Paul's Epistle to the Romans, The Blessing of Life

 (25) The Blessing of Life
Romans 8:1–11


1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,
4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 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.


Introduction

The Blessing of Life is the subject of verses 1–11. When God saved you, He gave you a new life, not a new law. As you yield to that life, you obey His law. Keep your mind centered on the things of the Lord and seek to please God in all things.

1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4—

In Christ, you have died to the old life and been raised to a new life (Rom. 6:1–14; Eph. 2:1–10), so make the new life the focus of your attention. Set your mind on it; seek to experience all that you have in Christ. Let the Spirit live His life in you.

 

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Authorities on the Greek language tell us that this verse reads as follows in the original, “Therefore, now there is not even one bit of condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” There is no condemnation from the Law, because Jesus fulfilled the Law. There is no condemnation from our sin, which we inherited through Adam’s sin, because Jesus (the last Adam) brought back everything Adam Lost. He did what the first Adam failed to do. There is no condemnation from any source because we are in Christ Jesus, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood, and hid with Christ with God.

Paul contrasted walking according to the flesh with walking according to the Spirit.

Walking refers to lifestyle, and walking according to the flesh is living according to the sinful, selfish dictates of one’s desires—“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19–21).

Walking according to the Spirit describes a life yielded to the control of God’s Spirit—“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22, 23).

The word condemnation means more than just the opposite of justification; it indicates that we are not going to suffer the penalty for our sin, but that the guilt and the penalty have been removed at the cross. Therefore, for those who are in Christ Jesus (in the body of Christ), we do not live under the constant threat of punishment (punishment that we rightfully deserve) by God. No sin a believer can commit—past, present or future—can be held against him, since Christ paid the penalty, and righteousness was imputed to the believer. In addition, no sin will ever reverse God’s decision.

From the valley of despair and defeat, the apostle now climbs the heights with the triumphant shout; there is [1]therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus! There are three ways to understand this statement:
First, it may mean that there is no divine condemnation as far as our sin is concerned, because we are in Christ. Now we stand in His grace—“through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2); and not under His wrath—“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18). There was condemnation as long as we were without Christ and serving the desires of the flesh. Now we are in Christ, and therefore, are as free from condemnation as He is. Therefore, we can throw out the challenge:

Reach my blest Savior first,
Take Him from God’s esteem;
Prove Jesus bears one spot of sin,
Then tell me I’m unclean.

—W. N. Tomkins


Second, it may also mean that there is no need for the kind of self-condemnation, as Paul described in chapter 7. We may pass through a [2]Romans 7 experience, unable to fulfill the law’s requirements by our own effort, but we do not have to stay there.
Third, those in Christ are not condemned, because Christ was condemned in their place; and there is no punishment for them, because Christ took their punishment. Verse 2 explains why there is no condemnation.

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[1]The word therefore refers back to verse 7:25. "I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." (Romans 7:25; NKJV) "Such then is the unchanging character of these two principles within me. God's holy law is dear to my renewed mind, and has the willing service of my new man; although that corrupt nature which still remains in me listens to the dictates of sin."—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

[2]A Romans 7 experience refers to the conflict that goes on within every believer, between the old nature, which opposes the will of God, and the new nature, which wants to do the will of God. When a Christian follows the dictates of his old nature, and does not do what he knows God wants him to do or does what he knows God does not want him to do, he is frustrated and dejected from his failure.

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2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

This expression is reminiscent of II Corinthians 3:17, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Even a casual reading of Romans 8 will leave us with the impression that the Spirit of God and the absence of an attitude of defeat go hand in hand. Life in the Spirit enables us to live free from the [3]law of sin and death. This does not mean that the believer is free from sin or free from the prospect of death, but that the principle of sin and death does not have dominion over him. It is possible for those for whom there is no condemnation to live a life that is not inundated with sin, a life, which will not end in death.

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus and the law of sin and death—are two opposite laws or principles. The characteristic principle of the Holy Spirit is to empower believers for holy living. The characteristic principle of indwelling sin is to drag a person down to death. It is like the law of gravity. When you throw a ball into the air, it comes back down because it is heavier than the air it displaces. A living bird is also heavier than the air it displaces, but when you toss it up in the air, it flies away. The law of life in the bird overcomes the law of gravity. Therefore, the Holy Spirit supplies the risen life of the Lord Jesus, making the believer free from the law of sin and death.

the law of sin and death.—is described in Romans 7:14-25. It lies nearby, ready to challenge our every desire to do right. It wages a relentless warfare until it has made a captive out of the person who tries to fulfill God’s Law. It is called the law of sin and death, because sin, as Paul mentioned frequently produces death—“so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21). Paul is referring to the sin of Adam. Through the offense (sin) of Adam the many (that is, all of Adam’s descendants) incurred the penalty of death. The Law of sin and death is the authority that sin had over our old nature, ending with complete severance of fellowship with God. That new nature could not break the shackles at all. Only the coming of a higher authority and power could accomplish this, namely the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit operates upon the new nature, which is vitally joined to the life of Christ. The man in Romans 7, who was joined to the body of the dead, is now joined to the living Christ also.

The law of the Spirit of life—breaks the domination of the old law of sin and death. The Spirit of life is the Holy Spirit, who brings life because He essentially is life. He is the Spirit of life. Through Jesus Christ, men are set free. The law of the Spirit of life, also called the Law of Faith, is synonymous with the Gospel.

The phrase in Christ Jesus refers to the spiritual union of believers with the Lord through His death and resurrection. Because the believer shares the life of Christ, He liberates the believer. What is involved in this was given in chapter 6:3–11.

The phrase made me free means the freedom from bondage that the believer has when he receives Christ as Lord and Savior. Paul may have had the occasion of his conversion in mind.

The whole verse can be summed up in one sentence: That the triumph of believers over their inward corruption, through the power of Christ’s Spirit in them, proves that they are in Christ Jesus.

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[3]The word law does not mean condemnation. It means “pattern,” or “principle,” or “system,” or rule.”

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3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,

The law could never get people to fulfill its sacred requirements, but grace has succeeded where the law failed. Let us see how!

For what the law could not do—the meaning may be either “the weakness of the law,” or “that which was impossible for the Law.” The latter is probably the correct meaning. The significance is the same however, regardless of the meaning you accept; the Law could not give freedom from condemnation, it could not justify or impart life, and it could not produce holy living, because it was weak through the flesh. It was weak in its inability to accomplish, by means of the flesh that which God alone could do and has done. The reason for the inability is not stated, but the point is, its powerlessness. The inability and its cause are found in Romans 7:14–25. Romans 3:20 tells us, “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”  The law of the heathen, the law of nature, the law of morality, the law of conscience, the Law of Moses; none can justify a man and make him righteous in the sight of God. Even the law of Christ, laid down in the Sermon on the Mount, cannot justify a man. It is by the law that the knowledge of sin comes, a point expanded on in [4]Romans 5:20; but no law can save a man. The law can convict men of sin; it can define sin, but it cannot emancipate man from sin. Only the grace of God can do that. The whole world is sinful and desperately in need of the righteousness of God. However, if that righteousness is to come to the individual, it must come through the agency of grace; sovereign grace, not by human works. The Law of Moses could not justify us; it could not sanctify us, because it was weak through the flesh. The Mosaic Law is good and holy, but our flesh is weak and we are unable to keep the law, therefore, the law does not have the power to justify. The trouble was not with the law but with the fallen human nature. The law spoke to men who were already sinners and who were without the strength to obey. Nevertheless, God intervened by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. Take careful notice that the Lord Jesus did not come in sinful flesh itself, but in “the likeness of” sinful flesh.

  • He did no sin: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22). Our Lord did not suffer for His own sins because He had none.
  • He knew no sin: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). We must beware of any idea that on the cross of Calvary the Lord Jesus Christ actually became sinful in Himself. Such an idea is false. Our sins were placed on Him, but they were not in Him. What happened is that God made Him to be a sin offering on our behalf. Trusting in Him, we are reckoned righteous by God. Our Substitute has fully satisfied the claims of the law.
  • There was no sin in Him: “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin” (1 Jn. 3:5).

However, by coming into the world in human form, He resembled sinful humanity. He gave Himself for a sacrifice for sin, and as such, Christ condemned sin in the flesh. He died not only for the sins which we commit—“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18), but also for our sin nature. In other words, He died for what we are just as much as, for what we have done. In so doing, He condemned sin in the flesh—condemned it to lose its power over men. God’s condemnation against sin was fully poured out on the sinless flesh of Christ. “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken” (Is. 53:4-8).

Our sin nature is never said to be forgiven; it is condemned. The sins that we have committed are what is forgiven.

God…sending—the “sending” is that the Lord went from the glory which He had with the Father into the world, by way of the [5]Incarnation. So in John 3:17, Jesus was God the Son in relationship to God the Father, when He was sent and came into the world. He did not become the Son of God at His incarnation. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3:17).

His own Son—this phrase expresses not simply the closeness and dearness of the relationship between the Father and the Son, but the greatness and power of the person God sent, and this is what is set in contrast to the weakness of the Law.

in the likeness of sinful flesh—the flesh stands for the human body, which in man has become the seat of indwelling sin. Jesus Christ took true human flesh from the Virgin Mary, His Mother. The flesh which Christ came in, was the same as the flesh of any man, except His was not sinful, for He “knew no sin” (II Cor. 5:21). He was a true man, but His human nature was protected and preserved from the indwelling principle of sin that has plagued all human beings since Adam. That is the difference between Christ and those He came to save; He was sinless, but man cannot be.

on account of sin—God provided our [6]atonement by offering the person of Jesus Christ.

He condemned sin in the flesh,—this has been understood in various ways. The preceding verses would lead us to understand the phrase “in the flesh” as referring to the fact that Christ, having taken human nature (but not the fallen nature), and having lived a sinless life, died under the judgment that was due to our sin. God, therefore, condemned sin both by the sinless life of Christ (not that Christ bore our sins in His life, but that His life was an absolute condemnation of sin) and then in the crucifixion and death of His own Son.

Sin has been condemned, but it has not been removed, in spite of the belief of some very sincere people. These bodies are to be redeemed—“…raised a spiritual body…” (1 Cor. 15:44). Today, the Holy Spirit is the Deliverer from sin in the body.

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[4](Romans 5:20; NKJV): "Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,"

Moreover the law -- "The law, however." The Jew might say, If the whole purposes of God towards men center in Adam and Christ, where does "the law" come in, and what was the use of it? Answer: It

entered -- But the word expresses an important idea besides "entering." It signifies, "entered incidentally," or "parenthetically." (In Ga 2:4 the same word is rendered, "came in privily.") The meaning is, that the promulgation of the law at Sinai was no primary or essential feature of the divine plan, but it was "added" (Ga 3:19) for a subordinate purpose -- the more fully to reveal the evil occasioned by Adam, and the need and glory of the remedy by Christ.

that the offence might abound -- or, "be multiplied." But what offense? Throughout all this section "the offense" (four times repeated besides here) has one definite meaning, namely, "the one first offense of Adam"; and this, in our judgment, is its meaning here also: "All our multitudinous breaches of the law are nothing but that one first offense, lodged mysteriously in the bosom of every child of Adam as an offending principal, and multiplying itself into myriads of particular offenses in the life of each." What was one act of disobedience in the head has been converted into a vital and virulent principle of disobedience in all the members of the human family, whose every act of wilful rebellion proclaims itself the child of the original transgression.

But whre sin abounded -- or, "was multiplied."

grace did much more abound -- rather, "did exceedingly abound," or "superabound." The comparison here is between the multiplication of one offense into countless transgressions, and such an overflow of grace as more than meets that appalling case.

—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

[5]The Incarnation. God is not an angry Father waiting to have His anger against us appeased by the sacrificial intervention of a loving Son. Instead, God the Father acts on behalf of sinful man by sending His Son. Paul described the manner of Christ’s coming as “in the likeness of sinful man.” This is the incarnation; the Son of God became one of us by taking on our humanity.

[6]The Atonement. Through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross, God achieved our deliverance by condemning sin in the flesh. In His death on the Cross, Christ bore the full fury of sin’s devastating power.

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4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

that the righteous requirement of the law—meaning here the thoughts, words, and deeds which the moral Law of God demands. The moral law finds its basis in the character of God and is presented in outline form in the Ten Commandments; its most condensed form is in Jesus’ commands to love God and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. Every believer is still under the Law’s requirement of perfection and its condemnation, until coming to Christ—“But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Gal3:23-25)—and every believer still finds in the Law the standard for behavior.

However, the believer can be said to be free from the Law in two respects:

  1. He does not have to depend upon his success in keeping the Law for his acceptance with God; justification is offered on another basis, as we have seen.
  2. This justification or reconciliation with God brings a new power to keep the Law, which makes the recipient of it less aware of the demands of the law, as sheer demands. This new power comes from the indwelling Spirit.

might be fulfilled in us (or as we say “realized in us”)—the fulfillment is “in” us, not simply “by” us, since it is first the work of God in us. It is accomplished by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and this process is designed to meet with a willing response on our part. The Holy Spirit produces a life of obedience, which the Law commanded, but could not produce. The Holy Spirit furnishes the power; the decision is ours.

It is possible to see more than our justification in these words of the apostle, for he is leading up to speaking of the nature of the life and work of the believer, a life in which he is to please God (v. 8). Furthermore, the “in us” does not simply mean “in our case.” It also has the additional thought of the response on our part, just referred to. It is a certainty that believers do not attain sinless perfection in this life, but that is not what Paul has in mind here. Here in this verse, he is speaking of God’s plan for sending of His Son, and the perfect example we have been given, as an outcome of His death and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

who do not walk according to the flesh,--The term “walk,” describes the sum total of the activity of the believer’s life. The flesh is used here to stand for the corrupt human nature, which dominates all those who are without Christ, and living under the control of sin.

but according to the Spirit.— The spirit stands for the new man in Christ with his new nature, which in the believer is to be the dominating factor instead of the flesh. To walk “according to the spirit” means to live under the operating power of the Spirit of God—“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Gal. 5:18).

The whole phrase who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit describes those who have been justified on the ground of the death of Christ and by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and those who, since they are in Him are freed from condemnation. As we turn over the control of our lives to the Holy Spirit, He empowers us to love God and to love our neighbor, and that, after all, is what the law requires.

We do not fulfill the law by walking in the Spirit instead of the flesh, but God fulfills the law in us when we walk after the Spirit of God. Therefore, we are assured of the righteousness of God, which the law could not provide, but the atonement of Christ does provide.

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

In verses 5-8, Paul answers the question; what does it mean to live according to the sinful nature, and according to the Spirit. Paul is referring simply to natural men as contrasted with those who have received the Spirit. Two ways of life are represented here.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh,--We are to have something that we habitually think about, something in which we place our total interest. Those who place their total interest in the things of the flesh cannot have their interest in the things of God. If the mind is not Christ-centered and our interest is constantly on carnal things, the results are the symptoms of spiritual death. Those who are lost and without Christ, are concerned with the things of the flesh. They obey the impulses of the flesh. They live to gratify the desires of the corrupt nature. They cater to the body, which in a few short years will return to dust. There is no future in a life lived in this manner—because it is getting further and further away from God. To allow the things of the world to dominate life is self-extinction; it is spiritual suicide. By living this way, a man is making himself unfit to ever stand in the presence of God. He is hostile to Him, and resentful of His Law and His control. God is not His friend but his enemy, and no man ever won a battle fought against God.

If you live habitually in the flesh and obey the things of the flesh, and the new nature does not rebuke you, you must not have a new nature—because “those who live according to the Spirit [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit.” A believer has been given a new nature, and now he can yield himself to the new nature. The flesh describes the natural man. The Lord Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn. 3:6). Jesus has brought a new struggle to our attention. It is no longer the new nature or the believer striving for mastery over sin in the body; it is the Holy Spirit striving against the old nature.

those who live according to the flesh—describes the natural man. Paul paints his picture of him in Ephesians 2:1-3. “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”

In addition, the flesh includes the mind. “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled” (Col. 1:21). It includes the total personality, which is completely alienated from God.

but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit— are the true believers, who rise above flesh and blood and live for those things that are eternal. They are occupied with the word of God, prayer, worship, and Christian service. If the interests of the mind are placed on the things of the Spirit of God, there is a peace in life that passes all understanding.

6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

For to be carnally minded is death,--To be carnally minded has two meanings:

  1.  That you are separated from fellowship with God, and are therefore dead here and now—dead in your sins and trespasses. When the Christian sins, he is to come to Him and confess his sin and let Him wash him. This restores us to fellowship.
  2. That you have the mental inclination of the fallen nature, and Paul says that is death. It is death as far as both present enjoyment and ultimate destiny are concerned. Death in the present is the experience of alienation from God. It has all the potential of death in it, just like an overdose of poison. “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Tim. 5:6). The carnal life not only ends in death, but also carrying death in its bosom, so that they are dead while they are still living.

A carnal mind places a man in a state of rebellion against God, and it produces a certain pattern and way of thinking. Likewise, the Holy Spirit produces a certain pattern and way of thinking. The mind (mindset, aspirations) of sinful man (of the flesh) is death, that is, it is equivalent to death or it leads to death in all of its forms (spiritual and physical). On the other hand the mind (mind set, aspirations) controlled by the Spirit is life (eternal life) and peace.

but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.—The Spirit of God is the guarantee of life that is life indeed, of peace with God, and of a life of tranquility. Peace is not meant here to be the act of reconciliation, accomplished through the death of Christ, but the enjoyment of the condition of reconciliation itself. The Spirit controlled life, the Christ-centered life, the God focused life is daily coming closer to heaven even when it is still on earth. It is a life, which is such a steady progress to God that the final transition to death is only a natural and inevitable stage on the way.

7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

The carnal mind is enmity against God;--If our minds have an interest in carnal things, they cause us to be the enemy of God. This is why James counsels, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas 4:4). The mind-set of the flesh is death because it is enmity against God. The sinner is a rebel against God and in active hostility to Him. If any proof was needed, it is seen most clearly in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible is not a book of moral philosophy. Everything hinges upon God’s view of things and upon the condition of persons in His sight. The mind of the flesh is therefore set in antagonism against God, refusing to acknowledge His claims.

for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.—Paul is not speaking here of two types of Christians, one spiritual and one unspiritual. He is speaking of believers and unbelievers, as verse 9 plainly indicates. Therefore, they that are in the flesh cannot please God. Until faith is placed in Jesus Christ, a man in no spiritual way can be pleasing to God the Father—“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).

The mind of the flesh is not subject to the law of God.—the mind of the flesh does not submit itself to the Law of God; it refuses to be controlled by it. It wants its own will, not God’s will. It wants to be its own master, not to bow to His rule. What is involved is not mere indifference but actual hostility.

nor indeed can be—the nature of the flesh is such that it cannot be subject to God’s law. It is not only the inclination that is missing but the power as well. Moreover, it is impossible to improve it into being subject to Him. The natural man (those who are outside the family of God) can neither receive the things of the Spirit nor know them. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). The natural man cannot receive the things of God, for they are foolishness to him. “Foolish” means dull, insipid, or tasteless, and this is precisely how those who do not have the Spirit perceive spiritual things. Such individuals lack the capacity to discern the truth, excellence, or beauty of divine things, judging them absurd and distasteful.

 The flesh is dead toward God.

8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

It is no surprise, therefore, that those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Paul is stating a basic incompatibility; the life that limits its interests to the satisfactions of the flesh cannot submit to God’s Law, and those who choose that kind of life cannot please God. Think of that! There is nothing an unsaved person can do to please God—no good works, no religious observances, no sacrificial services, nothing. First, he must come as a guilty sinner to Christ and receive Christ by a definite act of faith. Only then can He win God’s smile of approval.

Those who are in the flesh is another way of describing those who are under the domination of the old nature, who are enemies of God, and are incapable of pleasing God. The unbeliever’s problem goes much deeper than acts of disobedience, which are nothing more than the outward reaction to inner fleshly compulsions. His basic inclinations and orientation is to do those things that make him happy. Although he may outwardly appear to be religious and moral, he is hostile to God. Even the good deeds that unbelievers perform cannot please God, because the flesh produced them for selfish reasons, and they come from a heart that is in rebellion.

This verse reveals how hopelessly corrupt and utterly destitute the flesh really is. It is a spiritual anarchist. This demolishes any theory that says there is a divine spark in man and that somehow he has a secrete bent toward God. The truth is that man is an enemy of God. He is not only dead in trespasses and sins but also active in rebellion against God. The flesh as the basis for man’s life is not in itself an evil thing. By its nature, it is neutral: it may be good or it may be bad, and what it is depends on the choices a man makes. Making the right choice, that is the problem. Once evil enters a man’s experience, physical impulse begins to gain power, which eventually leads to it being the man’s master. Instead of being a servant, it becomes a master, and the whole personality changes for the worse.

9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God ]7[dwells in you. The Holy Spirit of God is the decisive factor in salvation. The Spirit of God permanently indwells every believer at the time the individual believes in Jesus Christ. The presence or absence of the Holy Spirit within, determines whether or not one has experienced salvation—“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). If a man does not have the Spirit, he does not have Christ, and he is not His. Paul clearly teaches that no one can receive Christ’s atonement for salvation unless the Spirit of God dwells within him. It is therefore irrational to say that there are Christians who have not fully received the blessing of the Spirit of God. There is no scriptural basis for a second work of grace or a baptism of the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation. At salvation, we get all of the Spirit of God, not just some of Him. There may be a time subsequent to salvation in which the Spirit of God gets more of us, but there is never a time when we get more of Him.

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.—the phrase “in the flesh” refers to the state of those who are unsaved and living according to the dictates of the old nature. “In the spirit” expresses the state of those who have experienced salvation and are now living according to the influence of the Holy Spirit. The contrast is between the dominating elements, which govern the different kinds of persons—the saved or lost.

Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.—when a person is born again, he is no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit. He lives in a different sphere. Just as a fish lives in water and a man lives in the air, so a believer lives in the Spirit. He not only lives in the Spirit, but the Spirit lives in him. In fact, if the Spirit of Christ does not indwell him, he does not belong to Christ. He may be called a Christian, he may be a Christian externally, he may enjoy partaking of the sacraments, but he is not really one of His. The fruit he shows, or the lack of it, reveals that he is not really a child of God. For one to call himself a Christian and not possess the Holy Spirit is to advertise pure Bible ignorance. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). On another occasion Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn. 6:44). And then Jesus taught that it is the Holy Spirit that convicts, convinces, and draws men to Christ. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (Jn. 16:7-11).

Paul could say to the carnal Corinthians, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19). When Paul went to Ephesus the first time, he missed something; he missed the distinguishing mark of the believer. Therefore, he asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2). They did not even know what he was talking about. Therefore, he asked them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” (Acts 19:3). Well, John’s baptism was unto repentance; it was not to faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, he preached Christ to them. Then they received Him, and were baptized in His name—“When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:5). This verse has much to say about the doctrine of the Trinity.  The Holy Spirit is both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. That shows that the Father and the Son are related to the Spirit in the same way. To have the Spirit of God indwelling us is to have the Spirit of Christ.  The Holy Spirit is given to all believers at the moment they are saved, and then they are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise”—“In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13). Since He is the Spirit of Christ, to be without Him is not to belong to Christ. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Cor. 13:5).

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[7]dwells. This refers to being in one’s own home. The Spirit of God makes His home in every person who trusts in Jesus Christ—“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

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10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin,--The body is dead: it is still mortal and subject to not only to death, but also to the temptation of sin. However, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Christ is actually in the believer. It is amazing to think of the Lord of life and glory dwelling in our bodies, especially when we remember that these bodies are subject to death because of sin [Adam’s sin]. Someone may argue that they themselves are not dead yet, as the verse seems to say. No, but the forces of death are already working in them; and they will inevitably die if the Lord does not return in the meantime.

but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.—In contrast to the body, the spirit is life because of righteousness. Although it was once dead toward God, it has been made alive through the righteous work of the Lord Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection, and because the righteousness of God has been credited to our account. The word “spirit” is the believer’s spirit. Paul says that if God’s Spirit indwells you (v. 9), the human spirit is alive—“even when we were dead in trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:5), and can show true righteousness.

All men die due to the human situation. Sin came into the world, and with sin came death, the consequence of sin. Inevitably, therefore, all men die, but the man who is Spirit-controlled, and whose heart is Christ-centered, dies only to rise again. Paul told the Colossians, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). Ephesians 2:6 tells us, “…made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”  NOW we are sons of God. NOW we set together in heavenly places with Christ Jesus. Now we are dead to the flesh, but we are alive unto God. Moreover, the miracle occurs, only because of “Christ in you.” (Col. 1:27).

If you are not conscious of the Spirit of God in your life, and if you do not have a desire to serve God, then it would do well to do as Paul suggests; “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Cor. 13:5).

11 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.

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,--This is the longest title of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Just as in other places, the term “from the dead,” means “from among the dead.” This is the second and only other place in this Epistle where the single title “Jesus” is used. The first was in 3:26, where it describes Him as the object of faith.

He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies—this verse is not talking about the passing on of some special energy and power to our bodies in their present state. It is instead, talking about the effect upon them of the shout of the Lord at the time of the Rapture—“Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). What is mortal will be made immortal. A mortal body is a body capable of dying. Nevertheless, a body made alive by the Holy Spirit becomes immortal. The transition from mortality to immortality is the work of the Spirit. Those who are born again will experience resurrection some day. Now, Christ died and rose again; and the man who is one with Christ is one with death’s conqueror and shares in that victory. The Spirit-controlled, Christ-possessed man is on his way to life; death is only an inevitable interlude that has to be passed through on the way. Resurrected believers, just like Christ, will receive new physical forms—“It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44).

through His Spirit who dwells in you.—the Holy Spirit is not the one who will raise the dead and change the living saints. The [8]resurrection of believers has always been dependent upon the resurrection of Christ—“knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you”  (II Cor. 4:14). The same Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead will energize our mortal bodies as well when we are “in Christ Jesus.” Consequently, we are not debtors to the flesh for we have not received new life by the flesh. When the Spirit of God comes to us, at salvation, we are under new management and therefore we are debtors to that management. All things are new in Christ for there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.

The bodies that you and I have will be put in the grave one of these days, if the Lord tarries. However, the indwelling Holy Spirit is our assurance that our bodies will be raised from the dead—“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:1-4). Because Christ was raised from the dead, we shall be raised from the dead. The Holy Spirit will deliver us from “this body of death”—this old nature.

[8]The resurrection and coming glory of believers is assured to them first by the resurrection of Christ and then by the fact of the indwelling Spirit. There are two references to this in the second Epistle to the Corinthians, one in 1:22, “God … sealed us and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts”; the other in 5:5, “He that wrought us for this very thing is God, who gave us the earnest of the Spirit.” The power that is in Christ is the power that will accomplish the quickening of our death-doomed bodies—“the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:18–20).

Summary

We must not live lifestyles characterized by the flesh, for we no longer owe allegiance to it! If we continually serve the flesh, our life is characterized by a state of death. However, if we mortify the deeds of the body, through the power of the Holy Spirit we will live. The deeds of the body are those fleshly activities, which characterize one who is not alive in Christ Jesus. Paul exhorts us to mortify or reckon as dead these deeds and no longer engage in them. When that is the case, and our thoughts and deeds are energized by the presence of the Spirit of God, we will be able to live our lives the way Christians should. Because we bear fruit by the life we live, men will know that the Spirit of God resides in us.

 

 


 

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