Life through the Spirit. 8:12-17


In dealing with the blessing of the indwelling Spirit of Christ in chapter 8, Paul sets out to show that the doing of righteousness is a work of the Holy Spirit. God's law is realized in the life of a believer through the direct and personal intervention of the indwelling Spirit of Christ.

The passage

v12. Although our "mortal bodies" are "dead because of sin", yet because "the Spirit of God lives in" us, he will "give life" (enliven - prompt righteous behavior) to the mortal self, cf. 8:9-11. Therefore, we have an obligation to cooperate with the indwelling Spirit of Christ. We are certainly not to subject ourselves to the drives of the old nature - the "old Adam." To be subject to the old nature brings death. To be subject to the Spirit, and cooperate with his leading, is to live to God both now and for eternity.

v13a. Paul gives us a warning, namely that to cooperate with the leading of the sinful nature is to die eternally. Paul has already established that a believer can end up in such bondage if they place themselves again under the law. The law only prompts our sinful nature, 5:20; it makes us a slave again to sin.

v13b. Paul now tells us that we must "put to death" (be victorious over) the outworkings of the sinful nature. Only then can we ultimately possess eternal life. We can't help but cry, how?

v14. In answer, Paul again repeats his thesis. Putting to death the misdeeds of the body is achieved by being "led by the Spirit." It is not a matter of effort applied to the law, but a willing submission to the indwelling Spirit of Christ who, as a work of grace appropriated through faith, will carry out his work of renewal in our lives. Only those led by the Spirit (in whom the Spirit's work is fulfilled) are children of God. Our responsibility is to let the Spirit work. Only then can righteousness be exhibited in our lives.

v15. In receiving the Spirit, we certainly don't receive a motivating force toward disobedience and rebellion. To live such a life is to live a life of fear before a Holy God. Such fear we once lived in, for then we were slaves to sin - sin prompted and exposed by the law. Yet, now we are adopted, that is, we are united with Christ, become one with him, become his brother. This is a ministry of the Spirit. He is the one who expedites our union with Christ. By resting on the Spirit, we rest on Christ. Therefore, we stand as sons of the living God. It is in and through this self same Spirit of Christ that we can cry out to our loving Father for the strength to defy our sinful nature. It is in a believer's prayer, silently or in spoken voice, privately or publicly, that the Holy Spirit enables us to live for God (live a Christ-like life).

v16. It is the Spirit who testifies to us that we are God's adopted children. The Spirit assures our psyche that we are children of God. Our adoption into sonship, expedited by the Spirit, produces an assurance of sonship, as it does a sense of the fatherhood of God and a Christ-like life.



v17. Paul now concludes his argument and begins to move onto the next point, namely, the indwelling Spirit and his gift of hope. The life we live in Christ is maintained and progressed by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. Such a life produces hope. If we are God's children then we are heirs with Christ. That is, we have great expectations - an imperishable glory. "The fact that we are now suffering with him, so far from calling into question the reality of our heirship, is a sure pledge of our being glorified with him hereafter", Cranfield.

The Spirit of the living God

The indwelling Spirit of Christ, active in the life of a believer, produces the ethical renewal that the law fails to achieve. The great German theologian Carl Barth said of our passage for study, that it provides the key to ethics, it says "in principle", particularly v15b, all that we need to know about ethics. Just as our salvation is all about receiving rather than doing, so our growth in Christ-likeness is similarly all about receiving rather than doing.

i] Through the Spirit we can start to become the person we are already in Christ, v12-14. Paul encourages his readers to recognize and cooperate with the indwelling Spirit for renewal. Such renewal will bring about an orientation toward righteous living, rather than an orientation toward rebellion. It is not a formula for perfection, but it is the means of progressing toward a Christ-like life. Submission to the law prompts rebellion, while giving ourselves to the leading of the Spirit of Christ brings renewal.

ii] The Spirit unlocks the power of putting "to death the misdeeds of the body" through the prayer of faith, v15. The theory of the Spirit's leading is one thing, the practice another. The prayer "Abba, Father" is the practical means of allowing the Spirit to lead us in the business of putting "to death the misdeeds of the body." A prayer to the Father for his aid in the journey of life, empowers us for the journey. A prayer to the Father for renewal, renews us, such that we are renewed in the receiving rather than in the doing. We overcome, by grace through faith.

So then, let the Spirit of Christ renew you.


1. How do we put to death the misdeeds of the body?

2. We know that we are sons of God if we are led by the Spirit, but how do we know that we are led by the Spirit?

3. What does Paul mean by sharing the sufferings of Christ.

[Seed logo]  
[Printer icon]   Print-friendly: Sermon Notes. and Technical Notes

Index of studies: Resource library
[Pumpkin Cottage]
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons