The Spirit Within

Lesson 26: Romans 8:9-11

The Spirit Within

by Bob Burridge ©2011

The person who has an honest understanding of himself, and a true understanding of God, knows that he is far from all he ought to be. Only those who are willingly blind to their own covetings and shortcomings, or who have a very low view of God and his holiness, dare to think they deserve his blessings, or have merited his forgiveness.

It is impossible to live in a way that consistently pleases God. Of course you cannot please him at all if you have not first known Christ as your Redeemer. But our new birth is just the beginning. Those who have come to know his forgiveness and restoration often become frustrated over the agony of their moral failures. When we love God so much, and are so very thankful to him, it hurts all the more when we fail to live as Christ would live in our situation.

God has promised a most amazing provision for his children.

The same Spirit that gives us life is also given to be an indwelling presence in us. In the midst of Paul’s lesson on the importance of holy living in this Epistle to the Romans, he makes reference to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of his people.

Romans 8:9-11, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

What is this indwelling of the Holy Spirit?

A good start in answering that question is to rule out a few common misunderstandings of it.

Indwelling is not that the Holy Spirit comes into some place where he had not been before. God is everywhere, always. He fills all space in the universe he created. The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 139:7-10, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.”

There is no place where any person of the Trinity is ever absent. He is there inside and all around the believer and the worst infidel or pagan. He is just as present in heaven as he is in hell according to this Psalm and other texts. It is true that in Heaven God specially shows his glory. In Hell he specially shows his justice and wrath. In the Lord’s Supper he specially shows his work as Redeemer. In the heart of a good parent he shows his love and tenderness. Though he manifests himself differently in different places, he is altogether present in all of them all the time.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit begins when a person is redeemed. It is first seen when the person acts in faith to show life implanted by the grace of God. The Spirit does not come in where he had not been before. However, he begins to show himself in new and special ways. That is what indwelling is all about. Indwelling does not tell us where the Holy Spirit is. It refers to that special blessing and relationship a child of God bears with his Lord.

Therefore, the Spirit’s indwelling cannot be something unique to the New Testament church. We see many of the same things attributed to the Holy Spirit being produced in believers before the time of Christ that we see in the church after Pentecost. There is clear evidence that the same indwelling Spirit blessed the Old Testament believers.

In Numbers 27:18 Joshua was called, “a man in whom is the Spirit”. Psalm 143:10 testifies to the desire of the Psalmist, “Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.” There are many other references to the work of the Spirit in the lives of Old Testament believers.

Just as in the New Testament church, believers before Jesus experienced Spirit given understanding, enablement to special callings, ability to desire and to do good, an assurance of God’s grace and blessing, comfort in hard situations, and a hope of eternal glory. Without the Holy Spirit’s special work in the heart of the believer these things would always be impossible.

After Pentecost there is a new and special relationship of the believer with God. Jesus sent the Spirit to be a special comforter to his church after he left. Instead of ministering through human priests and blood sacrifices, believers by the Spirit know directly of the work of Jesus Christ. Our Savior is the archetype High Priest, the Lamb of God. Pentecost was the expansion of this special relationship. It was not the beginning of “indwelling”. That has always been the treasure of believers.

The Spirit’s indwelling produces valuable qualities in the believer.

The Holy Spirit maintains and upholds the life given to us in regeneration.

He gives us spiritual understanding. Earlier in this epistle Paul reminded us that the fallen human race is devoid of spiritual understanding. Romans 3:11, “There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God.” Paul was quoting from the Old Testament Book of Psalms. This is a tragic principle that has existed since the fall of man in Adam.

The indwelling Spirit gives that spiritual understanding which we otherwise could not have. In 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 Paul wrote, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Jesus Christ, working by the Spirit which he puts in us when he saves us, enlightens our minds. In Ephesians 3:17-19 the Apostle wrote, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

The Holy Spirit enables believers to do what God calls them to do. These are often called the “fillings” of the Spirit. The indwelling Spirit strengthens us inwardly and helps us as we pray for his enablement. Just as too much wine influences a person’s judgment and behavior, so also the Holy Spirit influences the believer’s judgment and behavior. Ephesians 5:18 says, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,” and Acts 2:4, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit … ” (compare with Acts 2:13, “Others mocking said, ‘They are full of new wine.’ “).

The filling of the Holy Spirit enables believers to specific tasks God calls them to do. In Exodus 28:3 it says, “So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments”, and Exodus 31:3 where God says of Bezalel, “And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.” In Deuteronomy 34:9 it speaks of Joshua who was filled with the “spirit of wisdom” to lead the people. In Micah 3:8 the Prophet writes, “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD, And of justice and might, To declare to Jacob his transgression And to Israel his sin.”

Paul said in Ephesians 3:16, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,” and in Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

Any success that honors God with our talent in being salesmen, managers, teachers, parents, spouses, programmers, Deacons, Elders, students, builders, fixers, or servants is provided to us by the work of the Spirit in us. This is why David feared when he sinned with Bathsheba, and had her husband killed, and then lied to cover it up. He had seen God abandon Saul, the king before him. So David humbly confessed and prayed in Psalm 51:10-12, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” David did not want to lose that enablement of the Spirit that made him able to rule God’s people as their king. He saw that happen to Saul.

Of course it is the work of God that makes even the heathen able to succeed in his work. That is the condemning tragedy of it all. They take what God gives, but fail to honor him with it. Our ability to do these jobs in a God pleasing way is specially a result of the indwelling Spirit. So Paul warned Timothy about the talent and opportunities God had given him. In 2 Timothy 1:14 he wrote, “That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.”

The Spirit also begins the process of making us holy in practice and thought. This is the continuing work of sanctification. It is the indwelling Spirit who helps us to live a holy life. This is the point Paul is making in our present text. The indwelling work of the Spirit is the opposite of being “in the flesh.”

Romans 8:9, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”

It is the work of Jesus Christ as our Savior on the cross that removes our guilt before God by paying for what we deserve. It is that continuing special work of the Holy Spirit that infuses us with life, and makes us able to honor God in our thoughts, words, and deeds. It proves that our sonship with God is genuine. Rather than seeing our joy as being fulfilled only in the flesh, the physical realm we can see and feel, we see the spiritual side of things. We know we are not merely living beings, we are creatures of a living God.

These qualities generate wonderful treasures of blessing.

These are the things all people seek, but can never find in any other way. This is why they make up all sorts of strange cults and religions. This is why people flock to psychiatrists and psychologists, yet find no cure for their problems. It is why some resort to mind altering drugs and indulge in immoral life styles. They want some kind of assurance, comfort, and hope.

Only the indwelling Spirit gives us true assurance of God at work in our lives. He assures his people of sonship and of salvation. Paul wrote in Romans 8:15, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

When we see our Creator producing the evidences of understanding, godly enablement, and thankful obedience in us, there can be no doubt that we are his. Even the deep grief we experience when we sin is proof that we are changed by grace. 1 John 4:13 says, “By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”

The indwelling Spirit is the seal of genuineness from God. It assures us that we are his. The indwelling Spirit produces comfort and assurance in the heart of the believer. In 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 Paul said, “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” In that same epistle in 5:5 he wrote, “Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” In writing in Galatians 4:6 he said that it is the Spirit in us that makes us cry out as children saying, “Abba! Father!”

The Psalms are filled with verses about the peace and comfort God the Spirit brings to his children. In Psalm 23:2 it says, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” Psalm 139:7-10 shows that it is the Holy Spirit that brings that contentment. There the Psalmist writes, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.”

As the church spread in the days of the Apostles, Acts 9:31 shows us the source of comfort. It says, “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.”

The indwelling Spirit gives us an eternal hope that cannot fall short or ever fail. This is Paul’s other main point in this portion of scripture.

Romans 8:11, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

The Holy Spirit is the conveyer of spiritual life from God. A life that is eternal. He is the down-payment of the promise that we will live in the house of the Lord forever. Notice the confidence we have which Paul explained in his letter to the churches in Ephesus.

Ephesians 1:13-14, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

Ephesians 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

It is the Holy Spirit who assures us of the promise that even our physical bodies will be glorified one day.

The presence of the Holy Spirit ministers the Love of God which is sent into our hearts. In Romans 5:5 Paul said, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

So, do you lack understanding of God’s word? Do you long for his enablement to the jobs he calls you to do? Do you do all things with right motives to give God all the glory? Do you strive for holiness in your life instead of looking to forbidden things for satisfaction? Do you long for assurance, comfort, and a true hope that is not just an empty wish? You need to look no further than the promises of God’s word about the Holy Spirit. You need no deep intellectual insights, or manipulations of your emotions.

Step 1 – Make sure you are in Christ. Trust in no other hope, nothing in yourself, in your church, in your deeds or intentions. Trust in the life and death of the one True Savior as promised from the beginning.

Step 2 – Rest in God’s promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit. You need no special skills, no other resolutions or strength. Humbly seek that which is confirmed in the Word of God to his children.

If the Spirit dwells in you, you lack for no other enablement. Live for him, serve him, love him with all of your heart. The God who promised cannot fail. These treasures of assurance, comfort, and hope are yours.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

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About Bob Burridge

I've taught Science, Bible, Math, Computer Programming and served 25 years as Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Pinellas Park, Florida. I'm now Executive Director of the ministry of the Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies

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