Based on Romans 8:1-11 – by Jose Gomez
Two Types of Lifestyles – Romans 8:1-4
The power to live a life of holiness comes from the Holy Spirit who resides in all who have trusted and believed in Christ. God’s provision of this power is highly valued and most appreciated when we compare it to a life living “by the flesh”. To better comprehend Paul’s message in this context, we must be made aware of the concept he had about the “flesh”. The term “flesh” in the bible has more than one meaning. Sometimes it would refer to the physical aspect of the body. It is obvious that in this passage that particular meaning is not what he is referring to. The literal use of the word “flesh” lends itself to express a contrast between the physical and spiritual aspect of a person.
For this reason, “flesh” generally refers to the human body overall. At the same time that this emphasis on the physical existed, a figurative sense of the word “flesh” was created. It is used to describe materialism and the things that are visible and tangible and this is in contrast to what is unseen, spiritual and immaterial. The bible places a much higher value on the things that are unseen. The adverb “fleshly” is another way that encases this idea of material and physical. A fleshly person lives according to what is seen. They do not see their lives from the vantage point of God. One of the modern perspectives of this way of thinking can be seen through materialism which becomes the lens by which mankind evaluates life.
Paul used the term “flesh” to describe the things that someone can accomplish by their own strength and efforts. As this concept evolved, it was used to describe the efforts and abilities of mankind in general. A contrast is made between what a person can do on his or her own and what a person can accomplish with the help of the Spirit of God. Paul presents this contrast in Galatians 5:16-25. Human nature is opposed to the power of the Holy Spirit. The deeds and works produced by man do not produce what God wants. Do you want to know what our own fleshly deeds result in? Read Galatians 5:19-21.
19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Paul describes our efforts as something unattractive. In contrast to this, when the works of the Holy Spirit are listed in 5:22-23, we see a complete distinction. This is why Paul notes that the flesh and the spirit are in a constant battle. We must “crucify” our deeds and live by the Spirit. On many other occasions Paul makes use of this idea of the flesh to describe how we employ our works to live a good life. Our godly desires will never be met because our deeds will interfere as a result of the weakness of our humanity. We don’t have the sufficient amount of power to meet God’s desires. In Romans chapter 8, Paul uses the word “flesh” to express this new concept. Those who are in Christ, who believe in him and salvation through him rather than in themselves, are no longer under condemnation (8:1).
By the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we have received the means to live a new life. For this new kind of life the Holy Spirit must reside in us. The Spirit has liberated us from the law of sin and death (8:2). The law God gave to shed light on the sin in mankind is now defined as the “law of sin and death”. It is referred to in this way because sin and death reveals to us God’s standards and how impossible it is to meet those standards. Why is that so? The answer is that even our best efforts could not bring us to fulfill the expectations of the law. We are simply too weak! (8:3a).
When Jesus came to earth, he took on a human nature, similar to our own nature. As a result of his death for our sin, he condemned our human nature because our human efforts resulted in performing sinful deeds. Since the moment nature of humanity was condemned we were taught the way to fulfill what the laws expect of us. The ability to follow through with God’s standards are not accomplished using our own strength, this is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. (8:3b-4)
Walking by the flesh Romans 8:5-8
After characterizing the two types of living, Paul explains the lifestyle that characterizes those that attempt to live by their own strengths and merits. Such people could never please the Lord. Those that attempt to live a good life in this manner are individuals that only think of themselves and what they can achieve in life, but those that live by the power of the Holy Spirit depend on him and they consider what God wants to do in their lives (8:5). The fruit of our own deeds produces death and cannot reproduce God’s justice which is what God demands of us to guard our salvation. On the contrary, a life governed and tempered by the Spirit results in life and peace (8:6). Human and fleshly efforts result in death because the sin in man opposes God. Their plans make war against those who belong to Christ. They have no interest in submitting to God’s law, and even if they did they could never fulfill them because they don’t have the power to do so. All in all, the hearts that live dependent on their own deeds and efforts will never be able to please God.
Life in the Spirit pleases God and this way of life allows us to enjoy communion and intimate fellowship with the Lord and with our community. This is the lifestyle we must exercise, it will bear fruits of the Spirit that will give us the ability to work and acquire success. Even in adverse times, all that we do will prosper.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.