Hugh Fulford Basic Studies #28-30

Hugh Fulford Basic Studies #28-30

# 028

The Gift Of The Holy Spirit

“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ ” (Acts 2:38).

When a person hears the gospel of Christ (the good news of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection) with an open heart, sincerely believes that message of God’s redeeming grace, genuinely repents of his sins, confesses faith in Christ as the Son of God, and is baptized (immersed) in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19) for the remission of sin (Acts 2:38), that person has properly appropriated the saving grace of God to his life. His sins have been remitted, he has “been justified (brought into a right standing, hf) by faith,” and has made “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). He has moved into the realm of God’s grace in which he now can stand with confidence and “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). Of the many spiritual blessings available to the person who has been baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3; Ephesians 1:3) is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

There is a wealth of information in the New Testament regarding the Holy Spirit and His work. In the apostolic days of the church (the first century), there were people who exhibited various miraculous manifestations of the Spirit, either as a result of having been baptized in the Holy Spirit (as were the apostles on the Day of Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4] and as were Cornelius and his household [Acts 10:44-48; Acts 11:15]), or as a result of having the hands of an apostle laid on them (as in the case of the Samaritans [Acts 8:14-17] and as in the case of 12 disciples in Ephesus [Acts 19:1-7]). A careful and thorough study of the New Testament reveals that these miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased once their purpose had been achieved (see Mark 16:17-20; Hebrews 2:1-4; I Corinthians 13:8-10). But the cessation of the miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit in no way denies the reality of God’s redeemed people possessing the Spirit as His gift to us.

The apostle Paul affirms: “And because you are sons (because we have become children of God, hf), God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ ” (Galatians 4:6). It is important to note that God does not send the Spirit of Christ into our hearts to make us His children; rather, we receive the Spirit of Christ because we have become God’s children.

Ephesians 1:3-14 is a magnificent section of Holy Scripture, providing the reader with a vast “sweep” of the magnitude and scope of God’s eternal purpose for mankind’s redemption. In the original Greek language of the New Testament, these 12 verses constitute one long sentence, a construction that is honored by the translators of the American Standard Version of 1801. But in order to make the passage more “manageable” to study and digest, other English translations–including the King James Version, the New King James Version, the New American Standard Version, and the New International Version–break the sentence down into paragraphs. Verses 3-6 summarize what God the Father has done for us, verses 7-12 show what we have in Christ the Son, and verses 13-14 tell what the indwelling Holy Spirit does for us. Let us look at these last two verses.

First, Paul briefly reviews the conversion process: (1) In Him (Christ) you also trusted (put your faith), (2) after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. (Let it be recalled that faith comes by hearing the word of God, Romans 10:17). Next, the apostle speaks of the results that occurred as a result of believing in Christ: (1) in whom (Christ) also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, (2) who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession (Christians are God’s purchased possession, Titus 2:14; I Peter 2:9-10). Paul concludes by declaring that all of this is “to the praise of His (God’s) glory.”

Let us now look a little more carefully at the two purposes for which God’s “purchased possession” (Christians) receive the Holy Spirit. First, the Holy Spirit is a seal (an official mark of ownership) that we indeed belong to God. This seal/mark is not outward or fleshly, but is inward and spiritual. Later, Paul writes: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). We grieve God’s Holy Spirit when we live in ways that dishonor the One who owns us! The evidence of the Spirit’s seal on us (His indwelling us) is not in miraculous manifestations such as were characteristic of some in the apostolic age (as noted in paragraph two above), but rather in the manifestation of the beautiful “fruit of the Spirit [which] is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Second, the Holy Spirit serves as a guarantee of the faithful Christian’s inheritance. The King James Version uses the quaint term “earnest,” a term we still use today in certain business transactions (as in “earnest money”) to indicate our good intentions to “carry through” on our part of a deal. God gives the Holy Spirit to His redeemed children as an earnest or deposit of His final reward. Elsewhere, Paul wrote: “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a deposit” (II Corinthians 1:21-22). Again, he said: “Now He who has prepared us for this very thing (our eternal dwelling place in heaven, verses 1-4, hf) is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a deposit” (II Corinthians 5:5).

When in our earthly transactions we put down earnest money on an intended purchase, we commit ourselves to a process that we do not want to abort or on which we do not want to renege. By the same token, when we commit ourselves to the Lord and receive His earnest/deposit of the Spirit, we do not want to abort His eternal intentions for us by grieving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), quenching the Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:19), or by conducting ourselves in such a way as to wind up “not having the Spirit” (Jude 19). The apostle Paul unequivocally affirmed: “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His (Christ’s)” (Romans 8:9).

May we as the redeemed people of God heed the exhortation: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:18-21). And let us be duly reminded of what one must do to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
# 029

Membership In The Church

“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41). “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47b).

One of the attendant blessings of being saved and brought into a right standing with God is membership in the church. Just as surely as a person who repents of his sins and is baptized for the remission of his sins receives the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), just that surely that person also is added to/incorporated into the spiritual body of Christ, the church (Acts 2:47; I Corinthians 12:13). According to the New Testament, there is no such thing as a person being saved and not being a member of the church. Membership in the church automatically follows being saved, as much so as daylight follows dark. Membership in the church is not a human act of “joining,” but a divine act by which the Lord Himself is the one who adds the saved person to the church. The person who cavalierly says: “You can be saved outside the church as well as inside the church, the church never saved anybody,” shows a remarkable lack of understanding of what the church is! While it is true that “the church never saved anybody,” nevertheless the church is the aggregate body of those people whom God has saved, and therefore there is not a saved person on earth who is not a member of the church!

The church had always been in the eternal purpose of God because God had always planned to save mankind through Jesus Christ (II Timothy 1:8-10), thus creating for Himself “a people for [His] own possession” ( Titus 2:14; I Peter 2:9). These “special people” are the ones who have come to faith in Christ as their Savior, and responded in obedience to the message of the gospel of God’s grace (Romans 6:16-18). As a result of receiving God’s salvation, they have been added to the church so “that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known (displayed, hf) by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (Ephesians 3:10-11). And just as the church was in God’s eternal purpose “from the beginning of the ages” (Ephesians 3:9), so the church will be in the consummation of all things, for “to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21).

Christ Himself brought the church into existence. He said: “…and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Christ “built” the church by shedding His blood so that mankind might have the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28), and all who receive remission of sins by the blood of Christ become members of “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). (Note: This verse is a powerful proclamation of the deity of Christ, for it was God the Son [Christ] who shed His blood for the sins of the world [I Peter 1:18-19], yet in this pasage Paul designates Him as “God,” as do many other passages). Since the church is composed of those who have been “purchased with His own blood,” there is not a blood-cleansed, blood-redeemed person anywhere on earth who is not a member of the Lord’s church. And since Christ is the one who paid the purchase price for the church, it belongs uniquely to Him!

The reasons for membership in the church are many. Christians (people redeemed by Christ) need fellowship with one another. The Christian life was not meant to be lived in isolation from the rest of God’s people. The writer of the Book of Hebrews admonishes: “And let us consider one another so as to stir up to love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). God’s people need the blessings and benefits to be derived from corporate worship and fellowship (Acts 2:41-47; Acts 20:7). The notion that one can be “a good Christian” without having to “go to church” is not rooted in New Testament teaching, as the above passages so clearly reveal.

For this reason, Christians are to be organized into local congregations/churches, with a plurality of elders (also known as pastors, shepherds, bishops) tending “the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers…” (I Peter 5:2). Paul and Barnabas “appointed elders in every church” (Acts 14:23). The only organizational and governmental structure for the church known in the New Testament is the local church “with the bishops and deacons” (Philippians 1:1). Both elders/bishops/pastors (in the New Testament, all of these terms refer to the same function) and deacons must meet certain qualifications in order to scripturally serve as such (I Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). When these divine qualifications are ignored or compromised, great harm comes to the church.

People skilled in evangelism serve in the local church, with some serving fulltime as paid evangelists, preachers, and teachers (I Corinthians 9:14). But every member of the local church is to see himself or herself as a minister/servant of Christ (I Peter 4:10). The New Testament does not make a distinction between “clergy” and “laity,” but sets forth the principle that all of God’s people are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people…” (I Peter 2:9).

For this reason, Christians are to “serve one another” (Galatians 5:13), “be hospitable to one another” (I Peter 4:9), “comfort one another” (I Thessalonians 4:18), “exhort (encourage and admonish) one another” (Hebrews 3:13), “confess [their] faults to one another, and pray for one another” (James 5:16), and above all “love one another fervently with a pure heart” (I Peter 1:22). Christians are “members of one another” because they are members of the “one body” of Christ, which is the church (Romans 12:4-5; Ephesians 1:22-23). So intimate, in fact, is the relationship between Christ and the members of His church that Paul says: “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:30).

Membership in the church is a rich privilege. Such membership cannot be purchased with money. It cannot be earned by good works. It comes only as result of complying with the conditions set forth by Christ and His apostles for appropriating His grace and being saved. When those conditions are met, the Lord adds that person to the church. Having been saved and added to the church, one must not take his or her membership lightly, as if little is required or expected of them. All members of the church must heed the exhortation: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kindgdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:10-11).
# 030

The Christian Life

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

As a result of appropriating the saving grace of God to one’s life through faith in Christ, repentance of all sin, confession of faith in Christ, and baptism into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3-4), at which point all of one’s sins are washed away (Acts 22:16; Revelation 1:5b), a person enters a state of justification (right standing) with God (Romans 5:1-2). At the same time, he receives the gift of God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and is added to the church, the aggregate body of all who have been saved from their sins through obedience to the gospel (Acts 2:47). As a member of the church and with God’s Spirit dwelling in him, how is such a person to live day by day? After all, a great change has taken place in a redeemed person’s standing before God, and that change should be reflected in the everyday life of that person. There is a difference between a Christian and a non-Christian!

As a redeemed child of God, a Christian is “a new creation/creature” (II Corinthians 5:17). His words, deeds, actions, and attitudes are to demonstrate that new relationship. He is not to “continue in sin” for “how shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). Having become God’s child, a Christian is to live “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). This “newness of life” is reflected in a number of ways.

The holy God is now the object of the Christian’s supreme love (Matthew 22:37-38), and the kingdom of God and His righteousness is a Christian’s top priority (Matthew 6:33). Worship–both private and corporate–are eagerly and earnestly engaged in by a faithful child of God (John 4:24; Matthew 6:5-6; Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:25).

A redeemed child of God abstains from every form of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22) and does not engage in “the works of the flesh…which are these: adultery, fornication, [moral] uncleaness, licentiousness (a loose attitude toward God’s sexual standards, hf), idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contention, jealousy, outburts of wrath, selfish ambition, dissensions, heresies (false teachings and practices, hf), envy, murder, drunkenness, revelry, and the like…[because] those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). Rather, the child of God, having received God’s Spirit (Galatians 4:6; Acts 2:38), keeps himself “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), and allows the Spirit to produce in his life the beautiful and multi-faceted “fruit of the Spirt [which] is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Christian life was not meant to be lived in isolation from the rest of the world–in a cave or conclave or monastery–but in the milieu of humanity, with Christians being “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among you are seen as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:15). As Edwin Jones recently wrote: “Daily life is the arena for effective Christ-likeness,” and it is in this arena that all Christians are to be “the fragrance (aroma) of Christ” (II Corinthians 2:15).

Beginning at home as husbands, wives, and parents, Christians are to practice the principles of Christ. God’s law regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage is to be honored (Matthew 5:31-31; Matthew 19:1-9; Romans 7:2-3). Parents, and especially fathers, are to bring their children up “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). The home is the bulwark and backbone of civilization, and without strong, God-fearing homes where God’s Word is honored there is no solution to the moral degradation that is currently destroying the very fabric of America!

In one’s work, recreation, business transactions, and social interaction with others, a Christian is to be honest, upright, dependable, and fair, always practicing “the golden rule” (Matthew 7:12). A Christian is to “aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind [his] own business, and to work with [his] own hands…[and to] walk properly toward those who are outsiders” (I Thessalonians 4:11-12). He is to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (I Timothy 2:2). He is to be a law-abiding citizen (Romans 13:1-7). He is to “pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Over the years, a number of Biblical passages pertaining to a truly Christian life have become indelibly impressed upon my mind and memory–some from childhood. As I complete this Study I will list some of these passages in the hope that you, the reader, will take the time to turn to them in your Bible, absorb their message, and let them shape your life. They are: Matthew 5:3-14; Matthew 6:31-34; Matthew 7:12; Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 6:46; John 13:35; Acts 2:42; Acts 20:24; Romans 12; I Corinthians 13; I Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 5:22-26; Ephesians 4:17-24; Ephesians 5:15-21; Philippians 1:21; Philippians 3:7-11; Colossians 3:1-4; I Thessalonians 5:16-22; I Timothy 2:1-4; II Timothy 4:6-8; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 4:15-16; Hebrews 10:19-25; Hebrews 12:1-2; James 1:21-27; II Peter 1:5-11; I John 4:7-8; Revelation 14:13.

If this essay has blessed you, feel free to forward it to others who may benefit from it.

Hugh Fulford