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Romans 8:12-17

Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
April 28, 2004

The opening word "Therefore" in verse 12 is crucial. It shows that there is a vital connection between what is being said now to what has been said before. It's here, in this passage, that Paul brings the theological truths he's been espousing about our death, burial and resurrection with Christ, to a practical bearing. Being in Christ, we are now no longer debtors to live by the power of the flesh, but instead to be led by the Holy Spirit. Paul has made reference to the Holy Spirit in Romans prior to this point (1:4; 2:29; 5:5; 7:6). But in this chapter alone, he makes many references to the Spirit and His ministry (vv. 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 23,26 and 27). The Holy Spirit now figures in strongly in Paul's argument. (See especially 8:1-4).

Everyone who has been saved by faith in Christ is indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). And because the Spirit indwells the believer, that believer truly has been fully blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). We don't need to seek to "get" more of the Holy Spirit; but rather to let Him "get" more of us! But what are the manifestations of the Holy Spirit's presence in the life of a believer? Paul, in this portion of Scripture, mentions three 'manifestations' that are vital to understanding of our deliverance from the bondage of sin (redemption), and of God's ongoing work of conforming us to the image of Christ (sanctification). The believer who is indwelt by the Spirit will find . . .

A. Imagine working for a cruel, tyrannical boss. Every time he came by, you'd be obliged to do the awful things he ordered you to do - things that resulted in death. Suppose further that you were transferred to a new department - and a new boss. Your new boss was thoughtful and caring. If that old boss came by and ordered you to do some of those old miserable things he used to force you to do, you could graciously refuse because you are set free from him. Similarly, we are no longer debtors to the "flesh" (our old boss). This is a good thing too; because the result of living according to the dictates of the flesh was, indeed, "death" (Rom. 6:20-23).

B. Instead of living according to the flesh, we are to - by the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit - put to death the deeds of the body. The older theologians referred to this as "the mortification of sin". The Puritan John Owen wrote, "Indwelling sin . . . 'the old man,' with his faculties, and properties, his wisdom, craft, subtlety, strength; this . . . must be killed, put to death, mortified, - that is, have its power, life, vigor, and strength, to produce its effects, taken away by the Spirit."

1. Paul's words regarding 'putting to death the deeds of the body' are in the present tense. It is an ongoing practice of the Christian life. This means that our struggle with sin will be an ongoing reality in our lives. We are no longer the passive victims of the flesh; but neither are we now to be the passive recipients of the Lord's help. We do not "give in" to sin; but neither are we to merely "let go and let God". Instead, we are to be actively involved in the struggle. It is "we" who are to put to death the deeds of the flesh "by the Spirit".

2. Note the details Paul mentions regarding this struggle:

a. The arena of our struggle is "the body" (1 Cor. 9:27).

b. The power source for the struggle is the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26).

c. The objective of the struggle is to "put to death" the deeds of the body (Col. 3:5-8).

3. How do we do this? How do we put to death the deeds of the body in the power of the Holy Spirit?

a. You must first be a believer in Christ, and therefore be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Putting to death the deeds of the flesh cannot be done in the power of the flesh. It must be done in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit; and the Spirit indwells all those who are in Christ.

b. In the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, abstain from sinful practices. That sounds simplistic - to simply "abstain"; and it doesn't sound easy either. But it is, in fact, how the Bible tells us to put the deeds of the flesh to death (1 Peter 2:11). The moment we say "no" to the demands of the flesh, we mortify them (1 Peter 4:1).

c. No longer provide opportunities for the flesh. Many say that they wish to abstain from sin, but at the same time will keep the opportunities for sin within their grasp - in order to "show that they can resist". This isn't to mortify sin, but is rather to provide it an opportunity. We must remove those opportunities in order to put to death the deeds of the body (Rom. 13:14; Matthew 5:29-30).

d. Flee from youthful lusts. The Bible is realistic. It doesn't encourage us to stay and resist it; because that would be seeking to fight the flesh in the power of the flesh. In the case of some particular sins, the Bible says to run from it (2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Cor. 6:18).

e. Study and meditate regularly on the word of God. Hiding God's word in our heart - studying it, memorizing it, reciting it - arms us against sin (Psalm 119:11).

f. Pray. Jesus Himself taught us this - both in principle and in example (Matthew 6:13; 26:41).


A. This, admittedly, seems like a subjective matter. But it follows on the heals of verses 12-14. For those who truly struggle agaisnt sin in the power of the Holy Spirit, the same also have the comforting assurance of the Holy Spirit that they truly are God's children. There is no spirit of bondage in fear, as there was before; no spirit of "we'd better obey God or else!" There is, instead, a "Spirit" of adoption.

B. Paul refers here to the "Spirit" of adoption; and we know that this is a reference to the Holy Spirit by a parallel passage in Galatians 4:6-7. There, it is clearly the Holy Spirit who causes us to cry out to to the Father. He even moves us to refer to the Father in the most intimate of terms: "Abba" (which is the intimate term that a child would use to refer to his or her "dad" - see Mark 14:36).

C. Adoption is a wonderful picture. It refers to someone who was not naturally born a child; but someone who was graciously brought into the family as a child - with all the rights and privileges that pertain to being a child. This is not mere presumption. The Holy Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are indeed the children of God.


A. One of the most important aspects of the Spirit's ministry is that He unites us with Jesus in every respect. Jesus' death becomes our death. His resurrection become our resurrection. His life becomes our life. His righteousness becomes our righteousness. His suffering becomes our suffering. His glorification becomes our glorification. His Father becomes our Father. And His inheritance becomes our inheritance. The Holy Spirit also affirms to us that, if we are sons, we are also "heirs" - heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus (John 17:22).

B. In our actual experience, this means that one aspect of the Spirit's ministry in us is that of how we react to times of suffering. It's certainly not a matter of "enjoying" suffering; but those who are indwelt by the Spirit progressively see it from God's perspective.

1. They glory in tribulation (Rom. 5:3).

2. They count it all joy when they are persecuted for Christ's sake (Matthew 5:10-12).

3. They consider it an honor to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:41).

4. They look beyond the suffering of this present age to be unworthy of comparison with the glory that will follow (Rom. 8:18-25).

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