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Count Your Blessings

Part 4

Blessings 5 and 6. THE HOLY SPIRIT and RIGHTEOUSNESS

From the moment you believed in Christ, you were given the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 1:13 we read:

in whom you too received an inheritance after you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also after you believed, you were sealed by the holy spirit of promise, [Eph 1:13]

Now it is the Holy Spirit that changes us completely. In fact the Holy Spirit imparts us with righteousness. Someone has said, “God not only imputes righteousness, he imparts it as well.” This is the answer to those who object to God forgiving our sins and say it gives us a licence to sin. This objection was anticipated in Romans 6:1:

What then shall we say? Do we continue in sin so that grace may abound? [Rom 6:1]

No! Romans 6 goes on to explain that

we ... have died to sin [Rom 6:2]

our old man was jointly crucified [Rom 6:6]

and that we have

newness of life [Rom 6:4]

and are

living to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Rom 6:11]

This new life is oriented to righteousness, not sin. Paul explains:

But having been set free from sin, you have become servants of righteousness. [Rom 6:18]

It is a real change in our character God has brought about. As we learn to live more and more in the new life, sinful things become an abomination to us, things we wouldn't touch with a barge-pole, let alone things to be coveted. We also see how useless the things are that we used to do, and are ashamed of them. Paul asks

So what fruit did you then have from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the result of those things is death. [Rom 6:21]

The Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus is developed further in Romans 8. There, the Spirit is contrasted with the flesh and a carnal mind. Recapping on our other blessings, we are reminded that

but the mindset of the spirit is on a par with life and peace. [Rom 8:6]

The idea of “new life” agrees with John 3:3 where the Lord says to Nicodemus,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a person is begotten from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” [John 3:3]

The Lord goes on to explain the necessity of being born of the Spirit.

The apostle Peter also uses the expression “begotten again” in his first epistle:

knowing that you were not redeemed by perishable things, silver or gold, from your vain comportment as handed down from the fathers, but by precious blood as of a lamb without blemish and without spot — of Christ — who was appointed beforehand before the overthrow of the world, but in the latter times made manifest on your account, you who through him believe in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope should be in God. Now that you have sanctified your inner selves by obedience to the truth through the spirit leading to unfeigned brotherly love, love each other intensely from a pure heart, having been begotten again, not from perishable seed, but from imperishable, through the living word of God, which also remains throughout the age. [1 Pet 1:18-23]

God's Spirit and newness of life are not confined to the New Testament, although in the Old Testament, the Spirit was not necessarily given permanently, because Christ's sacrifice had not at that time taken place. Here are two examples, Saul and David.

Samuel announced that Saul would be given the Spirit of the Lord.

And the spirit of the LORD will come over you and you will prophesy with them (i.e. the accompanying prophets), and you will be turned into another man. [1 Sam 10:6]

This duly took place:

And it came to pass that when he turned his back to depart from Samuel that God replaced his heart by a different one, and all these signs came about on that day. [1 Sam 10:9]

This by the way, explains the Hebrew of 1 Samuel 13:1.

Saul was one year old when he started to reign, and he reigned over Israel for two years. [1 Sam 13:1]

A comparison of the various versions is a sad testimony to many translators, who seem unwilling to accept Saul's spiritual age, and invent various numbers:

The New International Version (also essentially the New Living Translation, New American Standard Bible, Christian Standard Bible, Holman Christian Standard Bible, International Standard Bible, NET Bible, God's Word Translation) read, in essence,

Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years.

The American Standard Version reads

Saul was forty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-two years over Israel.

The New English Bible reads

Saul was fifty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel twenty-two years.

Darby, the Revised Standard Version, Moffatt, and the Good News Bible (footnote) all use dots, suggesting a deficiency in the text, e.g. the RSV has

Saul was ... years old when he began to reign, and he reigned ... and two years over Israel.

The World English Bible reads

Saul was [forty] years old when he began to reign; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,

The Greek Septuagint omits the whole verse without leaving a trace.

The Latin Vulgate, however, has a faithful translation of the Hebrew:

Saul was a son of one year (=one year old) when he began to reign, and he reigned two years over Israel.

Let us compare this with Paul's statement when he addressed the congregation at the synagogue at Antioch, talking about Israel's history:

Then after that they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. [Acts 13:21]

This is not a discrepancy, but the difference between counting Saul's natural years and his years of having the “Spirit of the Lord” and being “another man”.

If you have read 1 Samuel, you might be disturbed by the fact that Saul later on sinned by disobeying God and became rejected as king over Israel. Does that mean that if we sin, we could become rejected by God? The answer is definitely no. In fact all Christians, as long as they are in this “body of sin”, continue to sin to some extent, but sinning should not be our mode of life. John says,

If we say that we do not have sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. [1 John 1:8]

So if by sinning we were to be rejected by God, no-one at all would be accepted. The point John is making is that we have an advocate:

My little children, I write these things to you so that you do not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is a propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. [1 John 2:1-2],

Note that the sins of the whole world have been atoned for, but only those who believe in the Son of God currently have access to the new life.

Saul was in his day under the law of Moses and could not then claim an atoning sacrifice for his sin as we can now.

In Psalm 51, David knew that a completely new heart was needed:

Hide your face from my sins,
And wipe out all my iniquities.
Create me a clean heart, O God,
And make a new right-minded spirit in my inner self.
Do not cast me out of your presence,
And do not take your holy spirit away from me. [Ps 51:9-11]

It would appear God answered David's prayer; David says,

I fervently put hope in the LORD,
And he turned to me,
And heard my crying out.
And he brought me up out of a deadly pit,
Out of the miry mud,
And he raised my feet onto a rock,
And he directed my steps.
And he put a new song in my mouth
— A psalm to our God.
Many will see and fear,
And trust in the LORD. [Ps 40:1-3]

David found it appropriate to sing a “new song” corresponding to the new life which God gave him. It is interesting to note in passing how David's previous condition is called a “deadly pit” and “miry mud”. It is also noteworthy that David's praise to God acts as a witness to others who as a result put their trust in the Lord.

The theme of “new life” can be extended with a study of

and their opposites. A booklet by E. W. Bullinger called “The Two Natures in the Child of God” deals with this important subject admirably.

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