The Wonder of the Work of the Holy Spirit
January 25th, 1987 @ 8:15 AM
THE WONDER OF THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-25-87 8:15 a.m.
And bless you who share this hour with us on radio. You are a part this morning of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. The message, as we preach through the Gospel of John, is out of the third chapter and particularly out of the eighth verse, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit," The Wonder of the Work of the Holy Spirit of God.
The Bible staggers, the very Word of God finds Itself groping to describe the work, the presence of the Holy Spirit of Jehovah God. The Bible uses similitudes and similes and metaphors, seeking and grasping to contain in verbalized form the wonder of the power of the Holy Spirit of God. But the blessing of that third Person of the Trinity is evident in this world in which we live, and by faith in the world that is to come. So I divided the message in those two parts; the words that describe the Holy Spirit of God in this world, and the words that describe the work of the Spirit of God in the world that is to come.
First, those words in the Bible that depict the presence and power and glory of the Holy Spirit of God in the present world where we live: the first one is "breath" or "wind." In the Hebrew it’s rÃ»ach; in Greek it’s pneuma – like a pneumatic tire – and in Latin it is spiritus. And we have chosen in our English language the word spiritus, "spirit." And our technological and scientific advancements have made us familiar with the unseen, but no less real essence, the invisible world all around us. Materiality is made up of entities we’ve never seen: an atom, a molecule, a virus. No microscope yet has ever identified anyone of those realities.
Light, light under a prism will have a wondrous spectrum from red to violet. But there also colors we can’t see: infrared, ultraviolet. The atmosphere around us – I move my hands through it. It is filled with music and sports and addresses and words. A radio or TV can pick up these ether waves, but I can’t see them. They’re no less real because invisible.
Gravity: what is gravity? No one knows. Yet I had stood in Panama and have watched the tides there nineteen feet high, the power of the moon pulling the entire Pacific Ocean toward the east.
So the Holy Spirit of God, because He is invisible and we don’t see Him does not mean He is any less real or present. So the Lord Jesus, in the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of John, breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive ye, the Holy Spirit" [John 20:22]. That’s the only time in the New Testament that word "breathed" is used. The only other time it’s used in the Bible is in the Hebrew; in the second chapter of Genesis, "God breathed into Adam the breath of life; and he became a living soul" [Genesis 2:7]. Christ breathed upon His apostles, and they became flames of fire.
And at Pentecost the reality of the presence of the Holy Spirit was manifestly felt. First there was a rushing, mighty wind, the sound of it and it filled all that were in the house [Acts 2:1-2]. And when we have services here, the Holy Spirit ought to be felt in every seat and in every section and in every soul; a breath – the breathing of Christ, the breath of God, the breath of heaven upon us.
Another word used to describe the presence and reality of the Holy Spirit is "fire," "a burning." The Holy Spirit is a fire in His Word. Jeremiah said, "I said within my heart, I will not speak of His name, nor will I make mention of the Lord. But His word was in my soul and in my bones as a fire burning" [Jeremiah 20:9].
The two on the way to Emmaus said to one another, "Did not our hearts burn within us, as He spoke to us by the way, and as He revealed to us the Scriptures?" [Luke 24:32], the burning of the Word of God. A fire; in the fourth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the Spirit of burning among the people. And the Spirit of God in His church is a flame. It’s a fire [Isaiah 4:4-5].
In the first chapter of the Revelation [verse 20], the seven lamps that are burning are the seven churches. And in the fourth chapter of the Apocalypse, "I saw before the throne of God seven burning flames, which are the seven Spirits of God" [Revelation 4:5], a flame of fire.
I thought through a crazy thing. Here’s a great factory – wheels and machines – and we asked the owner, "What do you produce?" And he replies, "Nothing."
"Why don’t you produce?"
And he replies, "’Cause the machinery doesn’t work. The wheels don’t turn."
"Oh," I say, "What you need is a beautiful steeple." And we put a steeple on the factory. But the wheels don’t turn. "Oh," I say, "What we need are beautiful stained glass windows." But the wheels don’t turn. No power. I say, "What we need are beautiful carpets and luxurious chairs." But the wheels don’t turn. Then I say, "Let’s go down to the boiler room, let’s go to the furnace. And let’s pitch in coal and set it afire. And then more coal, and more fire." And soon the steam hits the pistons, and the cylinders and the wheels begin to tremble, and the great machinery begins to work.
That’s the church. It’s the power in it. It’s the praying in it. It’s the moving of the Holy Spirit in it; that’s the church. We don’t need these stained glass windows or high steeples or luxurious chairs or carpets. We could have church without anyone of them, but we can’t have church without God’s Spirit.
Another word: enduo. In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Luke, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit enduo" [verse ]. The Greek word is "clothed." Isn’t that a remarkable thing? But it’s often in the Bible. The Holy Spirit clothes Himself with His people. It’s a remarkable thing; in the sixth chapter, [verse 30], of Judges; the Spirit of God clothed Himself with Gideon. And then in the twenty-fourth chapter of 2 [Chronicles], the Spirit of God clothed Himself with Zechariah [verse 20]. The Spirit of God clothes Himself with His people, and they become something else, something other, something beyond, something beside.
In the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Acts, Paul is speaking the Word of God before Agrippa. And Festus, the Roman procurator of the province of Judea, interrupts him and cries, saying, "Paul, you are mad! You are mad!" [Acts 26:24]. And Paul replies, "Most noble Festus, I am not mad. But I speak the words of truth and sobriety" [Acts 26:25]. The Spirit of God changes a man. He becomes something other, something else, something beyond, and something beside. This is the Word in the presence of the Holy Spirit of God in our life and in our world.
We speak now of the description of the Holy Spirit of God in the world that is to come. And I choose two words among others, two that describe God’s Holy Spirit and our world in heaven. In 2 Corinthians chapter 1:
For all the promises of God in Christ are amen.
Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is the Lord;
Who also sealed us and hath given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
[2 Corinthians 1:20-22]
And he’ll use those same two words again in Ephesians chapter 1:
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye 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.
He is the earnest of our promise of heaven. He is the earnest and He is the seal of our heavenly pilgrimage.
How do I know that I’ll be in heaven someday? I have trusted the Lord Christ; I’ve been forgiven, my sins in His grace and goodness; I’ve been washed in the blood of the Lamb; I’ve been redeemed by His sacrifice – but O Lord God, there are ten thousand pitfalls. And there is Satan, against whom I am no competitor; he’s so much more than I. Lord, Lord, how do I know that I’ll be in that number when God calls the roll in glory? How do I know but that I’ll fall by the way, I won’t make it?
I know because of two things and they’re named here. The number one: I am sealed by the Holy Spirit of God. A seal means two things, ownership and security. You remember the thirty-second chapter of Jeremiah? Jeremiah preaching that after the Babylonian captivity people would come back and they would posses their homeland. And to demonstrate that message, that faith, Jeremiah bought a property at Anathoth, where he was brought up: an inheritance. And he paid for it and sealed it with a seal [Jeremiah 32:10-11]. It was his. A seal is security, a sign of security.
Esther said to Ahasuerus, King Xerxes, "Haman has sent out word that all my people are to be destroyed. Will you write a letter and seal it with a king’s signet that my people are to be preserved?" [Esther 8:8].
That’s the sealing of the Holy Spirit. Ownership: we belong to God who have found refuge in our blessed Lord. We are His forever.
In the seventh chapter of the Apocalypse, God sealed, God sealed one hundred forty-four thousand; they belong to Him. They’re His people, one hundred forty-four thousand. And in the fourteenth chapter of that same Apocalypse, John sees the Lamb of God on His throne. And before Him are one hundred forty-three thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine? No! And before him are one hundred forty-four thousand. He never lost one, not one. And that sealing is the Holy Spirit in our hearts, in our souls, in our lives, that we’ll be in God’s presence and in God’s heaven someday.
The other word is "earnest." The Holy Spirit is the earnest, the pledge, the down payment. An earnest is something that you give somebody as a token that the full payment will be made later; an earnest. And the Holy Spirit is God’s earnest, His down payment, His pledge in our lives that we’re going to make it, that we’ll be ultimately saved, that we’ll be in heaven someday – God’s pledge that He will fulfill all that He has promised us.
I think of that in two ways. Looking at the Bible, one is our inheritance, our home, our place:
As 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]
What a marvelous, earnest pledge of the promise of God. Our inheritance is not here; it is in heaven. Our home is not here; it is in heaven. Our reward is not here; it is in heaven. Our abiding place is not here; it is in heaven. If it is here we shall leave it all behind. But our inheritance, and our home, and our reward, and our glory all are in heaven.
How do I know I will receive it? Because of the earnest, the pledge of the Holy Spirit of God; the Holy Spirit of God shows it to us. Like Moses when God took him on Mt. Nebo and showed him the Promised Land, the Holy Spirit of God reveals to us our riches and our inheritance in glory. We feel it; with eyes of faith we see it.
I have stood by the side of dying saints, and they say in their death, "Look, look!" And they describe the glories of heaven – O Lord, the pledge, the promise of the Holy Spirit of God; that all of that inheritance will someday be ours.
And one other: how do I know that I will find my place with the blessed Lord Jesus? That I’ll be there with Him? Our Lord prayed in the high priestly prayer of John 17:
I do not pray for these alone, but for them also who shall believe through their word;
That they may be one with Us.
And the glory which Thou gavest Me I give them;
Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.
And the Lord taught them saying, "When He, the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit of God is come, He will not speak of Himself. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and show it unto you" [John 16:13-14]. The Holy Spirit of God, the earnest, the pledge of our entrance into heaven, the Holy Spirit of God reveals to us, and shows us, and teaches us, and points us to the Lord Jesus. He will not speak of Himself; but He will glorify and lift up the blessed Lord Jesus.
Sweet people, as you know, I have been a pastor now for sixty years; sixty years! And in those years, as in my continuing ministry, I have had untold numbers of conferences and prayers with my people. And so many times will they say to me, "How do I know that I will be in heaven someday? How do I know that I am saved? Sometimes I doubt my conversion and my salvation. And I cannot afford to miss that wondrous entrance. I don’t want to be lost. I don’t want to be shut out into darkness. I don’t want to spend forever and forever away from God. I want to be in heaven someday. I want to be with my Lord. I want to be saved, but how can I know?"
And I always have a very simple and plain answer, "According to the Word of God, my brother or my sister, as long as you look at you, you’ll be filled with all kinds of doubts, and you’ll tremble, and you’ll be afraid. The reason is obvious: when you look at you, you’re looking at incarnate weakness, and sinfulness, and trembling, and shortcoming, and faults and failures, and finally senility and death. When you look at you, you’ll be filled with all kinds of doubts and turmoils and trouble But the Holy Spirit, what does He do? He says we’re to look to Jesus, not at ourselves. We’re to look to Jesus. He will not speak of Himself; He will lift up the Lord Jesus. He will glorify the blessed Jesus. The Holy Spirit will never lead us to look at ourselves. He will never lead us to look to somebody else. He will never lead us, even to look at the church. He’ll always lead us to look to Jesus. And my brother, I may be filled with ten thousand faults and failures, but there’s nothing weak or wrong in Him. I may stumble and stagger, but He will never fail.
There is life for a look at the Crucified One,
There is life at this moment for thee;
And look, sinner, look unto Him and be saved,
Unto Him, who was nailed to the tree."
[from "There is Life For a Look at the Crucified One";. H. W. Soltau, 1860]
"Look and live," my brother, live,
Look to Jesus [now] and live;
‘Tis recorded in His Word, hallelujah!
It is only that you "look and live."
[from "Look and Live"; William A. Ogden,, 1887]
That is the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, to lift up Jesus. And there is life for the look at our Lord. Oh, bless the name of God, and bless His wonderful goodnesses to us. And bless the Holy Spirit of Christ that leads us to faith and commitment in Him.
In this moment when we sing our song of appeal, to give your heart to the Lord Jesus, or to bring your family into the fellowship of our dear church, or to answer a call of the Spirit of God in your heart, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, down one of those stairways, time and to spare, come. Make the decision in your heart now, and when we sing this song, on the first note of the first stanza, come. And a thousand times, welcome, while we stand and while we sing.