By Elizabeth Prata
People who are Christians often swing one of two extremes. Either they are told never to doubt their salvation, that it’s the devil trying to get them to doubt. Or they’re told to always doubt their salvation, that it’s arrogant to think we can be sure and secure.
Neither of these extremes are correct. Neither of these extremes are profitable.
Let’s use Romans 8:9 as a launching off point for today’s blog.
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. (Romans 8:9).
First, the Holy Spirit is indeed the presence of God Himself, Jesus Christ, the Spirit, in a true Christian’s soul. Isn’t that amazing?! God dwells with us but also IN us. As an aside for a moment, I’ve often wondered, where? Is He dwelling in every cell of a person? But then what about cells that die and slough off? God can’t die. Is He in our soul? Which is … where? Located in one certain spot in our biology? The brain? The heart? LOL, I think about these things. And because the answer is not available, or is beyond my finite mind, I shrug and move on, uttering prayers of thanks in gratitude for Him dwelling in us.
Now, Paul in the Romans verse said “IF the Spirit is in you”. He wouldn’t have said that if every person who thought they were saved was actually saved. Paul said it again in verse 11.
Sadly, it’s possible for a person to profess Christ but not possess Him, thus, not being in the Spirit as Paul said. Not saved.
A person in the Spirit will display inward and outward evidence that he is slaying his corrupt desires. He will show evidence that he is holy. Even newcomers to the faith will begin to show that their affections have changed. Inwardly, the possessor of the Spirit will notice his conscience pricked at things it was never bothered by before. If he used to swear, his profanity will feel bitter coming out of his mouth. If he used to drink, firewater will be as gall now. If he hated reading God’s word, he will now delight in it.
In just the verses prior to verse 9, Paul had warned,
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because 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, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8).
A possessor of the Spirit if in fact the Spirit dwells in them, will not be hostile to God in any way. The true Christian will be regenerated by the Spirit upon justification. He goes from death to life. From salt water to fresh water. From thorn to rose.
In Romans 7:17, Paul argued that people disobey God’s law because of the indwelling power of sin. Here, he asserts that the indwelling and empowering presence of the Spirit helps believers to resist the flesh and please God.Faithlife Study Bible (Ro 8:9). Lexham Press.
Now let’s look at the verse immediately prior to verse 9. Again, Paul said those that are in the flesh cannot please God. A professor but not a possessor of the Spirit CAN’T please God. This is the main reason the writers of the New Testament advised so strongly to stay totally away from false teaching and wolves that teach falsely. “Mark and avoid”. (Romans 16:17). They are ravenous and out to shred you. (Matthew 7:15). They are under a curse. (Galatians 1:8). They are clouds without water, alluring but deceptively empty. (Jude 1:12). If you enjoy the teaching of a teacher that many strong and solid Christians have marked as false, you might be in the flesh, because all false teachers’ doctrines appeal to the flesh. (2 Timothy 4:3).
So a person who professes Christ but does not possess Him will:
- Display unaltered affections
- Enjoy teaching that appeals to the flesh
A person who has the Spirit will:
- Evidence altered affections that are holy and righteous
- Enjoy teaching that honors and exalts the Lord.
If a person says “I do not see the fruit in you, perhaps it is time to check your salvation” or something of that nature, don’t immediately discount the statement. It could be a friend trying to help you. As the proverb says, Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6).
It is good to check yourself once in a while. Take a self-assessment. How many times we have heard stories of people who grew up in church and proclaimed Christ, only to suddenly realize at some pint they were never really saved? Often. Todd Friel of Wretched Radio ministry actually went so far as to study to become a pastor but wasn’t saved at that time- but didn’t know it. He was eventually saved at a later point, praise God.
So don’t dismiss gentle nudgings of the conscience, or a friend attempting to bring the Light. It could be actually true that “the Spirit is not in you”.
Alternately, it does a body no good to continually doubt. While Jude 1:22 says to have mercy on those who doubt, (Jude 1:22), James is careful to remind us that continual doubting in weak faith is not admirable, “for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6). One who continually doubts is only looking at himself and not Christ.
Ultimately, one reason the Spirit dwells in us is to assure us that we are His. Romans 8:16 says,
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God
He will secure our faith to the Rock, He will assure us. Though occasional self-assessment is good, we always go forward in faith and trust that we are one of His children.
Finally, we always remember Number 1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, [a] and to enjoy him for ever. [b]
A Believer’s Assurance: free booklet. (Offer ends today Aug 22) “Many Christians lack assurance of salvation—the confidence that their sins are truly forgiven and their place in heaven is eternally secured. Why is that? Why are so many believers plagued with doubts about the genuineness of their faith? And how can you be certain about your eternal destiny?”
Alistair Begg: Searching for Assurance. Devotional