Living in the Spirit

by Mike Ratliff

9 Ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σαρκὶ ἀλλʼ ἐν πνεύματι, εἴπερ πνεῦμα θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν. εἰ δέ τις πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ οὐκ ἔχει, οὗτος οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῦ. Romans 8:9 (NA28)

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 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

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 (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 (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 ἀλλʼ 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 (NA28)

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. 11 And 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 (translated from the NA28 Greek text) 

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!


2 thoughts on “Living in the Spirit

  1. We left a church that was “seeker friendly” and now attend a small church that is reformed founders church.I was wondering if you had posts on “Christ followers vs Christians,I find myself always defining my self as Christian because it seems to mean how much Christ has done for me in salvation. Any thoughts?


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