'The Son of God, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh
, who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit
of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead.' -- Rom. i.4.
These words speak of a twofold birth of Christ. According to the flesh, He was born of the seed of David. According to the Spirit, He was the first begotten from the dead. As He was a Son of David in virtue of His birth through the flesh, so He was declared to be the Son of God with power, in virtue of His resurrection-birth through the Spirit of holiness. As the life He received through His first birth was a life in and after the flesh with its weakness, so the new life He received in the resurrection was a life in the power of the Spirit of holiness.
The expression, the Spirit of holiness, is a peculiar one. It is not the ordinary word for God's Holiness that is here used as in Heb. xii.10, describing holiness in the abstract as the attribute of an object, but another word (also used in 2 Cor. vii.1 and 1 Thess. iii.13) expressing the habit of holiness in its action -- practical holiness or sanctity. Paul used this word, because He wished to emphasize the thought, that Christ's resurrection was distinctly the result of that life of holiness and self-sanctifying which had culminated in His death. It was the spirit of the life of holiness which he had lived, in the power of which He was raised again. He teaches us that that life and death of self-sanctification, in which alone our sanctification stands, was the root and ground of His resurrection, and of its declaration that He was the Son of God with power, the first begotten from the dead. The resurrection was the fruit which that Life of Holiness bore.
And so the Life of Holiness becomes the property of all who are partakers of the resurrection. The Resurrection Life and the Spirit of Holiness are inseparable. Christ sanctified Himself in death, that we ourselves might be sanctified in truth: when in virtue of the Spirit of sanctity He was raised from the dead, that Spirit of holiness was proved to be the power of Resurrection Life, and the Resurrection Life to be a Life of Holiness.
As a believer you have part in this Resurrection Life. You have been 'begotten again by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.' You are 'risen with Christ.' You are commanded 'to reckon yourself to be alive unto God in Christ Jesus.' But the life can work in power only as you seek to know it, to yield to it, to let it have full possession and mastery. And if it is to do this, one of the most important things for you to realize is, that as it was in virtue of the Spirit of holiness that Christ was raised, so the Spirit of that same holiness must be in you the mark and the power of your life. Study to know and possess the Spirit of holiness as it was seen in the life of your Lord.
And wherein did it consist? Its secret was, we are told: 'Lo, I am come to do Thy will, O God.' 'In the which will,' as done by Christ, 'we have been sanctified by the one offering of the body of Jesus Christ.' This was Christ's sanctifying Himself, in life and in death; this was what the Spirit of holiness wrought in Him; this is what the same Spirit, the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus, will work in us: a life in the will of God is a life of holiness. Seek earnestly to grasp this clearly. Christ came to reveal what true holiness would be in the conditions of human life and weakness. He came to work it out for you, that He might communicate it to you by His Spirit. Except you intelligently apprehend and heartily accept it, the Spirit cannot work it in you. Do seek with your whole heart to take hold of it: the will of God unhesitatingly accepted, is the power of holiness.
It is in this that any attempt to be holy as Christ is holy, with and in His Holiness, must have its starting-point. Many seek to take single portions of the life or image of Christ for imitation, and yet fail greatly in others. They have not seen that the self-denial, to which Jesus calls, really means the denial of self, in the full meaning of that word. In not one single thing is the will of self to be done: Jesus, as He did the will of the Father only, must rule, and not self. To 'stand perfect and complete in all the will of God' must be the purpose, the prayer, the expectation of the disciple. There need be no fear that it is not possible to know the will of the Father in everything. 'If any man will do, he shall know.' The Father will not keep the willing child in ignorance of His will. As the surrender to the Spirit of holiness, to Jesus and the dominion of His holy life, becomes more simple, sin and self-will will be discovered, the spiritual understanding will be opened up, and the law written in the inward parts become legible and intelligible. There need be no fear that it is not possible to do the will of the Father when it is known. When once the grief of failure and sin has driven the believer into the experience of Rom. vii., and the 'delight in the law of God after the inward man' has proved its earnestness in the cry, 'O wretched man that I am,' deliverance will come through Jesus Christ. The Spirit works not only to will but to do; where the believer could only complain, 'To perform that which is good, I find not,' He gives the strength and song, 'The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.'
In this faith, that it is possible to know and do the will of God in all things, take over from Him, in whom alone you are holy, as your life-principle; 'I come to do Thy will, O God.' It is the principle of the resurrection life: without it Jesus had never been raised again. It is the principle of the new life in you. Accept it; study it; realize it; act it out. Many a believer has found that some simple words of dedication, expressive of the purpose in everything to do God's will, have been an entrance into the joy and power of the resurrection life previously unknown. The will of God is the complete expression of His moral perfection, His Divine Holiness. To take one's place in the centre of that will, to live it out, to be borne and sustained by it, was the power of that life of Jesus that could not be held of death, that could not but burst out in resurrection glory. What it was to Jesus it will be to us.
Holiness is Life: this is the simplest expression of the truth our text teaches. There can be no holiness until there be a new life implanted. The new life cannot grow and break forth in resurrection power, cannot bring forth fruit, but as it grows in holiness. As long as the believer is living the mixed life, part in the flesh and part in the spirit, with some of self and some of Christ, he seeks in vain for holiness. It is the New Life that is the holy life: the full apprehension of it in faith, the full surrender to it in conduct, will be the highway of holiness. Jesus lived and died and rose again to prepare for us a new nature, to be received day by day in the obedience of faith: we 'have put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.' Let the inner life, hid with Christ in God, hid also deep in the recesses of our inmost being, be acknowledged, be waited on, be yielded to, it will work itself out in all the beauties of holiness.
There is more. This life is not like the life of nature, a blind, non-conscious principle, involuntarily working out its ideal in unresisting obedience to the law of its being. There is the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus -- the Spirit of holiness -- the Holy Spirit dwelling in us as a Divine Person, entering into fellowship with us, and leading us into the fellowship of the Living Christ. It is this fills our life with hope and joy. The Risen Saviour breathed the Holy Spirit on His disciples: the Spirit brings the Risen One into the field, into our hearts, as a personal friend, as a Living Guide and Strengthener. The Spirit of holiness is the Spirit, the Presence, and the Power of the Living Christ. Jesus said of the Spirit, 'Ye know Him.' Is not our great need to know this Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, of His Holiness and of ours? How can we 'walk after the Spirit' and follow His leading, if we know not Him and His voice and His way?
Let us learn one more lesson from our text. It is out of the grave of the flesh and the will of self that the Spirit of holiness breaks out in resurrection power. We must accept death to the flesh, death to self with its willing and working, as the birthplace of our experience of the power of the Spirit of holiness. In view of each struggle with sin, in each exercise of faith or prayer, we must enter into the death of Jesus, the death to self, and as those who say, 'we are not sufficient to think anything as of ourselves,' in quiet faith expect the Spirit of Christ to do His work. The Spirit will work, strengthening you mightily in the inner man, and building up within you an holy temple for the Lord. And the time will come, if it has not come to you yet, and it may be nearer than you dare hope, when the conscious indwelling of Christ in your heart by faith, the full revelation and enthronement of Him as ruler and keeper of heart and life, shall have become a personal experience. According to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, will the Son of God be declared with power in the kingdom that is within you.
BE YE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.
Most Holy Lord God! we do bless Thee that Thou didst raise Thy Son from the dead and give Him glory, that our faith and hope might be in Thee. Thou didst make His resurrection the power of eternal life in us, and now, even as He was raised, so we may walk in newness of life. As the Spirit of holiness dwelt and wrought in Him, it dwells and works in us, and becomes in us the Spirit of life.
O God! we beseech Thee to perfect Thy work in Thy saints. Give them a deeper sense of the holy calling with which Thou hast called them in Christ, the Risen One. Give all to accept the Spirit of His life on earth, delight in the will of God, as the spirit of their life. May those who have never yet fully accepted this be brought to do it, and in faith of the power of the new life to say, I accept the will of God as my only law. May the Spirit of holiness be the spirit of their lives!
Father! we beseech Thee, let Christ thus, in ever increasing experience of His resurrection power, be revealed in our hearts as the Son of God, Lord and Ruler within us. Let His life within inspire all the outer life, so that in the home and society, in thought and speech and action, in religion and in business, His life may shine out from us in the beauty of holiness. Amen.
1. Scripture regards the resurrection in two different aspects. In one view, it is the title to the new life, the source of our justification. (Rom. iv.25, 1 Cor. xv.17.) In another it is our regeneration, the power of the new life working in us, the source of our sanctification. (Rom. vi.4; 1 Pet. i.3.) Pardon and holiness are inseparable; they have the same source, union with the Risen Living Christ.
2. The blessedness to the disciples of having a Risen Christ was this: He, whom they thought dead, came and revealed Himself to them. Christ lives to reveal Himself to thee and to me; wait on Him, trust Him for this. He will reveal Himself to thee as thy sanctification. See to it that thou hast Him in living possession, and thou hast His Holiness.
3. The life of Christ is the holiness of Christ. The reason we so often fail in the pursuit of holiness is that the old life, the flesh, in its own strength seeks for holiness as a beautiful garment to wear and enter heaven with. It is the daily death to self out of which the life of Christ rises up.
4. To die thus, to live thus in Christ, to be holy -- how can we attain it? It all comes 'according to the Spirit of holiness.' Have the Holy Spirit within thee. Say daily, 'I believe in the Holy Ghost.'
5. Holy in Christ. When Christ lives in us, and His mind, as it found expression in His words and work on earth, enters and fills our will and personal consciousness, then our union with Him becomes what He meant it to be. It is the Spirit of His holy conduct, the Spirit of His sanctity, must be in us.
See Note F.