We have been doing a little bit of a series on the essential ministry of the Holy Spirit in our ongoing discussions of Bible doctrine and not trying to nuance some technicality in this process, but rather to get back in touch with the basic substantial elements of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And I have a great concern about this because I think it desperately needs attention in the church today. In fact, I'm concerned that the doctrine of sanctification, as it is called theologically, is almost a missing element in ministry these days. We find ourselves in a situation not unlike the Galatians. Turn in your Bible to Galatians chapter 3 and we'll refresh our minds about the situation they were in. And then I want to read a section of Galatians chapter 5 to which we will direct our attention. Galatians chapter 3 and verse 1.
"You foolish Galatians...strong language...you are fools. Who has bewitched you before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you." Paul reduces his desires to one. "Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing with faith? Are you so foolish having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?"
They had begun by the power of the Spirit. It is the work of the Spirit that initiates salvation. We have looked at that. We have reviewed how spiritual life begins with the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin and righteousness and judgment. It is the Holy Spirit who produces in us repentance. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us, gives us new life. We are born of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who produces in us faith and submission to Christ. It is the Spirit then who gives us life eternal. We are then indwelt by the Spirit, baptized by means of the Spirit into the body of Christ, gifted by the Spirit to have spiritual gifts that are used to minister for the edification of the body. We are secured unto eternal life by the Spirit. We are separated from sin by the Spirit. All of that occurs at the time of our salvation. And we worked our way through that a few weeks ago.
And the question that the Apostle Paul is asking is, since all of that is true and the beginning was in the Spirit, do you now assume that you can be perfected by the flesh? Now that you are saved, is it time to set the Holy Spirit aside and launch out on your own wisdom, on your own strength, on your own ability to achieve perfection? It's as if he is saying you confess and you admit that any understanding of the cross, any understanding of Christ crucified, anything related to your justification is the work of the Spirit. But now you have abandoned the work of the Spirit insofar as your sanctification is concerned. I think this is a huge problem in contemporary Christianity. There is very little discussion, very little talk, very little dialogue, very little emphasis these days on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in sanctification. And as we pointed out some weeks ago, many in evangelical Christianity, many who are hard core biblically oriented in their theology run from the ministry of the Holy Spirit, lest they be associated with those who have basically kidnaped the Holy Spirit and pulled Him off into charismania, making the very identification with the Holy Spirit something that some think they need to avoid lest they be tainted by the abuses in His name. But we must return to a true and biblical understanding of and ministry of the Holy Spirit....