Liberty in the Spirit
in the New Life

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 32b of 83


“…5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9  But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 9:1-11).

[We saw in the first instalment of this study, that the apostle Paul is, in the first eleven verses of Romans 8, explaining how he finds liberty to live the Christian life despite knowing that he still struggles against sin. His secret, simply stated, is his apprehension of four spiritual benefits purchased by Christ for him, namely justification, regeneration (and sanctification), glorification and adoption. We have considered how he rests upon justification. In this second instalment, we must look at how he finds liberty through the benefit of the new life accorded in regeneration and strengthened in sanctification. —JJL]

2.  Freedom & Assurance in
 the New Life

Paul speaks about this particularly from verse 5 to 9. But he has already hinted it in verses 1 and 4. Did you notice how he repeats himself in these two verses? When the apostle Paul repeats under inspiration, we would do well to take especial heed. What does he repeat in these two verses (v. 1, 4)? He repeats that true Christians are those “who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.”

Paul is a very careful minister of the Gospel. He does not give us false hopes. If you walk after the flesh and not after the spirit, you can have no confidence that God does not condemn you. You can have no confidence that Christ represented you and God is not condemning you. If you are living in sin and hypocrisy without repentance, do not claim this holy promise of God for yourself.

But those who walk after the Spirit can be sure that they are in Christ, and that God does not condemn them. And not only so, but they can be sure that the Spirit of Christ dwells in them to confirm that they belong to God (v. 9), and to enable them to live unto righteousness (v. 10).

Let’s see how Paul develops this thought:

5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Who are those who “are after the flesh” (v. 5)? They are the unregenerate. They are carnal and carnally minded (v. 6-7) and they are in the flesh (v. 8).

These are those who “mind the things of the flesh.” The things that they are concerned with, their desires and their pursuits are fleshly rather than spiritual. They do not think about God. They are not bothered about glorifying and enjoying him. They are not concerned about the state of their souls.

All they are concerned about are the things of this world—wealth, health, entertainment, personal beauty and status. When you engage them in conversation, these are the things they will talk about excitedly. It is hard to get them to talk about spiritual things.

When they make decisions they do not consider how it will benefit their spiritual life, the good of the church or the glory of God. They calculate base on what will give the best temporal benefits of profit, enjoyment and status. This is how they make their decisions about what holiday to take, what job to take up, what school to send their children, what courses to take up etc. God is not in the equation.

But “to be carnally minded is death” (v. 6). Such a mind reveals its deadness. Such a mind “is enmity against God” (v. 7). It is does not obey the Law God. Indeed, it cannot keep God’s Law, and cannot please God (v. 8).

If this is you, you must take a hard look at yourself. Perhaps you are still in the bonds of iniquity. Or perhaps you have backslidden and left your first love. Whatever the case may be, you can have no confidence that you are in Christ and that God does not condemn you.

On the other hand, if your heart has been changed by the Spirit of Christ, you have a spiritual mind. You are not totally unconcerned about the things of the world. But you are supremely concerned about the things of God.

You love God above all else including your loved ones and your career. You are prepared to lose your job in order that you may worship the Lord on the Sabbath. You are prepared to face your parent’s or your spouse’s disapproval and anger to serve and obey God. You are prepared to take up your cross despite financial hardship and the criticism of those whom you respect.

Our Lord says:

37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37-38)

You tremble at these words, but you know what you must do because you love the Lord. It may be that you have to leave your job. It may be that you have to sell you business. It may be that you have to seek baptism and membership in the church. It may be that you have to enter the harvest field. It may be that you have to humble yourself to apologise to someone for your sin.

You desire to keep God’s law at all cost. Your spiritual health, the good of the church and God’s glory takes priority in all your decisions. No doubt you will struggle with sin. Sometime temptations of the flesh overwhelm you, but you are never satisfied with any decision that is contrary to the glory of God and the good of His saints.

When you have such a mind, you know the blessedness of eternal life. “To be spiritually minded is life and peace” say Paul (v. 6).

This should be the case for all of you, dearly beloved brethren in Christ! It may not be the case for everyone reading this article. But it should be, and I hope it is the case with you, dear reader.

Listen to Paul:

9 But ye are not in the flesh, [Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh,] but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Do you see his point? If you belong to Christ, the Spirit of Christ dwells in you. If so, you are in the spirit not in the flesh, spiritual not carnal, and you will walk after the spirit and not after the flesh.

You are what you are not only because your heart has been changed, but because the Spirit of Christ dwells in you. The Spirit of Christ is the Holy Spirit.

You were baptised by the Holy Spirit at your regeneration. But you were not only baptised, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit indwelling you. Christ has by His Spirit, as it were, taken residence in you.

“Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you” says Paul elsewhere (1 Cor 6:19).

Look at your life. Yes, you still struggle with sin. Yes, you still fall into temptation. Yes, you have no confidence to do anything perfectly. But look at what has happened in your life. You are a new person. And not only so, you have a new Master and new Resident in you.

Before you were born again, sin was dwelling in your heart. Then the Spirit of Christ quickened you, and sin was evicted from your heart. He remains in your flesh, but he is no longer in your heart. Who is in your heart now? The Spirit of Christ is in your heart!

Yes, the Spirit of Christ indwells you in a way that does not rob you of your liberty—like in the case of demon possession. But it is a fact that the Spirit of Christ indwells you, for as Paul says:

9b if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his 10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Christ indwells all who are truly Christian. And if Christ be in you, you would no longer gratify the lust of the flesh. You are not inclined to satisfy the craving of your body which represents the remnant of your corruption. Your body is dead. It is dead to you because you have no more desire to sin. In your heart of hearts you hate sin. You crave to be rid of sin.

Paul puts it this way: “But the Spirit [i.e. the Spirit of Christ] is life because of righteousness.” Because of the righteousness of Christ, the Spirit of Christ indwells you.

And now that He has taken residence in you, He is working life in you! He is working “in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” says Paul in Philippians 2:13.

Yes, you have to continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, but you will find yourself following the direction of the Spirit—more and more. The Spirit is life. Your regenerate heart recognises the true value of the Spirit’s work in you. The Spirit works in you by sanctifying you. He works in you by bringing to remembrance the teachings that you have heard and also by exciting your conscience.

What greater assurance can a believer have to live the Christian life confidently?

Again, I don’t know about you, but this truth is a tremendous comfort to me. I do not walk alone. Christ walks with me. He dwells in me by His Spirit. He will never leave me nor forsake me. I can be assured of His protection and help. I can be assured that He is doing something good in me day by day.

Although the Christian walk will involve many difficult struggles, we are encouraged to persevere on because firstly we have freedom from condemnation and secondly because we have freedom in our spirit—not only because of regeneration, but because the Spirit of Christ indwells us.

But that is not all. We are assured that one day we will be freed from the corruption that plague us today. 

In particular, we are assured that one day we will be raised again from the dead. When that happens, our bodies which today contribute to sin will be renewed.

to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim