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Lectures in Biblical Theology
of The New Testament
by C. D. Cole
Lecture 19 of 23
Paul’s Doctrine of the Holy Spirit by Dr. C. D. Cole
Paul’s teaching on the subject of the Holy Spirit is found at length: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 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. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and jointheirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. 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. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom. 8:127); “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ,” (1 Cor. 2:1016); “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit,” (Gal. 5:1625).
We are wont to say that the Son is the second person and the Holy Spirit is the third person in the trinity. But the Bible never so designates them; and we only make the distinction for sake of order in expression, and not to indicate order of importance. The three persons are one in essence, but three in their relations and work. There is no earthly analogy by which we can represent the divine trinity. God exists as Spirit and cannot be divided or compounded. One cannot say that the Father is a part of the divine nature, the Son another part, and the Spirit still a third part. “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” (Col. 2:9), which means that He was the whole of the divine nature. He said of Himself, “I and the Father are one,” one in essence.
Daniel Webster and a friend once heard a sermon on the subject of the trinity. On leaving the church, the friend remarked that what the preacher said was a mathematical absurdity. Mr. Webster replied that it seemed so according to earthly mathematics, but that he was not very well acquainted with heavenly mathematics. The doctrine of the trinity rests upon the special revelation we have in the Bible; it cannot be discovered by unaided reason or scientific investigation.
I. THE SPIRIT’S RELATION TO GOD AND CHRIST
The Holy Spirit has been defined as the personal power of God. He was the personal power of God in creation; He is also the personal power of God in revelation. The human spirit enables man to know the things of man, and the Spirit makes known the things of God, both objectively in the Bible and subjectively by an internal revelation to the human soul. Things man cannot discover are revealed by the Spirit, and revealed truth the natural man cannot understand is made known internally by the Spirit. “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ,” (1 Cor. 2:1016).
The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Christ. At times Paul seems, to identify Christ and the Spirit, just as he does God and the Spirit. But at other times he clearly distinguishes them as three persons. To quote Dr. Conner: “Christ mediates the presence of God, and the Spirit mediates to us the presence of Christ. Christ reveals God and the Spirit reveals Christ.”
II. THE PERSONALITY OF THE SPIRIT
Paul does not think of the Holy Spirit either as an impersonal force or as a divine influence, but as a person. Personal attributes are attributed to Him. He knows and is therefore an intelligent Being. He can be grieved and only a person can be grieved. You cannot grieve an impersonal force or an influence. The Holy Spirit performs acts of a person. He guides in prayer. He distributes gifts. He is the Author of spiritual life in the Christian. He effects the new birth.
Paul recognizes the Holy Spirit as a person in his benediction upon the Corinthians: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen,” (2 Cor. 13:14).
Moreover, the baptismal formula which Paul must have used calls for “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” (Matt. 28:19). Here is a trinity of persons.
III. THE SPIRIT AND THE CHRISTIAN
The Holy Spirit makes real to us through faith what Christ did for us on the cross. He makes us new creatures in Christ Jesus. To the natural man salvation by the cross is foolishness, for this truth is spiritually discerned, and only by the Spirit can the message of the cross be understood. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe,” (1 Cor. 1:1821). The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. Here is joint testimony: our spirit and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us a filial spirit by which we call God our Father.
The Holy Spirit indwells the believer as the seal and guarantee of safe delivery in heaven. A seal speaks of ownership; and protection. The Spirit in the believer guarantees his eternal glory in heaven. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption of our bodies.
The Holy Spirit helps in prayer. We know not what to pray for as we ought, but He knows the mind of God and makes intercession for us according to the will of God. “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. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God,” (Rom. 8:26-27). What we cannot interpret to God the Holy Spirit can, and thus makes intercession for us with groanings which we cannot utter or interpret.
The Holy Spirit makes our witnessing to Christ effective. Paul did not depend upon human eloquence or his powers of persuasion, but on the Spirit of God for results in his preaching. When Paul had results it was a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, and not his own power.
The Holy Spirit will finally fit us for heavenly glory. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” (Phil. 1:6). The Holy Spirit in us is the earnest or pledge money of our inheritance. Pledge money is the down payment on a purchase, and so the Spirit is God’s pledge that He will do all that is needed to get us to glory. He is also called the firstfruits as the promise of the full harvest of salvation. “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body,” (Rom. 8:23).
IV. THE SPIRIT AND THE CHURCH
We have already noted that the Holy Spirit indwells the individual believer. “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,” (Rom. 8:9). He also inhabits the church as a collection of individual believers. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16).
In the early church there seems to be a distinction between regeneration by the Spirit and baptism in the Spirit, and a filling of the Spirit. At Pentecost the 120 who must have already been regenerated by the Spirit were baptized in the Spirit. The Samaritans who had believed Philip’s preaching and who were baptized in water, must have had some experience of the Spirit, they must have been regenerated, and then later Peter and John prayed for them, laid their hands upon them, and then the Holy Spirit fell upon them in miraculous power. However, this was not the uniform order in that day and does not seem to be the order today. When the Spirit makes alive, He becomes the present possession of the believer. The baptism in the Spirit was a sign of the Spirit’s presence in the early church, and we do not have the miraculous signs of the Spirit’s presence that were given in that day. These signs were to attest the Spirit’s presence at a time when they were needed. When Peter preached to Cornelius and his household, the Spirit fell upon them which heard the word and believed. And when Peter saw this evidence of the Spirit’s presence (for they spake in tongues and magnified God) he said to the men with him, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” (Acts 10:47). And in explaining his action to his critics in Jerusalem, Peter said, “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17). Cornelius and his party gave the same evidence of the Spirit’s presence as was given to Peter and other believers at Pentecost. “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven. And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house: And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life,” (Acts 10:4311:18).
“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen,” (Mark 16:1720). This passage is sometimes quoted as a promise of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit throughout the gospel dispensation. But a careful reading of the passage will show that this was a prophecy which received immediate fulfillment. “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen,” (Mk. 16:19,20).
It is the Holy Spirit dwelling in individual believers in a given community that brings them into fellowship with one another, and this fellowship constitutes these individual believers into a church for the making of other believers through gospel preaching and witnessing. The Holy Spirit is the source of unity, and baptism symbolizes this unity. “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,” (1 Cor. 12:13). Wherever you have a group of believers, people regenerated by the Spirit and indwelt by the Spirit, you have a church. “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular,” (1 Cor. 12:27). Just as a man’s body is the visible manifestation of his invisible spirit, so the church makes manifest the invisible Spirit of Christ. Paul also speaks of the church as a temple indwelt by the Spirit. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16); “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people,” (2 Cor. 6:16); “In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit,” (Eph. 2:21, 22).
In defining the church Christ used the Greek word ekklesia, the word that was used as the name of a Greek political assembly. He distinguished His ekklesia from the Greek political ekklesia and the Jewish synagogue, the religious assembly, by the personal pronoun “My”. Here the term is used abstractly of His church as an institution. “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” (Matt. 16:18). “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican,” (Matt. 18:17). After telling the procedure to follow for the settlement of personal differences, as a last resort they were to tell it to the church. Here the abstract becomes concrete and refers to a particular body or congregation, which is visible. You cannot tell anything to a big invisible church nor to a big visible church made up of all the saints.
The Greek word translated “church” means “the called out” for the purpose of forming an assembly. There seems to be a threefold use of the word in the New Testament. 1. The abstract or institutional sense just as we speak of the American boy or the American home or some other American institution. When we employ such terms abstractly nobody thinks of one big boy composed of all American boys, nor of one big home made up of all American homes. 2. In the sense of a particular congregation, as the church in Smyrna, etc. When the abstract or institutional church becomes concrete and operational, when the church is located and begins to function—it is to be found in a particular body of baptized believers organized for promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so throughout the New Testament when something bigger than a local assembly is meant, the word “church” is always plural. The New Testament never uses the word “church” in a provincial or national sense. There is no English or American church in the New Testament sense of the word. We never read of the church of Judea, nor, the church of Asia, but of the churches of Judea, and the churches of Asia. 3. The third use of the word “church” is prophetic and looks to the time when all the saints are in one big assembly in heaven. “To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,” (Heb. 12:23). We read of the general assembly and church of the firstborn ones, which are written in heaven. This takes in the elect of all time. They are enrolled in heaven, but they are not all there yet. Some are on earth, some are in heaven, and some have not yet been born.
The writer of Hebrews, whether Paul or not, is distinguishing between the law covenant and the grace covenant. He designates the two covenants as two mountains: Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. Sinai is the law covenant, while Zion is the grace covenant. He says we are not come to the law covenant represented by Sinai, but to the grace covenant represented by Zion. As believers in Christ we are not associated with people under law as a way of life, but our fellowship is with those under the covenant of grace. We are associated with the heavenly Jerusalem, with a great company of angels, with the general assembly and church of the firstborn, written in heaven, and with the spirits of just men made perfect. These last are the ones already in heaven; the rest are on the way. And best of all Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, is there.
Dr. Conner rightly distinguishes between unity and uniformity. The Spirit produces unity; ecclesiastics promote uniformity by a small creed and a big organization. They would swallow up the bodies of Christ with one giant organization. Romanists and other ecumenists are striving for a worldwide organization, a world church. But the Holy Spirit builds Christ’s institution out of local, spiritual democracies.
Paul knew nothing of a whole church beyond the particular congregation in a given locality. In warning the Corinthians against over emphasis on the gift of tongues, he says, “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?” (1 Cor. 14:23). And so with Paul a whole church is a group of believers that can come together into one place.
Paul makes in his discussion of spiritual gifts, love the greatest of Christian virtues. The acid test of spirituality is not in something spectacular, like speaking in tongues, but in Christian character. The real test of spirituality is obedience to the word of God. “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” (1 Sam. 15:22).
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