The Holy Spirit

Catechetical sermons preached in PCC Evening Worship Services, Feb 2013 to Dec 2017

WSC 29 of 107

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Romans 8:14

WSC 29. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ? 

A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us1 by his Holy Spirit.2 

1 Jn 1:11,12; 2 Tit 3:5,6 

There is only one living and true God. But there are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These three are all involved in our salvation. 

We have seen how the Father representing the Godhead, decreed all things and brings them to pass by His works of creation and providence. The Father elected us, decreed our salvation and promised to save us under the provisions of the Covenant of Grace.  

We have also seen how the Son took on human nature to live, suffer, die, and rise again to be our mediator and covenant representative. By His active and passive obedience, He has purchased salvation for us. Our Lord has already paid for the blessings and benefits of salvation on the Cross. Now, what remains is for those for whom the purchase was made to receive them. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is He who effects our salvation. 

In this sermon, we must begin to look at the person and work of the Holy Spirit to see how he effects our salvation. 

Question 29 of our Shorter Catechism asks: “How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?” 

The answer we are given to confess is:  

We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.” 

This doctrine is taught in the Scriptures in several places. But for our purpose tonight, we want to study Paul’s word in Roman 8:14, where he says under inspiration: 

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”  

In other words, everyone led by the Spirit of God is a son of God. Or conversely, anyone who is not led by the Spirit of God is not a son of God. This shows us that the work of the Spirit of God is crucial in our being the sons of God. Without the Spirit of God, we cannot be the sons of God to receive the blessings of God. Thus we know that the Spirit of God must be He who applies the blessings of salvation purchased by Christ to us. 

Thus, this verse is connected to the answer of our Catechism that we become partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ through the effectual application of it to us by the Holy Spirit. 

But let’s study the verse in a little more depth. First, we must consider Who is this “Spirit of God.” Secondly, What does it mean to be the Sons of God? Thirdly, How does the Spirit of God lead us? 

1. Who Is This Spirit of God? 

a. Our text says, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” But who is this Spirit of God? Well, we do not need any skill in exegesis to know that He is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is usually rendered as Holy Ghost in the KJV. The two terms are synonymous. It is the same in the Greek. 

But the Holy Spirit is also known by other names. In the same chapter, in Romans 8, He is known as the “Spirit of life” (v. 2), “Spirit of Christ” (v. 9) and “Spirit of Adoption” (v. 15). 

b. What do we know about the Holy Spirit?  

First, He is a divine person, not a force or influence. Paul says in our text, “…as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Only a person can actively lead a rational person. 

Some, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, claim that the Holy Spirit is merely “an active force” or an influence rather than a person. But this flies in the face of what Paul says in our text and what is taught elsewhere in the Scriptures. 

Apart from telling us that the Holy Spirit leads, Paul tells us in this same chapter that He has a mind (v. 27); and makes intercession for the saints (v. 28). A force has no mind and cannot make intercession. 

Elsewhere, we are told that the Holy Spirit possesses knowledge and can teach (1 Cor 2:10-11, 13). A force has no knowledge, nor can it teach. Likewise, we are told that He can be grieved (Eph 4:30) and can be lied unto (Acts 5:3).  

Clearly, the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person rather than a force or an influence. Anyone who claims that the Holy Spirit is not a person cannot be a Christian because He is denying the Holy Spirit. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christian, even if they are friendly people. 

Secondly, we should note that the Holy Spirit is the third person in the Holy Trinity. The first person is the Father, the Second is the Son, and the third is the Holy Spirit. We say that they are first, second and third not because one exists before the other or is greater in power or glory than the other. Instead, they are first, second and third in terms of their subsistence and their economic or functional order. The word subsistence is simply a theological word to explain the relationship of the persons of the Godhead in the Trinity. 

In terms of subsistence, the Scriptures and our Creeds and Confessions teach us that the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son, and the Son is eternally begotten of the Father.  

This mystery explains how God is one, and yet there are three persons in the Godhead, equal in power and glory. Theologians use the term “Ontological Trinity” in contrast to “Economic Trinity” to describe this relationship between the persons of the Godhead. Note that there are not two Trinities but simply two ways of looking at the Trinity. Ontology speaks of being or existence, whereas economy speaks of functions. 

The Ontological Trinity is reflected in the Economic Trinity, and it is the Economic Trinity that we interact with. The Economic Trinity is easier to understand for most of us. 

By calling the Holy Spirit the “Spirit of Christ” (v. 9), Paul is alluding to the fact that the Spirit is not only sent by the Father but also by Christ.  

How is this so? The Lord Jesus makes this very clear in John 14 and 16. 

In John 14:26, He says: 

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”  

In John 16:7b, He adds: 

“It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”  

Notice how the Spirit is sent not only by the Father but by the Son.  

And what is the ministry of the Holy Spirit? Look at John 16:13-14: 

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14  He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” 

The “Spirit of truth” is clearly another name for the Holy Spirit. So here we have the clearest explanation of the economic order in the Godhead. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ because He does not speak of himself. Instead, He conveys what Christ wants us to know. He represents Christ. He is our Comforter, for Christ’s sake. 

What have we learned so far? We have seen how the Holy Spirit is a divine person rather than a force or influence. We have also seen how He is the third person of the Godhead.  

Now, thirdly, we should also realise that the Holy Spirit is the person of the Godhead that particularly works changes in us.  

We get a clue from the context of our text, for in verses 9 and 11, we are told that the Spirit dwells in us. Of course, in verse 10, we are told that Christ is in the believer, but we must remember that Christ has ascended to heaven, and He has sent the Spirit, so He dwells in us only by His Spirit. 

So the Holy Spirit dwells in us. What does He do in us? Well, for one, He leads us! “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God,” says Paul. 

Now, we must spend some time to talk about how the Spirit leads us. But before that, we must pause to reflect on what it is to be the sons of God. We will look at this in more detail in a future study when we look at the doctrine of adoption. So we will touch on it briefly for now. 

2. What Is It to Be the Sons of God? 

Now, Paul suggests to us in our text that as many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. What is it to be a  child of God? Well, the context suggests to us: 

  • To be a child of God is to be justified and freed from condemnation (v. 1). 
  • It is to be freed from the law of sin and death (v. 2). 
  • It is to have a new heart that minds the things of God (v. 3-5). 
  • It is to enjoy life and peace (v. 6).  
  • It is to cease to be an enemy of God and to be one who pleases God (v. 7-8).  
  • It is to be dead to sin and alive unto righteousness (v. 9-14). 
  • It is to be one who recognises God as Father and cries unto Him as Abba Father (v. 15-16) 
  • It is to be a joint heir with Christ (v. 17). 

In short, to be a child of God is to enjoy the redemption Christ has purchased for us, for we are, by nature, the children of God’s wrath. As the children of God’s wrath, we were condemned because (1) we were guilty in Adam, our first father; (2) we were under the bondage of sin and death; (3) our hearts were corrupt so that we mind only the flesh and earthly thing; (4) we were spiritually dead and had no peace with God; and (5) we were enemies of God, dead to righteousness, dead in sin. We were the children of the devil and did his bidding. We deserve nothing but the wrath and curse of God.  

But all that has changed because Christ purchased redemption for us, and the Holy Spirit has applied the redemption purchased to us.  

Remember that the gift of salvation has already been purchased for the elect by Christ. These gift packets are all marked with the names of the elect. There is a definite number of packets available only. It is not an unlimited number of unassigned packets available for whosoever will receive them. That would be Arminianism, which teaches that Christ made salvation possible for the world. But no, the Scripture and our Confession teach us that Christ purchased salvation only for His elect. Nevertheless, the gift packs remain, as it were, unused until they are handed over to the elect. This handing over is done by the Holy Spirit. 

But how does the Holy Spirit do so? He does so, as our text reminds us, by leading us.  

3. How Does the Holy Spirit Lead Us? 

Let’s tackle this question in three steps. First, let us ask: (a) What is it to be led by the Spirit? (b) What are the means by which the Spirit leads us? (c) What does the Spirit do to lead us? 

a. First, let us understand that to be led by the Spirit is to be guided in a particular way of life. Elsewhere in the Scriptures, this way is known as the old paths, the good way (Jer 6:16), the way of life (Prov 10:17; Jer 21:8), the way of righteousness (Prov 8:20); the narrow way (Mt 7:14), the way of holiness (Isa 35:8), the way everlasting (Ps 139:24), and the way of cross-bearing (Mk 10:21).  

Essentially all these are one and the same way. When the apostle Paul says that the sons of God are led by the Spirit of God, He is saying that the sons of God are constantly being led by the Spirit in this way. The Greek present tense that Paul uses in this verse makes it very clear. The Holy Spirit does not lead occasionally. He does not leave the sons of God alone and then lead them at significant junctions in their life. No, He leads them constantly in the way of life everlasting. 

And where does this way lead to? Well, we know that this way leads to heaven. But let us realise that that is not the end, for the Spirit leads us for all eternity. 

When we enter heaven, we enter into rest and cease to be pilgrims and strangers. But the Holy Spirit will continue to lead us as glorified saints to enjoy God forever and ever. 

To be led by the Spirit, in other words, is to be enabled to enjoy eternal life and to be directed in a way as to enjoy eternal life. To be led by the Spirit is to be corralled in a way as to enjoy life as a child of God. It is to be empowered to enjoy all the privileges of redemption that Christ has purchased for us.  

b. But now, secondly, what means does the Spirit use to lead us? What tools does He have? 

Well, principally two things: The Bible and the Church. 

In the first place, remember that the Spirit always lead with a road map. The road map is the Bible. 

You know how vital road maps are, don’t you? Some years ago, my family and I were in Melbourne. On the morning we were supposed to fly off to Launceston, we took the car, set the GPS and started off for the airport. It did not occur to us to get a map. After all, we had GPS! As it turned out, the GPS was overwhelmed by the density of Melbourne roads, and we were led in circles. It took us quite a while to realise we were going in circles… because we did not have a map! We did not know where we were going! Those days GPS devices did not have the zoom-out function! We would have missed our flight if we had continued to follow the GPS. We decided to ignore the GPS and relied on road signs and our senses. We got to the airport just in time. We almost missed the plane and learned an important lesson: You need a good map when driving somewhere unfamiliar. 

We need a map, too, in our Christian walk. God the Spirit has chosen to lead us with a map. What is the map of the Spirit? It is the Bible, the inspired Word of God. The Psalmist says: 

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Ps 119:105

O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.

Ps 43:3

The holy hill and the tabernacles of God are metaphors for heaven. O, send out your light and your truth which is your Word and lead me to my heavenly home. 

Secondly, we must remember that the Spirit also leads us with and by the Church and all the means associated with her.  

We are not only the temple of the Holy Spirit individually. We are also the temple of the Holy Spirit corporately.  

The apostle Paul speaks about our bodies as being the temple of the Holy Spirit individually in 1 Corinthians 6:19. But writing to the church as a whole, he says: 

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.

1 Cor 3:16; cf. 2 Cor 6:16

In other words, the Holy Spirit dwells not only in the individual believer, but in the church organically. This being the case, we must understand that the Holy Spirit does not only lead us individually. He guides the whole church as a body.  

Indeed, in some ways, He guides us individually only as members of the church. This is why He uses the church to instruct us. The church is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1Tm 3:15), says the apostle.   

Thus we must never become conceited and decide to do things our own way. We must seek the church in her purest manifestation, and stick to her. We must serve the Lord as members of the church. We must thank God for the church and work with the church as a body. We must never despise the providence of God by refusing to make use of the means of grace appointed by God through the church. 

c. So, thirdly, let’s consider what the Spirit does to lead us. Well, the Scripture teaches us that He leads us from within. In particular, He does three things within us: 

i. He changes our nature by giving us a new heart and indwelling us. We all had pigs’ hearts. We love to wallow in the mud of sin. But God has replaced our pigs’ hearts with sheep’s hearts. In this way: 

  • He makes us more conscious of the need to keep ourselves clean. He makes us hate spiritual mud and creepy crawlies. 
  • He makes us more sensible of indwelling sin and sharpens our conscience to become more sensitive.  
  • He works in us both to will and to do of God’s good pleasure (Phil 2:13) by strengthening us in the inner man. 
  • He makes us willing to obey God lovingly. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power” (Ps 110:3), says the Psalmist.  

ii. Not only does he give us a new heart, He opens our eyes so that we understand what we read from the Scriptures. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14: 

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  

What does the Holy Spirit do to our understanding? Well, He enlightens it. We must remember that the unregenerate will not accept the truths in the Word of God. He views them as foolishness. Indeed, he cannot correctly understand the truth. He may understand to a degree, but his understanding is that of a child.  

Give a six-year-old a book on human psychology. He can read it. He can understand some sentences, but he cannot make sense out of it. He cannot properly understand it. Psychology can only be understood with age and experience. Likewise, spiritual things can only be understood by one who has been born again and has the Spirit of God indwelling him. 

iii. And not only so, but the Holy Spirit also brings to remembrance the things that we have read or heard earlier (Jn 14:26). He does not speak to you like someone calling on the phone, but He does, as it were, play back the voice-mail in your memory. In this way: 

  • He brings precepts and warnings into our minds.  
  • He presses home the claims and promises of Christ.  
  • He reminds us that Christ died for our sin so that we will spare no effort in dying to sin—striving against it (Heb 11:4), confessing it (1 Jn 1:9), forsaking it (Prov 28:13).  

The Holy Spirit leads from within! How? By changing our hearts, opening our eyes and bringing what He has taught us to mind. In this way, He makes us not only competent users of His road map, but willing users.  

He makes us want to take up our cross and follow Christ according to His way, whatever the cost. Put it in another way: Because of the Spirit’s work in us, (1) we love the truth and desire to obey it; (2) we understand the truth when we read it; and (3) we can follow the truth even when we do not have the Bible in our hands. This is how the Holy Spirit leads from within. 

This is the work of the Spirit. He applies to us the redemption purchased by Christ and leads us to enjoy all these benefits. He does so by (1) changing our hearts, (2) opening our eyes, and (3) bringing to mind what we have been taught. This is the privilege of the sons of God. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” As many as are the sons of God enjoy the benefits that Christ has purchased for them by the effectual application of the benefits to them by the Holy Spirit. 


Beloved brethren and children, do you know the Holy Spirit? Are you aware of His presence in your heart? 

Without the Holy Spirit, you cannot enjoy the redemption purchased by Christ. But with the Holy Spirit comes not just life, but leading in the way of eternal life. 

Are you conscious of being led by the Spirit? If you are a son or daughter of God, you will be conscious of the Holy Spirit’s leading. You will want to be led by Him, and you are enjoying His leading. This is the testimony of the Scripture. 

How do you know if you are led by the Spirit?  

In the first place, if the Spirit leads you, you will grow more and more to hate sin.  

In the second place, if the Spirit is leading you, you will find yourself—more and more—yielding obedience unto God out of love and gratitude (WCF 20.1). 

In the third place, you will find your Christian life to be more and more meaningful. You will enjoy an abundant life (v. 13). You will bear spiritual fruit. You will, more and more, enjoy love, joy and peace through the changing science of life. You will enjoy your relationship with God. 

Are you being led by the Spirit? Happy are you, beloved brethren and children, if you are, for you have God’s assurance that you are His son or daughter. 

Are you still unsure whether you are being led by the Spirit of Christ? If you profess faith in Christ and love Him in your heart, you need not doubt that you are a son or daughter of God. But remember that God sometimes will allow you to go your own way so that you may be humbled.  

Have you taken a wrong turn in your life? Oh, do not continue on, brethren. The more you go on, the more lost you will get. Turn back. Mortify the deeds of your flesh: Do not continue to entertain sin and grieve the Holy Spirit. If you will repent of your sin and ask the Lord to restore the joy of your salvation, you can be sure that the Father will receive you and the Spirit of Christ will again lead you in the way everlasting.  

But are you listening to (or reading) this sermon and still do not know Christ? If so, you must realise that you are heading the way of destruction. Oh, do not continue that way. A colossal volcano is ready to erupt in the way you are going. Do you not hear the rumble and smell the sulphur? It is written everywhere in the Word of God.  

Will you not turn and run? Will you not flee? But do not try to flee alone. You will get lost. Go to the Lord, repenting of your sins. Plead with Him to receive you, for you are a sinner. Ask to be accepted as His son or daughter. Ask to be given His Spirit that He may lead you in the way everlasting. Remember, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, but it is the Holy Spirit who effectually applies the redemption purchased by Christ to His elect. Therefore, remember that faith will not come alone, but will come with a massive change in your heart so that you become conscious of being led by the Spirit.  

Oh, may the Lord grant that you may become conscious of the love, joy, peace and power of the Holy Spirit as He leads you by the mercies of Christ. Amen.  

—JJ Lim