The spirit is the immaterial part of humans that has the capacity to relate to God. Outside of Christ, a person is spiritually dead and is unable to relate to God (Ephesians 2:1–6; Romans 8:5–8). But when a person puts his trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin, the Holy Spirit enters him and gives that person spiritual life. Spiritual life refers to life lived in and with God from salvation through eternity. Spiritual life begins when we are born again.
Before a person has spiritual life, he is a slave to sin (John 8:34) and spiritually dead (Colossians 2:13). Because of Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, every person is cursed with a sin nature, estrangement from God, and a predilection to live contrary to God’s will. Jesus is the only way to receive forgiveness for sin and to gain spiritual life (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). He paid the penalty for sin for all who would believe in Him (Acts 16:31; John 3:16), and He conquered death by rising from the dead. All who put their trust in Him for this salvation become spiritually alive. The apostle Paul tells believers, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). Living according to the flesh produces death, but living by the Spirit brings life.
When we put our faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, we pass from death to life. We are regenerated; our sins are forgiven, and we are spiritually reborn. We are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:18). We can live for God. We have spiritual life. At the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit enters the believer, and “the Spirit gives life” (John 6:63). After a person is saved, the Holy Spirit guides him or her in a new spiritual life and produces godly character (John 16:13; Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:25).
The spiritual life of a believer compels him or her to grow in the things of God and to apply God’s truth to life. The extent of growth in a person’s spiritual life is determined by the extent to which he allows the Holy Spirit to lead and control his life instead of living in the flesh. Our sin and disobedience grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and hinder His work in our lives. Rather than bend to worldly influences, believers are exhorted to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). A born-again believer will continue to grow in his spiritual life by consistently and continually choosing to surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit.
True spiritual life is produced by the Spirit working in and through the believer. It is not produced by self-effort, nor is it a life lived in gratification of the flesh. A born-again believer who is controlled by the Holy Spirit will exhibit a consistent spiritual walk based on God’s Word and will demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in his character as he grows (Galatians 5:22–23).