The Holy Spirit in Romans, Lesson 3

The Holy Spirit in the Book of Romans

August 25, 2019

Daniel L. Segraves, Teacher

[1] Because Christ dwells in the believer, “the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Contextually, the word “body” refers to the human body. (See Romans 8:11.) Paul’s point was that even though the human body – even of a believer – is subject to death because of the lingering effects of the sin nature, the believer still possesses eternal life through the effect of the indwelling Spirit. The Spirit imparts life to believers because the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to them. Death will be the final effect of sin, which will be destroyed in the believer’s life by the resurrection. (See I Corinthians 15:54-57.)

[2] Somewhat of a grammatical puzzle appears in Romans 8:13. The verse is made up of two first class conditional statements: “If you live according to the flesh” and “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body.” Since the first class condition asserts the reality of the condition, these statements seem self-contradictory. On the one hand, Paul seems to have assumed that his readers do indeed live according to the flesh, and on the other hand, that they do, in fact, put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit.

[3] There is no question that it is possible for a Spirit-filled believer to live according to the flesh, or after the impulses of the Adamic nature. (See Galatians 3:3; 5:16-21.) Just because believers are filled with the Holy Spirit, they do not become robots or automatons incapable of making their own choices, including sinful ones. If believers make the decision to live as if they were debtors to the Adamic nature (Romans 8:12), they will experience spiritual death (i.e., separation from fellowship with God). (See Romans 6:16, 21, 23.) On the other hand, if believers, by the power of the Holy Spirit, put to death the impulses of the unredeemed outer man (i.e., the body [see Romans 7:24; 8:23]), they will enjoy life (i.e., fellowship with God).

[4] But the question remains: How could Paul assume that his readers are at the same time living according to the flesh and putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit? The solution lies in the fact that Paul wrote to the entire congregation in Rome. The “you” is the second person plural, referring to the entire church. Some in the church were apparently living according to the flesh; others, by the Spirit, were putting to death the deeds of the body. Thus, the verse addresses the situation of each one who would read or hear this letter.

[5] According to Romans 8:14, those who are the sons of God give evidence of their sonship by being led by His Spirit. This does not mean the sons of God are characterized by sinless perfection (see I John 1:8), but that they deal with all of life – even their sins – as the Spirit of God directs. The Spirit of God leads believers to confess their sins (I John 1:7, 9; Romans 2:4). Those who are unregenerate are led by the flesh, the Adamic nature. (See Romans 6:19-20.)

[6] In Romans 8:15, we learn that when believers are born again, they do not receive “the spirit of bondage” which produces fear as it pertains to one’s relationship with God. The “spirit of bondage” is an apparent reference to the slavery to the sin nature experienced by all those who are unregenerate. (See Romans 6:17, 19-20.) It may also refer to the condition of the Jews under the law of Moses. (See Romans 7:2, 6.) The Spirit received by believers is the “Spirit of adoption,” which, instead of producing fear about one’s relationship with God, prompts the adopted child to cry out, “Abba, Father.” This is significant, for “Abba” is an Aramaic word to which the closest English equivalent is “Daddy” or “Papa.” In the Aramaic language, it was the most intimate term for one’s father. It was thought by those who spoke the Aramaic language that “abba” was the first word formed by a baby, and it thus expresses the complete, innocent reliance of babies on their fathers and the absence of any tension or fear in the relationship. (See Mark 14:36; Galatians 4:6.)

[7]        Romans 8:16 indicates that the new birth occurs in the realm of the human spirit. Jesus declared to Nicodemus, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). It is not the material part of a person that is born again, but the immaterial. The Holy Spirit, in regenerating the human spirit and restoring it to fellowship with God, gives testimony to the fact that believers are the children of God.[archive]

The Holy Spirit in the Book of Romans, Second Lesson

The Holy Spirit in the Book of Romans

August 18, 2019

Daniel L. Segraves, Teacher

[1] Before we leave our discussion of the first four verses of Romans 8, let’s notice the words “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” in Romans 8:1. They must not be taken grammatically as imposing a condition on the believer’s freedom from condemnation. They do not mean, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, as long as or providing they do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” The grammar of the second half of the sentence further describes the first half. That is, those who are in Christ Jesus are identified as those who walk according to the Spirit.  It is impossible to be in Christ Jesus and to walk according to the flesh at the same time. By virtue of the fact that believers are in Christ Jesus, they draw their life from the Spirit, not from the flesh.

[2] This does not imply that believers cannot be tempted, or that they will never sin. But it does point out that those who are genuine believers cannot surrender to life “in the flesh.” If they do sin, the Holy Spirit within them will bring conviction, not condemnation, wooing them to repentance.  (See Romans 2:5.)

[3] Those who are unregenerate and who thus “live according to the flesh” are consumed with “the things of the flesh” (Romans 8:5). As Paul pointed out in Romans 6:20, those who are slaves to sin are free in regard to righteousness. But conversely, those who are regenerate, and who thus “live according to the Spirit” are consumed with “the things of the Spirit.” The “things of the flesh” involve life apart from God; the “things of the Spirit” have to do with life in fellowship with God. Believers who allow themselves to be consumed with things not having to do with fellowship with God are living as if their lives were “according to the flesh,” and if they continue this, they will be separated from fellowship with God.

[4] Some take Romans 8:5-8 to refer to believers who are not measuring up to God’s requirements. But that these verses are discussing unbelievers, and thus the unregenerate, is clear from the fact that Paul in Romans 8:9 identified as being “in the Spirit” and “not in the flesh” all those within whom the Spirit of God dwells. Those who are “in the flesh” are those in whom the Spirit of Christ does not dwell, and they thus do not belong to Him.

[5] Paul did not suggest that people are  “in the Spirit” only if and when they are living a life of sinless perfection; believers are “in the Spirit” by definition. The Spirit of God dwells within them.

[6] At this point, Paul equated the “Spirit of God” with the “Spirit of Christ.” They are the same. There is only one Spirit.  The presence of the indwelling Spirit marks a person as a Christian.

[7] The phrase “if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you” is a conditional statement of the first class in the Greek text. The reality of the condition is assumed; the “if” means “since” or “because.”

[8] In Romans 8:10, Paul again used the first class condition to indicate the reality of the fact that Christ was indeed in the believers at Rome. In Romans 8:9-11, the interchangeable terms indicate that it is the same thing to say that the Spirit of God, or the Spirit of Christ, for Christ Himself dwells within a person. There is no idea here of a distinction between these terms.[archive]

The Holy Spirit in the Book of Romans

This is the study guide for the class I will teach on August 11, 2019 at The Sanctuary UPC in Hazelwood, MO, where Mitchell Bland is pastor. This material is drawn from my upcoming book, tentatively titled The Holy Spirit: An Apostolic Perspective on Pneumatology, and planned for publication this fall by Word Aflame Press.

The Holy Spirit in the Book of Romans

August 11, 2019

Daniel L. Segraves, Teacher

[1] The first reference to the Spirit in Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome declares Jesus “to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). The phrase “Spirit of holiness” refers to the Holy Spirit. The parallel phrases “according to the flesh” and “according to the Spirit of holiness” affirm Christ’s humanity (as a descendant of David) and deity (according to the Holy Spirit, referring to the role of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s conception).

[2] The spiritual reality that replaces the circumcision of the law is circumcision “of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter” (Romans 2:29). In his letter to the Colossians, Paul connected this idea with “the circumcision of Christ,” which occurs when believers are “buried with Him in baptism” (Colossians 2:11-12). Those who have experienced this spiritual circumcision “worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).

[3] A rich benefit of the Holy Spirit is that the Spirit has “poured out in our hearts” the love of God (Romans 5:5). The words “poured out” reminds us of Acts 2:33, where Jesus is said to have “poured out” the Holy Spirit on the waiting believers. This is the language of Joel 2:28-29, which Peter declared to be fulfilled in the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-18).

[4] References to the Holy Spirit are threaded through Romans 8. In the first verse, walking “according to the Spirit” is contrasted with walking “according to the flesh.” This follows Paul’s expression of his frustration over his carnality in his struggle to be perfectly obedient to the law (Romans 7:8-25). The law aroused his sinful passions, but he now knew that he had been “delivered from the law, having died to what [he was] held by, so that [he] should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:5-6).

[5] The idea of “newness of the Spirit” is developed in Romans 8. It involves walking according to the Spirit. It is “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” which makes us “free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). We shouldn’t be quick to think that “the law of sin and death” is a reference to sin and death itself. As Paul wrote in II Corinthians 3:7-9, the law of Moses is “the ministry of death” and the “ministry of condemnation” in contrast to the “ministry of the Spirit.” These terms represent the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

[6] By means of the Incarnation, God accomplished what the law could not (Romans 8:3). He did this so “that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). To grasp the significance of this statement, we must first understand that the “righteous requirement of the law” is perfect obedience. There is no indication in the law of Moses that anything less than perfect conformity to its 613 commandments is acceptable. This is the case within the law’s statements about itself and in the observations about the law found in the New Testament.

[7] Lest we think Paul’s point is that, now that we are filled with the Spirit we are enabled to keep the law, we should keep in mind first that we are not under the law of Moses, as seen in the decision of the church council of Acts 15 and a variety of other texts in the New Testament. Indeed, the primary point of tension in the first century church was the disagreement over whether believers are required to keep the law. In every case where this subject comes up, the New Testament asserts that the law is no longer in effect; in fact, we learn from reading the New Testament that it is spiritually dangerous to attempt to relate to God on the basis of the law.

[8] Also, we must note in Romans 8:4 that in the phrase “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,” the word translated “fulfilled” (plēroō) is in the passive voice, showing that this “righteous requirement” is fulfilled not by us, but in us by someone outside of us, on our behalf. That someone is Jesus, whose work on the cross has done for us what we could never do. As Paul pointed out in Romans 5:18-19, “Through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”[archive]