More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #6 The Holy Spirit Empowers Us for Victory over the Flesh — Romans 8:12-13

20 Sep

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (8:12-13)

8:12 So then, brothers and sisters.NRSV Paul has just presented an overview of God’s work in believers’ lives (8:1-11). The Trinity is much in evidence in these verses. God is the source of the law (8:7) and the one against whom the sinful mind is hostile (8:7). God the Father acts in “sending his Son” (8:3). God the Son was sent; having his Spirit determines whether or not we belong to him (8:9); and “Christ is in us” (8:10), the same Christ who was raised from the dead (8:11). God’s Spirit lives in us (8:9) and raised Jesus from the dead (8:11). God the Spirit is the Spirit of life (8:2) who controls us (8:9)—he is called both the “Spirit of God” and the “Spirit of Christ,” and he lives in us (8:11). God fully participated in our salvation and continues to participate in our sanctification.

We have an obligation.NIV Because God has done everything we needed to be done, we have an obligation to respond. Because of all that Christ has done and is going to do for us, we are obligated to live in the power and control of the Holy Spirit. Paul first puts this in the negative—our obligation is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.NIV We are to refuse the drives and desires of our still attractive but crucified sinful nature, to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live “self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12 niv). The old, sinful nature may present its demands, based upon the past but we have no obligation to cooperate.

The Scriptures provide a picture of active response to God. This works out as we:
1.     Train ourselves in godliness. Our response to the gospel does not involve trying to live a certain way, but training to live in the way of the Spirit. Much of the training schedule is created by God, through suffering, perseverance, and development of self-control. But God’s Word gives training disciplines for us to do. Prayer, study, meditation, service, confession, and worship are all chosen actions that demonstrate spiritual growth and form the basis for further spiritual growth.
2.     Constantly rely on the Holy Spirit. Even our efforts in training are not independent acts. Along the way, we need the Spirit’s presence, guidance, comfort, and encouragement. One way or another, no matter how far we have traveled in life, the Holy Spirit will always bring us back to an awareness of the grace we have in Christ Jesus. There we find no condemnation.

8:13 If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die.NIV Death is both physical and spiritual. All people die physically, but only those with the Spirit will be resurrected. And those who live according to the sinful nature cannot enjoy God’s presence in their lives, thus they are left to their own devices.

If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.NIV Our sinful nature shows itself through the vehicle of the body. Therefore, we must put the body and its misdeeds to death—count ourselves “dead to sin” (6:11). These misdeeds are the practices (praxeis), the habitual responses, of the sinful nature, which must be terminated. In other passages, Paul provides lists of examples: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5 niv; see Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 4:22-5:14). This is an action to be done, a moral decision to be made—every day we are to put to death the desires that draw us away from God.

Phillips translated this phrase, “Cut the nerve of your instinctive actions by obeying the Spirit.” This is the obligation mentioned by Paul in verse 12, and it is only possible by the Spirit. We cannot do this on our own. The Spirit works, the Son fulfills his ministry, and the Fattier approves; and man is thus brought to full salvation.


It is not enough for us to have the Spirit; the Spirit must have us! Only then can He share with us the abundant, victorious life that can be ours in Christ. We have no obligation to the flesh, because the flesh has only brought trouble into our lives. We do have an obligation to the Holy Spirit, for it is the Spirit who convicted us, revealed Christ to us, and imparted eternal life to us when we trusted Christ. Because He is “the Spirit of Life,” He can empower us to obey Christ, and He can enable us to be more like Christ.

But He is also the Spirit of death. He can enable us to “put to death” (mortify) the sinful deeds of the body. As we yield the members of our body to the Spirit (Rom. 6:12-17), He applies to us and in us the death and resurrection of Christ. He puts to death the things of the flesh, and He reproduces the things of the Spirit.

The Spirit-controlled life, the Christ-centered life, the God-focused life is daily coming nearer heaven even when it is still on earth.  It is a life which is such a steady progress to God that the final transition of death is only a natural and inevitable stage on the way.  It is like Enoch who walked with God and God took him.  As the child said:  “Enoch was a man who went walks with God-and one day he didn’t come back.”

No sooner has Paul said this than an inevitable objection strikes him.  Someone may object:  “You say that the Spirit-controlled man is on the way to life; but in point of fact every man must die.  Just what do you mean?”

Paul’s answer is this.  All men die because they are involved in the human situation.  Sin came into this world and with sin came death, the consequence of sin.  Inevitably, therefore, all men die; but the man who is Spirit-controlled and whose heart is Christ-occupied, dies only to rise again.

Paul’s basic thought is that the Christian is indissolubly one with Christ.  Now Christ died and rose again; and the man who is one with Christ is one with death’s conqueror and shares in that victory.  The spirit-controlled, Christ-possessed man is on the way to life; death is but an inevitable interlude that has to be passed through on the way.

Paul has just made clear (vv. 5-11) that every genuine Christian is indwelt by God’s own Spirit and that his new spiritual life therefore will not be characterized by worldly, fleshly concerns and activities but by the things of God. The apostle’s emphasis then turns, in verses 12-13, to the believer’s responsibility to eliminate sin in his life through the indwelling Spirit.

“The Spirit has you!” (vv. 12-17) It is not enough for us to have the Spirit; the Spirit must have us! Only then can He share with us the abundant, victorious life that can be ours in Christ. We have no obligation to the flesh, because the flesh has only brought trouble into our lives. We do have an obligation to the Holy Spirit, for it is the Spirit who convicted us, revealed Christ to us, and imparted eternal life to us when we trusted Christ. Because He is “the Spirit of Life,” He can empower us to obey Christ, and He can enable us to be more like Christ.

But He is also the Spirit of death. He can enable us to “put to death” (mortify) the sinful deeds of the body. As we yield the members of our body to the Spirit (Rom. 6:12-17), He applies to us and in us the death and resurrection of Christ. He puts to death the things of the flesh, and He reproduces the things of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is also “the Spirit of adoption” (Rom. 8:14-17). The word adoption in the New Testament means “being placed as an adult son.” We come into God’s family by birth. But the instant we are born into the family, God adopts us and gives us the position of an adult son. A baby cannot walk, speak, make decisions, or draw on the family wealth. But the believer can do all of these the instant he is born again.

He can walk and be “led of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:14). The verb here means “willingly led.” We yield to the Spirit, and He guides us by His Word day by day. We are not under bondage to Law and afraid to act. We have the liberty of the Spirit and are free to follow Christ. The believer can also speak: “We cry, Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). Would it not be amazing if a newborn baby looked up and greeted his father! First, the Spirit says, “Abba, Father” to us (Gal. 4:6), and then we say it to God. (“Abba” means “papa”—a term of endearment.)

A baby cannot sign checks, but the child of God by faith can draw on his spiritual wealth because he is an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17). The Spirit teaches us from the Word, and then we receive God’s wealth by faith. What a thrilling thing it is to have “the Spirit of adoption” at work in our lives!

There is no need for the believer to be defeated. He can yield his body to the Spirit and by faith overcome the old nature. The Spirit of life will empower him. The Spirit of death will enable him to overcome the flesh. And the Spirit of adoption will enrich him and lead him into the will of God.

Vs. 12 {So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh: for if ye live after the flesh, we must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live.  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.}

The first clause here is a figure of speech called meiosis, a vast understatement for the sake of emphasis.  “Not debtors to the flesh”! Indeed no; they are debtors to the Spirit and are charged with the responsibility of even putting the flesh to death, in a figure.  These verses form an exhortation regarding the two ways to live, the consequences of which Paul had already fully outlined.  To live after the flesh is death; to live after the Spirit is eternal life.

{Ye must die …} has reference to more than physical death, for Paul had already noted in Rom. 8:10 that Christians are not exempt from that; therefore, it is of eternal consequences that he spoke here.  Lenski was impressed with the contrast between the words “live” and “die.”

Men ever think that they are really living when they give way to the flesh, whereas in reality they are heading straight for eternal death.

Significantly, there is no relaxation of moral requirements for those who are in Christ.  Believing and obeying the gospel, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, and thereby rejoicing in the grace of God, do not for a moment cause sin to be any less sin for the Christian.  Mortification of the. deeds of the body is the daily task of the soul in Christ.

Greathouse’s comment is this: It is important that we try to grasp just what Paul means here.  He is most certainly not advocating ascetic mortification, which is based upon the idea that the body is a weight upon the soul.  Paul is not positing any Hellenistic body-soul dualism.  As we have seen, the body [Greek: soma] is the soul expressed concretely.  What the believer is obligated to do, if we may borrow Oswald Chambers’ happy expression, is to sacrifice the natural for the sake of the spiritual.

By the Spirit, we are to reckon that the members of our body are dead to sin and that we are alive unto God (Rom. 6:11-13)

By the phrase so then, Paul reminds his readers of the magnificent privileges of victory over sin that Christians have through the resident Holy Spirit. In the previous eleven verses of chapter 8, he has pointed out, among other things, that believers are no longer under God’s condemnation, that they are set free from the law of sin and death, that they are no longer under the domination of sin, that they walk by the Spirit, that they have minds that are set on the Spirit, and that they have life and peace through the Spirit.

All biblical exhortations to believers are based on the blessings and promises they already have from the Lord. Without the provisions we have from Him, we would be unable to fulfill the commands we receive from Him.

  • The children of Israel, for instance, were not commanded to take possession of the Promised Land until it was promised to them by God and they were prepared by Him to conquer it.
  • In this letter to Rome, Paul’s primary exhortations begin with chapter 12, after he has given countless reminders to his readers of their great spiritual privileges.
  • In Ephesians he first gives three chapters that are largely a listing of spiritual benefits. Just before his beautiful doxology at the end of chapter 3, Paul prays that God “would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19). Only then does he entreat fellow believers “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling which you have been called” (4:1).
  • Similar patterns are found in his letters to Galatia, Philippi, Colossae, often noted by the word

Before the apostle gives the admonition in the present text, he refers affectionately to his readers as brethren, identifying them as fellow Christians, those to whom God promises victory over the flesh. He chooses a term of esteem and equality, not of superiority or paternalism, to refer to his brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul then proceeds to set forth God’s pattern for victory over the flesh. As God’s children indwelt by His Spirit, we have no obligation … to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. The flesh is the ugly complex of human desires that includes the ungodly motives, affections, principles, purposes, words, and actions that sin generates through our bodies.

To live according to the flesh is to be ruled and controlled by that evil complex. Because of Christ’s saving work on our behalf, the flesh no longer reigns over us, to debilitate us and drag us back into sin. For that reason, we are no longer ruled by the flesh to live by its sinful ways.

Paul next restates the reason genuine Christians are no longer obligated to and bound by sin and are no longer under its condemnation. Although there will always be some lingering influence of the flesh until we meet the Lord, we have no excuse for sin to continue to corrupt our lives. The Christian’s obligation is no longer to the flesh but to the Spirit. We have the resources of the Spirit of Christ within us to resist and put to death the deeds of the body, which result from living according to the flesh.

Putting to death the deeds of the body is a characteristic of God’s children. The Scottish theologian David Brown wrote, “If you don’t kill sin, sin will kill you.”

Jesus said, “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matt. 5:29-30).

No action is too drastic in dealing with sin; no price is too great to pay in turning from sin to trust Jesus Christ and be baptized for remission of sins and thereby escaping the damnation of eternal death in hell.

Paul here gives one of the many self-examination passages in Scripture. As noted above, the person who gives no evidence of the presence, power, and fruit of God’s Spirit in his life has no legitimate claim to Christ as Savior and Lord.

The obvious other side of that truth is that the person whose life is characterized by the sinful ways of the flesh is still in the flesh and is not in Christ. When Paul declares that believers are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10), he is stating a fact, not a wish.

Like many of the members of the church in Corinth, an immature and disobedient Christian will inevitably lapse into some of the ways of the flesh (see 1 Cor. 3:1). After he had been an apostle for many years, Paul himself confessed that even he was not yet spiritually flawless. “Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect,” he told the Philippians, “but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).

Paul had not yet achieved perfect righteousness in Christ, although that was the supreme objective of his life. Although his flesh sometimes held him back and temporarily interrupted the full joy of his fellowship with Christ, his basic heart’s desire was to obey and please his Lord.

If a professing Christian habitually lives in sin and shows no concern for repentance, forgiveness, worship, or fellowship with other believers, he proves that he claims the name of Christ in vain.

Many Christians in the church work hard at keeping their lives pure in appearance, because other people think more highly of them for it and because they feel prouder of themselves when they act morally and benevolently than when they do not. But feeling better about oneself, the popular psychological cure-all for many people in our times, is the very heart of the proud sinful flesh, man’s unredeemed selfishness and godless humanness.

Doing good for one’s own sake rather than for God’s is not doing good at all, but is merely a hypocritical projection of the sin of self-love.

It should not be surprising that, as the world more and more advocates self-love and self-fulfillment, the problems of sexual promiscuity, abuse, and perversion, of stealing, lying, murder, suicide, hopelessness, and all other forms of moral and social ills are multiplying exponentially.

The pattern of a true believer’s life, on the other hand, will show that he not only professes Christ but that he lives his life by Christ’s Spirit and is habitually putting to death the sinful and ungodly deeds of the body. Consequently, he will live, that is, possess and persevere to the fulness of eternal life given him in Christ.

When God ordered King Saul to destroy all of the Amalekites and their livestock, Saul did not completely obey, sparing king Agag and keeping the best of the animals. When the prophet Samuel confronted Saul, the king tried to defend his actions by claiming his people insisted on keeping some of the flocks and that those animals would be sacrificed to God. Samuel rebuked the king, saying, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22).

Despite the king’s pleas for mercy, Samuel then proclaimed, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor [David] who is better than you” (v. 28). Saul’s failure to fully obey God cost him his throne.

God’s people invariably fall back into sin when their focus turns away from the Almighty to themselves and to the things of the world. For that reason Paul admonished the believers at Colossae, “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3).

He then gave a partial but representative list of sins that Christians should kill by considering themselves dead to: “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (vv. 5-10).

Paul is not suggesting the “Let go and let God” philosophy that is promoted by groups and leaders who advocate a so-called deeper life, in which one progressively rises to higher and higher levels of spirituality until sin and even temptation are virtually absent. That is not the kind of spiritual life Paul promises or that he personally experienced, as he testifies so movingly in Romans 7.

As long as a believer is in his earthly body, he will be subject to the perils of the flesh and will need to keep putting its sins to death. Only in heaven will his need for practical sanctification end. Until then, all believers are admonished to put sin to death and to live in and for their new Sovereign, the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 6:3-11).

Scripture offers believers many helps for avoiding and killing sin in their lives.  First, it is imperative to recognize the presence of sin in our flesh. We must be willing to confess honestly with Paul, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good” (Rom. 7:21). If we do not admit to sin, we delude ourselves and become still more susceptible to its influence. Sin can become a powerful and destructive force in a believer’s life if it is not recognized and put to death. Our remaining humanness is constantly ready to drag us back into the sinful ways of our life before Christ. Knowing that truth well, Peter admonishes, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11). If Christians did not live in constant danger from sin, such advice would be pointless.

Because of the influence of our human weaknesses and limitations on our thinking, it is often difficult to recognize sin in our lives. It can easily become camouflaged, often under the guise of something that seems trivial or insignificant, even righteous and good. We must therefore pray with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Ps. 139:23-24). Haggai’s counsel to ancient Israel is helpful for believers in any age: “Consider your ways!” (Hag. 1:5, 7).

A second way for believers to kill sin in their lives is to have a heart fixed on God. David said to the Lord, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!” (Ps. 57:7).

Another psalmist testified, “O that my ways may be established to keep Thy statutes! Then I shall not be ashamed when I look upon all Thy commandments” (Ps. 119:5-6). In other words, when we know and obey God’s Word, we are building up both our defenses and offenses against sin.

A third way for believers to kill sin in their lives is to meditate on God’s Word. Many of the Lord’s truths become clear only when we patiently immerse ourselves in a passage of Scripture and give the Lord opportunity to give us deeper understanding. David gives us the example with these words: “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11).

A fourth way to destroy sin in our lives is to commune regularly with God in prayer. Peter calls us to “be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” (1 Pet. 4:7). When we are faithful in these disciplines we discover how interrelated they are. It is often difficult to tell where study of God’s word ends and meditation on it begins, and where meditation ends and prayer begins.

It should be emphasized that true prayer must always have an element of confession. Although we have the assurance that we belong to God and are free from condemnation, we also know that we can never come before him completely sinless.

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” John warns believers. But “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

The writer of Hebrews admonishes, “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). We need to be cleansed every time we come to Him.

Sincere prayer has a way of unmasking sin’s deceit. When God’s children open their minds and hearts to their heavenly Father, He lovingly reveals sins that otherwise would go unnoticed.

A fifth way to put to death sin in our lives is to practice obedience to God. Doing His will and His will alone in all the small issues of life can be training in habits that will hold up in the severe times of temptations.

As Paul has already made plain by the testimony from his own life in chapter 7, putting sin to death is often difficult, slow and frustrating. Satan is the great adversary of God’s people and will make every effort to drag them down into sin. But as they conquer sin in their lives through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, they not only are brought nearer to their heavenly Father but attain every increasing assurance that they are indeed His children and are eternally secure in Him.

When the New Testament speaks of such things as growing in grace, perfecting holiness, and renewing the inner man, it is referring to putting sin to death. Sin produced by the remaining flesh in which believers remain temporarily bound is all that stands between them and perfect godliness.

But Paul assures Christians that they have power for victory over the sinful flesh that still clings to them in this life. Apart from the Spirit’s supernatural power, we could never succeed in putting to death the recurring sin in our lives. If we were left to our own resources, the struggle with sin would simply be flesh trying to overcome flesh, humanness trying to conquer humanness. Even as a Christian, Paul lamented, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not” (Rom. 7:18). Without the Holy Spirit, a Christian would have no more power to resist and defeat sin than does an unbeliever.

The Holy Spirit is virtually synonymous with divine power. Just before His ascension, Jesus promised the apostles, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Later in his account of the early church, Luke reports: “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).

In his gospel, Luke relates the angel’s announcement to Mary concerning the divine conception and birth of Jesus: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

The prophet Micah wrote, “I am filled with power—with the Spirit of the Lord—and with justice and courage to make known to Jacob his rebellious act, even to Israel his sin” (Mic. 3:8). Concerning the rebuilding of the Temple, an angel encouraged Zerubbabel through the prophet Zechariah: “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). In other words, the Spirit’s divine power would undergird Zerubbabel and would far surpass the power of the wicked men who sought to thwart his work.

Paul reports later in this epistle that the salvation of many Gentiles through his ministry was accomplished only “in the power of the Spirit” (Rom. 15:19), and he prayed that believers in the Ephesian church would “be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” Eph. 3:16).

Paul’s main point in Romans 8:13 is that, by the power of the Spirit who dwells in them, Christians are able successfully to resist and destroy sin in their lives. “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh,” Paul reminds us, “but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Cor. 10:4). It is such confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit that gives hope to the frustration Paul expressed in Romans 7:24-25, a frustration that every Christian faces from time to time.

Speaking of the believer’s conflict with sin, Paul told the Galatians that “the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Gal. 5:17). A few verses later he declares that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (vv. 24-25). In other words, because our inner, spiritual lives are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, our behavior should be according to His will and in His power. Through the Holy Spirit who indwells him, every true Christian has the divine resource to have victory over Satan, over the world, and over sin.

In his letter to Ephesus, Paul refers to the believer’s continual need to rely on the Spirit’s power, and he admonishes: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” Eph. 5:18). A more literal translation is, “keep being filled with the Spirit.” The idea is, “Always rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, who resides within you and is always available to strengthen and protect you.” To be filled with the Spirit is to have one’s mind completely under His divine control. This requires the Word’s dwelling richly in the believer (cf. Col. 3:16). And when our minds are under God’s control, our behavior inevitably will be as well. It is not a matter of available power but of available will. By the Spirit’s power, all believers are able “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which [they] have been called” (Eph. 4:1). Those who truly “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” will “make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom. 13:14).

Being controlled by God’s Spirit comes from being obedient to His Word. The Spirit-filled life does not come through mystical or ecstatic experiences but from studying and submitting oneself to Scripture. As a believer faithfully and submissively saturates his mind and heart with God’s truth, his Spirit-controlled behavior will follow as surely as night follows day. When we are filled with God’s truth and led by His Spirit, even our involuntary reactions—those that happen when we don’t have time to consciously decide what to do or say—will be godly.

(8:12-13) Holy Spirit: the Spirit gives the power to mortify or put to death evil deeds. Note two points.

  1. Believers are in debt to the Spirit, not to the flesh. The word “debtors” (opheiletes) means to be obligated, to owe, to be bound by some duty.
  2. Believers are not in “debt” to the flesh. The flesh has done nothing for man, nothing of real value. Note what the flesh has done for man.
  • It is sinful flesh, contaminated by sin (Romans 8:3).
  • It is carnal or fleshly minded (Romans 8:5).
  • It causes man to die (Romans 8:6, 13).
  • It is the opposite of life and peace (Romans 8:6).
  • It has a mind that is at enmity with God (Romans 8:7).
  • It cannot please God (Romans 8:8).


A man owes the flesh nothing. He is not in debt or obligated to the flesh, for the flesh brings nothing but misery and suffering to man.

Thought 1. A man is a fool to focus his life upon such a weak thing as the flesh; a fool to live as though he is in debt and obligated to something that caves in

  • to sickness and disease so often.
  • to sin and shame so often.
  • to death much too quickly.
  1. Believers are in debt to the Spirit. It is the Spirit who has done so much for man, the Spirit to whom we are so indebted. The Spirit of God…
  • is the “Spirit of life” (Romans 8:2).
  • has freed us from sin and death (Romans 8:2).
  • fulfills righteousness “in” us (Romans 8:4).
  • pulls our minds to spiritual things (Romans 8:5).
  • gives us life and peace (Romans 8:6).
  • dwells within us, removing us from the flesh and identifying us as being “in” Christ (Romans 8:9).
  • gives life to our spirits now and assures us that He will give life to our mortal bodies in the great day of redemption (Romans 8:10-11).

It is the Spirit who has done so much for us; it is the Spirit to whom we are “in debt” and obligated.

  1. Believers determine their own fate. The point is clearly seen: if a man lives after the flesh, he shall die because the flesh dies. The flesh is doomed; it dies, and there has never been an exception. Therefore, if a man chooses to live after the flesh, that is, to follow after the flesh, then in following the flesh he experiences what the flesh experiences. If the flesh stumbles and falls, the man stumbles and falls, for he is following after the flesh. If the flesh kills itself, then the man dies with the flesh, for he is following the flesh. Scripture clearly teaches this.

However, if a man mortifies or puts to death the deeds of his body, he shall live. Note four facts.

  1. “The deeds of the body” mean the evil deeds, the evil lusts and passions, the desires and urges that lead to sin and shame, destruction and death.
  2. To “mortify” (thanatoute) means to put to death. The idea is that of denying, subjecting, subduing, deadening, destroying the strength of.
  3. The power to mortify the evil deeds of the body comes “through the Spirit.” However, note this: we deny the evil deeds, and then the Spirit gives the strength to deaden and to subdue their strength. We are involved just as the Spirit is involved. He cannot destroy the strength of sin unless we exercise our will and work to destroy it ourselves, and we cannot will and work at it apart from Him. Both the Spirit and ourselves have to be involved, each doing his part if we wish the evil deeds of the body to be put to death.

To repeat the point above: we exercise our will to deny the evil deeds, and then the Spirit immediately steps in to deaden the pull and strength of the evil deed. If we do not want the evil deeds of our body destroyed, if we want to continue living in the sins of the flesh, if we want nothing to do with the Spirit—then the Spirit can do nothing for us. God loves us too much to force us; He will not override our choice. But if we honestly will to follow the Spirit and honestly desire to destroy the evil deeds of our body, the Spirit will step in and give the power to do so. He will break the power of sin: He will deaden and subdue the strength of it.

  • Our part is to will to follow the Spirit: to mortify the evil deeds and begin to deny them.
  • The Spirit’s part is to deaden and subdue and eventually to destroy the strength of evil deeds.


Now note: the conquest of evil deeds is not an immediate, once-for-all thing. It is a ontinuous struggle as long as we live in the flesh. This is actually brought out in the tense of the verb “live.” The tense is a continuous and habitual action. We must continue to follow the Spirit and continue to mortify the evil deeds of the body. It is a day by day experience just as living is a day by day experience. We are to live by developing the habit of living in the Spirit and conquering the evil deeds of the body. The believer cannot destroy his flesh while on earth, but he can break the strength of evil deeds in his flesh. He can destroy evil deeds in his body.

  1. The person who puts the evil deeds of his body to death shall live. A man dies because of evil, and he lives because of righteousness. If he destroys the evil deeds and follows the Spirit of righteousness, he will not die. He will live.
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Posted by on September 20, 2021 in Romans


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