The activity and the role of the Spirit in the life of a believer is a question Christians have argued over for centuries.
Some have argued that evidence of Spiritual gifts is a necessary evidence of regeneration. At its extreme, I’ve heard people say that those claiming to be Christians who don’t or can’t speak in tongues are not “real” Christians. On the other extreme I’ve heard people say that the gifts of the Spirit were to authenticate the teaching of the apostles, and now that Scripture is complete, that aspect of His influence is confined to history, and that the apparent exercise of Spiritual gifts (especially the spectacular gifts), far from being evidence of the Holy Spirit in someones life is demoniacally inspired and driven. I have witnessed some real humdingers about his very issue, and some very unchristian attitudes on both sides of this scale towards those who think differently, which considering Paul says _”I, …, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain **the unity of the Spirit** in the bond of peace”_ (Eph. 4:1-3), seems to me to be doing the very opposite of maintaining unity.
This is a minefield to try to walk through, and for the record, I would say that I believe neither of these positions is correct. But what I believe is neither here nor there, what the Bible says is important!
In this passage, Paul focuses in on the Spirit for the first time here. Whilst he has talked about the Spirit earlier in his letter, here he really gets down to it. What role does the Spirit play in our lives?
But before I turn my attention to what Paul says here, I want to start with looking at some other passages. These, I believe, will throw some light onto this passage, so first let’s have a scripture reading marathon. I am not going to make much comment, because I am not preaching these passages, but they all record something of what the Bible says about the Spirit.
The first, in John 3, records a Pharisee who visits Jesus in the middle of the night: _”Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit”_ (Jn. 3:1-8). Jesus is saying to Nicodemus that without the Spirit, there can be no rebirth. The birth of faith is, in fact, a **spiritual** birth, and a foundational activity of the Holy Spirit. This is further reinforced by Paul who says, _”no one can say Jesus is Lord”_ except by the Holy Spirit.
The next is when Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman in the middle of the day, he says this … _“the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth”_ (Jn. 4:21-24). In Phil. 3:3, Paul writes that we “worship by the Spirit of God”. The Spirit is a key factor in worship. In fact, in John, Jesus says it is the Spirit who in some way gives us the ability to know WHO we are worshipping. The Spirit reveals to us WHO God is.
The next is found when Jesus is giving all sorts of teaching to the disciples, He says that he is going to go away, and that if he doesn’t, the Spirit (who he describes as the advocate) won’t come (Jn. 16:7). When the Spirit does come, Jesus says, he will do this: _”And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you”_ (Jn. 16:8-14). Jesus reaffirms here that God is unknown apart from the Spirit. He says that the role of the Spirit is to convict the world of righteousness, sin and judgment, and that He reveals the things of God, that he takes from what is Jesus’ and declares it.
Lastly, I want to look at Paul’s words in Eph. 1:13-14, where he says that the Holy Spirit is a seal which guarantees our future: _”In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory._
These texts are by no means the only Biblical texts about the Holy Spirit, but they are the ones I want to mention today, and with these texts ringing in our ears, we find ourselves in the position of knowing how important the Spirit is, how much Jesus talks about him. We note His influence in the life and experience of a Christian, He was present at our birth, He is active in our lives and worship, He reveals God and His will to us, and He is a seal guaranteeing our future.
The Passage …
_”Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit._
_Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God._
_You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you_.
You will note that not once does Paul specify that having or living in the Spirit necessarily requires us to exhibit spiritual gifts. Note though, it doesn’t exclude them either. They are simply not mentioned – here. So we won’t be going down that particular road today. We will talk about how Paul sees and tackles the spiritual gifts when we get to Romans 12!
As an introduction, Romans 8:1 is a key verse and it is one which brings much comfort to many people, especially when they are racked with negative feelings about the things they did before they became Christians: _”there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”,_ We have to be careful that this does not become a licence for wrong living. In fact, although we are no longer under law, and no longer under condemnation because of Christ Jesus, we have a higher responsibility on our lives to live according to the Spirit, to set our minds on the things of the Spirit.
In a nutshell, Paul describes and contrasts two ways of living: the way of the Spirit, and the way of the flesh. The phrase “the flesh” appears in a number of place in the Bible, and it makes sense here to just tease out what it means when it uses it. If you have an NIV the word is translated as “human nature”, which helps a bit, but it creates a dichotomy between our spiritual nature and our human nature. Our human nature is regenerated when we become Christians, it is still a human nature, it is just a regenerated human nature, so when we think of human nature, we are not talking about the human nature which is submitted to and lived in the life of a believer, we are talking about the unregenerate human nature. It is fallen human nature which is given free reign.
| The Spiritual Life | The “Fleshly” life |
| — | — |
| no condemnation v1 | condemned v3 |
|freedom from sin and death v2 | powerless v3 |
| mind set on the things of the Spirit v5 | mind set on the things of the flesh v5 |
| life and peace v6 | death v6 |
| | hostile to God, does not (cannot) submit to God v7 |
But here, I want to concentrate on three things this morning that the Spirit does for us as Christians.
## The Spirit gives us life. (v2, v10, v11).
The Spirit is called the spirit of life here in verse 2. We have already noted (from John 3) that the spirit plays a role in our spiritual birth, but there is much more to the life in and by the Spirit than our spiritual birth.
V10 says that the Spirit is life, not death for us.
V11 says that this life will is not only some nebulous spiritual life which is difficult to pin down, it tells us that we will experience life in our “mortal bodies”.
Joel Osteen talks of our “best life, now”, and whilst there is much to be careful and wary about his teaching, one thing we can take home is that our faith brings eternal life, but it also brings us life in the here and now.
If you chase after Jesus for what you can “get” out of him, for selfish reasons, if you see Jesus as not really any different or special, then like the manna, your joy, your faith will fade or spoil, you will lose your first love. If, however, you understand and believe that Jesus is the eternal bread of life and take Him into your very being, then your life gains an eternal quality that will never be taken from you. Are we living a life to the full?
– 1 Corinthians 15:22 says that in Adam all die, so in Christ all are made alive.
– Ephesians 2:1-6 says that even though we were dead in our sins, God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ.
– Paul says in Colossians 2:13 that God made us alive in Christ when we were dead in our sins.
One of the great themes running through John’s gospel is that we can know life in Jesus. Right at the start of his gospel he writes: _”In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind”_ (Jn. 1:4) : at the end of the gospel he says that the reason he has written is so we can know Jesus and have life: _”Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”_. (Jn. 20:30,31)
Probably one of the most well-known things John says about life is written in Jn. 10:10: _”The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”_.
Life, and, in particular, life in all its fulness is a really powerful witness when we as Christians display it to a watching world.
## The Spirit leads us as we live our lives. (v4, v9).
V9 tells us that we are IN the Spirit IF the spirit dwells in us, (AND if He doesn’t, we do not belong to Christ). The implication/conclusion is that we are NOT in the flesh, and therefore not subject to the influences of the flesh and consequences of living in the flesh. It is, again, a declaration of freedom. We don’t have to do the things that the world around us seems powerless to avoid.
Jesus was led by the Spirit – into the wilderness to be tempted. Point … if you are in hard times, don’t assume it’s Satan attacking you, it might be the Spirit leading you. Note Satan didn’t didn’t make Jesus hungry, he tempted Him when He was hungry.
Gal. 5:16-18 talks of being “led” by the Spirit as well, it says: _”walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law”_.
I have used this illustration before, but I think it worth repeating here. When we talk about keeping in step with the Spirit and being led by the Spirit, one of the most useful analogies I can think of is that of dancing. When Wendy and I dance, she has learned the dance, but in ballroom, I have the responsibility for choosing which steps I will do when. Will I do a reverse turn, a chassis, a weave, a whisk? Wendy has no idea. I lead her, and she follows. She is able to follow because we have a system of almost imperceptible signals, a move of the hand, a slight change in my shoulder line, a particular direction I look in. If Wendy picks up on these signals, and follows my lead, the dance is easy, it flows, it is a joy to dance and a joy to watch. If, on the other hand, she doesn’t follow me, leading becomes hard, every step and every turn is a fight, and it is just not enjoyable.
Think of walking in step with God and following the leading of the Spirit as being invited to dance with God. If you follow His leading, you will find your christian walk to be a joy and a pleasure. It will enhance your life.
One of the keys to living a fulfilled and peaceful life is to allow the Spirit to lead us.
## The Spirit governs our mind and our desires (v5-8).
V5 says those who live according to the Spirit “set their minds” on the things of the Spirit. Many people think that faith in God requires discarding our minds, that people of faith don’t actually think.
Interestingly, the most emotional and unthinking attitudes I see around me today are not in those who are Christians, but in those who are not!
One of the characteristics of the greatest commandment is “love the Lord your God with all your Mind” (Mt. 22:37), and Paul later in Romans says “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2), so we will revisit this again in the coming weeks.
We have to get to grips with this. Christianity is not a throw your brain away religion, it is one which requires us to use our brains and think.
Far from overwhelming our brains, the Spirit helps us to use them.
God says “come let us **reason** together” for a reason (Isa. 1:18). He wouldn’t invite us to reason if we weren’t capable of reason or if He didn’t want us to do it.
My point here is this …
Let’s use our brains as well as our emotions when we are considering the things of God, when we are worshipping and when we are going about our daily lives.
I know some people who say “I don’t do anything God doesn’t tell me to do”, and I once listened to a speaker who said “I ask God every morning what socks I should put on – and if He doesn’t tell me, I walk around without socks!” he was proud of himself! I believe God would say to him: “oh for goodness sake, I gave you brain and the ability to choose – use it you idiot!”
Finish by giving us Paul’s “for” statements concentrating on the positive part, and reading again v9-11
1. For the law of the Spirit of life **has set you free** in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (v2).
2. For God **has done what the law**, weakened by the flesh, **could not do** (v3).
3. 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** (v5).
4. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but **to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace** (v6).
_”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”_ (Rom. 8:9-11).