We are wrapping the 2018 Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology this weekend at Proclamation Presbyterian Church outside Philadelphia. Our theme this year is “Spirit of the Age – Age of the Spirit.” As we have been celebrating the exalted Christ’s outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost and its implications for our age of history, let me briefly highlight some of the main benefits we now enjoy:
1. By the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, the gospel is unleashed with power from on high. Prior to Pentecost, the gospel was confined to a small cultural and geographical corner of the world. But with the Spirit’s coming, the gospel “has gone forth everywhere” (1 Thess. 1:8). Paul could state that the gospel has gone out “in the whole world” and “is bearing fruit and increasing” (Col. 1:5-6). Because of the outpoured Spirit, we who live in lands distant from the original church have heard and believed, and we have a mighty confidence in God for the success of the gospel among those who have still not heard its saving message.
2. At Pentecost, Christ has joined his ministry to the Spirit to advance his saving ministry with great power. Paul makes the stunning statement in 2 Cor. 3:17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit.” The point is not an ontological union of the Second and Third Persons of the Godhead but an economical joining in the application of that salvation which Christ has achieved. It was for this reason that Jesus told his disciples, “it is to your advantage that I go away” (Jn. 16:7). Now Christ lives and moves in his people by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19). What a joyous realization that by his Spirit, Christ lives in us!
3. After Pentecost, the Spirit is at work convicting sinners and regenerating their hearts to believe. Jesus taught of the Spirit: “when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (Jn. 16:8). Now, the most hardened sinner can be saved through the witness of the gospel, by the Spirit’s power to convict of sin and bring to saving faith.
4. Because of the Spirit’s coming, believers can and will be transformed into the glorious image of Christ. Whereas Moses would depart from the Lord’s presence with a radiant face – only to have that divine imprint fade over time – Christians “beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). Now, genuine Christ-likeness is not only our goal but the experience every Christian is able to know in growing measure. To be like Jesus! Yes, because of Pentecost.
5. By the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Christ has glorified himself in the world. Jesus told the disciples, “When the Spirit of truth comes,…He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (Jn. 16:13-14). Through God’s Word, believers in Christ behold the glory of Jesus, seeing in the gospel “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Even the unbelieving world – which would never have known or cared a crucified Jew named Jesus – has had his glory revealed in the lives and witness of Christ’s Spirit-indwelt people. What a thrilling thought! And what a glory-strewn purpose for our lives as people of the Holy Spirit in this world!
We are living in the Age of the Spirit, and thus able to speak of God’s truth and grace to the spirit of the age. I hope you are able to join us for this year’s PCRT. And I pray that you rejoice at the glorious thing Christ has done in sending the Holy Spirit to be the conquering power of our age.
Richard Philips is pastor of 2nd Presbyterian Church of Greenville, SC and Chairman of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology (PCRT). This appeared on the blog site REFORMATION 21.