The Holy Spirit
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira

4 – The Spirit in the Believer

Romans 8:9-17:

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.  But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation — but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

In this chapter we will deal with the Holy Spirit’s work to make real in our experience what is already ours in Jesus Christ.  He is to communicate the life of Jesus Christ in and through us, that the world may see Christ in us and realize that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

The answer to the question of how He does it is as we walk in the Spirit.  Here is where there is a difference between salvation in Jesus Christ and Christian living.  Salvation is entirely the work of God, with no contribution on our part.  All we do is simply put up our hands and say, “Thank you, God, for this wonderful gift of salvation.”  But when it comes to Christian living, that does involve my cooperation.  It doesn’t take place automatically.  If it did, it would make less headaches for us, but it doesn’t.

There are wonderful breadmaking machines which automatically make your bread.  All you do is put the ingredients in and press a button that says “Start.”  There is a computer that does everything automatically.  But that doesn’t work with the Spirit.  We can’t just simply press a button and say, “Holy Spirit, do your job,” because God created us to work with Him, to be partners with Him in the plan of salvation when it comes to Christian living.  When we are talking about salvation, it’s a free gift.  When we are talking about Christian living, it involves our cooperation.  But Christian living is not the gospel; it is the fruits of the gospel and we must not confuse the two.

To understand walking in the Spirit, first of all we must make it clear that a Christian is capable not of one, but of two walks because, when we accept Christ, no change takes place in our human nature.  It is exactly as it was before our conversion.  But through the new birth experience, we have become partakers of the Divine Nature and, therefore, it is possible for born-again Christians to walk either in the flesh or in the Spirit.  When the Bible talks about a “carnal” Christian — a Christian who’s walking in the flesh —the word “carnal” is never used in the New Testament for the unbeliever.  It uses the word “natural” for the unbeliever.

We have three kinds of people in the Bible:  the natural man, the carnal Christian, and the spiritual Christian.  The natural man is the unbeliever.  The carnal Christian and the spiritual Christian are both born-again Christians, but they are walking two different ways:  in the flesh or in the Spirit.

To answer the question of what it means to walk in the flesh or to walk in the Spirit, we will look at what God has intended should take place in the life of the believer.  In Romans 8:3, we see that the good news of the gospel is that Jesus has condemned the law of sin on the cross but the reason why is in verse 4.  Here are both verses:

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us [but there is a condition], who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

We do not fulfil the law by screwing up our willpower and by promising ourselves to be good.  We experience the righteousness of Christ as we walk in the Spirit.  It is His job to reproduce in us the character of Christ, not our job.  But our part in Christian living is to walk in the Spirit.  Now we still have not answered the question, “What does it mean to walk in the flesh and walk in the Spirit?”

First, we need to know what the “flesh” is.  When the Bible uses the word “flesh” in the New Testament, it primarily refers to man’s human nature as it is in its fallen condition.  The word flesh was never used for Adam before the fall.  What is fallen human nature like?  When God created Adam and Eve, He placed in their human nature certain drives, appetite, sex, feelings — all these were God-given.  But when Adam sinned, something took place.  Before he sinned, these drives were controlled by the love that God had instilled in Adam’s nature.  Love was controlling him, so that none of these drives went haywire; they were under control.  But the moment Adam sinned, the love disappeared and selfishness took its place.  The selfless love that he had made a U-turn towards self and these natural drives that God had created in mankind became lusts.  They went out of control.

So walking in the flesh simply means allowing those out-of-control drives to be under the control of the Holy Spirit.  A Christian who is dominated or controlled by his nature, by his feelings, by his various drives, is walking in the flesh.  The New Testament puts those drives into three categories.  They are found in 1 John 2.  These are the three basic drives that control the carnal Christian and they also control the natural man.  But the difference is that the natural man does not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in Him, whereas the carnal Christian does and, therefore, should be walking in a different way than he is.  1 John 2:15 states:

Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

In other words, he’s not demonstrating the love of God.  In verse 16, he explains what he means by the love of the world:

For everything in the world [these are the three basic drives] — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world.

“The cravings of sinful man” — in some translations, “the lust of the flesh” — are those inward drives.  “The lust of the eyes” means what we see, we want.  That’s why I detest window shopping.  I don’t even like to look at catalogues because they put in me desires of wanting something I did not know of before.  And then there’s “the boasting of what he has and does” (“the pride of life,” in some translations).  We always want to be number one.  Human nature is always trying to ascend, whether it’s economically, politically, academically; we’re always trying to rise up as number one.  To walk in the flesh is to allow the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life to control us so that, when people see us, they do not see Christ in us; they see us as if we were no different from the people who are unconverted.  This was the problem with the Corinthian Christians.  In 1 Corinthians, we see that a carnal Christian is a born-again Christian, but he’s a disgrace to Jesus Christ.

Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians approximately 10 years after he had converted the Corinthians.  He was the one who evangelized the Corinthian church and now, 10 years later he’s writing this letter and, in chapter three, he’s rebuking them.  But, first of all, notice verse 16.  He’s talking to born again, regenerated Christians:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?

These are born-again Christians.  In verses 1-3 we see their problem:

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly [notice the two groups and how he defines the word “worldly” or “carnal”] — mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready.  You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere men?

They are born-again Christians but they are babies in Christ.  Now there is no problem in verse one, because it is dealing with the time when Paul was first in Corinth:

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly — mere infants in Christ.

In other words, “When I first came to you, I had to treat you as babies in Christ.”  There is no problem there.  The problem is verse two:

I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready.

It’s one thing to change baby diapers at the age of three months; it’s another thing when you have to change diapers at the age of 10 years.  That’s the problem.  There was no spiritual growth in the Corinthian church.  They may have grown numerically, but spiritually they were still carnal.

The evidence of carnality is found in verse 3:

You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere men?

In other words, the behavior of a carnal Christian is no different than the behavior of the natural man:  envy, division, strife, writing nasty letters without putting your name on it.  That’s carnality; that’s not Christianity, because the Bible says if you disagree with someone, go and see him.  Don’t write letters without signing them.  We need to be able to face each other and say, “Can we sit down?  I disagree with what this church has done — brought in a man who has done terrible things.”  We learn to sit down and discuss.

When we have carnality or worldliness, there is no unity in the church.  There is division, there is strife, and the name of Jesus Christ is brought down.  It doesn’t matter how much truth we have, if we are walking in the flesh, we are no longer attractive to outsiders.  There is nothing they want to come for.  The day we learn to walk in the Spirit, there will be love; there will be unity.  We may not agree in everything, but we’ll sit down like Christians and talk together and discuss, because it is not a theory that will convince the world.

A famous pagan philosopher, who was the son of a Lutheran Pastor and who became an atheist, made the statement, “If you expect me to believe in your God, you Christians, you will have to look a lot more redeemed.”  When he saw some of the top theologians of Germany giving permission to Hitler to wipe out the Jews, he said, “This is not Christianity.  I don’t want any of it.”  And when they see gossiping and fighting and jealousy in our midst, then we are no longer one body, we are divided, there is division.  The church is one body but we can’t produce unity by promotional programs.  We need to walk in the Spirit.

To walk in the Spirit means that we allow the Holy Spirit to control us.  For us to realize that, we need to understand the human makeup and how God works in us.  It is important that we know how we are made by God and how we are to function.  A mechanic can’t fix a car unless he knows how it works.  A doctor can’t heal us unless he knows how the human body works.  A psychiatrist cannot help us unless he knows how the human mind works.  Christians cannot walk in the Spirit unless they know how they were made and how they are to function.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Paul tells us what God’s purpose is, and what is involved in that purpose:

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through [completely, entirely; now he explains what he means by “through and through”].  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When we look at man as a spiritual person, there are three elements:  spirit, soul, and body.  These three are very much in harmony with the sanctuary.  The sanctuary revealed how God would redeem us in the humanity of Christ.  In John 1:14a we read that,

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

In Hebrews 10:5, we read that God gave Christ a body in which to perform the will of God which is our salvation:

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:  “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;....”

And just as we are made of three elements, so was the sanctuary.  It had a Courtyard, it was exposed to everybody, you could walk into the courtyard.  It had a Holy Place, where the priest functioned daily and got instructions from God through the Urim and Thummim, and there was the Most Holy Place, which was the dwelling place of God.

The spirit of man is where God dwells.  The Holy Spirit dwells in our spirit.  The mind — the soul, the seat of the will — is like the Holy Place, where it gets directions and makes decisions.  The body is like the Courtyard, visible to all.  Remember that there was no back door in the Most Holy Place.  God could not enter the Courtyard through the priest.  He could not enter the Courtyard through the back door.  He had to go through the Holy Place, which is representing the human will.

Let us look at some texts to show that man has three parts.  Zechariah 12:1 says that God formed the spirit in man:

This is the word of the Lord concerning Israel.  The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him, declares....

It is God who created the spirit.  This is what makes us different from animals.  Animals have a soul and they have a body.  But human beings have something additional.  We are not only physical beings, we are not only social beings, we are also spiritual beings.  We have a spirit.  That is why, even in the most primitive societies, anthropologists have discovered, man is trying to worship something.  It may be a stone; it may be some image, but he’s always worshipping.  Even in humanism, even in Communism, there is a worship, the worship of self.

Let us read 1 Corinthians 2:11 and hear what Paul says:

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?  In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

Man knows what is in him, God knows what is in Him.  That’s why Paul goes on to say in this passage that we can only understand God’s mind when the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth, because He knows what is of God.

Now this spirit in man must not be confused with the Holy Spirit.  Romans 8:16 tells us about that where the word “spirit” appears twice in this verse:

The Spirit [capital S, meaning the Holy Spirit Himself] himself testifies with our spirit [the human spirit] that we are God’s children.

The human spirit is primarily our conscience.  It is in our spirit that the Holy Spirit convicts us of what is right, what is wrong, which way to go, what is truth, what is error.  It is in our conscience that He does that.

Now the “soul” is a word that refers to the life principle in man and which makes us what we are.  That is why the word “soul” is often translated in the New Testament by the word “person.”  For example, in Acts 2:41 it says that the church added to itself 3,000 persons:

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that day.

The Greek word is “soul.”  The same is found in Acts 7:14:

After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, 75 [“souls”] in all.

In Romans 13:1 Paul is saying to Christians,

Everyone [every “soul”] must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.

The word “soul” here means let every person surrender his will to do what is right, as outlined by the government:  pay your tax; obey the speed limit, and so on.

In Mark 14:34a Jesus said:

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.

He simply means, “I am very sorrowful.”  So the word “soul” is translated by the personal pronoun.

Let’s study about the body.  It is the instrument which performs that which the will decides.  In other words, the body is the instrument that gives expression to the decisions of the will.  What I decide, my body fulfills.  So if my mind says, “I want ice cream,” the mind will say to the body, “Go to the fridge and get it.”  And my body says, “Yes, sir.”  But I can’t blame the body; the body is a slave to the will.  It does what the will says.  It’s an instrument.  A breadmaking machine is a slave to me.  I press a button, and I decide whether I want French bread or whole wheat bread, and I have another button to decide when I start.  I have another button which decides when I want the bread to be ready.  So if I want to get up at six in the morning and have the smell of fresh, baked bread — which is not good for you, but which smells good and tastes good — I press a button and get the time I want.  Wonderful machine!  What the will decides, the body says, “Yes, sir.”

Now the problem is if you try to lead the Christian life simply by using the will, you will experience Romans 7, and you will say [verses 15-25],

I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work:  When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

The reason is that, in sinful man, the flesh is stronger than the will, because Romans 7 tells us that in our human body, our human nature, in our members, we have a law, which he calls the law of sin, which is in my members.  Whereas the human will is not a law.  It’s a force, yes, but not a law.  The word “law” means a constant, unending force.  The mind is a force but it is changeable, it fluctuates.  I can be strong in the will today; I can be weak tomorrow.  I can choose one thing today, and I can choose another thing tomorrow.  It’s a human problem.  The mind is changeable.  It’s weak sometimes; it’s strong at other times.

It is possible by using my will to defy the law of sin, but never to conquer it.  There are times when I can keep that flesh under control for a season, but never permanently.  That’s our problem, and the moment you try to live the Christian life by willpower you will end up in a Romans 7 experience.  The trouble is that those who have very strong will power have more success.  They have strong controlling wills, each one saying, “This is how it must be done!”

But the Christian walk is not using your will power to control the body.  It is surrendering the will to the Spirit Who dwells in you and letting Him control you.  In Romans 8:2, notice that the word law appears twice there:

...because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Notice that only in Christ is the law of sin dealt with.  God deal with it by the law of the Spirit and that same Spirit that was dwelling in Christ is now dwelling here in us!  As we walk as Christ walked, as we allow the Holy Spirit to control us, then only can the Holy Spirit reproduce in us the life of Christ.

It is important to know the context of Galatians 5.  Paul is saying to the Galatians, “Don’t go back to legalism; don’t go back and try to save yourself by willpower.  You are free in Christ.  Then in verses 13 and 14 he says:

You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.  The entire law is summed up in a single command:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Don’t use that freedom to enjoy sin.  God set you free.  There is no more condemnation for you.  But please, don’t use that freedom to enjoy the lusts of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life but by love serve one another.  If you allow yourselves to walk in the flesh, you will bite and devour one another.  Take heed that you do not consume one another” (verse 15):

If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

If we walk in the flesh, we will end up fighting like cats and dogs.

This is his counsel in verse 16:

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Every Christian has two forces in him or her, two drives, two natures:  the fleshly nature and the spiritual nature.  Paul says in verse 17 that these two natures can never be partners.  They are enemies, they contradict each other:

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Many Christians have failed to understand this text, because they read verse 17 without reading verse 16 and I can guarantee you, if you read verse 17 without reading verse 16, you will misinterpret verse 17.  When we read verse 17, it seems to say that we cannot do what we want and what we want to do is God’s will, but Paul is not saying that.  He is saying that if we walk in the Spirit, sinful drives will still be in us but we will not do it; we will not obey the flesh because we are walking in the Spirit and what we will not do is what the flesh desires.  But if we read verse 17 without verse 16, it seems that we will not do what the Spirit desires but what the flesh desires because the flesh cannot do what the Spirit desires.  But Paul is saying, “If you walk in the Spirit, you will keep the flesh subdued, you will keep it down.”

Now look at verse 18:

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

Paul is saying to be under law means that we have to live the good life in our own power.  The law comes to us and says, “I want you to obey me.”  But if we walk in the Spirit, we are not under that system, we are under grace, and under grace, we let the Spirit walk in us.

Then, in verses 19 to 21, Paul explains what the flesh produces and all will agree with me that what the flesh produces is what we don’t want:

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious:  sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But when we allow the Spirit to control us, then we produce the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26):

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

When Paul talks about the Spirit, he uses the word “fruit,” because the Spirit does the work; we bear the fruit.  And the fruit is joy, love, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, no backbiting, no fighting, no accusing each other.  But we can’t do it by promoting, we can’t do it; by bribery, by incentives.  We do it as we walk in the Spirit.

There is a warning that should be given.  When we allow the Spirit to walk in us, to control us, it does mean depriving the flesh of its desires and the result is suffering.  When a person is deprived of something he wants, it does mean suffering.  The flesh is always trying to find a way to get what it wants.  There are two natures in us, both wanting to control the mind, which is the battleground.  The flesh says, “I want my will.”  The Spirit says, “No.  I want my will.”  If your will says “yes” to the flesh, you are grieving the Spirit.  If your will says “yes” to the Spirit, you’re depriving the flesh of what it wants and it gets angry at you.  There’s no way out.  It involves suffering.

In Hebrews 2, Christ is not asking us to endure anything that He did not go through.  Verse 18:

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

When Christ was tempted, He suffered because He allowed the Spirit to control Him.  So the Spirit said “No!” to the flesh and so His flesh was deprived of what it wanted.  The worst time was in Gethsemane.  Three times His flesh cried to the Father, “Father, if it is possible, remove the cup,” because nobody wants to die, especially the second death.  The Spirit said, “No!” and Jesus responded, “Not My will, but Thy will be done,” and He suffered in the flesh.

Hebrews 4:15 tells us that He was tempted in all points like us:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.

He was tempted daily, hourly, every minute to take hold of His Divine power and use it for His own benefit and He said, “No!”  Whatever He did, He did through the Spirit, so He could say, “The works that I do, it is not I, but God who dwells in Me through the Spirit, He is the One who did the works in Me.”  John 14:10:

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you are not just my own.  Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

Then 1 Peter 4:1 tells us where He suffered:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.

The attitude or mind of Christ is a mind that is totally surrendered to the Spirit.  It is possible for us to cease from sin not by willpower but by walking in the Spirit.

In Christ, two opposite forces met:  the flesh, which He assumed at the incarnation, and the Spirit, which dwelt in Him.  Both of them are a law:  the law of the flesh and the law of the Spirit, two constant forces, opposite forces which met in Jesus Christ.  Jesus walked in the Spirit.  In Luke 4:14, referring to the temptations of Christ, it says that He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit:

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.

We will find that the Spirit, because He was given free reign in the life of Christ, conquered, subdued, overcame the flesh, and proved to the human race that the law of the Spirit is greater, stronger than the law of sin in my body.

And that same Spirit, therefore, the same law of the Spirit, is dwelling in us, and when we allow that Spirit to control us, we will live above sin.  The Bible says so.  It doesn’t say, “If you walk in the Spirit, you may not fulfill all of the desires of the flesh” or “some of the desires of the flesh.”  It says, “You will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.”  Romans 13:14 says:

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

We have a God that is far greater than the law of sin that is in our members.  We can believe that because the Bible says so.  The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us as we walk in the Spirit and when the Bible says “the righteousness of the law,” it doesn’t mean people who are mechanically keeping rules — that is legalism — but people who are manifesting the love of Christ because love is the fulfillment of the law.

When the earth sees such a people, when the earth is filled with the glory of Jesus Christ, then the world, even the scientific world, will have to confess that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  There will be no more excuse for rejecting Jesus Christ.

It is my prayer that you will be willing to suffer in the flesh, to deny self, to take up your cross and surrender your will to Jesus Christ.  That is the right action of the will.  It is to surrender the will daily to Jesus Christ and the only way you can do that is by walking constantly, keeping your mind in constant contact with God.  Two ways:  by communicating with Him in your thoughts and by letting Him communicate with you through the study of the Bible.


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