Let us see how God works by His Spirit in our hearts to bring us to Christ and translate us from the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of Satan, into the kingdom of Christ, thereby making us spiritual children of Abraham, the true Israel of God.
God's eternal purpose was that both Jew and Gentile would be fellowheirs together of the same promises, and that they would make up the church, the body of Christ, the true Israel of God, according to Ephesians 2:11-22. Now, the question is: How does He work in our hearts to bring us to Christ, seeing we are by nature alienated from the life of God? If we are made the true Israel of God in salvation, and if salvation is a spiritual thing, discerned and understood only by a spiritual man, then how is all of this going to be done, seeing the natural man is dead in trespasses and sins? (Eph 2:1). How is such a marvelous work going to be performed, if man is in such a condition, as we read, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1Co 2:9)?
How is a man going to believe when he does not know what and whom to believe, seeing he has no spiritual eyes with which to see his own sinfulness, and the beauty of the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ?
How is a man going to repent when he has no knowledge of what to repent of? How is a man going to flee from the wrath to come when he has no knowledge of his danger as a criminal before a just and holy God? How is a man going to seek Christ when he has no idea of how to seek Him or of any need that Christ may fulfill for him? How is a man going to be constrained to seek light when he has no knowledge and is in spiritual darkness? How is a man going to love God when he does not know that he hates Him?
How is a man going to cry after liberty if he does not know he is in bondage? How can a man exercise a free will in choosing Christ when his will is enslaved by sin and Satan? How is a man going to seek heaven when he is ignorant that he is even going to hell? How is a man going to walk in the paths of righteousness and true holiness when he is satisfied with the paths of self-will, self-pleasing, self-confidence and self-righteousness?
How is a man going to pick himself up by his boot straps and bring himself to God, seeing he lies dead in sin? "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?" (Jer 13:23). This is the prophet's reasoning: Since an Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor a leopard his spots, then neither can you who are accustomed to doing evil do good without the work of the Holy Spirit in your hearts and lives! Therefore, how are you going to be made the true Israel of God?
Dear friend, all of this that I have given you is Scripture. This is the way the Bible describes our depraved hearts before God. Every man by nature is dead in trespasses and sins; he can not come to Christ, he will not come to Christ; he must be brought there by the Spirit of the living God. So, to be made a member of the body of Christ, to be made a part of the true Israel of God; it must be wholly and completely a work of God's distinguishing grace based upon the redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ by His blood-shedding at the cross. And since you and I by nature, both Jew and Gentile, lie dead in trespasses and sin, it is of a necessity that the Holy Spirit work in our hearts if we are ever saved and made the true Israel of God.
We read in John 6:63, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing." Did you hear that?--"the flesh profiteth nothing." He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, but he who is one inwardly, whose heart has been circumcised by the Spirit of God (Rom 2:28, 29). The flesh has no part in the work of God. "That which is born of flesh is flesh" (Joh 3:6). Therefore, for us to be saved, we must be born again by the instrument of the Word in the hands of the Holy Spirit, for "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." All fleshly activities amount to nothing where the regeneration of dead sinners is concerned. We must be born into the kingdom of God. Neither the logical arguments advanced by the mind, nor hypnotic powers brought to bear upon the will, nor touching appeals made to the emotions, nor beautiful music and hearty singing to catch the ear, nor sensuous trappings to draw the eye, are of the slightest avail in stirring dead sinners. It is not the choir, nor the soloist, nor the preacher, but the Spirit that quickens.
The Holy Spirit finds you and I wedded to our natural stock: wedded to our lusts, wedded to our pride, wedded to our self-righteousness, wedded to our self-sufficiency, and He must, by the law of God, cut us off from the natural stock, and graft us by faith into Christ, into the good olive tree, and thereby make us one with Him, and therefore the true Israel of God. When the Holy Spirit comes to us, He finds us "rich and increased with goods and in need of nothing" (Rev 3:17). So therefore, He has to bring the law of God into our hearts and begin to convince us of sin, righteousness, and of judgment, and to show us that we are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked before God--destitute of any righteousness that God will accept.
Again, the Holy Spirit must convince us that though we pray and seek the knowledge of the Bible, and strictly observe the Lord's day and attend the gospel ministry, and even though our neighbors see a great change in us outwardly, yet, if we have not been broken from our doings and our duties, laying at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ, emptied of all self, we are still attached to the natural olive tree, and have not been completely cut away, and grafted into Christ, and thereby become of the true Israel of God.
You see, dear friend, the soul that God saves, and makes His child, must come to know somewhat of its own emptiness and of its own nothingness before God (Mat 5:3).
Now let me ask you a question. If indeed, as the pretribulationists and the premillennialists say, that the Holy Spirit is going to go up at the secret rapture of the church; I pray ask you who is going to do this work in the hearts of all those so-called millions who are supposed to be saved during the tribulation and in the millennium (if there was one)? Who is going to work that work of salvation in them when it takes the power of God's Spirit to do it? The answer to that question is that this is the day of grace; now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation: there will be no hope after Christ comes for any yet lost. There will be no second chance, for when Christ comes the second time, the door of salvation will be shut forever (Mat 25:10).
Let us go further. The Holy Spirit in breaking off and cutting from the natural tree, must show the sinner that he is a transgressor from the womb, that he came into the world a guilty creature; and that in the time of his ignorance and ever since his birth, he has been guilty of many actual sins, and if those sins are not covered by the blood of Christ, they will cause him to perish for ever.
Again, the Holy Spirit must show the soul that, for all he does, he is a "sinner" still, that his best labors are an abomination in the sight of God and that his own righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of God. My friend, even though you do your best, the best that you can, you are still a sinner, and even your best labors are still works of darkness in the eyes of God. You still abide under the curse of God, under God's holy and righteous law: "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal 3:10). No matter what you do, you cannot satisfy the demands of God's holy law. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). Has the Holy Spirit thus dealt with your soul?
Again, the Holy Spirit must show you that God will not accept part from you and part from Christ. Salvation must be all of Christ; you must be engrafted into Him by His work alone; wholly by the work of God's Holy Spirit. We find like Jonah did in the belly of the whale, that "salvation is of the Lord." And it is only by the operation of the Holy Spirit of God that any of us are made the true Israel of God.
Again, the Holy Spirit must show you that saving faith is a gift. We receive it from above. The faith of the natural man is not the faith of God's elect. This surely strips us at the feet of Christ, knowing for the first time in our lives that we are at the mercy of another, guilty, lost, ruined, undone and helpless. If it were not for the grace and power of God the Holy Spirit we would be lost and lost for ever.
This is why I praise the Lord. Oh, I praise Him. I was a religionist, lost and going to hell, without hope and without God. But God, the Holy Spirit, came and wooed me and won me, and brought me to Christ, and worked in my heart by stripping me down at His feet and letting me see that I couldn't believe Him. I didn't know what true saving faith was. It wasn't the faith that I could work up, but it was the faith that God gives.
You see, this is where the Holy Spirit has been bringing the poor lost sinner all the while, to a state of poverty of spirit, nothing in himself, all in Christ. It is here that He gives faith to lay hold of Christ as the poor sinner's Lord, Savior and Deliverer. It is right here, in this way, that he is engrafted into the True Vine, the Lord Jesus Christ, by faith, and thereby made the true Israel of God. We are born into the kingdom of God by the Spirit of God and it is by the operation of the Spirit that we are cut off from the old natural stump, the old natural tree, and contrary to nature, are grafted into Christ, the good Olive Tree. If we were cut off from the natural and grafted into the natural, we could only bring forth that which we always brought forth--sin. But we are taken out, cut completely away from the old stock, and grafted in against nature, into the true vine, the Lord Jesus Christ and His life begins to flow in us.
Listen! Christ lays hold of a sinner and draws him to Himself; for by one Spirit, we are all baptized into one body, who is Christ. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit, communicates to the repenting, believing sinner His faith, the faith of the Son of God, He thereby enables the soul to lay hold of the Lord Jesus Christ. He comes to our hearts as the sealing Spirit and abides in the believing soul and thereby makes Christ precious and real to the heart and soul of that poor sinner.
Then having grafted the sinner into Christ, the poor soul now gets a ravishing sight of the Savior. He sees His excellency; he sees His beauty; he sees His glory as being revealed in the gospel, and he sees in Christ a full, suitable, willing Savior. The sinner receives a new heart and a new nature to enjoy, trust, and delight in this Blessed Savior, to honor and to commune with Him and to hold Him by faith, so that he can not let Him go. Why? Because he has been engraved upon the very palms of the hands of Christ, and by His stripes he has been healed from the hurt of sin.
Again, the Holy Spirit in giving faith furnishes the sinner with the feet to come to Christ and heart to receive Him. What the sinner could not do by nature, he can do by grace. God "makes us willing in the day of his power." The soul that once tried all remedies for his sin-sick soul, now finds in Christ his life, for he has been engrafted into the branch through which flows all of the life-giving sap from the root. Christ is the root, trunk, and the branch, and we are one in Him--and for this I praise Him and rejoice in what He has done for my never-dying soul.
Truly then, the soul that has been grafted into Christ is spoken of as being "married" to Christ, bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. He is spoken of as being a member of His body, and our body becoming His temple, the temple or dwelling place of His Spirit--and he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. We have been made one in Him. The soul redeemed by the grace of God and made the true Israel of God can now say: My beloved is mine and I am His; His life is my life; His inheritance is my inheritance; His name has become my name; His character, my character; His righteousness, my righteousness; His glory, my glory; His standing in heaven, my standing.
Now as the true Israel of God, the saved soul looks for a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness and where God will be all in all manifested unto us in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We shall follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. We shall rejoice in Him throughout eternity, that ever He elected us, called us, justified us, and glorified us in Himself.
I praise Him for letting me see and know the scope of His eternal purpose, that is, that all things would head up in the Lord Jesus Christ; and that He would take dead, vile, wretched, hell-deserving sinners, both Jew and Gentile, who deserve nothing but to be cast out of His presence forever, and make them His very own. He graciously gives them a new heart and a new nature, and calls them His heirs, His children. This work is performed by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. These bloodwashed ones will be with Him forever to behold His glory and sing His praises throughout eternity, with Christ their Lord and Savior, ruling and reigning with Him.