The Spirit Controlled Life
Basic Studies in Christian Living for Young Believers, #4
Their hearts were troubled! Their best Friend was about to leave them. For three memorable years, He had been their constant Companion and Guide. They had of times listened spellbound as He, the greatest Teacher of all times, explained sublime truths of Heaven in simple terms of earth. On several occasions, He had forewarned them of His cruel death at the instigation of their fellows — but they had not apparently understood. Now the realization of His impending departure was beginning to dawn upon them and their hearts were “filled with sorrow.” To comfort them on the eve of His anguish, He spoke words that have been a priceless heritage to His followers of all centuries, recorded by John in the 14th., 15th., and 16th. chapters of his Gospel. What comfort, peace and joy countless troubled hearts have found in this sweet portion! How precious the promises contained therein! “I will come again,” our Blessed Lord has assured us (Ch. 14:3). Nineteen centuries have passed and still, with eager anticipation, we look for Him. But He has fulfilled another promise: “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter.” Another coming — a prospect for the future! Another Comforter — a provision for the present! In the interval between His two comings, the Holy Spirit has come, not only as Comforter, but as Constant Companion (Ch. 14:16), Guide (Ch. 16:13), and Teacher (Ch. 14:26) — just as the Lord had been. And not only is He with us — and “for ever” (Ch. 14:16); He is in us (v. 17). What potential is here for the life of every believer! What a source of power and blessing! What possibilities for service and witness!
1. Passages for Special Study
A. Romans 8:1-18, 26, 27. The Spirit of God is more frequently mentioned in this chapter than in any other in the Bible — and this is especially noteworthy in view of the fact that the seven preceding chapters contain only one reference to Him (Ch. 5:5). The contrast between chapters 7 and 8 is obvious to the most superficial reader. Chapter 7 clearly portrays a defeated and perplexed Christian who ultimately cries out in despair, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?” In chapter 8, he has found the secret of deliverance and in joyful triumph exclaims, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free.” The recurring “I” of chapter 7 (27 times from verses 14 to 25) is replaced by “the Spirit” in chapter 8 (15 times in the first 16 verses) — indicating that the secret of power, victory and blessing in the Christian’s life is to allow the Spirit to take the place of self and control the life. In our study of this portion, we should note the Holy Spirit’s dwelling in us (v.9), His witness to us (v. 16), His control of us — our walk (v. 4), mind (vv.5,6), life and actions (vv. 1214), — and His intercession for us (vv.26,27). Notice carefully the prepositions used in connection with the Holy Spirit — “walk after the Spirit” (v.4) — i.e. dominated, controlled by Him; “in the Spirit” (v.9) — i.e. in the sphere of the Spirit (true of all believers as the verse goes on to explain); “through the Spirit” (v. 13) —i.e. by His power; and “led by the Spirit” (v.14). Finally we should consider the emphasis on the contrasting influences in our lives — the flesh and the Spirit. The believer has two natures which are in opposition to one another: we are all indwelt by the Spirit of God, but we still have the flesh within us—the old sinful nature which controls the unregenerate person. Whether we live a victorious life which is pleasing to God or a defeated life will depend on whether our walk (v.4), our mind (v.5), and our actions are controlled by the Spirit or by the flesh.
B. Galatians 5:16-25. The conflict (v.17) and the contrast (vv. 19-23) between the two natures of the believer are the theme of this passage also. A continual battle rages in everyone of us; the flesh endeavouring to prevent us following the leading of the Spirit, and the Spirit empowering us to overcome the lusts of the flesh. The result of this struggle will be determined by whether we yield to one or the other. If we allow our lives to be dominated by the old nature, “the works of the flesh” will be manifest (vv. 19-21). If, however, we are led by the Spirit and guide our steps by His direction, we shall not only experience deliverance from the desires of the flesh (v. 16) and its works; our character will be transformed and the spiritual graces displayed to perfection by our Lord will be produced as the “fruit of the Spirit” in our lives (vv. 22,23). The law cannot condemn anyone who is thus led by the Spirit (v.18) and manifests this fruit (v. 23). Indeed, as Romans 8:4 states, the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled by those whose walk is controlled by the Spirit. In view of this, let us heed the concluding exhortation of v.25: “If the Spirit is the source of our life, let the Spirit also direct our course” (N.E.B.).
2. Suggested Outline of Study
A. Some Basic Facts about the Holy Spirit should be noted as a prerequisite to any consideration of His purpose and place in our lives. (i) He is a Person, not merely an influence. Our Lord’s references to Him in John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:13-15, and many other scriptural statements about Him are only applicable to One who has personality. (ii) He is divine. As proofs of His Diety, study His association with the Father and Son in the benediction (2 Cor. 13:14), the baptismal formula (Matt. 28:19), and the provision of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4-6); His divine attributes e.g. eternity, (Heb. 9:14), omniscience (1 Cor. 2:11); and His work in creation (Gen. 1:2), resurrection (Rom. 8:11), and regeneration (John 3:5). (iii) He indwells every believer (Rom. 8:9).
B. The purposes of the Holy Spirit in our lives are manifold and include the following: (i) To glorify Christ and to reveal Him to us (John 16:14, 15) is His primary purpose and underlies all others. (ii) to teach us—“all things” (John 14:26; 1 John 2:20, 27, where the “unction” and the “anointing” — same word — are references to the Holy Spirit, often in Scriptures typified by oil); “all truth” (John 16:13); “the things of God” (1 Cor. 2:9-16). He is the perfect Teacher, but His instruction will only be effective if we are apt pupils willing to learn in His school and study under His direction, using His textbook, the Holy Scriptures. (iii) To produce in us Christian — Christ-like —character (Ga1.5:22, 23). This is not “automatic” — as is evident from the un-Christlike lives of so many of us. But if we are willing to be guided by Him as He reveals Christ to us in His Word and so behold “the glory of the Lord,” He, the Lord, the Spirit, will transform us into His likeness (2 Cor. 3:18). (iv) To empower us — Acts 1:8; Eph. 3:16) —to overcome sin (Gal. 5:16), to live righteously (Rom. 8:4) and to witness effectively (John 15:26, 27; Acts 1:8; 4:31, 33 etc.). This power is at the disposal of each of us, ready to be harnessed in our lives as we live in obedience to and dependence upon the Spirit who dwells in us. For example, we can all be good witnesses if we take advantage of opportunities He affords us and trust in Him for power to use them. (v) To lead and guide our lives (John 16:13; Acts 13:4; 16:6, 7; Rom. 8:14), our walk (Gal. 5:25), our worship (Phil. 3:3) and our prayer (Rom. 8:26, 27). Indeed, at every moment, and in every phase of our lives, He is willing to be our unfailing, unerring Guide, if we are willing to submit (1 Cor. 12:3-11). God has appointed a sphere in which each of us can serve Him in association with others in a local church. As every member of our bodies has been specially adapted anatomically for the specific functions it performs so we, members of the Body of Christ, have been given gifts by the Spirit to enable us to engage in this divinely appointed service. It is our responsibility to discover the gifts that we have been given, to train and develop them, and to use them under the Spirit’s direction and in cooperation with other members, for the glory of God and the profit of all.
C. The Control of our lives by the Spirit. We cannot read the Acts of the Apostles without being impressed by the fact that these “acts” were really the acts of the Holy Spirit performed through men who were “filled with the Holy Ghost” (e.g. 2:4; 4:31; 6:3 etc.). If our lives are to be as fruitful as theirs, we too require to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). This exhortation is given at the beginning of the section of Ephesians dealing with the believers’ relationship in the church (Ch. 5:19- 21), in the home (5:22 - 6:4), and at work (6:5-9), suggesting that the filling of the Spirit is essential for right Christian living in these spheres. What does it mean to be “filled with the Spirit?” It asuredly does not mean that we can have more of Him — but He can have more of us! He should have free access to and complete control of every department of our lives — no room should be barred to Him. To be filled with the Spirit we must be emptied of self and of anything that hinders His working through us. All of us possess the Spirit: only when He possesses us, are we really “filled with the Spirit.” A Spirit-filled Christian will constantly “walk in” or “after the Spirit,” and be “led by the Spirit,” phrases which, as we have seen, indicate His control and direction of our lives.
On the negative side, we can hinder the Spirit’s work in us, and so we are exhorted to “grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” (Eph. 4:30) and to “quench not the Spirit” (1 Thess.5: 19). If we allow untruthfulness, theft, unwholesome language, bitterness, anger, wrath, quarrelling, slander and malice (Eph. 4:25-31), our lives will certainly cause grief to Him who is the Holy Spirit. We quench Him when we stifle His leading in our lives, or when we suppress His promptings in the service and gatherings of the church.