Saturday, 16 August 2008


This week I took a day out of the office and attended a one day Theological seminar with Prof. Andrew McGowen from Scotland. He gave a series of talks on the role of the Holy Spirit. His opening question asked what did a person need to do in order to become a Christian. The simple answer to this question, according to Dr McGowen, was: believe. But he then presented us with an exposition of Romans 1 which teaches that it is simply impossible for the natural mind to receive the Gospel. According to Romans 1, the mind of an unsaved person is "darkened", "futile", "hardened", "debased", "depraved", "reprobate" (depending on your translation). The natural mind is at enmity with God and His Word (Rom. 8:7).

Dr McGowen went on to explain that the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian was the condition of their mind.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
Romans 8:5

To be a Christ-follower is to receive and develop a different mind. In Hebrew 8:10 it says that the believer has received the Laws of God written into their minds. And Titus 3:5 implies that our minds are washed and regenerated when we become believers.

What we do with our minds reflects what God has done with our minds.

Dr McGowen said that the mind of an unbeliever can only be opened to the truth by a work of the Holy Spirit. It is only then that they can receive the Gospel as "the word of truth".
because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,
Colossians 1:5

Until this happens the unbeliever regards the Gospel as foolishness even though Romans 1 says they intuitively know that the Gospel is the truth. Despite this intuitive knowledge, the unbeliever "suppresses" this knowledge of the truth -
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Romans 1:18

Dr McGowen then urged us to acknowledge that it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit at work through the witnessing believer and in the mind of the unbeliever that the word of truth can be received. This, he said, should encourage us to pray. We should pray that our witness is effective-
and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.
Philemon 6

And pray that the minds of those being witnessed to would have their minds opened to the truth-
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2Corinthians 4:4

Without prayer, Prof McGowen said, our evangelism is powerless and bound to be unproductive. God has ordained prayer as the ministry aid of the Church's witness. It is our praying that opens our minds to the work of the Holy Spirit so that we can be taught the Word of Truth, and it is our praying that opens the minds of unbelievers to similarly receive the Word of Truth: the Gospel.

As we consider some of our church's outreaches, let's pray. Without prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to intervene in our church's outreaches, it will be powerless. Please pray.


Andrew Corbett

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