Not only was the Holy Spirit the active agency in the original creation, but He also makes possible the new creation. Not only did He inspire the prophets in producing the Scriptures, but through His ministry the gospel is made effective and the plan of redemption is carried into execution. His mission in the work of salvation is summarized in John 16:7-11. This is also the summary of the gospel.
As the gospel is proclaimed, it is the mission of the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin, the transgression of divine .law; of righteousness, obedience to divine law; and of the coming judgment, when man will be judged by the law. The sinner is first convicted of what he ought not to do, then of what he ought to do, and then of the judgment when he will be judged by his decisions and conduct.
The first mission of the Holy Spirit convinces of the terrible nature of sin and of its consequences, which is eternal death. The greatest of all sins is to reject Christ. In fact, this includes all other sins, "for he that hath the Son bath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." 1 John 5:12. The conviction of sin brings sorrow rather than comfort. The pricking of the heart and conscience is not pleasant, but it is necessary to convince the sinner of his need of a Saviour and salvation, and to lead him to repent and forsake his sins. (Job 42;5, 6; Isa. 6:1-5; Acts 2:37, 38; Rom. 7:24, 25; 2 Cor. 7 :9-II.)
After convincing the sinner of his spiritually naked condition and unrighteousness, the Holy Spirit reveals a complete remedy in Christ. As he hungers and thirsts after righteousness, he finds salvation and satisfaction in the imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ, which he obtains by faith rather than on the basis of human effort and merit. (Rom.1:16, 17 ; 9:31, 32; 10:2, 3.)
"Righteousness is holiness, likeness to God ; and 'God is love.' It is conformity to the law of God ; for 'all Thy commandments are righteousness ; and 'love is the fulfilling of the law.' Rightebusness is love, and love is the light and the life of God. The righteousness of God is embodied in Christ. We receive righteousness by receiving Him. Not by painful struggles or wearisome toil, not by gift or sacrifice, is righteousness obtained; but it is freely given to every soul who hungers and thirsts to receive it."—Mount of Blessing, P. 34.
"The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law ; but he is incapable of rendering it. . . . By His perfect obedience He has made it possible for every human being to obey God's commandments. When we submit ourselves to Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind, the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live His life. This is what it means to be clothed with the garments of His righteousness. Then as the Lord looks upon us, He sees, not the fig-leaf garment, not the nakedness and deformity of sin, but His own robe of righteousness, which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah."—Christ Our Righteousness, p. 141.
"The only way in which he [the sinner] can attain righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner's account. Christ's righteousness is accepted in place of man's failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son."—Ibid., p. 142.
This is the gospel. It is "good news," "the sweetest melodies that come from human lips, —justification by faith, and the righteousness of Christ."—Ibid., p. 93. It is good news to know that in place of the sins that are blotted out of the books of record the character of Christ is put to our account, and what Christ would have done if He had been in our place is written there instead.
The imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ received by faith is the positive phase of the 'gospel. "Several have written me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, 'It is the third angel's message in verity.' p. 50. In Testimonies to Ministers, pages 91-93, there is a discussion of this subject. It is stated that the message of Christ's righteousness "is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in large measure." It is declared to be "the third angel's message, in clear, distinct lines."
How can this be possible when the third angel's message, as revealed in Revelation 14, is chiefly a warning against the beast and his image? Because the most effective way to expose and warn against these false religious systems of righteousness by works is to preach the positive phase of the gospel, which reveals the only hope of salvation and righteousness. Error is most effectually exposed by truth. A mere warning will save no one without a revelation of the way of escape. Therefore, without the way of salvation through Christ the third angel's message is not the "everlasting gospel." Righteousness by faith is possible only through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. (Gal. 5:4-6.)
The Holy Spirit also convicts man of the coming judgment when we will be measured by the law. (Eccl. 12:13, 14.) This was the method used by Paul in preaching to Felix. He convinced him of "righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come," and the governor "trembled" under the conviction of guilt. This is the divine arrangement of the final warning message. (Rev. 14:6-14.) This was the method used by Wesley, who said he first gathered his audience at the base of Sinai to hear the law and the sentence of death by the great Judge; and when they realized their hopeless condition, he led them quickly to Calvary and showed them the way of escape through Christ. This is still the Scriptural way of proclaiming the gospel, convincing the sinner first of the seriousness of the disease of sin and then revealing the complete remedy. This is Christ's method as revealed in the Laodicean message. (Rev. 3:14-22.)
Miracle of the New Birth
Jesus told Xicodemus that unless he was born again of the Spirit he could not see or enter the kingdom of God. (John 3: 1-10) This message startled, puzzled, and irritated the great theologian. It was as if Jesus were speaking to him in an unknown tongue. (See The Desire of Ages, pp. 171-173.)
The new birth is imperative. It is one of the "musts" of the gospel. There is absolutely no other way to be saved. The only way to get out of a family is through death, and the only way to get into a family is through birth. Through death to sin we get out of the old Adam family, and by means of the new birth we enter the family of the second Adam. Natural, or physical, birth is common to all men, but those who experience the life that is more abundant must be twice-born men and women.
The new birth is a "new creation" which makes all things new. (2 Cor. 5:17.) In The Desire of Ages, pages 494, 495, we are told that the new birth cannot be explained, and can be known only by experience. The new birth is a miracle in which human works play no part. (John I :12, 13.) Only the twice-born person can bear the ringing testimony of the apostle Paul recorded in Galatians 2:20; 6:14, 15. The new birth makes us new creatures with new names to describe our new characters. We enter a new family with a new inheritance. We are given new minds, new hearts, new affections, new associations, and a new language. Our citizenship is in heaven. (Phil. 3:20, R.V.)
The spiritual birth gives man "the divine nature" so that he does "by nature the things contained in the law." Then the following experiences become a reality:
"Cleanse the fountain, and the streams will be pure. If the heart is right, your words, your dress, your acts, will all be right."—Testimonies, vol. I, p. 158.
"The young are often urged to do duty, to speak or pray in meeting ; urged to die to pride. Every step they are urged. Such religion is worth nothing. Let the carnal heart be changed, and it will not be such drudgery, ye cold-hearted professors, to serve God."—Ibid., p. 162.
This is genuine Christianity, the religion of those who have been "born of the Spirit." It is the only religion worthy of the name. The following counsel should be adhered to at this time by the church:
"Pray that the mighty energies of the Holy Spirit, with all their quickening, recuperative, and transforming power, may fall like an electric shock on the palsy-stricken soul, causing every nerve to thrill wtih new life, restoring the whole man from his dead, earthly, sensual state to spiritual soundness."—/bid., vol. 5, p.267.
How New Covenant Becomes a Reality
Only those who are under the new covenant can be saved, and this covenant becomes a reality through the work of the Holy Spirit. A covenant is an agreement, or contract, between two or more parties in which each promises to do certain things on condition that the other member or members carry out their part of the contract. Failure of either party to fulfill the conditions nullifies the agreement. The plan of redemption is based on a covenant relationship, first between the Father and the Son.
"Before the foundations of the earth were laid, the Father and the Son had united in a covenant to redeem man if he should be overcome by Satan. They had clasped their hands in a solemn pledge that Christ should become the surety for the human race. This pledge Christ has fulfilled. When upon the cross He cried out, 'It is finished,' He addressed the Father. The compact had been fully carried out"—The Desire of Ages, p. 834.
But there must also be a covenant between God and man:
"In the Bible the sacred and enduring character of the relation that exists between Christ and His church is represented by the union of marriage. The Lord has joined His people to Himself by a solemn covenant, He promising to be their God, and they pledging themselves to be His, and His alone. He declares, 'I will betroth thee unto Me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies.' "—The Great Controversy, p. 381.
Only those who have made a covenant with God by sacrifice will be saved when Christ returns. (Ps. 50:3-5.) All covenants, in order to be legal and binding, must be confirmed by a "sacrifice," "consideration," or "pledge," in which each party gives up something of value to show his good faith. This is called " the perpetual covenant" and "the everlasting covenant," because of its permanent nature and its relation to the everlasting gospel. It is called the new covenant to distinguish it from the old, and also because it is made only with those who experience the new birth and become new creatures.
"Though this covenant was made with Adam and renewed to Abraham, it could not be ratified until the death of Christ. It had existed by the promise of God since the first intimation of redemption had been given; it had been accepted by faith; yet when ratified by Christ, it is called a new covenant. The law of God was the basis of this covenant, which was simply an arrangement for bringing men again into harmony with the divine will, placing them where they could obey God's law."—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 370, 371.
Old and New Covenants Contrasted
The terms and substance of the new covenant are set forth in Jeremiah 31:31-34. This text is quoted in Hebrews 8:6-10. Although the old covenant has been in existence ever since the fall of man and still prevails with all who attempt to obtain salvation through human effort without Christ, the most outstanding example was at Mount Sinai, when it was entered into by a whole nation. (Ex. 59:3-6.) God's promises were good, but depended on the fulfillment of man's part of the compact. This Israel promised to do, and repeated the promise after the giving of the law. (Ex. 24:3, 7.)
A promise is good only when it is fulfilled. The old covenant was therefore faulty because of the false promises of man, which were broken within forty days. Finding fault with them because of their unfaithful promises, the Lord made a new covenant, established upon better promises. The new covenant contains no human promises. The law of God is the letter of both covenants. Under the new covenant this law is written in the mind and heart so that man's thoughts and affections are in harmony with it, and he "does by nature the things contained in the law." Attempted obedience, in human strength, to the law written on stone, on a chart, or in the Scriptures, is the old covenant and is self-righteousness. Obedience to the same law, when written in the heart, is the new covenant. The old covenant makes attempted obedience a burden.
"There are those who profess to serve God, while they rely upon their own efforts to obey His law, to form a right character, and secure salvation. Their hearts are not moved by any deep sense of the love of Christ, but they seek to perform the duties of the Christian life as that which God requires of them in order to gain heaven. Such religion is worth nothing. . . . A profession of Christ without this deep love, is mere talk, dry formality, and heavy drudgery."—Steps to Christ, P. 49.
There is no salvation in the old covenant. (Matt. 5:20.) It is the principle of paganism. (See The Desire of Ages, pp. 35, 36.) Obedience under the new covenant is a delight. (Ps. 40 :6-io ; Isa. 51 :7.) This covenant is possible only through the agency of the Holy Spirit who writes the law on the "fleshy tables of the heart" and makes us "partakers of the divine nature." (2 Cor. 3 :2, 3, 6, 7; 2 Peter :3, 4.)
"God is the mighty, all-powerful agency in the work of transformation. By His Spirit He writes the law in the heart. Thus divine relationship is renewed between God and man. . . . The religion of Christ means more than the forgiveness of sin; it means that sin is taken away, and that the vacuum is filled with the Spirit. It means that the mind is divinely illumined, that the heart is emptied of self, and filled with the presence of Christ."—Review and Herald, June to, 1902. (See also Christ's Object Lessons, p. 312.)
The following statements give a striking contrast between the old and new covenants:
"The effort to earn salvation by one's own works, inevitably leads men to pile up human exactions as a barrier against sin. For, seeing that they fail to keep the law, they will devise rules and regulations of their own to force themselves to obey. All this turns the mind away from God to self. His love dies out of the heart, and with it perishes love for their fellow-men. A system of human invention, with its multitudinous exactions, will lead its advocates to judge all who come short of the prescribed human standard. The atmosphere of selfish and narrow criticism stifles the noble and generous emotions, and causes men to become self-centered judges and petty spies."—Mount of Blessing, pp. 177, 178.
"You must be good before you can do good. You can not exert an influence that will transform others until your own heart has been humbled and refined and made tender by the grace of Christ. When this change has been wrought in you, it will be as natural for you to live to bless others as it is for the rose-bush to yield its fragrant bloom, or the vine its purple clusters."Ibid., p. 183.