July 9, 2023


Passage: John 16:5-15

A beautiful picture of the Holy Trinity emerges from the upper room discourse in John’s Gospel (ref. John 16:5-15).  There the one true and living God speaks to His disciples of the mystery of the Trinity.  Each person of the Godhead is identified.

The Father, “immortal, invisible, God only wise” (Walter Chalmer Smith), sits immovable upon the throne of the universe, His permanent place of glory and sovereignty soon to be revisited by the Son.  The Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, “in [whom] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9), has made God manifest and is making His way to the cross, the tomb, the resurrection, and His ascended reunion with the Father.  Then the Son will give way to the Spirit, “the Helper” (Paraclete), “the Spirit of truth,” the Holy Spirit, to be the gatherer, guide, and guardian to the new Christian community.

We pray, “God save us!”  We preach, “Jesus saves!”  But practically and operationally, it is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, who delivers the goods in salvation.  He is the cause of our justification by grace through faith and repentance.  He the effect of our sanctification though His indwelling presence and the word of God He inspired.  And, He guarantees our glorification by making sure we are signed, sealed, and eventually delivered to God in Heaven.

Today we want to examine the first phase of what the Holy Spirit does to save us, namely justification.  This is the moment we are “born again” (ref. John 3), declared righteous before God (ref. 2 Corinthians 5:21), forgiven of all of our sins (ref. 1 John 2:12), and enter into everlasting life (ref. John 3:16).  Justification, like the ensuing sanctification and glorification, is wrought by the Holy Spirit, and He does it in two broad strokes.

The Holy Spirit Convicts

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.
— John 16:8, ESV

A person with deadly cancer will not survive without some great physicians.  A general practitioner identifies the signs or symptoms.  A radiologist finds it on a scan or x-ray.  An oncologist administers chemo or other therapy to shrink and dissipate the tumor.  A surgeon cuts into the patient and removes it altogether.

The Holy Spirit is the Great Physician, a term generally reserved for God.  But remember, the Holy Spirit is God and God is the Holy Spirit, one in three, three in one, blessed Holy Trinity.  While the Father may be CEO of the hospital named after the Son, it is the Holy Spirit who specializes in soul-saving operations on sinners.  Unless the Holy Spirit cuts with conviction, a person will never be saved.

Man in his natural state, the state of lostness, does not want to be cut, he would rather just keep his cancer.  All of the human race are like the people Stephen preached to in Jerusalem, “You stiff-necked people … you always resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:21).  Ultimately no one can resist the grace of God, but apart from grace every one of us will resist the Holy Spirit.

We resist Him by thinking our sin is not a serious matter.  I knew a career missionary in Japan who told me evangelism is hard sledding there.  The main reason is that their common word for “sin” refers only to serious and heinous crimes.  If you haven’t committed one of those, you are not a sinner.  So thinks almost every lost person in the world.  They lack conviction, Holy Spirit conviction, of their multitude of sins, only one of which is serious enough to separate them from God.

We resist Him by thinking wrongly about righteousness.  Most people think, if there is a God, they are alright with Him because they are good people.  They are wrong (ref. Romans 3:10) and unrighteous (Isaiah 64:6).  They are trusting in the wrong person, themselves, instead of God, or perhaps practicing the wrong religion.  They lack conviction, Holy Spirit conviction, of what righteousness really is.

We resist Him by thinking there will be no judgment.  Modern man has made modern god in his own image, and this god does not judge.  People live any way we please on earth, and predict Heaven is an inclusive place welcoming every stripe of sinner, any or no religious affiliation, and devoid of any great white throne of judgement.

But you know different when the Holy Spirit confronts you with deep conviction.  You feel different when the Great Physician cuts you to the heart.  Like Bryan Adams sang, “It cuts like a knife, but it feels so right.”

The Holy Spirit convicts you of a right understanding of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  When He operates, you are under no anesthesia and no delusions.  You are fully aware, wide awake, quickened, you might say, of three things according to Scripture.

“Sin” is revealed in you, you freely confess and are fully forgiven!  “Righteousness” appears, not in what you’ve done for God, but in what God has done for you at the cross of Jesus Christ!  “Judgment” may loom for the sinner in the hands of an angry God (Jonathan Edwards), but not for you, for the conviction of the Holy Spirit has come not to send you to prison but to set you free!

This is the moment in your life “when the grace of God appears” (ref. Titus 3:4).  This is when the Great Physician makes His surgical cut.  This is when the Holy Spirit convicts.  Then, with the second stroke, the Holy Spirit converts.

The Holy Spirit Converts

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
— Titus 3:5, ESV

Make no mistake about it, man cannot save himself.  Christians know “He saved us.”  We do the sinning, He does the saving.  And He is God, the Father who ordained salvation, the Son who accomplished salvation, and the Holy Spirit who administered salvation by “the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

“The washing” is the removal and forgiveness of sin, and it is permanent.  Yes, sin will re-enter the life of a saved person, but it will no longer stain, remain, and separate you from God.  “Regeneration and renewal” speaks of the new birth (ref. John 3), a resurrection from the dead (ref. Ephesians 2:1ff), inputed righteousness (ref. 2 Corinthians 5:21), a living, breathing, child of God, who can no longer die (ref. John 11:25).  All of this great salvation, this convicting and converting, is done “by the Holy Spirit.”

Now you must see, “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (ref. Jonah 2:9).  It is all God’s work.  It is the Father who saves, chooses, adopts.  It is the Son who saves, having died to conquer death and rose again to give life, whose very blood washes away our every sin (ref. 1 John 1:7).  It is the Holy Spirit who saves, with conviction and conversion.

Surely we must do something, right?  You heard the Philippian jailer ask, “What must I do to be saved” (ref. Acts 16:30)?  Did not Paul answer the jailer and tell him he must “believe” in the gospel of Jesus Christ (ref. Acts 16:31)?  You heard Jesus say we must “repent” (ref. Matthew 3:2, 4:17; Luke 13:3-5) in order to enter the kingdom of God.  Surely we must repent and believe.

Here is a mystery perhaps second only to the Trinity.  You must repent, turn from sin and self, turn yourself completely over to God, to be saved.  You must believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, fully trusting in Him, to be saved.  You must repent and believe.

But, you can’t, because these are spiritual matters and you are spiritually dead (ref. Ephesians 2:1).  You cannot repent and you cannot believe, until the irresistible grace of God dawns on you through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  When the Holy Spirit comes to convict and convert, He brings into your life two soul-saving gifts: faith (ref. Ephesians 2:9; 2 Peter 1:2) and repentance (ref. Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25).  With this grace you turn and trust, and by this grace you are saved, by God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Helper’s Helpers

Justification that brings you into salvation is a monergistic work of God.  This means God did it, you did not.  God did it, through the convicting and converting presence and power of The Holy Spirit.  You did not even help, not one little bit.  But now, God calls upon you to help, to help others to experience justification through the Holy Spirit.

When God saved you, the Holy Spirit did it, but He arrived wearing someone else’s clothes.  It may have been a parent, a pastor, or personal friend, or a perfect stranger.  The clothes he was wearing are called grace and mercy.  The words he spoke were the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This person prayed for you, witnessed to you, and most likely accompanied you to the public worship of God.  Through these means of grace, through at least one Spirit-filled Christian, through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, you were convicted and converted, justified, saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

So let us be helpers for the Helper, the Holy Spirit.  Pray people, pray.  Pray for souls to be saved.  Worship, every Lord’s Day, with a church centered on God, the word of God, and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and invite the lost and unchurched to join you.  Share your testimony, share a Bible, share a ride to Bible study or worship, share a meal, share by any means possible so that you may be a means of grace to bring justification to another soul.

Then that soul can sing, to the tune of the Holy Spirit, along with you, along with the Apostle Paul, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (ref. Romans 5:1).

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