What is the Holy Spirit’s role in redemption? In a previous post, we saw that the general call of the gospel goes out to all people. Why then are some saved and some not?
Today we’ll examine chapter 6 of the second volume of “Great Doctrines of the Bible” by MLJ entitled “The Work of the Holy Spirit in Redemption.”
5 Views of the Spirit’s Work in Salvation
In this chapter, MLJ explains five different views regarding the Spirit’s work in salvation.
First, the Pelagian view. Pelagius did not believe in original sin and argued that men and women are neither inherently good or evil but instead are neutral. In this neutral state, every person has free will to choose the good or evil, to believe God’s word or not. The Holy Spirit, according to this view, produces the Scripture but does nothing to effect salvation in mankind. It’s completely up to man to accept or reject it.
Second, there is the semi-pelagian view. This group saw the pelagian view as a little too extreme. They argued that the Holy Spirit does help men and women, but “love originates in the people themselves” (55). People, because of something in themselves, want to know God so therefore the Holy Spirit comes and helps them. They agree that it’s completely up to the person, but the person needs the Holy Spirit’s help once they decide. “All the Holy Spirit does is co-operate with us, and graciously help us to arrive at a knowledge of truth and salvation” (55).
Both of these views have been considered heresy throughout most of church history.
Third, is the arminian view. Unlike pelagians and semi-pelagians, arminians believe that humans are totally depraved and cannot, left to themselves, decide to believe the gospel. Therefore, the Holy Spirit gives enough grace to everyone so they have the ability to believe, and people must co-operate with that. So, the ability to believe is given by the Spirit, but the choice to believe is up to the person.
Fourth, is the Lutheran view. According to MLJ, the Lutheran view teaches that man is dead in their sins and thus cannot be saved without God’s grace working in them. The Holy Spirit does this work in man, however man is able to resist it. While this is similar to Arminianism, there is a subtle difference: “Arminianism says that people must co-operate. The Lutheran does not say that; he says that they are incapable of co-operating positively, but they are capable of resisting negatively” (56-57). People can’t start the process, but they can stop it, so to speak.
Fifth, is the Reformed view. According to this view, men and woman are totally depraved and completely helpless. The only way one can be saved is by the work of the Holy Spirit bringing about salvation. The Spirit is the one who enables people to believe. Men and women respond in faith because the Spirit has worked in their heart. Whereas the Lutheran view says that man can reject it, the Reformed view would say that God so changes the heart and affections that the person doesn’t want to!
These are the five common understandings of the Holy Spirit’s work in redemption. Next time, will look at the effectual call of the Spirit.