Digression 9: The Holy Spirit And Answered Prayer
The Holy Spirit And The Answering Of Prayer
It is evident that the gift of the Holy Spirit given
at Pentecost involved the possession of the miraculous gifts of tongues
among those who heard Peter speak. However, there is good reason to
think that in some way this promise of a spiritual gift after baptism
can also apply to us in a non-miraculous way.
Rom.5:16 and 6:23 describe salvation as "the
gift"- inviting comparison with "the gift" of the Spirit in
Acts 2:38. Indeed Acts 2:39 seems to be quoting Joel 2:32 concerning
salvation as if this is what the gift of the Spirit was. Peter's reference
to the promised gift being to those "afar off" alludes to Is.57:19:
"Peace (with God through forgiveness) to him that is far off". Eph.2:8
also describes the gift as being salvation, saying that "by one Spirit
(this gift) we all have access to the Father" (2:18). This is further
validated by the fact that Eph.2:13-17 is also alluding to Is.57:19:
"Ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For He is our peace...(who) came and preached peace to you which were
far off". Ps.51:12,13 draws a parallel between possessing God's holy
Spirit, and benefiting from His salvation.
Isaiah 30:1 condemns the Jews for seeking forgiveness
their own way rather than by the gift of God's Spirit: they "cover with
a covering (atonement), but not of my Spirit, that they may add (rather
than subtract) sin to sin". Is.44:3 describes the latter day forgiveness
of Israel in similar terms: "I will pour...floods upon the dry ground
(spiritually barren-Is.53:2): I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and
my blessing upon thine offspring". The blessing of Abraham's seed is
in their forgiveness through Christ (Acts 3:25,26)- which is here parallelled
with the pouring out of the Spirit upon the Jews. This is clearly the
language of Joel 2 and Acts 2. Gal.3:14 puts all this in so many words:
"That the blessing of Abraham (forgiveness) might come on the Gentiles
through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit".
Thus 1 Cor.6:11 speaks of being washed from our sins "by the spirit
of our God". There is a parallelism in Romans between us receiving "grace...the
atonement..the Spirit" (1:5; 5:11; 8:15), showing the connection between
the gift ("grace") of the Spirit and the forgiveness which leads to
the atonement. It is hard to overstate how much the New Testament builds
on the language and concepts of the Old Testament, especially in view
of the large primarily Jewish readership the epistles would have had.
Time and again in the Pentateuch and Joshua God promises to give the
land to His people- "the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess
it" is a common phrase. The counterpart of the land under the new covenant
is salvation; that is therefore the gift of God now in prospect, with
its associated forgiveness of sins.
Peter asked the Jews to repent before they could receive
the gift; this would have involved personal prayer. There seems reason
to believe that the gift of the Spirit is a way of describing answered
prayer. The giving of "good things to them that ask" in prayer is the
same as the giving (gift) of the Holy Spirit (Matt.7:11 cp. Lk.11:13).
Phil.1:19 parallels "Your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus
Christ". Similarly, 1 Jn.3:24 says that we are given the Spirit as a
result of our obedience to the commands; verse 22 says that obedience
to those commands leads to our prayers being answered. Thus our confidence
is due to having our prayers heard (1 Jn.5:14) and also due to having
the Spirit act in our lives (1 Jn.3:21,24; 4:13), seeing that prayer
is answered by the Spirit's work.
A word study of the Greek word 'charis', often translated
"grace", will show that it is often used in connection with the gift
of the Spirit.
"Through the grace (gift) of the Lord Jesus Christ we
shall be saved" (Acts 15:11). Yet the idea of "grace" is often connected
with answered prayer (e.g. Ex.33:12; 34:9; Num.32:5; Ps.84:11; 2 Cor.12:9;
Heb.4:16; James 4:6 cp. v.3). Zech.12:10 speaks of the last day outpouring
of "the spirit of grace and supplications" upon the Jews. This summarizes
what we are suggesting- that prayer ("supplications") brings about the
gift of the Spirit in the sense of forgiveness, and that this giving
of the Spirit to answer prayer is exemplified in the Jewish repentance
of the first century and last days. In the same context Paul speaks
of "The gifts and calling of God" to repentance and forgiveness (Rom.11:29).
It is worth reflecting whether answered prayer is a gift of the Spirit
because a Spirit-Angel is being given over to the task of answering
The Holy Spirit Today
We each stand in need of God's powerful help
to develop "the new man" within us, to overcome sin, and at last to
be transformed into the Divine nature. Left to ourselves, with our desperately
sinful nature, these things are not possible. Flesh itself cannot redeem
flesh; there must be the action of God through His Spirit, by which
He achieves all things in order for "the redemption of the (fleshly)
body". Attention must be drawn to two fundamentally wrong ideas about
the work of the Spirit:
1) The claim that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit
are available today. An impartial analysis of the feeble claims of
so called tongue speakers and miracle workers, let alone the clear
Biblical refutation of them, should make this a non-starter.
2) The idea that men are predestined to salvation
regardless of their freewill decisions, and that in order to effect
this God uses His Spirit to work directly on the hearts of sinners,
forcing them to be righteous so that they might be saved. This concept
of 'prevenient grace' is rightly amongst the doctrines to be rejected
in our Statement of Faith. It nullifies the power of God's word, and
makes all our freewill efforts to obey it of no consequence. If this
theory were true, "Let us continue in sin, that grace may abound".
But God forbid. There are ample examples of men possessing the Holy
Spirit without it stopping them sinning- e.g. Saul, Caiaphas, Samson,
Simon (consider carefully Acts 8:13-18).
That there is only "one spirit" is a basic
Divine principle (Eph.4:4-6); yet it is clear that the "one spirit"
has a variety of different ways of manifestation. "There are diversities
of operations (of the one Spirit), but it is the same God which worketh
all in all" (1 Cor.12:4-13). This explains the rather nebulous use of
the word 'Spirit' in the New Testament- sometimes concerning the miraculous
gifts, or elsewhere concerning the new spiritual character we should
develop, and the help God gives us to do so. There may appear superficially
to be a contradiction between those passages which imply that Spirit
gifts were widespread in the first century, and those which suggest
a much more limited possession of them, mainly by the apostles. This
problem is solved once it is recognized that the language of the Spirit
and its gifts refer to God's power in both miraculous and non-miraculous
manifestations. Likewise the 'Comforter passages in John 14-16 can refer
to the miraculous gifts of the Spirit in the first century, whilst nearly
all the features of the Comforter are also found in the word of God,
showing that those passages also have application to the non-miraculous
work of the Spirit in our times. It is for this same reason that the
promised gift of the Spirit in Acts 2 can be interpreted as both miraculous
Because it is the same Spirit working through various
specific manifestations, to some degree the Spirit and Holy Spirit (the
one Spirit used for a special purpose) are interchangeable. It should
be noted that any distinction between Spirit and Holy Spirit is largely
a New Testament one; if the difference was that fundamental, one would
expect to see it in the Old Testament too. The following examples prove
- "This spake he of the Spirit, which they...should
receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given" (Jn.7:39)
parallels the Spirit and the Holy Spirit- once the emphasis upon the
word "yet" is appreciated.
- "Ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God
dwelleth in you" (1 Cor.3:16) is matched later in the same epistle
by "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you" (1
- "The Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like
a dove" upon Christ (Lk.3:22) is parallelled by "the Spirit of God
descending like a dove" (Mt.3:16; see too Jn.1:32).
- "Disciples...said to Paul through the Spirit, that
he should not go up to Jerusalem...the Holy Spirit witnesseth in every
city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me" in Jerusalem (Acts
- "They...were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach
the word...the Spirit suffered them not" (Acts 16:6,7).
- A selection from the other copious examples are:
1 Cor.6:9-11 cp. Tit.3:5-7; 1 Cor.12:3; 7:40.
Because there is only "one Spirit", even the terms "Spirit
of God" and "Spirit of Christ" can be parallelled because they are manifestations
of that same one Spirit: "Ye are...in the Spirit, if so be that the
Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ,
he is none of his. And if Christ be in you...the Spirit is life...if
the Spirit of (God) that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you...the
Spirit (Christ, 1 Tim.2:5; 2 Cor.3:18 R.V.) maketh intercession for
The Spirit In The Word
It is a fundamental Bible truth that God's
creative power is His Spirit. The Spirit was the agency by which God
caused the natural creation to come into being. In a split second, "things
which are (now) seen were not made of things which do appear" (Heb.11:3)-
i.e. matter was created. The same cataclysmic power that operated then
is now available to bring about a new creation of righteous, spiritual
minds able to eternally inhabit the Kingdom. To enter the Kingdom ,we
must be born again, of water (baptism) and Spirit (Jn.3:3-5). This birth
of the Spirit must be connected with the idea of the word being the
source of spiritual life: "The seed is the word" in the parable of the
sower (Lk.8:11). "Of his own will begat He us with the word of truth"
(James 1:18); "obeying the truth through the Spirit (i.e.)...being born
again...by the word of God" (1 Pet.1:22,23). Similarly "According to
his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing
of the Holy Spirit" (Tit.3:5) connects with Christ washing the church
with the water of the word (Eph.5:26).
However, it is obvious that the written word is not the
only form of manifestation of God's Spirit. His Spirit is in us and
the whole natural creation, sustaining life (Ps.104:29,30 cp. Ecc.3:18-20),
being manifested here in a form other than the written word. Thus although
there are frequent parallels between the Spirit and the word, it is
not true to say that there is absolute equality between the Spirit and
the word. Otherwise there would be no need for there to be the two separate
words "word" and "Spirit" used by inspiration. We obey the truth (i.e.
the word, Jn.17:17), through the Spirit (1 Pet.1:22,23). However,
there is such strong teaching that the written word of God is the supreme
manifestation of God's Spirit to us that we should be motivated by this
to apply ourselves to it, so that the huge Spirit power used at the
natural creation might be unleashed upon us. A number of such passages
are discussed in 'Bible Basics', Section 2.2. Others include
- Gal.3:5 states a principle of receiving the Spirit
"by the hearing of faith", i.e. responding properly to the word (Rom.10:17).
- "The Spirit is truth" (1 Jn.5:6), and "Thy word
is truth" (Jn.17:17).
- "Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in
us, because he hath given us of (i.e. some of) his Spirit" (1 Jn.4:13)
is referring back to Jn.15:4-7, which says that if the word dwells
in us, then God is in us. Note that being given "of" God's Spirit
is parallel with our response to the word. Thus the gift of the Spirit
can refer to word-developed spirituality.
- 1 Pet.2:2,3 describes desiring "the sincere milk
of the word" as tasting the grace of the Lord, through knowing
"the word of his grace" Acts 20:32). Peter may well be alluding to
Heb.6:4,5 concerning tasting "the Heavenly gift", tasting
"the good word of God", which parallels being "made partakers of the
Holy Spirit". Thus the word is connected to the gift of the Spirit,
a connection made all the stronger once we realize that the Greek
word for "grace" sometimes refers to the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- The symbols of Revelation need to be interpreted
with the help of other parts of the word. The city "which spiritually
is called Sodom and Egypt" (Rev.11:8) is therefore inviting us to
look to those parts of the Spirit word which will identify this city.
Many of the things said about the Comforter
in Jn.14-16 are said about God's word:
The Word Of God
Fulfilled in the
written word, notably Revelation.
Jn.14:26 "Shall bring
all things to your rememberance , whatsoever I have said unto
Fulfilled by our
having the written record of Christ's words.
convicting the world of sin
Jn.12:40; 2 Tim.3:16;
4:2; Tit.1:9; Jn.3:20; 8:24 cp. Ps.119:105; Mic.2:6
The idea of the Comforter is associated with God and
Christ coming to us and abiding in us- yet this is if we "Keep (Christ's)
words" (Jn.14:21-24). All this exemplifies how the Spirit was first
manifested in a miraculous form- which the Comforter primarily was-
and then in a non-miraculous way through the word. In the context of
the Comforter, our Lord equates the effect of His words and the miracles
of the Holy Spirit: "The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of
myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works" (Jn.14:10);
and later: "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had
sin...if I had not done among them the works which none other man did,
they had not had sin" (Jn.15:22,24). Another example is in Jn.10:25
cp. v.26,27. Thus the Comforter would "abide with you for ever", even
after the miraculous gifts ceased.
It must be a ground rule in considering this
subject that flesh and human effort alone cannot bring about the salvation
of flesh. God through His Spirit must somehow be active. It must also
be recognized that the presence of the Spirit in our lives is not solely
proportional to our ability to do mental gymnastics with Scripture,
nor to the amount of time we spend in eye contact with the word. Thousands,
if not millions, the world over, are doing these things, yet are devoid
of fellowship with God. Our personal effort in applying ourselves to
the word, rising early and forcing ourselves late into the night to
do so, is essential. However, there must be some other element at work
in bringing about our salvation. Otherwise, we come to the equation
'Bible study = salvation'. This section of our study aims to exemplify
how God works to confirm our freewill decisions to be spiritual and
truly follow His word; and then to show how our obedience to God through
His word can initiate an upward spiral of spiritual growth. The spiritual
effect of God upon men over and above their own strength is indicated
by the following of many possible examples:
- God "left" a remnant of faithful believers in apostate
Israel (Rom.9:29). Whilst their faithfulness was obviously a result
of their own spiritual effort, God 'leaving' them from apostacy suggests
that He was also active in preserving them from it too. The record
does not speak of them saving themselves from it.
- "The preparations of the heart in man, and the
answer of the tongue, is from the Lord" (Prov.16:1). God is active
in controlling the thoughts of men.
- "They hearkened not unto the (inspired?) voice
of their father (Eli), because the Lord would slay them" (1 Sam.2:25).
Likewise, Samson's desire for a Philistine wife "was of the Lord,
that he sought an occasion against the Philistines" (Jud.14:4). In
the same way, God's way of destroying the Canaanite nations was "to
harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel to battle,
that He might destroy them utterly" (Josh.11:20).
- Rehoboam is an interesting case. For the first
three years of his reign he was righteous, obeying the Law- so much
so that the faithful "priests and the Levites that were in all Israel
(the 10 tribes) resorted unto him". Only after three years did he
turn away (carefully consider 2 Chron.11:4,13,17,23; 12:1). We may
therefore wonder why he then so harshly and stubbornly refused to
listen to the peoples' request for more reasonable government. This
apparently uncharacteristic attitude is explained: "The king hearkened
not unto the people: for the cause was of God, that the Lord might
perform His word...Thus saith the Lord, ye shall not...fight against
your brethren...for this thing is of me" (2 Chron.10:15; 11:4).
One of the clearest examples of God working in our lives
over and above our own ability is in our calling. To some unspecified
extent there is predestination- otherwise the concept would not be raised
in Scripture. The context in which Paul discusses it in Romans is of
Israel thinking that they had been called to be God's people, due to
some inherent righteousness in them personally. The counter to this
was that their calling was to some degree dependent on predestination.
It was certainly not due to their personal righteousness, but due to
God's pre-arranged purpose with Abraham that they should be God's people.
Our own calling was likewise not just a result of our hearing the word
of the Gospel, although this was the vehicle through which the call
came to us. Before we actually heard the word, there had to be a process
whereby it came to our attention. Birth into a family of true believers,
catching sight of an advertisement etc., such things were not of our
own doing.; nor were they the result of searching the Scriptures for
ourselves. They were due to the unmerited grace of God in calling us.
Truly "God commendeth His love towards us, in that while we were yet
sinners Christ died" for us.
Our salvation was "not by works of righteousness which
we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by...renewing
of the Holy Spirit" (Tit.3:5). Thus in Paul's case "it pleased (lit.
'willed') God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me
by His grace" (Gal.1:15) - not Paul's works. Thus our obedience to the
truth was "through (on account of) the Spirit" (1 Pet.1:22). Against
this must be balanced Rom.10:17: "Faith cometh by hearing...the word
of God". God's Spirit was involved in bringing about our calling, and
is also present in the word by which we are called.
God was the instigator of our calling, and through His
Spirit by which he does all things, He has prepared the way for us to
know the Truth as revealed in the Spirit-word. Once presented with the
opportunity, not knowing why we, as opposed to the man next to us, has
received it, we have to exercise our freewill to obey the call. Those
finally with Christ are "called, chosen and faithful", having come through
those three stages.
God's Confirmation Of Our Attitude
The following passages describe God's way of
confirming our freewill decisions to both obey and disobey His word;
the power by which he does this is, as ever, His Spirit.
- Some "stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto
also they were appointed" (1 Pet.2:8). This passage does not
just say that the wicked are disobedient; they are appointed
to this. God therefore had a hand in their disobedience- through confirming
them in their conscious rejection of Him. On the other hand, "Whom
(God) did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the
image of His Son" (Rom.8:29). The predestination was not just to know
the Gospel, but to be righteous- to be able to conform our characters
to the perfect example of Jesus. Thus "I have chosen you...to bring
forth fruit" (Jn.15:16), i.e. spiritual attributes.
- "Whosoever hath (of spiritual knowledge and blessing)
to him shall be given" (Mt.13:12) shows that the faithful
do not get the blessing solely by their own effort, but through the
gift of God.
- Surely there is no point in praying to understand
God's word if our own human intellect is all that is required (Ps.119:18).
Such prayers are surely for God's help to confirm us in efforts to
understand. Earest prayer for understanding before studying the word
is a vital habit to develop. We have great assurance that such prayer
is according to God's will. But the point must be made a hundred times;
in no way will God's Spirit force us to achieve any spiritual
development; it works to confirm us in the efforts which
we make of our own freewill. This principle must be born in mind when
reflecting upon how the Lord opened Lydia's heart so that
she attended to Paul's preaching. The Lord opened her heart, not she
herself; although the fact that God helped her like this shows that
she was not lacking in freewill effort herself.
- "Because ye are sons (already born again through
response to the Gospel), God hath sent forth the Spirit of
His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal.4:6). We become
sons of God by birth of the Spirit/ word (1 Pet.1:23; James 1:18),
and therefore God sends this Spirit of Sonship into our hearts. Notice
that the prerogative in this is with God, not us. In similar vein:
"God hath given us the spirit...of power...love...a sound
mind" (2 Tim.1:7). Likewise Paul prayed that God "may give
unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation and knowledge of Him:
the eyes of your understanding being enlightened" (Eph.1:17,18).
Our obedience leads to greater obedience, in an upward
spiral. The dynamic in this spiral is God's spirit. It is through the
Spirit that God draws near to us if we draw near to Him (James 4:7,8).
This is neatly summarized in 2 Tim.2:7: "Consider what I say: and the
Lord give thee understanding in all things". Thus our freewill 'considering'
of Scripture will result in the Lord adding to our understanding even
more that we could ever achieve unaided.
This power can also work negatively, to confirm men in
their sin. Thus Pharaoh's already hard heart was hardened, as was that
of the weak ecclesia in Hezekiah's time: "O Lord, why hast thou made
us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear?" (Is.63:17).
This may well be the difference between the "evil spirit from the Lord"
that confirmed Saul in his spiritual declension, and the Holy
Spirit, which does the opposite. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver
us from evil" is therefore a prayer for God to exercise His spirit/power
in our lives to lead us away from the temptations we hate, rather than
to use His Spirit to confirm us in the temptations which we ourselves
enter into. It is a powerful exhortation to consider that at every spiritual
crossroads we come to, God is waiting to confirm us along the road we
chose to travel. What motivation, therefore, to chose the path of the
cross. There can be no half way position of God just passively tolerating
our spirituality (cp. Ps.50:21)- He confirms us in our attitude, for
better or for worse.
We have shown at the beginning of this study that the
gift of God's Spirit can refer to God's spiritual blessing such as forgiveness
and the answering of prayer. Even in the first century, the work of
the Spirit was not just confined to the miraculous gifts; thus "He that
ministereth to you the Spirit and worketh miracles among you"
(Gal.3:5) suggests that there was a non-miraculous work of the Spirit
then. It seems clear that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit were not
possessed by all first century believers; and yet the epistles often
imply that all believers had received the Spirit (e.g. 2 Cor.1:22).
The resolution of this is in the fact that all believers then and now
receive the non-miraculous effect of the Spirit. Indeed, Jude 19 suggests
that 'having the spirit' could just refer to someone who is not "sensual",
i.e. of the flesh. John was "filled with the Holy Spirit, even from
his mother's womb...(going) in the Spirit and power of Elias...waxed
strong in spirit" (Lk.1:15,17,80); but "John did no miracle " (Jn.10:41).
David associated having God's holy Spirit with having free fellowship
with Him due to sins being forgiven, parallelling the holy Spirit with
"a right spirit within me...a clean heart" (Ps.51:10,12); and Paul spoke
of God's willingness to forgive us as "the spirit of grace" (Heb.10:29),
i.e. His spiritual gift. Paul's reasoning in Gal.3:5,6 is similar- the
Spirit is ministered to us by faith, in the same way as Abraham's faith
resulted in righteousness being imputed ('ministered') to him. Thus
imputed righteousness is made parallel to the gift of the Spirit.
Paul frequently remembered that his own spiritual strength
was not just of himself, but a result of God's mercy in magnifying his
own efforts; he had "obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful" (1 Cor.7:25);
"as (i.e. because) we have received mercy, we (spiritually) faint not"
(2 Cor.4:1). Even in his decision to stay single, doubtless after enormous
heartsearching, emotional tension and conscious bruising of his very
soul, Paul recognized that to some degree the strength to do this was
a spiritual gift from God: "I would that all men were even as I myself
(single). But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after
this manner, and another after that" (1 Cor.7:7). Lk.6:32 speaks of
receiving "thank" for making the conscious effort to love the unlovable.
The Greek for "thank" is 'charis', normally translated "grace", and
often connected with the help of the Spirit which is given to us in
response to our own efforts.
Holy Spirit At Baptism?
We have shown earlier that whatever else it
referred to in its local context, the gift of the Spirit promised after
baptism in Acts 2 was related to forgiveness and the subsequent hope
of salvation. At baptism we rise in prospect as Christ rose, to total
victory over sin. In prospect, all our sins were forgiven. As forgiveness
is a spiritual gift, or gift of the Spirit, it follows that in some
way we receive this at baptism. The continuation of this gift is conditional
upon our using faith to keep it active on our behalf. We are "begotten
again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead (alluding to our baptism), to an inheritance (a place in the future
Kingdom)...reserved in Heaven for you, who are kept by the power (spirit)
of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in
the last time" (1 Pet.1:3-5). That faith comes from our response to
the word (Rom.10:17); thus again we see the same process, of our freewill
obedience to the word resulting in God's spiritual help being made available
to us to keep us from "falling from grace", from falling away from those
great gifts of forgiveness and salvation which we receive, in prospect,
at baptism. Yet in no way does God irresistibly regenerate us from baptism.
In our moments of repentance, both at baptism and on
the many subsequent occasions, it is hard to believe that in prospect
God's enormous Spirit power has really prepared a way for us to be totally
spiritual. Israel on Carmel with Elijah were in a similar position;
thus Elijah prayed "Hear me, O Lord...that this people may know...that
Thou hast turned their heart back again" (1 Kings 18:37). He meant:
'They don't realize that you are so willing for them to repent, that
in prospect you have touched their hearts and made them do it; answering
my prayer dramatically may motivate them to make the necessary freewill
response in repenting, so that the spiritual help you have made available
in prospect, can be theirs in reality'. Even the frankest comparison
of ourselves with that motley crew of hardened apostates should inspire
afresh the belief within us that God is willing that all His people
should continually come to repentance. The reference in Acts 11:18 to
God granting repentance shows that He is active in developing
our desire to repent; "the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance"
That God is working in our lives through His Spirit,
and that He has granted us the gifts of forgiveness and prospective
salvation by its working, should not engender any spirit of relaxation.
If we truly believe this, it will motivate us to greater personal effort:
"God...hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are
always confident...wherefore we labour that...we may be accepted of
Him. For we must all appear before the judgement seat...knowing the
terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Cor. 5:5-11)- i.e. 'Despite
having had God's gift of salvation in prospect, the utmost personal
effort is still required in responding to it. Think of the day of judgement,
the fear that you will have then because of God's holiness and your
sinfulness. Although this is not our only motivation, indeed it is somewhat
human ("we persuade men"), it is still powerfully true'.
In conclusion, some
interesting words from Br Neville Smart, from his book The Epistles
of John pp. 34,35,69, 70- published by the CMPA,
also Himself our Advocate, working by His Spirit (if we will let Him)
that transformation in our surrendered lives which shall enable us to
stand one day in His presence... through the Holy Spirit, "the other
comforter", he would come to them [the disciples] and make his
dwelling-place in their hearts, and bring them to God...Behind and in
the gospel of God's grae is the activity and influence of His Spirit.
And in the personal lives and perceptions of all true disciples in all
ages the Holy Spirit also plays an essential and gracious part. For no
man is led to the only true God and to His Son Jesus Christ merely by
the unaided process of human thought: "No man can come to me", Jesus
declares, "except the Father which hath sent me draw him". And it is
not for man to define or to seek to limit the manifold ways in which
that process of drawing may operate. In all manner of ways which we
cannot know, the grace of God is active through His Spirit in the
hearts and minds and lives of His children; and nowhere, surely, more
critically than in seeking to draw them to Himself in the first place-
to lead them to the gospel of His grace and to open their eyes to its
saving spiritual significance. But God will not force [men]...in any
way by thought or conduct to respond to the promptings of God's
grace... the anointing... seems clearly to refer more generally to the
grace of enlightenment concerning the gospel through which the
disciples had come to "know all things".