This is the latest in a series of essays on the topic of baptism. You can find links to the previous articles at the bottom of this page.
Thank you for returning to what I hope will be my last essay on the topic of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Yikes, this has taken a long time! Somewhat contrary to my original plan, I have decided to focus on what exactly the Spirit does in the life of the believer and then use that information to determine exactly who receives the Spirit. Let me restate that in my opinion, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is simply the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of a regenerate believer. I also hold that while the Spirit has been equally active in both the Old and New Testament periods, there have been some differences in how He operates, namely that things are now more internal and less external. The Old Testament saints therefore experienced some of the benefits that we enjoy today, but not all of them. They certainly received all that was necessary for salvation, and the biggest difference we see in this regard is not between the Old Testament saints and the New Testaments ones, but between those who are made regenerate by the Spirit and those who are not. Having reviewed all those points, let us continue.
The first action that the Holy Spirit performs in the lives of those who have been chosen by God is to regenerate their spirit. This means that the soul that was bound to the desires of the flesh is now free to follow the commands of God. It is a spiritual resurrection that we must undergo as part of our union with Christ. We cannot be saved without it, nor can we grow in sanctification. There are two passages that give particularly excellent summaries of this work of the Spirit.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:4-6 (emphasis added)
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:1-7 (emphasis added)
This regeneration requires an internal working of the Spirit. Every person among God’s Elect since the dawn of time has undergone regeneration, whether they lived before or after the earthly ministry of Christ. In this respect, there is no difference between the Spirit’s work in the Old and New Testaments. However, I would not equate regeneration with a permanent indwelling of the Spirit, as evidenced by the fact that Old Testament saints could and did have the Spirit taken away from them. It is also made explicit that only certain individuals had the Spirit placed on them, as I discussed in a previous essay in this same series. Let us therefore continue and consider other works of the Spirit.
Most of us are familiar with the role that physical circumcision played in those who were physical descendants of Abraham. Scripture also talks about a circumcision of the heart. This is a much more complex issue. Who receives this spiritual circumcision and what exactly does it entail? Well, I can tell you that it was first declared to the nation of Israel as they prepared to enter the Promised Land.
Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the Lord set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.
Deuteronomy 10:12-16 (emphasis added)
There are a few things we should note about this passage. The first is the context. God has just revealed the Law of Moses to the people of Israel. He is commanding them to follow it to the letter, and above all else to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Now, we know that none of those people had it within themselves to keep the whole Law. All of them broke its commands at one point or another. Even so, the Lord says that He has chosen them as His people, and He commands them to circumcise their hearts and not stiffen their necks. To stiffen one’s neck was to rebel against God’s command. The evidence suggests that the circumcision of the heart was the exact opposite: it allowed a person to follow the Law. But could the people actually circumcise their own hearts? No. Not any more than we can achieve our own salvation today. God knew when He spoke those words that the people would fail to keep the command. That is why, later in the same book, He foresaw a day when they would reap the curses of breaking the covenant.
So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. The Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. The Lord your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. And you shall again obey the Lord, and observe all His commandments which I command you today. Then the Lord your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the Lord will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; if you obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.
Deuteronomy 30:1-10 (emphasis added)
Here the Lord says that the people will be sent into Exile due to their covenant disobedience. They will reap the curses He has described. However, He will not completely abandon them. He will restore them to the land. We know from reading the later prophetic books that this promise applied to a remnant of Judah. The tribes of Israel were completely lost. The Lord says of this remnant that He will circumcise their hearts to keep the Law. Notice the difference from the previous passage. Whereas the people had been commanded earlier to circumcise their own hearts, God says here that it will be necessary for Him to circumcise their hearts. All these words were spoken before the people of Israel entered the Promised Land. Hundreds of years later, we see that they had most certainly failed to circumcise their own hearts and keep God’s Law.
For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem,
‘Break up your fallow ground,
And do not sow among thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the Lord
And remove the foreskins of your heart,
Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
Or else My wrath will go forth like fire
And burn with none to quench it,
Because of the evil of your deeds.’
These verses demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that physical circumcision does not automatically lead to spiritual circumcision. If a descendant of Abraham who was not circumcised in the flesh was cut off from that covenant of circumcision (Genesis 17:14), how much more were those who were not circumcised in their hearts cut off from the blessing of the Lord? It was of these people that God said “My wrath will go forth like fire / And burn with none to quench it, / Because of the evil of your deeds”. (Jeremiah 4:4b)
This brings us to a very important passage in the book of Jeremiah. Having demonstrated conclusively that the people of Israel had violated the Mosaic Covenant, were not capable of circumcising their own hearts (and thus incapable of fulfilling God’s Law), and were fully deserving of the covenant curses, the Lord announces that He will make a new covenant unlike the one given to Moses. “‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’” (Jeremiah 31:33) I believe that this action of writing His law on the hearts of His people is one and the same with the circumcision of the heart. Both have the same stated effect: they enable people to keep God’s commands and to truly know Him. Consider what the Apostle Paul had to say about those who are circumcised in the flesh and circumcised in their hearts.
For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
Romans 2:25-29 (emphasis added)
Here Paul makes the distinction between outward circumcision and inward circumcision. The former was associated with Abraham’s physical posterity, who were brought under the Mosaic Covenant. The latter is associated with his spiritual posterity, who are under the New Covenant. Certainly, some people have historically fallen into both categories. However, with Christ’s fulfillment of the Mosaic Law, the true people of God are not the physical nation of Israel, but rather the Elect of all nations that God has called to Himself. These are the people who have been circumcised in their hearts, “by the Spirit, not by the letter”.
In fact, the Apostle Paul went so far as to say in his letter to the church in Philippi that those who were attempting to justify themselves according to physical circumcision were in fact a false circumcision. “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:2-4a) Who performs this circumcision of the heart? The Spirit of God. Therefore, only those who have been made regenerate by the Spirit and had the Law of God written on their hearts can keep the commands of God. That is the inward circumcision.
In addition to regenerating those who are chosen by God and circumcising their hearts, the Holy Spirit also allows us to make a confession of our faith. Such a confession serves as partial proof that we have the Spirit within us. Consider what the Apostle John wrote. “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” (1 John 4:2-3) Much of John’s first epistle was spent pointing out the ways that a person can be assured of their salvation, and a true testimony of faith serves as one such marker. Only a person who has the Spirit can truly confess their faith in Christ and belief in His teachings.
Many people prefer not to focus on confessions as proof of actual faith. The reason is obvious: people often lie to themselves and others. They can have a false sense of assurance. I do not deny that such cases exist. Therefore, we must look not only for a confession of faith, but also for signs of spiritual fruit in a person’s life. However, I do not want to deny the importance of testimony, because scripture does not deny it. Paul said, “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3) A true confession of Christ can only occur by the power of the Spirit: one that is not merely words, but matched by the inward circumcision.
For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down), or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).’ But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
Romans 10:5-10 (emphasis added)
This is the confession that occurs under the power of the Spirit. It is not merely a mental assent, but also involves the heart. Only a truly regenerate person can make such a confession. If you are attempting to evaluate whether someone is a Christian, do not simply listen to their words: look for the fruit of the Spirit. Look for signs that their heart is on the same page as their head. The Apostle Paul tells us that when the Spirit regenerates a person and circumcises their heart, they are able to confess Christ. That is what truly saves.
Some of the aspects of the Spirit’s work that I have already discussed, such as regeneration and circumcision of the heart, certainly occurred among believers in the Old Testament. If that was not the case, then there would have been no possibility of salvation for anyone. Nevertheless, I would argue that there are other aspects of the Spirit’s work that are somewhat different following Pentecost. One such aspect is our communion with the Triune God. By no means would I suggest that Old Testament saints had no communion with God! However, I do believe that they experienced God in a more external manner. The presence of the Lord could be seen visibly inhabiting the Temple, leading them in a pillar of fire, etc. The system of worship was much more elaborate and included numerous typological elements. Had I lived at that time, I would have always needed a priest to mediate between me and God.
Now that every child of God is directly indwelt by the Spirit, we do not need a new mediator. Christ is our mediator. (This concept is developed extensively in the book of Hebrews.) We do not need to go to a temple to worship God, for we ourselves are His temple. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) It is the Spirit dwelling in us that allows us to commune with God even more closely than we would with an earthly father. “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:6-7) The picture Paul gives us here is one of very intimate communion that is brought about by the indwelling of the Spirit in our hearts. We see in the following passage how the Spirit brings us into communion with all three Persons of the Trinity, as well as the Body of Christ.
And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:17-22 (emphasis added)
The indwelling of the Spirit gives us a level of communion with God that is even greater than what the Old Testament patriarchs experienced. Not only that, but it also allows us to have communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ: the other members of God’s household. That is a great comfort, and it is all the result of the baptism of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the very breath of God that gave voice to the prophets and through which the scriptures were written. Thus, the Spirit has always been revealing the truth of God to men. However, I think that the degree to which the Spirit shows us God’s truth has only increased since Pentecost. This work of the Spirit is typically known as illumination. At the Last Supper, Christ told His disciples that the Spirit that was about to come would reveal the truth to them.
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.
You see, one aspect of our communion with God that is brought about by the indwelling Spirit is that we receive a greater knowledge than we would otherwise enjoy. This is not some kind of special program where you have to climb the rungs of the ladder and receive more and more secret knowledge. It is freely available to every person to whom God chooses to grant His Spirit. Part of the lifelong process of sanctification should involve an increase in our knowledge of God, not in regard to the hidden aspects of His nature, but rather the things that have already been revealed. Remember, many people saw Christ in the flesh and heard His words, but only those who had the Spirit could truly understand what was being said. The Apostle Paul explains to us that the Spirit leads us to comprehend and accept the things of God: things that were hidden from previous generations.
Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written,
‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.’
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural 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. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (emphasis added)
The chief way in which the indwelling Spirit illumines us is not by giving us some new revelation from God, but merely demonstrating to us the truth that has already been revealed. This is an important distinction. The Word of God that we have received is sufficient for our spiritual needs. It is only necessary to interpret and apply the scriptures in a proper manner. I have no doubt that the Spirit worked in such a way in the distant past, but Paul makes it sound as though this illumination has only increased in the present age.
Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 1:25-2:3 (emphasis added)
Based on this passage, I believe that the “mystery” of which Paul speaks has two different aspects. First, the Gentiles have received the gospel and become part of the people of God, which most Israelites in the Old Testament would not have predicted. Second, we have Christ within us. We have direct internal communion with God. We do not need another mediator. In this union with Christ and working of the Spirit, Paul tells us we have access to “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. That is the work of illumination.
We have now reached the point at which many modern Christians prefer to camp: spiritual gifts. The basic concept here is that God has given to every Christian certain gifts for the benefit of the Church. This concept is first mentioned explicitly in the Pauline Epistles, so it seems to be more of a New Testament phenomenon. While these gifts are certainly important and worthy of study, the whole issue has become rather bogged down in a debate over whether the more “prophetic” gifts – speaking in tongues, prophesy, and miraculous healing – are still being granted and exercised today. Because of this debate, some who believe the prophetic gifts have ceased may be wary of discussing spiritual gifts at all, while those who believe they have continued may obsess over these things. Both are incorrect responses. Let’s see what the Apostle Paul has to say about spiritual gifts.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
I really should spend some time unpacking all of this, but I’m not going to, as I feel it would do little to aid the overall force of my argument. Suffice it to say, everyone who is indwelt by the Spirit has gifts that can be used for the benefit of the Church. I am not going to get into the weeds of discussing who can receive which gifts at this point.
Here we come to a very important work of the Spirit, and one that is critical in our understanding of both the baptism of the Holy Spirit and water baptism. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit serves as proof that we are in Christ, we are children of God, and we have been redeemed. When he discusses the seal that God has placed upon us, Paul does not appeal to the sacraments. He appeals to the Holy Spirit. “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
This is hardly the only occasion on which Paul speaks of the Spirit as a seal or a pledge. In that same letter to the Ephesians, Paul said, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (4:30) To the Corinthians he wrote, “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge,” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22) and again he said, “Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.” (2 Corinthians 5:5) Are you noticing a pattern? Many in Presbyterian and Reformed denominations will speak of signs and seals of the New Covenant, and they are right to do so. However, we must not confuse signs, which point to something greater, with seals, which serve as proof of something that actually exists. Water baptism is a sign. The Spirit is our seal, as scripture teaches. Look again at how Paul characterizes the indwelling of the Spirit.
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you…For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Romans 8:9-11, 14-17 (emphasis added)
Paul is crystal clear: if you do not have the Spirit, you do not belong to Christ. Only the Spirit can regenerate you. Only the Spirit makes you a child of God. If you do not have the Spirit, you cannot do works of righteousness. You are not among the redeemed. You are not an heir to the inheritance that was earned by Christ. You will not experience the true resurrection.
That’s all very well, some people say, but even if the Spirit serves as proof that we belong to Christ, it is not possible to know that another person has the Spirit. We do not have “special goggles” that allow us to identify the regenerate and unregenerate. It may be possible for a person to have assurance of salvation in their own heart, but it is not possible for us to know that outwardly.
By no means am I denying that there are difficult cases where one cannot be certain if a person is regenerate. However, we must be careful how far we continue down this line. If you cannot possibly know if another person is regenerate, can they really know within their own heart if they are regenerate? If only they can know, then is this due to some mystical feeling that cannot be observed? Is that really a good basis for assurance?
You see, any line of thinking which suggests that it is not possible to be sure that a person has the Spirit is bound to chip away at assurance of salvation, the very thing that the Reformers fought so hard to regain. The fact of the matter is that we make assumptions all the time as to who is regenerate and who is not. Would you call a minister to your church who you did not believe to be regenerate? Would you marry someone who you thought was not regenerate? My suspicion is that such people either do believe in their heart of hearts that it is at least somewhat possible to determine such things, or they are taking an awfully big roll of the dice. The New Testament does not teach people to be perpetually concerned about whether or not they are children of God. It teaches that it is possible to know.
Consider the words of the Apostle John. In his first epistle, he points to multiple markers of a person’s regenerate status: confession of faith, love of the brethren, obedience to God’s commands, and perhaps most of all, the presence of the Spirit in a person’s life. “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” (1 John 3:23-24) He also wrote, “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” (1 John 4:13)
How do we identify the presence of the Spirit? By looking for signs of the things I have addressed in this article, and by consulting Paul’s list of the fruits of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) A person who is filled with the Spirit will be pursuing sanctification. They will be displaying many of these character qualities. They will not have reached perfection yet, but they will passionately desire to follow Christ and they will love His Church. The Spirit is the seal and pledge of our redemption in Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit we know that we are children of God.
So who is indwelt by the Spirit? The men and women who shows these signs. These are the people that God has chosen for Himself: the Elect predestined for salvation before the foundation of the world. The true Church consists of those who are indwelt by the Spirit. Others may walk among us. Indeed, they have since the very beginning. These people do not have the anointing of the Spirit, as John tells us. “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” (1 John 2:19-20) Therefore, the members of the true Church are those who fit the following description.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
Join me again for the next essay in this series, when I will consider what is meant by a baptism of suffering.
All scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright The Lockman Foundation.
Previous articles in this series:
#1 – Introduction (now somewhat dated)