Course: Growing in the Grace of God
The Holy Spirit and the Grace of God
Father, we give You thanks. We give You praise and glory. We give You honor. We also come humbly before You admitting our great need for You. Not simply a partial need, Lord, but a comprehensive, deep, constant, and daily need. Thank You that You give grace to the humble. And so we humble ourselves before You and ask that You would pour out Your grace in mighty measures today. Graciously speaking to us. Graciously touching our hearts. Graciously working in us to will and to do according to Your good pleasure. And graciously, transforming our lives to the image of Jesus Christ. By Your Holy Spirit, unfold Your Word and make it alive to us. And Lord, we confess that we can only live by every word that proceeds from Your mouth. So speak to us. We are ready to hear what you have to say. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The fourth study in the series Growing in the Grace of God, is about the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. This session builds on the foundation of the previous study on living daily by the grace of God. Last time we addressed the question, “How do we live day by day by the grace of God?” This study will provide another perspective in answering that question. This second angle is that the Holy Spirit must be at work in us and on us and through us applying the grace of God to our personal lives. There is a very profound relationship between the Spirit of God and the grace of God.
6So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts. 7'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of "Grace, grace to it!"' " (Zec 4:6-7)
The work of the Spirit of God relates directly to the grace of God. It is impossible to walk in the grace of God without the work of the Spirit of God. Whenever the Spirit of God is at work in us, it is the grace of God that is being provided. The word of the Lord to His people was, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit.” The Holy Spirit must be the dynamic agent in the work of building Christ’s church. This Scripture references a time when Zerubbabel was leading the people back from captivity into the Promised Land so that they would rebuild the temple of God. This act was to be done not by the might and power of man, but by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Today, we are the temple of the Living God. The building up of the church—the building up of our lives—is not by our might or power, but by the work of the very Spirit of God.
In Zerubbabel’s day, the task of rebuilding God’s temple seemed to be like a great mountain because of the hostile and alien environment. Yet this was not God’s intention. The word of the Lord to Zerubbabel was that this mountain would become a plain. It would become a flat place to march across when God was through with His task. And then ultimately, Zerubbabel would bring out the capstone—the last stone for the temple. With that final piece set in place, the only proper response that explained the whole work of God building the temple was, “Grace, grace to it!”
The same may be said in regards to our lives. We must be built by the work of the Holy Spirit. When that last piece is put in place in our lives and in the life of the church before she is raptured, what can be said about that process? “Grace, grace to it!” As John says in his Gospel (1:16), it is “grace upon grace,” which we have already looked at. That is the way that God works in our lives. He works by grace. “Of His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
The New Testament also links the grace of God with the work of the Spirit of God:
This is seen in the Lord’s Supper. The cup speaks of the blood of Jesus Christ. It also speaks of the new covenant, that is, the new arrangement for walking with God. This is the new covenant of grace! The old covenant was the Law of Moses. Ephesians makes it clear that the shed blood of Christ was a work of the grace of God:
When the Christ shed His blood for us, He was actually purchasing for us the new covenant—a new arrangement between God and us. It is here that we are told when He was shedding His blood for the forgiveness of sins; it was according to the riches of God’s grace. This new covenant is a covenant of grace. It is what we have been looking at in these studies together.
5Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2Cr 3:5-6)
Those who are in Christ through faith are servants of the new covenant. We addressed this in our second study, “The Grace of God.” We cannot build a life with God through our best efforts to live up to the law of God. We begin and maintain a relationship with Him through the His grace. That is echoed here in these words. It is not on our own sufficiency that we can come before God. We cannot serve God by our own sufficiency. We are simply insufficient to live up to his standards because they are perfect. In fact, we are not sufficient of ourselves as verse 5 declares, “to think of anything as being from ourselves.”
This is reminiscent of John 15:5 where Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” It seems as though we and as well as the unsaved are able to do so much. This is true, yet it amounts to nothing. People are able to do great works of art, make discoveries, explore, travel, theorize and impress one another, however, none of that can save a soul, transform a life, prepare anyone for glory, or let them be used now for the glory of God. The things done apart from Christ amount to nothing. “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” There are so many busy things, but they always amount to nothing outside of Christ.
Paul’s words, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as coming from ourselves”—are words of humility. We have already discussed humility and faith because they are both at the heart of living by the grace of God. The humility is that our sufficiency is not enough. The faith is based on our sufficiency being from God. Ultimately, we do not have what it takes, but fortunately, He does! What we have to do is humbly confess our insufficiency, and—by faith—trust in His sufficiency. That is how we are sufficient servants under the new covenant. It is not of the letter as there are no rules to obey, because it is the Spirit—a very person of the Godhead—who works in us.
Let us not underestimate the statement, “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” For this is an issue of life and death. This point is not merely an interesting piece of doctrine. It is a matter of life and death. Living by the letter will kill us, because our best efforts fall short of the law that needs to be kept. The letter says that we do not measure up. We are incompetent in satisfying the law. Thankfully the Holy Spirit gives life. The Spirit supplies the life that we need and so we are changed.
The new covenant is lived out daily in humble dependence on the Holy Spirit. The Spirit supplies the sufficiency of the grace of God in our lives.
Again, the Holy Spirit and the grace of God correlate quite well. Where the Sprit is involved, the grace of God is found and vice versa. When we need grace, it is through the Holy Spirit. When we want the Holy Spirit to work, He works in delivering the grace of God.
Life Given by the Spirit
If we desire to live daily by the grace of God we must have the Holy Spirit working in our lives. Initially, we must receive spiritual life from the Spirit of God through His grace.
5Jesus 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. (Jhn 3:5-6)
The life of flesh is unable to inherit the kingdom of God. Every person on earth has been born through the flesh—that is, a natural human birth by human resources. That life cannot go into the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of God is populated by those who are children of the family of God through new birth. This new birth is a new life by the Spirit. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. It will never change. It may possibly become religious, or zealous and dedicated. It may even want to turn over a new leaf, yet when it turns over the new leaf, underneath is more flesh. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. Our flesh cannot be perfected, therefore instead a new flesh, we need a new life.
And we receive that new life by the Holy Spirit. When we believe that Jesus died for us and call on the name of the Lord, confessing our sin and our need for salvation and forgiveness—by God’s grace—the Holy Spirit brings us new life in Christ. A new birth!
This is augmented with Jesus’ statement in John 6:53 which states, “you have no life in you.” He is speaking here of spiritual life. No eternal life. Nothing that can relate to God. All that exists of ourselves is our physical existence. Only ten verses later Jesus states that “it is the Spirit who gives life.” Again, this brings us back to the point of humility and faith. Not having any life in us is a humbling word. We are simply unable to supply the type of life that is necessary for knowing, walking and serving God. Let us now consider the faith aspect, for we see that it is “the Spirit who gives life.” Our assurance must be placed in God for this, and not our inadequate selves.
Walking According to the Spirit
So we see that the Spirit does this work of new birth, but it does not stop there. Our continual day-by-day spiritual life must be supplied by the Holy Spirit. Consequently, it is vital for us to be walking according to the Spirit. In the book of Galatians there are so many great revelations about the work of the Spirit, and Galatians 5:16 gives us insight regarding walking according to the Spirit.
We should not indulge the natural and base cravings of the human flesh. Rather, we should be walking in the Spirit. This means that we take every step of every day in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. That is what will give us that confidence that we shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Every day in every way, every step, every issue, should be faced with hope and confidence because of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
We should be guided by the Spirit of God on a daily basis. This encapsulates all aspects of our lives. We need to be led by the God’s Spirit. Once that is taking place, we will no longer be under the law on a practical and experiential basis. Being led by the Spirit is not a set of rules to follow, but it is following God as He works in our lives.
Paul states in Romans 6:14 that we are not under law but under grace. When we do not walk in accordance with God’s Spirit—not being led by the Spirit—we are instead being led by our own will and resources, and therefore put ourselves back under the law. When we do this we have to live up to the commands and demands and standards of God on our own best effort. This is not what God had intended for us. When we are led by our flesh it will always result in failure. So let us be led by the Spirit, every step, every day—learning to be led by Him.
Though we have already touched upon the fruit of the Spirit, let us consider it once more. A daily fruitful life can only come by the grace of God. The word of His grace effectively produces fruit in our life. Note that it is also connected to the work of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is not something we can muster up. Rather, it is the Spirit of God working the things of God through us. The fruit of the Spirit is what our lives should look like. They stand as a description of the life and character of the Christ.
If we have found new life by the work of the Spirit in new birth, it should be our goal to also grow and serve daily by the work of the Spirit. Let us walk according to the Spirit.
Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, wrote something that reminds me of this very truth. He wrote in Why Grace Changes Everything the following:
Paul opened his letter to the Galatians with the salutation, “Grace be to you.” He closed it with, “Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” His benediction takes on a rich depth of meaning in light of the letter’s sharp focus on the glorious grace of God. The grace of Jesus, not the law of Moses, was the Galatians’ greatest need. To walk in the power of His Spirit, not in the vain efforts of the flesh, was their calling. (Smith, 217)
Chuck Smith is making the same point that we have been making in our study, and that is that the grace of God and the Spirit of God are both connected. The primary theme of Galatians is the grace of God, yet much of Galatians is dedicated to the work of the Holy Spirit. For example, Galatians encourages us to live daily by the work of the Holy Spirit, because that is the only way that the grace of God comes to bear on and in and through our lives.
Notice in these two parallel sentences, how Chuck Smith ties the grace of Jesus Christ into the power of His Spirit. He states, “The grace of Jesus, not the law of Moses, was the Galatians’ greatest need.” Then he restates it another way: “To walk in the power of His Spirit, not in the vain efforts of the flesh was their calling.” It is the Holy Spirit, powerfully at work in us that applies the grace of Jesus into, upon and through our lives.
5For 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. 6For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Rom 8:5-6)
Those who are living according to the flesh, live by drawing solely on their human resource. This takes place in areas like: thinking, deciding, acting, and relating. They are setting their mind on the things of the flesh. In other words, they are putting their attention on things like their own will, glory, and sufficiency.
Now on the other hand, those who are walking according to the Spirit, day by day, step by step, they’re looking to the resources and work of the Spirit of God. They set their mind on things of the Spirit. They set their mind of God's will, God’s glory, God’s grace, which is our sufficiency.
Paul then contrasts the carnally minded with the spiritually minded in verse 6. The choice is life or death. Sometimes along the way, people have said to me in some of these studies, “Now wait a minute, are you not just splitting theological hairs with things like law and grace? Is it all not just things of God to try to learn and get into?” I want to assure them that it is not just splitting hairs. But even if they are convinced it is, I still like to exhort them on this issue. If it is just splitting hairs, be sure and split the hair carefully. Because one side of that hair is death and the other side is life. That is how serious it is. “To be carnally minded [that is, flesh-resource thinking] is death.” But “to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” We are not just discussing carpet color. We are choosing between life and death. That is how critical it is to understand law and grace.
On one hand, being carnally minded leads to spiritual death. It produces fear, doubt and selfishness. On the other hand, being spiritually minded leads to life. It produces faith, hope and love, which is evidence of God’s life at work in us. God desires for us to walk according to His Spirit.
If we desire to live as children of God, we need to be led by His Spirit. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. This is a daily life that gives evidence and indication of following the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is basically a child of God. The world has no interest in such things, but even if they did, they would not be able to do them. The world does not know the true and living God. Walking in accordance with the Spirit is vitally important to us if we want to grow in the grace of God.
Being Filled with the Spirit
It does not end with walking according to the Spirit only, but we also need to be filled with the Spirit. We are not only called to walk dependently upon the Spirit, but our lives should be overflowing with the work of the Holy Spirit as well. We are able to abound in the grace of God when our lives are overflowing with the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18 speaks of being filled with the Spirit. This is a classic imperative given through the apostle Paul.
We may also translate this as, “be always being filled with the Holy Spirit.” The verb here is in the present tense. It encourages us to be filled all the time, everyday. Our lives are not to be controlled by things like human influences, wine and such, which dissipates and tears down our lives. On the contrary, we are to be filled with the Spirit.
So then what is the evidence of being filled with the Spirit? The Spirit works in different ways for different people. There is no standard or absolute regarding this.
Back in the mid-‘70s I read a book entitled, Let’s Stop Fighting about the Holy Spirit. The author told a story about two blind men sitting on a bench. The amazing thing is that they were both healed of their blindness by the Lord. After speaking to one another they begin to realize that they both had a relationship with, an encounter with, and a touch of Jesus on their lives. They tell their testimonies to each other. One said, “Well here’s how I was healed. He just said, ‘Receive your sight!’ And I could see.” And the other blind man said, “Wait a minute. You mean no spit? No clay? No, ‘Go wash it off’?” The first man replied, “No.” Then the second said, “Then you were not healed.”
We often measure God’s work by what we went through, instead of what the Word has to say. I was teaching at a family camp. Pastor Brian Broderson and I were both teaching and alternating. The Lord led us—by His Spirit—to teach about the Spirit the first night. I taught about worshipping in the Spirit (Philippians 3:3). The next message Brian taught on being filled with the Spirit. And that afternoon I went to my room and I prayed, “Lord, that just stirred my heart. I want to get in Your Word. Show me some of indicators, the evidences, the signs, the expectations people can have if they are filled with the Spirit.” And I know that there are many more of them, but that afternoon, I was able to write down twenty-four different indications of being filled with the Spirit. Here in Ephesians 5:19-21 we see a great list of the results of being filled with the Spirit:
19Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Eph 5:19-21)
When you see someone walking in great submission and humility out of reverence for God, it is an evidence of the full work of the Spirit of God in their lives. These are tied directly in to being filled with the Spirit.
This is also the key to what is discussed in the later in the chapter regarding marriage. Ephesians 5:22 speaks to the wives:
Then Ephesians 5:25 addresses the husbands:
However, it does not just end there:
Then Paul continues:
Then Ephesians 6:5 goes on to talk the employee, and Ephesians 6:9 to the employer. The most extended explanation of Spirit-filled living is Ephesians 5 and 6. This tells us how to live at the church, at home, and on the job.
Too many of us—too often—have forgotten that the fullness of the Spirit is for daily living at home and on the job. Every one of us needs God’s grace at home and at work. The grace of God is practical. And we are to be filled with it. That is, we are to be being filled with the Spirit.
God, the Father, will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. Not only does this apply to salvation, but also to sanctification. If the Spirit of God is not in our lives, then we are not born again. As we humbly ask the Lord Jesus for forgiveness and new life—admitting our need—the Father will send the Holy Spirit with new life.
Unfortunately, many Christians fail to apply this verse in regards to sanctification. We all, as Christian, have the Holy Spirit, but the real question is whether or not the Holy Spirit have us? The fullness of the Spirit means that He totally has us. That is, He has the room to work in every area of our lives. We who have the Spirit can ask the Father to send the Spirit’s full work upon us, which the Scriptures speak in Acts 1:8 and elsewhere.
The fullness of the Spirit is a work of the grace of God. That means that it cannot be bought, earned, or conjured up. We must simply ask. The asking is humility and faith.
Paul prays a great prayer, Ephesians 3, related to the fullness of the Holy Spirit. There are two great prayers in Ephesians: chapter 1 and chapter 3. When we come across these prayers, we should not be reading them only, but also praying them ourselves.
16Would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—19to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge. (Eph 3:16-19)
This prayer is directly related to being filled with the Spirit! If we seek the Lord in such a prayer, we can expect that our lives will more and more characteristically be filled with all the fullness of God. If we ask anything according to His will, we have been heard and we have the requests that we ask. There is no safer prayer than to pray directly out of the Word of God, for it is the very will of God. Some people say that they never know what to pray about. The Word of God is a great place to start.
Another wonderful description of the fullness of the Spirit is found in John 7. God used these verses to change my life back in the early ‘70s. I was struggling as a Christian being under the letter. It was damaging other people’s lives by telling them what to do and not how to do it. This is where God touched my life mightily on this issue of the fullness of the Spirit.
37On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." 39But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (Jhn 7:37-39)
Once the Son of God would be back at the right hand of the Father, the Spirit could be poured forth. Jesus is speaking about the how one can enter into that fullness. It is very simple, yet subtle. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” If anyone has a spiritual need, bring that one to Jesus. “Let him come to Me. And then drink.”
How do you drink of Jesus Christ? Basically the same way you would a glass of water. You come to a glass of physical water to quench physical thirst, and you take it believing that it will meet the need. So if we bring our spiritual thirst to Jesus—believing that He will meet the need—then that is drinking. That is exactly what the next verse says.
If we believe that Jesus can quench the thirsts in our lives—that is, meet the needs in our lives, for example, fulfilling the yearnings and insufficiency—then that is drinking of Him by faith. If we keep doing that—if we characteristically do that—it is assumed that that will quench the thirst. If you are thirsty, come unto Jesus and drink.
But it goes far beyond that. He who believes in Christ—or keeps believing that Christ can meet those needs—out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water. This is a picture of bringing our need to the Lord in faith. He gives to us a thirst-quenching drink of the Holy Spirit, and not only does he meet our needs, but he builds us up in living water so that we would overflow onto the lives of others.
Many years ago, I told the Lord that I would serve and minister by His grace and the work of His Spirit. By consistently coming to Christ, he quenches and satisfies me with living water. When I concentrate on Him, He fills me till I overflow. This is the best way to minister because we are so full of the living water of the work of the Holy Spirit. We can continue to come back to Jesus and He continues to pour living water into us, and so we simply overflow on other people. This could be translated “gushed torrents of living water.” That is such a beautiful picture because someone can come up to us being so dry and weary, but we can help. God will refresh that person because of the living water that is overflowing from us. That is the work of the Holy Spirit!
The abundant grace of Jesus Christ meets our needs by this overflowing grace, which also touches the lives of others. This is the abounding grace of God overflowing in our lives by the deep work of the Holy Spirit upon us and in us. The Holy Spirit and the grace of God are absolutely linked together. We can live daily by the grace of God by the work of the Spirit in us, upon us and through us.
There are three warnings in conclusion: do not resist the Spirit, do not quench the Spirit, and do not grieve the Spirit.
First, in Acts 7:51, Stephen was speaking to the leaders of Israel and says, “You do always resist the Holy Spirit.” They were self-righteous, self-willed and self-sufficient. They resisted what the Holy Spirit wanted to do. Let us not follow in their footsteps, because we cannot resist the Spirit and have lives abounding in the grace of God.
Second, in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul writes, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Quenching the Spirit is closely related to resisting Him. When we will not respond to His Word, His convictions, His moving, then we are quenching the Spirit. We are—in a sense—suppressing with blanket of the flesh that which He wants to do in and through us. Let us not quench the Spirit. Also in quenching the Spirit we also quench the work of the grace of God.
Third, Ephesians 4:30 says, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is a person, not a power. He does have power, but He is not a power. He is not heavenly electricity, but the very Third Person of the Godhead. And He can have a heartache over the people of God.
The following verses, 31 and 32, speak of bad words and bad attitudes among Christians. These things grieve the Spirit of God. We cannot walk in the fullness of the Spirit if we are grieving the Him. God’s grace is available to abound in our lives, but it can only come by the full work of the Holy Spirit.
Let us consider an illustration that demonstrates how this works in a real-life situation. Let me again quote from a story out of Chuck Smith’s book, Why Grace Changes Everything. What a classic work of the Spirit this was. Chuck Smith says that a friend of his left his wife, and the wife called Chuck and asked if he would go and talk to this man.
I agreed to go and found my friend living in a shabby garage apartment on the bad side of town. When I saw his filthy little home, I was struck by how much he had lost...As I looked around at my friend’s new life I thought, Oh God! How could he give up so much for so little?
My heart was breaking because I loved this man. The sight of what he had fallen into tore me apart. I found myself unable to conceal my feelings, and much to my embarrassment I began to weep...I finally got so embarrassed I said, “I’m sorry I just can’t talk right now.” I got up, left, and went home feeling like a fool. Here my good friend’s wife wanted me to visit him and make an appeal for reconciliation, and all I could do was sit there and cry.
The next morning, I received a phone call with news that left me in shock. My friend had returned to his wife and family just hours after my visit.
What did God use to achieve this miraculous healing of a fractured relationship? Not a holier-than-thou attitude, to be certain. His Spirit had created in me a spirit of meekness and brokenness that led to a joyful reconciliation. I thought I had blundered terribly—but I discovered that whenever we choose to walk in the Spirit, God delights to work powerfully in stunning and unexpected ways. (Smith, 80)
That is the testimony of the grace of God at work. It is a testimony of walking in the Spirit, and being filled with the Spirit. The Spirit of God was grieved over that situation and expressed it through his sobbing and tears that is through Chuck’s crying.
We often would want to enter a situation like that with boldness similar to Elijah. We would like to tell that man to get back home or we will call down lightening! But things do not often work the way that we would like them to. We would have such a great word from the Lord that the man would run home to his wife. Chuck was so broken-hearted that he wept. He thought that he had blown it terribly, but this was not the case.
When we walk according to the Spirit—when we are filled with the Spirit—what is of God and on the heart of God, will overflow our lives. What looks like foolishness can change lives completely.
It is critical to see the union between the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. We cannot have one without the other. God wants us growing in His grace, and this must take place by the work of the Holy Spirit in, upon and through our lives.
Father, we thank You for Your great and abounding grace. Thank You that Your Holy Spirit is there to explain and to deliver the grace of God. Lord, for any among us who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and have not had new birth by the Spirit of God, stir their hearts even right now to say, “Lord Jesus, forgive me, a sinner.” By Your Spirit send them new life. For all of us who might—in any measure—need a new filling, Lord we humbly ask You to fill us again. Fill us so that we would overflow. We bring to You, Lord Jesus, our thirsts, needs and yearnings. We believe that You can meet them. Quench our thirst by Your Holy Spirit, and continue to do this work as we believe in so that You would fill us with living water that it might flow out to others who need a touch from You. Lord, let us not desire to resist, quench or grieve Your Spirit. We pray that you would work by Your Spirit in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.