Part 2: The Spirit of Righteousness
Last week I suggested that the decline in the manifestation of gifts of the Spirit in the Church was essentially a problem of the heart; we have become disconnected from the spiritual liveliness Christ brought into the world through his resurrection, “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Rom 8:10 ESV).
When people heard the apostolic preaching there was a profound power encounter between the righteousness of God manifest in the gospel and the unrighteous forces at work in their sinful idolatrous hearts.
Deeply convicted of sin the hearers were constrained to open their hearts to the salvation offered in Christ and so were filled with his Spirit to overflowing. Tonight I want to establish in more detail the link between the resurrection of Jesus as the ultimate manifestation of God’s righteousness and the power of the Holy Spirit.
The way God’s grace saves us is surprisingly different from our cultural expectations. Whereas the love of God is never preached in the sermons in Acts accompanied by the outpouring of the Spirit (chs 2; 8; 10; 19), there’s a categorical link between the resurrection and the saving righteousness of God. vs.30 “God…commands all people everywhere to repent, vs.31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”” (Acts 17:30-31 ESV). The good news is that when God shares with us his righteousness in raising Jesus from the dead we need have no fear of the Judgement.
Whilst God shows his love for us by Christ dying for us (John 3:16 ESV; Rom 5:8 ESV; 1 John 4:8 ESV) this demonstration doesn’t of itself save us. Only through Jesus’ resurrection can we be made right with God; Jesus “was handed over to die because of our sins and raised for our justification/make us right with God.” (Rom 4:25 ESV).
As the place where Jesus takes God’s wrath against our unrighteousness (Rom 3:25 ESV; Rom 4:25 ESV; 1 Pet 3:18 ESV) the cross is God’s “No” against our sins; but the resurrection is God’s “Yes” to Jesus’ righteousness on our behalf.
The cross wipes away the negativity of our sin (Isa 44:22 ESV; 2 Pet 1:9 ESV) but the resurrection makes available a perfectly positive righteousness before God.
Without a revelation of this we can’t live an ongoing Spirit-filled life. Why?
Anyone who feels guilty before God will harden their hearts through fear of condemnation (Heb 3:12-13 ESV), but where faith is quickened to accept Christ’s righteousness the heart will remain open to the working of the Spirit.
The lack of spiritual manifestations across the Body of Christ is a sign that hearts are closed to God because we are not continually living in the revelation of Christ’s complete righteousness for us.
Many Christians focus on the Lord’s provision and power but very few delight in the righteousness of his risen life.
This is a sign of broken fellowship with Jesus.
It is said prophetically of Jesus, “vs.8 “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of your kingdom. vs.9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”” (Ps 45:6-7 ESV; Heb 1:8-9 ESV).
Jesus love of righteousness and hatred of wickedness; took him to the cross, so that raised from the dead the Father anointed him with the Holy Spirit’s joy in immeasurable intensity.
This indescribable joy is a repeated experience of Christians who encounter the Spirit throughout the New Testament (Luke 24:4 ESV; 1 Pet 1:8 ESV).
An unquenchable joy independent of circumstances is a primary sign of a Spirit filled life witnessing to the resurrection power of God’s kingdom (Acts 16:25 ESV; Rom 14:17 ESV; Gal 5:22 ESV).
Paul reminds the Thessalonians, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6 ESV).
I remember a few weeks after I came to Christ seeking what I would then have called “the baptism of the Holy Spirit”.
When the Spirit of God filled me the love and joy was so intense I was crying for hours.
Such experiences are truly wonderful but they often evaporate because they become self-centred and disconnected from enjoying Jesus’ own life.
Some years ago a book titled “The Cross is Not Enough” argued that many Christians had downplayed the significance of the resurrection. This is true, but in correspondence with the authors I raised with them something they’d neglected, what the resurrection meant for Jesus. The resurrection transforms our lives in the Spirit because by resurrection the Spirit first transformed Jesus’ life.
Jesus is always the complete fulfilment of his own teaching. He taught, ““Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt 5:6 ESV).
Since on the cross he was absolutely “hungry and thirsty for the righteousness of God” his desire was perfectly “satisfied” by resurrection. Jesus longed for the righteousness of resurrection because only by it could his Father be completely glorified.
When Paul says Christ was “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Rom 6:4 ESV) it means the Father returned to his Son, by the power of the Spirit (Rom 1:4 ESV; Rom 8:11 ESV), the glory they shared in eternity (John 17:5 ESV; 1 Pet 3:18 ESV). This is own salvation.
1 Timothy 3:16 expounds in a very potent way how the Spirit accomplished this glory when it says of Christ’s resurrection, “He was…vindicated by the Spirit”. More literally translated Jesus was “justified by the Spirit”.
In what sense could the sinless Christ be “justified”?
Taking on the condition of our sin on the cross as an apparently cursed man (Gal 3:13 ESV) only a resurrection could establish Jesus perfect righteousness.
Jesus doesn’t keep this justification/vindication by the Spirit keeps to himself; in the “spiritual body” of his resurrection he has become “a life-giving spirit.” (1 Cor 15:44-45 ESV).
When Jesus fills us with his Spirit (Mat 3:11 ESV) he gives us a share in the imperishable life of the new creation (2 Cor 5:17 ESV). “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Rom 8:10 ESV). The Spirit in whom we are baptised (Luke 3:16 ESV) is a Spirit filled with the power of the resurrection righteousness of Jesus (Acts 16:7 ESV; Rom 8:9, 11 ESV; Phil 1:19 ESV).
The power of Christ’s righteous glory will be manifest in the Church when we fulfil the condition of John 7:37-39 ESV, vs.37 “Jesus…cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. vs.38 …‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” vs.39 …he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Once Jesus had been glorified in resurrection the Spirit is available to all those who thirst to share his righteousness. This is great, but there’s much here that’s also misunderstood.
At the head of the exposition of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14 ESV Paul comments, “no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:3 ESV cf. Acts 2:32, 36 ESV; Rom 1:4-5 ESV). The work of the Spirit through his gifts (e.g. Rom 12:6-8 ESV; 1 Cor 12: 8-10 ESV; Eph 4:11 ESV) serves the great purpose of manifesting the saving Lordship of Christ established by his resurrection. The issue for the Church today is our openness to the Spirit revealing Jesus as the Righteous One of God established in the power of his resurrection (Acts 3:14-15 ESV).
The extraordinary boldness of the early church to pray, preach, perform healings, cast out demons etc. in the name of Jesus was a sign that they knew they were right with God (Rom 4:25 ESV) . They were free from the binding power of shame, guilt, accusation and rejection and inspired by the Spirit who loves righteousness and hates wickedness they did the works of the kingdom of God (e.g. Acts 3:6-8 ESV; Acts 4:29-31, 33 ESV; Acts 8:7, 12 ESV etc.).
Their lives reflected a famous contemporary song; “No guilt in life, no fear in death—This is the pow’r of Christ in me”.
Which is the power of the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead to render men and women righteous before God (Rom 8:10 ESV).
Since the resurrection of Jesus is the first instillation of the Last Judgement and Jesus himself is the justice of God then in Christ we stand inside the justice of God (Forsyth).
Since the decree of the Last Judgement has already been passed on the believer (Rom 8:33 ESV) nothing that can truly harm us, no-one/no-thing can rob us of resurrection life (John 4:25 ESV).
CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
The passion of the Holy Spirit is to pour into us the mighty revelation of the righteousness of God he pre-eminently manifested in the resurrection of Jesus. Every time the Spirit moves to heal, deliver, break demonic strongholds, release the wisdom and knowledge of God etc. he testifies to the perfect justice of Christ’s kingdom (John 15:26-27 ESV). We are called to share in the Spirit’s passion.
Paul exhorts us to be zealous for spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:31 ESV; 1 Cor 14:1 ESV), “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent (dzeo) in spirit” (Rom 12:11 ESV).
Christians are to be like water set boiling by the fire of the Holy Spirit praying zealously “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth…” as we seek first God’s kingdom righteousness (Matt 6:10, 33 ESV).
Why don’t the wonderful songs we sing, “No guilt in life, no fear in death”, match the average Christian experience in our prosperous nations.
Why are our congregations filled with people whose risk free lives show they don’t believe sacrifice for God’s kingdom will release Christ’s resurrection life in the power of the Spirit (2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV).
Why don’t we believe that the gospel revelation of the righteousness of God will in the End transform the whole universe in the same way it transformed the life of Jesus in his resurrection (Rom 1:16-17 ESV; 2 Pet 3:13 ESV). To ask these questions will prove futile unless they provoke us to pray.
We can ask the Lord to grant us repentance for our belief that he is not an all just Father. We can ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13 ESV) with God moving in our hearts so that we burn with zeal for the cause of his kingdom (John 2:17 ESV). If not do all these things the Spirit will remain largely missing from the life of the Church.
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 27. May. 2018 | Alive@5 St Mark’s
Author: Dr. John Yates
MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 06. June, 2018
Where has the Spirit Gone? Part 1: Groaning is a Gift for Glory
Where has the Spirit Gone? Part 2: The Spirit of Righteousness
Where has the Spirit Gone? Part 3: In the Spirit
Where has the Spirit Gone Part 4: Laying on of Hands