The Enlightenment of the Holy Spirit
There can be no doubt that in recent years in Christian circles there has been a tremendous emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit, so much so that the Person and work of Christ has been put into the background. It is not so much now what think ye of Christ?, as what think ye of the Holy Spirit? And some make it quite clear that they regard the work of the Spirit to be of more importance than any other Christian truth. There is only one way to settle this, and that is to ask another question, what saith the Scripture? for this is the only authority that can guide us and keep us from making mistakes. Some years ago we attempted to search the Scriptures and gather together its teaching on The Holy Spirit and His ministry. This was issued and entitled The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit and we commend it to all who value the Spirits work, that they should read and test it from Scripture.
Fortunately for us we have the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ on this great subject in the 16th chapter of the Gospel of John:
. . . . . He (the Holy Spirit) will bring glory to Me by taking from what is Mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is Mine and make it known unto you (John xvi. 14-15, N.I.V.).
This is so important that the Lord repeats it He will not speak of Himself . . . . . He will glorify Me (A.V.). And there can be no greater work than this than to magnify the Saviour. He will not glorify Himself, but He will glorify Me, said the Saviour. And how will He do this? By taking from what is Mine and making it known to you (14, 15). He will testify about Me (xv. 26). He will guide you into all truth (xvi. 13).
This must therefore be His chief work, for what can be more important than making Christ known to others? Is not getting to know Him Who is Saviour and Lord the most important thing for both unbeliever and believer? Did not the Apostle Paul sum up the whole of his aim by saying . . . . . that I might know Him . . . . . (Phil. iii. 8-11)?
Is there any higher and holier work than glorifying Christ? The Holy Spirit is not only the revealer of Christ, but He is the revealer of all truth. Not only is He the inspirer and author of Gods Word, but He is the only one Who can give illumination and understanding of its divine contents.
In I Cor. ii. 9-11 we read:
. . . Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God . . . even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
The Holy Spirit, being God, can plumb the depths of God and is the only One Who can. What created being can search and discover God to perfection in all His fullness? What a mighty aid then we have in the Person of The Holy Spirit, the great Revealer of Truth so that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God (I Cor. ii. 12). All this is conveyed to us by the Scriptures which are words . . . . . which the Holy Ghost teacheth (verse 13). The Apostle asserts that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he get to know them because they are spiritually discerned (verse 14). Unaided, man cannot get to know the things of God. Education and intellectual power will not avail here.
In other words we, as believers, are shut up to the revealing power of the Holy Spirit working upon the holy Scriptures, and it is by this alone that we get to know the truth lying behind the words contained in the Word of God, as we humbly read and seek divine illumination and understanding. So we have to pray with the Psalmist:
Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy Law (the Word) (Psa. cxix. 18).
Let us get this quite clear. Gods enlightenment cannot come from theological courses or by any special methods of study by themselves. It can only come from the Holy Spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph. i. 13-19), the great Revealer of the truth He Himself has caused to be written.
If by grace we have come to know the high calling of God in Christ Jesus and the prize attached to it (Phil. iii. 14), then it is by the operation of the same Holy Spirit as Ephesians declares. Eph. i. is a marvelous revelation of the will of the Father (i. 3-5), the redemptive work of the Son (5-12), & the revealing power of the Holy Spirit (12-23). This gives us the divine basis for Gods purpose of grace for the Body of Christ from its beginning to the end when its hope is realized. The Holy Spirit seals us (13), which is a figurative way of emphasizing the complete security of each member of the Body of Christ. No believer can accomplish this eternal security by his own power or actions. God the Holy Spirit sets His seal upon the salvation of the believer at the moment of believing.
This work of the Spirit does not refer to some exalted experience subsequent to salvation, for the tense of the Greek verbs show that the believing and sealing take place at the same time. The A.V. after believing you were sealed is misleading and not true. This sealing is the culmination of the act of salvation on Gods part. It does not indicate where the sealed person will be blessed in resurrection. That is made known in other parts of Ephesians and Colossians. It is basic, not dispensational; and this is seen by the reference to the Holy Spirits seal in chapter iv., grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption (iv. 30). Nor is the sealing something that is confined to the great Mystery (Secret) of Eph. iii. and Col. i. If we turn to II Cor. i. 21, 22, we read:
Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
So this sealing and earnest was part of the Acts church that was waiting for the repentance of Israel and the early return of the Lord Jesus, and this was before the dispensation of the Mystery (Eph. iii. 9, R.V.) had been revealed through the apostle Paul in his Roman prison.
Needless to say, those who were sealed in Eph. i. are those whom the Father had selected (or elected) before the foundation of the world, and the doctrine of election runs through the whole plan of God in the purpose of the ages. Israel were an elect nation (I Chron. xvi. 13; Psa. cv. 6; Isa. xliii. 20). The faithful remnant of Israel were elect too (Rom. ix. 11; xi. 5) and the Body of Christ is also elect (Eph. i. 3, 4). But let us not make wrong deductions. In a recent exposition of the Scriptures one author insisted that as this was so, every one of the elect from Genesis onwards must be in the Body of Christ!
God has a vast new creation in view, a new heaven and a new earth which is beyond our comprehension, and He has chosen just where He wants His redeemed children to be in eternity and He is Sovereign in this. Did not the Lord Jesus picture this figuratively when He likened the new universe to the Fathers house which has many rooms (John xiv. 2, N.I.V.)? These Christ is now preparing for His children. Yet the general Christian view is that God has one big room in the future where He will lump together all His children!* [* – Paul was caught away to the third heaven in a vision, so there must be at least three heavens!]
The newly created new man of Eph. ii. 15 is an elect company whom the Father wills to bless in the heavenly places far above all. Even now He sees them enthroned with the exalted Christ there (Eph. ii. 6), a unique sphere of blessing for any of the redeemed of God (and there are a number of other unique features too). No wonder its members are exhorted to seek and set their mind on things above, where Christ is seated on the right hand of God, and not on the things of earth (Colossians iii. 1, 2), for this super-heavenly calling will be their future home in eternity.
Now all this is what the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of believers to see, and gives a measure of understanding which increases as we receive the Word by faith and ask for the Spirit of revelation. This is further emphasized in Col. i. 25-27 which tells us that God wishes or wills to make this secret known among the Gentiles, which is Christ among you (A.V. margin), the hope of glory. Pauls aim was to make plain to everyone the administration (dispensation) of this Mystery (Secret now revealed by God) (Eph. iii. 8, 9). Of course he is not claiming to be able to do the Spirits work of enlightenment, nor did he believe that everyone then living in the world would see it. There is no word for men as in the A.V. rendering of these verses. The all obviously refers to all whom the Father has chosen (Eph. i. 4).
Some might imagine that this revealed truth is so wonderful that perhaps only a few choice people would receive it. But this is not true, for in the practical section of Ephesians (iv. 16) it is clearly taught that the growth of all the Body depends on the working in due measure of every part, unto the building up of itself in love (R.V.). And this must be true otherwise the Body would be lop-sided. Every part means every member, and each one has a contribution to make in this new creation and its growth. So God wants this new truth to be made known; the Apostle Paul fervently desired that all the chosen ones should see it, and then every single member of this company in practice should contribute his share in its spiritual growth.
But what do we find in practice? Does every believer rejoice in the knowledge of the exceeding spiritual riches of this high calling of God in Christ Jesus? The answer is decidedly No! Ask the average Christian if they see and understand this great Secret and are aiming that other believers should receive it and know it for themselves (Eph. iii. 9). In all probability they will look at you with puzzlement or even amazement.
What can we conclude from this? Surely either one of two things: (1) the Holy Spirit has not done His revealing work well, for many, in fact the majority of Christians do not see the dispensation of the Mystery (Eph. iii. 9), and some even oppose it as serious error, or (2) God has more than one plan for His redeemed today. We believe from Scripture that this is true, and if so the great problem vanishes.
No one can work out in practice what has never been revealed to them, and God Who is righteous will never expect them to do it. We ask the reader to turn back to Vol.LII and read pages 105 and 106 of the article The Good Deposit. We cannot quote it in full here except to point out again that automatic membership of the church of the Mystery (Secret), the Body of Christ, makes Pauls object to make all see what the dispensation of the Mystery is (Eph. iii. 8, 9, R.V.) quite unnecessary, for its members would be in it whatever their attitude was. And this would be true of any subsequent witness to the Mystery, including that of the present time.
How strange it is that some stress the Holy Spirits work as Sealer in Eph. i. 13, 14, but ignore the Spirits work as Revealer in the same chapter (verses 17 and 18) in connection with the new calling and its hope! He had already opened the eyes of the understanding of the Ephesian believer to some extent concerning this calling (note the past tense of the verb, the eyes of your understanding having been enlightened). So a measure of understanding of this great Secret had already been given by the Holy Spirit, but more was needed, as the prayer that follows shows.
We quote from the article mentioned above, moreover without these opened eyes how can one guard the good deposit of truth (I Tim. vi. 20; II Tim. i. 13, 14)? How can anyone guard what is not seen and understood? Timothy was warned that faithful guarding would result in suffering and enduring hardness (II Tim. i. 8; ii. 3). How is it possible to suffer and endure hardness for truth that is not known or appreciated?. But at the same time let us remember that all the Spirits enlightenment does bring responsibility to the Lord which cannot be evaded. This responsibility, if our eyes have been opened, is to make Gods truth known as far as possible and then leave all the results to Him. He will not make mistakes. He knows just what He has planned for His redeemed family in the universe of the new heaven and earth; and all finally in resurrection life will be satisfied with the Lords appointments (Psa. xvii. 15) and all will be to His glory.
The Lord is not expecting 100% success with us, but He is expecting faithfulness to the truth He has revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. What happens if others disagree with us or even leave us? Do we then modify our beliefs or keep silent about them to avoid trouble? What did the Apostles do in similar circumstances? Read carefully what happened to Paul in II Tim. i. 15. He tells Timothy that all in Asia forsook him. Asia was a large province and note Paul does not say that some had forsaken him. All believers there had done so and this must have involved hundreds of Christians who had professed to be standing with the apostle in this new Truth. What a terrible blow this must have been, but did he give up? No! See what he says in II Tim. iv. 16, 17, and also note what he said to the Corinthian church concerning some who had turned away in division (I Cor. xi. 18, 19). Note also what the apostle John said in a similar experience (I John ii. 19).
Faithfulness certainly costs, and some are not willing to pay the price. And yet, at the end when we meet the Lord face to face, would it not be wonderful to hear Him say to us, (or its equivalent), well done, good and faithful servant (Matt. xxv. 21, 23)? Also carefully note I Cor. iv. 2 and II Tim. ii. 2 with its stress on faithfulness. If we have received the good deposit of truth, let us guard all of it as being precious, remembering that one day we shall have to give an account of our stewardship to the Lord.