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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1288

February 5, 2017 Galatians 5:16-26

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


“The Spirit of Christ”



  • Worthy of the Call


In Philippians 1:27, Paul tells us, let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” This has been our topic for three Sundays as we began this series with living worthy of our call, secondly, nurturing our minds in God’s word to have the mind of Christ, and last Sunday we considered living in the manner of Christ, is his way of life through prayer, humility, obedience, and service. Today we seek to cultivate the spirit of Christ. Next Sunday we will conclude with ways we can focus our witness to Christ. Today we take on the spirit of Christ.


  • What is the spirit of Christ?


What do we mean by spirit of Christ? We might first think of the Holy Spirit, and rightly so. God’s Spirit was certainly with Jesus. We know that Spirit descended like a dove at His baptism. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted. Matthew 12 quotes Isaiah that God would put His Spirit upon His beloved to preach justice to the Gentiles. Jesus cast out demons by the power of the Spirit. Jesus promised to send this same Spirit after he ascended into Heaven. So we certainly recognize the Spirit of God with Jesus.

But I want us to also consider a different way to consider the spirit of Christ with a small, lowercase “s”. You know how we sometimes comment on someone having a gentle spirit about them or a feisty spirit or a humble spirit. Let us, along with considering the Holy Spirit, also consider the spirit of Christ in his personality or his passion or his purposefulness. We could probably list a multitude of characteristics under this thought of his spirit. To some he had a gentle spirit when it came to handling the woman caught in adultery. To others he may have been seen as an angry spirit as he cleansed the temple. To some an authoritative spirit as he taught the scriptures, and to others a rebellious spirit as he challenged the behavior of the religious leaders.

So, in one sense when we talk about the Spirit of Christ, we mean the uppercase “S” in the Holy Spirit. In another sense we may be referring to lowercase “s” even thinking of it from last Sunday’s message as the manner of Christ. Perhaps one way to consider this is to look at Isaiah 53, particularly verse 2, For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” We believe this to be one of the most beautiful depictions of Jesus Christ and yet it notes that Jesus was nothing special to look at or behold. And yet we know that people were drawn to Jesus. What was it that drew them? I submit it was both the Spirit in the Holy Spirit and the spirit of Christ in his personality and character.

Look further along in Isaiah 53:3-9, He was despised and rejected, acquainted with grief, not esteemed. He carried our sorrows, smitten, afflicted, pierced…verse 7, He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” This reveals Jesus’ spirit, His deep seated willingness to do God’s will and become the lamb of God offered up for the forgiveness of our sins. It reflects his humility and service, obedience and faith. I trust too that all the characteristics of Jesus are empowered by the Holy Spirit. But the people who saw Him would have seen the man, the spirit of the man, not the invisible presence of the Holy Spirit.


  • Cultivating the Spirit of Christ


In one sense we are like Christ already because, as believers, we have the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that descended upon Jesus is the one that has come upon us. Now, we are certainly not as sensitive to the Spirit as Jesus, for we are still tainted by sin, sometimes enslaved by our passions, and disobedient to God’s will. But Jesus promised to send us the Holy Spirit and He has kept that promise. But since we are weakened by our sin, we can do things to cultivate the Spirit of Christ in us.


In the other sense of Christ’s spirit, lowercase “s”, his character and personality, we can also benefit from practices and disciplines that will help us cultivate the spirit of Christ. We know these activities well, things like prayer, worship, fellowship, study, as well as doing things that act out of faith. By that I mean stepping out in faith to share Christ with someone or dare to give more of our time, talents, and treasures in stewardship or trusting Christ to answer our prayers.


I think that Paul had these things in mind when he talked about his desire for Christlike living. He writes in Galatians 4:19 - “my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” Or we read in Romans 8:9-16,

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. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life 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 also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For 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. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Once again Paul affirms that the Spirit of God dwells in us. We are no longer bound to the ways of the flesh and it is the Spirit that gives us life. Look at verse 16 in particular, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” the Holy Spirit bears witness to our spirit. The Spirit speaks to our spirit. Now, as I mentioned before when we speak of spirit, lowercase, we are speaking of things like personality. Personality points to our character, our sensitivities, even our history that helps to make us who we are today. Personality is that which gives us the ability to make decisions, moral or otherwise, but for our sake here, mostly to talk about moral decisions. When we work toward cultivating the spirit of Christ we are talking about the Holy Spirit working in our personality to bring us to holiness and to bear the fruit of righteousness.




  • Holiness


The disciples (through Simon Peter) confessed that Jesus is the Holy One of God. They were the only ones who stuck with Jesus through times like John 6 when Jesus had proclaimed some difficult teaching about being the bread of life.


John 6:66-69

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

One of the reasons they found Jesus to be the Holy One was because he had the words of eternal life. There was no where else they could go, no one else to whom they could turn. Jesus was the teacher unlike any other. His word was and is authoritative. Jesus was like no other, set apart for a special purpose, to live and die and be raised again from the dead so that we might share in life eternal. Because Jesus is the Holy One, his followers are also called to be holy, to be like Jesus as a people set apart for a particular purpose.


1 Peter 1:13-16

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”


In 1 Peter we see that we are to prepare our minds, something we have already heard in this series of sermons. We are sober-minded, setting our hope on God’s grace. We are not to conform to our passions but to be holy in our conduct. This is our character development, our spirit. We have the Holy Spirit, now we work on our lowercase spirit, working to holiness. Holiness is something we readily attribute to God, set apart, unlike us in sacredness. We speak of the Holy Bible because it is like no other literature. Our God is like no other God. One Jewish theologian has said that “God is incarnate in personality and holiness; so is humanity...God is known and manifest through personality and holiness; so is humanity. Holiness and personality are attributes; they are relation and relatedness” (David Blumenthal, Theology of Protest, pg. 7). In his understanding this is reflected in the Genesis narrative that we are created in the image of God.







  • Bearing Fruit


As we cultivate the spirit of Christ, we also will find that we bear the fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-26   22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.


We could take this passage and spend the rest of our lives working on this fruit, becoming more loving, joyous, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. How many of those characteristics could use some cultivation in your life? I would dare to say, all of them! This is the fruit, the result of cultivating the spirit of Christ. To cultivate: nurturing, growing into, embracing, cherishing, cleaving to, living by the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit.


  • One With Authority


Matthew 28:16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


All authority has been given to Jesus and by that authority we have been authorized to go and make disciples, baptizing, and teaching. Our authority is in Jesus’ name and in His Spirit and in His authority. With authority comes responsibility. It's the authority to share everything we consider in this series, to live worthy of the call by nurturing the word in our lives, living in the manner of Christ, and by his Spirit, and next Sunday we will conclude with developing our witness to Christ as a people who have a glorious call, the mind and character of Christ, and the spirit of Christ. All the while with the promise of Jesus with us and God at work in us to bring to completion the work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6, And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ). Amen.