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Life in the Spirit

April 16, 2023 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: Romans

Topic: Expository Passage: Romans 8:9-13

Introduction

One of the unique joys of being a pastor is spending time with people for whom heaven is very near. A godly saint is approaching death. His body is wasting away, and his time on earth is almost past. He is physically miserable, but he has great hope because he can almost taste glory. It feels very near.

But for many of us, heaven often feels like a distant dream. Every day, we endure the frustrations of life in a sin-cursed world. People are irritating, work is stressful, finances are tight, and the to-do list is overwhelming. Heaven feels a long ways off.

And when you compare your spiritual life to the perfection heaven requires, glory seems almost unattainable. You’ve got problems. Your sinful passions strong and shameful, you don’t love your spouse well, you feel overwhelming anxiety, anger, or despair, and that one sin seems to always keep you stuck in the mud. It is hard to imagine being fully conformed to the image of Christ. Again, it feels so far off.

If you can relate, Romans 8 is exactly what you need because this chapter skillfully describes God’s sovereign plan to move us from our present misery to our glorious inheritance. Romans 8 assures us that everyone who is truly in Christ will make it to heaven. And it’s not because we are so spiritual or because we said the right magic words once upon a time. It’s because all 3 members of the Trinity are working together to accomplish their sovereign plan. Romans 8 is filled with hope, security, and assurance.

That’s certainly true for today’s text, vv. 9–13. I’d like to begin reading in v. 5 to establish the context (read). This passage describes the Holy Spirit’s role in bringing us to glory. Verse 9 begins our passage by emphasizing…

I.  The Importance of the Spirit (v. 9)

You probably don’t remember this, but we covered v. 9 two weeks ago. We talked about the fact that Holy Spirit is a new and very different authority from the flesh which rules the unbeliever. But I want to consider v. 9 again because it lays an important foundation for today’s text.

In particular, vv. 7–8 paint a dark picture of those who are in the flesh. The unbeliever is hostile to God, he rebels against God’s will, and he is incapable of pleasing God. That’s where we all once were, and it’s not a good place. But v. 9 follows with a strong word of assurance for the Christian, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit (assuming that) the Spirit of God dwells in you.”

This is a very important verse regarding the Spirit’s ministry of indwelling genuine Christians. Paul assumes that the moment we are born again, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us. 1 Corinthians 6:19 states that your body becomes “a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you.” And he will permanently indwell every Christian until the day we meet the Lord.

We know it is a permanent ministry because Paul adds, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” So, he doesn’t come and go. He is always there. And there’s nothing you can do to get more of him. No, he permanently and fully indwells every genuine believer.

And v. 9 adds that he brings us under a radically different authority. First, without the Spirit, every unbeliever is under the authority of the flesh. I want to be clear that the flesh is not simply our physical bodies or even our bodily appetites. It is also broader than the sin nature because we still have a sin nature after we are saved.

Rather, the flesh is the dominion or authority of sin that hangs over our sin-cursed world. It is hostile to God, and it enslaves every unbeliever. It creates the rebellion of vv. 7–8.

But when the Holy Spirit enters a person’s life, he necessarily drives out the flesh’s tyranny. These two authorities cannot coexist. And the Holy Spirit’s dominion creates a radically different life.

We’ll get to that radical difference later, but for now, I want to consider the blessing of the indwelling Spirit. How incredible is it that my broken body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? The Spirit is an incredible gift of God’s grace.

As a result, every Christian is “in the Spirit.” You are not the same person you once were. You have a brand-new authority and a brand-new power. I recognize you don’t always feel like it. Again, holiness and heaven often feel almost out of reach. But the indwelling Spirit assures us that God will fulfill every promise of the gospel.

“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:13–14).

The Spirit is God’s “pledge” that he will give us our full inheritance. So, every conviction from the Spirit and every ounce of faith he creates, is another assurance from God that he will bring you to heaven. Don’t miss it.

And the Spirit’s presence also assures me that I can make progress toward holiness. Don’t listen to Satan’s accusations. Believe that holiness and heaven are in reach because you are “in the Spirit.” So, the Spirit is a gamechanger. He is massively important. Verses 10–11 follow by detailing…

II.  The Spirit’s Impact on my Physical Life (vv. 10–11)

Considering how much emphasis this passage places on the indwelling Spirit, it is interesting that v. 10 begins, “If Christ is in you.” Why does he bring Christ into the equation? We know he is not equating the two because v. 11 distinguishes all 3 members of the Trinity. Rather, Romans 8 repeatedly teaches that all 3 members of the Trinity are working together for our salvation.

Paul mentions Christ here because the end of the verse says that the righteousness of justification which Christ provided on the cross is the foundation of the Spirit’s ministry. So, we’ve talked a lot about the fact that in Christ, we are justified. And v. 10 adds that Christ is also in us through the Spirit. And this incredibly good news because without Christ…

Sin brings death. Verse 10 says, “The body is dead because of sin.” I want to go ahead and note that vv. 10–11 talk a lot about death and life. And we could easily assume that Paul is thinking of spiritual life and spiritual death.

But v. 11 is clear that Paul is primarily concerned with physical death and physical life. We know that because Jesus didn’t need to be raised from spiritual death, since he never sinned. Jesus only needed a physical resurrection.

Therefore, when v. 10 says, “The body is dead because of sin,” it means that we are all dying physically. Yes, we are spiritually alive in Christ are, but that doesn’t change the fact that Adam’s sin brought physical death on all his descendants. We are mortal, our bodies are slowing down, and unless Christ returns first, we will all die.

Death is a terrible reality. We saw last Sunday how it grieved Mary, Martha, and even Jesus. Many of you know that grief all too well. And unfortunately, there is no escaping it. Our bodies are all dying. Death is truly one of the worst effects of the curse that sin has brought on the world. But thankfully death is not the end of our story. That’s because even while our bodies are dying, we have the promise that…

Justification secures eternal life. Verse 10 says, “The spirit is alive because of righteousness.” I must say that the Greek word for spirit, pneuma, can mean several things. Here, it could refer to either the human spirit or the Holy Spirit. That’s why some translations capitalize it, and others do not.

There are good reasons in context to take it both ways. The contrast with the body favors taking it as the human spirit. But every other usage of pneuma in this context is about the Holy Spirit. As well, the word translated alive in the NASB more specifically means life. Therefore, I think it’s best to understand it as “The Holy Spirit is (gives) life.”

But that raises another question, what kind of life does the Spirit give? Since v. 11 emphasizes our hope for physical resurrection, the primary idea is that Holy Spirit will someday give resurrection life to my physical body.

Yes, right now our bodies are dying. We’re all getting older, and our bodies don’t work as well as they once did. But we need not despair because someday, Christ will resurrect us and give us glorified, perfect bodies. So, Christian, there’s more to the story than your dying body. The Holy Spirit is life! Praise the Lord for this incredible hope.

And I believe Paul also intends to say that Spirit gives spiritual life today. Even though my body is dying. I am alive in Christ. We won’t just enjoy eternal life someday in heaven; we are alive right now. So, give thanks that we are in the Spirit. We know the Lord, and we get to walk in his grace. It’s another wonderful blessing through the Spirit.

And why do we enjoy all these blessings? They are ours “because of righteousness.” Considering Romans 1–5, we know Paul cannot mean we merit these blessings by our own righteousness because we can never be righteous enough to earn eternal life. Rather, this is the righteousness of God that Christ secured through his death and resurrection and that is credited to us by faith in the gospel.

So, notice the contrast. Adam’s sin brought death on all humanity. But the righteousness of Christ secures eternal life for all who believe on him.

We should be so thankful for the hope of the gospel. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25–26).

We deeply miss those we have lost, and it’s easy to fear our own deaths. But we don’t have to despair because the Spirit is life. Heaven is not a distant dream; it is real, and it is nearer than we sometimes feel. Then v. 11 expands on this thought and assures us that…

The Spirit will resurrect our bodies. Again, it’s noteworthy that all 3 members of the Trinity are at work in this verse. Him and He must refer to God the Father for the verse to make sense. So, the idea is, “The Spirit of the Father (or the Spirit who proceeds from the Father) who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you.” And “God the Father raised Christ Jesus (and)…(he will also raise you) through His Spirit.”

This fits the pattern we see everywhere in the NT. The Father planned our redemption. He sent Jesus to provide it on the cross. And the Spirit raised Christ, and he also applies the benefits of the gospel to us. The entire Godhead is working for our salvation!

And v. 11 is especially concerned to assure us that this means we can be confident in our future resurrection. The resurrection of Christ guarantees our resurrection. I love how Acts 2:24 says it, “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” God overwhelmingly conquered death in the resurrection of Christ.

It’s worth noting that Jesus didn’t just come back to life. Have you ever wondered why Lazarus came out of the grave bound in his grave clothes, but Jesus’ grave clothes were left neatly in the grave? The reason is that Jesus received a glorified body. He emerged from his death far better physically than when the Jews arrested him. God did something incredible.

And Paul assures us that the same God who raised Christ, “will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Christ is only the first fruits. Someday millions of Christians will share in his resurrection life including everyone here in whom the Spirit dwells.

This is the great hope of the gospel. Despite what Joel Osteen says, your best life is not now; it’s with Christ in eternity. We will be fully glorified in our bodies and our souls, untouched by any effects of sin and death. I’m so thankful that this is not all there is. Something far better is coming!

So, we must work hard to look past the brokenness of this world and the brokenness of our own souls to see our great hope because of the new life we enjoy in the Spirit. Please see that hope, be assured of that hope, and give thanks for what the Spirit has done.

And if you don’t know this hope, please receive Christ today. Christ provided for your salvation on the cross. He bore our punishment, and he satisfied God’s wrath. If you believe on him, God will apply his work to you. Your guilt will be removed and replaced with the perfect righteousness of Christ. Please be saved today. In sum, vv. 10–11 say that the Spirit has made a dramatic impact on our physical life. Then, vv. 12–13 describe…

III.  The Spirit’s Impact on My Spiritual Life (vv. 12–13)

I like to emphasize often that God’s overall work of salvation is two-pronged. The moment you receive Christ, the legal prong is settled. God declares you righteous and that will never change. But the practical prong takes a little more time as God slowly forms the practical righteousness of Christ in us.

That’s the focus of vv. 12–13. We don’t just need a God to transform our bodies; we need him to transform our character. And this side is trickier because I’m involved in the process. In other words, God speaks the word, and I’m justified. But I must participate in my sanctification. And while I trust God entirely, I’m not so sure about me. So, how can I know I will make it? This is a very important question. Paul answers with a contrast. He first encourages us with the fact that…

We are free from fleshly obligations. God assures everyone in whom the Spirit dwells, “We are not under obligation to live according to the flesh.” Yes, we still fight temptation, and we often crumble under it and sin. But we are no longer “obligated” to it.

That’s significant because the unbeliever is obligated. He is blind to spiritual truth, he cannot live for God’s glory, and he is marching toward destruction. But the Spirit frees every Christian from that obligation. “Sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (6:14).

This promise is very important to our assurance because v. 13 adds, “If you are living…” The contrast the follows demands that he cannot be describing physical death. No, Paul says that a life dominated by the flesh will end in spiritual death, eternal condemnation.

A lot of Christians want to believe you can be a child of God and continue living in rebellion against God’s will. But Paul won’t have any of it. If you live under the tyranny of sin, “you must die.” You will endure eternal death. No, every Christian must persevere in the truth and produce the fruits of salvation. “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). If I’m not being sanctified, I will not “see the Lord.”

So, if your heart is cold toward God, or you are knowingly and comfortably living in rebellion against God, do not assume you are okay with God and that you are definitely his child. God says, “If you are living according to the flesh (or under the dominion of the flesh), you must die.” Maybe God wants to use his Word to correct you and bring you to repentance. Maybe you need to be saved. Regardless, rebellion is never a small thing. It is contrary to the nature of a Christian in whom the Spirit dwells. So, deal with it, and let godly brothers and sisters help you do so.

And thankfully, if the Spirit dwells in you, you can. You are not “under obligation to the flesh.” Sin is not your master. By God’s grace you can change, and you will change. This brings us to the positive side of the contrast.

We are assured of new life in the Spirit (v. 13b). This brief statement articulates two difficult tensions that every Christian must appreciate. First…

I must put sin to death, but I do so in the power of the Spirit. The idea is plain. I must put to death “the deeds of the body” meaning every sinful expression of our hearts that is expressed through our bodies as they interact with a fallen world.

To put it simply, I must put sin to death. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5). Christian, don’t tolerate any sin in your life. Don’t excuse it. Don’t ignore it. Put it to death.

But don’t forget that you are not in this battle alone. Rather, you can only put sin to death “by the Spirit.” But what does that mean? Obviously, the Holy Spirit is a person with a plan, and he is always at work whether I am conscious of it or not. But Paul clearly implies that I can access his power by how I pursue godliness. How do I do that?

A lot of people want to make this something extremely mystical and man-centered, but it’s not actually. Rather, the Spirit empowers me as I rely on God’s normal means of grace. Read the Bible, pray, worship with the church, and obey God’s will. And do not simply to complete a checklist but believing that the Spirit moves through God’s normal means of grace. And the Spirit will move. He will convict, he will encourage, he will inspire faith, he will give understanding, and you will be changed.

So, don’t ever think it’s just about you. You are not under law but under grace. “Consider yourself to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Then, “do not let sin reign in your mortal body.” Put it to death. The 2nd tension is…

I must change, but God’s sovereign work assures me that I will. I’ve already talked about this some, but notice that v. 13 includes both genuine contingency and assurance. First, if I don’t change, I will die. This warning should absolutely sober anyone walking in rebellion.

But what about the Christian who wants to please the Lord? Well, v. 9 already assured me that I am “not in the flesh but in the Spirit” because “the Spirit of God dwells in (me).” Therefore, if I’m striving to please the Lord, I shouldn’t read v. 13 as a threat but as a hopeful promise.

The Spirit indwells me, and I’m “in the Spirit.” Therefore, I should be confident that he will enable me to put to death the deeds of the body. And because of that, “I will live.” Someday, God will finish the process, and I will be fully conformed to the image of Christ. And I will dwell in perfect fellowship with God for all eternity. I have a great hope and a great assurance that I will get there.

Conclusion

Yes, sometimes heaven feels a long way off. But the presence and the ministry of the Spirit is God’s pledge that it really isn’t that far away. The Holy Spirit will keep me, and he will keep changing me until the day that I die or Christ returns. Then the Spirit will give perfect life, both physically and spiritually, to my mortal body and he will finish what he began. The Spirit offers great hope. So when holiness and heaven seem a long way off, hope in the Spirit’s ministry.

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