The Merits of Christ and the Work of the Holy Spirit
John Knox was dying. Some of his friends were gathered around his bed. The Reformer related how Satan made his final effort to steal away his hope of salvation. First he tried to shake his faith by pointing to the sins of his life, the follies of his youth and the failures of his ministry. When Knox had vanquished the adversary with the mighty argument of the blood of Christ, Satan presented his final temptation. He whispered to the Reformer, "Surely God will have mercy on you. You have nothing to fear, for see how the Holy Spirit has wrought in your life to bring the evangelical faith to Scotland." But John Knox knew that his salvation and right standing with God did not even rest on the Holy Spirit's work in him. It was grounded solely on what Christ had done for him. Roman Catholicism teaches that there is saving merit in the Holy Spirit's work in the human heart. But there are also many Protestants who today fall for this error of the mystery of iniquity, for they reason:
How little do they realize that they are voicing the sentiments of the papacy!
It is time for God's people to pray in earnest for the power of the Holy Spirit, but for the right reason. Unless we clearly understand the principles of justification by faith, we shall not recognize the significant developments about us. This is the "charismatic age." In the religious bodies there is a growing interest in the Pentecostal experience. Religious groups who experience the power of what they call the Holy Spirit are springing up everywhere. And it is this interest in the Holy Spirit that is doing more to unite Catholics and Protestants than anything else. It is not bringing Catholics over to the Protestants, however, but it causes Protestants to look more favorably toward Rome. The reason is that the basic philosophy of these Pentecostal-type revivals is Roman Catholic. Instead of leading men and women to look wholly without to the doing, dying and intercession of Jesus in heaven, this popular infatuation with "the Spirit" is leading multitudes to worship "the Spirit" in them, and to rely on the Spirit's inward work for salvation. This is the delusion of the mystery of iniquity. This spiritual phenomenon will soon reach its climax when apostate Protestantism brings "fire" down from heaven, and causes the earth to worship the papacy (Rev. 13:11-14).
The Spirit Points to Christ's Merit
There is no safety for us unless we appreciate the principles so solidly laid in the Reformation, for in these last days God's people must build on those principles. Unless they do, it would be better to see no revivals in the church. Certainly we do not want to see cheap youth revivals. They are not based on God's Word, and they tend to nothing higher than the worship of human experience.
Mark Stubner was a leader in a "Spirit-filled" revival in the days of Luther. This "Spirit-filled" revivalist sought an interview with the great Reformer. Cried Stubner and his associates,"The Spirit, the Spirit!" Luther replied, "I slap your spirit on the snout."
In opposition to Rome, the Reformers taught that saving merit is found only in Jesus Christ. Merit is inseparable from His divine Person. Like a Christian's righteousness, merit is found only in heaven, only in one Man, and never on earth, never in the saints. Merit is imputed to the believer, never infused. In this way, "Christ's merit" can never become "my merit," for merit is always extrinsic to the believer.
The Holy Spirit does not come to draw attention to His merits. We do not even know His name. His nature is a mystery. He does not speak of Himself (John 16:13-15).
The Spirit glorifies Christ. He points the soul to the merits of the Savior. The Spirit will never teach the believer that there is saving merit in His own work in the soul, except as His work will lead the soul out of itself to look wholly to the merits of Him who stands as man's Representative at the right hand of God.
The apostle Paul says: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." Gal. 5:22, 23. And the apostle Peter admonishes us:
The fruits of the Spirit which will abound in every true believer are not the ground of his acceptance with God, but the result of it. The law requires a far more excellent price than the best virtues revealed in the lives of the greatest saints. For Paul declares: ". . . [He] loved me, and gave Himself for me." Gal. 2:20. When we see something of the infinite sacrifice, the price required to ransom the soul from death, we shall realize that our only hope is in the merits of Christ. Faith will then rest upon what He has done for us.
In the year 1738 Christian David stated this truth so clearly in a sermon: