We have covered the Spirit’s work on John the Baptist, on the saints in the transitional period, and in Christ. Next we shall consider the work of the Spirit to convict the world. Then we shall go on to the many aspects of the Spirit’s work in the believers.
John 16:8-11 reveals that the Spirit works to convict the world, mankind, concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment: “Having come, He will convict the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” The Spirit always convicts the world concerning the three matters of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Sin entered through Adam (Rom. 5:12), righteousness is the resurrected Christ (1 Cor. 1:30), and judgment is for Satan, who is the author and source of sin (John 8:44). We were born of sin in Adam. The only way to be freed from sin is to believe in Christ, the Son of God. If we believe in Him, He will be righteousness to us, and we shall be justified in Him (Rom. 3:24; 4:25). If we do not repent of the sin in Adam and believe in Christ the Son of God, we shall remain in sin and share the judgment of Satan for eternity (Matt. 25:41).
In John 16:8-11 the convicting work of the Spirit is related to three persons: Adam, Christ, and Satan. We all became fallen in Adam, but we may believe in Christ and be justified. Because Christ was accepted by God in His death, God raised Him up from among the dead, and now He becomes righteousness to all who believe in Him. Satan, the source of death, has been judged and destroyed through Christ’s death (Heb. 2:14). The three main items in these three verses are related to these three persons: sin is related to Adam, righteousness is related to Christ, and judgment is related to Satan. We were born of Adam, but we have believed in Christ and have received Him as our righteousness. However, all those who do not believe in Christ will suffer the judgment of Satan. Because they remain followers of Satan, they will have the same destiny as Satan.
When the Spirit comes, He convicts unbelievers, fallen sinners, of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Sinners, who are born in Adam, must believe in the resurrected Christ so that they may have Him as their righteousness. If they do not believe, they will be judged by God as Satan is. When the gospel is preached in a proper way, those who hear should have the desire not to remain in Adam but to be transferred into Christ. These people will then be regenerated and saved. To them the convicting Spirit will become the regenerating Spirit (John 3:6), the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2), and the Spirit of reality, dwelling within them (John 14:17).
The Spirit came to us to convict us of sin, righteousness, and judgment. We repented, believed in the Lord Jesus, and escaped the judgment that is upon Satan. We have been transferred out of Adam and into Christ. We have also become children of God and members of Christ. Now we can be filled and saturated with the Triune God, who is dispensing Himself into us and mingling Himself with us.
Let us now begin to consider the work of the Spirit in the believers for the divine dispensing. Although the Spirit works on the believers as well as in them, the main part of His work is in the believers, and only a small part is on them. Just as the Holy Spirit worked mainly in Christ and not on Him, so the Spirit works mainly in the believers and not on them. This work of the Spirit in the believers is for the divine dispensing.
In Luke 15:8-9 the Spirit is likened to a woman finding a lost coin by lighting a lamp, sweeping the house, and seeking the coin carefully. This signifies that the Spirit enlightens sinners within their hearts by God’s word of light to seek them that they may repent unto God.
First Peter 1:2 indicates that the Spirit sanctifies, separates, repentant sinners unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, that is, unto the believing in the redemption of Christ that they may become the Lord’s. While the Spirit enlightens sinners, to seek them for God, He is sanctifying, separating, them unto the Lord.
Followingly, the Spirit works in the believers by regenerating them (John 3:5-6). Regeneration is God’s dispensing of Himself in His life and nature into our being. Therefore, regeneration is the reality of the divine dispensing.
Even our natural, human birth involved a human dispensing. God created Adam, one person. Through generation, Adam’s life has been dispensed into billions of descendants. Generation, therefore, is a matter of dispensing. The entire human race is under such a human dispensing. The principle is the same with regeneration. Just as human generation is a matter of human dispensing, so divine regeneration is a matter of divine dispensing. We were generated in humanity, but God wants to regenerate us in divinity. This regeneration in divinity is a dispensing of divinity into humanity, a dispensing that makes humanity divine.
Regeneration is a matter of God’s dispensing of Himself into our being as our life and nature. As believers, regenerated ones, our nature and life are God Himself, not God in Himself but God in His dispensing. This view of regeneration as the reality of the divine dispensing should encourage us to live and walk in such a way that we remain under God’s dispensing.
In John 3:5 and 6 the Lord Jesus speaks of the Spirit’s work in regenerating the believers: “Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The Spirit in verse 6 is the divine Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God, and the spirit is the human spirit, the regenerated spirit of man. To be regenerated, to be born anew (vv. 3, 7), is to be born of the Spirit in our spirit. The divine Spirit regenerates the human spirit with the divine life. Regeneration takes place in our spirit, which was made by God for this very purpose. Regeneration is a birth of the Spirit, God’s Spirit, that brings forth spirit, our regenerated spirit. Therefore, regeneration takes place in the human spirit by the Holy Spirit of God with God’s uncreated, eternal life. Once our spirit has been born of the Spirit of God with the life of God, it has the Spirit with the divine life in it and mingled with it. Our spirit becomes thereby a mingled spirit—the regenerated human spirit mingled with the divine Spirit. In this mingled spirit we are “one spirit” with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17).
We may talk about regeneration without realizing that in regeneration we have been given the divine life. The main work the Spirit does in regeneration is to impart the divine life, the eternal, uncreated life of God, into us. This means that the Spirit gives life to the believers.
Although Christ is life, it is difficult for Christ to give you life. It is the Spirit who gives life. Christ is life, but it is the Spirit who gives us Christ as life. Apart from the Spirit Christ may be life, but Christ as life cannot be given to us. By being the Spirit Christ is imparted into us as life. Today, after being processed, Christ is the life-giving Spirit. Now in our spirit we may enjoy this wonderful Spirit as the Spirit who gives us the divine life. Second Corinthians 3:6c and John 6:63 both reveal that the Spirit gives us life. Second Corinthians 3:6c says, “The Spirit gives life.” The Spirit, who is the ultimate expression of the processed Triune God becoming a life-giving Spirit, imparts the divine life, even God Himself into the believers. In John 6:63 the Lord Jesus Himself declares, “It is the Spirit who gives life.” After resurrection and through resurrection the Lord Jesus, who had become flesh (John 1:14), became the Spirit who gives life, as is clearly mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:45. It is as the life-giving Spirit that He can be the life and life supply to us. When we receive Him as the crucified and resurrected Savior, the Spirit who gives life comes into us to impart eternal life to us.
As believers we are persons with the divine life in us. We have received another life—eternal life—in addition to our human life. Now we need to learn to live not by the human life but by the divine life in the human life. This is not to live an exchanged life, the divine life exchanged for the human life; it is to live a mingled life, the divine life mingled with the human life. Now that we have two lives, we should not live in our human life apart from the divine life. On the contrary, we should live by the divine life in the human life. The giving of this divine life is a work done by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit also works to save us by renewing us (Titus 3:5). In ourselves we are the old creation. As the old creation, we are old not only in appearance but also in nature. We are intrinsically old. We are old in every way, old both inwardly and outwardly. Because we are the old creation, we need not only regeneration but also the renewing of the Spirit that follows regeneration. After we have been regenerated, we need to be renewed little by little. Daily we should cooperate with the renewing work of the Spirit so that the process of His renewing within us may be speeded up.
Titus 3:5 says, “According to His mercy, He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Here we see that God’s salvation is through a certain action: the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. In Greek the word for regeneration in verse 5 is different from that for born again (1 Pet. 1:23). The only place this word is used is in Matthew 19:28 for the restoration of the millennium. Here it refers to a change from one state of things to another. To be born again is the beginning of this change. The washing of regeneration begins with our being born again and continues with the renewing of the Holy Spirit as the process of God’s new creation to make us a new man. It is a kind of reconditioning, remaking, remodeling, with life. Baptism (Rom. 6:3-5), the putting off of the old man, the putting on of the new man (Eph. 4:22, 24; Col. 3:9-11), and transformation by the renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23) are all related to this wonderful process. The washing of regeneration purges away all the things of the old nature of our old man, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit imparts something new—the divine essence of the new man—into our being. In this is a passage from the old state we were in into a wholly new one, from the old creation into the status of a new creation. Hence, both the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit are a continual working in us throughout our whole life until the completion of the new creation.
The Holy Spirit is the divine Person, washing and renewing us in the divine element to make us a new creation with the divine nature to be heirs of God in His eternal life, inheriting all the riches of the Triune God. The Spirit began to renew us from our regeneration and is renewing us continuously every day and all day to make us a new creation with the divine life.