16. The power of the new life.
They, who are in Christ Jesus, have a new power within them. Not only new life in Christ and a new standing before God, but a new force within — even the Spirit of God Himself. The law is no longer their ruler, but by the Spirit they are enabled to fulfil the law's requirements, and to live to God.
Let us first observe how God, when teaching us of His Spirit, divides mankind into two vast families. In both of these we cannot be — in one or other we all are. There is no intermediate place, since birth determines entrance into each of them. First is that which is natural; into this family we all entered when we were born into the world; afterwards is that which is spiritual; into this family we were brought by grace, when we were born again.
The two vast families.
ORIGIN. — “That which is born of the flesh.” (John 3:6.)
NATURE. — “Is flesh.” (John 3:6.) “After the flesh.” (Rom. 8:5.)
STANDING. — “In the flesh.” (Rom. 8:9.)
INCLINATION.— “Mind the things of the flesh.” (Rom. 8:5.)
RESULT. — “Death.” (Rom. 8:6.)
ORIGIN. — “That which is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6.)
NATURE. — “Is Spirit.” (John 3:6.) “After the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:5.)
STANDING. — “In the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:9.)
INCLINATION. — “the things of the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:5.)
RESULT. — “Life and peace.” (Rom. 8:6.)
Further, let us take heed to what God says respecting the powerlessness of the flesh to do His will, a word of warning not to be passed by in our day of religious boastfulness. A word equally applicable to the sinner in his fallen nature, or to the saint as to his fallen nature —
(1.) “The fleshly mind is enmity against God;
(2.) For it is not subject to the law of God;
(3.) Neither indeed can be.
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:7, 8.)
When a man believes on Christ, he has everlasting life, and is
BORN OF THE SPIRIT.
This is his birthday in divine things. Thus he enters the family of God's people. And as he receives life by the Spirit, so is the Spirit the power for living out practically the life he has in Christ and from Christ. Towards this end “The flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63), for the flesh contains in itself no vigour for godly living; no strength for serving God, or for enjoying God; on the contrary, it is opposed to God; and in the believer “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” (Gal. 5:17.)
The children of God are born of God; they receive not divine life by nature's parentage, by their own free will, or by the will of others. (John 1:13.) That which is born of God sinneth not (1 John 3:9), it is holy and of God. But as the believer has still a sinful nature, he may sin (1 John 1:10), for though he has the holy life in Christ, sin is still in him (1 John 1:8); however, he should not sin (1 John 2:1), and the Holy Spirit, by leading to obedience to God's word, restrains the activities of the sinful nature, and keeps the believer from sinning. The believer is a complex being. Two energies are within him, that of the Spirit of God, and that of his old nature.
Not only is the believer born of the Spirit, he is also
INDWELT BY THE SPIRIT.
For in every believer, who believes the gospel of salvation, the Holy Spirit dwells. The work of the Lord Jesus in redemption is finished. He has by His own blood bought His people for Himself. But the day of glory, when the full results of His redemption shall be seen, and His people shall be glorified, has not yet dawned, and unto this day of redemption the Holy Spirit seals the believer. He Himself dwelling within the believer is the seal of the perfect work for the believer, which the Lord has accomplished.
The Holy Spirit does not seal us in our unbelief, in our doubts and fears, nor in the uncleanness of our unforgiven state; but He seals us when made clean by the blood of Christ, and when believing the gospel of our salvation.
Upon our believing God, who gave His Son to be delivered for our offences, and to be raised again for our justification, God justified us, and being justified we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:25, Rom. 5:1) — peace regarding the righteousness of God in dealing with sin, and with our sins — peace with God as the great Judge, for He, the Just One, justified us. Thereupon the Holy Spirit took up His dwelling within our hearts, and shed abroad in our hearts the love of God. (Rom. 5:5.)
The Spirit of God, by dwelling within the believer, seals the person in whom His own work is effected. Sealing implies completion. Suppose a man make a deed of gift, by which he bestows certain wealth upon the object of his goodness, the document is sealed by the giver. He puts his seal to the completed deed, and thenceforward he cannot alter it. After the Holy Spirit has removed from the believer every hope of salvation in self, and opened his soul to receive Christ as his all — the result of which, as we have just observed, is peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ — He seals him, by dwelling within him. So we read, “after that ye believed ye were sealed.” (Eph. 1:13.)
There is a distinct work of God in leading the soul on, step by step — an establishing work, whereby doubts and fears are removed, self-confidence is taken away, and Christ becomes the peace of the soul, and upon this the Holy Spirit takes up His abode within.
God gives us to rest before Him in the sense of what we are in Christ. He settles us upon the immoveable foundation. He then seals by His Spirit those in whom He has wrought. He first establishes the soul in Christ. He next seals the established believer. In olden times the blood of the sacrifice was placed upon the leper who was about to be cleansed, and after the blood the anointing oil (see Lev. 14:28, 29); and now we read, “He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us.” (2 Cor. 1:21, 22.)
Thus the Spirit of God takes up His abode within the believer — “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you?” (1 Cor. 5:19), and thus are fulfilled the Lord's own words to His disciples respecting the Holy Ghost, “He shall be in you.” (John 14:16.) And this being accomplished, The Holy Spirit never leaves His dwelling-place.
Our Lord said of the Spirit, “He shall abide with you forever.” (John 14:16.) True it is, that David prayed, “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.” (Ps. 51:2.) But we are not now speaking of the manifestations of the Spirit to the believer, but of the Spirit personally dwelling within him. The Spirit was not personally sent from the Father and given to dwell within the believer until the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. “The Spirit was not yet given, for that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39.) In the resurrection and ascension of Christ we find the divine reason why we, in this day of grace, have the Spirit dwelling within our hearts. Our privileges are based upon the finished work of Christ, and are consequent upon our Lord's glory.
The Spirit of God, then, does not forsake the believer, whose body He has deigned to make His temple. But if the believer allow the flesh to act, then the Spirit of God is grieved. He is a Person within the believer, who is a grieved person. He witnesseth not with our spirits: instead of gracious communications we experience rebuffs. A father does not leave the house because his child is wilful and disobedient, but until his child be sorry, his grieved heart finds it impossible to express its affections to the child. He becomes the reprover of his child. His true love to his child can act in no other way, and the child, instead of beholding the smile, sees grief written upon his father's countenance. And thus it is, too often, that the children of God instead of enjoying the manifestations of the Spirit of God within, are, because of their evil and disobedient ways, subject to the reproofs which the Spirit addresses to them. Therefore we are enjoined, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30.)
The Holy Spirit of God, who dwells within His people, takes up His abode in their hearts as the
SPIRIT OF SONSHIP.
“Ye are all the sons (lit.) of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26), “and because ye are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” (Gal. 4:6.) He is not within us as the Spirit of bondage, not as a Spirit leading us to fear, but to liberty. He does not lead us to place ourselves under legal terror. We do not go back from the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1) at the bidding of the Holy Spirit. We are not by the Spirit led to doubt our Father's love, or to question whether we are His children. We are not led by the Spirit to dread lest, after all, we shall fail of His home in glory. “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.” (Rom. 8:15.) “Thou art no more a servant, but a son.” (Gal. 4:7.)
Those who are born of God are the children of God, and the indwelling Spirit leads them to know the love of God, and to call Him Father. “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:15.) Not Father in the sense of His being the Creator, but as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are connected in our sonship with “The Son of God's love” in heaven; we are sons in the power of the ascension of the Lord Jesus,
The love wherewith the Father loves His Son, is the nature of the love wherewith He loves us. And the Spirit brings our hearts into the enjoyment of this love. True, our enjoyment of the love is feeble, but in some small degree it is the privilege of all to delight in it. Such is the nearness into which the adoption into the family of God brings us.
Moreover, this relationship is an individual blessing — a private blessing to each of God's people, though possessed by all the family. And we know the blessing experimentally. We know it, first, because God has revealed it in His word; but we know it, secondly, because God has made the fact good within our hearts. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Rom. 8:16.) There is a mutual witness of love within the hearts of earthly parent and child, but there is a closer witness within our hearts to God, for the same Spirit who is with the Father is also within our hearts, and He makes God our Father to our hearts what our Father's heart is for us.
The Spirit of God within us, by whom we are enabled to rejoice in our nearness to God, is the Spirit of holiness. His title is emphatically the Holy Spirit. The love is holy. It produces no levity when thinking of God, no tinge of irreverence. Boldness, indeed, the love gives, but boldness in us suitable to God. He is in His action within us a
It is by His energy within us that we detect the evil of our hearts, and learn to judge ourselves as dead, and as living to God alone by and in Christ. “If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Rom. 8:10.)
By Him we have the power practically to mortify within ourselves the very passions in which we once indulged. No force of our own can accomplish this end. Self cannot put self to death; nature cannot mortify nature. “If by the Spirit ye do mortify — put to death — the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Rom. 8:13.) Self-indulgence is sin; God's Spirit gives us power over self, and, instead of indulging self, by Him we put to death the motions after the things in which we once delighted.
He it is who obtains the victory within us over the strength of the flesh in us, for He strives “Against the flesh . . . . so that ye cannot (or, may not) do the things that ye would.” (Gal. 5:17.) The works of the flesh, and the fruit of the Spirit, are placed in contrast (read Gal. 5:19-23), and we are either bringing forth our evil works, or the Spirit within us is producing fruit. The garden of the soul is bringing forth in the energy of its own evil soil the rampant weeds which are the growth of the flesh, or, sowing to the Spirit, we are bringing forth from the new life the fruit of the Spirit. Such is the daily outcome of our lives. Either the weeds, or the fruit, are being constantly produced by us. But “They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections (or passions) and lusts.” (Gal. 5:24.)
The Spirit of God leads His people into a practical resemblance to Christ. He is within them as a
And thus every believer in whom He dwells becomes, at least, in some small degree like Christ. The Holy Spirit leads the believer into heart occupation with Christ. He is the power by whom we behold Christ where He is in glory, and recall Him where He was on earth, and thus are changed into His image, and though there may be only very slight resemblance, yet there is some resemblance to Christ in all the members of God's family. So that it is said, “Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit.”
The Spirit of God also in indwelling the hearts of His people succours them in their difficulties and trials: He is
OUR COMFORTER (John 14:16); HELPER AND INTERCESSOR. (Rom. 8:26, 27.)
The Lord Jesus was the Comforter of His own while He was personally with them upon earth; now, in the absence of Jesus, the Spirit of God has come and has taken up His gracious work for the weak and tried children of God. As Comforter, the Holy Spirit abides with the believer for ever. Unseen and unknown by the world, He dwells in and with His people, and ministers to them Christ and the Father's love. The Lord, in order to make good to us the blessings He came from heaven to bestow, had to die and leave this world, but the Holy Spirit has come to us, being sent from heaven by the ascended Man, Christ Jesus. He has united us to Christ, and the blessings being all ours in Christ, it is His gracious ministry to comfort our hearts, by filling us with the realization of the blessings, and the love of the Blesser. The joy which fills the breast of the believer is due to the presence of the Spirit, who is the well of water within him springing up unto everlasting life.
We are weak and ignorant, and He who dwells within us has been graciously pleased to become the Helper of our infirmities. By reason of our weakness we cannot grasp the things of God firmly, and the Holy Spirit is a power within the new man to lay hold of these things for us, so that we may receive the fulness of their blessings. Weakness is essential to God's people. Power belongs to God. And the Almighty Spirit of God is our Helper in our weakness and infirmity, so that thus our very weakness becomes by grace the occasion of constant and priceless blessing to our souls. Our danger lies in self-sufficiency.
The Spirit is our Intercessor. “We know not what we should pray for as we ought.” We may have only the true desire, being ignorant of the right way, and then it is that He who searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, and hears His groanings which cannot be uttered. It is a far deeper thing to have the right desire than to have the right words. Speaking practically, it is the smaller thing to have intelligence respecting the Father's will; the great thing is to have true desires to do that will. There are children of God living in known transgression of their Father's will, whose consciences are becoming seared as with a hot iron, and whose souls are losing their sensitiveness while on the other hand there are the children of the Father with but small intelligence, whose consciences are tender, and whose souls are true. It is the latter who enjoy the manifestation of the love by the Spirit. The solemn question to be answered, in the presence of the great Searcher of hearts, concerns our practical state, and where this is as God would have it be, then follows the availing intercession of the indwelling Spirit. “He makes intercession for the saints according to God,” in entire uniformity with the character and will of God. How much uttered prayer is after all no prayer at all! How vain is eloquence, in the view of these groanings which cannot be expressed! And how frequently we pray out the wishes of our own wills, so that numbers of our requests are, after all, not according to God, and therefore, not made in the Spirit, nor helped by His intercession.
Let the sincere soul take courage. Let us be assured that the abundance of God's grace has not yet been fully realized by us. There is more to be practically received. Is our joy yet full? And if our hearts be full at this moment, there is a divine power which enlarges the heart to receive more. There is no limit to the blessing which the Spirit of God will manifest to us, only let us sow not to the flesh, but to the Spirit.
Distressed as the most downhearted may be, he has an Abiding Comforter weak as the weakest may be, he has an Almighty Helper; ignorant as the most simple may be, he has an All-wise Intercessor.
The indwelling Spirit is further
OUR POWER FOR KNOWING GOD, and
OUR POWER FOR TESTIMONY FOR GOD.
The natural man knows not the things of God. (2 Cor. 2:14.) Science cannot search them out. They are spiritually discerned. A blind man knows not in himself what are the beautiful colours of the flower — he has no sense of sight to perceive this loveliness of God's handiwork. Our power for discerning divine things lies in our having the Spirit of God within us, who is as eyes to our souls. The wisdom of God is foolishness to the natural man. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:9, 10.) The simplest believer upon earth, having within him the Spirit of God, knows more of God's things than the wisest of men not having the Spirit; just as the unlettered man, blessed with sight, knows better, practically, what colour is, than all the scientific blind men in the world put together. The natural man may sit in judgment upon God's Word and God's character, but to the christian, his pride resembles that of a council of deaf men giving their opinion upon harmony. And thus it is that “the oppositions of science, falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20), leave the simple believer, who possesses heart knowledge of Christ, unmoved and immoveable he having within him a power for apprehending God.
The believer can truly say, “we have known and believed the love.” (1 John 4:16.) The unbeliever knows neither the Son nor the Father who sent him: nor the love. “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.”( John 17:3.) Let us then inquire whether; this blessed knowledge be ours. We live in a day that boasts of knowledge, but heart knowledge of God will alone stay us in time, and avail us for eternity. Jesus spoke of His knowledge of His Father in the face of religious pretension, such knowledge was His constant joy in His lonely and misunderstood path below, and, by grace, those in whom the Spirit of the Son dwells have, in degree, the same knowledge.
The power of testimony for God is also that of His Spirit. God's servants are simply receptacles for His power; the treasure of the knowledge of God is stored in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. (2 Cor. 4:7.) And it is while we practically recognise this fact that power issues from us. It is a truth that calls for earnest prayer, in order to be in any degree lived out. To own the truth theoretically, is not acting upon it. We may acknowledge that it is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit, and yet lean upon fleshly props, or betake ourselves to worldly energies and carnal means, and thus deter the Spirit of God from using us as vessels for God's glory.
So soon as self begins to assert itself, the Spirit is grieved. The Apostle said his speech was “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4), and that he spoke “not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” (v. 13.) And again, “Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost.” (1 Thess. 1:5.) In a day of much independence of God we do well to search our hearts, and to inquire whether we really believe, what we say we believe, respecting the Holy Spirit as our power for testimony for God, and also to test the means adopted, and to gauge the principles guiding us in our service of God.
We will only touch upon one more blessing which is ours by the indwelling Spirit. The Holy Spirit is in us the
EARNEST OF OUR FUTURE BLISS.
What we have hitherto seen respecting the Spirit of God, relates to our present portion by Him; but there is the vast future — eternity is before us. Having the Spirit, we can look right into eternity, and the more we look, the more calm and glorious does it appear. The Spirit Himself is the earnest of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:14), and, as the Earnest, is present in our hearts. (2 Cor. 1:22.) The blessings which we now possess, and which are ours practically to enjoy through Him, did we but fully enter into them, would evidence to us what the great future will be; and the believer, in whose heart the Spirit is, does receive the sample of the gladness of future bliss. There are moments in his life when the Spirit, being ungrieved and unhindered, gives him such tastes of what is yet to come, that he rejoices with joy unspeakable and full of glory. God has promised us glory, and our faith trusts God's righteousness in keeping to His word, in hope of the fulfilment of which we wait for the coming day; “We through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” (Gal. 5:5.) And thus it is that “we are saved by hope” (Rom. 8:24); for the anticipation of the glory is a mighty and practical energizing power, amid the disheartening and trying incidents of the way. The believer is as a man who goes bravely on his journey, not occupied with the trials by the way, being stayed by the power of the hope of home's joys and welcome. The believer fears not lest he shall not reach his home, for to him, by grace, all is certain nor does he doubt the fact of his welcome at the end of his journey. But still, notwithstanding his assurance, he is not yet at home, and hence he hopes to be there, “for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” (Rom. 8:24.)
This hope effects within him a sympathy with God's mind in relation to the sorrows of creation. There is a longing in the groaning creation which the coming day will satisfy. There is a groaning, too, for that day, within the heart of him who has received the Earnest of the coming glory. The creature, in the captivity of its present sorrow, stretches out its neck, as it were, looking for the deliverance which shall be its portion in the day of the liberty of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:21)
The believer longs to be free from his vessel of sin and death, to be quit of its weight, and delivered from its weakness, and he waits for “the redemption of his body.” (v. 23.) The blood of Jesus has redeemed his soul, but the body of the believer, in common with the rest of this groaning creation, is under the power of weakness and sickness, and is still in the scene where Satan rules. His heart has found its home, but his body is still on earth, and a body of humiliation. But he will be changed. How soon he knows not. He looks forward to be clothed upon with his house which is from heaven, then he shall be fashioned like his glorious Lord, and, holy and without blame before God, his endless portion shall be the liberty of the glory of the children of God, liberty to be enjoyed in company with the companions and friends of his path below, and in the presence of Jesus, the eternal brightness of glory.