Belonging to Jesus and Life in the Spirit

by Mike Ratliff

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 ESV)

Liberal theology makes an idol of God’s grace. It claims that God’s grace trumps His wrath, His judgment, His holiness, and His righteousness. Some of its proponents go so far as to separate our Lord Jesus Christ from God as He is revealed in the Old Testament. The New Evangelism and the emergents have bought into these errors in a big way. Combine this with very “cool” preachers, such as Rob Bell, who are somewhat intellectual in how they write and preach and you have a combination of sorts that is particularly attractive to the younger generation. Of course, those who believe like this are most certainly not limited to just the young. In any case, of what does the genuine Christian life in the Spirit consist? What does it mean that Christians belong to the Lord Jesus? 

The following prayer is from The Valley of Vision A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions. Edited by Arthur Bennett.

Belonging to Jesus

O Heavenly Father,

Teach me to see that if Christ has pacified thee and satisfied divine justice he can also deliver me from my sins; that Christ does not desire me, now justified, to live in self-confidence in my own strength, but gives me the law of the Spirit of life to enable me to obey thee; that the Spirit and his power are mine by resting on Christ’s death; that the Spirit of life within answers to the law without; that if I sin not I should thank thee for it; that if I sin I should be humbled daily under it; that I should mourn for sin more than other men do, for when I see I shall die because of sin,makes me mourn; when I see how sin strikes at thee, that makes me mourn; when I see that sin caused Christ’s death, that makes me mourn; that sanctification is the evidence of reconciliation, proving that faith has truly apprehended Christ;

Thou hast taught me that faith is nothing else than receiving thy kindness; that it is an adherence to Christ, a resting on him, love clinging to him as a branch to the tree, to seek life and vigour from him.

I thank thee for showing me the vast difference between knowing things by reason, and knowing them by the spirit of faith.

By reason I see a thing is so; by faith I know it as it is.

I have seen thee by reason and have not been amazed, I have seen thee as thou art in thy Son and have been ravished to behold thee. I bless thee that I am thine in my Saviour, Jesus.

The regenerate heart is vastly different from that of the natural man. The writer of that prayer knew that as did the Apostle Paul. The heart of the natural man sees things through a filter of human reason and an intellect that is marred by the fall being dominated by the flesh. On the other hand, the regenerate heart is the work of God. It sees things through eyes of faith.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-3 ESV)

What is this condemnation (κατακριμα) Paul speaks of in v1? This word means, “to divide, separate, judge.” Also, with the suffix “μα” it makes it refer to the result of judgment. Therefore, Paul is referring to both the judgment and the punishment of it. The context tells us that those who are not in Christ Jesus are the ones for whom this condemnation is already set. Those who are in Christ Jesus are free from this κατακριμα (katakrima). This should make all of us who are in Him rejoice and fall to our knees before the throne of grace in gratitude. Those in Christ have been set free from the law of sin and death by the law of the Spirit of Life. What does this mean? In Romans 7:7-25 Paul tells us that the law of God, which is the law of the Spirit of Life, has its own operative power to deliver the believer from the law of sin and death which exists because our sin has taken God’s law and by our guilt has produced death.

God sent His son to do what the law could not do. Jesus Christ, came to Earth as a man, but without sin. However, God placed the sin of the elect and condemned it in order to make atonement for them. This enable the righteous requirement of the law to be fulfilled in the elect. These, who are in Christ, walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. What does this mean? Does this mean that those in Christ must walk through their life in sinless perfection? Remember what we discussed earlier. Those in Christ have been freed from all condemnation. All their sins, past, present, and future were atoned for by the sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the Cross. Does this mean then that Christians can sin pursue the ways and means of the world and live in the flesh like a pagan and have no worry about their eternal standing before God?

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8 ESV)

In v5 Paul tells us that those who are not in Christ, those who walk according to the flesh, set their minds on the things of the flesh. However, those who are in Christ, those who walk according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Christians are not perfect. That is impossible in these bodies of death, however, those truly in Christ can never be at peace with the acts of the flesh dominating them. They will hate their sin and seek deliverance and freedom from the flesh’s domination of them. Yes, Christians can become enslaved to their flesh, but they will never be at peace in that. On the other hand, those not in Christ are in the flesh and that is all they have. Their minds are on the things of the flesh. When a believer finds that place of deliverance from the sins that cling so close, the full extent of life in the Spirit, which is life and peace, becomes apparent to them. They realize that God is on their side and seeks to use the sin they struggle with to humble them and sanctify them. It is through our struggle with sin that God teaches us how helpless we are against our own flesh and temptations when we are not humbly submitted to His Lordship. Let us never forget that those professing Christians who are demanding that the Church compromise by accepting homosexuality as a God-ordained thing and same-sex marriage as perfectly fine with Him have their minds set on the flesh, which is hostile to God. They are not submitted to His law. They are still in their sins.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:9-11 ESV)

In these 3 verses we see clearly the difference from the regenerate Christian and those in the flesh. Genuine believers are in the Spirit. The Spirit dwells in them, but He does not dwell in unbelievers. Those who have not the Holy Spirit have their minds set on the things of the flesh and are hostile to God and His ways. However, the genuine believer does have the Spirit and is at peace with Him. Here also we see that the genuine believer is promised perseverance and eternity in resurrected bodies through God’s Spirit who dwells in them. This is not a promise for those who are still in their sins for they are still under κατακριμα.

Soli Deo Gloria!

5 thoughts on “Belonging to Jesus and Life in the Spirit

  1. “Liberal theology makes an idol of God’s grace”. That line is priceless because it is so true. I really get weary of the idolatrous “all grace no holiness or just God.” A grace only God is simply a God of our ouw definition.

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  2. So much to distract us from Christ. How important it is to keep ourselves focused on Jesus and not what others are doing.
    Bless you Mike, and may our Lord encourage you today.

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