Is the Christian life easy or difficult? The answer to this question is that the Christian life is neither easy nor difficult – it’s impossible! The manner of life lived under grace is superhuman. Humanly Impossible Let’s look at some aspects of the Christian life and see how they are humanly impossible. Take for example Christian love. Christ said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12 NKJV). It is also repeated in John 13:34. Obviously such a commandment is humanly impossible, for who is able to love others to the degree to which Christ has loved us and given His life for us? Consider Christian joy. The Bible says this: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). And it is repeated again: “Rejoice always” (1 Th. 5:16). This too is humanly impossible. We live in a world full of trials, disappointments, frustrations, and failures. Who can rejoice at all times?
Let’s look at Christian peace. Grace actually requires that Christians “let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (Col. 3:15). We’re also told that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). There is no question as to the superhuman character of these declarations, for human nature can never produce a peace which surpasses all understanding.
What about Christian service? Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me, and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (Jn. 7:37-38). “Coming to Christ” is a picture of our salvation; the “flowing rivers of living water” signify our Christian service. What human resource can produce service that flows like rivers of living water?
And what about thanksgiving? The biblical standard is for Christians to be “giving thanks always for all things to God” (Eph. 5:20). “Always” means at all times, and “all things” means all circumstances and conditions. This is far removed from the thanks we give sometimes for some things. Who is able to give thanks for a lost job, lost health, a lost loved one and many other losses?
The Christian calling is to Christ-likeness. He is our pattern: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). We are also challenged with these words: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Christlikeness is way beyond the power of human achievement. Who is ever able to reproduce the lofty likeness of Christ?
Let’s consider Christian power. Believers need spiritual power: to witness effectively for Christ; to conquer Satan, the world, and the flesh; to overcome temptations; to stop bad habits and begin good ones; to live the Christian life; and to enjoy “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). What human resource can supply the power to perform all these spiritual undertakings?
The verses above represent only some of the teachings of grace addressed to citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20). Since the saving work of God places believers in a heavenly position in Christ, and transfers our citizenship from earth to heaven, it is only consistent that we should walk in a manner becoming a citizen of heaven.
If God has given us commands that are humanly impossible, how can believers live the grace-filled Christian life? The answer is that the all powerful, sufficient, abiding, and indwelling Holy Spirit is given to every saved person for this very purpose. The enabling Spirit is given to all believers as a part of their salvation by grace; it is presented as a fundamental feature of this dispensation of the indwelling Spirit of God. He is not only given to every believer, but He never withdraws.
There is an important distinction between the indwelling of and the infilling with the Spirit. Scripture affirms that all believers are indwelt by the Spirit, but only few are actually filled with Him. There is no command to be indwelt by the Spirit of God but we are commanded to be filled with Him (Eph. 5:18). To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by Him. Jesus called the Holy Spirit “another Helper” (Jn. 14:16). Let’s look at how the Spirit helps us in the several areas of the Christian life already mentioned above.
How does the Spirit help us with love? “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). And we are told that “the fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal. 5:22). These two verses guarantee that our love for others will be to the degree to which Christ has loved us.
How does the Spirit help us be joyful? We are told that “the fruit of the Spirit is … joy” (Gal. 5:22). In addition, the Lord Jesus has said “that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves” (Jn. 17:13). These two statements guarantee that we can rejoice in the Lord always.
How does the Spirit help us have peace? We are also told that “the fruit of the Spirit is … peace” (Gal. 5:22). And Christ has said, “My peace I give to you” (Jn. 14:27). These two declarations guarantee that the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will rule in our hearts and minds.
How does the Spirit help us serve? After Christ uttered the two statements above about “rivers of living water” (Jn. 7:37-38), John added these words: “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given” (Jn. 7:39). Here the superhuman flow of rivers of living water is distinctly said to be the result of the energy of the Spirit; it is never found in human nature. All Christian service is the exercise of a spiritual gift which is “the manifestation of the Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:7). Any service that is not the exercise of the Holy Spirit’s gift is merely the manifestation of self.
How does the Spirit help us with thanksgiving? Note that “giving thanks always for all things to God” (Eph. 5:20) is one of the four results of the filling of the Spirit listed in Ephesians 5:18-21. Giving thanks is a sign of a Spirit-filled believer.
How does the Spirit make us Christ-like? It is the supreme purpose of the indwelling Spirit to reproduce Christlikeness in believers who are filled with Him. The most comprehensive statement of the reproduction of Christ in believers is found in Galatians 5:22-23: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Every word in this passage represents a superhuman quality of life. The whole passage is an exact description of the life of Christ; but Christlikeness can never be gained by the energy of the flesh. These virtues are never found in human nature; they are the fruit of the Spirit.
How does the Spirit give us power? Christ said: “You shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8). When Scripture speaks of the filling of the Spirit, such as in this verse, the expression “upon you” is used, but when the indwelling of the Spirit is meant, the prepositional phrase “in you” is employed. When the believer is filled with the Spirit, he will enjoy all the blessed results mentioned in the above lines.
If the manner of life demanded under grace is superhuman, so also is the enablement supernatural, and it is as limitless as the infinite power of God. Since God has proposed a humanly impossible manner of life, He has, in full consistency, provided the Spirit who gives life and power.
By Maurice Bassali
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org