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Grace to You - Resource

It's time for us now to turn to the Word of God for our study of Scripture tonight.  And Romans chapter 8 is our text, Romans chapter 8, “Life in the Spirit.”  This great mountain peak of a chapter is designed, I think, by the Spirit of God to leave an immense impression upon our hearts. We should, if we master any chapters of Scripture, master this one, because it gives such an immensely clear and far-reaching description of the work of God through His Spirit in us who belong to Him.

 

And though this chapter mentions God, and though it mentions Christ Jesus repeatedly, it is really the chapter about the Holy Spirit.  It defines for us life in the Spirit.  As we have been saying, the ministry of the blessed Holy Spirit in Christians is marvelous beyond description, beyond comprehension, and, therefore, really beyond appreciation by those of us who, though redeemed, are still fallen.  We can read through the Scripture and be told that the Holy Spirit glorifies Christ to us and through us.  The Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence and dwells in us, as we will see even tonight.

 

We've become the temple of the Holy Spirit.  He fills us so that we speak to ourselves with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord and submit to one another.  He imparts to us spiritual fruit: Love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control.  He grants us certain gifts so that we can serve the body of Christ in remarkable ways with spiritual power.  He seals us unto the day of redemption.  That is, He guarantees our eternal home.  He communes with us and fellowships with us, so that we may enjoy the intimacy of the very presence of God.  He teaches us.  He is the anointing from God that we possess who, by His own instruction, teaches us the very Word which He Himself inspired, the Scripture, so that we need not depend upon the teaching of men.

 

He prays for us, as we will see later in the chapter, as He constantly intercedes according to the will of God on our behalf with groanings that cannot be uttered.  He wars, with us, against the unruly and sinful flesh.  As we're reminded in Galatians chapter 5, it is the Spirit that wars against the flesh.  He comforts us.  He comes to us in those times when we need comfort and brings that comfort.  He comes to us in times when we need exhortation and brings that exhortation.  He is the other comforter that Jesus sent.  He sanctifies us.  That He...that is, He makes us holy.  He conforms us to the image of Christ.  Second Corinthians 3:18 says that, "As we gaze on the glory of Christ, we are moved from one level of glory to the next by the Holy Spirit."  It is He who empowers us for witness.  "You shall be witnesses unto Me after the Holy Spirit has come upon you," it says in Acts 1:8.

 

This remarkable member of the Trinity has all of these ministries and more in us. Our life as children of God, then, as possessors of eternal life is really life in the Spirit.  It is in Him we live and move and have our being as believers.  That is why, after Paul's great section on salvation, which really flows all the way through chapter 7, he writes of the Spirit's work in the sanctifying process going on in our lives.

 

As we have said, chapters 3 to 7 show us how Jesus Christ provided a no-condemnation salvation. And chapter 8 demonstrates how the Holy Spirit secures that no-condemnation salvation.  In fact, the first 27 verses of chapter 8 feature the works of the Holy Spirit. He frees us from sin and death.  He enables us to fulfill the law of God.  He changes our nature.  He empowers us for victory over sin.  He confirms our adoption.  He guarantees our glory, and He intercedes for us.  And then in verse 28 to the end of the chapter is a doxology in response to this marvelous life in the Spirit.

 

Sadly, most Christians today know about God — they could probably give you a list of God's attributes — and most of them know about Jesus Christ and could discuss something of His character and work — but understand little about the Holy Spirit.  And the contemporary understanding of the Holy Spirit is not only minimal or shallow, but it is also largely incorrect.

 

If you just looked at the sort of evangelical world out there and took a...a big bite into contemporary evangelicalism in order to get a taste of their view of the Holy Spirit, you would probably get a relatively untrue view.  You would conclude that the work of the Holy Spirit was to make people happy, even giddy, or even lying on the floor laughing.  Or the work of the Holy Spirit was to knock people out, having them fall over backwards.  Or the work of the Holy Spirit was at least to make people emotionally out of control, to cause them to speak some kind of gibberish or get healed.  Or the work of the Holy Spirit was to write praise music produced by secularly owned conglomerates whose mission is to make money.  Every new entrepreneurial institution in evangelicalism, whether it's a product or an event, is called a moving of the Holy Spirit, especially as we talked about this morning, unity at the price of sound doctrine.  That's always called a movement of the Spirit.

 

And evangelicals are running around like consumers looking for the next Holy Spirit experience.  And I dare say there are many people who name the name of Christ who do not really have a grasp on what the Holy Spirit is doing. This chapter gets to the real work of the Holy Spirit, and this is the foundation of understanding the true work of the Holy Spirit. Every false prophet, every false teacher, every charlatan and every fake who identifies himself with evangelicalism today claims to have the power of the Spirit, doesn't he? The Spirit is being blamed for all kinds of things.

 

It's a tragic thing, really.  People are a little...a little more careful, I think, in how they speak about God, understanding Him to be a consuming fire and having a healthy fear of God.  And people are even somewhat careful about how they talk about Jesus, all...although they seem to be a bit more familiar with Jesus and feel a little more comfortable sort of pulling Jesus down closer to their level.  But it seems to me that people have no compunction at all about how they talk about the Holy Spirit.  They just assume that everything on their agenda is His work.

 

Anything that is spoken about the Holy Spirit that is untrue of Him is the same as blaspheming God or Christ, isn't it? We need to be very careful what we ascribe to the Holy Spirit, what we blame on the Holy Spirit, and we certainly want to begin with a foundation of understanding the true character of the Holy Spirit and the true ministry of the Holy Spirit.  That's why we're looking at this chapter. I...I think we need to understand life in the Spirit.

 

What should we expect?  Should we expect that if we're really living in the power of the Holy Spirit we should speak in tongues?  Should we expect we ought to be falling over backwards or we ought to be in the midst of some euphoric revival where all kinds of signs and wonders are exploding all around us?  Or we ought to be lying on the floor in a stupor, or...or we ought to be in a...some kind of ecstasy out of emotional control?  Or...or we ought to be seeing some inexplicable revival quote unquote bursting all over the scene around us?  Is that the work of the Holy Spirit?  Is that what we ought to be expecting if we're living life in the Spirit?

 

Many times churches like ours are even condemned because we're so committed to the teaching of the Word of God. We're so committed to the mind and understanding God and understanding His truth and living His truth, that we're those of the letter, they say, and the letter kills and the Spirit gives life.  And we're not open to the real work of the Spirit.  And the question needs to be answered:  What is the real work of the Holy Spirit?  What is the Spirit really doing?  What is life in the Spirit?

 

Here it is in chapter 8.  This is life in the Spirit.  And as I have been mentioning to you, the first thing the Holy Spirit does for us is He frees us from sin and death.  Chapter 8 verse 1, "There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  That is the concluding statement of the...of the...the section from 3 to 7.  That... That is the concluding statement.  That is the final comment on the saving work that God has provided in Christ.  It provides a no-condemnation status.  Christ paid the penalty for our sins, and we will never be under condemnation, because all the condemnation was paid for in Christ's death.

 

"There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  And having established that no-condemnation status, Paul immediately then shows the Spirit's role in that.  "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and 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."

 

The first thing the Holy Spirit does is He frees us from sin and death. We a...we have a no-condemnation status.  Our sins have been completely paid for.  We are in a no-condemnation status because of the principle of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.  By the way, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is the gospel.  The gospel is connected to the Holy Spirit in what sense?  That Jesus Christ came into the world and did what the Spirit showed Him to do, right?  In fact, he said, "If you blaspheme Me, you blaspheme the Spirit."  It was the Spirit working through Christ.  And then it was the Holy Spirit who revealed the work of Christ in the gospels, the Holy Spirit who revealed the gospel in the epistles of the New Testament and in the book of Acts.  It was the Holy Spirit who energized the work of Christ.  It's the Holy Spirit who inspired the gospel.  It is the Holy Spirit, then, who convicts us of sin.  It is the Holy Spirit who energizes the gospel in us and applies it.  It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us.  That was made possible, verse 3 says, through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The law couldn't do it.  The flesh couldn't do it.  God did it, sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and making Him an offering for sin.

 

So we said, first of all, it is the Holy Spirit who frees us from sin and death, sets us free from sin's power, sin's authority, sin's dominion, and sin's penalty, and someday, sin's presence.  Secondly, it was the Holy Spirit who enables us to fulfill God's law.  Verse 4a: "In order that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us."  We could never keep God's law and, thus, we were an offense to God.  But the Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill God's law.  How?  By imputing Christ's righteousness to us.  He imputed...God imputed our sin to Christ.  The Spirit of God imputes Christ's righteousness to us.  The Spirit is the agent that does that in the Trinity.

 

We have received the righteousness of Christ.  God's Spirit has miraculously, marvelously, graciously granted to us the very righteousness of Jesus Christ.  This is the tremendous truth.  The work of the Spirit in our behalf, the work of the Spirit through Christ, though the...the inspiration of the New Testament, through the work of conviction, through the application of the gospel in our lives, brought about our justification by bringing to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  He enables us to fulfill God's law.  That's His work in us.

 

And, thirdly, and this is where we are for our study tonight.  This is not only forensic.  This is not only a declared righteousness we receive. It's actually conversion, regeneration, new birth, new creation.  That's the third point.  He changes our nature.  Look at verse 4, middle of the verse.  It's because of the Holy Spirit that we "do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."  It is not just a matter of declaring us free from sin and death, because Christ bore our penalty and, therefore, we are declared just or righteous.  It's not just granting to us the righteousness of Christ so that His righteousness cloaks us and covers us like a garment. But He actually goes beyond the declared righteousness, which is justification, to conversion. We are actually transformed.  We used to walk according to the flesh, and now we walk according to the Spirit.

 

Justification and sanctification, therefore, are inseparable.  And this is the initial work of sanctification.  We are transformed from flesh walkers to Spirit walkers.  Second Corinthians 5:17 says, "If any man in Christ, he is (what?) new creation.  Old things have passed away and...and new has come."  We move from a condition of not having the power to keep the law, which condemns us, to having the power to keep the law, which no longer condemns us.  The law no longer condemns us because of justification, and now we have the power to keep that law because of sanctification or regeneration or conversion.  And we identify there in verse 4, as I noted for you, two kinds of people: Those who walk according to the flesh, and those who walk according to the Spirit.

 

And verse 5, we saw last time, "Those who walk according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.  But those who are according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit."  And then verse 6, "The mind set on the flesh is death.  The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace."  And there you have the contrast very clearly.  You have two kinds of people:  Those who walk according to the flesh, and those who walk according to the Spirit.  Those people operate on a different mindset.  Those who walk according to the flesh, mind the things of the flesh.  Those who walk according to the Spirit have their mind set on the things of the Spirit.  And, in the end, for those who walk according to the flesh with their mind set on the flesh, there's death.  For those who walk according to the Spirit with their mind set on the Spirit, there is life and peace.

 

Those are the two classes of people. The contrast is established then clearly in verse 4, middle of the verse, verse 5, and verse 6.  That's the contrast.  Flesh minds the things of the flesh and is death.  Doesn't say it tends toward death.  It says it is death.  Doesn't say it leads to death.  It is death, spiritual death.  Those in the flesh, thinking with a mindset of the flesh, are dead in trespasses and sins, and it'll end up in eternal death.

 

Those who have been transformed and now walk according to the Spirit, living in the Spirit, minding the things of the Spirit are alive.  It doesn't mean they'll have life.  They are alive.  They partake in life right now, the very life of God, which is full of peace.  In the end, as Galatians 6:8 says, "Those who sow to the flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life."  There is an eternal consequence to this.  For them, it is eternal death.  For us, it is eternal life.  So those are the two realms, the two categories of life.

 

What a thought.  The Holy Spirit has given us new life.  We walk according to the Spirit.  We have the mind of the Spirit.  We live.  We're alive to God, and we will live eternally. God's grace given to us; God's love shed abroad in our hearts.  Peace is ours, inner assurance that all is well, and nothing can change that eternal relationship we have with God.  When it says we have life and peace, it doesn't mean we're never disturbed.  It doesn't mean we're never upset.  Paul said, "O wretched man that I am."  He was pretty upset with himself.

 

What it means is that our relationship to God is settled.  There's peace between us, and there's no reason to be worried about that.  You might be troubled about the circumstances of life.  You never need to be troubled about your relationship to God.  That is established.

 

And so, the two are clearly identified: We are not in the flesh.  We do not mind the things of the flesh.  We are not after the flesh.  We are alive.  But the flesh is still after us.  And we're still in the flesh.  That is, we're still human.  And that's why in Romans 7, Paul had such a battle.  Go back to Romans 7 verse 14 for a minute. He says, "We know that the law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin."  What's he saying here?  He's saying, "In my inner man, in my new nature, my new disposition, the new creation, I know about the law of God, and I know the law of God is spiritual."  And back in verse 12, he says, "The law is holy.  The commandment is holy and righteous and good."  He knows that.  He could say, with the psalmist, "O, how I love Thy law."  But he says, "I'm still fleshly."  This new creation is incarcerated in this unredeemed flesh.  And verse 15 says, "That which I'm doing, I don't understand.  I'm not practicing what I would like to do, but I'm doing the very thing I hate."  And, here, he introduces us into the conflict that exists in our Christian experience.

 

The conflict exists — listen carefully — because there is a change in our nature.  When we were in the flesh — walking according to the flesh, minding the things of the flesh, and spiritually dead — there was no conflict. I mean that's all we could do.  There was no real battle going on.  But when you became a believer, all of a sudden, you entered into a war because you have been changed, because your nature has been changed.  As we said, you...you love what is good and holy and just and righteous.  But you find yourself doing the opposite of what you love.

 

And so, like Paul in verse 15, you say, "I...I practice what I don't want to do.  I do the very thing I hate."  Verse 16, "If I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the law, confessing that it is good.  I...I...I...I'm agreeing with the law of God.  I love the law of God.  I want to honor the law of God.  I want to keep the law of God.  I...I just find it's hard to do that."

 

“So now it's no longer I (the one doing it) but sin which indwells in me.”  This is a very interesting little clarity that he...he brings to understanding our nature as Christians.  He is...he's now calling himself I, in the sense of his new nature.  He's saying the real I loves God's law and hates sin.  That's the real I.  I do the thing I hate.  "If I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the law, confessing that it is good.  So now (verse 17) no long am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me."  And now the real me, the new creation, made new in Christ, changed, transformed, converted, regenerated by the work of the Holy Spirit, loves the law of God, hates sin.  That's the real me.  But I'm battling this flesh in which I am incarcerated.

 

It's like a... It's like a clean person in filthy garments. That's the battle.  Down in verse 19, he says, "The good that I wish, I do not do.  I practice the very evil I don't wish.  If I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me."  This is very important theology.  Paul is laying it out, and he lays it out three times.  He repeats the same thing three times here to say it's not the real me.  That's not the real me.  The new creation loves the law of God and hates sin.  And what is the problem?  Sin that is still in my flesh, verse 21: "There's a principle of evil present in me, the one who wishes to do good."  He...he almost distances himself from the sinful part of himself and speaks as the new creation.  Verse 22, "I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law (or different principle) in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind.”  I have the mind of the Spirit.  I have the mind of the Spirit.  I have the mind of Christ.  I long for what is good and holy and just and true and I hate sin.  But there's this other principle operative in me, and it...it's the law of sin or the principle of sin, verse 23, that is in my members, in my humanness, in my body.  “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?"

 

And, of course, the illustration he used drew up in a Gentile mind, the idea that very often when a murderer killed somebody, the punishment was to strap the dead corpse to the back of the killer. And eventually the corruption of the corpse would kill the murderer. Paul says, "I feel like I'm walking around strapped to a corpse."

 

Now this is the battle. This is the struggle.  We are new.  Our nature has changed.  Our longings and desires have changed.  We love the law of God.  We hate sin.  But we're in war.  And as Galatians 7...5:17 to 25 says, "The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and...and the battle rages furious."  All the time.

 

Verse 17 of Galatians 5: "The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit.  The Spirit against the flesh.  But these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please."  Isn't that tragic?  But isn't that familiar?  You long to do what's right, and you don't do it, because the flesh is so strong. And so the apostle Paul draws the contrast.  We are new, and it is our very newness that generates this intense battle.

 

Verse 7, he says, "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."  The contrast is very, very clear here.  For us, we do set our mind on the Spirit.  We do desire to honor God and His law.  We do subject ourselves to the law of God, because that's our truest nature.  But the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God, does not submit itself to His law, and it isn't even capable of doing it.  On the one hand, you have here the...the ability of the spiritual man to love God, love His law, submit to it.  And on the other hand, you have the doctrine of the total inability of the fleshly man. He can't do anything except break the law of God.  That's why there has to be such a total change in his nature.  And that's the reason why the...the disposition of the flesh is death, because in its nature, it is hostile to God, who alone is the source of life.

 

The fleshly mind is hostile.  It is at enmity against God.  It is in opposition to God.  That's how it is with carnal people.  They are in opposition to God.  They walk according to the flesh.  They think according to the flesh.  They do according to the flesh.  And they are hostile toward God, and they will not submit to His law.  And they can't.  They don't have the ability to do that. They're dead.

 

This is the doctrine of depravity.  It... It's more than just being disobedient.  It's deep seated.  It's...it's in the nature.  It's in the fabric of their disposition.  It's who they are.  Sin is not just an act of rebellion; it is rebellion itself. The old nature is... It's often called the...the...the unredeemed flesh.  Cannot do God's law; it cannot.  It is impossible and they can't change that.  As the prophet said, "Shall the leopard change his spots?  The Ethiopian, the color of his skin?  No more can you change your sinful condition."  The heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.  You can't even know it, let alone fix it.  Anybody with a fleshly phronēma, disposition, bent, can't serve God's law; can't be done.

 

And starting in verse 7, he really makes that very clear.  He sums it up really in verse 8, "And those who are in the flesh cannot please God."  Now, therein lies the biblical definition of total depravity.  We... We hear that doctrine of total depravity a lot, and I want you to understand what it means.  When it says total depravity, the word total...depravity means sinful, to be in a sinful condition.  To be totally depraved, some people might assume means that you're...you're consummately wicked.  In other words, to be totally depraved means that you're as wicked as you could possibly be.

 

Well, that's not true.  Not everybody is as wicked as everybody else.  Would you agree to that?  I mean, certainly, there are some people far more wicked than others.  There are some people whose wickedness is even hard to locate because they tend to be kind people, basically good people.  And there are some people whose wickedness is multiplied and manifest because of the outrageous evil of their lives.  Not everybody is as wicked as they could possibly be.  That's not what total depravity means.  But everybody is totally unable to change their wickedness. Everybody is totally unable to please God, even the good person.  Whether you are a homosexual mass murderer or a Sunday School teacher in a liberal church who's unconverted, you still cannot please God.  That's what total depravity means.  It is an irreparable condition of wickedness which cannot be altered by the individual, or by any other individual, apart from the mercy of God in Christ.

 

When you talk about the depravity of man, you're talking about an utter inability of the unredeemed to do anything that pleases God. Theologian John Gerstner used to kind of divide it up when he would say... He would be asked, "Well, can't people do good things like help the poor and the sick and the lame and...and...and do good deeds and show love to their children and their partners in life and their friends and family and...yes. But he would say, "The unregenerate can only do bad good.  They can only do bad good.  Or they can do bad bad.  But they can't do good good."  Good good is that which is not only good on a human level, but that which pleases God.  And I think that's right.

 

Paul's point is, the only reason you and I can do anything that pleases God is because the Holy Spirit has changed our what?  Our nature.  This is a divine miracle.  We have been literally regenerated, born again, born anew, given new life with a new consciousness and a new disposition granted to us by the Spirit, which loves God, loves His law.

 

Back in Romans 7 verse 4 Paul talks about the fact that we've died and we've been raised from the dead and, in our new life, we can bear fruit for God.  This is what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit frees us from the penalty of sin and death, and even its presence. Someday the Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the law of God and the Holy Spirit changes our nature.  We are now in the Spirit.  We have the mind of the Spirit as revealed to us through the Word of God and the instruction of the Spirit in our lives.  We walk in the Spirit. We are filled with the fruit of the Spirit.  And, therefore, we please God.

 

This is a total transformation.  Men and women exist in death, hostile to God, alienated from the source of life, unable to please Him and unwilling.  And they will stay that way forever.  Even in hell, they will hate God.  Even in hell, they will be alienated from the source of life.  In hell, they would be unable, of course, to please Him and unwilling.  Don't think they're all going to be down there wishing they could do something to please God. If God does not intervene by His mercy and grace, if the Spirit of God does not regenerate us and change our nature, we will die in that condition.

 

It's important, I think, to understand this.  Now once you become a Christian, the order of life then becomes pleasing Him.  That's the key here.  We couldn't do it before.  We can do it now. And verse 9, he says, "However, you're not in the flesh but in the Spirit."  You can please God.  That's the connection.  Simply stated, if...if we could just get a grip on the Christian life, it would be this: We exist to please God.  Now let me follow that up.  We exist to please God. Who pleased Him most?  He said it.  "This is My beloved Son in whom I am” what?  And so we're right back to where we were when I started tonight, right?  The goal of life is to be like whom?  Like Christ.

 

Pleasing God is the issue, and you say, "Well, how...how do we know what pleases Him?"  It's pretty obvious, isn't it?  It's all here.  What pleases Him is obedience, submission to His law, holiness, worship, praise and honor to Him is really pleasing Him.  You can come here on a Sunday and sing all the songs and do all the praise, but the issue is what goes on the rest of the time in your life. Are you pleasing Him?

 

In the 12th chapter of Romans, familiar verses, verses 1 and 2.  "Present your bodies (he says) a living and a holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  Do not be conformed to this world.  Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."  Literally, the word “acceptable” means “well-pleasing.”  Present yourself to the Lord, live a holy life, do what God has called you to do, have your mind renewed by the Scripture so that you will un...you will understand what the will of God is, which is good and well-pleasing and perfect.

 

So how are you going to be pleasing to the Lord?  Make a presentation of yourself to Him and don't let your mind get corrupted by what's around you.  Keep a pure mind.  Pleasing God is the issue.  In Christian experience, and, listen, it is the truest expression of the new creation.  If you don't have that heart desire to please Him, you're not a Christian, if there's not down in you that longing to please Him.

 

Romans 14:18, Paul says, "For he who in this way serves Christ is pleasing to God."  Literally, the same term again, well-pleasing to God.  When you live your life according to the Scripture, according to God's revelation, because that's your heart desire, you're pleasing to Him. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 7:32, when Paul is talking about the advantages of being unmarried, he says one of the advantages is, "The one who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord."  That ought to be the concern of all of us.  But he goes on to say, "When you're married, you have to also think about how to please your partner."  If you can stay single, better to have a singular focus on just pleasing the Lord.

 

Do you remember 2 Corinthians 5:9?  We ought to have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, whether in this life or the life to come to be pleasing to Him.  Pleasing Him is everything.  Ephesians 5:10, Paul says, "Trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord."  Doing what pleases Him.  Philippians 4:18, "I have received everything in full (have an abundance); I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God."  Paul commends the Philippians for their generosity, because it was pleasing to God.  And it flows like this all the way through the epistles.  This matter of pleasing God is repeated again and again.  We are called to please God.  "Children,” Colossians 3:20, “be obedient to your parents in all things, for that is well-pleasing in the Lord."  So forth.

Well, summing up what we've said tonight in this section, to be in the flesh, to be after the flesh, to be carnally minded is death.  Why?  Because you are cut off from God, at war with God, and unable to please Him.  Now, as believers, we're not in that condition.  Why?  Because we have been given a new nature.

 

Let's go back to our text, verse 9, and pick it up there.  From verses 9 to 11, we look at the spiritually-minded, those who know life and peace.  In the earlier portion of this text of verses 4b through 11, the focus was on the fleshly, particularly in verses 7 and 8.  Now we come to verses 9 to 11, and we get a look at the spiritually minded people.  And he starts out by saying, "But ye,” rather than they.  Go back to verse 5 where he talks about “they” or “those who are according to the flesh.” “But you,” he says in verse 9, “are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit."  That signifies a state of grace, a state of salvation, and a new creation.  You are now in the Spirit.  You literally live and move in Him.  His life is your life.

 

"That is true,” he says, “if, indeed, the Spirit of God dwells in you."  That...that's...that could be translated “since,” so it would read like this:  "You're not in the flesh, but in the Spirit since, indeed, the Spirit of God dwells in you."  What happens when you become a believer?  At the time of your salvation, the Holy Spirit immediately takes up residence in you.  And therein lies the dramatic change.  He's not talking about some profession.  You're... You're in the Spirit because you said you were, or you're in the Spirit because you wanted to be.  You're in the Spirit because the Spirit's in you, and He becomes pervasive in your life.

 

The word here, oikeō, in verse 9, "The Spirit of God dwells in you," is the word “to live in as a home,” that is to say, a permanent residence.  The Holy Spirit's home is in the believer.  He takes up residence in the believer.  Some, through the years, had the idea that you got saved, and then you got the Holy Spirit later.  Not so.  Not at all so.  If you didn't have the Holy Spirit, you didn't have the transformation that His coming brought, and so you weren't converted at all.  You weren't regenerated.

 

The great fact is that not only were you justified by the declaring of God, but you also were transformed and changed and given a new nature in which the Holy Spirit has taken up residence.  He has not only broken the power and the punishment of sin, in...in the sense that He has somehow taken you out of its power and its ability to impose upon you a death penalty, but He has given you strength by His very presence to live a godly life.  And he reverses his statement in the middle of verse 9 and says the same thing, but in a reverse way, "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he (doesn't what?) doesn't belong to Him."

 

I don't know how many times through the years I've taken people to that verse to explain to them that every Christian possesses the Holy Spirit.  People used to tarry for the Holy Spirit.  They used to plead for the Holy Spirit.  They used to wait for the Holy Spirit.  There were many who believed that the Holy Spirit didn't come until and unless you had the gift of tongues.  And if you never got the gift of tongues, you never got the Holy Spirit.  But he says, "If any man or anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he doesn't belong to Christ."  That's the opposite of saying, "If the Spirit dwells in you, you're in the Spirit."  Or, "Since the Spirit dwells in you, you're in the Spirit."

 

Anyone not having the Holy Spirit is left in the disposition of the flesh.  But anyone who is given the disposition of the Spirit, the new nature, is also given the Holy Spirit and walks in the Spirit and belongs to Christ.  So we could say then that the most notable mark of salvation is the presence of the Holy Spirit.  And that, by the way, is also repeated through the New Testament.  Ephesians 1:13, "Having believed,” he says, “you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit.”  Having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit.  You remember when they put Jesus in the tomb and they sealed it?  He was in there under the protection of the Roman seal.  It...it's... The seal was the symbol of identity, the symbol of protection, and all the power of the Roman government was behind that seal.

 

Jeremiah had a seal which had to do with the ownership of property.  When God put His seal on you, He is literally putting His ownership, and all the divine power is behind that seal.  He is your protector.  He is your owner.  You are in His care and under His power.  And that seal given to you is, in fact, the Holy Spirit Himself.  In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, another very important verse, verse 13, it says, "By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."

 

There is no such thing as a Christian who has not been by the power of the Holy Spirit placed into the body of Christ and who has not drunk in, as it were, the Holy Spirit.  That's to say, imbibed the Holy Spirit, taken the Holy Spirit in.  Every believer possesses the Holy Spirit, even the Corinthians who were so sinful.  Paul says to them in 1 Corinthians 6, "What know you not that your body's a temple of the Holy Spirit which you have God.  You're not your own.  You're bought with a price."

 

The Holy Spirit lives in you.  That is an absolutely crucial thing to understand.  The Holy Spirit's not out there somewhere.  You don't have to chase the Holy Spirit.  You don't have to go to an event to find Him.  You don't have to feel Him through the...some emotional experience.  The Holy Spirit lives in you.  He has taken up permanent residence there, and He will stay there as God's seal of ownership and God's sign of protection until the day when you enter into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  The Holy Spirit is your guardian.  The Holy Spirit is your life.  If He weren't there, the life of God would not be in you.

 

The mark of the Spirit's presence is regenerate life, new life.  He takes up residence and produces that new life in us.  In fact, Jude 19, I just thought of it, and turned to it.  Jude 19 gives you the other side of it.  Listen to what it says.  It's talking about "unbelievers who cause divisions, are worldly minded and” listen to this “devoid of the Spirit."  And there, again, is the contrast.  Unbelievers don't have the Spirit.  They're in the flesh.  They mind the things of the flesh.  They walk according to the flesh, and they're dead.  Believers are in the Spirit, have the mind of the Spirit, walk according to the Spirit.  They're alive to God, because the Spirit lives in them. Before you're a Christian there is no life of God; afterwards, the very life of God itself in the form of the Holy Spirit.

 

And therein lies the transformation.  This is not a minor change.  This is not just a...a little tweaking of what you were.  Literally, God Himself dwells in you. In fact, you remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 18, when He says that, "When you receive another believer, one who believes in Me, you receive Me."  And you remember in the Olivet Discourse that Jesus was talking about judgment in the future.  He uses the illustration, and He says, "I'm going to cast you out of My Kingdom and into outer darkness, because when I was thirsty, you didn't give Me anything drink, and when I was hungry, you didn't give Me anything to eat, and when I was naked, you didn't clothe Me, and when I was in prison, you didn't visit Me."  And they say, "When did we ever do that?"  And Jesus says, "In that you never did it to the least of these little ones of Mine, you never did it to Me."

 

You say, "Well, isn't that confusing the issue?  I thought you said it was the Holy Spirit in believers."  Well, the Holy Spirit  is called in the New Testament the Spirit of Christ.  In fact, He is called the Spirit of Christ right here in this passage.  Back to Romans 8, he is the Spirit of Christ who dwells in you.  He is also the Spirit of God who dwells in you, in the same verse, and He is also the Spirit.  Verse 9: "The Spirit,” “the Spirit of God,” “the Spirit of Christ," all in the same verse.

 

And what it shows is the...the marvelous reality of the Trinity and how the Holy Spirit sustains the same relationship to the second person of the Trinity that He does to the first person of the Trinity.  So every believer is the possessor of the Holy Spirit.  Then verse 10, "And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit is alive because of righteousness."  This, again, could be translated “since.” "Since Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin."  What does he mean by that?  Well, though your human body still bears the...the death of its sinfulness.

 

Remember this: Saving grace doesn't regenerate your unredeemed human flesh.  Your body is still dead.  It still needs a resurrection, doesn't it?  That's why in verse 18 Romans 8, he starts to talk about the glory that is to come, the glory that's going to be revealed.  And in verse 20, 21, he start...he talks about the futility of the creation. And then down in verse 23, he says, "We ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons."  What are you talking about?  The redemption of our body.

 

Paul is saying, "Christ is in you.  The Spirit of Christ is in you.  Your nature has been changed.  You love the law of God.  You...you hate sin.  You long to do what pleases God, and you have the...the power to please God now, but you still are incarcerated in a body that is dead because of sin." In fact, this...this body, this human flesh, not just the physical part, but the mental part, as well, this humanness is unredeemable.  It just has to be... It just has to die.  And we have to get a new one, don't we?  We got to give up this...this body terrestrial for a body celestial.  This human body and all that goes with its corrupted fallenness is subject to the principle of death.  It's dying.  The outer man is wasting day by day.  The body is the seat of death.  It carries the principle of decay.  You don't believe that, go to a funeral.  There it is.  The death principle is operative in all of us, isn't it?  We call it growing old.  That's the death principle.  You don't need to say, "I'm growing old."  Just say, "I'm dying."

 

Those young people who are laughing, you're dying, too.  We're all dying.  We're all dying.  The body is the seat of death, and the body carries the principle of decay, and it is going to die.  And because it's dying, we're subject to its pains, its sorrows, its injuries, its wounds, and its impulses. Bodily death is still the wages of Adam's sin and ours.  Christians get sick and die, because the body is unredeemed and unredeemable.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 put it pretty clearly.  "Dust to dust."  So Paul says in verse 10, "Since Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit is alive because of righteousness."  Boy, that's the contrast.  You've got to get the idea here.  There's a living Spirit in you.  It's a new nature, a new disposition, the life of which belongs to the Holy Spirit who's taken up residence in you.  And that is alive and at peace with God and loves the law of God.  But it's incarcerated in this deadness, this dying, Adamic fallenness.  We just want to get rid of it. But the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

 

To me, that passage is the most explicit definition of what a Christian really is. Here we are with the Spirit of life in us, the Holy Spirit, the living Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, taking up residence.  Giving us a new disposition.  We've been recreated, born again, made new.  And, by the way, that's not going to happen again to that inner man.  That inner man is ready for Heaven right now.  It's just incarcerated in this fallen flesh. So someday when these bodies finally die, our Spirit will be released to live forever, and the flesh which so incapacitates us from fulfilling all the law all the time will be exterminated.  As one commentator put it, "The day of our death is far better than the day of our birth."

 

Then listen to verse 11 as he finishes this point.  "But if the..."  You say, "Well, what's going to happen when the body dies?"  "If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you...,” and He does. Again, it could be translated since...since the... “Since the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you (that's the Spirit of God) He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you."

 

Wo.  We've already had a spiritual resurrection.  We've already died and risen in Christ.  We have a new nature.  We've already been born again.  We've already had one death, and now we have new life in Christ.  We already...they...the temple of the Holy Spirit who lives within us.  We have the life of God in our souls.  That's already happened. You don't need to fear the...the physical death.  You really need to long for the physical death when this debilitating humanness is gone.  Because when that happens, the...the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, who dwells in you, is going to give life to a new mortal body through the Spirit who indwells you.  You're going to have another resurrection.  It's not going to be a spiritual resurrection.  Next time, it's going to be a physical resurrection.  And you're going to get a glorified body.

 

To understand this is to understand the nature of the Christian.  The spirit dwells in you, and He is the Spirit that raised up Jesus.  Number of times in the New Testament, it talks about the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead by the Spirit.  The Spirit gave Christ life through death.  He raised Jesus from the dead and gave Him physical resurrection life.  And He that raised up Christ from the dead, who is God the Father through the Spirit, will also give life to our mortal bodies.  We're going to get new bodies.

 

You...you want to know what it's like, turn to 1 Corinthians 15, just brief moment we'll look at it.  We don't have time to go into it.  You say, "What's that new body going to be like?"  Well, the best illustration, it's going to be Christ's resurrection body.  Verse 35, the Corinthians had asked the same question.  "How are the dead raised and what kind of body are they going to have?  When they get raised, what...what are they going to...what kind of body are they going to have?"  Paul's answer's a little direct.  "You fool, that which you sow doesn't come to life unless it dies."  You put a seed in the ground, and what happens?  It dies.  So what... What you see is the seed that goes into the ground is quite different than what comes to life.  Seed dies, and "That which you sow, you do not sow to the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else."

 

His analogy is this:  You...you're never going to be able to tell what your resurrection body's going to be like by looking at what you've got.  It's like a seed.  You know, seed's a little ugly brown thing that in no way replicates what comes out of that seed.  You put some flower seeds in the ground, and they're just ugly little brown things, nondescript, and pretty soon, you've got a garden of splashes of the rainbow, which could never be assumed to have come out of that colorless seed.

 

And Paul is saying, "Look, you got a little brown seed, sort of nondescript, and there's no way to comprehend what's going to happen when that dies and the glorious resurrection takes place.  “God gives it a body, just as He wished, and to each of the seeds, a body of its own."  He says, "I don't know what's going to come out of that...that plain body that you have now, but it'll be something far more glorious."

 

Then he goes on to talk about the fact there are different kinds of flesh.  There are different kinds for birds and beasts and fish and...and different heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, and the glory of the heavenly is one.  The glory of the earthly is another.  And there's the sun and there's the moon and there's the stars.  And...and all of that.  He's just saying, God's got a lot of options.  He... He makes a lot of different kinds of bodies.  So also is the resurrection of the dead.  It's going to go into the ground perishable.  It's going to come up imperishable.  It's going into the ground in dishonor.  It's coming up in glory.  It's going down in weakness, coming up in power, going down natural, coming up spiritual.

 

It's going to be different.  It's natural.  It'll be spiritual.  Verse 47: "It's earthy.  It's going to be from Heaven."  Verse 48 says the same thing.  We have bore...we have born the image of the earthly, verse 49. We're going to bear the image of the heavenly."  It's not going to be flesh and blood as we know it, because that can't inherit the kingdom of God.  It's not going to be perishable, because perishable can't inherit imperishable.  I'm going to tell you a mystery.  We won't all sleep.  That is, we're not all going to a die, because of the rapture.  But we are all going to be what?  Changed.  Going to happen in the moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, and perishable is going to put on imperishable.  And mortal is going to put on immortality.

 

So Paul's answer is, "I don't know."  It's a long I don't know, but that's what he's saying.  I just know this.  I don't know what it's going to be like, but it's not going to be like what we've got. He will raise us and give us spiritual bodies.  Oh, what a tremendous promise this is.  "When this earthly tent,” 2 Corinthians 5, “which is our house, is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands."  That's how he describes our new body.  And in this house, we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from Heaven.  Why?  Because we'd like to get rid of this debilitating flesh and the sin and this body of death that is attached to us.  And we will.  We're headed toward a physical resurrection to go with our spiritual one which we've already had.

And the Holy Spirit has wrought all of this.  It was the Holy Spirit who freed us from sin and death by applying the merits of Christ's sacrifice for sin to us.  It was the Holy Spirit who enabled us to fulfill the law of God by applying Christ's righteousness to us.  It is the Holy Spirit who changes our nature and moves us out of living in the flesh, according to the flesh, with the things of the flesh, minding the flesh, which is death, both in time and eternity, to being in the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, minding the things of the Spirit, and pleasing God, because we're alive to God, both in time and eternity.

 

This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  And I grieve in my heart so deeply that there's so little ever said about this and so many silly things ascribed to Him.  Let's praise Him for what He's really done.

 

Now, there's more to come, because in the battle between the new nature and our remaining flesh — number four, I'm not going to preach on it, I'll just give it to you for next week, number four — He empowers us for victory over the flesh.  He's at work empowering us for victory over the flesh.  We'll discuss that next time.

 

Father, it's been so wonderful tonight to sing together and to hear the testimonies of these precious women who have shared with us in the waters of baptism, and then to contemplate the greatness of Your mighty work on our behalf for Your glory through the Holy Spirit.  We want to honor the Spirit.  Holy Spirit, we want You to be honored and glorified.  We want to ascribe to You the true work that You do.  We certainly wouldn't want to blame You for the folly that goes on.  We want to really ascribe to You the honor that You're due for the mighty work of freeing us from sin and death, enabling us to fulfill the law of God and changing our nature so that we can look forward to a new body, wherein is perfect righteousness.  Ah, what a glorious work.  We await the very power that You exhibited in raising Jesus from the dead to be expressed in our behalf, either to raise our glorified bodies to join our already exalted spirits, or to lift us in transformation in the rapture of the church.  We honor You, Holy Spirit.  We praise You for life in the Spirit, what You're doing in us.  We thank You even for that which we've not yet considered, but which we are so well aware of, that You are strengthening us for triumph in the battle with the flesh.  We praise You for that.  And may You be honored in our lives as we obediently do what pleases God.  To that end we pray, for our Savior's sake.  Amen.

 

 

 

This sermon series includes the following messages:

Grace to You
Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time

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