In considering post conversion experiences and phenomena, we have assumed that our conversion takes place because of the ministry of the Spirit and the Word. We assume there is a ministry of these two agents prior to conversion which convicts the sinner and draws him to Christ. At the point of conversion he (1) confesses his sin, (2) repents of (turns from) his sin and (3) accepts. He accepts the ministry of Jesus Christ in his behalf, the Holy Scriptures as God’s Written Word for his own spiritual life and health, and the Holy Spirit for his spiritual comfort and help. This is described by the Word and taken by faith. Further, subsequent to conversion, the new convert experiences the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the everyday affairs of his life. The Holy Spirit draws him into an increasingly mature relationship with the world.
However, there are experiences in the Holy Spirit which do enhance one’s relationship with the Lord and fit him for the task at hand. According to Jesus, “it is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63). Therefore, because of our new birth, we may expect spiritual equipment for every need in this life. In contrast to the thief who would destroy, Christ has come “that they might have life, and might have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Thus, we are talking about a life of fulfillment and abundance as we trust in Christ and begin to exercise that trust in obedience to Him. We begin to experience fullness of the life in Christ as we put into practice that which He has provided and which we have received through faith.
Christ Jesus promised that His disciples would receive power when “the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). This corresponds to the statements He has made earlier, such as that contained in John 14:l2ff, which had been spoken at the same time He gave the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. In this instance it is clear that power in the life of the believer is the result of Jesus’ going to the Father. It is the consequent gift of the Holy Spirit by the Father, upon the request of the Son. Note that the Spirit is referred to as a gift.
Conditions given to the disciples for obtaining the Holy Spirit are love and obedience (John 14:14,15,16,21). In chapter 15 these conditions are expanded to include abiding in Christ. Thus, love for Christ which causes an abiding and obedient relationship to Him equals effective power for living. There is no limitation to this power. We are led to believe it is power completely effective for every need.
Sanctification of the believer is also a work of the Holy Spirit. This is amply shown is several passages: Romans 15:16, 1 Corinthians 6:11, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2. We also note other scriptures which show that Jesus Christ himself is our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:2, Hebrews 10:10 and 13:12). The sanctification by the Savior takes place through the Spirit, to the measure that the Spirit is allowed to fill us.
Reference has been made previously to the reception of the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion. Peter, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter 1:3,4).
Other passages speak of the Holy Spirit as a natural experience in the life of the new convert (Colossians 1:27, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Ephesians 4:24). They also speak of purity of life in the believer. Thus the Spirit is seen to convey a new nature to man. This new nature of the Spirit does not sin (1 John 3:9).
The old nature is dealt with in the Spirit, not in the flesh. The Spirit fulfills in us that which Christ won at Calvary. As the Spirit, with our consent, continues to work in us, our old nature is kept in subjection (Romans 8:12-13, Galatians 5:16,24-25). Our spiritual life must grow ceaselessly unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The Spirit must increasingly fill us into the perfect fullness of God. The result of our life in the Spirit is that we bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22ff). We are conformed and transformed into the image of His Son through the Spirit (Romans 8:29, Colossians 3:10). We are drawn into a closer relationship with God.
The quality of abiding love is both the essential by-product of regeneration and the necessary condition for an effective growing life of power and victory in Christ. Since it is a love relationship to Christ built upon our faith in Him, the maintenance of love requires a continuing response on our part, especially at times when our love for Christ has “grown cold,” or we see that our life is without victory or power. The only possible help for this condition is to turn again to the Savior in faith that He will forgive us for our indifference and “Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation” (Psalm 51:12).
No matter when we turn to Christ to contemplate Him, His work for us, His love and mercy and grace toward us, or to confess our own indifferent or evil spirit, we always receive from Him His choosing. This experience of receiving might come after a period of backsliding. Or, it might come as we, struck so forcibly by the past and continuing ministry of our Lord, continue to dwell upon the person of Christ at the time of our conversion. Or, it might come just prior to entering some great spiritual challenge, struggle, or opportunity.
These times of refreshing and blessing will have their positive, visual benefits. We can expect power in prayer and answers to prayer. We may expect a powerful ministry and needed assurance and wisdom for that ministry. We may become aware of at least one of God’s special gifts of the Spirit for the ministry into which we are being directed. There may be other phenomena that can be understood only as the Holy Spirit performing an effective ministry in and through the life of the individual. Though we are told to “earnestly desire the greater gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31), we believe it to be the teaching of the Apostle that these are gifts from above. They come from God, and not properly out of our own will or seeking (1 Corinthians 12:11).
As our continued cultivation of the abiding love relationship between the Christian and Jesus Christ may have its “charismatic” or “power-gift” expression, it may also have its sanctifying, purifying result. In fact, we cannot find anything to indicate that there should be the reception of either one to the exclusion of the other. Both seem to be expected. According to the previous statement, it is implied that throughout life the possibility of sin remains in us because of the presence of the “old man” nature.
The new nature of Christ within us does not sin. It remains for the believer to apply this new nature to the many circumstances of his life. He should strengthen his relationship with the saving Christ thus making the authority of the Holy Spirit predominant over his “old man” nature, bringing it into subjection and destroying its influence. This produces a freedom from the effect of sin in our life, which is described by some as “a moral union with God.” It is fellowship which cancels out the essence of sin which is alienation from God. It is not a “something,” but a moment-by-moment trusting in the merits of Christ met by a continuing walk of faith.