As we continue our study of Romans 8 we recall that we are no longer under God’s condemnation both now and eternally (hell) because we are “in Christ Jesus” (v.1) and in our new nature we love to obey and please God (Romans 7:22) and can do so by the power of the Holy Spirit (vv. 3-4) Who is in us. We will see this week in verses 5-14 that although the flesh remains in believers we are not in the flesh; i.e., the flesh is in us but we are not in the flesh; so the flesh can influence our thinking and actions (v. 12) but we now have the power and desire to obey God. Whereas unsaved people are in the flesh (v.8) and can never please and obey God because even their best deeds are tainted with selfishness and are never done for God’s pleasure and honor. (Isa. 64:6; Rev. 4:11 KJV) We will see how our thought life under the control of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word greatly affects our ability to please and obey the Lord.
V.5 – “For those who are according to the flesh (who are controlled by the flesh) set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, (those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit set their mind on) the things of the (Holy)Spirit.” Unbelievers always think about what will please their human nature and appetites apart from any influence from God. God is Spirit and since the unsaved man’s spirit is dead he cannot grasp any spiritual truth (1 Cor. 2:14) nor does he even desire to do so. Whereas believers want to and can submit to God and be led and empowered by His Word and the Holy Spirit.
Vv. 6-8 “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh (unsaved) cannot please God.” Notice that the mind set on pleasing the flesh is death; i.e. not just leads to death but is death. Fleshly thinking is deathly thinking because anything done apart from God and His glory is defined as death; i.e., has no spiritual value for anyone now or for eternity. This is the only way unbelievers can and do think whereas believers can and want to think in ways that please God when and if we are submitting our thoughts to the thoughts and desires of God as seen in His Word and revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. Carnal believers can and do think and act in ways that have no spiritual and eternal value for others or themselves and this is defined as wood, hay and straw that will result in the loss of rewards (not the loss of salvation) for believers. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
V. 6b – “but the mind set on the Spirit (controlled by the Holy Spirit) is life and peace.” Every human has life (bios) but only born again believers have life, Zōē – defined as “life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed, in the portion even in this world of those who put their trust in Christ, but after the resurrection to be consummated by new accessions (among them a more perfect body), and to last for ever.” “And peace” – eirēnē – “of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.” http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=G2222&t=KJV We can have inner peace of soul even in the midst of outward trials and conflicts and this is the kind of peace our Lord possessed and left for us. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” (John 14:27) Unbelievers seek after life and peace apart from God and never find it for it cannot be found in this world as Solomon said, “I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun (in the world apart from God), and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.” (Eccl. 1:14) We were in Memphis last week with our son and his family and saw signs and billboards everywhere about Elvis. He had all the world could offer and did not have “life and peace” that only God can give us if we are born again and are controlled by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. I have read that near the end of his life he had turned back to God and found solace once again by singing the old gospel songs with his friends and family.
Vv. 9-11 – “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, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But 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.” Paul is speaking here to believers in the church at Rome and affirming that as believers they (we) are not in the flesh but in the Spirit (and in Christ Jesus) and thus we belong to God. And even though our mortal body will die and is indwelt by sin (Rom. 7:23) our spirit is alive to God and wants to and can please and obey Him. And at the resurrection we will receive new immortal bodies. “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:53-54) This is part of knowing our new identity in Christ as seen in Romans 6 that assures us that even though the flesh is still in us (our mortal bodies) we can overcome it by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Vv. 12-14 – “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die (this means broken fellowship with God and dead works); but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live (experience the joy of intimate fellowship with God through obedience). 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons (mature believers) of God.” We see the human/Divine collaboration here as we participate with God’s leadership and power by faithfully and continually obeying God’s Word and thus gradually killing the sin in our members (putting to death the deeds of the body (flesh-life). The Holy Spirit leads and enables us (God’s part) and we follow (our part – obedience to God’s Word). But as seen here and in Galatians 5:19-23 there is a war going on for us as believers. (The unbeliever does not have this inner conflict because he can sin without the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit.) “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” (Galatians 5:16-18) Even as believers who want to please God we must not try to do so in our own strength (being under the law) but only through dependence upon the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
So how do we practically depend on the Holy Spirit; what is our part?
1) Through the power of Spiritual (Holy Spirit) thinking; “Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” “But those who are according to the Spirit, (those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit set their mind on) the things of the (Holy)Spirit.” This means we think the thoughts of the Holy Spirit as revealed by Him in God’s Word. We are commanded in Scripture and told many times about the absolute necessity of reading and meditating on God’s Word so we can know His good will for our lives. We cannot live the Christian life “successfully” (pleasing God) without continually renewing our mind so that we think like God. It would be like an aspiring athlete or artist thinking they could perform with excellence without the daily disciplines of practice, practice, practice. And the question is never a matter of not having the time but a question of our priorities. And even the motivation for making this a priority is primarily learned through studying the Word. This is our part and God or no one else can do it for us. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2) ”Be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:7-8) According to a poll from the Barna Group only 13% of the people who own a Bible (88%) read it daily. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865577728/Poll-Many-own-a-Bible-but-not-many-read-it.html
2) Take your thoughts to the cross where Jesus was obedient unto death and follow His example of sacrificial obedience for the purposes of God. “For though we walk (live) in the flesh (natural human body), we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons. For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds, 5 [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).” (2 Cor. 10:3-5) This does not say to take our thought life to the obedience to Christ but the obedience of Christ. He has already done far more than He will ever ask anyone to do in His obedience even unto death and death on a cross. Ask yourself how your thoughts compare to His in light of His sacrificial obedience on the cross and pray for the grace to follow His example. (Also read Philippians 3:5-11.)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. What are the four statements that are made regarding the ‘mind set on the flesh’ in Romans 8:7 & 8?
2. What are the characteristics of those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9)?
3. What is the difference between life (bios) and life (Zoe)? How does one receive Zoe? (John 3:3)
4. What kind of peace did Jesus have while in this world and leave for us as believers in this world? (John 14:27) What kind of peace does the world give? How do unbelievers go about trying to find peace and what is the result?
5. “But 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.” (V. 11) What does this mean for us as believers now in this life?
6. So how do we practically depend on the Holy Spirit; what is our part? Through the power of Spiritual thinking. What is our part in this process and how do some believers miss it? What does the Barna Group poll reveal about this?
7. Why do you think so few believers read the Bible daily?
8. How can examining our thoughts in light of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross help us obey the Lord? See 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. Why is our thought life so important in obeying the Lord?