A Dispensational View of the Christian Life, Part 6

He That Is Spiritual

As we continue to look at the Dispensational view of the Christian life, we are pleased to be able to begin to look at the more positive side of the issue.  That is not to say that the content of the teaching doesn’t have negative aspects, but the outcome of those is quite positive.  Having examined the Christian’s obstacles to living the Christian life, it is necessary now to look at what are the positive steps toward actually overcoming said obstacles.  We will endeavor to do that here, and in the following post(s).

The Believer’s Progress in the Christian Life

Lewis Sperry Chafer made a bold statement when he said, “The Christian will always be filled (by the Spirit) while he is making the work of the Spirit possible in his life.”[i] Bold statement or not it is biblical and can be substantiated by careful exegesis. We will now consider this truth very briefly.

Scripture gives the believer much in the way of directives and principles by which he is able to progress in the Christian life. We will examine four main imperatives, one dealing with the first intelligent step toward growth, and three dealing with the believer’s relationship to the indwelling Spirit: 1.) Present yourself to God (Rom. 12:1), 2.) Do not grieve the Spirit (Eph. 4:30), 3.) Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), 4.) Walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16).

Present Yourself to God

After spending the first eight chapters of Romans developing deep doctrinal truths including the foundation of the believer’s position in Christ Paul begins chapter twelve with a command that serves to shape the remainder of the letter: “Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God (from the first eight chapters) to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1). Paul spent a great amount of the first three chapters developing the truth of man’s lost estate capping off the section with the pronouncement that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” followed immediately by the glorious news that those who are saved are so by “being justified as a gift by His grace through, the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (3:23-24). Again, the focus is on what God has accomplished on behalf of the believer and this truth is the basis upon which Paul pleads with believers to present their bodies to God.

The idea that Paul is attempting to convey is that, based on the glorious mercy of God in our salvation, we should dedicate ourselves completely to Him. The language used here is reminiscent of the animal sacrifices familiar to both Jewish worshippers and pagan ritualists. The Greek word paristemi is translated “present” in this passage. As to the technical usage of the word in this context, Marvin Vincent states, “It is the technical term for presenting the Levitical victims and offerings. . . . In the Levitical sacrifices the offerer placed his offering so as to face the Most Holy Place, thus bringing it before the Lord.”[ii] What we see then is that Paul is presenting, no pun intended, the fact that the believer has an obligation to offer himself as a real sacrifice to God, which is a total dedication in the same fashion that the Old Testament animals were set apart and dedicated for the purpose of giving their lives for the sins of Israel. The obvious differences serve to further expound the magnitude of the decision, which differences are first that unlike the sacrifices of old it is a voluntary decision, and second, it involves continued living in a state of dedication instead of immediate death of the sacrifice.

I labeled this as the first intelligent step toward growth. The reason is simple; it is a step of obedience to the Word of God. This does not necessarily mean that the believer is acting in response to Paul’s words, but it does mean that he is acting in response to God’s work in his life possibly through a series of events that God has used to bring him to the end of his own strength. In conjunction with this positive step it is without question that he will soon thereafter discover that what he has done was in obedience to God’s word.

Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). Chafer correctly expresses the truth of the matter when he described the ChristianL.S.Chafer life as one of supernatural requirements and in constant need of the empowerment of the indwelling Spirit and God’s enabling grace.[iii] With such needs and requirements it is imperative that the believer maintain a fellowship with the Spirit. It is therefore incumbent upon the believer to obey Paul’s message.

To grieve the Spirit is to tolerate known sin in our lives, to live with unconfessed sin. “Grieve” is the translation of the Greek word lupeo in its present active form which likely indicates that Paul was saying “do not go on grieving the Holy Spirit.” Sin is to miss the mark of God’s perfect righteousness or to deviate from His perfect standard. As Chafer states, “where sin is tolerated in the believer’s daily life, the Spirit, who indwells him, must then turn from His blessed ministry through him, to a pleading ministry to him.”[iv] Allowing sin in our hearts to go unchecked places us in an immediate state of carnality regardless of the length of time that we stay in that condition (Ps. 66:18). Yet, God has provided for the remedy for the sins of the believer, which provision also allows an immediate restoration of fellowship between the believer and Himself.

John addresses this subject in First John where he admits that any believer can “walk in darkness” (1:6), and thus he is not practicing the truth but that which is contrary to God’s very nature (1:5). Though still a believer, he is nonetheless living in the flesh (carnal). That walk in darkness proves that the one doing so is not in fellowship with God but out of fellowship. John continues by broadening the subject stating, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1:8). “Sin” here is in reference to the sin nature and not individual sins.[v] If we say that we do not continue to have the very source of sin, the old man, remaining in us we are deceiving ourselves. This is a sure way to live a defeated life and not progress in growth toward maturity. However, John continues: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). Therefore, understanding that we continue to have a sin nature we also understand that we continue to sin and are able to deal correctly with it. In doing so, we can maintain a consistent fellowship with the indwelling, empowering Spirit.

We can conclude that at some point in our lives as Christians we will grieve the Holy Spirit by sinning and not immediately confessing it. We may even remain in that state for some length of time. That state of broken fellowship isolates us from the Spirit’s ministries in us, particularly His work of empowering us to live the Christian life. However, God has offered the means for reestablishing fellowship by simply confessing our sins.

Do Not Quench the Spirit

Another negative command is, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19). “Quench” is from the Greek meaning to put out (a fire), suppress, or stifle. In the present context Paul was telling the Thessalonians not to resist the out working of the Spirit and of the gifts He gives within the life of the Church (see vv. 12-18 and 20-22). Such resistance would stifle His work in their midst and would be tantamount to refusing to abide by and submit to the Spirit and the spiritual gifts at work. However, the quenching of the Spirit is not limited to the output of the spiritual gifts (vv. 12-18).

When the believer says no to the Spirit’s work, regardless of the form that work takes, he quenches or suppresses the Spirit and therefore limits or inhibits His work in the believer’s life. The Spirit does not abandon the believer, as seen earlier in the distinctions between Israel and the Church, but the believer’s resistance makes the Spirit’s filling impossible until the believer changes his mind (repentance) and confesses his sin. Therefore, the believer, according to Paul, must “stop quenching the Spirit” (present active imperative) by refusing to allow Him to work.

The cure to the quenching of the Spirit is to “present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13). This correlates directly with one’s decision to dedicate himself to God (Rom. 12:1). Christ Himself is the perfect example of this attitude (Phil. 2:5). In Hebrews 10:7 the testimony of our Lord is found: “Then I said, Behold, I have come . . .to do your will, O God.” It is perfect submission and obedience to God’s will.

To sum up, to quench the Spirit is to refuse to obey God’s revealed will. The cure is to have a change of mind (repentance) concerning said refusal and the decision to live in obedience to His will. It is to have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) and to adopt both the knowledge and the attitude associated with it (Phil. 2:5).

Walk by the Spirit

Finally, we find a positive command from Paul. He says, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). This is the believer’s exercising positive volition in deciding live in dependence upon the indwelling Spirit’s power and guidance.

To walk by the Spirit refers to living by means of the indwelling Spirit. In other words it is a moment-by-moment dependence on the Holy Spirit’s guidance in taking every step of life by faith in God based upon the knowledge of His revealed will in Scripture. Ryrie agrees, “Actually walking is, by its very nature, a succession of dependent acts. . . .Walking can only be done successfully by successive acts of faith in the power of one’s feet. Likewise the Christian walk can be done successfully only by a constant dependence on the Holy Spirit’s control over one’s life.”[vi] Remember, the Christian life is one of supernatural requirements such as understanding God’s will and choosing to live in obedience to it. This is made possible only through reliance upon the indwelling Spirit, the one “who is at work in [us], both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). When a believer grieves the Spirit by allowing sin to remain unchecked in his life he allows sin to interrupt the Spirit’s continued guidance. When a believer quenches the Spirit by refusing to live in obedience to what he knows the will of God to be he suppresses the Spirit’s work in his life. However, when the believer responds in obedience to God’s revealed will and chooses to depend upon the Spirit to do so he is walking by means of the Spirit.

Walking in the Spirit is living moment-by-moment under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit. It is to walk step-by-step under His guidance by not allowing personal sins to be left unconfessed and thereby not grieving the Spirit, and by choosing obedience to God’s revealed will thereby not quenching the Spirit. The positive decision to depend on the Spirit results in walking by means of the Spirit, or the Spirit’s filling. We will address the Spirit’s filling in the final section to follow.

It is therefore to the Christian’s benefit to strive to walk by means of the Spirit. Only in doing so will the believer find victory in the Christian life. However, we must not confuse this striving with the self-generated attempt to gain holiness by mere self-effort. Instead it is accomplished in the one who is being motivated by the Holy Spirit through knowledge of God’s revealed will and who is empowered to do so by the indwelling Spirit to choose to obey God.

Each of the previous subsections of the believer’s progress in the Christian life are related to the maturation progress involved in growth as a follower of Jesus Christ. In addition to these truths there must be added at least two others that have direct bearing upon a Christian’s ability to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).

The Christian life is reflective of natural life. Within the believing one is born a new man. That new man is meant to progress forward from the initial stage of birth to the final stage of full maturation. There is a definite process to this growth. The ultimate goal is to progress to the point that Christ is formed in us (Gal. 4:19). The Christian life, when healthy and normal, follows the same process as natural life. That is, just as a newborn baby must go through the stages of growth on his way to maturity, so the newborn Christian is a baby that must progress toward maturity. One of the failures of the Church is that there seems to be a mindset that believes every Christian is automatically on the course toward maturity simply because they believe in Christ for salvation. Merryman offers a clear and helpful explanation, “…[A] new Christian cannot be mature because maturity involves time plus knowledge of truth and application of truth (m = t + kot + aot). The same is true in physical life: at age 1 a person can be an absolutely healthy organism just as at age 20; but at age 1, it is impossible to be as mature as at age 20.”[vii] Sadly, there are many believers who are twenty years old in Christ but are babies in their maturity level.

[i]Chafer, Spiritual, 67.

[ii]Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), Logos Bible Software.

[iii]Chafer, Spiritual, 43.

[iv]Ibid., 70.

[v]Both Chafer and Merryman address this issue. Chafer states, “Sin is what we are by birth, while sins are the evil we do in life” (Chafer, Spiritual, 114). Merryman addresses the issue in the following: “John is not referring in this verse to “sins” (as he does in verse 9), rather to their source, the animating sin that continually resides in us. . . . It is the animating sin nature that he is focusing on.” See Ron Merryman, The Passion War: Spiritual Conflict in Every Believer (Casa Grande, AZ: Merryman Ministries, 2002), 5.

[vi]Ryrie, Christian Life, 114-15.

[vii] Ron Merryman, Spirituality…Maturation…Retrogression… (Casa Grande, AZ: Merryman Ministries, 2004), 6 (emphases in original).

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A Dispensational View of the Christian Life, Part 5

In our last post we delved into two of the three main difficulties that a Christian faces as he/she faces in the daily challenge of living life in obedience to the Holy Spirit, otherwise known as the spiritual, or Spirit-filled life.  We will look at the third aspect of this triumvirate of problems the Christian faces.

The Internal Struggle

It is this environment of maintaining the proper motivation in the Christian life, and overcoming the various impediments into which a new creation is placed (2 Cor. 5:17) and the new man is born. The inner tension that Paul warned about in Galatians 5:16-17 exists between the Spirit and the flesh, or the new creation and the sin nature of the old creation. To use different biblical terminology it is the struggle between the new man (creation) and the old man. That term, “old man,” directs our attention back to Romans 6:6. The New American Standard Bible reads, “knowing this that our old self was crucified with Him.” However, the Greek uses the exact phrase “old man” (palaios anthropos) in place of “old self.” In the act of co-crucifixion we are transferred from our natural born position in the first Adam to our new position in the Last Adam (Rom. 5:12-21, cf. Col. 1:13-14). Paul’s further testimony concerning his own struggles is helpful. The Holy Spirit found it necessary to have Paul describe these struggles in order for believers to understand that the new position in Christ does not eradicate the old man in the present. In fact, we should remember Paul’s emphatic exclamation at his own plight, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24) This statement alone illustrates the fact that the sin nature, the old man, the flesh is indeed somehow intrinsically tied to our current physical state. It is our inheritance from the first Adam and cannot be expunged from this present body, but it is the complete removal of this nature to which we look with anticipation.

With the new man born in the believer the internal struggle begins in earnest. This is not to say that we are schizophrenic or possessed of two personalities. Ryrie offers an excellent explanation of the unity of the believer:

Although man is a many-faceted being, and even though these facets of man participate in the conflict between the old and new natures when a person becomes a believer, still man is a unity and acts as one. What I do, I do, not a part of myself. . . .True, certain aspects of my being may originate an action, but that action is performed by me, not part of me. . . .

Galatians 2:20 . . . says not only that Christ lives in me but that Christ lives in me, and the life is a life which I live – to be sure by faith – but nevertheless I live it. Whatever is done, whether for good or evil, I do, for there is no other way for the old nature, the new nature, the soul, the spirit, or any other aspect of my being to express itself than through me.[i]

It is within the context of this internal battle that the following is issued: “. . .[L]ay aside the old self, . . .and put on the new self . . .” (Eph. 4:22, 24). Our new position in Christ means that positionally, the old man is put off. The everyday experience, or our experiential or progressive sanctification, is where the battle to live the Christian life takes place, and the old man will not go quietly.  We must actively, and consistently strive to put off the old man, and replace him with the new man, the man who is to be transformed by the renewing of his mind (Rom. 12:2), replacing the old way of thinking with “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16) to which every believer has access.

The victory of the new man over the old man is, on the part of the believer, dependent upon a positive volitional response to biblical commands such as the one just mentioned. In a word, victory for the new man over the old is through obedience. The power to make the correct decision is provided by the Spirit, “for it is God who his at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Col. 2:13). Therefore, the desire is produced by the new man in conjunction with the divine enablement of the Spirit, the positive volition belongs to the believer, but the power to overcome belongs to the Lord.

It is clear from what we’ve seen that there is a great deal for the believer to overcome. Between the various impediments that the multiple enemies place in his way and the internal struggle that is faced on a moment-by-moment basis the battle is seemingly hopeless for the believer. Yet, God has not left believers to fend for themselves. The indwelling Spirit provides the power for the believer’s victory and progress in the Christian life.

[i]Ryrie, Christian Life, 32-33.

A Dispensational View of the Spiritual Life, or, Homage to He That Is Spiritual, Part 4

He That Is SpiritualIn this He That Is Spiritual article we will continue our discussion of the spiritual life from a Dispensational, therefore Scriptural viewpoint. I don’t say that simply to poke the nose of Reformed Covenantalists who believe Dispensationalism is wrong. I say that based on points made earlier in the previous three articles. Before anyone decides to berate me for saying it, please read the three other articles in this series.

The Believer’s Problem in the Christian Life

At some juncture in the believer’s life, whether it is immediate or sometime later, he will desire to live a life pleasing to God.[i] At least three major issues immediately come into play for the new believer and they will remain a mystery to him until he is made aware that these issues exist.

Motivation

The first issue is intimately tied to our position in Christ. What is it that motivates us to live the Christian life? Are we motivated by a sense of duty or fear of being cast off by God? Is it a sense of trying to do something to make ourselves acceptable to Him? Or are we motivated by the fact that we know and understand who we are in Christ and the riches to which we are privileged? Chafer describes this necessary knowledge as resulting in “intelligent motives.”[ii] “The Christian who is perfected forever, being in Christ, has, nevertheless, a life of imperfection to live so long as he is in this world.”[iii] It is the lack of this knowledge that causes some believers to live in a perpetual state of defeat and impotence in their daily lives. Because of ignorance of these truths believers become disillusioned and frustrated when they realize that they are not progressing towards maturity and continually struggle with sin. They attempt to obtain and live in holiness are based on faulty knowledge. Thus they struggle to make themselves holy and acceptable to God not knowing that based on their position in Christ they are already holy and acceptable. An excellent description of this is found in Paul’s own life:

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate….For I know that nothing good dwells in me that is, in my flesh;…For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want….Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:15,18a,19,24,25a)

Chafer offers an excellent analysis of the predicament in which the uninformed believer finds himself:

The new problem which he confronts, …is not one of how he should live that he might be accepted and perfected before God, but rather of how he, an accepted and perfected person, should live after these stupendous realities are accomplished by the grace and power of God. Until this vital distinction is comprehended and received, there will be no progress made in the extensive field of truth which directs the Christian’s life and service. Until positional truth is recognized and received to the extent that the saved one acknowledges that he is saved and perfected in the sight of God on no other ground than that, on his part, he has believed on Christ to the saving of his soul, and on God’s part, he is justified, being both forgiven and constituted righteous through the immeasurable twofold substitution of Christ…there can be only confusion and misunderstanding about the true motivating principle in the Christian’s daily life.[iv]

Therefore, the believer’s motives for living a Christian life become a central issue. Without properly grasping these truths an immature believer will go about attempting to please God in order to become acceptable instead of living to please God because he is already acceptable in Christ. He will attempt to become holy through physical means when in truth he is already holy because of divine intervention through his union with Jesus Christ, and so on. Once again Paul describes the issue when he asks the church in Galatia, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3). Thus we must assert that it is imperative that the believer know and understand his newfound position in Christ.

Impediments

The world, the flesh, and the Devil are the three enemies common to all believers. Identifying and learning to do battle with these enemies is the second of the three issues. It is appropriate to begin with the world since it is in this sphere in which we conduct our physical existence.

The New Testament uses three different Greek words translated as world. The one used in the vast majority of passages is the word kosmos. Of its many meanings, one prominently featured in the New Testament is the idea of a designed, ordered, and purposeful system that has been put into action by an architect. The ruler of this system is identified variously as “the ruler” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), or the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), which is Satan. The world has its own standards by which it operates (1 Cor. 1:21; 3:19). These are in opposition to God’s standards and wisdom (1 Cor. 1:21,25), and to adopt the world’s standards is to become the enemy of God (James 4:4).

Believers are warned not to love this kosmos system (1 John 2:15-16). In fact, part of the mission of the believer is to destroy the “fortresses” containing this worlds “speculations (man-made philosophies) and every lofty (pretentious) thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and taking every thought (false belief) captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:2-5). This feat is not easily accomplished since the believer must be matured in “the knowledge of God” (v.5) in order to do so. Chafer offers valuable insight into how to experience victory when he states, “The Biblical, as well as practical, cure for “worldliness” among Christians is so to fill the heart and life with the eternal blessings of God that there will be a joyous preoccupation and absent-mindedness relative to unspiritual things.”[v] In other words, to overcome the poisonous “wisdom” of this kosmos system it is absolutely necessary to avail ourselves of the “mind of Christ” that we possess because of our union with Him (1 Cor. 2:16). This may be accomplished only in the believer who knows and understands this truth, and it is made possible only through the power of the indwelling Spirit and the application of the word of God to everyday events of life (1 Cor. 2:10-13; John 17:17 cf. 2 Pet. 1:3-4).

The believer has a precarious balancing act to perform in that he must live in this world (John 17:11,15-16) without becoming tainted by it (James 1:27). Only by knowledge of the Word of God and the power of the indwelling Spirit (2 Pet. 1:3-4) and faith (1 John 5:4) will the believer overcome this world system.

The devil also presents a major impediment for the believer who desires to live the Christian life. Recall how Paul described our pre-salvation existence; “you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world” (Eph. 2:1-2). This system is governed by one who is directing its course, which is “according to the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). This ruler is Satan, the Devil, the accuser of believers (Rev. 12:10). Peter warns believers to “be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Again, Paul warns believers to be prepared with the armor of God in order to “be able to resist in the evil day,” having taken “the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:13,16). He is a formidable foe for whom the believer must be on guard. Without proper knowledge and preparation the believer will be powerless in the spiritual battle that he faces.

Finally, the third of the identified enemies that stand in the way of the believer’s successful execution of the Christian life is his own flesh. This is a somewhat controversial idea, but it should not be since it is clearly biblical. The flesh composes the inner source of our sinfulness. The Greek word sarx is translated as flesh. It can refer to human or animal flesh, the physical body, but also speaks of what is more than physical in man. It often refers to “man’s nature generally.”[vi] Chafer says that “it includes in its meaning the whole of the unregenerate person, – spirit, soul and body.”[vii] Unlike the other obstacles to the Christian life, this particular enemy is internal and its influence cannot easily be overcome. Paul makes the clearest statement concerning the fact that believers are capable of living by their flesh and thus reflecting the actions of the old man, the lost man. In 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:4 Paul identifies three separate types of men; natural, spiritual, and men of flesh. It is the third person that he names is of concern to us. He chastises the Corinthian church for living like “men of flesh,” which is the translation of sarkinos, a word related to sarx. Paul’s admonition is that they stop acting like infants in Christ, like mere natural or lost men, and grow to maturity as a spiritual man (2:15). Knowing the background of the Corinthian church allows us to see that it is indeed possible for a believer to live as if he is a lost man, as a carnal believer who is out of fellowship with God. It is a difficult task to overcome the flesh and not live as “men of flesh.” However, Scripture is clear that we can overcome even our flesh.

Paul declares, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). As we will see in the section dealing with progress in Christian life, walking in the power of the indwelling Spirit of God is key to living out His will in our lives. Notice how Paul describes the means of walking, or living. One instance is by the Spirit, or by means of the Spirit while the other is carrying out the desire (epithumea – craving, longing, lust) of the flesh. The inner war is seen in the competing desires as Paul explains, “For the flesh sets its desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (v.17). What Paul is describing here are two competing forces. The one of concern at this juncture is the flesh. Chafer further describes the moral use of the word flesh correctly when he wrote that it “implies that it [flesh] is still alive and includes that which makes it alive and that which expresses itself through the physical body.”[viii] Scripture attests to this in numerous places either by direct pronouncement or strong implication (2 Pet. 2:18; 1 John 2:16; Rom. 7:18; 13:14; Eph. 2:3).

[i]It seems highly improbable that a new believer will not have the desire to live pleasing to God, but typically that zeal will fade, and later at some point in his life he will face a time of upheaval that will bring the need and desire into focus more clearly.

[ii]Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1973), 6:162-65.

[iii]Ibid., 162-63.

[iv]Ibid., 163.

[v]Ibid., 181.

[vi]H. G. Liddell, A Lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996) Logos Bible Software.

[vii]Chafer, Spiritual, 111.

[viii]Ibid.

A Dispensational View of the Spiritual Life, or, Homage to He That Is Spiritual, part 3

In this He That Is Spiritualarticle we will continue our discussion of the spiritual life from a Dispensational, therefore Scriptural viewpoint.  I don’t say that simply to poke the nose of Reformed Covenantalists who believe Dispensationalism is wrong.  I say that based on points made earlier in the previous two articles.  Before anyone decides to berate me for saying it, please read the two other articles in this series.

The Believer’s Position in the Christian Life

One of the most important characteristics of our new life as believers is our new position. As previously mentioned, at the moment of saving faith the Holy Spirit places us into vital union with Christ through His baptizing ministry. We are said to be “in Christ.” At that very moment we are introduced to the indescribable place of privilege that Paul reveals. We now possess “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Every believer must understand this new position in order to have the proper perspective concerning the new creation that each has become. We will not be able to live in a manner reflecting our position in Christ if we do not understand our position in Christ.

In Ephesians alone there are some thirty-six uses of the phrase “in Christ” and various synonymous phrases.[i] Similar terminology is used an additional three times and if taken to mean the same as “in Christ” raises the number to thirty-nine.[ii] Regardless of how Paul is using these phrases the repetition alone attests to its importance.

Harold Hoehner offers a wonderful explanation of the believer’s new position in Christ in his comments on Ephesians 1:3:

…the local sense, the believer incorporated in Christ, gives the best sense in this context as also in [Ephesians 1] 1. With birth a person is identified with the human race whose head is Adam. When Adam sinned all people came under the tyranny of sin which brought death to all humans (Rom. 5:12-14). Christ who knew no sin became a human being and took on him the sin of human beings and died to pay its penalty in behalf of humankind, thus propitiating God’s wrath . . . Anyone who believers God’s provision in Christ becomes united to a new head (Rom. 5:15-6:11). Hence, the believer is “in Christ.”[iii]

When we examine the Scripture that Hoehner identifies as pertinent to this point we find that Romans 5:12-14 describes the entrance of sin into the world through Adam’s fall. Being descendants of Adam, the main idea described in these verses, all men are contaminated by sin because we descend from him on a human level. We are born in Adam. Paul speaks of the result of this natural relationship in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” The glaring identification truth, being born a natural man from the same gene pool as Adam, has as its result spiritual death. This in turn results in physical death. In contrast, all who are in Christ are spiritually and eternally “made alive.”

Our new life in Christ also has further results. They are wonderful truths that must be understood. They give the believer ammunition in the ongoing battle in the Christian life.

What are some of these resulting truths? Apart from what we have already seen in Paul’s teaching regarding our baptism into Christ there are a number of these identification truths found in Ephesians. “In Christ” believers are:

  • Blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (1:3)
  • Redeemed through His blood (1:7)
  • Receive an inheritance (1:11)
  • Sealed by the Holy Spirit (1:13)
  • Positional, though not experiential, seating with Him in heaven (2:6)
  • God’s new creation (2:10, cp. 2 Cor. 5:17)

These are but a few of the truths that Paul teaches concerning the glorious riches attached to our position “in Christ.”

What we have discovered here are not mere niceties that Paul identifies and which have no purpose. These are truths that are presented in order to change the believer’s perspective from a purely natural understanding of things towards the divine perspective. They are not meant simply to make us feel good, but are to actually have an effect on the way we live. The battle cry at this point is, “Be who you are in Christ!” As Paul teaches:

Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin…Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of unrighteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you… (Rom. 6:6-7, 11-14a)

Do you get the feeling that Paul has much to say concerning how we are to live the Christian life? This information is foundational. The knowledge that our position “in Christ” unites us with Him in His death to sin should result in “considering,” or “calculating” that we are dead to sin to the end that our sin nature no longer reigns over our mortal bodies. This is the path to victory. We are no longer slaves to sin. We are not powerless against the “sin which so easily entangles us” and therefore we can “lay aside every encumbrance…and run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).

These identification truths are like neon signs in the darkness declaring to us that victory is ours for the taking. The question at this point then is what is it that hinders the believer from experiencing this victory?

We will begin our discussion here next time.

[i]Harold Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 173.

[ii]Ibid.

[iii]Ibid, 172.

A Dispensational View of the Spiritual Life, or Homage to He That Is Spiritual, part 2

At the outset of this series I made the assertion that there is a Dispensational view of of the spiritual life.  In fact, I determined that the Dispensational view of the spiritHe That Is Spiritualual life is the truly biblical view.  I attempted to lay out my rationale for such a bold statement by detailing two of the sine qua non of Dispensationalism, the consistent usage of a normal hermeneutic, and the resultant distinction between Israel and the Church, in particular with reference to the Spirit’s new work within each individual believer.  I will endeavor to begin to build upon the second particular here.

As we begin our study we must first look at God’s work in the life of the believer. He is the source of life for all creation in general (Gen. 1-2) and the source of eternal, spiritual life for those who are newly born by grace through faith in Christ (John 3:16; Eph. 2:8-10). Since the Christian life begins with Him we should begin by examining His provision for the Christian life.

God’s Provision for the Christian Life

The state of every man prior to the moment of salvation is said to be that of spiritual death. Paul explains that “just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Every man ever born is the seed of “the first man, Adam,” (1 Cor. 15:45) and “in Adam all die” (v.22). Physical death is a product of and therefore follows spiritual death. Yet God was not satisfied to leave man in this state, so He provided for man’s rebirth. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Likewise through Paul we learn that before exercising faith in Christ we were dead, but God made us alive: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked…But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:1-2a, 4-5). In this one passage two different experiences of life are identified. The first is merely natural, human life void of the spiritual whereas the second is an act of God’s mercy displayed in love toward those spiritually dead by making them alive with, or in, Christ. Here we have a description of that which Jesus spoke of in John 3:3 when He explained to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (born from above) he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Christ further clarifies in His follow-up statement, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6). Thus, Christ makes the distinction between the natural man of the flesh and the spiritual man who is born of the Holy Spirit.

What is also seen in the aforementioned verses is the fact that all three persons of the Godhead are active in making provision for spiritual life for everyone who believes in Christ. Of the many works of God that take place at the moment one believes, those that we will examine here are: regeneration, justification, sanctification, baptism of the Holy Spirit, as well as the indwelling of the Spirit.

Regeneration

Regeneration means to be born again. Although the word regeneration only appears twice in Scripture (Matt. 19:28; Titus 3:4-5), the doctrine is unquestionably presented throughout the New Testament. We most often think of death as the cessation of life. While this is true, a more proper view is that death is separation. Physical death occurs when the human body is separated from human life. Spiritual death occurred when Adam rebelled against God at which point Adam and his descendants were separated from God, the giver and sustainer of man’s spiritual life. Sin created a barrier that separates man and God. Therefore, natural man is in a perpetual state of separation from the source of spiritual life. However, as stated earlier, God was not satisfied leaving man in a state of spiritual death. When one conducts a thorough study of the whole of Scripture he finds that in eternity past God designed a plan to remove the barrier. When the predetermined time in history came, “the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, [and] He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5). We conclude by returning to Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.”

God’s plan included the payment for sin, which Christ the Son supplied through sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:26). Christ is also said to give new life to those dead in sin. The Lord Himself describes this fact when He said, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes” (John 5:21). In fact, Jesus Himself is “the way and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). It may be said that Christ, by His death, removed the barrier of sin and made regeneration possible for those who believe.

The Spirit’s work in the new birth is that of actually applying it to the believing one. Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (born from above) he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Christ further clarifies in His follow-up statement, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6). Thus, Christ makes the distinction between two different men. The natural man is that one born of the flesh. The spiritual man is the believer who has been born of or by the Holy Spirit. The new birth is the product of the Spirit’s work in us. The believer does not experience this work of the Spirit. That is it is not something that registers with the emotions or the senses. Yet it is a definite work nonetheless.

Justification

At the moment one believes in Jesus Christ unto salvation he not only partakes in the new birth he is also justified and sanctified. Justification is a one-time act of God whereby He declares the believer to be righteous. It is a legal judgment. Like salvation itself, justification is non-meritorious and unearned. It is a gift (Rom. 3:24). As Robert Lightner describes it:

Because of our position in Christ (Eph. 2:13), whereby Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us (Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21), God declares us righteous because we are clothed with his righteousness (Rom. 5:1). . . . Justification is more than simply God viewing the sinner as though he had never sinned. Instead, it is God looking upon the sinner to whom the righteousness of Christ earned at the cross has been added.[i]

Thus we can conclude that justification is God declaring the believing one to be righteous.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans the doctrine of justification is presented in great detail. Romans 3:21-26 outlines the role of the Son in justification. God’s righteousness demands the judgment and punishment of sin as attested to by the Law and the Prophets (v.21). Righteousness is provided to the Christian at the moment he places his faith in Jesus Christ (v.22). The problem is that all men sin and fall short of God’s glory, but based on the redemption provided by the death of Christ God justifies the believer as a gift once again, received through faith (vv.23-25). Because sin was judged and paid for by Christ in His death on the cross God is able to maintain His perfect righteousness and yet proclaim the believing sinner justified (v.26). Because of this work of God in Christ, Paul tells the church in Corinth, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:20).

God pronounces man justified, Christ provided the sacrifice needed for man’s justification, and the Holy Spirit applies the righteousness of Christ to the believer so that he may be proclaim just by God. It is the Holy Spirit who brings new life to the believer by placing Him into Christ and His righteousness. Thus, Paul writes, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom. 8:1-2).

Baptism and Sanctification

We’ll begin with sanctification first. The word sanctification comes from the Greek word hagiazo meaning to set aside, consecrate, or dedicate. In our specific setting it refers to being set aside by God and for His purpose. While justification and sanctification are simultaneous works accomplished by the Spirit, they are not synonymous. They are intimately tied together and inseparable. Lightner correctly sums up this connectedness: “To be justified is to be declared righteous before God, and to be sanctified is to be set apart; the one presupposes the other.”[ii]

Sanctification differs from both regeneration and justification in that it is a work accomplished in the believer and is meant to be experienced in the Christian life. Regeneration is a one-time work of God never to be repeated. Looking again to the inseparable relationship between sanctification and justification it should be noted that on the one hand justification is a single act of God declaring man righteous and places him in a right relationship with God. On the other hand sanctification is an “initial”[iii] work of God that sets the believer apart for God’s purpose, but it also has ongoing, or progressive and final, or ultimate aspects. Sanctification sets the believer apart as a holy being for God’s purpose and use, and his holy position is to be reflected in the believer’s daily walk. In its experiential (progressive) sense it is in fact the crux of the Christian life.

Scripture gives ample description of the work that each member of the Godhead accomplishes in producing the believer’s sanctification. For example, Paul desired that God the Father would sanctify the believers in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5:23) and Christ Himself prayed that the Father would sanctify His disciples through His word (John 17:17). Likewise we find that Christ sanctifies those who believe in Him (John 17:19; Heb. 2:11). Christ’s sacrifice sanctifies those who have faith in Him (Heb. 9:13; 10:10). It is said of the Church that Christ loves her “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26). Paul exclaims that Christ is the source of life in him that allows him to live in obedience to God.

However, to be true to the teaching of Scripture the work of the Spirit is featured foremost in the sanctification of the believer. As Ryrie explains, “…to be faithful to the emphasis of Scripture we must observe that the work of the Holy Spirit is given prominence in the process of sanctification….it is the Spirit who changes us “into the same image from glory to glory (II Cor. 3:18).”[iv] He is correct in his appraisal. Elsewhere, Paul identifies the Spirit’s power in the believer enabling the believer to “[put] to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13). In other words, the Spirit that indwells the believer also empowers the believer to choose obedience to God over enslavement to the flesh. The Spirit floods the heart of the believer with assurance and stability (Rom. 5:5). The Scriptural presentation demonstrates that sanctification in its initial phase is the work of God the Father and the Son, in its progressive sense it is a work shared by God the Son and God the Spirit, but in both the progressive and ultimate senses the bulk of the work belongs to the ministry of the indwelling Spirit.

The baptizing work of the Holy Spirit is that ministry in which He unites us with Christ in His death and places us into a position that opens the door to the possibility for the Christian to walk in a new way of life. It occurs once at the moment of saving faith. As Ron Merryman explains, “The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the ministry whereby He takes the believer at the moment of saving faith retroactively through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and places him/her into living union with the Lord Jesus Christ.”[v] Colossians 2:12-13 describes in with vivid language the truth that by faith we are buried with Him through this baptism, raised in new life with him (cf. Rom. 6:4) and made us “alive together with Him” having forgiven us all transgressions. In this union we are co-crucified (Rom. 6:5), co-buried and co-resurrected with Christ (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12).

Paul provides a more full treatment of the baptizing work and its intended results to the Roman believers:

How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Rom. 6:2b-7)

As Paul specifically states it is the Spirit’s work to unite us with Christ by baptizing us into His death. As Kenneth Wuest explains[vi], the word “baptized” is actually a transliteration of the Greek word baptisma meaning “dipping” or “baptism.” In determining its meaning in the current context, Wuest explains, “The usage of the word…resolves itself into the following definition of the word baptizo…‘the introduction or placing of a person or thing into a new environment or into union with something else so as to alter its condition or its relationship to its previous environment or condition.”[vii] It can be concluded from Paul’s word usage that the Spirit unites us with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. He goes on to explain that the purpose is “so that…we too might walk in newness of life” (v. 4). Therefore, we are placed into a new environment or in union with Christ in His death thereby dying to sin (v.7) resulting in the possibility of consistently living in that new, divine life imparted to us. This union with Christ is of utmost importance for the believer. It is this union produced by Spirit’s baptizing ministry that places us into a position to live the Christian life.

At the risk of being redundant allow me to further underscore the truth of the believer’s baptism into Christ for it cannot be overemphasized. Time and time again Paul references the result of the Spirit’s baptizing work upon the believer with the phrase “in Christ” (en Christo) and various parallel phrases in order to emphasize this most important relationship. The Spirit baptizes every believer into Christ, and it is this position of privilege, power and possession from which the believer receives the ability to live the Christian life.

Indwelling

In John 14:20 Jesus taught His disciples that after His departure, “you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me and I in You.” It is the Spirit’s obligation to bring this to pass today as He takes up residence in every believer in Christ. That this is true is expressed by Jesus earlier in the chapter when He said, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (vv.16-17).

Paul further illustrates this marvelous work of the Spirit when he describes the believers in the church in Rome as “not in the flesh but in the Spirit” because of the Spirit’s indwelling (Rom. 8:9).[viii] In fact, Paul explains that if the Spirit is not indwelling a person that one “does not belong to Christ” (v.9). In accord with this discussion Paul equates this indwelling of the Spirit with “Christ…in you” (v.10). It is on the basis of the Spirit’s indwelling that we have the hope of the resurrection (v.11), and it is the indwelling that enables the us to “[put] to death the deeds of the body” (v.13).

To sum up we find that by regeneration the Spirit births a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). In justification the new believer is made righteous based on his new connection to Christ’s righteousness. The Spirit’s work in the believer in the ministries of sanctification, baptism, and indwelling are central to the believer’s ability to live the Christian life. Sanctification sets the believer apart by God for His purpose. In baptism the believer is placed in vital union with Christ, and through the Spirit’s indwelling the believer has access to the divine enablement provided by Him.

NOTES:

[i]Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology: A Historical, Biblical, and Contemporary Survey and Review (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1995), 203.

[ii]Ibid., 205.

[iii]Ibid.

[iv]Charles C. Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), 63.

[v]Ron Merryman, Divine Operating Assets for the Believer in Time, vol. II of God’s Grace Provision for Man’s Success: An Analysis of All Phases of Salvation by Grace (Casa Grande, AZ: Merryman Ministries, 2012), 27.

[vi]Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), Logos Bible Software.

[vii]Ibid.

[viii]eiper may be translated as “If as is the case” (see A.T. Robinson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933), Logos Bible Software)

A Dispensational View of the Spiritual Life, or Homage to He That Is Spiritual

Most people, if they know anything at all about Dispensationalism, believe that it really only affects the area of end-times prophecy, and certain books of the Bible such as Daniel and Revelation.  However, it is not possible for this to be the case since each individual area of theology is inextricably connected to and intertwined with each of the other divisions of Biblical Theology, and its systematized cousin, Systematic Theology.  If that is true, as I believe it is, then there should be a Dispensational view of each of the major divisions, and subdivisions of Systematic Theology.  One of these subdivisions is found in the area of the Christian life, or also know as the spiritual life.  I will attempt to demonstrate that truth in this series of posts.

Although the topic of the Christian life is one that generates much debate, and could easily occupy many more pages than will be used in this series of blogs, rarely do systematic theologies dedicate a specific chapter or section to it. Therefore, our goal will be to develop a general understanding of the issue in brief and to discover the basic mechanics found in Scripture concerning how to experience what Scripture teaches concerning this doctrine.

Introduction

The major topic at hand is the origin and experience of the new life that begins when God’s grace is applied to the person who exercises faith in Christ. The Christian life is a quality of life that is available to all those who believe in Christ, but is not necessarily experienced by every believer. It typifies what the normal Christian life is meant to be. As Lewis Sperry Chafer declared, “(It) is a life of no regrets” that “consists of having done the will of God.”[i] That description pinpoints the outcome of the Christian life while simultaneously implying what a careful study of Scripture proves to be true, that not all believers experience living out the will of God on a consistent basis.

An important aspect of this post is the fact that it is being presented from a distinctly Dispensational viewpoint. In other words I am going to present a Dispensational view of the Christian walk, or spiritual life. That this is possible is a matter of disagreement for some. Yet, that there exists a Dispensational view of the Christian life is not only demonstrable, more importantly, it is biblical. As such it can be discovered through the hermeneutic principles commonly referred to as the grammatical-historical method of interpretation, which, simply stated, is the normal reading of Scripture. It is through the consistent implementation of this normal reading of Scripture that Dispensational theology is developed and it is through this method alone that the whole of Scripture may be properly understood including what it teaches concerning the Christian life.

Rationale for a Dispensational Theology of the Christian Life

Before we dig more deeply into the subject of the Christian life we should first briefly examine the rationale behind the assertions concerning a Dispensational view of the Christian life. Charles Ryrie has identified the sine qua non, or absolute essentials of Dispensationalism.[ii] Two of these play key roles in reaching a Dispensational view of the Christian life.  As has been previously alluded, Dispensationalism is first and foremost based upon a particular system of interpretation – the literal, historical-grammatical hermeneutic, otherwise known as normal interpretation.  This reflects the first of Ryrie’s essential elements. A Dispensationalist insists on using a consistent, literal or normal system of interpretation. The historical-grammatical hermeneutic system is not only the foundation of Dispensational theology it is the only way to gain a correct understanding of God’s message to man. Mal Couch has offered a clear and concise explanation of this form of interpretation: “One must take the words in their normal, literal, plain, historical sense. Literal would imply the natural or usual construction and implication, following the ordinary and apparent sense of words rather than an allegorical or metaphorical sense.”[iv] It is from the consistent use of a normal interpretation that the Dispensationalist reaches his theological conclusions. The same is true in regard to the subject of the Christian life.

There are multiple reasons that this normal hermeneutic approach holds such influence over the development of the Dispensational view of the Christian life. For our study, one reason will suffice. A major point of contention that arises when discussing the topic of the carnal Christian is easily overcome by a normal interpretation of Scripture that is untainted by a theological system. It is clear from First Corinthians 2:14-3:3 that not only are there three divisions of men, but there are two divisions of Christians: those who are “spiritual” (2:15)[v] and those who “are still fleshly” (carnal). When this passage is viewed through the strict usage of a normal historical-grammatical hermeneutic, the proper view, as seen above, becomes obvious.

The consistent distinction between Israel and the Church is the second of the sine qua non that bears influence on this subject and is a product of the first. One may question how this could possibly influence any view of the Christian life. The answer also leans heavily on a normal interpretation of Scripture particularly in the understanding of the subject of Pneumatology, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Robert Dean, Jr. describes this aspect of our discussion:

. . . because this model is based on a consistent literal, historical-grammatical hermeneutic, the conclusions will also be consistent with the dispensational distinctive – a distinction between Israel and the church. Since one of the distinguishing characteristics between Israel and the church is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, especially in the spiritual life, we will discover that, despite protestations to the contrary, there truly is a view of the spiritual life that is dispensational.[vi]

Scripture clearly teaches that every Christian has the Holy Spirit indwelling him as part of His multifaceted ministry in our lives. Paul drives this truth home when he states, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9b). However, Scripture also presents the truth that not every individual Old Testament believer had the Spirit and those who did at times fall under the influence of the Holy Spirit could just as quickly have the Spirit depart from them. This was obviously understood by King David as is attested by Psalm 51:11. David feared that the Spirit would depart from him because of his great personal sin and he pled with God, “Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” As Couch explains, “This does not imply a loss of salvation for David but it tells us David feared the Lord would no longer be using him as before.”[vii] On the other hand Christians in the present dispensation have no fear of the Spirit’s departure for Christ Himself promised, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:16).

Therefore, by utilizing the grammatical-historical form of biblical interpretation it is discovered that there are major differences between Israel and the Church; the Spirit’s relationship with the Christian is only one. Unlike the Old Testament saint, the Holy Spirit permanently indwells each individual New Testament saint who then always has the ability to have access to the Spirit’s power and ministry. In particular, it is the ministry of the indwelling Spirit available to each individual believer that not only imparts life to the believer but also serves as the means by which the special and supernatural character of the Christian life may be experienced by every believer.

As we begin our study we must first look at God’s work in the life of the believer. He is the source of life for all creation in general (Gen. 1-2) and the source of eternal, spiritual life for those who are newly born by grace through faith in Christ (John 3:16; Eph. 2:8-10). Since the Christian life begins with Him we should begin by examining His provision for the Christian life.  This we will do next time.

Endnotes

[i]Lewis Sperry Chafer, He That Is Spiritual, rev. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1967), 87.

[ii]Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism, Revised and Expanded (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2007), 46-48.

[iv]Mal Couch, An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics: A Guide to the History and Practice of Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2000),

[v]All Scripture quotations taken from the NASB unless otherwise noted.

[vi]Robert Dean, Jr., “Abiding in Christ: A Dispensational Theology of the Spiritual Life (Part 1),” CTS Journal 7, no. 1 (January-March 2001), http://chafer.edu/content.cfm?id=367#01 (accessed July 10, 2012).

[vii]Mal Couch, The Coming of the Holy Spirit (Springfield, MO: 21st Century Press, 2001), 28.

A Response to an Old College Friend on Facebook

A pastor whom I knew back in my college days recently linked with this article on his Facebook page (Michele Bachmann: proof that end-times theology will poison your worldview).  I think that the article typifies at least a portion of what is wrong in the Church today.  Let it be known at the outset that I am one of the dangerous ones that he discusses since I hold to the dispensational view of Scripture.

What follows is the message that I sent to my college friend.  His name is removed in order to not upset anyone, or get sued, or something along those lines.

I am saddened that you would place your stamp of agreement on that article.  I am not here to argue.  Instead I would like to simply direct our attention back to what Scripture teaches since it is the standard of truth, and doctrine.

2 Peter 3:3-4, 7, 10-11, “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?  For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation…But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men…But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.  Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!”

I could continue with Peter’s words, but simply notice what he said that the practical outcome of understanding the severity of “day of the Lord” and the coming judgment/destruction of the present earth should be – it is to have a purifying effect on God’s people – “what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…”  1 John 2:28-3:3 gives the same basic message that the imminent return of the Lord should cause His people to live pure lives.

1 Peter 4:7, “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit of the purpose of prayer.”

Peter claimed that in his day the end had already drawn near.  This verb, “is near” is in the perfect active indicative meaning that it is a “completed action with a resulting state of being…with the emphasis on the resulting state of being.”  In other words we are living at the end of all things, and if the end of all things had already drawn near at Peter’s time, logically it is even closer now.

Just as he had done in the previous passage, Peter describes what this knowledge should produce in the life of the Christian; 1.) sound judgment, 2.) sobriety in spirit (in control of one’s thought process  so as not to think irrationally) 3.) in order that we are able to pray in a focused manner.  All-in-all Peter again is teaching that knowing that we are living in the last days, that Christ may return at any time, is to have the effect of causing us to live in obedience to the word of God.

1 Peter 4:17, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

I’m sure that I’ve acted like a Pharisee even more times than I am aware, but this is not one of them.  Peter said that we are living in the time he called the end of all things, and here he says that judgment is beginning first in God’s own household, meaning us.  Our brothers and sisters around the world are being put to the test in ways we cannot imagine.  It very well may come to us also.  However, a much more severe judgment is reserved for those “who do not obey the gospel of God.”  Those who refuse to trust in Jesus Christ alone will face God’s judgment.  Revelation 20:11-15 is painfully clear;

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it…And I saw the dead, the great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book…which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds…And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Any Dispenstionalist, of which I am one, who is worth his salt takes all of this together and realizes that we aren’t to be hunkering down in our bunkers, but we are to be sharing the gospel of salvation in Christ alone with those who need to know before they must stand before the Righteous Judge.  I don’t condemn anyone to hell.  It is not up to me.  God will be the one who hands down final judgment.  I’m just the one waving a flag warning the drivers to stop because the bridge ahead is out.

I’m not sure that you want to be in agreement with a man who is a scoffer concerning the end times – especially since they were specifically called out by Peter.  I would encourage you to look again at what the Word says.  It is the standard by which we are to judge any teaching.  Contrary to what the author of the article wrote, Paul told Titus that the grace of God has appeared and instructs us how to live “in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13) – grammatically Paul identifies the appearing of the Lord as our blessed hope.  We should be looking for it, longing for it.  Yet, the brother who wrote the article says that it is a dangerous doctrine.  Paul told Timothy that “there is laid up for me (Paul) the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day (day of the Lord); and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 2:8).  I want that crown, and believe that I will get it because I am looking for and will love the coming of our Lord.

I pray that you will too.