Romans 8:9

I have been reading the blog and have learned so much about Christ centered theology from the comments made by my fellow pastors and have also been reading the books recommended on the blog. I do have a question in regards to Romans 8:9 where Paul says that "if you don't have the Holy Spirit you don't belong to Christ.

Romans 8:9 (NRSV): "But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him."

How can a person be "in Christ" apart from the Holy Spirits living in them?

My answer would be that the Holy Spirit does live in a person but the person has not yet acknowledged it therefore does not follow Christ or "belong to Him" yet in their mind?

Terry Lambert
Abilene, TX


Pastor Jonathan said…
I think I would agree with how you put it, Terry. The Holy Spirit does live in unbelievers but they have not yet acknowledged it or believed it.

The gospel is that humanity has been adopted into the Triune Life (Eph. 1:5, Col. 1:20.) To be included in the Triune Life is to have the Holy Spirit. All humanity is in Christ. The Holy Spirit is in Christ. Therefore the Holy Spirit is in all humanity.

Acts 2 says the Lord is pouring out his Spirit on "all flesh". Galatians 5 says that love, joy, peace, patience, etc. are the fruit of the Spirit. There is no other "joy" tree in all the universe - if we see joy, love, or any other fruit of the Spirit in anyone's life (believer or non-believer) we are seeing the evidence of their adoption into the Triune Life, even if they themselves don't know it or see it. Paul tells the crowd at Lystra this in Acts 14:17.

In the context of the gospel - humanity's adoption into the Triune Life through Christ - "receiving" the Holy Spirit cannot mean that the Spirit is absent from our lives and then becomes present when we say the magic words (e.g. "I believe") that will force him to come.

In the context of the gospel to "have" or "receive" the Holy Spirit is to accept and believe the truth about his presence in and with us through Jesus.

If you're interested we did an article in the Sept. '07 issue of The Adopted Life on this subject. You can find it here:

Newsletter Archive

Just click on the link labeled "Sept. 2007" and you'll find the article on pages 4-5.
I believe both comments on this post so far are very true and Christ-centered ones!

I agree with them, personally, and see them as faithful to the Revelation of the Triune God in the Person of Jesus Christ!
Ted Johnston said…
Terry, I understand your question to be this: If all people are united to God in Christ already, how is it that Paul can say, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Ro 8:9b)? Can one be united (included) but at the same time not belong?

Paul answers in the same epistle by declaring: “If, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Ro 5:10).

This is astounding! Paul says that reconciliation occurs when people are “God’s enemies.”

Thus reconciliation on God's part seems to occur *prior to* our turning to God individually in repentance and faith.

So, clearly, there is more to understand here. And I think it's important to see all such issues from the perspective of who God is and what he has done in Christ.

Paul continues in Ro 5:12-18:

“…Sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…15 But the gift [reconciliation] is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!....16 The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.”

Could it be that just as all are included in Adam’s sin, the same all are included in Jesus’ act of reconciliation? Are the same people included in the “fall” (every human being) now included in the reconciliation accomplished in, by and through Jesus?

Some would answer, “Well, not until they believe.” But remember that in verse 10, Paul insists that reconciliation occurred when we were “God’s enemies”—not when or as we turned to God in belief.

Now some would say that only those God predestined to be saved were reconciled. This is the idea of a limited atonement, which I will not address here. But suffice it to say, God reconciles only enemies, not believers. And I argue here that all humans in Adam were God’s enemies and all humans are now in Jesus and are thus no longer God’s enemies; no longer condemned; but reconciled; included.

Note that Paul addresses in this chapter believers (those who have come to trust in this reconciling God). And what he seems to be doing is exhorting them to actively embrace and participate in their reconciliation (inclusion) in Christ. He is saying, in effect, that they can be included, but not belong. All are included (believers and non-beleivers alike), but not all walk in the Spirit (and in that sense, not all “have” the Spirit—it is not the defining, dominant reality of their lives).

Paul hammers away at this point, over and over exhorting believers to be who they truly are—God’s children. He makes this exhortation here in Romans 8, as he does in all his epistles. See for example his warning to believers in Galatians 5 where he exhorts them to stop living by the flesh (carnal nature) and live in the Spirit, bearing the Spirit’s fruit, rather than the “fruit” of the sinful nature.

Think of it this way: all humanity has been delivered from the condemnation it acquired through its fall in Adam. That deliverance came through the one man Jesus—God in the flesh—who in himself is our reconciliation with God. In Jesus, all humanity has a new identity and a new home.

And now the Spirit’s call goes out to all to embrace that home and live in and enjoy its fullness. The call is to turn to Jesus in belief and repentance, accept who you are in Jesus and share the life you have in Jesus through the illuminating, empowering Spirit.

Those who refuse the Spirit’s call are still included—still reconciled with God from his perspective, but they are not living in accordance with their true identity in Christ. Their refusal may be in ignorance or it may be willful. But either way, they are not enjoying and fully participating in what is theirs.

To truly belong is to believe, to receive, and to actively share. But note this: we can not share what we don’t already have. Our belief (faith and repentance) does not create our reconciliation (our inclusion)—it does not create our true identity as God’s children.

We believe because we are already included. We come alive to what is already true. Like the prodigal son, we turn our hearts to the home we already have with the father who already loves us.

I conclude with another statement from Paul exhorting Christians to become more fully what they already are: “In him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph 2:22). Let us walk in the Spirit and thus experience fully that we truly do belong to Christ.