The Doctrine of the Trinity (part 8)

February 18, 2008     Time: 00:47:56

The thing that struck me about these sort of systemic macro-mutations is that that looks or sounds very much to me like special acts of creation. How would that look different in the fossil record if you have, say, birds hatching out of reptilian eggs? You have a systemic macro-mutation so that a bird hatches out of a lizard’s egg. That could look very suspiciously like special creation. If that is the case then it is going to be very difficult to discriminate on the basis of the evidence between this sort of modified evolutionary theory and a kind of progressive creationism, which would envision special acts of creation over time. That is very interesting to hear and thanks for that interesting report.

I had a great last two days. I just got back from New Orleans where I was participating in this extraordinary conference called “The Resurrection: Historical Event or Theological Explanation?” which was held at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The centerpiece of this conference was a debate Friday night between N. T. Wright (who has written this great book on the resurrection) and John Dominic Crossan (the famous former chairman of the Jesus Seminar and radical skeptic and critic). Then after the dialogue on Friday night between Wright and Crossan, on the next day there were a series of respondents to the debate featuring different prominent theologians and philosophers including people like Doug Geivett, Craig Evans, Gary Habermas, Charles Quarles (who is a professor at New Orleans), Ted Peters, and myself. We had just a wonderful, wonderful time of interaction dealing with the historicity of the resurrection. I came away from this, again, just so impressed at the historical credibility of the resurrection of Jesus in contrast to the kind of skeptical radical position represented by Crossan and radical theologians of his sort.

Just to give you one example. Craig Evans dealt with in his talk a document called The Secret Gospel of Mark. What is the Secret Gospel of Mark? About 1958, a biblical scholar named Morton [Smith][1] claimed to have discovered this fragment from the so-called Secret Gospel of Mark in a monastery somewhere in the Middle East called Mar Saba. He said it was in the back of an ancient book that he found there. This fragment from this Secret Gospel of Mark had some rather off-color suggested things to say about Jesus. It suggested, for example, that the figure in Mark’s Gospel – the young man who flees from the garden at the arrest of Jesus and that he was clothed only in a linen cloth and he runs off naked. In the Secret Gospel of Mark it says that this young man came to Jesus by night wearing only this linen sheet to be instructed in the secrets of the Kingdom of God by Jesus. Then it has some other things about the women who followed Jesus.

Morton [Smith]’s hypothesis was that this was an original Secret Gospel of Mark and that the canonical Gospel of Mark in our Bibles was based on this Secret Gospel of Mark but it cleaned up these details and eliminated these sexually offensive things by putting the young man in the garden and having the women discover the empty tomb of Jesus and so forth. Well, John Dominic Crossan, who is one of the leading historical Jesus scholars of our day, adopted this hypothesis. He believes that the Gospel of Mark that we have is really based on this Secret Gospel of Mark. That is how Crossan explained away the presence of the women witnesses discovering the empty tomb. In the minds of most scholars, one of the most important arguments in favor of the historical credibility of the empty tomb story is that it is women who discover the tomb empty. Because in first century Palestine, women were regarded as unreliable witnesses, they were looked down upon, they were really second class citizens in this patriarchal society. Any legendary story of the discovery of the empty tomb that sprang up in the empty church would have male disciples discover the empty tomb – Peter or John, say. Their witness would really have credibility.[2] Crossan explained this away by saying that the women are the residue that is left over from The Secret Gospel of Mark. The sexual stuff has been eliminated and the women are sort of left over to discover the tomb empty. This was based on Morton [Smith]’s work.

What Craig Evans shared at this conference was that it has just been discovered that in 1940 there was published a book, a sort of detective novel, called The Mystery of Mar Saba. In this detective novel, it is just like The DaVinci Code. It is about how a man goes to the monastery at Mar Saba – the same place where Morton Smith claimed to discover The Secrete Gospel of Mark – and he finds a fragment of a hitherto unknown secret gospel and that this fragment overturns the biblical narratives and undermines Christianity. The name of the biblical scholar in the novel who does this is Lord Moreton.

So Morton [Smith] claims that he discovered this fragment in 1941 – that was the year after this book appeared telling this sort of story. Morton [Smith]’s story exactly fits the book. What is interesting is that Morton [Smith] took a picture of this fragment from this Secret Gospel of Mark and he signed his name at the bottom of the fragment. He actually signed the alleged manuscript. Then he showed this photograph to everybody. But when people went back to the monastery, the page had disappeared. It was gone. So nobody has this supposed fragment anymore. All they have is the picture that Morton [Smith] took. Morton [Smith] is dead now. Craig Evans said, My suspicion is that this whole thing was a hoax by Morton [Smith] and that the reason he destroyed the page was because if it were discovered that the signature was in the same ink as the inscription then everybody would know it was a forgery. So he took a picture then ripped out the page and destroyed it so that it couldn’t be checked. Think of it. What biblical scholar finding a hitherto undetected manuscript from the New Testament would sign his name on an ancient manuscript! You would be crazy to do this.

I said to Craig, “But why would a biblical scholar do such a thing? Why would he perpetrate such a hoax?” He said, What has been discovered is – you’ve got to understand, Morton [Smith] was vehemently anti-orthodox Christian. What has been found out is that he was also a closet homosexual and that at that time in the 50s he couldn’t come out and be open about his homosexuality. So he lived this secret life of guilt and resentment and hatred of orthodox Christianity for this condemnation that he felt and the secret life he had to live as a homosexual. In the Secret Gospel of Mark, of course, it portrays Jesus in this way as having these homosexual liaisons with the young man in the garden. So it just fits with the kind of secret life that Morton [Smith] was living. Basically I think this whole thing is a fraud that has been perpetrated by Morton Smith.

You can imagine how John Dominic Crossan must have felt. He said, I’ve never heard this before. This really is serious. I’m going to have to rethink my view on this. That was just illustrative of some of the things going on at the conference. Just incredible.

Another guy, Charles Quarles, gave a lecture on the so-called Gospel of Peter in which again he just exposed as utterly fallacious the idea that the Gospel of Peter contains some primitive early source. Instead he showed very clearly on the basis of word studies and vocabulary that the Gospel of Peter is a second century document; a forgery that was based upon the four canonical Gospels. Again, that just pulls the rug out from under Crossan’s views because they are all based upon the Gospel of Peter and the Secret Gospel of Mark being the real sources for the canonical Gospels and the resurrection narratives.

So it was really a tremendous time; just really exciting and confirmatory of the credibility of our faith in the resurrection.

A book is already under contract that will come out of this conference that will feature all of our papers and be published both in Britain and the United States. That was very encouraging. I certainly enjoyed interacting with Bishop Wright and Professor Crossan on these issues myself.[3]

One thing that occurred to me after the conference, I thought this was really an extraordinary conference. To have people like N. T. Wright and Crossan and then these other fine scholars all there in the same place. Then I thought, two years ago at JFBC we had N. T. Wright, Craig Evans, Gary Habermas, Doug Geivett, myself, plus J. P. Moreland, Frank Beckwith, and fifteen other people. I thought what a fantastic time that was, too. It just brought back all of the great memories of that wonderful Set Forth Your Case conference that we enjoyed here and what a privilege that was.

So it was just a great time.

This week on Tuesday I am off to Rhodes College where a former class member from Defenders is an InterVarsity Staff member. You may remember Carson who worked at Emory. He is at Rhodes College now. He has got a dialogue set up with a local professor of philosophy on “Do We Need God as the Foundation for Moral Values.” So I am going to be debating with this professor on that topic one night. Then on the next day I am going to give a talk on why I am a Christian to the students. If you should think of those events, I would appreciate prayers for those. Those will be on Wednesday and Thursday.

Then of course Saturday Jan and I fly off for the big Spong debate in South Bend for which I really appreciate your prayers as well.

I was reading in a Campus Crusade newsletter that came this week and something caught my eye. It said “Staff Member Jailed in Georgia.” Then it has a picture of a pretty lady here who doesn't look like a criminal. There aren’t too many on staff with Campus Crusade. It is a story about how this woman was thrown in jail here in Atlanta. I thought I would just share it with you because it has some local interest, but also I think a good lesson.

She says,

In April I was returning from a relaxing weekend with my parents but things were about to get hectic. “Move your car now!” barked a traffic officer at the Atlanta airport. My parents and I tried to unload the baggage as quickly as we could but it wasn’t fast enough for the officer. “I am writing you a ticket,” she said gruffly. “I know you are just trying to do your job,” I said holding my children Joshua (2) and Grace (4), “but please don’t give us a ticket.” She wrote one anyway.

I picked it up and as I turned I accidentally brushed against her. Out of nowhere she slammed her 350 pound body into me which threw me and my children against my parents car. Then she walked away fuming. I was incredibly shaken. We were late for our flight so there was little time to react. I rushed inside the terminal.

A Homeland Security officer had witnessed the incident and insisted I file a report. At the office, I told a police sergeant what happened. “Well, that is not the story we heard,” he said. “I was told that you elbowed a traffic officer and hit her with your arm. And the officer said she has two witnesses.” Since my parents had left and my husband was back in Colorado, I had no one to plead on my behalf. The officials charged me with mild battery and put me in Atlanta’s Clayton County Jail. Fortunately, I reached my parents via cell phone and they came and picked up my children.

At first I prayed, “God, this is a big mistake.” But I soon realized this injustice was happening for a reason. In total I spent 31 hours in the jail filled with two hundred other women including a few charged with murder. It was obvious I didn’t belong there and soon others took notice. “Why are you here?” they asked. “What is your background?” I told them that I was a missionary which led into the Gospel. I sensed my time in jail would be short, so I tried to make the most of it. I was able to share my faith with at least twenty-five women, two of them prayed with me and received Christ. I still keep in touch with them.

Later my parents came and bailed me out. I have been cleared of the charges, and the mayor of Atlanta is now investigating the airport. Looking back, I never would have dreamed of all the good things that have come out of this. Through an injustice, God gave me an incredible witnessing opportunity. The experience reminded me that trials happen for a reason. So whether I am in jail or working on staff I know that God will never leave me nor forsake me. He was there even in the darkest of moments.

I thought that was just a wonderful testimony of how someone took what looked like a disaster and instead of reacting with bitterness and anger and anxiety, she turned it into an opportunity to share her faith.[4] It shows what happens, I think, when a Spirit-filled Christian finds himself or herself in a position of adversity. Someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit, as she is, sees this as an opportunity to be the fragrance of Christ to others around her.

I think that leads nicely into the lesson that we want to talk about today which is on the filling of the Holy Spirit.

[Leads into prayer]

Last time, we illustrated how the transition was made from the old covenant to the new covenant, with the transitional event occurring at Pentecost. In the old covenant, the Holy Spirit would come upon people temporarily to carry out some task or execute some judgment. But the primary locus of God’s presence, at least since the building of the temple, was in the Holy of Holies. In the New Testament age, after Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is now given as the permanent possession of the believer. Everyone who knows Christ is indwelt with the Holy Spirit. So what corresponds to the temple in the Old Testament is your body! You! You are a temple of the Holy Spirit. We corporately together are a temple of the Holy Spirit where God in his Spirit dwells and manifests himself.

The transition that occurs at Pentecost is enormously significant because it means that we now have within us the power of God. The Holy Spirit living within us, enabling us to live a victorious Christian life.

I want to look at some Scriptures with you to indicate what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

First of all, let’s look at John 3:5-7 which speaks of the role of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. Here Jesus says to Nicodemus, the Pharisee,

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born anew.”

The theological term for being born again is “regeneration.” It basically means that by the Holy Spirit, that which was once dead is now made alive again. We are spiritually regenerated, born again, to new life and to a new relationship with God. Jesus says in order to see the Kingdom of God there must be this spiritual rebirth take place within you through the power of the Holy Spirit.

How does one appropriate this rebirth? John tells us just two chapters earlier in John 1:12-13. He says, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” There John speaks of those who become God’s children by being born of God.[5] He says this takes place through receiving Christ as one’s Savior – through believing in his name. So when a person places his faith in Christ, when a person receives Christ as his Savior, he is spiritually born again, regenerated, by the Holy Spirit and becomes a child of God.

This regeneration brings forgiveness and freedom from sin. Turn over to Titus 3:4-7. I think some of the most theologically rich passages in the New Testament are here.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

What a tremendous passage. There Paul says that we are not saved by any kind of good works that we do. Rather he says it is by God’s mercy, by his grace, and this comes through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom God has poured out upon us. This speaks again of the renewal, the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, that places a person into the Kingdom of God – into the body of Christ – and washes away guilt and sin and restores a right relationship with God. So every Christian who has truly received Christ and been born again enjoys the indwelling Holy Spirit.

One last passage we want to look at in this is Romans 8:2-9:

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

So Paul makes it very clear that it is the Spirit of God, or the Spirit of Christ, who gives us the ability to walk not according to the desires of the flesh, the sinful human nature, but according to the will of God. If anyone does not have this indwelling Spirit of God, he says he does not belong to Christ.

If you were to ask, “What is the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian?” it is not a matter of external behavior, it is not a matter merely of doctrinal beliefs, it is not a matter of church membership or water baptism, it is not even a matter of whether you go to Sunday School, read the Bible, and pray faithfully every day. What makes a person a Christian is the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit in that person. A person who is regenerated and has the indwelling presence of the Spirit is a Christian. A person who does not have the Spirit of God is not a Christian.[6]

It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that really is determinative for whether a person is a Christian believer. This act of regeneration by which we receive the indwelling Spirit of God is referred to in the New Testament in various places as baptism in the Holy Spirit. Look at 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” It is by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Paul says, that you are placed into the body of Christ.

That is significant because what that means is that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not, as our Pentecostal brethren think, a second act of grace that occurs in the life of the believer. Pentecostal and some Charismatic groups teach that although you are indwelt with the Holy Spirit when you become a Christian you later need to have a sort of second experience called “being baptized in the Holy Spirit,” often accompanied by gifts of speaking in tongues or other charismatic phenomena. But I think what this shows is that it is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that places us into the body of Christ and makes us a Christian. When you look at the examples in the book of Acts that we looked at last time where people are baptized in the Holy Spirit and exhibit these charismatic phenomena, it is striking that every single one of these is a first time experience with the Holy Spirit. Every single one of them. In Acts 2, the disciples are told to tarry in Jerusalem until they receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. Up to that point they had not received the Holy Spirit. He comes upon them at Pentecost, and they speak in other languages. In Acts 8, when Philip goes down to Samaria and the Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit. Remember there it says they had not received the Holy Spirit until the apostles from Jerusalem came and laid hands on them. Then they received the Holy Spirit. Similarly, in Acts 10-11, when Cornelius and the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit, he was a God-fearing Gentile, he was not a Jew, not a Christian. As Peter preaches to him the Gospel, the Holy Spirit falls upon Cornelius and those of the household. Similarly in Acts 19 when Paul meets those peculiar disciples in Ephesus who had only heard of the baptism of John the Baptist but not of Jesus, Paul lays hands on them and then they received the Holy Spirit. Up to that point, Paul asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “We hadn’t even heard there is a Holy Spirit.”

What is remarkable about these incidents is that though the reception of the Holy Spirit comes at different times – sometimes it comes upon the preaching of the Gospel like with Cornelius, other times it comes prior to water baptism such as was the case in Samaria, other times it comes after water baptism (they had been baptized already and then they lay hands on them and receive the Holy Spirit). Although the order may be mixed up in these different cases, in every case it is a first time experience of the Holy Spirit. It is the first time that they received the Holy Spirit. I think the reason that it is so out of order, as I said, it because these passages describe that peculiar and unique period of transition from the old covenant to the new covenant as the gift of the Holy Spirit is given according to the plan of Acts 1:8 – first to the Jews, then to the Samaritans, and then finally to the uttermost parts of the Earth, to the Gentiles. It was given through the ministration or the laying on of the apostles hands. That laying on of hands in communication of the gift of the Spirit could take place before water baptism, after water baptism, or just at the preaching of the apostles. But in every case it is striking that it is a first time experience of the Holy Spirit, not a second act.[7]


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Certainly Jesus was filled with the Spirit and carried out miracles and so forth. But I don’t think you will find anything in the Gospels that suggest that the twelve disciples were indwelt with the Holy Spirit during that time. What you do have, interestingly enough, is in John 20 you have the scene in the upper room where Jesus breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” What I would say about that is that since John is not going to narrate Pentecost, he prefigures Pentecost by a kind of symbolic breathing on the disciples indicating that they should receive the Holy Spirit when he is finally given at Pentecost. But they don’t receive the Holy Spirit at that moment when Jesus breathes on them and says receive the Holy Spirit. This is just a symbolic act. That is evident because in John 21 they are not out evangelizing the world. They are back in Galilee fishing again. Jesus comes to them again on the Sea of Tiberius. I don’t think that means they’ve gone back to their old life. I am not saying that. But I do think it suggests that they are not yet equipped to go out and evangelize the world and carry out the mission. Rather, they are waiting until the promise of the Holy Spirit that will be given them at Pentecost. They are going to wait in Jerusalem when they return for the feast of Pentecost until they receive the Holy Spirit. So I don’t think you have any kind of reception of the Holy Spirit prior to that in the lives of the disciples.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Correct. I am saying that the disciples were not Christians in the technical sense in which I defined the word. That is right, anymore than John the Baptist was a Christian.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Right. Of course, there was the training of the twelve, and they did go out and they did do miraculous cures and they did heal the sick and so forth when the seventy went out. But as far as I know, I don’t think there is anything in the text to suggest that they were indwelt by the Holy Spirit or filled with the Holy Spirit even though God would do these miraculous acts through their agency or through their instrumentality. But right, in the technical sense, they are not Christians until post-Pentecost. Remember, it was first Gentiles who gave the name “Christian” to Christians. It wasn’t Christians. They didn’t call themselves Christians. They were Jews! It was the Gentiles that referred to these people as Christians – Christ followers if you will. They didn’t think of themselves as starting a new religion. They were faithful Jews, and they continued to worship in the temple.


Let me continue on in the interest of time.

Even though every Christian is indwelt with the Holy Spirit in virtue of every Christian who is a genuine Christian being baptized in the Holy Spirit, that doesn’t mean that every Christian is therefore filled with the Holy Spirit. I do think there is a difference between being indwelt with the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit. Everyone who is born again is indwelt with the Holy Spirit. But to be filled with the Holy Spirit means to be controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit as when for example we say that someone is filled with jealousy or filled with anger. We mean they are controlled and empowered by that emotion. Similarly, to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Not all Christians, sadly enough, are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3. Here Paul distinguishes three types of people. He says:

The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.[8]

But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men?

Here Paul describes three types of people. The natural man is the person who is not indwelt with the Spirit of God. He is the unbeliever, or I should say he might be a believer in the sense of having the right intellectual beliefs but he is not born again. He doesn’t have the Spirit of God. He is still under the domination and control of the natural human nature. The spiritual man is the person who is indwelt with and filled with the Spirit of God, controlled by the Spirit of God. The fleshly man, or the carnal man as he describes him here, is a Christian. The Corinthians were Christians – they were indwelt with the Holy Spirit. But they were still controlled by their fleshly human nature. That is to say, that fallen, sinful nature that besets all of us. Rather than being controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they were still under the domination of the flesh, under the domination of the old sin nature.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the carnal Christian, or the fleshly Christian, is someone who is living a gross life of backsliden debauchery. This person may be trying to live a good Christian life, but he is trying to do it under his own power. He is trying to gut it out in the power of the flesh. As a result, he frequently falls, frequently fails, finds himself confessing the same sins over and over again, and is in a kind of roller coaster experience of up-and-down with God rather than as kind of a steady walk in the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit.

The evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit is not charismatic gifts like speaking in tongues or healing and so forth. The Corinthians exhibited all kinds of charismatic gifts. They had the most charismatic gifts of any church we know of in the New Testament, yet they were also the most carnal church in the New Testament, with people getting drunk at the communion table, one man living in incest with his father’s wife, bickering, jealousy and strife among them. That is not the evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Rather, the evidence of a Spirit-filled life is the fruit of the Spirit, as Paul describes in Galatians 5:22-25. Paul says,

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

As a person logs time in the Spirit, as a person is filled continually day-by-day with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit begins to transform that person’s life and to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit in that person’s life. I am sure we all know Christians like this. People who just stand out as radiant, Christ-like people whose character lifts us up. They are challenging to be around. They inspire us. They encourage us. You see the character of Christ produced in these type of people. They are different from the run-of-the-mill Christian. I think it is the presence of the Holy Spirit in these people. These are Spirit-filled Christians whose lives evidence the Holy Spirit’s work.

The second manifestation of the fullness of the Holy Spirit is a fruitful witness for Christ. Here I would appeal to Acts 1:8. Why was the Holy Spirit given to the early church as a permanent possession? Acts 1:8 says, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses.” So they did not dare go out to mission, they did not dare go out to fulfill the Great Commission and evangelize the world until they had been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. The example I gave of the staff member thrown in the Clayton County Jail is a wonderful example of a Spirit-filled Christian in a position of adversity living out that kind of lifestyle.[9]

How can we then be filled with the Holy Spirit? I think the secret to the filling of the Holy Spirit is Romans 12:1-2. It is a life of total surrender to Christ. Paul says,

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Here Paul describes life lived as a living sacrifice to God – body and soul. The physical life and all that that involves laid on the altar as a living sacrifice to God. The mind, the mental life, transformed to be renewed by God to discern and think in spiritual categories with the result that you will discern what the will of God is for your life. Notice what characterizes God’s will. It is good, it is acceptable, and it is perfect. When you think about that, what that means is there is nothing that you can do to improve upon it. Any efforts you make to tamper with God’s will, to make it better, to figure it out, to improve it, will only hamper it because it is perfect for you, even if that means it includes terrible suffering as it does in the lives of some people. It is still perfect for you, and it is good and acceptable if you understood it and knew what it meant.

So I think what Paul is describing here is a life of complete surrender to God that is lived in the power of the Holy Spirit as we allow the Holy Spirit to take control of the throne of our life and to direct our lives. As we do that over time we find that we will sin less and less. We will fall less and less. It will be a steady walk in the Spirit as the fruit of the Spirit is produced and our characters are gradually transformed so that we log time in the Spirit and, as Paul says in Galatians, we walk in the Spirit.

I love the hymn that we sang in conclusion of the service this morning. I want to just read the last verse because I think it describes well the surrendered life that I am talking about. “Take My Life and Let It Be” is the title of the hymn. The last verse says:

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee,
Ever, only, all for Thee.

That is, I think, the surrendered life that Christ desires in us and I think is the key to really experiencing the fullness and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Obviously, none of us manage to live perfectly like that. We all fall flat on our faces over and over again. But as we confess our sins and reappropriate the power of the Holy Spirit we can gradually log more and more time in the Spirit so as to be pleasing to him. So let our hearts, as the hymn says, truly be his royal throne.[10]

[Closing prayer]

Next time I want to look at the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We are going to talk about the historical background, the significance of the triumphal entry, what it meant. Then on Easter I want to share some of the evidence for the historical credibility of the resurrection of Jesus. Then on the Sunday after Easter I want to share with you a little bit about the postmortem appearances of Jesus. Those so often get left out because once Easter is gone we just sort of forget about it usually in the pulpit. So you rarely hear any sermons preached on these post-Easter appearance stories which I think are very significant. So the next three lessons we want to focus on Easter, on the triumphal entry, on the evidence for the resurrection, and then on the post-Easter appearance stories. That is what we will be looking forward to during the next few weeks.[11]



[1] Dr. Craig misspeaks while recounting this story. The scholar’s name is Morton Smith, whom Dr. Craig mistakenly names throughout as Morton White. This transcript corrects the name, replacing “Smith” where Dr. Craig says “White.”

[2] 5:00

[3] 10:08

[4] 15:19

[5] 20:10

[6] 25:12

[7] 30:12

[8] 35:08

[9] 40:04

[10] 43:40

[11] Total Running Time: 47:56 (Copyright © 2008 William Lane Craig)