(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 12/15/02 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's turn to Romans 8 and read verses 1 through 9:
Romans 8: (1) [There is] therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to flesh, but according to Spirit. (2) For the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set me free from the law of sin and of death. (3) For the Law [being] powerless, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in [the] likeness of sinful flesh, and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh, (4) so that the righteous demand of the Law might be fulfilled in us, those not walking according to flesh, but according to Spirit. (5) For the ones that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh. And the ones according to Spirit [mind] the things of the Spirit. (6) For the mind of the flesh [is] death, but the mind of the Spirit [is] life and peace; (7) because the mind of the flesh [is] enmity towards God; for it is not being subjected to the Law of God, for neither can it [be]. (8) And those being in the flesh are not able to please God. (9) But you are not in flesh, but in Spirit, since [the] Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not [the] Spirit of Christ, this one is not His.
Last time, we looked at verses 5 through 8, but if you were paying close attention, you would've noticed that I didn't go over the second half of verse 6, which says that "the mind of the Spirit is life and peace." This was intentional. When we went through verses 6 through 8 last time, I wanted to focus just on the mind of the flesh and those in the flesh. This time, I want to focus on the mind of the Spirit and those in the Spirit. So even though we're now on verse 9, I want to start with the second half of verse six.
In contrast with the mind of the flesh, which is death, the mind of the Spirit is LIFE and PEACE. We first have to understand what the "mind of the Spirit" is. As we saw last time, the Greek word for "mind" here means "way of thinking, content of thinking, or thought." So this is talking about the thought, the way or content of thinking, that is of the Spirit, that is produced by the Spirit, that is minding the things of the Spirit. Verse 5 says that those who are ACCORDING to the Spirit MIND the things of the Spirit. They think, are mindful of, are intent about, are mentally disposed, are interesting themselves in, are setting their minds on, the things of the Spirit. And this minding of the Spirit is the way of LIFE and PEACE, as opposed to the way of DEATH that the mind of the flesh is on.
The mind of the Spirit is LIFE. There are two ways in which those who mind the things of the Spirit have life. First, they have been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life. They are no longer dead in trespasses and sins, no longer totally depraved, no longer walking after the flesh. They are new creatures - old things have passed away, and all things have become new. Their MINDS have changed. Before, we were alienated and hostile in our MINDS by evil works, as Colossians 1:21 says. We had no spiritual discernment. We believed in salvation conditioned on the sinner. But now that God has CHANGED our minds, our minds are now minds that serve God and desire to obey God. Our minds now discern the things of the Spirit. Our minds believe the gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone, which is the only way of life. The second way in which those who mind the things of the Spirit have life is that they have ETERNAL LIFE. The mind of the Spirit is everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Whereas those who mind the flesh are dead in sins and will continue that way into eternal death if God does not change their minds, those who mind the Spirit have been given eternal life, even unto life in heaven with Jesus Christ. This life that God has given us will be preserved forever. The mind of the Spirit is LIFE.
The mind of the Spirit is also PEACE. Again, Colossians 1:21 says that before God saved us, we were ALIENATED and HOSTILE in our MINDS. There was no peace between us and God in our minds; there was only HOSTILITY and ALIENATION in our minds. But now we have been reconciled to God in the body of Christ's flesh because of Christ's making PEACE by the blood of His cross. There is no more enmity against God in our minds. Our minds are at peace with God. Those who mind the things of the Spirit are at peace with God because they know that Jesus Christ made full satisfaction for them and thus there is no condemnation for them. The wall of enmity has been torn down, and we now have uninterrupted fellowship and friendship with God Almighty through the blood of His Son.
Now to verse 9:
Romans 8: (9) But you are not in flesh, but in Spirit, since [the] Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not [the] Spirit of Christ, this one is not His.
When Paul speaks of "you" here, he's obviously talking about believers, because he says that the Spirit dwells in them and if the Spirit did NOT dwell in them, they would not belong to Christ. Let's take some time to look closely at this verse, because it has some very important concepts in it. First of all, it says that believers are not in flesh. This little phrase confounds one group of heretics that we've encountered, doesn't it? And it confounds a bunch of other heretics that we know of as well. Regenerate people ARE NOT in the flesh. There is not a SINGLE REGENERATE PERSON who is in the flesh. Does this verse say that you who are regenerate are SOMETIMES not in the flesh or even MOSTLY not in the flesh? No. Those who have been born from above ARE NOT EVER in the flesh. Is that clear? "But you are not in flesh." We see the word "but" at the beginning of this sentence, which we know is a connector word that connects us to what was previously said. So, in light of what was just previously said, we know that since regenerate people are not in the flesh, they do not walk according to flesh (verses 1 and 4), that they do not mind the things of the flesh (verse 5), that their mind is not death (verse 6), that their mind is not enmity towards God (verse 7), that their mind is subjected to the Law of God (verse 7), and that they are able to please God (verse 8). Away with the heretics who say that we who are regenerate are still totally depraved, still in the flesh, still have hearts that are deceitful and desperately wicked. Now when they say that of THEMSELVES, I would AGREE that they are totally depraved and in the flesh and have hearts that are deceitful and desperately wicked. But of course, I would ALSO say that they are NOT regenerate. Anyone who is totally depraved and in the flesh and have hearts that are deceitful and desperately wicked does NOT have the Spirit and is thus NOT regenerate. When God regenerates someone, He gives that person a NEW heart and a NEW spirit, as Ezekiel 36 says. And when God gives that person a NEW heart and a NEW spirit, that person is NO LONGER in the flesh and will NEVER be in the flesh again.
Let's look even further back to chapter 6 in light of our present verse. We're thinking about the fact that regenerate people are not in the flesh, and what that means. Look at Romans 6:2:
Romans 6: (2) Let it not be! We who died to sin, how shall we still live in it?
Regenerate people are not in the flesh; thus, they do not live in sin. Verse 6:
Romans 6: (6) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [Him], that the body of sin might be nullified, so that we no longer serve sin.
Regenerate people are not in the flesh; thus, they no longer serve sin. Verse 14:
Romans 6: (14) For your sin shall not lord it over you, for you are not under Law, but under grace.
Regenerate people are not in the flesh; thus, sin shall not lord it over them. Verses 16 to 20:
Romans 6: (16) Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves [as] slaves for obedience, you are slaves to whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or obedience to righteousness? (17) But thanks [be] to God that you were slaves of sin, but you obeyed from [the] heart the form of doctrine to which you were delivered. (18) And having been set free from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness. (19) I speak as a man on account of the weakness of your flesh. For as you presented your members [as] slaves to uncleanness and to lawless act unto lawless act, so now yield your members as slaves to righteousness unto sanctification. (20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free as to righteousness.
Regenerate people are not in the flesh; thus, they are not slaves to sin.
Now let's look at chapter 7 in light of our present text. Since regenerate people are not in the flesh, then Romans 7:5 is never talking about regenerate people. Let's read it:
Romans 7: (5) For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sin were working in our members through the Law for the bearing of fruit unto death.
See the verb tense here? "For when we WERE in the flesh, the passions of sin WERE working in our members." So what can we say in light of the fact that we who are regenerate are NOT in the flesh? We can say that the passions of sin DO NOT work in the members of regenerate people for the bearing of fruit unto death. Regenerate people CANNOT bring forth fruit unto death. Now can regenerate people still sin? Of course they can, and they DO. Regenerate people are NEVER, AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT in their lives, perfectly righteous. There isn't a SINGLE SECOND that we can say that we are without sin. Yet the passions of sin do not work in the members of regenerate people for the bearing of fruit unto death. Let's look at verse 6 of Romans 7:
Romans 7: (6) But now we have been set free from the Law, having died [to that] in which we were held, so as [for] us to serve in newness of spirit, and not [in] oldness of letter.
What does this say about what regenerate people do not and cannot do, since they are not in the flesh? They cannot serve in oldness of letter. They cannot believe that their works form ANY PART, even the LEAST PART, of their ground of salvation or acceptance before God.
But what about Romans 7:14 and following? Doesn't it say that believers are fleshly, having been sold under sin, that in the believer's flesh there is no good, that believers do not do the good they desire and do do the evil that they do not desire, that believers are taken captive by the law of sin in their members, that believers are wretched, that believers serve the law of sin with their flesh? Yes, it DOES say all that. And as we saw when we went through that, this is a reality for EVERY believer, and NO believer will deny this reality of indwelling sin. Yet this is NOT saying that believers are EVER in the flesh, EVER walk according to flesh, EVER mind the things of the flesh, EVER live in sin, or EVER serve sin. Does this seem like a contradiction? It doesn't to the believer. Our sin is ever present with us, we can never be freed from it in this life, it constantly torments us, we fall time and time again, it constantly wars against our minds. And, AT THE SAME TIME, we do not walk according to flesh. Our lives are characterized by striving for obedience. We HATE the sin indwelling in us, and our mind is toward OBEDIENCE. Our WALK is characterized by living unto God, not unto sin. And, most importantly, we are constantly in submission to the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, meaning that we CONSTANTLY believe the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone and NEVER believe a false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner.
That gets us into the next part of verse 9 that I want to go over, which is that believers are in Spirit. Just as we went back through some previous passages on what it means for a regenerate person to be not in the flesh, I want to go back through some previous passages on what it means for a regenerate person to be in Spirit. First, in the immediate context, which is this current paragraph, which begins with verse 1 of chapter 8. Being in the Spirit means that regenerate people walk according to Spirit (verses 1 and 4), that they mind the things of the Spirit (verse 5), and that their mind is life and peace (verse 6). And if we look further on in verse 14, we see that being IN the Spirit means being LED by the Spirit.
Now let's go back to chapters 6 and 7 again to look at what being IN the Spirit means in the positive sense. Let's read verse 4:
Romans 8: (4) so that the righteous demand of the Law might be fulfilled in us, those not walking according to flesh, but according to Spirit.
Regenerate people are in the Spirit; thus, they bear fruit unto God. Verse 6:
Romans 8: (6) For the mind of the flesh [is] death, but the mind of the Spirit [is] life and peace;
Regenerate people are in the Spirit; thus, they serve in newness of spirit. And then in Romans 7:14 and following, right in the midst of talking about indwelling sin, the Bible says that those who are in the Spirit know that the Law is spiritual (verse 14), do not love sin, do not will sin, and hate sin (verse 15), agree that the Law is good (verse 16), do not work out sin (verses 17 and 20), desire to do good and do not desire to do evil (verses 19 and 21), delight in the Law of God according to the inward man (verse 22), and serve the Law of God with their minds (verse 25).
So, as I've said before, regenerate people, those in Spirit, conduct their lives according to the Spirit, strive to be obedient, and hate sin and repent of it, all the while believing that our obedience and our repentance forms absolutely no part of the ground of our salvation, of our gaining or maintaining acceptance or favor before God, or of our being fit for or entitled to any blessings, including the blessing of heaven. We who are in Spirit believe the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the work of Christ alone, meaning that our salvation, our acceptance and favor before God, and all the blessings of salvation, including final glory, are based SOLELY on what Jesus Christ has done for us. Our walk of obedience is a FRUIT of regeneration and is the RESPONSE of a thankful heart.
Now let's go over the remainder of Romans 8:9: "since the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, this one is not His." Let's first notice that the Holy Spirit is given two names here: the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. The Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from both the Father and the Son; thus, the Spirit can equally be called the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. When the Holy Spirit indwells us, His people, it can be truly said that we have both the Father and the Son. And what is the primary evidence that we have both the Father and the Son? Let's turn to 2 John 9:
2 John (9) Everyone transgressing and not abiding in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. The [one] abiding in the doctrine of Christ, this one has the Father and the Son.
Who has both the Father and the Son? The one abiding in the DOCTRINE of Christ. One's DOCTRINE is the primary evidence of being indwelled by the Holy Spirit. And, from this verse, how do we know that someone does NOT have God? If he does not abide in the DOCTRINE of Christ. What does "abide" mean? It means STAY. If someone does not STAY in the doctrine of Christ, he shows himself to be an unregenerate person. Is 50% IN the doctrine of Christ and 50% OUT of the doctrine of Christ STAYING in the doctrine of Christ? No. Is 99% IN the doctrine of Christ and 1% OUT of the doctrine of Christ STAYING in the doctrine of Christ? No. The one who has both the Father and the Son, which is the same as saying "the one who has the Holy Spirit," STAYS in the doctrine of Christ. He will ALWAYS believe the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the work of Christ alone, and he will NEVER believe a false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner.
Okay, back to the last part of Romans 8:9. We see the word "since." This means that the REASON WHY you are not in flesh but in Spirit is BECAUSE the Spirit of God dwells in you. Here is a direct causal link. The Spirit of God CAUSES all whom He indwells to walk in the Spirit. There's no such thing as a person indwelled by the Holy Spirit who does not walk in the Spirit. And the last part says that if someone does NOT have the Spirit, that person does not belong to Christ, meaning that he is not regenerate. So here we have a clear distinction between the regenerate and the unregenerate. The regenerate are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and the unregenerate are NOT indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Seems pretty simple, doesn't it? If the Holy Spirit dwells in you, you belong to Christ. You are regenerate. If the Holy Spirit does NOT dwell in you, you do NOT belong to Christ. You are unregenerate. Simple, right? Well, there are many heretics, especially in the so-called "sovereign grace" or "Reformed" or "Calvinist" camps, who would say, "No - there are SOME unregenerate people who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit." Or, put another way, they would say, "No - the Holy Spirit DOES indwell some unregenerate people." Or, put another way, they would say, "If the Holy Spirit dwells in someone, he may still be unregenerate." This is the heresy of so-called "Holy Spirit Conviction." Now there is a TRUE Holy Spirit conviction, when the Holy Spirit regenerates a person and indwells that person and convicts that person of sin, righteousness, and judgment. So the term "Holy Spirit Conviction" is an accurate term if it's used in the right way. But those who usually speak of "Holy Spirit Conviction" are speaking of a time when the Holy Spirit indwells an unregenerate person and causes him to see his own sinfulness and has great disturbances in his mind about what God requires and what his sin deserves. He does something like cry on his bed all night or go without food for days or cry out in despair, not knowing what to do. They'll say, "He has such a sense of his own sin and depravity and misery. He must be under Holy Spirit conviction." All the while, this person who is under so-called "Holy Spirit conviction" has not yet come to rest in the work of Christ. Some will go so far as to say that this Holy Spirit conviction can ultimately be resisted and the person go back to living an unregenerate life. Well, this is a damnable blasphemy against the Spirit's work. It says that the Spirit will indwell a person and cause a person to continue to struggle to find relief from the guilt of sin while causing the person to remain ignorant of the only ground of relief and even causing the person to seek relief in his own works. This kind of conviction is a false conviction, and this kind of spirit is a false spirit. The TRUE Spirit is one that we find in Romans 8:9. If the Spirit of God dwells in you, then you are NOT in the flesh. The Spirit does NOT come into a person and then have that person remain in the flesh. The Spirit of God REGENERATES a person and IMMEDIATELY CAUSES that person to believe the true gospel and to have no confidence in the flesh. And if anyone does NOT have the Spirit, that person does not belong to Christ.
Does the Spirit of God dwell in you? How can you tell? Is it some feeling inside? Can you feel the Holy Spirit bubbling up within you, as some say? The only way you can tell is this: Do you believe the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone? If you DO believe this, you automatically believe that all other gospels are false and will thus make your judgments based on the true gospel. AND if you do believe this, you will not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. You will not walk in sin. Your life will be characterized by a striving to obey God out of love and thankfulness for the One who delivered you from the bondage of sin based on the work of Christ alone. Amen.