Salvation by the Spirit
Have you ever thought of the nature of animals? I saw a documentary on birds one day. Three young pelicans were in their nest waiting to be fed by their parents. One was weaker, and soon the other pelicans began pecking on their sibling and drew blood. Then they pecked their sibling so much that it fell out of the nest. The parents would not feed it on the ground, and therefore there was more for the other two pelicans. Nature is cruel.
Consider dogs. We had a Springer Spaniel when I was a boy and he was a male dog. When a female down the road went into heat down the road, Lance would go, maybe a week or two, and be gone running with a pack, full of lustful living, and also fighting the others males for the spot of alpha dog. He would come back all haggard and beat up, the price of his debauchery. Nature does not order itself to follow morals. Look at lions who will kill the cubs of a rival just to make sure his DNA is what is continued. The point is nature lives fully for the flesh.
Solomon in his wisdom wrote in Ecclesiastes concerning mankind and nature. He says, “I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.” His point is that life under the sun is vanity, so goes the beast, so goes man. You know that that there is something wrong with this outlook. Don’t we look forward to eternal things? Aren’t we different than beasts? Of course!
Man has a conscience for a reason. Man is made in the image of God. God’s Spirit can dwell in man’s being. We are not mere animals. In Heaven the Lord Himself will be the light, with no need for the sun and the moon. The things that last are spiritual and will last forever; they are not futile and vanity. All this is to say that we can live like beasts. We certainly can live totally like brute beasts. But we have the higher calling of living by Christ’s Spirit within us and this will last. All beasts return to dust and they have no spiritual nature like man. When is the last time you felt convicted to witness to a dog? The flesh leads to death. Man is different. He has the opportunity to live. There is salvation to man in Christ, and this is by the Spirit, as opposed to the flesh.
Paul earlier in this epistle told of a dual nature within him. His inner man, that changed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, wrestled against his fleshly nature. The word for flesh here means the human nature and sinful nature of man when it says flesh sarx. He was in a state of turmoil, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members… Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The answer, he says, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Only God through Christ can rescue us from the accursed flesh so that we may have eternal life.
Let us look at the Scripture in Romans 8:1-11
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. 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. 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.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. We are saved in Christ by the Spirit as opposed to the flesh. If we are in Christ, we are not condemned but rather we go to live with Christ for eternity in paradise with our sins forgiven and forgotten. This Scripture describes how. If Christ is in us, what assurance do we have that we are saved and not condemned? How has God gone about saving us from our sins, and the wages of our sin—death? If our flesh leads to death, how can we live on forever? Our selection of Scripture describes how?
The first answer to how we are saved in Christ by His Spirit is by Christ being a sin offering. Jesus came as a man, fully and completely. He had a body like we do. He was tempted in all ways just like us, yet was without sin. He ate food, drank water, and also had emotions just like we do. He was totally pure throughout His life and there was never any sin in Him—never. By Jesus, the Son of God, the fullness of the deity in the flesh, God condemned sin in the flesh, because of His righteousness in the flesh, and he became a sin offering that He took our sins and paid the penalty for it—death. But not ending there he died for our sins and was raised for our justification. Christ laid down His life and took it back again, conquering sin and death. Now by His substitution sacrifice for us the righteous requirement of the law is met in us by His Spirit. That is to say, for those who walk according to the Spirit and not the flesh.
We have the requirements of the law fulfilled for us by Christ’s Spirit in us. He did what we could not do. The law is holy and good, but because we were weak in the flesh and could not live up to God’s holy standard, we were condemned. Not now! There is now no condemnation for us in Christ Jesus, and how is that? As we have just discovered by what Jesus did. It is only through Him we have salvation, and the way God made it possible was by Christ’s atoning death—in other words a sin offering, His death for our life.
How else does this Scripture tell us how we are saved and no longer condemned by His Spirit as opposed to the flesh? Because of Christ’s Spirit living in us. The mind set on the flesh is death, the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. The mind set on the flesh is hostile to God. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Paul is explaining that the flesh is contrary to God and does not submit to God’s law. God is an absolute God. He will not tolerate sin. Consider this: if God would let sin slide before Him for eternity for His inheritance, would He go to the extreme of making His Son face death for our salvation? Not only that, the fact remains that the flesh, falling short of the righteous requirement of the law of God, is corrupt and dies. But if God’s Holy Spirit lives within you then you can live forever in His Holy presence. It is clearly stated ,”Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to God. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit of life is because of righteousness. As Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.” As we see it does not help, as a matter of what we see, it prevents and condemns from eternal life.
We can meet the righteous requirement of God and His law by Christ’s Spirit. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” We too have this at work in us; our fleshly will dies in the Christian who has the Spirit living within them. It is the Spirit that gives life. How are we saved by Christ’s Spirit as opposed to the flesh? It is by His Spirit alive within us, it meets all the requirements of God because it is God.
Finally, we are saved by the Spirit by His power. Consider the power of God. We marvel at the skill and talent of doctors in healing many ailments and diseases. We have at our disposal many medicines to heal infirmities. Have you witnessed a man dead four day rise again? Jesus by the power of God raised Lazarus who should have been on his way to decomposing, yet the power of God is supreme over death. Jesus Christ Lord of all defeated sin and death by His resurrection after three days. Death has no hold on the Christian who puts his faith in Jesus Christ because the same God who resurrected Jesus will resurrect us. “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Not only did Jesus live on in the Spirit, but He had a spiritual body, and we too will have life given to our mortal bodies. They will be changed to a body like Christ’s. This will happen by God’s Spirit.
We have hope in what is impossible by the flesh as Christians. Men traipsed through wilderness looking for a fountain of life. Mankind is desperate to avoid the sentence of death. Some try cryogenics. Scientists experiment with cloning and stem cells trying to find a way to cheat this sentence. This death sentence is not all. Physical death is one thing; eternal spiritual death is what lies ahead for those without Christ. Hope then is no more; judgment will have been cast forever. It is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. A place where the worm never dies, and one has their part of the lake of fire, burning forever. It is a place of outer darkness—no light. One is separated from God and love forever. There is torture there forever. But now in Christ Jesus there is now no condemnation, by His Spirit.
What have we learned? Salvation is by God’s Spirit, as opposed to the flesh. How? First, by Christ’s eternal sacrifice. The righteous requirement of God’s law is fulfilled in us by God’s Spirit because Jesus Christ died on the cross, becoming a curse for us, taking on our sins, and by the power of God He rose again from the dead, conquering sin and death. Secondly, we have Christ’s Spirit living within us. We can submit to God’s law by God’s Spirit. The Spirit is life, and you have this life and Spirit in you if you are in Christ Jesus. The righteousness of God is in you if you set your mind on things of the Spirit, and that is life and peace. Thirdly, God in the same way He resurrected Christ will do the same for you. And he can as made evident by the power over death He demonstrated when He resurrected Jesus. There is nothing that can keep God’s power over death from raising you in the likeness of Jesus eternal spiritual body. That is to say if you are in Christ Jesus. How is there no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus? God’s plan to save you is perfect, He is part of you, and by the same power raising Christ, He will perform in raising you. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
First let me repeat, like Paul, “thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” He did it. I believe in Him, and he did what I could not. Belief is a loaded word. Noah believed God and built and ark and eight souls were saved in a generation of man that perished. Would Noah be an example of faith if he did not believe God and build an ark? Scripture that I believe in tells me what to do and live by. I believe in God’s word and am directed what to do? If I don’t do what he tells me to do to live, then I will die and I didn’t have living faith.
What do we do? Scripture is wonderful; the next few verses tell us what we must do. “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
From this we understand we must put to death the deeds of the body. This means the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of live, the things that are animal instincts that are selfish and evil by nature, don’t do them. Examples of these are given by Paul in Galatians: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” What is in your mind without Christ are these things, even if you seem to have a righteousness apart from Christ it is assured that your righteousness is as filthy rags before Him who is truly Holy. It says you will live if by the Spirit you put these things to death. We have seen that by our flesh we are weak, and cannot overcome sin. But by the Spirit it is a different tale. We know that Christ within us is our new nature and not the flesh, by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, and His pure Spirit is now within us. By the Spirit and by faith we can overcome the deeds of the flesh.
So is it all we have to do is to die to sin? It says that we must be led by the Spirit. If to live by the flesh is death, we need to be led in another direction. There are two ways. You have heard of the straight and narrow way that leads to everlasting life. It is Christ’s Spirit that leads to life. The Holy Spirit leads us on the way that is Christ Jesus. Jesus made the way by the cross and resurrection. He lived and told us of how to enter the kingdom of God. God’s Spirit leads us there through any temptation, any decision, through every coarse of life. Though we may meander through the whole world, Christ’s way is straight spiritually. He leads us in a straight way by always leading us in His righteousness. And at journeys end we will inherit the kingdom as sons. Whoever is led by the Spirit is a son of God—not the Son, but a son. Like it says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
So now if you are in need of the cleansing power of Christ Jesus, if you feel need of His righteousness, if you see the futility of the flesh, if your life is empty and dead, if you find yourself feeling drawn by the Holy Spirit of God who wants to indwell your soul, out of love and concern for your welfare, if you feel convicted of your sin and the truth of an impending hell that awaits those who do not heed God’s call, if you feel convicted by the Holy Spirit that He has life for you, a way to go that is meaningful, that life here on this earth has a purpose for you, do you sense the love of God, that He sent His Son to be and do what you could not but if you believe because of His Spirit you can have eternal life, then ask and you will receive. Ask God to forgive you and find life everlasting and your sin like crimson will be white as snow. You will be cleansed and have purpose and meaning and the depth of God’s love will be in you, and you will be His precious child. He died for you. That is His love for you. Come home with Jesus, a lover that is closer than a brother.
If you believe then be convicted that to be a Christian is to put to death the ways of the flesh. Maybe you have drifted. Maybe you are living with a sin that needs to be put to death. Do not grieve the Spirit but let Him by His power put to death the things that should be dead in your life. And be a pure light to the lost and dying world. Let the love of Christ and the way of the Spirit lead you through this life of corruption and death. And be thankful of what Christ has done in your life. We don’t deserve salvation. We don’t have the justification without God to even speak His holy name, yet we can come boldly to the throne of grace due to His grace. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I want to close with a poem I wrote. God be with you through your week and all the way until I see you in the presence of the majestic glory of our wonderful Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
God, while my sins were an offensive smoke in your eyes,
I continued in my waywardness.
You forced me in my misery to repent of deeds that were vile.
You gave me your lovingkindness.
For grace undeserved, may I give thanks unreserved.
You gave life for death, right for wrong.
In you I will delight.
For grace undeserved, may I give thanks unreserved.