Did you celebrate Independence Day in the U.S.? When I was overseas, I was usually so busy that I hardly noticed the Fourth of July. But now that I’m on American turf, I see that the holiday seems to be everyone’s focus almost a week before the actual day. I enjoy hearing patriotic songs and reading posts celebrating the great liberties we have in the U.S. But that freedom is marred by sin and abuse, using independence to assert that my rights trump yours. Generally, many people think of liberty as personal freedom to succeed at any cost, make bad choices, criticize, and generally disregard the ordinary needs of others. It’s an excellent time to meditate on our liberty in Christ through the Holy Spirit’s application of his atonement, freeing us from enslavement to our flesh, Satan, and the world. I will be concentrating this month on the blessings we have through the work of the Holy Spirit. First, we will consider our salvation, and in the following weeks, sanctification, assurance (our hope and security in Christ), and finally, his calling and assistance for our service in the Lord. In a world of extremes— sports, opinions, media—we also tend to treat the Spirit of God with extreme over-emphasis or neglect. The Spirit is mentioned often in Scripture as the third person of the trinity—working together for God’s kingdom on earth and eternally. “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (John 15:26) Jesus Christ liberates and gives sight to the blind, captive, oppressed, and poor through the Holy Spirit. Do we rejoice in our blessed, eternal liberty from captivity to sin as we do for our earthly independence from tyranny?
Jesus Christ Anointed by the Holy Spirit
Jesus is united with the Spirit, just as he is with the Father. The three persons of the trinity always work as one essence, one will, and one truth. At no time are they independent of each other, except for the brief time of Christ’s crucifixion, when our sin separated him from the others. At the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus declared in the temple, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18-19) “The third person in the Trinity…was given to Christ as man, without measure, whereby he was qualified for his great work: he was upon him, and in him, the first moment of his conception, which was by his power; and he visibly descended on him at his baptism; and the phrase denotes the permanency and continuance of him with him…to preach the Gospel to the poor: in Isaiah it is, ‘to the meek ‘…such as are poor in spirit, and are sensible of their spiritual poverty…to these the Gospel, or glad tidings of the love, grace, and mercy of God in Christ, of peace, pardon, righteousness, life and salvation by Christ, were preached by him; and that in so clear a manner, and with such power and authority…to preach deliverance to the captives; who are captives to sin, Satan, and the law.” (1) “The work of Christ was not finished when He had merited salvation for His people and had obtained actual possession of the blessings of salvation. In the counsel of redemption He took it upon Himself to put all His people in possession of all these blessings, and He does this through the operation of the Holy Spirit, who takes all things out of Christ, and gives them to us.” (1) Have you thanked God lately for the work of the Spirit in your salvation? I enjoy asking new friends and fellow believers about their testimonies of redemption. Hearing their accounts reminds me of my own remarkable, unexpected salvation. “The Spirit of glory, the Holy Spirit, rests upon believers in an especially powerful way. Further, it is the same Spirit that rested on Jesus (Isa. 11:2; Matt. 3:16) who now rests upon the believer.” (2)
The Spirit Anoints Believers
“The word [grace] is something like a synonym for the Holy Spirit, so that there is little difference between ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ and ‘full of grace and power’ in Acts 6:5 and 8. The Holy Spirit is called ‘the Spirit of grace’ in Heb. 10:29…As the covenant in which God made provision for the salvation of sinners is called the covenant of grace, and as the Mediator of the covenant is said to have appeared ‘full of grace,’ so that we can receive out of His fulness ‘grace for grace,’ John 1:16,17, so the Holy Spirit is called ‘the Spirit of grace,’ since He takes the ‘grace of Christ’ and confers it on us.” (3) I have a friend who calls God’s blessings a “kiss on the cheek.” When I consider the work of the Spirit in rescuing me from my lost estate, it’s like a tender, loving kiss on my forehead. I was utterly lost and didn’t know it, like a person taking a new shortcut but going in the wrong direction and not realizing it. Some of us were raised in the church, with teaching about sin and the need for salvation. However, others had no idea that we were absorbed in our self-righteousness or cultural indoctrination. The Holy Spirit interrupted our lives to show us God, and we awakened us to our dead status. Even “good” people who love to help others and do what is right suddenly understand that all they have done is temporal and for their self-image when they are converted. “Good citizens” need Christ, like the prophet Isaiah needed him for the calling of God to speak to Israel. When God appeared to Isaiah, he said, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5) “He is made sensible of his lost and undone state…For mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts…and a lovely sight it is to see him by faith, in the glory and beauty of his person, and in the fulness of his grace; such a sight is spiritual, saving, assimilating, appropriating, very endearing, and very glorious and delightful: wherefore it may seem strange that a sight of Christ should fill the prophet with dread; one would think he should rather have said, happy man that I am, because I have seen this glorious Person, whom to see and know is life eternal; but the reason of it is, because in this view of Christ he saw the impurity of himself…just as in a sunbeam a man beholds those innumerable motes and atoms, which before were invisible to him. It was not because of his sight of Christ he reckoned himself undone; but because of the impurity of himself, and those among whom he dwelt, which he had a view of through his sight of Christ: his sight of Christ is given as a reason of his view of his impurity, and his impurity as the reason of his being undone in his apprehension of things. The prophet, in these his circumstances, represents a sensible sinner, under a sight and sense of his sinfulness and vileness.” (4) Like Isaiah, I was stunned by my sinfulness when Christ redeemed me. I spent my first year as a Christian confessing and weeping over my sin. And yet, what a blessing to have the light of God shine in my heart, exposing so many dark, dank, evil crevices where my sin dwelt undisturbed. I was cleansed. Jesus Christ relieves, liberates, and gives sight to the blind, captive, oppressed, and poor in Spirit through the Holy Spirit. He saves those who are lost and don’t know it. Without the Holy Spirit’s application of Christ’s atonement, you and I would still be lost.
“The Spirit recreates the human heart, quickening it from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regenerate people are new creations. Where formerly they had no disposition, inclination, or desire for the things of God, now they are disposed and inclined toward God…Regeneration is not the result of faith. Rather regeneration precedes faith as the necessary condition for faith…We do not decide or choose to be regenerated. God chooses to regenerate us before we will ever choose to embrace Him. To be sure, after we have been regenerated by the sovereign grace of God [through the Holy Spirit], we do choose, act, cooperate, and believe in Christ.” (5) Have you celebrated the Spirit’s work for salvation lately? “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)
Related Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-2; 42:1; Ezekiel 34:15-16; Matthew 3:11-16; 11:4-6; 18:12-14; John 3:34-36; Acts 26:15-18; 1 Corinthians 12: 13; Ephesians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5.
- Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Luke 4:18, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/luke-4.html
- Berkoff, L., Systematic Theology, p. 432,” Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993.
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, 1 Peter 4:14, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Berkhof, Ibid, p. 426-8.
- Gill, Ibid, Isaiah 6:4-5.
- The Reformation Study Bible, “Rebirth, p. 587” Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
July 7, 2022