A major subject that the apostle Paul teaches in Romans 8 is the Holy Spirit’s work in every Christian’s life. The Holy Spirit is mentioned nearly twenty times in chapter 8 of Romans. Therein, Paul explained certain important works of the Spirit in every Christian’s life. Thus, it provides us with a treasure trove of theological, spiritual and practical truths concerning the Spirit’s work in a Christian’s life. It is amazingly enriching and inspiring to all who seek their spiritual growth.
In a Christian’s life, the Spirit’s influence is essential to all that he ought to be as a godly person to glorify God. He is the Source, Enabler and Securer of our spiritual life. True believers serve God, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). It is the Holy Spirit, who ultimately will bring every believer to eternal glory in the presence of God.
Christians’ Life is a “Walk” in the Spirit
In Romans 8:1-4, Paul wrote, “1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
Everyone in Christ Jesus has been liberated from the divine condemnation and the subjugating power of the carnal passions of the flesh. He is now characterised by a new life that is “after the Spirit”. The spiritual freedom from sin and condemnation sets him forward to live according to the direction of the Holy Spirit, who now dwells in him. Such an individual’s life is no more anchored on his fleshly or carnal desires. His passion for living is as the Holy Spirit guides him. So, it is said in verses 1 and 4, that Christians “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”. In fact, a Christian’s life is a life in the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit!
Paul testified concerning his own Christian life in verse 2, that it is a life directed by the Spirit – “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Here, Paul uses the term “law” in the sense of “governing operation” or “effectual working”, and not the Mosaic Law or other divine commandments. The effectual working of the Holy Spirit (“the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”) grants to every Christian the power to break free from the bondage of sin, guilt and condemnation (“the law of sin and death”). When a person experiences the saving work of Christ through the Holy Spirit, he is endued with a newness under the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit.
Paul also said that such a renewed spiritual life was “what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh” (v. 3a). In verse 3, “the law” refers to the Moral Law of God (i.e. the Ten Commandments). In other words, a godly life, as taught by the Law of God, was not possible because he was kept weak by his carnal nature (“flesh”). Man’s sinful corruption made the Law powerless to save him. The Law could only condemn man for all his sins. But God worked out the sinful man’s deliverance from the miserable bondage of sin and condemnation by “sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh”. By Jesus’ death on the cross, our sin and its condemnation had been removed. Jesus bore the fury of God’s wrath that was against our sin, and thus He broke sin’s power over all those who would come to Him with faith. Jesus’ death was “for sin” and it “condemned sin in the flesh”. Whereas sin once condemned the believer, now Christ condemns sin, delivering the believer from sin’s power and penalty!
The freedom from sin and condemnation which Jesus has secured for the believer results in a life of righteousness. So Paul said in verse 4, “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Once a person trusts in Jesus for deliverance from sin and judgment, he is freed from the slavery of sin and empowered through the Holy Spirit to live a life of sanctification. Every true Christian is under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and hence will possess the divinely imparted ability to live righteously. It does not mean he will be utterly free from temptations of the flesh and its influence. But he will be empowered to overcome such attempts of the flesh by the working of the Holy Spirit. God does not redeem men in order that they may continue sinning, but in order that they may begin to live righteously by having the requirement of the Law fulfilled in them.
God has made available the Holy Spirit and His empowerment to all Christians so that they “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”. Without exception, every Christian can walk in the power of the Holy Spirit to live a righteous life. The word “walk” is used figuratively to refer to a habitual way of life or a lifestyle. A Christian’s habit is to walk in the Spirit and not after the sinful passions of his flesh. Because every true believer is indwelt by the Spirit, every true believer will produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). A true believer, whether young or old, immature or mature, has the influence and the enablement of the Spirit to live a biblical, righteous life.