The Man Who Cannot be Saved (Romans 8 Personal Indwelling)

The Man Who Cannot be Saved (Romans 8 / Personal Indwelling)

Commonly Declared Summary: In the personal indwelling view of Romans 8, one must obey the gospel to be in the Spirit, but one must be in the Spirit to obey the gospel.

It seems to me that the prevailing view in churches of Christ about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit contradicts the very passage cited as establishing position’s foundation: Romans 8.

Romans 8:6-11 reads:

 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 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. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

The Romans 8 position of Personal Indwelling leaves man without escape.

The Romans 8 position of Personal Indwelling leaves man without escape.

For many, the passage seems to create a clear distinction between those who are in Christ and those who are lost. That distinction is perhaps best summarized by these words: “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

How could the Bible make the statement any more plainly? To be in Christ is to have His Spirit and to have His Spirit is to be in Him.

The seemingly necessary and reasonable conclusion is that every Christian must the receive the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But a closer examination of this text will show there is at least one difficulty with that approach.

The Personal Indwelling View of Romans 8:9

First, there are four points that the personal indwelling view draws from verse 9:

  • Whenever the Spirit dwells in a man, that man is “in the Spirit.”
  • Every man who is a Christian has the Spirit dwelling in him.
  • Every man who is a Christian is “in the Spirit.”
  • Every man who is not a Christian is “in the flesh.”

These four points do seem to support the personal indwelling view’s foundational tenet that every man who is a Christian has the Holy Spirit, and no man who does not have the Spirit is a Christian. The belief seems to fit the clear words of the text and seems to be in harmony with the rest of the New Testament’s teaching on the universal nature of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Consequences of the Personal Indwelling View of Romans 8

However, it is verses 6-8 that create a great difficulty for this view. Consider the following thoughts:

  • With the understanding outlined above it must be argued that anyone who is “in the Spirit,” is no longer “in the flesh” – “You, however, are not in the flesh . . . if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (v. 9).
  • No man who is “in the flesh” belongs to Christ (is a Christian) – “. . . in the flesh . . . Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
  • Those who are “in the flesh” have the “mind of the flesh” (v. 6) and have their minds “set on the things of the flesh” (v. 7).

Paul’s affirmation is that those who have their minds “set on the flesh” cannot submit to God’s law (v. 7). It follows then that only those who “are in the Spirit” (v. 9) and so have their minds “set on the things of the Spirit” (v.5) do submit to God’s law and “live according to the Spirit” (v. 5).

Also, those who are outside of Christ cannot submit to God’s law (v. 7) because they are:

  • Without the Spirit (v. 9).
  • “In the flesh”(v. 9).
  • And have their minds “set on the things of the flesh” (v. 7).

Again, there is nothing particularly troubling with those thoughts until this question is asked:

“How does the man who is ‘in the flesh’ ever obey the Gospel?”

The act of obeying the gospel is an act of submission to God’s law. Yet, verse 8 unilaterally affirms that those who are “in the flesh” cannot please God. In order to please God, they would have to “mind the things of the Spirit” without ever being “in the Spirit.” The problem can be stated in this manner:

  • If it is impossible for those who are “in the flesh” to submit to God’s law (v. 7);
  • And it is true that all men who are outside of Christ do not have the Spirit (v. 9);
  • And it is always true that those same men have their minds “set on the flesh” (vs. 6-7);
  • Then those men “in the flesh” have no possibility of ever submitting to God’s law.

The Personal Indwelling and Repentance (Romans 8:13)

The personal indwelling view faces yet another contradictory problem in Romans 8:13: The man “in the flesh” cannot repent:

  • Paul affirms that it is by “the Spirit” that we “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13).
  • According to the personal indwelling view the man “in the flesh” is outside of Christ and so has no access to the Spirit.
  • If he has no access to the Spirit, he then cannot “put to death the deeds of the body” by the Spirit. How then can he ever repent?

The personal indwelling view places the lost man in a position where he cannot repent, cannot submit to the law of God, and so therefore, he can never be saved.

Romans 8 and Titus 3

The situation becomes even worse when these thoughts are put together with how many personal indwelling advocates view Titus 3:5-6:

 [He] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior . . .

From that passage we are told:

  • It is in baptism (the “washing of regeneration”) that we receive the “renewal of the Holy Spirit.”
  • The renewal equates to the gift of the Holy Spirit found in Acts 2:38.
  • The function of the renewal is explained by Ezekiel 36:26-27:
    • And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
  • In baptism, God’s work is the renewal of our hearts.
  • The heart of stone is replaced by the heart of flesh of which Ezekiel speaks.
  • The renewal occurs at baptism when God makes His Spirit to dwell within us.

In other words, the work of God described in Titus 3:5-6/Ezekiel 36:26-27 occurs:

  • The moment that we become the possession of Christ.
  • The moment that we are transferred from being “in the flesh” to being “in the Spirit.”

Further, we are told that after conversion the indwelling of the Holy Spirit strengthens us and provides us the “moral power” to stand against sin and empowers us to “put to death the deeds of the body.”

From a redemptive standpoint, Titus 3 puts the personal indwelling position in a worse condition than Calvinism. The Calvinist allows for the Spirit to come upon man BEFORE he obeys the gospel. In fact, they argue the Spirit’s irresistible influence is necessary upon those who are “in the flesh” because those “in the flesh” cannot obey God on their own. In that one point, their view is consistent with the prevailing understanding of Paul’s declaration in Romans 8.

In our stand against Calvinism, we (until recently) in churches of Christ have vehemently argued that those in the world cannot and do not receive the Spirit. We argue that the Spirit comes upon man only AFTER he obeys the gospel.

But in so doing, we create a great difficulty from these texts (Romans 8/Titus 3). That difficulty is summarized as this:

  • Those who are in the flesh are those who have the heart of stone.
  • It is impossible for those who have a heart of stone and have their minds set on the things of the flesh to obey God’s law.
  • The Holy Spirit is necessary to “put to death the deeds of the body.” And no man “in the flesh” has access to this power.

If it is only at conversion the heart of stone is replaced with the heart of flesh; we are renewed by the Holy Spirit; become those who are now “in the Spirit;” and the Spirit’s indwelling strengthens us in our fight against sin, then:

What mechanism exists to move man from having a heart of stone that cannot obey God’s word to having a heart of flesh that God “causes to walk” in His statutes?

In answer to that question, we have quickly and rightly argued that it is the preaching of the gospel that calls a man to salvation. But that is precisely the dilemma the personal indwelling view of Romans 8 faces.

The personal indwelling view uses this text to establish that the indwelling of the Spirit is not a “word-only” operation. We are told the indwelling of this passage is the special blessing of Christianity. It is the gift of the Spirit only Christians receive. It is the seal of the fact that we are Christians.

All those “truths” necessitate that no lost individual can ever receive the benefits of the indwelling of Romans 8 – in any way. The personal indwelling view of Romans 8 necessarily precludes the Spirit’s indwelling from influencing one who is not yet a Christian. Yet, Romans 8 demands that it is only those who are influenced by that same indwelling that can obey God. The result is this self-contradictory conclusion:

In the personal indwelling view of Romans 8, one must obey the gospel to be in the Spirit, but one must be in the Spirit to obey the gospel.

The man “in the flesh” can hear the preached gospel but can never respond to it. He cannot be “in the Spirit” because so long as he resides “in the flesh” he cannot have the Spirit of Christ. And as the personal indwelling view excludes a direct operation of the Spirit upon the heart of the sinner (i. e. Calvinistic influence), proponents of that view have no mechanism by which a man can be saved.


In short, the challenge faced by the personal indwelling view of Romans 8 is to find a way for a man who is “in the flesh” to have his mind “set on the things of the Spirit.” The view must show how a man can be “in the Spirit” without the Spirit of Christ dwelling in him. The problem for the personal indwelling view is that is the very condition Paul defines as “impossible.” Unless one turns to Calvinism, another understanding of Paul’s meaning of “flesh” and “spirit” is needed.

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A Manual for Mental Wellness

Seven Beliefs for Mental Wellness

The Bible is the greatest book ever written for man, and the words of the Bible prove this fact over and over again. It has been said that it is the “owner’s manual” for life. Certainly it was written by the one who knows man best – his Creator. Just as we would look to the owner’s manual for our automobiles, appliances, and other items we possess to become more intimately acquainted with these things, so also we should look to the Bible to become more intimately acquainted with ourselves. Modern psychologists have nothing to boast greater than the principles set down in the Bible for mankind’s well being. No clearer example of this can be found than in the book of Philippians.

There is a cure for what ails you.

There is a cure for what ails you.

Paul wrote the book of Philippians to thank the brethren in Philippi for the monetary gift that they had sent Paul by the hands of Epaphroditus (1:4,5; 4:18). But Epaphroditus also brought some additional news to Paul regarding the church a Philippi. They had heard about Paul’s imprisonment and were worried about him (1:30). Paul comforts the church by letting them know that his situation resulted in the increase of the gospel (1:12). He also relates to them that he hopes to be released soon from his imprisonment, and will visit them again (1:25, 26). However, Paul wants them to know that whether he lives or dies all will be well (1:21). Their concern for Paul had evidently lead some anxiety. The rest of the letter addresses the concern that the church set their minds on matters over which they can control, not over matters that lead to worry and depression. This would bring them out of their “blue funk” and bring them back to greater service to the Lord.

The crux of the book of Philippians in this regard is found in chapter four. It is in this chapter that Paul discusses the action one can take to bring one’s self into the peace of God. First, they were to “rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4). The “Lord” here is Jesus.  He is the Christian’s identity, and it is in Him that he places his absolute faith. The sacrifice of Jesus for our sins defines our worth and proves that nothing is so important in this life as to be a cause for anxiety and depression. This means the Christian has everything for which to be thankful and nothing for which to be ungrateful leading to a perpetual spirit of joy in the presence of the Lord. Value and identity are indispensable principles of psychology. The Christian has his value and identity in Jesus, and that is everything! For this reason, he can rejoice!

Second, Paul says, “Let your moderation be known unto all men” (4:5). The Christian is not to be caught up in the extremes of the world. There is on the one hand the extreme of debauchery in all its forms and practices, and it was prevalent in the Philippian’s society as well as ours today. On the other hand, there is the extreme of asceticism. This is the concept that one must cut himself off from everyone and everything that gives any bodily pleasure. Both of these are extreme choices. The Christian must exercise moderation in living a life that includes interaction with society, but does not participate in its sinfulness. Balance is certain one of the fundamental principles of psychology and it is clearly stated in God’s word.

Third, Paul writes, “The Lord is at hand” (4.5). The expression, “The Lord is at hand” indicates to the Christian that God will always be there for him, even in times of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Hebrews 13:5 states, “for He hath said, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’” It is a great comfort to recognize that God is always by our side and is not going to leave us as long as we don’t leave Him (Romans 8:31-39). With God, there is no problem, trouble, worry, or fear that can’t be overcome, for all things are possible with Him (Philippians 4:13). The Christian is never alone.  He has a “self-help group” the likes of which this world cannot boast!

Fourth, we read, “Be anxious in nothing” (4:6). Anxiety for the things of this life can become a big problem for the Christian. Jesus taught us to understand that God knows the things of which we have need, and He will supply those things if we seek Him and His kingdom first (Matthew 6:25-34). When we start to dwell on the worries and anxieties of this life, let our minds and our actions turn to things of the kingdom. What can we think and do to further the cause of our Lord upon the earth? We can study the word. We can visit the sick. We can help the poor. We can evangelize the lost. There is no shortage of activity. Get involved with other people. Being involved in something goes a long way toward eliminating anxiety that crops up as a result of eating the bread of idleness.

Fifth, Paul states, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (4:6). Prayer unburdens the Christian from the ceaseless parade of events about which he is concerned, but has no direct control. Prayer provides a means whereby the Christian may exercise a heart of thankfulness to the Creator, Sustainer, and Provider. Prayer provides opportunity for the Christian to divest himself of wrong choices made in the course of the day’s events. Prayer motivates the Christian to act in ways that will improve his relationship with his God and his fellow man. There is much blessing in prayer. Modern psychology acknowledges these activities as being therapeutic and helpful to an individual’s mental state. If we as Christians, would only acknowledge the power of prayer in times of trouble how great burdens would be removed from our weary shoulders and what great relief would be obtained from the troubles of life.

The conclusion of enacting these first five exercises in one’s life is this: “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” There is a certain peace that comes through understanding and applying these five principles in one’s life. The peace that God gives “surpasses all understanding;” one’s abilities alone cannot provide the type of peace that God provides. God’s peace defies the human intellect because ultimate peace in God depends upon one’s faith in God that comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). Faith is always presupposed for having a healthy mind. Without faith, nothing avails to bring peace to our souls. The heart and mind of the Christian will only be guarded through Christ Jesus.

Sixth, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (4:8). One must love God with his mind! (Matthew 22:37). The exhortation is not to just let one’s mind randomly drift upon anything that comes along, but to deliberately concentrate upon good things. What happens between someone’s two ears is under his control! All of his thoughts, feelings, and emotions! One must take responsibility by confessing his own sinful thoughts such as envy, hatred, vengeance, and malice. Only by taking ownership through repentance can He then give them to God and experience forgiveness.  Worry, anxiety, depression, and despair are emotions fueled by sinful thinking. When one accepts responsibility, takes control of his thinking, and fills himself with these good thoughts, there will be no more room for the sinful. It is a fight and struggle to battle these things, but one must bring his focus back upon the true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, and virtuous. One of the great failures of modern psychology is that while it can help someone understand what he is thinking and bring him to a greater awareness of his thoughts, it cannot provide ultimate content for thought. Only the gospel provides the content – Christ Jesus!  We must focus our minds upon Him, His life, His love, His humility, His sacrifice.  In so doing, we can fill our life with the good things that God created for us.

Seventh, Paul has this to say, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do” (4:9). When we have done everything that we need to do mentally to prepare ourselves for Christian service, we must make application. Paul says that his teaching and example constitute an example for us as well. If we are looking for ways to behave, let us look to the example that Paul left as he followed Christ in his life (1 Corinthians 11:1). We have half the book of Acts to let us know how Paul behaved as well as many of his epistles in which we find great teaching regarding how to live the Christian life. This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Again, while modern psychology can suggest a course of behavior, it cannot suggest a lifestyle that will so thoroughly meet our needs as that which we find within the gospel of Christ (2 Peter 1:3).

The grand conclusion to these seven steps of mental health is found in the words, “and the God of peace shall be with you.” This is yet in addition to the previous promise. Not only do we have the assurance of the peace of God being with us, but also we have the assurance of the God of peace being with us. Greater blessing can no Christian have than to know that the very God who made us and knows us better than we know ourselves will provide a life that is filled with contentment and peace as well as provide the companionship that we need to finish such a life in His service. May we ever seek to apply these seven steps in our time of need.

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One Simple Life Changing Decision

One Simple Life Changing Decision

Eve looked at that beautiful, forbidden fruit and made a decision. There was no way she could begin to visualize how that one decision would change the history of the world. The choice made that day has impacted the lives of every one of the billions and billions of people who have lived on this earth. It impacts the lives of each of us.

Decisions impact others.

Decisions impact others.

There are other examples in the Bible of innocent choices which changed the course of the rest of the lives of those who made them. When Jacob decided to send Joseph, wearing his coat of many colors, to check on his brothers it seemed like such a minor matter. Yet, it was the last time the patriarch would see his son for almost four decades. One simple decision which changed the lives of Jacob and his descendants for thousands of years.

In the last few months, two of the members at Palm Beach Lakes have made simple decisions which have changed their lives. Drastically changed their lives. Eternally changed their lives.

Months ago, David Sproule challenged every member to commit themselves to being present every time the doors of the church were opened this year. One couple made that choice. David and Casey Bound made that choice. At that time, David was not a member of the church. It is remarkable what happened. The teaching and preaching of the word of God penetrates the hearts of those who listen to God speaking to them. Faith comes from hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17), and the word of God implanted in David Bound’s heart began to grow and grow. Two weeks ago, David obeyed the gospel. His life was changed. Casey’s life was changed. The life of their newly born child was changed. These lives were changed drastically. From one innocent decision—to attend worship three times each week.

Three weeks ago, I was talking with another member at Palm Beach Lakes. I had baptized him into Christ at least thirty years ago. His work interfered with his ability to come regularly. His spiritual growth stagnated. He was a member here, but not an active one. His work situation has changed, and he recently made a decision to start attending more. Last week, we talked again, and he said that this decision had changed him. He was so much happier and was now closer to God than he had ever been. He said, “It has changed me. My heart is so different.”

Think about these two men who have been changed. Is your faith as strong as you want it to be? Are you where you really want to be? Faith comes from hearing God’s word, and stronger faith comes from hearing God’s word more. Is there an innocent decision you should make? Think about it!

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