Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 3 Study # 8
Thesis: God is still seeking those who will love Him.
Introduction: Three weeks ago we looked at Luke's record of the Holy Spirit's impact upon Simeon. On the basis of several facts -- the major one being the three repetitive references to the Holy Spirit by Luke in three verses -- we argued that, when it is all said and done, Luke was telling Theophilus that the quality of our lives is fundamentally determined by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Who is unswervingly committed to the Father's agenda. This is a truth that scares some folks because they do not wish to be "at the mercy of" someone else. They want a significant degree of "self-determination" so that they can make sure that "life" turns out the way they want it to. These folks have a deficient view of the mercy of God. They think Him to be "stingy in mercy". They also have a deficient view of themselves because they think they can make life turn out the way they want it to.
It is, however, also a truth that gives great comfort to other folks because they do not wish to be "responsible" for their own choices and actions. They want their "lives" to be dominated by a merciful God Who seeks their best interests in all things. But, a great many of these folks prove by their choices and actions that the Spirit is not as "managing" as they claim He is. These folks also have a deficient view of the mercy of God. They think Him to be "only merciful". And they have a deficient view of themselves because they think that they can make choices without being responsible for them and without having to live with the consequences.
So, as it is with every truth known to man, the real truth about the Spirit's dominion over our lives is somewhere between these two views. It is fundamentally true that the Spirit exercises a somewhat final and determinative dominion over our lives. But, it is also true that the Spirit's exercise of that dominion is in exact harmony with the Father's plans and processes which include bringing God's sons and daughters into the maturity of personal responsibility in loving, believing, choosing, and doing. So, as we come again to Luke's record to Theophilus of the Spirit's involvement with Simeon, we are going to address one of the most critical issues of our day: to what degree does the Spirit "dominate" our experience? Another way to ask this question is this: should we expect specific, extra-biblical, verbal revelation to precede every decision we make? And if not "every" decision, then which ones? To seek greater understanding of this issue, I am going to ask several questions regarding the text before us this morning.
June 26, 2005
- I. Question One: Did Luke Intend Theophilus to "Identify With" Simeon?
- A. The question here is whether Simeon is someone we should see as a pattern for ourselves.
- 1. On the one hand, he certainly makes manifest a very basic truth about true spirituality.
- a. Luke presents Simeon as a "just" man, who is also "devout".
- 1) This is as "balanced" as one could hope to be in that the focus is upon both the passivity of the man in respect to his justification and upon the responsibility of the man in respect to his devotion.
- 2) Luke's picture of Simeon is that of an elderly man who has learned to handle the complexities of theology by being sufficiently dependent to be both passive and active.
- b. Luke also presents Simeon as guided by the Holy Spirit in terms of both content of revelation and application of that revelation.
- 1) He knew and believed what was the "word" of God.
- a) He was not one who "believed" he had "heard from God" and then looked about himself to see if there was "confirmation" that his hearing was from God. This is the "typical" approach of the thoughtless: claim to have heard from God and then look for "confirmations" that it is true.
- b) There are no indications from Scripture that God's words are not known as His words to those with whom He speaks.
- c) The biblical exhortation to "confirm" the words as "of God" or not is not given to the utterers, but to the hearers -- because of the deceitfulness of many "utterers". And the method of "confirmation" is correspondence with known revelation and historical reality.
- 2) He knew and understood that Jesus was the One to Whom that word applied.
- a) Consider, for example, the baptizer's witness in John 1:32-34: he, who was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb, did not have the internal revelation attributed to Simeon.
- b) The fact is that the Bible gives no monolithic "pattern" of the Spirit's activities as to "how", but only as to "result": Simeon "knew" just as clearly as the Baptizer "knew".
- 2. On the other hand, however, he is presented as "remarkable" in the sense of a certain kind of uniqueness.
- a. The point of the record is lost if the Spirit does for all what He did for Simeon.
- b. The implications are huge...
- 1) If we are to understand that the Spirit does for all what He did for Simeon, we have to dismiss several facts...
- a) Simeon's age and the implications of age in respect to spirituality.
- i. Our larger context includes the early, middle, and later actions of Mary as both a warning and a comfort [See 2:19; 8:19-21 in respect to 8:18 within the context of Mark 3:21 and 31-35; and John 19:25].
- ii. The biblical focus upon the necessity of "elders" for proper management of the Church argues against the popular and thoughtless use of Simeon-like examples as a pattern for all.
- b) Simeon's relationship to the Spirit as "upon" rather than "within".
- c) Simeon's uniqueness in the record that has been dominated by methods other than an "upon Him, prophetic mode". His example is the least overt and "compelling", but the most significant in terms of compulsion.
- 2) If we are to understand that the Spirit does not do for all what He did for Simeon, the question is answered...Simeon is not a pattern.
- B. The question is also answered by the fact that there are multiple people in this record and none of them exist as a pattern.
- II. Question Two: What Did Luke Wish Theophilus to Do with His Record?
- A. He wished for him to "identify" with the "witness" of the text of his record.
- 1. As early as Luke's record of John's purpose for being born to Zacharias and Elizabeth, we have a move to establish a central truth: Jesus is the Lord's Christ.
- 2. From that initial introduction to the Christ's coming, we see Luke developing multiple evidences that Jesus is the Christ.
- 3. Everywhere, and always, in the Scripture the people of God are commanded to take the text seriously as the means for understanding the truth about God. [Note Paul's exhortation to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7 where the Spirit's work comes through the active, human, "consideration" of the text.]
- B. He wished for him to "link up with God" so that he became a "friend of God" in his own right -- not as an emulator of others, but as a true son of the Father.
- 1. This was going to happen, or not, according to what Theophilus did with Luke's own "witness" -- the record he both investigated and wrote down.
- 2. This is God's plan for every child of God, regardless of intellectual capacities.
- III. Question Three: What Is the Spirit's Typical Procedure With God's People?
- A. There is no "typical" when it comes to the details.
- 1. Every person is unique...Mary, Joseph, Simeon, Anna, the priest and others in the temple...all had a unique identity and experience.
- 2. Every person's destiny in the Kingdom is unique.
- 3. Every person's spiritual preparation for the Kingdom is unique.
- B. There is only a "typical" when it comes to "generalities".
- 1. The Spirit is "typically" the initiator.
- 2. The Spirit also "typically" operates under the "obligation of grace" principle: when grace is extended, people are responsible and accountable because they are now capable. Witness what is happening in America because those who receive grace abuse it.
- 3. The Spirit is closely tied to a person's grasp of the content of Scripture.
- a. He does not "save" anyone who does not hear the Scripture's Gospel.
- b. He does not "educate" anyone's conscience who does not interact with the truths of the Scriptures.
- c. He does not "inform" anyone's mind who does not get involved in the study of the Bible.
- d. He does not act contrary to the content of Scripture and He is not known by those who do not know that content. Paul told Timothy to "consider" the Word and God would give him understanding; no "considering", no "understanding".
- IV. Question Four: To What Degree, Then, Is the Spirit Dominating?
- A. He "dominates" when the Father's plans require it.
- B. He takes a back seat when the Father's children resist Him.
- V. Question Five: Since grace has been given to us, how are we going to respond?