“But if Christ is dwelling within you, then although the body is a dead thing because you sinned, yet the spirit is life itself because you have been justified.”
Paul is explaining to his readers and to us that although saved, i.e. justified by Christ’s sacrifice and our acceptance of it; we are nevertheless subject to our “lower nature.” Remember, “the outlook of the lower nature is enmity with God; it is not subject to the law of God; indeed it cannot be: those who live on such a level cannot possibly please God.” (Romans 8: 7-8) Though subject to the influence of our lower nature; nevertheless,”we are not obliged to live on that level.” We must “put to death all the base pursuits of the body.” In this way, as we continue to subdue our “lower nature” “by the Spirit” then we “will live.” (Romans 8: 12, 13) Paul says this is true because we who are Christians “are moved by the Spirit of God.” (Romans 8: 14) And, of course, the Spirit of God does not lead us “back into a life of fear.” (Romans 8: 15)
“The conclusion of the matter is this: there is no condemnation for those who are united with Christ Jesus, because in Christ Jesus the life-giving law of the Spirit has set [us] free from the law of sin and death. What the law could never do, because our lower nature robbed it of all potency, God has done: by sending His own Son in a form like that of our own sinful nature, and as a sacrifice for sin, He has passed judgment against sin within that very nature, so that the commandment of the law may find fulfillment in us, whose conduct, no longer under the control of our lower nature, is directed by the Spirit.” (Romans 8: 1-4)
The opportunity for the flesh of which Paul writes is primarily our tendency to “bite and devour one another” and the inevitable consequence of being “consumed by one another.” (Galatains 5: 15) Indulging the sinful nature is the opposite of love, says Paul. “For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Galatians 5: 14)
Bitter argument and rivalry are not of the Holy Spirit, but of the sinful nature — the flesh. “Since we [who are in Christ] live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5: 25 – 26)
Instead, love one another. “Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8)
Therefore, Paul reminds us not to use our freedom in Christ as an excuse to consume one another in jealousy, envy, rivalry, and conceit. Let us rejoice in our freedom, loving one another as Christ first loves us.
“With my flesh,” says Paul, “I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7: 25)
Yet, in the next moment, Paul writes to the Roman church: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
The key to this freedom from condemnation is being in Christ Jesus. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.” (Romans 8: 3)
Now we are set free from the law of sin and death. “The law of the Spirit has set [us] free.”
God, the Holy Spirit, sets us free from condemnation — for Jesus satisfies the wrath of God the Father. The Holy Spirit seals us for the day of judgment when Jesus will stand in the gap for us. The Father accepts His Son’s sacrifice, sparing us what He did not spare His Son.
Have you heard — Christians can not sin? Have you heard — if you sin, then you are not really saved?
Paul says to the Corinthian church, “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” He claims to be their “father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” As their father, he urges them to “be imitators of me.” (1 Corinthians 4: 14, 16) He commands the church to “cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened.” Paul writes to the Colossians, “If then you are raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3: 1 – 4) He calls them to “put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” (Colossians 3: 5)
Paul urges them not to be chained again “by philosophy and empty deceit.” (Colossians 2: 8) He tells them and us that we “are filled in [Christ], who is the head of all rule and authority. In Him, [we] are circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which [we] are also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And [we], who were dead in [our] trespasses and the uncircumcision of [our] flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2: 10 – 14) God sets aside our record of debt. He eliminates legal demands. He puts off our body of flesh, and makes us a “new lump” in Christ. He makes us “unleavened;” this feat is accomplished “in the powerful working of God.”
Our part is to daily “put off” the old leaven, the old earthly self. This also is accomplished through the “powerful working” of God, the Holy Spirit. Hence, Paul admonishes his beloved children, not to shame them but to prod them towards the prize, the goal of their salvation.
“The world is passing away along with its desires,” writes the author of 1 John.
The author of Hebrews writes of Christians of great faith who “acknowledge that they [are] strangers and exiles on earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland… As it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11: 13 – 14, 16)
Therefore, exhorts the author of 1 John, do not love the world. Why love the world which is passing away – why want the world and its desires?
“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith, Moses when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11: 23 – 26)
1 John’s author says, “For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions — is not from the Father but is from the world.”
Paul states, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish…that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3: 8, 11)
God has prepared a city for us, for those of us who have left behind the world to actively wait for our inheritance — even the salvation of our souls.