Monday, June 29

What Is The Spirit/Flesh distinction in Romans 8:1-14?

Mark [Bluecollar] and I have been debating the President of the Free Grace Alliance on his blog on the so-called carnal Christian view. This view holds that a person can be a true Christian and never show any obedience, discipleship, or fruit for his entire life. My discussion with him led to Romans 8:1-14 where my assertion was that Paul was contrasting believers with non-belivers in this passage [a position fatal to the existence of true carnal Christians]. His view is the passage is making a distinction between believers following either the Spirit or the Flesh, which verifies the carnal Christian concept. Which is it? Are those described by Paul as being in the flesh in this passage believers or are only those described as being in the Spirit believers?

Verses 4, 9, and 14 clearly show distinctions that are between non-belivers and believers rather than just two states of believers. It is the characteristics that are being compared here. It is not about justification by works, but the characteristics of born again, Spirit indwelled believers compared to the characteristics of unbelievers who are described as in the flesh. Paul is talking about a person's basic direction in this passage. He is contrasting whether a person is continually following and being dominated by the flesh or the Spirit. It is not about sinless perfection, but it is about regenerated, Spirit indwelled Christians being saved from not only the penalty of sin, but also the power of sin. Let us examine the verses in question.

In verse 4 Jesus’s crosswork is applied to who? To those who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Therefore, his crosswork justifies believers who respond how? They “walk not according to the flesh……..”. Those in the flesh are not saved in v. 4.

In verse 9 believers are what? They are not in the flesh but in the Spirit. If what? If in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Therefore, Paul says you are not in the flesh if the Spirit of God dwells in you. This leaves only one possibility for a person to be a true Christian and be in the flesh, and that is to not have the indwelling Spirit. However, Paul destroys that possibility with the last half of the verse when he says, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” Those in the flesh are not saved according to verse 9.

In verse 14 believers [sons of God] are described how? They are led by the Spirit. Those in the flesh do not have the Spirit and are not saved according to verse 14.

When a believer who is in the Spirit and walks according to the Spirit sins, it does not mean he is in the flesh and not being led by Christ. His walk is still in a direction according to the Spirit. However, a person who walks according to the flesh [as described by Paul] is continually pursuing a lifestyle of the flesh. Therefore, he is in the flesh continually and he is not being led by the Spirit in any way. He is not saved and his mind is set on the flesh with a hostility toward God (v. 7).

Verse 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Verse 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.

Verse 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Verse 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Monday, June 15

God powers sanctification

A pastor in the free grace theology movement made the following comment on his blog concerning the reformed view of justification by faith alone:

It [Reformed theology] is a view that says, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is not alone.” My book spends 300 pages and 600 footnotes trying to clarify the mistake in this cliche.

I think I can show through Biblical teachings why this cliché is true. If sinners were saved apart from God’s intervening grace, regeneration, and the indwelling Spirit, then this statement would be false and he could build a solid case. However, through regeneration (John 3:3, 2 Cor. 5:17, Eph 2:4-5) and the indwelling Spirit (Romans 8:9) those that are saved by faith alone are led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14) and are changed to different degrees. While still being far from perfect, these new attitudes, behaviors, inclinations, etc. are present in all saved Christians. Since saving faith comes with this POWER from God and not man’s effort alone, it is true that faith alone for justification does not exist alone. It comes with GOD POWER!