WITH DALE RATZLAFF
We continue our study in Romans 8:9-13.
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. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
In the previous verse, Paul with reference to unbelievers has just said, “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). Now, thinking about the Christians in Rome he states, “However, you (yourselves) are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” You is emphatic in Greek. Paul does not question their faith. They are not controlled by the flesh but by the Spirit of God. While he may not be questioning the experience of the Christians in Rome, he is, nevertheless teaching the theology of the gospel. He wants to make it clear what it means to be a Christian.
The next sentence speaks volumes,
But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
Here is the “testing truth” of the new covenant. It is not law keeping; it is not perfection of character, and it is not even mental agreement to a set of doctrines, even correct doctrines. When Nicodemus came to Jesus one night to have a teacher-to-teacher discussion on current events as recorded in John 3, Jesus immediately cut to the chase and told this “teacher of Israel”, “You must be born again…Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” Physical birth is not enough; one must be born of the Spirit. Born “again” also means to be born from “above”. John and Paul are in perfect agreement. There is no Christian “life” without the Spirit of God. Those who teach that one is born saved until they flagrantly violate the Ten Commandments are teaching error—deadly error.
If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive [or life] because of righteousness.
This is a difficult verse in that commentators have translated it in various ways. Here is my conclusion as to the meaning of this verse. True Christians—those who have been born-again by the Holy Spirit, still have a body with a sinful nature. However the power of that sinful body no longer rules. Rather the spirit (human spirit) is alive because the Holy Spirit now lives in us and rules our human spirit because of righteousness. This “righteousness” is first the righteousness that is imputed to us in justification. But now that the Holy Spirit is alive in our body, our human spirits will cooperate with God and we will have Christ’s imparted righteousness working in our lives. Justification and sanctification are not to be separated. Justification is instantaneous as we are credited with the very righteousness of God when we respond to the Holy Spirit at the hearing of the gospel. Progressive sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit applying Christ’s righteousness to us in our daily lives. We begin to live like the kind of people God has already declared us to be: righteous. The righteousness of sanctification is more than extreme self-discipline. The change that takes place from a life of sin to a life of righteousness is through the power of the Holy Spirit who applies Christ’s perfect righteousness to us.
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 not questioning if the Spirit lives in the Roman Christians. The “But if” should be understood “Since”. Here is a wonderful fact and promise. The Spirit of the Father who raised Jesus from the dead now dwells in us! It does not say occasionally visits us but dwells—present continuous tense. It does not say this will happen sometime in the future when we have reached a certain level of perfection. There is a two-fold result of the indwelling of the Spirit. First, the Spirt is now the active agent in our everyday lives. The Spirit comforts us, guides us in our daily decisions, and convicts us if we step out of God’s will. He will teach us and bring to our memory the promises of God’s word when needed. He testifies that we are indeed sons and daughters of God. Second, the above verse shows that the result of the continual indwelling of the Holy Spirit will also give life to our mortal bodies. At the resurrection our bodies will no longer be dead and no longer be liable to death.
So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Paul now summarizes the main point of this section. We are not under obligation to live according to the flesh. What this means is that even though we as Spirit-filled Christians still have our mortal bodies with a sinful nature, we do not have to respond to the sins of that nature. The outcome of living according to the flesh is that of a non-Christian—certain death. How we may ask can we “put to death the deeds of the flesh?” The only way is “by the Spirit”. Without the Holy Spirit in our lives there is no real victory (nor are we Christians). People may mount extreme self-discipline and change their outward behavior but God looks at the heart. Putting to death the deeds of the body is a continuous thing. But this is the way of life.
I believe there are several points of application that stand out. First, every born-again Christian has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Second, every Christian is declared righteous with the very righteousness of God. Third the Holy Spirit applies the imputed righteousness of justification to our lives so we can live every day with no condemnation—the life of sanctification. Fourth, we have the promise that the Holy Spirit will give our bodies, now subject to death, new life which will at the resurrection conquer death once and for all time.
Father, thank you for infilling me with your Spirit. Thank you that the Holy Spirit is working in my life giving me direction and power to live a righteous life. Thank you for the promise that my mortal body will one day live and I can spend eternity with you.
In Jesus name.