Many of the difficulties that we have experienced over entering into the reality of what we see in the cross have come from our neglect of the vital work of the Holy Spirit, always complementary to and indivisible from the work of the cross. In this particular context the work of the Spirit is two-fold:
1. His is the power that liberates our will from the bondage of habitual surrender to the demands of the flesh.
2. He is the one who educates us in living by the internalised law.
We must look briefly but carefully at each of these in turn. As human beings, made in the image of the Triune God, we are also a tri-unity: that is to say, we are spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
a) The human spirit is that part of a person that is regenerated; that is, it is the part which becomes the dwelling place within us of the Holy Spirit.
b) The soul (Greek psyche) is that part of human beings consisting of the mind, the will, the emotions or affections.
In unregenerate people, and in many Christians, the aim of the soul is to rule or dominate the person. But in God’s order the spirit is the part of a person that is intended to rule his personality and be the integrating centre of his being. Walking in the Spirit means that the soul yields up its desire to rule, and submits to the authority of the human spirit, inhabited by the Holy Spirit.
It is the Holy Spirit in His anointing who breaks the yoke, who brings ‘freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners’ (Isaiah 61:1). There is no habit, no compulsion, no bondage, no shackle on the will, that the Spirit of the Lord will not break to set us free.
Then there is the educating work of the Holy Spirit. You may call it sanctification if you wish to be more theological, but again we must understand clearly what is meant.
The work of the Spirit is to apply the law of God to our lives in such a way that we are not trapped into legalism or self-conscious spirituality. We are meant to trust the reality of the work of God within us, so that we can live freely and spontaneously out of what we are, just so long as we respond to the educating work of the Spirit within us.
What does He do? He does what He did in Jesus: He writes the law on our heart. And the law sets us free!
Paul says in Romans 8:4, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
The law written on our hearts
The Holy Spirit will take us in hand, time and again, over our breaches of the law of unselfish love; if we respond He will write part of that law in our hearts. We, in fact, are ourselves changed, from one degree of glory to another, but always in the direction of liberty –‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ (2 Corinthians 3:17). There is liberty to live spontaneously and authentically from where we are, freely and naturally responding to the guidance of the internalised law, and discovering that obedi- ence is meant to be not only possible but natural to the child of God.