When we approach the Day of Pentecost, our minds are often drawn to the events of Acts 2, or to the instruction of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians. We tend to think of the relatively spectacular events of the early church or of the public gifts of tongues and prophecy. These are certainly realities in the life of the Spirit-filled church, but when we pay attention to the New Testament we discover a wealth of information about the role of the Spirit in the life of a believer today. Why is the Spirit with us? What is it the Spirit does among us and in my life? One chapter in particular, maybe surprisingly so, provides us with a lot information about the work of the Holy Spirit.
When Paul opens Romans 8, we read one of the most pivotal moments in the epistles:
“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.” (vs. 1,2)
Paul has just described the back-breaking frustration we are left in, caught between the Mosaic law—that tells us what to do to please God—and the law of sin and death—that makes it impossible for me to please God on my own. The only thing that can break the tension set up in chapter 7 is the activity of the Spirit in me; the only thing more powerful than the law of sin and death is the law of the Spirit of life. Because the Spirit-with-us does its work, there is no condemnation for those in Christ. In other words, the believer no longer lives under the “continuous, low-lying black cloud” of guilt and sin (The Message).
Paul then introduces another facet to the Spirit-led life:
“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.” (vs. 4)
The believer is described as someone who now has the option to walk according to a Spirit-lead life instead of being bound by sin and death. Not only are we asked to live this new kind of life, we are given access to the mind and will of the Father and the power to live it out through the work of the Spirit. The Spirit knows the mind of God (Rom 8:27), reveals it to us (1 Cor. 2:10), and empowers us to lead a new kind of life (Acts 1:8, Gal. 5:18).
The Spirit gives life to my mortal body: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he…will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (vs. 11). I have the hope of eternal life with God and a taste of his presence here and now because the Spirit is with me.
The Spirit is my adoption document: “but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (vs. 14). I am heir to the kingdom of my Abba, Father because the Spirit dwells within me.
The Spirit communicates with me: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (vs. 16). Elsewhere we know the Spirit communicates many things (John 14:26; 16:8-11), but here, the message is one of adoption, forgiveness, grace, and “no condemnation.”
The Spirit aids me in my weakness, praying through me and for me: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (vs. 26). It is a great encouragement that the Spirit, who walks every step of life with me, is constantly advocating for me before my Father in heaven. Likewise, the Spirit provides for me a language of prayer I don’t always understand, but is nonetheless genuine intercession.
Paul also describes the Spirit as a taste of eternity. We, and creation, stumble along in a broken and deeply imperfect world, but because of the Spirit-with-us, we carry a seed of the kingdom of God. We are, so to speak, pregnant with eternity.
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (vs. 22, 23)
Everything else we know from Romans 8 is true in our lives because the Spirit is the experiential, lynch-pin in the life of the believer.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose....If God is for us, who can be against us?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.... I am sure that [nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God’s Spirit-with-us makes all this real.