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It is written:
John 3:1-8-There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The Bible teaches that not only does the Holy Spirit bring forth physical life, but He also brings forth spiritual life. The conversation that Jesus has here with Nicodemus teaches us a great deal about these things.
First , the Bible is clear that mankind needs a “new” birth. This is not a birth of physical nature (such as demonstrated by Nicodemus pointing out that a man cannot be born when he is old, and cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb).
No, Jesus is speaking of humanity’s need for a spiritual rebirth.
Mankind is not born sinful, despite what many religions teach. Indeed, we are assured time after time in God’s Word that children are sinless, innocent, and the very image of purity for us to learn from and emulate.
Ezekiel 18:20-The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
Ezekiel 28:15-You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.
Matthew 18:2-3-Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:14-Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
Matthew 19:14-But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Commenting on the fact that there is no hint of inherited sin in the Old Testament Scriptures, Reese tells us:
“In Special Study #3, it has been shown that no doctrine of a hereditary sinful nature is found in Judaism until late in the 1st century AD. It was not something taught in the Old Testament Scriptures, but was likely something imported into Judaism from Greek philosophy, which posited that while spirit is good, matter (including a man’s body) is evil. It would be an almost expected step for any Hellenistically-influenced Jew to try to find the doctrine taught in Scripture.2. It is almost universally admitted that just as there was no doctrine of inborn evil in Judaism until late, so there was no doctrine of inborn evil in the early church- neither during the apostolic times nor the sub-apostolic. For example, a Roman Catholic authority admits, “… it is true that Paul does not explicitly say all that will be said by the Council of Trent.”3 The same source further admits that the Catholic Church’s definition of doctrine on this point is only hinted at in the Bible, and asserts that the Church was perfectly within her rights to proceed beyond the clear statements statements of Scripture as the present-day doctrine was formulated.4 A Protestant authority words it this way, “The church doctrine [of sin] is a continuation of the development of the Biblical doctrine [of sin] only to a very limited extent.”5 Another writes… when we pass on to consider the writings of the Fathers of the early church, we find that they did not directly adopt St. Paul’s teaching as the basis of their doctrine, nor borrow that presented in Jewish literature. They started afresh to elaborate a doctrine of original sin.6. It seems that it was not until the church’s controversy with Gnosticism that one begins to read in early Christian writers a real emphasis on the original state of man and on the consequences of the Fall.7 Irenaeus (c. 130-c.202), who wrote Against Heresies and The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, did not appeal to Romans 5 as proof for his doctrine of sin (and it must be remembered that Romans has already been accepted as canonical and authoritative by Irenaeus’ time), but rather based it on his own “recapitulation” theory. According to this theory, Jesus’ life recapitulated the career of Adam, but in reverse, removing by His perfect obedience the curse Adam had brought on mankind. “On original sin as an inherent disease, or as the source of concupiscence, [Irenaeus] is quite silent.”8 In Apostolic Preaching occurs an idea of inherited sin, but it is inherited from Cain, and is true only of the descendants of Cain. “God’s curse on Cain is spoken of as handed down by natural heredity to his posterity.” (Gareth Reese, New Testament Epistles: Romans-A Critical And Exegetical Commentary, 459-460 (Nook Edition): Moberly, Missouri: Scripture Exposition Books LLC)
While a person is born sinless, there comes a moment when he chooses to sin, and thereby becomes separated from God and enslaved to sin. This creates a need for a new (spiritual) birth, for the sin pervades and corrupts every part of a person.
Isaiah 1:4-6-Alas, sinful nation, A people laden with iniquity, A brood of evildoers, Children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, They have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, They have turned away backward. 5 Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, And the whole heart faints. 6 From the sole of the foot even to the head, There is no soundness in it, But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; They have not been closed or bound up, Or soothed with ointment.
Isaiah 59:1-2-Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
The Lord Jesus, therefore, teaches us that we need to be born again. Of course, this new birth had been prophesied about in the Old Testament Scriptures on numerous occasions.
Jeremiah 32:37-44-Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. 38 They shall be My people, and I will be their God; 39 then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. 40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. 41 Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.’ 42 “For thus says the LORD: ‘Just as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on them all the good that I have promised them. 43 And fields will be bought in this land of which you say, “It is desolate, without man or beast; it has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans.” 44 Men will buy fields for money, sign deeds and seal them, and take witnesses, in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the lowland, and in the cities of the South; for I will cause their captives to return,’ says the LORD.”
Ezekiel 11:19-20-Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.
Ezekiel 36:26-I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Second, this new birth is the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus makes that clear here in this passage, and throughout the Gospel of John.
John 16:7-11-Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
We are told throughout the rest of the New Testament that the Holy Spirit brings forth new life through the Word of God.
John 6:63-It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
Acts 2:41-Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
1 Corinthians 4:15-For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
James 1:18-Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
James 1:21-Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
1 Peter 1:22-25-Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24 because “ALL FLESH IS AS GRASS, AND ALL THE GLORY OF MAN AS THE FLOWER OF THE GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND ITS FLOWER FALLS AWAY, 25 BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
This last passage is especially intriguing.
Notice what Keener tells us:
“Peter’s particular term for rebirth (anagennaō) 210 is distinctive to him in the NT (1 Pet. 1: 3, 23), but functions synonymously with analogous early Christian expressions, such as “born from God” (John 1: 13; 1 John 3: 9; 4: 7; 5: 1, 4, 18), “born from above” (John 3: 3, 7), and “born from the Spirit” (John 3: 5–6, 8; Gal. 4: 29). 211 This rebirth explains the purification and sibling love in 1: 22: those also spiritually born from the same Father are spiritual siblings. It apparently also explains why and/ or how one can love deeply (1: 22): it flows from the new character one receives in being born from God’s seed, the gospel. 212 Hence it might mean, “You can love this way because you have been born from God” (cf. 1 John 4: 7). The OT occasionally broaches the image of spiritual transformation by the Spirit (1 Sam. 10: 6), especially as a promise for the era of restoration (Ezek. 18: 30–31; 36: 25–27), although not with this wording. It may reflect imagery regarding how God became Israel’s “father,” evident especially in passages such as Deut. 32: 18: “the rock that bore you . . . the God who birthed you.” 213 But whereas Israel constituted God’s children corporately, the early Christian image suggests a further ontological dimension. Many people believed that character was inborn and immutable, 214 but Christians demurred. 215 For further comment on rebirth, see comment on 1 Pet. 1: 3. In 1: 23, Peter adds another element in his depiction of rebirth, that of the seed (cf. 1 John 3: 9). 216 A man’s sperm was considered human “seed.” Ancient thinkers often commented also on what they envisioned as divine seed. 217 For example, the supreme God created the universe by his seed. 218 More relevant is the ancient image of God’s seed in people, as in many of the following examples (though early Christians would have differed from gentile philosophers’ idea of innate divinity in people). ■ Seneca the Younger: Divine seeds are dispersed in mortals’ bodies; if cultivated well, “they spring up in the likeness of their source and of a parity with those from which they came.” 219 ■ Musonius Rufus: A seed of virtue lies in all people. 220 ■ Epictetus: From God have come “the seeds of being . . . to all things that are begotten and that grow upon earth, and chiefly to rational beings, seeing that by nature it is theirs alone to have communion in the society of God, being intertwined with him through the reason.” 221 ■ Maximus of Tyre: “Souls all conceive because that is their nature, . . . and give birth through reason. . . . it is impossible for anything to grow except from a seed, or to grow into anything other than what the nature of the seed determines.” These seeds are immortal. 222 ■ Philo: “Their bodies have been moulded from human seeds, but their souls are sprung from divine seeds, and therefore their stock is akin to God.” 223 ■ 4 Ezra: “This is my law, which I sow among you to bear fruit and bring you glory for ever. . . . Those who received it perished, because they failed to keep safe the good seed that had been sown in them.” 224 Everything that springs from a seed shares its nature (cf. Gen. 1: 11–12, 21, 24–25; John 3: 6), so that, as one Stoic thinker suggests, “good does not spring from evil, any more than figs grow from olive-trees. Things which grow correspond to their seed.” 225 Since seed bears fruit according to its character, those born of divine seed reflect the character of divine love (thus the relation between 1 Pet. 1: 22 and 1: 23). In 1 Pet. 1: 23, the most explicit characteristic of the seed is that it is imperishable, thus suggesting in general terms that those born from it have eternal life (cf. 1: 4). 226 This seed is not mortal, as from humans. 227 As Peter has noted, even precious metals, which melt at a high temperature, are ultimately perishable (1: 7, 18). 228 Rather, the seed is imperishable, from the immortal God. 229 The seed here is God’s word (cf. Luke 8: 11), in this case specifically the gospel message that converted and began transforming them (1 Pet. 1: 25). 230 Peter’s message is about Jesus, through knowledge of whom they are being conformed to God’s holy image. 231”. (Craig S. Keener, 1 Peter: A Commentary, 115-117 (Kindle Edition): Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic)
The Holy Spirit brings forth this new life through the Gospel in the Word of God. He literally “begets” or “fathers” those who are “born again” or who are “born from above.” The Word of God is instrumental in bringing forth spiritual life.
Third, the Spirit gives spiritual life through the Word, and through the water. Please notice that there is a begetting, and a birthing. The begetting takes place when the Word of God is introduced to a person. That Word begins the begetting process and grows in a person, leading to faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Finally, this then leads to the birthing that takes place in the waters of baptism.
How do we know that the phrase “born of water” here has reference to baptism?
The first clue is the fact that “water” in context refers to baptism (John 3:23).
Then there is the fact that the language that Jesus uses here of new birth was commonly used among the Jewish people to reference proselyte baptism (i.e., that baptism in water by which a Gentile converted to Judaism-see the account of Naaman in 2 Kings 5 for further details of this). In fact, the wording that Jesus uses here was very directly related to proselyte baptism!
“Gentiles were never allowed entrance to the mikveh except during the process of conversion. This was an exclusively Jewish ordinance. It is often assumed that when a person wanted to become a proselyte, a convert to Judaism, that he would be circumcised and viewed as a convert from that point on. Such is not the case. To become “children of the covenant,” “perfect Israelites,” and Israelite in every respect, both as regarded duties and privileges, three things were required for the admission of such proselytes: Circumcision (Milah) Baptism (Tebhilah) in a Mikveh Sacrifice (Qorban); in the case of women, baptism and sacrifice109…“As he stepped out of these waters he was considered as “born anew”–in the language of the rabbis, as if he were “a little child just born” (Yeb. 22a; 48b; 97b), as “a child of one day” (Mass. Ger. C. ii).” (Dr. Barry Fike, Mikveh: Jewish Ritual Immersion and Christian Baptism, 64-65 (Kindle Edition): Tustin, CA: Trilogy Christian Publishers)
Jesus used language in describing the new birth that was directly borrowed from Jewish proselyte baptism, showing that the water of the new birth had reference to the waters of baptism.
On a side note, we should also remember that proselyte baptism was compared with becoming like a new-born child.
What did that mean?
“Forgiveness of sins is stated with reference to becoming a proselyte—y. Bikkurim 3.3; R. Judah concluded that since the proselyte became as a newborn child, his previous sins were cancelled—Gerim 2.5.” (Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries, 21476 (Kindle Edition): Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
Please observe that proselyte baptism connected becoming sinless and pure with being as a newborn child. In other words, God’s people understood that children are sinless. The Jewish nation understood (and, by extension, Jesus also clearly understood, since He used this same terminology to describe the new birth) that children are pure and free of sin, without guilt. This, of course, is another indicator that children are not born “stained with original sin” passed on from Adam (as so many in our day and age teach).
Fourth, we should also keep in mind that this was one new birth, composed of two “elements” if you will (water and Spirit). Jesus here is not discussing Holy Spirit baptism.
Some believe that when we are baptized in water, we are also baptized in the Holy Spirit. Yet this cannot be true, for several reasons; the first being that, in the New Testament, water baptism and Spirit baptism were always shown to be separate events (cf. Acts 10:44-48). Also, the only examples we have of direct Holy Spirit baptism are in Acts 2:1-5 (with the Apostles), and Acts 10:44-46 (with the household of Cornelius). The only other such instances were in those situations where a person had hands laid on him by an Apostle of Christ (Acts 6:1-7; 8:14-19; 19:1-6; Romans 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:6). Since there are no Apostles of Christ today (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8), Spirit baptism was temporary. This phenomena had to do with the revealing and confirming of God’s Word (John 14:26; 16:13), was only for a very people (i.e.,the Apostles and those upon whom they laid hands, and the household of Cornelius). In contrast, the “new birth” of water and the Spirit is for salvation and forgiveness of sins (John 3:1-5).
Fifth, please notice that the spiritual life which the Holy Spirit brings forth in a person through God’s Word is not always externally detectable in a moment of time. Like the wind is invisible, we don’t see the Spirit since He is also invisible. However, we are able to see the fruits of the Spirit, just like we can see the effects of the wind. A humble person whose heart is pricked by the Gospel will recognize his need for salvation (Acts 2:41-47). The Spirit is working in ways that go beyond our full comprehension.
The Holy Spirit brings spiritual life.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.
The Holy Spirit And The Christian (Romans 8:1-26)
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It is written:
Romans 8:1-26-There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Throughout the Book of Romans, Paul teaches us many great lessons about the Holy Spirit. Let’s notice three things in particular from this passage.
The Habitation Of The Spirit
The first thing to draw attention to is the fact that the Holy Spirit lives within the child of God.
Throughout the Old Testament, God had foretold a day in which He would dwell with His people. We see this especially at the end of the Book of Ezekiel, where God prophesies a third Temple (the true Third Temple, not a Jewish temple). We are told that in this Temple, God will dwell with His people.
Ezekiel 37:26-27-Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
Paul says this prophecy is fulfilled in the church of Christ:
2 Corinthians 6:16-18-And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM. I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.” 17 Therefore “COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SEPARATE, SAYS THE LORD. DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN, AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU.” 18 “I WILL BE A FATHER TO YOU, AND YOU SHALL BE MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, SAYS THE LORD ALMIGHTY.”
There are many other Scriptures which teach us that the Holy Spirit lives within the Christian (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 2:20; Galatians 4:6). Please notice that Paul tells us here that there are several benefits to the Holy Spirit living within the Christian:
• The Indwelling Spirit Assures Us We Are Not Living In “The Flesh” (Romans 8:9);
• The Indwelling Spirit Allows Us To See That We Are “In The Spirit” (Romans 8:9);
• The Indwelling Spirit Assures Us Of Our Present Spiritual Life (Romans 8:10);
• The Indwelling Spirit Gives Us The Promise Of Our Future Eternal Life (Romans 8:11);
• The Indwelling Spirit Helps Us Overcome Sin (Romans 8:12-13, 26);
• The Indwelling Spirit Reminds Us That We Are Children Of God (Romans 8:16)
One of the greatest blessings that we have as children of God is the indwelling Holy Spirit.
The Sanctification Of The Spirit
Paul also teaches us here that the Holy Spirit is working in our lives to “sanctify” us. The word “sanctify” means “to set apart” or “to make holy.” Sometimes in the Bible, the idea of sanctification is reference to an event (like at the moment of baptism); other times, it is a process in which the Holy Spirit is working to cleanse us as we live in this world.
Hebrews 10:10-By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:14-For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
“The clearest place to see both of these in one chapter is Hebrews 10. Hebrews 10: 10 says, “By [God’s] will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” So there is a sense in which all those who believe in Jesus “have been sanctified.” They are holy. And then four verses later (v. 14) we read, “By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” So there is a sense in which Christians are both perfected already (are perfectly holy) and are being sanctified (being made holy). Both the condition of being holy and the process of becoming holy are prominent in the New Testament. Neither is minimized. The most obvious way to see the prominence of the Christian condition or state of holiness is to see that Paul calls Christians “saints” forty times in his thirteen letters. Paul’s favorite name for Christians is saints. The New Testament word behind the English “saint” is simply the adjective for “holy” turned into a noun—“ holy ones” (hagioi). You can see the connection between the condition of being sanctified and the name “saints” in 1 Corinthians 1: 2: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified (hēgiasmenois) in Christ Jesus, called to be saints (klētois hagiois).” So the picture is that God calls us, and unites us by faith to Jesus, so that “in Christ Jesus,” we are holy, sanctified, and the name that we get, therefore, is “saints” or “holy ones.”” (John Piper, David Mathis, Acting the Miracle: God’s Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification, 29-30 (Kindle Edition): Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway)
Many other Scriptures speak of the fact that we as Christians “are being” sanctified (i.e., made holy).
2 Corinthians 7:1-Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul tells us here that the Spirit helps us in defeating and overcoming sin in our lives. Please consider that he is clear that Christians will sin at times. This is part of the Christian life. Notice also that Paul tells us that if we live according to the flesh (i.e., the old way of life), we will die. But if we “by the Spirit” put to death the deeds of the body, we will live.
Thus, the Holy Spirit helps Christians in putting to death the deeds of the flesh. We need His help! I don’t always know how the Spirit accomplishes what He does, but He most definitely at work in the Christian.
Further, the Spirit “strengthens” us in our struggles and weaknesses (Romans 8:26). That word “strengthens” is the Greek verb of the word used in John 14:26 and 16:13 to refer to the Spirit being the “Comforter” or the “Helper.”
What does that mean?
“But Jesus does not leave us to struggle with the Christian life alone. He would send us another Helper. The Greek word is paraklētos, which is really untranslatable. The Authorized Version renders it Comforter, which, although hallowed by time and usage, is not a good translation. Moffatt translates it as Helper. It is only when we examine this word paraklētos in detail that we catch something of the riches of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It really means someone who is called in; but it is the reason why the person is called in which gives the word its distinctive associations. The Greeks used the word in a wide variety of ways. A paraklētos might be a person called in to give witness in a law court in someone’s favour, or an advocate called in to plead the cause of someone under a charge which would issue in a serious penalty; an expert called in to give advice in some difficult situation, or a person called in when, for example, a company of soldiers were depressed and dispirited to put new courage into their minds and hearts. Always a paraklētos is someone called in to help in time of trouble or need. Comforter was once a perfectly good translation. It actually goes back to John Wyclif, the first person to use it in his translation made in the fourteenth century. But in his day it meant much more than it means now. The word comes from the Latin fortis, which means brave; and a comforter was someone who enabled some dispirited creature to be brave. Nowadays comfort has to do almost solely with sorrow; and a comforter is someone who sympathizes with us when we are sad. Beyond a doubt the Holy Spirit does that, but to limit his work to that function is sadly to belittle him. We often talk of being able to cope with things. That is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit. He takes away our inadequacies and enables us to cope with life. The Holy Spirit substitutes victorious for defeated living. So what Jesus is saying is: ‘I am setting you a hard task, and I am sending you out on a very difficult engagement. But I am going to send you someone, the paraklētos, who will guide you as to what to do and enable you to do it.’” (William Barclay, The Gospel of John, Volume Two (The New Daily Study Bible), 193-194 (Kindle Edition): Edinburgh, England: Saint Andrew Press)
The Holy Spirit will be the One Who helps us by encouraging us; by lifting us up; by strengthening us not to give up when we face the trials and obstacles of life. Indeed, He will work THROUGH the trials and obstacles that we face in order to build us up.
Yet there is another factor to this idea of the Spirit “strengthening” the child of God. Notice how this word is used in the Greek Old Testament:
Exodus 18:22-And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you.
Numbers 11:17-Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.
The Spirit works to strengthen us by coming alongside of us, and helping us to bear the burdens that are in our path.
The Supplication Of The Spirit
What does Paul mean that the Spirit makes intercessions with “groanings which cannot be uttered?”
Some people believe that this is a reference to speaking in tongues. However, that this is not the case is seen by several facts.
First, speaking in tongues in the Bible is the ability of a person to speak fluently in another human language without having first studied such (Acts 2:4-15). This is positive evidence that the “groanings” of this passage are not the same as the gift of tongues.
Second idea of “groanings” is that they are inaudible (i.e., not spoken out loud). Indeed, Paul is pointing out to us that there is not any “groaning” or sound that is audibly used by the Spirit here.
“”Too deep for words” translates alalētois, “unutterable.” Paul does not write alalois (lacking the facility of speech, dumb, silent); he uses a word which means “cannot be expressed by any words or language so as to convey the meaning.” See Thayer, Lexicon, p.25. This fact has evidently escaped the modern charismatic movement, which appeals to this verse as proof that there is a prayer language use of ‘tongues’ (often designated as the language of angels), as well as an evangelistic use of ‘tongues.’ The indwelling Spirit does indeed intercede for the Christian, but it is not in any “words” at all, whether we think of tongues of men or tongues of angels!” (Gareth Reese, New Testament Epistles: Romans-A Critical And Exegetical Commentary, 77 (Nook Edition): Moberly, Missouri: Scripture Exposition Books LLC)
Third, notice that the passage goes on to describe where the “groanings” are actually taking place: within the heart (spirit) of the Christian!
“It is the intercession of the Spirit with στεναγμοὶ ἀλάλητοι—groanings (or sighs) that baffle words. αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα is undoubtedly God’s Spirit as distinguished from ours, yet what is here affirmed must fall within Christian experience, for Paul says in the next verse that He Who searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit in this unutterable intercession. It is in the heart, therefore, that it takes place.” (James Denney, W. Robertson Nicoll, M.A., Ll.D. (Editor), Romans (The Expositor’s Greek Testament Book 4) , 220 (Kindle Edition): Seattle, WA: re:Source Digital Publishing)
Fourth, this passage says that the Spirit helps every believer with these “groanings.” However, speaking in tongues was not for every believer!
1 Corinthians 12:29-31-Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.
The Greek of this passage is very informative.
“A list of rhetorical questions strongly asserts the one fact that not everyone has the same gift. Not all do the same things in the community. The questions begin with the word “not” (μή), which requires a negative response. This Greek is best translated with an affirmative question, since in English it is this that requires a negative response. In order to keep the Greek negative form, the questions would have to be phrased like this: “All are not apostles, are they?” As we have noted on a number of occasions, rhetorical questions like this are not functioning properly as real questions but as definite statements. The fact is that no one does all these things because no one is given all the necessary gifts by the Spirit.” (Paul D. Gardener, 1 Corinthians (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), 550 (Kindle Edition): Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan)
As another translation renders the passage:
1 Corinthians 12:29-30-Not all are apostles, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? Not all are teachers, are they? Not all perform miracles, do they? 30 Not all have gifts of healing, do they? Not all speak in tongues, do they? Not all interpret, do they?
So the “groanings” of the Spirit in Romans 8:26 are for every Christian: yet the gift of tongues was not for every Christian. Therefore, the “groanings” of Romans 8:26 are not the same as the gift of tongues.
Indeed, the “groanings” of the Spirit indicate that the Holy Spirit conveys our deepest yearnings and struggles to God in ways that we cannot express audibly.
The Glorification Of The Spirit
Finally, Pauli talks about the fact that the various activities of the Spirit are leading to a specific purpose: the renewal and restoration that will one Day take place, where God and redeemed mankind will again dwell together in fullness of fellowship in the new Heavens and new Earth. Paul’s references here to the restoration of the creation echo the words of Peter:
Acts 3:19-21-Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.
Notice what Chambers tells us about this passage, and the one in Romans we are studying:
“19Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time (Acts 3: 19-21, NASB). Let’s zoom-in on verse 21. Notice that Peter says the resurrected Jesus is in Heaven and will remain there “until the period of restoration of all things” which God promised long ago through His prophets. Okay, let’s make sure we’ve got this straight. In Old Testament times the prophets announced that a time of “restoration” was coming for “all things.” But the precise timing of that prophesied restoration remained a mystery until this Acts 3 moment. Here, for the first time, Peter makes the Spirit-inspired announcement that it’ll happen when Jesus comes back. Now for the million-dollar question: what exactly is this restoration that’s going to take place when Jesus returns? Getting the right answer begins with getting the right meaning of restoration, and the basic meaning of that word (apokatastasis) is “restitution to an earlier state,” 1 or “to restore to a previous state.” 2 Since “an earlier state” or “a previous state” basically means “the way it used to be,” if someone were to ask me to put the meaning of restoration into my own words, I’d say, “returning something to the way it used to be.” I’ll assume you’re okay with that. Peter’s sermon in Acts 3 is the only place in the entire New Testament you’ll find this noun (apokatastasis). There is a verb form of it, though, that’s found eight times in the New Testament (apokathistemi), and the basic meaning—returning something to the way it used to be—really comes through in those passages. For instance, Matthew, Mark and Luke all record an episode where Jesus restored a man’s deformed hand (Matt 12: 13; Mark 3: 5; Luke 6: 10). Most translations call it a withered hand, but you’ll also see it described as deformed (NLT), shriveled (NIV), and paralyzed (CSB). Whichever word your translation uses, the point is, this guy’s hand didn’t look like, or work like, a normal human hand. The word restored perfectly describes what Jesus did to that wrecked hand. He returned it to the way God drew it up in His original blueprints for the human body. Jesus made the man’s hand look like, and work like, God’s original model of a human hand. He made it as good as new. That is, He restored it. Mark similarly describes a time when Jesus restored a blind man’s sight (Mark 8: 25). Again, the word restored perfectly describes what Jesus did. He took a broken set of eyes and returned them to the way they used to be. He fixed them so they functioned like the first ones God created. In other words, He restored them to God’s original design. Now that we’ve got a good grip on the basic meaning of the word restoration in Acts 3: 21—returning something to the way it used to be—let’s go back to that text. When Jesus comes back, Peter says it’ll be time for the “restoration of all things” which was predicted by the Old Testament prophets. What he means, then, is that it’ll be time for God to restore all things to a previous state. It’ll be the moment God returns everything to the way it used to be. With that in mind, here are a couple of questions to ponder. If, as some people believe, the entire visible, material universe is going to be completely annihilated when Jesus comes back (with the sole exception of us human beings), what exactly is going to be restored to a previous state at that time? What will be returned to the way it used to be? If every sin-infected thing is going to be banished to non-existence when Jesus returns—again, except for us human beings—what will be left that can be restored to a previous state at that time? What will be left that can be returned to the way it used to be? If non-existence is the destiny of every speck of matter in the created, visible, physical realm—once more, except for us human beings—I simply don’t have a clue what Peter is referring to when he says that a “restoration of all things” is on tap for the second coming. What about us? If, as some think, we human beings are going to be the only things exempt from the coming universal annihilation, wouldn’t that make us the objects of the coming “restoration of all things”? Not if our eternal state is going to be some kind of nonphysical, non-material existence in a celestial realm. If our destiny is to be eternally released from a material body, and be eternally removed from a material world, how could anyone legitimately call that a restoration? That’s not being restored to an earlier, or previous, state. That’s not returning us to the way we used to be. That’s a completely new and different state of existence. If we’re going to get Acts 3: 21 right, we’ve got to take the meaning of the word restoration seriously. So where does all this leave us? Well, if we’re going to take the meaning of restoration seriously, we need to ask if anything else in the New Testament might shed some light on the coming “restoration of all things”? Does anything else in the New Testament suggest that something is going to be restored to a previous state when Jesus comes back? The answer is a resounding “yes.” There are definitely other things in the New Testament that shed light on the coming “restoration of all things.” And what, pray tell, are these other New Testament nuggets? How about two of the passages we dissected in the last chapter: 2 Peter 3: 13 and Romans 8: 21? Notice how a straightforward reading of those two verses mesh perfectly with Peter’s announcement of an end-of-time “restoration of all things”: •Acts 3: 21—Peter announces that when Jesus comes back it will be time for the “restoration of all things” which God’s prophets predicted. •2 Peter 3: 13—Peter announces that Jesus’ second coming will bring the long-promised “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” •Romans 8: 21—Paul announces that our bodies will one day be “redeemed” from sin and “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” When you put all those announcements together, it seems to be pointing straight to the conclusion that the coming “restoration of all things” is, in part, the restoration of all creation to its previous, or original, sin-free state.” (Dan Chambers, BRING ON HEAVEN!: A Biblical Deep Dive Into The Nature of Our Forever Home, 72-76 (Kindle Edition): Franklin, TN: FaithWorks Press)
What a great and incredible blessing is the Holy Spirit of God!
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.