Tonight we continue in our study of the Holy Spirit. Let’s begin by once again going to Acts 2 and the Day of Pentecost.
Acts 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified , both Lord and Christ. 37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent , and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off , even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
We know that Pentecost was the day when the church was born. We say that the church was born because it was on that day that the church as we know it today came into being. What caused the birth of the church? It was the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s coming empowered the disciples to go out into all the world and to make disciples of all nations.
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
The Greek word used for ‘power’ is dunamis, from which we get ‘dynamite.’ This dynamic empowerment that came upon the disciples caused an explosion.
First of all, it caused an explosion in the lives of the disciples. Only days prior to this, they had been hiding in fear of the Jews. (Jn 20:19) Now they are filled with boldness and courage.
Secondly, it caused an explosion in the lives of those listening. Three thousand souls were saved that day!
What caused this great explosion? The Holy Spirit! Tonight we begin examining how the Holy Spirit brings men to salvation. Over the next few weeks there are three activities of the Spirit that we will consider:
1. The Spirit’s Restraint of Sin
2. The Spirit’s Reproving of Sin
3. The Spirit’s Regeneration for Salvation
I. The Spirit’s Restraint of Sin
Look with me at 2 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he [man of sin] might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
The believers at Thessalonica had been told that the Rapture had already taken place and that they had been left behind. As you might imagine this struck great fear in their hearts. Therefore Paul was writing to them in order to teach them truth about the sequence of events in the last days. Paul reassures them that the Day of the Lord will not occur without first there be a falling away and the man of sin being revealed. The man of sin Paul mentions is the individual we normally referred to as the ‘antichrist.’
Paul says something else that is significant. He informs them that although the spirit of iniquity is already at work, the man of sin will not step forward until the One who is restraining evil has been removed.
A. Who or What is Restraining Evil?
Though there are some who suggest that God is using government to restrain evil today, most conservative Bible teachers agree that the one Paul is referring to is the Holy Spirit. We read in Genesis 6:3 that ‘God’s Spirit will not always strive with men.’ There comes a day when God says enough is enough and He turns men over to a reprobate mind.
B. How Is the Spirit Restraining Evil?
The Bible doesn’t say emphatically how the Spirit is restraining sin. There are several suggestions and theories:
1. By the Power of Human Government
We read from the book of Romans:
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
The Bible teaches us that the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord and that ‘as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.’ (Pr 21:1) Books such as Daniel and Nehemiah reveal how God used pagan kings to do His will; yet surely the Lord is not solely dependent upon the wicked to hold back evil.
2. By the Spirit’s Working in the Hearts of the Unsaved
Spurgeon spoke of ‘restraining grace’ that keeps men from ‘breaking out into open and corrupt vices.
AW Pink wrote – ” If God should leave men absolutely to their own natural corruptions and to the power of Satan, all show of goodness and morality would be entirely banished from the earth: men would grow past feeling in sin, and wickedness would swiftly and entirely swallow up the whole world. What is it that holds back the enmity of the wicked against the righteous? Nothing but the restraining power of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who places that “great fear” within them, to keep them back from many outrages against God’s people. He curbs their malice. So completely are the reprobate shackled by His almighty hand, that Christ could say to Pilate, “thou couldest have no power against me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19:11)
We learn from Romans 2:15 that even the unsaved man has the law of God written in his heart. We all know men and women who are moral, even though they were unsaved. Yet we also learn that the bent of the unredeemed man is towards evil and not towards good. We read also from Romans –
Romans 1:21 “… when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
3. By the Spirit’s Presence Here On Earth
Some believe that because Jesus spoke of ‘sending the Spirit’, the Spirit was not here on earth prior to the Day of Pentecost. They also conclude that because the Spirit was not here prior to Pentecost, He will be removed from the earth once the church is raptured.
Yet there are many passages of scripture that indicate that the Spirit was on earth prior to Pentecost. Genesis 1:2 speaks of – ‘The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.’ Many of those of the Old Testament experienced the Spirit: Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Saul, and David. We also learn from scripture of a man by the name of Simeon who – “it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” (Lk 2:26) John the Baptist is said to have been filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb. Elizabeth, the mother of John, was filled with the Spirit. We read in Jn 20:22 that Jesus breathed upon His disciples and said, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost.’
The Spirit is God and therefore He is omnipresent. In addition, the book of Revelation teaches us that there will be a great number of men saved during the Tribulation. For them to be saved requires the work and presence of the Spirit, therefore the Spirit will not leave earth at the Rapture.
2 Thessalonians 2:7 could be translated as – ‘until He be taken out of the midst.’ Perhaps what Paul is saying is not so much that the Spirit will be removed from the earth, but that He will step back and thus allow Satan to unleash his evil which will bring the final judgment of the world.
4. By the Spirit’s Work In and Through the Believer and the Church
We know that the church, in and of itself could not restrain sin. History reveals that sometimes the church has been the instigator of sin. Yet, when the Spirit is allowed to fill the church and control it’s actions, the Spirit is able to use the church for His purposes. Jesus said during the Sermon on the Mount –
Matthew 5:13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour , wherewith shall it be salted ? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Here is another interesting thought – scripture teaches us that in the last days, ‘perilous times will come.’ In speaking of the last days, Jesus said – “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Mt 24:12) Could it be that there is a direct correlation between the increase of evil in the last days and the lukewarmness of the church?
C. Why Is the Spirit Restraining Evil?
1. For God to Accomplish His Perfect Plan
Scripture teaches us that in the ‘fullness of time, God sent forth His Son.’ Jesus came to this earth according to God’s perfect plan. We read also in Revelation 9:15 that the events of the Tribulation Period are also determined to – the hour, the day, the month and the year. God is in control. He is control of what will happen and when it will happen. Jesus said concerning His second coming – Mark 13:32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
No man knoweth, yet God the Father knoweth. He knows the exact moment it will happen because He is in control. God is also in control of when Satan will be able to unleash his fury upon the earth and to raise-up his man, the Antichrist. It will not happen until the Spirit stops restraining evil and thus opens the flood-gate of sin upon the world.
2. For God to Extend His Grace
Why is the Spirit currently restraining evil? He is doing so because today is God’s day of grace. Sometimes it is referred to as the Dispensation of Grace. This Day of Grace or Dispensation of Grace is also often called The Church Age. God’s dispensation of grace began on the Day of Pentecost and will continue until the Rapture of the church. Dr. McGee also calls this time period the ‘Dispensation of the Holy Spirit.’ It is in this dispensation of grace that the Holy Spirit is working to restrain sin so that He might call out for Christ a bride.
Concerning this day of grace, note something significant that Paul wrote to the Corinthians
2 Corinthians 6:2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
This verse is a quote from Isaiah 49, where the Father is speaking to His Son, the Messiah. The prayers that God has heard are the prayers made by the Son for the salvation of men. The Father says to the Son, “I have heard Your prayers and I will grant Your requests. Your coming and work will make it the day of salvation for all who will believe.” That day is today. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day that men can be saved by putting their faith and trust in Jesus. Today is the day that God is extending His grace to whosoever will believe.
We must also take a moment and consider what Peter writes –
2 Peter 3:3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep , all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up .
Today is a window of opportunity for men to be saved. Today the Spirit of God is restraining evil so that the gospel message might go out and men might hear and be saved. Now is the accepted time! Yet this day will not last forever. The window of opportunity will not always be open. It is because of this that Paul writes – behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.