The Gospel and the Necessity of the Holy Spirit

In Galatians 1:16a, Paul writes, “[God the Father-J.F.] was pleased to reveal his Son in me,” (emphasis mine).

The verb translated to reveal (apokalypsai, see v. 12) speaks of an unveiling or disclosure of divine truth from God, which lies beyond human knowledge.

Paul’s language confronts us with the absolute necessity of the Holy Spirit’s work to understand and receive Christ and the gospel.

The gospel is not difficult to understand it is impossible and incomprehensible apart from the work of the Holy Spirit!

We must never think that the gospel can be understood by human reason alone. The reason is because an unconverted mind is darkened by sin (cf. Rom. 1:21; Eph. 4:17-18; cf. Gal. 1:13-14).

If we, as well as others, are to hear, believe, enjoy and proclaim the gospel, we must be fully persuaded of our absolute necessity of the Holy Spirit’s illuminating and empowering work for both conversion (1 Pet. 1:3) as well as edification (Eph. 1:17-18).

“The gospel is not difficult to understand it is impossible and incomprehensible apart from the work of the Holy Spirit!”

Martin Luther writes,

    “This sort of doctrine, which reveals the Son of God, is not taught, learned, or judged by any human wisdom or by the Law itself; it is revealed by God, first by the external Word and then inwardly through the Spirit. Therefore, the Gospel is a divine Word that came down from heaven and is revealed by the Holy Spirit, who was sent for this very purpose,” (Luther’s Works, vol. 26, p. 73).

The subjective appropriation and trusting of Christ takes place only by the inward working of the Holy Spirit.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:23 writes, “no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”

Again, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness/testify about me,” (John 15:26; emphasis mine).

In 2 Corinthians 4:6, Paul writes, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Just as our Creator, God the Father, spoke and created light so we could see, so as our Redeemer, He has, through the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit, shone in our hearts so that we might see and receive the significance of the person and work of His Son.

Apart from the Holy Spirit, His gospel would come to us in vain. Apart from the Holy Spirit, our understanding would remain in a darkened state just as the world existed before God spoke and said, “Let there be light!”

But it pleased God the Father to send the Holy Spirit to open our eyes in order to make us capable of understanding and receiving the light of the gospel!

The gospel is not difficult to understand it is impossible and incomprehensible apart from the work of the Holy Spirit!

In Luke 24:44, Jesus explains to His disciples that everything written in the Old Testament Scriptures pointed to Him. This was a truth that was neither self-evident to them nor to us.

The reason we know it was not self-evident is because in v. 45, Luke says “…He (i.e., Christ-J.F.) opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”

And, then in vv. 46-47, Jesus immediately interprets the gospel event that just took place as the fulfillment of all the OT promises (cf. Lk. 24:25-27, 31- of the two disciples on the Emmaus Road- v. 31, “their eyes were opened,” a passive verb, lit. “being opened.”).

In 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, Paul says four times that after His resurrection, Jesus “appeared” (ophthe, a passive verb, lit., “He let Himself be seen”).

It was not until Jesus revealed His identity to Mary Magdelene (Jn. 20:14-16), the two disciples on the Emmaus Road (Lk. 24:15, 31) and His disciples (Jn. 20:19-20) that they recognized Him.

There is another truth that God supernaturally revealed to Paul on the Damascus Road.

In opening Paul’s eyes to grasp the significance of Christ, God also revealed to Paul that justification is not attainable by works (cf. Gal. 2:16).

It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to break man of his addiction to legalism and convince him that his “righteousness” is garbage (cf. Phil. 3:8). This was certainly the case for Paul (compare the difference between vv. 13-14 and v. 15-16)!

Whereas he formerly was steeped in establishing his own self-righteousness, God revealed to Paul that true righteousness comes solely through faith in Christ alone (cf. Philip. 3:4-9).

Whereas he formerly hated Christ and viewed Him as a fake, as a man accursed of God, he now embraced and proclaimed him as the true Messiah and Son of God.

Whereas he formerly persecuted and tried to destroy the church, he was now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy (cf. Gal. 1:23).

Instead of glorifying God, Paul came to see that he was actually denigrating God. Instead of serving God, Paul came to see that he was fighting against God. Instead of submitting to God, Paul came to see that he was in rebellion against God.

Whereas he labored for his own glory, he now labored for God’s glory (Gal. 6:14).

The gospel neither comes natural to us nor can it be logically deduced by mere human reasoning alone. The gospel must be revealed in us by the power of the Holy Spirit through His Word!

We must never take this truth for granted. And, we must never underemphasize the necessity of the Holy Spirit. This is why Paul continually prayed for the Holy Spirit to open believer’s eyes to the spiritual blessings of the gospel (cf. Eph. 1:15-23).

The gospel is not difficult to understand it is impossible and incomprehensible apart from the work of the Holy Spirit!

2 Responses to The Gospel and the Necessity of the Holy Spirit

  1. Brian Shepherd says:

    Hello John. This is Brian Shepherd. I am friends with Lockwood. Just wanted to add, if you haven’t already checked it out — your point here is the context of I Corinthians 2. This passage is often taken greatly out of context. This point of Scripture bears down hard upon the impossibility of understanding the Gospel without the divine impartation of wisdom from the Holy Spirit — this is why the Greeks are confounded and the Jews stumble.

  2. Good word, John. I quoted and linked to your post today at my blog. Peace.

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