The Wonder of the Work of the Holy Spirit
January 25th, 1987 @ 10:50 AM
THE WONDER OF THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-25-87 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Wonder and Work of the Holy Spirit of God. Our background text is the one we read a moment ago in John 3:8, “The wind bloweth where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not see it. You do not know where it comes from, and you do not know where it goes. So is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
The blessing of the Holy Spirit of God is evidenced throughout all the pages of sacred story and in all the experiences of human life. But to describe it, defies language and literature—seeking to verbalize the wonder of the presence and power of the Spirit of God in our hearts. The Bible strives with similitudes and similes and metaphors. I have grouped them into two parts; words that God uses to describe the Holy Spirit in this world in our life and pilgrimage through this present earth; and then words that God uses to describe the presence and power and wonder of the Holy Spirit in the world that is yet to come.
First, the words God uses to describe the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives in this world. The first would be “breath, wind.” In Hebrew, rûach; in Greek, pneuma, your word “pneumatic” comes from that; the Latin, spiritus. And our language has chosen the word from Latin, “spirit.”
Because He is unseen does not by any means deny the reality of His essence or His presence. We have been taught in modern technological scientific advance that the real things in life are invisible and unseen. All matter, all material, all materiality is made of units that we can’t see, such as atoms or molecules, and our enemies, the viruses. These are unseen and invisible. But they are real and actual.
We are taught and experience it every day that our atmosphere, the air, is filled with music, and words, and sports, and all of the things on ether waves but unseen. But a radio or a television can pluck them out of the air. But they are invisible in themselves.
Light shining through a prism will make a beautiful spectrum from red rays to violet rays. But we know that beyond the spectrum that we see are rays that we don’t see; an infrared or an ultraviolet. Gravity; possibly the most powerful of all of the forces of the universe that keep the whole creation of God in order and in motion; unseen. I have stood in Panama where the tide is nineteen feet high. The power of the pull of the moon reaching the boundless shores of the vast Pacific, pulling it toward the east, all of these realities are unseen. And the Lord speaks of that with regard to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, unseen but powerful, like breath or like the air.
In the twentieth chapter of this Book of John, he tells that after the Lord was raised from the dead, He met with His disciples in the upper room and He breathed on them, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit of God”; the breath of heaven, the breath of God upon His disciples. It is an unusual thing. That is the only place in the Greek New Testament that that word ‘breathe’ is used. “He breathed on them” [John 20:22]. The other place it is used is in Hebrew in the second chapter of Genesis, “And the Lord God formed Adam of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” [Genesis 2:7]. This is God in us, the breath of heaven.
And in the second chapter of the Book of Acts, that coming of the Holy Spirit upon His people is dynamically described. It is called the sound of “a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house” [Acts 2:2]. When we gather in this sacred place, there ought to be the consciousness and the felt presence in every seat, and in every section, and in every soul, the presence of the Spirit of God. The Lord is here, filling every part of the house, the breath of God.
Another word that is used to verbalize the unseen presence of the Holy Spirit is the word fire. “He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit, and in fire” [Matthew 3:11]. The Holy Spirit in His Word, it is a fire. It is a burning. It is a flaming.
Jeremiah said, “I will not speak any more in His name. I will not present His cause. And I will not represent His presence.” Then the next verse says, “But His word was in my soul as a flaming fire, and I could not refrain” [Jeremiah 20:9].
Do you remember the two on the way to Emmaus when the Lord, unknown to them, step by step walked by their side? [Luke 24:13-16]. Then when He was revealed and they knew Him in His prayer [Luke 24:30-31], they said one to another, “Did not our hearts burn within us”—burn within us—“as He spake to us by the way, and as He opened to us the Holy Scriptures” [Luke 24:32]. There is a burning, there is a fire in the Holy Word of God. The Holy Spirit is in it.
There is a flaming and a burning in God’s people. In the fourth chapter of Isaiah, the great prophet refers among his people of the Spirit of burning [Isaiah 4:4]—the zealousness, and the commitment, and the glory, and the testimony, and the witnessing, and the service, the burning of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of His people. And of course, in the church, in the house of God, the Holy Spirit is a burning flame.
In the first chapter of the Revelation, John says the Spirit of God told him that those seven burning lamps—flaming fires—are the seven churches [Revelation 1:12, 20]. Then in the fourth chapter of that same Apocalypse, the apostle John sees the glory of the Lamb of God [Revelation 4:2-3]. And before Him on His throne, there are seven burning flames which are the seven burning Spirits of God [Revelation 4:5]. The presence of the Lord is a flame in our midst. I would like to turn aside and say that a dead service in the house of God is an anathema and an insult before the Lord. There ought to be in it fire and glory and praise.
A last word that I’ve chosen out of God’s description of the Holy Spirit in our midst: not only “breath,” not only “fire,” but “clothing.” In the twenty-fourth chapter, the last chapter of the Book of Luke, the Lord says to His apostles, “You are not to leave Jerusalem, until you be enduō.” They translate it “endued”; fine. Endueo is the word clothing, clothe; “until you be clothed with power from on high” [Luke 24:49]. That’s an unusual expression.
In the sixth chapter of the Book of Judges, it says the Holy Spirit of God clothed Himself with Gideon [Judges 6:34]. That’s an exact translation. You will find an exact translation of it in the twenty-fourth chapter of 2 Chronicles [2 Chronicles 24:20]. The Holy Spirit of God clothed Himself with Zechariah, the Holy Spirit incarnate in His people. And when that happens, we are somebody else over, and beyond, and beside our natural selves, doing what ordinarily we could never do, going miles with our Lord we would never thought we were able to journey. We just become somebody else; incarnate Holy Spirit of God.
In the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Acts, Paul is standing before King Agrippa., and Festus, the Roman procurator of the providence of Judea, breaks into his message, and he says, “Paul, Paul, you are mad. You are mad” [Acts 26:24].
And Paul replies, “Most noble Festus, I am not mad; I speak the words of truth and sobriety” [Acts 26:25]. He sounded beside himself because he was clothed with the Holy Spirit; incarnate power of God rested upon him. And that is the effect that we see when a man is filled with the Holy Spirit. The face of Stephen shone like the sun when he was filled with the Spirit of God [Acts 6:15]. What a wonder! The work of this Third Person of the Trinity, as He comes upon His people!
Now we turn to the words that describe the wonder of the work of the Spirit in the world to come. I have chosen two of them. One is the word “seal,” and the other is the word “earnest.”
In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul writes, “For all the promises of God in Christ are Yea and Amen.” This is in the first chapter of 2 Corinthians [2 Corinthians 1:20]. “Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and who has anointed us, is God; who also hath sealed us and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” [2 Corinthians 1:21-22]. Then he repeats that same imagery in the first chapter of Ephesians, verse 13, chapter 1:
In whom ye also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,
Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.
[Ephesians 1:13, 14]
Sweet people, I’ve been saved as you have; trusted the Lord Jesus, as you have; been washed from my sins; been redeemed by the blood of the crucified One. But how do I know I’ll make it to heaven? There are ten thousand traps along the way. And Satan is our implacable and bitter enemy. And I’m no match for him. And I am full of weakness. And I tremble before the very temptations and trials of life and finally will come into senility and death. All around me I see human foible and feebleness and failure. Lord, Lord, how is it that I know that I’ll be in heaven someday, that my earthly pilgrimage will find its ultimate consummation in the assembly and city of God? Lord, how do I know it? How can I be assured of it?
By first; the sealing of the Holy Spirit [Ephesians 1:13]. He hath sealed us who have found refuge and salvation in Him. The Holy Spirit is the seal, first, that we belong to God, and, second, that we are secure in Him. A seal means that in human life. First a seal is a sign of possession.
You remember when Jeremiah was preaching that after the Babylonian captivity the people would come back home, and they would inherit their land. And in keeping with that sermon, Jeremiah bought his inheritance at Anathoth where he was born, where he grew up, and he sealed the purchase price with a seal, and delivered it to the witnesses in Jerusalem [Jeremiah 32:8-10]. A seal is a sign of ownership.
And a seal is a sign of security. You remember when Esther came before Xerxes, Ahasuerus, the Persian emperor, and said that Haman had sent out a decree through all the empire that the Jewish people were to be destroyed [Esther 3:11-15]. She asked Ahasuerus to send out a decree, a mandate, countermanding what Haman had written. And Ahasuerus wrote that document and sealed it with his signet ring [Esther 8:10].
That’s what a seal stands for. It refers to possession, and it refers to security; a seal. The seal of God in His Holy Spirit is upon His people. First, that we belong to Him. We are His possession. In the seventh chapter of the Revelation, God sealed 144,000 [Revelation 7:2-4]. These belonged to Him. They are God’s in a world of denial and darkness and tribulation. These are His people—sealed.
Now, you look; security. In the fourteenth chapter of the same Apocalypse, John sees the great glorious Lord on His throne. And with Him, how many, 143,999? No! “And with Him those 144,000 that were sealed by the Spirit of God” [Revelation 14:1], not one was lost! Not one!
And my brothers and my sisters, there shall not be the loss of one somebody you, when God counts His sheep. When the door is opened in glory, and the Lord assembles His saints, we will all be there. We belong to God, sealed by the Holy Spirit and secure in Him. And that sealing is the Holy Spirit in our hearts [Ephesians 1:13].
That second word—not only is He the seal of our salvation and our hope of heaven, but He is the earnest of our inheritance [Ephesians 1:14]. Earnest, earnest is a common word meaning pledge, a down payment. This much is given as a token of the fact that the rest will be paid. It’s an earnest. It’s a pledge. So God has given us the earnest of the Spirit, the down payment of the Spirit, the pledge of God that all of His promises and purposes of grace will be fulfilled in us.
Now there are two things in that. One, our inheritance; it refers to our inheritance in heaven. Our inheritance is not here in this world: it is there [1 Peter 1:3-5]. Our reward is not here; it is there [2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12]. Our home is not here; it is there [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:1-3]. Our ultimate fellowship is not here; it is there [Philippians 3:20]. If it is here, I will leave it all behind, all of it, all of it.
As you know, I live in a world of age and illness and death. If you live long enough, if you live long enough, you will live beyond the remembrance of anybody that knows you, alone. Sweet people, I have held funeral services—I can’t believe it—I have held funeral services and not a soul would be there. Not one, not one, nobody present. The one that had died had so out lived all of the family and all the people who ever knew him. Nobody came. Not one.
Whatever it is we have in this world, in this life, we leave it behind, even this house in which our spirit now breathes. And, if my home is here and my inheritance is here and my hope is here, I have nothing to look forward to but death and decay and decimation and disaster. God in heaven have pity upon us! That’s why the Book will say that our inheritance is in heaven [1 Peter 1:3-5]. It’s not here. It is there. Our treasures are not here; they are there [Matthew 6:19-21]. Our abiding place is not here; it is there [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:1-3].
And we can look forward with victory and with joy and with infinite rejoicing, for God hath treasured up for us all of these wonderful things, glorious things that pertain to Him. And that pledge of our inheritance is the Holy Spirit of God [Ephesians 1:13-14]. Let me read it to you.
It is written, 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.
[1 Corinthians 2:9, 10]
We see them and possess them by the Holy Spirit of God. O Lord, what an infinite gladness and joy to be a child of God, to have the Spirit of Jesus in our hearts, and thus to know that in Him we shall inherit all of these things that eyes never seen, and ears never heard and my heart has never imagined! Oh, glory, glory, glory!
Not only is the Holy Spirit of God a pledge, an earnest, of our inheritance in glory, but in Him we have the promise of our place with Christ, with our Lord. In the great high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17, He says, “Neither do I pray for these, these apostles alone, but for them also who shall believe on Me through their word” [John 17:20]. That’s we! Praying for us! “Father, I pray that they may be one with Us. And the glory which Thou gavest Me, I do give them. Father, I will that they also whom Thou has given Me be with Me where I am” [John 17:21-22, 24]. And that is the work of the Holy Spirit—to lead us to Jesus, to present us to our blessed Lord Jesus. In the previous chapter: “When He, the Spirit of Truth”—the Holy Spirit—“is come … He will not speak of Himself . . . He will glorify Me: for He will receive of Mine and shall show it unto you” [John 16:13, 14, 15].
The work of the Holy Spirit of God is to bring us to Jesus. It’s to lead us to Jesus. It’s to present us to the Lord Jesus. It’s to place us in the presence of the wonderful and glorified Savior, the Lord Jesus. That is the assigned work, wondrous work, of the Holy Spirit of God.
I have been a pastor as you know for sixty years now. And in the course of those ministering years, the people that I’ve prayed with and talked with are innumerable, and so many of those conferences will concern salvation. “Pastor, I am concerned,” or, “I’m troubled,” or, “I’m afflicted with doubt. How do I know that I am saved? How do I know that I’ll be in heaven someday? And pastor, I can’t afford to lose. I can’t afford to be mistaken. I don’t want to be shut out eternally from God. I want to live with the Lord. I want to be in heaven someday. But how can I know?”
And I have a very plain and simple answer. My sweet friend, my brother or my sister, you look at you and you will be filled with every kind of doubt and trouble. We are weak, and sinful, and fallen, and helpless. You look at you and you will be filled with doubt, and misgiving, and disappointment, and discouragement every step of the way in your pilgrimage; just looking at you.
My sweet friend, look to Jesus [John 3:14-17, 14:6]. Turn your eyes upon Jesus [Acts 16:30-31]. I may be weak, but He is strong. I may be filled with every fault and failure, but in Him, I find no fault at all. I may be sinful, He is pure and perfect. I may be unable, but He is strong. Look to Jesus. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. He will not speak of Himself; He will speak of the Lord Jesus [John 16:13, 14, 15]. And the Holy Spirit never will say to you, “Look at someone else,” or even, “Look at the church.” Always the Spirit will say, “Look to Jesus.” And my friend, my sweet brother and sister, if you will look to Jesus, you will find strength, and encouragement, and blessing, and happiness, and glory. Look to Jesus! Isn’t that the whole Word of God?
Look and live, my brother, live!
Look to Jesus Christ and live!
‘Tis recorded in His word. Hallelujah!
It is only that you look and live.
And that is our precious invitation to your heart this morning hour; to look to Jesus and live. Led by the Holy Spirit of God to His precious feet, look up into His face, to love the Lord forever and ever.
In a moment we will sing us a song. And while we sing the appeal, in the balcony round, you; in the press of people on this lower floor, you, “Today pastor, I have made the decision. I am giving my heart in faith and love and trust to the blessed Savior, and here I stand” [Romans 10:8-13]. Or, “Pastor I am bringing my family into the circle and circumference and fellowship of this precious church, and we are coming” [Hebrews 10:24-25]. Or to answer a call of God in your heart, make that decision while I pray. Then when we stand and sing, on the first note of the first stanza, “Pastor, here I am.” And God bless you in your coming. Now may we pray?
Our Lord, it has been such a heavenly preciousness for me this morning to speak of the attesting, sealing Spirit of the living God. How could we ever be lost when He is with us? When we stumble, He picks us up. When we do not know how or why, He guides in the way, He comforts us in our sorrows, He stands by us in our illness [Romans 8:26], and He will raise us from the dead if Jesus delays His coming [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Romans 8:11]. O blessed, wondrous work of the Spirit of God, we praise Thee for Thy presence with us in the church, in the assembly [1 Corinthians 3:16], and in our souls [1 Corinthians 6:19]. Sweet Spirit, doThy office work now [John 16:7-15]. Bring to us these Thou hast chosen for eternal life, and may they stand with us in glory and rejoicing as we thank God for His grace, extended to us. Thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest; in Thy precious name, amen.
Now in the moment that we are singing; in the balcony, down one of those stairways; on the lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Here I am, pastor. This is God’s day for me.” Bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
WONDER OF THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
I. Here in this world
A. Breath, wind
Invisible in essence, but no less real (John 20:19-22, Genesis 2:7, Acts 2:2, 2
1. In God’s Word
(Jeremiah 20:9, Luke 24:32)
2. In God’s
people (Isaiah 4:4)
3. In God’s
church (Revelation 1:20, 4:5)
– be clothed (Luke 24:, Judges 6:34, 2 Chronicles 24:20, Acts 26:24)
II. There in the world to come
Holy Spirit as a seal of the believer’s redemption (2 Corinthians 1:22,
a. A sign of possession
among men (Jeremiah 32:9)
b. A sign of security
among men (Esther 8:1-19)
c. A sign of possession
and security with God (Revelation 7, 14)
1. Pledge, down
2. Of what is the
Holy Spirit in earnest?
a. Our inheritance (1