The Christian Life


What overcomes indwelling sin?

Romans Chapter 8

In Romans chapters 6 to 8 it is the truth of winning the war over sin that we are considering. The believer is saved from the judgement of God on account of sin by the blood of His Son, and possesses righteousness he can never lose. This is the truth developed in the first five chapters of this letter. In Romans 6, the believer is seen to be free from the dominion of sin to serve God. To be baptized in water symbolically conveys this spiritual reality. A believer should not continue in sin but now serve God. In Romans 7, we traced the problems of how living the Christian life is a constant struggle and that the hidden enemy hinders our progress on every hand.

Chapter 8 – What overcomes indwelling sin?

We now need to consider the question.

Key statement: ’that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us’, 8. 4.
The subject: Christian victory – not only from our body of death (future), but from sinful deeds (now).
The purpose: to show the means to righteous living.
Dominant thought: fleshly mind = death/spiritual mind = life. The Christian has the ‘Spirit of God’ indwelling him.
The negative: ’the body is dead because of sin’, 8. 10. The body on account of it being a vehicle for sin to continue necessitates it being put to death – and it can be.
Logic: spiritual law is different to natural law.

8. vv. 1-6 ‘That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit’, 8. 4.

This chapter flows from the spiritual fact of Romans 7. 25, that ‘with the mind we serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin’. Yet this chapter begins with no condemnation in Christ and ends with no separation from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It is a chapter that contains not one direct command. It is a chapter of spiritual laws or principles. Not all laws are written ordinances. Some are absolute principles that always work the same under exact conditions, such as the law of gravity.

8. 1 – Spiritual Law – Though sin is in us, we are in Christ so there is no condemnation (judgement).

8. 2 – Spiritual Law – We are free from ‘the law of sin and death’. The principle of this law is that when there is disobedience (sin) the results are always the penalty of death. That is separation from God.

Spiritual Law – We are linked to the ‘law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’. The principle of this law is that the one who is in Christ possesses the Spirit and His work always results in life. (One law can overcome another law for example the law of aerodynamics overcomes the law of gravity).

8. 3, 4 – Spiritual Law – When we walk after the Spirit in us (not by law keeping, religious ritualism, self-dependence or isolation from society, etc.) we fulfill the righteousness of the law, that is its right objectives of loving God and man.

8. 5-8 – Spiritual Law – Those dominated by the flesh have their mind set on things of the flesh. This mind-set results in death – separation from God. For the carnal (fleshly) mind is an enemy of God which can neither obey God’s law, nor please God.

8. 5, 6, 9 – Spiritual Law – Those linked with the Spirit of God have a mind set on the things of the Spirit. This results in life and peace. All true Christians are not in the flesh but in the Spirit because the Spirit of God lives in them.

8. 10-12 – Spiritual Law – Though a believer’s body is dead because of indwelling sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness (Christ’s obedient death). Since the Christian has the Spirit of life in him, his body of death will receive resurrection life. Since the Spirit of Christ solves our final dilemma, we now are not obligated to the flesh but to the Spirit.

8. 13 – Spiritual Law – Those who live after the flesh die. Those who through the Spirit, with His power and holy desires, put to death ‘the deeds of the body’ live. We are not putting to death the body (flesh), but only the use of it for sinful deeds or actions. That is all God asks. The sinful desires live and will continue, but they can be stopped before the desire becomes a deed. The victorious life is when sinful desires don’t become deeds, fantasies don’t become fruit, and attitudes don’t become actions. God does not hold the believer responsible for having the flesh but only for fulfilling its desires, Gal. 5. 16.

In our comparison of Romans 7 and Exodus 17 we learnt the principles involved in the defeat of Amalek by Israel. Israel was not responsible for the birth of Amalek, but put Amalek to death with the sword and hands lifted heavenward. Likewise we are not responsible for the existence of the flesh, only its deeds.

So, grace does not permit us to continue in sin, but gives the means to overcome sin.

8. 14-18 – Spiritual Law – The sons of God are characterized by being led by the Spirit of God. The Spirit also assures them that they are the children of God and are therefore joint-heirs with Christ. Though we suffer for His Name and lifestyle here, as children and joint-heirs we will definitely be glorified with Him in a day to come.

These spiritual laws teach us that the means of living the Christian life have to do with the Holy Spirit and not religious rituals and rules maintained by fleshly human effort. Nor does the Christian life function by the principle of law-keeping. Rather it functions by the principle of the Spirit-led life in Christ Jesus. To have the Spirit of Christ means to possess God’s life now and eternally, for theSpirit lives now and for ever.

Romans 8. 4 claims that the moral goal of the law is fulfilled in us as we walk after the Spirit. Notice the results are firstly inward, not outward. But what does it mean to walk after the Spirit? Galatians 5. 16 reveals, ‘This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh’. It seems many reverse this principle. They think if they don’t fulfill the lust of the flesh they will be walking in the Spirit and so are spiritual. They have all these rules of what not to do but yet don’t end up having victory or being spiritual. Their focus is reversed. It’s on self and human effort rather than the Spirit and the things involving Him. Walking in the Spirit has to do with where you walk, and walking after the Spirit has to do with whom you’re following.

Those things the Spirit of God is concerned with are: revealing the Person of Christ, John 16. 13-15; giving understanding to the word of God, 1 Cor. 2. 10-12; forming and gifting the church of God, 1 Cor. 12- 14, and interceding in prayer, Rom. 8. 26, 27. To be obeying and occupied with these is walking after and in the realm of the Spirit. Then the deeds of our fleshly body will be being put to death and the fruit of love, joy, peace, etc, the fruit of the Spirit, will be characterizing us.

We now enter into the fulfillment of such verses as, ‘But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ 2 Cor. 3. 18. For the principle of the new covenant is that the Spirit gives life, 2 Cor. 3. 6. These things do not come about when we focus on outward rituals, inward failure, self-help programs or philosophical formulae but when we are taken up with our glorious Lord Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit power. Therefore, we must put on the Lord Jesus Christ and occupy ourselves in His things rather than making provision for the flesh and occupying ourselves with lesser things, Rom. 13. 14.

The rest of our chapter, vv. 19-39 deals with the means of the eternal assurance of God’s love and His future for believers in Christ. This is based on certain promises and not changeable emotions and feelings. Regardless of one’s present circumstances, the believer has this in Christ Jesus our Lord and such things are untouchable by men – hidden with God.


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