ROMANS 5 - 8

Romans 8:1-17:
The Spirit’s ability to sanctify the believer

by Thomas W. Finley

Freedom from failure through the law of the Spirit of life (8:1-2)

● “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The meaning of the Greek word for condemnation means a negative decision of judgment against someone. But the meaning of “no condemnation” here, because of the context, cannot mean simply justification, being “declared righteous” by God (as in Rom. 5:18). The context (the preceding verses) speaks about the problem of failure in a believer’s life due to indwelling sin. “In Christ Jesus” we have been freed from the condemnation which was upon us in Adam. This freedom from condemnation carries with it the freedom from the law of sin and of death. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death." (8:2) This statement is an explanation of “no condemnation” – it means that we have been set free from the overwhelming and enslaving power of indwelling sin. At the moment we were regenerated and placed in Christ, this freedom was established for us and available to us. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is the operating principle of the Holy Spirit within us. Yet, it remains for us to find out the keys for having this law operational in our experience.

The weakness of the flesh to carry out the law versus the righteousness of the law being fulfilled through the Spirit (8:3-4):

● Rom. 8:3-4 continue the explanation of the deliverance from the failure portrayed in Romans 7. "For what the law could not do” means that the law has no power to sanctify us, to overcome the power of sin and give us a holy walk before God. "Weak as it was through the flesh" tells us that the flesh, meaning here the ability of fallen man with his will power and determination, has no capacity to carry out the demands of the law. "God did...He condemned sin in the flesh." God condemned the problem within man, the sin principle, thus negating its enslaving power. He sent Jesus in the likeness of humanity's flesh. On the cross, Jesus became identified with the sin in man (2 Cor. 5:21). God judged that sin there at the cross. The result is that sin has lost its power and right to rule in man. Now the power of sin is broken, but it has not been removed from man. These things are “spiritual facts,” true things that have happened in the realm of the eternal Spirit. Now, they can be transferred into our actual experience by faith. The next phrase, which begins verse 4, is “so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us." God has dealt with the power of indwelling sin on the cross “so that” there may now be victory in our lives over indwelling sin! Now all the high standard of righteousness required by the law can be fulfilled in us (not by us). How? 1) By not walking by the flesh – the fallen Adamic nature, but 2) By walking according to the Spirit. (The Spirit here may be viewed as the S/spirit, meaning the Holy Spirit working together with our new nature in the human spirit [Rom. 1:9; 8:16].) This living according to the Spirit is accomplished by faith in the spiritual facts (such as the revelation of Rom. 6 that we are in union with Christ in His death and resurrection), and in dependence upon the living person of God. When we live in this way, then the law of the Spirit of life is at work in us to be our very life. His higher life and power free us from the indwelling power of sin and death, which has already been judged on the cross. This Spirit of life produces a righteous living in us that meets all the righteousness standard of the Law.

Two practices and two results – walking according to the flesh or according to the Spirit (8:5-6):

● “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:5). This verse defines the practice of those who live according to the flesh or according to the S/spirit. This practice is so important. An unbeliever automatically lives according to the flesh. But, a believer does not automatically live according to the Spirit. It depends upon his practice. He must not be passive. He must cooperate. Key for our understanding here is the Greek verb for “set their minds.” This verb in Greek is phroneo (Stong’s #5426). The word describes the orientation of man’s inner being: what his mind, emotions and will are focused on and directed towards. (See its usage in Matt. 16:23; Rom. 12:16; Phil. 3:19; Col. 3:2.) This focusing of the inward life includes values, desires and purposes. It implies occupation and pursuit. What occupies us? What do we pursue? Thus, the “mind set on the things of the flesh” involves the occupation with and desires for the things of the flesh, the realm of Adam and his world. This occupation and desire could be for physical things related to the body, such as a focus on food, sex, slothful rest, pampering of the body in various ways (dress, or even an over focus upon health or exercise; see Phil. 3:19). Or, it could be an occupation with things related to the realm of the soul (the mind, emotion and will). There are many desires of the soul which belong to the flesh, the fallen nature of man. Some examples would be mental delights (entertainment in all its forms, things of culture and the arts, hobbies, etc.), Another category would be the desire of the soul to be appreciated, to be noticed, either in men's worldly sphere (recognition in business or talent), or in the realm of religious achievement (Matt. 6:1-5). . Man can also set his mind upon the things of the flesh through being overly absorbed with the cares of this life (Lk. 8:14; 21:34). There are many varieties of fleshly pursuits upon which modern man may focus.

Alternatively, one may set his mind on the things of the Spirit. That is, he may inwardly focus upon and pursue (a genuine seeking after) the real things of God and the Spirit such as: the Spirit Himself and His leading within us; the mind of the Lord; the true communion of man with God; the word of God for true edification; the way of self-denial and discipleship; the cleansing of all defilement of sin upon our conscience; the inner posture of being "poor in spirit" before God (in order to be fully dependent upon Him); the fellowship in spirit with the saints; service and love towards others by spiritual sensitivity; godly living as a witness to our fellow man; prayer that seeks to join together with the Holy Spirit for His prayer; and the real yearning for Christ Himself and His return. Certain Scriptures also outline how we can pursue the things of the Spirit (Phil. 4:8; 1 Tim. 6:11; Heb. 12:14). “To set the mind on the things of the Spirit” does not mean we abandon human duty, such as our obligations to raise and care for our family, care for our household affairs, and earn a living. Yet, in the midst of all these activities we must learn to set our minds upon the Spirit and learn how to join ourselves with Him, being under His headship and keeping our affections directed towards Him. Those who direct their hearts towards the things of the flesh will be those who live according to the flesh, the old Adamic nature. Those who use their will to direct their heart towards the things of the Spirit will be those who live according to the Spirit.

Rom. 8:6 begins with “for,” indicating that it gives a further explanation of the two options described in verses 8:4 and 8:5. The “mind set on the flesh is death.” That is, the inner life of the soul is deadened, separated from the fresh living experience of God's life, when one sets his mind on the things of the flesh. This type of death experience, which arises from heeding the old flesh nature, has already been noted in Rom. 6:21. 23; 7:10-13, 24. But, the mind set on the Spirit is "life and peace." That is, the life of God and the peace of God are realized within us.

Problems of the flesh realm (8:7-8):

● Having just mentioned a walk according to the flesh and the accompanying mind pursuing the things of the flesh, Paul uses a couple of verses to amplify the problems of the flesh realm. "Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God." (8:7) As the flesh resists God, so the mind (really the entire inner being) engaged in the things of the flesh resists God and His will (represented by the law of God). The flesh, thus engaged and operating as the dominant power in the person, is powerless to obey. Verse 8 does not start not with "for" (providing an explanation of the prior verse), but with "and" or "now,” which indicates an additional thought. After just describing he problems related to the flesh, the apostle adds an additional thought: “and those in the flesh cannot please God.” Here we see a switch from the phrase "according to the flesh" (living according to the flesh, 8:4-5) to the phrase "in the flesh" (speaking of position or location). The N. T. does not use the term "in the flesh" to speak of a believer living in a fleshly manner. It does use the term “in the flesh” to speak of those who are “located” or “positioned” in Adam, or, conversely, those who are no longer in Adam [the unregenerate state] (Rom. 7:5; 8:8, 9). Any person who has his being in the realm of the flesh, in Adam, can never please God. He is in a hopeless situation positionally. Verse 9 seems to use the terms “in the flesh” or “in the Spirit,” along with other terms, to make a distinction between unbelievers and believers. For consistency, then, the use of the phrase “in the flesh” in verse 8 must refer to those outside of Christ, and consequently have no ability whatsoever to please God.

In the Spirit = the Spirit dwelling in you = having the Spirit (8:9):

● In this verse Paul speaks to reassure the believers that they are not located “in the flesh,” but in the sphere of the Spirit. The first part of the verse speaks of believers, who are “in the Spirit” if in fact the Spirit dwells in them. This condition is then contrasted with those who do not even have the Spirit, and thus do not belong to Christ.

The indwelling Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies (8:10-11):

● “If Christ is in you” continues the thought of verse 9. The verse means that if you are a true believer (Christ is in you), then your situation is this: Sin has so affected your body that it is “dead” – that is, it is going to die for sure, as the parallel thought in verse 11 calls it a “mortal body.” However, in contrast to the effect of sin - death in the body - there is a counter-effect of life (God’s life) in the human spirit. “The spirit is life due to righteousness” is the accurate translation of the Greek. God’s righteousness has been imputed to us, so life has become the condition of our spirit. Verse 11 tells us that the Spirit within us raised Christ from the dead, and thus it can also “give life to your mortal bodies.” This Spirit can energize us spiritually so that the body, which was formerly used to serve sin (the “body of sin”; Rom. 6:6 ), may now be employed to serve God (Rom. 6:13, 19).

No obligation to the flesh, but being led by the Spirit (8:12-14):

● 8:12. “So then” begins a conclusion based upon the foregoing verses, from verse 2 onward. Paul begins with our obligation, and then switches to the fact that we have no obligation to the flesh. His thought about our obligation should be that we live according to the Spirit. As those who have died to our connection with Adam and are no longer “in the flesh,” we certainly have no obligation to obey its lusts.

● 8:13. If we live according to the flesh, we will die. The “death” noted here does not specifically refer to physical death; otherwise, living by the Spirit would guarantee perpetuation of physical life. Although some sins may lead to death, this verse is speaking of living by the flesh in the broad perspective. The result is death – temporal loss of the fellowship of life (Rom. 6:16; 1 Jn. 1:5-10). On the other hand, if we by the Spirit are putting to death the deeds that attempt to arise out of a sin-ruled body, we experience spiritual life – the blessing of intimate fellowship with God the Father and Christ. Note that here we see that the spiritual battle against the flesh is won when we employ the Spirit to defeat the flesh. The failure in Romans 7 was due to the effort of Paul’s will-power alone engaging the power of indwelling sin in conflict. We must rely upon the Spirit entirely for victory, not upon our own ability or will-power.

● 8:14. The connective “for” indicates that being led by the Spirit at least includes putting to death the deeds of the body. In other words, to be led by the Spirit means we give no ground to the pull of sin in our lives. If we live in this fashion, then we demonstrate that we are truly sons of God – the life of our Father will be manifested in our living.

Our sonship and heirship as children of God (8:15-17):

● Gal. 3:23-26; 4:1-7; 21-26 and Rom. 7:1-6 provide insight here. The spirit of slavery = our condition under the law. While under the law, trying to meet its demands and failing, there was fear of punishment. We have left this fear in Christ, so we do not have to have this fear. Instead, we have placed by the Spirit as sons into the family of God, whereby we can truly utter: “Abba, Father!” The word rendered “adoption” in the NT has no real English equivalent. “Sonship” (as in the NIV translation) seems better. This Greek word comes from two words compounded together: “son” and “placement,” from a verb used for setting something or someone in a place. So, it means we have been placed to be God’s sons, part of His family. All believers become sons of God by our faith in Christ (Gal. 3:26). Yet, the idea of a son in the Biblical sense also involves a certain maturity and certain privileges and rights, which may be forfeited. The passage in Gal. 4:1-7 indicates that a child of a father does not come into his inheritance until a certain age has been reached. The example of Esau shows us that certain rights of a first-born son (which belong to all believers), may be forfeited through unfaithfulness (Heb. 12:15-17). We have already received the “spirit of sonship” and can now cry out “Abba! Father!” Yet, the consummation of our sonship is not realized until our body is redeemed at the Lord’s return (8;23; Phil. 3:20-21). Verse 15 tells us that we have all received a spirit of sonship. Yet verse 14 showed us that it is only those who are in submission to the leading of the Spirit who are manifesting, or living, as sons, mature ones.

● “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (8:16). Here we are told that the Spirit is not witnessing to our spirit, but with our spirit. As we cry out “Abba! Father!,” the Spirit joins with our reborn spirit in this cry, witnessing with us that we are indeed children of God.

● Rom. 8:17 is a very important verse that makes a distinction between “heirs of God” and “joint-heirs with Christ.” According to the construction of the Greek text, there is a definite contrast between the two heirships here. Here is a very accurate literal translation: “And if children, also heirs; heirs on one hand of God, joint heirs on the other of Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that also we may be glorified with Him.” As children of God, we are automatically in line to inherit some of the blessings God has for us by placing us in His family. In fact, Rom. 8;29-30 shows some of these blessings that are the portion of every child of God (see also Gal. 3:29; Eph. 3:6). To be a “joint heir with Christ,” however, is clearly conditional. Only those children of God who meet this condition of “suffering with Him” will be joint-heirs with Christ. Christ’s enduring obedience included suffering stemming from His obedience (Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:8; 12:3). As a result, He was given the highest position by God and will rule over all (Phil. 2:9-10; Heb. 1:9; 12:2). Christ has been made “heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2). When He returns, He will set up the Kingdom on the earth and inherit (possess) it (Lk. 19:11-12; Heb. 1:6-9). We have an opportunity to be fellow heirs, co-possessors of His coming Kingdom (ruling together with Him), but such a possession is conditional for us. Our sharing of His rule will require obedience and suffering (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26; 3:21). The suffering here is “suffering with Him.” This means we are willing to suffer by being obedient to God, as He suffered by being obedient to the Father’s will (Heb. 5:8; 12:3). This suffering could include rejection or persecution for our faith, as well as suffering loss to our soul’s natural likes and desires (self-denial) in order to follow Christ (Matt. 16:24-26).

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)