Life in the Spirit Part 2 “Blessings from the Spirit” – Romans 8:5-11
Pastor Mark Hardy November 25, 2012
The devastating power outages from recent hurricane Sandy reminded me of another huge power failure that took place in the northeast in November of 1965. At 5:18 pm New York City went black, as well as some 80,000 square miles of New York state, most of seven other states, and most of Canada’s province of Ontario. I’m not sure if they ever fully determined the cause.
Millions of people living in New York and the surrounding area had no light and no power, lasting in some areas up to 13 hours. Many of them were stuck for the night in subway train stations, office buildings, and in tunnels under the East River. The blackout meant that some 200 planes in the air above New York’s Kennedy International Airport had to be rerouted to air fields in other states where runway lights were still operating.
The overall loss in business due to the paralyzing blackout was estimated at $100 million. Whereas this is but a fraction of the estimated $50-60 billion in economic damage caused by hurricane Sandy, in both cases, life as people in the northeast knew it, came to a sudden halt when the power supply on which they depended had been cut off.
Likewise, as believers we also have a power supply on which we are completely dependent to live our Christian lives. This is the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. His power in our lives can also be suddenly cut off when He is grieved or quenched by sin. But unlike the victims of the 1965 and 2012 power failures, we don’t have to wait for someone else to turn the power back on. It can happen immediately when we choose to repent of our sins and once again live in faith and obedience.
Now it is this great power of the Holy Spirit and His blessings bestowed on believers that we turn our focus this morning, as we continue on in our study of Romans 8. Turn there with me in your Bible.
In Romans 8:5-17 we see eight blessings that believers receive from the Holy Spirit in our new life of freedom in Christ. This morning we will be looking at only the first four in vv. 5-11.
The first blessing is:
I. A New Mind-set
A. Look at v. 5: 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.
1. The word “For” (gar) here further explains the contrast that Paul gave in v. 4b between those who “…do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” In vv. 5-8 he uses the less personal third person “those who are” as a general application to anyone that this might apply—in other words, if the shoe fits wear it.
2. Now the initial question is whether the contrast here between the flesh and the Spirit is one of “being” or “doing.” Some scholars say it is one of “being,” saying that Paul contrasts two categories or groups of people: “those who are” non-Christians and “those who are” Christians.
3. Whereas this is particularly true in vv. 5-8, the entire passage goes beyond that. Therefore, other scholars say it is one of “doing,” saying that Paul contrasts two alternatives that apply to Christians throughout their lives—living “according to the flesh” or “according to the Spirit.
4. The best approach is to see Paul as talking about both, not just one or the other. For in vv. 5-11 there are many shifts between a person’s “being” and “doing,” and the key element by which the “doing” comes from the “being” for both the flesh and the Spirit is through of the “thinking” process.
5. Notice again the centrality of “set their minds” for both “those according to the flesh…on the things of the flesh” and “those according to the Spirit…on the things of the Spirit.”
6. The one Greek word translated “set their minds” (phronousin) means “mind-set.” The “mind-set” is the basic spiritual nature, bent, or disposition of both the non-Christian and the Christian.
7. William Newell says that the word mind “…does not here have reference to intellect or understanding, but to the attention or occupation of the being, caused by its natural disposition.” (pg. 296)
8. John Murray went on to say that to “set their minds on the things of the flesh” or “the Spirit” means to make those things the “…absorbing objects of thought, interest, affection, and purpose.” (pg. 285)
9. Therefore, who one is characteristically affects how one thinks and what one does. The order is like this: our “being” (saved or unsaved) determines our “thinking” or mind-set which is then lived out in our daily “doing.”
10. In other words, the “doing” comes from the “thinking” that originates in the “being.”
11. Although Paul already made it clear in chapter 7 that believers constantly struggle against the flesh (Rom. 7:14-25; Gal. 5:16-26), here in vv. 5-8 he is contrasting unbelievers and believers who have two radically different mind-sets or ways of thinking that represent opposing world and life views.
12. Unbelievers—“those who are according to the flesh”—have a self-centered world and life view. Their mind-set is determined by their sinful nature or disposition that is self-obsessed, independent from God, and intent on satisfying “the things of the flesh.”
13. And believers—“those who are according to the Spirit”—have a God-centered world and life view. Their new mind-set is instead determined by the Holy Spirit, dependent on God as they allow Him to control their lives, and intent on satisfying the godly desires of their new nature to love God and others in fulfillment of God’s Law ( v. 4b).
14. The second blessing we receive from the Holy Spirit is:
II. A New Destiny
A. Look at v. 6: For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.
1. The word “For” shows that Paul further explains how these contrasting mind-sets lead to two opposing destinies. First, the unbeliever’s “mind set on the flesh is death.”
2. The word “death” (thanatos) carries the idea of separation. This is death in its broadest aspect—spiritual separation from God (1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1), physical separation of the soul from the body, and ultimately eternal separation of the soul from God in a literal lake of fire for rejecting Jesus Christ.
3. Second, in stark contrast we see the believer’s “mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” As believers we have been given a new destiny!
4. Paul is here contrasting “life” with “death.” This “life” (zoe) is knowledge of and fellowship with God, who is eternal life itself (Jn. 17:3; 1 Jn. 1:3).
5. The word “peace” (eirene) here refers to both the objective “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) that comes from being reconciled with Him, as well as, the subjective “peace of God” (Phil. 4:7) or tranquility of heart that results from that reconciliation and having the Spirit’s fruit produced in our lives (Gal. 5:22).
6. Peace is the very opposite of the unbeliever’s flesh mind-set that we see next.
B. Look at vv. 7-8: 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.
1. Perhaps no one text of Scripture more completely sets forth the hideously lost state of unregenerate man. Notice that the mind-set of unbelievers is characterized by “hostility toward God.”
2. Don’t think for a moment that unsaved people are ever neutral toward God. The word “hostility” (echthra) here means personal animosity, enmity, hatred, and opposition. It is the opposite of love.
3. This is the essence of what theologians call the “old nature,” “sin nature,” or “sinful disposition” that underlies all of people’s thoughts and actions.
4. Since one’s mind-set concerns his fundamental attitude toward God, unbelievers have an inherent hostility toward God and His will. In other words, they are active enemies of God.
5. C.E.B. Cranfield said it well, “Fallen man’s fierce hostility to God is the response of his egotism (which is the essence of his fallenness) to God’s claim to his allegiance. Determined to assert himself, to assert his independence, to be the centre of his own life, to be his own god, he cannot help but hate the real God whose very existence gives the lie to all his self-assertion.” (pg. 386-387)
6. Paul then explains what the unbeliever’s hostility toward God entails: First, he says, “…for it does not subject itself to the law of God.”
7. It is through the “law of God” that God tells us what pleases Him. Not only is the unbeliever’s hostile way of thinking opposed to the God of the Word, but it is also opposed to the Word of God.
8. Their inherent hostility toward God will not “subject itself” (hupotassetai), which means “to come under, be submissive to, or obey,” the truth of God’s Word. In their spiritual and moral autonomy rooted in unbelief and rebellion, they have established themselves as their own final standard of authority over the Word of God.
9. We have already seen this in Romans 1:18 where they “…suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” They stick God’s truth in a box, close the lid, and then sit on the lid!
10. Second, the unbeliever’s hostility toward God is seen in that “…it is not even able to do so.” Not only do unbelievers refuse to submit to God’s law, they can’t!
11. Here we see their absolute moral inability to do so. This is why Ephesians 2:1 describes the unregenerate as spiritually “…dead in trespasses and sins.”
12. Although they are fully responsible for their sin, they still have no ability whatsoever to keep God’s law.
13. Paul then summarizes by saying, “…and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” The phrase “in the flesh” is a designation for the unbeliever, the natural person apart from Christ, which we all were before our salvation.
14. We all were created to please God. As our supreme example, Jesus said in John 8:29, “…for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”
15. Following His example, Paul declared in 2 Corinthians 5:9, “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent (i.e. in heaven or on earth), to be pleasing to Him.”
16. However, unbelievers “cannot please God” because they are hostile toward Him as evidenced by their refusal to obey God’s Word and inherent inability to do so. Therefore, to not please God is to become the object of His displeasure and to be under His wrath (Jn.3:36).
17. Now here in this verse we see the doctrines of both “Total Depravity” and “Total Inability.” Man’s “hostility toward God” is his total depravity, which does not mean that all people are as evil as they possibly can be or commit every possible sin, but rather that every part of their faculties is stained by sin.
We also see man’s total inability in the statement “cannot please God.” This means that no one has the ability to rescue himself from this sinful condition; only Jesus Christ can do this!
18. But remember what Paul said earlier about the believer’s continual struggle with sinful flesh. Although we too can periodically live “according to the flesh” with its selfishness and independence from God, this doesn’t mean that we are “in the flesh” or unbelievers.
19. C.E.B. Cranfield said, “Even in the Christian this is still true, as 7:14-25 has made clear, but in the Christian fallen human nature is not left to itself.” (pg. 387) This is what Romans 8 is all about in showing how victory is possible through the Holy Spirit!
20. We see this in the third blessing we receive from the Holy Spirit, which is:
III. A New Power
A. Look at v.9: 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.
1. Our new power as believers is the Holy Spirit Himself. Shifting from the general third person to the second person “you,” Paul now addresses the Roman Christians directly.
2. Notice that he tells them that they are “not in the flesh” or unregenerate, but “in the Spirit,” which is a designation for the regenerate, redeemed, believers.
3. Douglas Moo says, “Paul uses ‘in’ to connote the idea of ‘realm,’ with flesh and Spirit denoting those ‘powers’ that dominate the two realms of salvation history. To become a Christian means to be transferred from the realm dominated by the flesh to the realm dominated by the Spirit.” (pg. 486)
4. Now these Romans were true Christians only because, “…if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” And this is true of every believer!
5. The word “dwells” (oikei) here means “to be settled and at home, to take up residence in.” The identifying mark of a true Christian is the possession or indwelling of all of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation (Jn. 14:17; 15:26; 16:14; Acts 2:33; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 12:3, 13; Gal. 3:2-3; 1 Jn. 3:24; 4:13).
6. It is the indwelling Spirit of God who empowers us to live victorious Christian lives and to become more and more like Jesus Christ in our character and conduct.
7. His indwelling is so important that Paul says, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” In other words, if you don’t have the Spirit you aren’t a Christian!
8. Now how can we tell if a person has the Spirit or not? First of all, only God knows a person’s heart.
9. Then, since Jesus said in Matthew 7:16, “You will know them by their fruits,” at best all we can do is be “fruit inspectors.” It is the objective criteria of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23-23) and obedience to God’s Word that is the evidence of the Spirit’s indwelling presence.
10. This is what the book of First John is all about. It gives us the tests of true salvation.
11. Therefore, those who profess to be Christians but demonstrate no desire for the things of God, no inclination to avoid sin, and no passion to please God, the admonition that we see in 2 Corinthians 13:5 can in a secondary sense apply to them, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”
12. Notice in this verse that believers are “in the Spirit” and “the Spirit dwells in us,” and that the “Spirit of God” is also called the “Spirit of Christ.” We will also see in v. 10 that to have the “Spirit of Christ in us” is to have “Christ in us.”
13. John Stott states, “This is not to confuse the persons of the Trinity by identifying the Father with the Son or the Son with the Spirit. It is rather to emphasize that, although they are eternally distinct in their personal modes of being, they also share the same divine essence and will. In consequence, they are inseparable. What the Father does he does through the Son, and what the Son does he does through the Spirit. Indeed, wherever each is, there are the others also.” (pg. 225)
B. Paul then applies what he just said to our present Christian lives in v. 10: If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
1. The word “if” here represents a fulfilled condition and means “If and it’s true” or “Since.” Now since the Spirit of God dwells in you as a believer and He is the Spirit of Christ, then “Christ is in you.”
2. Concerning this statement, John Murray says, “This does not mean, however, that there is any blurring of the distinction between Christ and the Holy Spirit. Neither does it eliminate the distinctive modes of indwelling or the distinctive operations of the respective persons of the Godhead. But it does underline the intimacy of the relationship that exists between Christ and the Holy Spirit in that union by which the believer becomes the habitation of both.” (pp. 288-289)
3. Now “since Christ is in you,” two things are true for believers: First, Paul says, “…though the body is dead because of sin.”
4. The word “body” (soma) here refers to our physical body. Although our body is not the agent of sin, but only the instrument, nevertheless it is “dead” in the sense of being the casualty of both Adam’s original sin (5:12) and our personal sin, for “the wages of sin is death” (6:23).
5. Therefore, even as believers we all must still endure physical death because we are sinners, unless the Lord comes back and takes us home before we die.
6. However, Paul goes on to say, “…yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” The question here is whether the word “spirit” (pneuma) refers to the believer’s human spirit or to the Holy Spirit.
7. Although the NASB says the Holy Spirit gives life to our human spirit, I agree with those scholars who say that “spirit” here should rather be translated “Spirit” with a capital “S,” since He is the subject of the whole context and is immediately connected in verse 11 with life.
8. Also because Paul does not say the spirit “is alive” but the Spirit “is life,” which can only be said of the Holy Spirit, not the believer’s human spirit. Therefore, I believe the KJV and NKJV better translate this sentence, “…yet the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”
9. What this means is that since Christ is in believers through the indwelling Spirit, even though believers still die because we are sinners, yet we have the presence of the life-giving Spirit as the pledge and assurance of our future resurrection from death.
10. Paul spells this out in the next verse, but will more fully develop it in vv. 18-25.
11. And notice that this glorious reality is only “…because of righteousness.” Our future bodily resurrection by the Spirit is only because of the divinely-imputed righteousness of Christ by which every believer is justified through His saving work on the cross (Rom. 3:21-26; 2 Cor. 5:21).
12. The fourth blessing we receive from the Holy Spirit is:
IV. A New Hope
A. Look at v. 11: 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.
1. Again the word “if” represents a fulfilled condition and means “if and it’s true” or “since.” Now since the “Spirit of Him,” referring to God the Father, “who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He (i.e. the Father) who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
2. The word “mortal” (thneta) means subject to death and destined for it. Here we see that the hope that the ultimate destiny of our “mortal bodies” is not death but resurrection.
3. Jesus promised us in John 14:19, “Because I live, you shall live also.” The grave couldn’t hold Jesus; it won’t hold us either.
4. Just as the Spirit of God was active in Christ’s resurrection, so the Spirit of God who dwells in us will also “give life to (our) mortal bodies. This refers to our literal bodily resurrection whereby we receive a glorified body (1 Cor. 6:14; 15:20, 23, 42, 53-54; 2 Cor. 4:14; 5:5; Phil. 3:21; 1 Thess. 4:14).
5. Douglas Moo rightly states, “The Spirit’s life-giving power is not circumscribed by the mortality of the body but overcomes and transforms that mortality into the immortality of eternal life in a resurrected body.” (pg. 493)
6. And John Murray says, “Though the Father is the specific agent in the resurrection of believers as in that of Christ, this does not exclude the agency of the Holy Spirit. The persons of the Godhead are co-active in the acts of redemption and will be also in the consummating act.” (pg. 292)
7. Beloved, what a blessed hope we have of one day living forever with God in heaven in a brand new gloried body! And it is the indwelling Holy Spirit, the “pledge (or guarantee) of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13-14) who is instrumental in that!
In closing, the first four blessings that believers receive from the Holy Spirit in our new life of freedom in Christ are: A new mind-set, a new destiny, a new power, and a new hope. It is the life-giving Spirit, who was so vital in our justification in bringing us to spiritual life and is so vital in our sanctification in sustaining our spiritual life ethically, who also will be so vital in our glorification as an agent in the resurrection of our bodies.
The Holy Spirit is the One who regenerated us, is progressively renewing us, and will one day resurrect us. He is actively involved throughout our entire salvation process. Therefore, because He is our great power supply for victorious Christian living we must be careful to not cut off His power in our lives, but continually live in complete dependence on Him.