The Work of the Spirit Necessary

Sometimes I get heard as saying that only the death and resurrection of Christ are necessary and that the work of the Spirit (in us) is not important. I do play the two works off against each other. I do make a distinction. But this is not because I don’t think the Holy Spirit is needed.

My concerns are these. 1. The Holy Spirit is Christ’s Spirit, and Christ’s gift. Christ puts us into the Spirit; the Spirit does not put us in Christ (even though this is what most Calvinists seem to say, when they put faith before God’s imputation of righteousness). “Because you are sons, then Christ gives you the Spirit.” Galatians 4.

God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the ungodly elect results in their new birth. I Cor 6:11 “you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” By the Spirit? I Tim 3:16–Christ’s justification is by the Spirit, it’s His resurrection. His resurrection is because justification (depending on if we are born before or Christ’s justification, our justification is before and after His justification, but always because of His justification.

2. The work of the Spirit is needed but not as the righteousness God accepts to justify the ungodly. It is necessary for a different reason  One part of the gospel tells us the source of faith and the nature of faith. John 3:1-12 tells us about the new birth being necessary. John 3:13-18 tells us about God’s love in giving the Son for elect sinners.

II Peter 1:1 To those who have obtained a faith equal with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

3. I therefore do not deny that the work of the Spirit (the new birth) is also part of the gospel and thus the object of faith. (When unthinking preachers deny that election is part of the gospel, and reduce it to only being the reason why people believe the gospel, they end up leaving election out.)

I don’t want to leave the new birth out of the gospel, but I want to say that faith is the result and not the condition, that– in the true gospel– faith excludes itself as being the cause or condition or any part of the righteousness earned by Christ for the elect and imputed in time to the elect.

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10 Comments on “The Work of the Spirit Necessary”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Tolerant Calvinists say that God saving a person and leaving them Arminians only shows how gracious and sovereign God is, since if God changed the person’s mind to believe the truth, then we might think salvation was conditioned on the mind. Curious to me that nobody (who is Reformed) does this with being a “carnal Christian”. Nobody says it shows how sovereign and gracious it is to leave them carnal…

  2. markmcculley Says:

    The *work* of the Spirit is the object of faith? Wouldn’t the final result of this be, I believe in my belief?

    mark. 1. I mean that the work of the Spirit is PART OF the gospel. There’s no reason to leave it out, and it needs to be in, since it’s not in competition with the work of Christ, but the necessary result of the Spirit.

    2. As for believing in our belief, a. Theologians talk of “reflex faith” which simply means assurance that I have believed. It does not deny that there is a distinction between the faith in the gospel I had at first when I did not know that I had believed BECAUSE I WAS JUST THEN BEGINNING TO BELIEVE.

    This is not denying that assurance is of the essence of faith, but saying that being sure that people with faith in the gospel are saved is different from being sure that I am one of those people who has faith in the gospel.

    When the gospel talks about Christ’s death for the elect, this is something different from the gospel telling YOU that YOU are one of those elect for whom Christ denied. I will say it stronger: you CANNOT know that you are one of those elect until after you have believed the gospel and been converted, which of course does not mean that you then can stop believing or no longer need to believe, and which also is not saying that this believing is a condition that makes it so Christ died for you, or so that Christ’s death works for you.

    I am saying the good news is that Christ died for the elect. It’s not good news for the non-elect. Now is it good news for YOU? You cannot answer that until and unless you have believed the gospel.

    So the gospel is not only about the death of Christ, but also about election, also about the new birth. But it’s not about your own person election or your own personal new birth.

    A person is made alive when they are dead. Ephesians Two. So how do I go beyond this “a person is” to an assurance that “I am such a person, I have been made alive”. Understanding and submission to the gospel is evidence.

    Sure, we hope to understand more. But we do or do not understand. We do or do not submit to God’s righteousness.

    Not all who are in the room where the gospel is clearly taught believe it or understand it. When you understand it, you have believed it. When you have believed it, you understand it. And this is the work of the Spirit.

    So we have to think about the soundbite which says that “the Spirit always point us to Christ, never to Himself”. The Holy Spirit inspired John 3 and John 13-16, which teach us about the work of the Spirit. the Holy Spirit inspired Acts, which points us to the acts of the Spirit.

    The same Spirit who points to Christ points to Christ as the one who goes away so that He can give the Spirit.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Romans 8:10 explains it, “The Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Christ obtained a righteousness for the elect alone, and that righteousness is imputed to the elect alone, and as a result (because of) this, Christ’s Spirit gives life not to every dead ungodly sinner but only to all dead ungodly sinners who were elect long before Christ died for them and them alone.

    As Romans 4:5 speaks of God justifying the ungodly, even so Romans 5:6 points to Christ dying for these ungodly. As God does not justify all the ungodly but only the elect for whom Christ died, even so Christ did not die potentially for all the ungodly but as the sufficient (nothing extra needed) cause of the justification of all the ungodly elect. And as soon as these elect are justified, at the same time they will be born again and given life to believe the gospel.

    What happens in the new birth is not simply another perspective on what has happened to you! The new birth is not more information which explains what was happening when you thought you were making salvation happen.

    The new birth is not what happened when you thought salvation was conditioned on your faith, and when you decided to let God save you. You were not born again when you believed the lie that you could and would cause yourself to be born again.

    The new birth is not a different way to tell the story of when you decided to pull the trigger on the gun and thus make the “infinite” death of Jesus work for you.

  4. mark Says:

    The work of the Holy Spirit is needed but not as the righteousness God accepts to justify the ungodly. It is necessary for a different reason
    (Listen to a wonderful sermon by David Adkins on this.) We should can leave John 1:1-12 (the Spirit gives life) out of the gospel anymore than we leave out John 1:13-16 (the Father gave to die, the Father loved in this way) We no more leave out the work of the Holy Spirit than we leave out election from the gospel. The gospel tells what faith is. The gospel tells sinners that true faith in the true gospel excludes itself as the cause or condition of the righteousness. The gospel does not say: we are only going to talk about righteousness. The gospel says: we are going to talk about true faith also. True faith is not the righteousness. True faith is a result of the new birth. True faith believes in true faith, and not in the false faith of freewill.
    The gospel says something about faith, and therefore also tells the truth about the Holy Spirit.

    Acts 2: 33 Therefore, since Christ has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, Christ has poured out what you both see and hear.

    Acts 2: 16 this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
    17 And it will be in the last days, says God,
    that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity;
    then your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    and your old men will dream dreams.
    18 I will even pour out My Spirit

    John 16: I will send the Holy Spirit to you. 8 When the Holy Spirit comes, the Holy Spirit will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: 9 About sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. 12 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, the Spirit will guide you into all the truth. For the Holy Spirit will not speak on His own, but the Holy spirit will… take from what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 Everything the Father has is Mine. This is why I told you that the Holy Spirit takes from what is Mine and will declare it to you.

    Ephesians 4: Christ gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Phil 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

    to do list:
    to know the power of his resurrection
    to attain to the resurrection

    II Corinthians 4: 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

    Colossians 1:18 He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent

    Ephesians 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses,
    made us alive together with Christ

    dead in, is guilt or corruption or both

    made alive together, can’t be regeneration, because Christ was not regenerated—but Christ was not simply only given new justified redeemed status, but physically resurrected AND given a new immortal human body

    so “walk” cannot refer always only to corruption (see Romans 6:4 and 8:4) But walk in Ephesians does include regeneration . So does “made alive”…

    Ephesians 2: 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air

    Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

    Ephesians 4:1 therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

    Ephesians 4:17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

    Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

    Ephesians 5:8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

    Ephesians 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,

  6. markmcculley Says:

    the blessing of being able to believe this “once and done” propitiation is a blessing given by Christ to the elect and earned by Christ’s death for the elect. 2 Peter 1:1 a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have OBTAINED A FAITH of equal standing with ours BY THE RIGHTEOUSNESS of our GOD and Savior Jesus Notice the order in Galatians 3:13-14. Redemption is the basis for the promise of the Spirit, the blessing of Abraham. As Ephesians 4:8 quotes Psalm 68: “when he ascended on high, he gave gifts to men.” Every reference to “baptism with the Spirit” (including I Cor 12:13) has Christ as the one who gives the Spirit, not the Spirit as the one who gives us Christ.
    Effectual calling by God the Father does not mean that it’s the Holy Spirit who includes us into Christ. Even though I agree that there is no imputation and calling apart from the Spirit, I object to making God’s legal imputation only one of the results of some “more basic” union.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    What is the blessing of Abraham? Unless you say the timing the way they want you to, you are “lumped in” with the Arminians–why not “stay safe” and ignore Romans 4 but keep clear of the Arminians? “How could Christ be imputed with my sins and yet I not be cleansed of guilt until faith is wrought in me? How could my debt be paid and yet I not be viewed as debt free? Did ANYTHING actually get accomplished on the cross? This sounds similar to Arminianism where everything depends on faith by the work of the Holy Spirit in someone….

  8. markmcculley Says:

    John Fesko—Even though we can talk about a distinction between the visible and the invisible, or between the external and internal, why should we have to choose between water and the Spirit (Word, Water and Spirit, p 241, baptism as covenant judgment)
    mark—They don’t say “water baptism”, because the Bible does not say “water baptism”, but then they add that “baptism” in the Bible is always water and that there is a “sacramental union” between water as the sign and the “efficacy” as the thing signified.
    And then almost all of them say that the water baptism of John was about the Holy Spirit, and therefore baptism by Jesus and by the church is about both the water and about the Spirit, but NOT about legal identity with Christ’s death or about justification.
    And then they explain there is one gospel only, there is only one church, and therefore the baptism by John is not water only and the baptism by Jesus is not with the Spirit only
    And in this way they know that it’s not Jesus who baptized with the Holy Spirit, but rather that the Holy Spirit “baptizes us into Christ” and so we know that water baptism is not about Christ’s death or righteousness but about the Spirit uniting us to Christ’s righteousness .
    John Fesko, 322— “It is unnecessary to choose between water baptism and Spirit baptism”
    And then Fesko on the same page ( 322) finds it necessary to say that Spirit baptism is not God’s imputation, and also Fesko explains that baptism (both water nd by the Spirit) is NOT Christ’s giving the Spirit, because the Confession teaches us that Spirit baptism is the Spirit giving us Christ by uniting us to Christ by faith.

  9. markmcculley Says:

    The Lord Jesus received the Holy Spirit without measure and was anointed, but the Holy Spirit did not baptize the Lord Jesus.
    Isaiah 61: The Spirit of the Lord God is ON ME,
    because the Lord has ANOINTED Me
    to bring good news to the poor.
    He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and freedom to the prisoners;
    2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of our God’s vengeance;
    to comfort all who mourn,
    3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
    to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
    festive oil instead of mourning,
    and splendid clothes instead of despair.
    And they will be called righteous trees,
    planted by the Lord
    to glorify Him.
    Mark 1: 10 As soon as He came up out of the water, He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending to Him like a dove.
    Luke 4: 14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit
    Luke 4: 20 He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”
    John 3: 31 The One who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what He has seen and heard, yet no one accepts His testimony. 33 The one who has accepted His testimony has affirmed that God is true. 34 For God sent Him, and He speaks God’s words, since He gives the Spirit without measure.
    Hebrews 9: 14 how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who THROUGH THE LASTING SPIRIT offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?

  10. markmcculley Says:

    we say

    not what the Holy Spirit has done in me

    but at the same time we claim

    “the Holy Spirit working in me has caused me to hear and see and understand and believe what I believe, though it’s not clear to most people

    not the Holy Spirit working in me to make me a better person, only in Christ’s death

    BUT HOWEVER— the Holy Spirit working in me to cause me to believe what I (and very few others) believe about Christ’s death

    because we are NOT saying—only in Christ’s making the reconciliation for some by His death, and those some maybe not even hearing the gospel

    instead we ARE SAYING —-the sure and certain result of Christ’s death is that those who receive the reconciliation by imputation WILL HEAR the gospel (will receive the gospel by faith)

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