I had been a chaplain in the Army for only about a week when I was told that I needed to inform a soldier that a close family member had died. I was at Ft. Bragg, NC and the soldier was with his unit out in the woods.
I had a driver take me in a military vehicle out to where the soldier was. When we arrived, no moon or stars were out, and the forest was extremely thick. It was very, very dark. A lieutenant met us at the road to take me to where the soldier was. I’m not exaggerating when I say that as we entered the woods, I couldn’t see anything. The lieutenant, who had on some night vision goggles, led me deep into the forest. He could see where we were going, as well as other things that I couldn’t see. He had two tiny pieces of reflective tape on the back of his helmet, and I was able to follow him by looking at the tape.
After a while we arrived, and the lieutenant told the soldier that the chaplain wanted to talk to him. No doubt, the soldier was worried about what I would say to him. As I told him that his loved one had died, I couldn’t see him. I had no idea of how he was responding. I pictured him sitting in the dark, all alone, with no comfort available to him at this terrible time in his life. I felt bad for him.
Then the lieutenant gave me his night vision goggles. I put them on and saw that I had seriously misunderstood what was happening in front of me. I saw three of the soldier’s Army buddies with their arms around him. I didn’t even know they were there.
Do you know that we can come to the Bible and not see what is right in front of our eyes? It happens all the time. When that happens, the reader needs a pair of spiritual glasses to help him see what’s right in front of him.
In Rom 8:11, Paul writes, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” I recently read a book that states that in this verse Paul is saying that if you’re a Christian, you will rise from the dead when Christ returns. That’s a typical way to understand this verse. A popular commentary on Romans is an example. In commenting on 8:11 it says, “The indwelling Spirit is the guarantee of the believer’s future resurrection” (Mounce, Romans, 180).
But Romans 8:11 is not talking about the future bodily resurrection of believers at all. It is talking about our present experience as believers. If we as believers walk by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit will give spiritual life to our physical bodies now. This is not just a personal interpretation. The context makes it abundantly clear.
It is only when people come to this verse without considering the context that they can’t see what is right on the page. They see the phrase, “will give life to your mortal bodies,” and understand it in a typical Christianese sense, namely that the believer will rise from the dead when Christ returns.
That is a wonderful truth, but Rom 8:11 is teaching a different wonderful truth. The power of the Spirit lives in us as believers. He can give life—an abundant experience of life—to our pathetic, mortal bodies now, as we live by His power. If you can’t see that, I have a suggestion. Go back and look at what Paul is discussing in Romans 8. When you do, it will be as if you are putting on some night vision goggles and can now see what you were not able to see before.