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 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:

"Is not the Holy Spirit a Person of the God-head? Is not His work as meritorious as Jesus' work? Is there not saving merit in imparted righteousness? I know I cannot trust in my own work for salvation, but surely I can rest my salvation in what the Holy Spirit does in me."

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).

13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

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:

"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." 2 Peter 1:5-9.

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:

"The word of reconciliation which the apostles preached as the foundation of all they taught, was that we are reconciled to God not by our own works, nor by our own righteousness, but wholly and solely by the blood of Christ.

"But you will say, Must I not grieve and mourn for my sins? Must I not humble myself before my God? Is not this just and right? And must I not first do this before I can expect God to be reconciled to me? I answer, It is just and right. You must be humbled before God. You must have a broken and contrite heart. But then observe, this is not your own work. Do you grieve that you are a sinner? This is the work of the Holy Spirit. Are you contrite? Are you humbled before God? Do you indeed mourn, and is your heart broken within you? All this worketh the selfsame Spirit.

“Observe again, this is not the foundation. It is not this by which you are justified. This is not the righteousness, this is no part of the righteousness by which you are reconciled unto God. You grieve for your sins. You are deeply humbled. Your heart is broken. Well. But all this is nothing to your justification. The remission of your sins is not owing to this cause, either in whole or in part. Nay, observe further, that it may hinder your justification; that is, if you build anything upon it; if you think, I must be so or so contrite, I must grieve more, before I can be justified. Understand this well. To think you must be more contrite, more humble, more grieved, more sensible of the weight of sin, before you can be justified, is to lay your contrition, your grief, your humiliation, for the foundation of your being justified; at least for a part of the foundation. The right foundation is, not your contrition (though that is not your own), not your righteousness, nothing of your own, nothing that is wrought in you by the Holy Ghost; but it is something outside of you, namely, the righteousness and blood of Christ."