The Holy Spirit and Salvation

Last week we examined the nature of faith in Jesus, which is on the human side of our salvation. Faith’s goal is access to the power for salvation that resides in Jesus Christ. It is knowledge, acknowledgment, affirmation, trust, certainty, and union with Christ. Our appropriation of salvation also possesses a divine side, and that is our topic for this essay.

God is the primary actor in every aspect of our salvation. Apart from God’s initiative in creating, preserving, and empowering the world we would not exist and could do nothing. Likewise, apart from God’s action for our salvation we could do nothing to participate in that salvation. God’s action is the objective side of our being united to Christ; faith is the subjective side.

The New Testament speaks about God’s work of uniting us to Christ as the action of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works internally with our individual spirit or inner person or heart—whatever term you prefer to use—giving us a new kind of life. Just as God’s Spirit gives life and being to all creatures at the very root of their being, the Spirit joins us to Christ in an action as mysterious as creation from nothing. The Spirit through whom Christ is present is able to indwell, encompass, and contain things without displacing or distorting them in any way. Hence the Spirit can change us, revive us, strengthen us or recreate us from within according to the will of God. And through the Spirit, Christ can dwell in us and transform us into his image without violence to our wills or minds.

Can we say more about the nature of our union with Christ? What kind of union is this? Two possibilities come to mind. (1) Is it a union of wills? Considered in this way, our union with Christ would be constituted by our always and fully willing everything he wills. Perhaps this is the simplest way to conceive it. We experience this type of union with friends and fellow believers when we discover that we share love for Jesus Christ and desire his glory in all things. We understand each other and feel the bond created by the One we love. The one Holy Spirit indwells the many members of the body and the many find themselves made one in mind, heart, and will by the unifying power of one and the same Spirit. We meet each other in the sphere of the Spirit.

(2) Or could our union with Christ be even more intimate? Our union with the wills of other members of Christ is a union in something else, the Spirit. It is not a direct union. But our union with Christ can be direct and intimate because Christ can be directly present to our spirits whereas another human being cannot. How can we describe such intimacy of union? Perhaps we can call it a union of being and action. Christ comes so close to us that his life-giving Spirit constantly imparts spiritual life to us so that we are empowered for actions like his.

According to the New Testament, Christ is the one through whom God created all things. He gives all things being and form. In this sense Christ is already and always connected to every creature as its cause and its Lord. All creatures are already touched by Christ and connected to him. But our being united with Christ through faith, baptism, and the work of the Holy Spirit is a new creation and brings to perfection the work begun in the first creation. The final perfection of our being united with Christ is to become like him in body and soul, mind and heart, and being and action.

Paul places special emphasis on being united with Christ:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2Corinthians 3: 17-18)

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

Next week: Paul speaks of baptism as the act by which we become united with Christ. What part does baptism play in our appropriation of salvation?

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17 thoughts on “The Holy Spirit and Salvation

  1. nokareon

    Jesus’ claim that it is better that He leave so that the Spirit could come constantly baffles us. Wouldn’t everything be so much clearer and easier if He were still on the earth, walking among us? Wouldn’t it be easier to believe and to persevere in difficult trials? Furthermore, how is it that Jesus can pray for His followers to be one *as He and the Father are one*? Surely that degree of unity is impossible for we fallen human creatures.

    But the union of the Spirit is the key, albeit in a mystical and mysterious way. Somehow, we are promised that through the Spirit we can become conformed to the character of Christ. Somehow we may be united to other Christ-followers in a way as penetrating and as thorough as the interrelation of the Trinity. I’ll probably never understand it, but I have experienced it and will continue to.

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  2. falonopsahl

    The unique community of the church is mind-boggling to me — that such diverse groups can find unity at all is a miracle and, of course, a testament to the power of God and the unifying power of the Trinity.

    I look forward to reading about baptism next week!

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  3. ifaqtheology Post author

    Indeed it is a miracle. Interestingly, in anticipation of next week, Ephesians 4 speaks of the “Ones” that unite believers because they are one. Baptism is among those ones. There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father “who is over all and through all and in all.” In the power of the Spirit, the Lord and the Father “all” become one. The chaos and conflict of the many becomes harmony and beauty in the One.

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  4. mmccay1982

    “Hence the Spirit can change us, revive us, strengthen us or recreate us from within according to the will of God. And through the Spirit, Christ can dwell in us and transform us into his image without violence to our wills or minds.”

    If there is “violence” being done to my will or mind that helps to transform me more into the image of Christ, I would have an immense and overflowing gratitude for that “violence.” That being said, I have always found it difficult to reconcile statements like this with what I believe to be the plain reading of scripture.

    Rom 10:1 “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

    When I try to reconcile these concepts, I hear “Because if the Holy Spirit of God changes you according to His own will, then you will confess and believe in a manner that will cause you to be saved.” I can’t help but think about the paper-thin arbitrary and immensely grief-ridden position of those who find themselves unchanged by the Holy Spirit, asking “and why not me Lord?” given the lack of agency of the self.

    Matthew 7:21-27 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. …

    What wisdom is Jesus talking about if we define the will as so accepting of and requiring of a “non-violent” form of divine direction that is perfectly efficacious in dictating the fate of the person?

    Or more simply, “If the determining factor of the change (towards God) is perfectly the will of God, what separates the wise from the unwise in the above words of Jesus?” I believe it would be difficult to articulate the conditions of that response with draining key words of much of their meaning.

    I know that I struggle in understanding the degree to which the will of God changes us, with or without violence, as it relates to our own will and minds.

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  5. ifaqtheology Post author

    You raise some good questions. Perhaps I am taking sides in the Calvinist/Arminian debate. But that is not my aim. I think the tension you articulated in right there in Scripture…but I can detect no sense of tension or paradox in the Scriptures. There is not a single instance of someone wondering whether or not they are elect. Not a single instance of concern about divine power destroying free will. Post-New Testament debates in this area make complicated what is very simple in the NT. The gospel is preached and people believe or not. God’s hidden providence, let us leave to God. And let us not attribute to God something the NT never does, such as arbitrariness, injustice, or lack of love. Nor to human beings something they are not given: the capacity to save themselves or find God without God’s help.

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    1. Matt Stinson

      This has more or less become my position after experiencing a great deal of debate in my old church as pastors shifted from an Arminian understanding to a Calvinist one. The tension, as you said, is in scripture. It also doesn’t seem to carry the anxiety that later generations had In trying to resolve it. I have become more comfortable (after a lot of reading and wrestling) to accept the paradoxical view of human will I perceieve in scripture.

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  6. Douglas Throop

    The essay made me think about how exactly the Spirit indwells, because it can apparently do it undetectably and inexplicably. As you have said many times there is no sense in which two physical objects occupy the same space without displacing one another. I attempted to think of how thoughts occupy mental space and found that they were still separate entities, they rely on one another in the sense that because I know A=B In know that B=A. So then the Spirit if it does indwell is different. It does not seem either that the spirit is present in the sense of the father’s omnipresence, which is the relation (sorta) between all creation. Things are distinct, yet also united by the father’s upholding presence. Anyway, lots of questions.

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  7. ifaqtheology Post author

    Indeed there are lots of questions. But I think once one accepts the omnipresent causal relation the Creator has to all creation, we have a place from which to reason to other effects of that presence. God creates, that is, calls things into being from nothing. The cause of being cannot be a being on the same ontological level as those it causes to be. The creator does not take up space or compete with any creature’s causal power…because the creature is the cause of all causes, the power that empowers other powers. The creator who causes things to be, sustains them and perfects them. The Spirit’s work of uniting us to Christ can be thought of as the perfecting of creation. Just as the cause of all causes does not compete with them, the Spirit’s work of perfecting creatures does not compete with the natural telos of creaturely natures. God created us for a supernatural end and the Spirit’s work of perfecting creation brings it to its supernatural end, which it could not achieve through its natural powers.

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  8. mac

    I thought this was very interesting. Something that I have thought about as time passes, is all my friends that have fallen away from their faith. I know countless people who just couldn’t “do Christianity anymore” for a number of reasons. If they were at one time a devout believer, and slowly faded away from the belief, is the spirit still in them? It would seem like this ‘indwelling’ of the spirit a daily process. I also struggle with if somebody is a devout believer and falls away from the faith, wouldn’t God be strong enough to let them know as they are falling? Wouldn’t they notice the absence of the Holy Spirit? If they are unsure of their faith, would they have to accept Christ into their hearts once more? Also if at one point of your life you accept God, and hopefully the salvation that accompanies it, but later cease to believe, do you also lose salvation–or just the fruits of this life living with Christ? Or is it salvation like a one time cover all deal? need one have a second awakening after abandoning your faith?

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  9. Christopher Chong

    I think of the Holy Spirit as a fizz soda that fills the cup with His power. Otherwise as a personal helper and comforter.

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  10. Joel Foster

    This section made me think back to something I have recently heard and discussed. This is the idea that God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit, saves us solely for the sake of salvation. There is nothing that God can not do that we can do better, so with that in mind, where does our existence come from, why is there a need for salvation for souls who truly serve no purpose in the grand scheme of God’s power. His salvation is truly grace and is truly given by the goodness of his nature. The Holy Spirit is a part of that goodness, and the unity brought through Christ makes that salvation complete.

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  11. Sammantha Lund

    This really made me think about how the ways in which God works daily to bring us closer and continue to develop our relationship with his Son, even in the little things.

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  12. rich

    don’t really know anyone and I don’t read a lot like you so you’ll be able to tell me if they do. that deal specifically with the words
    “IT IS WRITTEN “gal 3:13
    Without making Jesus an exception even though he was born under the law Galatians 4:4
    And the righteous Act of allowing himself to be crucified makes him faithful to God and cursed under the law knowing who he was knowing what he had to do the will of God and that the life is in the blood in the blood is in the life. And that God would not allow an innocent man to be condemned to death nonexistence. Which would be Romans 5 18
    The problem of missing the mark of righteous
    Paul speaks to it (the failing of justice in mankind’s history) in the first three chapters of Romans 1:19on to find the solution in the third chapter vs.19-31 and speaks to why this in the fourth chapter in the fifth chapter Paul speaks to the love of Christ, for the lost in sin that separates from God and brings death.
    Also, we should take the subjective genitive along with the intrinsic righteousness.3:21
    This goes against traditional or reformed theology. Primarily because of an anthropological look at scriptures from the Reformation.
    Romans 3 verse 4 states that God is faithful the father.
    To his words. His gospel fulfilled. Christ was faithful as a son over his house Hebrews I think the second chapter.
    Paul emphatically States no one is righteous by the law.and no law was capeable of making anyone righrious. law was to expose unrighteousness.
    Because the law could not make anyone righteous
    The Torah was meant to expose to each individual their unrighteousness.
    God sent one hero to deliver all the slaves to sin.
    That was the Son. Jesus the servant. From a Christocentric point of view as Paul always takes a high Christology.
    The Trinity’s work was Redemption, Reformation, reconciliation through building the new Tabernacle home through the blood of the cross for the fathers family in faithful love.
    Although being raised according to prophecy the third day.
    Jesus died cursed and raise the Messiah in power because of the Holy Spirit and because of being Vindicated.
    The solution of the third chapter of Romans.
    God is faithful to his words.
    To his Covenant righteousness.
    No one is justified by The Works of the law.
    Everyone is separated from God. death the way I understand that, is ceasing to exist when this creation is fully restored with all of the fathers family after the FINAL judgment.
    God created a new creation which is where we are translated which is where Jesus is with no evil in it. we Are Holy because we are the Tabernacle in which the HOLY SPIRIT dwells.
    Because of Jesus’s faithfulness even to death.
    Which would be Psalms the second chapter the fourth verse fulfilled… it’s extremely difficult to negate primary scripture in our church because of an ontological View held by tradition which is nothing more than buying into what is called a dead hand.
    This is why God grants us the simplicity OF the new Covenant or as you would put it or I a New Covenant procedure without the curses attached.
    Very simply why because of the servants or Jesus’ faithfulness IN becoming the Messiah in power true overcoming the power (the controlling Factor) of the deceiver which is death if we look to the 8th chapter of Romans this dovetails all together very simply put,
    THROUGH a righteous act OF LOVING faithfulness to the fathers saving will
    Romans 5:18.
    Sin Connects us with the death because sin or a failure to measure up to the righteousness of the glory of god that we were called to be
    Also, in Romans 324 what does the word reconciliation have in common with 2nd Corinthians 5:18 the body of the righteous faithful I bet you, where the Holy Spirit is found in US because of the blood sacrifice the life of Jesus. question Romans 6, question, why are we dead going into the water and Alive as we come out.
    What’s on Paul’s mind when he’s talking about baptism and that God is giving us ECHOING in every aspect or facet that we FIND IN OUR BIG BROTHER, PERTAINING TO THE REALaInship WE SHARE WITH in the body.
    We don’t get in IN our anthropological Viewpoint of baptism.objectively cold and distant.
    How do you spell baconism.
    What is anthropological ontological theological hermeneutic mean.
    If we can’t get back to Judaism and find the hermeneutic and find their understanding why was Jesus put on a cross to begin with.
    again 1st Corinthians 15 the end of the chapter
    Paul preached in 1st Corinthians preaching Christ crucified a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.
    Or a rock of offense

    And one other one I think its the 9th chapter of Daniel the Tabernacle is desolate when was it ever restored except by the resurrection of the Messiah
    And one other one I think its the 9th chapter of Daniel the Tabernacle is desolate when was it ever restored except by the resurrection of the Messiah
    Also in Romans 324 what does the word reconciliation have in common with 2nd Corinthians 5:18 the body of the righteous faithful I bet you where the holy spirit is found in US because of the blood sacrifice the life of Jesus period question Romans 6 period question why are we dead going into the water and Alive as we come out.
    What’s on Paul’s mind when he’s talking about baptism the God is giving us in every aspect or facet that we don’t get in our anthropological Viewpoint of baptism.
    How do you spell baconism.
    What is anthropological ontological theological hermeneutic mean.
    If we can’t get back to Judaism and find the hermeneutic and find their understanding why was Jesus put on a cross to begin with.
    It wasn’t about him being afraid of men.
    I think it might’ve been his passion for the father and his Temple that kept him from doing anything again 1st Corinthians 15 the end of the chapter

    The hinge point is the cross and Jesus takes his Humanity with him the son of man which is the experiential ontology of his life encapsulated in every feeling and every emotion that he held, also in the relationship to the deceiver and what brought on what I would call a fractal to God’s temple in an act of rebellion to deceive what is told in Ephesians 1 to be his children

    Atonement as I have been taught, is “at one with”.
    God showed his love for us by allowing his son to redeem us through the promised faithfulness he is the seed of faith in Galatians the third chapter you can’t contextually hold that Faith equates with law… gal 3:18

    And one other one I think its the 9th chapter of Daniel the Tabernacle is desolate when was it ever restored except by the resurrection of the Messiah

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