God the Holy Spirit vs. The Sin Nature

THE SIN NATURE

FOR AS LONG AS YOU LIVE the sin nature and God the Holy Spirit will coexist as permanent residents in your mortal body and will battle continually for control of your soul. When the Holy Spirit controls your soul, you are spiritual. When the sin nature controls your soul, you are carnal. When you choose to sin, the sin nature wins the conflict. You do not lose your salvation or your eternal relationship with God, but you do temporarily lose fellowship with Him.

    The sin nature is the center of man’s rebellion toward God and is variously designated in Scripture as “sin” (a singular noun—Rom. 7:13), “flesh” (Gal. 5:16), and “old man” (Eph. 4:22, KJV). The sin nature was acquired by Adam at his fall and is subsequently transmitted genetically by the male through procreation (Gen. 5:3). With the exception of the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ, it is an integral part of every human being that resides in the cell structure of the body (Rom. 6:6; 7:5, 18). At the moment of physical birth when God imputes soul life, He also imputes Adam’s original sin to the genetically formed sin nature (Rom. 5:12).1 Therefore, every person is born physically alive but spiritually dead. The sin nature is sovereign over human life (Rom. 6:12).

The Sin Nature

The sin nature is composed of an area of weakness, the source of temptation for personal sins (Heb. 12:1); an area of strength, which generates human good (Isa. 64:6; Heb. 6:1); a trend toward legalism, which is self-righteousness (Rom. 7:7), or antinomianism, which is licentiousness (Gal. 5:19-21); and a lust pattern, which is the motivation toward either trend (Eph. 2:3).2

    Your sin nature is the source of temptation to sin, but your volition is the source of sin. The sin nature cannot make you sin, it can only tempt you to sin. When you choose to succumb to the sin nature, you are in carnality and you cannot live the Christian life or glorify God. However, God has placed at your command the means to insure the victory of the Holy Spirit in your life.

    Let us look at this box which represents the body of the Church Age believer.3 We have a soul composed of self-consciousness, mentality, volition, and conscience (norms and standards). We have a human spirit created by the Holy Spirit at the moment of regeneration for the imputation of eternal life.4 We have a sin nature in the cell structure of the body. God the Holy Spirit also indwells our bodies, but only the filling of the Holy Spirit controls our souls.5 We never lose the indwelling presence of the Spirit (Rom. 8:9), but when we sin, we do lose the filling of the Spirit. Hence, we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), but we are never commanded to be indwelt by the Spirit.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in [indwells] you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Cor. 6:19)6

    In the Old Testament God dwelt in a building, the Tabernacle or “temple” of Israel. However, in the Church Age God no longer dwells in tabernacles made with hands; He indwells the “temple” which is your body. In Exodus 25:8, the Tabernacle (later on, the Temple) is referred to as a “sanctuary.” So, in effect, this verse says: “Your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit.”

    One day a stranger walked into Berachah Church and asked me where the sanctuary was. I replied, “Right here.” He inquired again, “Where?” I repeated, “Right here,” and pointed to myself. He said, “You do not understand”; whereupon I countered, “You do not understand! If you are looking for the auditorium, go down the hall and turn to the right.” He looked shocked and said, “Auditorium?” So I explained, “Yes, the last sanctuary made of brick and mortar was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the legions of Titus when they broke through the walls of Jerusalem and destroyed the city.”

    Sometimes, it is difficult to part with old ideas. But, in the true sense of the word, no church can have a sanctuary. You are the sanctuary! Whether you are spiritual or carnal, mature or immature, the Holy Spirit never leaves your body during your life on this earth. But you decide whether or not He controls your soul.

TOP AND BOTTOM CIRCLES

    At the moment of salvation the Holy Spirit places each Church Age believer in union with Christ as part of the thirty-nine irrevocable absolutes.7 These absolutes define our new position in Christ. I like to diagram this with a circle which represents eternal life. We can never get out of that “top circle.”

Top and Bottom Circles

At the moment of salvation we are also filled with the Holy Spirit, the one revocable absolute, which I place inside the bottom circle. This bottom circle represents spirituality—an absolute state, not a relative experience. Spirituality is the key to spiritual growth. The filling of the Holy Spirit is the divine provision for temporal fellowship, for comprehending doctrine, and for executing the spiritual life (John 14:26; 16:13; Gal. 5:16). However, as soon as we sin, we lose the filling of the Holy Spirit and move outside the bottom circle into carnality. There are no spiritual dynamics in carnality. The only way back into that bottom circle of fellowship with God and to execute the spiritual life is by means of rebound.8

If [maybe we will and maybe we will not] we confess our sins [acknowledge our known sins], He [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse [purify] us from all unrighteousness [unknown sins]. (1 John 1:9)

    When we rebound by naming or acknowledging all our known sins privately to God the Father, the Holy Spirit is free to fill or control our souls. Because of His divine power that works invisibly in our lives, we are able to accumulate an inventory of doctrine in our souls, we are able to grow to spiritual maturity, and we are able to produce the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23).

SETTING THE STAGE

    God the Father is the author of the plan of grace for mankind and this plan has three phases. Salvation, provided by the substitutionary spiritual death of the Lord Jesus Christ, is phase one. God’s provision began with the virgin birth of Christ and culminated with His death, resurrection, ascension, and session at the Father’s right hand (Heb. 1:3). Because the humanity of Christ was accepted in heaven, believers are also accepted “in the Beloved [Christ]” (Eph. 1:6). Phase one is the moment of salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved.” (Acts 16:31b)

When anyone believes the Gospel message that salvation is a free gift from God through Christ who died on the cross as a substitute for the penalty of sin and death, he is saved for all eternity.9

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:23)

Salvation is the same throughout all human history, but prior to the Incarnation or First Advent, God presented the Gospel in various ways: direct revelation, the teachings of prophets and priests, dreams, visions, and rituals. The object of faith in the Old Testament dispensations was the prophesied Messiah who was Jesus Christ.10

For what does the Scripture [Old Testament] say? “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD [the promise of the Messiah], AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM [credited to his account] AS RIGHTEOUSNESS [a description of salvation].” (Rom. 4:3)

During the First Advent, the time when Jesus Christ in hypostatic union was present on earth, He announced that He was the Savior.11

“I am the way [of salvation], and the truth [of doctrine], and the [eternal] life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” (John 14:6)

Today, in the Church Age, the Gospel is forever recorded on the pages of the completed canon of Scripture.

    Phase two of God’s plan is the period between regeneration and the believer’s departure from this life. While every believer in every dispensation has a postsalvation way of life, God has made special provision of the filling of the Holy Spirit for the Church Age believer only (Eph. 1:3; 2 Pet. 1:3). Believers in the Old Testament were never indwelt or filled with God the Holy Spirit. Certain believers were said to be endued or empowered by the Spirit for special functions, but that enduement could be lost because of carnality. The prayer David prayed in Psalm 51:11b, “Do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me,” is not legitimate in the Church Age because the gift of the Holy Spirit is part of the thirty-nine irrevocable absolutes.12 When believers in the Old Testament who possessed the enduement stepped out of line, the Holy Spirit could be removed as part of divine discipline. The postsalvation spiritual life of all Old Testament believers was applied through the faith-rest technique rather than the filling of the Spirit (Rom. 4:17-21; James 5:17-18).13 However, the principle of rebound and fellowship versus carnality holds true for all believers in every dispensation (Ps. 32:5; 51:3).

    Phase three is God’s plan for the believer in eternity. This phase commences at physical death or the Rapture. Every believer will receive a resurrection body and will live forever, face to face with the Lord. Believers who advance to spiritual maturity in time will also receive rewards in eternity.

ELIJAH, THE SPIRITUAL GIANT

    In 1 Kings 19, Elijah, who was endued with the Holy Spirit (2 Kings 2:9), was taught a great lesson of spirituality. As the servant of the Lord, he had been instrumental in reversing the tide of apostasy and turning the Jews back to their Messiah. Under his spiritual leadership a spectacular revival had just been completed at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). Then, after this tremendous spiritual victory, the devil began a subtle counterattack on Elijah using two willing dupes—King Ahab of Israel and Jezebel, his heathen queen.

    Jezebel, the leader of the apostate, idolatrous worship of Baal, had been supporting her 450 false prophets with public funds. After the failure of these prophets to call Baal into action on Mount Carmel, Elijah ordered them slain (1 Kings 18:40). But this was an act of arrogance, for Elijah misused his divine authority and gave the wrong command to kill these prophets of Baal.

    Having witness the utter defeat of Baal’s prophets and their violent demise, King Ahab rushed back to Jezreel and told his wife everything.

Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets [of Baal] with the sword. (1 Kings 19:1)

Queen Jezebel, in turn, immediately took steps to eliminate Elijah who was now a great spiritual hero in Israel. Since Jezebel was too cunning to risk making him a public martyr and thus further spread the revival, she conceived a more devious scheme to dispose of him.

Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them [prophets of Baal] by tomorrow about this time.” (1 Kings 19:2)

    Elijah had just run all the way from Mount Carmel to Jezreel when he received the message from Jezebel. By this time the prophet had become self-centered and emotional. Fear gripped him and he panicked at Jezebel’s deadly threat. Had he thought through the situation, he would have realized that if Jezebel truly intended to kill him, she would have sent an assassin with a dagger instead of a servant with a message. Out of fellowship and unable to use the faith-rest technique, a frightened Elijah ran out on the national revival, fulfilling Jezebel’s evil strategy.

ELIJAH, THE CARNAL GIANT

And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. (1 Kings 19:3)

    The distance from the palace at Jezreel to Beersheba was over one hundred miles. Beersheba belonged to the Southern Kingdom of Judah and was therefore outside of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the jurisdiction of King Ahab and Jezebel. The instinct of self-preservation is strong in every human being. So dear had Elijah’s life become to him that he became a cross-country runner, driving himself beyond normal endurance until he considered himself safe from his enemies. An entire day passed before he stopped to reflect on his situation.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4)

    Elijah should have realized that as long as he was alive the Lord still had a purpose for him. But the great spiritual giant of Mount Carmel was now a carnal weakling, discouraged and moping under a juniper tree. No doubt he repeated that cliché, “I wish I were dead!” Of course, people seldom mean that statement literally—it is merely an expression of their self-pity. The inevitable outcome of focusing our eyes on people or circumstances is that we eventually get our eyes on self!

    Elijah was a believer and could do nothing to lose his salvation. But when he sinned against the Lord by letting fear control his life, he was no longer in fellowship.14 He had his eyes on himself and had fallen into the trap of self-pity; he believed he had failed in every possible way. This emotional soul kink is one of the worst expressions of carnality. Sooner or later it happens to all members of the human race. We can understand and even empathize with Elijah sulking “under a juniper tree” because we have all been in a place where everything looked hopeless, everything had gone wrong, and we felt that no one loved us!

    Elijah had lost sight of the principle of grace. He whined, “I am not better than my fathers.” No one ever implied that he had to be better than his fathers. Elijah had been used by the Lord because of grace, not because he was someone special. You can always count on it when you are out of fellowship and controlled by the sin nature, you will feel sorry for yourself, get caught up in your emotions, and have the wrong perspective of life.

And he lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.” (1 Kings 19:5)

    Elijah had failed. But whether he failed or succeeded the grace of God never fails. He had neither earned nor deserved to have food or any other blessing; but because of God’s grace, it was provided.

Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” (1 Kings 19:6-7)

    We now discover that the angel of verse 5 was the Lord Jesus Christ, the Angel of Yahweh.15 The Lord Jesus Christ always comes to us in our hour of difficulty and trial. Even though we are totally unworthy, He is always there. It was the Lord Jesus who said, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10).

So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. (1 Kings 19:8)

    What a fantastic meal! God’s provision is always the best—in fact, it is always perfect! Apparently this one meal contained all the vitamins and minerals that were necessary to sustain Elijah for forty days while he traveled all the way down to Mount Horeb in the Sinai Peninsula.

How Do You “Dwell”?

Then he came there to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9)

    Hebrew is a vivid language and the Jews have several descriptive words for “lodging.” Let us examine what these words look like and what they actually mean:

  1. גּוּר (gur)—“to lodge somewhere as a guest.” This word means “to come with the idea of making a short visit and to stay the specified short period.” This is what we would call a good guest.
  2.  
  3. דּוּר (dur)—“to dwell in restlessness.” This word was used in connection with any kind of a caged animal.
  4.  
  5. שָׁכַן (shakan)—“to dwell in a tent.”
  6.  
  7. יָשַׁב (yashab)—“to dwell in peace, happiness, blessing and prosperity.” This is the one that should apply to every married couple.
  8.  
  9. לוּן (lun)—“to go, to move into some spot with the idea of spending the night and then staying a long time.” Lun is the word used in this passage.

    Elijah had gone into a cave just to rest for one night, but even though it was dark, cold, and clammy, he stayed for a long time. Still feeling sorry for himself, he hid in the cave and sulked. His fear of dying had changed into fear of living. What a contrast! This once great spiritual giant allowed himself to be reduced to a heap of gloom and doom!

    Again, the Lord appeared to teach him the lesson of spirituality—a lesson that each of us must learn. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” was the Lord’s question. Note the key point in Elijah’s answer, the personal pronouns “I, I, and my.”

And he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:10)

    Because the Lord is omniscient, He knew in eternity past that Elijah was “very zealous for the LORD.” He also knew that the children of Israel had been out of line. Elijah should have remembered that God had a plan for his life and he should have utilized faith-rest. Instead, poor, carnal Elijah will not take his eyes off himself!

    The Lord is gracious, He was not willing to put one of his well-trained servants ‘on the shelf.’ Elijah had been trained by the events at the brook Cherith and in the house of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17). He showed great courage on Mount Carmel in taking a stand for the Lord (1 Kings 18). But now he was out of fellowship in the place of carnality and was falling apart. Elijah had to be reminded whom he served and by what means.

Understanding Yahweh

    The New American Standard Bible puts the word “LORD” in capital letters in 1 Kings 19:10. This is the translators’ method of rendering the sacred Hebrew word יהוה (Jehovah or Yahweh).16 Yahweh, derived from the verb חָיָה (hayah), “to be,” denotes “absolute existence.” This concept is taken from Exodus 3:14, where the translation “I am who I am,”—the name of God revealed to Moses, is the doubling of the verb hayah.

    When the Old Testament refers to all three members of the Trinity collectively, the Hebrew word used is אֱלֹהִם (Elohim), “God.” The im in Elohim is a plural suffix, indicating that identical divine essence belongs to all three members of the Trinity.17 But, when the Old Testament refers to one person of the Godhead, the words used are Yahweh or Yahweh Elohim.

The Lord Passed By

So He said, “Go forth, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. (1 Kings 19:11)

    Elijah stood at the entrance to the cave and watched this tremendous wind tear up the mountains and break the rocks into pieces. The wind and the earthquake, both magnificent manifestations of nature, represented the power of human ability and naturalistic phenomena. But please notice, “The LORD was not in the wind . . . the LORD was not in the earthquake.” God does not operate through the energy of the flesh, or human power; God operates through His own unlimited power!

And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. (1 Kings 19:12)

    The first was also a terrifying representation of human power, but “the LORD was not in the fire.” The English phrase, “a sound of a gentle blowing,” is a weak translation. The Hebrew proclaims, “the sound of silence!” This was a voice with no sound, yet it is the mightiest power in the universe. Here is a title of God the Holy Spirit. Zechariah 4:6b summarizes the lesson: “ ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”

The Useless Believer

    Elijah did not learn his lesson, and consequently, he had to be set aside for several years until he woke up to the importance of the power of the Spirit—the “sound of silence.” When the Holy Spirit controls the soul, He can use any useless or broken stick; but when He does not, the greatest talent, ability, personality, and eloquence in the world are absolutely worthless. To serve God, a believer must be in a position to utilize the power of the Spirit!

    I have a beautiful gold pen that I cherish, which has been handed down in my family for several generations. But the little gadget that draws in the ink is worn out. So, for that simple reason I never carry the pen with me because it does not hold ink. Even though it is a beautiful pen on the outside, without ink it is useless. Whatever you may be on the exterior, if God the Holy Spirit does not control your soul, you are as useless as my gold pen and as useless as Elijah was in the cave.

SPIRITUALITY AND THE MOSAIC LAW

    Trying to keep the Mosaic Law is often touted as a means of spirituality, but this attempt can never produce spirituality. While the Mosaic Law defines sin and reveals our sinfulness and inherent sin nature, the Law was never designed to solve the sin problem. Jesus Christ solved the problem of sin on the cross. When we are placed in union with Christ in phase one and receive the imputation of His righteousness, we also receive the filling of the Holy Spirit placing us in the status of spirituality. Therefore, spirituality always begins with the person of Christ, not the good works of the believer.

    1. Christ fulfilled the Law. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” In view of this statement, we need to examine the connection between Christ and the Mosaic Law.

     We usually think of the Mosaic Law as the Ten Commandments, but these mandates were only a small portion of the Law. The Ten Commandments defined liberty, morality, and divine authority for believers and unbelievers in the nation of Israel.18 They provided the environment for a spiritual life, but they did not constitute the spiritual life. The entire Law was divided into three parts or codices:

    Codex I was the moral law, which included the Ten Commandments as well as all other moral and ethical commandments. The purpose of Codex I was to prove to man that he was a sinner and needed a Savior.

    Codex II was the spiritual code, a complete shadow Christology. Christ was revealed through symbol and ritual (Heb. 10:1). For example, every article of furniture in the Tabernacle, every activity inside the Tabernacle, the very materials—cloth, metal, and wood—from which the Tabernacle was constructed were significant. Each article specifically taught some facet of the person and work of the coming Messiah. Remember, not all of the people could read, but they could learn doctrine from seeing the rituals performed and understanding the meaning of the various articles of furniture in the Tabernacle (Heb. 9:1-28).

    The Jews observed the slain animal on the brazen altar, and understood that this foreshadowed the Messiah who would die as a substitute for their sins. They saw the priest enter the Holy Place to perform the ritual services. While the congregation could not enter, they knew that within was the table of shewbread that spoke of Christ as the Bread of Life (John 6:35). They were aware of the lampstand which furnished the only light in that part of the Tabernacle; and from this, they understood that Christ is the Light of the world (John 8:12). There was a golden altar of incense, which identified Christ as the High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:6). The veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of Christ, represented His incarnation (Heb. 10:20).

    In the center of the Holy of Holies was the ark of the covenant, which portrayed Christ as a sin offering for mankind. This box, constructed of acacia wood and overlaid with gold, symbolized the humanity and deity of Christ—the hypostatic union. The ark contained three articles as a reminder of Israel’s sin during the wilderness wanderings (Heb. 9:4): the tables of the Law (symbol of Israel’s rejection of God’s law), the pot of manna (Israel’s rejection of God’s provision), and Aaron’s rod that budded (Israel’s rejection of God’s delegated authority). Over the top of the ark of the covenant was the mercy seat. Its very construction, with the cherubim on either side, depicted propitiation and how the righteousness and justice of God the Father would be satisfied by the substitutionary spiritual death of Christ (Rom. 3:25). As explained in Hebrews 10:1a, all these doctrines were communicated by means of shadow Christology: “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come.” What are these “good things”? They refer to the Lord Jesus Christ and the new way of life for the believer in the Church Age.

    While the Tabernacle revealed the person and work of the Messiah, He was further made known through the Levitical offerings19 that disclosed some feature of the work of Christ on the cross. In addition, the function of the Levitical priesthood revealed Christ’s person and work. Finally, in the observance of the various holy days that taught some aspect of God’s plan, the Jews learned doctrine by observing the prescribed rituals. The Passover, for example, prefigured Christ’s redemptive work (1 Cor. 5:7). The Feast of Unleavened Bread pictured fellowship with Christ. All ritual worship specified by Codex II of the Mosaic Law was designed to demonstrate that Christ is the only solution to the problem of sin.

    Codex III was the social and civil code, which provided a modus vivendi to protect the nation of Israel as custodians of the Word of God. Laws of sanitation, dietary regulations, property rights, laws against murder and personal injury, and so forth, affirmed that God takes care of His own.

    In His incarnation, Christ fulfilled all three codices. First, He observed the Ten Commandments perfectly. For hundreds and hundreds of years, the Decalogue had been waiting for someone to keep its every jot and tittle; yet no one ever could! The presence of the sin nature in every member of the human race precludes even the possibility of living a sinless life. But here is One, born of a virgin, without a sin nature, without imputed or personal sin, who came into the world as true humanity and undiminished deity in one Person, and lived a perfect life! In so doing, He fulfilled Codex I. Second, Christ in hypostatic union, was the reality of the shadows. In His life He executed perfectly all the precepts previously taught about His person and work in Codex II. Third, Christ upheld and obeyed every aspect of Codex III (Matt. 22:21).

    2. Christ is the end of the Law for believers. This point is the negative approach to spirituality. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes” (Rom. 10:4). “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal. 5:18). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23). The Law in these passages refers specifically to the Mosaic Law.

    The Law was given only to Israel during the dispensation of the Jews. Once perfectly fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Mosaic Law was set aside.20 Therefore, during the Church Age, believers are not under the Law. This truth may shock you. You may be vibrating because of all the Sunday School teachers and ministers who have convinced you that you must live by the Ten Commandments, but as we have seen, the Ten Commandments could not effectively deal with sin.

    3. We are not lawless. When the Bible states “you are not under law, but under grace” (Rom 6:14), it is not a ‘credit card’ for sinning. If you do not understand this point, you might say to yourself, “Since I am not under the Law and I have eternal life and eternal security, I am going to live it up. Goodbye, God, I’ll see you in eternity!” That, of course, is a distortion of the doctrine. The Word of God never gives you license to sin. The Word of God holds you responsible for your thoughts, decisions, and actions.

    The priesthood of the Law was a specialized priesthood. In all Israel there were only a few priests, all from the family of Aaron in the tribe of Levi. What happened to the Levitical priesthood when the Law was removed? It went out, too! If you are standing on a rug and someone pulls it out from under you, what happens to you? Down you go with the rug! The whole purpose of the study of the Levitical priesthood in the Book of Hebrews is to demonstrate that when Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Law, it was abrogated.

    We no longer operate under a specialized priesthood because we are no longer under the Mosaic Law. In the Church Age every believer is a priest (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6)! Any religious organization that tries to put believers under the Law has neutralized those believers in phase two of God’s plan for their lives. This is dishonoring to the entire principle of grace, to God the Father, the author of that principle, to God the Son, who executed the plan of grace on the cross, and to God the Holy Spirit, who executes the plan of grace in the life of the believer!

The New Law

    For the Church Age believer, the new law “of the Spirit of life” replaces the Mosaic Law! This new law is the modus operandi for the Christian life.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free [ἐλευθερόω, eleutheroo] from the law of sin and of death. (Rom. 8:2)

    “Of the Spirit” is a genitive of source. The source of the new law is the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the name of the third person of the Trinity that stresses His personality. “Spirit of” emphasizes His work and is used as a title to indicate various aspects of His ministry. He is designated the “Spirit of truth” in John 16:13 because He reveals truth and He is called the “Spirit of life” because He gives eternal life.

    The new law is strictly for believers since only believers are “in Christ Jesus.” Eleutheroo, “set free,” is in the aorist tense, where the action of the verb is divorced from time and perpetuated forever. “Once and for all the Holy Spirit has set you [the believer] free from the law of sin and death.” The “law of sin” is a reference to the Mosaic Law because it revealed the sinfulness of man. The “law of death” also refers to the Mosaic Law because the Law could not produce life even in one person.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh. (Rom. 8:3)

    Here was the deficiency of the Mosaic Law: “Weak as it was through [literally, because of] the flesh.” “Flesh” is a reference to the sin nature resident in every individual. The Law could do nothing for us; but God the Father could do something, and He did! God sent His own Son into the world as true humanity “as an offering for sin.” The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross set us free from the law of sin and death.

In order that the requirement of the [Mosaic] Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:4)

    Verses 2 and 3 state that believers are free from the law of sin and death. Verse 4 explains how that freedom is achieved. Since the sin nature is present in every member of the human race except One, it is impossible to keep the Mosaic Law. Only Jesus Christ the perfect member of the human race kept the Law. Yet it says right here that “the Law might be fulfilled in us.” Is this a contradiction? Definitely not! Then how? “Fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh [the sin nature], but according to [by means of] the Spirit.”

    Freedom from the control of the sin nature is accomplished when we believe in Christ by faith alone, but experiencing that freedom in our lives comes only through the power of the filling of the Holy Spirit. We can live the spiritual life and break the control of the sin nature only when the Holy Spirit controls our souls. In this way the Holy Spirit fulfills the Law in us. Through the filling of the Holy Spirit, we can measure up to the divine standard in exactly the same way that Christ measured up. The Holy Spirit sustained Christ during the entire period of His incarnation. We know this from Isaiah 42:1 and from passages in the New Testament: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit” (Matt. 4:1a) and “If I [Jesus Christ] cast out demons by the Spirit of God” (Matt. 12:28a).

    While the humanity of Christ was fulfilling the Law, He pioneered the spiritual life through the controlling power of the Spirit and produced the fruit of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22-23. After Jesus Christ ascended and was seated at the right hand of the Father, He and the Father sent the Holy Spirit (John 15:26) to Church Age believers, and the new law was instituted—“the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:2).

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper [Holy Spirit] shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)

This is a reference to our Mentor—the Holy Spirit. When we are filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit, His mentorship, His teaching and guidance, produces in us the very character of the humanity of Jesus Christ.

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13a)

This is the only way in which we can fulfill the righteous “requirement” of the Mosaic Law—living the spiritual life by means of the power of the Spirit.

“BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT”

    The new law for the Church Age believer calls for a new commandment.

For this reason it says,
“Awake [ἐγείρω, egeiro] sleeper,
And arise [ἀνίστημι, anistemi] from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.” (Eph. 5:14)

“Sleeper” is a picture of the believer out of fellowship, out of the bottom circle. “Awake,” an aorist active imperative of egeiro, is a command to the believer to use 1 John 1:9, which is the rebound technique. Anistemi, “arise,” is also an aorist imperative, a command to recover from the dead. Since no believer can literally bring himself up from the dead, what does this mean?

    In Ephesians 5:14 “from the dead” refers to the believer out of fellowship with God through carnality. We are commanded once again to get back into fellowship! What happens if we do? “Christ will shine on you.” A dark house on a dark night is formless on the landscape. But if the house has light on the inside, it takes on form and beauty. The spiritual life takes shape and exhibits inner beauty through the power of the light. The Holy Spirit turns on the light when He controls the life.

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise. (Eph. 5:15)

    How can you walk carefully? Galations 5:16 states the answer: “But I say, walk [the daily exercise of the spiritual life] by the Spirit [in the filling of the Spirit], and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh [sin nature].” This is how you avoid being a fool. First, you must know and understand Bible doctrine; and second, you must apply the doctrine you know. The word “wise” connotes the concept of the application of doctrine to experience, and this is only possible by means of the filling of the Spirit.

Making the most of [ἐξαγοράζω, exagorazo] your time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:16)

    The Greek word exagorazo means “to purchase.” Only believers can buy time, because the unbeliever has no ‘capital.’ He cannot buy even one minute! Time is purchased by means of the filling of the Spirit, whereby doctrine learned and applied becomes our coin of the realm.

So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5:17)

    The next imperative or command says to us, “Do not be foolish.” The “foolish” Christian is the believer who remains in the state of carnality. What can he do about this status? “Understand what the will of the Lord is.” You cannot learn all of the details of the will of God in one moment; it is not even expected of you. But it is very clear from this context that the immediate will of God is for you to be filled with the Spirit.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled [πληρόω, pleroo] with the Spirit. (Eph. 5:18)

    The first part of this verse is a prohibition against the sin of drunkenness, because in a drunken state alcohol becomes an adverse controlling force of the mind. Instead you are mandated to “be filled with the Spirit,” the controlling power of the spiritual life. This command from God, the present passive imperative of pleroo says, “Keep on being filled with the Spirit.” In the passive voice the subject, “you,” receives the action of the verb “filled”—you receive the filling of the Spirit. You cannot work for it; you cannot earn it; you do not deserve it. It is a grace provision of the Lord.

    The state of spirituality is not attained because you ‘agonized in a closet,’ wept ‘tears of repentance,’ tithed, or made vows. Or perhaps you think that because you fasted you are spiritual. Well, you are not! You may look better because you lost weight. You may feel better because your cardiovascular system is not under such a strain, but you are not spiritual because of fasting. Perhaps you think that because you hustled in a Christian program and were elected to a church office that you are spiritual. Such activities do not make you spiritual! Spirituality is the filling of the Holy Spirit which we receive when we follow God’s command in 1 John 1:9. This is God’s grace method of handling sin in the believer’s life. So we have been given a new law in Romans 8, and now we have a new commandment in Ephesians 5.

THE MANIFESTATION OF THE NEW LAW

    The new law of the Spirit of life, or spirituality, is manifested in the believer when the Holy Spirit controls his soul through the filling of the Spirit. In the case of a new or immature believer, the filling of the Spirit is sporadic. Because he is ignorant of rebound and without Bible doctrine to replace human viewpoint with divine viewpoint, he continues in his old pattern of thinking. However, the better he understands sin and the repercussions of sin and the more often he applies the rebound technique, the longer he will be able to maintain the filling of the Spirit and the more Bible doctrine he will assimilate. The Holy Spirit metabolizes doctrine into divine viewpoint in the soul of every believer.21

    For the believer to mature spiritually, there must be in his soul a balance of residency between the filling of the Spirit and Bible doctrine. The filling of the Spirit coupled with the positive volition of the believer and consistent intake of doctrine establish this balance of residency. In each of the passages we will examine, the soul of the believer is connected with the function of the Holy Spirit and Bible doctrine.

That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. (Eph. 3:16)

    “That” introduces the purpose of Paul’s prayer begun in Ephesians 3:14. The literal translation of verse 16 reads: “That He would, once and for all, give you, according to the riches of His glory, to be empowered with divine power by means of His Spirit in the soul.” Notice the principle: The Holy Spirit’s control of the inner being or soul is the source of power for our spiritual lives.

So that Christ may dwell [κατοικέω, katoikeo] in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love. (Eph. 3:17)

    “That Christ may dwell in your hearts” also expresses purpose. Just as we previously examined the Hebrew word yashab meaning “dwelling in peace,” now we see its Greek counterpart, katoikeo, meaning “to dwell at home in relaxation and ease.” It is possible to be in a house, even to live there, yet not be at home. Some of you may have had such an experience. However, this phrase says, in effect, that when the Holy Spirit controls the soul, Christ is at home in your life. Experiential Christianity is what you think (Prov. 23:7a) and how you are motivated—not the façade you produce on the outside. “That Christ may dwell in your hearts” delineates a manifestation of the filling of the Spirit where the believer is “rooted” and “grounded” from a foundation of doctrine.

According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (Phil. 1:20)

    Here we have another manifestation of the filling of the Holy Spirit in the phrase: “Christ exalted in my body.” Christ will be glorified by the execution of the spiritual life of the believer, accomplished through the filling of the Holy Spirit and maximum doctrine resident in the soul.

My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you. (Gal. 4:19)

    Paul uses the greeting, “my children,” not as a term of affection, but to rebuke the Galatians. When adults start scrapping, you tell them to “stop acting like children” or “stop being childish.” The Galatians had been conducting themselves in a childish way by gossiping and maligning. They had failed to rebound, had been suckers for false doctrine, and remained spiritual babies.

    “With whom I am again in labor,” might be translated, “I am sweating you out.” Paul continues to reprimand and teach them doctrine in expectation of their recovering the filling of the Spirit and advancing to maturity. The phrase, “until Christ is formed in you,” is another manifestation of the new law through which Christ is glorified by the believer in the Church Age reaching spiritual maturity.

THE GLORIFICATION OF JESUS CHRIST

    Who glorifies Jesus Christ on earth? If you say, “Believers,” you are wrong! The answer is the believer glorifies Christ through the power and mentorship of the Holy Spirit. The primary ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ! Jesus said,

“He [the Holy Spirit] shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine [the person and work of Jesus Christ], and shall disclose it to you.” (John 16:14)
 
But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:39)

After Christ ascended and sat down at the right hand of the Father in glorification, the Holy Spirit came to glorify Christ on earth. Christ had to be absent from the earth before the Holy Spirit could begin His ministry of glorification (John 16:7).

    No member of the human race has the ability to glorify Christ through his own talents, physical assets, mental capacity. None of these human advantages or the production of human good can glorify Christ.22 Only God the Holy Spirit can glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by empowering the spiritual life of the believer. The command of 1 Corinthians 6:20b to “glorify God in your body” can be fulfilled only through the balance of residency in the soul between the filling of the Spirit and Bible doctrine.

THE STRUGGLE FOR CONTROL

    As long as you live, the sin nature and the Holy Spirit contend for dominance in your life. Paul describes the struggle.

For that which I am doing [sin], I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do [living the spiritual life], but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Rom. 7:15)

Paul is saying that when the sin nature controls the soul, the believer is carnal; when the Holy Spirit fills and controls the soul, the believer is spiritual, and then, he can execute the spiritual life. Volition determines which one will gain control. Any unconfessed sin in your life allows the sin nature to reign in your soul, but it is quickly dethroned by the application of 1 John 1:9, the rebound technique. When your sins are confessed, you regain the filling of the Holy Spirit, so that you can learn doctrine, and advance to maturity. Some believers are like yo-yo’s, constantly jumping back and forth between the filling of the Holy Spirit and the dictatorship of the sin nature. Only through rebound and learning and applying Bible doctrine consistently can the believer overcome this instability.

    What happens to the Holy Spirit when we are in the status of carnality and allow the sin nature to control our life? The Holy Spirit is said to be quenched in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 or grieved in Ephesians 4:30. Before we examine these two terms, let us note three other sins listed in the Bible as sins against the Holy Spirit. The first two are committed by unbelievers; the third, by believers. The sins committed by unbelievers are actually two sides of the same coin, so we will look at these first.

SINNING AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT

  1. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the sin of rejection of Jesus Christ as Savior (Matt. 12:14-32) that could only be committed by an unbeliever during our Lord’s incarnation.
  2.  
  3. Resistance to the Holy Spirit is the sin of rejection of Christ by Church Age unbelievers (Acts 7:51).
  4.  
  5. Lying to the Holy Spirit is the sin of false motivation, committed by a believer (Acts 5:1-10). A good deed performed with wrong motivation is wrong. Giving money to the church is generally considered to be good (2 Cor. 9:7). However, if you give as a result of pressure, approbation lust, or any other false motivation, it is lying to the Holy Spirit.

    In Acts 5 Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, were jealous of a man named Barnabas who owned a tremendous amount of real estate on the island of Cyprus. Barnabus sold the land and gave all the proceeds to the apostles for distribution to the destitute believers of Jerusalem. Everyone praised him for his generosity. When Ananias and Sapphira heard about this, in their lust for approbation they too sold a piece of their real estate, but gave only a part of the proceeds to the church. Now, it would have made no difference before the Lord if they had given only five cents on the dollar, but they falsely claimed that their monetary gift was all they had collected from the property sale. The Apostle Peter called them believers under the influence of satanic thinking.23 They were guilty of lying to the Holy Spirit. For that, they were severely disciplined and died the sin unto death (1 John 5:16).24

    Once the believer is in carnality, he is grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit. Quenching the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19) is the absence of the Holy Spirit’s mentorship and is manifested by false application of doctrine. Grieving the Spirit (Eph. 4:30) is the absence of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that results in overall failure of the spiritual life.

GROWTH AND MATURITY

    Spirituality and carnality are absolutes (1 John 1:6-7; 2:10-11; 3:4-9). At any given moment you will be either 100% filled with the Spirit or 100% controlled by the sin nature. You cannot be partially spiritual or partially carnal. Nor can you be both spiritual and carnal at the same time. You can, however, rapidly switch from one to the other. This is a basic concept of experiential Christianity.

    On the other hand spiritual growth is relative.25 A believer gradually matures just as a child gradually becomes an adult. The moment you accept Christ as Savior, you become a son of God (Gal. 4:4-7). The Greek word υἱός (huios) means “an adult son.” This is the top circle, your position in Christ. However, experientially you are called a βρέϕος (brephos, 1 Pet. 2:2). This Greek word refers to a “baby at the mother’s breast.” When a person is fifty years old and he believes in Christ as Savior, he is physically an adult, but spiritually he is a brand new baby. If he grows spiritually by assimilating and metabolizing Bible doctrine, he will soon become a spiritual adolescent (Matt. 4:4). If he continues to grow, he will eventually become a mature Christian. This is a second concept of experiential Christianity.

    The relative progression of spiritual growth is closely related to the absolute status of spirituality versus carnality. A believer, whether a baby, adolescent, or mature, is either spiritual or carnal at any moment, depending on whether God the Holy Spirit or the sin nature controls his soul. While a temporary lapse into carnality demands the rebound technique, it does not immediately erode the believer’s level of growth. The believer greatly benefits by keeping short accounts with God, by promptly rebounding to restore the filling of the Spirit. The more time the believer is filled with the Spirit, the greater his opportunity to learn and apply Bible doctrine, and the more rapid his spiritual growth.

    In the Church Age we have a new commandment that replaces the Mosaic Law: “Keep on being filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18; cf. Matt. 22:6-40; Gal. 5:22-23). Obedience to this new mandate is necessary in order to fulfill the second basic commandment: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). When you accurately understand these two imperatives, you are on your way in the Christian life. But, until you understand them, your Christian life will be frustrated.

    Many Christians are eternally saved but do not know it—they feel they have done something to lose their salvation. These are carnal believers who do not understand eternal security or the persistence of the sin nature in their lives. Yet, there is nothing the believer can do to lose his salvation. There is no failure, no sin that can cancel the work Christ accomplished on the cross.

    The question is: How do you know you are saved? Have you believed in Christ by faith alone? Then, you are saved! How do you know you are carnal or spiritual? Have you rebounded? Then, you are spiritual! Your awareness of salvation and the filling of the Holy Spirit comes by means of faith-perception—believing the Gospel and the doctrines of the Word of God as taught by the Mentor, God the Holy Spirit. Faith-perception makes the power of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual life a reality in your thinking.

    In the realm of spiritual phenomena, reality is not what you feel, not what you assume, not what tradition has taught you, but the Bible doctrine that the Holy Spirit teaches you.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)
 
Seeing that His divine power [the filling of the Holy Spirit] has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness [spiritual life], through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. (2 Pet. 1:3)