When is a Car not a Car? It is interesting talking with small children who are getting used to the ideas of Lorry / Van / Bus / Minibus / Car / Motorbike. Sometimes it is difficult to help them work out which is which! There are some things which are defined by the sum of many parts, and the removal of one of those parts doesn’t necessarily change what they are.
But, when thinking of Christians, there is one aspect which is absolutely fundamental – the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 shows us the fundamental nature of the presence of the Spirit in us:
The Spirit is the testimony that we are God’s children (v9, v16)
The presence of His Spirit is part and parcel of our salvation – so much so that we read: “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ he does not belong to Christ.” And this is a part of how we know we are His – the work of the Spirit (which we’ll see below) is the witness of His Spirit in us – that we are, indeed, His children.
The Spirit is the one who sets us free from condemnation (v1-4)
The work of the Spirit is to deliver us from the condemnation of the law into love of God’s law. We read in Heb 8:10 that God writes His laws on our hearts when we come to Christ – and it’s the Spirit that does that! And so we are taken from feeling guilty that we can’t keep it to, instead, having the Spirit write a desire in our heart to gladly walk according to God’s word.
The Spirit is the one who causes our hearts to seek the Father (v15)
And not only do we know the desire to walk in His way, we discover that we love God! We have been brought into relationship with Him, and the Spirit makes our hearts cry out “Abba, Father” – the wonder of All powerful God, Eternal, Mighty, now known intimately as my Father.
The Spirit brings life to our physical body (v11)
But the work of the Spirit is not something that’s merely internal. There is no separation of the physical body and the soul in God’s work. God is about the total transformation of His people. As such, we are reminded that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead “will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit”. The work of transformation that enables us to become more and more like Jesus (Gal 5:22-24) is at the heart of God’s salvation purposes.
The Spirit leads us to put to death the sinful nature (v12-13)
On the one hand, the work of the Spirit is to ‘take the reins’ of our lives – to take control of our mind and desires (v5) , taking our minds off sinful desires, enabling and empowering us to, “put to death” (v13) the sin which entangles and destroys.
The Spirit leads us to submit to God (v5-8)
And, on the other hand, the work of the Spirit is to set our minds on what God desires, so we willingly and proactively choose to walk in His way, in His newness of life.
The Spirit is the one who leads God’s children in His paths (v14)
And, wonderfully, we aren’t at a loss to work out what God’s paths are which we are to walk in! We are “led by the Spirit of God” into His paths of righteousness.
Romans 8 rings out with the fundamental, deep, transformative work of God’s Spirit. There is no spiritual life without God’s Spirit. There is no Christian who is not Spirit indwelt. Indeed, if it were not for the work of the Spirit, we who were ‘”dead in trespasses and sin” could never have heard and responded to the wonderful news of the gospel in the first place!
One reaction in some churches to the particular emphases of the ‘Charismatic Movement’ has been to say very little of the Spirit. We can easily downplay the work of the Spirit, or even fear mention of the Spirit. But, Romans 8, alongside many passages in God’s word, shows us that we must not do so. Rather, we are told to “Keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal 5:25) – to recognise and celebrate the Spirit’s work, soften our hearts to the Spirit’s leading, and welcome the work of God in us by His Spirit! It’s amazing that God gives us all we need for life and Godliness through His Spirit! And so we praise God for His Spirit at work in us.
Oh, and if reading this you realise that you haven’t see His Spirit at work in you, God is lovingly calling you to fly to Jesus, seek His forgiveness, and come to know Him as Saviour. He has so much to give you when you receive His Spirit at salvation!