The Second Person of the Trinity had a unique relationship with the world in the Old Testament before the Incarnation. He was the Creator of all things, the transfigured Angel of the LORD, the pillar of fire and cloud that guided Israel in the wilderness, the Shekinah Glory in the Tabernacle and Temple, and the coming Messiah-King. In the fullness of time, God entered this world as the God-Man; He was fully God and fully human. Without sin, He died on the cross as the sin substitute for the world. Our relationship with the Second Person is very different now than was in the Old Testament.
Thus, it should not be surprising that in the Gospels and the early Book of Acts we see mankind’s relationship with the Third Person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, has become more intimate. The Old Testament saw the Spirit uponor withsomeone for as long or brief as God’s purpose required. When God’s purpose ended, the Holy Spirit ceased His work or was removed. Today, in the Age of Grace, every believer has a permanent, abiding, indwellingrelationship with the Holy Spirit of God
Lewis Sperry Chafer * explains the change of relationship with the Holy Spirit that we read in the Gospels: (More change is evident in the Book of Acts. The epistles explain how the believer is to live in light of this new and permanent relationship with God.)
“The essential character of the Spirit’s relation to men during the period of the Gospels is that of transition, or progression from the age-long relationships of the Old Testament to the final and abiding relationships in this dispensation of grace.
“The early instruction of the disciples had been in the Old Testament, and the statement from Christ that the Spirit might be had by asking (Luke 11:13) was so new to them that, so far as the record goes, they never asked. This new relationship, suggested by the statement, ‘How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him,’ characterized a forwarded step in the progressive relationship of the Spirit with men during the Gospel period.
“Just before His death Jesus said, ‘And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not neither knoweth him: but ye know him for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you’ (John 14:16, 17).
“After His resurrection, and just before His ascension, Jesus breathed on His disciples and said unto them, ‘Receive ye the Holy Spirit’ (John 29:22). They possessed the indwelling Spirit from that moment; but that relationship was evidently incomplete according to the plan and purpose of God, for He soon ‘commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which saith he, ye have heard of me’ (Acts 1:4, cf. Luke 24:29). The ‘promise of the Father’ was of the Spirit, but evidently concerning that yet unexperienced ministry of the Spirit coming ‘upon’ them for power.”
* He That is Spiritual, by Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1918
As this title suggests, true biblical spirituality is the work of the Holy Spirit. Spirituality means living and walking in the sphere of the Holy Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit is what distinguishes an unsaved person from a saved person. As we’ve seen, being controlled by the Holy Spirit distinguishes a spiritual believer from a carnal (unspiritual) believer.
What is the function of the Holy Spirit in making a person spiritual? Without going into a theological study of the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology §) here is an outline for the next several posts:
1. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
Sovereign movements of the Spirit
2. The Holy Spirit in the Gospels and early Book of Acts
A new relationship after Christ’s ascension ‡
The Holy Spirit’s dramatic arrival
3. The Holy Spirit in the remainder of Acts and the Epistles
Seven ministries of the Holy Spirit in the Church Age
The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament *
[In the Old Testament], “as in all the Scriptures, the Spirit of God is declared to be a Person, rather than an influence. He is revealed as being equal in deity and attributes with the other Persons of the Godhead. However, though ceaselessly active in all the centuries before the cross, it was not until after that great event that He became an abiding Presence in the hearts of men (John 7:37-39; 14:16-17). He often came upon people as revealed on the events which are recorded in the Old Testament. He came upon them to accomplish certain [objectives] and left them, when the work was done, as freely as He had come. So far as the [Old Testament] record goes, no person in that whole great period had any choice, or expected to have any choice, in the sovereign movements of the Spirit.
“Elijah and David are sometimes thought to be exceptions. It is not at all clear that Elisha’s request to Elijah, ‘let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me,’ was, in the mind of the young man Elisha, a prayer for the Spirit of God (II Kings 2:9). David did pray that the Spirit should not be taken from him; but this was in connection with his great sin. His prayer was that the Spirit should not depart because of his sin (Psalm 51:11). His confession was before God and the occasion was removed.
“During the period covered by the Old Testament, the Spirit was related to men in a sovereign way. In the light of subsequent revelation in the New Testament the prayer of David, ‘and take not they Holy Spirit from me,’ cannot reasonably be made now. The Spirit has come to abide.”
§ Systematic Theology–Volume VI, Pneumatology, by Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1947
The Apostle Paul uses an analogy to illustrate the daily conflict between the sin nature and the new nature in the believer. In Romans chapter six he explains the believer will have victory over the sin nature when he “reckons” or considers himself dead to the sin nature such that the sin nature no longer has dominion over him (Romans 6:11). As we saw in Part 1 of this series, the carnal believer is the one who yields or succumbs to the impulses of his sin nature and not the leading of his new nature in Christ. Paul’s divinely inspired analogy helps us understand how it is possible to direct our inclination from sin to our new life in Christ.
Renald Showers* introduces the analogy this way: “In Romans 6:6, 16-29, 22 he asserts that people are slaves either to sin, impurity, lawlessness or to righteousness, obedience, and God. In Romans 6:14 he refers to sin as a master.” Quoting John Murray’s commentary on the book of Romans Showers says this of Paul’s analogy: “He describes the condition of unbelievers as slavery to sin and he also describes the state of believers as bondservice to righteousness. The institution of slavery, well-known to his readers, is the medium through which he expresses the truth. In using this analogy drawn from the sphere of human relations he speaks after the manner of men.
“The key idea in the word that Paul uses for “master” is that of a legal position of authority. Thus, when Paul speaks of a master in Romans 6, he is thinking of one who holds a legal position of authority over a slave. A legal position of authority gives the master the right to dominate or control every aspect of the slave’s total being.
“In Paul’s day the key idea in the word that he uses for “slave” was this: the will of the slave is to be subject to the will of the master. Alongside the will and the commission of the master there is no place for one’s own will or initiative. Thus, when Paul speaks of a slave in Romans 6, he is thinking of one who has a position of subjection in which his will is not to be self-governing. This means that the slave is obligated to render complete obedience to the dictates of the master.”
Is the Christian obligated to do whatever his sin nature demands? Is the Christian a slave to his sin nature? Our sin nature is a demanding master who constantly pushes us to do his will. Sometimes it feels impossible to resist his relentless demands on us. What to do about this?
Some believers read what their Bible says about the carnal Christian and think that they can lose their salvation and revert back to who they were before they were saved. That is not what the Bible teaches. They worry about flip-flopping back and forth between saved and unsaved and grow confused and discouraged.
Other believers are excited in their new salvation but then face discouragement when they sin and it seems that they have digressed back to their old lives. They rightly confess their sins and receive God’s forgiveness (I John 1:9) only to find that they sin again! The cycle repeats itself and sometimes they slide into more discouragement and even depression.
God’s plan in the Bible is that we learn to have victory over sin in our Christian lives and grow (mature) as spiritual Christians. The Bible calls this sanctification. This is God’s plan for spiritual maturity (I Thessalonians 4:3; II Thessalonians 2:13-14; Ephesians 1:4; 2:10; Philippians 1:6; I Timothy 4:5 Hebrews 10:10). More on these verses in future posts.
The following excerpt about of the two natures of the believer is from Balancing the Christian Life, by Charles C. Ryrie.
“The moment one accepts Jesus Christ as his personal Savior he becomes a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17). The life of God within him begets a new nature which remains with him along with the old as long as he lives. Understanding the presence, position and relationship of the old and new within the life of the believer is essential to experiencing a wholesome and balanced spiritual life.
“…everyone born into this world is a sinner because of the sin nature with which he is born. We sin by nature… and this nature produces all kinds of sinful acts (Ephesians 2:3).
“Sometimes the sin nature is referred to as the flesh. Actually, the word flesh has several meanings:
Sometimes it simply means the material body of a person (I Corinthians 15:39);
Often it indicates people as a whole (Romans 3:20);
But frequently it is used in Scripture to indicate the sin nature (Romans 7:18).
“What does it mean when used in this [latter] way? To answer this question it is necessary to find a satisfactory definition of the word nature. Too often when people think of the sin nature and the new nature they picture two distinct people who live inside their bodies. One is a grisly, horrifying, degenerated man while the other is a handsome, young, victorious-looking man. Representations like this are not necessarily to be discarded entirely though they often lead to the idea that it is not really ‘I’ who do these things but that ‘little man’ inside me. In other words, they often lead to a false disjuncture in the individual personality.”
[Another misconception that Ryrie does not address in this passage is the idea that our sin nature is totally replaced by our new nature when we are saved. The notion that our sin nature is gone (some say eradicated) is totally refuted by chapters six through eight in the apostle’s letter to the Romans which we will explain later in this series. MFV]
“It is far better to define nature in terms of a capacity. [Note—Some theologians use the word potential.] Thus the old nature of the flesh is that capacity which all men have to serve and please self. Or one might say that it is a capacity to leave God out of one’s life. It would not be inclusive enough to define the sin nature in terms of a capacity to do evil, because it is more than that. There are many things which are not necessarily in themselves evil but which stem from the old nature. They simply are things which leave God out. The flesh, then, is that old capacity which all men have to live lives which exclude God. In the Christian the flesh is that same capacity to leave God out of his life and actions.
“The sin nature is also called the old man (Romans 6:6; Colossians 3:9). This phrase seems to emphasize the source of the capacity to glorify self instead of God; that is, it takes us back to Adam from whom we all receive our sin natures.
“The new nature comes from God Himself (II Peter 1:4). Paul calls it the new man in contrast to the old man (Ephesians 4:22-25). There is a very close relationship between the new nature and the power of the Holy Spirit. ‘If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25) and there is constant conflict between the two capacities (Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:15-25; 8:6).
[Speaking of this conflict between our two natures—between the old and the new—Ryrie draws a careful distinction between the capacity to sin (or to not sin) and the act of the sin itself. An immoral act, according to the Scriptures, is obviously not sourced in the new nature. Ryrie speaks here of so-called amoral actions.]
“…the same action might belong to either nature. Recreation, for instance, is not an evil thing in itself. And yet it might be engaged in as an evidence of the old capacity when it leaves God out; and it may on another occasion be a very important part of one’s spiritual life. What distinguishes the old from the new is not necessarily the action itself, but the use of it. Indeed, probably the majority of things we do in daily living could be from either capacity and therefore could appear to come from either nature. Still, it is ‘I’ in taking each action who determines from which nature is comes. And, it is ‘I’ and not half of me, who performs the action, for ‘I’ decide and take the action in my daily life. Recognizing this dual capacity in every single believer, it is also important to understand that each facet of the Christian’s personality can be involved in actions which stem from either the old nor the new natures.”
Balancing the Christian Life, by Charles C. Ryrie, 1969
[Next time we’ll look at a Biblical analogy in the book of Romans that illustrates the conflict between our two natures. MFV]