This Mystery

reflections on theology and life

Tag: Christ

Completed by the Spirit: Download the original paper

By request, here’s the com­plete paper from July 2010 from which the Com­pleted by the Spirit blog series was adapted. You’re wel­come to down­load it and dis­trib­ute it freely as long as you do not mod­ify it:

Com­pleted by the Spirit: New Covenant Sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion in Paul (PDF, 240 kb)

Completed by the Spirit Part 18: If We Have the Spirit, Why Do We Need Instruction?

This is the 18th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Why?If sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion is the work of the Holy Spirit in us,  why do believ­ers — who have received the Spirit — still need instruc­tion and exhortation?

First, it is impor­tant to remem­ber that believ­ers are still imper­fect this side of glory. As we have seen, the incar­nate Christ as God-Man was the pro­to­type of the believer given the Holy Spirit.

But unlike us, the incar­nate Jesus’ com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the Holy Spirit was perfect.

In Christ, the Spirit’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion was com­plete. Con­tinue reading

Completed by the Spirit Part 17: The Gospel Brings About All Aspects of Our Salvation

This is the 17th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Discipline of Grace cover

The Dis­ci­pline of Grace by Jerry Bridges

Paul’s repeated expla­na­tions of the gospel and his dox­olo­gies to Christ are not given because the peo­ple to whom he writes do not have Christ — or don’t know Him — but because they do know him. Paul writes to the Romans words that echo those we saw last time from :

[14] I myself am sat­is­fied about you, my broth­ers, that you your­selves are full of good­ness, filled with all knowl­edge and able to instruct one another. [15] But on some points I have writ­ten to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God [16] to be a min­is­ter of Christ Jesus to the Gen­tiles in the priestly ser­vice of the gospel of God, so that the offer­ing of the Gen­tiles may be accept­able, sanc­ti­fied by the Holy Spirit. ()

Paul is bring­ing the words and truth of Christ to remem­brance, because it is the gospel of Christ that brings about all aspects of sal­va­tion: jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion and glorification.

But that’s not new infor­ma­tion to these saints. Con­tinue reading


Now con­cern­ing broth­erly love you have no need for any­one to write to you, for you your­selves have been taught by God to love one another, (ESV)


14 I myself am sat­is­fied about you, my broth­ers, that you your­selves are full of good­ness, filled with all knowl­edge and able to instruct one another. 15 But on some points I have writ­ten to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a min­is­ter of Christ Jesus to the Gen­tiles in the priestly ser­vice of the gospel of God, so that the offer­ing of the Gen­tiles may be accept­able, sanc­ti­fied by the Holy Spirit. (ESV)

Apologetics That Brings Glory to Christ

Pas­tor Dustin Segers

I had the great bless­ing of par­tic­i­pat­ing in the 2011 Earth Stove Soci­ety Think Tank this week with sev­eral pre­sen­ters, includ­ing Pas­tor Dustin Segers of Greens­boro, N.C. He is an active evan­ge­list on the streets of his city and on col­lege campuses.

One of his two pre­sen­ta­tions was on the topic of Apolo­get­ics and New Covenant Theology.

Dustin reminded us to “defend the Bib­li­cal God and the Bib­li­cal gospel with the Bible. Stand on the Hill of God’s word to defend that self­same Hill. Jesus and the apos­tles did it, and you should too.”

You can read a sum­mary of what he pre­sented on his blog, Grace in the Triad.

Video of his pre­sen­ta­tion will be avail­able soon. I rec­om­mend both.

The Promise and Necessity of the Spirit

Pas­tor Moe Bergeron

Pas­tor Moe Berg­eron spoke at the Earth Stove Society’s 2011 Think Tank (in which I par­tic­i­pated) on July 27 on the topic “The Neglect of the Spirit of God in NCT.”

Paul con­trasted the Old Covenant econ­omy of the let­ter with the New Covenant econ­omy of the Spirit (, ) but most the­o­log­i­cal sys­tems — includ­ing the New Covenant The­ol­ogy move­ment — obscure, ignore or dimin­ish the role of the Holy Spirit as the indwelling Spirit of Christ in the believer. Moe believes that it’s time to change that.

I highly rec­om­mend you give Moe a lis­ten: http://earthstovesociety.com/?p=314


3:1 Are we begin­ning to com­mend our­selves again? Or do we need, as some do, let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tion to you, or from you? You your­selves are our let­ter of rec­om­men­da­tion, writ­ten on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a let­ter from Christ deliv­ered by us, writ­ten not with ink but with the Spirit of the liv­ing God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such is the con­fi­dence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are suf­fi­cient in our­selves to claim any­thing as com­ing from us, but our suf­fi­ciency is from God, who has made us com­pe­tent to be min­is­ters of a new covenant, not of the let­ter but of the Spirit. For the let­ter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the min­istry of death, carved in let­ters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the min­istry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the min­istry of con­dem­na­tion, the min­istry of right­eous­ness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that sur­passes it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is per­ma­nent have glory.

12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the out­come of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hard­ened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day when­ever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is free­dom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, behold­ing the glory of the Lord, are being trans­formed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)


3:1 O fool­ish Gala­tians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was pub­licly por­trayed as cru­ci­fied. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hear­ing with faith? Are you so fool­ish? Hav­ing begun by the Spirit, are you now being per­fected by the flesh? Did you suf­fer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who sup­plies the Spirit to you and works mir­a­cles among you do so by works of the law, or by hear­ing with faith— just as Abra­ham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abra­ham. And the Scrip­ture, fore­see­ing that God would jus­tify the Gen­tiles by faith, preached the gospel before­hand to Abra­ham, say­ing, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abra­ham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is writ­ten, “Cursed be every­one who does not abide by all things writ­ten in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evi­dent that no one is jus­ti­fied before God by the law, for “The right­eous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becom­ing a curse for us—for it is writ­ten, “Cursed is every­one who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the bless­ing of Abra­ham might come to the Gen­tiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

15 To give a human exam­ple, broth­ers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been rat­i­fied. 16 Now the promises were made to Abra­ham and to his off­spring. It does not say, “And to off­springs,” refer­ring to many, but refer­ring to one, “And to your off­spring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years after­ward, does not annul a covenant pre­vi­ously rat­i­fied by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inher­i­tance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abra­ham by a promise.

19 Why then the law? It was added because of trans­gres­sions, until the off­spring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an inter­me­di­ary. 20 Now an inter­me­di­ary implies more than one, but God is one.

21 Is the law then con­trary to the promises of God? Cer­tainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then right­eous­ness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scrip­ture impris­oned every­thing under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held cap­tive under the law, impris­oned until the com­ing faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be jus­ti­fied by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were bap­tized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is nei­ther Jew nor Greek, there is nei­ther slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s off­spring, heirs accord­ing to promise. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 14: The Very Stuff of New Covenant Ethics

This is the 14th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

In our last install­ment in this series, we noted that love is a God-given, Spirit-provided qual­ity that impels actions in the believer and that it is that same Spirit-provided love that forms the out­work­ing of the New Covenant ethic.

Love In Hard Places by D. A. Carson

Love In Hard Places by D. A. Carson

We’ll con­tinue and wrap up our look at love with a rather long quo­ta­tion from D. A. Car­son, in which he sum­ma­rizes Paul’s view on love as it relates to those two loves – God and neigh­bor – which have their expo­si­tion in the two tables of the Old Covenant:

Sim­i­larly, Paul insists that what is ful­filled in one word, viz. , the com­mand to love one’s neigh­bor as one­self, is the entire sec­ond table of the Deca­logue: love is the ful­fill­ment of the law (). Despite argu­ments to the con­trary, the dou­ble com­mand to love is not some sort of deep prin­ci­ple from which all the other com­mand­ments of Scrip­ture can be deduced; nor is it a hermeneu­ti­cal grid to weed out the laws of the old covenant that no longer have to be obeyed while bless­ing those that are still oper­a­tive; nor is it offered as a kind of reduc­tion­is­tic sub­sti­tute for all the Old Tes­ta­ment laws. In some ways, the twin laws of love, love for God and love for neigh­bor, inte­grate all the other laws. They estab­lish the proper motives for all the other imper­a­tives, viz. lov­ing God and lov­ing one’s neighbor.

But the “ful­fill­ment” lan­guage sug­gests some­thing more. All the laws of the old rev­e­la­tion, indeed all the old covenant Scrip­tures, con­spire to antic­i­pate some­thing more, to point to some­thing beyond them­selves. They point to the com­ing of the king­dom, the gospel of the king­dom; they point to a time when life prop­erly lived in God’s uni­verse can be summed up by obe­di­ence to the com­mand­ment to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength and by the com­mand­ment to love your neigh­bor as your­self.[1]

Con­tinue reading


18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own peo­ple, but you shall love your neigh­bor as your­self: I am the Lord. (ESV)


Owe no one any­thing, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has ful­filled the law. For the com­mand­ments, “You shall not com­mit adul­tery, You shall not mur­der, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other com­mand­ment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neigh­bor; there­fore love is the ful­fill­ing of the law. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 13: Love Poured Into Us

This is the 13th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Water pouring from pitcher into a glassLove is a repeated theme for Paul.

While we have seen pre­vi­ously in this series that love ful­fills the law and that God’s love is poured into us by the Holy Spirit, let’s look at how Paul describes that love. In , Paul writes:

[1] If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clang­ing cym­bal. [2] And if I have prophetic pow­ers, and under­stand all mys­ter­ies and all knowl­edge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove moun­tains, but have not love, I am noth­ing. [3] If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

First, let’s note that in accor­dance with love being some­thing poured into us by the Holy Spirit, that love is not some­thing that would be described by Paul as “prac­ti­cal benev­o­lence. In fact, he cau­tions, “If I give away all I have … but have not love, I gain noth­ing.” Love is not the result of our actions; rather it is a God-given, Spirit-provided qual­ity that impels actions in the believer.

It is that same Spirit-provided love that forms the out­work­ing of the New Covenant ethic.

Con­tinue reading


13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clang­ing cym­bal. And if I have prophetic pow­ers, and under­stand all mys­ter­ies and all knowl­edge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove moun­tains, but have not love, I am noth­ing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arro­gant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irri­ta­ble or resent­ful; it does not rejoice at wrong­do­ing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophe­cies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowl­edge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we proph­esy in part, 10 but when the per­fect comes, the par­tial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I rea­soned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up child­ish ways. 12 For now we see in a mir­ror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the great­est of these is love. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 12: Love is the Fulfilling of the Law

This is the 12th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Love graffiti on red garage doorIf an exter­nal code is the antithe­sis of a life in the Spirit (as we noted in our last install­ment), what is the expres­sion of a life in the Spirit? Love. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” ().

That love, that love from God via the Holy Spirit given to dwell in us is, as Paul tells us, the ful­fill­ing of the law:

[8] Owe no one any­thing, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has ful­filled the law. [9] For the com­mand­ments, “You shall not com­mit adul­tery, You shall not mur­der, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other com­mand­ment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” [10] Love does no wrong to a neigh­bor; there­fore love is the ful­fill­ing of the law. ()

Con­tinue reading


and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (ESV)


Owe no one any­thing, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has ful­filled the law. For the com­mand­ments, “You shall not com­mit adul­tery, You shall not mur­der, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other com­mand­ment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neigh­bor; there­fore love is the ful­fill­ing of the law. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit: Excursus — Bunyan’s ‘Of the Law and a Christian’

John Bunyan

John Bun­yan

Lest any­one think we’retreading on new ground in the blog series “Com­pleted by the Spirit” that we are anthol­o­giz­ing here, let’s take a moment and visit John Bunyan’s “Of the Law and a Chris­t­ian.” (This arti­cle is avail­able as part of John Bunyan’s Mis­cel­la­neous Pieces as a free down­load from Project Guten­berg or from Ama­zon in hard­cover, paper­back or Kin­dle formats.)

Unlike those who would say, “Moses will drive you to Christ to be jus­ti­fied and Christ will send you back to Moses to be sanc­ti­fied,“[1] it is the office of God the Holy Spirit and not the pur­pose of the writ­ten code to sanc­tify us. (The law-for-sanctification view is dis­cussed fur­ther in Part 4 of this series.)

In the late 1600’s, Bun­yan made the rela­tion­ship of the Chris­t­ian to the law as clear and plain as prob­a­bly any­one ever has in “OF THE LAW AND A CHRISTIAN” (empha­sis in bold­face mine):

Con­tinue reading

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