There have been several articles posted on this site that have addressed aspects of the Holy Spirit and how He works in the lives of believers. As one contributor already pointed out, an exhaustive study on the Spirit is daunting for any one, single article. So that is not the aim of this piece. Rather, the intention is to briefly touch on how the Holy Spirit helps us overcome sin.
Several months ago, I wrote about the misconception that it is impossible for Christians to sin after obeying the gospel. We touched on several passages that made it clear that sin is still something we can struggle with and need to constantly guard against. We delineated between occasionally sinning verses practicing unrighteousness. And hopefully, we were able to come to a scriptural understanding of what John meant when he wrote that those born of God cannot sin. The goal of his article is to build on those thoughts by looking at how we accomplish this transformation: from practicing lawlessness to practicing righteousness. What is it that enables us to overcome our pattern and lifestyle of sin (often things that become deeply engrained) and allows us to obey God’s law?
Is it simply resolving our minds to stop sinning and serve God? I think if that was all that was involved, Paul wouldn’t have been so frustrated in Romans 7 where he agonizes over the fact that he wanted to do one thing, but actually did the opposite. He couldn’t perform what he desired. He delighted in the law of God according to the inward man, but the law of sin in his flesh kept dragging him back into captivity. This predicament bothered Paul, but he goes on in the next chapter to describe the solution. Not only is there deliverance from the condemnation of sin through Jesus Christ, but there is also freedom from the power of sin.
In the first half of Romans 8, Paul makes it very clear that the key to overcoming the flesh and the bondage of sin that comes with it is the Spirit. This seems to be reinforced by the fact that the Spirit is mentioned around 19 times in this group of verses. It is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that delivers us from the law of sin and death (vs. 2). We’re supposed to walk according to the Spirit as opposed to the flesh (vs. 4). It’s the things of the Spirit we’re called to set our mind on (vs. 5). It’s the Spirit we can use to put to death the deeds of the body and live (vs. 13). And it’s the Spirit of adoption we’ve received that gives us an intimate relationship with God the Father (vs. 15). That allows us to be called children of God and joint heirs with Christ (vs. 16-17).
While walking in the Spirit doesn’t mean we’re on some sort of spiritual autopilot that requires no thought or effort on our part, it does mean we have help. While we might not fully understand how it works, the Spirit plays a large role in the sanctification process. In that transition from living in, and for, sin to living by faith in Christ Jesus. There are several verses, such as I Peter 1:2 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13, that make this link between the sanctification process and the Holy Spirit. Eph. 6:14 talks about being strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man. Romans 8:26 says the Spirit helps in our weaknesses. Specifically helping in our prayers; making intercessions for us with groaning that can’t be uttered. All of these things indicate that the Spirit is absolutely vital in successfully overcoming sin in our lives.
I think there are several reasons why it’s important we recognize this fact. First, it helps up appreciate the power and aid that has been given to us to become set apart and sanctified for use as vessels of honor. In Romans 8:11 it tells us that the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us. Not only does this give us confidence that we too will be raised with Christ when He returns, but it confirms just how much power the Spirit has that is working in us to put to death the deed of the flesh.
It also helps us humbly seek our aid from the right source. It’s already been mentioned several times on this site that the gift of the Holy Spirit is only available through baptism into Christ (Acts 2:38). In John 7:37, Christ says:
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
That passage goes on to explain that Christ was speaking these things concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive. We receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and all the blessings associated with it by accepting Christ and being immersed for the remission of our sins.
I hope these thoughts help us all strive to use God’s gracious provisions to put off those things that can so easily ensnare us and run the race with endurance.