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.


mark pierson said...

The Lord willing I'll be back later. This and Dr. Lybrand's dicussion will be the only ones that I will participate in before I sign-off for the Summer.

jazzycat said...

I hope you have a very good summer. I have also cut back and will not be posting just for the sake of posting.

mark pierson said...

I believe that you have correctly captured Paul's flow of thought here.

mark pierson said...

Check out Romans 7:4-6..."that we should bear fruit to God"..."We should serve in the newness of the Spirit"...

Focus on these words from that portion of scripture. Therein is not Christianity defined?

jazzycat said...

Yes, I think Paul begins in chapter 6 to paint the picture of the new covenant believer being led and indeed walking in the Spirit. How anyone can believe that Paul could say what he said in Romans 6:22 and Romans 7:4-6 and yet believe that he is referring to post-conversion Paul in Romans 7:23. Yet this is the view of not only free grace folks, but also the majority of covenant theology people.

jazzycat said...

Thanks. However, I believe assurance is possible as Romans 8:31-39 and
1 John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. teach.

Jesus prayed that believers would be sanctified by the truth, which is the Word of God. To work out one’s salvation is to work out one’s sanctification. It is a mistake to take the Phil. 2:12 to mean one is to work out one’s justification. To add works to justification is to make the Galatian error and as James points out in James 2:10 perfection is the standard.

On judgment day we can present our works for judgment or we can rest through faith alone in the works of Jesus Christ.