By John F. Walvoord
The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Believer
(Series Continued from the April-June Number, 1942)
II. The Work of the Holy Spirit in Filling the Believer (cont.)
2. The Conditions for the Filling of the Holy Spirit.
The excellent work on the Holy Spirit by Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, He That Is Spiritual, has done much during the last twenty-five years to direct attention to the simple and effective outline of this subject provided in the Scriptures themselves. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, the command is given, “Quench not the Spirit.” In Ephesians 4:30, another command is found, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” A third command is recorded in Galatians 5:16, ”This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” These three Scriptures provide a divinely-inspired outline of the conditions for the filling of the Holy Spirit. While there are many aspects to the spiritual life and experience, all will be found to be related to these simple commands. The importance of these Scriptures as the key to unlocking the truth of the conditions for the filling of the Holy Spirit cannot be overemphasized. It is a sad commentary upon much so-called exhortation that it deals with the externals rather than the primary causes for defeat and spiritual apathy. As one turns to this important subject, it must be with a new realization that herein is one of the most important doctrines of the Scripture.
a. Quench Not the Spirit.
The expression found in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 is nowhere formally explained in Scripture. Quenching is often used in the Bible in its proper physical sense, as illustrated in Matthew 12:20, where Christ spoke of not quenching flax, and in Hebrews 11:34, the heroes of the faith are revealed to have “quenched the violence of fire.” In Ephesians 6:16, the shield of faith is said to “be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” In 1 Thessalonians, however, it is used in a metaphysical sense, meaning according to Thayer, ”to suppress, stifle.”1 It is patently impossible to extinguish the Holy Spirit in the absolute sense, or to put Him out. His abiding presence is assured for all Christians. His Person is indestructible. It is, therefore, quenching in the sense of resisting or opposing His will. Quenching the Spirit may be simply defined as being unyielded to Him, or, saying, “No.” The issue is, therefore, the question of willingness to do His will.
In the introduction of sin in God’s creation by the original rebellion of Satan, Lucifer is revealed to have opposed the will of God by five “I will’s” which are summarized in the fifth, “I will be like the most High” (Isa 14:14). All rebellion against God was identified with Satan and the wicked angels who fell with him. With the introduction of sin into the human race in Adam, the field of rebellion was extended to man. The Christian who has been reclaimed from spiritual death and condemnation in Adam faces the crucial issue of yieldedness to the will of God in spite of the weakness of the flesh, the natural tendencies of the sin nature, the power of the world, and the power of Satan. There can be no compromise on the issue if the fullness of the Holy Spirit is to be realized. It is necessary to be yielded to the will of God to have the full blessings of His ministry. The life of yieldedness has several aspects as will be seen.(2) The Initial Act of Surrender.
Every Christian faces the obvious fact that no man can serve two masters or lords (Matt 6:24). It is impossible to enter into the present joys of salvation without accepting the Savior as Lord, but this is a truth to be apprehended in experience as well as in doctrine. Accordingly Christians are constantly exhorted to yield themselves to God. In Romans 6:13, the exhortation is found, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” The Greek word for yield is found in two tenses in this verse which illustrates clearly that the appeal is to a yielding to God which is accomplished once for all.
In the first instance, yield is found in the present tense, παριστάνετε, meaning, “Stop yielding your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin.” There was a constant and abiding experience of sinfulness. In contrast to this, the exhortation is to yield unto God, παραστήσατε, in the aorist tense, meaning, “Yield yourself to God once and for all.” A Christian is called upon to make a definite yielding of his life to God to make possible its full blessing and usefulness just as he was called upon to believe in order to be saved. The familiar exhortation found in Romans 12:1, to “present” ourselves to God is the same word in the aorist tense, again a definite act of yielding to God. To be filled with the Spirit a surrender of life and will to His guidance and direction is prerequisite. The original act of surrender is a surrender of our wills to God’s will. It is not a question of any particular area of conflict of will.
Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer has summed the issue concisely: “A yieldedness to the will of God is not demonstrated by some one particular issue: it is rather a matter of having taken the will of God as the rule of one’s life. To be in the will of God is simply to be willing to do His will without reference to any particular thing He may choose. It is electing His will to be final, even before we know what He may wish us to do. It is, therefore, not a question of being willing to do some one thing: it is a question of being willing to do anything, when, where and how, it may seem best in His heart of love. It is taking the normal and natural position of childlike trust which has already consented to the wish of the Father even before anything of the outworking of His wish is revealed.”2(3) The Continued Life of Yieldedness.
It is a matter of experience as well as revelation that the issues of yieldedness are not settled by the initial act. The initial act accepts by faith the will of God before it is known. In facing the actual leading of the Spirit, the plain teaching of His Word, and the providential dealings of God, there is many a struggle with the inner man. It is in this realm that the precise command, “Quench not the Spirit” applies. The wordquench (σβέννυτε) is found in the present imperative. The thought may be either do not quench, or it may presume that the reader has already been quenching the Spirit, in which case the appeal is to stop quenching the Spirit. It is an exhortation to maintain the same attitude as was adopted in the original surrender to the will of God. It is not a reconsecration, but a call to recognize that the Spirit has the right to rule. We must not resist the one to whom we have given our lives and surrendered our wills.
The continued life of yieldedness to God involves a relationship to the will of God in several respects. The yielded Christian has an unusual relationship to the Word of God. As its revelation becomes known and its application becomes evident, the issue of being yielded to the truth as made known by the Holy Spirit becomes very real. It is evident that refusal to submit to the Word of God is quenching the Spirit, making the fullness of the Spirit impossible.
Quenching the Spirit is closely related to His guidance. There are many spiritual decisions for which the Word of God does not give specific instruction. The general truths of Scripture must be applied to a given life and circumstance. In this aspect of the truth, the Word of God gives the principles, but the Spirit of God gives the instructions. This is a very precious portion of the believer’s heritage and a mark of his sonship (Rom 8:14). Refusal to follow this evident leading is a quenching of the Spirit. Guidance may take various forms and does not follow a regular pattern. The Spirit may lead one into a field of service and exclude another. Guidance usually relates to service and is essential to it. Man was not created with a self-guiding faculty, but is dependent upon God for direction. The Spirit may prohibit a course of action as in forbidding Paul to preach the Gospel in Asia and in Bithynia, only later to direct his steps to these very fields and bless in the ministry of the word (cf. Acts 16:6, 7; 19:10). It is essential to effective service and wise action to follow implicitly and trustingly the ordered steps indicated by divine guidance. The fullness of blessing awaits only in the divinely appointed path.
An important field of yieldedness is in relation to providential acts of God, which often are contrary to natural desires of our hearts, and may seem outwardly from the human viewpoint to be a triumph of evil rather than of good. The “thorn in the flesh” whatever its character must be accepted in faith in the love and wisdom of God. The child of God who desires to live without quenching the Spirit must know the sweetness of submission to the will of God. It may often be observed that the suffering saint evinces a sweetness of testimony and a fullness of the Spirit which is unknown in others. Yieldedness to the Spirit includes, then, submission to the plain teachings of the Word of God, obedience to the guidance of the Spirit, and acceptance in faith of the providential acts of God. All of these are a part of the moment-by-moment experience of living in the will of God with an indwelling Spirit who is unquenched.(4) The Supreme Illustration of Christ.
As many writers have pointed out, Christ Himself is the supreme illustration not only of one in whom the fullness of the Spirit was manifested at all times, but one who was submissive to the whole will of God. The classic passage of Philippians 2:5-11 reveals not only the glory and victory which belongs to our Lord, but His submission to the humiliation of the cross. Christ was willing to be what God chose: “a servant...made in the likeness of men.” He was willing to go where God chose, into a sinful world which would reject Him and crucify Him. He was willing to do what God chose: “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” The garden of Gethsemane with its struggle epitomized by the epical words, “Not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42), has had its lesser counterpart in the lives of all great Christians. The child of God who has “the mind of Christ” is one who is fully yielded to the will of God for his life in every particular as Christ was for the will of God in His life. For the fullness of the Spirit, it is absolutely necessary to be yielded to Him.
b. Grieve Not the Spirit.(1) Definition.
The Scriptures bear frequent witness to the fact that the Spirit of God is holy and that He is a Person. The indwelling presence of this holy Person constitutes the body of a believer a temple of God. In the nature of the case, the presence of sin in any form grieves the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, when the Christian is exhorted to “grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30), it is an appeal to allow nothing in his life contrary to the holiness of the Spirit. It is clear that the one cause for grieving the Holy Spirit is sin.
Grieving the Holy Spirit involves several factors. It is a spiritual condition characterizing unyielded Christians. The first step may well be the quenching of the Spirit, i.e., refusing to follow His leading and resisting His will. It is not an issue of salvation, as this is settled once for all when regeneration took place. The persistent resistance of the leading of the Spirit results in further departure from the will of God. The Spirit can no longer direct and bless in fullness as His ministry has been denied. It is this condition which is designated in Scripture as grieving the Spirit.
The fact that the Spirit of God has been grieved may be readily determined in the Christian’s experience. There is a loss of fellowship with God and the fruit of the Spirit, and some of the spiritual darkness that engulfs the unsaved descends upon the consciousness. For this reason Christians who have grieved the Holy Spirit may appear outwardly to be living on the same plane of experience as the unsaved. It is possible, however, to be mistaken concerning the factors of experience. It has been often pointed out by careful writers that physical conditions affect spiritual experience. One who is tired and hungry or one who is sick may fail to have the evidence of an overflowing spiritual life without necessarily living in sin. The issue too is confined to sin which is known to the Christian. The Spirit is grieved by definite sins, not by the presence of the sin nature. It is the duty of the Christian who senses a loss of spiritual fellowship and power to seek the cause in prayer and study of the Word. It is ever true that if we draw nigh to God we may expect God to draw nigh to us (Jas 4:8).
It may be concluded that sin constitutes the cause for grieving the Spirit. As the cause for grieving the Spirit is definite, so the remedy is specifically set forth in the Word of God.(2) The Remedy: Confession of Sin.
There has been an amazing lack of understanding of the doctrine of grieving the Holy Spirit on the part of theologians. Even such a great work as Kuyper’s3 does not so much as mention Ephesians 4:30, nor the importance of confession of sin as indicated in 1 John 1:9. This neglect is quite common, however, as a survey of most works on the Holy Spirit will substantiate. It is a lamentable deficiency, however, as the heart of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is its relation to the spiritual life of the believer, and a grieved Holy Spirit makes impossible the fullness of spiritual blessing. The Bible is still the best work on the doctrine of the Spirit, and those who read its pages carefully will find the answer to every problem.
The remedy for grieving the Holy Spirit is summed in the simple word confess. According to 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This passage, standing as it does in the center of a revelation of the basis of fellowship with God (1 John 1:5-2:2), is a message to Christians. It avails not to the unsaved to confess their sins, as they have not accepted the Savior who was the sacrifice for sins. For the unsaved the exhortation is likewise summed in one word believe. For the Christian who stands in all the blessed relationship to God wrought by saving faith in Christ there remains the issue of maintaining fellowship. It is this issue that is in the foreground in 1 John. The promise of forgiveness should not be confused with justification nor the question of the guilt of sin. As far as the judicial aspect is concerned, the sin question was settled at the time of saving faith. The presence of sin in the life of the Christian, however, constitutes a barrier to fellowship. While the Christian’s sonship is in no wise affected, the happy family relationship is disturbed. On the human side, confession must come before restoration into fellowship is possible. The cause for grieving the Spirit must be judged as sin and confessed. Confession involves self-judgment (1 Cor 11:31), in which the Christian acts as his own judge, condemns his own sin, and then confesses his sin to his heavenly Father.
Complete assurance is given that this approach to the sin problem is acceptable to God. It is not a question of doing penance or of inflicting chastening punishments upon oneself. Nor is it a matter of leniency with the Father when He accepts the confession. The whole act is based upon the finished work of Christ, and the question of penalty is not in view. The price for restoration has already been paid. Accordingly, the Father is faithful and just in forgiving, not merely lenient and merciful. The Father could not do otherwise than forgive the Christian seeking forgiveness, for His own Son has already provided a complete satisfaction for sin. The process from the human side is, accordingly, amazingly simple.
The further promise given to those who confess sin is often overlooked. Not only are the sins forgiven, referring to sins already committed, but the promise is given “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” While this promise cannot be construed to be a pledge of total eradication of sin, nor to make it impossible for the Christian to sin, it does constitute a revelation of the undertaking of God to prevent further sin. Confession by its very nature is a sanctifying force. The Christian who has agonized before God in the knowledge of his own guilt, and claimed the cleansing of the precious blood will by this very operation be less prone to return to the paths of sin. The prodigal upon returning to his father no longer desired the life of a prodigal. The act of confession also in effect is an act of dependence upon God, a recognition of human weakness and of the need of divine power. This will be seen, in the discussion of walking in the Spirit, to be an important aspect of victory over sin.
Confession is entirely on the human side. The revelation of 1 John 2:1, 2, indicates that on the divine side the adjustment made necessary by sin in the Christian’s life is immediate: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins ofthe whole world.” It is a blessed fact that when a Christian sins Christ immediately undertakes His work as Advocate, presenting His own righteousness and finished work on behalf of the sinner. The divine side is always in proper adjustment. This remains unknown to the experience of the Christian, however, until confession of sin restores the fellowship. As in an electrical circuit, one break will stop the current, so in our fellowship with God. The Scriptures make clear that the break is always on our side, and the torn ends of fellowship are quickly united by confession of sin and the full power and blessing of fellowship with God again are realized. It is possible that Christians who have lived long in sin may require a time of heart-searching before all is restored, but the remedy in any case is confession of sin. which might well be avoided. As the apostle who denied his Lord and wept bitterly over it wrote in his inspired epistle, “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters” (1 Pet 4:14, 15).
c. Walk in the Spirit.
The subject of this section could furnish a theme for an entire work, instead of being considered merely as an aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer. It is in this field of the doctrine that much misapprehension has arisen and the most dangerous heresies have been advanced. It is, at the same time, an intensely practical doctrine. The two former requirements for a Spirit-filled life were negative in character: We cannot say “no” to the Spirit, quenching Him; and we cannot continue grieving the Spirit, if we desire the filling of the Spirit. The third requirement, of walking in the Spirit, is the positive aspect of the truth, and in content is more important than the other.(1) Definition.
In the command, “Walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:16), there is urgent exhortation to walk by the power and presence of the Spirit who dwells within. The Greek is simple and direct: Πνεύματι περιπατεῖτε.Πνεύματι is a simple dative, to be translated by the Spirit rather than in the Spirit. As in Galatians 5:5, the absence of the article does not indicate an impersonal spirit, either human or divine, but the Holy Spirit Himself. As Charles J. Ellicott writes in commenting on Galatians 5:5, a similar instance:
“The dative is not equivalent to ἐν Πνεύματι (Copt.), still less to be explained as merely adverbial, ‘spiritually’ (Middl. in loc.), but, as the context suggests, has its definite ablatival force and distinct personal reference; our hope flows from faith, and that faith is imparted and quickened by the Holy Spirit. No objection can be urged against this interpr. founded on the absence of the article, as neither the canon of Middleton (Gr. Art. p. 126, ed. Rose), nor the similar one suggested by Harless (Eph. ii.22.),-that τὸ Πνεῦμα is the personal Holy Spirit, πνεῦμα the indwelling influence of the Spirit (Rom. viii.5), can at all be considered of universal application; see ver. 16. It is much more natural to regard Πνεῦμα, Πνεῦμα ἅγιον and Πνεῦμα Θεοῦ as proper names, and to extend to them the same latitude in connection with the article; see Fritz. Rom. viii.4, Vol. II. p. 105.”4
The exegesis is, accordingly, plain. Christians are commanded to walk by the Person and power of the Holy Spirit if they desire to have the lusts of the flesh unfulfilled. It is clear that walking by the Spirit is a continual experience, as περιπατεῖτε is in the present tense, with the thought, continue to walk by the Spirit, or keep walking by the Spirit. The failure to continue walking by the Spirit will result in immediate spiritual failure.(2) The Christian Standard of Spiritual Life.
The necessity of walking by the Holy Spirit is especially apparent in view of the high standard of spiritual life demanded of the Christian in the Scriptures. Israel had a high standard of life suited for their life under the law, but they did not have the universal indwelling of the Holy Spirit nor the universal enablement provided the Christian, and their standards of conduct were, accordingly, elementary in comparison to Christian standards. The standards of the future kingdom are also high, but their requirements are tuned to the special conditions which will obtain at that time-a devil bound, Christ on the throne, universal righteousness and peace throughout the world, a system nevertheless legal in character. The standards which are peculiarly applicable to the present dispensation are found in the New Testament, particularly the Acts and epistles and part of the Gospels. An examination of these standards will demonstrate that they are attainable only by those walking by the Spirit. While some of the commands of the law of Moses may be taken to be equally impossible standards, there is a distinction. The law of Moses was designed as a means to condemnation. The standards of grace in the present age are designed for sanctification. What man could not do under the law, with the enablement provided then, man can do under grace by the power of the Holy Spirit. The effect of these truths is that the Christian is responsible for a life empowered by the Spirit as the saints were not in previous dispensations, when the Spirit was not as freely bestowed.
A cursory study of the standards of this age will make this sufficiently clear. We are commanded to love each other as Christ loves us (John 13:34; 15:12). Even “every thought” must be brought “to obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). We must “be patient toward all men,” and “ever follow that which is good” (1 Thess 5:14, 15). We should “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks” (1 Thess 5:16-18). Illustrations can be multiplied of similar standards equally impossible to the flesh. What is impossible for man unaided by the Holy Spirit is possible for the one walking by the Spirit. The utter need of the power of the Spirit in the life of every Christian is one of the great realities of both revelation and experience.(3) The Power of the World System.
The Christian standards of spiritual life become all the more difficult to attain in view of the corrupting influence of the present world system. When Christ prayed for His disciples, He did not ask that they be immediately taken out of the world, but rather that they be kept from evil in the world (John 17:15). They were to be in the world bodily, but spiritually “in the heavenlies.” The Scriptures spare no words in denouncing the world. Friendship with the world is called spiritual adultery and the friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4). Love of the world excludes love of the Father (1 John 2:15). Union with the world and conforming to the world is forbidden (Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 6:14). The whole world is declared worthless in comparison to the value of a human soul (Matt 16:26). Worldliness is revealed to rob the Christian of fruit, choking the Word (Matt 13:22). The world is declared crucified by the cross of Christ (Gal 6:14). The Christian is to be in the world but not of the world, to bear a witness to the world, but not to allow the world to corrupt him. The power of the world is such, however, that this is impossible except for the power of the Holy Spirit.(4) The Power of Satan.
The important doctrines of satanology, so neglected in most theological discussions, make the responsibility of attaining Christian standards of conduct all the more difficult. Satan is revealed in the Scripture to be the greatest power apart from God. The Christian’s warfare is essentially with Satan. As Paul knew from both revelation and experience, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 6:12). Satan blinds the minds of unbelievers to the Gospel (2 Cor 4:4), making necessary a work of the Holy Spirit to enable them to believe. Christians are exhorted, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8). At the same time, the Scriptures reveal that “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14). Satan is a liar and murderer as Christ Himself bears witness (John 8:44). The power of Satan is so great that “Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 9). It is clear from the Scriptural revelation that this enemy of God is also the enemy of every saint and that victory over him is impossible apart from divine power and protection. The walk of the Christian in the will of God is impossible because of this enemy unless he walks by the Spirit. It is significant that Satan the archdeceiver has persuaded many that he does not exist, much less constitutes our greatest enemy. In the light of the modern apathy regarding the field of satanology, is it any wonder that there is little understanding regarding the issues of walking by the Spirit?(5) The Sin Nature.
The utter dependence of every soul upon the Spirit for victory is not only a result of the foes without, but is occasioned as well by the weakness within. The Scriptures reveal that every child of Adam possesses Adam’s nature, with all its predisposition to sin. Whether designated as the sin nature (Rom 5:21; 1 John 1:8), the Adamic nature, the flesh (Rom 13:14; 1 Cor 5:5; 2 Cor 7:1; 10:2, 3; Gal 5:16-24; 6:8; Eph 2:3; etc.); the old man (Rom 6:6; Eph 4:22; Col 3:9, 10), or any other term, the reference is to the human nature, including soul, spirit, and body. When the word sin is found in the singular as in Romans six and seven, for instance, it may be understood as a reference to the nature rather than the act. It is the source of all evil within, that which desires sin and gives ear to the devil. A clear understanding of this doctrine is essential to realizing the need for walking by the Spirit.
Practically all heresies characterizing the holiness movement, and false doctrines of sanctification, eradication, or perfectionism have their origin in a failure to comprehend the Scriptural teaching regarding the sin nature. It is impossible within the scope of the present discussion to examine in detail all the truth involved, but the main elements can be presented.
The doctrine of perfectionism is not always stated in precisely the same terms by its adherents. The definition of Webater’s Dictionary is probably fair to all parties: ”Perfectionism: 2. Theol. The doctrine that a state of freedom from sin is attainable in earthly life.” Some perfectionists limit this freedom to wilful sin. Others limit the freedom from sin, which they conceive of as attainable in this life, to freedom from known sin, excluding sins of ignorance either on the ground that they are not sin or that they cannot in any case be included in the realm of perfection. Some believe the sin nature itself is eradicated. An examination of the Scriptures will not only sustain the fundamental elements of the doctrine of the sin nature itself, but it will make clear that the doctrine of perfectionism is not taught in the Bible at all as it is held by its advocates.
In the Old Testament, while a number of Hebrew words are translated perfect, it is clear from the context that the characters involved were not sinless (Gen 6:9; 1 Kgs 15:14; 2 Kgs 20:3; 1 Chron 12:38; Job 1:1, 8; Ps 37:37; 101:2, 6; etc.). In the New Testament, with which we are primarily concerned, there are thirteen words translated perfect. These thirteen are found to reduce to five roots, however, and only two have important bearing upon the doctrine of perfection as related to sin.
The verb καταρτίζω, having the thought of being complete in all details and therefore fitting, or adjusted, is found frequently as a verb, noun, and adjective with variations and indicates perfection in the sense of completeness (2 Cor 13:9, 11; Eph 4:12; 1 Thess 3:10; 2 Tim 3:17, etc.). A word of equal or greater importance, found in five different forms, is τελειόω, meaning, to bring to the end, or to bring to the goal (1 Cor 2:6; Eph 4:13; Phil 3:15; Col 3:14; 4:12; Heb 6:1; 7:11; 10:14; etc.). The word has the idea, therefore, of attainment.
Other words are found translated perfect in the New Testament, but they contribute little or nothing to the doctrine of perfection. One of them relates to perfection in knowledge, ἀκρίβεια, rather than to sin, and is found in adjective form (Acts 22:3) and more often as an adverb (Luke 1:3; Acts 18:26; etc.). Another word, πληρόω, is found translated in one instance perfect (Rev 3:2), but it means essentially to fill or to make full, as a vessel might be filled, and is translated fulfil fifty-one times, and to fill seventeen times. In Luke 8:14, τελεσφορέω is found, meaning, to bring to the goal, but it has no bearing on the doctrine of perfection. Practically, the first two words considered, in their various forms, furnish us with all the Scriptural information on the doctrine of perfection.
Perfection as related to sin is found in Scripture in three aspects. First, positional perfection is revealed to be the possession of every Christian. In Hebrews 10:14, it is stated, “For by one offering he hath perfected [τετελείωκεν] for ever them that are sanctified.” The verb is found in the perfect indicative, indicating that the perfection indicated was completed once and for all in past time, an act never to be repeated. It is, therefore, absolute perfection, which Christ wrought for us on the cross. There is no reference here to the quality of the Christian’s life. The issue of sinlessness is not in view. All saints (sanctified ones) are partakers of the perfection accomplished by the death of Christ.
Second, relative perfection is mentioned frequently in the Scriptures, as indicated by the context. In some instances, spiritual maturity is referred to as perfection. Paul writes the Philippians, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, [τέλειοι] be thus minded” (Phil 3:15). That he is referring to spiritual maturity rather than sinless perfection is made clear by the reference in the same passage in verse twelve, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” The reference in Philippians 3:12 is to ultimate perfection which will include sinlessness, of course, but this Paul denies as a present possession. Spiritual maturity may be compared to physical maturity-full development without, however, absolute perfection. Maturity is viewed in Philippians 3:15 as attained. In other passages, some particular aspect of spiritual maturity may be in view. We may be spiritually mature in respect to the known will of God (Col 4:12); in love (1 John 4:17, 18); in holiness (2 Cor 7:1); in patience (Jas 1:4); in “every good work” (Heb 13:21). In all these instances, there is no indication of a possibility of reaching these attainments once and for all in this life. It is perfection in the relative sense only, an advanced position of attainment. holiness, saint and other less frequent translations, is derived from the Greek word ἁγιάζω. Its other English forms are translations of various Greek words derived from the same root. For all essential purposes it may be concluded that sanctification, holiness, and saint have the same essential meaning, which according to Thayer, is to ”render or declare sacred or holy, consecrate.”5 Among the secondary meanings is found the thought, ”to separate from things profane and dedicate to God,” and ”to purify.”6 The three main ideas emerge of consecration, separation, and purification, which, in turn, combine in the central idea of holiness. The doctrine has a rich background in the Old Testament offerings and the added revelation of the New Testament truth.
As presented in the New Testament, in brief, sanctification is divided into three main divisions, as has been pointed out by many other writers, which correspond roughly to the same divisions in the doctrine of perfection: Positional sanctification, experimental or progressive sanctification, and ultimate sanctification. In the doctrine of sanctification the thought is concentrated upon holiness or being set apart for holy use, rather than perfection in its larger sense. Sanctification is, therefore, also extended to inanimate objects, such as the gold sanctified by the temple (Matt 23:17), to the unbelieving wife or husband where the other party is saved (1 Cor 7:14), to food sanctified by prayer (1 Tim 4:5). Sanctification is used in relation to Christ Himself in the sense that He was set apart for holy use (John 10:36; 17:19; 1 Pet 3:15). Sanctification in these instances does not mean purify or to make holy, but only to separate from the unholy and consecrate to God for holy use.
The most frequent reference in the New Testament is to positional sanctification, that wrought by Christ for every believer, and which is the possession of the believer from the moment of saving faith. All of the approximately sixty-five references to saints in the New Testament are to be classified under this division. In addition to these, a number of other important references are found (Acts 20:32; 26:18; Rom 15:16; 1 Cor 1:2, 30; 6:11; 2 Thess 2:13; Heb 2:11; 10:10, 14; 13:12; 1 Pet 1:2; Jude 1). A particularly significant reference is 1 Corinthians 1:2, where the notoriously worldly Corinthians are declared to besaints, this one reference alone making clear that sanctification does not mean sinlessness.
Progressive or experimental sanctification is an important doctrine of the Scriptures, though with less specific reference than positional sanctification. This aspect of sanctification was probably in view in our Lord’s prayer in John 17:17, where He prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” Another instance of sanctification is mentioned in Ephesians 5:26, where Christ is revealed to have given Himself in sacrifice, “That he might sanctify and cleanse it [the Church] with the washing of water by the word.” While many have taken this as a reference to water baptism, the text does not warrant the interpretation, and it is more probably a reference to the sanctifying power of the Word of God itself. The blood of Christ is revealed as the cleansing agent in Hebrews 9:13, 14. All the work of God in cleansing us from sin in this life, whether or not the word sanctify is used, pertains to this aspect of the truth. Saints are exhorted, accordingly, to recognize the need for experimental sanctification (1 Thess 4:3, 4; 2 Pet 3:18). This aspect of sanctification is the main objective of the work of the Spirit and is accomplished by walking by the Spirit.
As Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer points out in his admirable section on walking in the Spirit,7 experimental sanctification has three relationships: (1) the believer’s yieldedness to God; (2) the believer’s deliverance from the power of sin through the power of the Spirit; (3) the believer’s growth in grace which is a constant development throughout life.8 It is the very heart of the doctrine of the spiritual life, and should be the subject of earnest study and prayer by every Christian.
Ultimate sanctification is the expectation of all the work of God in dealing with the believer. Positional sanctification has the promise of issuing in that perfect sanctification which will be the portion of the saints in the eternal state. Experimental and progressive sanctification has its ultimate goal to be realized in the future life. In the Scripture, however, the word sanctification is used only in relation to the present life. It is doubtful if any of the many instances in which it is found apply specifically to the ultimate aspect, though all anticipate it. The doctrine of ultimate sanctification is derived from the Scriptures which picture the attainment of the goal to which we strive for in this life. In 1 John 3:2, for instance, we read, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” This Scripture is significant in appointing the time for ultimate sanctification as that glorious future moment when He shall appear. In Ephesians 5:27, our present sanctification is revealed to issue in the future state in perfection: “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” According to Romans 8:29, we shall be “conformed to the image of his Son.” According to Hebrew 12:14, every saint will have holiness to perfection when he sees the Lord. These and many other Scriptures combine in anticipating the perfection of the eternal state in every particular. These Scriptures are specific, however, in referring the time of ultimate sanctification to the future life.
The passages which are used in an effort to prove the necessity or possibility of complete sanctification in this life will reveal, upon careful study, a perfect harmony with the truth as it has been here set forth. Misapprehension and resulting false doctrine spring from three sources. First, Positional sanctification which by nature is perfect even in this life is construed to mean sinlessness. This view is easily refuted by a study of the passages speaking of this aspect of the doctrine. It is clear in Scripture that saints commit sin, even though their position in Christ is perfect. A second cause for misunderstanding is a failure to comprehend the varied uses of the word sanctification itself. The word as used in the Bible is never used in the sense of sinlessness, though in the case of Christ He is, in fact, sinless. Even when used in the sense of separation or purification, it cannot be considered absolute. The third source of misunderstanding has arisen from certain passages which seem to demand sinlessness as a condition of salvation. Here again study will solve the problem of each passage.
An illustration of the false idea that sinlessness is essential to salvation is found in 1 John 3:6-9, “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” As given in the English translation, there is room for misunderstanding. In the Greek, however, the difficulty largely vanishes. Throughout the passage the present tense is used. The revelation is that anyone who continually sins, i.e., whose life is characterized as living in sin, is unsaved. Those who abide in Christ and those who are born again cannot by their nature continue without check in a life of sin. It may be difficult for us to judge borderline cases, but the Word of God is specific that God will chastise sinning believers, and will deal with them in other ways to bring them to Himself. From our human standpoint, we have the right to question the salvation of those living in unchecked sin. It may be that there is reference in this passage to the new nature-that which is born of God-which we know does not sin. In any case the theory that sinlessness is essential to salvation in this life would destroy the doctrine of grace, the doctrine of security, and place salvation upon a human works level. It is for this reason that the historic church, whatever its failures in apprehending many important doctrines, has been careful to affirm that sinlessness in this life is not essential to salvation. A proper doctrine of sanctification not only gives glory to God but gives to the believer a revelation of his own need of walking by the Spirit. Apart from the power of God salvation in any of its aspects is impossible.(c) The Theory of Eradication.
The theory has been advanced that it is possible in this life to reach a point in spiritual development where the sin nature is eradicated and is no longer operative. This theory is, in effect, a combination of the idea of perfection and sinlessness in this life and attempts to set up a radical change in nature of man. The theory is contradicted by so many plain teachings of Scripture and is so foreign to normal experience that it is not seriously advanced by thinking Christians. The many passages of Scripture which speak of the struggle with the flesh and the universal need for dependence upon God for deliverance are in themselves insuperable obstacles to this teaching.
As Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer writes in discussing the divine method of dealing with the sin nature: “Two general theories are held as to the divine method of dealing with the sin nature in believers. One suggests that the old nature is eradicated, either when one is saved, or at some subsequent crisis of experience and spiritual blessing, and the quality of the believer’s life depends, therefore, on the absence of the disposition of sin. The other theory contends that the old nature abides so long as the Christian is in this body and that the quality of life depends on the immediate and constant control over the ‘flesh’ by the indwelling Spirit of God, and this is made possible through the death of Christ. In both of these propositions there is a sincere attempt to realize the full victory in daily life which is promised to the enild of God.... The life that is delivered from the bond-servitude to sin is the objective in each theory. It is therefore only a question as to which is the plan and method of God in the realization. Both theories cannot be true, for they are contradictory.”9
After showing that the theory of eradication is not the divine method of dealing with the believer’s difficulties and that it is contrary to experience, Dr. Chafer lists seven arguments to prove that eradication is not according to divine revelation:
“In the Word of God we have ‘instruction,’ ‘correction,’ and ‘reproof.’ By these we must determine our conclusions rather than by any impression of the mind, or by analyzing any person’s experience whatsoever. The Bible teaches:
”(1), All believers are warned against the assumptions of the eradication theory: ‘If we say that we have no sin [nature], we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’ (1 John 1:8).
”(2), The Spirit has come to be our Deliverer and the whole Bible teaching concerning His presence, purpose and power is manifestly meaningless if our victory is to be by another means altogether. For this reason the eradication theory makes little place for the Person and work of the Spirit.
”(3), The Spirit delivers by an unceasing conflict. ‘The flesh [which includes the old nature] lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that [when walking by the Spirit] ye cannot do the things that ye [otherwise] would’ (Gal 5:17, cf. Jas 4:5). So, also, in Rom 7:15-24, and 8:2, the source of sin in the believer is said to be the sin nature working through the flesh, and the victory is by the superior power of the Spirit. The extreme teachings of the eradication theory are to the effect that a Christian will have no disposition to sin to-morrow and thus the theory prompts one to an alarming disregard for true watchfulness and reliance upon the power of God. The Bible teaches that the latent source of sin remains and, should the ‘walk in the Spirit’ cease, there will be an immediate return to the ‘desires’ and ‘lusts’ of the flesh. So long as ‘by the Spirit ye are walking, ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.’ We are creatures of habit and may become increasingly adapted to walk in the Spirit. We store knowledge through experience as well. Thus the walk in the ‘flesh’ may cease at a given time; but the ability to walk after the ‘flesh’ abides. In this aspect of it, true spirituality means, for the time, not wishing to sin (Phil 2:13); but this does not imply the eradication of the ability to sin: it means rather that, because of the energizing power of God, a complete victory for the present time is possible. It remains true that we always need Him completely. He said, ‘Apart from me ye can do nothing’ (John 15:5). Because the ‘infection’ of sin is always in us, we need every moment ‘the conquering counteraction of the Spirit.’ The ‘walk’ in the Spirit is divinely enabled at every step of the way.
”(4), The divine provisional dealings with the ‘flesh’ and the ‘old man’ have not been unto eradication. God has wrought on an infinite scale in the death of His Son that the way might be made whereby we may ‘walk in newness of life.’ The manner of this walk is stated in such injunctions as ‘reckon,’ ‘yield,’ ‘let not,’ ‘put off,’ ‘mortify,’ ‘abide’: yet not one of these injunctions would have the semblance of meaning under the eradication theory. The Scriptures do not counsel us to ‘reckon’ the nature to be dead: it urges us to ‘reckon’ ourselves to be dead unto it.
”(5), The teachings of the eradicationists are based on a false interpretation of Scripture concerning the present union of the believer with Christ in His death. That in the Bible which is held to be positional and existing only in the mind and reckoning of God, and which is accomplished once for all for every child of God, is supposed to mean an experience in the daily life of a few who dare to class themselves as those who are free from the disposition to sin. this, that our old man was crucified with him,” rather than, ”is crucified.” The verb is in the aorist, referring to the one act of Christ. A reference even more decided is that of Galatians 2:20, where Paul writes, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me...” The verb for crucified is in the perfect tense, action which took place definitely in past time, but the effects of it continue in the present. In contrast to the tense of crucified, Paul states, “Nevertheless I live,” with the verb in the present. The present victorious life of Paul was made possible by the fact that he died in Christ on Calvary. The exhortation is not to die to self by our own act but to realize that we did die to self with Christ on the cross and that we should live in the light of this revelation. The important truth is that we must reckon ourselves dead to self, and this should be done continually by the Christian.
The fact that the believer died with Christ on the cross does not remove the sin nature or make it inoperative, however. The important passage in Romans six where the believer’s death with Christ is discussed includes the exhortation, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Rom 6:12). The Christian should reckon himself dead to the sin nature because by the death of Christ the power of God can triumph over it. It is the important truth that the death of Christ not only atones for the guilt of sin, but it has power to deliver the believer from the bondage and corruption of sin itself.(e) Conclusion: The Utter Weakness of the Flesh.
The discussion of the doctrines of perfection, sanctification, eradication, and dying to self, upon being understood in the light of the revelation of the Word of God bear a powerful testimony to the weakness of the flesh and the dependence of every believer upon the Spirit for victory. The doctrine of the sin nature combined with the truth concerning the high standard of Christian life revealed in the Scriptures, the power of Satan and the forces of darkness, and the corrupting influence of the world bring out in stark relief the utter need of the believer in Christ for the empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit. The forces against the Christian and the latent inability of the Christian to cope with them allow no alternative for a spiritual life in the will of God other than by walking by the Spirit.(6) The Power of the Holy Spirit Appropriated.
There can be no doubt that the average Christian is only vaguely aware of the nature of the difficulties which prevent a normal Christian victory in his spiritual life. There is the imperative need to make known the nature of the forces of evil and the hopelessness of facing them without help from God. The first step in waging warfare is to know the enemy and to know one’s own resources. In spiritual warfare, the many aspects involved are reduced in simple terms to the Scriptural admonitions to “quench not the Spirit,” “grieve not the Spirit,” and “walk in the Spirit.” This is not simply a matter of education. The truth must be apprehended and the full will of God must be sought. The believer seeking the power of the Spirit must submit himself to the searching of the Word of God in its revelation of God’s will. There must be waiting on God in prayer that we may be made willing to do His will. The inspiration of fellowship with God’s people and sharing with them the blessings of God is an important source of help. Walking by the Spirit presumes activity; it is not a defensive stand against the enemy, but a positive approach to the problems of the spiritual life, endeavoring to be active in the will of God as well as resting in His sufficiency. The heart of the matter remains in the continued dependence upon the Spirit to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, to be yielded to the Spirit in all His guidance, to confess every known sin, and to seek from the Spirit in faith that ministry which will work in us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). The walk by the Spirit is a delight to the heart of the believer in which the intimate joys of fellowship with God are known and the fruit of the Spirit is produced in the heart and life. Here, indeed, is a foretaste of the unstinted and unhindered blessings that will be ours when we see the glorious face of Him who suffered and rose in triumph from the tomb that we might have victory in a world over which He Himself has triumphed.
3. The Results of the Filling of the Holy Spirit.
The effect of being filled with the Holy Spirit is manifest in all aspects of the Christian life and experience. Obviously, a life empowered and directed by the Holy Spirit will evince a distinct quality of spiritual life. A search of the Scriptures will reveal that the entire present program of God in sanctification, spiritual experience and service is qualified by the factor of the filling of the Holy Spirit. There are at least seven results of the filling of the Spirit.
a. Progressive Sanctification.
Previous discussion has brought out that sanctification is in three aspects: positional, progressive, and ultimate. The work of the Holy Spirit is especially related to the present aspect of progressive sanctification. The Christian controlled by the Spirit and empowered to do the will of God manifests a fundamental change in character. While his former sin nature is still present, it has been reckoned dead, and the new nature energized by the Spirit is producing the fruit of the Spirit. According to Galatians 5:22, 23, the effect of the filling of the Spirit is that His fruit is produced: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” This passage of Scripture is worthy of the closest study. It has been considered by some to present a trilogy, as Dr. C. I. Scofield indicates: “Christian character is not mere moral or legal correctness, but the possession and manifestation of nine graces: love, joy, peace-character as an inward state; longsuffering, gentleness, goodness-character in expression toward man; faith, meekness, temperance-character in expression toward God. Taken together they present a moral portrait of Christ, and may be taken as the apostle’s explanation of Gal. 2.20, ‘Not I, but Christ,’ and as a definition of ‘fruit’ in John 15.1-8. This character is possible because of the believers vital union to Christ (John 15.5; 1 Cor. 12.12,13), and is wholly the fruit of the Spirit in those believers who are yielded to Him (Gal. 5.22,23).”11
Another view of the passage is that the fruit of the Spirit is love, from which flows the evidences of love: joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. While the method of approach is relatively unimportant, the central fact is that progressive sanctification does not proceed from self-effort or from the will of the natural man, nor does it proceed from the new nature in itself. It is a product of the Holy Spirit wrought in a yielded life. The all-important fact is that true Christian character cannot be produced apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. The appeal of the Scriptures, accordingly, is for right adjustment to the Spirit of God first, with the promise that through the filling of the Spirit the longings of the new nature for a holy life in the will of God may be satisfied.
The teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit was predicted by Christ as a means of providing the necessary revelation for the ministry of the apostles (John 16:12-15), and its fulfillment is found first in them. The teaching of the Holy Spirit is extended, however, to all Christians, having the peculiar character of illuminating the written Scriptures. The work of the Spirit in teaching is characteristic. The Word of God is written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and its divine author, the Spirit of truth, is its best teacher. Facing the problem of the ignorance of the disciples, Christ told them, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:12, 13). Prior to the cross it was impossible for Christ to teach His disciples the great truths concerning His death, resurrection, and the purpose for the present age, as they were in no position to understand His teachings. The post-resurrection ministry of Christ no doubt dealt with some of these truths, but the Spirit of God was the chief agent of teaching after the death of Christ.
To Christians who are spiritual, i.e., filled with the Spirit, it is possible for the Spirit to reveal the deep things of God. In the extended revelation of this truth in 1 Corinthians 2:9-3:2, it is made clear that the deeper things of spiritual truth can be understood only by those who are spiritually qualified to be taught by the Spirit. The natural man is unable to understand even the simple truths understood by those who are Spirit-taught. The appalling ignorance of many Christians concerning the things of the Word of God is directly traceable to their carnality and failure in seeking the blessings of a life filled with the Spirit. The teaching work of the Spirit also extends to warning against error, and we are told in 1 John 2:27, that the anointing of the Spirit, i.e., His indwelling, makes it possible for us to be taught the truth even without human teachers. While it is impossible to extend the treatment of this important subject here, it is obviously a most important factor in Christian experience and knowledge, and an important revelation explaining at the same time the causes of spiritual knowledge and spiritual ignorance.
Closely related to the teaching work of the Holy Spirit is the work of the Spirit in guiding the Christian. Guidance is a most important element in Christian experience, and it is essential to a life in the will of God. Guidance while similar to the teaching work of the Spirit has a distinct character. While the teaching ministry of the Spirit in this age is directed to making clear the content of the Word of God, guidance is the application of the truths thus known to the individual problems of each life. While the Word of God may reveal the purpose of God to preach the Gospel throughout the world, only the Spirit of God can call an individual life to an appointed field of service. In the many details of each life, only the Spirit of God can provide the necessary guidance.
An important point in this aspect of the truth is that guidance is given especially to those who are already walking in the will of God. According to Romans 12:1, 2, surrender to God is necessary, “that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Even in Old Testament times, the servant of Abraham could bear witness, “I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (Gen 24:27). To the one who is filled with the Spirit of God, guidance becomes the personal direction of the life in the will of God. That it is an essential part of God’s provision for the Christian is made clear in the Scriptures. According to Romans 8:14, guidance is an evidence of genuine salvation: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Guidance is the present sphere of Christian obligation, providing liberty from the impersonal and more arbitrary requirements of the law for Israel, as is indicated in Galatians 5:18, “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”
While assurance of salvation is not essential to genuine salvation, it is nevertheless the privilege of every Christian. The possession of assurance, however, is dependent upon a proper understanding of revelation and of the witness of the Spirit. One of the important reasons why some Christians do not have assurance of salvation is their failure to meet the conditions for the filling of the Spirit and the resultant ministry of the Spirit to their own hearts. One of the precious realities of fellowship with God is the assurance that He is ours and we belong to Him. To this important fact the Spirit bears His witness. Romans 8:16 speaks specifically, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Other passages bear out the same idea (Gal 4:6; 1 John 3:24; 4:13). While human reason operating without an understanding of grace and apart from the ministry of the Spirit may arrive at a different conclusion, it is the ministry of the Spirit to assure the child of God of his eternal relationship to his Father in salvation through Christ, of which the Spirit Himself is the seal. It is one of the penalties of carnality and sin in the Christian’s life that many lose the blessing of assurance and are robbed temporarily at least of this blessing.
In the minds of some Christians, worship is associated with earthly houses of worship, ritual, and other common features of public worship. According to the Scriptures, however, worship is the adoration of God by those who know Him. Important in its content is the wholehearted praise and thanksgiving that can arise only in a heart in proper spiritual adjustment with God. Accordingly, in Ephesians 5:18-20, immediately following the command to be filled with the Spirit, there is mention of the praise and thanksgiving which is the fruit of a life lived in fellowship with God, and which is at the same time a result of the Spirit producing in the heart the joy, peace, and assurance of which He is the source. The soul which is living in unhindered fellowship with God can not only perceive the content of God’s priceless blessings but has every cause to praise the God whom he adores. To him it is a blessed reality that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom 8:28), and in all of the providential dealings of God there abides the sweetness of confidence in His love and power, and the assurance that the wisdom of God prevails. True worship in the fullest sense of the word is possible only for those who are filled with the Spirit.
The prayer life of the believer is inseparably integrated into his spiritual life. The teaching ministry of the Spirit reminds of the many promises of the Word of God. The guidance of the Spirit is essential to intelligent prayer, asking for the revealed will of God. Prayer is vitally related to the progressive sanctification of the Christian, prayer being the very breath of the spiritual life and development. In praise and thanksgiving, which are an important part of prayer, the ministry of the Spirit is also apparent. There is hardly an aspect of the spiritual life which does not have a relationship to both prayer and the ministry of the Spirit. The prayer life will prosper in proportion to the spiritual life of the believer in Christ.
The Scriptures reveal in addition to these obvious factors in prayer the ministry of the Holy Spirit in intercession. According to Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” There is no explanation of the nature of this ministry, nor is it related to the intercession of Christ. The context of the passage, however, indicates that it is a ministry undertaken in view of our own inability to pray as we ought to pray, and it may be concluded that the Holy Spirit as the Third Person ministers in His own sphere, interceding for us from His position in us. His ministry no doubt includes a revelation of our own prayer needs and the guidance of our prayers to ask for needs which are above human wisdom. The ministry of the Holy Spirit in all its aspects is inseparable from any vital prayer life.
In the extended discussion of spiritual gifts, it was demonstrated that the natural man cannot serve God, and even the believer in Christ who possesses spiritual gifts can exercise them fully only in the power of the Spirit. It is apparent, accordingly, that all service for God is dependent upon the power of God for its fruitfulness. The possibility of unlimited blessing through the power of the Spirit was revealed by Christ Himself: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him were to receive” (John 7:38, 39R.V.). The figure used speaks eloquently of the insufficiency of the natural man, of the source of all service and blessing, of the bountiful nature of the supply-“rivers of living water.” The spring of all blessing within must, of course, be unhindered in its flow, and this condition obtains when the believer is filled with the Spirit. It is then, and only then, that the believer in Christ fulfills the good works for which he was created in Christ (Eph 2:10).
The service accomplished in the power of the Spirit, like other results of the filling of the Spirit, is interrelated. Service and our progressive sanctification, our knowledge of the Word of God, our guidance, assurance, worship, and prayer life are not elements which fall into separate categories, but rather are the varied lights of all the colors of the spiritual life, which combined form a holy life in the will of God. Far removed from any human philosophy of self-development or self-achievement, the Scriptural doctrine points to the indwelling Spirit as the source of the experience and fruitfulness of any Christian’s life and pleads with every Christian to walk by the Spirit in intimate fellowship possible only when He is unquenched and not grieved.
(Series to be concluded in the October-December Number, 1942)
1 Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, in loco.
2 He That Is Spiritual, p. 113.
3 The Work of the Holy Spirit.
4 A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, with a Revised Translation (1884 ed.), p. 120.
5 Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, in loco.
6 Loc. cit.
7 He That is Spiritual, pp. 119-172.
8 Ibid., p. 136.
9 Ibid., pp. 165, 166.
11 Scofield Reference Bible, note, p. 1247.
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