Dr. S. Lewis Johnson continues his commentary on Paul's teachings about life by the law of the Spirit and how sanctification for the believer comes not by legalistic actions but through a life of faith.
[Message] Romans 8:5-17 is our Scripture reading. We want to devote most of the message to verse 12 through verse 17, but we’ll read beginning at verse 5 for the Scripture reading.
“For they that are after the flesh (Paul says) do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; (Or literally the mind of the flesh is death,) but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (We commented on this last week in some detail.) So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 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. And if Christ be in you, the body indeed dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
I’d like for you to be sure and notice that the apostle is not saying that the Holy Spirit raised Jesus Christ. He says, “If the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you.” It’s not, but if the Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead, but “the spirit of him, who raised up Jesus from the dead.” That’s confirmed by the original text, so the unanimous testimony or the general overwhelming testimony of the Bible is that the Father raised the Son. The reason for that is in this way we know that the Father, accepted the sacrifice, which the Son made, and so he is regarded in Scripture as the one who raised the Son from the dead. Now, verse 12 follows as an inference from the preceding.
“Consequently then or, Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (A very interesting passage which reveals that every believer is one who is lead by the Holy Spirit.) As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Abba is an Aramaic word. It really is the emphatic form of the Aramaic word, for father. The apostle uses the Aramaic as well as the Greek words in his text at this point surely to remind us of the fact that this is what Jesus prayed when he was in the Garden in Gethsemane, and therefore it has special sentimental value for them, as well as communicating important truth. We are able to call our father, father, just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane when he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for Thee. Let this cup pass from me if it be Thy will.” Then verse 16 follows,) The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”
May the Lord bless this reading from his Word.
[Message] Our subject for today is really a continuation of our subject of last Sunday, Life by the Spirit, and for those of you who were here, I hope you remember that we began by pointing out that all genuine Christians have an interest in living the Christian life, but unfortunately it’s not always clear how this should be done. Some have gone the way of legalism, erecting taboos as norms, and then hoping by living up to these human norms, to merit some acceptance with God, and in this way seek to find some assurance of a holy life. The Bible however presents the Christian life as a life of faith. “By the just shall live by faith.” We are told in contexts that have to do with the Christian life, such as in Hebrew chapter 10. The apostle says, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” The Bible speaks of sanctification or holiness as a gift of God, just as is justification, so that a life by legalism is contrary to the teaching of the word of God. Sometimes our legalism is not so much of a negative character by taboos as a positive. That is, we are to be sanctified by reading the Bible or sanctified by spending so many moments in prayer, or sanctified by witnessing to so many people. That itself becomes a legalistic method of sanctification, but Scripture says that sanctification is a life of faith.
Now, some people, when they discover that the Bible says that we are not under the Law of Moses as a code thinking that that provides them with an excess of liberty, they have turned to license. Now it is evident from the Pauline teaching that that was a distinct possibility in Paul’s day, because he warns against that. He says, “Use not your liberty for license.” Romans and Galatians and the Pauline teaching, and in fact the whole of the Bible, proclaims a third alternative, and that third alternative is life after the Spirit. It is the Spirit who enables the believer to please the Lord in his Christian life, and what a wonderful experience life by the Spirit is. It’s not the totally victorious life, for no one ever lives that, especially those who try to tell us that there is such a life. They’re really doing a great deal of damage because they are creating despair in the saints of God because it’s not long before you discover that you cannot attain to a certain plane of spiritual living, and maintain that particular plane of living without the same concern for spiritual things and the relationship with the Lord that all Christians must be concerned with. The Bible says, that we are, when we walk after the Spirit living the Christian life.
Now, the apostle in the 8th chapter of Romans is expounding some of the aspects of this. He has begun this chapter by pointing out the fact that there is freedom. He says, “There is therefore now, no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” He explains that this freedom is not simply a freedom from divine condemnation, but also freedom from the law of sin and death, that characterizes our lives in a more practical way. He says that we have no condemnation because the law of Spirit of life, in Christ Jesus has freed us from the law of sin and death. And he says that, “That is grounded in the atoning work of Christ, for what the law could not do, and that it was weak through the flesh. God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh.” All of this with the purpose that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. That expression, “who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit,” describes a Christian’s life. Every Christian is a Christian who walks after the Spirit. In fact, Paul will say in verse 14, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” This is something God gives to every Christian. He leads every Christian. That’s characteristic of Christians. It is characteristic of Christians to “”walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” There is something deep down within the heart of every Christian that gives him the desire by virtue of the life within him to please the Lord.
Now, Paul tells us why believers walk by the Spirit. He says every man is controlled by his inward inclination, “For they that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” Well, we are after the Spirit. We mind the things of the Spirit. That’s characteristic of believers. They mind the things of the Spirit. Their bent of life is that way. There are issues that flow out of that fact. Another reason we walk after the Spirit is that the one who walks after the flesh dies. That’s the issue of a life after the flesh. Listen to Paul, “For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace. “The mind of the flesh is enmity against God.” It is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be.” We said this was one of the “tersest definitions of sin” citing William GT Shedd.
Verse 7 where he says, “The carnal mind is enmity against God. It is not subject to the Law of God neither indeed can be. The mind of the flesh is enmity against God.” That’s what sin is, enmity against God. And the apostle concludes by saying, “Therefore so then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. There is no power in the flesh of men to submit to God.” That’s what we mean when we say that men are totally depraved. That is that their sin touches all of their being, their minds, their wills, their emotions. Not that they’re as bad as they can be, but sin has touched all of their faculties. That’s what total depravity means. Paul would have agreed of course with our Lord who said, “Satan cannot cast out Satan.” “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” They must please the one who is his master.
Now, then in verse 9 and following, the apostle goes on to speak about his life and hope. He states, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you.” So we are not in the flesh. Every believer in Christ is in the Spirit. “All who are not believers are in the flesh. We are not in the flesh, but we are in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in us.” And we pointed out this is the language of an element. We are in the Spirit and the Spirit is in us.” The relationship is so close, that it is like an element. The ancients spoke of the elements as water and fire and earth and air. And this language is expressive of a relationship that is so close that it is like an element. Just as when you put a poker in the fire, soon the fire is in the poker. Or a bird flies in the air. The air is in the bird. Or a fish is in water. Water is in the fish. Or a plant is in the ground, and soon the chemicals of the ground are in the plant, so that there is that union.
Now, the apostle says, “Ye are not in the flesh, ye are in the Spirit. They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” As long as we are unbelievers we cannot even believer. “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Faith pleases God, therefore there must be a sovereign work of God, where by he takes us out of the flesh, places us in Spirit, gives us life, and there first expression of that life, through the preaching of the Word is to believer the message, all by the grace of God. That’s so plain. I don’t understand why people don’t see that the apostle is just as clear as a bell. He’s saying something must happen to you before you believe. For you are in the flesh until you believe. “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” If you believe you please God, therefore something must have taken place that takes you out of the flesh and places you in the Spirit.
Now, people find difficulty with this because they have been taught so often the reverse. That when they look at it here they say, “There must be some trick to it. Dr. Johnson’s got some trick up his sleeve.” No, I don’t have any trick up my sleeve. I have Paul up my sleeve. He says, “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Well, I want labor that point. I labor it often enough as it is because there isn’t a wholesale acceptance of it, but there should be.
Now, the apostle had said at the end of chapter 7, “Oh, wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Bible teachers often come into the pulpit like this and say, “We know the secret.” And then they unfold to us what are supposed to be secrets of the victorious life, by which we are supposed to reach a plane of living, and we are no longer troubled as we are before we knew this specific teaching. We are taught often that we can live a victorious life constantly. Live on a certain plane of life and the struggles are really the struggles of the past. Paul’s teaching is diametrically opposed to that. He says that we shall struggle as long as we are in the flesh. That teaching leads first of all, to exuberant enthusiasm, but then despair, and despair as deep as the enthusiasm was high.
Paul does not say that there is a plane of life to which we may attain, upon which we shall no longer struggle in the Christian life. He tells us we are going to have struggles in the Christian life. But there is going to come a victory. We shall be delivered from the body of this death, but it takes place at the resurrection. That’s what he says in verse 11, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you he that raised up Christ from the dead, shall give life to your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” “Oh, wretched man that I, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” The Holy Spirit shall deliver me from the body of this death, and he will deliver me from the body of this death, at the resurrection of the body, and not until then. In the mean time, we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, for he that hath not the Spirit of Christ is none of his. We have the Holy Spirit within us to guide and direct us and to deliver us as we look to him by the grace of God, but we shall not have complete deliverance until the resurrection of the body in the future. That, we look forward to of course.
We want this full deliverance. We want the time to come when we don’t tend to become indifferent to spiritual things. We want the time to come when we are not lethargic in our Christian experience, when we seem to loose the desire to witness to the members of our family, or to our friends or to those with whom we are thrown in contact, when we don’t desire to read the Bible, when we don’t desire to get upon our knees and fellowship with our heavenly Father. We want to be delivered from that tendency within us to turn away from the things of God, but we will not be completely delivered from it until the time of the resurrection. That’s why we look forward to the time of the resurrection. It’s going to be a great day when we are no longer troubled by the things of the flesh that hold us down because deep down within every true believer wishes to server the Lord with purity, with obedience and with holiness. Isn’t that true? Of course it’s true. “The mind of the flesh is enmity against God, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace.”
Well now, there are certain obligations that flow out of this wonderful truth, and so Paul states in verse 12, “Therefore brethren we are debtors not to the flesh to live after the flesh, for if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” The resurrection is a motive to holiness. If we live after the flesh we shall die. There is no obligation for us to sin. That’s to live in the way of eternal death. It’s possible incidentally to interpret that “Ye shall die” in a physical sense, ye shall die physically, and thus this would be a reference to believers. “Therefore brethren we are debtors not to the flesh to live after the flesh, for if ye believers live after the flesh ye shall die.” That is under the disciple of God. I don’t deny there is such a thing. It’s possible for believers to live carnally for a time, but you see, God is a God of discipline. He’s just like an earthly father, who cares for his children. An earthly father who cares for his children disciplines his children. He uses the razor strap or whatever it may be that you may find very useful, you men. You are responsible to disciple your children. That’s the sign that you love them. One may over do that of course, but in our society the tendency is to under do it, rather than over do it. We are responsible to discipline our children. That’s the sign that we do love them.
Now, our heavenly Father is a good father, so he disciplines. When you are born again, and you come in the family God, you have a Father who disciplines. He disciplines perfectly. He knows exactly what’s the matter, and he knows exactly what works. And so he disciplines. He disciplined the Corinthians. They were disorderly at the Lord’s table, and so Paul said, “For this cause some of you are week.” That’s first-degree discipline. “Some of you are sick.” That’s second-degree discipline, “and some sleep.” That’s the term for a Christian’s death. So it’s possible for a person to so persist is sin, in his carnality that finally God in effect says, “Well, you have believed in Jesus Christ, and you have righteous standing before me, but you are bringing reproach on the name of the triune God. We’ll just take you home.” And that’s what had happed to the Corinthians, Ananias and Saphria, learned that lesson. The children of Israel in the Old Testament as they went through the wilderness, learned that lesson too. The generation that refused to go into the land at Kadesh-barnea tempted the Lord ten times. They died in the wilderness, so there is discipline. It’s possible to understand this text in that way. “Therefore brethren we are debtors not to the flesh to live after the flesh, for if ye live after the flesh ye shall die physically.” But the usage of the term of the Apostle Paul here in Romans would seem to argue more strongly as eternal death as being in view. In the light of chapter 6 verse 21, in the light of chapter 8 verse 6 where he says, “For the mind of the flesh is death.”
It would seem that what he is talking about is eternal death. Therefore he says, “Therefore brethren we are debtors not to the flesh to live after the flesh, for if ye live after the flesh that is the evidence that you don’t really belong to the Lord, and you shall die. That’s the life of the man outside of Christ. He lives according to the flesh. But he goes on to say “If ye through the Spirit,” The latter part of verse 13, “do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live.” In other words it is characteristic of a Christian to have experiences, which require the putting to death of the deeds of the body. Putting it in other words, it is self-abnegation, self-mortification to use Scriptural terms.
You’ll remember the Apostle Paul writing to the Colossians says, “If you are risen with Christ, then seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. “For ye have died, (he says) and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory? We have died, (But then after having said, we have died, he says,) Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil desire, and covetness, which is idolatry and all of the other things, for which comes the wrath of God upon the children of men.” Mortification, this is the experimental side of reckon yourselves to be dead in deed unto sin, and alive unto God in Jesus Christ our Lord. The Christian life is not easy. It is a life of self-abnegation, and when those manifestations of the flesh appear, those deeds of the flesh appear, Paul says, “Through the Spirit, we cannot do it in our own strength, through the Spirit you are to put to death the deeds of the body, in order that you may live.” It is characteristic of believers to do that, Paul is saying.
Now, I spent a lot of time in Charleston, South Carolina, as those of you who’ve listened to me very long know, and Charleston’s a very beautiful city. It’s most beautiful in March and April, when the azaleas are still blooming and the camellias are still blooming, three magnificence gardens are there, Magnolia, and Middleton Gardens, and Cypress Gardens. They are known all over the world. Paul comes from all over the world to see those gardens at that time of the year. My father loved camellias. Out in his particular there, he used to have over fifty, camellia plants. He became very interested in them in his later years. It’s a sign of old age, but nevertheless he became interested in them, and I would stand around and listen to him talk about them. And he would graft camellia signs on stock. He told me how you do it, and you know, who have done any grafting at all of camellias, or for example roses you know that if there are any shoots that come from off of the old stock that you have to cut off those shoots, otherwise the plant is weekend, and the blooms and growth will not be what you wish. It’s very much like that in the spiritual life. We have an all nature, with the sin principle indwelling us. We have been given new life. The old life still manifests itself, and Paul says that believers are those, who through the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body. That is we take the scissors out, and we clip off those growths that come from the old life. That’s just as simply speaking what Paul is talking about here.
He speaks about this more than once. He says, over in 1 Corinthians in the 9th verse as he’s describing the Christian life as a race. He says, “I therefore so run not as uncertainly so fight I, (And what he means by uncertainly I suppose is he means he stays in his own lane.) So fight I not as one that beateth the air.” I am not shadow boxing. This is the real thing, and then he goes on to say, “but I keep under my body.” That word is a word that meant originally to strike under the eyes. Hence to give a black eye. It really means something like to beat ones body black and blue. It’s a metaphor of fisticuffs. He’s just said, “So fight I not as one that beateth the air, but I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” So the apostle knew what it was to mortify his members on the earth. He knew what it was to put to death the deeds of the body. He knew what it was to beat his body black and blue, to keep under the manifestations of the old life, by means of the power of the Holy Spirit. The Christian life is to be lived as a life of struggle.
You must be told it is a life of struggle so that you will know what you face. It’s not all peaches and cream, and he will go on to speak of something even more serious in a moment when he talks about the sufferings that face every single believer.
Now, that’s enough of that. The apostle goes on to speak about sonship. This is another reason that true believers will mortify the deeds of the body. They are sons. He says, “For as many as are lead by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” The characteristic sign of one who is a son of God is that he’s led by the Spirit. And the leading of the Spirit is the putting to death the deeds of the body through the Spirit. That’s his leading. He, the Spirit points out to us the manifestations of the old life, and through his power we pout them to death. That is being led by the Spirit, and those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God. All the sons of God are led by the Spirit of God, and the sons of God respond. That is there desire.
Paul explains, “You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear. You have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father.” What a magnificent thing to be a possessor of sonship by the heavenly Father. Some of you, I know, have secret ambitions. You wish that your name was something like S. Lewis Rockefeller, or S. Lewis Ford, or S. Lewis Vanderbilt or S. Lewis Hunt. No, no, no why be satisfied with something so earthly and so lowly as the name Rockefeller. We are sons of God. We have the spirit of adoption. We are the sons of God. Our family does not go back to the Mayflower. It does not go back to those great Hebrew prophets and psalmists. Our family tree goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, and actually on into the triune God, sons of God, magnificent.
The Lord Jesus told a parable about a man who had two sons. He said that one of the sons came to the father and asked for his inheritance, and the father gave him his inheritance, and so he took his inheritance. He went off, and he wasted his substance in riotous living, and there came a great famine. He had nothing. He felt himself in want. He finally attached himself to a citizen of the country, and he sent him out to feed the swine. And finally as he was feeding the swine, he got to the place, where he wished he had the husks that the swine were feeding on. He was so low. And then he came to himself, and he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants, have bread enough and to spare, and I parish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father, and I will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee am no more worthy to be called thy son. Make me as one of thy hired servants.” And he arose. He came to his father. And then our Lord said, when he was long way off the father looked down the road and his eyes fell upon the son over whom he had longed, and the father gathered up his long garment, and began to run down the road. Ah, what a shameful thing that might seem to be. Have you ever seen an old man run? You want to laugh. Well, come out some day, and watch me run. You’ll laugh. [Laughter]
And you can see the father gathering up his robes and running down the road to meet his son. By the way, this is Jesus Christ’s picture of God, and he falls upon the neck of the son, and begins to repeat him, and the son has prepared his little sermon, and so he says, “Father, I’ve sinned against heaven, and in thy sight am no more worthy to be called thy son.” And he wanted to say, “And make me one of they hired servants.” And the father just shut him up when he had said, “I am no more worthy to be called thy son.” He said, “Bring forth the robe. Put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, shoes on his feet, bring the fatted calf, and kill it, and let’s eat, and be merry. For this my son was dead and is alive. He was lost and was found.” And they began to be merry.
Someone said, “Who ever heard that they stopped.” They began to be merry. The son has come back. Magnificent illustration of the reconciliation that takes place when the father in wonderful grace has brought us back to himself. We are sons, sons of God. There’s one of the greatest of the New Testament scholars, was a man by the name of Joachim Jeremias. I’ve heard Mr. Jeremias lecture. He’s pointed out some rather interesting things about this term Abba father. In the Old Testament God was spoken of as Father about fourteen times. In the time of our Lord, Palestinian Judaism was very reluctant to speak of God as father. There is no evidence, although some has come into being since Jeremias said this that is possibly an objection to this, but not of the essential force of the words. There is no evidence or little evidence if any that God was ever addressed as my Father, in the individual sense in our Lord’s day. It is he who said, “After this manner therefore pray ye our Father, who art in heaven.”
In the New Testament the Lord Jesus addressed prayer to God twenty one times. He spoke of my Father. My Father, twenty of the times. One time he did not use the term Father. He used the term God. He said, “My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me?” When he was dying as a judicial penal sacrifice. Then the relationship is not parental, but it’s judicial. A hundred and seventy times he spoke of his father as Father. It’s astonishing really that in Palestinian Judaism there is no evidence of this as a common expression. We think of it as common because of our Lord’s prayer, but there is something else about this. Here is a man who was authorized by God, evidentially to call him Abba.
Some of our New Testament scholars say, “Jesus was a just a prophet who will remain within the limits of Judaism, but there is no evidence that Jews spoke of God this way. He was someone who broke the limits of the Judaism of his day. He’s a man who had the authority to address God as Abba, and who authorized others to enter into relationship with him calling Father, calling God his Father. That originally was a little babbling sound, Abba, like we say Papa. My grandchildren call me dade. They call their father daddy. I call my father daddy. I call my father daddy when I was fifty years old, even though I could speak to him more maturely then. I still used those words. Those tones. Those are very intimate tones. When my father was seventy-five years of age, eighty years of age, I said, daddy.
This was a term that was used in that sense. It really is the Aramaic emphatic form. It simply means, the father, but it came to be used by the little children. They mumbled out language and the term for father, abb came out like this, Abba, and it never looses. It never looses this force. Theodore of Mopsuestia speaks of little children calling their fathers, abba, and the apostles heard our Lord’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed, “Abba, Father.” And they realized that they were authorized to address God in the same way. He authorized them to do that. It was the father, incidentally who gave children instruction in the faith, not the mother. It was the Jewish father who sat the boys and girls upon his lap, and taught them the law. And so associated with the term father is Revelation, illumination of the written Word, and so Abba is associated with that. That’s why the Lord Jesus says, “No man can know the Father except the Son, and he to whom so ever the Son will reveal him.” No one knows the Son except the Father. It’s a term of Revelation. It’s a term of endearment, and we are authorized to call God, Father, Abba. Amazing, it’s amazing.
Now, he says, “Ye have not received of bondage again unto fear. Ye have received the spirit of adoption whereby we cry Abba, Father, and the Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God.” Two witnesses, the Holy Spirit and our spirit they testify, when you have come to faith in Christ, you are a child of God. The love of Jesus, none but his loved ones know. I could never tell you what it’s like, but when you come to know Christ, you know deep down in your heart that God has spoken and has said, “You are my son. As by the work of the Holy Spirit you have come to faith in him.” What an assurance. It’s John the apostle who in the 5th chapter of his book says,
“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. This is the witness of God, which ye hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself. He that believeth not God hath made him a liar because he believeth not the record that God gave of his son. This is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his son. He that hath the Son hath life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God that you may hope that you will have eternal life.”
No, no, that you may know that you have eternal life. The man who led me to the Lord, Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, has said, “Someone may wonder if there’s really such an important difference in these two statements, that you may hope that you will have eternal life, and that you may know that you have eternal life.” He says they’re as opposite as despair and confidence.
Well, they’re as opposite as doubt and certainty. They are as opposite as anxiety and peace. He said, “Come to me to the underpass outside of one of our cities, which is a railroad center and has freight yards, and here are two or three men, hobos, vagabonds. They are sitting around talking and one of them says, “I hope that I will have a million dollars someday.” The other one says, “No, I hope that I will have two million, inflation the way it is.” The other one says, “No, I will hope that I will have ten million.” And you say, “By the way how much do you fellows have?” Well, to be exact, we have thirty eight cents between us.” Then he said, “Now, let’s go to the board room of one of our great financial institutions like Citi Corporation of New York City or the Bank of America, and there’s some tycoons of industry sitting around talking about the need for about one hundred million dollars to begin construction on some important synthetic fuel plant.” And a Dupont sitting over there says, “Well, I’ll give twenty five million to that.” And a Rockefeller says, “You can count me in for ten.” And a Ford says, “I’ll take ten.” And a Mellon says, “Well, take fifteen. How much do we need?” “We need twenty five million or so.” “Well call Herb down in Dallas.” And so they get on the phone, and they “Mr. Hunt, we have need for twenty five million dollars.” He said, “Well count me in. I’ll send it to you in silver dollars if you want it.” And they don’t say, “We hope that we will have it.”
You might say now, “Now, you don’t really mean you’ve got all that do you? You mean you hope that you will have it.” No, no we know that we have it, so we conclude that the difference between a tramp and a multimillionaire, Mr. Barnhouse says, is the difference between a professing Christian, who hopes he will have eternal life, and a possessing Christian who knows that he has eternal life. We have two witnesses, two great witnesses, the witness of the spirit within, and the witness of the Holy Spirit.
Dr. Barnhouse was preaching in Portland once, and the next day after the message, in which he had spoken about what it was to have assurance of salvation. The pastor came by of the church with his wife, and they were to drive him up the Columbia River Valley, which he used to like to say was the most beautiful river valley in all the world, and as he got in the car the wife of the pastor said, “Oh, Dr. Barnhouse, that message last night was such a blessing to me. All the way home my heart was just turning handsprings at the thought of all that we have in Jesus Christ.”
He said not long after that he was preaching in his own church in Philadelphia. I’ve preached in that church. It has two balconies down the side, like this. Balconies are not far away from the pulpit, so if you are standing in the pulpit you look off and you can see very closely those that are in the balcony along here, and he said he was preaching one morning, and there was little boy twelve years old, who was sitting just off to his right looking at him very intently listening to everything that he had to say, and finally as Dr. Barnhouse often did, he finished a message by gathering together all of the statements the Bible said about our forgiveness. He used to repeat this. He knew it by heart. “Our sins have been forgiven, forgotten, cleansed, pardoned, atoned for, remitted, covered. They’ve been cast into the depths of the sea, blotted out as a thick cloud, removed as far as the east is from west, remembered against us no more forever, cast behind God’s back.” And with that he concluded the message, and he went out to the front of the church and as he was standing there, this little boy came along, and Dr. Barnhouse, is about six two or six three inches in height, and little boy came up and grabbed his coat like this, and he looked down at him, and he looked up and he said, “Good sermon, doc.” [Laughter] And then he went on and he said, “Gee we’re sure sitting pretty aren’t’ we?” We are. We are sure sitting pretty.
If we have believed in Jesus Christ, we are the sons of God. We walk after the Spirit, not after the flesh led by Holy Spirit. We do not live a totally victorious life, like Jacob, like Abraham, like Isaac, like the saints of the Old Testament. We fail. We displease our heavenly Father. It disturbs us like Peter. We go off and weep bitterly over the ways in which we fail, but deep down within there is that desire to please him implanted by God the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit works constantly in us to conform us ultimately to Jesus and he will sovereignly perfect his work. You are going to be like Christ if you’ve believed in him.
Well, our time is up. We are sitting pretty. We are sons. We are heirs. Because we are sons, we are heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with him. That we may be glorified together, next he’ll talk about sufferings. And what that does to our hope. Well, let me sum it up. Nothing less than the Spirit’s presence is genuine Christianity. He that hath not the Spirit of Christ is none of his. Not enough to have an intellectual conviction of the preeminence of Jesus, not enough to have decided to adopt his ethnical ideals. It’s not enough to say, I’m going to imitate Christ. We must have the Holy Spirit. “He that hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Characteristic of a Christian. His presence is the guarantee of deliverance from the power of sin, and the presence of sin, but our deliverance is a process, the Canaanites still in the land. We are escaping. The enemies’ dogs are baying at our feet, and occasionally they nip at us, but we are going to come into the presence of God because he has guaranteed it by virtue of the blood that was shed on Calvary’s cross. We are lead. We have the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire and the presence of the Holy Spirit. He guides and directs us, and he will one day usher us into the presence of the Lord God in heaven. What a magnificent hope we have.
Do you have it? Is it possible that you are sitting in this audience, and you do not have a hope like this? You do not really have any assurance by virtue of the blood that was shed that you have eternal life? Is it possible that you don’t know what it is to be forgiven? To be a son of God? A born one of God as well? Come to Christ. Put your trust in him by the grace of God. Believe in him who has offered the atoning sacrifice for sinners. If God the Holy Spirit has brought you to the conviction of your sin, Christ is there for sinners. Come to him. Believe in him. Put your trust in him. Fall down spiritually before him and confess your need of him, and he comes freely to forgive and cleanse. And the Holy Spirit takes up his residence in your heart, and begins to guide and direct you preparing you for the presence of God. Come to Christ. May we stand for the benediction.
[Prayer] Father, we are so grateful to Thee for these wonderful words that have come from the Apostle Paul. Magnificent is the hope of a Christian, and great is the sustenance that we have now in the presence of the Holy Spirit who guides us, directs us, keeps us and glorifies the triune God through us, and oh Father, if there should be someone who has not come, oh give no rest nor peace until they rest in Christ, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.