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“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. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” —Romans 8:9, 10
“But ye are not in the flesh…” tells us that in contrast to what we have seen of those whose minds are set upon carnal things, and though we have a nature we were born with that is certainly flesh and full of fallen humanity (Romans 7:14), we are saved by God’s grace; He is growing us in grace by His grace, building us up in faith, and sanctifying us for His good pleasure. Since those who are “in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8), the apostle tells us that we actually do please God. How so?
He gives his answer right away when he tells us that we “are in the Spirit, if… the Spirit of God” does indeed dwell in us. This is the Spirit of regeneration according to the Lord’s promise: “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17). The world doesn’t know the Holy Spirit because the unbelieving world is “in the flesh.” After Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to take up permanent residence right inside every believing Christian saved by God’s grace. The apostle explains here in Romans 8:9, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Another name for the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of Christ,” and if any man does not have this indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, he’s not even saved, he is in the flesh as any other person in the unbelieving world that cannot receive the Spirit of truth, does not see the Spirit of truth, nor does he know the Spirit of truth.
In Romans 8:10 the apostle draws a parallel distinction between that which we have seen as the difference between the unbeliever who walks according to the flesh and the believer according to the Spirit: “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” The Christian must see the distinct difference between sinful deeds that still desire to spring forth in this mortal body and the reality of righteousness because of life in the Spirit.
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Read the previous article in this series, “Carnality Offensive to Christ” (Romans 8:6-8).
A sermon from Exodus 34:14-35 like I wish may have been preached to me when I was a young child attending a Baptist church with my grandmother in El Paso, Texas so many years ago.
A teen brought two young children to our Sunday evening service and I knew, even during the singing portion of our worship service that I must change the messsage. I had no idea what I was to preach until after I read the text. One child was a nine-year-old girl. The other child was a boy of about five or six years of age. After the service, the boy gave me a hug!
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“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” —Romans 8:6-8
In the first clause of Romans 8:6 we are told that “to be carnally minded is death;” that is, having the reason, understanding and affections set upon those natural things has no life in it whatsoever. Certainly, of those who are unsaved, who are only natural and have nothing of the Holy Spirit in them until the day they die, shall suffer eternal death and will be cast away from the favor of God forever. The second clause of Romans 8:6 gives the stark contrast to death: life and peace.
The first thing that we should note is that we, who are saved, have life. Not only do we have eternal life in Christ, whereas once we were dead in sins (Ephesians 2:5), but we are now alive unto Christ. We are awakened to the truth of what He has done: that Christ has died so that we might have life; that Christ made an open show of sin through His sufferings upon the cross, and therefore, we rejoice in the life He gave us and recoil at sin as being so offensive that it required God to become a Man so that sin could be dealt with.
“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). The carnal, fleshly, natural, unsaved person, who has his mind set upon carnal things, whose reason, understanding, affections and inclinations are upon SELF, is the enemy of God; and that man’s reprobate being, with all his wicked inclinations are at war against God’s will. The law of God exposes the carnal man’s sin for what it is, but cannot bring him under subjection to the law, because it is the Spirit that gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Therefore, we, who have been saved, have peace with God, as it is written in Romans 5:1,
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The reality of our justification by God’s grace is manifested in our sanctification, having peace with God, when we were once His enemies; and the evidence of that is that our minds are being renewed by His Word; and walking after the Spirit, we have, by God’s continuing grace, our minds set upon spiritual things. Our thoughts and desires grow in obedience to God, lining up with God’s will revealed in His law, and not warring against it or being at enmity with it. So, the apostle caps it off with the truth of our next verse:
“So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). The soul that walks according to the Spirit is awakened to the truth that the things of the flesh are not pleasing to God, and this truth is monumental. For those who are unsaved and “in the flesh” are not only unpleasing to God, but basically unaware of the truth that they are displeasing to God. Sure, some unbeliever might say, “I know this is wrong;” or “I know that God doesn’t like this;” but it’s just an academic acknowledgement; the reality of its gravity and seriousness is not there, nor can it be, because that soul is dead to spiritual things. That I can actually please God is a truth that comes by supernatural revelation, and that, by the Spirit of God to the ones He has saved and regenerated. Are all the saved made immediately aware of this? Sometimes, because of the brightness and holiness of Christ’s righteousness, the understanding of my being pleasing to God may be subdued, overshadowed, or overlooked. Yet, with every believer that has been saved by God’s grace, I believe that there is an awakening, at least to some measure or another, that God takes real delight in His creation, and His creatures in particular. And when we grasp that incredible truth of God’s delight in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, then it becomes an utterly awesome thought to consider: that God receives pleasure from those souls in whom He has redeemed. Why? because our redeemed lives magnify and glorify Christ!
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Read the previous article in this series, “Which Way to Walk” (Romans 8:5).
“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 a 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.
We’ve just read in Romans 8:5 that “they that are [according to] the flesh do mind the things of the flesh” in other words, before we were saved, we were just as any other unregenerate soul, having an inclination toward carnal things, having our reason, understanding and affections motivated by carnality; that is to say, “the self.”
Before we were saved, we set our minds upon the flesh; we set our moral compasses upon carnality.
In contrast, the soul saved by God’s grace through Christ’s holy and righteous sacrifice is inclined toward spiritual things, having our reason, understanding and affections motivated by Christ; the is to say, “Spirit.”.
We have set our minds upon the Spirit; we set our moral compass to go in the direction of Christ.
In the past several articles, we have been examining that there is a struggle that exists in the believer’s life through the process of sanctification: a struggle between sin and the law, between licentiousness and legalism, between the flesh and the spirit. There are two dangers wherein we must be aware: (1) to think that we never do sin or can never sin and have obtained an entire sanctification in this present life; and (2) to think that to behave in carnality is good and acceptable as long as “I’m saved,” even though I may be living as a “carnal Christian.” Both of these doctrines are erroneous. Both actually appeal to the flesh. Why? because they both dismiss sin.
The first, entire sanctification, which says that now that I’m saved, I don’t sin anymore.[i] This doctrine is dangerous because it doesn’t keep us clinging to grace and to Christ’s righteousness in its disregard for the seriousness of sin in its reality. This sin removes humility.
The second, the doctrine of the “carnal Christian,” which says that, though I’m saved, I can sin willfully without grief of soul and vexation of spirit. It’s dangerous because it doesn’t cling to grace or Christ’s righteousness at all in its disregard for the seriousness of sin in its ramifications. This sin removes holiness.
[i] There is another branch of it that says that there is a point in your walk when you’ve “arrived.” This is contrary to scripture as well (Philippians 3:12).
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Read the previous article in this series, “Walking After the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).