements, then there is no reason for we who are Christ’s Body to shy away from remembering Him in this way outside of what has become traditional.
After all, looking to the scriptures instead of tradition, this ritual of remembrance was given to all of us. It is most certainly not the property of a special few ordained by one denomination or another, and is nowhere restricted to a particular venue such as a church building.
For [on this matter] I received [directly] from the Lord what I passed on to you, namely that on the night on which He was betrayed He took bread and having blessed it He broke it and said, “This is my body which is [offered up] on your behalf. Keep on doing this in order to remember Me”. And in the same way [after eating] He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant [made] by my blood. Keep on doing this as often as you drink [it] in order to remember Me”. For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes again! (1st Corinthians 11:23-26)