This article about faith experience, also looks at the relation of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, subjectivism, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our experience.

Source: Clarion, 1985. 3 pages.

Experience Comes with Faith

The Reality of Experienceโค’๐Ÿ”—

We have seen on a previous occasion that Christ must be preached and not the law. The law must flow forth from Christ. And so must obeying the law. Obedience of faith is only found in those who are ingrafted into Christ by a true faith. Christ works in those who live in fellowship with Him through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit renews them after Christ's image.

The same principle must be maintained with regard to experience. Experience of grace can only be found in the fellowship with Christ. It is the result of the regenerating work of the Spirit of Christ in the hearts and lives of those who believe and who through that faith are ingrafted into Christ.

Here we acknowledge the fact that believers who live in fellowship with Christ do experience the presence of the Holy Spirit and His work in their hearts and lives. We shall not and must not deny this. In John 14:16 ff the Lord Jesus speaks about the promise of the Holy Spirit. He said to His disciples,

I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Counsellor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; you know Him for He dwells with you and will be in you.

The Holy Spirit's being with and dwelling in the disciple or believer cannot remain unnoticed. The believer whom Christ draws into His fellowship through the Holy Spirit, experiences the presence of the Holy Spirit. We can also say, on the basis of the above mentioned text, when the believer knows the Holy Spirit because the Spirit dwells in him, there must be the experience of that presence.

In reaction against subjectivism that focuses all the attention on the inner experiences of the Holy Spirit in one's soul. We should not deny or ignore the reality of the presence of the Spirit and His work in the heart, neither should we deny nor ignore the reality of the experience of this presence and work. Through the Spirit, dwelling in the believers, they live in Fellowship of faith with Christ. That is a reality in their lives. That reality can be very strong. That reality can also be weak. Sheep can sometimes stray away from the shepherd. Children of the LORD can sometimes live in disobedience without true repentance. The experience of the Spirit is not strong at such a time. The Canons of Dort speak about these things, in Chapter V, Article 4-11.

Watch for Dangersโ†โค’๐Ÿ”—

But we have to watch out for a few dangers here. Acknowledging the reality of the presence, and the experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart, does not mean that we know the Holy Spirit from experiencing His presence and work in us. We cannot find and must not seek the knowledge of the Holy Spirit by turning inward into our own inner experience, our soul. We know the Spirit in the same way in which we know the Father and the Son, namely, from His Word. In His Word our triune God reveals Himself to us. In and with the Scriptures the Holy Spirit comes to us and makes Himself known to us. True faith accepts and lives by that self-revelation.

When, instead of the Scriptures, our own soul, our religious experience becomes the source for the knowledge of the Spirit and His work, we easily fall into the trap of mysticism, emotionalism, and other forms of subjectivism. Then it is not anymore: what does the Lord say in His Word? What does He want us to do? Then it is: what do we feel? And what we feel, is then right. The things which we feel to be right, are right, and that is then what we live by. Instead of turning to the Scriptures as norm for faith and life, that which we feel, which we think, which we experience, becomes normative. With this subjectivism "believers" are found in the condition against which Christ warns in Matthew 7. There is a saying "Lord, Lord." but the Scriptural obedience of faith as one of the basic true fruits of the work of the Spirit disappear. Christ admonishes us, that not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of the heavenly Father.

Another danger of turning into our own soul for the knowledge and the certainty of the Spirit and His work is that we become individualists who mainly have attention for religious experiences, emotions, and testimonies, while there is no church consciousness, no concern for the doctrine of the church, for the covenant, and so on. Matters to which God's Word gives, and for which it requires so much attention from God's people. Once again, this is the consequence of a man-centered religion. Man and his experiences are placed in the center instead of God who comes to us in Christ through and with His Word, His covenant promises and obligations.

When that Word is received in faith through the Spirit, the fruits of the work of the Spirit will appear. We can also say: the fruits of living in fellowship with Christ, for that is what the Spirit does: He places those who believe in communion, in unity with Christ. What are the fruits of living in the fellowship with Christ? What are the fruits of the work of the Spirit?

The Fruits of the Spiritโ†โค’๐Ÿ”—

Besides the text that was mentioned above, there are many more words and passages in Scripture to which we can refer. Paul writes in Romans 14:17 that,

the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Also in Galatians 5:22 ff. we hear the apostle speak of joy and the Holy Spirit: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

These fruits of the Spirit are placed over against the sinful works of the flesh.

This contrast between the flesh and the Spirit is also described by Paul in such a clear way in Romans 8:6-8,

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

When sinful human flesh does not and even cannot obey God's law in humble submission, it follows that only the Spirit can work such obedience. One must be regenerated by the Holy Spirit, John 3:3-5. God commanded the apostle Paul and others to preach the gospel of Christ Jesus "to bring about the obedience of faith" Romans 16:26. Believing is obedience and makes obedient. And believing is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Our conclusion can be: there is the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who believe. That work is faith and the obedience of faith. These works point at the presence of the Holy Spirit. There are also the fruits of the Holy Spirit, like love for God and for the neighbour, friendliness, joy, patience, self-control, and so on. Where these fruits are present, as clearly fruits of faith, fruits of living in the fellowship of Christ, then there is the presence of the Holy Spirit.

First Christ, then Experienceโ†โค’๐Ÿ”—

Now the question is, how can we receive those fruits of the work of the Holy Spirit in us? The answer is, by obeying the gospel call of faith in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit will use the preaching of the gospel to work such faith. And when Christ is received in faith and through faith the believer is placed in the communion fellowship of Christ through the Holy Spirit, then the experience of the work and fruits of the Spirit will be present as well. The more we live out of Christ, the more the fruits will appear in our life.

We must not turn the order of things around. We must not seek for the fruits of the Spirit in our heart, and then decide or conclude that we are believers and that we are saved. We must believe the gospel that is preached. We must believe in Christ. That is what God wants us to do always and always again in the first place: believe in My Son whom I offer to you as a Saviour. And whenever we believe and through faith are ingrafted into Him and His fellowship, the experience of both the work and the fruit of the Spirit will follow. We must not turn into ourselves. We must turn to Christ.

Must we then not examine ourselves? Certainly, we have to do that. But the true self-examination is always done in facing Christ and His Word.

Do I live out of Christ?
Do I live in His communion?
Do I obey His commandments?
Do I live by His Word?

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