I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ,
my Lord, or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me through the
Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the
true faith. -Martin Luther
God works in various ways to bring people into salvation in Jesus Christ. It all begins when God calls us by His Holy Spirit. This is commonly referred to as the effectual call. The effectual call is when the Holy Spirit calls a person by awakening their heart, mind, and soul to their personal need of salvation.
The Spirit works as a guide at this point to lead us to a relationship with Jesus Christ. The Westminster Confession describes it in the following way, “This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.” It is only then that a person can truly accept and respond to the grace of God through faith.
Justification is a judicial act, where God remits a person’s sins and declares them to be in a position of righteousness before God. It is what God does for us. It is by the merits of Christ that we receive justification, which is the forgiveness of sins. Justification by faith is a foundational Christian teaching, especially in the Protestant tradition.
The Spirit is the agent that effects justification in the life of the believer. The Spirit applies Christ’s work of reconciliation to us in order to transform our hostility toward God into fellowship with Him. As the Father sent His Son to die for us, the Spirit applies the fruit of his death to our lives in justification.
The word regeneration literally means to ‘rebirth.’ Regeneration is a spiritual transformation where the Holy Spirit takes us from death unto life. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold all things are become new,” (2 Cor.5:17). glorious change takes place in the believers’ hearts when they receive Christ into their life by faith. This great change entails an exchange of the things of the world for the things of God. It is a total transformation, in which the new believer is literally made a new creature. The Spirit of God is the agent of regeneration that works to bring about this change in a persons heart. The heart and soul of a person is the place where the Holy Spirit brings about a real change in the believer.
Sanctification is a process of being restored to the image of God, which begins at the new birth and gradually takes place over the lifetime of a believer. It is a real change in the heart, mind, and soul of the believer. Sanctification is a process of Christian growth where the Holy Spirit gradually transforms the hearts and minds of Christians. John Owen believed that sanctification was a work of the Holy Spirit. He said, “Sanctification is an immediate work of the Spirit of God on the souls of believers.”
The goal of the Holy Spirit in sanctification is to make us like Christ. We are enabled to mortify the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit (Rom. 8:11). Sanctification is what God works in us by His Spirit.
The General Work of the Spirit
In addition to the Holy Spirit’s work in salvation there are numerous ways that the Holy Spirit works in our lives. He enables believers to live the Christian life. He intercedes for us (Rom. 8:26-27). He illumines and guides believers into all truth (John
16:13-14). The Holy Spirit enables Christians to fight sin (Rom. 8:5-6). The Spirit sanctifies us (1 Peter 1:2). He gives us Christian assurance to know that we are children of God (Rom 8:15-16). Begin to reflect on everything that the Spirit has done and is doing in your life.
Questions for Reflection
- How does the Holy Spirit bring about salvation in a person’s life?
- Does every person have the opportunity to receive salvation? How is the Holy
- Spirit involved in making that possible? Explain.
- What is the major purpose of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life?
- Discuss the general work of the Spirit.
- Reflecting back on your salvation experience, in what ways can you recognize
- that the Holy Spirit was at work in your life?
Blessed Holy Spirit, I thank you for applying the saving work of Jesus Christ in my life. I
want to experience your fullness more and more. Sanctify my heart, mind, and soul. Wash
me from all of my sin and fill me full of your sweet presence. In the name of the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Dr. Winfield Bevins serves as lead pastor of Church of the Outer Banks, which he founded in 2005. His life’s passion in ministry is discipleship and helping start new churches. He lives in the beautiful beach community of the Outer Banks with his wife Kay and two daughters where he loves to surf and spend time at the beach with his family and friends. Twitter: @winfieldbevins