What the Bible says about
Gift of God's Holy Spirit
(From Forerunner Commentary)
This does not contradict Deuteronomy 30:6, where it is said that "the LORD your God will circumcise your heart." It is instead a clarification. The changing, the growing, the overcoming, the transformation of the heart, the writing of the laws on the heart, is cooperative. God does His part; we do our part. If God would do everything, then what would be the need of removing the fault? Why do it? God removes the fault so that we can do our part! It is a cooperative effort.
How does God do His part? He calls us and gives us His Spirit. As John 14 tells us, the Spirit shall be with you and in you. The goodness of God by His Spirit leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). So God calls and opens up the mind, working with us by His Spirit in a way that He never did before. He makes things mean more to us in a far deeper and more meaningful way. He provides us with greater understanding and more passion so we desire to yield to Him. He begins His miraculous work of changing our hearts.
What remains to be seen is what will we do with this altered situation? He does His part by giving us knowledge and increasing our faith. He reveals to us the true Christ, His law, and what the purpose of life is. He spurs an interest in His Word that we never had before. What are we going to do? We must respond. As we respond, changes begin to take place.
Sometimes, Israel's attitude toward God was good, and He delighted in it. However, they could never sustain it. In the book of Judges, when Israel had an outstanding leader like Gideon, things went along smoothly for a good while. But Gideon died, and the country went downhill. God had to raise up another leader. Such is the gist of the historical relationship between God and Israel.
We have had relationships with people that were similar—good for a little while, bad for a long while, good for a little while, bad for a long while. However, God does not want to marry someone about whom He must always worry whether or not He must fight with them. He wants to have a marriage with someone like Him—who thinks as He does, whom He can really be "one" with. He does not want a relationship that is "hot" one minute and "cold" the next, nor one in which the couple throws their arms around each other and everything is warm and fuzzy, but in an instant, one is giving the other the cold shoulder.
That is the kind of relationship He had with Israel. He does not want that kind of a relationship with the "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). Thus, there must be a cooperative effort between God and the believer to change our hearts.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twelve)
The word “heart” is important in relation to one's treasure. The Bible says a great deal about the heart, using the term 830 times. Only rarely does Scripture mention the heart as a sustainer of physical life, while referring to it frequently to express traits of what it means to be human. In most cases, what it says about the human heart is not encouraging.
God states this truth in Jeremiah 17:9-10: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of His doing.” This description of unconverted, carnal man does not place humanity in a good light. Solomon urges, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Keep possesses the sense of “guard” and “preserve.” We must understand that the heart describes or exposes human character and personality.
Scripture often uses the heart to define what in a person's personality sets him or her apart as different from others. An unconverted person who is therefore not dedicated to God may be said to have an uncircumcised heart. Others may be described as having an evil heart or a humble heart. Ezekiel describes the process of conversion as a person transforming his heart from one of stone to one of flesh. There are frequent calls for us to seek God with all our heart. In Psalm 131:1, the psalmist claims that his heart is not proud.
In addition, the Bible uses the heart to express human emotion. In Exodus 4:14, Aaron's heart overflows with joy when he sees Moses. Leviticus 19:17 warns us not to hate our brother in our heart. Deuteronomy 1:28 speaks of fear as motivating a loss of heart, while Psalm 27:3 illustrates courage as a product of the heart. Elsewhere in Scripture, we find that despair, sadness, trust, and anger also come from the heart.
In Matthew 15:19-20, Jesus clarifies a major teaching about human conduct:
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things, which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.
He pinpoints the human heart as a primary motivator of sinful behaviors that we witness in others and, more importantly, carry out ourselves. As the many examples imply, “the heart” is not the literal, fleshly muscle pumping blood, and thus life, through our bodies, but the symbolic representation of a person's entire inner being. In Matthew 15:19-20, none of the behaviors is commendable conduct because those to whom Jesus refers are unconverted, sinful men.
The above examples testify to the uncontrolled and potentially damaging uses of the emotional powers God created us to possess. The flip-side of this is that through God's calling, the receipt of His Holy Spirit, and conversion, the heart can be brought under control. The heart's inclinations to motivate conduct can be changed, transformed to produce the good conduct God intends.
Be aware that what motivates conduct can be changed in either direction. If allowed, treasure can easily motivate humans into strenuous activity to possess it. We must take Jesus' caution in verse 21 seriously: Our heart will follow the treasure to possess it. His words are a firm warning to make sure our treasure is God-approved.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Five)
Christ had not yet built the church of God when this episode took place, though its formation had begun in that it had its Head, who had chosen and begun preparing a number of trainees, including the twelve apostles, to become part of it. Another year or two would pass before it would be prepared to begin carrying out its responsibility to preach the gospel to the world.
The epistle to the Hebrews did not exist when Jesus suffered a horrific beating and then was mercilessly crucified. Nor did it exist seven weeks later when Jews from all over the Mediterranean observed Pentecost in Jerusalem, and God gave a highly visible and audible demonstration of His awareness of this massive injustice while giving His Holy Spirit to those already loyal to our Savior.
The church did not officially exist until this last act, as God connected each of His chosen children with a truly holy, spiritual bond. Only then did the apostles and others began to fulfill their assignments from Jesus of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the people of Jerusalem. Then the church began to grow significantly in purpose, numbers, and unity.
On that Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2:40-41, “with many other words [Peter] testified and exhorted them, saying, 'Be saved from this perverse generation.' Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” After God healed a man's crippling affliction at the Temple, one he had suffered since birth, Acts 4:4 reports, “many of those who heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.” In Acts 6:1, Luke writes that the number of disciples within the church was multiplying, and the internal organization to care for the brethren was taking shape. The church, with a dramatic growth spurt, was actively coming into being, demonstrating to the unconverted Jews that it was a spiritual force to be reckoned with.
All this vital activity within the tiny organization named “the church of God” took place within about six months and changed the course of world history. It all occurred within a small, second-rate province of the mighty Roman Empire. Considering this thin slice of history, we know that the Creator God engineered this spiritual activity as He moved to reveal His creative purposes to more than just a few Jews within the Jerusalem area.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Four)
This context actually begins back in verse 5 with a story about a man going to another person's house, knocking, knocking, and knocking on the door, but the man asleep inside does not want to get out of bed. We often think that the lesson we are to glean from this is to be persistent with God. However, that is not the lesson in this particular story.
The lesson is the contrast between the churlish man, who had to be forced out of bed to give his friend some help, and God, who readily gives the anointing of His Holy Spirit. A person does not have to beg God to receive His Holy Spirit from Him! He wants to give that to us! It is the one thing that He wants above all other things to give to us, and we do not have to beg Him for it.
Jesus is not saying that we should not be persistent when going before God. Certainly, we should be courteously persistent, but that is not the lesson here (it is, however, the lesson in Luke 18:1-8). Luke 11 teaches that one need not beg God for His Holy Spirit. He will give it to us generously, all that we need, to get us through every single day. He will anoint us with it!
We need to ask Him for it, because it is what will make the day worthwhile. It will smooth out all the irritations and aggravations—the metaphorical flies that buzz around our head every day. Each of them may be capable of leading us to commit spiritual suicide—should a sin grow into something more dangerous.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part 3)
1 Corinthians 9:19-22
Paul mentions five times here that he is trying to “win” different people, and in verse 22, he writes that he is trying to “save some.” This passage is commonly interpreted that Paul would present himself differently in various circumstances to win people for Christ; he became all things to all men in order to “save” at least some of them. This interpretation fits the general evangelical belief that Christians should do whatever is necessary to “win souls for Christ” and to get all manner of people “saved” before they die.
However, if that is what this passage means, then holy Scripture is broken (see John 10:35)! Such a reading contradicts numerous other clear biblical statements. For example, in John 6:44, Jesus says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” A little later in John 6:65, He reiterates this: “. . . no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” Without the Father providing an individual an approach to Christ, he cannot come to Him for salvation. The Father must intervene first—human intervention makes no difference.
Acts 13 contains the story of Paul and Barnabas preaching to Gentiles in Antioch. Luke writes in verse 48: “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Even though the apostles preached to many, only certain people believed what they heard because only they had been appointed to eternal life.
John 17:3 provides a basic definition of the eternal life to which some were appointed: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Eternal life, then, is not merely endless living, but is the quality of life that comes from having relationships with the Father and the Son—and only the Father determines who will have such relationships during this age. Those who are not appointed to eternal life now will have their opportunity in the second resurrection.
This parallels Paul's statement in Ephesians 2:8 that grace and saving faith are both gifts from God. He is not beholden to give the faith that saves—that is why it comes as a gift only to some. In fact, in II Thessalonians 3:2, the apostle says that “not all [people] have faith.” An interlinear Bible will show that the Greek contains a definite article—“the”—before “faith”: “not all have the faith.” There is a specific faith, but only those to whom God gives it have it.
Jesus declares, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Claiming Jesus as our Lord has no effect if He does not know us (verse 23), and as John 6:44 shows, the Father determines whether a person can even approach Jesus Christ.
In Acts 2:38, Peter speaks about receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then he says, “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (verse 39). But without that calling, the promise does not apply. Many verses mention God's specific foreknowledge, calling, and election of some and not others (Acts 13:2; 22:14; Romans 1:6-7; 8:28-30; 9:11; 11:2; 16:13; I Corinthians 1:9; 1:24-28; Galatians 1:6; 5:8; Ephesians 1:4; 4:1; Colossians 3:15; I Thessalonians 1:4; 2:12; 4:7; 5:24; II Thessalonians 1:11; 2:13-14; I Timothy 6:12; II Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 3:1; 9:15; I Peter 1:2; 2:9; 5:10; II Peter 1:10; Jude 1; Revelation 17:14). Clearly, God has specifically determined who will come into a relationship with Him during this age—and it is not everyone! The rest will have this opportunity in the resurrection.
If the scriptures are to remain unbroken, either all of these examples of God limiting salvation right now are wrong, or the common interpretation of I Corinthians 9:19-22 misses the mark!
David C. Grabbe
Can We Win People For Christ?
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