“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).
“Now” means since the redemptive work of Christ (Romans 3:20-21; 7:6; 8:1; 16:25-26). Condemnation is removed for those who are “in Christ.” One gets into Christ by baptism (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:26-28). Moreover, those who are “in Christ” must conduct their lives according to the Spirit. There is a textual variant. Not all manuscripts contain the second clause. However, this truth is clearly taught (cf. Romans 8:5-6).
“Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).
There are two types of people in view. Some people let their fleshly, carnal appetites and desires dominate their thinking and guide their lives (cf. Ephesians 4:17, 19-20). Other people have their minds upon spiritual things, and they allow the teachings of the Holy Spirit guide their lives (cf. Colossians 3:1-2; Psalm 119:104-105, 128). Roy Deaver commented, “To ‘walk after the flesh’ is to be concerned about, to be mindful of, desirous of, fleshly things, temporal things – with no real concern about spiritual things, things of God. To ‘walk after the spirit’ is to be concerned about, to be mindful of, desirous of, spiritual things, things of God, things sacred, divine, eternal… These verses do not teach that the flesh has one mind and the spirit of man, another; rather, that there is one mind which can be concerned about either matters fleshly, or about matters spiritual” (Deaver, Romans God’s Plan for Man’s Righteousness, pp. 259-260).
There are consequences to these different attitudes. The carnally minded will end in spiritual death, and even now they are the walking dead (cf. 1 Timothy 5:6). The spiritually minded will find life and peace.
“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to God, nor indeed can be” (Romans 8:7).
Those who are carnally driven will not put themselves under God’s rulership. They are not “subject” to the law of God. The word “subject” is defined by Vine’s to mean “primarily a military term, ‘to rank under’ (hupo, ‘under,’ tasso, ‘to arrange’) …in the middle or passive voice, to subject oneself, to obey, be subject to.” Thayer says, “to arrange, under, to subordinate, to subject, to put in subjection… mid. To subject one’s self, to obey; to submit to one’s control.”
Those who are carnally driven cannot submit to God’s law. Robin Haley commented, “this does not speak of ability, but of acceptability and attitude” (Haley, A Commentary on The Book of Romans, Justified by Faith, p. 150).
“So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:8-9).
Let’s define “in the flesh.” It does not refer to those who live in human bodies. Paul was “in the flesh” in the sense of having a human body (Galatians 2:20; etc.). “In the flesh” means to live according to the flesh (cf. Romans 8:1, 5), and “In the Spirit” means to live according to the Spirit (cf. Romans 8:1, 5).
Some have tried to hold that “in the flesh” is figurative but “in the Spirit” is literal. Such seems odd. Marion Fox has written, “If ‘in the flesh’ means ‘having the mind-set of the flesh’ and ‘in the Spirit’ means a literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then this is an analogy that has one part literal and one part figurative. This kind of analogy is unsound” (Fox, The Work of the Holy Spirit, Vol. 1, p. 549).
“And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10).
If Christ is truly living in you (He dwells in us by faith – Ephesians 3:17), then the body is dead (the mind of the flesh as you guide) and the Spirit is life (the mind of the Spirit as your guide). Marion Fox commented, “The body dedicated to sin is dead because it leads to sin and we have killed it if we have the spirit of Christ… This readily conforms to the thoughts in Romans 6:1-14” (Fox, The Work of the Holy Spirit, Vol. 1, p. 546). Doesn’t this passage sound a bit like what Paul wrote when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved Me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).
The first issue is: What resurrection is in view? Some believe that the spiritual resurrection of the Christian is in view (cf. Romans 6:3-5). It is believed that while the old man has been put to death, a new life would be given through the indwelling of the Spirit. Roy Deaver commented, “Reference here is to the spiritual resurrection. In the general resurrection both the righteous and the unrighteous will be raised (John 5:28-29). One’s resurrection at that time will not be dependent upon the indwelling of the Holy Spirit” (Deaver, Romans, p. 264). However, others believe that the reference is to the resurrection to come. Robert Taylor, Jr. commented, “It seems more probable that the bodily resurrection is Paul’s point and for obviously strong reasons. (1) He talks about the bodily resurrection of Christ. (2) It more likely would be the bodily resurrection of Christians that Paul would next discuss. (3) He uses the future tense… be it kept firmly fixed in mind that these Romans readers had already been raised to walk in newness of life at the time of their gospel conversion. This was now in their past. The bodily resurrection for them, as well as for us, is yet future” (Taylor, Studies in Romans, pp. 138-139). Moreover, much of the rest of this chapter concerns the glory to come, and that death does not mean defeat. But aren’t all to be raised (John 5:28-29)? Yes! But, not all will be raised to glory (Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29). Jesus wasn’t just raised. He was raised to glory, and so also, will those be who have the Spirit of God.
The second issue is: how does the Holy Spirit dwell in us? The fact of the indwelling is stated. However, nothing in Romans 8:11, itself, tells us if this is a literal indwelling or a figurative indwelling. Many good brethren believe that this refers to a literal indwelling. I have no quarrel with them. However, I believe that a figurative indwelling is in view. A previous verse speaks of “the spirit of God” and “the spirit of Christ” dwelling in Christians (Romans 8:9). There seems to be no difference in the use of these phrases. Remember that Christ dwells in us by faith (Ephesians 3:17). It is a figurative indwelling (Galatians 2:20). Bruce Curd commented on Romans 8 saying, “What then does the inspired apostle mean when he declares that ‘the Spirit of God dwells in you?’ He affirms that the Spirit of God dwelt in them because they were ‘in the Spirit.’ But to be in the Spirit was the opposite of being in the flesh. Those in the flesh were those motivated and guided by the promptings of the flesh. While those ‘in the Spirit’ were guided by the Spirit. This is very obvious from verses 4-8…. If one is in the Spirit, the Spirit of God dwells in him (v. 9). If one is subject to the law of God, he is in the Spirit… it follows, then, that if one is subject to the law of God the Spirit of God dwells in him” (Curd, The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Hammer & Tongs, May – June, 1997).