Living in the Spirit
Our world is darkened by sin. Violence, murder, hatred and war abound. Even in our homes, there is violence. While we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, the child of God has been set free from the law of sin and death.
Although sin is at work in the world, the child of God has been redeemed, saved from sin. However, this does not mean that we do not sin, nor does it mean that our physical bodies do not die. It does not mean that we are free from the physical ravages of sin, such as pain and suffering. On the other hand, it does mean that we walk in newness of life. It does mean that we are new creatures in Christ.
Romans 8:1-17 speaks of this newness of life. These verses show us what it means to live as new creatures in Christ. Romans 8:1-17 shows us that we are called to live according to the Spirit. This calling shows up in three ways in which this newness of life affects us. These three things are:
1. Verses 1-4 show us that we are freed from the power of sin.
2. Verses 5-11 show us that we have the Spirit of God living in us.
3. Verses 12-17 show us that we God’s children.
First, let’s consider what it means that we are set free from the power of sin.
Romans 8 starts out with a triumphant verse. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” What a joyful, triumphant proclamation! WE ARE FREE FROM CONDEMNATION!
However, this declaration of freedom from condemnation is not for everyone. This declaration of freedom from condemnation is for those who are in Christ Jesus.
To be “in Christ Jesus” means that we have put our faith in Him for salvation. This is an individual decision that everyone is invited to make. Every single person is invited to come to Jesus for salvation. Salvation is not dependent on church attendance, baptism, denomination or any other action taken by man. One must be born again, and this only happens by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior. Once an individual receives Christ, then he or she becomes part of the group defined by “those who are in Christ Jesus.” John 1:12 explains:
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, ()
These “children of God” are “those who are in Christ Jesus.” Because of this connection to Christ Jesus, Romans 8:2 tells us:
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. ()
This “law of the Spirit of life” is a new principle that is at work in the lives of those who receive Christ Jesus as Savior. Before the point of salvation, there is a principle at work that is called “the law of sin and death.” We were all under that principle, under a curse. It happened at the Garden of Eden. In the Garden of Eden God told the man:
"You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." ()
From the time the man and woman ate of the fruit of that tree, the principle of death has been at work in every person born. This is why Ephesians 2:1-2 tells us:
God gave the Law of Moses to make it clear that the law of sin and death is at work in all of humanity. Because of this law of sin and death, humanity can never save itself. God made this clear because He loves us. He did this to bring us salvation and to free us from condemnation. However, He first had to make this next principle clear. This is the principle of Romans 8:3.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, ()
The principle is that the law, weakened by the flesh, could never save us. The law is holy, just and good. However, because of the flesh the law cannot save us. In Christian circles, when we speak of legalism, we are referring to efforts to be saved by keeping the law. However, the law only saves us by pointing us to Christ Jesus. Romans 8:3 contains the wonderful truth that God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. He had a body like ours and He had flesh like ours. However, His flesh was free from sin, and, being free from sin, He was able to present Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. (Hebrews 10:1-10 contains a more detailed explanation of this sacrifice.)
Now, as it says in Romans 8:4, the righteous requirements of the law are fully met in us. Not because of any righteous works that we have done, but because Jesus has paid for all our transgressions. This is why there is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This is described as being free from the law of sin and death.
Having been freed from the law of sin and death, we also have the Spirit of God living in us. Verse 4 begins the transition to the discussion of the Spirit of God living within us when it alludes to “...us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Verses 5-11 show us that we have the Spirit of God living in us.
Being freed from the law of sin and death opens the way for us to have the life giving Spirit of God within us.
Romans 8:9 says:
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. ()
This makes it clear that a child of God is distinguished by having the Spirit of God. This is one way to know whether we are saved. The next section will deal with this when it says that the Spirit bears witness with our Spirit. However, at this point, the text is talking about living a life that pleases God, and verse 8 says that those who live according to the flesh can never please God. Our newness of life begins to show itself here. Before we were saved, we could not please God because we did not have the Spirit of God. Verses 5 through 8 show us the difference between those who walk according to the Spirit and those who walk according to the flesh. Verse 5 says those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, and those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. This then is the big difference, as in, what our minds are set on. Having our minds set on the things of the Spirit would seem to indicate that the habitual bent of our thoughts is toward the things of God continually. Indeed, the Scriptures encourage us to set our minds on things above.
It is crucial for us as believers to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It is important for us to set our minds on things above. However, a believer can live with a mind set on the things of the flesh. Now, if a person is a child of God, but lives according to the flesh, then we would not be able to tell the difference between this person and a person who is not a child of God. Because, they both would have their minds set on the things of the flesh. The flesh is hostile toward God, and therefore, it is contrary to the Spirit of God to live according to the flesh. It is for this reason that Ephesians 4:30 warns us not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. It is possible for us as believers to walk contrary to the Spirit of God, and thus grieve the Spirit of God.
This is where verse 9 comes in:
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. ()
This is a wonderful truth of deliverance for the believer.
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. ()
The Power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us.
It is this power that enables us to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8).
It is by this power that we are reborn (John 3).
It is by this power that we are made new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Indeed, as 2 Peter 1:3 says:
This incredible truth of God’s Spirit living within us leads us to the next truth of verses 12 through 17.
Verses 12-17 show us that we God’s children.
We are freed from the power of sin and we have the Spirit of God living within us. The full meaning of these two truths are found in this declaration that we are God’s children. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. (Romans 8:16)
Because of this truth, Romans 8:12 tells us we have an obligation.
As God’s children, we are obligated.
However, instead of telling us what that obligation is, this passage tells us what the obligation is not. Having been set free from sin, we are no longer obligated to live according to the flesh. This is part of the powerful life-changing truth of the Gospel. We are children of our Father who is in Heaven. According to Romans 8:15, by the Spirit that dwells within us we call Him, “Abba, Father.”
This is our obligation. We are obligated to live as children of our Heavenly Father. We are heirs with Jesus of the glories of the Father and as such, we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom. We are no longer obligated to live according to the desires and passions of our flesh.
When the Pharisees and teachers of religious law disputed with Jesus about their heritage, Jesus told them:
"If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” ()
“If God were your Father, you would love me...” This is consistent with what we learned from Romans 5:5, “...God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” ()
Herein is the motivation behind true life change, not that we change ourselves as much as we are changed from the inside out. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” ()
We are obligated, not to the law to abide by it, but to our Heavenly Father. We are bound by love to live as imitators of our Father. We love God because He first loved us and gave His one and only Son to pay for our sins. This leads us to walk in newness of life.
We are freed from sin and no longer obligated to live according to the dictates of the flesh. In addition, we have the Spirit of God within us, and the power that raised Jesus from the dead enables us to live according to that same Spirit. And finally, the Spirit of God living within us bears testimony with our Spirit that we are God’s children. By this Spirit, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, and it is this love that motivates us to want to please our Heavenly Father in all things.
Living in the Spirit means that there is therefore now no condemnation.
Are you living in the Spirit?