Life in the Spirit

by Mike Ratliff

1 Οὐδὲν ἄρα νῦν κατάκριμα τοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. (Romans 8:1 NA27)

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to the ones in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

 Romans 8 is best understood after reading the Apostle Paul’s exposition of his own “wretched man” trapped in a “body of death” in Romans 7:14-25. 

            [14] For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, [w]sold under sin. [15] For I do not understand my own actions. For [x]I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. [16] Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with [y]the law, that it is good. [17] So now [z]it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. [18] For I know that nothing good dwells [a]in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. [19] [b]For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. [20] Now if I do what I do not want, [c]it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

            [21] So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. [22] For [d]I delight in the law of God, [e]in my inner being, [23] but I see in my members [f]another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. [24] Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from [g]this body of death? [25] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.           

(Romans 7:14-25 ESV) 

[Cross References]

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[w] 1 Kgs. 21:20, 25; 2 Kgs. 17:17; Isa. 50:1; 52:3

[x] ver. 18, 19; [Gal. 5:17]

[y] 1 Tim. 1:8; [ver. 12]

[z] ver. 20

[a] Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Job 14:4; 15:14; Ps. 51:5

[b] ver. 15

[c] ver. 17

[d] Ps. 1:2; 112:1; 119:35

[e] 2 Cor. 4:16; Eph. 3:16; [1 Pet. 3:4]

[f] Gal. 5:17; [James 4:1]

[g] [ch. 6:6; 8:23]

There are some who teach from this passage saying that it describes Paul’s life before Christ citing that this description is contrary to his own account or description of true believers in Romans 6 (cf. vv. 2,6,7,11,17,18,22) . However, as we read this passage it is obvious that this is a believer because he desires to obey God’s law and hates his sin. He is humble, recognizing that nothing good dwells in his humanness. He sees sin in himself, but not as all that there is, and he serves Jesus Christ with his mind. This very struggle was my desperate struggle for a couple of decades and I get private emails from many readers in the same boat, doubting the veracity of their salvation because they are in the same battle. Why are they in despair? Why was I in despair for so long? The churches, the religious systems of which we were part of told us in their pragmatism that there would be some point when we would outgrow this and reach some level of maturity and would no longer struggle like this. If that did not happen either we were very immature or not Christians at all.

While I agree that we are sanctified in this life and we are transformed through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) this battle over the mortification of sin is an ongoing battle that could last until the day our Lord takes us home. Thank the Lord that Paul finished his dialog above with v25 then took it up again with Romans 8.

Read again Romans 8:1 that I placed at the top of this post. The noun condemnation translates κατάκριμα or katakrima. It is something to be decided against anyone, a condemnatory judgment and is the opposite of justification. What is Paul saying here? Those who are in Christ are justified, and, therefore, are under no condemnation whatsoever. No sin a believer can commit—past, present, or future—can be held against him, since Christ paid the penalty and righteousness was imputed to the believer. No sin will ever reverse this divine legal decision. In the King James Version, the New King James Version of this passage, v1 continues with, “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” This phrase is not found in v1 in the earliest manuscripts, but it is found at the end of v4, which makes this a textual variant indicating that this is perhaps a case of an inadvertent copyist insertion. However, if you look at what Paul is saying, our Justification is not based on this, but on the work of Christ. Our Justification does not transform us. Imputation does not change us. Our regeneration unto faith does though and as we shall see in the following verses, we are not the same after faith in Christ as we were before.

[Life in the Spirit]

            [8:1] There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[f1] [2] For the law of [h]the Spirit of life [i]has set you[f2] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. [3] For [j]God has done what the law, [k]weakened by the flesh, [l]could not do. [m]By sending his own Son [n]in the likeness of sinful flesh and [o]for sin,[f3] he condemned sin in the flesh, [4] in order that [p]the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, [q]who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [5] For [r]those who live according to the flesh set their minds on [s]the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on [t]the things of the Spirit. [6] For to set [u]the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. [7] For the mind that is set on the flesh is [v]hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; [w]indeed, it cannot. [8] Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

            [9] You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact [x]the Spirit of God dwells in you. [y]Anyone who does not have [z]the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. [10] But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. [11] If the Spirit of [a]him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[f4] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [b]through his Spirit who dwells in you.

[Heirs with Christ]

            [12] So then, brothers,[f5] we are debtors, [c]not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. [13] For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you [d]put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. [14] For all who are [e]led by the Spirit of God are [f]sons[f6] of God. [15] For [g]you did not receive [h]the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of [i]adoption as sons, by whom we cry, [j]“Abba! Father!” [16] [k]The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, [17] and if children, then [l]heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, [m]provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.           

(Romans 8:1-17 ESV) 

[Cross References]

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[h] 1 Cor. 15:45; 2 Cor. 3:6

[i] ver. 12; See ch. 6:14, 18; 7:4

[j] Heb. 10:1, 2, 10, 14; See Acts 13:39

[k] Gal. 4:9; Heb. 7:18

[l] Heb. 10:6, 8

[m] 2 Cor. 5:21

[n] Phil. 2:7; See John 1:14

[o] Lev. 16:5; Heb. 10:6, 8; 13:11

[p] ch. 1:32; 2:26

[q] Gal. 5:16, 25

[r] [Gal. 6:8]

[s] Gal. 5:19-21

[t] Gal. 5:22, 23, 25

[u] ver. 13; [Col. 2:18]; See ch. 6:21

[v] James 4:4

[w] 1 Cor. 2:14

[x] ver. 11; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; 2 Tim. 1:14

[y] Jude 19; [John 14:17]

[z] See Acts 16:7

[a] See Acts 2:24

[b] [2 Cor. 3:6]

[c] See ver. 2

[d] Col. 3:5

[e] Gal. 5:18

[f] ver. 16, 19; ch. 9:8, 26; Deut. 14:1; Hos. 1:10; John 1:12

[g] 1 Cor. 2:12

[h] 2 Tim. 1:7; [Gal. 2:4; Heb. 2:15; 1 John 4:18]

[i] ver. 23; Gal. 4:5; [ch. 9:4; Isa. 56:5; Jer. 31:9]

[j] Gal. 4:6; [Mark 14:36]

[k] 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13, 14; 1 John 3:24

[l] Gal. 3:29; 4:7; Titus 3:7

[m] 2 Cor. 1:7; 2 Tim. 2:12; See Acts 14:22 

[Footnotes]

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[1] 8:2 Some manuscripts add who walk not according to the flesh (but according to the Spirit)

[2] 8:2 Some manuscripts me

[3] 8:3 Or and as a sin offering

[4] 8:11 Some manuscripts lack Jesus

[5] 8:12 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 29

[6] 8:14 See discussion on “sons” in the Preface

Were we saved to be able to be super-saints who never sin in this life? Well, I do admit that I would like that very much, but as Paul said very clearly in Romans 7:14-25, we have this thing called the flesh that we must work to crucify on a daily basis and God is continually putting us through fiery trials that test our faith. We are commanded to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, to become living sacrifices, to be transformed through the renewing of our minds, to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, yet the reality is that our Lord Jesus told us in John 15 that without him we can do nothing. How are you doing with abiding in him in all parts of your life all day long?

Soli Deo Gloria!

11 thoughts on “Life in the Spirit

  1. Dear Mike,

    Have been grappling with this for some time. Hard to articulate the struggles we experience in the flesh (sins we do, even though we don’t want to) then with the Spirit (when we walk according to the Spirit) illuminating the sin through the law because our minds are fixed on Christ and His perfection. Thus God in His mercy reveals to us our imperfections to point us to the only hope we could possibly have which is in Christ’s righteousness.

    “For the creation was subjected to futility, NOT WILLINGLY, 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. Romans 8:20&21

    This is what brings me to my end. Woe to me with unclean lips, BUT thankfulness and praise to my Great Redeemer who conquered sin and death for me!! I surrender all to Christ my only hope.

    Blessings to your ministry for the Glory of God! charisse

  2. Until I dropped everything, counted all my past religious training as dung, picked up my cross and followed Him as Lord, the battle was impossible…For I battled it on my own, that is in my own rightiousness, and everything I was taught prior made sense, because I, like scripture says, was in the flesh. But the Lord is patient and continued to show me the error of my walking after man…even ordained state degreed men. Plus, I would looked at the elders who had all the “grace” live a much less restricted life then I was reading about in scripture, but hey they were the annointed ones right? Finally in a desperation prayer I asked am I the crazy one or are they crazy? Everything I read I take to them and I get rebuked…even as a Sunday School teacher and elder myself LOL. He answered my prayer by showing me I was to have NOTHING to do with them, and to leave them alone, that He would judge them, but I was called out from their religion. I could never open their eyes if they would not listen to them, why would I expect them to listen to me? I and my family stopped running around like Martha worrying about the many things, and sat at His feet learning of Him from Him through the word in context as revealed by the Holy Spirit. That was 5 years ago, and we don’t look back for this restrictive lifestyle is FREEDOM in Christ Jesus!

  3. Correction:
    “If they would not listen to Him, why would they listen to me?”

    Excellent Charisse!!

  4. Mike, I cannot believe how timely this posting is for me! I was discussing this Scripture with a “minister” on a social networking site. He was adamant that this was Paul talking about life before Christ. As he went on with his defense of that, he became more and more legalistic sounding. Fast forward about six months and just a few days ago, I mentioned to some friends how I feel like Paul…doing the things I *don’t* want to do and not doing the things I *do* want to do! Does it ever get easier? I’ve been praying about this Scripture and I asked God to please make this more understandable to me. And, here is your wonderful blog post!!! Thank you so much brother, in your continuing service to our King! All glory be to Him!

  5. As one who also left a less-pure church for a more-pure one, I am learning the importance of discrimination. We must (Roman 14 is where we are in our preaching schedule) not pass judgment on one another. We must judge what people say and do – and rebuke, etc. those that spread false teaching and lead others astray. But we are to accept one another as Christ accepted us as regarding none essentials – TV, Christmas, gifts, etc. We should be able to vigorously discuss these but not think we can impose our views on another. Those who honor man, rather than God – that preach another gospel – are to be put out. If that one is an elder whom others blindly protect, then the sheep must leave for the good of his own soul.

    Blessings in Christ to the called – for we have been raised from darkness to light!

  6. Marlene, you are most welcome my sister. What you shared sounds so much like my own religious background. Of course, no everyone in the churches I was in was like that, but there were some in leadership who were. When we do what that “minister” did to this message, we are forced to be legalistic because that means we become responsible for our own perfection. I am a student of the Greek and the verb tenses where we are commanded to be perfect are most definitely commands, but when we dig in deeper we see that it is God working in us to be the author and finisher of our faith,not us.

  7. Excellent post Mike. I think there is much confusion regarding the various doctrines (ie: election, regeneration, justification, sanctification, glorification, etc.) of grace in our world today. There is an order. I agree with Dr. Mohler that one of the great challenges today leaders have to address is antinomianism. At the same time, I think an undue emphasis on one theological truth to the exclusion of others can lead to error [whether it be legalism or antinomianism both of which lead to hell]. The same would be for someone to emphasize a single attribute of God to the erroneous exclusion of or twisting the biblical truth about the others (ie. Love Wins). All of the truth’s as revealed in Holy Scripture need to be strongly emphasized, taught in great detail, and repeated over and over again. It did not bother the Apostles to do so.

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