Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Romans 8:9-11 – The sign of belonging

Having the Holy Spirit is a sign that we belong to Christ, a sign that we are genuine Christians. This is not the only place where Paul says that the Holy Spirit is a sign that true believers belong to God. The best known reference may be the one in Ephesians 1:13 where Paul says that the Holy Spirit is a seal that indicates believers are God’s possession. A seal was used in the ancient world to indicate that an item belonged to its owner and was therefore authentic. How do I know that I am a Christian? The answer is that I have the Holy Spirit living and working within me.
This is an opportunity to remind ourselves of what may not be the signs that I am a Christian. It is easy for us to produce lists of what may mark a genuine Christian and in the process lose sight of the signs that God has given. For example, an interest in theology is not a sign in itself that a person is a Christian. Many non-Christians like to discuss theology as an intellectual game. Nor is an interest in adopting the Christian lifestyle in an outward manner an evidence of Christianity. Many people recognise the value of living in peace with one’s neighbours. Yet those two examples will accompany the genuine presence of the Spirit.

Paul, in this chapter in Romans, will go on to describe some aspects of the presence of the Spirit that point to genuineness, such as mortification of sin and prayer. But for now, I want us to think of the connection that Paul makes here between the Spirit and Jesus. I would suggest that an important sign of spiritual genuineness is that the Spirit leads us to Jesus. For example, when we sin, what does the Spirit do? Obviously, he will convict us of it, but that is not all that he does. In addition he will lead us to think of what Jesus did on behalf of sinners, and the Spirit will encourage us to go to God through Jesus and confess our sins because Jesus is our Advocate with the Father. If the Spirit is not causing us to think of Jesus in a wide variety of ways, then not much is happening.

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