The Illuminating Ministry of the Spirit
June 4, 2015 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Life In the Spirit, Part 4
Last week we considered Sinclair Ferguson’s excellent summary of the ministry of the Spirit: “The heart and soul of the Spirit’s ministry is to sustain us ‘in Christ’” (The Holy Spirit, p. 100). The ministry of the Spirit does not add anything to what we have in Christ, nor does the Spirit compete with or replace Christ. The Spirit unites us to Christ and sustains us in that all-satisfying, all-sufficient relationship. We then looked at a brief survey of the New Testament passages that highlight this ministry of the Spirit.
Let’s dig into the Spirit’s specific ministry of illumination. You may be familiar with this work of the Spirit as his help for us in understanding Scripture. Let me redefine the illuminating work of the Spirit in light of Ferguson’s summary of sustaining us in Christ. Illumination of the Spirit is the Spirit’s work of opening our minds and hearts to see the beauty and goodness of Christ in all of Scripture and invigorating our minds and hearts to delight in Christ more and more.
There are two truths about the Bible which undergird this definition of illumination:
1. All of Scripture is about Jesus. Jesus himself makes this clear to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27, 44-45). From the beginning to the end of our Bibles, everything points to the hope of redemption and new creation we have in Christ.
2. The Bible is the Spirit’s primary tool to “sustain us in Christ.” All Scripture, which is about Jesus, is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16 with 2 Pet. 1:21 & Mark 12:36). Paul calls the word of God “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17). And in parallel passages, Paul connects being filled with the Spirit to being filled with the word of Christ (Eph. 5:18 & Col. 3:16; consider the similar contexts). Jesus says the Spirit “will guide you into all the truth” (Jn. 16:13). The Bible is a living and active sharp sword in the “hands” of the Holy Spirit. It is primarily through Scripture that the Spirit works in our lives.
How does the illuminating ministry of the Spirit work in our lives?
1. The Spirit convicts us regarding sin. Jesus says in John 16:8 that the Spirit will convict the world regarding sin. All sin is competing against Christ for the affection of our hearts and the occupation of our minds. The Spirit must start by revealing the ugliness of the competition. He uses Scripture as a mirror to uncover our sin (consider James 1:22-25, keeping in mind the Spirit’s role). Do not begrudge the convicting work of the Spirit. He is working to sustain you in Christ!
2. The Spirit helps us see the goodness of Christ as revealed in Scripture. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God (which are things of Christ!), for they are folly to him.” By ourselves, we cannot comprehend the goodness of the Savior. When we read Scripture, or when we hear someone teach Scripture, we are dependent on the Spirit to help us understand the truth of Scripture as related to the goodness of Christ. Even the psalmist understood this and prayed, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Ps. 119:18). Do not come to your Bible without asking for the Spirit’s help!
3. The Spirit helps our hearts be responsive to the truth of Christ. Not only can we not comprehend spiritual things, but we are also naturally apathetic to spiritual things. Being dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), we do not have the heart to enjoy or put our faith in Christ. The Spirit starts this work of giving us a new heart at regeneration and continues to renovate our heart through the testimony of Scripture. Again, the psalmist asks for God’s help with his heart, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” and “Unite my heart to fear your name” (Ps. 119:36, 86:11). Entrust your heart to the Spirit’s renovating work with the scalpel of Scripture.