The Spirit’s Indispensability
By Fred O. Blakely
“They that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom. 8:8-9).
The personal indwelling of the individual by the Holy Spirit is God’s appointed seal, or mark, of sonship (Eph. 1:13-14). Thus, Paul tried the genuineness of the Ephesians’ relationship to God by inquiry concerning that seal. “Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?” he asked (Acts 19:2, ASV).
“Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore, thou art no more a [mere] servant, but a son; and if a son, an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:6-7; cf. ch. 3:13-14; Rom. 8:15-17).
The Father, it will be recalled, acknowledged Jesus of Nazareth as His only-begotten Son by conferring the Spirit without measure upon Him at His baptism (Jn. 1:29-34). So, to the extent that He has determined for us (Heb. 2:4), we, who receive the Son, obtain “the gift of the Holy Spirit” when, in unfeigned faith and genuine repentance, we are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38, ASV).
The indispensability of this enduement, as regards our enablement for conduct as God’s children, as well as authentic identification as such, is stressed by Scripture. The following considerations demonstrate that indispensability.
The Reception of Christ.The very fact that we are “given” to believe in Jesus as the Christ (Phil. 1:29) is due to the Spirit’s operation upon us. That is not to say that His influence is arbitrary and irresistible. It is certain, however, as Scripture makes clear, that it is very real, being wielded through the gospel. At Caesarea Philippi, Peter came to that conclusion—that Jesus is the Christ—by revelation of the Father, which was by the Spirit, our Lord declared (Mt. 16:16-17). Thus, Paul’s declaration, “No man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 12:3; ASV; cf. I Jn. 5:1). Faith, accordingly, is said to be a “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22). We need to recognize this ministry of the Spirit in conversion. Although we plant and water the kingdom seed, it is “God that giveth” the life and the increase from our labors (I Cor. 3:6-7). That is done by the Spirit.
The Son’s Glorification.A vital factor concerning the Spirit’s ministry very badly needs to be generally recognized today. It is that of His personal unassertiveness and unobtrusiveness. He does not “speak of Himself,” as Jesus declared (Jn. 16:13). In that characteristic, His ministry is notably different from those of the Father and the Son, both of whom proclaim Themselves (Isa. 45:22; Jn. 14:6). Today’s preacher of the Holy Spirit, thus, is both unscriptural and ungodly in his proclamation. Instead of Self-proclamation, the Holy Spirit preaches and glorifies Christ, as Jesus said it would be. When Christ is perceived in the glory and blessedness of His Person and ministry, it is by the Spirit. “Unto you therefore which believe, He [Christ] is precious,” says Peter (I Pet. 2:7). You perceive Him in the splendor of His divine Sonship, the complete efficacy of His Saviorhood, and His sovereignty over all the works of God’s hands, which has been given to Him (Jn. 13:2-3). In that apprehension of Christ, you have your sense of completeness in Him, as Paul observed (Col. 2:9-10). The Holy Spirit is the One who gave you that grasp of Jesus, arid the righteousness, peace, and joy that come from an adequate view of the Son and one’s personal union with Him.
The Exposition of Scripture.One of the means by which “the Spirit glorifies Christ is by taking of “the things” of His and showing, or making them plain, to those who receive the Spirit and yield themselves to His tutorship (Jn. 16:14). “All things that the Father hath are Mine,” Jesus declared (v. 15). Hence, the Spirit will lead His subjects into “all truth” (v. 13), instructing them in “the deep things of God” and His kingdom, as Paul says (I Cor. 2:9-12; cf. I Jn. 2:20, 27). Otherwise viewed, it is Christ Himself, functioning through the Holy Spirit, that expounds the Scriptures and the Father to those in whom He, by the Spirit, dwells. So we read that, following His resurrection, He “opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures” (Lk. 24:45: cf. vv. 27, 32).
That this ministry did not cease with our Lord’s pre-ascension fellowship with the disciples, but only began, is evident from His own anticipation of His post-ascension ministry. “In that day, ye shall ask Me nothing,” He said (Jn. 16:23). Prior to His resurrection, they were full of questions. Later, He would instruct them from within, causing them to “know all things’ pertaining to the kingdom, as John recognizes (I Jn. 2:20). “These things I have spoken unto you in proverbs [dark sayings]: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father,” He continued. That time was inducted with the Lord’s coming by the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, to indwell the Apostles and the church (cf. Jn. 14:15-18).
Therefore, as people today possess the Spirit, they may have this expository ministry of the enthroned Christ, if they are willing to hear what He has to say to them. From this circumstance, an inescapable conclusion is apparent. Ignorance of God and the Scriptures is inexcusable in those who claim to have the Holy Spirit. It is a manifestation of their quenching of the Spirit, or their resistance of Him in His revelative ministry.
The Life Godward. Spiritual life, or life unto God, is begotten and sustained by the Holy Spirit. It was by the Spirit that Christ was raised from the dead (Rom. 8:11). So are we also “born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:5-6, 8), and maintained in our life Godward by Him. He, accordingly, is called “the Spirit of life,” or, as is so with Christ, a “life-giving Spirit” (Rom. 8:2; I Cor. 15:45, ASV).
“If we live in the Spirit,” says Paul—and there is no other way to live, as God reckons life—”let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:24; cf. Rom. 8:14). “What then if ye should behold the Son of man ascending up where He was before? asked Jesus of the disciples before His death. “It is the spirit that giveth life; the ﬂesh profiteth nothing” (Jn. 6:62-63. ASV). Although it apparently is the human spirit that is here said to give life to the mortal body (cf. Jas. 2:26), it is certain that the Holy Spirit of God is contemplated in the Lord’s assertion. His reasoning is: Though He was to be physically absent from them (cf. II Cor. 5:6-7), He would return to them by the Spirit (cf. ch. 14:15-18; Eph. 3:14-19), and impart divine energy to their spirits—”strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16).
So Paul later wrote of this situation. “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 give life to your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:11). The allusion is not to the bodily resurrection at the Lord’s coming. The body of that occasion will be an immortal one, and will be distinguished from the mortal frame (I Cor. 15:37-38, 42-44). Clearly, the reference is to the energizing of the human spirit by the divine One, so enabling the Spirit’s possessor to do the will of God (cf. vv. 12-14; ch. 6:19-23).
It should be remembered that it is with the Holy Spirit and our spirit as it is with Christ and us. “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (I Cor. 6:17); “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20); “we are members of His body, of His ﬂesh and of His bones” (Eph. 3:30). That is to say, in Christ we are essentially identified with the Godhead—Father, Son, and Spirit (cf. Mt. 28:19, ASV). So are the required disciplines of this life to be achieved through the Spirit.” not by human willpower alone (Rom. 8:13, If ye live after the flesh. ye shall die: but if ye, through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” All the demanded mastery of the Adamlc nature and the evil world is to be achieved in the same way—”through the Spirit.” That includes the denying to oneself of “ungodliness and worldly lusts,” and the general perfection of holiness “in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1; Tit. 2:11-12).
Jesus said of Himself, “Without Me, ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). So also it is with the Spirit, by whom Christ dwells in us. That is why it is written, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom. 8:9). It is only by the indwelling Spirit that one is recognized by God as His child, and can live and walk acceptably to Him. In fact, absence of the Spirit denotes one’s personal unacceptance by God, since the Spirit’s bestowal is the Father’s seal, or mark, of one’s divine sonship (Gal. 4:6-7; Eph. 1:13-14). Lacking the Spirit, or “having not the Spirit,” as Jude would say (Jude 19), one is but a natural person-yet “in the flesh” (Rom. 8:8-9; cf. Heb. 11:6)—and so alienated from God.
The Indispensability to Worship. When it comes to the worship of God, possession of the Spirit is equally necessary. Those who seek to approach Him “in the flesh,” i.e., without faith, are attempting the impossible. That is because He has cut off flesh, as spiritually regarded. The reason we who are reconciled to God “know no man after the ﬂesh” (II Cor. 5:16) is because He does not do so. In that characteristic we partake of the Divine nature. The ﬂesh was cut off by “the circumcision of Christ,” by which the “new and living way” to God was opened for those who participate in that circumcision (Col. 2:10-13: Heb. 10:19-22).
Despite the disputation concerning it, that is the essential contemplation of Jesus in John 4:23-24. He there envisions the era of regeneration, when God is to be related to in spirit and in truth,” or in the worshiper’s spirit and in reality. That situation is opposed to the endeavor under law to relate to God while still in the ﬂesh, and so in a state of unregeneracy, or personal alienation from Him. Thus, Paul’s forceful statement of the case in Philippians 3:3, as he, too, contrasts new-covenant relation to God with that of the old-covenant dispensation. “We are the [acceptable] circumcision,” he says—those who have been circumcised with “the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11)——”who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (ASV). The KJV renders it, “which worship God in the spirit,” etc. Again, the contemplation thereby is that of the human spirit being energized by the divine Spirit, so as to enable it to acceptably approach and do homage to God. Hence, by either translation——or that of the RSV—the worship is rendered by the Holy Spirit.
Since prayer is integral to the worship of God, it is well to note that it also is offered by the Spirit, if it is to be received in heaven. “Praying in the Holy Spirit,” says Jude, we are to keep ourselves “in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 20-21, ASV; cf. v. 19). Thus, Paul said, “I will pray with the spirit,” as well as sing therewith (I Cor. 14:15)—i.e., with his spirit, as enlightened and enlivened by the Spirit of God.
The Logical Response. “What shall we, then, say to these things?” as Paul probably would ask (Rom. 8:31). The answer for those who are serious about their relation to God is obvious. Let us be certain that we possess and are led by the divine Spirit, in every aspect of our relation to God. He is the Spirit that ministers to us “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). Let us, therefore, yield implicitly to Him, that He may sanctify us wholly, and present us before the Father as well-pleasing and delightsome, in all our approaches and relations to Him.
The way of such infillment and direction by the Spirit is made plain by Scripture. It is that of hearing the Lord Jesus Christ, believing in Him, being baptized into Him, and then walking in “newness of life” with Him (Jn. 5:24; 14:15-18; Acts 2:38; 5:32; Rom. 6:4). Peter epitomized the situation well by saying the Holy Spirit is given by God “to them that obey Him” (Acts 5:32). The Spirit has been “poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,” declares Paul (Tit. 3:6, RSV), so is fully available, in all His several functions for today, to those who will meet the conditions for His possession. Let us, therefore, as we are urged to do, “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18), and please and glorify God by that infillment.