The Withering Work of the Spirit
1 Peter 1:24-25
For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass wither, and the flower thereof falls away:…

(with Isaiah 40:6-8): — In every one of us it must be fulfilled that all that is of the flesh in us, seeing it is but as grass, must be withered, and the comeliness thereof must be destroyed. The Spirit of God, like the wind, must pass over the field of our souls, and cause our beauty to be as a fading flower. There must be brought home to us the sentence of death upon our former legal and carnal life, that the incorruptible seed of the Word of God, implanted by the Holy Ghost, may be in us, and abide in us forever. The subject is the withering work of the Spirit upon the souls of men.

I. Turning then to THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT IN CAUSING THE GOODLINESS OF THE FLESH TO FADE, let us, first, observe that the work of the Holy Spirit upon the soul of man in withering up that which is of the flesh, is very unexpected. You will observe that even the speaker himself, though doubtless one taught of God, when he was bidden to cry, said, "What shall I cry?" Even he did not know that in order to the comforting of God's people, there must first be experienced a preliminary visitation. Many preachers of God's gospel have forgotten that the law is the schoolmaster to bring men to Christ. It cannot be that God should cleanse thee until He has made thee see somewhat of thy defilement; for thou wouldst never value the precious blood if thou hadst not first of all been made to mourn that thou art altogether an unclean thing. The convincing work of the Spirit, wherever it comes, is unexpected, and even to the child of God in whom this process has still to go on, it is often startling. We begin again to build that which the Spirit of God had destroyed. Having begun in the Spirit, we act as if we would be made perfect in the flesh; and then when our mistaken up-building has to be levelled with the earth, we are almost as astonished as we were when first the scales fell from our eyes. The voice which saith, "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people," achieves its purpose by first making them hear the cry, "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field."

2. Furthermore, this withering is after the usual order of the Divine operation. If we consider well the way of God we shall not be astonished that He beginneth with His people by terrible things in righteousness. Observe the method of creation. What was there in the beginning? Originally nothing. "The earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep." There was no trace of another's plan to interfere with the great architect. So it is in the new creation. When the Lord new creates us, He borrows nothing from the old man, but makes all things new. He does not repair and add a new wing to the old house of our depraved nature, but He builds a new temple for His own praise.

3. I would have you notice that we are taught in our text how universal this process is in its range over the hearts of all those upon whom the Spirit works. "All flesh is grass; and all the goodliness thereof" — the very choice and pick of it — "is as the flower of the field," and what happens to the grass? Does any of it live? "The grass withereth," all of it. The flower, will not that abide? So fair a thing, has not that an immortality? No, it utterly falls away. So wherever the Spirit of God breathes on the soul of man, there is a withering of everything that is of the flesh, and it is seen that to be carnally minded is death. If the work in us be not the Spirit's working, but our own, it will droop and die when most we require its protection.

4. You see, then, the universality of this withering work within us, but notice the completeness of it. The grass, what does it do? Droop? nay, wither. The flower of the field: what of what? Does it hang its head a little? No, according to Isaiah it fades; and according to Peter it falleth away. There is no reviving it with showers, it has come to its end. Even thus are the awakened led to see that in their flesh there dwelleth no good thing.

5. Let us further notice that all this withering work in the soul is very painful. As you read these verses do they not strike you as having a very funereal tone? This is mournful work, but it must be done. All that is of nature's spinning must be unravelled. It was a great merry for our city of London that the great fire cleared away all the old buildings which were the lair of the plague, a far healthier city was then built; and it is a great mercy for a man when God sweeps right away all his own righteousness and strength, when He makes him feel that he is nothing and can be nothing, and drives him to confess that Christ must be all in all, and that his only strength lies in the eternal might of the ever-blessed Spirit.

6. Observe that although this is painful it is inevitable. Why does the grass wither? Because it is a withering thing. "Its root is ever in its grave, and it must die." How could it spring out of the earth and be immortal? The seeds of corruption are in all the fruits of manhood's tree; let them be as fair to look upon as Eden's clusters, they must decay. Moreover, it would never do that there should be something of the flesh in our salvation and something of the Spirit; for if it were so there would be a division of the honour. It gives me great joy when I hear that you unconverted ones are very miserable, for the miseries which the Holy Spirit works are always the prelude to happiness.

7. It is the Spirit's work to wither. Better to be broken in pieces by the Spirit of God than to be made whole by the flesh! What doth the Lord say? "I kill." But what next? "I make alive." He never makes any alive but those He kills. He never hems those whom He has not wounded.

II. Now, concerning THE IMPLANTATION. According to Peter, although the flesh withers, arid the flower thereof falls away, yet in the children of God there is an unwithering something of another kind. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed," etc. "The Word of the Lord endureth forever," etc. Now, the gospel is of use to us because it is not of human origin. If it were of the flesh, all it could do for us would not land us beyond the flesh; but the gospel of Jesus Christ is super human, Divine, and spiritual. In its conception it was of God; its great gift, even the Saviour, is a Divine gift; and all its teachings are full of deity. Now this is the incorruptible Word, that "God was made flesh and dwelt among us"; that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." This is the incorruptible Word, that "whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." Do you receive it? Then the Holy Spirit implants it in your soul. Do you leap up to it, and say," I believe it"? Then you possess the living seed within your soul. And what is the result of it? Why, then there comes, according to the text, a new life into us, as the result of the indwelling of the living Word, and our being born again by it. Now observe wherever this new life comes through the Word, it is incorruptible, it lives and abides forever.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:

WEB: For, "All flesh is like grass, and all of man's glory like the flower in the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls;

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