You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9)
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Question: Reading Romans 8:9, should a Christian be worried about whether they have the Holy Spirit in them?

Short Answer:  No. A person who has a repentant faith (in Christ!) and has been baptized is promised in Scripture to have the Holy Spirit in them:Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

Longer Answer:  Romans 8:9 can cause people to doubt their salvation because of that tiny little word, “if.”  However, as you can see below, the Greek language sheds some light on this little word.  (Greek is the language in which the original manuscripts of the New Testament were written.) Furthermore, a careful reader of Scripture must always remember to let the clear passages of Scripture interpret less-clear ones.  So in the case of a conditional word like “if” we use the rest of Scripture to help us answer the question. Let’s look more closely at these two points:

  • In English we have different words for “if” & “since.” They convey quite different meanings depending on how they are used.  In Greek, there is a word/particle “ei” … it can be combined with other particles and get slight nuances, but it’s mainly used simply as “ei” … and most commonly translated in English as “if” – but it can just as well be translated as “since.”  Here’s what the Greek dictionary (Friberg Lexicon) says:

a.  eiv conj subord, from eiv  if; whether;  that; if only, surely; since; ei; tij, ei; ti  who(ever), what(ever); ei;per since, if it  is true that ei;ge if indeed (red, italics, underline – my emphasis.)

b.      in the form “ei,” “since” is an allowable translation, but not the most common use.  However, in the form “ei-per,” “since” is the most common use! (see red words in letter-a above)

c.       Note that in Romans 8:9, the first use of the word “if” is in the “ei-per” form!… So Paul is really starting out by saying “SINCE Christ is in you…” So then all of the other “if’s,” though written simply as “ei,” are best thought of with the meaning “since” because of what Paul says before the rest.  In verse 9, therefore, he establishes the certainty of the discussion.  (Consider if the NIV translated that “ei-per” in verse 9 as “SINCE.”  It would read: “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, SINCE the Spirit of God lives in you.”) doesn’t that even sound better?  Some translations will say “If in fact,” or “if indeed” to show that a simple translation of “if” is not sufficient.  What I’ve written here show the allowable translation of the Greek word “ei-per” as “since” where the word “ei-per” occurs within the verse.

d.      Think of it… you’re talking to a child and you say, “Don’t be afraid!”  “If you believe in God, then you know there’s nothing to worry about!” You aren’t calling into question whether that child believes in God!  You’re not saying, “you might not believe in God, but just in case you do…” No. You’re simply acknowledging that there’s a choice in behaviors, and one way demonstrates their faith.  In this case, isn’t what you’re really saying to the child: “SINCE you believe in God, then you know there’s nothing to worry about?”

  • And in case the above explanation doesn’t help and/or confuses you.  Or you just find yourself more comfortable letting “if” be “if” and Romans 8:9 remaining uncertain… then let SCRIPTURE INTERPRET SCRIPTURE, and let the Word of God resolve for you whether or not you, the believer, is safe in answering all of the “If’s” in Romans 8 in the affirmative (because certainly “if” is not required to mean “NO,” right?) … Look at the clear word of God in 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;”  In this Scripture the same Paul who wrote Romans makes it clear that the Holy Spirit IS in you (my emphasis).  The believer need not read anything in Romans, or any other Scripture, and wonder whether the Holy Spirit is in them! 

It’s simply a tool of the devil to call into question many things: whether a believer really has faith, rather God is good, whether lost sinners are forgiven and saved, whether Christ’s work is sufficient, etc.  And to that list, we can add the Satanic doubt that is placed in the mind of the believer when reading all the comfort and exhortation in Romans 8 (and others) to question whether the Holy Spirit has really been given and dwells in the believer.   Let us not doubt what God’s Word has made certain.