Spirit in Salvation | John 15:23-27 & Acts 2:37-41
Passage: John 5:23–27, Acts 2:37–41
Christopher Rich – April 24, 2016
The HELPER| Week #1 | Holy Spirit in Salvation | John15:23-27 & Acts 1:1-5
Introduction | Third Person
Good morning! This week we are continuing our series The Helper. Our hope has been to provide greater clarity helping us see the Spirit as less ethereal and mysterious while also magnifying the significance of the Holy Spirit in our affections and increasing our reliance on the work of the Spirit in our individual and collective lives. He is the author of truth, unity, and maturity. He is the source of all revival bring depth and growth to our church while also providing the presence of Christ in our lives. We want to know God’s will, through his word, in what it teaches, so as to apply it in our lives practically and personally. We know there is a decided lack of teaching on the role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life. Last week we saw the Holy Spirit in the Trinity, a person not a force, fully God, manifesting God’s presence in His creation. We saw the trinity in Creation and in redemption and the role of the Holy Spirit Jesus promises will come to remind His disciples of His words, giving them peace and calming their fear and anxiety, as we know we are not abandoned. This week we look specifically at the role of the Holy Spirit in salvation of sinners. While much of the Holy Spirit can be mysterious and difficult to understand/comprehend there are aspects of His function and role that can be known from the teachings of scripture. We will start with the words of Jesus to His people in what He promises the Spirit will do. We will look at other scripture pointing to the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation and we will see how this was experienced in the life of the early church.
Our Problem, His Promise | John 15:23-27
John 15:23-27 | 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ 26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
We start with the words of Jesus to his disciples. Jesus has spent this chapter telling disciples they are to abide (remain and continue) to be “in Him” that being in Christ is where all life and fruitfulness is found. He goes on to tell them they are a sent people to go a bear fruit as they abide in Him and love one another. But Jesus begins to outline a nearly overwhelming obstacle to this peace, love, and wholeness. There is sin in the world, which has infected and affected everyone and everything. Sin at its core is a rejection of God, His authority over creation, and failing to worship Him as Creator. Specifically, Jesus says the world is opposed to Him. In fact they Hate Jesus as God, so if you’re going to “abide” in Christ you should expect as you go out to also face rejection and Hatred. As we get to the verses we read we see very clearly Jesus sees rejection of Him as rejection of God the Father, people know there is a God; know Jesus claims to be God and they have willingly decided to have a disposition of hatred and rejection, because what can be known about God is plain to all in the demonstrated power of His creation. Jesus goes on to quote the Psalms in saying their hatred is “without cause.” This is the natural disposition of the human condition apart from God. Spiritually blinded by sin we don’t see God for who He is or see the message and mission of Jesus as being “for us” so we remain not in a state of abiding with God but of self-reliance. “What has God ever done for me? Says man who is alive and breathing air.” This is the mission field Jesus sends us out to where the stakes are people’s very souls. If we, or anyone, are going to go from hostility to worship a dramatic transition needs to be made in our disposition to God. How can this happen?
“But when the Helper comes” Faith in Jesus alone has to come from a new heart that is no longer hostile to him. The key witness (pointing us to the truth) is to be the Holy Spirit himself. The Spirit comes from the Father to do what? “bear witness about” Jesus. He will do the heavy lifting of redirecting individuals in the world opposed to Jesus as God and turn them into those whose faith and trust in Jesus alone. What an exhale, because this looked pretty overwhelming, I guess we can just sit back and watch the Spirit work. Wait! Jesus says “you ALSO will bear witness,” You’ve been with me from the beginning of my earthly ministry. If you know Jesus, and have hope in Jesus; you will point others to hope and life in Jesus. However, the Holy Spirit has been with Jesus from the beginning of all things. He is able do far more in bearing witness because the mission continues beyond on generation. But what is the Spirit accomplishing?
Ezekiel 37:25-27 25 | I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Those hostile hearts need to not just be emotionally stirred but surgically removed and replaced. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring a new heart in us that is no longer stone cold in opposition to Jesus but begins to beat, specifically for Him. This is something new. Stones don’t do anything, but flesh lives. The work of God in the Holy Spirit to bring life our stone hearted beings is a miracle. In this work God gives us the Spirit causing us to both desire and enables us to obey the commands of God. We are made new.
John 3:5-8 | 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
A Christian is one who is “Born Again” This is also translated as born from above. It is a different birth, a greater birth into a new family where you are brothers and sisters with Christ. Birth while active and clearly showing a movement is not directed or decided by the one being born, it is always a function of the one giving life. You can claim as much credit for your rebirth as you can for your original birth. Go ahead talk about how involved you were process. Your involvement was in that moment was decidedly outside of your ability to direct anything; you were completely reliant on forces outside of yourself.
This is what is called Regeneration - is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. It is no less than the power and presence active in our lives, but it is also more than. It brings change to our lives. Not incomplete change where something is added on to who we are but rather we are made “new creation” something we were not before; we now are, born again by the power of the Holy Spirit to new life with a new heart. It is a spiritual work that cannot be perceived with our eyes we can only see the fruit, which comes later so we begin to believe wrongly that regeneration is something that happens AFTER we’ve put faith in Jesus. It is something God does in us to prepare us for belief. Jesus describes it like the wind. We don’t know precisely where the wind comes from or where it is going but we absolutely see, feel, and experience it’s effects in our world. There are people who didn’t love, trust, follow, serve Jesus and then they do. It is why Jesus says “No one can come to me unless granted by the Father.” and Acts says Lydia heard and received what was being said because the “Lord opened her heart.” Born again, regenerated we no longer have minds and heart opposed to God but have new life united with Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:7-10 | 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Here we see the Spirit and Jesus Christ as nearly interchangeable, to have faith in Jesus is to have the Holy Spirit it in you. To have the Spirit of God living in you is to have Christ in you. (this is where we talk about Jesus in my heart J ) Conversely to lack the Spirit is to lack Christ, to lack Christ is to not belong to God in a true saving way. The Holy Spirit is sent to God’s people for the purpose of bringing new life to hostile dead sinners through faith in Jesus Christ alone. How does this happen?
Preaching at Pentecost | Acts 2:32-33, 37-41
The most normative way is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ being proclaimed and people receive God’s word in a new and different way. See an example of this early in Acts when Peter preaches a sermon in Jerusalem during the festival of Pentecost. Earlier the disciples have been given a unique anointing of the Holy Spirit with 120 in the upper room (more on that in later weeks) now are in the city equipped and empowered to what? “ Bear witness about Jesus” We will look at that unique situation later the series but we start with conversion of the 3,000 because it is more applicable to what the church experiences today.
Peter is preaching the Gospel with intense focus on Jesus death (fully God’s plan) at the hands of sinful men. He preaches Jesus resurrection in victory over death (because it was not possible for him to be held by it.) The purposes of this victory was that those with faith in God in Christ would “not be shaken”, have glad hearts, rejoice, and dwell in hope as God “makes known to me the paths of life” as we have gladness in God’s presence. This peace, wholeness redemption of sinners brought into a restored relationship with God is accomplished in Jesus who is resurrected.
Acts 2:32-33 | 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
Here is Peter saying “you’re seeing and hearing the truth of Hope in the resurrected Jesus because of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t’ enough for them for Jesus to be physically present, doing “might works, wonders, and signs. “seeing” wasn’t believing. They see now because of the Holy Spirit. Peter goes on to assert the certainty of Jesus as both Lord (king) and Christ (Savior) through his crucifixion. The truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ heard by people, people who were hostile to Jesus, but now they are hearing with prepared hearts made flesh by the work of the Holy Spirit leads to a response of receiving Jesus.
Acts 2:37-41 | 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
There is great conviction from the Gospel leading to a crisis of conscience where the only resolution is to turn from sin (repent) place your faith, trust, allegiance in Jesus publically knowing your sins are forgiven because of Jesus work in your place and you have new life because of the work of the Holy Spirit in you.
This is quite an altar call! Peter is clear with the stakes. He doesn’t say well I hope you go on an individual private faith journey that brings you some inner peace, just ya know “live and let live bro.” He knows indifference or indecision brings no hope. Peter is also clear what the answer is: Hope is found in Jesus Alone. You can have all sorts of theological or philosophical questions you are wrestling or desire answers for but your response to the Gospel is not to outline your view of the age of the earth, or what do you believe about the end times, or why does suffering happen in the world. It’s will you turn from your trust in yourself and your rejection of God to receiving Jesus as THE Lord over all creation and over you and trust in Him and him alone for your salvation. Your questions can still be answered and wrestled with but from a position of settled-ness in who Jesus is.
It really is both simple and amazing; but when we consider the work of the Spirit rather than rightly realizing a positive response to Jesus and the God of the Bible is both a mighty and miraculous work bring life where death was we settle for some emotional experiences, asking people if they speak in tongues or have some extravagant outward demonstration of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit’s work which causes hostile sinners to simply Repent, believe, and be baptized. Verse 38 shows an order but it is not stages in a rocket Repent, be baptized in Jesus name for your sin, and receive the Holy Spirit, it is not some ok, I’ve done step one and two, now I’m waiting for #3 as if receiving the Holy Spirit come later for some varsity Christians. The Gift of the Holy Spirit is a Universal Christian experience because it is the initiating Christian experience. If your faith is in Jesus alone you’ve received the Gift of the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor 12:3 says. “No one can say “Jesus is Lord” Except in the Holy Spirit.
A cowardly, reckless, former fisherman preaches a Bible drenched sermon filled with obscure Old Testament passaged, he calls the culture they’re in crooked, all the while pointing faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus for their joy, calling then to repent of their sin and trust exclusively in Jesus necessary for salvation. Old school preaching, not worldly popular, but effectively powerful. Because of the proclamation of God’s word empowered by the Holy Spirit brought to bear witness to salvation in Jesus; 3,000 souls who were destined for destruction were saved on that day. Centuries later we are still seeing people saved “born again” by the same message preached by equally unqualified men. But still, absolutely effective because of the work and power of the Holy Spirit. And so we preach knowing the response is not determined by how well we do but by the Lord who opens hearts so that others may repent, believe and be baptized. This promise of new life is for you, it is for the far off, it is for everyone who the Lord calls to himself.
Ephesians 1:13-14 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
The same Spirit that saves us, seals us, so we have an eternal and lasting hope when we Trust Jesus!
At Damascus Road we seek to be a people who are desperately reliant on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as individuals and as a church, yet we know we can feel distant, distracted, or even in despair. Take a few minutes to pray asking for the saving presence of the Holy Spirit. If you have your faith in Jesus as Lord pray a prayer of thanksgiving for His Spirit’s work in your soul, or the change someone you know or care about has experienced. Pray for someone who is hostile, indifferent, or just seem far off, for the Lord to call them to Himself. If you haven’t trusted Jesus, but you’re cut to the heart; pray repentance, believe, and be baptized.