THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT No. 2
An exegesis of Romans 7-8
By Larry White
In the first lesson on the Law of the Spirit we laid down the doctrinal basis for walking in the spirit. In this second lesson we will answer some hard questions and deal with some practical applications.
Paul was not an antinomian. That is a person who believes you can be a Christian and not obey any moral code at all. Paul is not saying that because we are not under law we can do just anything we want. Paul was not an anarchist.
For though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but in law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law.
So Paul was in the law of Christ. The idiom that Paul uses carries the idea that the law of Christ was in him as well. I pointed out in the last lesson that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus governs us, which James calls "a law of freedom" (Jam.1:25). That is the law the Hebrew writer says that God has written on our hearts and minds (Heb.8). This is the King's law, the Royal law, the law of love which, if you truly keep, you will never go against God's moral law.
Owe no man anything, save to love one another: for he that loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love works no ill to his neighbor: love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.
Now, love is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22) and if you are led of the Spirit, you are not under law. (5:18)
The reason for that being that if you walk in the Spirit you are fulfilling the righteous requirement of God's law, which is what we covered in the first lesson.
But how do I walk in the spirit as opposed to walking in the flesh?
First let's define and contrast the flesh and the spirit. The graphic that we will use is this:
Flesh is the Greek (sarx) sarx and means:
1.) The soft substance of the living body which covers the bones.
2a.) The Body. The human body as opposed to the human spirit.
2b.) Of human origin (GK.katasarka kata-sarka) that is, according to the flesh, from man's point of view - Earthly.
3.) A living creature - carries the idea of being weak, mortal and frail. Mere man.
4.) Ethical sense, the desires to which our body leads us. The unrestrained part of our nature that satisfies itself and seeks the gratification of our animal life.
We can see the flesh through what it produces. Paul calls them "deeds of the body" in Rom.8:13 and "works of the flesh" in:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revelings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God
We don't have time to cover them all; but why is:
Adultery a work of the flesh?
Because it gratifies the flesh's desire to covet what someone else has. It fulfills the base desire to conquer and possess and satisfy itself sexually without any regard to the higher life of man in reference to God. It has to do with Lust, the strong attachment that the soul has to this life and its unbridled desire for more.
Because an idol was nothing more than the flesh deified. It satisfied the flesh's desire for power and the lust of seeing its god. It takes the focus of a man's spirit off of his God and through the flesh attaches his affections to something that is not God.
Envy - Murder?
Because the flesh is apart from God and therefore lives in Fear. Reacting to fear the flesh only looks out for itself, and for anyone to have what it does not have is a threat to its survival. When we so hate others the flesh must protect itself and so it arms itself with Pride. The flesh can become so self-centered that the only life that is important to save is its own, therefore murder is easy. Take the current Soap operas as a good case study in the works of the flesh.
Contrary to this is the Spirit.
The Greek is (pneuma) pneuma, meaning "Air". The Hebrew term is Ruach meaning "mighty wind". These words carry the idea of something that is Intangible yet very Powerful. They also carry the thought that it is more than mere man, something Divine and Unearthly.
Paul contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit in:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law. And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and its lusts.
Why then is
Meekness part of the fruit of the Spirit?
Because the spiritual man will recognize the authority of God and be compliant to it. He understands that he is not his own and is a creature before the creator, and he therefore humbles himself under the hand of God.
Because the spiritual person understands that he is not just his body, and he can bridal anything that concerns himself through the ability the Spirit gives him. His eyes are open now to see what the lusts of the flesh are. He can see fleshly temptations coming at him without surprise, and he can Control himself because he has crucified those fleshly desires in himself and he has the clarity of seeing the situation for what it is. He also has the strength in his inner man to not only resist the temptation, but also to turn and expose it for what it is to everyone around him. The Christian can be like a bright light revealing everything in a dark room. James says to "resist the devil and he will flee from you." Why? Because you are exposing him - making him manifest.
Because the spiritual man loves God; he loves God because he can see the truth and knows the love that God has for him and for everyone else. (1Jno.4:19) He loves because he can see the true identity of everyone - the image of God that they all hold and he loves them because he loves God. The spiritual man loves others because he loves himself - he loves himself because he know the love that God has for him - and therefore he loves others like he loves himself.
Now let us look at:
...that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: and they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
They that are after the flesh = a product of the flesh, to be inwardly governed by the flesh - that is where we draw our impulses and direction, being motivated by the flesh.
Mind the things of the flesh = to think of, care for, strive to obtain, aspire to the things of the flesh.
For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.
But the mind of the flesh is death = Spiritual separation from God. That is its ultimate result. The reason why that is the result is because,
the mind of the flesh is hatred for God = it is in revolt against God, it wants to satisfy "self" and be its own God - the law of God withstands it and it revolts; it cannot be subject to the law of God. The flesh wants the perfection of its course to its goal - to be as far away from God as it is possible. That is spiritual death. If that is where you yield your will (to the flesh) then it will dominate you and bring you to death.
Now they that are after the spirit = those that are inwardly governed by the spirit - that is from where we draw our impulses and direction.
They mind the things of the spirit = they think of and care for and put their affection on the things of the Spirit. Compare Paul in:
If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth.
To be spiritually minded is life and peace. = The spirit thirsts for the life in God which is its element and sacrifices everything to succeed in enjoying it completely. The spiritual man will seek to come near to God and know him intimately - and to do that, is to live.
And this is life eternal, that they should know you the only true God, and he whom you have sent, Jesus Christ.
Being spiritually minded is the habit of life of walking in the spirit. Just like being carnally minded is the habit of life of walking according to the flesh. If we practice walking in the flesh, we will grow that way and become proficient at it; and we'll more and more be carnally minded and not spiritual. This is ultimately death.
If we practice walking in the spirit, we will grow that way and become good at it. We will more and more be spiritually minded and not carnal. This is ultimately life. The choice is ours.
But how do I walk in the Spirit?
I have got four suggestions on how to walk more fully in the Spirit. But before that, the first thing one must do it to be in the spirit.
But you are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
One must first have faith in God and that Jesus died for his sins.
Then he must be immersed into Christ and have his sins remitted.
Then God raises him up in a new spiritual life and gives him the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Then he must study God's word and grow in faith.
No one can walk in the Spirit unless this foundation is laid. We must first live in the spirit.
My suggestions are:
1.) Believe it exists.
We walk in the Spirit by faith. Believe the spiritual realm exists, that God is really there. God is not far away - "in him we live and move and have our being". Even though we cannot see him or touch him, God is really there.
Believe the Spirit is really there. When Paul says God has sent the Spirit of his son into your heart, then believe it; account it to yourself; assume that it has happened. When Paul says that God sealed us with his Spirit - then believe that is a fact and God has put his stamp of ownership on you. If any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. Believe it and start acting like you belong to Christ.
Believe and see and respond to spiritual realities. The spiritual realm is real, and we have contact and access to it because we are children of God and born of the Spirit.
2.) Set your priorities right.
Col.3:1 again. "If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God." Recognize that spiritual things are the only lasting and important things; not your job, or your car, or you house, or your retirement, or your hobbies. The true riches of the universe are the spiritual blessings that we have in Christ Jesus. The seeker of goodly gems in Mat.13 who found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought that pearl.
For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which you show toward all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of him; having had the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to that working of the might of his strength...
When you seek to walk in the Spirit, God will do this for you. He will open your eyes to understand what your expectation is and to comprehend the riches of the glory of his inheritance, which is yours. Make these things the center and goal of your life. The spiritual man has a hidden treasure and nothing can replace that in his heart. Your spiritual life is the most precious thing that you have.
3.) Trust God for direction.
The Psalmist said, "...in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths."
Do we trust God to do that? We in the church pray for God to help us in something and when questioned how God is going to do that, we often somehow end up explaining his working in our life only through means of his word. Now God does work through his word - but is that the only way? Nothing is impossible with God. He's an all powerful God and he can do ANYTHING. He will work in our lives and help us if we trust him and expect him to work it out.
The providence of God is past finding out. He not only knows our problems and temptations, but before we encountered them - he already knew how it would go and made provision on how we could handle it. But that is if we trust him and expect him to work. When we pray to God - expect him to answer and he will.
4.) Deny yourself and crucify the flesh. Refuse to respond in the flesh. The flesh reacts to either pleasure (the allurement of gratification) or to pain (the perception of some threat).
In the spirit we have another value system to fall back on when faced with a temptation or provocation in the flesh. Those in the flesh only have one choice. Have you ever been insulted by a person from a different culture? Were you really insulted?
I once had a Hawaiian try to pick a fight with me by trying to insult me about my home town. He asked me if I was from this area and then proceeded to slander in every way he could the town of Santa Clara. I really couldn't care less what he thought, but I told him that I actually spent a lot of time in Santa Clara but that Sunnyvale was really my home town. To which he responded with a string of obscenities about Sunnyvale. Not really caring about the two towns or what he thought of them, I simple shrugged my shoulders and bid him a good day. In his culture, what he said was "fightin' words", but in my culture, my self-worth does not rest on how others view my home town. His threats didn't register with me. I was not insulted like he had hoped.
It's the same in the spirit. Our hometown is in Heaven, in the spirit and not in the flesh. What if someone says bad things about me, or insults me to my face? The Hawaiian would pound the person into the ground. But that is not my culture, the flesh is not where I live. It doesn't matter to me what people say about me in the flesh. Personal attacks in an argument never work, they are meaningless. We live in the spirit - we are not of this world. Who is he insulting anyway? A dead man. The spiritual man has no fleshly ego to wound. The only response coming from us would be love.
You can also apply this to lusting after women. In the spirit we can see who people really are and their true worth. We can also, in love and the hope of redemption, see the great potential of each person. And so goes the true saying, "Beauty is only skin deep." In the spirit we can see just how thin a crust that is.
Paul said, "If we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit." That is, bring our daily life's activities and responses in line with the powerful and divine life that God has created in us.
I hope this lesson helps you do that.
(Originally delivered as a sermon in Eagle Point, Or. October 14, 1984)