By John F. Walvoord
God’s Provision of a Complete Salvation
The Bible not only gives a full revelation of Jesus Christ as the Savior but also reveals in detail what happens the moment a person is saved. It becomes very obvious as one studies this in the Bible that salvation is something that God does for us, not something we do for God.
The New Birth
When a person believes in Jesus Christ as his Savior, one of the dramatic results is that he is born again, or regenerated. Many Scriptures are related to this doctrine (John 1:13; 3:3-7; 5:21; Rom. 6:13; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:5, 10; 4:24; Titus 3:5; James 1:18; 1 Peter 2:9). As stated in John 1:13, one is not born again by any human effort but is “born of God.” In His conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:3, Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
Nicodemus had trouble understanding how a person could be born again. Christ pointed out to him that one who puts his trust in Christ receives eternal life, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). Jesus illustrated faith by referring to the time when Israel was bitten by poisonous snakes (Num. 21:6-7). God instructed Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. The Scriptures record, “So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived” (Num. 21:8-9). The provision of the bronze snake was for everyone who was bitten by the serpent, but they had to look at the bronze snake to live. In like manner, Christ died for all, but it is necessary for an individual to look to Christ in faith before he is born again.
The fact of regeneration is stated in the well-known verse, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Many other passages reveal the same truth that when one trusts in Christ he is born again. The new birth is one of several illustrations that refer to a Christian’s receiving life. The Scriptures also speak of spiritual resurrection as stated in Romans 6:13, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” Here, salvation represents new life as being similar to spiritual resurrection.
Likewise, Scripture sometimes speaks of the new birth as a new creation as in 2 Corinthians 5:17 where Paul says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
When an individual is born again he has received a new nature like the human nature in Christ. Just as a child born by natural birth receives the nature of his parents, so in the new birth a Christian receives that which corresponds to God’s nature making possible fellowship with God and many other aspects of Christian experience. Because the new birth by its nature cannot be reversed any more than natural birth can be reversed, it points to the fact that a Christian who is saved by God can have assurance of salvation for time and for eternity. Having received a new nature, however, a believer retains his old nature as well.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Though any observer of Christianity recognizes that water baptism is a part of the Christian ordinances that characterize the Christian church, there is often little understanding of what spiritual baptism is. Actually, water baptism is the symbol of what is accomplished by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament there are eleven references to spiritual baptism (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16; Rom. 6:1-4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:5; Col. 2:12). In the gospels there is prophetic mention of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the prophecy of Acts 1:5 was fulfilled at Pentecost. After Pentecost the baptism of the Spirit is considered as a historic fact. The work of the Holy Spirit in baptizing provided (1) a new union with Christ, (2) a new position in Christ, and (3) a new association with Christ and a Christian’s fellow believers.
There has been much confusion about the baptism of the Spirit because some consider it the same as the indwelling and filling of the Spirit, and others consider it the same as the new birth. The indwelling of the Spirit is His presence in the believer. The filling of the Spirit occurs when a believer yields himself to the Spirit. On the day of Pentecost all three took place at the same time, but the baptism of the Spirit, though it is received by everyone who is born again in the present age, is a distinct concept as is the filling and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The main text on the baptism of the Spirit is 1 Corinthians 12:13, which states, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” As stated here and illustrated in other instances, the baptism of the Spirit causes a new union with Christ and also is the work of the Holy Spirit in placing the believer in Christ. It is a matter of our position in relation to Christ. Another result is a new relationship to fellow believers who are also in Christ. The baptism of the Spirit is that work of God which forms the church as the body of Christ. It is, accordingly, very important in our understanding of what happens at the time of salvation, even though in itself it is not an experience.
Christians are never urged to be baptized by the Spirit because it is automatic at the time of the new birth. Every Christian is baptized by the Holy Spirit as stated in 1 Corinthians 12:13. Also, in Ephesians 4:5 Paul stresses “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
The baptism of the Spirit introduces the important doctrine of the church as the body of Christ in contrast to the church as an organization. Many Scriptures relate to the church as the body of Christ (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 6:15; 12:12-14; Eph. 2:16; 4:4-5, 16; 5:30-32; Col. 1:24; 2:19). In the figure of the church as the body of Christ, the human body is a figure that represents the church, and Christ is revealed as the head of the body who directs the church (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23-24; Col. 1:18). Just as the human body has many parts with various abilities, so the body of Christ has many members with various gifts.
Numerous Scriptures speak of how Christ nurtures the church (Matt. 22:2; 25:1-13; John 10:1-16; 15:1-11; 1 Cor. 15:45; 2 Cor. 5:17; 11:2; Eph. 2:19-22; cf. 1 Cor. 3:11-15; 1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6; cf. Heb. 8:1-6; Rev. 19:7-9) and speaks of the gifts which God gives the church (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-31; Eph. 4:11-13). Some of these gifts were given only in the early church while others are still given today. The important central truth, however, is that every Christian is baptized by the Spirit and as such is a part of the body of Christ; and as a part of the body of Christ, he is given certain gifts that should be used in service for God.
The fact that Christians have been baptized into Christ and into His body means that they are identified with Him in that they have a new position in Christ. Because they are in Christ they receive the blessings that have been purchased for them by Christ’s death on the cross. The new union described in the baptism of the Spirit unites them not only to Christ but to every other fellow believer and provides the important context of our relationship to other believers in this life as well as in the life to come. It is important to realize that all the tremendous work of the baptism of the Spirit occurs at the moment of saving faith and is never repeated subsequently in the Christian life.
The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
Like the new birth and the baptism of the Spirit, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit comes to every Christian who is saved. Many Scriptures discuss the Spirit’s indwelling (John 7:37-39; Acts 11:17; Rom. 5:5; 8:9, 11; 1 Cor. 2:12; 6:19-20; 12:13; 2 Cor. 5:5; Gal. 3:2; 4:6; 1 John 3:24; 4:13). The prominence of this doctrine in Scripture testifies to its importance in the life of a Christian, and the absence of the Holy Spirit is evidence that the person is not saved as stated in Romans 8:9: “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”
Jesus described the Spirit of God as a gift from God in John 7:37-39: “‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believe in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” In this prophecy Jesus anticipated the dramatic change that would occur on the day of Pentecost. While formerly the Holy Spirit did not indwell everybody who was born again, beginning at Pentecost everyone who was born again would have the Holy Spirit within him, who would constitute a source of the living water that Christ mentions. The contrast of the difference before and after Pentecost is stated by Christ in John 14:17: “But you know [the Spirit of Truth], for he lives with you [present] and will be in you [future].” Because a Christian under all the gracious provision of God is required to lead a holy life, the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit will supply the supernatural enablement that will make this possible. It is important to note that even sinning Christians possess the indwelling Holy Spirit, and He does not leave a Christian once He is indwelling him. The challenge, however, is to let the Holy Spirit direct the life and fulfill the purpose of God in each individual.
Some passages have been misapplied, for instance, in the reference to the Spirit of God leaving Saul (1 Sam. 16:14). Prior to Pentecost not all believers were indwelt by the Spirit, and the Spirit of God could leave, as in the case of Saul, though this did not affect the issue of his new birth. Beginning at Pentecost, however, the Holy Spirit is the permanent possession of every believer. In a similar way, David’s prayer in Psalm 51:11 requested God not to take the Spirit from him as He had from Saul. The departure of the Holy Spirit was a possibility in the Old Testament, though God did not take the Spirit from David. Likewise, in Luke 11:13 when the disciples asked for the Holy Spirit, it was still within the dispensation of the Old Testament in which the Holy Spirit was not given to all believers. The disciples, of course, would be indwelt by the Spirit on the day of Pentecost and, as a matter of fact, received the Spirit before Pentecost because Jesus breathed on them to give them divine enablement for their tasks (John 20:22).
Acts 5:32 states, “So is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Some have understood this to mean that perfect obedience is required for the indwelling. The obedience here, however, is not referring to moral commands but to the command to believe in Christ and be saved, which applied to every Christian. Once the command to believe has been obeyed, the Holy Spirit indwells that believer.
In Acts 8:14-20 a problem arose because some who were baptized by Philip had not received the Holy Spirit. In this case the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was delayed until Peter and John arrived and prayed for them that they would receive the Holy Spirit. The purpose of this was to identify the new Christians with the same Christians who received the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The situation described here never occurred again.
One further reference is found in Acts 19:1-6 where followers of John the Baptist had not come in contact with the gospel about Jesus Christ. When the gospel was preached to them and they confessed their faith in Christ, they were immediately indwelt by the Spirit as manifested in this case by the speaking of tongues. Again, it was an experience that helped to connect early believers with the experience of the apostles on the day of Pentecost.
Some have had difficulty with the fact that the Holy Spirit is referred to as anointing believers. In the passages that occur in the New Testament, the anointing of the believers is synonymous with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and Christians are never exhorted to ask for anointing. Instead, because he is already indwelt and anointed, the Christian needs to be filled with the Spirit.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. To this can be added the evidence of John 14:23, which states that both the Father and the Son will also indwell the believer. In other words, all three Persons of the Trinity indwell every believer. Most of the ministry described in the New Testament, however, is on the part of the Holy Spirit as He enables a believer in Christ to lead a holy life and produce effective service.
The Holy Spirit as the Seal of God
Scripture refers to the fact that believers are sealed by the Holy Spirit. In 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 it is clear that the Holy Spirit’s presence in the believer is God’s seal: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” A seal is the symbol of ownership. An important document received through the mail may be sealed to prevent tampering. The presence of the Holy Spirit indicates that we belong to God and have been set aside for safekeeping by God Himself until the day of redemption of our bodies, the day of resurrection. Like the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the sealing of the Spirit made effective by His presence is universal among believers. According to Ephesians 4:30, Christians are “sealed for the day of redemption.” This refers to the resurrection of the human body.
The fact that believers are sealed is another evidence that they are safe in the hands of God, and once they have received God’s wonderful salvation, they can expect this to unfold in this life as well as in the life to come. As all the work of God in salvation is surveyed, it is clear that the moment a person is saved he is born again and receives new life in Christ, he is baptized into the body of Christ and into Christ, he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit as well as by God the Father and God the Son, and he is sealed by the presence of the Holy Spirit until the day of his resurrection.
1. What is meant by the “new birth”?
2. How did Jesus use the story of Moses and the pole with the bronze snake as an illustration of faith?
3. What other illustrations are used to describe the new birth?
4. Describe the new nature.
5. Does a believer still have his old nature after receiving the new nature?
6. When did spiritual baptism first take place?
7. What are the three major accomplishments for a believer when he is baptized by the Holy Spirit?
8. How would you contrast the baptism of the Spirit with the indwelling of the Spirit?
9. How would you contrast the baptism of the Spirit with the filling of the Spirit?
10. What is stated by the main text on the baptism of the Spirit?
11. Why is a Christian never urged to be baptized by the Spirit?
12. Describe how the body of Christ describes the church and the head of the body describes Christ.
13. Describe some ways in which Christ nurtures the church.
14. What gifts or special abilities are given to the church by the Holy Spirit?
15. How did Christ describe the gift of the Spirit in John 7:37-39? What are the prophesied results of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?
16. Contrast the indwelling of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost to what was true before Pentecost as indicated by Christ in John 14:17.
17. How do you answer problems raised in certain passages such as 1 Samuel 16:14; Psalm 51:11; Luke 11:13; Acts 5:32; 8:14-20; and 19:1-6?
18. What evidence is there that all three Persons of the Trinity indwell the believer?
19. What is meant by the Holy Spirit as the seal of God?
20. How long will the seal of God keep us safe?
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