By Mike Ratliff
For those 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. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8 ESV)
5οι γαρ κατα σαρκα οντες τα της σαρκος φρονουσιν οι δε κατα πνευμα τα του πνευματος 6το γαρ φρονημα της σαρκος θανατος το δε φρονημα του πνευματος ζωη και ειρηνη 7διοτι το φρονημα της σαρκος εχθρα εις θεον τω γαρ νομω του θεου ουχ υποτασσεται ουδε γαρ δυναται 8οι δε εν σαρκι οντες θεω αρεσαι ου δυνανται (Romans 8:5-8 WHNU)
One thing that has become very obvious in the comment sections of the last few posts on Sanctification. There are a lot of people out there who confuse Justification and Sanctification. They are not the same thing at all. I make statements about God working in us to develop Christ’s very character in us through our Sanctification in which we obey Him, deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus. He takes us through fiery trials to mature us. Then the alarms go off and here come the naysayers who proclaim that I am teaching works theology. Well if I was talking about our Justification then I would agree, but that is not what Sanctification is all about. Also, there have been some, who I believe are disciples of Tim Keller, that say we are not to try to obey God, to keep His commandments, because no one can keep them. Really? I agree that no one can keep them perfectly, but we are commanded to obey our Lord, keeping His commandments and when we fail, we apply 1 John 1:9 and get back in the race. This life in the Spirit is not a life of replacing obedience with clinging to the foot of cross. Aren’t we supposed to do both?
Please carefully read Romans 8:5-8 which I placed at the top of this post. Who are those who live according to the flesh? These are unbelievers whether they are professing Christians or not. Therefore, we know that those who live according to the Spirit are genuine believers. Upon what do those who live according the flesh set their minds? Their minds are set on the things of the flesh, that is, the things that the sin nature within demands in order to seek fulfillment. What about those who live according to the Spirit? They, being new creations, set their minds on the things of the Spirit. The Greek verb translated here as “set their minds” is φρονουσιν. This verb is in present tense, indicative mood, and active voice. Therefore, it is describing action occurring as the statement is made. It is a truth. The verb φρονουσιν describes a basic orientation of the mind. In other words, it is a mind-set that includes one’s affections, mental processes, and will (cf. Philippians 2:2, 5; 3:15, 19; Colossians 3:2). So, what is this truth? The truth is that those of the flesh have a mind-set that is based entirely in the things of the flesh, while those born of the Spirit have a mind-set based in the things of the Spirit.
Those with the mind-set based in the flesh are spiritually dead and unless God intervenes in their lives to save them, they will end up in eternity separated from God. On the other hand, those with the mind-set based in the Spirit have life and peace with God. The fleshly mind-set is hostile to God and has no peace with Him because it does not submit to His Law. Those in the flesh cannot please God. Here the naysayers would interject that since no one can keep the Law we do not have to be obedient. Is this what Paul is teaching?
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 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. (Romans 8:9-11 ESV)
All who have the Holy Spirit are in Christ and are in the Spirit and, therefore, not among those who are in the flesh. What does it mean that the Spirit of God dwells in those who in the Spirit? This Greek word, οικει, refers to being in one’s own home. In other words, the Spirit of God makes His home in every person who trusts in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in the believer (Galatians 5:22; 23). Without this fruit being manifest in the character, a professing Christian has no legitimate claim to Christ as Saviour and Lord. My brethren, much of the confusion about genuine Sanctification is based in a misunderstanding of the vv10-11. Here they are, “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 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.” Our bodies are unredeemed. Paul tells us that they are spiritually dead. Therefore, we are not about redeeming the flesh in our Sanctification. Instead, we are about obeying the Lord because He is our Lord. Just because we do so imperfectly does not mean we do not, by the power of the Spirit of God, obey Him. In this we witness abilities to obey God that we never could do without the Spirit of God working in us. We are not working to earn salvation. We are not working to earn favor with God. We are working and obeying the Lord because that is what we are commanded to do. We are given the ability to preach and teach, et cetera, by the Holy Spirit according to the will of God.
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:12-17 ESV)
Do you see it my brethren? All in Christ put to death the deeds of the body. How? They are led by the Spirit, and are able to suffer with Him in order that they may also be glorified with Him. In the midst of the fires of Sanctification, they often cry “Abba Father” In the pain and anguish of the attacks from the enemy and his seed. We put to death the deeds of the body by getting into the Word of God, prayer, worship, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we obey our Lord in all things. This includes taking a stand against the lies of the enemy now and then, which can be very costly. When our enemy strikes back as we are making progress in this battle for our spiritual maturity we must not retreat. Instead, let us move forward in the power of the Holy Spirit. We belong to the King of the Universe, who can take that relationship away? This is life in Spirit.
Soli Deo Gloria!