Romans 8:8–17, 26–27comment (0)
January 9, 2014
By Thomas L. Fuller
Related Scripture: Romans 8:8–17, 26–27
Bible Studies for Life
Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
A Life You Can’t Live on Your Own
Romans 8:8–17, 26–27
God does not call us to live a life that is outside the realm of possibility. Neither, however, can we live the Christian life without God’s help. That help comes to us not just as good advice and godly examples but in the real presence and power of God in our lives. God is with us in the person of the Holy Spirit, apart from whom “true Christian discipleship would be inconceivable, indeed impossible” (John Stott).
In vv. 5–7, Paul establishes the antithesis of life lived “according to the flesh” and “according to the Spirit.” Christians who “set their minds on the things of the flesh” (v. 5), who are “in the flesh” (v. 8), living to please themselves and to satisfy their own desires and ambitions, cannot obey God’s law and do God’s will. “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Paul’s use of “if” here and in verses 10–11 is a rhetorical device and not intended to call into question the Spirit’s presence in a believer’s life. To know and profess Jesus Christ as Lord is to possess the Holy Spirit.
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit has two implications. First, though we are dead, the Spirit makes us alive (vv. 10–11). Because of sin, we are mortal decaying, dead, without hope. Because of Christ’s righteousness, we are alive, strengthened, made able to live in a manner pleasing to God. God’s Spirit accomplishes this miracle in us by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Second, because the Spirit gives us life, we are free to say no to the flesh and yes to God’s commands. The Spirit empowers us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23).
We were once slaves to the flesh (our own wills), to sin and death, but now we have been set free. Better still, we have been adopted: We are God’s children and called to live in accord with that new reality. God’s Spirit helps us to do that. He leads us to “put to death the deeds of the body,” that is, to serve God rather than ourselves. He reminds us of our new identity — that we are free and children of the King, no longer slaves who live in fear and despair. He prompts us to regard our heavenly Father with the same audacious intimacy as Jesus did, addressing Him as “Abba” (Daddy). He affirms in our hearts the amazing, transformative truth that as God’s children, we are nothing less than fellow heirs with Christ, with the hope of glory and the assurance of eternity in God’s presence.
Finally we cannot live the Christian life apart from prayer. Prayer is impossible apart from the Holy Spirit. As John Stott points out, “We can approach the Father only through the Son and only by the Spirit.” The Spirit “helps us in our weakness” in the same way that hope sustains us in times of suffering (18–25). Just as we are living in that in-between state of being fully justified children of God but awaiting the future consummation and glorification at Christ’s return, we also have full access to God in prayer but oftentimes do not know how or what to pray. For example, with specific reference to “the sufferings of this present time” (v. 18), should one pray for deliverance from the suffering or for the grace to endure it? We can never be sure, for there is so much we do not know. But the Spirit knows, and He intercedes for us. Even when we don’t know how or what to pray, we can be sure that our heart’s cry is heard before the throne of God and in accordance with His will.