Summary: A sermon on what the Holy Spirit does during conversion (Material adapted from Dr. Jack Cottrell's book Power From On High, chapter 7, and the Holy Spirit: A Biblical Study, chapter 5)
HoHum: Every time we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” we mean that we believe that there is a living God able and willing to enter human personality and change it- J. B. Phillips (1906–1982)
A common way of referring to a person’s becoming a Christian is to say that he was converted. This word implies a turning from sin and a turning to God.
How does the HS work upon the heart of the sinner? Must divide this into two parts:
1. How does the HS work to bring a sinner to faith and repentance?
2. How does the HS work upon the heart of the sinner during the moment of conversion?
Tonight we are focusing on #2.
The Nature of conversion
What happens to the sinner when he makes the transition from being lost to being saved? Several things happen.
The sinner is justified or forgiven of his sins.
At the same time of justification, he is also regenerated or born again. This is a change in the nature of his heart. His spirit or inner man is no longer in a state of spiritual death but is now alive toward God.
Initial sanctification occurs. Person is set apart, no longer a member of Satan’s kingdom and becomes a member of God’s kingdom. It is similar to adoption, the moment when the sinner becomes a member of the family of God.
Tonight we are focusing on the second of these, regeneration. What is regeneration?
It is a metaphysical change, a change that takes place in the very essence of the soul. This means that the damage sin inflicts upon the soul begins to be repaired; the sin sickness that infects the soul begins to be healed. It is like the change that takes place in an infected feverous body when antibiotics are applied.
Here God is the Great Physician. Ezekiel 36:26-27: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
The heart of stone is the soul hardened by sin. This is removed and replaced by a “heart of flesh,” this is, one that is soft and yielding to the will of God.
Described in the Bible is several ways:
Romans 6:1-14 Paul speaks of it as a death and resurrection: a death to sin and a resurrection to new life. As a result of this the sinner is “brought from death to life (vs. 13)” and able to “live a new life (vs. 4)”.
Colossians 2:11 is called an act of spiritual circumcision, “not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ.” These words go back to Deuteronomy 30:6: The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.
This is not only the time of new beginnings, but this all shows that these are acts that can be accomplished only by God.
The Holy Spirit Causes Regeneration
The event known as regeneration is specifically the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus promised the inward presence of the Spirit through his analogy of the living water, but this would not happen until after Jesus’ ascension and being exalted to the right hand of the Father. John 7:37-39
There is no evidence that OT saints received this aspect of salvation. It is a blessing enjoyed only by Christians in the NT age.
Some would object to this today and in ages past in the ranks of the Church of Christ/ Christian churches. In the days of the frontier they would object because this sounds too much like Calvinism. The Holy Spirit does everything idea. Question last week: How does the HS work to bring a sinner to faith and repentance? Holy Spirit works indirectly through the Word to bring faith and repentance.
The question this week is a little different: How does the HS work upon the heart of the sinner during the moment of conversion? Some in the Restoration Movement deny all direct work of the Spirit even in conversion. When it comes to regeneration, the sinner regenerates himself, and raises himself from the dead. Sinners, come up here and save yourselves. How can this be? Look up Ephesians 2:1, 4-6
John 1:13 says that we are born of God. We did not give birth to ourselves. These images point to divine activity; they are not things that we are capable of.
The Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity, Godhead, who brings the power of Christ’s death and resurrection to bear upon us.