The Ministries of God the Holy Spirit Today: Restraining, Convicting, Regenerating
Ephesians Lesson #077
August 2, 2020
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Our Father, we’re thankful for all that You’ve given us, all that You’ve provided for us, and we’re so thankful for Your Word. We know how central Your Word is, for our Lord said, ‘Father, sanctify them in truth, Thy Word is truth.’ It is through Your Word that we come to know You and love You. It is through Your Word that we come to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ. It is through Your Word that God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, sets us apart, matures us spiritually that we may glorify You to the maximum in our life on Earth.
“Father, as we reflect upon the ministries of God the Holy Spirit today, we pray that You would give us insight into how You have worked in our lives through God the Holy Spirit—His ministries—and understand and clarify what Your Word teaches on the role of God the Holy Spirit. And we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Our study this morning is on the ministries of God the Holy Spirit today. I’m not really looking at what He did in the Old Testament, but what is He doing in the Church Age.
That comes out of our passage; both Ephesians 2:18 and Ephesians 2:22 emphasize that, but today we’ll look at four. The first two have to do with what God the Holy Spirit is doing to the world as a whole: His restraining ministry and convicting ministry. Then we will look at what He is doing in the life of believers at salvation.
Ephesians 2:11–22 emphasizes how God is creating something new in this Church Age. In the past, the Scriptures describe the barrier that existed, not just the barrier between mankind and God, the sin barrier, but another barrier that was between the Gentiles and the Jews—the Law.
At the Cross, Christ abolished the Law which is identified in the passage as the “enmity between Jew and Gentile.” Now Jew and Gentile are united together “in Christ.” It is God the Holy Spirit who places us “in Christ” through the baptism by the Holy Spirit. He places us together in Christ, so we are called a new man, a new body—one new body.
Ephesians 2:18, one of our privileges is that “… through Him—that is, through Christ’s work on the Cross—we both—that is, Jew and Gentile—have access by one Spirit—the Holy Spirit—to the Father,”
Ephesians 2:22 Paul concludes the section, “in whom—that is, in Christ—you also are being built together—God the Father is the One doing the construction—you are being built together for a dwelling place of God by the Spirit.”
Notice there’s no specificity there as to whether God refers to the Father, Son or Holy Spirit, so I believe this relates to the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwell in us. That’s the basic meaning of a temple. A temple is where a deity dwells, so we, as a body of believers, are now being constructed, the church, the body of Christ.
The bride of Christ is being built and constructed through this Church Age that began on the Day of Pentecost in AD 33, and it will extend until the Rapture, which we pray will be soon. Believers throughout the last 20 centuries have prayed that it would be soon. It may not be soon, so we have to be prepared for whatever will come.
In light of both of these references to God the Holy Spirit in this passage, I thought it would be profitable for us to step back and just review what the ministries of God the Holy Spirit are in this age. Because the Spirit is mentioned several times in Ephesians, we need to orient ourselves to understand these things.
This topic is one about which there is incredible confusion today. A lot of people get all kinds of strange ideas about the filling of the Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit, the indwelling of the Spirit; and as a result, they don’t really comprehend what God is doing distinctively in the Church Age through believers, and they don’t really understand how the spiritual life works functions.
I’m going to break down this initial part. I’m not listing everything we will cover here, but in the hopes that will get through some of this today.
The Ministries of God the Holy Spirit Today
To the world:
- His restraining ministry
- His convicting ministry.
At the time that a person trusts in Christ, there are several things that God the Holy Spirit is doing and does:
1. First, at the time of faith in Christ, we are regenerated. That means we become a new creature in Christ, we have a new life, we move from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive.
2. Second, there is at the same time the baptism by means of God the Holy Spirit. This is when God the Holy Spirit identifies us with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, and legally places us in Christ, so that our position before God is in Christ, and that makes us unique and distinct believers of all ages.
This will not apply to the Tribulation saints because they are not Church Age believers, this will not apply to millennial saints because they are not Church Age believers. This is distinctive in this particular dispensation.
3. Third, each and every believer from the instant of faith in Christ is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
He takes up residence within each believer, and I believe that it is from that platform that other ministries develop, but they are also distinct. There are some today who get confused over these things and think they are all synonymous, but they are distinct, especially as we’ll see in our study.
We will look at:
- The indwelling of God the Holy Spirit,
- His work in illuminating believers, so that we can understand the things of the Spirit of God,
- The ministry of the filling of the Spirit,
- The sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts,
which may take two or three weeks, depending upon how we go.
What the Bible teaches about the ministries of God the Holy Spirit today
What does the Bible teach about the restraining ministry of God the Holy Spirit?
This is based on only one passage in Scripture; turn to 2 Thessalonians 2. We have to look briefly at the context. Context is always so important, here it is about the End Times, the period of the Tribulation. It is about what happens after the Rapture of the church with the rise of the person who is identified here as “the lawless one,” defined in the context.
2 Thessalonians 2:1, reminding the believers in Thessaloniki of what he had taught before,
“Now brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,” a reference to the rapture of the church, “not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by Spirit or by word or by letter …”
In other words, don’t get upset when people start identifying the events around you as the End of Days. If you remember, just a few weeks ago we had this big African dust cloud that blew over Houston. There is a funny meme referencing the dust cloud, reflecting on the plague and says, “I always wondered what it was like to be in Egypt as God brought the plagues, but not all at the same time.”
People looking at these things say, “Oh, let’s go to Revelation and find out where we are in prophecy. “That has happened many times in the Church Age, and God has used that for good because it gets people’s attention and maybe they’ll finally figure out the truth.
At the end of the 18th century as the French Revolution has just about destroyed France, there is a turning to one man who will bring order into France, Napoleon Bonaparte. With his rise and his conquest of Europe completed, he left France for North Africa, went to Egypt, and began to swing up through the Middle East towards Israel. Everybody who knew the Bible went, “Ah! Is he the Antichrist? He is headed towards Israel, he’s conquered these various nations in Europe, and it looks like we may be in the middle of the Tribulation!”
Well, they weren’t, but it got people to focus on the Word and to go back and read the Word. One of the benefits of that was people began to realize that God had a future plan for Israel, and would restore the Jews to their historic homeland.
There had been British theologians and pastors and people who had believed that since the mid-1600s, known as British Restorationism. As the Puritans had turned back to the Bible and had begun to work out their literal interpretation to other areas besides salvation, they began to realize that God did have a plan and a purpose for Israel.
But as things go, spirituality in a nation ebbs and flows, and it had not fared too well in England by the middle to late part of the 1700s. There was something of a return to Scripture in England during the latter part of the 1700s.
One of the things that came out of that was an emphasis on God’s future plan for Israel. According to J.C. Ryle—who was an Anglican bishop at the time—in the 1800s, over half of the Anglican clergy were pre-millennial. That’s not true today. I don’t even think they believe in any kind of a Millennium. But then they believed Christ would return before the Millennium.
Think of a three-legged stool:
- The first leg is literal interpretation.
- The second leg, they believed that Christ would return before the Millennium
- The third leg, a firmer understanding of God’s future plan for Israel.
With those three things in place, you can now put the seat, as it were, on the stool, and the seat is dispensationalism, and that was systematized by John Nelson Darby in the 1830s.
We see all of this coming together, so by the time you get into the middle to later part of the 19th century, there is an understanding of God’s plan and purpose for the human race within this dispensational framework.
That’s the same framework that Paul had and he is saying here: don’t get confused by people saying that this event or that event is somehow related to a situation in the middle of the Tribulation because we’re not going to be here in the Tribulation. So don’t worry about that.
He concludes in 2 Thessalonians 2:2–3, “… as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first.”
There is debate as to how that should be translated. The root word is APOSTASIA, which literally means departure. Forms of that word are used to describe the departure of a ship from the harbor; there are various other places where it has that sense. One form of the word, APOSTASIA, we translate “apostasy.”
When people see APOSTASIA they say, “Oh! That’s apostasy; that’s falling away from the truth.” But the root is departure, and it means departure. In one context it would mean “departure from the truth,” In another context it means “the departure of the body of Christ” from the Earth—the Rapture.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 should be translated, “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come—the day of Christ is the judgment in the Tribulation Period—that Day—or that time period—will not come unless the Rapture comes first, and the man of sin—and so it’s showing a chronology here. First, the Rapture—and then the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,”
2 Thessalonians 2:4, “who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that He sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
This is a reference to the Antichrist. That term is only used one time, in the Epistle of 1 John. This is a reference to the prince who is to come in Daniel 9. It is a reference to the first beast mentioned in Revelation 13: the antichrist.
2 Thessalonians 2:5–7, “Don’t you remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining—our verse—that he may be revealed in his own time— ‘he’ here is the antichrist, so there is something restraining—for the mystery of lawlessness is already at work …”
We see this all around us through the Church Age: the development of the mystery of lawlessness. “Mystery” means previously unrevealed truth. There is this rise of increasing lawlessness around the world, which we see today.
Another word for “lawlessness” is “antinomianism,” NOMOS is the Greek word for law. “Anti” is the word for against, and it means those who stand against the Law.
We’re seeing that so much in our day; many judges just overturn the original intent and meaning of the Constitution. I have reports from judges about this slate of new Democratic Party judges that were elected for the City of Houston and in Harris County at the last election. One judge stated, “When they show up, they basically make up the law as they go along.”
This is a symptom of our culture. It’s not unique to Houston, it is not unique to anywhere else. We look at what has happened recently in Portland. The mayor of Portland does not want federal troops coming in to protect the federal courthouse. The law dictates that the federal government has to protect federal property. So, the mayor of Portland and the governor are basically saying, “Violate the law.” It’s lawlessness.
The same thing is going on in Seattle and other places. They don’t want the president or the federal government, to apply the laws. So, we see this increasing tone of lawlessness, and that is a characteristic of this age.
“For the mystery of lawlessness …” Paul said it was already at work at his time. I’m not saying that this is a sign of the times, but it is a sign of what the trends are in the Church Age.
2 Thessalonians 2:7, “… only He who now restrains …”
There is a restraint on this lawlessness that goes beyond simply government. There are those who think that this restraint refers to government, but it is much more than that. There is someone identified here who now restrains and “… will do so until He is taken out of the way.”
2 Thessalonians 2:8, “And then—so first the restrainer is taken out of the way—and then the lawless one will be revealed.”
We saw earlier in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 that the APOSTASIA, the departure of the church at the Rapture, precedes the coming of the lawless one. We see that the One who restrains is taken out of the way. We put that together and we see that when the church is raptured, the Holy Spirit in terms of His active ministry in and through believers is removed from the Earth.
So, the restrainer of evil will no longer be present. God is going to say, “Okay, you want this. I’m just going to turn you over to it. I’m pulling out the Holy Spirit, and the church will no longer be present. There will be no more restraint of sin and evil, so have at it.” And that will lead to all of the chaos and judgment that will come during the Tribulation period.
This is a reference to that work of God the Holy Spirit being removed during the Church Age. This is in some sense typified by the role of the Holy Spirit in Israel in the Old Testament.
An interesting passage I ran across, the only place that talks about the ministry of God the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Talking about the Exodus generation:
Isaiah 63:10, “But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit—when they’re complaining and griping out in the wilderness, that is grieving the Holy Spirit—so He turned Himself against them as an enemy, and He fought against them.”
This refers to the historical event at the Exodus, but it is also a picture of what will happen in the future when the Holy Spirit is removed from the Earth. Then God becomes the enemy of man, and He will fight against man during the Tribulation, culminating in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ when He defeats the enemies of God at Armageddon.
I thought I would throw Isaiah 63:11 in there for a comment, “Then he remembered the days of old, Moses and His people, saying—‘he’ there refers to Isaiah—‘Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them?’ ”
The preposition in Hebrew has a wide range; it would be better translated “among them.” God dwelt among the Jews in the temple in the Old Testament; He is not personally indwelling them. This is talking about the presence of the Shekinah, which refers to the dwelling presence of God in the Old Testament.
2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 talks about the Restrainer, from an interesting verb KATECHON, which refers to preventing something from being done or causing it to be ineffective. It’s usually translated “to prevent,” “to hinder,” or “to restrain.” It is a present participle in both places, indicating through the present tense this ongoing work of God the Holy Spirit, Who is the Restrainer,
2 Thessalonians 2:7, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work …”
Incidentally, KATECHON is the same word used in Romans 1:18 when men reject God and suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They hold it down; they prevent it from having an impact on their life; they’re suppressing it. The Holy Spirit is holding back the forces of lawlessness; He is restraining them.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be horrible wars. We had horrible wars in the 20th century, and that was one way that God used armies to restrain the evil of Hitler, to restrain the advance of communism in various places.
The Holy Spirit uses different means in order to affect that restraining: government, wars, individuals, and the church as a whole. As long as God has the Restrainer in place, it is to enable the church to fulfill their mission of taking the gospel throughout the world.
This is the first ministry we see of God the Holy Spirit to the world. The second ministry that we see that is directed towards the world is His convicting ministry.
Turn to John 16 for a critical passage. Remember John 13–16 is the Upper Room Discourse. “Discourse” basically means teaching; Jesus is teaching His disciples.
It begins when they are in the upper room celebrating the Passover meal—the Seder. Jesus gives that new meaning, teaching them about using the bread and the cup in the Lord’s Table. He also kicks Judas Iscariot out to go do what he’s going to do, so He’s left with just the Eleven. He begins to teach them about the coming Church Age: what will be different and how it will be different once He leaves.
He tells them in John 14 that it’s necessary for Him to leave in order that another PARAKLETE comes. “Another” means another of the same kind. Translated as Comforter in the King James, but it is much more than that; that really narrows the concept.
PARAKLETE has the idea of a helper, an assistant, someone who comes alongside to encourage and strengthen. It summarizes all of the ministries of God the Holy Spirit to the believer. There’s not really one good word in English that will translate that concept.
We read the Scriptures at the beginning of class about the different passages where He says that another Comforter will come: He will dwell in you. He will be with you, and He will be in you.
The last part of the Upper Room Discourse in John 16 and John 17 is truly the Lord’s Prayer, which is His high priestly prayer for the coming church.
John 16:7 and following, He describes this work of the Holy Spirit towards the world. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper—the PARAKLETE—will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”
The coming of the Holy Spirit is dependent upon the departure of the Son to heaven where He is at the right hand of God the Father. In this discourse, both the Father sends and the Son sends, so the Holy Spirit is under the authority of both Father and Son, and the Holy Spirit is sent by both. Jesus is saying, “I will send Him to you.”
John 16:8, “And when He has come—He’s going to do three things—He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” He describes what those three things mean in John 16:9-11:
- John 16:9, “of sin, because they do not believe in Me.”
Notice: He doesn’t say “of sins!” The Holy Spirit is not convicting people of their sins, but of sin, which always refers to Adam’s original sin. Because of Adam’s sin, we have the fall into sin and the corruption of the entire human race—all of Adam’s descendants. “In Adam all die,” the Scripture says.
He convicts of sin, specifically that “they don’t believe in Me …” The emphasis is that the “sin” that’s the focal point is not all the sins you’ve committed. It is failure to believe the gospel; failure to believe in Christ.
- John 16:10, “… of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more.” It’s related to the need of each one of us for perfect righteousness.
- John 16:11, “… of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
John 16:8, “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin …”
“Convict” is an interesting word. It is a future active indicative which means in the future tense, something that will happen in the future from when Jesus is talking in the upper room. It’s not happening at that time. When the Spirit comes, He will convict, in the future. That began when the Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost in AD 33.
What does convict mean? It has the general idea of bringing something to light, exposing something, setting something forth, convicting, or convincing. These are words used in Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Systematic Theology. He uses the phrase “the convincing work of God the Holy Spirit.”
Most translations refer to it as convicting, and we will see what the issues are there: punish, or discipline. It has a range of meanings, and like all words, you have to figure out where exactly in that range of meanings should we come down.
The Old Testament has a prophetic sense. The prophets were like prosecutors that came from the throne of God, and they were presenting a case against Israel for their violation of the Law. They are convicting in that sense. That doesn’t mean that the people are convinced or the people accept what they are saying, but they make a case, so they understand what God’s case is against them.
The reason I make that distinction is because when we look at English dictionaries, the word “convict” in the Oxford English Dictionary [OED] means to declare someone to be guilty of a criminal offense by the verdict of a jury or the decision of a judge in a court of law. The idea is to declare that someone is guilty of an offense.
“Convince” is probably a bad translation of it. In the OED, it means to cause to believe firmly in the truth of something. Does the Holy Spirit cause the world to firmly believe in the truth of something? No He does not.
Another way in which the OED states the definition of convince is, to persuade someone to do something. That’s not what the Holy Spirit does, because the world isn’t persuaded to do anything. “Convincing” really isn’t a good term.
In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it defines it as to bring to belief by way of argument. Does the Holy Spirit bring the world to belief? No, He does not. So convincing is not really a good word.
The best way to understand it is the sense of establishing a case, so that the person can then either respond positively or negatively to that case. That’s the best way to understand it because bringing somebody to an understanding of the gospel is beyond my capability and beyond your capability. We don’t have the power. We can present the gospel, but it is God the Holy Spirit who works in it.
Sometimes people get the idea that, “Oh, I just have to know so much to be able to witness for somebody because if I try to witness to my neighbor or somebody at work, they have this objection, they have that objection, and I’m just not good at answering all of those objections. I just have to learn a lot more before I can ever witness to anybody.” That is something that causes them to not really step out there and give the gospel to anybody.
The problem is that none of us have all the answers. 1 Peter 3:15 says that we’re always to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us. He doesn’t say always be ready to convince the person that you’re right, but to be able to give an answer, to be able to clearly articulate the gospel, why you believe what you believe.
We have a hidden asset: God the Holy Spirit! God the Holy Spirit is the One who is working in their mind to make it clear, but He’s not going to cause them to believe it. He’s not going to go in there and flip the switch from off to on, so that they will believe the gospel. They have volition; they have a responsibility to make that decision on their own. So, each of us and the Holy Spirit are responsible for clarifying the gospel to the unbeliever.
But the unbeliever still can say no, can still suppress that truth in unrighteousness, and that doesn’t mean we haven’t done a good job. We can be the most articulate communicators of the gospel ever. Let me see … there was one like that, wasn’t there? Jesus Christ came and He was the most articulate, perfect communicator of the gospel, and people rejected Him, and they rejected His message.
We have to understand that we will give the gospel to a lot of people, just like Jesus did, and they will think we’re a fool, they may call us names, all kinds of things may happen. But the reality is our job is simply to say it to the best of our ability and let God the Holy Spirit do the rest. The end result is still up to the individual as to whether they believe it or not.
What is the Holy Spirit going to be working on them? Think about how a lot of people present the gospel: they get off on all kinds of rabbit trails, they get sidetracked, they talk about this and that; they don’t really understand the core issue in the gospel.
We learn from this passage what the core issue is in the gospel because this is what the Holy Spirit is going to be doing. It doesn’t matter what you’re talking about, the Holy Spirit is going to be convicting them of sin. He’s going to be convicting them of righteousness and convicting them of judgment. Don’t get off in all kinds of rabbit trails because that’s what the Holy Spirit is going to focus on.
In the next couple of verses, the passage focuses on explaining them.
John 16:8, “He will convict the world of sin …” further described in John 16:9, “… of sin, because they do not believe in Me.”
It’s not talking about personal sins, and here it’s not even talking about Adam’s original sin, because that’s all paid for by Christ on the Cross. That needs to be explained and understood—that sin is dealt with. The only issue that’s left is belief in Christ.
John 3:18, “He who believes in Him is not condemned, but He who does not believe is condemned already—Why? Because of his sin? No. Because he’s a drunk? No. Because he is on drugs? No. Because he’s rebellious? No. It is—because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
He hasn’t believed in who Jesus is and what Jesus did, and because of that he’s condemned. The Holy Spirit is going to be convicting them of the fact that they haven’t believed in Jesus Christ as their Savior who paid the penalty for their sin.
Lewis Sperry Chafer says, “The fact indicated in this text, that the one ground of condemnation is the failure to believe on Christ as Savior, confirms the truth, restated more than 100 times in the New Testament, that the one and only condition of salvation is faith in Christ as Savior.” ~ Chafer, Systematic Theology, 3.218
The second aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work: He convicts world of sin; and secondly, He convicts them of righteousness.
John 16:10, “… of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more.”
Jesus is saying that there has to be a faith in Christ for individuals, for any of us, to have righteousness.
This chart looks at every human being; we’re all in the box, and we all have negative righteousness. No matter how good you’ve been, you haven’t been good enough. None of us have.
In the upper left-hand corner, the character of God, His perfect righteousness and justice, and on the right, the Cross of Christ, who is perfectly righteous.
Isaiah 64:6, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds …” Righteousnesses in the King James; righteous deeds—it’s plural—in the new American Standard.
All of our righteous deeds. It’s not our unrighteousness; it’s all of our righteous deeds. We’re not looking at the fact that, “Oh yeah, I could did a lot of things that were wrong.” But all the things you did that were morally right and ethically good is what he’s talking about. They’re just unclean, like a filthy garment. None of us have perfect righteousness, and that’s what God requires.
2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Christ took on our sin, our unrighteousness, on the Cross; He paid the penalty for that sin, so that at the time of faith, the perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed or credited to our account. As a result of that, God the Father is going to declare us to be righteous.
We still have a sin nature, and every believer is going to sin, but God always looks at the righteousness that is ours through Christ. “He who knew no sin was made sin for us that the righteousness of God might be found in us.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
This is what the Holy Spirit is convicting: that as unbelievers we don’t have righteousness. We must obtain righteousness, and the only way to do that is by faith in Christ.
The third category is judgment, John 16:8.
Now who is judged here? Well, you have two judgments on the Cross. One is a judgment of Satan and the fallen angels and the other is the judgment on sin. The judgment involves both.
In Colossians 2:14–15 both are identified.
Colossians 2:14, that at the Cross He “canceled out the certificate of debt, consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
That tells us when it happened: at the Cross. It didn’t happen when you trusted Christ as Savior; it happened at the Cross. Sin was completely paid for and judged at the Cross.
But that’s not all! At the same time, Colossians 2:15, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed—that is God the Father—having triumphed over them through Him …” That is, through Christ on the Cross.
Satan is still alive and well on planet Earth. He is still active, he goes about like a roaring lion. But his doom is secure; it was secured at the Cross where he was judged. Because of the sin problem was taken care of, Satan is left with nothing to hang on to.
Those are the two ministries of God the Holy Spirit prior to salvation—His ministries to the world.
His first ministry to us at the time of salvation is regeneration—where we are born again. We receive new life.
We usually present it with this chart:
- Left: eternal realities, that is, of our position in Christ, and
- Right: the temporal realities.
The circles are white because that indicates that we are in the light. We have been made children of the light, and on the right side we are to walk in the light.
The first thing that happens when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 16:31, is that we are regenerated. The term that is translated “regenerated” is PALINGENESIS, only used a couple of times in the New Testament, but the concept also is related to being born again.
Once it references “in the regeneration;” Jesus is talking about the Millennial Kingdom, a time in history. The other time it’s personal, Titus 3:5.
We recently studied in Ephesians 2, that we’re born spiritually dead. A lot of people don’t understand what spiritual death means. In Calvinism spiritual death means you have no ability to do anything, and they call it “total inability,” which is not the same as “total depravity.”
Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins …”
So if they are alive, then obviously they were born physically alive. But they are also spiritually dead; they were born that way.
Ephesians 4:18 defines it as “being alienated from the life of God.” It doesn’t mean you’re like a corpse and you can’t hear anything, respond to anything, or do anything.
Ephesians 4:18, “… having their understanding darkened—referring to Gentiles prior to salvation—being alienated from the life of God …”
Jesus was light and in Him was life for all men; He is the way, the truth, and the life. So, we are alienated from the life of God. We need the life from Jesus in order to have eternal life.
Romans 5:12, “… through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men,” talking about spiritual death.
1 Corinthians 15:22 says it more succinctly, “For as in Adam all die …”
Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
We are under the penalty of death—we’re born spiritually dead—and unless we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as we saw in John 3:18, we are condemned. Something has to happen.
Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “… unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
This becomes the condition. Being born again is directly related in passages like John 3:16, John 3:18, John 3:36, to believing that Christ is the Messiah and that He died on the Cross for our sins.
When that takes place, Paul describes in Ephesians 2:5 as being “made alive together with Christ.” He attributes this to the ultimate cause is God’s mercy and God’s love.
Ephesians 2:4–5, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us … made us alive together with Christ.”
You were not saved because you believe. You are not regenerated because you believe. You cannot regenerate yourself. I cannot regenerate myself. I can’t say, “I’m going to be born again.”
John 1:12–13 states it this way, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who—those who believe in His name—who were born—that tells us that believing in His name, we’re born—who were born, not of blood …” That means it doesn’t relate to their physical genetic descent. It’s not because you’re Jewish. That was one way in which the Jews thought that they were born again at this time.
“… not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh …” In other words, it’s not your will or the will of man—the will of the human race; it’s not of the will of the flesh.
You can’t, as a spiritually dead person, will yourself to be born again. Neither can the human race create a corporate will that causes regeneration. Only God. God is the One who regenerates us. How does that happen?
Adam was created with three components:
- A physical body
- An immaterial soul
- An immaterial spirit.
There’s debate by theologians as to whether man is composed of three parts or two parts. Three parts is a trichotomy; two parts a dichotomy. Dichotomy doesn’t refer to body and soul. Dichotomy refers to just an immaterial nature and a material nature. That is how theologians have defined it for thousands of years.
The makeup of all human beings:
We have a human body and a human soul. This is clear from two passages in Scripture, and you can’t refute these. Even though some of these words may overlap in some passages and may seem synonymous in other passages, it’s clear from 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12 that they are three distinct elements in what makes a human being.
1 Thessalonians 5:23, we are comprised of “spirit, soul, and body.” Hebrews 4:12 says that the word of God being living and powerful is able to pierce and divide “soul and spirit,” so it’s used metaphorically. The Word of God distinguishes between soul and spirit.
When Adam, sinned he died, not physically, but he died spiritually.
I have put together this slide to indicate the three parts.
You have a human body, and you have a soul comprised self-consciousness, mentality, a conscience, and volition. This makes up who we are, and each component intersects with the other components, but they are the three separate components.
Then there’s another immaterial element represented by this all-encompassing circle that is the human spirit. The human spirit allows all of the components of our soul to relate to God; with our:
- Self-consciousness: we can relate to God in terms of God-consciousness
- Mentality: we can think God’s thoughts after Him
- Conscience: we have the values and standards of God
- Volition: we choose to follow God and not our own sin nature
When Adam chose to eat of the fruit and Eve before him, they lost that human spirit. It died. They no longer could relate to God through their soul.
But when they responded to the gospel, they were regenerated; they got this new human spirit. They were born again, they had new life, and they were now able to relate to God. Without it man is spiritually dead, and he must regain a spirit to relate to God.
1 Corinthians 2:14 is always poorly translated. The New King James states, “But a natural man does not accept the things…”
In 1 Corinthians 2:9, “the things” always refers to that which is revealed by God, “the things of God” as opposed to “the things of man,” the things that God reveals.
The word for the natural man is PSUCHIKOS, from the Greek PSUCHE, which means soul. So it’s really the soulish man. He lacks spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the soulish man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” They’re appraised through His Spirit, the PSUCHIKOS.”
To confirm this, Jude 19 references unbelievers as “… the ones who cause divisions, worldly minded devoid of the Spirit.”
Again, a horrible translation. The word translated “worldly minded” is PSUCHIKOS, which means soulish.
The next phrase, “devoid of Spirit.” First of all, the Greek doesn’t capitalize words, so it’s interpretive to capitalize or not. If it’s capitalized, it’s the Holy Spirit. If it’s not capitalized, it’s the human spirit. It shouldn’t be capitalized because the phrase in the Greek just means “not having spirit.”
A soulish man is someone who has body and soul, no human spirit. That’s confirmed by Jude 19 which says that the soulish person does not have spirit. The only way to recover is to trust in God who regenerates us, gives us a human spirit, so that we can relate to Him. Notice it’s always related to God’s mercy! Always! Look at these passages.
Ephesians 2:4, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us—His great mercy.”
What does He do? Ephesians 2:5 states that “He made us alive together with Christ.” It comes from His mercy and His love.
Titus 3:5, “… not by works of righteousness which we have done—we can’t do anything. We can’t ever be good enough—but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration.”
That should be translated “even the renewing of the Holy Spirit.” The written phrase “renewing of the Holy Spirit” is an appositional explanation of regeneration, it is renewal by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit regenerates us.
The same emphasis in 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy—again—has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
In each of these passages, when it comes to this first work of God the Holy Spirit for the believer, it is due to the mercy and love of God. We respond in faith, which is non-meritorious, and God causes us to be born again—He regenerates us through giving us a human spirit.
Unlike Adam, we weren’t born with one, we didn’t lose one so we’re just born spiritually dead—absent the human spirit. God then generates that at the time that we trust in Christ as Savior.
There are several other things that are part of the ministries of God the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer today. The next is critical to understand, and that is the “Baptism by the Holy Spirit,” which we will begin next time.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity that we can come together and see all the incredible ways in which You work in people’s lives: first, to bring us to salvation, and second, to give us new life in Christ, and so much more. As the writer to the Ephesians says we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, and these describe just a few of those blessings.
“Father, we pray that if anyone here listening today or anyone listening online, now or in the future, that they would come to understand that salvation is very simple. That Christ came to give us eternal life, and first, He had to die on the Cross for our sins that we might have everlasting life.
“We are to believe in Him, as John says again and again and again. That in not believing in Him, we stay condemned. When we believe in Him, we are no longer condemned, but we have everlasting life. We have hope, a living hope, looking forward to our future with You in heaven. And we cannot even imagine all the things that we will be doing once that occurs.
“Father, we pray that You would make that clear to anyone listening. That if they are not saved, they will know exactly how to be saved. And for those who are saved, they will have a better understanding of their salvation. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”