Walking in the Spirit: Romans 8
Of all the Books in the Bible Paul’s Romans 8 gives the most straightforward information on how to walk with God in the Spirit. He details in this one Chapter the following:
• A description of the Spirit
• How the Spirit differs from the soul
• The war between the soul flesh nature and the Spirit nature
• Sons of God are those who walk in the Spirit
• Our adoption as Sons by God the Father
• Our sufferings are not to be compared with the glory to be revealed
• The fact that we shall be transformed into Sons of God like Christ.
The first scripture (Romans 8:1) can only be understood in light of Romans 7:14-25. In 7:14-25 the Apostle Paul bemoans the fact that he sees in himself two natures at work: the soul-flesh nature and the Spirit nature of Christ. He said: “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15-16). He wants to walk with God perfectly but the flesh nature is strong enough to prevent that.
He goes on: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me” (Ro 7:18-21). He isolates the problem by defining sin as a separate entity apart from himself.
“For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (Ro 7:22-25). Paul was one of the eminent Apostles yet he finds himself trapped in a body serving two natures – one good one evil. He thanks Jesus Christ who came to remove the evil nature and replace it with his own glorious nature born of the Spirit.
Paul expresses the condemnation that results from having the two conflicting natures in him simultaneously. However he realizes that if he is doing the thing he does not wish then it is sin which dwells in him and is not his real nature. So he begins Romans (Ro 8:1) as follows: “THERE is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Condemnation (to condemn) is” “to put down or accuse when a perceived wrong is committed to the point where a person condemned feels totally worthless and unable to walk with God”. Satan is called the “accuser”. He, his cohorts and our own fallen human natures combine to condemn ourselves for wrongs committed rather than accept Christ’s love and acceptance. Condemnation cancels out all our good works toward the Lord and is one of the most dangerous states we can dwell in as Sons of God. However Paul points out that there is no condemnation in Christ. Christ will never put you down or accuse you of anything.
Paul explains: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom 8:2). The law of sin and death has been around since the beginning of man. It is: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23. When Adam and Eve sinned against God their punishment was death (Genesis 3). Christ set us free from this law.
Having established that Christ set us free from sin Paul goes on to explain why and how. “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Ro 8:3-5). It was clear that man in and of himself could not fulfill God’s Law. Ancient Israel failed miserably trying to follow God’s Law and were eventually rejected by God for their sin. So God initiated the New Covenant where, no longer bound by the obligations of the letter of the law, was able to have the Law written on their hearts permanently (Hebrews 8).
We must set our minds and spirits on the things of the Spirit. “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 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; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Ro 8:5-8). The law of sin and death still works on the soul level.
As humans we put great emphasis on the brain and our intellect. Paul says the mind not focused on God is hostile to God and not ever able to please God. The mind and the intellect is part of the soul nature that is hostile to the Spirit nature. Although man tries, the human mind cannot ever know or figure out God who is a spirit (John 4:24). Any real knowledge of God must come by revelation from the Spirit (Matthew 16:17).
“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. And 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 indwells you” (Ro 8:9-11). On the one hand the unspiritual body is dead because of sin but alive if Christ is in you. Christ gives LIFE to your bodies through His spirit indwelling you. Revelation, instead of intellectual understanding, begins as the spirit of Christ enters your body and soul.
“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. FOR ALL WHO ARE BEING LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, THESE ARE SONS OF GOD” (Ro 8:12-14). To be Sons pleasing to God we must be led by His spirit. Because we have the Spirit we can choose to walk according to the spirit and choose not to walk in the flesh. We know that: “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro 6:23). God sets before you life and death and it is your choice as to how you will walk.
In Galatians Paul defines what is flesh in our lives and what is the life-giving spirit: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:16-21).
But the fruit of the spirit is much different. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23). We are able to generate these qualities as we walk in God’s Spirit.
Do you want to walk as a Son of God? Keep in mind the scripture quoted above: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God”. In Revelation we see the Sons being glorified. “And one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?” And I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes” (Rev 7:13-17). These are the Sons who have followed Christ and washed their robes (and all of them) in the precious blood of the Lamb.
Further: “These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless” (Revelation 14:4-5). There is great reward for those who follow Christ the Lamb wherever He goes.
We who follow the Lamb are adopted by the Father as Sons. “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a SPIRIT OF ADOPTION as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Ro 8:15-17). Adoption is: to choose or take as one's own; make one's own by selection or assent: to take and rear (the child of other parents) as one's own child, specifically by a formal legal act. The Father agrees to adopt us and care for us who were previously of the Kingdom of darkness.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Ro 8:19). As will be seen the glory to be revealed is the liberation of all creation from God’s curse of futility. “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. The creation was subjected to futility in the Garden of Eden due to man’s original sin. The gate was opened and evil and death were let in.
Futility is defined as: “incapable of producing any result; ineffective; useless; not successful; trifling; frivolous; unimportant” (Dictionary.com). So is the current state of our world. It was subjected by God to futility. However creation is in hope that creation will be released from futility by the Sons of God as they are released into their freedom and glory.
“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Ro 8:19-23). We groan as ones who are giving birth to an entire new age.
“And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Ro 8:26-27). The Spirit (Christ and the Holy Spirit) are forever interceding for us to the Father. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose
The end result of all this is that we become Sons like Christ. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Ro 8:28-30). This verse sums up all of the foregoing in this chapter. God plans that His Sons be conformed to the image of His original Son Christ. We are to be like Him in every respect.
Other scriptures confirm this. “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in BRINGING MANY SONS TO GLORY, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:10-12). “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). “For now we see through a glass, darkly ; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV). As Jesus said: “You are to be perfect even as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Conclusion: “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written,
“THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD,
AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN,
ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” (Isaiah 64:4, 65:17).
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE SHOULD INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Co 2:6-16). Let us not be foolish natural men who scoff at the things of the Spirit. Let’s receive the Spirit freely given us by the divine.
[*Note: When we speak of the Spirit of God we include the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ and the Father’s Spirit. Actually they are one in the same (John 17)*]
©Kenneth B. Alexander
Scripture References: New American Standard Bible, 1978 and 1995 Ed.unless otherwise noted
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