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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, May 24, 2012
Hebrews 10:26-31
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, Vengeance is mine; I will repay.And again, The Lord will judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  [ESV]
I am writing today to encourage and comfort those who read a passage like this, and being mindful that their own sins are often deliberate, tremble at the thought that they have trampled underfoot the Son of God, profaned the blood of His covenant, and outraged the Spirit of grace.

The author of Hebrews compares the notion of continuing to sin deliberately with the setting aside of the laws of Moses; a comparison that sheds some light on what he means when he writes about the one who goes on sinning deliberately.

Consider how the same author uses the same phrase ("set aside") in Hebrews 7:18-19:

Here we see that this setting aside is a single, "game changing" action. The one covenant is eternally set aside in favor of the new covenant which supercedes it.
For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. [ESV]


The only person who can "go on sinning deliberately" is the unsaved person who has understood the gospel, but who nevertheless rejects Christ in order to pursue the fleeting pleasures of this life.

The subsequent difficulty in this passage has to do with the phrase, "by which he was sanctified". There is some debate about whom the antecedent of the pronoun "he" is referring back to, Christ, or the would-be apostate. Some consider what Christ said in John 17:19 ("for their sake I sanctify Myself") as lending support to notion that the author of Hebrews was saying, that the apostate profanes the blood of the covenant by which Christ set Himself apart (was sanctified). Others believe that the term sanctified here is speaking of a superficial consecration.

Sidestepping the merits of either position, my concern is only with what is plain from the context: to go on sinning deliberately is to decide that Christianity is not for you. It describes men like Judas - people who knew that Jesus was the Christ, and in the face of this knowledge, refused to accept Him as their Lord and Savior.

If you are struggling to obey God, the author's use of, "go on sinning deliberately" does not describe you. It describes a person who knows Christianity is true, but rejects it all the same, preferring to continue in sin rather than be reconciled to God.

Does this mean that a Christians are free to sin all they want?

No. God calls us to be holy as He is holy.

The problem is we still want to sin, even after we are saved. How do we overcome the sin that continues to haunt us? Let me tell you, but not in this post. I am writing a series on Romans aimed at this question - that is, aimed at your sanctification. We all struggle with sin, the bible tells us how to wage this war with an eye to victory - a lesson that I think every believer can benefit from exploring.
posted by Daniel @ 11:06 AM  
16 Comments:
  • At 9:25 AM, May 29, 2012, Blogger donsands said…

    Excellent Daniel.

    I learned this Sunday at church that those Jews who would not trust Jesus, were blind, and yet they scoffed at their blindness. Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would have no sin."

    And interesting that our Lord sought out a man blind from his birth to save, and present as a genuine example as some who sees.

    You know, when I feel the guilt for a particular way I just acted, or didn't act, I always talk to our Savior about it.
    The guilt is there, and yet His touch is there as well. And screwtape is there too.

    Doesn't it taste good to know God's love is eternal! He loves me more than any of those in my life now who love me.
    I don't deserve love, that's for sure, but love and kindness are here as gifts from God through His mercy and Spirit.

     
  • At 7:10 PM, May 29, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Daniel,

    I happed upon a older post of yours when I binged doulogos to find your blog, and the post on “Can You Sell your Soul to the Devil” appeared as a second link, so I read it and half of the comments there.

    I have two questions re: some statements you made there, but I’ll understand if you don’t want to answer since the post is old and you may not have time. In case you do, though, here they are:

    1. I told my pastor about your distinction between Peter’s being “saved” and “born again”. He demurred at the suggestion, saying they are the same thing. He and I discussed it briefly Sunday night after service, and today he called to share some thoughts with me. I told him that in thinking on it further, I pondered if what you may have meant is that Peter was saved from the foundation of the world, whereas he wasn’t born again until Pentecost. I continued by explaining that although the terms are used synonymously in common parlance among Christians, they really aren’t the same events per se. One refers to be spared from God’s wrath while the other is when the Holy Spirit comes upon us. One is being written in the Lamb’s book of life while the other is our experiences and understanding of same here on earth. He sees them as the same thing, so I wondered if you might expand on that if you’re able.

    2. When my pastor called me to share his thoughts on the matter, he referred me to John 3:3, wherein Jesus talks with Nicodemus and says “Unless one is born again one can’t see the kingdom of God,” and to John 3:5 where Jesus says, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, one can’t enter the kingdom of God.” I pondered that and asked the pastor if the difference between seeing and entering the kingdom might be experiential. That is, often when we “see” something it refers to our understanding. Like 1 Cor. 2:14 states about the natural man not being able to discern spiritually, unless one is born again, one can’t discern (see) spiritual matters.

    Do you see this similarly? I’m not quite sure about the entering part, although I sought some understanding through various books I have on the Greek language in Scripture.

    I think there's some connection between these two questions because there is a temporal reality that we experience and relate to in our salvation and sanctification, even though we are saved from the foundation of the world. I explained to my pastor that I can appreciate a nuance between seeing and entering the kingdom because since I’ve been born again, for the past 10 years God has progressively revealed more to me and sanctified me, whereas the entering part perhaps has always been in effect. We both likened this to when a baby is born, s/he has entered the world, but doesn’t understand (see) right away.

    If you have the time and are so inclined, I’d appreciate your thoughts.

     
  • At 7:57 AM, May 30, 2012, Blogger Daniel said…

    Anon - I am on course today and tied up for a bit, but your questions are good ones and I want to answer them fully. I began to write a response this morning, but time even after an half hour I was still writing out a response.

    I have prayer meeting tonight also, so I probably won’t get to this today - but look for a reply in the days to come.

    Few Christians today exercise enough discernment to make a distinction between justification (being made right with God), and receiving the Holy Spirit since both come hand in hand under the new covenant. Understanding the distinction will inform or perhaps “fine tune” our theology in other areas, and that is a good thing. Not everyone sees any value in making the distinction - and some cannot even see it.

    With regards to the seeing/entering the kingdom. The key word in Kingdom is “King”. Christ is that King, and the word kingdom simply refers to His rule or said another way, His reign - a reign that began (on Earth) at Pentecost, and will end when death is no more - at which point Christ will surrender the reign to God the Father.

    During His conversation with Nicodemus, the Lord is speaking about the kingdom - a Kingdom that hadn’t come yet. When he says to Nicodemus in John 3:3 that one cannot “see” the kingdom, He may not be speaking of perception, He may rather be speaking of seeing in the sense of experiencing it when it comes (as in “seeing better days, or seeing our old age, etc.).

    I will get into this a bit more when I have time in the coming days.

    Thanks for the questions.

    Dan

     
  • At 8:25 AM, May 30, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank YOU, Daniel, for your gracious consideration of these matters. I am convinced that greater understanding will influence how I walk in Him, as well as my ability to share the good news with greater clarity.

    Thank you for letting me know that you will address these things as the Lord permits. I gratefully wait in and on Him for your further response.

     
  • At 11:14 AM, June 01, 2012, Blogger Daniel said…

    Anon -

    I guess the place to start is with my understanding of John 3:3. For the sake of those reading who have not been following the exchange, I remind us that it in John 3:3, our Lord informed Nicodemus that unless one is born again, he can not "see" the kingdom of God.

    My opinion was settled in the matter before I ever read John Calvin's opinion, which I will share in a moment. I quote it because on the one hand it articulates what I believe Christ is talking about in John 3:3, and on the other hand it opposes what many (Calvinists!) teach today:

    To 'see' the kingdom of God is of the same meaning as to enter into the kingdom of God, as we shall immediately perceive from the context. - John Calvin (c.f. his commentary on John 3:1-6)

    Many read John 3:3-8 and hear Jesus saying, in paraphrase, that unless a person is born again, that person cannot enter into the kingdom of God - in fact, he or she cannot even comprehend it.

    But the context doesn't flow that way, does it? Christ isn't supplying a list of things you are incapable of doing prior to being born again, [a] see the kingdom, and [b] enter the kingdom. He is speaking of the same thing - just as I would be if I said I hope to see my old age - to live long enough to enter into it. I am not talking about perceiving it then entering it - I am talking about entering it, and am using the word "see" in that context.

    If I have any discernment at all, let me use that to suggest that the primary reason people read "spiritual perception" into John 3:3 is because doing so makes it much easier to argue that regeneration precedes faith in the ordo salutis. Since Calvinism has the most to gain from such an interpretation, it should come as no surprise that many Calvinists today interpret John 3:3 in this way. (As a die-hard, five-point, Calvinist, I am guilty of having interpreted John 3:3 thus in the past, and even preached to that effect on more than one occasion!)

    If Jesus is not talking about an ability to spiritually perceive the truth in John 3:3, that sort of decouples the underlying link you were making between that passage and 1 Corinthians 2:14. In Paul's letter to the church at Corinth he is saying that the things he is speaking are spiritual, being discernable to those who have the Spirit, and indiscernable to those who lack the same Spirit. Since Paul tells us in the epistle to the Romans (cf. chapter 8) that anyone who does not possess the Spirit does not belong to Christ, we can infer without difficulty from Paul's writings alone, that unless one is born of the Spirit one cannot discern spiritual things. We do not need to bend John 3:3 to this thought - it stands quite well without it.

    -cont-

     
  • At 11:14 AM, June 01, 2012, Blogger Daniel said…

    -cont-
    Now, the comment you are referring to in my post about the invalidity of selling one's soul? The comment was posted a couple of years ago, and I have developed the thought expressed there a little more since that time.

    I made those comments In reply to a fellow named Chad. He was someone who was raised a Christian, but wasn't sure that he was ever really saved, having no real evidence of salvation in his life, and again having at one point attempted to "sell his soul to the devil" (disclaimer: [a] You can't sell your soul because it isn't yours to sell and [b] the devil can't buy your soul because God won't sell it and [c] the devil doesn't need to buy anyone's soul, as everyone who has sinned has earned the condemnation that awaits them, unless they are reconciled to God in Christ). Chad was struggling with thoughts that God would not accept him given all that Chad had done to flee from God in pursuit of his own interests.

    The point of my reply was twofold - first to speak truth into the lies that Chad had come to believe about God, and second to encourage Chad, on the foundation of these truths to seek Christ in earnest.

    In the service of these two lofty goals, I recalled how Peter had wept after betraying the Lord. Can you imagine how down Peter must have felt? I am sure that Chad could appreciate it, and that was why I chose Peter. I wanted to show that the same Peter, without the Holy Spirit, was capable of denying Christ to save his own hide, but this same Peter, in possession of the Spirit, not only proclaimed Christ, but gladly spent his life to do so.

    In describing Peter at the time of his denial of Christ, I noted that Peter, though already a believer, was not yet indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and would not be until the Holy Spirit was given to believers at Pentecost. Keep in mind that my aim was to show that the same God who loved Peter even when Peter was denying Him, loved Chad in spite of Chad's own denial of Christ.

    What I wanted to focus on for Chad was how being born of the Spirit changed Peter, and how being born of the Spirit would (necessarily) change Chad. This is where the distinctions I made find their context, but let me reiterate them here for the readers who are following this comment thread.

    -cont-

     
  • At 11:15 AM, June 01, 2012, Blogger Daniel said…

    -cont-

    God promised Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his Seed (whom Paul identifies as Jesus Christ). The law (through Moses) was thereafter given (as Paul explains) as a tutor to lead men to the Christ who was to come; that is, the law was given to show men who the Christ was. He was the one whom the law could not condemn.

    God's promise extended to Isaac, then to Jacob (Israel), and then to the twelve tribes of Israel. These were providentially brought into Egypt where they became slaves. God through Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and (eventually) into Canaan. While still wandering in the wilderness God establishes a covenant with Israel, that will be replaced by a new covenant which the Christ Himself will usher into being. On the cross Christ secured that new and better covenant which was then inaugurated on the day of Pentecost.

    The distinction I made to Chad, concerning Peter touched upon the fact that Peter, though saved at the time he denied Christ, was by no means born of the Spirit yet - for the Spirit had not yet been given, as the New Covenant in Christ's blood had not yet been inaugurated. Peter was saved, but He was not born of the Spirit (yet).

    Now, in my comment to Chad I used the term, "Born again" rather than, "born of the Spirit" - but the two mean the same thing. The problem is that because we are no longer being translated from the old covenant and into the new - that is, because all new believers are saved under the new covenant, and because it is impossible to be saved under the old covenant system today - we experience being born of the Spirit the very moment we are justified and not as a separate thing in the manner of those saints who were saved under the old covenant but later were born of the Spirit when the new covenant was inaugurated.

    Such a distinction is almost moot now that one can no longer be saved under the old covenant - since everyone who is justified by faith today, is saved through the new covenant, and so we experience being born of the Spirit as soon as we are justified.

    Whatever we might understand from this distinction, whether we see it or not, and whether or not it informs or fine tunes other areas of our understanding, I do not see it (presently) shedding additional light on such things as our election, our predestination, or in any obvious way at least, the experience of our sanctification.

    In summary, those who are born of the spirit have the ability (though not always the wisdom) to discern spiritual matters. Since the reign of Christ is a spiritual thing, it follows from what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 that only those who are born again are able to discern this rule - which itself begins to express itself the moment we are saved, in our growing desire to live lives that please our Lord and Savior. Insofar as we allow this desire to provoke us to obedience, we are sanctified, and mature in our faith, and insofar as we obey our own carnal desires, we remain immature spiritually, stalling (by our own unwillingness to surrender to Christ) the sanctification that Christ (through the indwelling Holy Spirit) is tireless working to provoke in us.

    I don't see the connection you suggest - at least not in the shades you suggest it, I hope my explanation helps to illustrate why that is.

    Let me know if that answered your question sufficiently, or provokes other questions.

     
  • At 7:38 PM, June 01, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Daniel -

    Thank you. Your thought and time put into the answer is much appreciated, and your words are helpful, but:

    (1) I still don't understand what distinguished a “saved” individual in the OT.

    I'm presuming that “saved” would be those of faith (Noah, Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, the prophets, Daniel, etc).

    But in the OT, certain men had the Spirit come upon them, yet also leave them. David cried to renew a right spirit unto him in Psalm 51. Does this mean he - and other OT saints - were “born again” when the Spirit was upon them? David was a man after God’s own heart, and I believe he was saved, but did the Spirit leave him? If so, was he born again?

    I don’t know how an OT saint could be born again if the Spirit left them; Saul and Samson are two men who leap to mind in this regard. I don't know about the 70 elders upon whom God also placed the Spirit that He had upon Moses - if the Spirit remained or not upon them.

    Was the Spirit perhaps in some men (Joshua, Daniel, etc), and upon others in a different manner (Saul, Balaam, the elders, the judges)? And if so, does this make those whom the Holy Spirit was in? "born again"?

    (2) I don't know if I understand how you mean “saved” if not “born again” synonymously. By “saved” in the OT economy do you mean justified before God in the sense that their testimonies as we read in Scripture are those of faith? “Born again” (also meaning from above) happened at Pentecost, but the Spirit was also given to OT saints. Were they not then “born again”? Did “born again” apply to OT saints? I would presume so since Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand (John 3:10) the concept.

    (3) In a recent on-line interchange with a young pastor, he characterized “born again” as “rebirthed, that is, raised from the dead, because our spirits are dead.” I had always thought it to be a “new” birth, that is, something from nothing, not a resurrected birth, but as I’m researching this very issue that you and I are discussing, I'm finding there to be Scriptural support for our spirits being dead and then resurrected upon the Holy Spirit's life-giving regeneration.

    In the book of Daniel chapter 2 it says that Nebuchadnezzer’s “spirit” was troubled, yet he was not born again here, and men are “dead” in trespasses and sins, so I'm pondering that being “born again (from above)” is a resurrection of a dead spirit and not a birth in the sense of newborn physical baby as something from nothing. It is a resurrection of the dead spirit to a live spirit, with the indwelling Holy Spirit Who regenerates and henceforth guides, corrects, etc. Our spirits also go to the Lord upon death, and those who die not in the Lord also have spirits that go somewhere, so I’m thinking that being born again is a quickening of that dead spirit within.

     
  • At 9:05 AM, June 04, 2012, Blogger Daniel said…

    Anon - sorry for the late reply. With church and a birthday celebration, I have been busy this weekend.

    A sinner who was instructed in the way of salvation under the old covenant was saved by the grace of God through personal, God-enabled, faith - just as sinners are saved under the new covenant, and just as sinners were saved prior to these covenants. Their trust in God being accounted to them as righteousness.

    The scriptures teach that both faith and repentance are gifts given by God; --that no one has the ability to become a believer unless God draws them to Himself, and in so doing supplies them with this ability. This "ability" is not something we work up, but something the Holy Spirit, as an act of God's grace, imparts to us in the moment of faith. So it was under the old covenant, and so it is under the new covenant - the Holy Spirit working upon unbelievers while they are yet unbelievers, in order to translate them into the kingdom of light.

    This does not mean that the old covenant believers received the Holy Spirit in the same capacity as new covenant believers do; Their conversion required the ministry of the Holy Spirit, even as our conversion does - and in that sense they were "born of the Spirit" - meaning, that the Holy Spirit was required for their conversion. This is what our Lord is describing in John 3:8 - "the wind (Greek [pneuma]: it can mean wind or spirit) blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound (Greek [phonos]: it can mean sound or voice), but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

    The Holy Spirit was not given by promise to the old covenant saints, nor was He given in the same capacity as He is given in the new covenant. Our Lord spoke of the fulfillment of the new covenant promise in these words, in John 14:16-17, "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know him, for He dwells with you and will be in you." Prior to Pentecost, the Apostles were living under the old covenant. The Holy Spirit was "with" them under this covenant - but His presence was coupled to their obedience (under the Mosaic covenant). Under the new covenant, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit would not depend upon their obedience, but upon Christ's obedience, furthermore, His indwelling presence was so superior to that of merely being "with" an old covenant saint that Jesus said that the least saint in the kingdom (ie. under the new covenant) would be superior to the greatest saint
    of the old covenant (cf. John the Baptist).

    -cont-

     
  • At 9:06 AM, June 04, 2012, Blogger Daniel said…

    -cont-

    Before I go further, there are a few terms that are often used interchangeably in Christian parlance, and if I am to be understood here, I should define my usage.

    "saved/justified" - the moment a person puts his trust in God to save him, that person is eternally justified by this trust, and thus "saved" from God's wrath.

    "Born of the Spirit" - a term that describes the Holy Spirit's necessary involvement in the moment of conversion for each and every saint - whether old or new covenant. While one is necessarily "born of the Spirit" the moment one is saved/justified, the two notions are not synonymous. Salvation/justification describes what has happened, "born of the Spirit" describes that momentary work of grace that provoked/allowed justification/salvation to take place.

    "born again/born from above" same as born of the Spirit.

    Given those definitions, Peter was saved/justified under the old covenant economy, and was born of the Spirit under the old covenant economy, prior to Pentecost, but at Pentecost Peter received the Holy Spirit in a new and better capacity, becoming the recipient of new and better promises.

    I have confused the matter in the past by using these terms loosely, and inconsistently. What I write in this comment above, I think, describes my understanding of how we ought to use these terms, and what I think they mean.

    What I have laboured to isolate, as it were, was the distinction between the old and new covenants as each pertains to the working of the Holy Spirit either upon (OT) or in (NT) the believer --and this for the purpose of helping this fellow Chad to trust that God's love is not fickle, that it not only anticipates our many failures, but supplies a solution to them in the person of the Holy Spirit who (now) indwells every genuine believer. Chad's testimony left the question of his own salvation unanswered - he was raised in a Christian home, but from his description, Christ was by no means his Lord, nor did he seem to be saving Him from sin (c.f. Matthew 1:21). In the wake of this absence, Chad had done some horrible things, and was convinced that God could not forgive him. I brought up Peter (pre-Pentecost), to show that even profound sin (such as denying your Lord to His face!) is no obstacle to God - for Peter received the promised Holy Spirit at Pentecost - which demonstrated that Peter, in spite of his sin, had been a justified believer prior to Pentecost - and what's more, even as Peter went on to do great works of faith, so one could expect Chad to do the same - given that the same Spirit that worked in Peter could just as certainly work in Chad if Chad gave Himself to Christ in earnest.

    I hope that "un-muddles" my past usages.

    Now, onto the weight given the word "again" in one English translation of John 3...

    Death came into the world through Adam's sin, and the result of this is that all of us sin. Death itself is not a "thing" it is the absence of a thing (life). Christ is life, and unless we are connected to Him (like grapes to the vine) we can do nothing righteous. Said another way those who do not possess spiritual life, cannot do anything righteous. There is no neutral ground here, so that means that anyone who lacks spiritual life can only do unrighteousness. That doesn't mean that everything a sinner does is as horrible as it can be - but it does mean that everything a sinner does is entirely self serving - that is, entirely sinful.

    -cont-

     
  • At 9:06 AM, June 04, 2012, Blogger Daniel said…

    -cont-
    Now, because I understand being dead in our trespasses and sins to mean that we are (and have been since birth) without life entirely - the notion that being "born again" means that we are raised a second time to life strikes me as a well meant, but confused. Being born of the Spirit is not a picture of revitalization, as though something dead were being raised, it is a picture of birth - that which was not there coming into being.

    In John 3, the sense of "born again" is that a person who has obviously been born of the flesh, must undergo a second, spiritual birth in order to enter the kingdom of God. Such is the same sense if we use "born from above" or "born of the Spirit" -always the notion is that one must undergo a spiritual birth. The emphasis on the "again" does not translate into (nor even hint at) a resurrection from spiritual death. Mashing that though into this one may sound to some like insight, but it strikes me as confusion.

    When Paul writes that we are dead in our trespasses and sin - he means only that we are without life. He writes in Romans 5-7 all about what it means to be in Adam - and at the heart of it all is death. Adam brought death into the world, and death has reigned over mankind (through sin) ever since. To be sin's slave is to be ruled by death. That should be obvious the moment one comprehends that without Christ (who is our Life), one cannot do anything righteous, and as there is no middle ground, that means one can only do unrightouesness. When Paul writes that we are dead in our trespasses and sin, he is saying that death leaves us no option but trespasses and sin. That's what it means to say that death reigns through sin. It doesn't mean death is sitting on a throne calling the shots, it means that sinners are ruled by this absence of life - they have no choice in the matter - they cannot do righteousness because they do not possess the life of Christ wherein can be found the only source of righteousness (open to men) that exists.

    This pastor seems to me to be inventing a resurrection in order to combine two things together; two things he seems to misunderstand completely.

    No, Anon, can I call you Anon? ;) No, being born of the Spirit does not make you a refurbished creation, it makes you a new creation. God isn't fixing the sinful you, He is putting that to death, and giving you a new you in Christ.

    Let me know if that straightened anything out.

     
  • At 8:44 AM, June 06, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Daniel –

    Thanks very much for the thoughtful reply; I don’t mind the long waits between posts.

    A few initial thoughts of my own:

    1. You refer to the old and new covenants. I’m reluctant to yet speak in those terms, even though in Ezekiel God speaks of a new covenant with His people, and Jesus institutes it at the Lord’s Supper (or at Calvary), but because there are several covenants delineated throughout the Old Testament I need to make sure I’m clear what distinguishes exactly “the old covenant (speaking of one) from the new – since the old encompasses so many in itself. I recently started the book “The Two Covenants” by Andrew Murray, and perhaps my understanding of this will improve. I’m presuming at this point that when Christians refer to the “old covenant” they typically mean Mosaic law.

    2. The heart of the answer I was seeking earlier is found in this of what you write: “the Apostles were living under the old covenant. The Holy Spirit was "with" them under this covenant - but His presence was coupled to their obedience (under the Mosaic covenant). Under the new covenant, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit would not depend upon their obedience, but upon Christ's obedience.” That, I think, is key to the matter – but I am not yet sure that God’s presence with them was dependant always on their obedience. Surely Abram’s faith was a gift of God not based on Abram’s own merit. Wouldn’t it have been revealed to Abram by God’s Holy Spirit? I need to research this issue of OT saints and how Scripture says the Spirit worked in, with or upon them.

    3. Perhaps what’s hanging me up here is that I’m reading into what you’re writing with respect to Peter as a firm delineation between the two periods of time – one prior to Pentecost and the other Pentecost and forward. I’m inferring that you’re stating that the Holy Spirit was not granted in the same manner, that is an indwelling Spirit, to believers until after Pentecost. If this is not what you’re saying, please do let me know. If it is what you’re saying, then I would struggle with that, because there is no other way a person could be a believer, as I understand Scripture to be saying. When Jesus said to Nicodemus that a man must be born again to see (and enter) the kingdom of God, our Lord expected Nicodemus to have understood this by the witness of the Scriptures. I don’t know how there could have been any believer in the OT without the Spirit of God. Perhaps the difference lies in the words “in,” “upon,” and “with.”

    - cont. -

     
  • At 8:45 AM, June 06, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    - cont. -


    4. I discussed this issue on Sunday with my pastor and another learned man from our church. The latter disagreed with the distinguishing of born again from saved, agreeing with the pastor that they are the same. I replied that I can discern between the two at least minimally in meaning – that is, saved from the wrath of God versus born again as being the state when the Holy Spirit comes upon and into a believer, regenerating the life. (Hmmm, that regeneration could imply raising a dead spirit, but I digress.) The latter man then brought up what he referred to as “the sure mercies of David,” saying that God told David that God would not take the Holy Spirit from David as He did Saul.

    5. These two men and I talked about Balaam, Samson, Saul and others who are examples of how the Holy Spirit may not have indwelled, yet were with nonetheless. When I brought this up with my pastor about the two periods of time and differences between them, his response was that he didn’t see much difference. He did point out that in his view the OT saints were living under types and shadows and that the NT saints had their fulfillment, although last night he remarked that he saw the OT as being a time of personal responsibility. (We were in Galatians and discussing our freedom in Christ.)

    6. While praying and pondering this morning on the matter other verses leapt to mind, including Jesus’ statement that it was good that He go to prepare a place for them. While many interpret this as the “mansions” in heaven for believers, and I don’t dispute that there are places in heaven for the saints that Jesus prepares, I take the verse to mean the dwelling place for the Holy Spirit inside each believer that is prepared, because Jesus told His disciples that (a) He goes to prepare a place for them (which can be understood as His leaving thusly opens the place in them for the Holy Spirit to dwell, because as long as Jesus is among them, there is no need for the Holy Spirit in them) and (b) Jesus would send a Intercessor/Consoler in His Holy Spirit “to abide with them forever” (John 14:16).The question for me that remains is if this same Holy Spirit indwelt men in the OT. Perhaps part of the answer lies in John 14:17, which I’m reading as I’m composing this answer to you: “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” So it would appear to be a distinction between the Spirit’s dwelling with a person as opposed to the time when the Spirit is in a person, which then leads me to think that herein lies a distinction between the old and new testamental periods – that prior to Pentecost, the Spirit was with a man, whereas post-Pentecost, the Spirit dwells in believers. But would that mean that allpre-Pentecost believers did not have the Spirit indwelling? Noah? Abraham? Moses? David? Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand from the OT what “born again” was – so I’m wondering if these very saints were not in fact born again.

    I’m still thinking on these matters and will pursue them until I’m clear on them all.

     
  • At 2:45 PM, June 06, 2012, Blogger Daniel said…

    Anon -

    Just to clear the cobwebs; when I say "old Covenant" I am speaking of the Mosaic covenant. I put "covenant" in italics to emphasize that the Mosaic Law is not the same thing as the Mosaic covenant, although the Mosaic law is certainly included in the Mosaic Covenant.

    Also, in speaking of obedience as a factor in determining whether the Holy Spirit would remain with a believer under the Mosaic covenant (think: King Saul), I am speaking of this in terms of the Mosaic covenant (God's covenant with Israel). Recall that the promise was (I am paraphrasing) if you (Israel) keep the law, I (God) will be with you and bless you (Israel), but if you don't keep the law, I (God) will oppose you (Israel).

    I don't want to confuse the (external) working of the Holy Spirit in the act of bringing a man to salvation by grace through faith with the covenant promise to remain with Israel so long as Israel remained faithful. Paul tells us later (in the book of Romans), that even though Israel broke that covenant, God remained faithful (to Israel), nevertheless, the Holy Spirit was not bound to anyone under the Mosaic covenant. Salvation is still a gift of grace by which faith both enabled and provoked, but this is not the context I am speaking in when I speak of obedience. I am not suggesting that obedience prompts that grace which leads to salvation or ends in a covenant; I am suggesting about what happens after the covenant is in place when "obedience" is bound by covenant to be obedient, and stands to break the covenant if they pursue disobedience.

    As to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, let me say in no uncertain terms, that the Holy Spirit did not indwell believers (in the same capacity) prior to Pentecost, as He did following Pentecost. This new indwelling was a new promise (covenant). The Holy Spirit was with believers prior to Pentecost, but not in the same capacity as post Pentecost.

    What you may be having trouble with is that this indwelling is not what I mean when I say "born of the Spirit"; our conversion requires direct intervention from the Holy Spirit - that is we cannot be justified except that we are "born of the Spirit" - meaning except that the Holy Spirit is at work in us regenerating us - causing us to repent and exercise faith. The moment we do repent and exercise faith, we receive the promise (the Holy Spirit) as a guarantee of our salvation - even though He had already been at work on us prior to that moment of salvation. To be justified we had to be born of the Spirit - once we were born of the Spirit we received the new covenant promise of the Holy Spirit as an indwelling comforter and helper.

    So I am definitely drawing a hard line between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost, and the way in which the Holy Spirit was manifested prior to Pentecost. Prior to Pentecost Saints didn't have the Holy Spirit indwelling them - that was a new covenant promise. In order to be saved/justified, they had to be born of the Spirit - meaning that in order for these undeserving sinners to believe the Holy Spirit had to minister to them, such that their conversion was born of His work, and not their own. That is what I think our Lord meant when He told Nicodemus you had to be born of the Spirit in order to enter the (coming) kingdom of God.

    -cont-

     
  • At 2:45 PM, June 06, 2012, Blogger Daniel said…

    -cont-

    Consider that Christ's own testimony as He began His ministry was that the kingdom was at hand (c.f. Matthew 3:2, 4:17), but later on He taught His disciples to pray, "Thy Kingdom come". I don't think Jesus had one kingdom and God the Father another. When Christ taught His disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come," He was teaching them to pray that He, the King of all kings (and subsequently/obviously of all kingdoms) would begin to rule over His kingdom. As the scriptures tell us that when all things have been put under Christ's rule, He shall surrender this same rule to God the Father, that paints the window of Christ's reign as spanning from Pentecost to Judgment Day. Given this, when Christ tells the parable of the man who goes into a distant land to receives the kingdom, it is clear that He is describing Himself, going (in death) to the throne of God to receive His kingdom, then returning (on Judgment day) to judge the living and the dead. In between these events, His servants (those who accept His rule in absentia (as it were)), obey Him, for He is their King.

    I am describing the scope of the kingdom (ie. Christ's reign over men on earth) so that we can put into perspective what He means when He says to Nicodemus that unless the Holy Spirit does a work in a sinner that sinner will by no means enter the kingdom. The kingdom was part of the New Covenant. Those saints who did not live to see the Christ did not enter into the kingdom - they couldn't it hadn't come yet. That is why the saint who lived to see (ie.: enter) the kingdom was superior to the greatest saint (ie. John the Baptist) who died prior to the inauguration of the promised kingdom . Because those saints who attained to the kingdom were ruled by Christ directly (as it were) through the indwelling Holy Spirit - as opposed to being ruled by the law as directed by their own effort after having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit (born of the Spirit).

    Our Lord expected Nicodemus to understand that the promised Kingdom was at hand, and that one could by no means enter into it apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. This was what the prophets had been prophesying, after all. Nicodemus did not understand this because his theology was warped. He wasn't a saved man asking His Lord for assurance, he was an unsaved Pharisee who knew enough to know (or strongly suspect) that Jesus was a genuine man of God. It is Jesus who drives the conversation in the direction of what was needed to enter the kingdom, and this He did to show that in spite of being a ruler of the Jews, Nicodemus was clueless about the coming kingdom and how one entered into it.

    Prepositions have formal meanings. If I say that, "John walked into the room", it isn't the same as saying, "John walked in the room". The first specifically tells me that John moved from without to within the room, the second only tells me that while John was in the room, he walked about. Sadly, English grammar has become so sloppy in our generation (I blame television and public schools), that few would even notice the difference unless it was pointed out to them. Poor grammar means poor comprehension, as things which are more precise are understood as more ambiguous, such that prepositions like "in" and "with" are understood by some to be - more or less - interchangeable, as though their usage was (now) a matter of personal taste and style rather than describing an intended relationship in the most precise language possible.

    -cont-

     
  • At 2:45 PM, June 06, 2012, Blogger Daniel said…

    -cont-
    Which is to say that "with" and "in" are different on purpose, and it behooves any honest (and articulate) reader of scripture to step up their game, that is to read the text as it was written rather than as they think it may have been intended. I marvel that our English translations translate "believe into Jesus" as "Believe in Jesus" - for instance, since the former paints the picture of our faith being the door through which we enter into Christ, and the latter suggests nothing more than an intellectual assent to a proposition. Obviously the former is the more literal translation - but I too digress.

    If we understand "born again"/"born from above"/"born of the Spirit" as attributing our salvation to the work of the Holy Spirit rather than as a synonymous label for being in a justified state, we are closer, I think, to articulating the distinction between the term "born again" as used in scripture, and "born again" as used by a modern Christian. Once you have it in your mind (and vocabulary) that born again is a "state of being saved" rather than a description of what took place in order for you to be saved, you are pretty much tied to using the phrase as a label synonymous with being justified. I see nothing wrong with doing so as long as one understands that in biblical usage, the term was never used as a label, and was by no means synonymous with being justified. That is a latter day application of the term.

    The gentleman in your congregation who described the steadfastness of the Holy Spirit in terms of the sure mercies of David, got it right in that the indwelling Holy Spirit under the new covenant would by no means forsake believers, even as the Holy Spirit did not forsake David. But this does not suppose or imply (indeed it cannot) that the manner in which the Holy Spirit worked on David is identical to the manner in which the Holy Spirit works on believers today. There was/is a difference.

    The notion that Christ went to prayer a place for Himself or His Spirit within us contradicts what Christ actually said - that he goes to prepare a place for us. He is not describing preparing a place for himself on our behalf, we can't wrangle that out of the Greek in the same way we might in the English - He goes to prepare a place for us in His Father's house - the imagery is of marriage, the groom prepares a place for his bride to be prior to the consummation, and when everything is ready, He returns to claim His bride. Your meditation is certainly thoughtful, but as it contradicts both the intended imagery and again the intended meaning, I would encourage much more study on that before you adopt it as a personal doctrine.


    To sum up: The Holy Spirit did not indwell Noah, Moses, Abraham, etc. He was with them, not in them (prepositions). Their conversion/justification/salvation was provoked by God's grace in the person of the Holy Spirit ministering to them while they were yet unsaved, culminating in a repentance which itself gave way to saving faith. Their salvation was born of (ie produced by) the Holy Spirit. They were born again in that sense - but not in the colloquial sense in which modern Christians use the words today. One could say they were born again, "biblically speaking" because it did not mean then to indwelled by the Holy Spirit - it only meant to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Our usage (today) isn't biblical, and as I am striving to show the biblical usage, it is confusing because you are reading into it the modern usage.

    I hope that makes sense.

     
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