21 May 2021
But what does it mean to receive the Spirit of Christ? As we do so in faith, the Spirit comes to indwell us personally. This lies at the heart of the new covenant promise. Our union with Christ consists in this, the same Spirit dwelling in Him and in us. As Owen puts it, we therefore partake of the very same juice and fatness with the root and tree, being nourished thereby.
Thus, the very life that is in the tree is also in the branches. This mind-stretching and life-transforming truth is grasped only when the Spirit comes to open our eyes to the truth of God’s Word. We should never separate our need of the Spirit from the possession of the Word and vice-versa. The first would be the error of the rationalist and the second of the mystic. The Spirit comes to open the eyes of our understanding to the revelation God has given us, not to give each individual new revelation. Rather, He comes to lead us into the embrace of the truth already revealed. To be “led” by the Spirit, therefore, in biblical terms, involves embracing and obeying the revelation God has given to all, not following private revelation given to individuals.
The immediate fruit of the Spirit’s coming to us is the bond of our union with Christ. From this union flows all our communion with Him. As He comes to indwell us, He enlivens us, leads us, supports and strengthens us, and produces in us Christlike character and qualities. He both restrains us from sin and sanctifies us more and more.
The Spirit comes to us shaped, as it were, by Christ’s communion with Him. He is another ” helper” (i.e. in addition to, in place of and of the same character as Jesus Himself). Virtually everything in the Christian life flows from and depends on this. What then is the nature of the Spirit’s ministry? There are two ways in which the Spirit evidences HIs presence and power in communion with the believer.
a) His indwelling.
The Spirit indwells every believer mysteriously. He does so personally as the Spirit of Christ. Owen however makes a distinction between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of holiness and HIs self- manifestation as Comforter. The former is a constant ministry. The Spirit is always under all circumstances, at all times, making us holy. He uses every situation – joys, trials, successes, and failures – to conform us to the image of God’s Son.
But the manifestations of the Spirit as Comforter, Owen argues, are intermittent. He does not always bring us a conscious sense of the comforts of the gospel. This is an important point for the simple reason that Owen believes we need to distinguish between the indwelling of the Spirit (a constant) and the manner in which He manifests that identity in and to the consciousness of the individual believer ( a variable). One expression of this is seen in the variations among believers in their experience of assurance; they not only differ from each other, but they may differ from themselves from one week to another.
Owen holds that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit brings with it several distinct blessings.
(1) The Spirit gives the believer direction and guidance. The guidance is always moral and extrinsic, in the sense that the Spirit gives it to us objectively in the Word He has inspired. But it is intrinsic in the sense that it is also internal and efficient. The Holy Spirit illumines our understanding of the Scriptures and enables us to embrace their truth.
(2)The Spirit also comes to give support; He helps us in our infirmities (Rom. 8:26).
(3) Equally significant, the Spirit comes to exercise an ongoing internal restraint on our lives, to prevent us running headlong into sin. More than that, He injects into our obedience a spirit of joy and gladness that banishes our native sluggishness.
b) Sealed with the Spirit
The Spirit comes to indwell also comes as a seal. The sealing of the Spirit is no special act but only a special effect of His communication unto us. The effects of this sealing are gracious operations of the Holy Spirit in and upon believers but the sealing itself is the communication of the Spirit unto them.
It is the Spirit HImself who is the seal. This brings Owen back to our starting point: the Lord Jesus Chris is the One whom the Father sealed. He communicated the Spirit to Him. What was true of Christ then becomes true for those who are in Christ now. As the Spirit ministers as that seal, assurance of grace and salvation follow.
Thus, the testimony of the Spirit that we are God’s children is the effect of the presence of the seal of the Spirit, which activates the believer’s sense of assurance. When our spirits are pleading our rights and titles as children of God in the face of Satan’s accusations, the Holy Spirit comes in and bears witness on our side. When the Spirit stills the tumults and storms that are raised in the soul, giving it an immediate calm and security, the soul knows His divine power, and rejoices in His presence. The Spirit does in us as seal what Christ did for the disciples as Saviour.
We are given the Spirit in order to live in prayerful communion with Him as He leads us into the enjoyment of all the blessings of our inheritance.
Such communion with the Spirit brings us consolation in afflictions, a peace that flows from the assurance that we are accepted before God, a joy that is ours as we share the anointing of the One who received the oil of gladness without limit, and a hope which brings stability and direction in our lives.