The Work of the Holy Spirit (3)
In 2008, the British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) held its tenth biennial conference at the Share Centre on the shores of Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, N. Ireland. The subject was “The Work of the Holy Spirit.” Later, the speeches and sermons were published in book form. One reader recently asked me a series of questions about the contents of the book, wanting to have the answers included in the News.
His second question reads,“What is the difference between the Spirit now as the Spirit of the risen Christ rather than just the Spirit of Christ? You mention that the Spirit could not work the reality of salvation because all he had to use was a picture book [The Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 34]. Could you expand on that? I think the footnote on page 35 goes a long way to answering that—the anointing teaches you all things (I John 2:27). The Spirit of truth ... and more truth than before! On the next page you say it was difficult for Old Testament saints to pray and impossible for them to call God ‘Father.’ But nevertheless many examples can be found and there are instances where Israel calls God ‘Father.’”
Of the questions he asked me, two remain to be answered. The first one has to do with the question that arises out of statement I made that the Spirit of Christ, poured out on Pentecost, was poured out in heaven as well as on earth. The questioner wanted to know what difference the outpouring of the Spirit made in the lives of the saints in heaven.
We know very little of what heaven is like and we face great difficulties in trying to know what precisely happens in heaven. But, given the fact that the Holy Spirit of Christ is the One who binds all the saints together in the one body of Christ, this must, of necessity, include the saints in heaven, for they are one with the saints on earth.
We must also remember that Christ had not yet come into our flesh to accomplish His glorious work of redemption in His death, resurrection and exaltation. The devil still had access to heaven to slander the saints and fight with Michael (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7; Rev. 12:7-10; Jude 9). What a tremendous difference came about when our Lord ascended on high and was crowned as universal king: king over the whole earthly and heavenly creations, king over His beloved church, king over the devil and his demons, king over all!
To mention only what I discussed in the last News, just as saints on earth became prophets, priests and kings under Christ by the Spirit of Christ, so it was also in heaven. It is impossible to say what difference that great event made in the lives of the saints in heaven to see Christ Himself and to be prophets, priests and kings under Him. But different it was: vastly different!
The second question that still needs answering concerns the Old Testament saints calling God “Father.” I had said that this was rare, if indeed it ever happened. The questioner challenges this assertion. He cited no texts and I would be interested in receiving from him a list of such verses.
There is one point that does need to be made, however. God repeatedly addressed Israel as His “son,” His “firstborn” (Ex. 4:22; Jer. 31:9, 20). In that sense of the word, the nation as a whole, taken in its organic unity, is God’s son for He is the nation’s “father” (Deut. 32:6; Jer. 31:9) and was addressed by Israel as such (Isa. 63:16; 64:8). God called Israel His son when He led them out of the land of Egypt by signs and wonders. Israel as a nation recognized that it was the son of God because He had delivered the nation from the bondage of Egypt, a picture of the bondage of sin. It was, for the nation, Israel’s regeneration, Israel’s second birth. This is the reason why Hosea, referring to this event, says, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt” (Hos. 11:1).
But, do not forget that Joseph and Mary were commanded by God to flee from Herod’s bloody sword because, as Matthew tells us, Hosea had prophesied this. We read that Joseph “took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son” (Matt. 2:14-15). Hosea was speaking of Christ who was present in Israel—in Israel’s loins. God called Christ out of Egypt when Israel was delivered.
The only Old Testament references to God’s being the “father” of an individual who is His “son” involve the anointed King Jesus, typified by Solomon (II Sam. 7:14; I Chron. 17:13; 22:10). Jehovah calls Christ His “firstborn” (Ps. 89:27) who cries out to Him, “Thou art my father” (26). In Psalm 2, the Most High addresses “his anointed” (2) as “my king” (6) and “my Son” (7). God’s “Son” (12) is “begotten” of Him (7).
The point is that the New Testament calls us sons (or daughters) of God as individuals only because we belong to Christ who is the Son of God who has come into our world and died for our sins. Only because we belong to Christ can God possibly be our Father—as He is Christ’s Father. Only, therefore, because we have the Spirit of Christ, whom the old dispensational saints did not possess, can we call God our Father.
Thus Galatians 4:4-7 states, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
The disciples must have been momentarily stunned when Jesus, teaching them how to pray, said that they must begin their prayers with the words, “Our Father.”
To appreciate what the old dispensational saints lacked is to appreciate what we now have in the cross, resurrection and Spirit of Christ! Prof. Herman Hanko
The 180-page softback book by Profs. Hanko and Engelsma entitled The Work of the Holy Spirit to which Prof. Hanko refers in this series of articles is available from the CPRC Bookstore for just £5.50 (inc. P&P). Simply contact the Bookstore or order on-line through the CPRC website.