Hello Rosary Lovers! In this post I would like to try to answer the question: What is life in the Spirit? I will do this from a Catholic viewpoint.
Let’s get right to it!
The Holy Spirit and the Old Testament/Covenant
In the Old Testament era, holy people were moved by God’s Spirit. They sought to proclaim God’s word and to lead the people of Israel to obedience to the Torah (Law of Moses).
However, even the best examples of faith failed, sometimes spectacularly.
- David – committed adultery with a married woman and had her husband killed
- Abraham – lied about Sarah being his wife because he was scared and didn’t trust God
- Moses – killed a man and later resolutely disobeyed God in front of the entire mass of Israel, which cost him his entrance into the Promised Land
- Noah – got drunk and lay naked in his tent, exposed and shamed
- Jacob – was a deceitful man who tricked his brother and own father, stealing the divine blessing
- Saul – began really well and then became an awful failure, disobeying God, visiting a witch and repeatedly trying to have David killed unjustly
- Judah – slept by accident with his daughter-in-law because he thought she was a prostitute
The Old Testament doesn’t really present a pretty picture of even the best people living in that era!
So even though the Holy Spirit is present in the Old Testament, there is a radical difference because Christ had not come.
That difference was that the law of the Spirit of righteousness was not written on the hearts of the people of God.
They had the external Ten Commandments, sure. They had all the instruction and all the commands and decrees. But obeying them was an entirely different matter.
Most often, the Old Testament people of God failed to obey God’s laws.
This is why we need the Gospel. This is why we need Christ and the New Covenant.
In Jeremiah 31, God speaks through the prophet to tell us that he will make a new covenant which will be different and will produce obedience in the hearts and lives of God’s people.
God promised to write his laws on our minds and hearts, so that we would want to obey. This is the fruit of the Holy Spirit coming into our lives through the Gospel of Jesus.
We notice a tremendous change in the disciples of Jesus after he ascends back to heaven.
Formerly, the disciples were fearful and timid. They said they would die for Jesus and never leave him, but ‘they all forsook him and fled’.
They were incapable of obedience.
But something changes at Pentecost. 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, God fulfils his promise and pours out the Holy Spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:28-32).
The Holy Spirit enters the hearts of the disciples and they become new people in a powerful way.
Suddenly, out they go, preaching boldly in the Temple area, and not fearing persecution or prison, or even death for Jesus.
What has happened? They have received the promise of the New Covenant, which is the Holy Spirit. This is the Gift of the New Covenant.
The Holy Spirit and the Gospel
The apostle Paul tells us in Titus 2 that the point of the Gospel is to save us from lack of self-control. The Son of God has come and now he teaches us self-control.
How does Jesus do this? By the Holy Spirit who he has given to us. Only by the Holy Spirit can we be made new inside and be self-controlled with respect to things like:
- Eating too much
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Misuse of sex
- And so on.
The Holy Spirit helps us to conquer all of these things, and many more passions of fallen human nature.
We have a choice in this life. We can either live like animals, with unbridled passions going wild, and pleasing the flesh.
Or we can live like divine people, like supernatural people, like people who rise above all the animal-like living
We can choose to live according to our true nature as humans made in God’s very own image. But only by the Holy Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul and Life in the Spirit
Paul constantly presses these sorts of things in his letters.
In Romans, for instance, he contrasts life in the Spirit to a life lived according to the flesh and fleshly desires.
One life leads to heaven. The other life leads to death.
One life leads to peace and happiness. The other life leads to misery and chaos in one’s soul and in society.
Romans 8 is the classic passage on all of this. I urge you to read it.
Galatians 5 also has much to say on this.
In essence, Paul’s basic message in these passages is the same: if you live according to the Holy Spirit, you will succeed. You will not live a life of sin, misery, bondage to passions and death. You will have self-control.
So Paul’s application in his letters is that Christians should walk according to the Holy Spirit, not the flesh.
Christians must set their minds on things above, not on things of the earth (Colossians 3).
Realise that as Christians, you are indeed dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ (Romans 6).
You sit with Jesus Christ in heavenly places, and inherit all things in Christ (Ephesians 1-2).
Paul starts with the glorious facts of the Gospel and what Jesus has accomplished for humanity. Then Paul tells us to let these things sink in.
Only then does he tell us to live in the Spirit.
A Catholic Application
So what is life in the Spirit? That’s been the real question and we’ve been trying to answer it.
In short, it’s kind of a mystery. We can’t really explain exactly what it is, only that it is achievable and that it produces holiness and makes us saints.
My suggestion is fairly simple. As a Catholic, I believe (with the apostle Paul) that the Church is the Pillar and Ground of the Truth (1 Timothy 3:15).
Therefore, to follow the Truth is surely to follow the Spirit, and vice versa.
The Truth of the Gospel is preserved faultlessly and spotlessly in the one holy Catholic and apostolic Church.
The way to obey the truth from the heart (Romans 6:11-13) is to obey the holy Catholic Church.
Do what the Church tells you to do.
Do not do what the Church tells you not to do.
Keep in perfect step with the Catholic Church.
In the manner that she tells you to fast, then fast in that manner.
In the ways she recommends you pray, then follow her guidance.
If she condemns something you currently love and practice, then stop loving it and stop doing it this instant.
If she commands you to do something that you currently do not do, then turn to the Holy Spirit and ask him to help you love the Church’s commands. Then seek to obey.
Please speak to your priest about anything that bothers you. Keep in step with the Church. Keep close to your priest.
In the book of Numbers, the people of Israel say: ‘we will not turn to the right or left, but we will follow the King’s Highway.’
This is how we must live as Catholics and Christians. We must not turn to the right or left from Holy Mother Church. She is on the King’s Highway and we will get to the Kingdom if we follow where she is going.
Only when we do this can we begin to pray to the Holy Spirit and ask him for guidance about this or that in our lives and expect him to guide us properly.
If we don’t obey the Church of the Holy Spirit, we cannot expect the Spirit to help us day by day in all sorts of other matters that concern us.
I hope this has been of use to you. Please leave comments/questions below.
God bless you, in Christ, through Mary, immaculate Seat of Wisdom.