What the Bible actually says about apostasy: The Spirit’s work in the Christian

by Jay Guin

The indwelling of the Spirit has been controversial in the Restoration Movement going back to Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone, who disagreed on the subject. And we believe the scriptures make much better sense when the work of God through the Spirit is fully credited.

We are fortunate that Greg, Phil, and Mac all believe in the personal indwelling of the Spirit — so we don’t need to argue over the “word only” position. Rather, we just need to point out how the Spirit’s work fits in to the apostasy question.

We begin in Deuteronomy —

(Deu 10:16-17) Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.

God, through Moses commanded the Israelites to “circumcise” their hearts. Mere outward obedience would not be enough. The Israelites must obey the Law from their hearts.

In chapter 28, God pronounces curses on Israel should they fail to obey the Law. In chapter 30, however, he says that even after the curses come true, God will gather a remnant through whom he’ll establish a radically different, new covenant —

(Deu 30:6) The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

In the new covenant, God himself will change the hearts of his people! Rather than the burden being entirely on the people, God will take on the task of changing hearts. You see, God’s written word — the Law — would prove not to be enough to change hearts as God wants them changed.

Many years later, Jeremiah wrote at the time of the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar — a time when the curses of the Law came true. He prophesied —

(Jer 31:31-34) “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, ” declares the LORD.

33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Jeremiah prophesies a covenant “not like the covenant I made with their forefathers.” This covenant will be that God himself will write his laws in the minds of his people and on their hearts. And this will allow for the provision of utter grace: “I … will remember their sins no more.”

These promises were fulfilled with the coming of Jesus and the giving of the Spirit.

(Rom 2:29) No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.

Paul tells us that God honored his promise in Deuteronomy 30:6 through the indwelling Spirit. One work of this Spirit is “circumcision of the heart.” The change isn’t that God now cares about the heart whereas he didn’t before. Clearly, that is not the point. Rather, the point is that God will take responsibility for changing our hearts! That’s what it says.

Indeed, Jeremiah 31:31-34 is quoted in full by the writer of Hebrews in chapter 8, and this becomes the centerpiece of his exposition into chapter 10. He explains,

(Heb 10:13-16) Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. 15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

How are we “being made holy”? Plainly, by God’s own work in our hearts and minds. We are being changed by God!

But as is explained in the next few verses in Hebrews 10 (covered earlier) and in Philippians 2:12-13, we can lose our salvation and so we must work with God to bring it all to fruition. But it’s not really working with God so much as God working in us while we yield to his will.

(Phil 2:12-13) Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

We can ignore neither verse 12 nor verse 13. Verse 12 commands us to work. Why? Because “God works” in us to “will” (desire) and act as God wishes. God himself changes our hearts and minds so that our desires conform to his desires and, as a result, our actions conform to his will!

Do we work with God for this to happen? Yes, of course. But we work because we know God works in us. We can’t do it ourselves. Only God can — and he will.

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2 Comments on “What the Bible actually says about apostasy: The Spirit’s work in the Christian”

  1. Royce Ogle Says:

    Jay,

    As our friend Edward Fudge puts it “We work out what God is working in”.

    Royce


  2. […] What the Bible actually says about apostasy: The Spirit’s work in the Christian, by Jay Guin […]


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