New Testament Fulfillment: The “Inner” Work
The “inner” work of the Spirit described as “holiness” or sanctification is the fulfillment of the promises in Ezek. 36:25-27 and Jer. 31:1-4. The promises found in these prophetic writings describe the penetrating, inward, sanctifying, fruit-producing work of the Spirit.
Walking in the Spirit
Jesus our sin offering condemned sin in the flesh “so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:4, NASB) Sin condemned, righteousness now ours, we can choose to walk in the sanctifying power of the Spirit and fulfill the requirement of the Law. According to James Dunn in his commentary Romans 1-8, “The law to be fulfilled is the law as it applies to all humanity, Gentile as well as Jew, the law as it speaks to the heart and calls forth the obedience of faith, fulfilled by conduct which expresses inner reliance on God and embodies dependence on his power.”
The fulfillment of these promises is described by the Apostle Paul as “walking in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16). By walking in the Spirit the Christian avoids the immoral works of the flesh. “If we live by the Spirit (being born again), let us also walk by the Spirit (in holiness).” (Gal. 5:25). If in fact we have been born again then it is imperative that we choose to live a life of holiness through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to live a holy life without the aid of the Spirit. The wholehearted pursuit of God can result in being born again, resulting in our names being recorded in heaven, but for sanctification in our daily lives we need the filling or baptism with the Holy Spirit who enables us to realize our calling to be holy as God is holy.
In Gal. 5:16-24 where the context is one of the Spirit vs. the flesh, the apostle Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit. This “inner”, saturating work of the Spirit is that part of the sanctification process that produces the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The fruit of the Spirit is, of course, also well illustrated in the life of Jesus. Joy, for example:
Jesus sent out seventy disciples to precede him. And when they returned and reported how the demons were subject to them in the name of Jesus he told to rejoice not in such experiences but to rejoice in the fact that their names where recorded in heaven. Then “He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, `I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it was well pleasing in Thy sight.'” (Lk. 10:21)
This fruit of the Spirit is also found in the life of the disciples:
“And the disciples were filled (Gk. pleireis) with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52)
Whenever Luke uses the Greek word pleireis (“full”) with the Holy Spirit the indication is an “inner”, sanctifying work of the Spirit. For instance, when the Twelve instructed the disciples in Jerusalem to chose seven men to oversee the serving of tables, they outlined certain qualifications which included being “full (pleireis) of the Spirit and of wisdom…” (Acts 6:3). One of the chosen Seven was Stephen, “a man full (pleireis) of faith and of the Holy Spirit”. Barnabas is also described as a good man “full (pleireis) of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). In Acts 7:55, when Steven was being martyred, it reads, “…being full (pleireis) of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God…” (Cf. Matt. 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”)
Another instance of this usage occurs when Barnabas arrived on the scene in Antioch and observed what the Lord was doing. He “saw the grace of God, he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose for he was a good man, full (pleireis) of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a large company was added to the Lord.” (Acts 11:23-24)
Once again, the promises in Ezek. 36:25-27 and Jer. 31:1-4 describe the inward, sanctifying, fruit-producing work of the Spirit, often used in conjunction with pleireis in the book of Acts.