Let’s get to Romans 8, okay. We have been looking rather carefully and in depth at the opening verses of this incredible chapter. It is a chapter basically dedicated to the ministry of the Holy Spirit who secures our no condemnation status until we eternal glory. This is a remarkable chapter. It begins with, “No condemnation,” and it ends thirty-nine verses later with, “No separation.” It is a promise of the security of the believer. We will never be condemned, because we are in Christ, and He was condemned in our place; and nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord. This no condemnation, no separation status, this life of protection that brings us from justification to glorification is the work of the Holy Spirit.
As I said a few weeks ago, Holy Spirit’s only mentioned once or twice in the first seven chapters of Romans, and now nineteen times in chapter 8. So clearly, this is the Holy Spirit’s chapter. And I want you to understand the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers so that you will understand what God is doing in your life and so that you’ll be able to worship and thank the Spirit of God for that work. But as we think about this, let me read for you the opening eleven verses and get the context in mind.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” There’s a lot there, and we’ve been talking about this section for four weeks. And what I want to remind you of is that this is clearly a definitive distinction between a nonbeliever and a believer, someone who has been regenerated, born again, transformed, converted – whatever language you want to use – and the unaided condition of the sinner.
There is a difference between sinners and saints. We have looked at this several ways, and I want to look at it again, the same text we’ve looked at the last – at least last week – and pull out some things that I think are important for us. But I want you to understand that this descriptive pathology distinguishing the non-Christian from the Christian is God’s universal distinction. This is the pathology that God Himself defines for us. There is a clear, dramatic, miraculous, supernatural difference between a non-Christian and a Christian.
But before we look at that in some detail, I want also to mention one other thing. The best way to understand the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer, the best way to understand what it means to be in the Spirit minding the things of the Spirit, walking in the Spirit and ultimately ending up in life and peace is to look at the Lord Jesus Christ, because what the Spirit does in the believer is essentially what He did in Christ, obviously in our case, relative to our humanness and our sinfulness. But there is a very clear example laid out in the New Testament of how the Spirit of God ministered in the life and work of the Lord Jesus. And what He does for us is simply the same kind of work distinguished by the difference between us and the sinless Son of God; but nonetheless, a very similar work. If you understand the ministry of the Spirit in Christ, then you will understand His ministry in your life.
So let’s take a look at that. What did the Holy Spirit do in the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus? First of all, the Holy Spirit was Christ’s inseparable companion, His inseparable companion. All the activities of His life occurred in the presence of and by the power of the Holy Spirit. From the womb to the tomb to the throne, the Holy Spirit was active in the life of the Son of God. Let me take you back to where it all started, Luke chapter 1.
In Luke chapter 1, we have the angel Gabriel in verse 26 coming to Nazareth and speaking to Mary. In verse 30, “The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.’
“Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High’ – which is another name for the Holy Spirit – ‘will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.’” This is to say that the Holy Spirit is the one who gave life to the Son in the womb of Mary. The power of the Most High is the Holy Spirit. And just as He hovered over creation to bring it to fruition and form, so it is that the Holy Spirit was the one by whom the holy One of God was conceived in the womb of Mary. You could say He gave life to the incarnate Son of God.
If you follow the story in Luke, look into the second chapter. The next thing we learn about Christ is something of His development. Down in verse 40 of chapter 2 it says, “The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” Verse 49 says, “He said to them, ‘Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?’” Verse 52, “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” This too, this spiritual maturation, this growth and development of the Son of God is also the work of the Holy Spirit.
Not only was He literally created in the womb of Mary by the Spirit, but listen to Isaiah chapter 11. It says there, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse.” In other words, the Messiah will be a descendant of Jesse, and through Jesse, David, the Davidic line, as Luke pointed out. “The shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” And then this describes the Messiah with relation to the Holy Spirit, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” So what Isaiah prophesied there is that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon the Messiah with wisdom and knowledge and understanding. And that is exactly what Luke 2 is saying, “He kept increasing in wisdom and statue and in favor with God and man.”
Isaiah 42, verse 1 says, “Behold, My Servant. I have put My Spirit upon Him.” The Spirit is the one who gave Him life, the Spirit is the one who gave Him that development in wisdom and knowledge. If you look at Mark chapter 1, you come to the baptism of our Lord. Verse 9, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit descending like a dove upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.’”
The Spirit is the one who gave Him life in the womb, the Spirit is the one who came upon Him so that He grew in wisdom and stature and knowledge. The Spirit was there at His baptism, which was His affirmation as the Messiah, as the Son of God, as the suffering Servant. The Spirit was there to mark Him as the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecy regarding the Anointed One.
“Immediately after that,” – if you look at Mark 1, verse 12 – “the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan.” It was also the Spirit that compelled Him to go into the temptation to confront the kingdom of darkness and its monarch Satan himself. The Spirit literally drove Him out into that confrontation. He drove Him into a conflict with Satan so that His power over Satan and his hosts could be demonstrated. All through His ministry He had control over Satan, He had control over demons, as we learned from the gospel account.
So the Holy Spirit serves as the divine strategist who maps out the battle terrain and directs His warrior King into the strategic place of conflict, into the holy war which was waged not just in the beginning at the temptation but throughout His entire life, even ending in the garden. The Holy Spirit was there as the strategist putting Him in the right place at the right time to demonstrate His power over Satan. The Holy Spirit prepared Him and brought Him into battle to vanquish the enemy. The Holy Spirit was there to launch His public ministry.
After the temptation, according to Luke chapter 4, the temptation appears again here as it does elsewhere, in the opening thirteen verses; but pick it up in verse 14. “And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him began spreading through all the surrounding district. And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,” – this is Isaiah 61 – ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” He comes out of His temptation right into His ministry. And as the Spirit led Him into temptation, it says in verse 14 that the Spirit also led Him into ministry, beginning in Galilee, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
His whole ministry was empowered by the Spirit of God. He walked perfectly in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. In fact, in Matthew chapter 12, the familiar portion of Scripture, the leaders of Israel had said about Him that He did what He did by the power of Satan, Beelzebul – that title for Satan. They said He was satanic. And Jesus said, “This is Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” Why did He say that? Because it was the Holy Spirit who was ministering in Him and through Him, and to discount His work and to attach it to Satan was then to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
So His very conception in the womb of Mary was a work of the Spirit. His growth and development was the work of the Spirit. His baptism, or the inaugural event that put Him into the place of identity as the Messiah and launched Him was in the presence of the Spirit. His temptation was directed by the Spirit. His ministry was a ministry in and through the Spirit, and then even in His death.
A marvelous statement is made in Hebrews 9:14. It says, “The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God; the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God.” Even in His dying, He was under the power of the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit who empowered Him to die.
In Romans chapter 1 and verse 4, we also read that it was the Holy Spirit who raised Him from the dead. Romans 1:4, “He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness.” Literally, He died under the power of the Spirit and He was raised in the power of the Spirit. And even after His resurrection, He ministered for forty days. In Acts chapter 1, it says, “He was teaching, until the day He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.” For forty days He taught the things of the kingdom in the power of the Holy Spirit. You can see how at every point in His life and ministry, the Holy Spirit is active in Him. He submits Himself to the will of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, so much so that to denounce Him is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
So the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ was a ministry basically operating in and through Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. And that is why in John 16 and verse 7, that wonderful section where our Lord promises the coming of the Holy Spirit He says this: “I tell you the truth, it’s to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” And the Helper, of course, is no other than the Holy Spirit. Back in chapter 15, verse 26, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.” Jesus said, “It’s better for Me to go and send you the Spirit.”
What do You mean it’s better? Why would it be better? “Because I have been with you; He will be in you. I have been with you; He will be in you. The Spirit has been with you in Me, and He will be in You. Better that I go and the Spirit come, because He will take up residence in you.”
So summing all of that up, the same work that He did in Christ, He does in the believer in a way relative to our own fallen limitations. He gives us life. If you’re a Christian it’s because you were born of the Spirit – new birth, regeneration. He grows you into Christlikeness. If you increase in wisdom and stature and knowledge it’s because you are growing into Christlikeness under the work of the Spirit. Second Corinthians 3:18, “As we gaze at the glory of the Lord, we go from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next, by the Holy Spirit.”
He is the one who grows us up into Christlikeness. He is the one, according to 1 Corinthians 12, who baptizes us into the body of Christ. He is the one who provides the path of victory in temptation. He is the one who gives us the power to defeat Satan. He is the one who gives us the ability to overcome suffering. Peter calls Him the Spirit of glory who is with us in our suffering. He is the one, according to verse 11, if you’re back in Romans 8, He is the one in verse 11 of chapter 8, who will raise us from the grave. “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” The parallels are striking. He not only gives us power in life, He gives us power over death, and raises us as He raised Christ.
In the meantime, before our death and resurrection, He empowers us for ministry as He empowered our Lord. Listen to Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, Samaria, even to the remotest part” – or even to the ends – “of the earth.” This is the work of the Spirit in us, giving us life, causing us to grow in grace and knowledge and wisdom into Christlikeness. He marks us out as belonging to the Lord by placing us into His church through spiritual baptism. He empowers us for conflict and triumph over Satan. He enables us to win the victory against the enemy, gives us power over suffering, brings us the ability to give witness and testimony by His power to the ends of the earth. One day, He will raise us from the dead. So the Holy Spirit comes to be our constant companion and do for us what He did for our Lord.
With that kind of an introduction, let’s look back at this text for just a few moments. This chapter is about the Holy Spirit. He’s mentioned nineteen times in this chapter. This is His chapter. It is He who brings us to glory. It is He who secures our no condemnation status all the way to the very end.
And how does He do this? How does the Spirit work in our lives? First of all, we’ve already learned in verses 2 and 3 that He frees us from sin and death. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. What the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” Through the sacrifice of Christ who took our sin on Himself, bore our sin under the wrath of God, thus giving God the prerogative to forgive us, set us free from the law of sin and death, because a sacrifice was paid. The Spirit then gave us life to accomplish that divine end. The Spirit is the one who frees us from sin and death and applies the work of Christ on the cross to us.
Second thing we learned is, He then enables us to keep God’s law. Verse 4, “so that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Now if you are a believer, you are able to fulfill the law of God. He enables us to fulfill the law of God, which you never could do prior to that regenerating work. Until the Spirit of life has given us life, freed us from the law of sin and death, we couldn’t fulfill the law of God. Now we can.
The third thing that we noticed here – and this is the thing that I want to look at a little more today: How does He enable us to keep God’s law? How does He free us from sin and death. He does it, thirdly, by changing our nature, by changing our nature. It is a deep, profound change at the very core level of our personhood. He changes our nature.
Back to verse 4: “The law can be fulfilled by those who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” There’s a new life principle, there’s a new life power here; it is according to the Spirit. “And those who are according to the flesh” – verse 5 – “set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”
There you have the pathology of the believer and the nonbeliever. The nonbeliever operates according to the flesh, as the mind of the flesh, and He walks in the flesh. The one who has been regenerated is according to the Spirit, has the mind of the Spirit, and walks in the Spirit. The nonbeliever’s end is death, the believer’s end is life and peace. The Holy Spirit changes our nature. That is essential to understand.
Throughout all the years of my life and ministry, I have written time and time again, preached time and time again on this basic principle, Christianity 101: if you are a true Christian, you are a new creation. Old things have passed away, new things have come. You once were the slave of sin, you now are the slave of righteousness. You once loved the world, you now love the kingdom of God. You once were marked by sin and only sin, you were – as we saw last week – hostile toward God, verse 7, not subject to the law of God, not even able to be subject to the law of God, and verse 8, not able to please God. That is the condition, that is the sort of pathology of the nonbeliever. The unconverted person, operating in the flesh with the mind of the flesh, with the behavior of the flesh, hating God, unable to submit to God’s law, cannot please God. That’s nonbelievers. But the reverse of that is that, “Those who are according to the Spirit” – verse 5 – “mind the things of the Spirit, and they walk in the Spirit,” as verse 4 says.
So this is the description that sets these two categories apart – total transformation. God doesn’t divide people by any other means; doesn’t divide them by race or sex, education, possessions, culture. There’s just two kinds of people in the world: those who are according to the flesh and those who are according to the Spirit. Those who are according to the flesh, who think fleshly things, who behave in fleshly ways, who are headed toward death, spiritual death and eternal death, are those without God. Those who’ve been transformed by the Holy Spirit now live according to the Spirit, think according to the Spirit, walk according to the Spirit, and the direction is life and peace.
Look, this is a simple thing to understand but it escapes so many people: you cannot claim to be a Christian unless your life is transformed. The bent of your thoughts and affections and pursuits and behaviors and actions is the only decisive test of salvation. It’s not what you did in the past. It’s not that you are religious. It’s not that you prayed a prayer. It’s not that you ask Jesus to save you – no. What distinguishes a believer is character, character. His life is according to the Spirit, he thinks the things of the Spirit, he walks in the Spirit in the direction of spiritual life and peace. This is the divine diagnosis of the human heart, and you’re in either one or the other of these categories. That’s what we looked at last time. The basic reality is that if you’re still according to the flesh, you are hostile toward God, not subject to the law of God, not able to be subject to it, and you cannot please God, and you’re headed for eternal death. That’s what the Scripture says.
We’re talking about the bent, the disposition, the direction of your life, the controlling internal influence of your life. And I’ve said it this way a few times in the past: you know someone is a believer basically because you look at three things. Number one, love. True believers love the Lord, they love what the Lord loves: they love the church, they love the Word of God, they love other believers, and they even love those who need to be loved evangelistically. They are marked by love.
Second thing they’re marked by is humility. They are a broken people, they have recognized their sin. They have confessed their sin, repented of their sin, come to Christ for their sins to be forgiven. So they understand their weakness very, very well. They’ve made the ultimate recognition of their own wretchedness. There’s a humility built into that, and their life continues to be marked by that humility. They bow the knee eagerly and willingly to the Lord who is their Sovereign.
And the third thing is obedience. True believers obey the Word of God. That’s the bent of their life, not perfectly. We already went over that in Romans 7. We struggle because we’re still this new person. This new creation is still incarcerated in unredeemed human flesh, and so we don’t do what we want to do, we do what we don’t want to do; we struggle, but the bent of our life is clear.
So when you look at somebody and you say, “I wonder if that person’s a believer,” there’s just one thing you look at: character, character. Not confession, not religious activity, but character. Do they indulge the flesh? If they do, they’re corrupt, it’s that simple.
People can hide their true condition in religion, and they do in the church all the time. That’s why Jesus said the church will have true wheat and tares, and they’ll be growing alongside each other and you won’t be able to tell the difference, because people hide their corruption in religion. That is a little harder to discover. When people appear to have evidences of transformation but they’re superficial, they’re fraudulent, they’re fake, they’re hypocritical. I’ll give you an illustration of that, might help.
Back in the book of Amos, the prophet Amos you may remember was from the southern kingdom Judah, but he was called by God to prophesy and preach to the northern kingdom of Israel that was going to go into captivity, and he was very firm in preaching judgment to come. But look at chapter 4, it’s a good illustration. In chapter 4, the prophet Amos speaks to the people of the northern kingdom Israel. He says down in verse 4, we’ll just pick it up in the middle, “Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days.” He’s describing what they are doing. “Offer a thank offering also from that which is leavened, and proclaim freewill offerings, make them known. For so you love to do, you sons of Israel,” declares the Lord God. That sounds good. “You love to bring your sacrifices every morning at the morning sacrifice. You love to bring your tithes every three days. You love to bring the thank offering,” which was grain. “You love to proclaim freewill offerings. You love to do all of this.” This is religion.
But if you go over to chapter 5, verse 21, the Lord says this through Amos, “I hate, I reject your festivals, not do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them. I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” In other words, “I reject all of this religion; I want justice and righteousness.”
Verse 25, “Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel? You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves.” He’s referring to Moloch, the god that basically required babies to be sacrificed. He’s referring to Saturn, as if Saturn could be worshiped as a god, and other star gods which they had made. What He is saying is, “In the wilderness, you had all these other gods. “Therefore,” – verse 27 – “I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus,” says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts. All of that to illustrate the fact, you can be very religious on the surface and be completely rejected by God because your religion is fraudulent, it is phony. Under the surface, you have other gods that you worship.
So it is possible that you can look like a Christian, you can act like a Christian, you can play the game like a Christian and not be a Christian. But the other is not possible. It is not possible for you to actually be a regenerated Christian and not manifest that new life. If you have been born of the Spirit, you are walking in the Spirit, you are a servant of righteousness: you love God, you love His Word, you love His church, you love His people. You’re humble and obedient, happily, joyfully obedient to His Word. It’s just critical to understand that.
If you’re wondering in your mind, “Is my spouse or my kids or somebody I know a believer?” what does their character tell you? It’s possible that somebody who behaves on the outside like a Christian should behave is not a Christian. But it’s not possible that someone who is a Christian behaves like they’re not a Christian. You understand that? And people say, “Well, you know, I remember when he prayed the prayer. I remember when she said she gave her life to Christ.” That’s a point in history that may or may not have any significance at all. The judgment must be rendered on the basis of character. Life and peace is a gift of God to those who have been transformed.
Now life, sweet communion with the Lord, eternal life, peace – meaning the reconciliation with God that has been secured forever, we have been reconciled to God; that’s peace with God, and it disperses to us the peace of God. We have an internal peace because we have an external peace with God. That’s the difference. Those who are unregenerate move forward toward death, those who are regenerate move forward toward life and peace.
Now I want you to look at verse 9 – and that was a lot of review. But I want to go down to verse 9. Here we have the description of the believer: “However, you’re not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” In other words, he’s saying, “You,” the word “however,” moves us from those who are according to the flesh: minding the things of the flesh, behaving in a fleshly way, walking in the flesh and headed toward death. And now He distinguishes us, “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.”
How do you know if the Spirit of God dwells in you? Because if the Spirit of God dwells in you, you mind the things of the Spirit and you walk in the Spirit. That’s not perfection, but that is direction. The Spirit has taken up residence in you. First Corinthians 3:16 says, “You’re the temple of the Holy Spirit.” First Corinthian 6:19 says the same thing. The Holy Spirit dwells in the believer. This great fact, along with the creation of a new nature, secures the reality that behavior changes, because nature has changed.
And again I say what I said earlier. You can be a nonbeliever and act like a Christian; that’s hypocrisy. But you can’t be a believer and continually act like a nonbeliever, your disposition doesn’t allow it. Anyone not having the Holy Spirit does not belong to Christ. And if you have the Holy Spirit, then you are, according to the Spirit, minding the things of the Spirit, walking in the Spirit toward life and peace.
And ultimately, yes, verse 10 says, “The body is dead because of sin.” Your body’s dying, all of ours, as we well know. The body is dead because of sin. The body is still the victim of its sinfulness, but our spirit is alive because of righteousness. We just need to get rid of these bodies, don’t we. And that’s what he says a little later in chapter 8. Look down in chapter 8, verse 23, “Not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit,” – the down payment on our future glory – “even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”
So our spirits have already been transformed; we’re waiting for the transformation of the body that is to come. And when will that come? Verse 11, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells within you.” We’re going to have a resurrection body that will be the work of the Holy Spirit who now dwells within us. He will give us a moral body.
What do you mean a mortal body? Well, it’s going to be a body of some physical nature, but eternal rather than temporal, and perfect rather than sinful. How do we understand that body? Philippians chapter 3, verse 21: “The Lord Jesus Christ will transform the body of our humble estate into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” We’re going to have a body like His resurrection body. It was visible, it was powerful. It was seen by the disciples, it was touched. It will be a glorified body. We’re not going to be disembodied spirits forever, we’re going to have a body fit for eternal glory.
So what the Spirit of God did in raising Christ from the dead giving Him resurrection glory in a transformed body is exactly what the Spirit will do for us. So we’re back to where we started. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us life. It is the Holy Spirit who grows us in the knowledge and wisdom of the things of God. It is the Holy Spirit who places us into the body of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who inaugurates our battles with evil and with the kingdom of darkness and shows us the path of victory. It is the Holy Spirit as well who enables us to serve and minister and witness and give testimony. It is the Holy Spirit who will take us through death to resurrection and bring us to final glory. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are going to be changed. Read 1 Corinthians 15. There’s an earthly body and there’s a heavenly body, and they are very different.
So to understand this as basic, as I said, foundational Christianity, if you have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, if you’ve been given new life by the Spirit, if you’re being taught wisdom and knowledge from the Word of God by the Holy Spirit, if you have been launched into the body of Christ, if you have been empowered for spiritual ministry in service, if you have been given the power to give witness – to give testimony to the gospel to the ends of the earth, if you have been equipped to face death and are on the way to eternal life and resurrection, then you are a believer, and it will show itself in the fact that you think the things of the Spirit, they’re on your mind, because that’s your nature; and you walk according to the Spirit because your behavior follows your nature. That’s a real Christian.
There’s no way around it. Your character, the disposition of your life, the direction of your life is the definition of your life. You can’t avoid it. And this calls for us to examine ourselves to see whether we be in the faith. So you say, “What am I looking for?” You’re not looking for a past act or a past prayer or a past event or an emotional experience. The way you examine yourself to see whether you’re in the faith is you look at your life and you say, “Is it obvious that I’m led by the Spirit because my affections are in the direction of God and righteousness? Is it obvious that I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit because I love the Lord, I love His church, I love His Word? It’s obvious that the Spirit of God lives in me because I humble myself willingly before my Lord and I desire to obey His Word, even though I don’t obey as I should.” If that is the bent of your life, that’s not natural, that’s not sinful.
No, natural and sinful is that your mind is hostile toward God, right? That’s natural. Your mind is hostile toward God. It does not subject itself to the law of God, it’s not able to do so, and it doesn’t please God because it can’t and it has no particular desire to do that.
So what is your desire that manifests itself in your character? If the Spirit is in you, you belong to Christ. And if the Spirit is in you and you belong to Christ, you have manifestly transformed affections, desires, longings, and loves. And that’s what it means to be Christian. So examine yourself, not a past event, not a past experience, but present character. Can it only be explained by the power of the Holy Spirit in you? Let’s pray together.
Lord, Your Word is so clear and so unmistakable, we need not be confused. It has a glory that is overwhelming. It has a consistency that is stunning. It is so obvious that this is the living and abiding Word of God, that though there are sixty-six books, there is one author. You our God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit have written Holy Scripture, and you have spelled it out in very clear terms. We can examine ourselves and know whether we’re in the faith by the evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit and a new nature, with new loves, new longings, new aspirations, new ambitions to be pleasing to you, new affections, new hopes.
We humble ourselves, we eagerly obey You, because that’s our nature. That’s who we are, that’s how we think, and that’s how we act. It’s not to say we don’t battle with the remaining flesh; and that’s inescapable; and that’s why we wait for the redemption of the body when we can lose the flesh which fights against that new creation. May there be no one here who is at all confused about their condition. If they are without the Spirit, void of the Spirit, may it be manifestly obvious to them, because they know their hearts and they know that the flesh in all its corruptions dominates, and may they flee to You for salvation. For those of us who see in our own lives the remarkable, miraculous, transforming work of the Holy Spirit that gives us love for things that are holy, that gives us humility, eagerness to bow before our glorious Lord God and Savior, obedience, a longing in our hearts to obey You. Part of that is even to worship You. Lord, reveal to us, to every one of us today the true condition in which we exist, that there might be no doubts and no confusion.
And we thank You for those of us who possess the Holy Spirit, who are, according to the Spirit, minding the things of the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, and therefore walking in life and peace. We thank You for the joy of that, and we ask that You would increase our assurance through our faithfulness, and increase our gratitude as we express our worship to You even this day, we pray in the name of Christ. Amen.
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