CENTRAL to the matters discussed in this book, which, in a nutshell, are the new birth, justification, and sanctification, is the operation of the Holy Spirit. The fulfilling of the plan of salvation, which makes those transactions possible in and for man, depends upon the Holy Spirit's ministry.
There are few passages in Scripture that so clearly and dramatically highlight the work of the Spirit in man's salvation as Romans 7 and 8. In chapter seven Paul, with distinct brush strokes, draws for us a picture of his own experience when he eventually saw the claims of God and His law upon him:
We know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me (Rom. 7:14-20, R.S.V.).
Then he observes-
I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members (verses 22, 23, R.S.V.).
In these words Paul sets forth two laws. The principle of God's law, epitomized by the Ten Commandments (d. verse 7), the claims of which he acknowledges as fair and good, but which he could not meet, and "the law of sin which dwells in my members." This law may be defined, briefly, as those inherited and cultivated tendencies to sin that make it humanly impossible to do right unaided; those limitations and weaknesses that are a part of man's mortality. Thus, frustrated by the impedances of his human nature and in a state of great inner tension because of them, Paul cries out desperately, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (verse 24, R.S.V.).
But in Romans 8 we have the tension resolved, for a third law enters that totally relieves the spiritual strain and solves Paul's entire problem: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death" (chap. 8:2, R.S.V.). 21
What may we understand this third law, or better, principle, to be? It may be defined as the manner in which the Holy Spirit works when He comes into the surrendered life.
So Paul makes it unmistakably plain that the Holy Spirit, and only the Holy Spirit as Christ's representative, can do for man what must be done for him if he is to gain the victory over his sins, have peace and joy within, and gain eternal life.
We understand, then, that the efficacy even of the work of Christ Himself for man is dependent upon the Holy Spirit. Without Him, everything that was done by Jesus during His earthly life-in Gethsemane, upon the cross, in arising from the tomb-and in His priestly ministry in heaven, would be unfruitful. The benefits of that which Christ did would be of little more usefulness than any of the world's great religious or ethical leaders. For even though He was God, and they were only men, Christ could not change men merely by His example and teachings. To change them it was necessary to work within them. And this work is done by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, who was sent to do in men's hearts the work Jesus had made possible.
The Holy Spirit was the highest of all gifts that He [Christ] could solicit from His Father for the exaltation of His people. The Spirit was to he given as a regenerating agent, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail .... It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world's Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church. -The Desire of Ages, p. 671. (Italics supplied.)
The Greatest Gift Promised
Jesus promised His disciples the gift of the Spirit during His last hours with them before going to Gethsemane, the halls of Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate-and to Calvary. For three years He had taught them by word and example. For three years He had been their strength, counselor, guide, helper, and friend. Now He was to leave them as sheep among wolves, as doves among serpents.
Knowing their great need better than they ever could, and what the future held for them, He sought the best gift He could bestow that would meet their many needs.
"I will pray the Father," He said, "and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth" (John 14: 16, 17).
The Greek term translated Comforter in the King James Version is paraklētos. It is variously rendered in other versions as "Helper" (Moffatt, N .A.S.B.), "Counselor" (R.S.V.), "Advocate" (N .E.B.), "someone else to stand by you" (Phillips), and by other terms in other versions. The variety of translations suggests that the word has a rich possibility of meanings. This is true.
The popular Scottish author and theologian William Barclay has an interesting passage in one of his books in which he explains the breadth of meaning of the word paraklētos:
The word paraklētos really means someone who is called in; but it is the reason why the person is called in which gives the word its distinctive associations. The Greeks used the word in a wide variety of ways. A paraltlētos might be a person called in to give witness in a law court in someone's favor; he might be an advocate called in to plead someone's cause when someone was under a charge which would issue in serious penalty; he might be an expert called in to give advice in some difficult situation. He might be a person called in when, for example, a company of soldiers were depressed and dispirited to put new courage into their minds and hearts. Always a paraklētos is someone called in to help when the person who calls him in is in trouble or distress or doubt or bewilderment . . . . We have a modern phrase which we often use. We talk of being able to cope with things. That is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to us and takes away our inadequacies and enables us to cope with life. The Holy Spirit substitutes victorious for defeated living. -The Gospel of John, vol. 2, pp. 194, 195.
The Fellowship of the Spirit
Paul uses a word that conveys something of the same idea as paraklētos, adding perhaps a further dimension. He writes of the "fellowship" of the Spirit (Phil. 2: 1; 2 Cor. 13: 14, R.S.V.). The Greek term koinōnia suggests an intimate communion and sympathetic cooperation of the third member of the Godhead with the Christian.
At all times and in all places, in all sorrows and in all afflictions, when the outlook seems dark and the future perplexing, and we feel helpless and alone, the Comforter will be sent in answer to the prayer of faith. Circumstances may separate us from every earthly friend; but no circumstance, no distance, can separate us from the heavenly Comforter. Wherever we are, wherever we may go, He is always at our right hand to support, sustain, uphold, and cheer. --The Desire of Ages, pp. 669, 670.
Explaining to His disciples the value of the Gift He was sending, Jesus told them that the Holy Spirit would convict men of their sins; persuade them of the truth of the gospel, and of the greatness of Christ's righteousness; and assure them that it might be theirs (John 16:8-10). Thus the Holy Spirit is the active agent in conversion (chap. 3:5; Titus 3:5, 6). If men refused or neglected to separate from their sins and accept Jesus' righteousness the Spirit would press upon them a consciousness of the frightening results of what they were doing (John 16: 11).
Also, by the Holy Spirit, we are cleansed, set apart as God's children, and justified (1 Cor. 6: 11, N .E.B.). By the Spirit the warfare in the heart and life is successfully carried on, and the Christian fruits are developed (Gal. 5: 16-25). Further, the work of the Holy Spirit is to develop righteousness, and to give peace and joy (Rom. 14:17), to guide into truth (John 14: 13), to help in weakness (Rom. 8:26, R.S.V.), to provide strength (Eph. 3: 16) and power (Luke 24:49), to free from sin (2 Cor. 3: 17), and to keep us from sinning.
As we understand what the Holy Spirit does for us, we can appreciate the statement that when His power comes into our lives it brings "all other blessings in its train" (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 50). We greatly need those blessings. We need the help of the Spirit to cope with sin and self, and to expel them from our lives. Therefore, before we continue to read the pages of this book, shall we not follow the counsel of the Spirit of Prophecy and "seek the aid of God's Spirit by prayer" (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 456)? 22