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By Blessed Economist
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The Flesh (4) Romans 7,8

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In the second half of chapter seven and the first half of chapter eight of his letter to the Romans, Paul pushes his use of “the flesh” in the sense of the spiritual legacy that he inherited through his ethnic legacy a step further. He uses the word sixteen times in twenty-five verses. Paul explains how sin took us into captivity.

I am fleshly, sold into bondage under sin (Rom 7:14).

Our forefathers were trapped in bondage to sin, so we were born into the same captivity. Paul explains that in his mind, he wants to serve God’s law, but “in the flesh”, he is a “slave to the law of sin” (Rom 7:25). A slave can make some choices, but they have very little freedom. Paul finds that his fleshly status prevents him from doing good (Rom 7:18).

Jesus sent his son “in the flesh” to set us free from Sin and Death (Rom 8:3).

He condemned sin in the flesh (Rom 8:3).

His death on the cross destroyed the power of the spiritual powers of evil over those who have put their trust in him. The power that these spiritual powers gained through our birth into slavery to sin was destroyed by the cross. The presence of the Holy Spirit is proof that they are set free.

You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you (Rom 8:9).

Once we are born again by the Holy Spirit, our situation at birth (the flesh) no longer controls us. Paul describes the difference to his Roman readers. Many English versions use the word “mind” several times when translating Romans 8. However, Paul uses the Greek verb “phroneo”, which means “to have understanding”. It can also mean “to think in a certain way”. So referring to the mind is a bit strong. Paul is not saying that sin comes from the mind. I have used the word “inclination/inclined” to better reflect the meaning of phroneo in the table below.

Romans Before After
8:4 Live according to the flesh Live according to the Spirit.
8:5 Those who are in accord with the flesh
are inclined to the things of the flesh.
Those who are in accord with the Spirit
seek the things of the Spirit
8:6 The inclination of the flesh is death, The inclination of the Spirit is life and peace.
8:7 The inclination of the flesh is hostile to God.  
8:8 Those who are in the flesh are not able to please God.  
8;9 In the flesh In the Spirit.
8:12 Debtors to the flesh,
living according to the flesh.
8:13 Living according to the flesh,
about to die
Putting to the death the deeds of the body
by the Spirit, you will live.
8:14   Those led by the Spirit
are children of God

The contrast is stark Those controlled by the flesh (their spiritual inheritance) struggle to serve the Holy Spirit. They are hostile to God and are not able to please him because the spiritual powers of evil still have access to their lives to manipulate them into sinning. Those who are born again of the spirit are reborn as children of God, not as slaves to sin. They seek the things of the spirit because they are led by the Spirit.


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