“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.
Christ suffers once, put to death in the flesh for our sins. He is the Righteous One. We are the unrighteous. Christ never suffers again, but remains alive in the Spirit.
Note who suffers: Christ. Note how many times He suffers: Once. Note: Though He dies in the flesh, He lives in the Spirit. Note the location of the Spirit: In us. Note the location of Christ: At the right hand of God the Father where He always lives to intercede for us. Note the One who dies: Christ is the righteous. Note those for whom He dies: We are the unrighteous. Note: We do not die for Him; He dies for us.
Note: We have no need to add to Christ’s work. Jesus, on the Cross, proclaims: “It is accomplished.”
“Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit.”