I answer at some length because they hit on themes I’ve been covering in other contexts, and give me an excuse to tie these themes together.
I’ve been reading your articles for years, with special attention to the ones pertaining to the Spirit. I have a couple of questions:
1) Were the children of God in the OT who did not “have” the HS, able to produce the fruit of the HS?
Well, no. By definition, “fruit of the Spirit” is fruit produced by the Spirit. Even if it’s the same thing but produced by other, more natural means, it’s not fruit of the Spirit.
But can someone achieve “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22b-23a ESV) without the direct operation of the Spirit on their heart? Certainly. I’ve seen it.
Does that make the promise that the Spirit can bear such fruit within the Christian meaningless? Not at all. There are people who can play the piano at concert-level without having had lessons. There are people who write like Shakespeare without any schooling beyond the fourth grade. But that doesn’t mean that piano lessons and grades 5 – 12 have no value. The exceptional case does not destroy the ordinary case.
My view is that the Spirit helps the Christian live the Christian life in powerful but often subtle ways. But some Jews were saved (as shown by the “roll call of the faithful” in Heb 11, for example) long before the Spirit was outpoured at Pentecost. The track record of Israel wasn’t good. Most wound up rejecting God and being killed by the Babylonians (or, later, the Romans) as God imposed the curses of Deu 28-29 and Lev 26. But some were faithful and saved — but it was just, as Paul says in Rom 11, a remnant. Most were not faithful without the Spirit — not during Jeremiah’s day and not during Jesus’ and the apostles’ day.
2) If a believing (unbaptized) 12 [year old] girl does not know what or how to pray as she ought, does the HS help her in her infirmity? Or, must she first sin and be baptised, in order to have such help, and for her prayers to be fully functional?
I don’t understand the assumption that one must first be damned to be saved. I mean, it sounds sensible, but I think it falls apart on close examination.
Under your theory, if a child is not damned due to innocence — a lack of accountability — then if we baptize that child a day early, we baptized someone not yet lost and so not yet eligible for salvation. This can’t be right. After all, we are far from agreed as to when the “age of accountability” is — and most consider it variable, depending on the maturity of the child. So how do we know when it’s too early to baptize a child?
The idea that the age of accountability is also the earliest age at which someone may be saved goes back to Jacob Arminius, who opposed much of Calvinism. He proposed the idea of an “age of accountability” of around 12, and he assumed that the age of accountability (when the child is charged with the sins he commits) is also the age of faith (when he can come to Jesus). But there’s no logical reason to say that someone must be accountable to become saved.
We have to start with the meaning of “saved.”
We tend to see “saved” as meaning forgiven and nothing more. This comes from the long-time Church of Christ tradition of denying the receipt of the personal indwelling Spirit at baptism. If there’s no indwelling, then there’s no regeneration or renewal — you get a clean slate and a new relationship with God, but you are still on your own when it comes to obedience. Nothing happens at baptism that makes obedience easier. It’s entirely about forgiveness.
However, while in the NT, salvation obviously includes forgiveness of sins, it also includes the idea of being regenerated —
(Tit. 3:4-7 ESV) 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
We are saved by the “regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” when we become a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). What does the Spirit do? Well, “regeneration” is literally “rebirth” or, when speaking of a father, “re-Fathering,” “re-begetting,” or “re-conception.” Our spiritual DNA is rewritten so that we become spiritual beings — somewhat like our Father. We obviously still have our flesh and blood, but the Spirit himself is inserted into our being so that our natures become more like the nature of God — in the same way that my sons have some of my nature in them.
(2 Pet. 1:3-4 ESV) 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
(Eph. 3:14-19 ESV) 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(1 Jn. 3:9 ESV) 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
“Renewal” means to make something new and better. It’s much more than forgiven. It refers to a change in the nature of the thing itself. It’s not just scrubbing some dirt off; it’s repairing and rebuilding so that what was once old is now renewed.
Renewal points to the whole process of ‘making new’ and does not suggest the restoration of former powers. Through the work of the Spirit the believer lives on a higher plane than before (cf. Rom. 12:2 for the same idea of spiritual renewal).
Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary (TNTC 14; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 226.
The commentaries see an allusion to —
(Ezek. 36:25-27 ESV) 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Clearly, the point in Ezekiel (following the promise of Deu 30:6) is that God himself will change our hearts so that we can become truly obedient, in contrast to the disobedience of the Jews that led to the Babylonian Captivity.
So a 12-year old might not need saving in the sense of needing forgiveness, but the 12-year old still needs to be re-begotten and renewed. Obedience is only going to get harder as she gets older.
So even if she’s so young that she’s not accountable for her sins, if she loves Jesus, she will want to obey his commands, and she’ll surely welcome any help that God gives through his Spirit.
So at what point does the Spirit help her prayer life?
(Rom. 8:26 ESV) 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
This promise is given in the context of the Spirit’s personal indwelling, and so the promise of this help is only given to the regenerated. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t hear the prayers of the unregenerated — be they accountable or not accountable — only that the assistance of the Spirit is only promised to the regenerated.
N. T. Wright has a distinctive take on the interpretation of this verse —
It is not (as some early scribes added to the text, followed by the NIV) that the Spirit intercedes “for us”; that misses the point, and makes Paul repeat himself in the following verse. What Paul is saying is that the Spirit, active within the innermost being of the Christian, is doing the very interceding the Christian longs to do, even though the only evidence that can be produced is inarticulate groanings.
N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans,” in The Acts of the Apostles-The First Letter to the Corinthians (vol. 10 of NIB, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), 599.
In fact, ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν (for us) does not appear in the better manuscripts, and so is added as a translators’ gloss. That is, Wright takes v. 26 to speak of the Christian’s duty to pray intercessory prayers for others, whereas v. 27 speaks to the Spirit’s intercession for the saints.
I really see no problem with someone too young to be accountable for her sins lacking the promised intercession of the Spirit. It’s not needed in terms of forgiveness, and God hears her prayers whether or not the Spirit intercedes. It’s just that the Spirit helps her pray as she should — but she’s not yet accountable, and so this is hardly a damning problem for her.