The Spirit Will Give Life to Your Mortal Bodies
From Gospel Translations
By John Piper
About Glorification (Resurrection of the Body)
Part of the series The Person & Work of the Holy Spirit
But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (10) But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. (11) If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.
I would like to try to show from God's Word this morning that if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then he most certainly is going to give life to your mortal bodies. God promises clearly and unmistakably that if his Spirit has taken up residence in your heart, then, even though your body dies, he will raise it from the dead like he did the body of Jesus. Let's rivet our attention on Romans 8:11 and let God write it on the tablet of our hearts as the supreme personal relevance of Easter.
Two Big "Ifs"
"If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you." There are two big "ifs" here, not just one. There is the "if" of Jesus' resurrection. Is this story factual? Did God raise Jesus from the dead? And there is the "if" of your conversion. Have you received the Spirit of God into your heart? Does the Spirit of God lead your life? Has he adopted you into God's family and begun to give you the character of your heavenly Father?
The Two Most Important Questions
If either of these two "ifs" is untrue for you, then the promise is in vain, and your mortal body will not be raised unto life but unto fearful judgment. So the two most important questions I can pose for you this morning are: Are you sure God raised Jesus from the dead? And: Are you sure that the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you? Let me try to point you to the source of assurance in these two questions. First, are you sure God raised Jesus from the dead? This question really boils down to the credibility of witnesses. How do you decide whether to believe a man's testimony or not? Take Paul, for example, as he writes the book of Romans—how do you come to a reasonable conviction that his assertions are true, specifically his assertions about the resurrection of Jesus?
Seven Questions to Pose to a Witness
I think you pose the same seven questions about Paul that you pose about any witness today:
- Am I open to the possible truth of what Paul is saying and ready to change my life if it's true?
- Does his moral character (the humility and love and submission to God) make it unlikely that he is given to easy deception or outright fabrication?
- Do his witness and teachings hang together? Are they coherent? Or does he speak out of both sides of his mouth and contradict himself?
- Does he offer any supporting evidences for his claim and do they hold up?
- Are there other credible corroborating witnesses or is he alone in his claim?
- Does his claim yield insight that helps make sense out of our total picture of things and does it fit the true needs of man?
- Are there lasting effects from his claim that give some independent support for its reality?
How Paul Fares Against Those Seven Questions
The reason I am a Christian is because I answer yes to all those questions. 1) Yes, I am open to change if Paul's claim proves true. 2) Yes, I have seen enough of Paul in his thirteen letters to convince me of his moral integrity—he is not easy prey for deception and he is not a fabricator. 3) Yes, the more I study, the more I am convinced of the coherence and unity of his total message. He does not contradict himself. 4) Yes, Paul gives supporting evidences like the well-known story (open to public scrutiny) of his conversion from a church persecutor to a church planter (Galatians 1:12ff.), and like the signs and wonders he did among the churches (Romans 15:19; 2 Corinthians 12:12). 5) Yes, there are other credible witnesses: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James, and Jesus himself when he said, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). 6) Yes, Paul's teaching about the resurrection fits into a total picture of things that helps make sense out of history and life, and that meets the needs that we all feel for forgiveness and hope. It fulfills centuries-old prophecy (Isaiah 53:12), and reveals how God will not be defeated by death but will make all things new. 7) Yes, there are lasting effects from the resurrection of Jesus: it transformed fearful fishermen into fearless apostles. And those of us who have received the living Christ as Lord know the wonderful changes in our own lives. The resurrection of Jesus spawned a world Christian movement of stupendous proportions. Today virtually every country on the face of the earth has a Christian witness in it. Christianity is the only world faith without a cultural home base or headquarters. There are far more professing Christians in the world than there are adherents of any other religion. Sixty thousand new people a day claim allegiance to the risen Christ, and sixteen hundred new Christian churches are started each week in his name.
Therefore I think any of you here this morning can have a reasonable assurance that God raised Jesus from the dead, if you will deal honestly with these seven questions. Most people fail to become Christians not because evidence is lacking but because interest is lacking. And that leads us to the second big "if" in Romans 8:11, "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you . . . " It is not enough to be persuaded that God raised Jesus from the dead. The devil is more convinced of that than any of us is, but that conviction does not save Satan; nor will it secure our resurrection.
Being a Christian Is Being Led by the Spirit
In order for the resurrection of Jesus to do us any good we have to receive the Spirit of God into our heart. To be a Christian is to be led by the Spirit. The next verses in Romans 8 spell this out in detail (vv. 13–17):
If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. When we cry Abba! Father! it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
Three Evidences of Having the Holy Spirit
Reading backward there are three evidences in this text which can give you assurance if you have the Holy Spirit.
- Verse 15: If you can cry out with sincerity to God, "Abba! Father!" then you have the witness of the Spirit in your life. That is, you have the Spirit of God if you look to God as your Father for security and guidance.
- Verse 14: If you are led by the Spirit of God you are a child of God. Do you look to the Word of God given by the Spirit for your guidance? And do you yield when he prompts you in paths of righteousness? If so, the Spirit dwells in you.
- Verse 13: If you put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit, you will live—you attain the resurrection. When faced with a temptation to do wrong, do you seek help from God's Spirit and rely on his power to slay the act before it happens?
If you do battle with evil like this, then you can have assurance that the Holy Spirit dwells in you.
How to Receive the Holy Spirit
God does not want you to be unsure if you have his Spirit dwelling in you. Because if you don't know whether the Spirit dwells in you, then you can't know whether God will give life to your body at the resurrection. The text says, "If the Spirit. . . dwells in you, then [God] . . . will give life to your mortal bodies." So before we leave our two big "ifs" behind, let me make sure each of you knows how to receive the Holy Spirit. Your own resurrection and eternal life depend on it. Acts 2:38 says, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Repentance is a decisive turning away from sin and self-direction to follow Christ. Baptism in his name is an act of obedience that signifies death to your old life and faith in Christ to help live a new life according to his will. The essence of repentance and baptism is faith. So Paul says in Galatians 3:2, "You did not receive the Spirit by works of the law, but by hearing with faith." The Holy Spirit is given to anyone and everyone who trusts Christ—trusts him for forgiveness; trusts him to show us how to live; trusts him to help us live that way; and trusts him to give us the best future forever. You can receive in this very hour the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead if you pray this prayer in your heart: "Merciful and mighty Jesus Christ, I now turn from guilt, and trust in the provision of your forgiveness; I turn from sin and trust your new path for my life; I turn from self-reliance and trust your power to help me obey; and I turn from fear and trust in your promises for my future." If you pray that prayer from your heart and the sincerity of it is borne out in your life, then you can know that the Spirit of God dwells in you and the rest of this message is for you.
The Spirit and the Promise of Resurrection
Romans 8:11 promises, "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you." We could spend wonderful hours delving into the relationship between the resurrection of our bodies and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We could go to Romans 8:23 and see how the first fruits of our adoption by God is the presence of God's Spirit in our lives and the completion of our adoption is the redemption of our bodies. We could go to 1 Corinthians 15:44 and see that when our body is raised from the dead, it will be a new spiritual body—not a mere bodiless spirit, not mere flesh and blood, but a new body like Christ's body, perfectly suited for constant spiritual fullness and for life in a new heaven and new earth. We could go to Romans 6:5 and see how the Spirit secures our resurrection by uniting us to Christ: "If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his."
Practical Implications of the Resurrection
But instead of exploring all those texts let's spend the rest of our time simply unpacking some of the practical implications of Romans 8:11—the all-important truth that if the Spirit of God indwells you this morning, God is going to raise you from the dead at Christ's second coming and give new life to your mortal bodies.
God Really Cares About Your Body
The first implication I want to mention is that God is profoundly concerned with your body. If he weren't, he would let it rot in the grave and tell you to say good riddance. But he never says that. Look, for example, at 1 Corinthians 6:13–14. Here Paul is refuting people who said it doesn't matter what you do with your body because the Lord is only interested in your spirit. After quoting the slogan of his opponents in v. 13, he says (at the end of the verse), "The body is not meant for immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power." There are two amazing statements in v. 13: the body is for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. What does Paul mean that the body is for the Lord? Look to verses 19 and 20. "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." "The body is for the Lord" means your body exists to glorify God. There is a use of your eyes and ears and tongue and hands and feet and appetites and sex drive which glorifies God. And there is a use of your eyes and ears and tongue and hands and feet and appetites and sex drive which dishonors God. Your bodies with all their appetites and drives and limitations are no accident in God's plan. On the contrary, verse 13 says, "The Lord is for the body." He is not against the body. He is for it. Why else would he raise it from the dead?
God Will Transform Your Body for His Glory
Would you like to see a biblical snapshot of what God is going to make out of your body? Here's one from Daniel: "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake . . . and those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars, for ever and ever" (12:2–3). Here's another one, taken from a parable of Jesus. "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matthew 13:43; cf. 17:2). And here's one more from Philippians 3:21, "Christ will transform the body of our lowliness to have the same form as the body of his glory by the power with which he is able to subdue all things to himself." God created you with a body and he created you for his glory. Therefore he is going to raise your mortal body no matter how mangled, or deformed, or emaciated, or disease-ridden, and he is going to make it so strong, so healthy, so beautiful, that when I see it, I will say, "You are like the broad blue sky on a bright summer day. You are like the splendor of a million stars against the black night of space. Your radiance is like the sun; yes, in you I see the form and grandeur of the glory of Jesus Christ who made you, redeemed you, raised you, and glorified you with his glory for ever and ever."
The Resurrection Provides Strength to Love
But what about now? How does this spectacular hope of being raised to share the glory of Christ make a difference now? Once Jesus was at a banquet with many eminent people. He turned to his host and said (for all of us to hear), "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:12–14). Now think for a moment. Are not these words of our Lord intended to answer this question: Where can a person find power to press on in a life of love when there are very few earthly rewards? Where does a husband or wife get the emotional strength to keep on giving when there is no reciprocation? Where does a man or woman who would like to be married get the strength to be content and continent for seventy years of singleness? Where did Maud Cary get the strength to press on in 54 hard years of missionary service in Morocco only to be rewarded at her funeral with two sprays, a few visitors, and no tears? Where did Jesus get the strength to endure the cross and despise the shame (Hebrews 12:2)—fleeing disciples, and the denial of Peter, and the beating and scoffing and thorns and nails?
Answer: "You shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just." For the joy set before us at the resurrection we endure everything for Christ. Jesus did not promise that obedience to him would be rewarded by men in this life. On the contrary, he said, "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you." O, there is joy in obeying Christ—vastly more joy than if we lived for the praise of men and sought our reward in this life—but our joy flows from the unshakable hope of Romans 8:11, not from the shifting circumstances of our life. "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies." If you really believe that God is for you and not against you, and that he will give life to your mortal body, and that whatever good you give up in this life will be repaid one-hundred-fold in the resurrection of the just, and that you will shine like the sun in the kingdom of your Father, then you have an inexhaustible reservoir of strength to keep doing the good God has called you to do whether anyone appreciates it now or not. Therefore the essence of the Christian life is not the struggle to win the reward of men but the struggle to keep believing in the resurrection of your body in glory.
And the great foundation of this hope is that God raised Jesus from the dead, that he reigns now as King over earth and heaven and death and hell, and that he cannot fail in his purpose to raise us up to glory. To him belong all praise and honor and glory and thanks for ever and ever. Amen.