When it comes to your eternal life with Christ there is one thing that this section of scripture tells us is essential and that is that we must have the spirit of Christ in us. The first verse in this section says this quite clearly.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
Look at that last sentence in this verse. If you do not have the spirit of Christ in you, you do not belong to Him. You do not belong to Christ if the spirit of Christ is not in you.
A powerful message and a strong warning to all of us to learn and understand what this is and how we “get” the spirit of Christ. So let us look at this and see what the scripture tells us.
Not Just The Holy Spirit
Now we could be mistaken for thinking the spirit of Christ is to receive the Holy Spirit. But that is clearly not what the spirit of Christ is. Certainly to receive the Holy Spirit may be important to come to the place where the spirit of Christ is in you, but it may not BE the spirit of Christ. Let me explain.
When Paul wrote to the Galatians church he was in much anguish over the fact that they had turned away from the fulness of the knowledge of the truth he had preached and we’re falling back into a form of legalistic worship under law. They had given up the freedom that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
And what paul says in Galatians 4:19 is quite telling with respect to where they had failed.
my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!
The Galatians had effectively negated all of the teaching and the power of the new covenant because they took the path of law. And what was the impact of this? The transforming work of the new covenant which is designed to bring a person into the image of Jesus Christ had been annulled. They had gone back to square one and the work had to begin again.
But what we see is that although these people all were baptised and had received the Holy Spirit, what had failed is that the transforming work was not working. Christ was not being formed in them. They were not being changed into the image of Jesus Christ because they had taken the wrong path and were preventing the power of the Holy Spirit from working in their lives.
This I believe is a strong indication of what it means to have the Spirit of Christ formed in you. It was evident that the Galatians had turned away and Christ was not being formed in them and so they did not belong to Him. That is why paul was in such anguish for he did not wish to see them lost.
Now let us look at some of the words Jesus said that may point us to understand this matter also.
I Do Not Know You
There are a number of scriptures in the words of Jesus where He makes it clear that some people would think they were right with God but who would not be accepted. In Luke 13:24-27 we see Jesus tell his people to strive to enter by the narrow door saying,
24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from. 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’
Now what we see is all of these people trying to gain access to the Kingdom of God, for that is what the “house” in this section represents, but the master of the house is saying “I do not know where you come from.” And he calls them “…workers of evil.”
The people are saying to him effectively that they know Him for they walked the streets with him and ate in his presence and so on, but it is clear that the master, Jesus, does not know them.
The issue here is one of relationship for these people do not have the right relationship with the Lord and thus were rejected. It is one thing to say, “I know Jesus” because who has not heard of Jesus? But it is a completely different thing and a different relationship entirely for Jesus to say, “I know you.”
Look also at those people Jesus was speaking about in Matthew 7:21-23.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Again what we see here is that these people all had received the gift of the Holy Spirit for they worked some of the miraculous gifts that could only be done by the power of the spirit, especially prophecy. And although they had done all of these things in the name of Jesus, they were still rejected for they did not do the will of the Father.
They did not have the spirit of Christ in them because if you look carefully at their words, it was all about them. They said “Did WE not…” do all of those things. This is not service to the Lord but is arrogance for none of these things can be done except by the power of the Holy Spirit. And because these people are arrogant they were rejected because the did not belong to God for the spirit of Christ was not in them.
What It Is Not – Antichrist
Now another way we can look at this is to consider the opposite position. There is a spirit of Christ as we are told here, but the bible tells us also that there is a spirit of antichrist. If we consider what the attributes of the antichrist are like we can learn and gain more insight into the spirit of Christ for they will be the reverse.
The antichrist does not only oppose Jesus Christ but tries to replace Him. In 1 John 2:22 we see,
Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.
The denial of the Father and the Son can occur in a number of ways, first by direct denial of the authority and majesty of Father and Son, but also by trying to replace them by taking a position that rightfully belongs to them. For example Jesus is the head of the body, the church as we are told in Ephesians 4:15-16.
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
So if a man takes a place as the head of a church then he is standing in the place reserved for Jesus Christ and is replacing Jesus Christ. The correct structure for a church is that it is overseen by a group of elders as the early church was, who are under the direct governance of Jesus Christ as the head of the church. This is the spirit of antichrist in action when a man seeks to rule a church and while that man does this evil thing they are open to direct spiritual attack and being overtaken by the spirit of antichrist.
We see also in the letters of John that those who have the spirit of antichrist do not and indeed cannot confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. Their rejection of Jesus is total even down to rejecting His appearance in the flesh on this world. In 2 John 1:5-9 we see these words.
5 And now I ask you, dear lady-not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning-that we love one another 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
The key to this and to understanding the spirit of Christ is to have the love of God formed in us. The antichrist does not love and does not follow Jesus but follows their own passions and desires. They do not confess Jesus but seek to take His place in the church. And they do not follow Him but “…go on ahead…” meaning they are trying to lead and take their own path, not the path of the Lord.
There is a classic example of a man who had been taken over by the spirit of antichrist shown in 3 John 1:9-11. In this section we see Diotrephes opposing the authority of John which he had from Jesus.
9 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. 11 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.
Diotrephes was standing in the place of Christ for he wanted to put himself first rather than obey Jesus Christ. And in doing so he rejects Christ, rejects those who Christ has given authority to oversee the church and was rejecting other members of the body.
Understanding What The Spirit of Christ Is
So when we look at all of this and put it together we see that the spirit of Christ is in the growth that comes from following Jesus according to His path. The spirit of Christ is the spirit of love and God is love.
When we receive the Holy Spirit and we learn and understand the foundation teachings of Christianity, we begin to grow and mature in Christ. As we grow in the spirit the fruits of the spirit begin to bloom in our lives and these all are part of the fulness of the love of God.
The spirit of Christ is obedient to the ways of God and follows in the footsteps of Jesus. The spirit of God is the spirit of love.
The work of the Holy Spirit is to transform us into the image of Christ, which is to become like Christ. The gifts God gave to the church were for the purpose of teaching us and helping us in this process of transformation. In Ephesians 4:11-16 we see the purpose of the gifts to the church and the work of transformation into maturity in Christ Jesus which is to be transformed in love.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
And this is the key to what paul was speaking about in Romans 8:9-11. When we are living in maturity in Jesus Christ and when we are living in the spirit rather than in the flesh, we manifest the fruits of the spirit and we are living in the spirit of Christ because Christ is formed in us. We are no longer children but mature Christians living as Christ lived.
But this takes time. It does not happen overnight but is part of the process of growth in the ongoing and daily walk we take with Jesus. His spirit dwells in His people and through it the relationship that leads to a full salvation and entry into the kingdom of God is revealed and achieved. Not through our strength, power or work but by the power of the Holy Spirit we are changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another as our walk continues and we are known by God.
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