3. The Holy Spirit in the early Epistles of the Apostle Paul
(written between 50-55 A.D.)
1 Thessalonians 1:4-7
4 knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. 5 For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake 6 And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.
In this written letter of Paul in the year 51 A.D., which was perhaps his earliest, he addresses the church leaders in Thessalonica as beloved brethren in the family of our Father in heaven, chosen and loved by God. Their election was obvious to Paul, for these new believers had not only accepted his preaching, but were also immediately blessed with great power and certainty in the Holy Spirit. At the same time, they were enriched by the example of the Lord Jesus and the lifestyle of Paul. In spite of trial and temptation, they kept the Word of Christ with great joy in the Holy Spirit. They became good examples for all of Greece.
1 Thessalonians 4:7-8
7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.
Paul commanded the church to avoid every from of immorality. Each was to live together with his wife in sanctification and honour, not in passionate lust, as practiced by some unbelievers (1 Thes. 4:2-5). Whoever has been received into the body of Christ has been called to abandon all impurity and practice holiness in his entire sexuality. Whoever thinks he can continue in immoral relationships just as before is sadly mistaken, for sexual impurity, in whatever form, amounts to a despising of God, who has sunk His Holy Spirit into our mortal bodies.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. 23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
In telegram-fashion the missionary to the nations communicated to the Thessalonians the self-evident truths of the Christian life. In spite of temptation and sadness, a joyous spirit belongs to this life, for Jesus lives and God is our Father! Thanksgiving tends to be a rather impoverished child among all of mankind, and needs to be practiced. The Triune-God awaits this gratitude from us. The gifts of His Spirit and His leading are not to be despised, hindered or silenced. Everything needs to be examined in light of the gospel, to prevent any false developments from sneaking in. Every form of evil is to be avoided, for the God of peace wants to sanctify us through and through, and prepare us for the arrival of Jesus Christ. His working in us is far greater than we imagine!
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote that he could do nothing other than thank God for the Thessalonians, for they had been the first ones in Macedonia and Achaia to grasp their being chosen for salvation. He thanked God for their progress in holiness through the Spirit of God, and that they remained firm in the correct faith. Paul called his own proclamation a gospel, which was being circulated even before the four gospel letters were written. Wherever he and his co-workers proclaimed the good news of salvation in Christ it always amounted to a gospel – a call to glorify Jesus Christ!
1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain – if indeed it was in vain? 5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
There had presumably appeared among the Galatians fanatical Jewish Christians out of Jewish centers. These pressured the new believers to be circumcised and to keep all 613 commands of Moses if they wanted to please God. In a holy rage, Paul asked the wavering new believers whether they would have received salvation through faith, or through their insufficient good works. By so speaking, he made salvation equal with the reception of the Holy Spirit. To help them come to true faith, he had made every effort to portray Jesus, the Crucified, before their eyes in words. They had begun their spiritual walk of faith well. On the basis of their faith, the Lord had given them the Spirit and begun to do marvellous works among them. Now, Paul was hammering into them: No salvation, no Spirit, except through faith in the Crucified One! Where salvation and the Spirit are realized, however, good deeds will appear as the fruit of faith. Backsliding into a spiritless, legalistic piety amounted to a despising of Christ and His free gift of salvation.
13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Paul helped the Galatians to understand the problem with the Law of Moses. The law itself is good and spiritual. But no man is good in himself or able to keep all the commands of the law. Whoever violates a command becomes a rebel against God and must suffer, since the law condemns and judges him. For the God-fearing, the law becomes a law of cursing, destroying the pride of every honest person.
But now, Christ has become a curse in the place of every sinner, since He took the sin of the world upon Himself, having been hanged in our place on the cursed tree. Therefore, the blessing promised to Abraham and His descendants was free to come upon all of heathen mankind who, for the sake of Jesus´death of atonement, receive the Holy Spirit when they bind themselves eternally to Christ.
4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Paul wanted to free the Galatians from staring at the Law of Moses. He showed them that Jesus, by being circumcised, had Himself come under the law. In so doing He could redeem all those suffering under the Law of Moses and its burden. The first thing God offered to those enslaved by the law was their adoption. Everyone who believes on Jesus Christ becomes, judicially speaking, a child of God. Yet this legal recognition only sets up the foundation of their salvation. The LORD desires to, as a second gift of grace, transform His adopted ones into real children of God. To do this, He sinks the Spirit of His Son into their hearts. This Spirit cries out: “Abba, dear Father!” As a third gift of grace He has promised to give His children, as their certain hope, the right of inheritance, so that they can receive their portion of the fullness of God and His glory. None of this, however, happens through their keeping of the law or their good works, but alone by Grace through faith!
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now.
Abraham had two sons: Ishmael, the son of the maid Hagar, and Isaac, the son according to a special promise of God made to Sarah. The hidden line-of-blessing, however, went through the one begotten of the Spirit, who was persecuted by his brother. In the same way, the One begotten of the Spirit, Jesus, as well as His through the Spirit born-again followers, are hated and persecuted by the sanctimonious, who cling to the law and their own achievements. The fact that they are oppressed and suffer, however, could be a sign of their belonging to the line-of-blessing.
3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
Paul stood before the Galatians, just as Moses had once stood before his people, whom he challenged to choose between blessing and curse. Paul laid down clear basic principles before the Galatians:
Whoever lets himself be circumcised must fulfill all the commands of Moses, which is impossible.
In addition, he has fallen from the grace of Christ, since he wants to be justified by the law.
Opposite to this, Paul proclaimed the righteousness of God through faith alone, which will be revealed in glory when Christ returns, which we await in the Spirit.
Paul summarized his message: Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision profit anything, but only faith in Christ. This faith becomes active through the love of the Spirit.
The Fruit of the Spirit
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law … 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ´s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
The difference between a life in the Old Testament and a life of faith in the New Testament is great and far-reaching. Whoever wants to live in the Old Covenant must serve the LORD as a slave of the Mosaic Law, while the one who lives in the New Covenant has been freed from the judgmental demands of the law through the atoning death of Christ. He can then live in the freedom of the Spirit of Christ, his Redeemer. Whoever lives in the Holy Spirit receives power to overcome the longings and desires of his flesh. This battle, between flesh and Spirit, goes on as long as we live on this earth. Our consolation remains the forgiveness of Christ.
The Spirit of God not only brings about, in all followers of Christ, the nine listed Fruits of the Spirit, but other unnamed fruit as well. Fruit grows slowly, yet incessantly. It gives proof to the type of tree. Jesus said: “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matt. 7:16, 20; 12:33; Luke 6:44).
The fruit of the Spirit arises not as a result of the merit or service of a person, but from the working of the grace of Jesus. These fruits are a foretaste of heaven! The prudent one will memorize this verse. Whoever is wise will ask the Lord to cause all this fruit to come to maturity in him. Whoever wants to know Jesus and the Holy Spirit should study this list of the fruit of the Spirit carefully. He needs to prayerfully contemplate that Jesus is the true incarnation of all the attributes of the Spirit of God. In Him dwell all the brilliant rays of glory of His Father (Heb. 1:3; 13:8).
1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another´s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. … 7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
Everyone makes mistakes. Measured by God´s standards we are all very deficient and guilty. But since Christ atoned for and forgave us all of our sins we, too, learn to forgive, just as Christ forgave (Matt. 6:12, 14, 15). We don´t wash the head of each other, but kneel down and wash the feet.
The love of Christ compels us to do even more; we are to bear with the weaknesses of each other and help to carry one another´s burden´s. We are to help the other, to pray for him, and to go with him. We can all be tempted, and we all need each other. Everyone needs the power of the Holy Spirit if he or she is to survive in love and in truth.
At the judgment day, Christ will not, first and foremost, ask us about our faith. Instead, He will ask about the fruit this faith brought forth. A mother in the home is often more experienced in the service of love than her husband, with all his forceful words. Let us allow the Spirit of Christ to bring forth and cause to ripen His fruit in us, so that we might, even today, stand in His eternal life. What a man sows, that he will also reap.
17 From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. 18 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Paul almost ran out of patience with the Galatians. Ministering in the name of Jesus, he had suffered much in body, soul, and spirit. He saw himself as having been co-crucified with Christ, and was ready to remain on the cross, even when it caused him great pain.
Finally, he entrusted the Galatians to the free grace of the Lord Jesus. Without that, their human spirit would never be able to stand against the temptations in this world. He still called those being tempted “his dear brethren”. He closed with an “Amen”, as a sign that Jesus is victorious. His truth would continue on even in this tempted and tried church.