“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you. All things whatsoever the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he taketh of mine, and shall declare it unto you.” (John 16:12-15).
In the previous chapter we tried to show how the Holy Spirit has been at work in God’s people down through the ages. How helpless they were when the Spirit was absent, and how courageous and strong they were when they fought the most difficult battles in the power of Spirit. We tried also to point out some of the ways in which the Holy Spirit works; we saw that He disturbs the sinner in his sin, permits him to reach a dead end in the maze of attempts to save himself, places a desire in his heart for Jesus, and finally magnifies the Savior for him in such a way that all guilt and fear of judgment is drowned in the great sea of salvation. It is at this point that the old things pass away and all things become new.
God’s child I am!
With wonder and joy I can say
God’s child I am.
O Lord, can it really be true?
The Scriptures declare it is true! With wonder and joy I can say
God’s child I am.
May none of us forget that great day in our lives; may none of us lose what he received on that day. To find Jesus, to be saved, to be born of God — this is the greatest of all things that can happen to us here below. The great question for us who have been saved is how we may pass safely through this world and reach our heavenly home at last. It is for this purpose that we have received the Holy Spirit.
From the Scriptures we know that the Spirit works in and through God’s people. He is to be with us and in us. He is to lead us into all truth, to take of the riches in Christ and reveal them to us. He is also to help us to gain the victory over sin, and to grow in the knowledge of Christ; the Spirit is to be our leader in carrying the message of our Savior to all the races of men. Finally, He is to bring us safely to our heavenly home.
However, before we say anything further about this side of the work of the Holy Spirit, we shall let the Scriptures show us another side of what the Holy Spirit is for God’s people.
“For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.” (I Cor. 3:11.)
“In whom ye also, having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation — in
whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” (Eph. 1:13).
“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30).
“Now he that established us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God; who also sealed us, and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (II Cor. 1:21-22).
The content of these passages of Scripture is that the foundation upon which we are to build our whole life and all of our faith is Jesus Christ. That is the foundation which has been laid, and no one can lay any other. But while we are absent from the Lord and sojourners here below we are to have something of heaven. God has given us a “seal” and an “earnest” of our inheritance. We shall be permitted to keep this “seal” and “earnest” until the day of redemption. In these simple words we are told that God has given the Spirit to His people; this great gift we are permitted to have as a “seal” and an “earnest.”
A “seal” is a mark or name that an owner inscribes upon that which is his. An “earnest” is something which a recipient receives as a temporary surety for that which he really owns and has a right to receive some time in the future. The “earnest” must be of the same kind and quality as that for which it stands as a surety.
God has placed His seal upon His people. This seal is a sign to Him, to us who are on earth and to those in both heaven and hell, indicating to whom we belong. In addition we have also received an “earnest” that we are to have until our dying day; with this “earnest” we are to appear before God and claim the right, as children of God, to our inheritance.
The “seal” and the “earnest” is the Holy Spirit.
Is not this wonderful?
This is in reality the same as that which God’s people received under the Old Covenant. The only difference is that for them it was an out- ward sign, while for us it is an inward possession. For them it was a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. It was by these signs they knew that they were God’s people and were on the road to their fatherland. Now it is an inward possession for every Christian; it is our light and power through life and death.
Even if we have not seen Him on whom we believe, we have the “earnest” in our hearts; that gives us both light and power. Without it faith would not be able to bring us to our goal. God’s Word, even with the greatest of its promises, would be worthless for our inner being without the light of the Spirit. On the dangerous journey over the uncharted road lying before us no one would reach his destination with- out the cloud, the fire, the “seal,” the “earnest,” —the Spirit of God. But with the shining star of the Word, and the enlivening power of the Spirit, it shall be possible for all who are sincere.
Dead without Him are our hearts; As desert and desolate parts, As hearth without spark or fire, As mute as the silenced lyre.
* * *
The great question for many a Christian is this: “How shall I know that I have God’s Spirit, and that the Spirit is the guiding power of my life?” During the first days of his Christian life there was little difficulty on this point; but with the passing years uncertainty has taken the place of conviction. The first testimony of the Spirit and the first happy days are gone. That the Holy Spirit bore witness with his spirit that he was a Christian at the time he first gave himself to the Lord, that he knows; but how is it now? Frequently he asks himself if he has lost the Spirit of God.
For many it is probably altogether too true that the fire on the altar of their hearts has been extinguished and the testimony of the Spirit has been silenced. But for others it is their insufficient knowledge of the ways of God which causes them to ask if the Spirit has left them.
All life is subject to laws, and these laws cannot be broken without detriment to that life which was to be governed by them. So it is also with the spiritual life; it is subject to definite laws. The Holy Spirit works according to these laws. It is not absolutely necessary to know how the Spirit works, but it is of utmost importance that the Spirit does work.
Knowledge of how the Spirit works is not so important as that the Spirit does His work in us. To have both is best. Then knowledge of both self and God will increase, and the Christian will grow to the full stature of Christ. To make the matter more pointed, I should like to remind you that the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth. All truth is not only that concerning Christ, but the truth concerning ourselves as well.
When we were brought to Christ for the first time it was out from a life of sin. We were full of the dismal knowledge that we were sinners. We did not develop this knowledge within ourselves, but we received it from the Word of God through the Spirit. Against this dark background of the knowledge of ourselves as sinners the Spirit portrayed Christ before our eyes as one crucified. That we were in need of help was something that we knew very well then.
The truth concerning ourselves, even after we have become Christians and have lived as such for some time, is the truth about sin, folly, weakness, little of that which is good and much of that which is evil. When the Spirit lays His measuring-rod upon each of our acts and every changing emotion in the depths of the heart, then he who is anxious to know the truth will come to know his own shortcomings. But if the truth concerning the Savior is to have continuing value for us we must come to realize that we really need Him. Otherwise the Christian life will degenerate into mere talk, and we shall be left with empty soul and the mind of a Pharisee.
It is possible to twist out of the predicament of having to admit that we are sinners. We can imagine that we are through with sin, that we are perfect, and that we have risen above that which is evil. We may also for a time get ourselves to believe that we are no longer responsible for the sinful acts, words and thoughts; we can say that these are of the devil and we are not accountable for them. But this fantastic He is soon put to death by the simple truth of life — to the chagrin of those who have held such views.
This lying spirit of the devil has made great inroads into the Christian Church in our day and has deceived many. It appears that this spirit will make still further advances before the false finery falls off and people will get to see this error as it really is. There is so much in our time which tends to foster this heresy. The sinful human being is shrouded in darkness by a restless chase, the prevailing flat and unspiritual view of life and the indistinct conception of God’s holiness.
But this is not the way of God with His people. The Spirit of truth probes into the depths of the heart; He places us face to face with God; we are led to acknowledge full responsibility for that which we are and do. Consequently, the sincere Christian is often disappointed with himself and his piety. The Holy Spirit shows us so much in our life that is not of God and is not sanctioned by God. We see that we lack both piety and love, and have so little of that which is from God. The weak, faded, unspiritual life which we have lived is laid bare before our eyes. Because we are so self-sufficient and wicked in our attitude we have reason to question that we are children of God; we know this, and it makes us disappointed with ourselves and discouraged over our Christianity.
The Holy Spirit shows us our sin, and makes sin exceedingly sinful. Sin becomes a burden that we find impossible to bear. Now it is not so much the sins of others we see but rather our own sin. The person who is most completely under the discipline of the Holy Spirit is most painfully aware of his own sins; contrariwise, he who has less of the Holy Spirit will see most clearly the sins of others. Consequently, a song frequently sung by the true Christian today is that of the true servant of God in former days:
Before Thee, God, who knowest all, With grief and shame I prostrate fall; I see my sins against Thee, Lord, The sins of thought, and deed, and word; They press me sore, I cry to Thee; 0 God, be merciful to me.
That which characterizes the work of the Holy Spirit is that when He teaches us to know our sin it causes us such pain; it is like a heavy rock upon our heart, and we find ourselves unable to endure it. From beneath this burden rises a strong yearning for help, and this yearning leads us to Jesus. There we fall down before Him with all that we have; there we may “wail out our woe”; there we lay bare before Him everything that we are, and we find that He is the Savior and Comforter of His people. Poor and thirsty, we now lie at the fountain of life under the Cross of Christ — not from ancient custom, nor because it is so appropriate, but because an inner necessity compels us. Now it is no longer a matter of empty words or pious phrases; now confession is brought forth from the depths of the heart. All that is evil and sinful — such as smallness and self-love, self-sufficiency and sins of omissions, the sour, lazy, pouting heart, the cutting words and evil thoughts — all is poured out before Him.
Great things are happening to us as we thus lie at the mercy-seat. We can be certain that it is the Holy Spirit who is working with us then; we ourselves would never have invented such a confession, nor would we make such a confession if we had invented it.
As weary and heavy-hearted as you were when you came and “poured out your woe,” so blissful and happy are you now. For He who chastises, comforts as well; that is God’s promise to us. So sure is the comfort that before the tear has been wiped away a peaceful smile lights up the countenance as an indication that there is joy in the heart.
Now you no longer sing songs of lamentations. You would be true neither to God nor yourself if you did. Now you sing instead:
There’s sunshine in my soul today More glorious and bright Than shines in any earthly sky, For Jesus is my light.
The Spirit has magnified Jesus before your heart again, and therefore you are now courageous and glad. You were permitted to see more clearly the deceitfulness of your own heart; you also found the way into the heart of the Savior.
This is the truth about sin and grace.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit in a Christian. Thus the Holy Spirit teaches us the truth both concerning us ourselves and God.
The Spirit does not magnify Himself for us, nor our own godliness, but Christ. God’s Spirit makes us so small in our own eyes, poor in spirit, dissatisfied with ourselves and our own spirituality; He creates in us such a desire for help that we are never able to get along without Jesus.
“Far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal. 6: 4).
Christ is the only comfort the Christians have. Without Him everything is vain. Therefore the Spirit draws us again and again to Him until we in heaven stand face to face before Jesus. Then we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.
O sweet and blessed country, The home of God’s elect! O sweet and blessed country That eager hearts expect! Jesus in mercy bring us To that dear land of rest; Who art, with God the Father And Spirit, ever blest.
In conclusion I should like to direct a heart-searching question to all Christians who read this. It is this question: Does the Holy Spirit ever reprove you? Are you convicted of sin and powerlessness in your inmost being? Do you know what it is to enter your closet, close your door, and weep over your sins at the feet of Jesus? Do you know what it is to lift two empty hands up to Him who has grace to give to the sinner?
If you know that, then you also know what it is to have a joyful heart. Then you know Him also who wipes away the tear and creates gratitude to God in a liberated soul.