But, I don’t understand the position of those who believe that at baptism, the Spirit “personally” relocates himself inside of the new Christian, and from then on, is able to help said Christian, in ways not possible, if he were not personally in them. Which, brought me to my questions for you. For, if the Spirit must “personally” be inside of a person to help him produce fruit, help him pray as he ought, help him obey and love God more, etc. – then those who do not “have” the Spirit, wouldn’t have any such help(s). Right?
Which, would mean that all innocent and unbaptized youth, are not able to produce any (actual and genuine) fruit of the Spirit. Nor, would they have any help in the times when and where they know not what to pray. And, how wrong does that sound? As if, in order for an innocent and pure person to get help in praying and producing any (real) fruit of the Spirit, he or she must first separate themselves from God by sin, and get baptized?!
Right. But help is help and not the same thing as enablement. Again, because of the influence of Calvinist thought in our history, we insist on pushing everything to the extreme: either the Spirit helps me or I can’t do it at all. Calvin said that. The Bible does not.
Similarly, that position would have the same problem regarding the mentally disabled who are un-immersed and presumably innocent. Can they not fully love God, produce the fruit of the Spirit, and have help with their prayers?
And, as I previously asked, what about all of the “regular” OT children of God who did not “have” the Spirit? We’re they not able to love and obey God as “easily” as we can today? Could they not produce the (real) Fruit of the Spirit? Was God just as able to help them with, and understand their prayers when they had struggles in praying?
Again, what exactly do you believe that the Spirit does to/for the Christian, that he does not do for innocent children, mentally disabled, and all of the OT saints?
I know you busy, but I do look forward to hearing your understanding of all of this. And, I appreciate all of the time you sacrifice, writing all that you do.
I do need to address some of Paul’s strong either/or language that many consider to teach that we cannot do anything good except as enabled by the Spirit. This is the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity. As you correctly point out, our experience is to the contrary. There are unsaved people who do good works.
(Rom. 3:9-20 ESV) 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Is Paul’s point that the unsaved — those without the Spirit — can do no good at all? Or that they can’t do enough good to merit salvation? Those are two very different things, and the second is enough to justify his argument: that we must be saved by grace through faith in Jesus or not at all.
We find a hint just before this passage —
(Rom. 3:3 ESV) 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?
“Some were unfaithful” clearly implies that some were faithful (as plainly stated in Heb 11). Paul follows the list with —
(Rom. 3:20-24 ESV) 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Clearly, his point is the necessity of faith as a means of salvation — because we cannot merit salvation. He is not seeking to prove that we can do nothing good at all. Just not enough to be saved on our own merit.
We could go through each OT passage quoted in Rom 3:9-20 and demonstrate that in context none means that all humanity is incapable of any good deed without the Spirit. Rather, NT Wright points out that a recurring theme of these quoted passages is that, despite our wickedness, God will move among his his people to save.
Let’s take, for example, Rom 3:9-12, a quotation from —
(Ps. 14:1-7 ESV) The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. 4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD? 5 There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. 6 You would shame the plans of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge. 7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
Does the psalmist really mean that no one at all does good? Or is he being hyperbolic?Is he speaking only of those who deny God? After all, the psalmist is unlikely to be speaking of even himself if he means that no one can do anything good at all — in which case the Psalm itself would not be good.
The commentators explain,
Vv 2–4 provide a theological perspective on the fool and his folly. The designation “fool” is not a human label, for those so named in the psalms were anything but fools in a human perspective; the ultimate reason for the status of “fool” was provided by God, who “looked down from heaven” and saw the acts of human beings.
Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1–50 (WBC 19; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 147.
Verses 1–3 are perhaps hyperbolic, for v. 4 narrows the indictment to “all the evildoers” (see below on the tension between vv. 1–3 and vv. 4–6). These persons victimize God’s people (v. 4).
J. Clinton, Jr. McCann, “The Book of Psalms,” in 1 Maccabees-Psalms (vol. 4 of NIB, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 729.
Fortunately, our interpretation of Psalm 14 may be helped by neighboring psalms. … Like our psalm, Psalm 12 also begins with what initially sounds like a universal condemnation of humanity (vv. 1–2), but we then learn that Yahweh offers special protection for the poor (Hb. ʿānî, v. 5, the same term used in 14:6) and for “us” who pray the psalm (v. 7). And Psalm 15 opens with the question “Who may live on your holy hill?” and answers it with “he … who does what is righteous” (15:1–2).
Robert L. Jr. Hubbard and Robert K. Johnston, Psalms, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series. 2012, 89–90.
So I think the Calvinists get a little too caught up in their theorizing. But that doesn’t mean we have to run to the opposite extreme. If humans are capable of some good without the Spirit, that hardly means we don’t need the Spirit!
Rather, the best view, I think, is to think of the Spirit exactly as Jesus describes him: as a Helper. The Spirit doesn’t do it all for us. But we really need the help — and the history of Israel should be more than ample to demonstrate the reality of that need.