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Heidelberg Catechism LD 20: The Holy Spirit and His Work – Part 2 (Ezekiel 36:25-27 and Galatians 5:16-24)

We continue our study from the Heidelberg Catechism concerning the Holy Spirit and his work. Last week, we noted that the Holy Spirit is the eternal God, the third person of the Trinity. And aside from the work of creation and sustaining creation, the Holy Spirit is also involved in the work of redemption. The salvation of sinners which the Father appointed, the Son accomplished—and this the Holy Spirit applies in the believers.

Marami pa po tayong pwedeng pag-aralan patungkol sa Banal na Espiritu, but following the outline of Heidelberg Catechism, mag-fo-focus po tayo sa kung papaanong ang Banal na Espiritu ang siyang nag-u-unite sa atin kay Cristo at nag-bibigay sa atin nung mga espirituwal na biyaya na na-acquire ni Cristo.

Romans 8:9 – “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

Last Sunday, we learned that although Christ already ascended to heaven, he continues to be with his people and works among his people through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, God opens the opportunities for the preaching of the gospel. 

And the Spirit is the one who indwells the sinner so that he/she will receive and respond to the message of the gospel accordingly. The Holy Spirit regenerates our hearts from being “hearts of stone” to “hearts of flesh,” and he illumines our darks minds and makes it see the things of God. Because of this, we are made able to hear the gospel, understand it, and respond in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

But the Holy Spirit does not merely regenerate and illumine our hearts and minds, but he also converts us. Yes, technically speaking, conversion refers to that moment that we exercise repentance and faith in Christ. But what I want us to identify here is the “converted life,” not the “conversion experience.”

Marami kasing mga Kristiyano at mga churches, kapag sinabing “conversion,” ang tinutukoy nila ay yung nag-altar call ka, or nag-pray ka nung sinner’s prayer, or yung napaiyak ka talaga ng husto during a Sunday service. Although itong mga “external experience or manifestations” ay pwede rin namang mga bunga ng tunay na conversion within a person—it doesn’t always follow na kapag umiyak ka during a prayer, you already have a converted life. Maraming tayong kilala na mga tao, na after these experiences happen, there’s no radical change in their lives.

At the end of the day, what matters is not when were you converted (i.e., “spiritual birthdate”), but whether or not you are converted and born again.

So our focus is the “converted life,” and we shall see that it is also the work of the Spirit in us believers. And it follows that if the Spirit regenerates us, it also leads to our conversion. Walang makasalanan na ni-regenerate ng Espiritu, pero hindi magkakaroon ng conversion o pagbabago sa buhay.

Bilang mga mananampalataya, tayo ay pinag-kilusan ng Banal na Espiritu hindi lang upang maintindihan natin ang ebanghelyo, magsisi, at sumampalataya kay Cristo, kundi upang maipamuhay din natin ang Kanyang Salita… upang tayo’y magkaroon din ng bagong buhay sa ilalim ng grasya at gabay ng Diyos.

So let us study the Holy Spirit and our conversion, and we will realize that true believers are converted by the Holy Spirit and they manifest the transforming work of the Spirit in opposition to the sinful flesh.

Let us go to Galatians 5:16-24 (Read as a whole)

There are two major points that we’ll discuss in this passage.

1. Those converted by the Spirit experience the struggle (conflict) between spiritual desires and the sinful desires of the flesh

Paul says in verse 16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit…”

The conjunction “But” links to the previous passage. And there Paul tells the Galatians that in Christ, they have freedom instead of judgment or condemnation. But they shouldn’t use their freedom to serve their sinful desires and oppose one another. Instead they are to love one another and “walk by the Spirit.”

Yung “walk by the Spirit” means living under the guidance and rule of the Spirit. Paul uses the same expression with different words — v. 18 “Led by the Spirit,” v. 25 “keep in step with the Spirit.”

Now Paul are talking to believers here, and this phrase implies or assumes that they have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. You cannot live by the Spirit or keep in step and follow the leading of the Spirit, unless you have the Spirit within you.

So as believers, they must have the Holy Spirit, yet Paul exhorts and commands them (i.e., imperative) to live as such. To live as those who have the Spirit. To walk according to the Spirit whom you have and is at work in you.

And he states the resulting reality, “and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” It is a straightforward claim, a truthful statement: “You live according to the Spirit, then you won’t follow the sinful flesh.” “You don’t live according to the Spirit, then you will follow the sinful flesh.” There’s no other way. Why?

Paul tells the reason, “For the desires of the flesh (i.e., sinful desires) are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit (i.e., the spiritual desires that the Spirit works in us) are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

It can go both ways, if you are live according to the desires of the flesh, it will keep you from doing your spiritual desires. But if you live according to the will and desires of the Spirit, it keeps you from doing sinful desires. 

As Paul states it, they are “opposed to each other.” It’s root word in Greek means they are complete opposite. Magka-away sila kasi magkaiba sila, hindi mo sila pwedeng pagsamahin or pag-isahin.

Ang tubig at juice, pwede niyo po yan pag-haluhin. Soon, hindi mo na makikita yung pagkakaiba at iisa na lang sila. Pero yung tubig at langis (cooking oil, engine oil)—di mo pwedeng paghaluin yan. Kahit ilagay mo sila pareho sa i-isang bote, hindi mo kayang pag-isahin yun.

And that is the opposition that Paul speaks about here. It’s either you are still in the flesh (i.e., you don’t have the Spirit in you) and you live according to the flesh—or you are in the Spirit and you live according to the Spirit. It’s either you are living by the flesh and under condemnation, or you are living by the Spirit and have freedom and life.

Paul says in in v. 18, “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” What does the law do? It accuses. It condemns. Kaya nga yung buong argument ni Paul sa Galatians against circumcision is that if they should base their righteousness in circumcision, then they are putting themselves under the law, and therefore—they are under condemnation. But if they are in Christ through the Spirit, they are free.

In the flesh or in the Spirit—these are two completely different states. And Paul is saying that those who have the Spirit are opposed the sinful flesh.

So, brothers and sisters, friends… this implies that one mark of a sinner converted by the Spirit is this existing struggle within. There is opposition between the spiritual desires and the sinful desires are real to the believer.

Bago tayo maging ma-convert o mabago ng Banal na Espiritu, walang struggle sa heart natin kapag nandyan yung tukso ng kasalanan. Ang puso ng tao ay likas na makasalanan at bulag sa mga espirituwal na bagay, kaya hangga’t hindi pa tayo binabago ng Espiritu, natural lang satin na gawin at mahalin ang kasalanan.

Yes, unbelievers may feel some fear or regret whenever they do sin, but there’s no real struggle and opposition within unlike the Christian. 

Ano ba ‘tong “struggle” na meron sa isang believer? Hindi ‘to yung struggle na para bang nahihirapan kang pumili kung manonood ka ba ng movie or matutulog ka na lang. Na tipong you’re choosing between two good things. Either way, gusto mong gawin at alam mong may benefit ka.

No. Paul describes his experience of this kind of struggle in Romans 7 (READ). And he says in verse 15 and 19, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”

Yes, there will always remain sin while we are still in this fallen flesh, but those who have the Spirit will struggle and wrestle against it.

Belgic Confession puts it well in Article 29. After the section on the marks of the true church, our confession states the marks of the true members of the church:

Tungkol naman sa mga miyembro ng tunay na iglesiya,
makikilala natin sila sa pamamagitan ng mga natatanging palatandaan ng mga Kristiyano:
    yun ay, sa kanilang pananampalataya.
    At matapos nilang tanggapin ang nag-iisa at tanging Tagapagligtas
          na si Jesu-Cristo,

          sila ay lumalayo sa kasalanan at nagpapatuloy sa katuwiran

     Minamahal nila ang tunay na Diyos at ang kanilang mga kapwa,

          nang hindi lumilihis patungo sa kamalian,

     at ipinapako at pinapatay nila ang mga pagnanasa at gawa ng makasalanang laman.

Bagama’t may nananatili pa rin na matinding kahinaan sa kanila,

nilalabanan nila ito

sa pamamagitan ng Banal na Espiritu

sa bawat araw ng kanilang buong buhay.

That’s the point of our conversion. Because of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, there becomes a radical change in our desires, particularly our opposition to the sinful flesh and hatred of sin.

Now aside from the opposition between the Spirit and the flesh, Paul continues his exhortation in Galatians 5:19-23. And here we see the second point:

2. Those converted by the Spirit manifest the fruit of the Spirit rather than the deeds of the sinful flesh.

Verse 19-21 (READ): “Now (introducing another major point, or another aspect of his whole argument in the passage) the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the things like these.”

“Things like these” – The list is not exhaustive. Anything or any form related to this list of sins is a deed of the flesh.

Paul identifies these things as “the works of the flesh.” Sa ibang translations, “deeds or the acts of the flesh.” And taking the context of the passage, these are the outcome of the desires of the flesh which Paul refers to from verse 16. These sins come out when a person gratifies the desires of the flesh.

And these works of the flesh “are evident.” They are manifest; they are recognizable; they are obvious. Now yung “evident” or “obvious” po dito ay hindi nangangahulugan na lahat ‘to kitang-kita sa isang “unconverted” sinner… na tipong kapag ang isang tao ay hindi naman sumasamba sa mga idols, hindi naglalasing, hindi involved sa prostitution, or hindi naman nakikipag-away—eh malamang converted na siya. Not necessarily.

Ang isang tao ay maaaring mabait sa panlabas, pero “nasa loob ang kulo.” Pwedeng ang isang tao ay mukhang inosente kapag kaharap ang ibang tao (public), pero kapag nasa bahay na (private life), kung anu-ano na yung ginagawa nya. After all, idolatry and sexual immorality, for example, can be in different forms.

What Paul is arguing to be “evident” here is that when these sinful acts and character are being committed, it is evident, it is plain, it is undeniable that these come from the sinful flesh—not the Spirit. It can never be the result of the work of the Spirit. It is and will come out only from the sinful flesh.

We don’t have time to look into this list of sins in detail. Some are more common than others. (OPTIONAL)

  • Idolatry (not metaphorical sense) – Literal practice of worshiping false gods
  • Sorcery – Practice of witchcraft, “magic arts” (Acts 19:19, Ephesus) with the use of drugs or poisoning in the hope of some magical power
  • Enmity, strife, rivalries – Speaks of no light disagreements but hostility (poot)
  • Orgies / Carousing – Feasting or parties with excessive indulgence in eating, drinking, sex, and drugs.

Essentially, all these sins demonstrate self-centeredness and self-love instead of true worship of God and love for our neighbor. ‘Yun po ang ugat ng kahit anong kasalanan, the pride, the idolatry, the worship of ourselves, our desires, our comforts—in hostility to God and others. These works of the flesh are against God’s will and law summarized as (1) loving God with all our hearts, minds, and soul, and (2) loving others as ourselves.

And Paul issues a warning, in the end of verse 21. “I warn you, as I warned you before, (with emphasis na ‘to), that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

“Who do such things” (Present active) or “Who are doing such things.” It speaks of a lifestyle. Unconverted sinners will always make a habitual practice of sin. Yet Paul gives this warning to the Galatian believers. Yes, ang mga Kristiyano ay magkakaroon pa rin ng struggles and weaknesses sa buhay na ‘to, and sometimes fall. But they cannot be in a habitual practice of sin.

Paul says in Ephesians 5:3, for instance, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” He’s saying, “You cannot be characterized by immorality or covetousness. Hindi pwedeng Kristiyano ka pero kilala ka bilang isang immoral or covetous person dahil sa pamumuhay mo.”

Again, converted sinners will still struggle with sinful desires. Yet, mga magulang ko’t kapatid,… It is one thing to be tempted by our own lusts; it is another thing to gratify it. It is one thing to struggle with sin or fall into sin; it is another thing to love it, practice it, and live in it.

Those who live in these sinful deeds of the flesh, those who are not yet converted by the Spirit—will not inherit the kingdom of God. In simple words, they will not be saved.

Now, those are the works of the flesh, “But (Paul continues with a contrast in v. 22) the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (no condemnation, no accusation).”

“The fruit of the Spirit” – The “fruit” is a metaphor for a deed or result. (E.g., “Bunga or katas ng pagtitiyaga”). At wala po itong pagkakaiba sa “works” of the flesh. The works of the flesh are what naturally comes out of the sinful flesh. So the “fruit of the Spirit” is that which naturally comes and grows out of the operation of the Holy Spirit. Sa madaling salita, kung tayo’y binuhay ng Banal na Espiritu at Siya’y nananahan sa atin, ang mga bagay na ito ay magiging totoo sa puso’t buhay natin.

Because of receiving God’s love, we will love God and our neighbor. Because of God’s forgiveness, we will have true joy. So on and so forth. Of course, this list in not exhaustive as well. In 2 Peter 1, Christians also possess and grow in knowledge, godliness, and steadfastness. But the point is, the Holy Spirit works in us believers true worship and love for God and love for our neighbors.

Paul identifies it as “the fruit of the Spirit,” not the “fruits” of the Spirit. There are many godly virtues, but there’s only one “fruit” of the Spirit. Whereas the deeds of the sinful flesh are varied and diverse (pwedeng immorality or idolatry or rivalry), these many godly virtues exist together as one fruit of the Spirit.

That means, hindi po mangyayari na binigyan tayo ng Holy Spirit ng “love,” pero walang “joy” at “self-control.” Kung tayo’y Kristiyano, hindi natin pwedeng sabihin na, “Wala talaga akong gentleness eh. Yung ibang Christians siguro binigyan, ako hindi.” As if these are separate “fruits” of the Holy Spirit. If you have the Holy Spirit you will possess these godly qualities and virtues.

Hindi po ibig sabihin na lahat ‘to magiging pantay-pantay sa buhay natin. Some of us are more mature in being patient, some in being self-controlled. But all of us, believers, will have all the graces and virtues that comes from the work of the Spirit—which enables us to live godly and righteous lives.

Furthermore, Paul adds an emphatic and definite statement: “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (v. 24)

Yes, there’s a presence of ongoing struggle within. But a true convert manifests the Spirit and have put to death the flesh and its lusts. The verb “have crucified” in Greek is in aorist tense. It is something that happened in the past, but there’s no indication when it was completed or whether it is still continuing. Yung emphasis po nung verb ay wala sa specific point of time or duration.

Basta, it happened. It’s a summary statement. If you belong to Christ, you have crucified your sinful flesh.

At dito po natin makikita kung paanong ang Banal na Espiritu ang nag-a-apply ng spiritual benefits ni Cristo sa atin. We are sinners and Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins. Pero hindi naman tayo yung pinako. Hindi naman tayo yung nagbayad sa ating mga kasalanan sa krus. Wala tayo dun. Paanong mangyayari na yung ginawa niya at yung resulta ng ginawa niya ay mapapasa-atin?

Ang Banal na Espiritu. The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, and he is the Spirit of Christ. And when the Spirit indwells us, Christ becomes in us. Through faith, the Spirit unites us with Christ and his work. So that means, when Christ put to death sin and its curse on the cross, our sin was also crucified and put to death in it as well. And Christ’s victory over sin becomes ours as well.

Yun po yung sinasabi ni Paul in Romans 6 that “our old self what crucified with Christ”… that “we have died with Christ.” That is why—because Christ is in us through the indwelling of the Spirit, we can consider ourselves as dead to sin and alive to God.

So, this is the work of the Holy Spirit. After regenerating and illuminating our hearts and minds, the Spirit also converts us and changes us, creating in us opposition to the sinful flesh and the new abilities and desire to live out godly lives.

In the end, what do all these things mean to us?

APPLICATION

1. FOR UNBELIEVERS

If you still don’t see these things true in you—the hatred of sin and the fruit of the Spirit—let this cause you to long for the converting work of the Holy Spirit. 

You cannot change yourself. You may try to be a morally good person, but true and permanent change can only happen through the indwelling work of the Spirit of Christ.

Ang Salita ng Diyos ay patuloy na nagpapahayag na tayo’y makasalanan, at ang kasalanan ay may kaparusahan na walang hanggang kamatayan. Ngunit ito ang mabuting balita: Ang kamatayan ni Cristo ay nagdudulot ng kapatawaran ng kasalanan at kalayaan mula sa kapangyarihan nito. At ang espirituwal na biyaya na ito ay mapapasa-atin kung tayo’y mananalig sa Kanya.

Repent and believe in Christ. Cry out to God for mercy, and pray that he will rescue you from the futility of sin and the power of the sinful flesh. And put your hope in God’s Word, that if you are in Christ, his Spirit will work mightily in you, change you, and help you live for him.

2. FOR ALL PROFESSING BELIEVERS 

Now for us who profess to be believers, let this bring us to a sober examination of ourselves. Are we converted? Are these things real to us—the opposition to the flesh? The fruit of the Spirit? 

And we examine ourselves not during Sundays, kung saan we have our best clothes on, ang gaganda ng ngiti natin, at masipag tayo na mag-serve sa isa’t-isa. (We don’t disregard what we are during Sundays.) But that is not the whole picture of who we are that we need to examine. Not even who we are on Facebook, kung saan puro good things about ourselves and our experiences lang ang pina-publicize natin.

Who are you when you leave the church? Who are you when your pastors and elders and fellow church members are no longer with you? Who are you at work, outside your work? Who are you in your homes, and in your private life?

Hindi man po nakikita ng inyong mga officebearers lahat ng nangyayari sa buhay niyo, but God knows. Martin Luther wrote: “True believers are no hypocrites.”

Wala pong tunay na Kristiyano na magsasabi, “Actually, I live a balanced life. Bina-balance ko yung life in the Spirit and life in the flesh. Sa mga spiritual things, spiritual ako. Sa iba, tamang worldly lang.”

No, it can’t be. It’s only either your life manifests the deeds of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit. Let us also take heed of the warning, “Those who practice the works of the flesh will not enter the kingdom of God.”

And if you realize that you’re still living in a habitual practice of sin, repent and run to the cross. Run to the cross where Christ has died and crucified sin to death. Don’t take for granted the gospel message that you keep on hearing. Pray and long that the Spirit will indeed apply Christ and his saving benefits in you. And don’t stop asking God for mercy until you see a clear demonstration of true conversion in your life.

3. FOR US TRUE BELIEVERS

Lastly, for us who realize and witness the transforming work of the Spirit in us—kung nakikita po natin sa ating sa mga sarili ang pakikipaglaban sa kasalanan at ang paglago sa bunga ng Espiritu—ito po ay maging dahilan ng ating pasasalamat at pagdiriwang sa harapan ng Diyos!

Let us rejoice for this proves that we belong to Christ!

It is not a reason for pride. Kung nakikita natin ang pagbabago sa ating puso at buhay, alam natin na ito’y biyaya at pagkilos ng Diyos sa atin. We are no better than others. But God, through his Spirit, graciously leads us to Christ and transforms us from sin and death to righteousness and life.

And it is also not a reason for self-confidence or passivity. Hindi natin iisipin, “Well, kitang-kita na naman sakin ang fruit of the Spirit. Secured na ‘ko. Easy-easy na lang sa life.” 

No. The evidence of the Spirit’s work in us encourages us all the more to fight sin and live in righteousness. Because we know that we indeed belong to Christ and no longer under the curse sin, and the almighty Spirit of God is in us making us “wholeheartedly willing and ready and able to live for him.”

We may not know why or how exactly the Holy Spirit would work out conversion in us. Bakit tayo binago, yung iba hindi? Paano tayo binago? Paano nangyari ‘tong pagbabagong naranasan ko, itong “fruit of the Spirit?” Instead of curiously searching for answers, it is enough for us believers to witness them in our hearts and lives. It is enough that we know that Christ is indeed in us. And for that—we give all the glory, praises, and adoration to God.

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