The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But 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.
At the beginning of verse nine the issue is: What´s different about you? What sets you apart from the people of verses 7-8? These are the two great groupings of human beings that Paul is dealing with. Verses 7 and 8 describe what we are like as merely human – what he calls being "in the flesh" (v. 8), or having the "mindset of the flesh" (v. 7). And he says that what distinguishes us when we are "in the flesh," (cf. 7:5) or when we have the "mindset of the flesh," is three things, or one thing said three ways: 1) Verse 7a: that we are hostile and insubordinate to God; 2) Verse 7b: that we cannot submit to God´s law – that´s how deep our corruption and our rebellion are; 3) Verse 8: We cannot please God. That is our condition and our plight and our identity when we are in the flesh – merely human (cf. John 3:6)
What´s Different about You?
Now at the beginning of verse 9 the issue is: What´s different about you? The verse begins, "But you . . ." So there is a group of people who are different from those described in verses 7 and 8. These are true Christians. So here we learn what it means to be a true Christian. And oh what a difference it makes to be such a Christian! Would that the world knew what this says!
So if you wonder what a Christian is, listen carefully to the Word of God. It is not the family you grow up in. It is not whether you were baptized or confirmed. It is not whether you have been to Christian schools. It is not what church you go to or what denomination you belong to. What is it? What makes you different, if you are a Christian the way Paul describes it here?
How Christians Are Similar to and Dissimilar from Those in the Flesh
If we take just verses 9-11, Paul describes five ways that you are unlike the rest of the world (those who are "in the flesh"), and one way that you are like the rest of the world. Let´s take these one at a time. And, Christian, learn here who you are and whose you are. This is no small thing. These are breathtaking truths about yourselves that you are about to hear. Ask God to help you feel the wonder of these things, so your life will show them more.
And, non-Christian, listen well and you may become a Christian, because these things I am about describe come true for us by faith, and faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). I pray that God may bring you gently and reasonably and freely to see and welcome and embrace Christ through his Word.
1. The Spirit Dwells in You
First, you, Christian, are different because "the Spirit of God dwells in you." Look right in the middle of verse 9 to see this (and there is a reason why I start in the middle): "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you." This is the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. It is not merely a matter different ideas. It is the very presence of the Spirit of God dwelling in us.
The word "dwell" is important. It´s more than "be there," like you might be in a bus station or in a train or in a car or in a store. "Dwell" (oikeM) comes from the word "house" (oikos). And so the implication is that the Spirit of God is not present in you as if you were a stopover. He has taken up residence here. This is where he lives. This is his home. The implication is nearness and familiarity and influence. If someone makes your house their home, they will be near you a lot. They will become familiar with you and you with them. And they will have an influence on you and the way you live. Know this about yourselves, Christians: the Spirit of God dwells – makes his home – in you. If you are not becoming very familiar with him, and communing with him, and being influenced by him, something is profoundly wrong. Don´t ignore him or grieve him or resist him. What better Christmas gift could the risen Christ give you than the Spirit of God to dwell in you?
Paul describes this first distinguishing thing about Christians in two other ways: He says, next in verse 9, "you have the Spirit of Christ." And then, at the beginning of verse 10 he says, "Christ is in you." So the first distinguishing thing about being Christian different from those who are "in the flesh" is that we are "inhabited" people. And he says it three ways: 1) "the Spirit of God dwells in you" (v. 9b); 2) "you have the Spirit of Christ" (v. 9c); 3) "Christ is in you" (v. 10a).
The change in names here is full of treasures. "Spirit of God," "Spirit of Christ," "Christ" – all of them referring essentially to the same presence. The Spirit is equally the Spirit of God the Father and the Spirit of God the Son, Jesus Christ. And the Spirit communicates so much of Christ that it is fitting to say Christ himself is present in you.
Listen to the way Jesus said it while he was still on earth. John 14:16-18, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; (17) that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (18) I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."
Do you see what he says? Verse 16: He will send the "Helper," the "Spirit of truth." Then he suggests (in v. 17b) that this Spirit is one with himself: "He abides with you and will be in you." In other words: I am with you now. But I will be in you after I return to my Father and send the Spirit of truth. Then (in v. 18) he speaks explicitly about himself: "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."
So for Jesus and Paul the Spirit of God – the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) – is one with the Spirit of Christ and communicates so much of Christ that Paul and Jesus say: When he is present in you, Christ is present in you.
There are treasures for you here, Christian. Give yourself time to ponder these things and revel in them. You are never without Christ. Never far from Christ. He is never at a distance. He has said, "I will be with you to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20), and now we know how close he really promises to be.
That is the first thing that makes you different as a Christian:
The Spirit of God dwells in you.
You have the Spirit of Christ.
Christ is in you.
2. You Are in the Sway of the Spirit
Now here is the second thing that makes you different. The second clause in verse 9: "You are in the Spirit." Note this carefully. This is not saying, "The Spirit is in you," but, "You are in the Spirit." And this is what distinguishes you from those who are in the flesh. Verse 9a: "However, you are not in the flesh but [you are] in the Spirit."
What does it mean that "you are in the Spirit"? It means that you are in the sway of the Spirit, under the power of the Spirit. It means that the Spirit is the decisive influence on your life. I don´t say only influence. He has his enemies and competitors. But to be "in the Spirit" is to come from the power of darkness into the power of God (Acts 26:18). I base this mainly on the parallel with being "in the flesh" and what Paul says about that in verses 7-8. To be in the flesh is to be held in bondage to the flesh, to be under the sway and captivity of the flesh, so that we can´t submit to God´s law and can´t please God. Now he says, "You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit." So I take him to mean that the Spirit has broken that dominion of the flesh and now holds the reins of your life. You are in his hands, not in the hands of the flesh.
Now to connect these first two distinctions of being a Christian and see another treasure: Paul connects them for us in verse 9: "[You are] in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you." In other words, the Spirit liberates us and holds sway over us from inside of us. If he dwells in you, you are in him – in his sway and under his decisive influence. This is precious because it calls to mind all the inner transformation that makes us free in the service of Christ. The Spirit is not just outside barking commands at us to influence us. He is inside, working a new heart and a mind conformed to Christ, so that we will delight to do what he commands. This is one of the great evidences that he is there.
3. You Belong to Christ
The third thing Paul says about our difference as Christians is that we belong to Christ. Note the last two clauses of verse 9: "But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." So the reverse is true too: If you do have the Spirit of Christ, you do belong to him. So as Christians we should think of ourselves as belonging to Christ – as Christ´s possession.
In what sense are we Christ´s possession? Paul connects the ideas of indwelling and possession in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 in a way that explains: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?" In what sense? He explains in verse 20: "For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." Paul describes two ways that Christ makes us his own: purchase and habitation.
There was a time in this country when you could lay claim to a piece of land in the west by simply going there and living on it, homesteading it. And of course there is the more traditional ways of obtaining land, paying for it. Christ did both in order to possess a people for himself: he bought us, and he homesteaded us. "You are not your own. For you have been bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) – that´s the purchase. "You are the temple of the Holy Spirit . . . You are not your own" . . . "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ" (1 Corinthians 6:19; Romans 8:9) – that´s the homesteading. He bought us with his blood, and he moves in by his Spirit. If you are a Christian, you are not your own. You belong to Christ.
We are inhabited by Christ, under the sway of Christ, and owned by Christ.
And here too there are treasures for you to ponder and enjoy. One of the main treasures in Paul´s mind seems to be the absolute security that this gives us, even in the face of death. Christ takes care of his own. He did not buy us to lose us. He bought us to have us and keep us.
You see Paul´s concern with this in the last two points. I said there were five things that set us apart from non-Christians, and one thing that showed how we are the same. Let´s take the point of similarity next.
Christians Are Like the Rest of the World in That Their Bodies Remain Mortal
Verse 10: "If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin . . ." So here´s the point of similarity. In this age our bodies remain mortal, and will die even though we are inhabited by Christ. In other words, redemption happens in stages. And the redemption of our bodies does not happen now in this age. We wait, verse 23 says, for the redemption of our bodies. Your bodies are as good as dead because you are part of a sinful and fallen humanity. In that way we are like the rest of mankind. We will die.
But now there are two other things that make Christians different from non-Christians and that take the sting out of our mortality.
4. Your Spirit Is Alive Because of the Righteousness and the Presence of Christ
The fourth difference from those in the flesh is at the end of verse 10: "The spirit is alive because of righteousness." Yes, the body is mortal and doomed to die. But two things make it different for our spirit: the gift of righteousness and the presence of Christ. You see them both in verse 10: "If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness." The gift of righteousness secured at the cross obtains our life, and the presence of Christ in us applies the life to us as an experience now and forever.
We don´t have to wait for the redemption of our bodies to be spiritually alive. The righteousness is ours now, and Christ is ours now, and therefore life is ours now. Know this about yourself, Christian. Know that the gift of righteousness is the ground of your life now. Not just later. Now. You are alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). And you can never die. The perfection of Christ in your place and the presence of Christ in your heart secures you forever.
Which leaves one last difference between Christians and those who are in the flesh.
1) The Spirit dwells in you;
2) You are in the sway of the Spirit;
3) You belong to Christ;
4) Your spirit is alive because of the righteousness and the presence of Christ; and now ...
5. Your Mortal Bodies Will Be Raised
If you die and your living spirit separates from your mortal body for a time, that separation will not last forever. Verse 11: "But 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."
So even though redemption happens in stages, the stages will come. That´s the point. Your resurrection is as certain as Christ´s resurrection because the Spirit that raised him from the dead dwells in you. God did not create the body to throw it away. And Christ did not purchase the body to throw it away. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. And just as Jesus raised up the temple of his own body in three days, he will raise us up and live in us forever and ever.
O Christian, know whose you are. And know the treasures that you have in him. And if you are listening without Christ, come to him and believe. Trust him. Receive him. Call on him. He will save you and make you his own.