RU Essay 3: Romans 8


Romans neatly divides into two main halves that flow smoothly into each other. The first is most pertinent to my series, although the second is also very important. So I will focus on the one half, and merely sum up the second half.

First off, there are two very important words to notice in this passage: ‘after,’ and ‘in.’ These two prepositions are contrasted with each other, and the two options that each have are also contrasted (things seem to be going in pairs). We can walk after the flesh or the Spirit, and we can be in the flesh or the Spirit. These two options are very important. The first option has to do with sanctification, and the second has to do with salvation.

Romans 8:8-9 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Being in the flesh is being lost, and being in the Spirit is being saved. Period. That is the difference between these two options, but the difference between the other two is not so clear cut, or is it?

The difference between what in Romans 8 Paul calls being in the Spirit and walking after the Spirit is the same difference that he makes between living in the spirit and walking in the spirit in Galatians 5. The one is true of all believers, for it is salvation, but the other is not so consistently true. The one is an event that stays with you, while the other is a process that changes you. This latter is what I am going to be talking about.

Romans 8:1 [There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

This condemnation is not the eternal judgment that awaits those who reject Christ’s salvation, but present guilt and punishment because of sinful acts. There is still condemnation of our sinful acts even as Christians, for they are offenses against our Holy and Just God. Just because they are forgiven does not mean that they are not longer sins! So our actions are approved by God if we do not follow our flesh, but instead follow the Spirit. This is what this article aims to present to you, as well as how we are to go about following the Spirit.

Romans 8:2-4 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath 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 sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

This teaches us something that 2 Cor. 3:6 also teaches us: the difference between the letter and the Spirit of the law of God. See, the letter of the law, that which Paul is referring to when he speaks of the law as not being over us anymore, has as its intent to kill and punish wrongdoing. The purpose and desire of the Spirit is to transform wrongdoers until they no longer commit wrong. The law does not itself change so much as its method of application changes (the law has, of course changed since the OT). Our goal is to walk after the Spirit so that it will work in us the fulfilling of the righteousness of the law. The law itself cannot bring us to any change, only the Spirit can do this.

Romans 8:5-7 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after 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, neither indeed can be.

This is the key of the whole matter. What do you set your mind upon? This word, ‘mind,’ is phroneo (Strongs: 5426), which means to exercise the mind; to be mentally disposed in a certain direction with earnestness; to interest oneself in something with concern and obedience. This is not an idle or casual interest, but a living, thriving, driving interest. This is a gearing of your thoughts, your heart, and your life in a certain direction. This is a focusing of your desires on one thing and being subjected to it. This word is used in a few other, telling places (like Mat. 16:23, Mark 8:33, Rom. 12:16, Phil. 2:5, etc.), but the most important one to this topic is Colossians 3:2.

Colossians 3:1-3 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

That phrase, ‘set your affection,’ is the word phroneo. This passage is clearly talking about the same thing as Romans 8: aligning all of your desires and interests in the direction of Christ and Godliness, subjecting yourself to them.

Romans 8:8-9 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

I already mentioned of this passage that it is referring to the difference between a saved and a lost person: a saved person has the Spirit of God living in him, and the lost person, because he does not, cannot please God in his life.

Romans 8:10-11 And if Christ [be] in you, the body [is] dead because of sin; but the Spirit [is] life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Here we get a clarification of how we ought to be living out those first few verses of Romans 6, which talked about being buried and risen with Christ through baptism. Thankfully we were not left with merely that passage to deal with sin, or some people who did not read the passage very carefully would mistake it to not only mean that baptism is the way to be sanctified, but that baptism is the way to be saved! (The Bible is very clear that neither of these are the case, but unfortunately most Bible versions other than the KJV omit and alter many if not most of the passages that teach this.)

Dying and being risen with Christ is not some mystical thing, but a very practical thing. The way that you work out being in Christ into your life is to walk after the Spirit, by setting your mind after His direction and desires. Baptism is simply a picture of what salvation is, and what sanctification is: it is a dedication of every part of yourself to God and His Ways.

Romans 8:12-17 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with [him,] that we may be also glorified together.

As Christians, we are not the servants of the flesh and sin: we are the adopted sons of God (as the next passage details). But if we submit ourselves to serve our flesh, then we are putting ourselves under the power of a usurper, and we will bring spiritual death upon ourselves. We must eradicate the strongholds of the flesh in our lives, and then we will truly live. This life transcends all circumstances in our life, and brings peace and joy into all our trials, troubles, and temptations. This is the main message of the remaining half of the chapter. Remember that this transcendent peace and worth comes only from yielding to the Spirit that is in us, and not to our flesh. Remember also that this is how we are to find righteousness and sanctification in our lives.

With joy and peace in Christ,

Jay Lauser


7 Responses

  1. That’s something I’ve always struggled with; following after the Spirit and not the flesh. The frustrating thing is that I know what I’m doing wrong and how to change it, but that doesn’t mean I do. Sometimes I think to myself “Laura, why can’t you just get it right!” But then in that thought is my problem, myself, my flesh. In this world it’s so easy to satisfy the flesh. Every day I war with it, and I’m afraid most of the time I let it win. 😦
    But thank God that I’m no longer a servant of the flesh, that with His help, I can follow after the spirit, and set my affection on things above, not on things on earth. 🙂

    In Christ,

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