Category Archives: ROMANS 8:1-17

Section 12

ROMANS 8:1-17

Section 12 Romans 8:1-17

Life in the flesh and life in the Spirit


8:1  There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

8:2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

8:3  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

8:4  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

8:5  For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

8:6  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

8:7  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

8:8  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

8:9  But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

8:10  And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

8:11  But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

8:12  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

8:13  For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

8:14  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

8:15  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

8:16  The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

8:17  And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.


12 (a)  8:1-4      New principle, the law of the Spirit. 

12 (b) 8:5-8      New process of thought-The things of the Spirit.

12 (c) 8:9-13    New power-The indwelling of the Spirit

12 (d) 8:14-17 New privileges-The leading of the Spirit.


Romans 8 brings to a conclusion and climax the doctrine of indwelling sin that the apostle began to consider in 5:12. He has traced that sin back to its source in Adam’s fall, and has shown in 5:12-21 that the work of Christ at Calvary is the remedy. He then showed in chapter 6 that freedom from the domination of sin is found in the practical application to our lives of the truths expressed in Christian baptism. In chapter 7 the apostle has shown us that the law of Moses does not help us at all in our desire to overcome sin. He is now free to introduce us to the important doctrine of the dwelling of the Holy Spirit within the believer, and the consequences thereof. The Holy Spirit is mentioned very rarely in the previous chapters, whereas in chapter 8 He is referred to at least 15 times. Recognition of, and response to, the dwelling of the Spirit of God within the believer, is the secret of a spiritually successful Christian life, always remembering that one of His chief ministries is to glorify Christ, John 16:14.

 Speaking generally about chapter 8, we may say that it deals with three of the major enemies that confront man now that sin has entered into the world. In 8:1-17 the enemy is the flesh, the sinful self of man. In 8:18-27 the enemy is the bondage and corruption which came in at the Fall, and which causes believers to suffer. In 8:28-39 the enemy is Satan as adversary, who accuses and slanders believers.


8:1  There is now therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus- the particular word for condemnation the apostle uses here is only found again in this epistle in 5:16, and in 8:3 in a verbal form. This gives the clue to its primary meaning here, for condemnation in chapter 5 is the passing of the sentence of physical death on man in Adam because he possesses a sinful nature. The intervening verses have shown how this situation is righteously dealt with by Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Those who are in Christ Jesus are not touchable by death, being united with Christ in resurrection. Nor are they dominated by sin, the cause of death, for the body as the headquarters of sin has been made of no effect as far as they are concerned. This is a sure sign that the condemnation is gone, for 5:16 speaks of justification, which in that context means righteous acquittal from the consequences of possessing the sin-principle within. (The apostle has already established that the believer is delivered from the consequences of his sins, in verses leading up to 5:1). This freedom from the condemnation that comes through the sin-principle within is not only “now”, being a present reality, but is also total, for there is “no” condemnation. Note the title “Christ Jesus”, which is not found in the Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, for it especially emphasises the fact that the Jesus who lived on earth, is now risen and glorified in heaven. His people are associated with Him there.  Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit- freedom from condemnation does not depend upon our walk, but upon being in Christ Jesus, which is the position of all believers, not just those who walk according to the Spirit. Ideally, all who are in Christ Jesus will only want to walk according to the Spirit. The rest of the chapter is designed to encourage in this. The phrase highlights the difference between chapter 7 and its occupation with self, and chapter 8, with its occupation with the things of the Spirit.

 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus- the word law is used in several different ways in the New Testament, but here it simply means working principle. The Holy Spirit is described in various ways in this chapter. For instance, in verse 9, the Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ; in verse 11, the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead; in verse 15, the Spirit of adoption. Here He is described as the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, because He associates with, and makes good to us, the life which we have in the risen Christ Jesus. He does not deal with us as if we have life in Adam, but acts on the principle (law) that we have life in Christ Jesus.  Hath made me free- note the personal pronoun “me”, after the “them” of verse 1. The apostle is no doubt alluding to his very personal experience as detailed in 7:7-25, which comes to a climax with the words “who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”. With the realisation of the true Christian position in a risen Christ comes the realisation of freedom from the sin and death that overwhelmed him in chapter 7. That this is not just reserved for Paul is seen in the fact that he goes on to speak of “us” in verse 4. From the law of sin and death- in 7:25 Paul is captive to the law of sin, and this results in captivity to death, 7:24. Christ Jesus, however, has died to sin, and lives to God, 6:10, thus sin and death have no hold on Him. And this is true also of those who are in Him. Just as sin and death came in for all through Adam, 5:12, so they go out for many through Christ. The believer is freed from the operation of the law of sin and death by the superior principle that the Spirit works on. Working principles need power to put them into effect, and the indwelling Spirit is that power. This is our position in God’s view, but since the apostle has to warn about the dangers of living after the flesh, and the possibility of dying, verse 13, we must apply these truths to our lives if this freedom is to be known in practical reality. We have been given the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus to enable us to live free from slavery to indwelling sin.
8:3 For what the law could not do- literally “for the law (being) powerless”. Note that by simply writing “law”, the apostle now speaks of the law of God given at Sinai. The law of Moses was not able to set men free from sin and death. In fact the apostle calls it the ministry of death and the ministry of condemnation in 2 Corinthians 3:7,9. It only condemned sins, it did not deal with the nature which was the root of those sins. In that it was weak through the flesh- the weakness, and therefore the inability to deliver, lay in the sinfulness of the flesh of men, not in any deficiency in the law of God. The tools (the commandments of the Law) were of the finest quality, but the material on which they worked (the flesh) was rotten. God sending His own Son- against the background of the powerlessness of the law, and the sinfulness of man, God intervenes in grace and purity. Angels and men were operative at the giving of the law, Acts 7:38,53, but now the fact that a greater work is about to be done is indicated by God sending His own Son, One who is privy to His counsel, and dear to His heart. In the likeness of sinful flesh- note the guarded way in which the apostle writes here. Not “in sinful flesh”, as if God’s Son were capable of sin; nor “in the likeness of flesh”, as if He were not really man. Rather, He comes in such a way, and by such means, as preserve the integrity of His holy nature. By using these words, the apostle shows that he believes that the mother of the Lord Jesus conceived only by the intervention of the Holy Spirit, thus preserving the sinlessness of Christ. These words also dispose of the idea that the apostle did not believe in the uniqueness of the birth of Christ because he does not mention details about it. We should remember that Luke was a beloved companion of the apostle, and he would not have had fellowship with one who did not believe what is found so clearly in the gospel that bears his name. And for sin- His mission was expressly to deal with the root of sin in the nature of men. Some would see a reference to the sin offering here, since the Hebrew word for sin and sin-offering is the same. However when the word sin is used in Hebrew it simply means a single act of sin, which needs to be forgiven. God deals with the root of sin not by forgiving it, but by condemning it, and removing the believing sinner from the sphere where that sin holds sway. Another difficulty with saying that sin means sin offering is that the word sin occurs again in the next phrase, and there it cannot mean sin-offering. Condemned sin in the flesh- the verbal form of the word condemnation which occurs in 5:16 and 8:1. God has pronounced His condemning verdict on the sin which dwells within us in three related ways. First, by sending His own Son, such was the gravity of the situation to be addressed. How terrible must sin be if only God’s Son can deal with it effectively! Second, by exposing the evil of sin by means of the life of Christ in the flesh, see John 3:19. How terrible must sin be if it makes men hate Christ! Third, by the work of Christ in relation to the sin-question at Calvary. How terrible must sin be if God’s wrath has to be poured out upon none other than His Own Dear Son to deal with it!

8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us- far from destroying God’s law, the coming and work of Christ ensure that the believer is able to fulfil all that the law demanded as being right, summed up in the words “judgement, mercy, and faith”, Matthew 23:23. See also Matthew 5:17, Romans 13:8-10. The law of Moses is not specifically the code of conduct for the believer, but by living like Christ the believer fulfils the law incidentally. Note the difference between fulfilling the law, which would mean, for instance, not working on Saturdays, and fulfilling the righteous requirement of the law, the righteous principle that is enshrined in the law, which would ensure that God’s interests are served on every day, see 14:5,6. Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit- the power of the Spirit is the only way God’s righteous requirement can be met; man in the flesh is powerless, as chapter 7 has shown.

8:5 For they that are after the flesh- it is important to distinguish between being in the flesh, which is the position of the unbeliever, and walking (conducting our lives) after the flesh, which is all the unbeliever is able to do, and which the believer also is able to do but ought not. To be after the flesh means to take one’s character from the sinful self within. Do mind the things of the flesh- to mind involves a combination of thinking and willing. Self’s interests are considered in the mind, and are put into effect with determination by the will. But they that are after the Spirit- those who take character from the indwelling Spirit.  The things of the Spirit- again the mind and the will are operative, but instead of self being to the fore, the matters which the Spirit of God brings before the mind are willingly concentrated on and responded to by the spiritual believer in Christ.


8:6  For to be carnally minded is death- this may be rendered “the mind of the flesh is death”; that is, the mind of the flesh is characterised by occupation with things that lack spiritual life. We learn now the underlying reasons why the two opposite courses are taken in verse 5. It is because on the one hand the unbeliever is in a state of spiritual death, and on the other, the believer is in a state of spiritual life. Because the unbeliever is in death, which means he is separated from God, then he delights in those things which themselves are separated from God. But to be spiritually minded is life and peace- this phrase may be rendered “the mind of the Spirit is life and peace”. Just as the mind of the flesh is characterised by occupation with things that are marked by death, so the mind of the Spirit is occupied with things associated with Christ Risen. Compare the activities and tendencies of the raven and the dove, Genesis 8:6-12. And peace- great calmness is enjoyed by those who are spiritual. Carnal believers lack this peace because deep down they know they are being untrue to their proper calling. The reason for the mention of this word peace becomes clear in verse 7, where a state of war is described.

8:7  Because the carnal mind is enmity towards God- since it is occupied with things which are contrary to God, the mind of the flesh is at war with God, siding with the enemy, sin.  For it is not subject to the law of God the flesh wars against God because it rebels against His authority as expressed in His law. Neither indeed can be- this state of affairs cannot be remedied. The gospel does not seek to improve the mind of the flesh, but rather removes the person with that mind out of Adam into Christ Jesus.

8:8 So then- the apostle summarises the position as far as the flesh is concerned.  They that are in the flesh cannot please God- four features of the mind of the flesh are mentioned in verses 6 and 7; first, it is occupied with things marked by death; second, it is at enmity with God; third, it is not subject to God; and fourth, it is incurable. Because of these things they that are in the flesh, i.e. unbelievers, have no ability at all to please God. Having spoken of the mind of the flesh in verses 6 and 7, the apostle now returns in this verse to speaking of those who are in the flesh, to prepare for the contrast with believers who are in the Spirit.

8:9  But ye are not in the flesh- having described the unbeliever as one who is in the flesh and after the flesh, Paul turns to state definitely that the believer is not in the flesh. Clearly the apostle is not using the word flesh to mean the body, (for they were in the body), but rather the sinful self.  But in the Spirit- since the contrast is not between body and spirit, the Spirit of God is meant. The believer is in a position which derives its character from the Spirit of God Himself. If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you- a warning against false profession before the teaching relative to the Christian life is further expanded. That the apostle does not suggest some true believers have not the Spirit of God within is seen from his next statement. Dwell means to be at home. The heart of the believer is a suitable home for the Spirit of God, because of the change wrought at conversion. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His- the whole force of the argument is lost if the Spirit of Christ is different to the Spirit of God. This verse makes it clear that every believer has the Spirit of God within because he belongs to Christ. He is called “Spirit of Christ” to remind us that the result of responding to the Spirit within is Christ-likeness.

8:10 And if Christ be in you- as He is, in the person of the Spirit, see John 14:23. The body is dead because of sin- the presence of Christ within highlights the truth that the body is dead, for the very fact that the Spirit of God needed to be sent into our hearts is proof that we were unable to please God of ourselves. The reason the body is dead is because of the sin-principle which uses the body as its base of operations. It is dead in the sense that it is powerless to act for God unaided. But the Spirit is life because of righteousness- because the Spirit acts on the principle that we have life in Christ Jesus, verse 2, then by His power we are enabled to live as those who are “alive from the dead”, 6:13, and to yield the members of our body as “instruments of righteousness”, 6:13 again. By so doing we present (same word as yield in 6:13) our bodies a living sacrifice, 12:1.

8:11  But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you- the Spirit is now spoken of as the Spirit of the God of resurrection as the apostle gives a further consequence of His indwelling. Not only does the Spirit empower us to live spiritual lives whilst we are in the present body, He is also the guarantee of life in resurrection bodies hereafter. He that raised up Christ from the dead- note the change of title, “raised up Jesus…raised up Christ”. The name Jesus reminds us it was a man who had lived on the earth who was raised from the dead. The epistle to the Romans treats us as those who are living on the earth. It does not see us as seated in the heavenlies as the epistle to the Ephesians does. This is why in the next phrase only mortal (tending to death) bodies are spoken of, not dead bodies in a grave. (1 Corinthians 15:51-58 explains the mystery as to how living saints that do not die are going to share the resurrection experience). What encouragement to know that the certain result of being associated with Jesus, the Man after God’s own heart, is to be quickened in resurrection! But He is Christ, the One anointed with the Holy Spirit, and in harmony at all times with Him. This presents us with a challenge as to whether we also are in harmony with the Spirit.  Shall also quicken your mortal bodies- quicken means make alive. Bodies which tend to death even though the person possesses life in Christ, will be changed at the resurrection so that all trace of sin, and death it’s consequence, will be removed, with the result that mortality shall be swallowed up of life, 2 Corinthians 5:4. By His Spirit that dwelleth in you- the presence of the Spirit of God in the believer is the reason why the quickening takes place, and is also the guarantee that it will take place. It is not dependant on the believer’s spirituality. Once this has happened, every trace of sin and death will have been forever removed from the believer’s body.

8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors- previously the apostle has explained the nature of the case as to our position before God. Now he presses upon us our responsibilities before God. He uses the title brethren to arrest our attention, and remind us we possess life as those who are in the family of God, and therefore have the ability to respond to the exhortation which follows. Before we were saved we were under obligation to God as sinners, and had nothing to pay, Luke 7:40-43. Now, however, the saving work of God in us has made us eternally indebted to Him, and therefore under obligation to Him. The difference now is that we are able to begin to repay the debt- but only because Divine resources have been given to us. Not to the flesh- we are not obliged to respond to the attempts of our sinful self to influence us. All of its authority has been removed by Christ when our old man was crucified in company with Him, 6:6. To live after the flesh- we are not in the flesh, but we still have the ability to live after the flesh.
 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die- this cannot mean lose salvation, for he has just addressed them as brethren, and as such they are eternally secure. He has been careful to apply the test as to the reality of their conversion in verse 9, and has proceeded as if they had passed that test. Furthermore, every believer has passed out of death into life, John 5:24, and shall never see death, John 8:51. Die in this context therefore must mean the same as when the prodigal’s father said that his son was dead, and is alive again, (in relation to God), was lost and is found, (in relation to his family). The prodigal was as good as dead when in the far country; his life did not profit his father at all, and this is true of believers if they live after the flesh. See 1 Timothy 5:6. In extreme cases, as with some of the Corinthians, this may mean premature physical death, if their life-style brings grave discredit upon the testimony, and they are disciplined by God because of it, see 1 Corinthians 11:30.  But if ye through the Spirit- note the contrast again between the flesh and the Spirit of God. The flesh is powerless to enable us to live spiritual lives, hence the great blessing of being indwelt by the Spirit of God. The Spirit is life because of righteousness, verse 10. Do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live- instead of weakly succumbing to the flesh, the believer is to take the initiative, and mortify (put to death) the deeds of the body, using the power of the Spirit to apply the truths already detailed in chapter 6. See also Colossians 3:1-11, noting especially the expression in verse 9, “the old man and his deeds”. It is through the body that the flesh, the self-principle, manifests itself. When self provokes our body to commit a sinful deed, then we are to slay that deed immediately, for by crucifying our old man in company with Christ, God has signalled that it is only worthy of death; we should signal that to it too. By so doing we shall clear the way for a true expression of spiritual life, which involves all those things which the Living God derives pleasure from, and which those who are in harmony with Him as His sons enjoy also.
8:14  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God- only those who obey the promptings of the Spirit of God may be rightly described as the sons of God, for they manifest by their dignified and mature behaviour that they have a nature and character in God’s likeness. The word “they” is emphatic- they and only they. Clearly the apostle does not anticipate that there will be persons claiming to be sons of God, and yet who do not respond to the guidance of the Spirit. Since all God’s people have the Spirit of God within their hearts, then they all must be sons, whatever their state of spiritual development may be.  Galatians 4:6 expressly states that the Spirit of God is sent into believers’ hearts precisely because they are sons by faith. See Galatians 3:26, where “children?” should read “sons”.

8:15  For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear- the Spirit of God cannot be described as the Spirit of bondage, for His task is to bring us into liberty. The believer is completely delivered from bondage, whether it be to sin, 6:17,18; idols, Galatians 4:8, or the law, Galatians 4:3. Each of those forms of bondage resulted in fear of one sort or another. But ye have received the Spirit of adoption- adoption is the act of placing as sons. The Spirit of God may rightly be described as the Spirit who brings into sonship and who maintains in sonship. He associates with us on the basis that we have been placed before God in the position of sons, for in Galatians 4:6 He comes into our hearts because we are sons. This is further proof that all God’s people are sons, for all have the Spirit within, and the Spirit only comes because they are sons. Whereby we cry “Abba, Father”- in the power of the Holy Spirit and by His prompting we commune with God. This cry to our Father is the most intimate, and includes within itself all other experiences we may have of God. In Galatians 4:6 the Spirit cries “Abba, Father”, but since God is not the Father of the Holy Spirit this must mean that He expresses perfectly what we express feebly. It is said that slaves were forbidden to call their masters by this name, so we do not read of Ishmael addressing Abraham in such a way, for he was the son of the slave-woman, see Galatians 4:19-31. On the other hand, Abraham’s true son was Isaac, and his first recorded words are “my father”, Genesis 22:7. Mark gives us four expressions in his gospel which are in the Aramaic language which the Jews brought back with them from captivity in Babylon. Three of them he translates for us, but when he records Christ’s words in Gethsemane, Mark 14:36, he does not translate, thus indicating that there are depths of meaning in the word “Abba” which cannot be expressed in words. The more son-like we become, the more we shall understand those depths, always remembering that the Son of God alone fully appreciates their meaning, for He is the eternal Son, and knows God as Father to perfection.

8:16 The Spirit Itself- the order of the words “itself the Spirit” serves to recall the Spirit mentioned in the previous verses, “that very One who is the Spirit of adoption”. The Holy Spirit is a Divine Person and not simply an influence, for He teaches, leads, convicts, reveals and comforts, all of which only persons can do.  The word “itself” is used because the word forSpirit is neuter. Note that there is no connecting word between verses 15 and 16, indicating strength of feeling on the part of the apostle, no doubt overawed by the thought of being able to call God his Father. Beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God- by encouraging us to commune with God as Father, the Spirit signifies that He reckons us to be indeed God’s children. By responding to this encouragement, we show that we really are in that relationship with God. Thus there is a joint testimony to the reality of the relationship that exists between ourselves and God. Note the apostle now refers to us as children, even though he has said that we call God Father as His sons. Perhaps the reason for this is found in the reference to our spirit. It is the spirit of man which is acted upon by the Spirit of God when the new birth takes place, John 3:6, and by this means we become children of God.

 8:17 And if children, then heirs- here heirship is founded on a relationship with God as His children, whereas in the parallel passage in Galatians 4:7 heirship is based on sonship. Since this heirship involves feeling the same things about this groaning creation as Christ did, then the capacity to know things as Divine persons know them is needed, and for this reason believers have been given eternal life as His children. If so be that- provided that; used of “a thing which is assumed to be, but whether rightly or wrongly is left in doubt”, Grimm. True believers are sure to suffer with Christ. We suffer with Him- what sorrow filled the heart of Christ here when He saw the effects of the fall around Him, knowing all the time that the only way in which the situation could be permanently remedied was by Him tasting death for every man (thing), Hebrews 2:9. Not only did He suffer as He looked on these things, but also when He took upon Himself the pains and sorrows of suffering men and women, Matthew 8:17. Believers carry a burden of suffering in their own bodies, to a lesser or greater degree, and also feel for those who suffer all around, and in the measure in which they feel about things in the way Christ did, they suffer with Him. This is to be distinguished from suffering for Him, when we seek to maintain a good testimony despite opposition, Philippians 1:28-30, and also from “the sufferings of (pertaining to) Christ, 1 Peter 1:11, the sufferings, foretold by the prophets, that were unique to Him. That we may be glorified together- when He is manifest as the glorious Deliverer of a groaning creation, His people will share that glory. Their suffering is the necessary path to that glory.

As we have proceeded through section 12, we have noticed the following ministries of the Holy spirit in the believer:

Verse 2 Operating on the fixed principle that Christ is risen.

Verse 5 Taking of the things of Christ for our consideration.

Verse 9 Dwelling within the believer.

Verse 10 Empowering and encouraging practical righteousness.

Verse 11 Guaranteeing the quickening of our mortal bodies.

Verse 13 Giving strength to mortify the deeds of the body.

Verse 14 Leading God’s sons.

Verse 15 Encouraging communion with our Father.

Verse 16 Bearing witness with our spirit.