“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. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 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.” —Romans 8:11-13
Do you remember what we read some time back in Romans 6:4? Paul said, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” This verse speaks of our being dead to sin because, in salvation, we have been buried in the likeness of Christ’s burial. Then Romans 6:5 says, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” This speaks of that which takes place because of the reality of regeneration (being a new creation in Christ), referring to our spiritual resurrection as being like unto Christ’s resurrection from the dead; because, before God saved us, we were dead in trespasses and sins, but in Christ we have been raised to newness of life. The apostle continues to shed light on the blessedness of that resurrection in Romans 8.
“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” (Romans 8:11). If we have been saved by God’s grace, then it is certain that we have the third Person of the Trinity living in us, as we read in Romans 8:9, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” The power that is in you and me through God’s saving grace is the very power of God Himself, the indwelling Holy Spirit. As the resurrection was the sign and seal of the certainty of God’s provision for atonement in the death of His only Son upon Calvary’s tree, likewise is our resurrection unto newness of life the sign and seal of the certainty of our salvation by a good and gracious God.
SIDE NOTE: This text presents to us a proof text for the doctrine of the Trinity, because this verse tells us that the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead; whereas in John 2:19-21, Jesus said that He would raise Himself from the dead; and also, Ephesians 1:17-20 attributes the resurrection to the Father.
Yet, let us take a look at the next verse and follow the perfect logic of God here: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh” (Romans 8:12). “Therefore…” because of what Christ has done in condemning sin in the flesh through His crucifixion (Romans 8:3), because we have been set free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2), and since we are no longer condemned because we are in Christ (Romans 8:1), we are not indebted to the flesh to live according to (after) the flesh. Why? Because we have the very Person of the Holy Spirit, with all the resurrection power of God, dwelling in us; equipping us; enabling us; empowering us… to do what? to mortify, that is, to kill the deeds of the body through the power of the Holy Spirit, according to Romans 8:13,
“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.”
Now, there are three things that we can say concerning this verse:
It draws for us a contrasting comparison between the flesh and the Spirit; a life lived according to the flesh, which is an unsaved unregenerate life that ultimately ends in eternal death, whereas a life lived according to the Spirit, which is a life saved by God’s grace and ultimately receives eternal life. The word “shall,” used twice here in English, expresses the future tense of the original Greek.
Yet, it clearly brings instruction for the believer as we see the word “For.” It is saying to us, “For this reason…” It is speaking to believers who are not debtors to the flesh (Romans 8:12), who are “quickened” (being made alive) in our mortal bodies by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. In a very real sense, the deeds of carnality bring death to us, especially as it deadens the very power that should be controlling us and enabling us. John Owen wrote,
“The indulgence of one sin opens the door to further sins. The indulgence of one sin diverts the soul from the use of those means by which all other sins should be resisted.”
We do not have the authority to mortify the sinful deeds of the flesh in and of ourselves: we are not our own because we have been purchased with a price through Christ’s precious blood (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); and though we are empowered by God’s Spirit (Romans 8:11), we are debtors to God (Romans 8:12), and therefore, even to put to death the deeds that are in my mortal flesh requires the authorization from God: and we have that right from what has been authorized by God in Romans 8:13.
Now, to carry out that authorization, we must surrender to God’s power.
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Read the previous article in this series, “Surrendering to the Spirit” (Romans 8:11-17).