Daily Archives: May 30, 2013

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What was the role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament?

The role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is much like His role in the New Testament. When we speak of the role of the Holy Spirit, we can discern four general areas in which the Holy Spirit works: 1) regeneration, 2) indwelling (or filling), 3) restraint, and 4) ability for service. Evidence of these areas of the Holy Spirit’s work is just as present in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament.

The first area of the Spirit’s work is in the process of regeneration. Another word for regeneration is rebirth, from which we get the concept of being “born again.” The classic proof text for this can be found in John’s gospel: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). This begs the question: What does this have to do with the Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament? Later on in his dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus has this to say to him, “You are Israel’s teacher—and do you not understand these things?” (John 3:10). The point Jesus was making is that Nicodemus should have known the truth that the Holy Spirit is the source of new life because it is revealed in the Old Testament. For instance, Moses told the Israelites prior to entering the Promised Land that “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live” (Deuteronomy 30:6). This circumcision of the heart is the work of God’s Spirit and can be accomplished only by Him. We also see the theme of regeneration in Ezekiel 11:19–20 and Ezekiel 36:26–29.

The fruit of the Spirit’s regenerating work is faith (Ephesians 2:8). Now we know that there were men of faith in the Old Testament because Hebrews 11 names many of them. If faith is produced by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, then this must be the case for Old Testament saints who looked ahead to the cross, believing that what God had promised in regard to their redemption would come to pass. They saw the promises and “welcomed them from a distance” (Hebrews 11:13), accepting by faith that what God had promised, He would also bring to pass.

The second aspect of the Spirit’s work in the Old Testament is indwelling, or filling. Here is where the major difference between the Spirit’s roles in the Old and New Testaments is apparent. The New Testament teaches the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in believers (1 Corinthians 3:16–17; 6:19–20). When we place our faith in Christ for salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us. The Apostle Paul calls this permanent indwelling the “guarantee of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13–14). In contrast to this work in the New Testament, the indwelling in the Old Testament was selective and temporary. The Spirit “came upon” such Old Testament people as Joshua (Numbers 27:18), David (1 Samuel 16:12–13) and even Saul (1 Samuel 10:10). In the book of Judges, we see the Spirit “coming upon” the various Judges whom God raised up to deliver Israel from their oppressors. What we can discern from this is that the Holy Spirit came upon these individuals for specific tasks. We also see that the indwelling was a sign of God’s favor upon that individual (in the case of David) and that if God’s favor left an individual, the Spirit would depart (e.g., Saul in 1 Samuel 16:14). Finally, the Spirit “coming upon” an individual doesn’t always indicate that person’s spiritual condition (e.g., Saul, Samson, and many of the Judges). So while in the New Testament the Spirit only indwells believers and that indwelling is permanent, the Spirit indwelled certain Old Testament individuals for a specific task, irrespective of their spiritual condition. Once the task was completed, the Spirit presumably departed from that person.

The third aspect of the Spirit’s work in the Old Testament is His restraint of sin. Genesis 6:3 would seem to indicate that the Holy Spirit restrains the limits of man’s sinfulness, and that restraint can be removed when God’s patience regarding sin reaches a “boiling point.” This thought is echoed in 2 Thessalonians 2:3–8 as in the end times, a growing apostasy will signal the coming of the end and God’s judgment. Until the preordained time when the “man of lawlessness” (v. 3) will be revealed, the Holy Spirit restrains the power of Satan and will allow it to be released only when it suits His purposes to do so.

The fourth and final aspect of the Spirit’s work in the Old Testament is in the granting of ability for service. Much like the way the spiritual gifts operate in the New Testament, the Spirit would gift certain individuals for service. Consider the example of Bezalel in Exodus 31:2–5 who was gifted to do much of the artwork relating to the Tabernacle. Furthermore, recalling the selective and temporary indwelling of the Holy Spirit discussed above, we see that these individuals were gifted to perform certain tasks, such as ruling over the people of Israel (e.g., Saul and David).

While it is not mentioned above as one of the four aspects of the Spirit’s work, we could speak of the Spirit’s role in creation. Genesis 1:2 speaks of the Spirit “hovering over the waters” and superintending the work of creation. In a similar fashion, the Spirit is responsible for the work of the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) as He is bringing people into the kingdom of God through regeneration.

All in all, the Spirit performs much of the same functions in Old Testament times as He does in this current age. The major difference is the permanent indwelling of the Spirit in believers now. As Jesus said regarding this change in the Spirit’s ministry, “But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Characters in the Bible: What should we learn from the life of Solomon?

Solomon is the third and last king of the united kingdom of Israel, following King Saul and King David. He was the son of David and Bathsheba, the former wife of Uriah the Hittite whom David had killed to hide his adultery with Bathsheba while her husand was on the battle front. Solomon authored much of the Book of Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and the Book of Ecclesiastes. His authorship of Ecclesiastes is contested by some, but Solomon is the only “son of David” to be “king over Israel” (not just Judah) “in Jerusalem” (Ecclesiastes 1:1, 12), and many of the descriptions of the author fit Solomon perfectly. Solomon reigned for 40 years (1 Kings 11:42).

What are the highlights of Solomon’s life? When he ascended to the throne, he sought after God and God gave him opportunity to ask for whatever he wanted. He humbly acknowledged his inability to rule well and unselfishly asked God for the wisdom he would need to rule God’s people justly. God gave him wisdom and wealth besides (1 Kings 3:4, 10:27). In fact, his riches and wisdom surpassed all of the kings of the earth (1 Kings 10:23). God also gave him peace on all sides during most of his reign (1 Kings 4:20–25). The favorite illustration of that wisdom is in his judging a dispute over the identity of the true mother of an infant child (1 Kings 3:16–28). Solomon was not only wise in his rule, but had great general wisdom as well. His wisdom was renowned in his day, and the Queen of Sheba traveled 1,200 miles to verify the rumors of his wisdom and grandeur (1 Kings 10). Solomon authored many proverbs and songs (1 Kings 4:32) and had completed many building projects (1 Kings 7:1–12, 9:15–23). Solomon also built a fleet of ships and acquired tons of gold from Ophir with Hiram, king of Tyre, as a partner (1 Kings 9:26–28, 10:11, 22). Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of them foreigners who led him into public idolatry in his old age, greatly angering God (1 Kings 11:1–13).

There are many lessons we can learn from the life of Solomon. First, when we seek God with all of our heart, He will be found (1 Kings 3:3–7). Second, those who honor God will be honored by Him (1 Kings 3:11–13; 1 Samuel 2:30). Third, God will equip us to accomplish the tasks He calls us to if we will rely on Him (1 Kings 3; Romans 12:3–8; 2 Peter 1:3). Fourth, the spiritual life is a marathon, not a sprint. A good start is not always enough to finish well (1 Kings 3, 11). Fifth, we can sincerely ask God to incline our hearts toward Him (1 Kings 8:57–58), but we will wander off the path of righteousness if we choose to violate His revealed word. Contrary to God’s written word concerning kings, Solomon multiplied to himself gold, horses, and wives (700 wives and 300 concubines) (Deuteronomy 17:14–17). He also married non-Jewish wives (Deuteronomy 7:3, 4; Exodus 34:16). Sixth, those closest to us will affect our spiritual lives (Exodus 34:16; 1 Kings 11:1–8; Daniel 1, 3; 1 Corinthians 15:33) and we must therefore be very careful of the company we keep. Seventh, life lived apart from God will seem meaningless, regardless of education, fulfilled goals, the greatest of pleasures, and the greatest abundance of wealth (Ecclesiastes 1:2).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Christian Life: What is the biblical method of evangelism?

When trying to decide how to share Christ with someone, the starting point should be the same as that of John the Baptist and Jesus Himself. Matthew 3:2 tells us that John began his ministry with the words “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Repentance refers to a “change of mind,” which implies sorrow for past offences (2 Corinthians 7:10), a deep sense of the evil of sin as committed against God (Psalm 51:4), and a conscious decision to turn from sin to God. The first words Jesus spoke when He began His public ministry were identical to John’s (Matthew 4:17).

Biblical evangelism—The good news and the bad news
The word “gospel” means “good news.” While many well-meaning Christians begin their evangelistic efforts with the good news of God’s love for mankind, that message is lost on unbelievers who must first come to grips with the extent of the bad news. First, man is separated from a holy, righteous God by sin. Second, God hates sin and is “angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11). Third, death and judgment (Hebrews 9:27) are inevitable. Fourth, man is wholly incapable of doing anything about the situation. Until the full extent of this bad news is presented, the good news cannot be effectively communicated.

Biblical evangelism—The holiness of God
What is missing from much modern evangelism is the holiness of God. In Isaiah’s vision of heaven, God’s holiness is being extolled by the seraphim around the throne. Of all the attributes of God they could have praised, it was His holiness—not His love—of which they sang. “And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory’ ” (Isaiah 6:3). When we understand just how holy God is, we can begin to understand His hatred of sin and His righteous wrath against sinners. Zechariah 8:16–17 and Proverbs 6:16–19 outline the sins God hates—pride, lying, murder, false witness, those who stir up trouble, and those with evil in their hearts. We cringe at the idea of God actually hating, because we are more comfortable with Him as a God of love, which He certainly is. But His hatred is real and it burns against evil (Isaiah 5:25; Hosea 8:5; Zechariah 10:3).

The unsaved person stands in mortal peril of the wrath of holy God, as Hebrews 10:31 reminds us: “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” An unbeliever is separated from God by his sin, which God hates, and there is nothing he can do about it. His nature is corrupt and fallen and he is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) with no hope of redeeming himself. He cannot save himself, in spite of good intentions or good works (Romans 3:20). Every good work that man thinks he can do is as “filthy rags” in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6). No amount good living will make us acceptable in God’s eyes because the standard is holiness, without which no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14).

Biblical evangelism—Salvation through Jesus Christ
But now comes the good news. What man could not do to save himself, God accomplished on the cross. Jesus exchanged His righteous, holy nature for our sinful nature so that we can stand before God completely clean and pure, new creations with the old sin nature gone forever (2 Corinthians 5:17–21). God provided the perfect sacrifice for our sin, not because we deserved it or earned it, but because of His love and grace and mercy (Ephesians 2:8–9). Only those whose natures have been changed can escape the wrath of God and live in the light of His love and mercy. If we believe these things and commit our lives to following Christ by faith, we will live eternally with Him in the bliss and glory of heaven. This is good news indeed.

Biblical evangelism begins with prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in witnessing, open doors of opportunity, and a clear understanding of the bad news of sin and wrath and the good news of love, grace, mercy and faith.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Sin: Are all sins equal to God?

In Matthew 5:21–28, Jesus equates committing adultery with having lust in your heart and committing murder with having hatred in your heart. However, this does not mean the sins are equal. What Jesus was trying to get across to the Pharisees is that sin is still sin even if you only want to do the act, without actually carrying it out. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day taught that it was okay to think about anything you wanted to, as long as you did not act on those desires. Jesus is forcing them to realize that God judges a person’s thoughts as well as his actions. Jesus proclaimed that our actions are the result of what is in our hearts (Matthew 12:34).

So, although Jesus said that lust and adultery are both sins, that does not mean they are equal. It is much worse to actually murder a person than it is to simply hate a person, even though they are both sins in God’s sight. There are degrees to sin. Some sins are worse than others. At the same time, in regard to both eternal consequences and salvation, all sins are the same. Every sin will lead to eternal condemnation (Romans 6:23). All sin, no matter how “small,” is against an infinite and eternal God, and is therefore worthy of an infinite and eternal penalty. Further, there is no sin too “big” that God cannot forgive it. Jesus died to pay the penalty for sin (1 John 2:2). Jesus died for all of our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). Are all sins equal to God? Yes and no. In severity? No. In penalty? Yes. In forgivability? Yes.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

No Truth Without Love, No Love Without Truth: The Church’s Great Challenge – Al Moehler

Dr. Al Mohler discusses the Church’s response to the pervasive issue of homosexuality in today’s culture:

The homosexual rights movement understands that the evangelical church is one of the last resistance movements committed to a biblical morality. Because of this, the movement has adopted a strategy of isolating Christian opposition, and forcing change through political action and cultural pressure.

Can we count on evangelicals to remain steadfastly biblical on this issue? Not hardly. Scientific surveys and informal observation reveal that we have experienced a significant loss of conviction among youth and young adults. No moral revolution can succeed without shaping and changing the minds of young people and children.

http://www.albertmohler.com/2013/05/30/no-truth-without-love-no-love-without-truth-the-churchs-great-challenge/

Witnessing to a Blank Stare

The blank stare. It’s the proverbial “deer caught in the headlights” look with which all are familiar. It is empty. It is not understanding. It does not hear. It does not see.

because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. (Matt. 13:13b)

Presented with the glorious, saving news of the gospel, the man or woman who in that moment is not being drawn by the Holy Spirit to Christ often may respond with little more than this blank, empty, heartbreaking stare. We may weep. We may plead. We may cry out to the Lord on behalf of their soul, that He might soften what can only be perceived as a hard, calloused heart. We may remind, for the umpteenth time, that the owner of this blank stare is a sinner—but that Jesus Christ died for sinners. We may speak of repentance, and of the good news that Christ has done the work that man cannot. We may shout about forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ. We may do all that we as faithful Christians are called to do for the lost (Luke 24:47), but we cannot save the soul behind that blank stare.

http://www.donotbesurprised.com/2013/05/witnessing-to-blank-stare.html

The Fruit of Compromise

Possessing the Treasure

My friend Chris Rosebrough sent a link to the video below to our CRN discussion group today. I have long ago ceased being surprised by these examples of apostasy. The person doing most of the talking in the video is Andy Stanley and, as we have discussed in other posts, he has shown over and over again that he is a leader in what has come to known as the “New Evangelism.” Listen very carefully to what he says about the Word of God in this video and the “reason” he uses to discount it as having any authority in the Church. I have downloaded the video from Youtube so if it is removed from there I still have it. The comments there were pretty much what I expected. Those who support Stanley as their “teacher” whom they have gathered to tickle their itching ears come up with all sorts…

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Why did Jesus delay when He heard that Lazarus was sick?

The resurrection of Lazarus in John 11 is the climactic and most dramatic sign in this Gospel and the capstone of Christ’s public ministry. Six miracles have already been presented (water into wine [2:1–11], healing of the nobleman’s son [4:46–54], restoring the impotent man [5:1–15], multiplying the loaves and fishes [6:1–14], walking on the water [6:15–21], and curing the man born blind [9:1–12]). Lazarus’s resurrection is more potent than all those and even more monumental than the raising of the widow’s son in Nain (Luke 7:11–16) or Jairus’s daughter (Luke 8:40–56) because those two resurrections occurred immediately after death. Lazarus was raised after 4 days of being in the grave with the process of decomposition already having started (v. 39).

Upon hearing that Lazarus is sick, Jesus’ immediate response is that it is “for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (v. 4). This phrase reveals the real purpose behind Lazarus’s sickness, i.e., not death, but that the Son of God might be glorified through his resurrection. So He stayed two more days. The decision to delay coming did not bring about Lazarus’s death, since Jesus already supernaturally knew his plight. Most likely by the time the messenger arrived to inform Jesus, Lazarus was already dead. The delay was because He loved the family (v. 5) and that love would be clear as He greatly strengthened their faith by raising Lazarus from the dead. The delay also ensured that Lazarus had been dead long enough that no one could misinterpret the miracle as a fraud or mere resuscitation.

Coming to Martha, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (v. 25). This is the fifth in a series of 7 great “I AM” statements of Jesus (6:35; 8:12; 10:7,9; 10:11,14). With this statement, Jesus moved Mary from an abstract belief in the resurrection that will take place “at the last day”(see 5:28, 29) to a personalized trust in Him who alone can raise the dead. No resurrection or eternal life exists outside of the Son of God. Time (“at the last day”) is no barrier to the One who has the power of resurrection and life (1:4) for He can give life at any time.

From The MacArthur Daily Bible Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Bibles, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville, TN 37214, http://www.thomasnelson.com.