Question: Does God’s Spirit dwell within the heart of a justified believer to any degree before he is sanctified (baptized with the Holy Ghost)? In what manner does Christ come into the heart of a person when he gets saved, or does He? Please comment on Romans 8:9, in regard to this.
Answer: Romans 8:9 is a key text for this whole question and perhaps a proper understanding of this scripture will satisfy the mind of the questioner so I will proceed to discuss this verse in detail in the main to cover the entire question. This verse reads thus: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
This scripture has proved a stumbling block to some in that they identify the Spirit of Christ as the Holy Spirit and conclude that one could not be saved without possessing the Holy Spirit hence the conclusion is that a complete salvation is obtained at one time and one receives the Holy Spirit when he is saved. But I do not interpret this scripture in this way and for the following reasons:
We would certainly agree that Christ’s spirit was holy. “…Who [Christ] knew no sin;…” II Corinthians 5:21. “Who [Christ] did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth….” I Peter 2:22. He “…was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15. Hence He was holy and possessed the spirit of holiness. Also, He possessed the Holy Spirit within Him (He came upon Him in the bodily form of a dove at His baptism) the same as we possess Him when we are sanctified or baptized with the Holy Spirit. BUT the Holy Spirit is a definite, distinct, and separate person in His won right and is always identified in His own person the same as Jesus the Son, and God the Father.
The Holy Spirit is a member of the triune God-head and is co-existent with God, the Father, and Jesus Christ, the Son. In Hebrews 9:14 He is called the eternal Spirit, and He is as distinct a person as the other two. Therefore it would be no more proper to refer to the spirit of Christ, meaning the Holy Spirit, than it would be to turn it around and say the Christ of Holy Spirit. In either case we would be failing to observe the proper distinction between distinct persons.
Now let us look at some other Scriptures which use the term “spirit of.” In the one referred to in our question (Romans 8:9), reference is made to the “Spirit of God” and the “Spirit of Christ.” In the first part of this verse reference is made to the “Spirit of God” dwelling in us. This could possibly refer to the Holy Spirit (I hardly think so for the reasons given above) because that is the name of the entire God-head God (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). Then the last part of the verse refers to all saved people having the “Spirit of Christ.” The objective of this entire discussion is to explain this. The last part of this verse (9) says, “…Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Then the next verse (10) says, “And if Christ be in you,…” It seems clear to me here that the “Spirit of Christ” in the last part of verse 9 and Christ Himself in the first part of verse 10 are used interchangeably.
This seems to me to correspond quite well with a couple of texts in II Corinthians 3. Verse 6 says that God has “…made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” Verse 17 says, “Now the Lord is that spirit:…” Here it is declared that the Lord is that Spirit and it is clear that it is not the Spirit of Christ but Christ Himself is the spirit, or heart, or life of the gospel message. Surely there would be no question in anyone’s mind but that the spirit and the Lord are used interchangeably in these two texts.
But let us go farther in considering texts which make reference to the “spirit of.” In Ephesians 4:23, it says, “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” I Corinthians 2:11 says, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?…” I Corinthians 2:12 says, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world,…” In all the above texts we read of “Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, spirit of man, spirit of the world, spirit of the devil, and spirit of your mind;” but nowhere do we read of the spirit of the Holy Spirit. Again I say that He is a definite personage and is always identified in His own person and this distinction must be maintained to produce proper sense.
It would, no doubt, be easy for us to understand that the “spirit of your mind” would refer to the tendencies, disposition, nature, actions, and controlling influences, and behavior of the world. Then the “Spirit of Christ” would refer to the nature, disposition, tendencies and behavior of Christ.
In I Corinthians 6:17, it says, “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” This corresponds with Romans 8:9, which says, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Surely all who are saved and joined unto Christ are made partakers of His Spirit, which, as has already been observed is His nature, disposition, and characteristics of life and behavior.
The Spirit of Christ is declared to be the “Spirit of liberty.” (II Corinthians 3:17.) It is a spirit of obedience Philippians 2:8, Hebrews 10:9, Matthew 26:39, Matthew 26:42, John 4:34, John 8:29. We receive that same spirit of obedience when we get saved. John 14:15 says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:21 says, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me:…” And Hebrews 5:9 says that Christ became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. The Spirit of Christ is a spirit of humility. Philippians 2:5-8, Matthew 11:29, and many more. But we are instructed in Philippians 2:5 to let this same mind or disposition, or nature, or characteristic be in us. Jesus said (Matthew 5:3), “Blessed are the poor in spirit [humble spirit]: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Again, Peter says, (I Peter 3:4), “But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit,…” The Spirit of Christ is a spirit of mercy. Matthew 12:20. This same spirit is to dwell in them who are joined to Him. In Matthew 5:7, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Again, in Luke 6:36, Jesus said, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” This comes in line with the very same thought as is dealt with in the 5th chapter of Matthew which concluded in verse 48 with these words of Jesus: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” It is the same thought and sums up to us being perfect in mercy and in our attitudes toward our fellow men. Jesus forgave His enemies and died to save them, praying, “…Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do….” Luke 23:34. We must possess this same spirit of forgiveness to be a child of God because Jesus said, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15.
In Malachi 4:5, there is a prophecy concerning John the Baptist which comes in good place here. It says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” To prove that this was John the Baptist we refer you to Matthew 11:10-14. “For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.”
Now someone may say, “How could John the Baptist be Elijah or Elias?” Granted that in physical actuality he was not; but figuratively and in spirit he was. This is clarified in the statement of the angel to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist in Luke 1:17 “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,…”
This makes the point clear and throws some light on the text in Romans 8:9. John came at a time of deep apostasy and great spiritual darkness such as at the time of Elijah, the most outstanding of all the prophets. He came to Israel and turned the hearts of the people to God as Elijah had done in his day, and manifested the same vehemence against error and the same zeal and boldness for truth that Elijah had shown. It brought a great spiritual awakening such as Elijah’s work had brought. So it is said that he went in the spirit and power of Elijah in so much that he was called Elias.
This is the way I see us having the Spirit of Christ. It is in us possessing within ourselves that same vehemence and righteous indignation against sin and error, the same zeal and boldness for truth and righteousness, the same humility, meekness, gentleness, mercy, obedience, behavior, and every other characteristic of Christ Himself and doing His work.
Colossians 1:27 says, “…Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Ephesians 3:17 says, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;…”
John 6:56 says, “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.”
The way, then, that I interpret having the Spirit of Christ is to have Christ living within us and the Christ life predominant in all of our behavior because “the Lord is that Spirit.” (II Corinthians 3:17.)
This happens when an individual complies with all the conditions of God’s Word for salvation, properly repents of all sin, believes the promises of God, and accepts and receives God’s forgiveness for all his sins; Jesus Christ comes into his heart then to direct his life and give him power over sin to live a holy and righteous life free from sin. This is what constitutes conversion, being saved, being born again, born of the Spirit, etc. This experience is described by all these terms and maybe others in the holy Scriptures.
Then as one walks in the light as he is directed and led by the indwelling Christ in his heart, he comes to the point to present his body a living sacrifice to God and consecrate and dedicate his whole life and being to God for divine service and sacred use. When that consecration is complete (“When thy soul the perfect price hath paid; God will send the holy fire”), he is filled and baptized with the Holy Spirit, (wholly sanctified) who applies the blood to his heart, purging out that old depravity of nature received from Adam with which he was born, and purifying his heart by faith (Acts 15:9), is made holy in heart as well as in life. This is called, in the scriptures, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and also sanctification. This is the perfection, completion, or fulfilling of one’s salvation. (Hebrews 10:14.)
In summing up, let me emphasize that in order to have a clear understanding of what Romans 8:9 is actually saying and teaching, we must maintain a clear distinction between the “Spirit of Christ” and the “Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is not the spirit of anyone or of anything but is identified by His own name and in His own right. Jesus told His disciples in Acts 1:5, “…ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Note Jesus said, “the Holy Ghost,” (not the Spirit of Christ). On the day of Pentecost the disciples were all filled with the HOLY GHOST (Acts 2:4) not the Spirit of Christ. When Peter preached Christ to the household of Cornelius, while he was yet speaking, the HOLY GHOST (not the Spirit of Christ) fell on all them who heard the Word. In the 19th chapter of Acts when Paul found certain disciples at Ephesus, (Acts 19:2) he asked them, “…Have ye received the HOLY GHOST (not the Spirit of Christ) since ye believed?…” Note that in all these cases the Holy Spirit is identified by His own name and in His own right as a distinctly authoritative person and not as the spirit of anybody or anything. We must render Him this same reverence.