From Your Pastor: The Spirit of Holiness

“…Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…” – ESV Ephesians 1:4

When the Eternal Son of God, the One who is eternally begotten, not made, who is very God of very God, became man, he took to Himself our nature, conceived by the Holy Spirit, from the substance of Mary (Luke 1:31-35). It is hard for us to understand, but the Scriptures teach that the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Redeemer of God’s people, became man, and so was, and continues to be, God and man in two distinct natures (human and divine), and one Person forever (see Shorter Catechism, Q&A 21).

This means that while the Eternal Son did not change in His Being or substance or power as God in the Incarnation (Heb. 1:1-3), by assuming our nature into permanent hypostatic (personal) union with Himself, He did become something He was not before, namely man (Heb. 2:14-18; 4:16-18). As our Redeemer, Jesus Christ serves as our Mediator, and we must seek to honor the One Person, and acknowledge properly and biblically the two natures of Christ.

In considering the Spirit of Holiness, we will focus on the human nature of Christ today. What was done by the human nature was done by the one Person, so that we understand that the Eternal God does not die, yet He who was God did die, as man. The one Mediator died for sinners, the one Mediator between God and man who is both God and man in one Person. Jesus was God-Man. How does the Spirit’s work on Jesus Christ, God-Man, help us understand our holiness before God that we find in Him? Let us understand this in a time when the true humanity of Jesus Christ is begin undermined or misunderstood. While our Mediator was God and Man, He was truly God and truly man.

As a man, he was our representative in permanent-personal union with the Eternal Son, and He had to perform perfect obedience before God as man. There is to be no confusion, or mixture of His divine and human natures, but careful distinctions made. We should want to stress in understanding Christ’s true humanity, that like us He depended upon the Holy Spirit for grace, although He was without sin, He was truly man, dependent as a creature upon Almighty God. As Joel Beeke writes: “Christ’s obedience in our place had to be the real obedience of a human being. He did not cheat by relying on His own divine nature while He acted as the second Adam. Rather, by receiving and depending upon the Spirit, Christ was fully depending upon HIs Father (John 6:38).”

John Owen wrote: “The Lord Christ, as man, did and was to exercise all grace by the rational faculties and powers of His soul, His understanding, will, and affections; for He acted grace as a man….His divine nature was not unto Him in the place of a soul, nor did [the divine nature] immediately operate the things He performed, as some of old vainly imagined; but being a perfect man, His rational soul was in Him the immediate principle of all His moral operations, even as ours in us…. [Christ’s] growth in grace and wisdom was the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit; for as the faculties of His mind were enlarged by degrees and strengthened, so the Holy Spirit filled them up with grace for actual obedience” (John Owen, Works, 3:169-170). Puritan Richard Sibbes  wrote similarly: “Whatsoever Christ did as man, He did by the Spirit” (R. Sibbes, Works, 1:102).

The Spirit of God that Jesus received from the Father is the same Spirit that the Father and the Son have sent to be within His people. What the Holy Spirit helped Jesus to do: live by faith, resist temptation, endure by grace, be a faithful servant, be comforted in affliction, etc. is what the Spirit still does for God’s people united to Jesus. The ministry of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus Christ has tremendous implications for believers’ holiness in Christ (Psa. 133; Isa. 61:1ff).  Jesus is our sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). As theologian Mark Jones writes: “Jesus Christ, in His human nature, is the holiest man ever to have lived on earth. He exercised faith, hope, and love in a manner so extraordinary that if there were millions of worlds of loving creatures, they would not have, combined together, the same degree of love that was in the heart of our Savior. These graces bestowed upon Jesus did not remain on Him alone, but trickled down, as oil on His forehead, to His bride.” Jesus as exalted King poured out His Spirit upon His people (Acts 2:33).

We should understand that there was a twofold mission of the Triune God to secure the salvation of God’s people that are intimately (covenantally!) related, but should be distinguished: 1) The sending of the Eternal Son by His Father to become man and to perform and accomplish as Mediator of God’s people all of the acts of obedience unto death as Prophet, Priest and King; 2) The sending of the Eternal Spirit by the Father and Jesus the Enthroned King at God’s right hand to His people to enable them to follow Him in obedience and suffering and holiness until they would meet safely in heaven, and behold the Son face to face. This is the grace we speak of when we say that we do all things for Christ “because of His grace, by His grace, through His grace, in light of His grace, etc. The grace is particularly the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” given to us by God’s Spirit to enable us (although sinful) to make progress in obedience and holiness (we are saved by faith alone but not a grace that is alone; we are saved to be holy and obedient unto God, Eph. 1:3-5, 2:10; Phil. 1:6, 2:12-13).

John Owen wrote: “If Christ is our mediator, our union with Him means not only that we must be holy (that it is necessary), but also that we will be able to be like Him (and in our motives desire this), and, of course, that we will enjoy being holy (in communion with Him).” The grace we need for sanctification as believers is the grace of God that is given to believers in and through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 13:14). Whatever grace we received for our holiness first belonged to our Savior who is “full of grace” (John 1:16). To be holy is both to look at Christ’s substitutionary work for us in reconciliation, but it is also to labor after conformity to His image because of, and in dependence upon His grace in Christ (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4).

Although Christ was sinless and needed no grace as sinners need grace, nevertheless, Christ Jesus lived by faith in his estate of humiliation. Christ is the holiest man who ever lived and the greatest “believer” (or man of faith) ever to have lived (Heb. 12:2). There has never been, nor will there ever be, a more perfect example of living by faith than Jesus. By faith, He believed the word and promises of God. If Christ had not had faith, His people would remain in their unbelief; if Christ had not been vindicated (1 Tim. 3:16), adopted (Psa. 2:7; Rom. 1:4), sanctified (Rom. 6:9-10; John 17:19), and glorified (1 Cor. 15:35-49), His elect would not receive these blessings!

There is no grace we received by the Spirit that was not first present in Christ Himself, particularly the grace of faith. The Holy Spirit bestows all the blessings of Christ upon the members of His church only because they were first bestowed on Christ. Richard Sibbes wrote: “We have not the Holy Spirit immediately from God, but we have Him as sanctifying Christ first [not from sin, but consecrating him as man to the Father’s will], and then us, and whatsoever the Holy Spirit does in us, He does the same in Christ first, and He does it in us, because of Christ.”

The life of holiness is the life of faith. The way we begin the Christian life with faith is the way we continue in the Christian life until we get to heaven and faith becomes sight. Those who belong to Christ are as dependent upon the Spirit for their holiness as they are dependent upon air to breathe.  Just as Christ lived by faith and depended upon the grace of the Holy Spirit to work on His human nature, so we are likewise to live by faith and depend upon the Holy Spirit to enable us to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs


* For further reading: ‘A Puritan Theology’, ed. Beeke and Jones; ‘Holy Spirit’, S. Ferguson; John Owen, ‘Works’, Vols. 1-4; ‘Hebrews’, Vol. 3; ‘Works’, R. Sibbes; ‘Antinomianism’, M. Jones.

From Your Pastor: John Owen, On Mortification of Sin

“How Can I Put to Death the Deeds of the Body, and Live?!”[1]

What is mortification? A habitual weakening of sin. Although we are united to Jesus Christ by faith and sin has lost it’s dominion, or rule and reign over believers, nevertheless, sin remains in us, and is hostile to our spiritual growth (Romans 6-8). Read prayerfully and carefully Romans 8:6-13:

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (ESV Romans 8:6-13)

Mortification consists in constantly fighting against sin. We must understand that the Christian life is a conflict, it is a great spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10-20).

* Know that God hates sin and will judge it.

* Know that you have such an enemy as sin to deal with.

* Labor to be acquainted with the ways, wiles, methods, advantages, and occasions of sin’s success over you.

You must be a believer to mortify sin. Without the Spirit of God, you cannot mortify (Rom. 8:13).

There must be sincerity and diligence in a universality of obedience. Read 2 Cor. 7:1.

Consider whether your lust has these dangers symptoms accompanying it:

* It has long corrupted your heart and it has had power and prevalency over you for some time.  

* Secret pleas of the heart approving of itself and making excuses for why you do it in order to remain in you.

* Rather than fight the sin, you seek to find evidences of good things you do to give you peace, rather than dealing with the sin that is corrupting you through its power.

* Has it had a frequency of success in you?

* You have sought to mortify the sin simply by being frightened of judgment or the consequences for you and your reputation.

* Has God dealt with you about your sin, particularly through the discipline of affliction?

Get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind and conscience of the guilt, dangers and evil of your sin.

Load your conscience with the guilt of your sin.

Bring your lust to the Gospel, not for relief (yet!) but for further conviction of its guilt; you might say:

“What have I done? What love, what mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on! Is this the return I make to the Father for his love, to the Son for his blood, to the Holy Spirit for his grace Do I thus treat the Lord in this way?! Have I defiled the heart that Christ died to wash, that the blessed Spirit has chosen to dwell in? …Do I account communion with him of so little value? …I daily grieve that Spirit whereby I am sealed to the day of redemption?!”

Constantly long and breathe after deliverance from the power of sin (Rom. 7).

Consider whether the distemper is rooted in your nature and increased by your constitution/temperament (Psa. 51; 1 Cor. 9:27).

Rise mightily against the first actings and conceptions of your distemper.

Use and exercise yourself to such meditations as may serve to fill you at all times with self-abasement and humility before God and thoughts of your own vileness.

 * Think on the majesty and holiness of God and His infinite distance from you.

* Think much of how little you yet know Him and seek to commune with Him.

Do not speak peace to your soul before God speaks it to you; but hearken to what God says to your soul.

Raise your heart by faith to an expectation of relief from Christ.

Consider Jesus’ mercy, tenderness and kindness to sinners, as He is particularly Priest at God’s right hand.

Consider his faithfulness to help you as he has promised.

Act faith on the death of Christ: Have an expectation of power and expectation of conformity to Him by His Spirit.

* The Spirit of Christ alone reveals unto us the fullness of Christ for our relief.

* The Spirit of Christ alone establishes the heart in expectation of relief from Christ.

* The Spirit of Christ alone brings the cross of Christ into our hearts with its sin-killing power.

* The Spirit of Christ is the author and finisher of our sanctification.

IN Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs



[1] This is edited from John Owen’s important classic ‘The Mortification of Sin’ (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2004).

Communion with God

Word of Encouragement

The following is a digest of John Owen’s excellent work entitled ‘Communion with the Triune God’ for those who may not have the time to read it right now but would like to benefit from the rich teaching.


John Owen on ‘Communion with God’ (Excerpts from his book and a digest of the truths therein).


How do I have communion with God? To experience communion with God we must first be reconciled to Him through faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ brings us into fellowship with the Triune God. Jesus reveals God to us and by His Spirit unites us to God. In God, we can have wonderful communion and fellowship with the Eternal God.


“…Our fellowship (communion) is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”- 1 John 1:3-4


Owen wrote: “To experience communion with God there needs to be fellowship and communication: shared affections, response, delight, and satisfaction. Communion is active communion of giving and receiving.”


We have the privilege in Christ to seek God and to find Him. And to find in God one we can share our thoughts, read and meditate upon His words to us and delight and be satisfied by this fellowship. Like the most intimate relationships we have on earth, true communion is to share oneself; it is to enjoy one another; it is to delight and be satisfied. Isn’t is an amazing truth that the God of the universe whom we by nature have offended with our sins, has sought us out in Christ to have intimate fellowship and relationship with us?!


We were created for fellowship with God. Only in God do we find what our hearts are ultimately desire; God alone satisfies our souls. God gives by His Spirit through His Word and we receive from Him the grace to live on Him and in Him.


The Spirit of God by His grace makes possible our communion with God. The Spirit of God is particularly the One who is sent as Sanctifier and Comforter of God’s people in Christ (John 14-16). The Spirit brings life from our deadened hearts, and unites us with Jesus Christ so that we might have fellowship and communion with God.


Owen wrote: “The Spirit as Sanctifier comes with power, to conquer an unbelieving heart; the Spirit as Comforter comes with sweetness to be received in a believing heart.”


The Spirit not only enables us to have communion with the Triune God, but He makes us desire communion as we seek after Him. The Spirit makes our communion sweet.  Whatever rules over our affections, rules our emotions and thoughts and will. What we love the most; what is most sweet to us is what will rule the entire person.


But as Christians in this world, we still struggle against our sins, and so we must by faith seek the Spirit’s help in our communion with God. Our flesh will fight against us (“war against us” Gal. 5:16), and prevent us from doing what we desire in seeking God (Gal. 5:16-26; Romans 7:13ff).  As we realize this inward conflict, we must seek Christ all the more for help by His Spirit. For those who recognize their emptiness and need, the Spirit takes us to Christ.


Owen wrote: “Assure yourself then, there is nothing more acceptable unto the Father, than for us to keep up our hearts unto Him as the Eternal Fountain of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus.”


We have a constant, daily need for the grace of Christ. We are dependent upon Him for all things, and we submit humbly to Jesus for a greater and deeper communion with God. Our flesh will try to seek satisfaction from worldly things, even lawful worldly things, but we must never forget that God alone is the one who can satisfy the deepest longings of our soul.  We must keep our hearts unto Him by His gracious Spirit, as we reflect on the death of Christ and the mercy God has shown to us in Him.


By nature, God is far from us, therefore we must always think of God’s divine attributes, or the truths about God, through the lens of Christ. We can be confident that in Christ as our Mediator, we will always receive mercy and grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). Christ gives us confidence before God, and in Christ we can know that God is for us.


As sinful people, we learn in creation that God is above us (Rom. 1:19ff); in the Law we learn that God is against us (Rom. 8:3-4); in Christ Jesus we learn by God’s Spirit that God is for us and if God is for us, who can be against us?! (Romans 8:31).  How are we to be confident and sure that God is for us in Christ? We have confidence by the fact that Jesus who died for sinners is also raised for us and seated at God’s right hand. God has received a down-payment of our flesh in heaven, and so has sent a down-payment of heaven to us by His Spirit.


Owen wrote: “For as God has given us the earnest (down payment) of His Spirit, so Has He received from us the earnest of the flesh, and has carried it with Him into heaven as a pledge of that completed entirety which is one day to be restored.”


This means that the Spirit takes from Christ and gives to us in our humanity all that we need for life and godliness. Christ satisfies our souls. The Spirit enables us to live for Christ and strengthens us against sin by taking from the glorified humanity of Jesus in heaven. The Spirit is a down-payment now of the full and eternal communion that awaits us for all eternity. We can have a part of eternity now as God has poured out His Spirit into our hearts and grants us His loving presence (Romans 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:21-22).


How does God draw us into close communion with Him by His Spirit? By teaching us of His loving thoughts toward us. God reveals His love to us so that we can delight in Him. Everything that Jesus did in His life, death, resurrection, and is doing in His ascended Heavenly ministry at God’s right, is for us, for His beloved.


Owen wrote: “From eternity He had thoughts of what He would do for us, and delighted Himself therein. And when Jesus was in the world, in all He went about, He had still this thought: ‘This is for them, and this is for them- -my beloved’.”


Let us think on the promises of God in Christ. All of God’s promises are “yes” and “amen” in Christ Jesus! We can draw from God’s promises to us in Christ so that we might draw nearer to Him and benefit from communion with Him.


Owen wrote: “The life and soul of all our comforts lie treasured up in the promises of Christ. God’s promises in Christ are the breasts of all our consolation.”


Our communion with God will encourage us to be more intentional in our obedience to God. We will know and experience more of the liberating power from the Spirit, and we will live more freely from our sins. Our communion with God will become more of a delight and liberty rather than a mere duty. Prayer will be more frequent and necessary for our souls to be filled up with Christ.


Owen wrote: “God’s Spirit brings spiritual freedom, love, and rest. This freedom is a freedom for obedience, not a freedom from it. Slaves take liberty from duty; children have liberty in duty….The soul is never more raised with the love of God than when by the Spirit it is taken into intimate communion with God in prayer.”


Let us rejoice in our communion with God and let us seek that heavenly communion with God now as we live here, hoping and awaiting heaven when all of our desires will be fully realized and satisfied.


ESV Colossians 3:1-4: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.


Ponder the love of God for you.


IN Christ’s love,


Pastor Biggs