Life Through the Spirit, Rom. 8:1-17
Following his description of the Christian’s inward struggle between flesh and spirit, Paul tells us how God saves through Jesus and strengthens by the Spirit. Jesus has rescued us from the sentence of death. He has taken the punishment that we were due because of sin (Isa. 53:4 -5). When we are baptized into Christ, our sins are forgiven (Gal. 3:26-27). Having obeyed the gospel, the Spirit lives within us to aid in our struggle with the flesh (Acts 2:38). The law of the Spirit of life is the principle that obedience to Christ releases us from sin’s grip. The law of sin and death is the rule that those who sin will die spiritually as well as physically. Through sin, death entered the world at the beginning of man’s existence (Genesis 3). Through sin, mankind is separated from God and condemned to suffer banishment from God’s presence (Isa. 59:1-2; 2 Thess. 1:9). We were all condemned but God sent his own Son to save us (John 3:16).
Paul argues that the Law could neither bring forgiveness of sins nor aid in our struggle against the flesh. It was powerless to save. The Law set forth God’s principles for righteous living and established penalties for disobedience. Remember that Satan used the Law to amplify the power of sin. Law convicted men of sin but could not grant pardon. The Law proved that men are not able to live up to God’s standards without divine assistance. Under the Law sacrifices were made daily for sins, animals being put to death to symbolize the destructive nature of sin. And once a year, on the Day of Atonement, sacrifice was made for the sins of the entire nation of Israel. All these sacrifices could not save (Heb. 10:1-4). The Law could not save. Jesus saves and the Spirit gives us strength.
The NIV’s translation of the Greek word sarx as “sinful nature” complicates efforts to fully understand Paul’s message. Sarx is the word for “flesh.” But in this and other key contexts that deal with our struggle against sin, flesh means our weakened human nature. Flesh is human nature weakened by sin and susceptible to sin. Satan exploits our weakness as he did that of Adam and Eve. John describes our vulnerability as “the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does” (1 John 2:16). Flesh wages war on spirit but the Spirit of God aids us. The Spirit controls us by helping us to control ourselves. At the mere mention of aid from the Spirit, many have cringed and warned against the doctrine of “direct operation of the Spirit.” Paul does not set out the mechanics of God’s Spirit dwelling in us. That is God’s business. Paul simply tells us that if the Spirit of God lives within us, we are alive. The Spirit guides through the God-breathed Scriptures and strengthens us. We must fill our minds with God’s teaching and let him guide us. In this way we “put to death the misdeeds of the body” (8:13), and we truly live spiritually. We must not resist the Spirit.
When we obey the leading of the Spirit of God, we are children of God. We owe Satan nothing and he will have no hold on us. In the spirit of one who has been adopted into a loving family, we cry “Abba, Father.” This cry is one of gratitude and dependence. We are now in God’s family. We enjoy his abundant blessings now and we will inherit heaven for all eternity.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.