A friend of mine, Tyler Williamson, recently contacted me with a fantastic question about the role of the Holy Spirit leading people to salvation. In my experience, I have discovered that many others have similar questions. So, with his permission, I thought I’d share our informal internet conversation.
Now certainly the Holy Spirit’s role of in salvation is a huge topic; but given the context of his question, my response more narrowly addressed the Holy Spirit’s work in what is called effectual calling and briefly touched on the Spirit’s related work of regeneration. (If the answer I provide is not as direct as you may like, please bear in mind that this was an informal conversation.)
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Christian Tyler Williamson: The Holy Spirit–integral to the relationship of the believer with Christ. Many people talk of free will; many people talk of predestination. What do you believe is the role of the Holy Spirit in the salvation process? Detailed (as you typically are) would be great.
Me: The Bible speaks much of the Holy Spirit’s work of drawing individuals to faith in Christ. This is what theologians call the doctrine of “calling.”
The following belongs to a series entitled “An Introductory Biblical Theology of Resurrection.” Read other posts belonging to this series here.
The Gospel of John
The resurrection, both Christ’s and the believer’s, plays a central role in John’s Gospel. Because Jesus is one with the Father (5:17-18), His will is exactly the Father’s (5:19, 21; 6:37-40), and “whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (5:19). Just as God raises the dead (a prerogative seen in the OT as belonging to God alone [2 Kings 5:17]), so Christ raises whomever He wills. Christ came to do His Father’s will (6:38)—to lose none of those whom the Father had given Him to save, but to secure their resurrection (6:39-40). And because Jesus has life in Himself as the Father has life in Himself (5:26), presumably He is able to raise others to life (5:25-29). As Christ has life in Himself, all those in whom He abides and who abide in Him have life (6:53-58). Those who hear the voice of Jesus (5:25) are drawn by the Father to come to Christ (6:44), believe on Christ (6:47), metaphorically feed on His flesh and blood (John 6:54), and are raised to life in some sense now—they have eternal life presently and in this sense will never die (John 5:25; 6:40, 47, 57-58; 11:25-26). But after physically dying, they will also be raised bodily on the last day (John 6:40; 44, 54; 11:24). All will certainly be raised, but some to life and others to judgment (John 5:28-29).
Jimmy Needham, in his song, “Grace Amazing” (from his album, Nightlights) truly does present grace as it ought to be presented, amazing. And how does he do this? The same way any good Soteriology (doctrine of salvation) does–by starting with a good Hamartiology (doctrine of sin), namely, our total inability or total depravity. As Needham says, “That’s how it is with us all. We weren’t just damaged we fell dead at the fall.” And in doing so he recognizes that salvation is dependent on God’s sovereign grace. “Unless You breathe life into me I won’t ever feel my dead heart beating. But you open these blind eyes to see.” And the fact that God has made believers alive, who once were dead and could not give life to themselves, is what makes grace amazing. The Blind don’t give themselves sight; God does. In short, grace is amazing because the recipients of grace had no part in it. “That’s what makes Your grace amazing.”