Romans 8:9 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.
Let’s look at the NIV translation of this verse, in the Concordia Study Bible:
“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you…”
What has control in our lives? This is the stuff of sanctification. Are we in the flesh or in the Spirit? This is part of the sinner/saint duality of Christian living. We are fully in Christ, but our lives can get all wrapped up in the stuff of this world, even as church workers. Daily we show others the Law and Gospel and truth of Christ and then we look around at our own lives and it doesn’t seem real obvious that it is ruled by the Spirit. We are yelling at our kids, and giving our spouse the silent treatment. We gossip about the alligators in our congregation, because it makes us feel better, and we avoid reaching out as much as the next person because it’s uncomfortable. What is going on?
Well, we can thank Luther for defining this further, and for giving us a clear lens to understand these verses in. We are controlled by God and His Spirit in our hearts, even in our dark moments. We are fully sinner and fully saint. As much as we wish we could leave the sinful man behind, he’s constantly knocking at our heart’s door. We don’t need to fear the sinful nature controlling us. The Spirit does control us. We are marked as one redeemed by Christ. The Spirit lives in us.
So, we move on to putting down the sinful man. We read the Word, we talk about the Word at our table and on date night. It is part of all that we do every day in our homes and in our relationships, so that more and more it wells up in us and what can be seen is this “inner man” (Luther’s language), this working of the Spirit, the saint of the sinner saint.
And so we see the fruit of the Spirit come out, one in particular- self control. We can hold our tongue, we can overlook the small marriage slights, we can respect when we see no love and love when we see no respect, because we are ruled by the Spirit. God is, in fact, “in control” of our very hearts and minds. What freedom! Today, watch for moments to commend your spouse, telling them “I see the Spirit in you.”