How the Spirit Works in Us
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:14-17).
It is by the preaching and teaching of the gospel that God, through His Holy Spirit, works faith in His people. “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness” (I Cor. 1:17, 18, 21, 23; cf. Rom. 10:14-18).
The words that Jesus left as a commission to the Church said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen” (Matt. 28:19-20).
As we have seen in the previous chapter, we cannot say that the Holy Spirit works “with” the Word, but, rather, that He works “through” the Word. If He works “with” the Word, then whenever the Word is preached, the Holy Spirit would be applying, or attempting to apply, saving grace to all who heard. All who did not believe could be said to have “resisted” the Holy Spirit. It is more scriptural to say that the Holy Spirit works “through” the Word to work faith in the hearts of God’s elect. That is, God has chosen this “method” to save His people.
Since faith results from the hearing of the Word of God preached, the Christian Church does not (and should not) rely on the packaging, but on the power of God. Romans 1:16 tells us, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Again, Paul tells the Corinthians in I Cor. 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Arminianism must rely heavily on the power of the messenger rather than the power of the Word, since it is largely left in his hands to cause the hearers to believe. This has become the mark of many churches today – to package the gospel attractively with entertainment or personalities. The congregation is then built around a person or a movement. This is a grave error, which some do not try hard enough to discourage, and some actually encourage.
Such methods of evangelism are foreign to the Bible. As a matter of fact, the greatest of all missionaries of the church, Paul, says in I Cor. 2:4, 5, “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Again, Paul says, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (I Cor. 2:10-13). Paul’s obvious desire is to have all attention drawn away from himself and directed to the power of the Holy Spirit. “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” and “Therefore let no one boast in men…” (I Cor. 3:5, 6, 21).
It is a great sin if the Church abandons preaching as something ineffective or outdated and adopts the methods of the world in order to have a greater appeal with the gospel. It is common for people to think nothing of the “method,” as long as it appears to work. The question of how the church should engage in its duties ought never to be answered by “Does it work?,” but “Is it faithful to the revealed will of God?”
Does anything man-centered really work? If the basis of man’s faith is not the truth, then it is not a faith that will last, and indeed, it is not a faith that works. True faith cannot come from a false gospel. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is” (I Cor. 3:11-13). When we become “growth” oriented or “success” oriented in bringing the gospel to the world, we stand in grave danger of conforming the Word to the world instead of seeking to conform the world to the Word. The Holy Spirit works faith with the true gospel, not a false gospel (cf. Gal. 1:6-12).
God’s Word is powerful and has a powerful impact on those whom God has given a heart transplant. Hebrews 4:12 and 13 tells us, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
It is then, through the power of the Word of God that God’s Holy Spirit works faith in the hearts of the elect who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God. The power of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit are infinitely greater than the power of man to resist.
Blog post content is taken from Rev. Paul Treick’s book, Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism, available for purchase. It is posted with the gracious permission of the author.
If you’d like to read the blog series from the beginning, start here.