Tuesday, June 30, 2009


In the last two posts I’ve been talking about the internal conflict that I believe every Christian has. I set out to prove the reality of this conflict by looking at the one that Paul seems to be claiming as his own in Romans, chapter 7. However, the comments of others have forced me to rethink and continue on into chapter 8, where the conflict continues, though some new details are added.

Romans 8:1-15:
1. So then, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
2. For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and of death.
3. For the inability of the Law in that it was weak through the flesh – God by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh,
4. in order that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who are not walking according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
5. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
6. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace.
7. Because the mind of the flesh is enmity toward God, for it is not submitted to the Law of God, for it isn’t even able to.
8. And those who are in the flesh are not able to please God.
9. But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God has His home in you; and if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
10. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11. And if the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead is at home in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.
12. So then brothers, we are obligated, not to the flesh to live according to the flesh,
13. for if you live according to the flesh you’re going to die! But if by the Spirit you put to death the practices of the body, you’re going to live!
14. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15. For you haven’t received a spirit of slavery for fear again, but you have received a Spirit of Adoption by whom we cry, “Abba, Father!”

Some notes:
1. The flesh is not left behind in chapter 8. It is apparently still with us. The word “flesh” is used 13 times in the first 15 verses, as well as the synonyms “the body” (verses 10, 13) and “your mortal bodies” (verse 11).
The big change in this chapter is that the work of the Holy Spirit is introduced. The word “Spirit” is used 15 times, all but one of which refer to the Holy Spirit (verse 15 – “a spirit of slavery).
2. I translated to phronema tes sarkos as “the mind of the flesh” in verses 16 and 17, and to phronema tou pneumatos as “the mind of the Spirit” in verse 16, for the following reasons: Colossians 2:18 uses a similar expression, tou noos tes sarkos, which would be translated “the mind of the flesh” in the context; the phrase tou phronema tou pneumatos is usually translated as “the mind of the Spirit” in verse 27. This translation fits the context of a struggle between two sources of thought, rather than two directions of thought. In other words, our flesh has a mind of its own!
3. We need to distinguish those things which are true of every believer (position), from those which the believer is exhorted to do (practice).
Every believer is:
• uncondemned (1)
• “freed from the law of sin and of death” (2)
• “according to the Spirit” (5)
• “able to please God” (8, 9)
• “not in the flesh, but in the Spirit” (9)
• indwelt by the Spirit (11)
• destined for resurrection (11)
• not obligated to the flesh (12)
• “led by the Spirit” (14; see Galatians 5:8)
• a Son of God (14)
Every believer, however, is exhorted to:
• “walk according to the Spirit” (4; see Galatians 5:16, 25)
• “by the Spirit put to death the practices of the body” (13)

So now I’d like to restate the above situation in my own words.

Whenever a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, certain changes are made within him. (These are changes by God’s reckoning and cannot be perceived with our physical senses.) His “old self” dies in relation to sin and the Old Testament Law (Romans 6:1-7:6). He is a new creature, freed from the power and authority of sin and the Law. This new person now has a mind that desires to do what is right, in conformity with God’s law.

However, while he is a new creature spiritually, he still is in his old sinful body, his flesh. His old self, though “dead,” still has its desires and renders the believer incapable of doing the good that his mind desires. Thus the believer has an internal conflict, from which there is no escape in this life.

But the believer is also indwelt by the Spirit of God, who leads him in the direction he should go. It is no longer a matter of simply choosing to do good, but a matter of choosing to follow the Spirit’s leading. The believer who in himself is unable to please God is able to please God because of the work of the indwelling Spirit.

Most of us, I believe, can find or have found ourselves caught up in the conflict of Romans 7. The conflict is always with us. It is not a matter of getting beyond the conflict, or of reaching some new higher plane where we are above it, but of recognizing all that we are and have in Jesus Christ and of deliberately choosing to take advantage of our privileges; of choosing to “follow the Leader.”

Thanks, Mike and Sherry, for your insights.

Bill Ball

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