Spiritual people, age immaterial
Would you choose as a role model someone so old that he was waiting to die? Probably not. Yet, unlikely as it may seem, the aged Simeon (Luke 2:25-27) provides a pattern for all who are serious about biblical spirituality.
Some seek accommodation with the world’s agenda – ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. They advocate a post-modern church to pursue a post-modern generation (without making clear what exactly we should tell them when we catch up with them). Others withdraw into evangelical ghettos, despairing of gospel success.
But Scripture has an altogether better prescription for our ills, namely, spiritual people bearing witness to the glory of Christ.
Simeon was just such a man – one who had an intimate relationship with the third person of the triune God. He is presented to us as one indwelt by the Holy Spirit, taught by the Holy Spirit and led by the Holy Spirit. These are precisely the characteristics we need today if we are to ‘shine as lights’ amid a ‘crooked and perverse generation’ and ‘by doing good … put to silence the ignorance of foolish men’ (Philippians 2:15; 1 Peter 2:15).
Indwelt by the Spirit
Simeon, we are told, was ‘just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him’ (v.25). Various terms are used in Scripture to describe the relationship between a believer and the Spirit of God. Such terms include ‘born of the Spirit’, ‘indwelt by the Spirit’, ‘filled with the Spirit’, ‘baptised with the Spirit’, ‘having the Spirit’, and so on.
Although some claim that each of these terms means something different, this is hard to sustain if we examine the biblical evidence. Certainly, many of these terms are virtually synonymous, meaning simply that Christ indwells each true believer in the person of the Holy Spirit.
This is expressed in Simeon’s case by the statement that ‘the Holy Spirit was upon him’. Compare this with Luke 2:40 where we are told that ‘the grace of God was upon’ the young Jesus. Clearly, Luke uses the word ‘upon’ to signify something that was both habitual and visible in its effects. Put simply, Simeon bore the marks of the indwelling Spirit.
What were those marks? Simeon was ‘just’ and ‘devout’ and ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel’. That is, he lived a righteous life, was known for his devotion to God, and was looking for the coming of Christ.
Is this how we appear to those around us? Do we keep ourselves unspotted from the world (James 1:27)? Does our devotion to God match some people’s devotion to family or football? Is it obvious to our friends and neighbours where our priorities lie?
And is Christ the object of our longing and the one we desire to come again? If the Spirit is upon us, others will know.
Taught by the Spirit
Simeon was not only indwelt by the Holy Spirit but instructed by him. ‘It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ’ (v.26). Clearly, this revelation was unique to Simeon – but not in all its aspects.
For example, how did he know there was a Messiah to come? What was ‘the consolation of Israel’ and what made him look forward to it?
The answer must surely be that the Holy Spirit had taught him these things from the Scriptures. One of the chief works of the indwelling Spirit is to glorify Christ by taking that which pertains to him and showing it to us (John 16:14). This is an experience for every believer – to seek and cultivate the knowledge of Christ by searching the Scriptures as did Simeon.
The Holy Spirit, said Jesus, is ‘the Spirit of truth’ who will ‘guide you into all truth’ (John 16:12-13). This is not a warrant for a revelatory free-for-all, but a promise that all would be revealed to his disciples as they authored the New Testament Scriptures.
Nevertheless, in a secondary sense, the promise is also to us, for the Holy Spirit teaches us through the Scriptures the things concerning Christ, his suffering and his glory (Luke 24:25-27).
Are we, like Simeon, ready learners? Do we search the Scriptures seeking Christ? Are we eager to hear God’s Word expounded by those he has sent specifically to preach his Word ‘by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things which angels desire to look into’ (1 Peter 1:12)?
Led by the Spirit
Finally, Simeon was led by the Spirit – ‘he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus … he took him up in his arms and blessed God’ (vv. 27-28).
It is easy to neglect this final step. Many believers who are both indwelt by the Spirit and taught by the Spirit are slow to put these things to work in their practical lives. Suppose Simeon had stayed at home, savouring the good things that God had shown him? Suppose he had been so satisfied with the prospect of Christ and his glory that he neglected the Spirit’s prompting to get up and go to meet the Messiah in person?
This a challenge to us all. It is all too easy to rejoice in the glories of the gospel and the riches of Scripture yet not allow the Spirit to lead us into those ‘good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them’ (Ephesians 2:10).
Romans 8:14 declares: ‘As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God’. To be led implies action – a bearing of the fruit of the Spirit in our everyday lives (Galatians 5:22-24).
Brethren, ‘if we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit’.