“I believe in the Holy Spirit,” is essential to our Christian confession. The third person of the Trinitarian Godhead is the agent of appropriating salvation to God’s elect people. The Spirit is like the wind, He goes where He wills and works as He may (Jn 3:1–8).
The sovereign Spirit works our salvation from within us (Rom 8:9, 11). He does as He pleases from His throne in our hearts. Why is this crucial to our understanding how to live the Christian life?
The Law of God demands obedience, but the Christian’s flesh remains weak. It will remain weak to the end. Too many Christians strive in their flesh to keep the Law. They fail, as did the Israelites of old. This produces guilt and depression because the believer still falls short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).
The relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Law is essential to living the Christian life in a manner worthy of our calling. In Ezekiel 36:27, God says, “And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” This promise of God, fulfilled in the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost assures the New Testament believer that Christ is in him (Col 1:27), willing and doing His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). It is God’s will that His people obey all that He has commanded, but in the flesh, they fail.
Sanctification is the sole work of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). His purposeful work is to conform the regenerate believer into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). The instrument employed by the Spirit is the Word of God, and the result is holiness.
The Law of God continues, as it always has, in revealing the holiness of God and the sinfulness of men. Compliance to the Law must come from the Spirit, who causes the believer to walk in obedience.
Trusting in the Holy Spirit to make us holy is quite foreign to the Christian’s flesh. The flesh is weak, but the Spirit is strong (Mk 14:38; Rom 8:3). The Spirit works, and the believer learns to trust, not in himself, but the Spirit, who is willing and able.
Yielding to the Spirit leads to higher yields of spiritual fruit (Jn 15; Gal 5:22–23). Sinful flesh only hinders spiritual growth, like disease stunts the growth of a tree. Putting no confidence in the flesh is a Christian virtue.
Things go wrong in the Christian life, but the believer is encouraged to be anxious for nothing (Phil 4:6). The Spirit is at work. Adherence to the Law is a gradual, supernatural progression. In this, Christians can rest, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6).” He who does the work gets the glory. God who gave the Law, Christ who kept the Law, together, have sent the Spirit to cause the believer to walk in obedience (Jn 14:26; 15:26).
The alternative to obedience by grace is licentiousness or legalism. Salvation is not designed so we can go and sin all the more. God forbid. Salvation is not a return to trusting in the Law to make us holy. May it never be. Salvation is God’s correcting alignment of each believer’s person and work. The new creature with the new life must learn Christ, and learn to walk in Him, in a manner worthy of his calling.
We are royal priests, and we should act accordingly. The only way for this right alignment to occur is if the Holy Spirit does the work. Works of righteousness, done in the flesh will never be righteous, unless the Spirit does them. Therefore, the Christian must trust the Holy Spirit to will and do God’s good pleasure (Phil 2:13).
Christian, you may evidence your dependence on the Holy Spirit by praying for God’s will to be done. Trusting the Spirit to work also means you must wait for the Spirit to move you, while you are working out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). Therefore, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh (Gal 5:16).
Spokane Valley, Washington
October 16, 2021