Podcast episode 012: The Holy Spirit and the Christian life

by | Feb 6, 2018

There was a time not so long ago when the question of how the Holy Spirit worked in the life of the Christian was a source of high controversy. Arguments over the “baptism in the Spirit” and the “gifts of the Spirit” dominated Christian conversation.

These days, those arguments seem to have died down, and that may be a good thing—or then again, not. If we’ve stopped thinking and talking so much about the Spirit because we’ve sorted out the controversies and have a very clear idea of what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit, that would be a good thing. But if we’ve just swept the subject under the carpet, or moved on to something else more interesting, that’s not so good.

We do need a clear, biblical understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit—especially in relation to our daily Christian lives. That’s what we tackle in this episode of the Centre for Christian Living podcast, with Tony Payne talking to Phillip Jensen.

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Tony Payne:
When I was a young Christian, back in mid-to-late 70s/80s, probably the big issue of the Christian life was the Holy Spirit. What was the Spirit’s role in our lives? Did we have enough of him? Was he, in fact, the neglected member of the Trinity? Were we limiting the Spirit in some way by quenching him? Was the blessing of the Spirit the second blessing, or “baptism” of the Spirit? Was that the missing thing an evangelical Christianity that left us feeling so dry and cerebral and dull? Were the gifts of the Spirit missing in our churches, and was that, in fact, the ingredient that would release new power and dynamism into our churches if we could learn to practice the charisms—the gifts of the Spirit?

All those issues were floating around in the atmosphere—well, in churches—in a very real way in the 70s and 80s. And I’m not sure if it’s the case quite so much these days. And I don’t know whether to be happy about that or not. I’m not really sure whether the debates of the 70s and 80s have really gone away—whether they’ve just sort of gone underground—or whether, in fact, the issues have just become part of the kind of furniture, and we don’t even really think about them anymore.

But either way, I do suspect we don’t have as good an understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit as we should, and we don’t talk about the Holy Spirit, perhaps, as much as we should in connection with the Christian life. And that being the case, what better way to start 2018 on the Centre for Christian Living podcast than talking about the Holy Spirit and the Christian life.


TP: Hello, I’m Tony Payne, and welcome back to the Centre for Christian Living podcast for another year. And it’s coming to you, as always, from Moore College in Sydney, Australia, and our motto is the same this year, again, as well—and that is to bring biblical ethics to everyday issues. That’s another way of saying we want to dig into what the Bible says and how it says what it says, and apply that to the everyday issues and challenges and problems that we face as Christians living in this somewhat confusing world.

Now, one of the issues that does confuse Christians is the Holy Spirit and his role in our lives and in our churches. And in this first episode for 2018, we’re going to tackle that question: what is the role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life? It’s a massive question with many complexities, and who better to ask to tackle such a question than Phillip Jensen—someone very used to succinctly summarising difficult questions and saying something fresh and challenging.

Phillip is a well-known Bible teacher and preacher, of course; he’s currently the Director of Two Ways Ministries, also based here at Moore College; and he’s writing a book at present on the Holy Spirit that I do hope he finishes soon, because we want to read it.

Now, in tackling such a huge topic, it’s a little bit difficult to know where to start. So I left it to Phillip to start where he wanted to start in talking about the Holy Spirit, and in true fashion, he went back and started telling the story of the Spirit from the Old Testament.

Phillip Jensen: The Old Testament keeps on talking about the Spirit of God—the Spirit of the Lord—but doesn’t speak about the Holy Spirit. But I think the phrase “Holy Spirit” only occurs twice in the Old Testament, because the Holy Spirit doesn’t seem to operate in his own particular work in the Old Testament. It’s like the hand of the Lord, the Spirit of the Lord: you don’t think God therefore has a hand; it’s a way of talking about God at work. Well, the Spirit of the Lord is like that as well. So it’s in the—but in the Old Testament, you get these terrific promises that God is going to send his Spirit (Ezekiel 36 is classic, you know)—God is going to send his Spirit, transforming people, so that in the new kingdom, instead of the law being written on tablets of stone, it’s going to be written on the heart, and the Spirit is going to move you to be obedient to the law. So instead of having a heart of stone, you’re going to have a heart motivated by the Spirit of God to keep the law of God.

But it’s in the New Testament that you’re told by John the Baptist that Jesus comes to baptise with the Spirit. And then it’s in Jesus’ teaching that he not only takes up this idea of the Spirit—he not only is a man who himself has the Spirit and has—there’s a verse there in John 3:3[4] that he speaks the words of God, because he was given the Spirit “without limit”. So he has the Spirit of God at a level that no one has ever had the Spirit of God before. It’s not explained; it’s just he’s—stated there: “For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure”. The Father has given to the Son the Spirit without measure, which enables him to speak the words of God like no one has ever spoken the words of God before, it would seem.

And he promises after his glorification that he will be giving the Spirit. So the Spirit will be coming after his glorification. But then on the night he’s betrayed, in John’s Gospel, which is a hugely important part of John’s Gospel: I mean you’ve got chapters 1-12 deals with everything in Jesus’ life until the night he was betrayed, then 13-18 is the night he’s betrayed—it even occupies a bigger space than his crucifixion and resurrection. Five times Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to the disciples, and it’s quite clear now that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity—that’s where you start to see more clearly the work of the Spirit as the ongoing work of God the Father and God the Son after Jesus’ death and resurrection—after his glorification—and the Spirit comes to teach, to guide: the Spirit comes as the witness.

The Spirit comes to convict the world. The word “convict” is a funny one: “expose”—he’s going to do the exposé on the world, in terms of sin, righteousness and judgement [John 16:8]. But it’s always about Jesus. It’s sin and righteousness and judgement because the world has rejected Jesus and the judgement is coming because of Jesus. And he’s going guide the disciples into all truth. But the truth he’s going to guide them into is all truth; it’s not the truth of calculus; it’s the truth of the gospel. It’s the truth of Jesus. And so, whatever Jesus has done is going to be taken by the Spirit and given to the apostles that they may do the job for which they have been selected. And then on the day of resurrection, when Jesus meets with them in the upper room, he breathes on them the Holy Spirit and tells them their task, really, which is the preaching of the gospel, because those whose sins you forgive will be forgiven, those whose sins you retain will be retained [John 20:22-23]—that as they preach the gospel, they preach condemnation and salvation. They—the sweet smell of life and the stench of death comes in the gospel ministry they’re going to be preaching. But it is Spirit—the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Jesus—that will enable them to do that work.

TP: So when you come to Acts, the Spirit is poured out, the promise of—that Jesus made is fulfilled, you see the ministry of Jesus continuing in the power of the Spirit through the apostles … how, then, does the role of the Spirit then play out into the epistles? What happens next?

PJ: Yeah, when you come to the epistles, you get these two themes that you can see. One is the theme of the coming of the Spirit comes with the coming of the gospel to bring the new age. So the kingdom of God is not about what you eat, what you drink or what you wear; the kingdom of God is about joy and peace in the Holy Spirit [Rom 14:17]. And it’s the work of the Holy Spirit, bringing people to the Lord Jesus, that is just constantly looked back to, you know—Galatians 3, you know. Where did you receive the Spirit? Was it through the works of the law or was it through the hearing of the crucified Jesus? [Gal 3:2.] The gospel comes with the new age of the Spirit. And so, Romans 8, for example, where he can talk about the Spirit—he hasn’t mentioned the Spirit much in the first seven chapters of Romans, but then in chapter 8, it’s very clear: that you can’t have Jesus without the Spirit, and you can’t have salvation without Jesus, and so the Spirit and Jesus and the Father all come to you at the one time in the gospel itself.

But the work of the Spirit in the life of the Christian is a second theme that happens, because the Spirit comes to world—it comes to the whole nation so that, you know, the promise, as Peter says at the end of Acts 2, is to you and to your children and to all those who are scattered around—to the Jewish nation the Spirit has come [Acts 2:39]. But the Spirit comes individually. He breaks beyond the bounds of Israel in the Book of Acts—he breaks to the Samaritans in chapter 8 and then he breaks beyond that into the Gentiles in the Cornelius events—but he breaks into individuals, rather than nations. In the Old Testament, Israel were the people of God; in the New Testament, the people of the Spirit are the people of God, because it is by the Spirit that you become one of Jesus’ people. And once you’re one of Jesus’ people, then the Spirit brings you to God. So you take a phrase—what does the Spirit do? He introduces me to Jesus as my Lord in 1 Corinthians 12, and to God as my Father in Romans 8. It’s the Spirit within who teaches me that God is my Father—I call “Abba, Father” [Rom 8:15]. That also occurs in Galatians—Galatians 4:6: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba, Father’, so you’re no longer a slave, but a son.” It’s—your sonship of God as your Father comes because the Spirit has come to you, and your acceptance of Jesus as your Lord comes because the Spirit has come to you.

But once the Spirit has come to you, then, fulfilling the Old Testament, you’ve got to expect that you’re going to be moved by the Spirit of God to live differently. And your repentance is not just your initial repentance; it’s your ongoing repentance—your ongoing transformation to being the holy people of God. And so, the Holy Spirit leads you to holiness, which is not altogether surprising, so to speak. And so where does the Holy Spirit lead you? He leads you to put to death the deeds of the body, as he says in Romans 8[:13], because he’s leading you on to God as your Father. And so, fundamental to the work of the Spirit is this conflict between the old (your flesh) and the new (your spirit) that you’re walking in. And so the age of the Spirit—the new world of the Spirit—the one that goes on into eternity—is that transformed life that you are entering into, which is the fruit of the Spirit in your life, which will be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control—as opposed to the old works of the flesh that you had. Because you are now God’s children, you’re going to live in God’s family as God’s children and family should live. Just as in the Old Testament as God’s nation you should have lived as God’s people, but you failed to do so. Well, in the new age, God is not going to let that happen. In the new age, he’s going to so give you his Spirit and write his law upon your heart that by the Spirit, he’s going to move you to live as God’s people, changed and transformed in the way of life. And so the Spirit produces in us this transformed life that reflects the very character of God and those kinds of characteristics of love and joy and peace and patience. Well, they’re all the characteristics of God, which now become our characteristics.


TP: Well, we’ll resume in just a moment and talk further about that transformed life that the Holy Spirit brings. But first, we’ve got to do a few kind of advertising/promo-type stuff that we always have to do at this point in the podcast—including asking you to subscribe. I know it seems an obvious thing to ask, but if you do subscribe to the podcast, it comes automatically to you every week, and what’s more, it gives you the chance to zip to iTunes and leave a review or a rating, letting us know what you think of the podcast and telling other people that you’re enjoying it. And that really does help more people discover what we’re doing here at the Centre for Christian Living. So please do that if you can.

You can also, of course, check out our website, which is at ccl.moore.edu.au, to learn more about what we do here at the Centre for Christian Living, because we do a lot more than just a podcast. And one of the things we do is put on public events, where we get usually one of the faculty from Moore College to talk about some aspect of the Christian life in light of their research into the Bible and its theology. And coming up in March—in fact, on March 7 th at Moore College—is our next public event featuring Dan Wu, from the Old Testament Department, and he’s going to be talking about guilt and shame, and dealing with guilt and shame. This was Dan’s doctoral research topic when he was doing his PhD, and he’s got some fascinating things to say about it. In fact, if you’d like to sort of get a sneak preview of Dan’s talk, go back into the CCL podcast archives—I think it was the episode before last— episode [9] —and hear Dan Wu speaking about dealing with guilt and shame .

That’s going to be on March 7th. It’s still not too late to get tickets for that event. Go to the Moore College website to the CCL portion of that—that’s ccl.moore.edu.au—to get your tickets for “Dealing with guilt and shame” with Dan Wu. That will be on on March 7th at Moore College here in Sydney.

The other thing to tell you about is our CCL book special for this month, and somewhat embarrassingly, it’s by me. I was casting about for something recent and contemporary that’s about the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit in the Christian life, and it occurred to me that, well, I’ve just put out a book that features a number of articles about the Holy Spirit that you might find enjoyable and stimulating. The book is a collection of essays of things I’ve written over the last 25 years, writing for The Briefing and other places—mainly for The Briefing. It’s called somewhat embarrassingly (but at least straightforwardly)The Tony Payne Collection. And you can find it at matthiasmedia.com.au/ccl. That’s the special page that connects to this podcast. And in the collection, there’s a number of articles about the charismatic movement and Neo-Pentecostalism and the Holy Spirit. These are not issues that we’re particularly dealing with in this podcast, but if you want to dig into those questions—how to think about the charismatic movement and its features and characteristics and how to relate to all of that—there are some useful articles stretching back over 25 years on that topic in that collection. So that’s The Tony Payne Collection—the “me” collection—at matthiasmedia.com.au/ccl. I hope you enjoy that.

But we need to get back to Phillip and to the main topic: to the Holy Spirit. And the next part of the conversation, I talk with him about the fact that we often associate the Holy Spirit with the miraculous, but in fact, perhaps the most miraculous thing that God does by his Spirit is to change people like us to be like God, which really is (certainly in my case, and I suspect in yours) the most astonishing miracle imaginable.

PJ: Yeah, we don’t take seriously enough what the Bible is saying—that we’re dead. Really, that’s a part of the problem. We’re told from the—Genesis 2, that the day you eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you’ll be dead. We still don’t believe we’re dead. Whereas, Paul does: he says that we’re dead in our sins and trespasses in Ephesians chapter 2[:1]. And even though we were dead, yet God has made us alive in Christ Jesus [Eph 2:5].

Raising the dead to new life is an enormous miracle! And that’s what God has done in the resurrection of Jesus. And that is what God has done in bringing new birth to anybody through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

TP: That same power he talks about—

Same power that was at work in raising Jesus from the dead is at work in us, raising us from the dead. That is enormous! That is massive power! That’s the great miracle. But you’ve got to have Bible glasses on to recognise it, see. If you want to see fireworks, well, go to a fireworks exhibition. But if you want to see God at work, well, the power of God is in the gospel, which transforms the lives of people, bringing them out of hell and putting them into heaven.

TP: And what you were saying about the reaction of the crowds and the various people to Jesus and his miracles indicates it’s not a modern problem.

PJ: No! No! No! Certainly our mechanistic thinking and our computer thinking has most certainly driven the intelligentsia of the western world into a more and more kind of materialistic atheistic mindframe, which therefore encourages deism and encourages unbelief in the activities of God in this world. But for other reasons, in the ancient world and in every world, there’ll always be people who are fascinated by miracles and want miracles rather than want God and what God is actually doing in our hearts.

TP: So that work of God in our hearts you mentioned before was actually to form the character of God in us—the characteristics that God himself has, as listed in the fruit of the Spirit. What are the fruits of the Spirit? Is it one fruit? It is many fruits? How should we understand that?

PJ: Yeah, it’s one fruit: it’s the crop of the Spirit. It’s the outcome of the Spirit at work in us. The passage is telling us what God is going to do in us. It’s not telling us what we have to do. It does say we’ve got to keep in step with the Spirit, or we should try and keep in step with the Spirit, but the Spirit is going to do this to me. Because he’s sovereign—he is God—and he is at work in me to do that which by nature I could never do. That is, become loving—become gentle—become patient—gain self-control. These are unnatural things for humans. God is love, and we must love as God loves. Well, God loves the enemy. God loves the enemy so much as to send his Son into this world to die for the enemy. Why, some may lay down their life for a friend or a good man, but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us—while we were still his enemies in rebellion, Christ died for us [Rom 5:6-8]. Who so loves their neighbour that even when their neighbour is in hostility and hatred towards you, you still will love them? That’s miraculous love! That is extraordinary love. That is the love that God is at work in us to produce, because by this will all men know that we are the disciples of Jesus, in that we love one another like that love [John 13:35].

And so, the church is a fascinating organisation, because you don’t get to
choose whom God brings to sit next to you in church on a Sunday. But you do have the obligation to love them, whoever they are. And that obligation to love is not only laid upon us and our conscience, but God is at work in us to change us to be able to do it.

TP: So we’ve talked about the work of the Spirit in us producing fruit. What about the other common thing that’s said about the Spirit—that he empowers us for ministry by giving us gifts? What about the gifts of the Spirit?

PJ: Well, he, in a sense, empowers—I’m not sure “empowers” is the exact word I want to use, but he empowers us for ministry. But that’s by being the witness who gives us the truth and who teaches us not to be afraid when we’re dragged before councils, because he will give us the words to say on that occasion [Luke 12:11-12], rather than thinking he empowers us by giving us miracles to do.

The phrase “gifts of the Spirit” is a sad phrase. I’m sorry that it’s there in many of the translations of the New Testament, because it’s not there in the Greek. It occurs once, and that’s in Romans chapter 1, and that’s talking about Paul coming and giving the gifts of the Spirit and administering the word of God to them in Romans 1[:11]. But frequently our translations have the phrase “gifts of the Spirit”, but when you check the Greek, the word “gifts” are there, but never in association with the Spirit. And the word “spiritual”’s there, but never in association with the word “gifts”. Our translators smooth over the Greek by adding in either “spiritual” or “gifts”. So 1 Corinthians chapter 12 commences, “Now concerning the spirituals”. The spiritual people? The spiritual gifts? The spiritual things or spirituality? Could be any one of those. But nearly all the translations put in the word “gifts”. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians chapter 1 and verse 7, it talks about, “You are not lacking”—1:7—“so that you’re not lacking in any spiritual gift”. Well, the word “gift” is there, but the word “spiritual” is not. And so it’s very hard for us to discuss the issue with—which is a very controversial issue—when our translations are answering the discussion before we’ve had a chance to look at what the text is saying.

The real thing that is being spoken of—the real spirituality—the real manifestation of the Spirit—is the way in which we use the gifts, not the gifts themselves. So even in 1 Corinthians 12, when it talks about the manifestation of the Spirit, it’s not the manifestations of the Spirit, it’s a manifestation of the Spirit. All these things can be the manifestation of the Spirit. It’s a singularity which is important here, because the passage goes on in chapter 12 not to refer to the Spirit. It talks about the gifts of God. Indeed, the gifts are called “the gifts of God”, and they’re the gifts of the risen Lord Jesus as much as they’re the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It’s not the distinctive work of the Holy Spirit. The cross is the distinctive work of God the Son. The Spirit wasn’t crucified; the Father wasn’t crucified; the Son was crucified. The distinctive work of the Holy Spirit is not the giving of gifts, because Father, Son and Spirit all are seen as giving gifts—are all involved in it. It’s the work of God—the triune God, who gives gifts and enables people to minister the gospel. And so to find your template of your understanding of the Spirit in terms of gifts and then especially miraculous gifts is seriously to misunderstand what the Spirit is coming to do.

TP: Fascinatingly, when he gets to chapter 14 and what it means to therefore pursue love and the spirituals, it’s to use whatever you have to contribute to the meeting, whether it’s a prophecy or a revelation or a hymn or something you bring with you—a lesson—that—whatever you contribute to the gathering of God’s people, that it be in love for the intelligible edification of—

PJ: Other people.

TP: Other people!

PJ: Which is why people so seriously misunderstand chapter 14, where it talks about “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself” [1 Cor 14:4]. People say, “You see? Speaking in tongues is good! It builds you up.” When in fact, what he’s saying is, “No, no: when you’re speaking in a tongue that is not translated—not interpreted—you’re not loving anybody.” So that’s why you don’t do it. Whereas prophecy is always aiming to build up the church. It’s always aiming at other people. And that’s why prophecy is to be referred—preferred to tongues—because the work of the Spirit of God is to produce in us that love of other people that means I’ll only speak that which will be for their edification, not just to sound myself. Even prophecy could be ungodly if I’m not doing it for the other person. Love drives it all. So you—chapter 13’s there for a very sound, good reason, because it’s the point of being truly spiritual. Say to yourselves, “Since you are eager for spirituality”—for the things of the Spirit—“strive to excel in building up the church” [1 Cor 14:12]. If you’re the Spirit of God—the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ—your concern will always be for the benefit of the other person, not for the expression of yourself.


TP: Well that’s all for episode 12 of the Centre for Christian Living podcast on the Holy Spirit and the Christian life. My thanks to Phillip Jensen for joining us and for sharing with us; to Karen Beilharz for all her support and administrative work here at the CCL; and of course, to you our listeners, for listening and being with us, and for your encouragement.

Please do keep sending us emails and messages about the podcast. We really love to get your feedback either through email or just by leaving us a
rating or a review at iTunes. You can email us at ccl AT moore edu au. If you go our website—ccl.moore.edu.au—you can go to the page for this particular podcast—at which you’ll find links to link you to the next public event that’s coming with Dan Wu on “Dealing with guilt and shame”, and also a link to buy the book special for this month, which is The Tony Payne Collection.

Well, thanks for being with us. Look forward to talking with you again next time. I’m Tony Payne. ’Bye for now.


Our next event:

“A very short course in Christian ethics” with Chase Kuhn and Tony Payne, Saturday 25 May 2019 at Moore College.

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