Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
"THROUGH HIS GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, GOD EQUIPS HIS OWN TO RESIST THE DEVILíS ATTACKS ."
53. Q. What do you believe concerning
the Holy Spirit?
A. First, He is, together with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God. Second, He is also given to me, to make me by true faith share in Christ and all His benefits, to comfort me, and to remain with me forever.
 Gen. 1:1, 2; Matt. 28:19; Acts 5:3, 4; I Cor. 3:16.  I Cor. 6:19; II Cor. 1:21, 22; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 1:13.  Gal. 3:14; I Pet. 1:2.  John 15:26; Acts 9:31.  John 14:16, 17; I Pet. 4:14.
I Corinthians 6:1-11
Singing: (Psalms and Hymns are from the "Book of Praise"
Anglo Genevan Psalter)
Beloved Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Our Lord Jesus Christ left the earth, ascended into heaven and received a seat at Godís right hand. This glory of Christ our Head, we confessed in LD 19, benefits us directly. After all, "by His Holy Spirit" the ascended Christ "pours out heavenly gifts upon us, His members." The first of these heavenly gifts is none less than His Holy Spirit. With LD 20, itís the wealth of this gift that is laid before us.
And Yes, the wealth is great. In a world with devils filled, all threatening to undo us, the Lord has equipped His own so that we may have the wherewithal to resist the devilís attacks. That equipping comes through the Holy Spirit Ė for He is true God, dwelling within us.
I summarise the sermon with this theme:
THROUGH HIS GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, GOD EQUIPS HIS OWN TO RESIST THE DEVILíS ATTACKS
The Marvel of the Spiritís Presence
Who first of all, or what, is the Holy Spirit? We are adequately well informed to realise that the Holy Spirit is somehow divine, God. I want to emphasise, though, that the Holy Spirit is not a power going out from God, is not the influence or muscle of God. Rather, the Holy Spirit is True God Himself, as much true God as the Father and the Son. He is not less than the first or the second Persons of the Trinity, but equal with the Father and the Son.
So it is that I read in the Bible that God the Holy Spirit was involved with the Father and the Son in the creation of the world (Gen 1:2). I read also that the Spirit is everywhere; David in Ps 139 acknowledges to his comfort that he can never get to a place where the Spirit of God is not present. And I read in Scripture that the Holy Spirit knows all things, even the deep and hidden things of God (I Cor 2:10ff). So Peter, when he tells Ananias that he lied to the Holy Spirit, can explain the seriousness of the sin by saying that Ananias in fact lied to God (Acts 5:3f). It all points up that the Holy Spirit is as much true God as the Father and the Son.
If the Holy Spirit is true God, brothers and sisters, the material of our LD puts us distinctly on holy ground. Whatever one might say of God is true also of the Holy Spirit. So we need to watch what we say, need to guard our thoughts as we busy ourselves with Godís revelation about the Holy Spirit Ė lest we take Godís name in vainÖ.
Of this Holy Spirit, true God with the Father and the Son, we confess in our LD that "He is also given to me." We touch here, congregation, a most awesome thought. The word Ďmeí in our LD refers to you, to me. And what are we?
In the beginning holy and eternal God created this world. On the sixth day, the Lord God Himself "formed man of the dust of the ground" (Gen 2:7). The picture is of the sovereign Potter gathering clay together, and fashioning with His own eternal hands a being called man. Into this clay vessel the Lord breathed the breath of life so that man became a living being. What, then, is man? Man is dust, man is clay, a vessel fashioned by the hand of almighty God, and therefore dependent, fully dependent on his divine Maker. Some days or weeks after his marvellous creation, this man and his wife rebelled against God in favour of serving the devil. Besides being finite and creaturely, then, vessel of clay became rebellious, evil, sinful and inclined to every sin.
This, brothers and sisters, is the picture the Lord presents of human beings, of you and of me. Now we say in our LD that the Holy Spirit Ė"He is, together with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God"- is "given to me", is given to persons of clay and dust, more, is given to persons of sin. Here is a thought so marvellous and incomprehensible that we can scarcely get our minds around it! God in the Spirit Ö is given to me, a creature, a sinner: truly, howís that possible!
Yet even that is not the depth of the marvel. For the Scriptures speak of more than that the Holy Spirit is "given" to us; the Scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit making His home in sinners (cf Jn 14:23). So the apostle writes to the Corinthians this:
"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (I Cor 3:16).
In the Old Testament, the Lord God was pleased to dwell amongst His people Israel in that tabernacle they had to build for Him. But God was unapproachable; between God in the Holy of Holies and the vessels of clay outside was a distance, and that distance could be overcome only by the sacrifices on the altar. And never, never could the people come into the presence of God in the Holy of Holies; only the High Priest, and he but once a year, could come near to God.
But thatís not how it is today, says Paul. He says to each believer of Corinth individually that each one is a temple of the Holy Spirit, yes, that the Holy Spirit dwells in each one of the Corinthian believers. Here, then, is no longer distance as there was in the Old Testament; here is nearness, closeness!
This, of course, is the blessed result of Christís work on the cross. When He paid for sin and reconciled Godís own to God, the distance there was between God and man was overcome, bridged, removed. So on Good Friday the veil of the temple was torn (Mk 15:38). We may approach God in prayer, boldly speak to Him (Heb 9,10), and God also comes to us again, now in the Holy Spirit. See there, brothers and sisters, the wealth of Pentecost; the distance between holy God and the sinful creature man is overcome, and so the Holy Spirit Ė"He is, together with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God!"- has come to live in vessels of clay, to dwell in the hearts of those for whom the Son of God died. So Paul can say emphatically to the Romans that "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Rom 8:9). That is: everybody washed by the blood of Christ also Ďhasí the Spirit of Christ; you cannot benefit from Christís blood shed on the cross without also benefiting from Christís Spirit poured out on Pentecost. That is why our LD says that the Holy Spirit "is also given to me." For in the Catechism the believer confesses what God has done for him and in him. And every believer without exception benefits from both the blood of Christ and the Spirit of Christ (cf LD 1).
Let none of you, congregation, ever cease to marvel at the riches God has given in the outpouring of His Holy Spirit. That God Most High, eternal and holy, should make His home in the hearts of sinners Ėyou, me!- is cause for ceaseless praise and unending delight. What a God, that He should draw sinners so close to Himself!
The Result of the Spiritís Presence
What, now, might the effect of Godís coming be? Think about it: if true and eternal God would make His home in the hearts of sinful vessels of clay, what must happen to these people? Can it leave them cold, untouched, unchanged? The Bible is emphatic: the vessels in which the Spirit of holy God makes His home are healed, their brokenness repaired. That is: the coming of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of sinners causes change in these sinners, radical change. To draw out the reality of the change that comes upon those in whom the Spirit makes His home, I ask your attention to three examples.
After God made His covenant with Israel at Mt Sinai, the Lord gave to Moses instructions to build a tabernacle, instructions too about how to build it. The purpose of the tabernacle was that holy God might dwell among His covenant people (Ex 25:8).
Amongst the thousand of Israel assembled at the foot of the mountain, there were undoubtedly numerous who were gifted tradesmen, very able to prepare the frames for the tabernacle, able to weave the clothe required for it, able to do the required embroidery work, able to make the altar, the ark, the basin, etc. Still, can creaturely hands, sinful hands build a dwelling place fit for God? We realise: that cannot be. So God, after He had given the details of how to build that tabernacle spoke to Moses like this:
"See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, indeed I, have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all who are gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded youÖ" (Ex 31:2ff).
The point? Bezalel and Aholiab are changed from average, maybe gifted craftsmen, into men able to make a house fitting for God to dwell. By the coming of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, these men are changed, made able to do what otherwise they could not do.
My second example comes from the events of Pentecost day. After the Holy Spirit was poured out, and Peter had preached his Pentecost sermon, "about 3000 souls" repented, came to faith, and joined the group of disciples. These 3000 persons included undoubtedly 20 year olds and 70 year olds, and everything in between, and possibly their children too. Some of these 3000 persons had worked for years and years in the labour force, and built up for themselves their little kingdoms Ė a house or two, a summer cottage, a team of donkeys and a flash cart, a respectable wardrobe, etc. Like anybody else would doÖ.
But hear now what these people did. Acts 2:
"Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need" (vss 44f).
What this selfless generosity is? We understand: the Holy Spirit has come upon these people so that they are changed. They are changed, they are not what they used to be. Instead of clinging to the treasures they had acquired over the years, they freely gave for the benefit of others in need.
The point is again: where the Holy Spirit comes to make His home, there invariably comes change in the persons concerned. You cannot separate the Holy Spirit from change.
My third example comes from Paulís letter to the Corinthians, the portion we read. We need first to know that the city of Corinth had a notorious reputation in the days of Paul. So notorious was the reputation that the peoples around the city took the name of the city Ė"Corinth"- and cast it into a verb Ė to corinthise. That word was used to describe gross sexual behaviour. For thatís what the people of Corinth readily gave themselves too: gross sexual pleasures.
To a city notorious for its prostitution and its homosexual behaviour and its sodomy, the apostle Paul came with the good news of grace in Jesus Christ. By the working of almighty God, various in the city came to faith. But now what: did these corinthians-come-to-faith continuing with their corinthising? Listen to Paul:
"Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (I Cor 6:9-11).
I repeat what Paul says: "such were some of you." Notice the past tense. Among the saints of Corinth washed in the blood of Jesus Christ were persons who used to be true corinthians, who gave themselves to the passions of the flesh, to homosexuality, to adultery, to sodomy, etc. But they donít any more Ėwhy not?- because of the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. For where the Spirit is there comes change, radical change.
Our ascended Saviour has poured out His Holy Spirit. This Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ Ėtrue God with the Father and the Son- has been "given to me", we confess in LD 20. That marvellous grace of God must by definition, then, result in change in my life, radical change. That is why the apostle also speaks in Gal 5 of "the fruits of the Spirit", and speaks of these fruits as normal for each believer.
We read the passage. The apostle contrasts the "works of the flesh" with the "fruit of the Spirit". The works of the flesh include such vices and attitudes as
"adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like" (vss 19ff).
Paul repeats to the Galatians what he said to the Corinthians: those who give themselves to such vices cannot inherit the kingdom of God, simply because giving oneself to such vices shows that one is not changed, not renewed by the Holy Spirit. And if one is not changed, then the Holy Spirit is not present. And if the Spirit of Christ has not made His home in you, you are not washed by the blood of Christ either. So: "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (vs 21).
But those in whom the Holy Spirit Ėtrue God with the Father and the Son- is pleased to dwell are changed so that they bring forth fruit particular to the Holy Spirit. This fruit, says Paul, is as follows:
"love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (vss 22f).
We need to notice how this list contrasts with the "works of the flesh" Paul mentioned earlier. For example, a work of the flesh is to hate, to explode in wrath, to be selfishly motivated. In place of such attitudes and conduct, the Holy Spirit causes the child of God to produce love. And love, he says to the Corinthians,
"is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" I Cor 13:4ff Ė NIV).
A second example. The person in whom the Spirit has made His home is characterised by joy. Instead of being driven by selfish ambition or envy or revenge (works of the flesh all), the person changed by the Spirit sets that aside in favour of joy. Again, instead of dissensions and contentions, the person changed by the Spirit exudes peace and longsuffering. So I can go through the whole list. The point is that the person in whom the Spirit dwells is changed, radically changed so that his behaviour is distinctly the fruit of the Spirit.
We understand: for the Corinthians this difference in behaviour will have been most obvious for one and all to observe. That is: the folk of town could see plain as day that the friend with whom theyíd grown up and frequented all the nightclubs was now different, changed; he no longer hung out with them, no longer joined them in their fornication. The change was obvious. Yet we may be sure, congregation, that when this changed man became the father of covenant children, he did not permit his covenant children - Godís children!- to have a youth like he himself did. Rather, he will surely Ėlike we do with our children today- have taught his children after him to live as holy children of God from their early childhood. When these children in the course of time, then, produce fruits of the Spirit, the neighbour across the road doesnít see a change in them, simply because those children were taught to be different from the start. But the fact remains that the heart and its inclinations is changed by the Spirit nevertheless, changed from being bent to do evil to being bent to desire the will of God. No person in whom the Holy Spirit dwells is void of this fruit. That is why there is no contrast between the work of the Holy Spirit and our work as parents; rather, it is primarily through the labours of the parents as His tools that the Holy Spirit changes the hearts of the next generation. That is why we as parents indeed need to make it our business to teach our children to produce the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Gal 5, from childhood already, and produce them abundantly.
The Mandate of the Spiritís Presence
Now our last point, the mandate of the Spiritís presence. The change worked in sinnersí hearts by the Holy Spirit is a radical change; the homosexuals and sodomites of Corinth who came to faith in Jesus Christ were homosexuals and sodomites no longer. Instead of adultery and fornication, the Spirit caused them to produce faithfulness (in their marriages) and self-control (cf Gal 5:19,22f); thatís a radical change. Question: does that mean that the change worked by the Spirit was total? That is: does the person changed by the Spirit produce only fruits of the Spirit, and produce them all the time?
The answer is No. The change worked by the Spirit is radical, Yes, but it is not total. The child of God is supposed to love all the time and never hate, is supposed to be at peace with one another all the time and never show dissension and conflict. But the fact of the matter is that in the brokenness of this life, no child of God does that.
Thatís why we need to notice, congregation, how the apostle began the section to the Galatians about the fruit of the Spirit. Within the church of Jesus Christ in Galatia were children of God who were biting and devouring each other (vs 15). Acceptable for those changed by the Spirit? Definitely not. That is why Paul issues the command of vs 16: "I say then: Walk by the SpiritÖ." Letís be honest: if producing the fruit of the Spirit always came automatically to the person in whom the Spirit dwells, there would be no need for this instruction. But Paul gives the instruction, and explains why also. Vs 17:
"For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish."
Thatís to say: to show the fruit of the Spirit is a challenge. Though the renewed child of God ought to show the fruit of the Spirit in all he does, and is made able to show the fruit of the Spirit in all he does, the child of God in fact does not show the fruit of the Spirit in all he does. Though David was a man after Godís heart, and the Spirit of God dwelt within him (cf Ps 51:11), in the affair with Bethsheba as well as his refusal to repent David did not show the fruit of the Spirit. When Peter was afraid of the circumcision party, this man in whom the Spirit of God dwelt did not show the fruit of the Spirit (cf Gal 2:11ff). When the saints of Corinth were taking each other to court, they were not producing the fruits of the Spirit befitting children of God (I Cor 6:1ff). When the believers of Galatia were biting and devouring one another, these saints of God were not producing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:13ff). And when the believers of Galatia showed no gentleness in their efforts to restore a man overtaken in any trespass, they were not producing the fruit of the Spirit (6:1). And when these same saints of Galatia looked down on a brother in their midst because of his sins, they again were not displaying the fruit of the Spirit (6:3).
Similarly, it is possible in our midst today for a person renewed by the Spirit to fail in a given circumstance to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. It is wrong, for the person changed by the Spirit of God should obey Godís commands perfectly. But the fact of the matter is that God the Holy Spirit has not and does not change Godís children totally in this life. Weíre radically changed, O yes, but not totally changed. So, in the words of LD 44, "even the holiest have only a small beginning of the obedience God requires." Let no one be dismayed, then, to be told that in a given circumstance heís not showing the fruit of the Spirit. Let each of us instead remember why Paul had to instruct the Galatians to "walk in the Spirit", and so take his admonition to heart, and daily make it our business to resist the urges of the flesh that remain within us and produce abundantly the fruit of the Spirit Ė be it in our bedrooms and bathrooms, be it in our kitchens and lounges, in our offices and factories and classrooms, be it when we talk over a cup of coffee or do our daily work. Producing the fruit of the Spirit is not automatic for us; we need to make it our business to produce this fruit.
And hereís the comfort of it all: in the strength of the Spirit who dwells within us we are able to resist the attacks of the devil against us, are able to produce the fruit of the Spirit. We remain weak, true, and the lusts of the flesh are strong. But: the sovereign, ascended Christ has given us His Holy Spirit, and so we can resist the urges of the flesh. The Lord has given us His Holy Spirit, and so vessels of clay can fight against being homosexual both in practice and in inclination (so, No, you cannot blame homosexuality on the brain!). The Lord has given His Holy Spirit, and so we can fight against both feelings of hatred and actions of hatred, can fight against both emotions of jealousy as well as words or deeds driven by jealousy. The Spirit has made His home in us, and this Spirit is none less that "true and eternal God". So then, we may be confident that no desire of the flesh, no inclination to evil, is too much for us.
Itís a fact: in the strength of the Spirit of almighty God, vessels of clay can shine like the Son. Amen.