We are presented with two articles which show the place of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s Pastoral epistles.
The pastoral epistles contain few references to the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, but the allusions made are all characteristic of Paul’s doctrine of the Spirit. Since they are written to individuals, the truths mentioned relating to the Spirit are all the more pertinent and practical for the life of each believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. These epistles contemplate the coming failure in the testimony. Paul indicates that conditions will worsen, which will bring about departure from the faith and declining moral and spiritual values in the last days. The work and help of the Spirit in such conditions is greatly needed. There are four specific references to the Spirit and His work. Let us notice these and the four areas in which His work is seen. In 1 Timothy 3:16, the Holy Spirit is seen in the life of the Lord Jesus. In ch 4:1, the Spirit is seen in the life of the church. In 2 Timothy 1:14, the Spirit is seen in the life of the servant. In Titus 3:5 & 6, the Spirit is seen in the life of the believer. It is here in this final passage that we have one clear reference in these Pastoral Epistles to the work which the Spirit accomplishes in every believer. This reference shows the place of the Spirit in the experience of an individual’s salvation.
The Vindicator of Christ, 1 Tim 3:16
In this great statement of the apostle Paul, we have some wonderful truths concerning the Lord Jesus. The six phrases he uses can be viewed in pairs contrasting with each other: the flesh (physical) and the Spirit, the heavenly angels and the earthly nations, and the world below and glory above. Notice the wonderful way that Paul teaches truth here. One might have thought that he would have said, “Preached unto the nations” and “Believed on in the world,” before telling us Christ was “received up in glory.” It may not be in historical order, but “received up in glory” is the fitting end to our Lord’s life on earth and shows that godliness, as seen in perfection in Christ, will be rewarded. So Paul says, “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit.” The word “manifest” or “manifested” is not just pointing to the Lord’s birth, but to His whole life. Godliness was never seen in perfection until Christ came and lived. The contrast to Christ’s flesh is the Spirit. So Paul says that the Lord Jesus was “justified in the Spirit.” What does Paul really mean by this? Is he not simply saying that the Spirit of God vindicated the Savior in His life? All that the Lord did, including His miracles, were done in the power of the Spirit. In His holy manhood the Lord was the only man that has ever lived who was characterised from the beginning right through to His resurrection by the energy of the Spirit. God has never had a man before or since Christ, who was so fully absorbed in the Spirit in all He said and did, and wherever He went in the days of His flesh. The Spirit of God also vindicated Christ in resurrection (1 Pet 3:18). What is the message for the believer in this? If our lives are godly and lived in harmony with the will of God, the Holy Spirit will have His own way of vindicating. Men may reject us and deny our beliefs too, but godliness will win through in the end.
The Predictor of Coming Apostasy — 1 Tim 4:1
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some will depart from the faith.” The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Prophecy. The Lord could say of the Spirit, “He will shew you things to come” (John 16:13 ). In the early days of the church, the Holy Spirit spoke through Paul and gifted prophets. He spoke clearly and unmistakably. By what means did the predictions come to Paul? Surely this must be by divine revelations and communications to Paul and his fellowapostles. Observe the contrast here with seducing spirits (i.e. evil spirits) and doctrines of demons. These are not doctrines about demons, but doctrines that have their source and origin in demons. There are many false teachings in these last days that we believe are instigated by demons. The Spirit of God is not the author of these. In these early verses of 1 Timothy 4, we have Satan’s efforts to falsify the truth. It is therefore very important for the child of God to get to know more and more of what the Spirit has revealed to us in the inspired Word of God. Have we an example of a place where the Spirit has spoken through Paul in a solemn and yet specific sense prophetically? Yes! In 2 Thess 2:1-12 there is one such passage. Reading it will leave no believer in doubt as to whether the Spirit has spoken. Let us as believers value the Spirit’s revelations, and may we be more on our guard against the errors of the last days.
The Preserver of The Truth, 2 Tim 1:14
The “good thing” which Paul refers to here is the sacred deposit of truth. Timothy had been entrusted with a wealth of precious truth. It was His solemn responsibility to guard it. Truth, if it is to be effectual, must not only be held in communion with Christ (v 13), but also jealously guarded by the help and strength of the indwelling Holy Spirit. He who communicated the truth is best able to assist us in its preservation. No skill or power on the servant’s part can possibly keep the truth of God intact in all its purity and completeness. It is a lovely reminder by Paul that the Holy Spirit is the One whose help we can count upon: “Keep by the Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us.” There are two simple but interesting points to highlight in this verse. The word, “dwelleth,” would prove that the Spirit indwells the believer permanently. His abiding presence can be relied upon. Then the plural pronoun, “us,” indicates that Paul is not just thinking of Timothy, but of himself and all true believers. Paul thus refers to what is the common blessing of every believer in Christ. It would be true to say, of course, that while the Spirit dwells in every believer, He can certainly be relied on to give power and strength to those servants of God who know how impossible it is to maintain truth without His aid. A searching question would be, Are we depending on the Spirit in seeking to hold onto and to pass on the truth?(!)
The Sanctifier of The Believer’s Life, Titus 3:5-6
In Titus 3:4-7, Paul sets out the glory of the gospel of God’s grace. The work of the Spirit in the experience of initial salvation and the on going life of the believer is to be especially noted. This may be summarized in three ways. First, note the manner of His coming: “Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” This word “shed” or “poured forth” is a clear reference back to Pentecost in Acts 2. Mr. W. E. Vine says, “The word is in the aorist or past definite tense and points to the one act then fulfilled.” There was only one Pentecost and it will never be repeated. As a result of that initial outpouring, the Holy Spirit is not only working in the world to convict sinners, but is working also in the life of the believer. The reference to what took place at Pentecost is all the more interesting because Paul is writing to Titus who was then in Crete. Cretians were there among the multitude on the day of Pentecost and heard the apostles speaking in their own language (Acts 2:11). That great day happened some thirty years before the epistle to Titus was written, yet it is a wonderful reminder to them of its great significance. This is the Spirit’s dispensation. In contrast to His pre-Pentecostal operations, He is now here in all His fulness. He is here because of “Jesus Christ our Savior.” It is for His sake and due to His atoning death that the Holy Spirit has been given.
Second, note the means of His work: “The regeneration… of the Spirit.” It is clear here that regeneration is attributable to the work of the Holy Spirit. He communicates spiritual life to the soul (John 3:5-6). The word “regeneration” is only used once elsewhere in the NT. This is found in Matthew 19:28 were it is used of the millennial kingdom. During this period, the Lord will be on the throne ruling. He should be on the throne in the hearts of the regenerate now. If there is any difference between new birth and regeneration it is perhaps simply that the new birth is an inward change, while regeneration is an outward change. Third, note the manifestation of His presence: The renewing of the Holy Spirit.” It is important to point out that regeneration is a complete act in itself, but the renewing is a constant daily process. Renewing begins to take place at the moment of regeneration. It is the first act of a process which should continue to the end of a believer’s life. This renewing of the Spirit would have been good and practical for the Cretian believers who were naturally liars and turbulent (ch 1:12). Now that the great change had come in their lives, the Holy Spirit’s presence would help them to overcome their past evil characteristics. As believers today, we also need to experience this renewing. The Spirit’s power is available for us. Do we manifest in our lives that we are enjoying this renewing? Such renewing will come only through prayer, meditation in the Word of God, and attendance at the assembly gatherings, to profit by the preaching and teaching of the truth. May we allow the Holy Spirit to operate in our lives so that our minds, too, may be renewed (Rom 12:1)!