3This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
- I Timothy 2:3-4
God's single most important goal is that He wants all to be saved. Our study focuses on the Holy Spirit's function within the Godhead to achieve this goal (the salvation of mankind).
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
- Romans 5:6
God's chosen method of salvation was atonement. This method was chosen, as opposed to other methods like blanket forgiveness for all, because atonement fulfilled the need for justice and mercy to be exercised simultaneously on behalf of the guilty but believing and repentant sinner.
We have noted that the atonement was carried out by crucifixion, but crucifixion was merely the manner of the Roman death penalty. In other words, it wasn't atonement because Jesus was put to death on a cross. It was atonement because the innocent was put to death in the place of the guilty. It was crucifixion because this was the method of execution for that time and also because that method had been prophesied as the manner of death in the past (Psalm22:16; Isaiah 53:5; John 12:32).
From now on in our study, however, the term "cross" or "lifting up the cross," will include not only the event that took place on the cross (the death of Jesus), but also what was achieved by Jesus (the innocent sacrifice – atonement) which was the expression of God's perfect justice (payment for sin) as well as His perfect mercy (the forgiveness of all sin, thus saving sinful mankind).
"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."
- John 12:32
The cross (the atonement it makes, the forgiveness it produces) now becomes the historical focal point in God's plan to save man. In this passage Jesus is not only saying that the cross makes a way for all of mankind to come to Him, but it also:
1) Calls all men and women to Him no matter how burdened with sin they are.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."
- Romans 1:16
2) Sustains them as disciples.
"But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."
- I John 1:7
Our conclusion in the previous chapter was that the Holy Spirit was active in "raising the cross" as His single activity. All other things before and after are related in some way to this singular achievement and activity. To raise up the cross, therefore, means to make plain the meaning of the atonement of Christ by dying on the cross.
Why the Work of the Holy Spirit
is to "Raise Up the Cross of Christ"
- Everything He did in the Old Testament and all that he does in the New Testament is in preparation or the continuation of this task.
- By this activity (raising the cross = proclaiming atonement) all men have the possibility of salvation, and it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit that makes them aware of this.
- Therefore, from this point forward the term "raising the cross of Christ" will be synonymous with or a short-form way of expressing the whole plan of God in choosing atonement as the plan to save man and sending Jesus to reveal and fulfill this plan to save man by dying on the cross and resurrecting from the dead. This would be a good place to correct a common error we make when we are preaching the gospel.
We often say that there are five steps in the plan of salvation:
- Hear the gospel
- Believe the gospel
- Repent of sins
- Confess Jesus as Lord
- Be baptized in the name of Jesus (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).
These five steps are true and easy to remember but they are not the plan of salvation. The plan of salvation is God sending Jesus to be a vicarious atonement to satisfy God's justice for the sins of all mankind – this is the plan for saving man from the consequences of sin.
- The Father chose the plan and sent the Son.
- The Son revealed and fulfilled the plan while on earth.
- The Holy Spirit enabled the Son and the plan to succeed and be proclaimed.
Hearing, believing, repenting, confessing and being baptized are the response of faith to the plan ordained and required by God. So many times, we preach the response to the plan as the plan and wonder why people don't obey or respond! They don't respond because you haven't preached the good news to them yet – only the response to the good news (gospel). The good news of the gospel, the plan of salvation is that God has sent Jesus to suffer the punishment for our sins in our place, so we won't have to – THAT'S GOOD NEWS!
I'm grateful, I'm relieved, I'm happy for this gift – what do I do in response to God's gracious offer of forgiveness of all my sins? I receive the gift of forgiveness and God's offer of grace by faith, faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, I believe as true the things He said (He was the Messiah, the Divine Son of God). I believe as true what He did (died on the cross for my sins, resurrected from the dead to confirm that what He taught was true).
So, I believe, and I express the sincerity of my faith by obedience to His command to repent of my sins and be baptized (immersed in water) at which time my sins are forgiven, and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in me.
37Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 38Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." 40And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" 41So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
- Acts 2:37-41
So, to get back to our theme of the Holy Spirit and the cross of Jesus, we can say that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to raise up the cross of Christ until the return of Jesus at the end of the world.
How Does the Holy Spirit Actually Raise Up the Cross?
We know it's not a literal way like in a parade we often see a clergyman carry a large cross marching in a crowd during some religious holiday. The Spirit raises the cross externally and internally throughout history. For example:
A. Externally – ways which can be visibly perceived by angels and men.
1. The cross before the ancient world
The Spirit involved in all the activity (creation, nation of Israel, ministry of Jesus) that led to the actual, historical moment when Jesus was crucified. For the Law, since it was only a shadow of the good things to come and not the form of those things itself, can never, by the same sacrifices which are offered continually every year, make those who approach perfect (Hebrews 10:1).
Everything was in preparation for this. The Spirit worked to prepare mankind for the initial public raising up of the cross of Christ with all that it meant in regards to salvation. A historical base to provide context and meaning was established through the sacrificial system (vicarious atonement), prophetic system (fulfillment of prophecy), Jewish nation (proclamation – light to the Gentiles/as the gospel is light to the world).
2. The Cross Before the Apostles/Disciples
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
- Romans 8:11
God raised up the dead body of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Until the resurrection, the Apostles considered all lost. Their leader, Jesus, had been executed on a Roman cross. They were largely in the state of shock and disbelief.
10Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. 11But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.
- Luke 24:10-11
This was their reaction to the women who had been to the empty tomb. However, if we fast forward to Acts 1:21-22 we see them not only believing but they are reorganizing their ranks based on the witness of the resurrection. The Holy Spirit had "raised the cross of Jesus" before the apostles (enabled them to understand the significance of it) by making them witnesses of Jesus' resurrection. Because they saw and heard the risen Christ, they understood the meaning and purpose of His death. Peter now clearly saw God's plan.
"This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses."
- Acts 2:32
"Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for certain that God made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified."
- Acts 2:36
- All of Christ's teachings led to the cross.
- All of Christ's teachings to the apostles about the cross became clear after the resurrection.
- The Holy Spirit by virtue of His work in resurrecting Jesus "raised up the cross" as it were, to the apostles.
Yes, the Holy Spirit raised up the body of Jesus from the grave (Romans 8:11) – Why? So that the significance of the cross (vicarious atonement by the Son of God) would be made abundantly clear to these men, chosen, and sent to proclaim this Good News as their personal witness and not just a new teaching. They were sent to proclaim what they saw, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember, we're talking about the Holy Spirit raising up the cross to the ancient world, and to the apostles.
3. The Cross Before the Jewish Nation
This was done by the witness of the apostles.
In Acts 2:32; 36 they made several bold claims.
- They had personally witnessed the resurrected Jesus .
- That Jesus was the Christ, which meant;
- That Jesus was Lord.
- Not a Lord among Lords, but the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
15which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.
- I Timothy 6:15-16
Of course, these claims, especially if made in Jerusalem, would have been preposterous and met with condemnation and death – Jesus had recently been killed for making similar declarations. The point was – could the apostles prove their witnesses of Jesus' resurrection? If they could offer proof of some kind they would be taken seriously, not to mention avoid being killed for blasphemy either by the Jewish crowd or Jewish officials at the temple where they hijacked the Pentecost feast to make these amazing declarations.
The Holy Spirit raised up the cross of Christ through the witness of the apostles to the Jewish nation and the witness was confirmed by miraculous signs and wonders.
- These signs and wonders done by the apostles are often explained using the term, "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit."
- This means that the apostles were able to do these supernatural things because they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
There is confusion and debate about this term so let's examine the following:
- What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
- What is the promise spoken of by the prophets?
- How and when did the apostles receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
Well, first of all, there is no expression in the Bible that says, "baptism of the Holy Spirit."
- It may be inferred but this phrase that suggests a baptism (immersion administered by the Holy Spirit) does not exist.
- The proper term used repeatedly is "baptism with the Holy Spirit."
As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
- Matthew 3:11
John responded to them all, saying, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but He is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the straps of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
- Luke 3:16
I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
- Mark 1:8
And I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.'
- John 1:33
For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.
- Acts 1:5
And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 11:16
Let's ask this question, "Is there such a thing as the "baptism of the Holy Spirit?" This term suggests the following:
- The baptism belongs to the Holy Spirit.
- The baptism is administered by Him.
- The subject of the baptism is not the Holy Spirit.
In other words, the Holy Spirit does not baptize Himself, or into Himself.
4There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
- Ephesians 4:4-6
Note that some thirty years after Pentecost Sunday (Ephesians is written around 62 AD) Paul writes that there is only one baptism, just as there is only one Lord (Jesus), one faith (a single body of Christian teaching), one body (the church), one Spirit (the Holy Spirit), one God (the Godhead/Trinity).
The question becomes – which baptism is Paul talking about because there is only one?
- Is it the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
- Is it the baptism with the Holy Spirit?
- Is it the water immersion of Acts 2:41 (3,000 baptized)?
12For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
- I Corinthians 12:12-13
Paul is still discussing unity within the church (we have different gifts but one Spirit who gives and administers them, so the individual members remain united and use their different gifts to strive for unity). Here's the punchline – he also says by virtue of one baptism everybody was immersed into the body of Christ by the Spirit. This is the one baptism mentioned in Ephesians now taught to the Corinthians.
So, what baptism had everyone had at Pentecost, everyone at Corinth, everyone at Ephesus received? Answer? Water baptism!!
- It began with John the Baptist.
- Continued by Jesus and His disciples.
- Followed by Peter and the other apostles.
- Still practiced and confirmed as the one and only baptism performed by the church three decades later by Paul.
- It continues to this day as repentant believers step forward to be immersed in water in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
From the beginning to the end of the New Testament, water baptism is taught, commanded and received by believers who wish to express their faith in Jesus Christ according to His word inspired by the Holy Spirit. I list only a few scriptures where the Spirit teaches this basic truth:
- Matthew 28:18-20
- Mark 16:16
- John 3:5
- Acts 2:38
- Acts 22:16
- Romans 6:3
- Galatians 3:27
- I Peter 3:21
- Revelation 7:14
In a way, water baptism is actually the baptism of the Holy Spirit because He commands it in His holy word given to man to obey and proclaim. We all have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit when we were immersed in water in the name of Jesus.
Baptize with the Holy Spirit
So, what about the baptism with the Holy Spirt spoken of by John the Baptist and promised by Jesus? This term is always used to convey a greater measure of God's presence and power among men. It suggests that the Holy Spirit is given – a person, king or nation is immersed into the Holy Spirit producing spiritual results.
One of the promises of the prophets and the prophet Joel, in particular, was that when the Messiah would come there would be a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon various individuals for a certain time to enable them to serve God in prophesy, leadership, and other dynamic ways. For example:
- Moses – 'the Spirit is upon you' – Numbers 11:17
- Joshua – 'in whom is the Spirit' – Numbers 27:18
- Samson – the Spirit coming on him in majesty – Judges 13:25
- David – the Spirit coming on him mightily – Isaiah 16:13
- Isaiah – 'the Spirit of the Lord is upon me' – Isaiah 61:1
- Jesus – the Spirit descended on Him – Mark 1:10
- Apostles – baptized with the Holy Spirit - Acts 1:5
Now, all these references described the same thing which was the empowering of individuals by the Spirit to enable them to perform a certain task or mission.
"but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
- Acts 1:8
As far as the Apostles were concerned, their task was to raise up the cross of Christ to the Jews first and then to the Gentile world. They themselves were convinced because they had witnessed the death and resurrection of Christ, but they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform miracles in order to confirm that their witness was from God. People believed they were credible witnesses because of the miracles they performed, not because of the message they preached. Their speaking in other previously unknown languages was not only an irrefutable miracle, it was also the fulfillment of prophecy concerning the coming of the Messiah – Isiah 28:11; I Corinthians 14:21.
Now, the promise of the prophets was not only that when the Messiah came, He would bring mercy, healing, and forgiveness:
4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
- Isaiah 53:4-6
The prophets also said that when the Messiah would come, not only the prophets and kings would have the Spirit for a time, but everyone, young and old, slave and free, male and female, would have the Spirit and have Him permanently.
17'And it shall be in the last days,' God says,
'That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
18Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
- Acts 2:17-18
37Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 38Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 2:37-38
In the book of Acts we have two forms of interaction with the Holy Spirit.
- Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Empowerment. The Holy Spirit sent by Jesus empowers the apostles to do miracles to confirm that their preaching is true and from God.
- Indwelling of the Holy Spirit – Sanctification. Each repentant believer received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit not to do miracles but as a helper to live the Christian life and as a seal (promise) of salvation.
"In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,"
- Ephesians 1:13
1. The Holy Spirit's activity is centered in preparing and revealing to men the facts /significance of God's redeeming work on behalf of mankind through Jesus Christ. I've summarized all of this by the phrase, "Raising up the cross – externally and internally."
2. We've examined how the Spirit raised up the cross before different groups of people at different times:
- To the Ancient World – through the Jewish nation as a light unto the Gentiles.
- To the apostles – making them witnesses of the resurrection.
- To the Jewish nation – by empowering the apostles in order to confirm their message as true.
3. The term 'Baptism with the Holy Spirit" is a generic expression describing a heightened presence or interaction with the Holy Spirit. The meaning depends on the context. It can mean two things.
- Empowering – Acts 1:8 – Apostles. (Acts 10:44-45 – Cornelius
- Indwelling – Acts 2:38 – Reception of the Holy Spirit
9However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
- Romans 8:9-12