The Indwelling of the Spirit in the Regenerate
"You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Romans 8:9
We have now arrived at those truths contained in this sublime chapter which have a more direct bearing on the experience of the children of God. Hitherto our topics have led us to address ourselves more especially to the unregenerate. Oh, that the solemn and searching delineations of unrenewed mind, of unsanctified affection, and of supreme devotion to self, gathered from the opening of the chapter, and pressed upon the reader's attention, may, by the power of the Holy Spirit, be received to the saving of the soul. Dismissing, then, the awful condition of the unconverted, the Apostle proceeds to address himself to the Christians at Rome, and at once plunges into the great mysteries and privileges, glories and hopes, of the believer's inner life. Two topics of thought invite our attention in this verse- The indwelling of the Spirit of God in the regenerate; and the great authenticating evidence of the fact- the possession of the Spirit of Christ. Let us discuss them in their order.
THE INDWELLING OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD IN THE REGENERATE
Scoffed at by the proud boaster of human reason, rejected by the cold formalist, and hated by the avowed enemy of practical godliness, as this doctrine is, it is yet a vital truth, and of marvellous interest to the child of God. It is, in fact, his life. We admit its profoundness, mysteriousness, and inexplicability; yet, apart from its individual, heartfelt experience, all religion, so called, is a counterfeit and a delusion.
The doctrine of the personal indwelling of the Spirit has been reduced, in the creed of some, to a mere poetical conception. Assimilation to the character and disposition of the Spirit in that which is amiable, sympathizing, and generous, has been made to take the place of an actual and personal residence of the Holy Spirit. And thus the indwelling of the Spirit of God in the soul of the regenerate- one of the fundamental verities of our faith- is narrowed down to the skeleton idea of a mere resemblance to spiritual grace and excellence. But in opposition to this dwarfish conception of a gigantic truth, how bold and explicit are the delineations and assertions of the Holy Scriptures. "Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" "And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts." Observe where the Spirit is said to dwell, not in the understanding, the fatal error of many- but in the heart. Most certainly he enlightens the understanding with the truth, but he does not rest there. He makes his way to, and takes up his abode in, the renewed and sanctified heart. There he sheds abroad the love of God. There he inspires the cry of "Abba, Father." And be that cry never so faint, it yet is the breathing of the indwelling Spirit, and meets a response in the heart of God. How affecting are Paul's words to Timothy: "That good thing which was committed unto you keep by the Holy Spirit which dwells in us." Timothy had no spiritual strength of his own. The Apostle therefore reminds him of a truth which, in his conscious weakness, was well calculated to cheer his heart, and encourage him to cultivate and use for Christ's glory the spiritual gift bestowed upon him, namely, the power of the indwelling Spirit. That self-same Spirit dwells in all true believers. Let it constrain us to stir up our spiritual gifts and graces– so prone to slumber and become inert- and employ them more devotedly for the Lord.
But what is THE GREAT EVIDENCE OF THE INDWELLING OF THE SPIRIT? Our possession of the Spirit of Christ. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his." Let us briefly direct our attention to this truth. It will be observed that the title is changed. In the former clause of the verse he is styled the "Spirit of God." In the latter clause, he is denominated the "Spirit of Christ." Why the Spirit of Christ? Because he proceeds from Christ, equally as of the Father. "Upon whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit," clearly recognizing a power on the part of Christ to send the Spirit. Our Lord, when alluding to the Holy Spirit, emphatically says, "Whom I will send unto you." What declaration could more clearly set forth the emanation of the Spirit from Christ, than this, thus justifying the title ascribed to him by the Apostle, as the "Spirit of Christ?" We are here supplied with a strong argument in favor of the Deity of the Spirit predicated upon the unity of the Father and the Son in the one Divine Spirit: the Holy Spirit, proceeding from, and wearing the title of both, must conclusively establish an essential unity of mind.
The reasonableness of such an evidence, authenticating the fact of the indwelling of the Spirit, is too obvious to question. An individual claiming to be Christ's, yet not possessing the Spirit of Christ, lacks the only irrefragable proof which establishes the validity of his claim, and thus his profession is falsified. But what is it to possess the Spirit of Christ?
The Spirit of Christ is the great convincer of sin. "He shall convince the world of sin." Have you thus received him? Has he discovered to you the moral leprosy of your nature, the exceeding sinfulness of sin? Do you know anything of the conflict of which the Apostle speaks in the preceding chapter of this Epistle- the law of the mind in battle with the law of the members? And has this discovery led you to self-condemnation, to self-renunciation, to lay your mouth in the dust before God? If this be so, then the Spirit of Christ is a Spirit of conviction in you, and by this you may know that you are Christ's.
The Spirit of Christ leads to Christ. He is to the sinner what John was to the Messiah- he goes before as the Forerunner of the Lord's salvation. He prepares the way, and heralds the coming of Jesus into the soul. This was one specific object for which he was sent, and which entered essentially into his mission- to lead men to Christ. Has he led you to Christ? Can you say, "Christ is made unto me wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption?" What do you think of Christ? Is his blood precious? Does his righteousness give you peace? Does his grace subdue your sins? Do you in sorrow travel to his sympathy, in weakness take hold of his strength, in perplexity seek his counsel, in all your steps acknowledge and wait for him? Is Christ thus all and in all to you? Then you have the Spirit of Christ. This we venture to assert for your encouragement. You may resort to Christ, and there may be no sensible apprehension, no realizing touch, no manifested presence; yet, if your heart goes out after Jesus, if your spirit travels alone to him- praying for his sympathy, panting for his grace, thirsting for his love, and you are led to say, "Lord, the desire of my heart is to your name, and to the remembrance of you. I seem not to see you, to touch you, to apprehend you; yet I come, and I find a heaven in coming; and for ten thousand worlds I dare not, I could not stay away"- then, dear reader, you have the Spirit of Christ, and are Christ's.
Not only does the Spirit lead to Christ, but he also conforms those thus led to the image of Christ. He guides us to Christ, not for consolation and instruction only, but also for assimilation. If we are humble, we have the Spirit of Christ- for he was humble. If we are meek, we have the Spirit of Christ- for he was meek. If we believe, we have the Spirit of Christ- for he lived a life of faith. If we love God, we have the Spirit of Christ- for he was the incarnation of love. If we are holy, we have the Spirit of Christ- for he was without sin. If we are obedient, meek, and self-denying in suffering, silent in provocation, submissive in chastisement, patient in tribulation, and rejoicing in hope, then have we the Spirit of Christ, for he was all this. Thus, the possession of this immense, this indispensable blessing, comprises two grand things- first, to become the subject of an actual and permanent indwelling of the Spirit; and, second, to be assimilated in character and disposition to the Savior. And while it is most certain that, if the first-mentioned blessing is attained, the second follows, yet it is to the second we are to look as the fruit and evidence of the first. The question, "Am I Christ's?" hinges upon the question, "Have I the Spirit of Christ?"
The subject lays the basis for the most solemn exhortation and appeal. As a temple of the Holy Spirit, yield yourself to his Divine and gracious power. Bend your ear to his softest whisper- your will to his gentlest sway- your heart to his holy and benevolent influence. In not hearkening to his voice, and in not yielding to his promptings, we have been great losers. Often has he incited to communion with God, and because the time was not seasonable, or the place not convenient, you stifled his persuasive voice, resisted his proffered aid, and thus slighted and grieved, he has retired. And lo! when you have risen to pray, God has covered himself as with a cloud that your prayer could not pass through. Oh, seek to have an ear attuned to his softest accents, and a heart constrained to an instant compliance with his mildest dictates. The greatest blessing we possess is the possession of the Spirit.
And Oh, to be Christ's- to be his gift, his purchase, his called saint, his lowly disciple- what an inestimable privilege! But how may we be quite sure that this privilege is ours? If we have the Spirit of Christ, we are in very deed Christians. It is the superscription of the King, the mark of the Shepherd, the Lord's impress of himself upon the heart. And how sanctifying this privilege! "Those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts." "Let those that have named the name of Christ depart from all iniquity." And if we are Christ's now, we shall be Christ's to all eternity. It is a union that cannot be dissolved. Every believer in Jesus is "sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise which is the pledge of our inheritance." And as we have the pledge of the inheritance, we shall as assuredly possess the inheritance itself.
Lastly, the Spirit of Christ is an active, benevolent Spirit. It bore the Savior, when he was in the flesh, from country to country, from city to city, from house to house, preaching his own gospel to lost man. "He went about doing good." If we have the Spirit of Christ we shall be prompted to a like Christian love and activity on behalf of those who possess not the gospel, or who, possessing it, slight and reject the mercy. The Spirit of Christ is essentially a missionary Spirit. It commenced its labor of love at Jerusalem, and from that its center, worked its way with augmenting sympathy and widening sphere until it embraced the world as the field of its labor. Ah! that we manifest so little of this Spirit, ought to lead us to deep searchings of heart, and stir us up to earnest prayer: "Lord, make me more earnest for the salvation of souls, for the advancement of your kingdom. Grant me this evidence of being yours- the possession of your Spirit, constraining me to a more simple and unreserved consecration of my talents, my substance, my rank, my influence, my time, myself, to the establishment of your truth, the advancement of your cause, and thus to the wider diffusion of your glory in the earth."