CHAPTER 4: On ROMANS 8 From Flesh to Spirit
We now come to the last of our chapters, Romans 8. It is the last chapter of what is called the Gospel of God for believers, and it is one of the grandest chapters in the Bible. It is a great finale, eloquent and moving. It displays the setting of the coping stone on the work of redemption. It is clearly a chapter of consummations. As we compare it with the three chapters already considered, it gives us the positive side of experimental salvation. The preceding chapters speak of deliverance from; this one of deliverance by and unto. An important distinction. The fully equipped believer will in no wise neglect Romans 8. Chapter 6 is most important, but we must not limit ourselves to it. Without chapter 8, chapter 6 is impossible. The positive must always he added to the negative. The potency of the indwelling of the Divine Spirit must be added to our dying with Christ, and our dying with Christ to our yielding to God. In chapter 5 we are delivered from death; in chapter 6 we are delivered from sin; in chapter 6 we are delivered from law; but in chapter 8 we have deliverance by the Spirit, and unto glory.
The Hope of Glory
Here we come into touch with the Divine dynamic of Christian life and experience, and this dynamic is in the Holy Spirit. The latter uses as His chief means ” the hope of glory “. It is those who have that hope before them who are able to go right through all the dying with Christ, to sin, the law, and the flesh. Here we are brought to the thought with which the section begins — HOPE, the hope of glory, unashamed hope, hope based upon strength, the changeless hope of God. The preceding chapter speaks of salvation through death with Christ by faith. This chapter, of salvation through the indwelling Spirit and in hope. The believer here forgets the things behind–sins, Sin, law, flesh, etc., and reaches forward to the things before. Chapter 8 represents a man free from hindering shackles, his face to the light of day. He is no longer a poor slave, a vicious enemy. He is a “child”, waiting for the day of adoption into full sonship. With the knowledge of his amazing destiny he thinks nothing of the straitness, the perils, the persecutions the way, but in spite of bleeding hands and feet, he pursues his way to the goal, sure of one thing-that love that “will not let him go ” . Not only does he know and seek to reach the glory for himself, he knows that it will mean something for the whole creation; he is part of God’s method for the redemption of the whole creation from the curse which human sin brought upon it.
The Indwelling Spirit
Look at verses 19-30 for the scope of the chapter–from past fore-knowledge to future glory. There are two words around which the two main lines of the chapter gather, the word “Spirit “, and the word ” sons”. Let us centre in the first one, by enquiring about the Holy Spirit’s work in our redemption. It is significant that, with the exception of Rom. 5: 5, it is in this chapter that we first meet with the Holy Spirit in this Epistle. Rom. 5: 5 anticipates the full teaching of chapter 8. It is also remarkable that never once in chapter 8 is He named as the ” Holy Spirit “; His name here is five-fold, He is (1) The Spirit, (2) The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, (3) the Spirit of God, (4) the Spirit of Christ, and (5) the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead. One or other of these names occur seventeen times in this chapter, and this number is a contrast to the silence of the previous chapters. Here He is seen as the Spirit of life, of obedience, of quickening, of victory, of guidance, of filial relation, of hope, of witness, of assurance, of sympathy, of prayer. The Spirit is all these, because He is the indwelling Spirit, as verse 9 tells us.
The full work of redemption must be accomplished from within, from the indwelling Spirit. He dwells in all believers, but alas ! He is not effectual in all. Two conditions are necessary for His effectual working, (1) the recognition of His indwelling, and (2) a surrender of all into His hands and authority. In verse 2 He is the Spirit of life, Who takes of the things of Christ and imparts them to us. He ministers to us the life that is in Christ Jesus, He guards and nourishes it. He is also the Spirit of Liberty, Who hath ” made me free from the law of sin and death “. In verse 4, He is the Spirit of Obedience, freeing us from the bondage of the flesh. We do not now walk after the flesh but after the Spirit. The freedom is on the ground of the Atonement–” God, sending His own Son … condemned sin in the flesh “. ” For sin! ” In connection with sin, dealing with sin, and there was no way of dealing with sin but by Atonement and expiation. He made Himself an Offering for sin, and it is on the ground of our freedom from the flesh, that our walking in the Spirit is possible. In Him we make the choice of obedience unto righteousness. In spite of antagonisms, when the resistance of the flesh is faced and defied in the power of the Holy Spirit, that heroism for obedience is from Him, and so the righteousness which the law required is fulfilled in us. The law requires righteousness, and that is all it can do; but God sent His Son for us, and His Spirit into us, in order to effect all that the law demands. There can be no trucking with the flesh allowed here. You cannot follow its impulses when you depend on the resources of the Spirit. Many would be horrified at the thought of yielding to fleshly impulses, who are still trusting in the resources of the flesh–hence their failure. If in this Conference you have received an impression of the mind, a stirring of the emotions, something that makes you feel ” Now I can manage it ! ” then you are going back to walk after the flesh. There is no real salvation until we are broken, and know our own failure.
Verse 6 speaks of the Spirit of Peace. ” To be spiritually minded is peace,” that is, ” the mind of the Spirit ” (R.V.), is peace. Peace comes from fellowship with and dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Be concerned with what concerns Him, for the mind of the Spirit is Peace. To be under the power and control of the Spirit is to be free from the enmity with God that is peculiar to the flesh, and to be in harmony with God. There is peace, and the end, the issue of it, is life. Life is the goal as well as the beginning.
The Quickener of the mortal body
Verse 11 is the next mention of the Spirit, as the Quickener of the mortal body. It is called the “mortal” body – “If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead … shall quicken your mortal bodies”. Here again we have the duality we had yesterday in chapter 7. First of all there is a part of our being full of life, and another part which is full of death. ” If Christ be in you, that body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life, because of righteousness.” The inner spirit full of life, the outer body full of death. Righteousness is the characteristic of that inner man, and that is why it is life. Sin is the characteristic of the outer man, the body; hence death. Life, in fullness at least, has come to but one part of our being–the spiritual part; for ” the spirit is life because of righteousness “. But there is a part of our being still in the grip of death–the physical body, for “the body is dead because of sin “.
It is not physically dead, of course. The same body you notice in verse 11 is called the mortal body. Not dead, but mortal. Not dead physically, but it is on its way there, and in a sense it is dead now. There is energy in the body of course, but you can never permit the body of itself to express its own life. It must not be allowed to act on its own, when it does, its life is nothing but death. It is dead, to speak paradoxically, because sin is its life, because its life is sin, and sin is spiritually death.
Our condition is this: We are living beings, living spirits in “dead ” bodies. In other words, the life in the spirit is different from life in the body. The former is life indeed, but the life in the body is death. How can such a body respond to the movements and desires of the Spirit within? It does not, it cannot, it antagonizes, conflicts with the inner life. When the Spirit within does succeed in carrying the body with it, in its holy life, witness and service, how is it managed ? Because of the quickening specially given by the Holy Spirit. It is He who enables us to yield the members of body as instruments of righteousness unto God. Apart from this our bodies would simply wear us down, and render spiritual movements impossible. Indeed, as it is, there are Christians who are absolutely imprisoned by their bodies. They are its slaves. They obey their bodies. They are such a burden to them, that spiritual life is almost impossible. The slightest approach of disease throws them into a panic. They do not know the quickening of the mortal body by the Spirit.
How wonderfully independent of his body Paul was! Read again 2 Cor. 12 from that standpoint. Here was a man with a thorn in the flesh, persecuted on all hands, broken as a vessel, ever living on the verge of death. He should have died actually, and yet he lived a life and prosecuted such a ministry, that even the most robust of frames would have collapsed under. What was the secret? He knew how to have the Spirit quickening his mortal body. He knew Him, not only as the life of his spirit, but also as the life of his body. The Lord will give it you, if He can trust you. He cannot trust everybody with it, but those whom He trusts, He lets them have that wonderful experience. In a measure everyone of us may know the quickening of the mortal body by the Holy Spirit.
The quickening of the mortal body, naturally leads us to think of Him as the Spirit of resurrection; ” the Spirit who raised up Jesus from the dead ” He is the Spirit of resurrection power, and He is well able to do that. This is the earnest of the body’s full redemption. This quickening is the first fruits; the future full redemption of the body is the harvest. “The Spirit of Victory”
In verse 13 we find Him as The Spirit of victory, and here is the other side. In verse 11 we see how the Spirit nullifies the deeds of the body by quickening it. Here it is seen how He counteracts the activities of sin–” Through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body “. Here it is seen how He controls this body which we find it impossible to control. He enables us to the mortifying of the deeds of the body. He puts an end to the evil habits of the body–He does it ! Hallelujah!! Don’t think that it is You who do it. Of course, you cooperate, you do it, ” through the Spirit”, but He gives the power that enables you to do it, when under the impulse of the sin-life in its members, the body tries to assert itself, and to use its members for its own pleasure.
We are told that the body has its legitimate claims and appetites which should be satisfied. The fact is this, and Paul brings it out in verse I2–we are under no obligation to the body at all. We are not debtors to the flesh. The body has no legitimate claim at all upon us, except that we see that it is kept in a fit state, to be the instrument of righteousness unto God. That is our duty to the body.
In verse 14 He is the Spirit of Obedience. This life in, and victory through the Spirit, have a vital relation to our future. ” For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they (and they alone) are the sons of God.” They alone, and all of them, are sons of God. Here begins the passage of sonship. The word here is ” sons “, not children. There is a distinction in the New Testament between sons and children, and the Holy Spirit is most careful in His use of the two words. Children suggest kinship in nature. We are children of God by nature, God is our Father, from Him we derive life and being. On the other hand, ” sons ” denotes rank, character, likeness, privilege. ” As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the children of God,” but ” as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God “. To be born of the Spirit makes us children, but to be led by the Spirit, makes us sons.
In verse 15, He is the Spirit of Hope. ” We have received the Spirit of Adoption,” that is the Spirit of hope, for we are waiting for the adoption, but the Holy Spirit has brought us a strong hope of it already. Terror has gone, and God’s Father-love floods our hearts and we cry ” Abba, Father ” It is a loud cry of irrepressible joy, when you reaiize the consciousness of sonship. Adoption is something we are waiting for, but the Spirit we already possess. The hearts of sons we have already, but the adoption of sons we wait for.
In the same verse We have Him as the Spirit of Assurance, for we cry ” Abba Father “, because of the Spirit’s witnessing with our spirit that we are the children of God. There are two spirits–your own spirit and the Holy Spirit. He joins His witness with you, unites with your spirit in bearing witness and testifying. He adds His testimony to ours that we reign, we are no longer servants. Not that we are sons yet, that is a bit premature, but we are children going on toward the status of full sonship. We have no right yet to call ourselves such, it is the Father’s prerogative to proclaim us sons, and He will do it in the day of the redemption of the body.
Then He is the Spirit of Sympathy, to help our infirmities. He bears His part in our helplessness. We are not alone in our feebleness, for He has taken up our cause, and joins Himself to our weakness. And He is the Spirit of Prayer, for He ” maketh intercession for us according to the wiil of God “.
[Note: These four chapters comprise part one of the booklet “The Gospel for the Believer”. This excellent exposition of Romans 6-8 is out of print, (according to the library’s “Books in Print” index). These chapters are transcripts from a conference. British spelling was retained, but I changed Roman numerals to Arabic numbers. Thank you to Marilyn Smith for typing this e-booklet. Gilbert Painchaud translatd chapetrs 1,2 into French.]