Led By the Spirit
November 13, 2005
Lesson Passage: Romans 8:1-14
Introduction: The eighth chapter of Romans is one of the most beloved texts in the Word of God. In this chapter Paul resumed his thoughts from the end of Chapter Five. The intervening chapters formed a kind of parenthesis in Paul’s argument. The fourth and fifth chapters developed the doctrine of justification by faith, and, having set out this great doctrine, Paul anticipated questions that might arise from his argument. Like a college professor who pauses for a student’s questions, the apostle devoted two chapters to answering queries concerning the implications of justification. After dealing with these questions, Paul returned to his primary argument.
The essential theme of Romans Eight is assurance of salvation. These verses answer critical questions for anxious people who struggle with their own interest in God’s salvation. The previous two chapters deal with those who object to justification by faith in Christ. This chapter, in a sense, has a different “audience.” Paul turned his concern to those who wondered if they were in Christ, had been pardoned of their sins, and received the righteousness of Christ. These people, Paul asserted, bore certain identifiable marks, marks that distinguished them from those who were still carnal. Paul freely used this term “carnal” in the early verses of this chapter, and Bible students must take great care in defining this word. Commonly, some contemporary Bible teachers use “carnal” to describe a third class of human beings (the saved, the lost, the carnal). According to this view, a distinction is made between the saved and the carnal. Carnal people, they believe, are Christians who live below their privilege and station as children of God. They may descend into protracted, grave sin; furthermore, they may bear little resemblance to the description of believers in the New Testament. Though they have made a profession of faith and continued, for a time, in outward compliance with the commandments of God, they believe they are justified before God. The Bible does not teach this third class of humanity, and Paul does not use the term “carnal” in this manner. In Romans Eight, Paul used this word to describe those who have never been justified.
As stated earlier, Paul turned his attention, in Romans Eight, to delineating the marks of the justified. Bruce Corley and Curtis Vaughan outlined the chapter under these four headings (This lesson deals with only one section of this outline).
Corley and Vaughan did not outline the chapter in the same manner as the Lifeway Sunday School materials. Indeed, the Sunday School lesson passage ends in a peculiar place (after verse fourteen). In my judgment, verse fourteen fits logically with verses fifteen through seventeen. This outline will generally follow Corley and Vaughan’s outline, but we will also address the issues raised in verse fourteen.
I. Paul’s Introductory Remarks (8:1-4)
A. Believers need fear no condemnation (v.1): “Condemnation”: Paul used a powerful and descriptive word to relieve the fears of trembling, uncertain Christians. The word (katakrima) means to bring judgment down upon. Paul assured the Roman Christians that those who are in Christ will never be condemned.
B. Believers are made free from the law of sin and death (v.2): Believers have been released from the principle of corruption, guilt, and rule of sin. Sin and death no longer govern their lives.
C. God sent his Son to liberate believers from the ruling principle of sin (v. 3). Paul reminded his readers that the law could not liberate men from their bondage and guilt because the Lord never intended the law as a means of salvation. It serves another purpose in that it diagnoses the sinner’s problem and directs transgressors to the Righteous One, the one who can do what the law demanded but could not accomplish. Instead of being condemned, the believer finds that Christ came, the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn (same word as found in verse one) sin.
D. Believers walk in the Spirit (v. 4): Christ’s redemptive work for sinners included the complete fulfillment and satisfaction of the law. Christians, therefore, are made righteous in Christ. Paul drew an astounding conclusion concerning the believer’s righteousness. For the apostle, the believer’s righteousness is not limited to his standing and condition as a justified sinner. This righteous standing has practical implications. The justified sinner walks in the Spirit. “Walks” denotes:
1. Exertion: Christians are not passive in their growth in grace.
2. Persistence: The apostle used a present tense to denote an ongoing activity.
3. Progress: The believer does not wander aimlessly; rather, he walks with purpose and direction toward his destination.
II. Contrasts Between the Those Who Walk in the Flesh and the Those Who Walk in the Spirit (vv. 5-14)
A. The fleshly man sets his mind on the things of the flesh, and the spiritual man, the things of the Spirit (vv. 5-6). “Flesh” denotes the base, natural character of the lost man. To walk “after the flesh” means that this person is governed by his fallen human nature. The lost man thinks in certain ways. His mind naturally focuses on base things and his sinful instincts control his patterns of thought. The person who “walks after the Spirit” has a renewed mind. His mind no longer centers on the flesh; instead, the things of the Spirit govern the way he thinks about life. The way of the fleshly man leads to death, but the path of the spiritual man leads to life and peace.
B. The carnal mind is at war with God (vv. 7-9). Again, Paul employed a very strong word, translated “enmity.” It means to become an enemy; to foster hostility; to declare war. Note Paul’s language. This hostility makes it impossible for the carnal man to please God. This rebellion, therefore, goes beyond a mere unwillingness to obey God. It also includes a debilitating hostility that renders the lost man incapable of pleasing God (v.8). Though Paul does not explicitly state the contrast here, his implications are unmistakable. While the carnal person remains hostile to the things of the Lord, the spiritual man enjoys peace with God. The old hostility has been replaced by reconciliation and peace. The spiritual man delights in God and lovingly seeks to please the Lord in attitude and conduct. This peace between the spiritual man and God has profound implications. Among these, Paul reminds his readers of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. So complete is this reconciliation between God and man that the bless Holy Spirit comes to dwell within every believer. God does not reserve this indwelling to a privileged few; rather, the presence of the Holy Spirit is so universal, in believers, that this indwelling serves an unmistakable mark of the people of God (v. 9).
C. The spiritual man has hope of eternal life and the resurrection of the dead (vv. 10-11). Again, Paul did not fully develop the contrast on this point, but his implications seem clear. The spiritual man will experience physical dearth because of his sinfulness; nevertheless, he has this hope. Just God raised Christ from the dead, so the Lord will give life to the mortal bodies of those who whom the Holy Spirit indwells (v. 11).
D. The spiritual man is a debtor to live according to the Spirit (vv. 12-13). The old domination of and obligation to the flesh have passed a way, and the believer lives as a debtor only to God, to whom he owes everything. The spiritual man, as evidence of his renewed relationship to God, mortifies (puts to death) the deeds of the body. Note: God, in the work of salvation, does not completely remove the capacity to fall into sin. As long as the spiritual man is in this mortal body, sin will trouble him. This sin no longer dominates him, but it remains as a troublesome enemy. The believer must, according to Paul, continually (present tense) put these deeds to death (v. 13). By implication, the carnal man lives under the dominion and obligation of sin. Sin has made him a hopeless, impoverished beggar.
E. The spiritual man is led by the Spirit (v. 14): This verse reveals the Holy Spirit as a loving, reliable guide. The Holy Spirit leads the sons of God, and these sons may know their standing in grace by their willingness to comply with the Spirit’s leading. His directives govern very aspect of life.
Note: In my judgment, Christians should avoid excessive subjectivity when interpreting this text on the Spirit’s leadership. Under ordinary circumstances the Spirit leads by the following means.
1. Illumination of the teachings of Scripture: The Holy Spirit inspired the biblical writers, and contemporary believers should not expect that kind of insight. However, the Holy Spirit does help Christians to understand the Bible.
2. The counsel of Spirit-filled believers: The Proverbs reminds that we find safety in a multitude of counselors.
3. Providential events that order our steps: This, of course, can prove very difficult, and, sometimes, Christians find it difficult to discern the hand of God in difficult providences. Nevertheless, experience teaches that God directs our paths in fortuitous ways that we cold never anticipate.
4. The development of wisdom: Wisdom comes by the ordinary grace of God through the extraordinary events of life.