WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TOWARD THE WORLD

CHAPTER  7

WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TOWARD THE WORLD

The closing ministry of the Lord Jesus before He went to Calvary (John 13-17) places great emphasis on the coming and work of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. We can understand this emphasis, because the Lord was now going back to the Father and His work was finished. Yet there remained a need for a Divine Person to continue and fulfill God?s eternal purpose. This emphasis shows us the important work that the Holy Spirit has to do in this day in which God?s gracious designs toward men are being fulfilled.

Acts 1:4 clearly states that the coming of the Holy Spirit was the promise of the Father; in this way the giving of the Spirit was linked with the purpose of God and the fulfillment of His precious promise. But it was the promise of the Father, because God intended to clearly display a Fatherly care for the welfare and progress of His children. We enjoy a new relationship with God through Christ, and the Holy Spirit sent into our hearts gives positive witness to that blessed fact Rom.8:15). In John 14:16, we read that the Lord would ask the Father, and He would give another Comforter. In 14:26 we read that the Father would send Him in the Lord?s Name. This coming of the Holy Spirit into the world fulfilled that promise. The Spirit came to form the Body of Christ and to give power for testimony for Christ. The Lord Jesus said in Luke 11:13 that the heavenly Father would give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him; that promise to the disciples was fulfilled when they received the Spirit at Pentecost.

 

CONVICTING WORK OF THE SPIRIT

We will consider first of all the work of the Holy Spirit with relation to the world. He has entered on a work of conviction according to John 16:8-11 in a three-fold way. It is not only His ministry in this world to convict of sin, righteousness and judgment. It is His presence in the world that provides unanswerable proof, giving a clear demonstration to the world in these three areas. In some ways we could say that the Lord Jesus, in His life and ministry on earth, convicted men of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He convicted men by His life as well as His words. The Holy Spirit, being on earth now, continues that work through which men are brought without excuse before God, either to be saved now or to be judged in a coming day. In one sense, these aspects of His coming involve His present ministry as well, dealing with man?s nature and character as an unbeliever, man?s deeds that are proven to be unrighteous, and man?s state as being under judgment in which he has been condemned already.

With regard to convicting the world of sin, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the world attests to the abject unbelief of the world. The Perfect Man has been on earth, the One Who manifested the works of God and spoke the truth to men. Men, through their unbelief, have rejected that Person and the presentation of truth in Him. In John 15:22-25, the Lord revealed that men have no excuse for their continued rebellion and hatred toward God since His coming, works, and words gave ample basis for them to believe. Their unbelief has left them with no covering for their sin. They hated Him without a cause. Since men have rejected the Lord Jesus through their unbelief, He was crucified and now has gone back to heaven; however, because of that unbelief, the Holy Spirit has come into the world. He is here because of that rejection, and His work is to bring conviction of sin in a way that man cannot answer or argue against. That work of conviction began in Peter?s preaching on Pentecost in Acts 2. Notice carefully the content of His message given in the power of the Holy Spirit. This was part of the witnessing and power which the Holy Spirit would give upon His coming (John 15:26-27Acts 1:8). Peter preached with powerful words and wonderful results. He charged that they had deliberately rejected the Lord Jesus despite the abundant evidence that should have provided grounds for them to believe (v.22). They had ?taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain? the One Whom they should have received. The Spirit of Truth drove home their awful guilt along with the testimony that ?God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ? (v.36). The reality of their unbelief was forced upon them with the sense of the resultant terrible consequences; this produced the cry that came from their hearts, ?What shall we do?? (v.37). The blessed result of that conviction was that about 3,000 souls were saved that day. We believe the Spirit?s conviction of sin will produce similar results today, though not necessarily in the same numbers.

Men are convicted of sin, and particularly that of unbelief, when the Spirit brings His convicting power to bear upon them. Some have said that in their experience of being convicted, God impressed them that they were refusing to believe the truth that He was showing them concerning salvation in Christ. The result was that they were overwhelmed to recognize that they were refusing to believe God. This conviction made them realize that in God?s sight they were indeed the worst of sinners.

 

We next read that the Holy Spirit by His coming would convict the world of Righteousness.This seems to link itself with the fact that the world crucified the Lord Jesus as if He were a sinner. They saw Him as an outcast, a malefactor (evil doer) and One  Who deservedly was dying under the judgment of God.His perfect righteousness was maligned and rejected when men said ?Away with Him,  crucify Him.? They said to Pilate,  ?If He  were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up unto thee? (John 18:30). The Holy Spirit has been sent into the world to vindicate Christ. He has been sent because God has highly exalted Him, having raised Him from the dead and given Him a place at His own right hand (Acts 2:33-35). He continues to demonstrate God?s complete approval in His Son. Even now, in His work that commenced on Pentecost, He convicts men clearly and with certain proofs to show Christ?s perfectly holy, sinless, and righteous life. His purpose is to draw men to Christ, and to cause them to realize that the death He died was not for His unrighteousness but for their salvation. Those who are never convicted and persuaded of this great fact in this life will realize it when the Lord comes and sits upon His throne in His glory. Christ will be exalted by the Spirit of God now in the hearts of believers or be exalted then in His judgment on sinners.

 

In the third place, the Spirit convicts of Judgment. Some quote this as ?judgment to come,? but that expression is found in Acts 24:25 when Paul was reasoning with Felix. This is a convicting work of a judgment that has already taken place, ?the prince of this world is (has been) judged? (John 16:11). The one who represents and controls the world system and was motivating men to reject and crucify the Saviour has been judged at the cross. What appeared to be a defeat for the Lord was actually a victory over Satan. In John 12:31-32 He said, ?Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all (men) unto me.? In the impending conflict of Calvary the Lord saw beyond it to the ultimate downfall and defeat of Satan. This was because it would be a judgment executed on this strong one who was keeping his subjects bound through fear of death  (Heb.2:15). The occasion when the world rejected their Saviour was used by God to defeat His enemy. We see some results of this victory as we recognize that the Spirit in the world gives evidence  that this  enemy  has  been  defeated  and that this judgment will one day be carried out. His being in the world shows that it is a world under judgment, since it is linked with a defeated head; He is moving in this scene to carry out the purposes of the Victor. These conditions are similar to those we read of in Gen.6:3 when in the days of Noah the Spirit was striving with men in a world already under judgment.  Christ defeated and judged Satan by entering into the sphere of death and seemingly becoming subject to its power; but in being raised up from among dead ones, He cast off death?s power and through it He showed His superiority to the tool by which Satan has kept his subjects in bondage. He now holds the keys of hell and death (Rev.1:18) as the victorious, risen, exalted Christ. The Spirit of God seeks to draw men to Him as their only Deliverer from the judgment which they also are identified with in a world headed by a rebellious leader.

The wise and careful preacher of the gospel will seek to use these three avenues to reach the will and conscience of the sinner. We do not need emotionalism and human reasoning, nor are those the means the Holy Spirit desires to use to bring conviction. What we need is to consciously wait on God to work, being exercised to maintain the conditions He requires so that we can be used of Him. As a result the powerful, convicting work of the Spirit will bring men to realize their need and deliver them through the grace of God in Christ. Natural means may produce professions and outward, apparent results, but we must labor with a sense of our responsibility toward God and a care for souls so that real deliverance might result through the work of the Holy Spirit.

RESTRAINING IN THE WORLD

We read of a restraining work which is presently being done with relation to the world in 2 Thess. 2:6-7. There are diverse opinions concerning the identity of the restrainer in this passage. All who identify this restrainer as anything less than a Person of the Godhead do not realize what is necessary to restrain Satan and the rising tide of evil in the world. The natural bent of the human heart expresses itself in evil. Increasing rebellion against God and Christ would be more evident were it not for this One Who restrains its activity. It seems clear that the Restrainer working in the world is the Holy Spirit. In this present period there is One through whom God is carrying out His work. He is the One Who is on earth to accomplish the purposes of God and bring them to fulfillment.

It could be suggested that this does not refer to the Holy Spirit alone, but the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believers and the assemblies in their testimony on earth. Perhaps Lot in Gen.19 is an example of this. God?s judgment could not fall on Sodom until that moment Lot was out of harm?s way and delivered into safety. In like manner, the Spirit was striving with men on the earth up to the day when Noah entered the ark, and until He entered the ark, the judgment of God could not fall. The presence of the Holy Spirit now is not only holding back the inevitable judgment ahead. He is also restraining the development of evil in an environment where the mystery of iniquity (lawlessness) is already working (II Thess.2:7-8). Until He is taken out of the way, removed from the scene, that Wicked One cannot be revealed who will come under the judgment of God and be destroyed. That one is identified with the coming apostasy (v.3), and he will surely represent the attitude of men toward God in that he will ascribe to himself the prerogatives of Deity, presenting himself as God before men (II Thess.2:4). Certainly  humanism and new age concepts are promoting a way of thinking in men?s minds so that they will readily accept the idea of a man rising to and presenting himself as God. This is the old lie of the devil from Gen.3:5 reaching its consummation and expression in the man of sin being revealed.  He is the lawless one who represents the spirit of the age embodied in a person and is the  culmination of a  spirit that  began in the  days of  the apostles (I John 2:18). What took place on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came into the world will be reversed. When the church is removed, the Spirit will be removed as well, and the evil one will be revealed.

We see that the Holy Spirit is working to restrain evil on the one hand and to convict men on the other. In the one case, He holds back what is contrary to God; in the other, He attracts and draws men toward what is according to God and is for their blessing. We are convinced that without these two activities, we would be in a most dreadful scene and state. But because of His powerful ministry, we have the most blessed privilege of moving in this world, representing our risen Lord, and enjoying power to witness for Him. We need to use every opportunity with wisdom, for while we have this privilege, we also have a responsibility before God and will have to give an account in a coming day. As well, the day of our service will shortly come to an end, so let us redeem the time for the days are few.

?Before Thy hands had made

The sun to rule the day,

Or earth?s foundation laid,

Or fashioned Adam?s clay,

What thoughts of peace and mercy flowed

In Thy great heart of love, O God!?

                           John Kent  (BHB 181)