The Holy Spirit in Salvation
Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 02:39PM
Pastor Marty in Conviction, Grace, Heart, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Rejection, Salvation, Truth

Over the next several weeks we are going to be looking at what the Bible tells us about the Holy Spirit.  Today our focus will be on the Holy Spirit’s work to bring people to salvation.

Before we go into that, however, I would first point out that the Holy Spirit should not be something that is scary to us.  The phrase itself is intended to get across the point that “this” Spirit is different from other spirits.  It is holy in that it is unique and set apart.  But it is also pure, clean and good in its motives and activity.  Thus, of all spirits that exist both human and otherwise, this Spirit is the pure clean and good one.  Thus we can trust the Holy Spirit to have pure motives and to only be working on God’s behalf.

Next, the Holy Spirit is not a force.  Scripture uses personal pronouns of the Holy Spirit and clearly depicts Him as being a person.  I am using that word not as a human being, but rather as something that has conscious being and conscious activity. 

Now let’s begin in John 16:5-11 to get a feel for the Spirit’s work in bringing people to salvation.

He Works to Bring Conviction

This passage begins by focusing on what the Spirit will do for believers.  However in verse 8 it focuses on what the Spirit will do for nonbelievers in the world.  He will “convict the world of sin.”  Now there are two sides to conviction.  The legal side of conviction is the reality that evidence has been presented and a judge has determined my guilt.  Definitely the Holy Spirit is working to convict us is this sense.  However, there is a personal side to conviction.  Do I feel bad about my sin and feel convicted about the evidence presented by the Holy Spirit?  Thus the Spirit is also working to help our hearts break over what we are seeing about ourselves.  Clearly this is an undesired work in the life of a nonbeliever.  As it happens it is easy to push it aside, ignore it, or even out right refuse to accept it.  Either way the nonbeliever finds themselves fighting against something they don’t understand that is trying to bring them to conviction.  Over time it can get harder and harder to push aside so much evidence that is stacking up against us.  In fact we have to harden ourselves to the evidence to continue to reject it.  Thus the God warns of a hard heart.

We see this in Genesis 6:3 before the flood.  God said that His Spirit would not “strive” with man forever.  Thus we have this imagery of God’s Spirit striving and wrestling with the heart and mind of men in order to get them to see the Truth.  Very few in that generation yielded to the striving of the Spirit and thus they perished in the flood.  God graciously works to bring us to Him by His Spirit.  But just as our lives have an end, so too does His work to bring us to conviction.  We also see this in Acts 7:51 when Stephen was speaking before the High Council of Israel.  He told the religious leaders, “you stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears!  You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.”  Sometimes it is a mercy to speak harsh words because they can cut through all the hard heartedness that we have built up through continual resistance.  Like a parent raising their voice to a child, it is not necessarily because they are being mean.  It can be the heart of love that is willing to lance through the callus in order to get the Truth into the tender parts beneath.  Of course some just use strong words as further fodder to harden themselves against God’ Spirit.

Thus we see that this undesired work is a necessary work.  We harden ourselves in this world and that isn’t good.  The necessity of being injured by love in order to receive it is a sign of our own hardness.  Jesus told the religious leaders of his day in Matthew 21:42, “The Kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation who will bear its fruit.  And, whoever falls on this stone will be broken.  But on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”  Notice that the two options.  Falling on the stone and hurting ourselves or being ground to powder.  Jesus is a stumbling stone that God has put in the way, not because he relishes in our injury.  But, rather, He knows that our injury will cause us to rethink the path we are headed on.  If we persist in that way, at least he has stopped us enough to make us think about it, that is how much God loves us.

Thus the work is also gracious.  The goodness of God’s love for people causes Him to strive with rebels that he could annihilate in a second.  But, instead, He gives them a second, third, even more chances to rethink their position.

He Works To Point Us To Jesus

In John 15:26, Jesus promises His disciples that he will send a helper to them, the Spirit of Truth.  This is none other than the Holy Spirit.  Notice that a work of the Holy Spirit is to point us to Jesus.  Though we may not like conviction, it is helpful in that it points out the problem.  However, the Holy Spirit doesn’t just point out problems.  He also points us to Jesus as the solution.  He is working in the nonbeliever’s life to convict them but also to cause them to see Jesus as a solution.  Yes, this can be resisted, but it is His work nonetheless.  Thus the leaders who martyred Stephen lived out his words.  They resisted the Holy Spirit by refusing to agree that they were sinners, and by refusing to believe that Jesus was the solution to that sin.

It is amazing how even an unbelieving world will give “lip-service” to Jesus, at times.  But it is always a “Jesus” that they have molded into their own image.  Jesus is Truth, and thus, he cannot be molded into any image we make up.  The Holy Spirit works to show us the Real Jesus.  He will not be satisfied with any fake Jesus to whom we give allegiance.  He will work to show us the hollow thoughts that we have about such a false Jesus in our minds.  Only the True Jesus can save our soul from the sin that weighs upon it.

Yet, the Spirit will not force people to believe in Jesus as the solution for their sin problem.  He contends and strives with the nonbeliever, but he will not force them.  In this sense we see the truth that God doesn’t want robots, but neither does he want slaves either—at least not slaves who are forced to be such.  If our love for Him causes us to indenture ourselves to the Lord then He accepts it because it is freely chosen and not forced by Him.

He Limits Those Who Reject Him

Throughout the Bible we see God’s limitations upon the wicked.  Satan was limited in what he could do to Job.  Saul was limited in what he could do against David.  Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon were limited in how far their power would expand.  Perhaps the greatest passage in this respect is that in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8.  Here God reveals that The Lawless One (another title for the antichrist) is being held back by The Restrainer.  Though some have identified the restrainer with all manner of things, the singular and individual nature of the word most naturally finds its identity in the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God restrains the full blown nature of lawlessness across this world.  Things could be much worse than they are and some day the Holy Spirit will stop restraining.  O, how we should pray to escape those days.  The lawlessness of the world is paving the way for The Lawless One to come forth.  God limits such wickedness without removing its choice to be wicked.  In fact, the wicked can choose to be wicked, but they can’t choose where such a path will lead to.  So in this sense, Hitler, or Napoleon, or Nero for that matter, all could have been the antichrist, if God had allowed it.  But they were not.  They were antichrist in nature, but not in person.

In all of this these limiting times are also stumbling blocks that are moments in which our eyes can be opened to Jesus.

Let me close by saying to believers that we cannot give up hope and faith that the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of nonbelievers.  Neither can we sit idly by while he does “all the work.”  God has called us into the harvest field with him.  He wants us to work alongside of Him.  Thus, pray today that you will learn to cooperate with what the Holy Spirit is doing in the lives of nonbelievers.  We are not the Holy Spirit, but He can work through us if we are humble and available.

Article originally appeared on Abundant Life Christian Fellowship - Everett, WA (
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