The Holy Spirit's Role in Salvation
After the Cross
A Special Rock of Offence Commentary
By William Handschumacher
This commentary represents an attempt to correct some common misconceptions in the modern church about the role of God's Holy Spirit and its place in the authentic Gospel of Christ. Few of us are taught that the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is what validates the Christian believer's salvation. We are saved when we “have the Holy Spirit”. However, when He is absent, we are not saved even if we think we are. The apostle Paul addresses this issue when he warned:
"SO THEN, THOSE WHO ARE IN THE FLESH CANNOT PLEASE GOD. BUT YOU ARE NOT IN THE FLESH BUT IN THE SPIRIT, IF INDEED THE SPIRIT OF GOD DWELLS IN YOU. NOW IF ANYONE DOES NOT HAVE THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST, HE IS NOT HIS (OR DOESN'T BELONG TO GOD)" (Romans 8:8-9 - Emphasis Added)
This New Testament warning is critically important. The term “having the Holy Spirit” can be confusing because of the revolutionary changes that occurred as a result of Christ’s crucifixion. Under Christ’s New Covenant that began after the cross, the believer “has the Holy Spirit” in an entirely new and different way than those who lived under the authority of Old Testament Law. A common, yet disastrous misconception is to think that the Holy Spirit operates the same way after the crucifixion of Christ (under the authority of the New Covenant) as He did under the previous Old Testament religious system (or the authority of the Mosaic Law). This is a wrong yet mainstream teaching.
THE CROSS ESTABLISHED WHAT
OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST CALLS
“A NEW COVENANT” THAT
FOREVER CHANGED THE WAY
GOD RELATES WITH THE HUMAN
It’s absolutely imperative to
understand what this means.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The following commentaries are supplemental information that the reader should also consider. It contains additional information about the "sealing" role of the Holy Spirit in Christ's New Covenant Salvation.
The Prime Directive of Christ’s
Exposing Misconceptions About "Saving Faith"
In the first century church, the apostle Paul warned about "a different gospel of Christ", which was an imitation or counterfeit of the real Gospel of Christ. A counterfeit of anything looks like the original. A person can possess a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill – and, if they don’t know how to recognize it - will spend it like real money (and possibly go to jail for their mistake). Today, the institutional Christian church is overrun with countless expressions of "different gospels of Christ". A vast majority are based on the common error of mixing Christ's New Covenant salvation with an Old Testament theology that offers a CONDITIONAL SALVATION dependent upon religious performance, Christian service and the ability to live sin-free lives. The apostle Paul condemned this popular "mixed theology" as something that perverts God’s gift of eternal life. The “different gospel of Christ” that Paul condemns refuses to respect the context of the Bible and carries one of the strongest and most frightening warnings found in the New Testament. Yet, almost no church talks about the danger because of the division and controversy it creates in their congregation. The apostle Paul called this respect for context, "Rightly dividing the Word of Truth". The problem has become so exaggerated that a crisis now exists, along with many spiritual unintended consequences. To make matters worse, the danger is hidden behind cleverly designed theological terms and interpretations, making it difficult for inexperienced Christians to discern. Never allow anyone, especially a church leader, to tell you that these “different gospels” represent “differences of opinion”, which should be ignored. Why? This often repeated statement contradicts one of the strongest warnings recorded in the Bible.
This is an emotional and controversial topic. For the casual reader, our commentary may appear to stereotype all churches and their leadership in a negative light. This is not our goal or intention. To keep the size of this teaching from spiraling out of control, we tend to focus on the issues and warnings given by both Christ and the apostles in the New Testament. We do not oppose Godly leaders, church groups, congregations and movements that follow the principles of Christ’s New Covenant in the Bible. We do not want to paint every situation with a wide negative brush. However, Jesus warned, as we get closer to the end of the age, MANY false and misleading expressions of Christianity would exist - along with deceptive leaders that rule over them. That means the subject of this commentary teaching does not involve some kind of a “fringe” insignificant threat. It's a MAINSTREAM problem that ensnares literally millions of unsuspecting professing Christians.
The topic of "a different gospel" and how it distorts the present-day ministry of the Holy Spirit can be complex and confusing. By its very nature, it produces irreconcilable differences and vicious disagreements, like the ones that both our Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul faced in the first century.
We can't properly discuss this topic unless we understand the source of the confusion. This involves "looking beneath the surface" and taking a more detailed view of the Scriptures. We must always base our faith on God's Word (the rule-book for our faith). However, in this situation, a topic such as this cannot be properly addressed in a couple paragraphs. There are numerous "theological systems" that dominate the Christian church AND OPERATE BY STEALTH BEHIND THE SCENES. These systems of theology each interpret the Bible in a different way. They tend to act as a "filter" that various churches and denominations use to make sense of the Bible. This is why we must have at least a surface understanding of these "methods of interpretation" in order to answer certain questions about the present day operation of the Holy Spirit. Three of the most dominant systems of theology are:
- Reformed Theology (and its variants of
Calvinism and Replacement Theology)
From this list, we will not discuss Catholicism, in order to keep these comments as brief as possible and to limit our discussion to the Protestant side of the Christian Church.
Note: To keep from adding more confusion, the reader should understand that our comments are generalized. Otherwise, our response would be the size of a 150 page book that few people would read. This particular topic is the "flash-point" of a spiritual war that's been raging for hundreds of years INSIDE THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. However, regardless of the restrictions, we can still gain an understanding of the problem.
The following three steps are necessary to help to answer some of these questions.
Understanding Reformed Theology
This popular theology generally views the entire Bible as having one uniform message. But, the Bible warns that it consists of two major programs - each governed by a different set of principles and rules. Adherents of Reformed theology tend to believe that the way God interacts with the human race in the Old Testament generally remains the same for those living after the cross. This view is empowered by the belief (to a greater or lesser degree in some mainline denominational churches) that God permanently rejected Israel for their sin of crucifying Christ and REPLACED THEM WITH THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH. As a result, many "Reformed ministers and teachers" believe that the current nation of Israel, founded in 1948, is permanently and divinely cursed and should be judged (meaning destroyed and eliminated) for her sin. As a result, they now teach that the Christian Church is "The New Israel" and Christian believers are the new "spiritual Jews".
Yet, the Bible does not support this teaching (Read Romans 11:1-2 and Romans 11:25-26)
THE FALSE BELIEF THAT GOD
HAS PERMANENTLY REJECTED
THE JEWISH PEOPLE IS THE
REASON FOR THE RESURGENCE
OF ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE
CHRISTIAN CHURCH – AND IT
DOESN’T COME FROM GOD.
Through this perceived act of permanent rejection, many Reformed ministers (and those that follow them) sincerely believe and teach that God has now transferred the entire Old Testament program of Israel to the Christian Church along with her laws, covenants, and promises. It's known as "Replacement Theology" and operates in a majority of churches that embrace Reformed Theology and its various expressions. Once again, it's an influence that dominates most mainline Protestant denominations – but it’s also found in Roman Catholicism.
Here’s the problem:
The way God deals with sin – and especially how the Holy Spirit operates - radically changed after the crucifixion of Christ and the day of Pentecost. The Lord Jesus Christ warned His disciples about these major future changes shortly before His crucifixion. Saint Paul provides more insight into these changes in his Epistles to the Church. Yet, Replacement/Reformed ministers and their followers teach the Bible in a way that suggests little change has taken place. As a result, they view the program of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament as being essentially the same in the New Testament - after the cross.
Reformed theologians use an interpretation method called "allegorizing (or spiritualizing) Scripture" to make the Bible fit their traditions and doctrine. This is nothing more than misapplying Scripture by either ignoring or abusing its context. It has the disastrous effect of making the New Testament redemption of Christ appear to be just a continuation of the Old Testament religious system (with Jesus added in). Even worse, it destroys the divinely crafted context of the Bible. This method of interpretation is responsible for many dangerous distortions of God's true intentions toward the believer found in Scripture. It is also responsible for a majority of the attacks against the authentic Gospel of Christ, which is based on Grace – also known as the unmerited and undeserved favor of God. Yet, Reformed doctrine in all of its countless denominational variants and expressions redefines "Grace". This skillfully, modified message is often presented as fundamental Bible truth, which can mislead entire congregations. More information is available HERE.
Despite the fact that it is a dominant and popular denominational force in the world-wide institutional Christian church, Replacement/Reformed Theology is a misleading religious system of faith that causes believers to go dangerously astray in their faith. Why? It redefines important Bible doctrines concerning the redemption of Christ by spiritualizing Scripture, instead of using a "literal" interpretation of the Bible. Spiritualizing Scripture essentially makes it appear that God says things - that He does not say.
We believe in Christian apologetics, or the practice of "defending the Christian faith". Yet, it’s important to know that there are many "Reformed theologians" who engage in this area and will present their beliefs as fundamental Bible teaching and as "God's original theology". Just because someone claims to be a "Christian apologist" doesn't mean you're getting correct information. For these reasons, great care and discernment must be applied to every ministry that claims to operate in Christian apologetics.
IMPORTANT NOTE: When discussing the theological roots of Reformed Theology, we should realize that it exists under countless different names in the modern world-wide Christian Church - but it originated and was condemned in the first century. Today, it crosses all denominational lines - so it's not something found only in a particular church or movement. This forces us into the difficult area of examining what's being taught, rather than looking for a particular name or label to alert us about the problem. This is one reason Saint Paul instructs all believers to; "Rightly (or correctly) divide the Word of Truth."
Respecting the literal interpretation of Scripture
FIRST SCRIPTURAL TESTIMONY
The words of Jesus Christ
"And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; FOR IF I DO NOT GO AWAY, THE HELPER (THE HOLY SPIRIT) WILL NOT COME TO YOU; BUT IF I DEPART, I WILL SEND HIM TO YOU. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I STILL HAVE MANY THINGS TO SAY TO YOU, BUT YOU CANNOT BEAR THEM NOW. HOWEVER, WHEN HE, THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH, HAS COME, HE WILL GUIDE YOU INTO ALL TRUTH; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. THEREFORE I SAID THAT HE WILL TAKE OF MINE AND DECLARE IT TO YOU. A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father." (John 16:4-16 - Emphasis Added)
"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, THAT HE MAY ABIDE WITH YOU FOR EVER; 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." (John 14:16-17 Also read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 1 John 4:4)
In these Scriptures, Jesus is telling His disciples about two time periods and the different administrations they represent. They are:
(1) The current time they were living in before the cross.
(2) A future time after the cross.
Contrary to some popular reformed teaching, Christ's crucifixion represents a sharp line that divides God's Word into two spiritual administrations, where each follows different principles and rules. Let's look at a few of these different principles and rules as Jesus revealed them in John chapter 14:
"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, THAT HE MAY ABIDE WITH YOU FOR EVER; Even the Spirit of truth".
(This is a future characteristic of the Holy Spirit's ministry that would begin AFTER THE CROSS.)
"...but ye know him; FOR HE (THE HOLY SPIRIT) DWELLETH WITH YOU".
(This was a characteristic of the Holy Spirit's ministry that was in operation BEFORE THE CROSS.)
"...AND SHALL BE IN YOU."
(This is a future characteristic of the Holy Spirit's ministry that would begin AFTER THE CROSS.)
In both of these time periods - before and after the cross - it could be generally said that believers "had the Holy Spirit". Yet, one group "had the Holy Spirit DWELLING WITH THEM" and the other group "had the Holy Spirit DWELLING IN THEM." It was the same Holy Spirit, but the location of His presence was different. If the Holy Spirit dwelled in them before the cross (as various expressions of Reformed Theology incorrectly teaches), the words Jesus spoke in John 14:16-17 makes no sense. Why would Jesus say these things if everything remained the same? However, the phrase "SHALL BE IN YOU" points to a time in the future where the Holy Spirit's ministry and program will be radically different.
The Bible calls these two administrations, "The Old Covenant (recorded in the Old Testament before the cross)" and "Christ's New Covenant" (recorded in the New Testament after the cross). Concerning these two administrations, the book of Hebrews reveals:
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He (Jesus) is also MEDIATOR OF A BETTER COVENANT, WHICH WAS ESTABLISHED ON BETTER PROMISES. For if that FIRST COVENANT had been faultless, then no place would have been sought FOR A SECOND." (Hebrews 8:6-7 NKJV)
"IN THAT HE (JESUS CHRIST) SAYS, "A NEW COVENANT," HE HAS MADE THE FIRST OBSOLETE. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13 NKJV)
IMPORTANT NOTE: The first covenant where the Holy Spirit dwells "with you" is being replaced with a better covenant and better promises where THE HOLY SPIRIT DWELLS IN YOU.
JESUS SAID THAT WHEN THE
HOLY SPIRIT COMES TO DWELL
IN YOU UNDER THE BETTER
HE STAYS FOREVER.
In the previous Old Covenant, where the Holy Spirit "dwelled with you", there was no promise that He would stay forever. Rather, He would often leave if sin repeatedly occurred because Jesus had not yet died on the cross to take away sin. This is why King David, after his sin with Bathsheba, pleaded with the Lord; "take not Thy Holy Spirit from me". Why did David pray this way? The Holy Spirit's could depart from him as He did when his predecessor, King Saul, sinned against the Lord. However, under the better promises of Christ's New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13), sin no longer has the ability to drive the indwelling Holy Spirit away. Jesus promised the believer these tremendous benefits in John chapter 14. Why? Christ's New Covenant - that began after the cross - permanently takes away sins power (dominion) to condemn.
"For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law (the Old Covenant system) but under grace (Christ's New Covenant system of faith)." (Romans 6:14 - Emphasis Added)
"For the wages of sin is death, but THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD." (Romans 6:23)
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2)
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
"FOR GOD'S GIFTS AND HIS CALL ARE IRREVOCABLE. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.]" (Romans 11:29 Amplified Bible)
"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, AND THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST HIS SON CLEANSES US FROM ALL SIN." (1 John 1:7 - Emphasis Added)
SECOND SCRIPTURAL TESTIMONY
In his epistles to the Church, the apostle Paul reveals an important truth to his disciple Timothy:
"Be diligent to PRESENT YOURSELF APPROVED OF GOD, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, RIGHTLY (OR CORRECTLY) DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH." (2 Timothy - Emphasis Added)
Paul reveals several important truths. First, GOD’S WORD IS DIVIDED (as Hebrews 8:6-13 records) into two major parts (or administrations). Therefore, it must be correctly (or rightly) divided in order to correctly teach its truths. Secondly, we must "rightly divide" God's Word in order to be "approved of God". Dividing God's Word (as Paul described it) is another way of saying that the Holy Scriptures has a specific context that must be respected. If we fail to respect this context, we may be in a spiritual condition where God does not approve of us - and we might not be aware of this condition. Respecting the Bible's context involves understanding the different administrations of the Old Covenant (before the cross) and the New Covenant (after the cross), where each one operates by a different set of principles and rules.
The New Covenant is also called "the new and living way of Christ" established on His blood (Read: Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6, Heb. 8:6-13, Heb. 9:15, Heb. 10:19-23, Heb. 12:24). It's declared to be "New" because it didn't operate before the cross.
THIRD SCRIPTURAL TESTIMONY
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, WHICH TEMPLE YE ARE." (Words of Paul after the Holy Spirit arrived on Pentecost from 1 Cor. 3:16-17)
"Or do you not know THAT YOUR BODY IS THE TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WHO IS IN YOU, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 - Emphasis Added)
In the days of the old covenant, the temple of God was a physical building that held the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was the center for Jewish religion and worship in Israel. However, this all changed under Christ's New Covenant that started after the cross. God's temple is now the body of the believer that contains the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Once again, notice the major change in the Holy Spirit's ministry. These are incredible truths that tend to lose their significance under the religious system of Reformed Theology and its countless variants.
In this commentary, we agree with both Jesus and Paul that the Bible is divided into two major "administrations" or spiritual programs THAT MUST NEVER BE MIXED TOGETHER. Another name for this view is "dispensationalism", which is in direct opposition to the uniform message of Reformed Theology. The Old Testament represents Israel's Old Covenant administration (or dispensation) - and the New Testament contains the Church's New Covenant administration (or dispensation). For the sake of brevity, we will not discuss the details of dispensationalism in this commentary, except to say that it represents a "literal" interpretation of the Bible, which keeps the Divine context of the Holy Scriptures intact. The Bible is designed by God as "dispensational". That alone makes it important.
Rather than the "uniform view of Bible history" found in Reformed Theology, Dispensationalists see Biblical history as different dispensations or administrations. In each dispensation, God sets out to accomplish something totally different. For example: The rules and principles that govern salvation under Old Testament Law are vastly different than the rules and principles that govern salvation under Christ's New Covenant. Reformed theologians teach a "sameness" or uniformity of God's program in the Bible for man throughout history, while Dispensationalists reveal the unique differences between each Divine administration. Reformed Theology spiritualizes Scripture to achieve agreement with the Biblical text. Dispensationalists use a "literal" interpretation of the Scripture, which makes it difficult to "theorize" their own interpretation to achieve Scriptural harmony.
The word "dispensationalism" is a modern theological term that carries essentially the same meaning as Paul's command to "rightly divide God's Word" in 2 Timothy 2:15.
More detailed information concerning these
important Biblical administrations is
available in the following commentary:
The Battle for God's Grace
Additional supplemental information is
available at the following links:
Our Position On Covenant Theology
(Also Known As Reformed Theology)
A Warning About Violating
The Spiritual Revolution Of Christ
Israel and the Church
(Rock of offence Commentary)
Israel and the Church: the Differences
(Zola Levitt Commentary)
Avoiding the Error of Replacement Theology