by John Owen
When the Holy Spirit sanctifies believers, he does a complete work in them. He puts into their minds, wills and hearts a gracious, supernatural principle which fills them with a holy desire to live to God. The whole life and being of holiness lies in this. This is the new creation.
Holiness consists of obedience to God
Holiness is actual obedience to God according to the terms of the covenant of grace. According to those terms God promises to write his law in our hearts so that we may fear him and walk in his statutes.
God has given a certain, fixed rule or standard for this obedience. This is his revealed will in Scripture (Micah 6:8). All that God has commanded in Scripture we are to do. We are not to add to it or take from it (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Joshua 1:7; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18, 19). We are to obey because God has commanded it (Deuteronomy 6:24, 25; 29:29; Psalms 119:9).
Natural light is not enough (Romans 2:14, 15). Natural light is not the rule of the gospel. The Word of God is the rule of the gospel and God has promised his Spirit along with his Word. He has promised the Spirit to bring new life to our souls and his Word to guide us (Isaiah 59:21).
The Word of God is our rule in three ways. Firstly, it requires that we are restored to God's image. Holiness is nothing but the Word changed into grace in our hearts. We are born again by the incorruptible seed of God's Words This seed is implanted in our souls by the Holy Spirit, who works nothing in us except what the Word first requires of us. Second, all our thoughts, desires and actions are to be regulated by God's Word. And thirdly, all our outward actions and duties, both private and public, are to be ordered by God's Word. As Scripture is the rule of obedience to God, so the rule of the acceptance of our obedience by God is the terms of the new covenant (Genesis 17:1).
In the state of original righteousness, the rule of our acceptance with God was obedience to the law and to the covenant of works. Obedience was to be perfect. Now, although really and truly renewed by grace into the image of God, we are not yet perfect. We still have in us much ignorance and sin against which we must fight ( Galatians 5:16, 17). God in the covenant of grace is pleased to accept that holy obedience which we do sincerely. Christ fulfilled a perfect obedience for us, so our evangelical obedience does not make us accepted by God. It is faith alone in Christ alone that does that. Evangelical obedience is the way we show our gratitude to God.
So we learn two great doctrines:
(i) We learn that there is wrought and preserved in the minds and souls of all believers by the Spirit of God a supernatural work of grace and holiness. Because of this work, believers are made fit for God and enabled to live to God. By this work believers are also enabled to perform that obedience which God requires and accepts through Christ in the covenant of grace.
(ii) We learn also that in every act of obedience, whether internal only, such as believing and loving, or external also, in good works, a direct work of grace in the believer by the Holy Spirit is necessary.
There is such a supernatural work created in believers by the Holy Spirit which always abides in them. This work of the Holy Spirit inclines the mind, will and heart to deeds of holiness and thus makes us fit to live to God. This work also gives power to the soul enabling it to live to God in all holy obedience. This work differs specifically from all other habits, intellectual or moral, that we may achieve by our own efforts, or by spiritual gifts that we might be given.
TRUE SPIRITUAL LIFE A GRACIOUS, SUPERNATURAL HABIT
What do we mean by a supernatural habit? It is not any single act of obedience to God. Single acts of obedience may prove holiness but will not create it (1 Corinthians 13:3; Isaiah 1:11-15). A supernatural habit is a virtue, a power, a principle of spiritual life and grace wrought in our souls and all our faculties. This supernatural habit constantly abides in believers; it exists before any actual deed of holiness is done, and is itself the cause and origin of all true deeds and holiness.
This supernatural habit in us does not bring forth deeds of holiness by its own innate ability, as in ordinary physical habits. It does so by the Holy Spirit enabling it to produce them. The whole power and influence of this supernatural habit is from Christ our head (Ephesians 4:15, 16; Colossians 3:3; John 4:14). It is in us as sap is in the branch. Furthermore, it varies in strength and flourishes more in some believers than in others. And while it is not acquired by works of obedience, yet it is our duty to care for it, to help it grow within us and to strengthen and improve it. We need to exercise our spiritual graces just as we exercise our bodies.
There is a spiritual habit or ruling principle of spiritual life wrought in believers from which all holiness comes (Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26, 27; John 3:6; Galatians 5:17; 2 Peter 1: 4). The Spirit of God creates in the believer a new nature which expresses itself in all the activities of the life of Cod in us (Ephesians 4:23, 24; Colossians 3:10). And by this spiritual life wrought in us we are continually united to Christ.
Union with Christ
The Holy Spirit dwelling in us is the cause of this union with Christ, but the new nature is the means by which we are united to Christ (Ephesians 5:30; 1 Corinthians 6:17; Hebrews 2:11, 14). Our likeness to God lies in this new spiritual habit created in us, for by it the image of God is repaired in us (Ephesians 4:23,24; Colossians 3:10). And it is by this new spiritual life in us that we are enabled to live to God. This is the internal ruling principle of life from which all vital acts in the life of God come. This is the life which Paul describes as 'hidden with Christ in God' (Colossians 3:3). He thus draws a veil over this spiritual life, knowing that we are unable to look steadfastly at its glory and beauty.
So let us learn not to satisfy ourselves, nor rest in any acts or duties of obedience, nor in any good works, however good and useful they may be, which do not arise from this vital principle of holiness in our hearts (Isaiah 1: 11-15).
In so far as these duties, whether of morality or of religion, are good in themselves, they ought to be approved and encouraged. They may be done from wrong motives (Romans 9:31, 32; 10:3, 4). But the world needs even the good acts of bad men, although we must persuade them not to trust in these good works but in Christ alone for salvation.
Where this ruling principle of holiness exists in the hearts of adult believers, it will show itself in the outward behavior (Titus 2:11, 12 ).
All Christians are agreed, in words at least, that holiness is absolutely necessary for salvation by Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:14). But some think that doing our best to live a morally decent life is holiness (I Corinthians 2:14). They do not realize that it is a greater work to be really and truly holy than most people think.
Holiness is the work of God the Father (1 Thessalonians 5:23). It is so great a work that only the God of peace can do it. In order that we might be born again, the blood of Christ has to be shed and the Holy Spirit given. Let us, then, not be content with the mere name of Christian, but be sure we have the reality of a true Christian life.
Duties of the believer
Now if we have received this ruling principle of holiness, then we are called to the following duties.
We must carefully and diligently cherish and take care of this new spiritual life born in us. It has been entrusted to us and we are expected to care for it, love it and encourage its growth. If we willingly, or by neglect, allow it to be hurt by temptations, weakened by corruptions, or not exercised in all known duties, our guilt and our troubles will be great.
It is also our duty to show convincingly that we have this new life. We are to allow it to reveal itself by its fruits. The fruits of this life are the killing of corrupt desires and the exercise of all duties of holiness, righteousness, love and devotion to God in the world. One reason why God gave us this new life was in order to be glorified. And unless these visible fruits of holiness are seen, we expose ourselves to charges of hypocrisy. Let us then reveal in our lives what we have received.
This grace of holiness wrought in us leads to a new habit of life, inclining us and pushing us into deeds and acts of holiness. Moral habits lead to moral actions. But this grace of holiness enables us to be holy and to live to God. The natural man is alienated from this life (Ephesians 4:18; Romans 8:6) The natural man finds holiness boring and wearisome (Malachi 1: 13). He hates holiness because his attitude to God is one of enmity, and so he cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8).
The new nature, on the other hand, behaves quite differently. It gives a new desire and inclination to the heart which Scripture calls fear, love and delight (Deuteronomy 5:29; Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 11:19; Hosea 3:5). The new nature gives a new outlook and direction to the mind. This new outlook and direction is called spiritual-mindedness (Romans 8:6; Colossians 3:1, 2; Psalms 63:8; Phil. 3:13, 14; 1 Pet. 2:2).
By this ruling principle of holiness in us, sin is weakened and gradually taken away and the soul constantly desires to be holy.
The sanctified heart desires to fulfil every known duty of holiness because it is concerned to obey all God's commands. The false holiness of the rich young ruler was exposed when Christ called him to sell all that he had and give to the poor. He went away sad for he had great possessions.
Naaman the Syrian, after having been healed of his leprosy by Elisha, still wanted to please his earthly masters by bowing in the house of Rimmon (2 Kings 5:18). True holiness may slip up and backslide at times, but it will not return to the whole course of sin. The sanctified heart presses on in holiness whatever the opposition. The holy person fears the Lord all day long. Holiness is like a stream flowing constantly whatever the obstruction (John 4:14)
Mere outward morality is like a sailing ship dependent on outward winds to blow it along. But the person who has this ruling principle of holiness in him is like a ship with its own inward power moving independently of any winds that might or might not blow.
This grace of holiness is permanent and abides for ever. It will never stop encouraging the whole soul to every duty until it comes to the full enjoyment of God. It is that living water that springs up to eternal life (John 4:14). It is promised in the covenant (Jeremiah 32:40). It enables the believer not to neglect any duty (Hebrews 6:11; Isaiah 40:31).
NOT YET PERFECT
All those who have this grace of holiness also have in them the old nature with its own sinful desires. This is the sin that dwells in us. It is also called the body of death (Romans 7:24). In believers these opposing dispositions, the grace of holiness and the body of sin are in the same faculties. Thus the flesh wars against spiritual desires and the new nature under the ruling principle of holiness wars against fleshly desires (Gal 5:17).
Sin and grace cannot bear rule in the same heart at the same time. Nor can they be of equal strength, for then no action would be possible. In the natural man, the flesh or depraved nature bears rule (Genesis 6:5; Romans 8:8). But when grace is introduced, this habit of sin is weakened and its strength crippled so that it cannot drive the person to sin as it did before (Romans 6:12). Nevertheless, there are still the remains of sin in believers which seek to be enthroned.
In the natural state, sin ruled, but the two lights, namely conscience and the mind, opposed it. In the state
of regeneration, the grace of holiness rules, but it is opposed by the remains of indwelling sin. And as conscience and reason stop many a sinner from sinning, so the remains of sin hinder the regenerate nature from doing many good things.
The grace of holiness inclines the soul to all acts of obedience. The desire to obey God's rules is in the regenerate - their heart is set to holiness as the compass needle always points to the north, though at times in the presence of iron the needle may be deflected.
The grace of holiness will reveal itself in its resistance to all that tries to deflect it from its goal, which is the perfecting of the image of God in the soul. Where this does not happen, there is no holiness.
Religious worship, coupled with moral, decent, upright behavior is not authentic holiness, unless the whole soul is ruled by desires for that which is spiritually good and the whole behavior is produced by the new regenerate nature which is the image of God renewed in the soul.
Outward duties rising up from light and conviction may be many, but if they do not spring from the root of grace in the heart, they soon wither and die (Matthew 13:20, 21).
The clearest evidence that our souls have been renewed is that the mind and soul desire to be holy. This desire is free, genuine and unforced. It is a steadfast desire to obey and do all that is holy. It is a desire that breaks down all opposition to holiness and looks forward to that day when it shall be perfected in holiness.
Question. Why does David pray that God would incline his heart to God's testimonies (Psalms 119:36)? Is David seeking a new act of grace, or does this inclination of the heart to God's testimonies not spring from the habit of grace already implanted in his soul?
Answer. Notwithstanding all the power and working of this habit of grace, there is also required a further work of the Holy Spirit to enable this habit of grace actually to carry out its duties in special instances.
God inclines our hearts to duties and obedience chiefly by strengthening, increasing and activating the grace we have received, and which is in us. But we neither have now, nor ever shall have in this world, such a stock of spiritual strength that we no longer need to pray for more.
The power of this habit of grace not only enables the believer to live a holy life, but also stirs up in him desires for more holiness (Ezekiel 36:26, 27). In our unregenerate state we were without strength (Romans 5:6). We were ungodly and had no power to live to God. But now in and by the grace of regeneration and sanctification, we have an ability to enable us to live to God (Isaiah 40:31; Colossians 1:11; Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 4:13; 2 Peter 1:3; John 4:14; 2 Corinthians 12:9). Where there is life, there is strength.
What then is this spiritual strength, and where does it come from since the natural man is totally unable to do any spiritual good?
There are three faculties in our souls which are capable of receiving spiritual strength. They are the understanding, the desires and the will. So any spiritual ability we have must be because it has been imparted to these faculties.
Spiritual strength in the mind lies in a spiritual light and ability to understand spiritual things in a spiritual way. Men in their natural state are utterly devoid of this ability. The Holy Spirit alone imparts the principle of spiritual life and holiness (2 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 3:17, 18; Ephesians 1:17, 18). Not all believers have the same degree of spiritual light and ability (Hebrews 6:1-6). But there is no excuse for anyone (I Corinthians 2:12; l John2:20, 27; Hebrews 5:14).
The spiritual strength in the will lies in its freedom and ability to agree with, choose and embrace spiritual things. Believers have freedom of will to choose that which is spiritually good, for they are freed from that slavery to sin which they were under before they were regenerate.
A freedom of will that makes men utterly independent of God is unknown in Scripture. We are utterly dependent on him for all our good actions and for that root and spring of holiness in us from which all spiritually good actions arise.
In the natural state, all men are in bondage to sin. Sin rules their mind, their hearts and their wills so that they can neither will nor do any spiritual good. But, according to Scripture, when a person is regenerate he has a freedom of will, not to choose good or evil impartially (as if it did not matter which he chose) but to like, love, choose and cling to God and his will in all things. The will now freed from slavery to sin and enlightened by light and love, wills and chooses freely the things of God. The will does this because it has received spiritual strength and ability to do so. It is the truth that sets the will free (John 8:32, 36).
SOME SCRIPTURE TRUTHS ABOUT FREE WILL
Man cannot, independently of God, will to do anything if God does not will that thing also. It is God who controls all man's actions. It is God who rules over all things by his will, power and providence. It is God who determines what will or will not take place in the future. If man could carry out to the full everything he wills to do in spite of God's will that he should not, then it would be inconsistent with God's foreknowledge, authority, decrees and dominion and it would soon prove to be ruinous and destructive to ourselves.
The unregenerate man is totally unable to do any spiritual good or to believe and obey the will of God. Unregenerate man has no freedom, power or ability to choose and do God's will. If he could, then Scripture is wrong and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ would be destroyed.
The true freedom of will given to believers lies in a gracious freedom and ability to choose, will and do whatever is spiritually good, and to reject whatever is evil. The freedom of will given to believers does not mean they have the power to choose good or evil and do good or evil as the will determines. This is a fictitious, imaginary freedom of will. Rather the freedom of will given to believers is consistent with the doctrine of God as the sovereign first cause of all things. Truly godly freedom of will submits to the special grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a freedom by which our obedience and salvation are made sure. It is a freedom of will that responds to the promises in the covenant by which God writes his laws in our hearts and puts his Spirit in us to enable us to walk obediently.
In regeneration the desires and feelings which are naturally the chief servants and instruments of sin, are turned to love and desire God (Deuteronomy 30:6).
In sanctification the Holy Spirit creates in us a new, holy, spiritual, vital principle of grace. This resides in all the faculties of our souls. This the Holy Spirit cherishes, preserves, increases and strengthens continually by effective supplies of grace from Jesus Christ. By this principle of grace the Holy Spirit disposes, inclines and enables the whole soul to perform that holy obedience by which we live to God. By this spiritual grace, the Holy Spirit opposes, resists and finally conquers all sinful opposition.
By this spiritual grace and power the Holy Spirit makes the believer ready for any holy duty and he makes spiritual obedience easy for the believer. The Holy Spirit gives this readiness by removing all those burdens which are apt to clog our minds and hinder them in their readiness to obey and to be holy. Special hindrances to the mind are sin, the world, spiritual laziness and unbelief (Hebrews 12:1; Luke 12:35; 1 Peter 1:13; 4:1; Ephesians 6:14; Mark 14:38).
HINDRANCES TO HOLINESS
In the unregenerate, there is the sin of procrastination (Proverbs 6:10). But in the regenerate laziness and procrastination are also evident (Song of Song 5:2, 3). To overcome these sins we must set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2). We must get an insight into the beauty and glory of holiness. We must stir up our desires to delight in holiness. This creates a facility in spiritual obedience because we have received a new nature. In this sense, just as it is 'natural' for us to be a human being, so now it is 'natural' to be a spiritual human being.
God writes his laws in our hearts. By nature the things of the law of God are alien to us (Hosea 8:12). There is enmity in our minds against them (Rome 8:7). But all this is removed by grace. The commands of God are no longer grievous (l John 5:3). All God's ways are now pleasant (Proverbs 3:17). Grace keeps the heart and so the whole person continually active in holiness, and repetition makes duties easier. It is a spring of living water continually bubbling up in us, revealing itself in prayer, Bible reading, and holy fellowship. It shows itself in mercy, kindness, charity and brotherly kindness towards all men. Grace brings the help of Christ and his Spirit. The Lord Christ cares for this new nature and strengthens it by the graces of the Holy Spirit, so that his yoke becomes easy and his burden light (Matthew 11:30).
Some believers may not find spiritual duties light and easy, but heavy and burdensome. If that is the case we need to examine ourselves and see from where these burdens arise. If they spring from inward unwillingness to bear Christ's yoke and our religion is kept going by fear and convictions of sin, then we are still unregenerate. But if it arises from inward desires and we long to be freed from sin and live to God in holy obedience, so that we are only too glad to take Christ's yoke and fight against all known sin, then we are truly regenerate. We must, therefore, examine ourselves as to whether we have been regular and diligent in the doing of all the duties we find most difficult.
Grace first causes us to be regular in spiritual duties. Grace then causes us to be diligent in all duties and to find all duties pleasant and easy.
Difficulties may be caused by worrying temptations which weary, trouble and distract the mind.
Problem. 'Is there true holiness in me or am I being deceived by something false?'
Answer. We are deceived if we think that occasional good intentions to forsake sin and live to God brought on by troubles, sicknesses, guilt or fear of death, are true holiness (Mark 6:20. See also Psalms 78:34-37; Hosea 6:4).
We are deceived if we think that having the gifts of the Spirit proves that we are holy at heart. Gifts are from the Holy Spirit and are to be greatly valued. They bring men to do duties which have a great appearance of holiness, pray, preach and maintain spiritual fellowship with true believers. But duties done by the stimulus of spiritual gifts are not true holy obedience. In true believers, gifts promote holiness but are servants to holiness. Neither are morality and mere moral duties holiness either.
So we learn that this principle or habit of holiness is quite distinct from all other habits of mind whatever, whether intellectual or moral, congenital or acquired. It is also different from common grace and its effects, of which the unregenerate also may be partakers.
The principle of holiness is motivated by a desire for the glory of God in Jesus Christ. No man can have such a desire unless he is regenerate. Here is an example. A man giving money to the poor is first motivated by a desire to help the poor; but his ultimate motive if he is unregenerate is self, a desire to gain merit, a desire to get a good name for himself, a desire for the praise of men or a desire to atone for his sins. But never is he moved by the desire to glorify God in Jesus Christ.
Holiness arises from God's purpose in election (Ephesians 1:4); it has a special nature given only to God's elect (2 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 8:29, 30; 2 Pet. 1:5-7, 10; Romans 9:11; 11:5, 7). If our faith fails to bring forth holiness it is not the faith of God's elect ( Titus 1:1 ) .
Here are three ways by which we can know whether our graces and duties are truly the fruits and evidences of election:
(i) Are these graces growing and increasing in us (John 4:14)?
(ii) Does a sense of God's electing love stir us up to a diligent use of these graces (Romans 5:2-5; Jeremiah 31 :3) ? A sense of God's everlasting love draws us after God in faith and Obedience. Duties activated merely by fear, awe, hope and an awakened conscience are not from electing love.
(iii) Are those graces of holiness making us more like Christ? If we are chosen in Christ and predestined to be like him, true holy graces will work in us the image of Christ. Such graces are humility, meekness, self-denial, contempt for the world, readiness to pass by wrongs done to oneself, to forgive one's enemies and to love and do good to all.
CHRIST OUR SANCTIFICATION
Holiness was purchased for us by Jesus Christ. It is he who 'from God is made to us sanctification' (1 Corinthians 1:30). Christ is made to us from God sanctification by means of his priestly office. We are cleansed from our sins by Christ's blood both in its offering and in its application to our souls (Ephesians 5:25-27; Titus 2:14; I John 1:7; Hebrews 9: 14).
Christ actually sanctifies our souls by imparting holiness to us. This imparting of holiness to us is the result of his priestly intercession. Christ's prayer is the blessed source of our holiness (John 17:17). All holy graces in us are because of that prayer. If we really mean to be holy, it is our duty constantly to echo Christ's prayer for the increase of holiness. This is what the apostles prayed for and so must we (Luke 17:5).
Christ, by his Word and doctrine through his prophetic office, teaches us holiness and works it in us by his truth. The doctrine of the gospel is the only adequate standard of holiness and the only means by which we can become holy. The gospel requires the killing of sin, godly sorrow and the daily cleansing of our hearts and minds. The
gospel also requires the more spiritual acts of communion with God by Christ, along with all that faith and love which we are required to give to Christ.
The gospel alone begets faith in us (Romans 1:16; Acts 20: 32; Romans 10:17; Galatians 3:2). It is by the Word we are begotten in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 4:15; James 1:18; I Peter 1:23-25).
Now here are two ways by which we can know whether or not our holiness is gospel holiness:
(i) Are all the commands of the gospel hard for us to obey or are they easy and pleasant?
(ii) Are the truths of the gospel alien to us? If they are, then we have no true gospel holiness.
Christ is made to us sanctification as the perfect example of holiness (Romans 8:29; l Peter 2:9). In the purity of his two natures, the holiness of his Person, the glory of his graces, the innocence and usefulness of his life in the world, he is our great example. He alone is the perfect, absolute, glorious pattern or blueprint of all grace, holiness, virtue and obedience. This pattern is to be preferred above all others. In him is light and in him is no darkness at all. He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. He is appointed by God for this very purpose, to be a pattern of holiness to us. We are to behold Christ (Isaiah 45:22; Zechariah 12:10; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:6).
We should be stirred by Christ's example to be like him. Since all he did was out of love for us (1 John 3:3; Phil. 3:21; Hebrews 2:14, 15; Philippians 2:5-8; John 17:19; Galatians 2:20). All he did was for our good; imitating him will be the best thing we could do for our good (Romans 5:19).
We are to imitate Christ's meekness, patience, self denial, quietness in bearing reproaches, contempt for the world, zeal for the glory of God, compassion for the souls of men and forbearance with the weaknesses of all.
Not only must we believe in Christ for justification, we must also believe in him as our example for sanctification. If we would walk as Christ walked, then we must think much of Christ, what he was, what he did, and how in both duties and in trials he behaved to those around him. This we must do until we have implanted in our minds the image of his perfect holiness.
What chiefly distinguishes evangelical holiness with respect to Christ as our sanctification is that from him as our head the spiritual life of holiness is derived. Also' by virtue of our union to him, real supplies of spiritual strength and grace (by which holiness is preserved, maintained and increased) are constantly flowing from him to us. Whatever grace God promises to anyone, whatever grace God bestows on anyone, whatever grace God works in anyone, it is all done by and through Jesus Christ as the mediator.
God is the absolute infinite fountain, the supreme cause of all grace and holiness. He alone is both originally and essentially holy. He alone is good and so the first cause of all holiness and goodness to others. He is the God of all grace ( 1 Pet. 5:10). He has life in himself (John 5:26). With him is the fountain of life (Psalms 36:9). He is the Father of lights (James 1:17).
God, out of his own fullness, pours his graces into his creatures, either naturally or by grace. By nature he implanted his image in us in perfect righteousness and holiness. If sin had not entered, the same image of God would have been passed on by natural propagation. But since the fall, God no longer implants holiness into anyone by natural propagation. Otherwise there would be no need to be born again. We have nothing of the image of God by nature in us now.
God imparts nothing by way of grace to anyone but by
Christ as mediator and head of the church (John 1:18). In the old creation, all things were made by the eternal word, the Person of the Son as the wisdom of God (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). Christ also 'upholds all things by the word of his power' (Hebrews 1:3). So also in the new creation God does nothing and bestows nothing except by and through his Son Jesus Christ as mediator ( Colossians 1 :15, 17, 18). It is by Christ that new life and holiness are given in the new creation (Ephesians 2:10; l Corinthians 11:3).
God works real, effectual, sanctifying grace, spiritual strength and holiness in believers. By this gracious work God enables them to believe, to be holy and to persevere to the end. By this work he also keeps them 'blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ'. Whatever is wrought in believers by the Spirit of Christ, it is through their union to the Person of Christ (John 16:13-15) to whom we are united by the Spirit.
Question. Do we then receive the Spirit of the gospel from the Person of Christ or not?
Answer; We receive the Spirit by the preaching of the gospel (Acts2:33).
Objection. If it is by the Holy Spirit we are united to Christ, then we must be holy and obedient before we receive him by whom we are united to Christ. Christ does not unite ungodly and impure sinners to himself. This would be the greatest dishonor to him imaginable. We must therefore be holy, obedient and like Christ before we can be united to him by his Spirit.
Answer Firstly, if this is true, then it is not by the work of the Holy Spirit that we are holy, obedient and like Christ. We must therefore purify ourselves without the blood of Christ and sanctify ourselves without the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, the Lord Christ by his Word actually prepares souls in some measure for the indwelling of his Holy Spirit. Thirdly, Christ does not unite impure ungodly sinners to himself so that they might continue to be ungodly and impure. But at the same moment and by the same act in which they are united to Christ, they are really and permanently purified and sanctified. Where the Spirit of God is, there is liberty and purity and holiness.
The further work of the Holy Spirit is to impart all graces to us from Christ by virtue of that union we have with Christ. There is a mystical, spiritual body of which Christ is the head and the church are the members (Ephesians 1:22, 23; I Corinthians 12:12). This unity is illustrated in many places in Scripture: Christ is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:1, 4, 5; Romans 11:1-24). We are living stones built into a spiritual house (I Peter 2:4, 5). Christ lives in us (Colossians 2:20).
Conclusion. All grace and holiness comes from Christ, none from ourselves. The direct cause of all gospel holiness is the Holy Spirit. Evangelical holiness is a fruit and effect of the covenant of grace and its purpose is to renew in us the image of God.