Ministries of the Holy Spirit – Baptizing (1)

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,

whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free;

and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

I Corinthians 12:13

This is the key verse for the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. As always, the meaning of this verse is drawn from the context in which it appears. Three things to note:

This is not referring to water baptism

The literal meaning of the Greek word BAPTIZO is to immerse, submerge, soak, saturate in something. An example is plunging a garment into a container of dye to color the entire garment.

The word baptize (immerse) is also used figuratively in the Bible about a person being completely saturate or entirely immersed in or by an experience or circumstance. For example, John the Baptists literal baptizing his followers in water is extended to another “baptism” that is not with water, but the Holy Spirit to denote a complete, all-consuming experience. Figuratively then, being baptized “by fire” would change a person to the core.

Matthew 3:11 I [John the Baptist] indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he [Jesus] that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

Acts 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

The context of I Corinthians 12:13

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” describes the agent (the Holy Spirit) and the method (immersion) and the act (placing into the Body of Christ). Speaking about the body of Christ in the context (later described as the church, which is His Body, Ephesians 1:22-23), Paul explains how God the Holy Spirit places the believer into His Son.

Being a Christian is synonymous with being “in Christ.

The Bible knows nothing about a believer who is not “in Christ.”

Galatians 3:26-28 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Paul says: You were saved by faith in Jesus Christ (v. 26). You have also been baptized into Christ (v.27a) and as a result, you are to “wear” Christ every day like you would a shirt or coat (v. 27b). Thus, you are all one in Jesus Christ because you are in His Body (v.28).

We see then that water baptism does not place a believer into Christ’s Body, but the Holy Spirit who does that work. Most (if not all) Baptist churches require baptism by immersion in water for church membership and this is biblical. A few Baptist churches go a step further and believe that water baptism is necessary to become a member of the Body of Christ. That is unbiblical.

Galatians 3:26-28 + I Corinthians 12:13 makes it clear that God the Holy Spirit is the agent who, through a complete, spiritually immersive act, places us into the Body of Christ.

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Useful references from Pastor George Zeller, Middletown Bible Church, Middletown, CT:

The Charismatic Movement—35 Doctrinal Issues

Does Water Baptism Save? (A Biblical Refutation of Baptismal Regeneration)

Spirit Baptism and I Corinthians 12:13 [Including Important Grammatical Considerations]

From Got Questions Ministries:

What does it mean to be in Christ?

 

Ministries of the Holy Spirit – Indwelling

“…there can be no such thing as a Christian who is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This truth is so emphatically declared in the New Testament that it seems almost impossible that any other view could ever have been entertained.” – Lewis Sperry Chafer

There is nothing more important to understanding and practicing spirituality than the foundational works of the Holy Spirit as explained in the Bible: Indwelling, Baptizing, Sealing, and Filling. Countless erroneous (even damaging) ideas about how to please God as a Christian in the age of Grace have sprouted from man’s imagination and not from God’s instruction manual. That the Holy Spirit has taken permanent residence in the believer is the bedrock principle upon which a spiritual life is built.    

“From the doctrinal viewpoint or as a foundation for all truth respecting the relation between the Holy Spirit and the believer in the present age, there is no more characterizing or determining fact than that the Holy Spirit indwells every regenerated person. To fail to recognize the body of Scripture upon which this distinction in doctrine rests is to misapprehend one of the most essential factors in the Christian’s being, to conceive of the Christian as totally unprepared for the high and holy requirements which are laid upon him, to open the door for the promotion of unscriptural assumptions relative to persona holiness, and to create unwarranted divisions in teh Body of Christ. No student should pass over this aspect of truth lightly. No progress can be made in the knowledge of the Holy Spirit’s relation to the believer until the feature of the doctrine of the Spirit is recognized and accepted as declared by the Sacred Text.” *

The spiritual regeneration of a person by the Holy Spirit is the result of faith in Jesus Christ of the Bible: the incarnate Son of God who was crucified, died, was buried, rose again, and is exalted in Heaven. The new birth is the result of faith that does not happen unnoticed. The believer must know that he or she is born again. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is one of many things that happen to a new creation in Christ upon salvation. A new believer is unaware of most of the events in this “salvation package” until they grow in the Lord.. **

Chafer comments on this: “…the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer may not be indicated by any corresponding revolutionary experience, His indwelling is nonetheless one of the most characterizing of all the features which constitute a Christian what he is. The Spirit indwells without necessarily engendering an experience…” *

A few key texts about the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer (in their order by books):

John 14:16-17

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; 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.

Having taken up His abode in the believer, His presence is never removed. (See II Corinthians 5:5 below.)

Romans 8:9

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

I Corinthians 6:19-20

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

I Corinthians 12:13

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

II Corinthians 5:5

Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

The “earnest” spoken of here is like a down payment or an engagement ring that seals a promise that will be completely fulfilled or consummated in the future. This is evidence in the believer that all of God’s promises for us will be kept.

Galatians 4:6

And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

I John 3:24; 4:13

And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

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* Systematic Theology – Pneumatology (Volume VI) by Lewis Sperry Chafer

** 215 Things That Are True of Me, Now That I Am Saved; Sunday School Notes from Pastor George Zeller, Middletown Bible Church, Middletown, CT.

https://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/salvatio/215thing.htm

Five ministries of the Holy Spirit to believers in the Church Age:

      • Regenerating

      • Indwelling

      • Baptizing

      • Sealing

      • Filling

 

Ministries of the Holy Spirit – Regenerating

“The primary instance of the Holy Spirit’s work in regeneration is found in Titus 3:5, which reads: ‘Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.’ To be sure, the truth which this term expresses is set forth in many Scriptures and under various terms, but then always as a work of the Holy Spirit.

“The background of the doctrine of regeneration is its necessity springing from the universal fallen estate of man. Since the need is world-wide, the demand for regeneration is imperative in the case of every person born into the world. None can be excepted other than the Christ of God. In His conversation with Nicodemus by night (John 3:1-21), Christ recognized as acceptable to God nothing of the model character and attainments in Judaism on the part of this ruler in Israel. It was to such a one that Christ said: ‘Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again,’ [or,. born from above]; and to the same purpose Christ said: ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’”*

“The believer is born ‘of the Spirit’(John 3:6) and has become a legitimate child of God. He has ‘partaken of the divine nature’ and Christ is begotten in him ‘the hope of glory.” As he is a child of God, he is also an ‘heir of God, and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ.’ The new divine nature is more deeply implanted in his being than the human nature of his earthly father or mother. This transformation is accomplished when he believes, and is never repeated; for the Bible knows nothing of a second regeneration by the Spirit.”**

The Lord said, ‘The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly’ (John 10:10). Upwards of eighty-five New Testament passages bear on this fact of an imparted divine life. No change in the human estate could be conceived which is as far-reaching and effective as that of an actual birth into a legitimate and actual filial relationship with God. Salvation is a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17) which is wrought by the Holy Spirit as the Executor of the Godhead.”*

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* Systematic Theology – Pneumatology (Volume VI) by Lewis Sperry Chafer

** He That is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer

Five ministries of the Holy Spirit to believers in the Church Age:

        • Regenerating

        • Indwelling

        • Baptizing

        • Sealing

        • Filling

 

 

 

Spirituality and the Holy Spirit – The Holy Spirit in the Present Age

The Holy Spirit is very active iduring this time in which we live, called the Church Age or the Age of Grace. Activity by the Third Person of the Trinity is focused on promoting the Lord Jesus Christ and not the Holy Spirit Himself (John 15:26). This lesson sets the stage for examining five ministries of the Holy Spirit in the believer during this era. (See below.)

Before we address those ministries in future lessons, there are two ministries or activities of the Holy Spirit in the world in general today that are noteworthy.

The ministry of the Holy Spirit restraining the world – The Spirit of God in the world is always working in ways that we scarcely notice. Remember that the Holy Spirit is God and has all the divine attributes of God including omnipresence and omnipotence. Jesus said that the Spirit is like the wind—you can’t see the wind, but it’s there and you see its effects (John 3:8). One of the Spirit’s present works will not be evident until it is removed at the Rapture to begin the Tribulation.

Admittedly, the following verse has some difficulties, but I believe the New KJV translation captures the right meaning: “And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed…” (II Thessalonians 2:6-8a NKJV). The context is the Man of Sin—the Antichrist—and his appearance on the scene after the Rapture. The Antichrist will be (is now!?) in the world and working while the Holy Spirit holds him back from exercising his most evil sinfulness. “Ultimately, this Restrainer, the Holy Spirit, will lift His staying hand because the church in whom He dwells will have been translated.” * An instant after the Rapture there will be no Christians in the world. How long will it take for the darkest evil in the souls of sinners to notice this and seize the occasion?

The ministry of the Holy Spirit convincing the world of sin, righteousness, judgment – Jesus promised that “another comforter” would come after He left his apostles to prepare a place for them. “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11 KJV).

Chafer explains: **

(1) The Spirit enlightens the unsaved with regard to one sin only: ‘Of sin, because they believe not on me.’ Hence a lost man must be made aware of the fact that, because of the cross, his present obligation to God is that of accepting God’s provided cure for his sins. In this ministry, the Spirit does not shame the unsaved because of their sins; but He reveals the fact of a Saviour, and One who may be received or rejected.

(2) The Spirit illuminates the unsaved with respect to righteousness. How can a sinner be made righteous in the eyes of a Holy God? It will not be by any attempted self-improvement. There is a righteousness for him from God, which is unto all and upon all who believe.

(3) The Spirit illuminates the unsaved concerning a divine judgment which is already past; for ‘the Prince of this world is already judged.’ Every claim of Satan over man because of sin has been broken, and so perfectly that God, who is infinitely holy, can now receive and save sinners.

Thus the Spirit ministers to the world, actualizing to them otherwise unknowable fats which , taken together, form the central truths of the Gospel of His grace.

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* The End Times by Herman A. Hoyt

** He That is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer

Five ministries of the Holy Spirit to believers in the Church Age:

        • Regenerating

        • Indwelling

        • Baptizing

        • Sealing

        • Filling

Spirituality and the Holy Spirit – The Holy Spirit at Pentecost

As we have seen in the past two posts, the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God in the Old Testament was upon or with chosen individuals and enabled them for a limited purpose and time. Jesus predicted in the Gospels that the Holy Spirit would, starting a few days hence, minister inside the believer and would remain there forever. That prediction was fulfilled in dramatic fashion in Jerusalem at the Feast of Pentecost (fifty days after Passover) after Jesus’ resurrection. This miraculous entrance is described in Acts 2:1-4 and the far-reaching impact in 2:5-41ff.

Lewis Sperry Chafer * explains how this event marked a new chapter in the ministry of God’s Holy Spirit. NOTE: The sign-gifts of the Holy Spirit were prominent as the early church gradually formed. Miraculous signs and wonders gradually disappeared when apostles and prophets died and their God-inspired written revelation, the New Testament Scriptures, took their place.

“At least three things were accomplished on the Day of Pentecost concerning the relationship of the Spirit to man:

(1) The Spirit made His advent into the world here to abide throughout this dispensation. As Christ is now located at the right hand of God, though omnipresent, so the Spirit, though omnipresent, is now locally abiding in the world, in a temple, or habitation, of living stones (Ephesians 2:19-22). The Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost and that aspect of the meaning of Pentecost will no more be repeated than the incarnation of Christ. There is no occasion to call the Spirit to ‘come.’ For He is here.

(2) Again, Pentecost marked the beginning of the formation of a new body, an organism which, in its relation to Christ, is called, ‘the church which is his body.’ Though the Church had not been mentioned in the Old Testament, Christ had promised that He would ‘build’ it. ‘Upon this rock I will [future tense] build my church’ [Greek word EKKLESIA, a called-out assembly or gathering]. The Church, as a distinct organism, is not mentioned as being in existence until after the advent of the Spirit at Pentecost. It is then stated ‘And the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls’ (Acts 2:41). While the Greek word [EKKLESIA] for the church does not appear in this text as it does in 2:47, ‘And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.’ The unity which is here being formed is none other than the Church. See also Acts 5:14; 11:24.

(3) So, also, at Pentecost, the lives that were prepared were filled with the Spirit, or the Spirit came upon them for power as was promised (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). Thus they began the age-ling ministry of witnessing. Thus the full meaning of Pentecost was revealed in the advent of the Spirit into the world to abide throughout this dispensation: in the baptism of many members into Christ; and the empowering of those whose lives were prepared for the work of witnessing unto Christ.

“A careful student of the Scripters may distinguish yet one further step in the whole transition from the relationships of the Spirit as revealed in the Old Testament to that which is the final relationship in the present dispensation. During the well-defined period in which the Gospel was preached to Jews only, which was from Pentecost to Peter’s visit to Cornelius (Acts 10:44, cf. Acts 15:7-9, 14), or about eight years, the Spirit, in one case at least, was received through the Jewish rite (Hebrews 6:2) of laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17). There is no record that hands were laid on believers in Cornelius’ house [or thereafter]. The Holy Spirit ‘fell upon them’ (this phrase is evidently synonymous with receiving the Spirit.) when they believed (Acts 8:18; 10:43, 44;11:14, 15). Thus the events in Cornelius’ house undoubtedly marked the beginning of a new and abiding order.”

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* He That is Spiritual, by Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1918

 

Spirituality and the Holy Spirit – The Holy Spirit in the Gospels

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 upon or with someone 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, indwelling relationship 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.”

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* He That is Spiritual, by Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1918

 

 

Spirituality and the Holy Spirit – The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

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.”

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§ Systematic Theology–Volume VI, Pneumatology, by Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1947

 “John 15:26 – When the Comforter Comes,” Sermon by Pastor James Delany, Salem Bible Church, Salem, NH. https://www.sermonaudio.com/solo/salembiblenh/sermons/9521231975522/

* He That is Spiritual, by Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1918

 

The Carnal Christian (Part 2)

Introduction to the Master-Slave Analogy

Romans 6:16-23

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?

Romans 6-8 has the answer. Next…

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The New Nature, by Renald E. Showers, 1986

 

The Carnal Christian (Part 1)

The New Creation, the New Nature, the New Man

Vs.

The Flesh, the Sin Nature, , the Old Man

 

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.”

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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]

 

The Spiritual (Regenerated) Man

“…having been born again,

not of corruptible seed but incorruptible,

through the word of God

which lives and abides forever”

I Peter 1:23 NKJV

In the previous post we looked at who the “natural man” is according to God’s Word. There is another category of person who the Bible says is regenerated,  or born again. The Gospel of John Chapter three is one of the clearest explanations in the Bible of what the new birth is. Here is an interesting dialogue between Jesus and a learned Pharisee named Nicodemus who wanted to know more about Jesus’ teaching:

Jesus answered and said to [Nicodemus], “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

 

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  

 

“Nicodemus answered and said unto him, ‘How can these things be?’”

 

“Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’” John 3:3-10 NKJV

Jesus expressed amazement that a learned Pharisee and teacher of the Scripture like Nicodemus did not understand the new birth. One of several Old Testament passages he would know:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Spiritual regeneration is the marked difference between the spiritual man and the natural man. The change in the natural person is an inner, spiritual transformation that can only be done by the Spirit of God. God changes the sinner’s natural, spiritually dead heart (a “heart of stone”) of the first birth into an new, spiritually alive heart (a “heart of flesh”) of the second birth.

People say, “You have to have faith!” without saying what it is we’re supposed to have faith in. The content of faith is critical. Faith is belief or trust in something or someone. The dialog between Jesus and Nicodemus continues with this explanation by the Apostle John about salvation by faith:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:16-18)

Eternal life is the result of the new birth to those who, by faith, are, “…born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).