logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

"The Spirit's Domain and Dwelling"

Pentecost June 8, 2014 Romans 8:1-11(12-17)


Whenever anyone claims to offer you freedom, watch out for the hidden costs! Some so-called "freedoms" come with a high price.

For example, would it be great to have endless energy, to be able to dance for hours on end? Wouldn't it be nice to be "free" from tiredness? This week the 'godfather of ecstasy', Alexander Shulgin, died at the age of 88. Back when he developed the drug back in the mid-70s, it was used in talk therapy, but clubbers discovered they could use it to dance for 3-4 hours at a time. A drug abuse site describes the cost that must be paid for this increased energy: "The surge of serotonin caused by taking MDMA [the chemical name for ecstasy or 'molly'] depletes the brain of this important chemical, however, causing negative after effects - including confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and anxiety -- that may occur soon after taking the drug or during the days or even weeks thereafter." Other possible health effects: "the closeness-promoting effects of MDMA and its use in sexually charged contexts...may encourage unsafe sex, which is a risk factor for contracting or spreading HIV and hepatitis." Who wants to pay that piper for hours of increased emotional freedom?

There is a definite fallout for fleshly 'freedom'. Paul writes in Romans 8:2, "through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." There was, then, a bondage or captivity: v6 "the mind of sinful man is death..." V7 "the sinful mind is hostile to God.It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so." It's not "free" in the sense of being able to connect with God.

This week, tragically, a shooter in New Brunswick killed 3 RCMP officers and injured 2 others. What can we surmise about the mindset of a killer? Justin Bourque's Facebook page featured some photos which objected to state authority ("Using the phrase 'It's the Law' to validate government is a fallacy"); another objected to so many government rules; still another claimed, "Free men do not ask permission to bear arms." Is that the pinnacle of freedom - not having to obtain a gun permit? What cause in that, though, to kill mounties?!

Across the world in Chengdu Early Rain Reformed Church in China, Pastor Wang Yi preached to some 200 parishioners that they should expect to encounter persecution just as Stephen and western missionaries did. Then: "congregants leaving church at noon were greeted on the street by a police truck and two police cars near the building's entrance...By that night, Wang would be arrested and another church member bludgeoned by police for passing out pro-life brochures." Their culture of life conflicted with the Communist culture, for Chairman Mao maintained, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." Mao's Red Book spawned a culture of fear and death.

What is more powerful, truly freeing, if not the culture of guns and drugs and politics? The apostle Paul offers us real freedom and power for life in Romans 8.


V1 "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..." No condemnation! John MacArthur comments that condemnation "is used exclusively in judicial settings as the opposite of justification.It refers to a verdict of guilty and the penalty that verdict demands.No sin a believer can commit - past, present, or future - can be held against him, since the penalty was paid by Christ and righteousness was imputed to the believer.And no sin will ever reverse this divine legal decision." That's such good news - NO condemnation for those in Christ!

It's incredibly good news considering our starting point. V6 "To set the mind on the flesh is death..." (NRSV) The Greek word for "flesh" (sarx) is translated "sinful nature" in the NIV all through this section. What's this mind-set of the flesh? It's bound up with death (v6), hostility to God and insubordination (v7), and unacceptability to God (v8). So, how'd we get from THAT to "no condemnation"?

Another way to put it would be to ask, How did we get from Old Testament "law" to New Testament "grace"? V3 The law was POWERLESS in that it was weakened - sabotaged, frustrated, had a guerilla war going on - by the flesh, the "sinful nature". Paul describes this inner struggle just previously in chapter 7(22ff): "For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" As 8:10 states, "your body is DEAD because of sin..."

But what the Old Testament commandment was powerless to do, God accomplished at the cross. V3 "For what the law was powerless to do...God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.And so he condemned sin in sinful man..." Somebody had to pay the penalty for sin, else God wouldn't be a just God, the universe wouldn't finally be fair: so Jesus paid our sin-debt out of love for us. Rom 3:25 "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.He did this to demonstrate his justice..." Through Christ's sacrifice our sins are atoned, we're put "at-one" with a holy God. Paul recaps this in 4:25, "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."

Another apostle, Peter, described it this way: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." (1Pe 2:24) So we might LIVE FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS... Peter's with Paul here: continue on from 8:3B into v4, "And so he condemned sin in sinful man [lit.the flesh], in order that [NOTE: purpose clause] the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the [flesh] but according to the Spirit." God spent His Son's life to free us from condemnation, NOT so we could just have a merry old time and carry on sinning (with the entailing negative fallout), but so that we might live righteously - the purity and holiness the Ten Commandments and other regulations were pointing to all along. Jesus' death satisfied divine justice and ushered in the new covenant Jeremiah prophesied in 31:33f, ""This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD."I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts...they will all know me...For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."" God's law, what He wants, put right inside us - in our minds, written on our hearts.


It's Pentecost Sunday, the anniversary of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the early church. Throughout this passage Paul uses the phrase "living according to the Spirit" - in contrast with living according to the flesh / sinful nature. He identifies four benefits and two obligations of living according to the Holy Spirit.

First benefit: A) Those who live according to the Spirit are SET FREE FROM THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH. V2 "through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Pause and note that Paul uses the word "law" several different ways in this book: a controlling power, as here; elsewhere - God's law; the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible - 3:21b); the Old Testament as a whole (3:19); or, a principle (3:27 - see NIV Study Bible). Robertson explains "law" here means "a principle or authority exercised". So we might rephrase this as NLT does, "And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death." The Spirit's controlling influence frees you from sin's deadly power! If you've yielded your life to Jesus by trusting in Him, you're under the sway of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit has domain over you. This new dominion though is not enslaving and exploiting but empowering to you, for good.

B) Second benefit: Living according to the Spirit EMPOWERS RIGHTEOUSNESS. As we saw in v4, Golgotha happened "in order that" the law's righteous requirements might be fully met in us. Also v10 "...if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of (through / on account of) sin, yet your spirit is alive because of (through / on account of / for the sake of) righteousness."

Remember when we talked about Abraham as our "father" in chapter 4 how big a focus "righteousness" was. 6:13 "Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of (guess what?) righteousness." What did Paul say back in chapter 1(17) was revealed in the gospel? "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last..." Living according to the Holy Spirit is not primarily about warm fuzzies or emotional experiences (getting 'slain in the Spirit' - though that does happen), but empowering righteousness.

I was a faulty father and failed to provide my children to some degree with loving warmth. Not long ago, our daughter Emily (now in her 30s) experienced a time of powerful healing prayer with a woman out west. That went a long way toward helping Emily experience God as a loving heavenly Abba/Father that she'd lacked in her earthly Father. It's helped "set her right" emotionally and able to relate better in her home and ministering to others, introducing them to a loving and holy God as He truly is.

C) Third benefit: Living according to the Spirit ENLIVENS OUR BODIES. On a recent visit to our family physician, she diagnosed "sun damage spots" on my face (actinic keratosis, precancerous lesions). So this past week I had an appointment with her husband who used spray from liquid nitrogen to "frostbite" some of my spots lest they become cancerous. My father (a retired farmer) has been getting this done for a couple of decades now - just part of the package of aging. Such precautions force us to face our own mortality - we're not going to live in this body forever!

V11 "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." Notice how Paul emphasizes through repetition that God raised Jesus? Two times - that same Spirit's at work in you!

Commentators jump to connect this with believers' resurrection after we die, which is very apt: 1Cor 6:14 "By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also." Also 1Thess 4:14 "We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." Very comforting and hope-giving.

But Paul may also be implying the Holy Spirit's doing this in the present, not just the future. The Spirit provides supernatural staying-power: 2Cor 4:11 "For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body." Paul knew this personally through his beatings, stoning, being shipwrecked, and even having a snake bite his hand without the usual deadly effect (Acts 28:5). There are some in this congregation who've had accidents that brought them near death: if God still has a mission for you on this plane, He'll keep you around!

D) Fourth benefit: Living according to the Spirit provides A SENSE OF BEING GOD'S CHILD. Vv14-16 "...those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship[adoption].And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children."

Contrary to common parlance, not every person is "a child of God". Jesus even said those who opposed Him were children of their father the devil! (John 8:44) It's correct to say people were created in God's image, marred though that may be since the Fall (Gen 1:26f); Paul quotes pagan poets who said "We are his offspring" (Acts 17:28). But you're not "a child of God" automatically; as Jesus explained to Nicodemus, a human must be "born again" to see God's kingdom; "the Spirit gives birth to spirit" (Jn 3:3,6). John wrote it's only those who receive Jesus to whom He gives the right to become "children of God", children "born of God" (Jn 1:12f).

The Holy Spirit brings a sense, not of fear, but fatherhood. V15 "You received the Spirit of sonship" / adoption (NRSV). In Roman custom, the culture Paul was addressing, adoption conveyed the full rights of sonship, inheritance, property rights and so on. So Paul goes on in v17, "Now if we are children, then we are HEIRS - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ..." Meditate on that: you're a "co-heir" with Christ!

Back up a bit to v15B "By Him we cry, "Abba, Father." Abba is a very personal Aramaic word like our Daddy or Papa, conveying tenderness, dependence, a relationship free of fear or anxiety. The Holy Spirit reinforces this sense of having a dear loving Heavenly Father, gives assurance: v16 "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." The apostle John said, "Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart."(1Jn 5:10)


So, those are four benefits Paul suggests of living according to the Spirit. But there's also a response called for on our part. V12 "Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation-- but it is not to the [flesh], to live according to it." An obligation, something we owe, divine grace makes us debtors.

One obligation can be found in v13: "For if you live according to the [flesh] you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live..." Intentionally, with the Spirit's help, we need to put the misdeeds of our carnal nature - our earthly appetites and desires, inclinations of selfish pride and greed and jealousy - "to death". Jesus defines discipleship as denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily to follow Him (Lk 9:23) - not giving in to the temptations of the world, the flesh, or the devil. Christianity becomes very practical in the choices you make. As Luther said, you can't stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from building a nest in your hair!

"Put to death" the misdeeds of the body...Does that language sound harsh? How does the rest of the New Testament re-phrase it? 1Cor 9:27 "I beat my body and make it my slave..." Gal 5:24 "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." Col 3:5 "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." Note we're not just talking about bodily appetites like sex, but also greed, idolatry - twistings of the soul, our 'self'. Col 3:8 "But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips." Titus 2:12 "It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age..." Suggests the phrase, "Just say no!" And 1Pet 2:11 "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul."

So, living according to the Spirit involves saying "NO!" to wrong desires - crucifying that part of you, abstain from and "get rid of" those sinful tendencies and habits that once dragged you down. With the Spirit's help.

A second obligation we find in v5: "Those who live according to the [flesh] have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." Paul talks a lot about 'mindset', attitude, worldview, what we might call our "focus". What are you "after"? What's driving you? V6 The "mind" of the flesh is death, but the "mind" of the Spirit is life and PEACE. Are you always discontent, never quite satisfied, wanting to get on to the next "thing" - or can you be content with what the Holy Spirit wants?

Jesus prayed in the garden before His arrest, "Abba, Father...Take this cup from me.Yet not what I will, but what you will."" (Mr 14:36) See how He subordinates or submits His own wishes to God's greater plan? In the Lord's Prayer, we pray, "Your Kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Are we really WANTING His Kingdom? Paul observed in Rom 14:17, "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit..."

So often our focus isn't much loftier than just eating and drinking. At the doctor's office for my initial skin spot appointment, I noticed a woman sitting at the far end of the waiting room in a top with a distinctive black-and-white pattern (maybe because I grew up with Holsteins!). After the appointment, it was a Tuesday around noon so I thought I'd stop by KFC for Toonie Tuesday. As I was waiting in line, in behind me walked this same woman with the black-and-white top. I joked to her, "Tell me there's no correlation between the doctor's office and KFC!"

Live according to the Spirit - discover the Spirit's "mindset". Gal 5:25 "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." The image is a military one, marching along like a platoon of soldiers on parade. And Col 3:1f, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."

In closing - pay close attention to your focus, your mindset. Let the Holy Spirit shape and direct your drives, your view. It's been observed that sheep get lost by nibbling away at the grass and never looking up. The same can be said for us: we can focus so much on what is immediately before us that we fail to see life in larger perspective. Set your hearts and minds on things above. Let's pray.