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What changed because Jesus died?

 

But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:39, NASB 95)

 

The Question

What changed because Jesus died?

I suspect that some answer entered your head.

· What was it?

· How did it come to be there?

· How sure are you that it is correct?

Sometimes it is good to revisit settled knowledge. So think about your answer. Can you take your answer and find an Old Testament parallel? If so, can your answer be that which changed because Jesus died? Jesus was the "Word become flesh." His death must certainly have brought about fundamental and monumental changed. Does your answer have that kind of punch?

The Issue

Many New Testament truths and ideas are also Old Testament truth and ideas. But that which changed because Jesus died is both radically new and covered in the New Testament with crisp details. Strangely, it is also absent from our Christian vocabulary. I can illustrate this by using Galatians 3:2 as a good introduction to what changed and why a new analysis is needed.

The letter to the Galatian churches is commonly known to be Paul's response to Jews persuading Galatian believers to be circumcised to bring them under the Covenant of Law to receive its blessings. Paul considered this an accursed corruption of the Gospel and wrote this letter to counteract it. It is in this context that he wrote:

This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:2)

Now here is the interesting thing about this verse. Awhile ago, I began to ask people a fill-in-the-blanks question using this verse.

This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive ________ by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:2)

When I asked people to fill in the blank portion, they gave me these answers:

· Salvation - This is a good and reasonable answer. Certainly salvation comes by way of faith and not by works of the Law. Most people quickly chose this as the missing word.

· Grace or mercy - "For by grace you have been saved by faith." Perhaps grace is a better word since it is the operating principle of salvation.

· Eternal Life - The end result of salvation is eternal life.

Very few, close to none, ever responded with the word "Spirit." The only explanation for this is that somehow, the truth of salvation by faith has superseded or pushed aside the truth of the Holy Spirit. We hear the words "receive," "works of the law," and "hearing with faith" and we think "salvation" and not "Holy Spirit." But clearly for the Galatians, the Holy Spirit was very important and was something that they received by faith. For Paul, it was receiving the Holy Spirit that stands against the works of the Law. For the church to think "salvation" where Paul wrote "Spirit" is a serious defect in our understanding that keeps us from experiencing a gospel of power.

Salvation by Faith is Not New

Since the Reformation, salvation by faith alone has been the cornerstone teaching of the protestant churches. Our gospel tracts, sinner's prayers, altar calls, vacation bible schools, missions, and many other programs work hard to make this message as clear was we can. We want to save sinners. That we do so is far from wrong as shown by New Testament verses like these:

"She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Galatians 3:23-25)

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

These verses and very many more like them tell us unequivocally that salvation is by faith alone. Obedience and good deeds play no part. Legalism is rightly seen as the enemy of faith. The New Testament has a clarity about the role of faith that is absent from the Old. So it is natural, good, and right to speak of salvation by faith as critical to the gospel message. The New Testament makes clear that obedience to Law and good works contribute nothing to our salvation.

But let's look at some other verses:

... Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord. (Genesis 4:26b)

Then he [Abram] believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6)

But the righteous will live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4b, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38)

And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered (saved); (Joel 2:32a, Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13)

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. (Psalm 13:5)

But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever. I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it, And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones. (Psalm 52:8-9)

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? (Psalm 27:1)

So while the New Testament makes clear the central role of faith in salvation, these and other verses indicate that salvation by faith is not something that changed because Jesus came and died. If Abraham was saved by faith as Genesis says and Paul repeats, then how is this something that changed when Jesus died? Furthermore, the book of Hebrews tells us unambiguously that the Old Testament saints found approval with God through their faith:

But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. (Hebrews 10:38-11:2)

The writer to the Hebrews quotes Habakkuk 2:4 and then goes on to tell us that by faith "men of old gained approval."

And then there is the whole of Romans chapter 4 from which I have extracted these quotes:

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." (Romans 4:2-3)

How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised. (Romans 4:10-12)

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered. "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account." (Romans 4:5-8)

Romans chapter 4 underpins salvation by faith from Old Testament references. Salvation has always been by faith and was never offered as a result of obedience to the Law. Jesus' death did not usher in a new era by which people can find right standing with God by faith. People could always approach God by faith.

On the other hand, Paul also writes, "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe." And the Gospel of John says:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Paul also links this faith with Jesus' death:

being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed." (Romans 3:24, 25)

Was it possible to have faith in the Son before He came and died? The answer is that Jesus' death is effective outside the flow of time as we understand it. Consider these verses:

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, (2 Timothy 1:8-10)

"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." So the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." (John 8:56-58)

So salvation by faith was granted from eternity, but revealed when Jesus appeared. Plus, Jesus tells us that Abraham somehow saw the day of Jesus' coming.

And so the principle that salvation has always been by faith stands firm. It is not what changed because Jesus died.

The Holy Spirit is New

Now, let's return to Galatians 3:2 and its complete context. Notice the repeated references to the Holy Spirit and the opening link to Jesus' death:

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Did you suffer so many things in vain-if indeed it was in vain?

So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:1-5)

It is not salvation by faith that Paul sets up against works of the Law, but receiving the Spirit!

Why do we not see this?

· The Reformation rightly restored the doctrine of salvation by faith against the Roman Catholic system of works and salvation through the Church. Unfortunately, it did not also restore the critical role of the Holy Spirit.

· Controversy over doctrines like the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" and the wild excesses of Pentecostalism make us wary of exploring the gift of the Holy Spirit.

· The King James translation refers to Him as the "Holy Ghost," which is confusing at best and spooky at worst. Plus, since the KJV was not consistent in translating pneuma as ghost and, so, implicitly disconnected concepts that should have been connected. Here is just one example:

    · Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

    · This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:2)

And so that which should be front and center in our Christian world view operates in the background.

I intend to show that the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer is that which principally changed because Jesus died. The implications of this fact are enormous. You need not fear that I will raise controversy by promoting tongues or "renewal" or a separate experience subsequent to "salvation." Rather, I wish to show you that the Spirit is what brings power to the gospel message:

· By the Holy Spirit, we are made a new creation. We are made different from the inside out.

· By the Holy Spirit, we have intimate access to the Father even in times of temptation and failure.

· By the Holy Spirit, we have unity, power and gifts to do Jesus' work on earth.

See-the above list contains no surprises. But here is the change: No saint in the Old Testament had this. None! The Holy Spirit came on individuals like Samson and David, but He did not indwell and His presence was often temporary. And so when we read about the activity of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament we are reading about what changed when Jesus died.

Let's look at the evidence:

John the Baptist

John the Baptist was the prophet who prepared the cultural soil for Jesus' ministry. He spoke of sin and performed a baptism oriented around repentance from sin. But notice how he describes what Jesus will accomplish:

"As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Matthew 3:11)

"I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." (Mark 1:8)

John answered and said to them all, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Luke 3:16)

"I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, `He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.'" (John 1:33)

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," He said, "you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (Acts 1:4-5)

Each of the four gospels quotes John as saying that Jesus is coming to baptize us in the Holy Spirit. For John this was the key distinction between himself and Jesus. As the forerunner, it fell to him to explain why Jesus would be different from what came before. That difference was that He would baptize us with Holy Spirit. Jesus then underscores this by referencing John's baptism and the soon coming Holy Spirit.

Jesus before His Death

Just before His arrest and execution, Jesus told His disciples why it was good that He was going to die:

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. (John 16:7)

And who is this helper? Jesus has already mentioned Him several times:

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. (John 14:26)

When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, (John 15:26)

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you. (John 16:13-15)

John the Baptist connected Jesus' coming with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus now connects His death with the coming of the Holy Spirit. It will not be in the Old Testament sense: "abides with you." It will be in a new sense: "will be in you."

Jesus before His Ascension

Here are Jesus' last words before He went to the Father. Remember that He told His disciples that if He went away He would "ask the Father and He will give you another Helper."

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," He said, "you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (Acts 1:4-5)

"...but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. (Acts 1:8-9)

His last words were the promise of that the Holy Spirit would come.

Pentecost

The Jewish feast of Pentecost is the day that the Holy Spirit came and a New Covenant was born. The event, in context, reveals the magnitude of the New Covenant that is ours because Jesus died. But first, please note how Paul's words to the Galatians are consistent with the core theme of John the Baptist's preaching and Jesus' promises at the end of His ministry. Paul asked the Galatians, "did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?" It would seem that the giving of the Holy Spirit is the key distinctive of Christianity and the fundamental change that occurred because Jesus died.

Few Gentiles understand what the Jewish feast of Pentecost is about. It is a major Jewish holiday that occurs about 50 days after Passover-hence the Greek designation Pentecost. To the Jews, it is known as Shavuot and it is based on an historical event with the following time marker:

In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. (Exodus 19:1)

"In the third month:" The sons of Israel left Egypt the day after they ate the Passover lamb. Passover was on Nisan 15. Add 50 or so days and you are in the month of Sivan, the 3rd month. Nisan is the first month, Iyar is the second and Sivan is the third.

Here is the event:

The Lord also said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.

"You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, `Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether beast or man, he shall not live.' When the ram's horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain."

So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people, and they washed their garments. He said to the people, "Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman."

So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.

When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. (Exodus 19:10-19)

Immediately after these things the Lord speaks the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel to which they respond:

All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die." (Exodus 20:18-19)

This is the grand beginning of the Mosaic Covenant based on law.

· God's presence rested on a mountain. There was smoke, fire, thunder and a loud trumpet blast.

· There was a barrier in front of the mountain to keep the people at a safe distance. It was not needed. No one dared come close.

· God's speaking put the people in mortal fear for their very lives.

The holy and perfect God meets the people who are morally flawed. No one can draw close. They must be kept apart.

After Jesus came and He died, a new noisy and fiery Pentecost played out:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)

In the first Pentecost a single fire descended on Mt. Sinai and the people backed off and remained at a distance. In the second Pentecost, the fire came and split up, rested on, and then filled each believer in the room. In the first Pentecost, God spoke from the mount. In the second Pentecost, God spoke through the believers by the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus died, the holy, distant, and fearful God now lives in men and women of faith. This is a monumental change brought about by Jesus' death. To meditate on the two events is to see the magnitude of the change. The distant terrifying God is now near and intimate.

The First Sermon

John the Baptist heralded Jesus as the one who would baptize in the Spirit. Jesus tied the coming the Spirit with His death. Pentecost shows us the significance of the Spirit in bringing the presence of God to men and women. It is not surprising that the first sermon was Spirit centric:

For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day;

but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: `And it shall be in the last days,' God says, `That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams; ...'(Acts 2:15-17)

Then, at the end of the sermon:

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"

Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:37-38)

The 3,000 Jews that day repented and received the forgiveness of their sins, but they also received something no Old Testament saint ever received. They received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Now note again the words of Paul in Galatians:

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Did you suffer so many things in vain-if indeed it was in vain?

So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:1-5)

Old Testament Promises

In Acts 1:4, Jesus referred to Holy Spirit as "what the Father has promised" and Peter quoted a promise in Joel about a coming era of the Spirit. Joel is not the only reference that is relevant. Understanding the others will help us understand the significance of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian.

In the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the Mosaic Covenant of law brought the curses on the people. The people had failed to earn the promised blessings. Both, Jeremiah and Ezekiel received words of a coming change.

Here is Jeremiah:

"Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the Lord.

"But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the Lord, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, `Know the Lord,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the Lord, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (Jeremiah 31:31-34; and quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12)

Now here is Ezekiel:

"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

Jeremiah indicates that the means by which the New Covenant will come about is forgiveness, "...for I will forgive their iniquity." That is, the New Covenant is not about forgiveness, it is mediated by forgiveness. The forgiveness of sin that came about because Jesus died is extraordinarily deep.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:11-14)

"Cleansing of the flesh" removes the stain of committed sin without affecting the underlying cause. But Jesus' death brought about a "cleansing" of the "conscience" - that mechanism within that prompts us to choose right paths.

Peter, arguing against Gentile circumcision before the Jerusalem council said this:

After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith." (Acts 15:7-9)

And earlier, Peter had had this exchange with the Jewish believers:

"And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, `John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?"

When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life." (Acts 11:16-18)

"Repentance that leads to life" i.e. the new creation, law written on the heart, the fruit of the Spirit. The blood of Jesus provided a deep cleansing of the heart/conscience by which the Holy Spirit may indwell us. The goal of Jesus' death was not our forgiveness, the goal was the baptism of the Holy Spirit this forgiveness made possible.

1. By the Holy Spirit, we are a new creation

If you examine the typical presentation of the gospel, it will emphasize the forgiveness of sin and perhaps address knowing God and being in relationship. Strangely, Jeremiah's notion of "writing law on the heart" is absent from most gospel presentations. But Paul makes this connection and links it to the operation of the Holy Spirit:

being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. (2 Corinthians 3:3-4)

Then there is Ezekiel's new heart-or as Paul puts it-a new creation:

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The fundamental problem with the Mosaic Covenant of law is that the promise of blessing and the threat of cursing are not sufficient to change the human heart. Jeremiah stated it well when he said, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) Think of someone who is angry or jealous. Is the heart issue corrected by telling that one, "Now don't be angry?" or "Beware the green eyed monster?" Would it not often increase the very thing it meant to change? This is the weakness of law; it only identifies sin, but does not promote changed behavior. But the promise of the New Covenant and a New Spirit mean just this thing-change and the ability to be better people.

The Holy Spirit is the active agent of change in the believer and works directly against the natural heart. Paul writes:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

And:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

The operation of the Holy Spirit writing law on our hearts goes beyond keeping us from murder and stealing. If I, by the Holy Spirit, have learned to "love my neighbor" and even to "love my enemies," of what need is there for the commandment "Do not murder?" If I, by the Holy Spirit, have become generous and kind, of what need is there for the commandment, "Do not steal?" If I, by the Holy Spirit, have become faithful in all my dealings, of what need is there for the commandment, "Do not commit adultery?" The action of the Holy Spirit is to create positive goodness in our hearts in increasing measure. As such it is much greater than the mere commandment that prohibits bad behavior.

Look at what Paul writes in Romans concerning the Holy Spirit and our character:

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)

...for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:13-17)

The Old Testament saints did not have this. This is new. It is time we emphasized this. Our characters can change from within by the action of the Holy Spirit writing God's ways on our hearts.

2. By the Holy Spirit, we have intimate access to the Father

Think back to Mt. Sinai with its boundaries and terror brought about by the close presence of God and how different it was on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came.

Here is another picture. Think of the High Priest approaching the Mercy Seat in the Holy Place during the Day of Atonement:

· He had to be a man.

· He had to be descended from Aaron.

· He could only approach once a year.

· He had to carry blood for his sins and the sins of the people.

The Holy of Holies in the temple was off limits to all but a handful of men through the centuries. When Jesus died, that changed. According the writer of Hebrews:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

The "throne (seat) of grace (mercy)" is the mercy seat in heaven as can be seen from this parallel passage-also in Hebrews:

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

Unlike the singular ancient high priest who had access to a copy of the Holy Place, because Jesus died we have:

· Access to the real Holy Place in heaven.

· It is open to Jews and Gentiles.

· It is open to men and women.

· It is there in "time of need" i.e. when we are tempted or even in the midst of sin. In other words, our weakness is no longer something that separates us from God and the help that He brings.

As you might guess, the Holy Spirit has a role in our access:

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

If you need a good illustration for this access, consider the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4). Here is the critical point in the narrative:

He said to her, "Go, call your husband and come here."

The woman answered and said, "I have no husband."

Jesus said to her, "You have correctly said, `I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly." (John 4:16-18)

Ultimately, the woman's response to this exchange was this:

"Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?" (John 4:29)

Jesus had brought the woman into His space. He revealed that He knew her dirty secrets. How was it that she felt safe? We say that God loves sinners with an unconditional love, but this story takes that concept deeper. Jesus never met a sinner He did not like! He is on our side. He's for us-not in a condescending way, but in a way of friendship. The Holy Spirit does for us, what Jesus did for the Samaritan woman, Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10), Matthew and his friends (Matthew 9:9-13), the woman sinner at Simon's house who anointed Jesus' feet (Luke 7:36-50), and others. We meet, we feel safe, we draw close, and we are changed.

3. By the Holy Spirit, we have unity, power and gifts to do Jesus' work on earth.

Jesus said that we would receive power by the Holy Spirit and Paul writes:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

...

But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:11)

Because Jesus' death has provided us with the Holy Spirit each of us can expect to have a manifestation of the Holy Spirit by which we advance the ministry of Jesus on earth. Paul goes on to say that by the Holy Spirit we are collectively the body of Christ:

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

When Jesus was on earth, His ministry was, except for a few remote healings, geographically limited. When He taught, He could be heard by those who were present, not those in the next town. When He commanded the dead to rise, he and the corpse were in the same place. When he cast out a demon, demons in other locales were safe. He brought the words, power, and presence of God, but being the Word made flesh, that presence was localized. But when the Holy Spirit came, believers began to do things in Jesus' name by the power and gifting of the Holy Spirit. As we believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, disperse across the globe, so does the work of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it." (John 14:12-14)

Asking in "Jesus' Name" is not a magical incantation that we add to the end of our prayers. It is doing His work in such a way that He gets the credit. Filled with the Holy Spirit, manifesting His gifts, and yielding to His guidance, we are Jesus' work and ministry on the earth. Look at 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 again and note that work of each person in the trinity:

· Variety of effects, but the same God (Father). To me this indicates that the Father desires to do something on the earth, and calls upon the Son who sets up...

· A variety of ministries, but the same Lord (Son). And these ministries do their work by

· A variety of gifts, but the same Spirit.

All this is new. We are the people of God: we know Him; by the Holy Spirit we get to see what He is doing; and with manifestations of the Holy Spirit, we do Jesus' work on earth.

Practical Matters

There are three things that need to be done. First and foremost, we must make this truth a personal reality. We must walk by the Holy Spirit as a counter to our sin nature. We must confidently approach God and understand that we are safe because He wants to help. We must seek the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit as the means by which we serve in Jesus' Name.

Second, we must include the gift of the Holy Spirit as a key part of the gospel. Salvation by faith existed in the days of Abel and the deep forgiveness offered by the death of Jesus' is the means by which the Holy Spirit is given to us. Here is an example:

The Bible tells us that we were made in the image of God. Since God is a person who creates and communicates, we are creatures who create and communicate. Since we share these things with God and their origin is with Him, our greatest satisfaction and purpose come from being in relationship to Him as His people. Unfortunately, our personalities all become warped by an inner selfishness that separates us from that relationship. In seeking our own paths, we do damage to others and to His creation. No amount of will power or self-help manuals can correct this core problem which the Bible calls sin. Jesus came to show us God's love and intention to fix our sin so that we can have a relationship with God. His life showed us that God loved us and His death provided forgiveness for our sinful ways and gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to bring God's life into ours. When we repent of our sins and believe that Jesus died and rose again, we can receive the Holy Spirit who will gradually change us into people of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, and self-control as we allow Him to fill us. We become God's children and can become disciples of Jesus Christ and help do His work on earth through gifts that the Holy Spirit gives us. When we die, we will be completely healed of our sinful ways and be in God's company forever.

This better aligns with Jeremiah 31:31-34 than most gospel presentations. It is also centered on relationship with God rather than heaven as the goal of the gospel, puts the Holy Spirit in the center, and provides a promise of worthwhile change in this life.

Third, we must better incorporate the Holy Spirit in our teaching. This is especially so regarding the Christian life.

· Power to approach

    · Acts 2 vs. Exodus 19: It is no longer appropriate to speak of a Holy God from whom we are separate because of sin. Jesus has provided such a deep cleansing by His death and blood, that God is always approachable by those who want to draw near. The woman at the well is a better model for how God now engages men and women.

    · We have confident access to the throne of grace in time of need. We have confident access to the Holy Place and the presence of God by the blood of Jesus Christ.

    · Paul writes in Romans 8 that contrary to having a spirit of slavery and fear, we have a Spirit that informs us that we our children of God whom we may address is as "abba:" a endearing form of "father."

    · In the gospels, sinners felt safe in the presence of Jesus. Our churches, if they are to do Jesus' work on earth, must strive to do the same. A correct understanding of the Holy Spirit allows us to welcome sinners without compromising godly standards.

· Power to change

    · Does our teaching imply the use of will power to avoid sin? Do we use terms like "obeying the 10 commandments?" Would it not be better to focus on the work of the Holy Spirit to bring forth genuinely godly behavior? I can obey one of the commandments by not murdering anyone today, but have I actually set aside my self-interest to love someone today? Let's teach how to walk by the Spirit.

· Power to serve

    · Does our teaching separate clergy and laity? Do we model ministry by staff and professionals? Why should we not rather encourage the active participation of all Christians to seek gifts of service from the Holy Spirit?

Here's the end of the matter. The gospel has power! Power to approach. Power to change. Power to serve. We need to expect more.

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit), Soteriology (Salvation), Law