[In part one we considered “His Indwelling–Our Positional Sanctification”, and part two is about “His Indwelling–Our Experimental Sanctification.” After considering that THE SPIRIT’S INDWELLING OVERCOMES SIN IN US, we conclude this chapter on the practical and progressive side of the believer’s growth in Christlike character.]
THE SPIRIT’S INDWELLING DEVELOPS HIS OWN CHRISTLIKE CHARACTER IN US.
This takes us again to the fifth [chapter] of Galatians, to complete our examination of its teaching. We saw the necessity of walking in the Spirit that we might not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16), for the conflict is there and each is contending in the arena of our lives for the mastery (Gal. 5:17). What the flesh is capable of when unleashed, unhampered by the Spirit is graphically set forth in a catalog lurid with color (Gal. 5:19-21). As we read the enumeration, running the whole gamut of fleshly desire and degradation, and realize that it is but a partial listing ending with the phrase, “and such like,” we are confronted with a picture of what we might have been, but for His gracious interposition.
These are the “works of the flesh”; that is, what it normally works at and what it normally works out. We know the class of works that characterize a carpenter, or mason, an electrician or office clerk. So here are the output, the accomplishments of the flesh when free to “work”; that is, when it is not interfered with by the Spirit, when “the body of sin” is not put “out of work” (Romans 6:6). Such is the background for the Holy Spirit’s work of reorganizing our life around His own Indwelling.
This picture of possibilities in the flesh had to be drawn to show us “the hole of the pit whence we are digged.” By it the Spirit has compressed a world of contrast into the “BUT” that introduces His blessed deliverance: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law ” (Galatians 5:22, 23). These are not works,”disassociated, divisive, destructive. These are the “fruit,” one harmonious whole, of His Presence at the roots of life, at the fountain of affection, at the main- spring of action; the out-breathing of the inbreathing of God by His Spirit. It is John 15:1-8, with the flavor of the fruit analyzed. It is Christ realized in human life.
One hesitates to go beyond mere meditation in silence. Yet we can readily see that God is in this fruit bringing Himself, His own revealed attributes and ways of dealing with us, to realization in our characters and lives. “God is love.” Doubtless love is the dominant flavor, permeating all. This is borne out by reference to His characterization of Love in First Corinthians, comparing the two descriptions as we read:
“Charity [love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity [love] envieth not; charity [love] vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity [love] never faileth ” (I Corinthians 13:4-8).
Someone has interpreted the fruit of the Spirit in terms of love, as follows:
- Joy is love exulting.
- Peace is love reposing.
- Longsuffering is love untiring.
- Gentleness is love enduring.
- Goodness is love in action.
- Faith is love on the battlefield.
- Meekness is love under discipline.
- Temperance is love in training.
To see clearly how these qualities round out human character into a completed whole, we should gather the nine into three groupings of three each:
- “Love, Joy, peace”: these are the Spirit realizing Himself, His poise and calm, His essential Self in our PERSONAL CHARACTER.
- “Long-suffering, gentleness, goodness”: these are the Spirit realizing His own principles of dealing with men in our CONDUCT TOWARD OTHERS.
- “Faith, meekness, temperance”: these are the Spirit’s developing in us a right ATTITUDE TOWARD GOD. Or may we regard them as the “fine flour” of the meal offering, typifying the evenness of character found in our Lord Jesus Christ [Lev. 7:12].
Noted men of history are great in some outstanding characteristic. Not so with Him. We cannot think of Him as great in any one or more particulars; His life is so even in its traits of character, so balanced, so marked by wholeness. It is this that the Spirit’s Indwelling reproduces in us. Not a working, not a striving for this or that character-development, but a coming to expression of His own rounded-out character, the out living of the in-living Christ.
Is this an impossible ideal? beyond our hope of realization? No, for we go on to read, for our encouragement: “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24). Something, says the Spirit, has taken place in the spiritual life-history of every believer that frees him from the necessity of flesh-dominance. “They that are Christ’s”– they who, having accepted Him as Saviour, are His by the New Birth–“crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” When? And how? When we passed through some great crisis of struggling to be freed from sin? Never! There is just one place where God deals with sin, finally, completely, forever. It is at the Cross. It is the transaction of Calvary. [Through their identification with Christ, believers are freed from the authority of the flesh.] Those who know their Bible know that we were crucified there [at the Cross] “with Christ” (Romans 6:1-6; Galatians 2:20). It is there, dear reader, in the death of His Son “for sin” that God dealt effectually with all sin, yours and mine. Simply to believe it is to enter into His rest.
This is affirmed of each one of us in Galatians 5:24. [But] We know that such a statement is not true experimentally of all who are Christ’s. Alas…! Yet the Spirit states that it is absolutely true of all. The reason, the explanation, is this: He is speaking, not of Experimental, but of Positional Sanctification.
In so doing He uses the aorist tense, which, as every Greek scholar knows, expresses a past, complete, timeless transaction. “They that are Christ’s crucified the flesh” (omit the “have”). When? Dean Alford comments: “When they became Christ’s– at their baptism [being placed into Christ at salvation], see Romans 6:2.” Jamison, Fausset and Brown expound thus: “They nailed it [the flesh] to the cross once for all (force of aorist) when they became Christ’s (Romans 6:3,4). They keep it now in a state of crucifixion (Romans 6:6); so that the Spirit can produce in them, comparatively uninterrupted by it, ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ (Gal. 5:22).”
May God deliver us from two dangers:
- First, that of treating God’s Word as though it were untrue and struggling to crucify the flesh–which we never can–a thing which He accomplished once for all in Christ.
- Second, that of disregarding the victory of Calvary, that is, failing to reckon ourselves dead unto sin and continuing to yield obedience to its lusts.
So to live [in defeat] is not only unfair to Christ whose glorious victory on our behalf we thus nullify and let go for naught, it is in a more direct and intimate sense unfair to the Holy Spirit who has taken up His Indwelling in our hearts, thereby to check out to us the values of Calvary and make its victories a glorious, personal reality in the lives of all who are His. Therefore…
“Grieve not the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30). In some inexplicable manner the word “away” has been popularly inserted in this phrase, constituting a statement that is entirely unscriptural. We can never grieve away the Spirit, since He has come in to abide, dwell, remain. He is the indissoluble bond, uniting us to Christ, making eternal life eternally ours. Reader, you can never drive Him away.
And herein lies your power to grieve Him. If you are bound to frequent questionable places, you take Him along. He must go with you. He has no choice. If you persist in thinking, saying, doing, the unworthy thing, He is partner to it for He cannot disassociate Himself from His own and the things that occupy them.
Particularly is He grieved when we, in this manner, frustrate the twofold purpose of His Indwelling, namely, the two phases of our Sanctification, negative and positive. He is grieved, first, when we persist in clinging to the sin from which He seeks to set us free; second, when we refuse to let Him develop His own character of Christ-likeness in us. That this is the point of the exhortation not to grieve Him is evident from the context:
- NEGATIVE–“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph. 4:30).
- POSITIVE–” And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you ” (Eph 4:32).
If we are not to grieve the Spirit, we must believe His Word, wholly and implicitly, as to His indwelling presence; as to the purposes for which He indwells us; as to the use He makes of our union with Christ in His finished work to effect His victory in us. We must trust Him wholly, unwaveringly, to carry on His gracious work in our hearts, silently, steadily, victoriously.
Part 3 of 3
From HIS INDWELLING PRESENCE: Intimate Studies in the Things of the Spirit, by Norman B. Harrison, D. D. Pastor, Bible Teacher and Evangelist (1928). CHAPTER FOUR: HIS INDWELLING–OUR SANCTIFICATION.
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Al Middleton’s book, Our Awesome God! Our Amazing Adventure! is now available as a Kindle ebook on Amazon.com. Al directs Dynamic Churches International. This book is the story of his spiritual journey, and the mission, strategy and growth of DCI.