III. The Giver of Life
The Holy Spirit of God gives life to us in Christ and puts to death the sin nature that is killing us.
Jesus gave the Holy Spirit the name, “the Giver of Life” (John 6:63). This name was later brought into the Nicene Creed to identify the third person of the Holy Trinity. In summary, the Holy Spirit gives everyone life in the first place. He then gives renewed life to all who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Christ’s Spirit will raise our bodies from the dead. God’s Spirit brings us into eternal communion with God the Trinity as well as with all the other saints who have ever been and ever will be.
The Apostle Paul tells us even more about how the Giver of Life gives life, and how we are personally involved in his work upon us. In Romans 8 and Galatians 5, he says the Spirit both gives life to us and kills sin within us.
The Church’s divines—Catholic and Reformed as well as Baptist—variously used the language of mortification and vivification to describe this process. “Mortification” speaks of the putting to death of the desire for sin within us. “Vivification” speaks of the way life works itself into us. The sin nature, which Paul calls “flesh,” must be mortified or “put to death” by the Spirit. Our new nature, which Paul says is characterized by the Spirit’s fruit, must be vivified or “come to life” by the Spirit.
And the Spirit does all this, as our Pastor has continually reminded us, by focusing our faith upon Jesus Christ. In Romans 8:1-13, Paul writes:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. Now the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace. The mindset of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you.
So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.In conclusion, we find that the Holy Spirit of God gives life in Christ to us and puts to death the sin nature that is killing us. Death is in the flesh. Life is in the Spirit. The Spirit offers you both life and the fruit which demonstrates there is life in the root.
(Theological Note: Paul distinguishes between “flesh” [sarx] and “body” [soma] in this passage. While the flesh refers in this passage and in Galatians 5 to the sin nature, the body is itself raised by the Spirit into life. The ancient pagan and modern concept of the body as inherently evil does not agree with Paul. The material body is not inherently evil, although it may act in evil ways through the influence of the sin nature. Note also that Paul can use flesh without direct reference to the sin nature [Gal 2:20]. For Paul, the body is typically a reference to the physical person, while the flesh is typically a reference to the sin nature that leads us toward sin.)
(This is the third in a four-part short series on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. For part one, concerning the Spirit as Love, click here. For part two, concerning the Spirit as Intimate, click here.)