Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Spirit's Humility toward Sinners

Not only is the Holy Spirit humble toward the Father and the Son, He is humble toward sinners. This humility is not easy for us to see because of our sin.

Polluted Temples

The Holy Spirit dwells in temples. From Scripture, we know of four temples where He dwells. The first is the true tabernacle made without hands in heaven.[1] The second were the tabernacle and temples of Israel.[2] They were earthly shadows and copies of the true tabernacle in heaven, to give us some idea of heavenly realities. The third is the body of Christ.[3] The fourth is the bodies of believers.[4] The first and third are pure. The second and fourth are polluted. They need cleansing.

The tabernacle had a court called the Holy Place, but the priest had to “make atonement for the Holy Place.”[5] It had an altar, but the priest had to “go out to the altar that is before the Lord, and make atonement for it.”[6]

In the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.[7]

Insensitivity to Sin and Humility

It takes a holy person to feel sin. Sinners cannot feel sin. Our consciences are seared.

Who could see sin in the Holy Place? The Holy Spirit saw it, and commanded that atonement be made for it. Who could see sin in the altar that is before the Lord? The Holy Spirit saw it.

We do not see the pollution of ourselves as a temple unfit for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit sees it, and yet He comes to dwell within us. Sin makes us insensitive to the humility it takes for that Spirit whose name is Holy to come low and dwell in us.

The Sinfulness of Sin

It is hard for us to see sin for its sinfulness. We see sin as mistakes or weaknesses. We see sin in examples, symptoms, or consequences. It is hard for us to see sin in its essence, to see it straight on as sin rather than sins, as a lack of love toward God, a hatred of him,[8] an enmity against him.[9]

Paul says,[10] “Sin, that it may appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good.” (NKJV) Or, “It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin.” (ESV) Sin is sin, but it does not appear to us as itself. It does not appear as sin. God, by his law, must unmask sin so that it will appear as it is, as sin.

To us, sin is not a terror. Sin is not a horror. We do not feel that sin makes our lives a living nightmare. We do not see sin as the cause of death. We do not grieve as for a dead person over our sin and the sinfulness of it. 

The Worst of Evils

It is hard for us to see that sin is worse than temptation, death, the Devil, and hell.

Sin is worse than hell. Hell is only the punishment. Sin is the crime. Sin is what makes hell hellish. Hell is being confined in my sin with no way out. Hell is my self, alone, forever, the way I am. Sin is what makes hell hellish.

Sin is worse than the Devil. Sin made the Devil what he is. What is devilish but sin?  Not all men are possessed by a devil, but all men are possessed by sin.  The devil gives up for a season, but sin scarcely ever does. When Jesus endured the Devil for 40 days in a wilderness, the Devil left him until a more opportune time, but in us sinful desires are incessant.

Sin is worse than temptation. Temptation only acts on and appeals to sin that already lies within us. Were there no sin, temptation never would have a payday for its labor.

Sin is worse than death, for sin is the sting of it.[11] How is it that we do not feel the sting? The sting itself, sin itself, makes us unfeeling.

A Temple Worse than Hell

Insensitivity to sin is a not a problem for the Holy Spirit. He sees sin for what it is. As bad as death, the Devil, and hell are, He ranks sin worse.

Would we think that the Holy Spirit should dwell in Hell? But He does dwell in a worse place, in us. Though He is holy, He dwells in sinners, to save us.

For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.[12]

By the indwelling Holy Spirit we may experience grief over our sin and joy over God’s holiness. When the Spirit comes, He gives us the gifts of contrition and a humble heart. He comes to us in humility, and He gives us his humility. We have none of our own.

The humility of Christ in voluntarily humiliating himself to work atonement for our sin is matched by the humility of the Spirit in voluntarily entering sinners to apply the atonement to us. God saves us “by the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”[13] The Spirit enters, regenerates, and sanctifies sinners.

The Sole Power of Temple Cleansing

We are helpless without the Spirit.

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith.[14]

The temple polluted, defaced and destroyed, the Divine Resident has gone, and the heart, once so sweet a home of Deity, is now the dwelling-place of all sin. … But it was God’s eternal and gracious purpose to restore this temple. … In the restoration of this temple, man was not auxiliary. He could be none. His destruction was his own, his recovery was God’s. He ruined himself; that ruin he could not himself repair. The work of restoration is a greater achievement of Divine power than was the work of creation.[15]

“But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”[16] “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”[17]


1.  Heb 8:2, 5, 9:11, 23-24.
2.  Ex 25:8, 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:10-11.
3.  Mk 14:58.
4.  Ezek 36:27, 37:14; John 14:16-17; Rom 8:9, 11; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:22.
5.  Lev 16:16.
6.  Lev 16:17.
7.  Heb 9:21-22.
8.  Ex 20:5; Deut 5:9.
9.  Rom 8:7.
10.  Rom 7:13.
11.  1 Cor 15:56.
12.  Is 57:15.
13.  Titus 3:5.
14.  Martin Luther, The Small Catechism, explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed.
15.  Octavius Winslow, The Work of the Holy Spirit, pp. 90-91 (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972 reprint, first published 1840).
16. 1 Cor 6:11.
17.  Rom 15:13.

No comments:

Post a Comment