THE SPIRIT SHED ON US ABUNDANTLY
by Given O. Blakely
"3:3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." NKJV (Titus 3:3-7)
The abundance of Godís salvational provisions is most remarkable. It has captured the attention of holy angels, seraphs and cherubim. The sages of the years have been intrigued with the great and wonderful works of God. The most prodigious minds in the world have been enraptured when contemplating Godís "great salvation" (Heb 2:3). When young David slew the seasoned giant warrior Goliath, it was said of him, "For he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine, and the LORD wrought a great salvation for all Israel" (1 Sam 19:5). But today, among the vast body of "the spirits of just men made perfect" (Heb 12:23), David stands in tribute of a salvation far greater than the one wrought through him in the valley of Elah! The great things that God has done in saving the people sitting before me, far transcends that remarkable overthrow of Goliath of Gath! David testified beforehand of the glory of the salvation of which you have become partakers. "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Rom 4:6-8).
One of the great tragedies of our day is the weakness of the contemporary church. It is altogether too common for people identified with Christ to stand in amazement at the shepherd boy of Israel, as though he had something better than us. Salvation has become so common upon the lips of churchmen that it rarely stirs admiration and praise among them. Somehow, they have become enamored with the need for others to be saved, all the while forgetting what God has done, and is doing, in them. They do not hear often of Godís "great salvation," and consequently think very infrequently about it.
The outcome of this is that many are neglecting "so great salvation." They have not moved on to perfection, as God requires of them (Heb 6:1-3). Spiritual maturity is not at all common among those professing the name of Christ. People who have been Christians for years, still lisp in infantile speech, and are unable to perceive the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. This is the result of not comprehending "with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height; to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge" NKJV (Eph 3:18-19).
The purpose of these meetings is to shine the jewel of redemption, awakening in the saints thanksgiving for what the Lord has done. The clearer salvation is seen, the greater will be oneís experience of the grace of God. Spiritual strength is imparted with the vision, and strong incentives are created in the soul. Both faith and hope become prominent when the grace of God is known "in truth" (Col 1:6). They become twin pillars upon which a hearty effort is expended to obtain the everlasting prize.
It is not possible for small vision to produce great things. Those who cannot "see afar off," forget they were purged from their old sins (2 Pet 1:9). They lapse into lukewarmness and mediocrity because their religion is too dull. It is not stimulating to the soul, challenging to the mind, or comforting to the heart. Their God is too small. Their Savior is too mundane! Their salvation is too inconsequential. They do not pursue the things of God because they do not know in their hearts there are things to be pursued. Their affection is not set on things above because they are unaware of them. They have been inoculated with the vaccine of religious smallness.
And what is the remedy for this dreadful condition? I will tell you what it is. It is to hold before the people the "wonderful works of God." That is what started the tidal wave of salvation, and that is what will keep it rolling forward, carrying us to glory (Acts 2:11). This has been the purpose of these gatherings Ė to set before you the abundance of salvation. We have sought to persuade you of the plentitude of everything about this "great salvation." Nothing about it is small sparse, or inadequate.
Every need is supplied, and it is supplied in abundance. There is no area of need that has been neglected by God, or that has not been provided for in copious measures. I have every confidence that when this reality is seen, it will stir holy activity and high levels of zeal among the saints. It will make them better, stronger, happier, and more confident. Their faith will increase, their love will flourish, and their hope will blossom as the rose. Their hearts will be stronger, and their minds will be more keen.
WHAT WE WERE
"3:3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another." In order to appreciate the greatness of our salvation, and the necessity of having an abundance of the Holy Spirit, we must remember "the hole of the pit" from which we were "digged" (Isa 51:1). We have not always been the "living stones" we have become in Jesus (1 Pet 2:5). We believers are not the product of some inherent goodness that lay dormant within our breasts. God did not awaken some virtue in us, but put something new in us that we never had before! It is not that everyone has faith, as some falsely affirm, and God caused it to ignite within us. We had no faith, no good, no virtue, no righteousness of our own. We are, in every sense of the word, "His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Eph 2:10). While we are ashamed of what we were, we are not ashamed to acknowledge it, and to give God the glory for the change He has wrought in us. Ponder this confession. Determine to join in, acknowledging that this text has precisely framed our former condition.
By briefly reviewing these conditions, I intend to show the need for an abundance of the Holy Spirit. Our natural condition could not be corrected by a little grace, a small measure of the Holy Spirit, or a mere token of Divine goodness. No trickling stream of water would do, we needed a river that would "make glad the city of God!" No small light for the soul was needed, we required the "Sun of righteousness," in the zenith of its glory, to rise upon us!
It will cause sorrow to hear what we were. It may summon up the recollection of matters that bring shame and regret. That is why I am going to begin here, but not end here. I have reserved a horn of sanctifying oil to pour upon your heads, a sweet elixir of precious mollifying ointment that will sooth your souls. But I must first remind you of the past, when we were "without God and without hope in the world" (Eph 2:12).
FOOLISH. Regardless of the academic attainments some of us may have enjoyed, the proper assessment of our powers of reason was "foolish!" We did not know what the issues were. We did not know who God was. We did not know what God had done. We did not even know what we had done. Our understanding of Scripture was deplorable. We did not see the world as it was. We were ignorant of heaven, Jesus, salvation, and the New Covenant. We were stumbling down the road that leads to destruction, and did not even know it. The wrath of God was abiding upon us, and we were ignorant of it. We were already condemned and were unaware of it. We did not even know what the real questions were, to say nothing of the proper answers to them. We were "foolish," living our lives just as though there was no God, no heaven, no hell, and no spiritual need. Our minds were the seed-bed for folly, vanity, and utter pointlessness. Imaginations ruled us. We were "fools" in every sense of the word. It will take a lot to save someone like that!
DISOBEDIENT. We did not simply fail to do some more important things, we were "disobedient." That was our nature. If God required us to do something, we did not do it. If He said not to do it, we did it. We were "disobedient." God made us, but we were insubordinate and unruly. We were like the horse and the mule that need a bit and bridle to steer them into the right path (Psa 32:9). We were "children of disobedience" in whom the devil was working (Eph 2:2; 5:6). It will take a lot to save someone like that!
DECEIVED. Satan had "blinded" our minds, so we could not believe the Gospel (2 Cor 4:4). We had a distorted sense of values. We saw this world as the main world, and placed no significance on the world to come. We thought the day of judgment was not all that important, and rarely considered the coming of the Lord and the end of all things. We were "deceived." Satan deceived us, just as surely as he did Eve. We were "led astray" NRSV into the realm of spiritual jeopardy and condemnation. Like ignorant sheep, the devil led us into the area where God had no recourse but to condemn us. It will take a lot to save someone like that!
SERVING VARIOUS LUSTS AND PLEASURES. The word "serving" is unusually strong. Other versions read "enslaved to various lusts and pleasures." NASB/NIV Various, or divers, lusts and pleasures are desires that rivet us to this world Ė this cursed and passing world. They tie us to a ship that is sinking, and bind us in a building that is burning. We had variety in our lives, but it was certainly not "the spice of life," as some are wont to say. We served a variety of passions, and all of them were condemned. We could not break away from the things we wanted. We could not even stop wanting them, desiring them, craving them! It will take a lot to save someone like that!
LIVING IN MALICE AND ENVY. Our hearts were like seething pots of poison. Our own persons were the center of our universe. We were opposed to those who did not honor us, entertaining ill will toward those we did not prefer. Sometimes our malice even erupted in casting aspersions against God Himself, as though He had not been good enough to us. Instead of seeking to be like the Lord, we envied men, seeking to be like them. We tended to be jealous over the success of others. We wanted the wrong things, and sought to follow the wrong people. It will take a lot to save someone like that!
HATEFUL AND HATING ONE ANOTHER. Hatred is like an acid to the soul. It consumes the individual like fire taken into the bosom. We did not hate Satan, but those who were made after the likeness of God. We did not hate sin, but those whom we thought unworthy of our attention. We could speak against men without any compunctions. Sometimes our hatred was directed to our own families, friends, and associates. The venom of sin had infected our whole emotional makeup. It will take a lot to save someone like that!
THIS IS HOW JESUS FOUND US
This is how Jesus found us! When He came to "seek and to save" us, He found us ravished by sin, hopeless and bludgeoned into despair by the prince of the power of the air, who worked in us according to his own good pleasure. A holy Savior found an unholy people! A compassionate Lord found a hateful people! The Son of God, who was obedient in all things, found a wayward and disobedient people!
This will be the test of the effectiveness of salvation! Will the Savior be able to rescue a people like this? Will the Lord of glory be proficient to change those with such profound and penetrating defilements? Is His arm long enough to reach into the pits of despair? Is His hand strong enough to lift them from the lowest devilish domain to the lofty heavenly places? Can He command light to shine that will dissipate the darkness that dominates this world?
And, if all of these requirements can be met, does He have a heart for such an aggressive work? If these can be accomplished, it will cause praise in heaven as well as in earth. It will frustrate and destroy the devil as well as liberate the captives. Principalities and powers that have plundered the human race will themselves be spoiled and dashed to the ground!
THE GRAND DISJUNCTIVE
" 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared . . . " Here is the grand disjunctive Ė the point at which everything changed! Precisely at the right time Ė a predetermined time Ė a ray of penetrating light shot from heaven into the "gross darkness" that covered the people. There came a time when the prophecy of Isaiah was brought to its highest fulfillment. "For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you" (Isa 60:2). The KJV reads, "AFTER the love and kindness . . . " Other versions say "when . . . " The idea of the word "after" is that the appearance of reference was a line of demarcation that separated one condition from another. The thought put forward by the word "when" emphasizes that. Commensurate with the appearing of reference, life-giving grace was made available.
The thing that made the difference was not the work of men, but the work of God! Men did not rise to a higher level, but kindness and love came down to remove them from the lowest level. In order for men to change, a Divine initiative was required. Men could not make the kindness of God appear! They could not cause the love of God to appear! They did not even know enough to ask for it, let alone cause it to become apparent.
The cause of this appearance is found solely in God Himself, "who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph 1:11). The qualities of reference did not simply "appear" in the process of time, but by an act of Divine assertion. God intervened in the affairs of men, unveiling Divine attributes that could not be known apart from revelation.
Nature bears testimony of Godís "eternal power and Godhead" (Rom 1:20). Its witness is unending, and "There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard" (Psa 19:3). However, in all of its grandeur, nature does not lisp one syllable about Godís "kindness" and "love."
The Law, given amidst fearful events on Sinai, bore witness to Godís righteousness. It provided a sort of snap shot of the nature of God Ė a likeness of aspects of His moral character. But it did not speak of His "kindness" and "love." Although it contained faint glimmers and shadows of these qualities, it provided no extended commentary or display of them. It demanded that men love God, but did not announce that God loved them. A Divinely imposed veil was draped over Godís "kindness" and "love" until God was pleased to make them known. All during the reign of the Law, only those with faith received any insights concerning the kindness and love of God Ė and they were only introductory.
THE KINDNESS. The word "kindness" carries the idea of gentleness and goodness. It is an attribute that allows the thrice-holy God to come close to man without consuming him. In fact, He draws near with gentleness and tenderness, being careful NOT to consume him. Beyond that, His "kindness" permits God to do good to those who have no goodness of their own, and to bless those worthy of being cursed. This "kindness" will not break a bruised reed, nor quench a smoking flax (Isa 42:3; Matt 12:20). It will pick up the sick and faint, bearing them in tender hands of mercy (Isa 40:11). David referred to the Lordís "merciful kindness" (Psa 117:2), and Isaiah spoke of "everlasting kindness" (Isa 54:8). At the proper time, Godís nature to be kind, bless, and do good to humanity was revealed.
THE LOVE. So very little was known of the love of God before it "appeared." Some few saints were introduced to it, but only in abbreviated ways. The term "love of God" only appears once in any major translation of the Old Testament Scriptures (Psa 52:8). Moses told Israel about Godís love, associating it with their election as a people (Deut 7:7). Isaiah declared God had "pity" upon the people because of His love, and had therefore delivered and redeemed them (Isa 63:9). Zephaniah foretold an era when the Lord would "rest in His love," and "joy" over the people "with singing" (Zeph 3:17).
However, only small portions were revealed of the indispensable qualities of the "kindness" and "love" of God, so necessary to the salvation of men. As long as sin was not dealt with in a satisfactory manner, the "kindness" and "love" of God were greatly obscured. They did not shine with prominence, but only glimmered before the sons of men as distant luminaries.
THE APPEARANCE. There is a twofold sense in which "the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared."
First, it "appearedí when "the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world" (1 John 4:14). The kindness and love of God came within the range of our perception when the Son of God was revealed, or made known. Specifically, it appeared when Christ laid down His life for us. Thus it is written, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us" (1 John 3:16). Then "His great love wherewith He loved us" was unveiled to humanity, "even when we were dead in sins" (Eph 2:4). In His vicarious death, the extent of Godís love was made known. It reached as far as the curse, descending, as it were, as far as sin had taken humanity. In this remarkable display of love, "the church of God" was "purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28).
Second, the love and kindness of God "appeared" when it was perceived by faith. At the point the individual believes "the record that God gave of His Son" (1 John 5:10), the veil is lifted from these glorious characteristics. The heart is then convinced that Divine acceptance can be realized, remission experienced, and recovery enjoyed. The Holy Spirit not only convinces men of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11), but of Godís love as well. In fact, "the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" NKJV (Rom 5:5). Then "the kindness and the love of God our Savior" is known.
But these are not impersonal traits, merely to be logged in a theological dictionary. This is "kindness" and "love" "toward man," who so sorely requires them. These qualities are not related to mere pity, but to salvation, or deliverance: "God our SAVIOR!" Through them something has been done about our dreadful situation. Both are tender, yet powerful and persuasive.
THE MEANS OF SALVATION
" 5 . . . not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit . . . " It is not enough for the Spirit to declare God saved us. He unveils HOW He did NOT save us, as well as how He did. No room must be left for human conjecture or speculation, even though man is prone to indulge in such vanities. Even after the Spirit has extended Himself to clarify this matter, men still dispute over the means of salvation, thereby revealing their hardness of heart and insensitivity to God. It is no wonder such an abundance of Divine activity is required to save the soul!
WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. Immediately, the Spirit blocks the way to fleshly boasting. If we are to account for salvation, we must not look to men or what they have done. Our text takes us to the very best activity of which unregenerate man is capable: "works of righteousness." It is obvious man cannot be justified by his sin, transgression, iniquity, disobedience, or waywardness. Even the ungodly will acknowledge that. Thus, man is viewed in the most favorable way.
And, what are "works of righteousness which we have done?" This is the very best that we can do. It is our most virtuous and hearty efforts to keep the Law of God. It includes our most noble intentions, and our most favorable accomplishments. Were we able to gather all such things together into one grand bundle, we would have to confess, "all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags" (Isa 64:6).
God did not save us because we were good, but because we were not good. He was not moved to deliver us because we were righteous, but because we were unrighteous. It is not what we did that moved Him to save us, but what we did not and could not do. That is what "kindness" and "love" does! It supplies what we cannot supply, and delivers us from what held us captive.
ACCORDING TO HIS MERCY HE SAVED US. This phrase is the opposite of "by works of righteousness which we have done." Salvation cannot be by mercy and works that we have done, for each of those is mutually exclusive. If it is by mercy, it cannot be by works. Conversely, if it is by works, it cannot be by mercy. Mercy is required because of the unacceptability of our works. To put it in the words of Scripture, "And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work" (Rom 11:6).
By saying "ACCORDING to His mercy," the Spirit means that Godís mercy moved Him to save us. His mercy superintended our deliverance from sin and the imputation of His righteousness to us. If God was not merciful, it would not have been possible for us to be washed, justified, and sanctified (1 Cor 6:11).
THE WASHING OF REGENERATION. Instead of our works being the basis for our salvation, we had to be "washed" from the contamination they brought to us. However, this washing is most unique. It is not like the ceremonial washings of the Law, which left the people unchanged morally and spiritually. The washing through which salvation is effected is one of "regeneration." In it, the old passes away and the new comes (2 Cor 5:17). Sins are washed away and Divine acceptance is realized (Acts 22:16; Eph 1:6). The "old man" is crucified, and a "new man" is given (Rom 6:6; Eph 4:24). The "stony heart" is removed, and a "heart of flesh" is given (Ezek 36:26). The "washing of regeneration" is what consummates the new birth. It involves being "born of the water and of the Spirit" (John 3:5).
Although there is much resistance to this teaching, this "washing" directly relates to our baptism, in which our sins are "washed away" (Acts 22:16). Baptism is "the form of the doctrine"(Rom 6:17), through which we are joined to Christís death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 6:4-11).
But this is a very real regeneration. Many people with whom I am acquainted rightly insist upon the place baptism holds in being saved. Yet, they rarely, if ever, insist upon regeneration, being born again, or being "renewed." Occasionally they will speak of the "pious un-immersed," but they seem to be unconcerned about the "impious immersed." Both phrases are oxymorons. Others emphasize the Holy Spirit to the neglect of baptism, by which "we are saved" (1 Pet 3:21). There is an appropriate word for both groups. Those who have the truth on "water" need to get more of the "Spirit" into their life and theology. Those who have the truth of the Spirit, need to speak of the "water" as God does. But whether you are from the "water" camp or the "Spirit" camp, it is regeneration that is the point. Without that, neither "water" nor "Spirit" are of any consequence!
THE RENEWING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. God saved us in strict accordance with His mercy. He not only did this by the "washing of regeneration," but through the "renewing of the Holy Spirit" as well. Where either of these is missing, salvation has not been personally realized! The phrase "renewing of the Holy Spirit" means renewal BY the Holy Spirit. He is the One who effects the renewal, or renovation. The word "regeneration" refers to the new birth itself, while the word "renewal" identifies the work following that rebirth Ė the renovation of the life. This is the continual change wrought in the believer by the Spirit. It is described in Second Corinthians. "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (3:18). This change is ever upward and onward, "from one degree of glory to another." NRSV It is the appointed process by which we are "conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom 8:29).
This is how God saves us, by regenerating usĖ moving us from death to life, AND by renewing us Ė conforming us to the image of His Son. The first (regeneration) is an immediate experience. The second (renewal) is an ongoing work. Those who believe the new birth is the final stage of salvation do greatly err. They have omitted the ongoing work.
The new birth puts us in the holy place. Renewal brings us into the holy of holies. The new birth makes us a child of God. Renewal readies us for the inheritance that is reserved for us. The new birth starts us in the race. Renewal keeps us in it. On the other hand, there are those who expect the continued work without being born of water and Spirit, and they also are in error. God saves by regeneration AND renewal.
POURED OUT ABUNDANTLY
" 6 . . . whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior . . . " Other versions read, "He poured out on us generously," NIV and "He poured out upon us richly." NASB The Spirit will not simply state that we have been saved. He will emphasize the abundant nature of that "great salvation." Nothing about this salvation is sparse, normal, or ordinary. God does not work in such a manner, especially in the matter of extricating people from the dilemma of sin.
In creation, God brought forth life in abundance (Gen 1:20,21). Following the flood, life again multiplied abundantly (Gen 8:17). Abundant life is apparent from the very first. God does no less in the new creation!
When leading Israel, the Lord brought water out of a rock in abundance (Num 20:11). He will do no less in providing for those who are in Christ Jesus. Abundance is the Divine manner! He gave Israel "the abundance of all things" they required, even though they did not regard them (Deut 28:47).
THE HOLY SPIRIT
Our text affirms the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ "poured" the Spirit out upon US "abundantly." The Spirit has been given to us in generous supply and in rich measure Ė copiously and plentifully. If, when we look at the church, this does not seem to be so, we must listen more carefully to the Word of the Lord: "the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly." When we hear meager explanations of our spiritual state, we must lean toward heaven and hear the words
again, "the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly." These are words of truth. They are not an exaggeration or a hyperbole. They are spoken with Divine precision, and precisely convey the mind of the Lord.
Not A Reference to the Apostles
This is not associated with the Apostles, but with the means whereby we are saved. It is connected with Godís mercy, not the empowerment of those who laid the foundation. In this text, "us" does not refer to the Apostles, but to all who "were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." The "kindness and love of God" that moved Him to do this, are connected with Him being the Savior, not the Commissioner. It is also "toward man," not the Apostles. It should not be necessary to further confirm this is the proclamation of an experience relating to everyone who is in Christ Jesus. It further describes something that is essential to salvation, and without which salvation will not be accomplished.
God has lavished His Spirit upon us! He has given us the Holy Spirit in a rich and generous measure. He has done this for at least two reasons. First, because His love is "great," and therefore it has moved Him to give the Spirit in abundance. Second, it is because we need a lot of the Holy Spirit to make it from earth to heaven, from time to eternity, and from the flesh to glory. Meager supplies will not sustain us. The race that has been set before us is too long and arduous for small measures and tokens from God.
Here is a reality that many would never have believed if God had not declared it! In fact, even after He has announced it, some choose to disbelieve it. It would be difficult, indeed, to "be filled with the Spirit" (Eph 5:18) if He has not been "shed on us abundantly."
If the Holy Spirit Himself has been "shed," or "poured out" upon us "abundantly," then what He does is a substantial and voluminous ministry! The renewal which He effects is an abundant one! Above that, it is a required one. Because Godís "great salvation" is designed to bring honor and glory to Him, it does not deal with meager supplies or a minuscule work within the believer. While we do "have this treasure in earthen vessels," there is nothing weak or frail about the treasure itself. It is for this reason that great strength must be imparted to us, in order that we may contain the blessing with dignity and productivity (Eph 3:16ff).
One of the great tragedies within the church has been the development of small and inconsequential thinking. Salvation is not ordinarily associated with the great work of God, nor are the saved viewed as those within whom a great work is being accomplished. You may rest assured that God would not pour forth His Spirit upon us abundantly, only to do something occasionally that was "nice" or "helpful." The Lord Jesus is "bringing many sons to glory" (Heb 2:10), and that is a most aggressive work. For Jesus, it required His exaltation above every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come (Eph 1:21). For us, it requires that we be "strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power" (Col 1:11). What God is doing in and with us cannot be accomplished by mediocre means! And, it cannot be achieved without our involvement, for we ourselves are the ones being saved and conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. God cannot be glorified in such a work if we are not a part of it. If such were possible, we would be nothing more than the "jawbone of an ass" (Judges 15:15), or an obedient fish bringing up a coin for taxes (Matt 17:27).
In view of this, and because God has poured His Spirit upon us in copious measure, the Spiritís work within us will be consistently depicted as great and effective. He will be found extending Himself in marvelous ways to change us from one stage of glory to another. A few examples will suffice to buttress this point.
Abounding in Hope
"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" NKJV (Rom 15:13). A weak and emaciated hope will not bring you to glory. You will not be able to stand against the wiles of the devil if you are doubtful of your citizenship in heaven, or are not persuaded your name is written there (Phil 3:20; Lk 10:20; Heb 12:23). Hope must be your strong point, not your weak one. Yet, you are not sufficient of yourself to generate such a hope. Your mind, regardless of its discipline, is not capable of bringing you to such an assurance. It cannot come from study, or from regimented living, although they are virtuous activities. You need strength from God to "abound in hope," and the Holy Spirit provides it. He has been poured forth abundantly upon you to do this substantial and essential work.
Joy in the Holy Spirit
"For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" NKJV (Rom 14:17). The "joy of the Lord" is a source of moral and spiritual strength (Neh 8:10). It has a way of driving out fear and discouragement. Joy comes when the things of heaven overshadow the things of earth, and when glory outweighs suffering. Only the Holy Spirit can bring such marvelous joy, and He can do it in abundance. He can fill you with "all joy," which is a most remarkable work (Rom 15:13). He can enable a person to receive the Word with joy, even though it is received in the midst of fierce opposition and affliction (1 Thess 1:6). It takes an abundant outpouring of the Spirit to accomplish that!
Filled with All Enabling Knowledge
"And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another" (Rom 15:14). To have some knowledge about the Bible is one thing. To be "filled with all knowledge" is something else! This is the kind of knowledge that enables one believer to move another believer closer to heaven Ė to retrieve them from the snare of the devil, and to strengthen them for the good fight of faith. How could you ever hope to acquire such knowledge independently of the Holy Spirit? Who is the person who dares to image that God would allow for an increase in essential and sanctifying knowledge apart from involvement with Deity? And if He did allow for such an increase (which He emphatically does not), how could He be glorified by it? When God poured forth His Spirit abundantly upon us, He made provision for us to be "filled with all knowledge." Praise His holy name!
Filled with All the Fulness of God
"That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man . . . that you may . . . know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God" (Eph 3:16-19). The objective of God is to fill His people with Himself Ė "the fulness of God." This is another way of saying we become "partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4). This involves His character, and transforms the preferences, loves, hates, and desires of those who are in Christ Jesus. Being "filled with all the fullness of God" does not mean we become God, for we are created in His image, not created to be His co-equals. The point of being "filled with all the fulness of God" is that our created capacities are permeated with the nature of God Himself. His whole Person cannot reside in us. That could only occur in the Person of Christ, in whom the "fulness" of God dwelt bodily, or in corporate form (Col 1:19; 2:9). Our capacities, however, though limited, can be dominated by the Divine nature. Because the Holy Spirit accomplishes this, the results are called "the fruit of the Spirit" (Gal 5:22; Eph 5:9). That "fruit" is nothing else than "the fulness of God," and it is not possible apart from an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Filled with the Fruits of Righteousness
"Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God" (Phil 1:11). The Lord is not content for a smattering of fruit to be found in His people Ė an occasional exhibit of Divine life. Jesus said of fruit bearing, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:3). If this is the case, and it emphatically is, how can believers produce "much fruit?" Can the glorification of the Father be accomplished by means of law, or through a disciplinary procedure? Can fruit bearing be learned through an academic regimen? The answer is obvious. We need much help in the matter of bearing fruit!
The abundance of the Holy Spirit provides the wisdom and power required for being "filled with the fruits of righteousness." These are a harvest that results from imputed righteousness. They do not constitute righteousness itself, but flow from it. Since righteousness has been imputed to us (Rom 4:22-25), the fruit of that imputation should be abundant in the saints. Those who wear the name of Jesus ought not to be as the fruitless fig tree upon which our Lord found "nothing but leaves." (Mark 11:13).
Filled with the Knowledge of His Will
"For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Col 1:9). One only has to have a working knowledge of Scripture, and take it seriously, to sense the great need for Divine empowerment. It is one thing to have a smattering of knowledge concerning the will of God. It is quite another to be "filled with the knowledge of His will." For some, this challenge is decidedly reduced by viewing it as "the will of God for my life" Ė an expression not found in Scripture. Even that restricted view of the will of God has proved challenging to most believers. In fact, it has become a point of frustration to many. However, "His will" extends far beyond your person and the involvements of your personal life. God is "working salvation in the midst of the earth" (Psa 74:12). That work does not find its locus in the individual, but in the good pleasure of His will. As it is written, He "works all things according to the counsel of His will" (Eph 1:11). That "will" involves His eternal purpose and eternal glory. As individuals, we are involved in Godís will, but our knowledge of it must be greater than the narrow perimeter of our experience. God desires for us to know what He is doing, and to actually involve us in His work. That is why Jesus said to His disciples, "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you" (John 15:15).
Being filled with the knowledge of His will not only brings adequacy for life, but causes one to excel in praise as well as in holy activity. Suffice it to say, an abundance of the Holy Spirit is required for this to be accomplished. Therefore, great gladness is produced when we hear God has lavished His Spirit upon us in great abundance.
PROPHECIES OF THE BLESSING
It is the Lordís manner to prepare men for a blessing of this magnitude. This Divine propensity was revealed to Amos. "Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets" NIV (Amos 3:7). Therefore, it should not surprise us that the prophets spoke of God copiously pouring out His Spirit upon men.
A Fruitful Field Produced
"Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest" (Isa 32:15). The context of Isaiahís prophecy involved the coming Messiah. He was the "Man" who would "be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land" (v 2). With the government upon His shoulder, and men being reconciled to God, "the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly" (vs 3-4).
The background of the blessing of the Spirit would be trouble, desolation , and lamentation (vs 10-14). Suddenly, the Lord would break through the clouds of impossibility, pouring His Spirit upon the people from "on high." The result would a superabundance of fruit and stability. Where desolation once dominated, fruitfulness would break forth on all sides.
"For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses" (Isa 44:3-4). Sin brought barrenness and dissatisfaction on the personal level. Nothing having its genesis with humanity could eliminate these conditions. However, God Himself would relieve the oppression produced by transgression. He would do this by pouring His Spirit upon the people. Note, the purpose realized by this outpouring would not be a specialized ministry, like that of an Apostle. Nor, indeed, would it be the feelings of euphoria or the endowment of spiritual gifts. Instead, robust spiritual life would be realized. Sudden and stable growth would take place, as individuals would become as flourishing trees planted by the waters. There would be rich satisfaction as the human spirit, likened to parched and dry ground, would drink in of the abundance of the Holy Spirit. This outpouring is also called Godís "blessing."
Expanded Speech and Insight
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My Spirit" (Joel 2:28-29). Here is the prophecy with which Peter correlated the events on that memorable day of Pentecost. While other prophecies might have been viewed as provincial or regional, Joel spoke of an outpouring of the Spirit upon "all flesh," or "all mankind," NASB or "all people." NIV The effects would dwarf all previous human experiences. Both sons and daughters would prophesy, speaking forth unto edification, exhortation, and comfort (1 Cor 14:3). "Old men" would "dream dreams," something ordinarily experienced by "young men." Young men would "see visions," something normally associated with "old men." A certain spiritual freshness would be experienced that would honor God and edify the people. Even the socially deprived would be swept into the blessing: "servants" and "handmaids."
"On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ĎIf anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.í But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" NKJV (John 7:37-39). During the feast of Tabernacles, the general harvest festival, the Jews drew water and poured it out before the Lord as "drink offerings" (Num 29:35-39). In the last day of this feast, the Lord Jesus stood and cried out of a superior pouring Ė the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit. He spoke of it in terms of the effects of the outpouring. Rather than pouring out a small supply of water or wine before the Lord, a gushing river would erupt within the inmost part of men. A river of living, or fresh, water would not flow into man, but out of him. The rich resource of Divine supply would be placed within the redeemed, as Jesus declared to the Samaritan woman. "But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14).
The magnitude of the abundance of the Holy Spirit, which "those believing in Him would receive," is vividly described. It would be like the torrent of a rushing river, flowing out from the redeemed, bringing refreshment and hope to a race bludgeoned by sin. This blessing is centered in the New Covenant, not a specialized ministry. It is inherent to salvation, and is in no way extracurricular.
THE REASON FOR THE ABUNDANCE
" 7 . . . that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." I cannot close without drawing your attention to the reason for the abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is especially necessary to speak concerning this matter because of the remarkable proliferation of erroneous teaching on this subject. Basically, two fallacious views of this outpouring are being perpetrated.
The first is that it relates exclusively to the Apostles, or, at best, to those of the first century. This doctrine allows for unbelief to ignore the whole matter, relating it to a prior period. It also justifies the undue exaltation of human abilities and disciplines, that do not rely upon the Holy Spirit.
The second erroneous view associates this outpouring with special contemporary empowerment and spiritual gifts. This is largely perceived as a sensualistic experience in which the physical senses and abilities are overpowered. Some believe that in the aftermath of such an experience, the individual is endued with special powers and abilities not enjoyed by all who are in Christ Jesus. This is a sort of super-experience that is separate from salvation, bringing the saved into an even greater blessing than the justification from all things, and the imputation of righteousness.
These teachings are like poison to the soul. For those embracing the latter view, they tend to anaesthetize the human spirit, deluding the individual into thinking less of "eternal life" and more of fleshly experiences. Those who accept the former view are nudged into the realm where faith in and dependency upon the Living God is not required. Those people tend to rely more upon law than grace, and works than faith.
AN AGGRESSIVE TEXT
Our text not only does not make such representations, it aggressively overthrows them. We are told WHY the Holy Spirit has been lavished upon us. It reveals that much more work is required within us AFTER we have been "justified by His grace." The stated purpose of the abundant outpouring of the Spirit is this: "that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." NKJV Other versions read, "so that . . . " The idea is, "in order that," or "for this purpose."
The pouring forth of the Holy Spirit, technically speaking, follows justification, or being made a child of God. From the standpoint of time, it is nearly instantaneous. I do not know that a perceptible line can be comprehended between the point where we are justified and when we receive the Holy Spirit. This text is not stated from the viewpoint of time, but from the standpoint of Godís righteousness, or the holy manner in which every aspect of salvation is fulfilled. In another place it says, "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal 4:6). Our text is revealing the Spirit was, at that time, given in abundance. It does not say God WILL pour out His Spirit in abundance upon us, but that He already has! If this is not immediately related to being justified, we would have some of Godís people with the Holy Spirit, and some without; some with meager supplies, and some with an abundance. Such a foolish position cannot be supported. It is wholly without justification, and sharply conflicts with the text before us.
The ultimate objective of Godís "great salvation" involves becoming an heir of God, and a joint heir with Jesus (Rom 8:17). The predominant domain of salvation is eternity, not time. God has called us to an inheritance Ė an "eternal inheritance" (Heb 9:15). We were "begotten again" in order to the realization of this inheritance. As it is written, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet 1:3-5).
Remove that inheritance, and there is no point to being justified. In such a case, there is no reason to be holy, work out our own salvation, run the race, or fight the good fight of faith. Salvation, in such a case, would be no salvation at all, but only a temporary experience in the body of this flesh.
The Lord is very careful to present the reason for His bestowment of the His Holy Spirit in abundance. It is in order that "we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." NASB Among other things, that means eternal life will not be brought to its culmination apart from the prolific ministry of the Holy Spirit. Those who "quench the Spirit," therefore, diminish their "hope of eternal life," becoming less likely to dwell forever with the Lord. For some, this is too difficult to believe. They have been deceived into thinking once a person is justified, the process is irreversible. However, if that was the case, an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit would not be required.
Why would God shower His Spirit upon us if it was not necessary for us to obtain the inheritance? Does any person dare to imagine this is a sort of spiritual luxury without which one can still be prepared for eternity? With aggression, thrust such a notion from yourself! It is unbefitting for you to think in such a manner.
"Heirs" are "made" by God, they do not occur automatically. That Divine making is accomplished through the Holy Spirit, whom God has poured out abundantly upon us. He has been given to us in abundance because of the demanding work of making us heirs. This is no small work, and it requires no small effort Ė even on the part of the Lord Himself. God could speak the worlds into existence, but it is not so with the making of heirs. That requires an abundance of Divine influence.
According To the Hope
"Eternal life" has a hope, or objective. Jesus stated it this way, "that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3). In His great High Priestly prayer, He said it this way: "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). It also involves inheriting "all things" (Rev 21:7), becoming "like Him" (1 John 3:1-2), and reigning with Christ (2 Tim 2:12).
It requires an abundant supply of the Holy Spirit to meet these objectives. That is precisely why God has poured Him forth abundantly! The work God has determined is too large and too extended to be accomplished by seasons and samples of the Holy Spirit. The foes are too great and our personal weakness is too significant to be accomplished by introductory measures of Godís Spirit.
The Spirit must do much work, and do it with great power. He must bring many resources to us, and empower us to do much with them. He must bring us from a great depth to a great height. He must help us remove much that is unacceptable, and add into our lives Divine qualities. He must strengthen us for sustained and consistent activity. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no hope of obtaining the inheritance. Natural strength is unequal to the required task.
God is greatly to be praised for meeting our abundant needs with an abundant supply of His Holy Spirit! He not only shed the Spirit upon us abundantly because He desired to do so, but because the great workmanship He has determined required that He do so. Those who take salvation and its objectives serious rejoice this is the case.
One of the great advancements that can be experienced by the believer is that of an expanded perception of the greatness of salvation. This is the key to spiritual growth, the perfection of holiness, and fruitfulness. While men present their learned disquisitions concerning family life, interpersonal relationships, and religious institutionalism, the Lord is "working in you both to will and to do "according to His good purpose" NIV (Phil 2:13). His agenda drives His activity. His "eternal purpose" is the reason for His gifts. His will concerning you relates to making you an heir, "according to the hope of eternal life."
There is an adequacy in being "made heirs according to the hope of eternal life" that touches upon every aspect of life. You will never be the worse in this world for being prepared for the world to come. Being made suitable to live forever with the Lord will not make you cantankerous and difficult in this world. If you are in harmony with, and ready for, heaven, you will not be deficient in valid earthly relationships.
As your brother in Christ, I call you into serious and productive involvement with God, through Christ Jesus, and by the Holy Spirit. Everything required for this participation is supplied through the abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Avail yourself of this marvelous resource!
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