But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this one is not his. But if Christ is in you, on the one hand the body is dead because of sin, but on the other, the Spirit is life because of righteousness (my translation)
When we become followers of Jesus Christ through faith in him, we are new people, because we are “in Christ”. On the spiritual level, everything is different because of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
The “Spirit” refers to the Holy Spirit, and not the human spirit, as the NIV and NASV mistakenly translate. Here the ESV, HCSB, NKJV, KJV and TEV are better. Why should we translate the Greek word pneuma as the “Spirit” in this text?
- In the verses immediately before and after, every other use refers to the Holy Spirit. Those who translate it as meaning “human spirit” must present compelling evidence for a change.
- Translating as the Holy Spirit at the end of verse ten agrees with the thought expressed in verse eleven, which clearly refers to the Holy Spirit.
- “The ruling thought of the verse is that although believers die and this fact is conspicuously exhibited in the dissolution of the body, yet, since Christ dwells in believers, life-giving forces are brought to bear upon death and this life is placed in sharp contrast with the disintegrating power which is exemplified in the return to dust on the part of the body. Reference to the Holy Spirit as life is signally congruous with this thought” (Murray, NIC Commentary on Romans, p. 290).
We are no longer “in the flesh”. What does this mean? “The contrast between being ‘in the flesh’ and ‘in the Spirit’ is a contrast between belonging to the old age of sin and death and belonging to the new age of righteousness and life. So characteristic of these respective ‘ages’ or ‘realms’ are flesh and Spirit that the person belonging to one or the other can be said to be ‘in’ them. In this sense, then, no Christian can be ‘in the flesh’; and all Christians are, by definition, ‘in the Spirit’” (Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 489). Listen to Romans 7:5-6. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code (ESV).
“It means that the Christian is in a new realm. He was living before in the realm of ‘the flesh’, he is living now in the realm of ‘the Spirit’. The Spirit is controlling him and leading him; he is ‘walking in the Spirit’, he is ‘walking after the Spirit’. This is the great and profound change that takes place at conversion. It is not just that a man changes his beliefs and no more. No, he was in the realm of the flesh, and he is now in the realm of the Spirit” (Lloyd-Jones, Exposition of Romans 8:5-17, p. 58).
Can a Christian be affected or influenced by the flesh? Yes, we can, if we walk in conformity with our old position in the flesh and not according to our new position in the Spirit. Listen to Galatians 5:16. Now I say, walk in the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the lusts of the flesh. So then, the Christian is faced everyday with choices. Choices constantly come about whether or not we will live by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit follow him. The alternative is to live like we are still in the flesh. The battle is for your mind (Romans 13:14; Philippians 2:5; Colossians 3:1-2; etc.). As Jim Boice used to say, “We want to teach people to think and to act Biblically.”
So then, let’s evaluate ourselves and our self-view as we live the new life?
- How do we look at ourselves when the devil comes to attack us in order to depress us?
- When you are weary and tired, physically and spiritually, what is your attitude?
- When you are persecuted and think that everyone is against you, what happens inside you?
- When you are tempted to sin and return to the ways of the flesh, what do you tell yourself?
The answer in each case is to see yourself in Christ and so blessed with great spiritual blessings in him.
The Spirit is the source of life. “Paul is teaching that the believer, although still bound to an earthly, mortal body, has residing within him or her the Spirit, the power of new spiritual life, which conveys both that ‘life,’ in the sense of deliverance from condemnation enjoyed now and the future resurrection life that will bring transformation to the body itself” (Moo, p. 492). The apostle addresses an important point here. We might doubt, supposing that because we see Christians still subject to death, that we might not really be partakers of new life. But Paul directs us to the Holy Spirit as the life we have. New life is not yet in our bodies, but in the Spirit, because of our union with the risen Christ!
How can guilty sinners have new life? This life is ours because of righteousness, which means in the teaching of Romans, because of Christ’s justifying grace (5:21)! The question is, “Are you united to Christ through faith by the Spirit of the living God?
Grace and peace, David