“W” is for Wrath

“W” is for Wrath.  While there is no need to translate or parse any aspect of this word it doesn’t mean that it isn’t regularly misunderstood.  The wrath of God is not a subject much spoken of in our culture today.  Our world would rather talk about the love of God and leave that wrath business out altogether.  This is not a surprise given the fallenness of man and of our nation.  What is the surprising offense is how the culture and its influence has seeped into the church and shaped it in regards to any number of theological subjects, the wrath of God being one, instead of the church being a light to the nations.  But as Christians many of us are oftentimes maybe embarrassed about the wrath of God because we don’t understand it.  JI Packer points out, “Why, when the Bible is vocal about it [referring to the wrath of God], should we feel obliged to be silent?” (Knowing God, 150).  Of course your liberal churches and denominations have tossed it out long ago but even inside an otherwise solid evangelical (meaning, gospel preaching and Bible believing) church, the subject of the wrath of God is all but eliminated.  Why is that?

In this week’s blog we will explore this particular attribute of God.  We will take a look at a few of the Old and New Testament texts that either speak directly about the wrath of God or are a demonstration of His wrath.  May our study of the wrath of God awaken in the Christian a burning desire for proclaiming the whole counsel of God for His glory.

What is the Wrath of God?

The wrath of God is an expression of His holiness.  Or “the doctrine that God intensely hates all sin” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1257).  Since God is holy (Matt 5:48; 1 Jn. 1:5) and He hates sin He cannot remain neutral in regards to it.  As Dr. Steven Lawson said, “There is divine wrath that by necessity must react against all that does not conform to the purity of His holiness” (The Attributes of God Teaching Series).  We struggle to understand this because we are not perfect, despite what a new mother might say about her child, and Scripture makes that abundantly clear (see Gen. 3; Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:23).  Whereas humans misdirect and misapply our anger virtually daily, “God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is…God is only angry where anger is called for” (Packer, Knowing God, 151).   God’s wrath is the justice of God in response to our sin.

Wrath of God in the OT

Some point to various accounts in Scripture like Noah and the flood (Gen. 6-7), Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18-19), and the Ten Plagues in Egypt (Ex. 7-12) as examples of the wrath of God gone out of control.  Even some Christians look at these texts among others and conclude, “Thank God that the God of the NT is a God of love.”  This too is ridiculous and reveals a lack of understanding the Bible.

Yes, God judged mankind and a catastrophic flood covered all the earth.  Yes, God rained down sulfur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24).  Yes, God sent ten plagues against Egypt.  But let’s quickly recap why God did each of these things.  In reference to the worldwide flood we read, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).  Evil continually.  All the time.  God had been patient with man already since even just one sin deserves death and God withheld His wrath until the evil of mankind was “only evil continually.”  And thankfully God looked with favor upon Noah (6:8).  In the case of Sodom, Abraham interceded for the people there that if only ten righteous persons could be found would God destroy the city and God said He would not (Gen. 18:32).  God even had sent two angels to observe.  Certainly God knew, but He was showing them mercy by having not judged them already.  Everything was confirmed.  The men of Sodom sought to participate in homosexual acts, and while they were inhospitable among other sins (Ezek. 16:48-49) they were guilty because of an abomination (Ezek. 16:50, the same Hebrew word used in Lev. 18:22; 20:13 that links their sin to homosexuality).  Sodom knew of their sin and boasted about it (Is. 3:9).  And the people were rightly judged by God for their sin.  Lastly, in the ten plagues God was going to show the Egyptians, who worshiped many false gods, “that I am the LORD” (Ex. 7:5).  And by these plagues He was going to rescue the people of Israel from their slavery.  God gave Pharaoh plenty of opportunities to repent (Ex. 8:8, 19, 24-28; 9:11, 28; 10:5-6, 17, 24), there were ten plagues after all.  But Pharaoh continual hardened his heart and became monstrously evil, so God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and lured evil into the Red Sea where they were judged because of their sins (Ex. 14:27-28).  In the case of Pharaoh, the Sodomites, and the people living in Noah’s day each reaped what their words and actions had sown (Gal. 6:7-8).  And I pointed out how God was gracious even leading up to these just judgments.

Wrath of God in the NT

A quick look at a passage in Revelation (though more could be selected, John 3:36; Col. 3:5-6) shows how God’s wrath is very much present in the NT.  Rev. 6:15-17 says, “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’”  Did you catch that?  The wrath of the Lamb, Jesus the Christ.

Romans 1:16-17 beautifully shares the gospel message and the truth that “the righteous shall live by faith.”  Rom. 1:18-3:20 speaks of the utter depravity and sinfulness of man (a message consistent throughout Scripture after the Fall, Gen. 3) and mankind being without hope apart from God’s direct intervention.  Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”  We are by nature “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).  We suppress the truth in our unrighteousness, our sin.  And while the day when God’s wrath will be fully realized is yet to come there are demonstrations of that wrath right now when Paul says “God gave them up…” (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).

As with all the other attributes of God, the wrath of God is one we as Christians should not downsize or be embarrassed by but rather praise and glorify our awesome and holy God for.  The Father sent His Son out of a great love for His elect even when we were wretched sinners who deserved His wrath.  But thanks be to God for Jesus Christ His Son through whom we’ve received grace and mercy.  May we be motivated to share with others of the wrath to come upon sinners and that only by repenting of your sins and believing in Jesus Christ can the wrath of God be removed from us for it was paid in full by Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:25-26; 1 Thess. 1:9-10).

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“V” is for Virgin Birth

“V” is for Virgin Birth.  You have heard of Christmas in July, well this is Christmas in August.  The biblical understanding of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ has been questioned by many for different reasons.  Some think that no one can be born of a virgin and that includes Jesus.  Others believe it would be a miracle but one that is not necessary to believe in order to be a Christian.  What about you?  Is it necessary to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus the Christ in order to be a Christian?  Scripture makes it clear to us that Jesus was born of a virgin.  It also provides clear reasons why it is necessary for our salvation.  This newsletter will jump right into a number of passages of Scripture that will show us the miracle of the virgin birth and also the necessity of the virgin birth.

God’s Intervention

Matthew and Luke each describe for us the birth of Jesus Christ.  Matthew focuses more from the perspective of Joseph whereas Luke focuses more from the perspective of Mary.  So in Luke when the angel Gabriel comes to Mary, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, he tells Mary she has found favor with God (Luke 1:30). “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus” (v. 31).  Mary asks the obvious question, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 34).  Or as the Greek literally says, “How will this be, since I do not know a man?”  However you want to say it Mary is making it clear that she has never had sex and thus cannot possibly have a child.  This is not rocket science.  Even today there is the necessity of a male’s sperm and female’s egg to come together to create new life.  While Mary and Joseph are betrothed to one another, they still have not consummated their marriage yet and thus Mary’s statement of still not knowing a man.

In answer to Mary’s question the angel Gabriel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).  And as Matthew correctly recognized, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Matt. 1:23).  Matthew quoted from Isaiah 7:14 and states that this prophecy is fulfilled in the miraculous birth of Jesus the Christ who is born of the virgin Mary.

Not Merely Preference but Necessity

Have you ever wondered, why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin?  Or, as was stated earlier, is belief in the virgin birth of Christ a necessary belief of Christianity?  In other words, do I have to believe it in order to be a Christian?

Certainly the virgin birth is a miracle as is made clear by the Holy Spirit’s intervention in Mary’s life.  So when we realize that the Son of God, the glorious, infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, holy One became a human it is astounding!  For some it is humiliating or embarrassing that Christians believe such a thing.  But this is exactly what the Scriptures affirm and as we will see more than mere preference but something of necessity.

First, Jesus had to be born of a virgin since by this miraculous birth the uniting of full deity with full humanity was made possible.  This was necessary because only someone like us could redeem us, thus the Son of God became a man.  As Romans 5:18-19 says, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”  And His deity was necessary because only one who is infinite God could bear the full penalty for all the sins of those who would believe in Him.  In other words, one perfect man could substitute himself for one guilty person, though there are no perfect men.  But one perfect God-man could substitute Himself for all those who believe in Him (Heb. 7:23-25).

Second, the virgin birth was necessary since it reminds us that salvation is solely of the Lord (Ps. 3:8; Jon. 2:9).  For no human mind could come up with such a plan and even if they did they would not have the power to carry it out.

Lastly, the virgin birth was necessary because it makes possible for Jesus’ true humanity to be without original sin.  We all are born in sin.  David said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).  As we just saw in Romans 5 the sin or trespass of one man, Adam, brought condemnation for all men.  Adam was our representative and failed, so as a result all of his descendants come forth in sin and choose sin.  So how is it that Jesus was not born in sin?  After all, Jesus is said to be born in the line of Adam (see Luke 3:23-38).  What separates Adam and Jesus from everyone else is both were born of the Spirit (see Gen. 2:7).  Luke 1:35 again says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”  Jesus is thus the New Adam.  He is the New Adam in that He is the second one, the “younger brother” who has inherited the promises of the firstborn (i.e. blessing and life for obedience versus cursing and death for disobedience) and replaces the older (i.e. Isaac and Ishmael; Jacob and Esau; Joseph and his brothers; Perez and Zerah; David and his brothers).  Jesus born of the Spirit, was the Lamb of God, one that was without spot or blemish, without sin (John 1:29; Heb. 9:14; 1 Pt. 1:19).  By being born of the Spirit, like Adam, Jesus is the new federal head over the new creation born in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5 & 6).

In answer to our question, yes the virgin birth is necessary for Christians to believe.  First, because it is taught clearly in Scripture and second, because it was necessary for our salvation in His name.

“U” is for Unconditional Election

“U” is for Unconditional Election.   In order for us to understand this biblical concept we must understand the total depravity of man first (hence the letter “T”).  A quick recap of man’s condition will be given first.  Then we will define our phrase unconditional election and see how this is not some concept forced upon the text of Scripture, like some may suggest, but that it is found directly within its pages.  And while we look at Scripture we will see why conditional election is false.  Lastly, we will see what the proper response of Christians should look like given this truth.

Man’s Condition

Many people today like to think, “All people are basically good.”  Sure there are the dictators, communist leaders, serial killers, child abusers, and the like but they are an exception to the norm.  While not everyone is a murderer in the strictest sense, first degree murder, we have all been extremely angry with someone before and Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matt. 5:21-22; see Ex. 20:13).  When people speak of being basically good this is always based on our finite human understanding and our flawed human standard.  We are always looking on a horizontal level because we can always find someone worse than us, so we think.

Ephesians 2 makes it clear what the condition of man is really like.  We are dead in our trespasses and sins, sons of disobedience, and children of wrath (vv. 1-3).  In other words we are totally deprived.  This does not mean we are as bad as we could be but rather that every aspect of our existence has been negatively impacted by sin: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual state.  Dead people cannot do anything and this is our spiritual state according to Paul in Ephesians 2.  Therefore, without the work of God in removing a heart of stone and giving a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26-28) there will be no positive action (i.e. belief in the Lord Jesus Christ) toward God on the part of man.  So we now take a look at unconditional election.

From the Text of Scripture

A proper definition of election is, “An act of God before creation in which He chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of His sovereign good pleasure” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1241).  God did not look through the corridors of time and see which individuals would respond positively to the gospel message and then choose them.  For this to be true we would have to deny the total depravity of man.  For in our fallen condition we said we are unable to make any positive action toward God.  It would also deny God’s sovereignty over all that He has made.  If it were true that God saw in us some positive action or response in advance than we would have reason for boasting for we would have contributed something to our salvation (cf. Eph. 2:8-10).  This then radically denies the doctrine of justification by faith alone (cf. Rom. 5:1-11; Gal. 2:16; 3:7-8).  Thus God’s election is not conditional, it cannot be.

Acts 13:48 says, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” This verse makes it clear that some were appointed (other translations “ordained”) for eternal life and therefore they believed.  The clearest of places we see that God’s election of people is unconditional, meaning it is not based on anything foreseen in them, is found in Romans 9.

“And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’” (vv. 10-13).

Paul speaks here about God choosing the younger son, Jacob, over the elder son, Esau.  When reading Genesis you might gather that this was simply common practice since God chooses Seth, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and Joseph all of whom were not the firstborn.  However, the practice in that day was for the firstborn son to receive a greater portion of the inheritance and blessing from his father.  So when Paul references back to Esau and Jacob he reminds his readers of Malachi 1:2-3, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”  Why did God choose Jacob and not Esau?  Was Jacob wiser, craftier, stronger, more handsome, a better son?  None of these things.  In fact Paul gives us the purpose for why Jacob was chosen over Esau “that God’s purpose of election might continue” (v. 11).  And this was not based on works because it was before either was born and before either had done anything good or evil.  The choosing of Jacob over Esau was based on Him who calls, that is, on God’s choosing.  And this is true for those whom are elect, saved by God, that it does not rest on anything foreseen in them but solely on the sovereign decision of our gracious God.

Paul expects the possible push back he might receive in v. 14 by saying, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!”  A few things should be understood here.  First, do you remember what our state was before the Holy Spirit regenerated our hearts?  We were dead in our trespasses and sins and fully deserving of the wrath of God to be poured out on us.  The fact is no one deserves salvation in the first place, not you, not me, no one.  Salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:8; Jonah 2:9).  Second, let’s say in a group of six people three are saved and three are not.  The three that are saved received grace and mercy.  The three that perish receive justice for their sins.  No one receives injustice (analogy from RC Sproul).  Thus Paul says in vv. 15-16, “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”

Some will interject here, “What about man’s free will?”  Certainly Scripture makes it clear that we make choices that have real effects and consequences.  Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and later concluded that he was dead because of their actions (Gen. 37:25-28; 42:13).  And yet Gen. 50:20 makes it clear that what Joseph’s brothers meant for evil, God meant it for good.  So while Scripture does say man makes choices that have real effects it does not maintain that man is free from God’s control since everything is sustained and directed by our sovereign God (cf. Prov. 16:2, 9; 21:2).  While we speak of man’s free will we ought to be concerned first and foremost with the free will of God.

Praises to the King

The biblical idea of the unconditional election of God highlights above all else the grace of God.  For it stands out for what it truly is, a marvelous, amazing, nothing-else-like-it gift.  The believer’s response must be a humble one that destroys any ounce of pride, and one of thanksgiving and praise to our King.  And we know have greater fervor in sharing the good news because God has sovereignly elected men and women all over the world to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Twenty-something

In less than a week I will be turning the big 3-0.  Personally I am quite excited about entering this new decade of life but I should state the reason is not because the twenty-somethings were terrible, in fact it has been the best decade yet.  As I take a look back on the last ten years the goodness of the Lord is there every step of the way.  Here is just a brief synopsis of my life during my twenties.

Summer of 2006, shortly after turning twenty, God opened my eyes to my sin and rebellion against Him and drew me to His Son Jesus Christ!  Even if nothing else happened in my twenties that alone would make it the greatest decade, but God was even more gracious.

Summer of 2008 I started courting (dating) my now bride Katie.  We were in a relationship for a little over a year, engaged for a year, and have celebrated five years of marriage all during my twenties.

After becoming a Christian the direction of my future plan shifted from managing a golf course to becoming a ministry intern on the campus of Oakland University.  There I served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship beginning in the summer of 2008 and through the 2008-2009 school year.  God impressed it upon my heart to be a faithful proclaimer of His truth in the local church.  Therefore God set my sights on the next step He had for me which involved going to seminary and pursuing the pastorate.

I spent four years in seminary (2009-2013) and grew tremendously not only in my theology but also in my service.  God used the time my wife and I spent at North Park Baptist Church in tremendous ways as we served Him.  God opened the door for us to move to Lake City when I received a call to pastor Calvary Baptist Church, so we packed up and headed there the start of 2014.

Backing up just a little to November 2013, we welcomed our first daughter into the world then a year-and-a-half later we welcomed our second daughter (June 2015).  So a quick recap of just some of the things that happened during my twenty-somethings looks like this: I became a Christian, husband, father, and pastor.  God has lavished His grace upon this servant of His (see Eph. 2:1-10).  You can probably see why the twenty-somethings have been the best decade yet and all the glory belongs to God alone.  Many passages come to mind but let me close with this one from 1 Thessalonians.  “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (vv. 16-18).

Ears to Hear

EarRecently I was able to go to the Ligonier National Conference in Orlando, FL.  I know, I had to suffer the warmer temps in order to hear sound biblical teaching and have access to scores of books.  While there is much I could share from this conference, and maybe overtime I will, there is something that again struck me as it did the first time I attended the conference two years ago.  Located to the right of the stage from where the speaker was were two men who alternated throughout a message or announcements doing sign language for a number of deaf people seated in the rows in front of them.  When it came time to singing without much thought I took in the beautiful sounds from this massive pipe organ and began to sing to our great God.  When I looked down to the right of the stage each person down there was also standing and likewise worshiping.  For they were signing the very words I was singing and together we were worshiping our great God as the body and bride of Christ.

I realized how I so easily take for granted the ability to hear (among other things like see and smell) as I heard the speakers throughout the weekend, but especially when I was sitting in the balcony listening to the sound of the pipe organ as well as string and brass instruments during a mini concert they had for us.  I say especially because at this time the two men who were usually standing and signing the messages or announcements for the hearing impaired were seated because they cannot sign the music made during that concert.  And while I thought about this my mind was drawn to the gospel of Mark where I have been preaching for the last several months.  In Mark 4 there are several of Jesus’ parables right in a row.  One of the common themes within these verses is on the importance of hearing (Mark 4:3, 9, 12, 15, 16, 18, 20, 23, 24, 33).  I thought specifically of v. 9 where, following the telling of the parable of the sower (or soil), we read, “And He [Jesus] said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’”

Jesus goes on to explain to a small group of people including His disciples that they have “been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those on the outside everything is in parables” (v. 11).  The Pharisees and other religious leaders have grown in their hostility against Jesus in Mark 2 and 3 to the point that “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him [Jesus], how to destroy Him” (3:6).  These men though they have ears and can hear one another talking they are the fulfillment of the prophecy from Isaiah 6 quoted in Mark 4:12, “They may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”  In explaining this one author says, “Insiders who are with Jesus will be given the understanding of the mystery [referring to the secret of the kingdom of God], and outsiders who are not with Jesus will be confirmed in their disbelief” (James Edwards, Mark, 134).  In other words those who had ears to hear, like the disciples, understood.  And those who did not have ears to hear, though they could hear something audibly, did not understand.  I thought back to my brothers and sisters in Christ seated there right of stage and was amazed by our God for I was seeing men and women who, though deaf, had ears to hear.  Thanks be to God for His great work of redemption!

“P” is for Pneumatology

“P” is for Pneumatology.  Even though the “p” is silent it still begins with the correct letter.  What is pneumatology?  πνεῦμα (pneuma) means Spirit, wind, or breath in Greek depending on the context.  In the case of pneumatology it is the study of the Holy Spirit.  The third person of the triune God tends to get the least amount of press and Christians tend to know the least about Him.  This blog will be a little different from the others in this series but hopefully still beneficial as we think about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.  The two sections below are statements taken from my own doctrinal statement.  The first part “Blessed Trinity” is the beginning of my confession on God (Theology Proper).  The second part is my confession on the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology).  This second statement was written not in seminary but while I was preparing for my ordination and finalizing my full doctrinal statement.  We will finish by looking at a few areas mentioned in the confession a bit further.

Blessed Trinity

I believe the one true God is eternally self-existent (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 90:2, 4, 93:2; Jer. 10:10; John 1:1; Gal. 4:4-5; 1 Tim. 1:17, 6:16) as one essence in three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; each person is fully God, and there is only one God.  In the unity of the Godhead there is neither a mixing of the persons nor a division of the one essence.  In regard to their persons the Father is unbegotten, the Son is eternally begotten of the Father (John 1:14, 18; 3:16), and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son (Luke 24:49; John 15:26; 16:7; 1 Cor. 2:11; Gal. 4:6).  The Godhead is a community of self-giving lovers (Gen. 1:26, 3:22; 11:7; Is. 6:8; Matt. 3:16-17; 28:19; John 3:16; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6).

RC Sproul (Everyone’s a Theologian, 179) says in regards to the work of the Trinity in our redemption that “…God the Father initiated the plan of redemption; Christ performed all that was necessary to effect our redemption; and the Holy Spirit applies Christ’s work to us and makes it ours by imparting new life to dead souls, which theologians call ‘regeneration’” (see “B” is for Born Again).  As the final part of the last verse of the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” says, “Holy, Holy, Holy merciful and mighty; God in three persons blessed Trinity.”

Confession on Pneumatology

I believe in the Holy Spirit who is one in essence with the Father and the Son and also co-eternal with them (Matt. 3:16-17; Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; 2 Cor. 13:14; Heb. 9:14).  He is very God and eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son (Luke 24:49; John 15:26; 16:7; Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor. 2:11; Gal. 4:6).

I believe the ministry of the Holy Spirit after Christ’s ascension is to testify about the Son (John 15:26; Acts 5:30-32).  The Holy Spirit convicts of sin (John 16:8-11), regenerates (John 3:3-5; Tit. 3:5-6), sanctifies (Rom. 15:16), and assures the believer of their salvation (Rom. 8:16; 2 Cor. 1:22).  Upon repentance and belief in the Gospel, the Holy Spirit indwells the believer and remains with them forever (John 14:16; Rom. 8:9-11).  He counsels (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7), seals (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30), and teaches (John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:11-13; 1 John 2:20, 27) the believer while guiding them to put behind the sinful desires of the flesh and clothe themselves with the fruit of the Spirit (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 5:16-23).

I believe the Holy Spirit distributes gifts to all believers for the glory of God and the edification of the church (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-31; 13:1-13; Eph. 4:11-12, 16; Heb. 2:4; 1 Pt. 4:10-11).  Believers are given different kinds of gifts so that they work together in unity and properly function as the body of Christ.  The “sign gifts” such as healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues, and interpreting tongues were essential for the authentication of the apostolic generation to both confirm the message spoken and the authority of those speaking (Matt. 11:2-6; John 10:24-26, 37-38; 14:11; Acts 8:4-8; 14:3; Heb. 2:1-4).  These gifts were particularly necessary when a completed canon (the Bible) was not yet finalized, and therefore are not normative for today (Num. 11:10-25; 1 Cor. 3:10-11; 2 Cor. 12:12; Eph. 3:1-6; Heb. 2:1-4).  No individual gift serves as a sign of the Spirit’s indwelling, because the Spirit’s indwelling is itself the gift (Acts 10:45; 11:15-17; 1 John 4:13).

Taking a Closer Look

One can see that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is far reaching.  In fact it reaches back to the beginning when the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the deep (Gen. 1:2).  The Spirit was active in creation and, as the statement above declares, is active in the re-creation (or regeneration) of individuals who were dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-3).  And the Spirit is active in the process of sanctification, where believers are transformed to become more like Jesus Christ, and will be active in the believer’s glorification.  The Holy Spirit is the One whom God sends to make the believer holy.  Without the work of the Spirit we would neither come to faith in Christ, in fact could not, nor would we desire the things of God.  It is rather ironic that the Holy Spirit is often overlooked and yet He is very active at every point in the believer’s life.

It was stated briefly above in my confession on pneumatology but is worth highlighting again and that is the Holy Spirit’s work in regards to the Scriptures.  Namely, the Holy Spirit inspired the writers and now illumines the text for us.  2 Peter. 1:21 says, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  And 1 Cor. 2:11 says, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”  The Holy Spirit helps us understand the truths of Scripture by shedding light onto our dark minds.  He is the teacher of truth which is fitting since He is called the “Spirit of Truth” three times in John’s gospel (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).

Have you ever been stuck when praying?  What I mean is, have you ever not known the right thing to say?  Maybe you found yourself in a new situation and were unsure of how to proceed forward.  Or maybe a friendship or other relationship is on rocky ground and you don’t know whether to pray for healing or for God to cut the ties with the least amount of hurt possible.  Or maybe you agreed to pray for someone who then shares with you that they are seeking prayer for something you know is not biblical.  Have you ever had a hard time praying the “right words” afraid that if you don’t ask for something just right you won’t receive it, as if God is like one of those school lockers that won’t budge unless you get the right combination.  While we may not verbalize this, but based on how we pray we reveal a lot about what we actually believe.  The author of Hebrews tells us that we can approach God’s throne with confidence and “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).  Why can we approach God’s throne with confidence?  Because Jesus, the Son of God, our great high priest was tempted like we are but unlike you and me, Jesus never once sinned (vv. 14-15).  And because of Jesus’ substitutionary death (see “A” for Atonement) on the cross for sinners we who have been brought into God’s kingdom by the work of the Holy Spirit can be confident God is able to help us.  We can also pray confidently, even boldly, because the Holy Spirit intercedes for us on our behalf.  Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”  Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15) and the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses.  The blessed Trinity is active when you and I pray.  May that realization spur us to approach God’s throne today!

Tuesday Tunes

This weeks Tuesday Tunes is coming at you on Wednesday (so Wednesday Worship).  A song in most hymnals and one with a powerful story, both the lyrics and what brought about the lyrics.  Haratio Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead to go across the Atlantic only to lose all four of his daughters after the ship sank.  His wife Anna survived and when he crossed the Atlantic to meet up with his grieving bride at about the spot where it was said the ship sank Spafford retrieved into his room and penned these words.  “My sin oh the bliss of this glorious thought; my sin not in part but the whole.  Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more; praise the Lord, praise the Lord oh my soul.”  The song is titled “It is Well” and is sung here by Kutless.  Enjoy!