Living in the Spirit

by Mike Ratliff

9 Ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σαρκὶ ἀλλὰ ἐν πνεύματι, εἴπερ πνεῦμα θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν. εἰ δέ τις πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ οὐκ ἔχει, οὗτος οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῦ. (Romans 8:9 NA27)

9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

When we talk about “the flesh” in this life, we are not always talking about these living breathing bodies we all have though the context does mean that in some cases as we shall see. Here in Romans 8, the root word of what is translated in English as “flesh” is σάρξ or sarx

The following is from Mounces’s Complete Expository Dictionary for this word.:

“sarx literally means “flesh.” However, the use of sarx within the NT is quite diverse. Of the 147x sarx occurs, Paul employs it the most (91x). The NIV reflects the diverse usage of sarx, by offering translations such as “flesh” (33x), “sinful nature,” (23x), “body” (20x), “human” 3x), and “people” (3x).

sarx has a number of basic usages.

  1.  it can refer simply to the physical material that cover the bones of a human or animal body, such as in Paul’s famous phrase , “thorn in my flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7.
  2. It may also refer to a person’s “body” (Acts 2:26, 31; 1 Cor. 6:16; 2 Cor. 12:7; Col. 2>5) in Eph. 5:29, Paul argues that a husband is to take care of his wife as he would taek care of his own “body.”
  3. Sarx may refer also “human nature” in general (Lk, 3:6; 2 Cor. 4:11; Acts 2:31). The incarnation of the Son of God uses the this sense of sarx when John declares that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn. 1:14).
  4. Sarx may also indicate physical ancestry or human genealogy (Rom. 9:3); Gal. 4:23).
  5. Often, sarx reflects more than mere earthly existence and is conceptually conjoined with the principles of this world. Those who are “wise according to the flesh” (1 Cor. 1:26) are not in the sphere of God’s salvation but in sphere of the principles of this world (Ephesians 2:11-12). It follows that Paul expressly pits life lived in the Spirit against a life lived in the flesh (Rom. 8:4; see Peter 2:11).

Paul’s theological usage of sarx indicates that the flesh is a willing instrument of sin. This sense is observed especially in Romans where sarx denotes humanity encompassed by the power of sin as demonstrated in self-sufficient independence of God (Rom. 6:19; 7:5; 18, 25; 8:3-9), sarx therefore, is a sphere of activity demarcated by sin over against the sphere of God’s spirit (Rom. 8:4-5). Thus, in some cases, sarx indicates the “sinful nature” (Gal. 5:13; Col. 2:11).

Obviously, in our look at Romans 8, we will see that Paul will use σάρξ or sarx as a reference to our Lord’s fleshly body (v3), but most of the references will be to the “sin nature” of fallen man. In this short study will look at Romans 8:1-11

1 Οὐδὲν ἄρα νῦν κατάκριμα τοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. 2 ὁ γὰρ νόμος τοῦ πνεύματος τῆς ζωῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἠλευθέρωσέν σε ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου τῆς ἁμαρτίας καὶ τοῦ θανάτου. 3 Τὸ γὰρ ἀδύνατον τοῦ νόμου ἐν ᾧ ἠσθένει διὰ τῆς σαρκός, ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἑαυτοῦ υἱὸν πέμψας ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας κατέκρινεν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἐν τῇ σαρκί, 4 ἵνα τὸ δικαίωμα τοῦ νόμου πληρωθῇ ἐν ἡμῖν τοῖς μὴ κατὰ σάρκα περιπατοῦσιν ἀλλὰ κατὰ πνεῦμα. 5 οἱ γὰρ κατὰ σάρκα ὄντες τὰ τῆς σαρκὸς φρονοῦσιν, οἱ δὲ κατὰ πνεῦμα τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος. 6 τὸ γὰρ φρόνημα τῆς σαρκὸς θάνατος, τὸ δὲ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος ζωὴ καὶ εἰρήνη· 7 διότι τὸ φρόνημα τῆς σαρκὸς ἔχθρα εἰς θεόν, τῷ γὰρ νόμῳ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐχ ὑποτάσσεται, οὐδὲ γὰρ δύναται· 8 οἱ δὲ ἐν σαρκὶ ὄντες θεῷ ἀρέσαι οὐ δύνανται. 9 Ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σαρκὶ ἀλλὰ ἐν πνεύματι, εἴπερ πνεῦμα θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν. εἰ δέ τις πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ οὐκ ἔχει, οὗτος οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῦ. 10 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν, τὸ μὲν σῶμα νεκρὸν διὰ ἁμαρτίαν τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ζωὴ διὰ δικαιοσύνην. 11 εἰ δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ ἐγείραντος τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐκ νεκρῶν οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν, ὁ ἐγείρας Χριστὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν ζῳοποιήσει καὶ τὰ θνητὰ σώματα ὑμῶν διὰ τοῦ ἐνοικοῦντος αὐτοῦ πνεύματος ἐν ὑμῖν. (Romans 8:1-11 NA27)

1 There is now no condemnation to the ones in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has freed you in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For what was impossible for the law to do in that it was weakened by the flesh, God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirements of the law may be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 5 For the ones who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set ones mind on the flesh is death, but to set ones mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 Because the mind that is set on the flesh is at enmity against God for it is not subject to the law of God; for neither can it be. 8 The ones in the flesh are not able to please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 And if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11And if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from dead dwells in you, the one having raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit indwelling in you. (Romans 8:1-11 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1) 

Notice what the unredeemed flesh does. It is at all times an enemy of God. Why? It is not subject to his law. Those who are in the flesh, whose minds are continually set on the flesh, are not of God because they do not have the Spirit. If they did, their minds would be set on the things of the Spirit as Paul clearly says here. Notice also that all in Christ still have mortal bodies of flesh that are dead because of sin, but they are alive in Christ because of righteousness. So many simply cannot grasp this that believers can be right in God’s eyes, that is, Justified through imputation of Christ’s Righteousness, and still have a long way to go in their sanctification. Therefore, they come up with all these legalistic, religious systems meant to please God through works of some sort to make up the difference because Christ’s work on the cross obviously was not enough. Wrong! Those who believe that way do not understand this passage do they?

Also, in v8 what does it mean that those who are in the flesh cannot please God? It means that no one who has not had the righteousness of Christ imputed them and, therefore, have the Spirit of Christ in them, can please God. What do those who have those things do? They set their minds on the things of the Spirit NOT THE THINGS OF THE FLESH. That means they seek to obey God according to His ways and means not the ways of the world. The ways of the world are the ways of the flesh. That is why it is such an abomination for people to imitate the world in their “worship” and their “church.” This cannot please God for it is of the flesh for it is of the world. Also, some build an entire “ministry” around man-centeredness rather than the Gospel and bringing glory to God. This is very predominate in our time and has created a religious system that is all about “ME.” That is nothing but flesh in action.

Examine yourselves my brethren.

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

17 thoughts on “Living in the Spirit

  1. Dear Mike,

    This convicts me on a daily basis. It is important to do acts of kindness and in general think of others before yourself, but if they are done to bring glory to anyone other than God they will be burned up.

    “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, siver, precious stones, wood, hay straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it tis to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.” 1 Corinithians 3:10-13

    I most admire those saints who move almost invisibly behind the scenes. They never draw attention to themselves but always seem to be meeting a needs others. These are the fragrance of Christ working by the Holy Spirit and not the flesh.

    Thanks, this was a blessing!

    Only by His wonderous grace, Charisse

  2. Charisse, we should do what we do for the Lord simply because we love Him and from that love and gratitude for what he has done for us, we minister and obey. That is the missing ingredient in what is taught in most of evangelical Christianity. It isn’t some sort of checklist we have to keep, but simply a response of joy to what Christ has done for us.

  3. ‘So many simply cannot grasp this that believers can be right in God’s eyes, that is, Justified through imputation of Christ’s Righteousness, and still have a long way to go in their sanctification.’
    So unbelievers, and even some professing Christians accuse us of hubris when we affirm our assurance of salvation…and our joy in it!
    Mike, please pray for me to have wisdom in how I speak with my only (and so-loved) son…on these matters…

  4. I like your approach and use of your in depth study. I find it very engaging and thought provoking.

    What would be some of the “legalistic, religious systems” that you refer to?

  5. Thanks Scott – Any religiosity based in works that appeal to the flesh and can be done via the flesh without abiding in Christ (John 15). These would be reflective of trying to be acceptable to God via list keeping. The opposite and is reflective of those truly living and walking in the Spirit is living, walking, obeying, and worshiping from a motivation of joy because they are abiding in Christ and He is abiding in them. Those who do this are truly grateful because the work of their redemption IS COMPLETE and by God’s grace is theirs and does not have to be earned or deserved. The legalistic approach is to try to earn this via works and is devoid of joy.

  6. Thank you for your reply. I absolutely agree with your statement. I was curious if you had some specific examples in mind, because I am certain that you do not mean a list of things to believe about who Jesus said He was.

  7. @ Scott Shifferd Jr.
    “That means they seek to obey God according to His ways and means not the ways of the world.”
    Is this what you are referring to regarding a list of things to believe?
    Oterwise i am confused. (I may be anyways! LOL)
    Perhaps mike can expand on this obeying God His way, to clear up that which might confuse.

  8. OK Mike we are even as I didn’t capitalize your name and the i which was me. I need a lot more help then a spell checker! LOL

  9. Oh no Scott, not at all for how else could we be saved? Of course, there are plenty who believe they are and have a totally wrong view of Christ and so prove they neither know him or are known by him.

  10. Mike,
    Your piece today is simple and clear yet deeply profound. Understanding this truth comes only to the heart of one who is ever after the heart of Christ. It is a sad fact that this truth is missing, either by ignorance or intentional neglect, in most of the visible church world today.

    Your statement “So many simply cannot grasp this that believers can be right in God’s eyes, that is, Justified through imputation of Christ’s Righteousness, and still have a long way to go in their sanctification” is the reason why we don’t separate the sheep from the goats, wheat from the tares or fruitful branches from the fruitless branches. The Lord will remove all pretenders from his kingdom upon his return. Let him find our hearts fully engaged in seeking to know him who is our eternal life.

  11. Joe, you know that that is a loaded and unfair question, however, I will answer it. All of us still sin. We are both perfectly righteous in Christ because we have the imputed righteousness of Christ and we are in the process of Sanctification in which we fail and sin and through it our faith grows and we learn to live in the spirit.

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