Holy Father, we humble our hearts before you. We want to understand your plan of salvation. We want to live in line with your plan of salvation, through the infinitely powerful Holy Spirit who dwells within us as born-again Christians. We pray in the mighty, holy name of Jesus. Amen!
We have the great privilege to turn back to Romans chapter 8. These verses are quite important to help us understand righteousness, holiness, and the victory over sin. I know that every sincere born-again Christian wants to live in the will of God, with the victory over all sin. What I am sharing is good news, very good news!
I always quote from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition, unless I mention otherwise. I frequently make comments in the middle of quotations using brackets [ ] or [[ ]] to make the brackets more obvious.
Romans 8:5, "For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [["Those who are according to the flesh" are the ones who have not been born again through the Lord Jesus Christ. I'll quote Rom. 8:9, "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ [the Holy Spirit], he does not belong to Him." I somewhat prefer the translation, "For those who are according to the flesh think the ways of the flesh." Thinking the ways of the flesh includes having wrong ideas about God and salvation; wrong attitudes; wrong motives; wrong priorities; and wrong desires. "Those who are according to the flesh think the ways of the flesh," and the end result is sin, and more sin.]], but those who are according to the Spirit [the Holy Spirit], the things of the Spirit [or, the ways of the Spirit]." That is, those who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit are enabled (and required) to think the ways of the Spirit. As we submit to the Word of God and walk by the Spirit of God, we will think right, and we will live in accordance with God's will, in His righteousness and holiness.
It is important for us to understand that our most important thinking takes place in our heart (in the inner man), not in our head. For one thing, faith is of the heart. Those who think the ways of the flesh will live in sin, but those who think the ways of the Holy Spirit will live in the righteousness of God. Born-again Christians do not automatically think the ways of the Holy Spirit or walk by the Holy Spirit, but we are enabled, and required, and privileged, to think by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit on a continuous basis by grace through faith.
Romans 8:6, "For the mind set on the flesh is death [or, "For the way of the thinking of the flesh is death." The way of thinking of the flesh brings sin, and sin brings death, ultimately the second death, the lake of fire, eternal separation from God and everything that is good.], but the mind set on the Spirit [or, the way of thinking of the Spirit] is life and peace." When we think the ways of the Holy Spirit, which is part of our walking by the Holy Spirit, we walk in the righteousness of God, which enables us to maintain a life-flowing relationship with Him, and ultimately we will inherit the fullness of eternal life and the glory of heaven. It also enables us to have peace with God. As the next verse shows, we certainly cannot have peace with God while we are hostile toward Him and living in rebellion against Him and His moral law, against His divine order.
Romans 8:7, "because the mind set on the flesh [or, the way of thinking of the flesh] is hostile toward God [Why?]; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so." Man in the flesh, man in spiritual death is hostile toward God and His laws. As Romans chapter 6, for example, shows, man in the flesh is a slave of sin. We cannot have peace with God while we are rebelling against Him and His divine order. The apostle Paul frequently makes the point that man in the flesh, man in spiritual death, does not have the ability to fully keep God's Law. But Paul also had the good news to proclaim, that God has solved the spiritual death, bondage to sin problem in the Sacrifice of His Son.
Born-again Christians are no longer under the authority of spiritual death, sin, or Satan and his demons. We are forgiven through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are indwelled by the infinite Spirit of God, who imparts God's life, righteousness, and holiness to us, as we walk by the Spirit through faith. It is very obvious that Christians must not think the ways of the flesh any longer; we are enabled, and required, to think by the Holy Spirit and to live by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis.
Romans 8:8, "and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." They cannot please God because they are hostile toward Him, as verse 7 says. They are living in rebellion against Him and His commandments.
Romans 8:9, "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you [The apostle Paul is speaking of the Holy Spirit dwelling in Christians from the time they become born-again Christians.]. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ [the Holy Spirit], he does not belong to Him." That is, he does not belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is not a true Christian. To confirm that the "Spirit of Christ" is the Holy Spirit, see Acts 16:7; Gal. 4:6; Phil. 1:19; and 1 Pet. 1:11.
Romans 8:10. This verse is a little difficult, but the overall meaning is clear enough, and I believe I understand the details too. We'll get into the details here. I'll read the verse before we get into the details of the verse, "If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive [or better, "the Spirit is life"] because of righteousness." "If Christ is in you [Many verses show that Christ is in all born-again Christians, and we are in Him (by the Holy Spirit)], though the body is dead [[It is very clear that the apostle does not mean that our physical body is dead. The bottom line of what Paul means here is that it is still all-too-easy for born-again Christians to walk in the flesh and to sin. It is all-too-easy for born-again Christians to walk after the flesh and do the sinful works of the flesh. But Paul warned Christians that they must not do the sinful works of the flesh in Gal. 5:19-21. And in Rom. 8:13 he warned Christians that they must not do the sinful works of the body, which means the same thing as doing the sinful works of the flesh.
Born-again Christians still have the all-to-real potential to walk by the flesh because our salvation isn't complete yet. And a continuous walk by the Holy Spirit doesn't come automatically when we become born-again Christians. In Rom. 8:23, for example, the apostle speaks of the fact that our bodies haven't been redeemed yet. In other words, we haven't been glorified yet. In Rom. 8:11 Paul speaks of the fact that God will give life to our mortal bodies at the end of this age. Now we have mortal bodies, bodies that will die if the Lord doesn't come first, bodies that haven't been fully redeemed yet; but after we have been glorified, we won't have mortal bodies. After we are glorified, the old man will be annihilated, and we won't have the all-too-real potential to walk after the flesh and to sin. It is important to understand though that the sin problem does not center in the physical body. As Jesus taught us in Mark chapter 7, for example, sin is of the heart. But the body can lend itself to sin, and demons can work through the physical body.
We Christians must understand that the flesh (the old man) still wants to manifest itself in sin, and it has the help of the world and the demons. We must be strongly motivated to always walk by the Holy Spirit by faith, so we won't sin. As I have mentioned, when we become Christians we sign a contract (so to speak), agreeing (for one thing) to always walk by the Holy Spirit. Isn't that what we want? Isn't it good news to know that we can always walk by the Holy Spirit and not sin? The Holy Spirit always enables us to walk in line with the Word of God. (continuing to quote Rom. 8:10)]] because of sin [[What does Paul mean by the words, "because of sin." He means that mankind died spiritually and is "in the flesh" because of the sin of Adam. See Romans chapter 5, where Paul discussed the fact that death (both spiritual death and physical death) and bondage to sin came upon mankind because of the sin of Adam. I'll read a key verse from Romans chapter 5 in a minute to demonstrate this important point. We have been born again, but (as I mentioned) we aren't fully redeemed yet, and we still have the all-too-real potential to walk in the flesh and to sin, even though sinning goes against what Christianity is all about.]], yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness." I don't agree with the translation "the spirit is alive." I believe the King James Version and the New King James Version translate the Greek in the sense intended by the apostle Paul and the One who sent him. They translate "the Spirit is life," (the capital "S" refers to the Holy Spirit).
Now we'll discuss the meaning of the words "yet the Spirit [the Holy Spirit] is life because of righteousness." Earlier in this verse the apostle said, "If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin [because of Adam's sin]," now he says "yet the Spirit is life because of righteousness." These last words mean that we Christians have the Spirit of life dwelling in us (and power over sin) because of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS CONTRASTED WITH THE SIN OF ADAM. His righteousness here refers to His atoning death, where He dethroned spiritual death and sin and earned the right for us to receive the Holy Spirit of life and to walk with the victory over all sin.
I'll quote Rom. 5:18 where the apostle Paul speaks of the one transgression of Adam that resulted in the spiritual death and bondage to sin of mankind, and of the one act of righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ (the last Adam) that set us free from spiritual death and bondage to sin, and eventually takes us to eternal glory, to a place very much higher than what Adam had before the fall. "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men [a condemnation that included spiritual death and bondage to sin], even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men." We believers have the "justification of life." Spiritual death has been dethroned, and we participate in the very life of God as born-again Christians through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. And the Righteous, Holy Spirit enables us to walk in the very righteousness and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin, even though we still have the all-too-real potential to walk after the flesh (the old man) and to sin.
I'll quote verse 10 one more time, "If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit is life because of righteousness." The Spirit is life, but we must walk by the Righteous, Holy Spirit of life on a continuous basis to appropriate that life and the righteousness and holiness of God.
Romans 8:11, "But [or, And] if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you ["Him who raised Jesus from the dead" is God the Father. The Spirit is the Holy Spirit.], He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." God the Father will give life to our mortal bodies when He glorifies us at the end of this age. After we are glorified, we will not have the all-too-real potential to walk by the flesh (the old man) and to sin. When we are glorified we will leave the world, the flesh (the old man), and the devil behind. That sounds good doesn't it? Until then we must make it a top priority to always walk by the Holy Spirit by faith to keep the old man from manifesting itself in sin. Now our bodies are mortal bodies, but they are also temples of the Holy Spirit
I'll quote Rom. 6:12, which is another verse where the apostle mentioned our mortal body, "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts." I'll also quote what the apostle said in Rom. 13:14 and then Gal. 5:16, 24, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." Gal. 5:16, "But I say, walk by the Spirit [the Holy Spirit], and you [most certainly] will not carry out the desire [the sinful desire] of the flesh [of the old man that still wants to live in sin]." And Gal. 5:24, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh [the old man] with its passions and desires [with its sinful passions and desires]." Also, in Eph. 4:22 Paul exhorted his Christian readers to once-for-all and completely lay aside (or, to put off) the old man, and in Col. 3:9 he spoke of his readers having laid aside (or, having put off) the old man with its evil practices.
Let's go on to Rom. 8:12-14 which are super-important verses. Here the apostle Paul says that we are totally obligated to always walk by the Holy Spirit and keep the flesh (the old man) from manifesting itself in sin. According to the terms of God's new covenant, we are obligated to always walk by the Holy Spirit (by faith) and keep the flesh (the old man) from manifesting itself in sin. This isn't an optional matter, but this is good news! What God calls us to do, He enables us to do. God didn't say things like this to condemn us, but to transform us. His saving, sanctifying grace is sufficient, but that doesn't mean that it will always be easy. Anyway, we must aim at this target! And God provides forgiveness and restoration for Christians who fall into sin when they repent.
Romans 8:12, 13, "So then, brethren [Paul is speaking to born-again Christians.], we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh [We are under obligation to God and His covenant.] - (13) for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die [[To live according to the flesh, as we have seen, means to live in sin. If Christians give themselves back to their old master of sin, to live according to the flesh, they must die. (See Rom. 6:16, for example.) They become unbelievers. How much sin can we get by with and still be classified as believers? I'm sure that the apostle Paul would not like that question, especially if Christians are trying to make room to serve sin part of the time. We are called to always walk by the Holy Spirit and not make any room for sin. That is the Christian ideal, and we must aim at that target. Any sin, if it really is sin, is too much sin. The New Testament shows that true Christians can sin, but it also makes it clear that any sin is too much sin, and it powerfully warns Christians living in sin with the need to repent with top priority.
When we consider who Jesus is (God the Son, who condescended to become a man [though He was much more than just a man] and who condescended to die for us, bearing our sins with the guilt and the penalties [including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin], and that He was raised from the dead on the third day and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father, and that God hates sin), it would be totally shocking if God's saving grace in Christ Jesus was not sufficient to overthrow sin and give us the full victory over sin.
"For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die." If we turn from God and His righteousness and do not walk by His Spirit by faith, we turn back into spiritual death, and we will not have a place in His eternal kingdom.]]; but if by the Spirit [the Holy Spirit] you are putting to death the deeds [or, works] of the body, you will live." We will live in the sense that we maintain the spiritual life that we have as born-again Christians, and we will inherit the fullness of eternal life at the end of this age. To put to death the sinful works of the body means to keep the flesh (the old man) from manifesting itself in sin. The sinful "works of the body" here is the same thing as the sinful "works of the flesh" of Gal. 5:19-21, which equals all sin, and not just sins especially associated with the physical body. And the apostle warned his Christian readers in Gal. 5:21 (as he had forewarned them) "that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God"; they will inherit eternal death. According to Romans chapter 8; Galatians chapter 5; and many other passages, the only satisfactory option is for us to always walk by the Holy Spirit by faith and not leave any room for sin. That sounds good, doesn't it? That's what every true Christian wants. We must aim at that target.
We are saved by grace through faith, but we must understand God's Word, and if our faith is real, we will walk by the Holy Spirit in the righteousness and holiness of God on a consistent basis. Faith without works is dead. It isn't saving faith.
Romans 8:14, "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." Those "who are being led by the Spirit of God" in this context are the ones who "by the Spirit are putting to death the [sinful] works of the body" of verses 13. They are the ones who walk by (and after) the Spirit by faith (faith in God and His Word, especially the gospel) all the time and do not carry out the [sinful] works of the flesh of Galatians chapter 5. They are LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD to live a life of righteousness and holiness, with the victory over all sin.
"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." Part of what Paul is saying here is that those who are not being led by the Spirit of God to a life of righteousness and holiness are not sons of God. Being led by the Holy Spirit to a life of righteousness and holiness is a big part of what new-covenant salvation is all about.
I consider Rom. 8:12-14 to be extremely important, so I'm going to supplement what I said here by quoting much of what I said under these verses in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ." This will involve some repetition, but repetition is good if it helps us get the Word of God implanted in our hearts and lives. I would also like to motivate you to get a copy of the book AND TO STUDY IT.
Romans 8:12. Christians still have the (all too real) potential to live according to the flesh because the flesh has not been annihilated yet (see, for example, Rom. 6:12, 13; 8:10; 13:14; Gal. 5:13-25; 6:8). To live according to the flesh means to live in sin; it means to do the sinful works of the flesh (see Rom. 8:13). Christians are under obligation to God to walk according to the Holy Spirit and be faithful to the terms of the new covenant.
Romans 8:13, "for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die." Any people (whether they call themselves Christians, or not) who continue to live a life of sin, "according to the flesh," will find that the path ends in eternal death (see, for example, Rom. 6:16, 21, 23; 7:5; 8:6; Rev. 20:6, 12-15). The words "you must die" here are contrasted with the words "you will live" in the second half of the verse.
"but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds [or, works] of the body, you will live." "The works of the body" here are the equivalent of the "works of the flesh" of Gal. 5:19. Both of these expressions embrace all sin, not just sins especially associated with the physical body. (See Gal. 5:19-21.)
For us to put to death the sinful works of the body by the Spirit means that we refrain from sinning, being enabled by the indwelling Spirit of God (see, for example, Rom. 6:12, 13 with all of Romans chapter 6; Rom. 7:6; 8:1-11; Gal. 5:13-25). Galatians 5:16 says the same thing with different words, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you [most certainly] will not carry out the desire [the sinful desire] of the flesh." So does Gal. 5:24, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its [sinful] passions and desires." (Also see Rom. 13:11-14; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 2:11-15; 3:1-11.)
It is obvious that Christians do not just automatically walk by the Spirit with the victory over sin; we must cooperate with the Spirit of God through faith, in line with the gospel. Otherwise we will still walk according to the flesh to some extent, and sin will be the inevitable result. The apostle Paul taught that Christians are required to walk by the Spirit all the time; it is not an acceptable option to walk by the flesh part of the time. Also, we must understand the gospel before we can walk in line with the gospel by faith. We must make it a top priority to rightly divide and understand God's Word.
Romans 8:14. In this context, "all who are being led by the Spirit of God" are being led to live in righteousness and holiness, as they put to death the sinful works of the body, of the flesh, of the old man (see verses 12, 13). They are the ones who "[walk] according to the Spirit" and fulfill the requirement of the Law in their daily lives (see Rom. 8:4). The clear implication of Rom. 8:14 is that it is only those "who are being led by the Spirit of God" that are the true "sons of God." In typical fashion, the apostle does not mention the in-between state (the gray area) of those who are led by the Spirit of God to some extent but who also live according to the flesh to some extent. This in-between state is not an acceptable option. The New Testament makes it clear that we should not have any sin, and that if we do, we must repent with a high priority. Living in sin is a totally unacceptable and a dangerous place to live.
God knows our hearts. He knows if we are making Him; His will; and His righteousness and holiness a top priority. He knows if we are making it a top priority to change anything, and everything, that needs to be changed, by His sufficient grace through faith. He is good and merciful; He is not trying to get rid of us, quite the opposite. But we had better take His warnings against sin very seriously.
I'll read Rom. 8:15-18 and briefly discuss these verses. I'll read these verses from the NKJV. Verse 15, "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit [the Holy Spirit] of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' " When we become born-again Christians, we are adopted into the family of God, in union with the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit of God begins to dwell in us. As the next verse shows, the indwelling Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we have become children of God in this very special, glorious sense, and He enables us to cry out, "Abba, Father." "Abba" is an intimate Aramaic word for Father. In truth and with full assurance, we can cry out, "Abba, Father"; God becomes our Father in a very special, glorious sense when we are adopted into His family through union with God the Son in new-covenant salvation. We are born-again children now. We will be born into the fullness of eternal life and glorified at the end of this age.
Romans 8:16, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God [This inner witness is extremely important, confirming the reality of our salvation.], (17) and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ [We receive the first installment of our inheritance (of our salvation) when we become born-again Christians, but most of the glory is reserved for the future, when we will be glorified and begin to reign with the Lord Jesus Christ. If we stay faithful throughout this age, by the saving grace of God in Christ, we will inherit the fullness of glory when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. The apostle Paul goes on to speak of our need to persevere during this present life, which includes some suffering with and for Christ.], if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. [This present age involves some suffering. Things like resisting temptation, being misunderstood and being persecuted, and being engaged in warfare with the forces of Satan involve suffering with and for Christ. However, as the apostle goes on to show in the next verse, the suffering that comes to us through our being faithful to God is extremely small when compared with the never-ending glory reserved for us in the very near future.] (18) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
We are just about finished with this article, but I'll quote three very important verses from the Gospel of John. In John 14:15 Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." John 14:23, "Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word [keeping His word includes keeping His commandments]; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.' " In John 15:10 Jesus said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." God bless you!
© Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.
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