In Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, chapter eight is the triumphant breakthrough. The Holy Spirit is only mentioned four times in the first seven chapters (1:4, 2:29, 5:5, 7:6). But in chapter eight He literally explodes on the scene, appearing 19 times as God’s solution to all the problems of His human children, as the difference between being overcome and being the overcomer.
In chapter seven Paul describes a debilitating tug-of-war between the renewed man’s desire to please God and his innate tendency to sin. In frustration he concludes: “I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (Rom. 7:25 NIV).
Then, triumphantly, Paul finds the solution: “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death … God … by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering … condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 5:2-4).
Holy Spirit Power
In the 1970s, as a small plane with six occupants approached the Bogota, Colombia airport, the pilot suffered a heart attack and lost consciousness. Two inexperienced teenagers on board took the controls and attempted to land the plane, guided by instructions from the control tower. An expert pilot, thoroughly familiar with that particular plane, was brought to the tower to transmit specifics about every instrument on the panel, enabling them to stay aloft for forty tense minutes.
Two attempts to land had to be aborted due to heavy rain, high winds and near-zero visibility on the runway. The last desperate cry from the cockpit was, “Gentlemen, we have a problem. We can’t see!” Then the plane crashed in a pasture five kilometers from the airport, killing all passengers.
Those two brave teens seemed to have everything they needed to fly and land that plane: instructions on demand from an expert pilot who knew all those puzzling instruments perfectly. But that wasn’t enough. If only that expert pilot had been able to miraculously transport himself into the cockpit and take the controls in his own hands.
The indwelling Holy Spirit is the believer’s “in-cockpit expert pilot,” the fulfillment of God’s long-time plan expressed through the prophet Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you … I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws” (Ezek. 36:26-27). Obviously, this plan for Israel is yet to be fulfilled nationally, but for every individual believer in Christ it is real now, as part and parcel of our salvation given to us by God.
It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27), and God strengthening “you with power through His Spirit in your inner being” and “His power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:16, 20).
Holy Spirit Stamp
The Holy Spirit is the stamp marking us as God’s property: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Rom. 8:9). He is “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” and us as “God’s possession” (Eph. 1:13-14). Keeping in mind to whom we belong balances our self-concept and perspective on life (Rom. 12: 3).
But we’re not simply God’s property, His slaves. We are His children, His heirs, and co-heirs with Christ. We have received the Spirit of sonship and intimately cry, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). The Spirit keeps us conscious of our identity and of the ultimate glory that is ours in Christ. Meanwhile, He is the Spirit of Christ, the personality of Christ alive and operational in our living now.
Holy Spirit Energy
Further still, He is the energy by which even our physical bodies come alive in service that honors God, which is our desire as loving, obedient children motivated by the Spirit within us: “If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you” (Rom. 8:9-11).
This is not primarily about an ultimate, future resurrection, though Jesus’ resurrection guarantees that (1 Cor. 15:20-23). He speaks of our mortal bodies, subject to death, and of how the Spirit living in us now enables and energizes us as God’s agents and servants in the world, the natural follow-through of our being alive with Christ (Rom. 6:1-14).
Romans 12 opens with a look back to this very point: “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” We offer God our bodies so His Spirit can freely fill and enliven them in worshipful service to God.
The Greek word here is not the usual word for “worship,” which means “to bow down to, to reverence,” and which we might call “attitude” worship. This word is one which means, “to serve, to render homage.” We might call it “action” worship. It denotes one who is the willing, devoted slave of the one he worships. It is his identity, as in Philippians 3:3 and Acts 27:23.
The Spirit indwells bodies dedicated to God, and works out His will in and through them, so that they become vehicles in which God Himself moves among men and acts in this world.
As members of God’s family and birthright-citizens of heaven we suffer in the corrupt, alien environment of this world. Though it is God’s creation – and thus, His domain – the world is temporarily subject to decay. But, far from being depressed about this, we see the anguish of all creation as the pain of a woman about to give birth – the promise of a glorious transformation. As aliens, the Spirit makes the pain more poignant. But He also charges us with the hope that keeps us conscious that we do not yet possess what we long for, and that reinforces the promise that we shall.
Further, the Holy Spirit in the believer is the antidote to the human mindset, outlook and motivation. He is the energy of the “renewed” mind of Romans 12:2. He is “the mind of Christ” in us (1 Cor. 2:16).
“Who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have … received … the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand” (1 Cor. 2:11-12).
Holy Spirit Interpreter
The Holy Spirit is also the generator and moderator for our ongoing communication with our Father. We know that prayer is our ever-open, immediate hot line to God. But sometimes we just don’t know how to use it. The resident Holy Spirit understands and interprets our condition, thoughts and needs and, as God, is able to transmit that cry for help to the Father above in perfect harmony with His will. Even though we don’t know how to pray specifically, the Spirit interprets our attitude of prayer-dependence to our Father. He is honored, and we are heard (Rom. 8:26-27).
We not only have God’s Spirit, we also have His Word and certain absolute truths as an unshakable foundation for our hope and confidence. One of these truths is: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). God not only works in us by His Spirit, He also works externally in our circumstances to accomplish His purpose for us.
Everything that affects us happens “on purpose.” Not that God deliberately makes bad things happen, but He controls His universe and is acutely conscious of each of His children, and manages “all things” for our maximum benefit. He allows and uses even the “bad” things for a positive result. And what is that result? “To be conformed to the likeness of His Son” (Rom. 8:29).
It’s thrilling to consider this glorious irony: man was created “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen. 1:26-27). That likeness was effaced when man rebelled and sinned. God now works to remake us in the “likeness of His Son,” not now by a sovereign act of creation, but by His Son’s unimaginable pain and His own patient, painstaking labor to mold and shape us through our circumstances and throughout our lives.
The language of Romans 8 makes it clear that we are not talking about a project whose success is uncertain. It is clearly envisioned by the divine Sculptor and the result is utterly certain: “Those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son … And those He predestined He also called; those He called He also justified; those He justified He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). It’s a settled fact to God who sees what we call the “future” as clearly and as fully accomplished as anything in the past or present.
“What then shall we say in response to this?” (Rom. 8:31). We must say, “Praise God! He is for us!” No one can oppose Him nor His plans for us. He has pledged Himself irrevocably to this project: His Son’s sacrifice says it in terms that allow for no argument nor second thoughts. “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (Rom. 8:33). Revelation 12:10 tells us that Satan is “the accuser” of all believers, “who accuses them before our God day and night.” But Romans 8:33 tells us something with this rhetorical question: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” Satan is wasting his time! No one can condemn us because Christ died for all our sins and absorbed in His person all our condemnation.
We are also reassured by the certain knowledge that our God paid all the costs when He gave His only Son for us and is there for us: “How will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). There is not the least lack of supply nor the slightest indisposition to provide it. Christ guarantees it. And the Spirit of Christ within us brings ourselves, our Father and His abundant supply together.
The slogan “Nothing can go wrong” becomes an understatement. Nothing can “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). And if nothing can come between us and that love, then we have only to trust and obey.
Thus, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). We children of God are winners in every possible, transcendent, eternal sense. Because of Christ, we cannot lose.
Romans 8 does more than just present a thrilling, inspiring concept. God has actually put within our reach, by His Holy Spirit within us, all the resources we will ever need. “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).
By Bill Van Ryn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA.