In John 16, vs. 7, the Lord Jesus while still speaking to His disciples in the night in which He was betrayed, said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth, It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.”
We know of course, what our Savior meant by His “going away.” He meant His death on the Cross with His resurrection and ascension following, or the completion of His saving work. And then it would be, He declared, that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to His friends. In Romans 8 Paul has been following the same sequence doctrinally that Christ outlined in time. A christian is to live a new life in Christ. He is to live and walk after the Spirit and no longer after the flesh. The basis of this new life is Christ’s atoning death on the Cross – His Blood shed for sinners. Because of this he can write: there is now no condemnation to them which are in Him. But the further, indispensible condition of the new life in Christ, as Paul has been setting it forth for us here, is the indwelling Spirit Whom Christ has sent. If any man have not that Spirit – he says in clearest terms – he is none of His. The Spirit then, as verse 10 indicates, brings life because of the righteousness which is now imputed, or accounted ours through Christ’s great salvation.
Now in verse 11, Paul goes on with this thought and speaks more fully and plainly still of the EXTENT OF THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST – “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
- The comprehension of the identity of that indwelling Spirit who gives and sustains new life is the first matter dealt with by Paul who calls Him here, “the Spirit of Him that raised up from the dead.” It is well that Paul is so definite here in identifying the indwelling Spirit, for comprehension is perhaps the commonest problem which arises among Christians whenever and wherever any teaching about Him is being given. We are not always sure just who He is who is to dwell within! And this is not surprising seeing that, though there is only one Holy Spirit, there are many spirits abroad in the world – and some of them revel in confusion! John warns us plainly about this in his First Epistle, chapter 4, verse 1, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are God!” It was good advice in his day – and it is good advice in ours as well.
Remember that innumerable “spirits” exist – and not all of them are good. For one thing, we must learn to distinguish the Heavenly Spirit from those unclean spirits, that we meet so often in the gospels, opponents of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His work in this world, or even from that Chief of the unclean spirits, himself a spirit who is called the Devil or Satan, the old Serpent, the Dragon who is the inveterate enemy of Christ and of all who believe in Him or follow Him. Paul warns us in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 of the power, signs and lying wonders of which he is capable.
Now we are living an age which, despite its supposed sophistication and scientific knowledge and progress, is still terribly gullible. Many people – and younger people in particular – are fed up with science. They see (and rightly, I think) that scientific progress has not made the world a better place in which to live in spite of all the claims to the contrary. Wars continue, only they are more horrible than ever before. The atmosphere is being polluted and the world around us is spoiled, much of it in the name of scientific progress. All of this leads many, and again, the young in particular, to distrust the mind of man. Where is all our study getting us? Of what use are the universities and higher degrees if we can’t solve the simplest problems of human relationships? In simplest terms, it has been put like this often enough: We can send a man to the moon, but we can’t make him fit to live with! What good is it all? Many people are thinking this way today and looking for something better: and with out inevitable human prejudice against God, how easy it is to fall in to Satan’s hands, the arch deceiver who can transform himself (as Paul warns us in 2 Corinthians 11:14) into an angel of light?
Hence we are seeing today a revival of Satanism. We find people once again pretending to practice witchcraft. Spiritism (or spiritualism, as it is sometimes called) is undergoing a revival. Fortune-telling, the casting and reading of horoscopes, and other such things are more popular than ever. And all these are “spiritual” in a way, but they are the work of “unclean spirits” and him who is the chief and head of all unclean spirits, the Devil himself!
Remember, too, that there is a spirit in men: and it must be distinguished from the Holy Spirit, though it may not be wholly in the Devil’s hands, neither is it by nature in God’s! And the human spirit, too, is deceitful. Jeremiah’s words are well known and applicable here (17:9) “The heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” And so is the reminder of Christ (Mark 7:21) that “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornication, murders.” Deception wonders, then, can come from within man himself just as lying wonders come from the father of lies.
This is the great danger of certain spiritual movements of the present day. I do not doubt, of course, that the true spirit of God distributes gifts to men today just as He did in the past – or that individual Christians have been uniquely blessed today and churches revived by the work of God’s true Spirit, but the danger in all that is that men accept as gifts of the Spirit of God signs and wonders which may just as well be the products of the human spirit – and at times of the spirit of evil. Do you speak in tongues? they ask, and if you do, you’re “in” and if you don’t you’re not! Does he heal people by the laying of hands? they ask, and if he does, he’s a Spirit filled minister, and if he doesn’t, he isn’t! Soon they may discover that a certain clergyman of another and quite different faith can also heal by the laying of hands. Then he must also be a Spirit filled minister. Then they may meet a denier of fundamental truths who also speaks in tongues – does the Spirit dwell in him, too? In fact, the same signs and wonders are to be found among non-Christians. What Spirit has done these things among them? If it is the Holy Spirit then what happens to the One Way God through Jesus Christ our Lord?
It is situations like these that produced John’s faithful warning not to believe every spirit, but to try them and see whether they be of God. And his test is essentially one of Biblical confession.
He cites one doctrine – but it is representative of all the essential doctrines of the faith. “Hereby know we the Spirit of God,” he says. “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.” And it is in a similar vein that Paul identifies the Spirit of which he is speaking in our text. He is the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead! He is not any spirit. He is not the spirit of the evil one – a living spirit – He is not the human spirit – a deceptive spirit! He is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth! He is the Spirit of Him who sent His Son in human flesh – permitting Him in the flesh to die for sinful man, and raising Him again in the flesh in victory over death and sin. He is the Spirit who comes to man through that victory and dwells in the heart of the true believers.
2. And this brings us to the second part of our subject – the Dimension of the Activity of that indwelling Spirit who gives us our new life in Christ, and this Paul describes in the second part of our text where he says that if the right Spirit dwells in you, then “He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Now, according to the doctrine of Scripture, there are two ways in which He does this.
A. He quickens our souls, first of all, when we are born again. It is the common doctrine of the Bible that by nature we are spiritually dead. The soul or spirit of a man that is within him, simply will not function with respect to Almighty God as it was designed to do. Our space engineers were sadly disappointed with one of their ventures into the regions beyond – Skylab. It was designed with winglike appurtenances which were supposed to unfold when the space vehicle had taken its proper place in orbit and serve to protect Skylab from the sun’s heat and to covert its rays into a source of power; but the wings did not unfold. So by reason of the Fall of man, God’s indispensable favor having been withdrawn from the entire human race, man’s soul simply does not function with respect to Him as it should – it is dead to God and to righteousness. As a result we do not know God as we should by nature: and whatever we think of Him or say is at best guesswork and confusion. Neither do we love God, but we oppose Him in all that He seeks to do for us or with us. And, of course, we do not really serve Him. We may think that we do: but it is all idolatry and will worship when it is done within the framework of nature alone.
But when He that raised up Christ from the dead moves into your life by His Spirit who dwells, or rather begins to dwell within you, wonderful new things take place. For one thing, we begin to hear God speaking in His Word for the first time. Sometimes a new Christian will testify along these lines: that he or she had gone to church for many years and had never heard the gospel until – at a certain time, or in a certain place a certain person had brought a certain message; and it left its impression, I fear, that the church had failed and that that certain person had succeeded. Such an impression would, however, be wholly wrong.
A person may hear the true gospel over and over again and yet not hear it; and then he may hear it one more time, and possible even from a rather ineffective or inexperienced witness, and really hear it, and that is not the failure or success of men, but the sovereign working of our gracious God. Jesus Christ speaks of it in John 5, beginning at verse 24. Really hearing His Word, He says, is a resurrection experience, “verily, verily I say unto you, He that hearth My world, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” The spiritually dead, He goes on to say, shall hear it and come to life – “verily, verily I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man!”
Those who begin to hear God speaking in His Word are also said to be born again, as Peter says in 1 Peter 1:23 “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever.” It is thus that the new life of a Christian begins in very truth; not by a sovereign act of a perfectly free human will, as some suppose, but rather by a sovereign supernatural work of divine grace. He that raised up Jesus from the dead quickens you too! And everything else of reality in our Christian experience comes from this. The stony heart which had been so much turned against God crumbles into dust; and a heart of flesh replaces it which loves God and trusts in Him. The darkened mind is lightened: and what had been confused, vague, only half acceptable before appears in bright and shinning hues as the very truth of God. The will crippled like the great Sky-lab without a constant source of power, begins to function for God.
This quickening is not the work of a day or hour. It may begin in a very small way as in those whose conversation is gradual. It may begin in a very small way as in those whose conversation is gradual. It may begin with a tremendous thrust, as in those whose conversation is sudden. It may continue slowly but regularly, year by year. It may enjoy sudden spurts of growth through particularly effecting experience of revival and rededication. It may be sadly hindered through ignorance, or worldliness, or recurring sins – and even seem at times in certain individuals to have disappeared completely. But believe me: the soul that has been quickened by the God who raised Christ from the dead will be made completely alive at last, for as Paul puts it in Philippians 1:6, “He which hath begun a work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
B. And this reminds us of the further quickening of which the Bible speaks – not only the quickening of the soul when we are born again, but also the quickening of our bodies when Jesus comes again. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:19 that “if in this life only we hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,” and he goes on from there to speak of Christ as the first-fruits of a resurrection from the dead. The same raising up by the power of God that brought Christ’s body from the tomb will take place for you – at His return to claim His own. The body of each and every Christian, having been quickened in soul by the Spirit, is a temple of the Spirit who dwells within. Though that Temple be destroyed, it will not be lost, but God will raise it up again by His Spirit, and in a form that is glorified but real, it will be reunited with our souls to serve the Lord forever more. This is God’s Word which endures. This is His promise – and it will not fail.
Great and marvelous, then, is the work of God’s own Spirit who dwells within us!
It goes far beyond mere signs and wonders which may be imitated or approximated by the lying spirit of the Enemy or by the deceptive spirit of unregenerate man himself. It literally raised the dead – dead souls, first of all, to a new life in Christ, and then the dead bodies of those who live in Him at last to life that has no end. How pitiful, then, is the condition of those who remain strangers to the grace of God! They are dead now to the peace and joy of believing: and they will be hopelessly dead to all happiness forever, if they do not repent. If only every one of you that is without Christ today might hear His voice! It is a gracious and appealing voice – be certain of that. “Come to me,” it says. “All who labored are heavy laden!” It is a precious promise that it conveys: “I will give you rest.” Do not be hard-hearted, then, but listen – take notice – and obey. God is willing to save sinners: and He is able to save to the uttermost by His Spirit. If He raised Christ from the dead, will He not do as much for many, may others besides?
What a privilege it is to believe on Christ and to trust Him for our salvation! Every true believer is a recipient of God’s own Holy Spirit. Every true believer has undergone a spiritual resurrection. Every true believer has within him or her a new life in Christ – the Spirit’s gift – and a gift which He is daily seeking to foster and to advance. Are you aware of all this? Are you genuinely concerned about the life within you? Do you realize that is or ought to be your chief concern in life? The new life in Christ, God’s miracle-gift to every believer in His Son, is eternal life and someday, even this your body of flesh-and-blood will be changed by its power and made meet to abide forever within the Father’s house.
Sermon written by: Rev. Charles W. Krahe, Seventh Reformed Church