Which Way to Walk

“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.” —Romans 8:5

Carnality, that is, living a life that is generally characterized by habitual sin, is offensive to Christ; and why wouldn’t it be? Last week, we saw specifically in Romans 8:3 how that Jesus, in His own body, endured the Cross, suffering God’s wrath for our sins to redeem us from our sins. He died that we might have life; are we then to look at sin lightly? Are we to casually wink at sin when such a sacrifice of infinite worth and eternal value was offered on my behalf, on your behalf? Certainly not.

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Walking After the Spirit

There is also a term in Galatians 5:16 that says, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” This, walk in the Spirit is different from our walk according to the Spirit. The phrase in that Galatians 5:16 is not a description of our general condition as believers, but instead, a direct command to believers in overcoming situations and particulars we face in our walk according to the Spirit.

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The Law’s Righteousness Fulfilled in Us

“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” —Romans 8:4

There are some differing views on this passage; but rather than going through those, let me just tell you what I believe the Scriptures are conveying in this. First, we should understand what it isn’t saying. It’s not saying that the sacrifice of Christ needs you and me to accept this truth for the law to be completely fulfilled. To suggest that would be to suggest an incompletion or insufficiency in Christ’s finished work; and we know that “It is finished” (John 19:30) and that Jesus Christ is “the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

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Sin Condemned by Christ

“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:” —Romans 8:3

The law was weak through the flesh. This is not to say that the commands of God are weak in and of themselves. These commandments come from God and are holy, just and good (Romans 7:12). So, how is the law weak then? Apart from its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the law is weak because it could not save men; and not only was it incapable of saving men, but it also condemned them; “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me” (Romans 7:11). When we were unsaved, unbelieving sinners, the commandments of the law condemned us and killed us; that’s how the law was our schoolmaster leading us to Christ, because the law left us with no hope except that it be found in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone.

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No Condemnation from Christ

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” —Romans 8:1, 2

Again, the chapter begins, “There is therefore…” Now, I’m sure you’re getting tired of me and every preacher you’ve heard say that every time you see a “therefore,” go back and find out what it is therefore; so I’m not going to tell you that. Nevertheless, this little Greek word does connect us with what the apostle has just spoken previously to, first, amplify our hope so that we are not crushed in despair from the wretched truth of Romans 7:24; and second, to further explain his thanksgiving for the believer’s reality in Christ expressed in Romans 7:25.

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Thanks Be to God

“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

The second half of Romans 7 deals with the struggle of the mature Christian, which we examined in the last two doctrinal articles. Though my soul is alive in Christ, when before my soul was dead in trespasses and sins, I still have a nature that is flesh, gets sick, has all the evidences of the curse that came from Adam’s original sin, and will eventually die unless the Lord Jesus returns before that. Therefore, there is a constant battle, between the natural flesh that I have, that exists in me, and the supernatural indwelling of the Holy Spirit that has made me a new person in Christ (Romans 7:18-19). We know that this is a saved man, because (as mentioned previously) a saved soul looks at the sin he commits and recognizes it as sin, realizes it’s an offense to a holy God, and desires repentance that it will not happen again. Even the best of our good deeds performed by the grace of God are imperfect, and fall short of God’s glory. The more we mature as Christians, the more sin is illuminated by the brightness of God’s presence, and we become increasingly aware of our wretchedness as individuals, crying out together with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

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My Redemption

“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

Because of my wrestlings, that struggle within me between flesh and spirit, and because of my wretchedness as one who desires to do good in order to please God, yet, fails miserably again and again, I cry out with the apostle, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

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O Wretched Man That I Am!

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” —Romans 7:24

When Paul speaks of a desire to do that which is pleasing before God, but instead, doing that which is sin against God, e.g., “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19), he is expressing in the portions of Romans 7:15-24 that which is taking place in every true disciple of Christ: a struggle between the corruptions of humanity in my fallen nature, which I still have, and the renewed and continually renewing understanding of His Word that cleanses my mind because I have been regenerated as a new creature in Christ. This is certainly not speaking of willful sin. “Why not?” someone may object in horror, “Do you mean to say that someone who is saved by God’s grace does not sin willfully?” God forbid, I answer, using the language of Romans.

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My Wretchedness

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” —Romans 7:24

Because of the truth, that in this body I will never attain sinless perfection, I am wretched! I understand that because this body of flesh is not perfect, nor ever shall be; and that there is actually sin in everything I do, even the very best and holiest of works done in the power of Christ. We read in 1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

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My Wrestlings: Laws at War

“But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” —Romans 7:23

I perceive a different law in my members. “Another law” is translated from the Greek words ετερον νομον (heteron nomon), meaning “different law.” Does that mean that God has given another or a different law than that, which is understood in Scripture? No, I suggest that what Paul sees as a disciple of Christ, what you and I perceive, is a different dimension of the law, because now, in Christ, the statutes of God have been put in our inward parts, written in our new hearts given us by God’s grace (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26-27). So, what is this different law in my members?

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