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  • Writer's pictureNik Lingle

Supernatural Living (Sermon)

Romans 8:9-17

Introduction: From the Ordinary to the Supernatural

Most of our lives are very ordinary, and being a Christian doesn’t necessarily change that. Many circumstances of the average Christian’s life would be indistinguishable from a non-Christian neighbor. Of course you find yourself in church on Sunday mornings and they probably usually do not. Some of you went to better schools than others. Some didn’t get a college degree. But whether and what school you went to, your carreer, the linkedin page, the neighborhood, the latest movies you’ve seen—a lot of it is going to be fairly uninteresting. Circumstantially, not much different from a non-Christian neighbor, and more or less uninteresting. If you’re not an American celebrity or British royalty, basically our lives aren’t particularly noteworthy. That’s a dull place to begin a sermon.

But what Paul says about life in the Spirit in Romans 8 is incredible, supernatural. This chapter has often been viewed as the greatest chapter of the greatest book in the Bible. If you ever decided you wanted to memorize a chapter of the Bible, this would be an excellent choice. It’s a mountain peak for sure. Part of the reason it’s viewed that way is that Paul describes the life of the Christian in supernatural terms. Your life circumstances may seem very ordinary, but the work of God in you is extraordinary. This is supernatural living.[1]

The Spirit of the God who created the world has given life to those who are in Christ. And that same Spirit daily empowers you to live just as your Creator wants you to live. And that same Spirit speaks in your soul that you are a child of God.

But if you live this new life in the Spirit, then regardless of how dull your life may seem on the surface, there are new spiritual dynamics that will be increasingly true in your life. And these are things that the Spirit gives or brings to you. There are three of them in these verses: the Spirit gives life, the Spirit gives holiness and the Spirit gives assurance. It’s these dynamics, these gifts that the Spirit brings to those who are in Christ, that Paul tells us about in these verses that were just read.

First of all, in Romans 8:9-11, Paul tells us the Spirit gives life.

1. The Spirit Gives Life (vv. 9-11)

Paul assumes he’s talking to people who believe in Jesus Christ, again in v. 1, he says he’s addressing “those who are in Christ Jesus.” Now in Christ is Paul’s primary way for talking about Christians. You know, we use that term, Christian, primarily. But that word only appears in the NT three times, twice in the Acts of the Apostles (written by Luke) and once in Peter’s first letter. So Paul never once uses the word Christian. Not once.

How does he refer people who convert to faith that Jesus was the Messiah of the Jewish expectations? He refers to such people in many ways, but by far his favorite and most common way of referring to those who repented and believed and is that they were in Christ. Paul uses that phrase, in Christ, over 160 times.[2] And this idea of being united to Christ works both ways, believers are in Christ, but Christ is also in you.

In his letter to the believers in Galatia Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ, who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Later in that letter he says to them, “…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal 4:19). And to the believers in Colossae he says the gospel (good news of Jesus) is the mystery of “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).

Well now in Romans 8:9-11, Paul yet again as he does in so many places, addresses this reality of believers being “those who are in Christ Jesus” (v. 1) and Christ is in them. You see in v. 10, “But if Christ is in you…” It’s of course worth some pondering how Jesus can be in you.

Jesus was (and is) fully God and fully man, a great mystery. But when we say Jesus was fully man, we believe that after being born in a manger he had a body. His body physically died on the cross for sin, he was buried, he was raised to newness of life. But raised still in a body. A glorified body, but still a body. A body that exists now in one place, in heaven for you. “He is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty”—that’s what we say every time we recite the Apostle’s Creed together. My point being, Jesus remains forever and eternity, an embodied person. And as such his embodied presence is not with us. Where is Jesus? In heaven.

How do we resolve this riddle, that Jesus is in a body in heaven, and yet in you? Well, Paul in these verses correlates Christ being in you and you being in Christ, with another spiritual reality.[3] The Spirit dwells in you. He says that three times. First in v. 9, “You, however are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if in fact [assuming[4]] the Spirit of God dwells in you.” And then twice in v. 11, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead (referring to God the Father) dwells in you, [then] he who raised Jesus from the dead [God the Father] will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”[5]

This is a sort of doctrinal way of formulating something Jesus himself had said to the twelve disciples just before his death and resurrection. He was telling them that he would depart soon—referring not only to his death, but to his eventual departure to heaven after resurrection. And they were shocked of course. But Jesus says to them, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).

Jesus says there in relational terms the very same thing Paul says here in doctrinal terms. How does Jesus live in you? The Spirit dwells in you. In fact, it might not even be fair to call those doctrinal terms. It’s a picture, an illustration. The Spirit dwells, taken up residence in you. So as one author put it, “Having the Spirit is the equivalent, indeed the very mode, of having the incarnate, obedient, crucified, resurrected and exalted Christ indwelling us so that we are united to him as he is united to the Father.”[6]How, in what sense, are we united to Christ? By having the Spirit dwelling in us. Making his home in us.

Well what are the benefits of this mysterious reality? There are many. But let’s begin with these two: 1) The Spirit gives life now and the Spirit gives life forever. I want you to notice two particular phrases in these first three verses. In v. 10, Paul says, “…the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”[7] The Spirit is life. The Spirit, whose home address is in you, is life now already. “The Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

How is the Spirit life? This is just what Paul has been saying. You have a sense of freedom from condemnation. You have a new quality of life. Listen to the stories of people who become Christians, and they are often stories of breakthrough. Sometimes there is an immediate change, addictions are broken, inexplicable inner-guilt melts away, conscience-stricken types feel like the wound is mended, and so on.[8] Sometimes, the stories aren’t so sudden and dramatic, but over time the Spirit works into the Christian this reality. You’re living as a freed slave. Because Jesus was righteous, because Jesus was perfect in all the ways we’re not, we have freedom. No longer slaves to sin and law, no longer obligated to prove ourselves by achievements.

And this gives the Christian the freedom to be truly happy, to be alive. To have a certain buoyancy of spirit. This is the distinctive quality of life the Spirit gives now, you know you aren’t condemned. You live as a person who is not dragging your chains around with you.

And the spirit will give life forever. And then the second phrase, v. 11, “…he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” And it is through this Spirit that God will give life to your mortal bodies in the future. The resurrection of Jesus is like a template, what Jesus got you will get. His stone was rolled away, your tomb stone won’t keep your body in the ground. His body was reconstituted, so will yours be. He ascended to the Father’s presence, so will you. And that’s where you’ll be forever.

So this is new quality of life and new length of life.

TRANSITION: If you are one of those who are in Christ Jesus, the Spirit dwells in you, meaning you have life now and forever. But as we move into vv. 12-13, we see another big dynamic of life in the Spirit, which is that the Spirit gives holiness.

2. The Spirit Gives Holiness (vv. 12-13)

In these two verses, Paul contrasts two ways of living: living according to the flesh or living by the Spirit. Look at v. 12, “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die.”

Debtors, not to the flesh. You owe the flesh nothing. Think of desires, impulses of the body, as collection agencies, hired to squeeze out of you the response they want. The collection agency of the flesh keeps calling, keeps harassing you. Paul says, You don’t need to answer the phone, don’t go to the door. Just ignore it. Better yet, take a shotgun to the door with you. Their claims are false. You are a debtor, but not to the desires of the flesh. When those desires come calling, turn the lights off and pretend you’re not home.

What is “the flesh”? A few years before he wrote this letter to the Jew and Gentile Christians in Rome, he wrote to the local gathering of those in Christ who were in Galatia. And in that letter, he worked out this same idea of the desires of the flesh vs. the desires of the Spirit. And there in Galatians 5:19-21 he says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”

Having an affair and joining in a drunken orgy. Those are on the list for sure, but they’re on the same list with jealousy and strife. There’s a certain parity, equality of sins. Not all sins have the same immediate relational consequences, but they are equally sinful. All sins are not equal, but all are equally sinful. Some pride themselves on not indulging certain sins, while they hang out over on this other part of the list. Or you may find yourself at the very end of the list where Paul says, “and things like these.” We owe those desires, we owe the flesh, nothing.

Paul never explicitly finishes this comment. He says, you’re a debtor not to the flesh, and you think he’ll say, “…but rather, you are a debtor to the Spirit.” But he never actually says that. But that’s the thrust of this contrast. If the Spirit has granted you life, then you are a debtor to the Holy Spirit. And what must you pay? You must live according to the Spirit. If you live according to the Spirit, if you live as a debtor to the Spirit then you will truly live. This is the second half of v. 13, “But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

So to live according to the Spirit means “to put to death the deeds of the body.” The good ole King James Version says “…mortify the deeds of the body.” This is the primary duty of debtors. To put to death the deeds of the body. John Owen says you better not neglect this duty even one day of your life. “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”[9]

What are those deeds of the body that we must up to death? Certainly that list of sins (includes “the flesh” from v. 13a),[10]but important to note that deeds includes the desires that lead to deeds. Deeds of the body encompasses the source. Where does it come from? What’s the root? Just like when pulling weeds, you want to kill the whole thing, not just rip the leaves off, allowing it to grow back. So with sin, you never, never just stop at killing an action. That’s actually dangerous. You must always apply your efforts to the desires that give birth to deeds.

So it’s both those deep impulses, our inner inclination to bad habits, as well as the habits of sin that deform the image of God in us.

Benjamin Rush, you may recognize that name, he signed the Declaration of Independence. He was a physician, and he studied drunkards, and wrote of

A man who, while under treatment of inebriety [alcoholism], during four weeks secretly drank the alcohol from six jars containing morbid specimens. On asking him why he committed this loathsome act, he replied, “Sir, it is as impossible for me to control this diseased appetite as it is for me to control the pulsations of my heart.” Were a keg of rum in one corner of the room, and were a cannon constantly discharging balls between me and it, I could not refrain from passing before that cannon, in order to get the rum.”[11]

We all resonate with that, maybe not to the same extent, but that compulsive nature to destroy ourselves by sin is in all of us. Yet, whether you’re a Christian or not, we all want to be better people. Amazon Charts reported the top 20 most read books a couple weeks ago (the week of Sep 30, 2018). Top on the list was the exposé about Donald Trump in the White House (Fear, by Bob Woodward). But then of the rest, there are three memoirs (Educated, In Pieces, and Born a Crime). And twelve about becoming better the people (e.g. Power of Habit, 12 Rules for Life, Girl Wash Your Face, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, How to Win Friends and Influence People).

And the Christian doesn’t simply want to be a better person. A Christian is a person who has a strong inner compulsion to please God. You want the Spirit in you to be pleased by the things you think about and things you do with your solitude. How do you reconcile these two things: 1) you’d run in front of a cannon to indulge a momentary impulse, and 2) you desperately want to please your heavenly Father. What can you do?

How do you put them to death? John Owen, a seventeenth century pastor and theologian, probably the greatest English theologian, preached a series of sermons on the second half of v. 13, “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” A whole sermon series on that half-sentence, that was eventually published as a short book called The Mortification of Sin.

Mortification, to kill sin, doesn’t necessarily mean total elimination of all sin (That is what we’re aiming at, and we’ll hit the target in heaven, but in this life, sin remains with us). Mortification also is not merely concealing the sin so it’s not visible to others. Mortification is not diverting your attention to other things. And mortification is not occasional victories before cycling back into habitual sin. So what is mortification? What is it to kill the deeds of the body?

Owen says mortification of sin consists of three things: 1) habitual weakening, 2) constant fighting, and 3) frequent success.[12]First, a habitual weakening. This addresses the inner desires, the bent toward sin. Some sins are more combustible than others. One tiny little temptation is all it takes to ignite a great sin. So we must first habitually weaken the strength of desire for sin. Paul says, “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24). One way to habitually weaken inner impulses is to cultivate countervailing impulses.[13] You’re pulled by pride? develop a habit of humility. In the grip of greed? Practice generosity. Has lust lured you away constantly, cultivate pure thoughts. Habitually weaken the root.

Second, there must be constant fighting. This addresses the actions of sin. You must know that you have an enemy. You must know the strategies of your enemy. You must wound the enemy daily. “give it new wounds, new blows every day” (32). What new wounds will you give this afternoon to the sin that besets you?

Then third, there should be frequent success. Not just avoiding it, but when you see the temptation form, you’re more immediately able to identify what’s happening, so instead of indulging, you “bring it to the law of God and the love of Christ.” Remind yourself, God’s law says no to this sin, God’s love sent Christ to die for this sin. And you turn away more frequently than you did before.

If you would deal with your sin, this must be your strategy.

And Paul says those who are in Christ put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit. Paul says sin dwells within you (7:18-20) even for the Christian, sin camps out inside you (an unwelcome squatter). But now the Spirit dwells within you (7:9-11). And because the Spirit is the one who has given you life, you are debtor to the life-giving Spirit.

“Overcoming sin is not by our work to change our old nature, but by the work of the Holy Spirit to empower our new nature.”[14]One author refers to the Holy Spirit as “God’s empowering presence”[15] This is true and yet, as another put it, the Holy Spirit of ministry “is not an anonymous magnitude and force.”[16] You’re not overtaken by a non-rational force. No, God is with you, indwelling you in the person of the Spirit. And the Spirit is like your muscle for fighting against sin. You can’t make an inch of progress without the Spirit, he is the power, the agency. You put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit.

And yet, you must still exert effort. You must strive to put to death the deeds of the body. The Spirit’s power doesn’t not absolve the Christian of responsibility. Again, John Owen, “He doesn’t work our mortification in us in a way that keeps it from being an act of our own obedience. He works in us and with us, not against us or without us.”[17] Again, the Spirit is personal, not a non-rational force. So his empowering is relational not a takeover.

One suggestion, try praying to the Spirit. I think most Christians are comfortable addressing the Father in prayer, it’s probably most common. We often address Jesus in prayer as well, especially in giving thanks for his saving works. But I rarely hear us address the Spirit. Maybe you feel hesitant—"Is that an okay thing to do? Can we pray to the Spirit even though we’re not Pentecostal?” Yes, you can address the Spirit in your prayers. You should.[18] Any time you specifically praying for victory over sin, the Spirit should be your conversation partner. For some of you, praying, specifically praying to the Holy Spirit for help in your fight, may be the best thing you could do this week to give your enemy “new wounds, new blows.”

Listen, the Spirit will produce holiness in his people whether they are familiar with him and his work or not. The sun shares its light and warmth whether or not you understand the workings of the solar system. And the Spirit does his work in his people whether or not they are sensitive to his ways. And yet, for lack of familiarity with his working and sensitivity to his leading, many Christians are left at a great disadvantage in their communion with God and pursuit of holiness.[19]

TRANSITION: So the Spirit empowers those who are in Christ to kill sin. The Spirit gives holiness. Then third, the third gift that the Spirit brings to those who are in Christ is the gift of assurance. The Spirit gives assurance.

3. The Spirit Gives Assurance (vv. 15-17)

Now look at v. 14. Paul says, “For…” Now we have to stop before moving on and just point out that part of what Paul is teaching is contained in the first word of v. 14, just that little word “for.” There are some big truths in v. 13 (about the Spirit empowering us to kill sin), and there are some more big truths in v. 14 (about being sons of God). But there’s also a big truth in how v. 14 is relates to v. 13. That’s also something not to be missed.

If you’re being led by the Spirit, if the Spirit is empowering you to put to death the deeds of the body, even if slowly and even if it’s not constant victory on every front all the time—still, if the Spirit is leading you away from sin and toward bearing good fruit (cf. Gal. 5:16-26), then you are sons of God! “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Sons should look like the Father. The Spirit makes us sons, and this is the reason we ought to put to death deeds of the body. “So sonship involves a likeness, a similarity in the whole outlook, and in conduct and behavior…and this is the grand motive for sanctified living.”[20]True children want to look like the Father. And this is the characteristic work of the Spirit: the Spirit is leading us to look like God.

Being “led by the Spirit” is not about decision-making.[21] What the Spirit normally leads us to is holiness, obey God with our way of life. When it comes to decision-making, which school, which career, which job, should I date this person, should I marry this person—you shouldn’t normally attribute your decision to the Holy Spirit. He may not want to be blamed for many of the silly decisions Christians make in his name. No, when Paul talks about the Spirit’s leading,[22] the Spirit’s leading is a matter of killing sin and bearing fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc). And the Spirit does this in all those who are “sons of God.” [23]

Sons of God. What a title. Paul then begins one of the best explanations of Christian assurance and security anywhere in the Bible.[24]

Verses 15-16 (SONSHIP/ADOPTION), “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry “Abba! Father!” There’s a contrast between the “spirit of slavery” and the Spirit of adoption as sons. Slavery and sonship. If you are in Christ, you are not slaves, but sons.

Now you might remember that back in chapter 6, Paul had said that those who are in Christ 1) are not enslaved to sin, and also 2) those in Christ are not enslaved to the law. Those are related ideas. You’re not a slave to sin and law. But then he says, We’re all slaves. Everyone has a master. Rebecca Pippert said, “Whatever controls us is our lord. The person who seeks power is controlled by power. The person who seeks acceptance is controlled by acceptance. We do not control ourselves. We are controlled by the lord of our lives.”[25] You’re no longer a slave to sin and law, now you are a slave to God and righteousness.

But now in Rom 8 he somewhat offsets that metaphor from chapter 6. You are slaves in the sense that you have taken God as your Lord, and you acknowledge him as your king. But you are not slaves in the sense of fearing God’s displeasure. You are not slaves as though you might suffer his wrath for your misdeeds. You are not slaves as if you live at a distance and have no access to him. But he says something much better. Much harder to believer. You are not merely slaves of God, though you are that. You are sons of God. Adopted by the Spirit of adoption into the Father’s family.

And your position as children of God so secure that you can relate to God much like Christ does. Jesus is the one who first addressed God as “Abba, Father” (Mk. 14:36). And now the Spirit invites us to call out to God in those same terms. Jesus described to the disciples his closeness to the Father, “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:30; cf. Jn. 17:1-26). And that name, Abba, indicates the closeness, the warmth and intimacy and security of the Father-Son relationship between Jesus and the Father. Now all the children of God share in that closeness.

Now, I hate to break it to you but Abba does not mean “daddy.”[26] Someone fabricated that concept about fifty years ago (Joachim Jeremias, 1971) and it has become commonplace, but it’s simply not true, perhaps even irreverent. Abba was used by adults in solemn, respectful address to their fathers as much as it was by children. It doesn’t mean “daddy,” but it does indicate confident closeness, a certain security. Notice we “cry out” Abba, Father. This is not rational processing, checking a birth certificate, making sure the court records are right. This is the reflexive cry of the soul (on the idea of “ecstatic utterance,” see Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 410-412).

Paul says something more of this. Moving on to v. 16,[27] Paul says, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God …” The Spirit not only grants that adoption, but also assures us that we are adopted, that we are God’s children. He gives the sense of this reality.

The Puritan Thomas Goodwin told this story of a man walking along a road with his little boy, holding hands, father and son. The little boy knows that this man is his father and that his father loves him. But suddenly the father stops, picks up the boy, lifts him up into his arms and gives him a big hug and kiss. He puts the boy down again and they continue walking. The boy is no more a son than before the embrace. The father’s hug doesn’t change his status. It’s great to know you have a father, but so much better to have his arms wrapped around you and his voice whispering in your ear, “I love you.”[28]

This is what the Spirit does. This is what it means that he bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. So then the Spirit bestows an identity on us—he is the Spirit of adoption as sons. And the Spirit confirms us of the reality of it—bears witness with our Spirits that we are children.

“We are beloved sons and daughters of God.”[29] Oh how we need to hear the Spirit’s speaking this to us. We are always tempted to construct our sense of ourselves—who am I?—around various things: 1) I am what I do, 2) I am what I feel, 3) I am what other people say about me, 4) I am what I have. But these are all ways of constructing our own identity. You can construct the building of your identity around these, but it will never be up to code.

In this passage, Paul tells us that those who are in Christ must abandon all identity-constructing attempts, and instead receive an identity that has been bestowed upon you. And it is this new reality, children of God, that becomes more fundamental and pervasive than any other aspect of your identity.

So then we don’t each construct an identity for ourselves out of our own choices and preferences. You are given an identity by the Father. This is a fundamental distinction between secular Western thought and Christianity. Secularism says we each construct our identity, Christianity says we inherit our identity from God.[30] A received not a constructed identity.

So what of those days when you don’t feel it? When you don’t hear the Spirit in your spirit, bearing witness? This chapter holds together two things. First, a status. You are in Christ, you are children. Later Paul will say, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Unbreakable union.

Second, Paul speaks not only of status but also of experience. The Spirit bears witness, empowers, causes us to cry out. But even on those days when the experience is faint, the status remains. Your sense/confidence may be more pronounced on Sunday than on Friday. But your status is fixed. The Spirit then adds “the subjective sense of the gospel.” But as C. S. Lewis said, “The sense of the presence is a super-added gift for which we give thanks when it comes.”[31]

We may be overly prone to think of our salvation in purely rational or intellectual terms. Paul is very theological and rhetorical. But he reminds us here not to ignore the emotional or phycological side of things. We should retreat to our status when our emotions fail us. But there may be times where it’s the doctrinal formulations that feel dry, and we retreat then to the Spirit’s cry in our hearts that we are beloved children of God.


We have been speaking of the distinctive work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who are in Christ Jesus. I don’t know how often you consider the supernatural element of Christian living. Perhaps you rarely think of the Spirit. But he works still, reminding you that you are freed from condemnation. Assisting you in killing sin. Assuring you that you are child of God.

Take a moment now to reflect on the good Spirit of God

Verse 17, “And if children then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him”

This sermon was originally preached at Christ Covenant Church on October 28, 2018.

[1] Albert Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle, 110: “These Elect are in reality no longer natural men, but, like Christ Himself, are already supernatural beings, only that in them this is not yet manifest.” (cf. Constantine Campbell, Paul and Union, 38). [2] Rankin Wilbourne, Union With Christ, 87. This number is taken from Lewis Smedes, Union With Christ, 55. However Constantine R. Campbell points out that most of these references are indirect. That is, union with Christ is not being treated directly by Paul, but rather Paul is using idiomatic language. Campbell identifies thirty-two instances where union with Christ is addressed as a direct concern (Campbell, Paul and Union with Christ, 434). [3] Moo, 491: “The indwelling Spirit and the indwelling Christ are distinguishable but inseparable.” [4] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 490: “…both words can be translated ‘since’… The context in this case strongly suggests that Paul is, indeed assuming the reality of the Christian experience of his readers.” [5] 8:11 is strongly Trinitarian: God raised Jesus from the dead, and his Spirit dwells in you, thus God will give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. God the Father initiates and plans and grants; Jesus accomplishes the means (resurrection) and establishes the pattern; the Spirit is the agent that brings about the resurrection life that God has planned and granted, and Jesus was accomplished. [6] Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, 71. Cited in Rankin Wilbourne, Union With Christ, 51. [7] Many had taken “the body is dead because of sin” to mean that the body is dead to sin (cf. 6:11). However the Greek is sōma nekron dia hamartian, where the dia should be read as “on account of.” The body is dead on account of sin. If Paul had meant the “dead to sin” concept, he more likely would have used the dative case, as in 6:11 (see Moo, 491). [8] A great place to read a variety of conversion stories is the testimonies section of Christianity Today, available online at [9] John Owen, Mortification of Sin, Works, 6:9. [10] Desires of the flesh: anger/bitterness/resentment, arguing/harshness, arrogance/self-preoccupation/self-pity, sexual lust, laziness, over-eating, discontentment/complaining. Have you reviewed yourself in these categories? If you are in a fight, a war with these deeds of the body, do you know how the war is going? [11] As told by Benjamin Rush, cited in Kent Dunnington, Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice, 33. [12] Owen, Mortification of Sin, chapter 6. [13] See also Thomas Chalmers, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” [14] Imad Shehadeh, Twitter, Oct 20, 2018 [15] Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence. [16] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol 4, part 3, second half, p. 501. Cited by Eugene Peterson, Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, 21. But consider Stephen Neill’s assessment of Barth, “There are few signs of any clear or developed doctrine of the Holy Spirit” (Neill, Interpretation of the New Testament 1861-1986, 225). [17] John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, in Works, 6:20. [18] I can’t think of an example in Scripture of praying to the Holy Spirit. Eph 6:18 speaks of “praying in the Holy Spirit,” which I take to mean in dependence upon the power of the Spirit. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to pray to the Father. So normally we should pray to the Father, but there is no prohibition in Scripture of praying to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit. There is an instance of a “formula prayer” to Jesus at the end of 1 Cor, “Our Lord [Jesus], Come!” (1 Cor 16:22). Given the NT understanding of the oneness of the Father, Son and Spirit, as seen even in this very text (Rom 8:9-11), we may nonetheless pray with confidence to any member of the Godhead. A prayer to Father, Son, OR Spirit, remains in any case a prayer to God. Still, to follow the NT example, we would normally pray to the Father. Nonetheless, prayers that particularly seek from God the work that the Spirit is known to do (sanctification, mortification of sin, etc), would be appropriately addressed to the Spirit. [19] Consider that the OT people of God were at a disadvantage for not having full revelation of God’s working through the Spirit. This is one of the key distinctive advantages of the new covenant (cf. Joel 2; 2 Cor 3:12-20). Many believers under the new covenant functionally experience a similar disadvantage because they are unfamiliar with the ways of the Spirit. [20] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 8:5-17: The Sons of God, 160. [21] My explanation is in concert with Douglas Moo’s assessment of this phrase: “To be ‘led by the Spirit’ probably means not to be guidedby the Holy Spirit but, as in Gal. 5:18, to have the direction of one’s life as a whole determined by the Spirit. The phrase is thus a way of summarizing the various descriptions of the life of the Spirit that Paul has used in vv. 4-9” (Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 498). [22] Paul uses this expression only twice, here in Rom 8:14, and in the parallel passage Galatians 5:18. All the narrative examples of the Spirit’s guidance are in regards to Jesus in the gospels, or in the narrative accounts of Acts. [23] Paul says “sons” here not to exclude girls/women, but rather because he is using a metaphor, in the first century sons receive the inheritance. So in this metaphor, it’s important even for females to count themselves sons, those who receive the inheritance. So Paul builds on this sonship, adoption ideaBack in v. 12, Paul said, “So then, brothers…” and “brothers” was a customary way of addressing a group so that we could rightly read it, “So then, brothers and sisters…” But when we come to v. 14, we should be a bit more hesitant to say, “sons and daughters [24] Moo, “Paul’s description of the Spirit’s work in conferring sonship forms one of the most beautiful pictures of the believer’s joy and security anywhere in Scripture,” 499. Of course, another beautiful passage that parallels this one is Galatians 4:4-7, “[4] But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, [5] to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. [6] And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ [7] So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” [25] Rebecca Pippert, Out of the Saltshaker, referenced by Keller, The Message of Romans (Bible study Leader’s Guide), 16. [26] James Barr, “Abba Isn’t Daddy,” Journal of Theological Studies 39, no. 1 [1988]: 28-47. See also, Glenn Stanton, “FactChecker: Does Abba Mean Daddy,” Abba was the primary word for Father in Aramaic, which was (likely) Jesus’ primary language. Abba was not a little child’s word for their father. It was the only word adults used as well. [27] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached eight sermons on this one brief verse. “There is no other verse which shows so clearly the difference between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism as this particular verse,” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 8:5-17: The Sons of God, 286 [28] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 8:5-17: The Sons of God, 280. [29] Henri Nouwen, “Being the Beloved,” sermon available at [30] See Rankin Wilbourne, Union With Christ, 145. [31] C. S. Lewis, cited in Rankin Wilbourne, Union With Christ, 54.

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