For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God. for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8
It can be argued, as I have suggested in a previous volume, that the message of this great and most eloquent chapter really begins at verse 5. The first four verses sum up the argument of chapter 7; and here we have a new section which runs from the 5th verse to the end of the 13th verse.
Let us remind ourselves that the object of the entire chapter, and therefore the object of every subsidiary section, is really to prove the contention of verse 1 namely, that `There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’. That is the fundamental proposition. The Apostle’s purpose is to show the absolute certainty and finality of the full and complete salvation of all who are `in Christ Jesus’ – in other words, of all :who are in the realm of the Spirit, and in whom the Holy Spirit of God dwells. Of course this has its negative side – that this salvation only applies to such people as have been set free from `the law of sin and death’ by `the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’. They are the only people for whom there is no condemnation and to whom, therefore, this certainty of final and compete salvation applies. The Apostle has been reminding us in verses 3 and 4 of the way in which believers have been put into that position and thereby set free from the Law and all its demands, and all that it does to those who are unregenerate and `in the flesh’.
Having done that, Paul can proceed to prove that it is essential that we should be `in Christ’, and in the realm of the Spirit, before this can possibly happen to us. He has made his great asseveration in verses 1 and 2; then in verses 3 and 4 he shows us how we get into that position. Now he wants to establish the fact that it is only to such people that this full and final salvation is guaranteed and is absolutely certain. We can put it in this way, that the object of verses 5 to 13 is to prove the contention of verse 4 in particular, and especially its second statement. He has told us that the object of salvation is `that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us’. But, he says, `the righteousness of the law’ is only fulfilled in those `who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit’. Now he proceeds to show why he speaks in this way, why it is that only in those who walk `after the Spirit’ and not `after the flesh’ can `the righteousness of the law’ be fulfilled.
A general analysis of this sub-section, verses 5 to 13, I suggest, is the following: Verses 5 to 8 give us a picture of the contrast between the Christian and the non-Christian, with the special object of showing that `the righteousness of the law’ cannot possibly be fulfilled in the non-Christian but only in the Christian. In verses 9 to 11 Paul applies this to the Roman Christians. He says: `But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his’ – that is to say, he is not a Christian at all. As far as they are concerned he knows that they are `in the Spirit’ and not `in the flesh’. So he shows them what their present position is in the light of that fact, and what their future glory is going to be as its outcome. Then in verses i z and 13 he gives them a practical exhortation because of all that is true of them. `Therefore, brethren, we’ – of whom all this is true – `we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh; for if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.’
Two things, therefore, stand out very clearly here. The first is that in verses 1 to 4, as I have been careful to stress all along, the Apostle is describing and writing about all Christians, not merely some Christians. He gives no indication whatsoever that there are two classes of Christians. A popular teaching says that there are (2) `carnal’ Christians and `spiritual’ Christians, and that here Paul is talking only about the `spiritual’ Christians. This section will confirm and prove to the hilt our contention that in verses 1 to 4 the Apostle has been talking about all Christians, not certain special Christians only, not only Christians who have received some second experience. That `there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ is true of every Christian. This is quite basic because it determines, as we have seen, our view of sanctification. Verses 5 to 13 will prove that to us quite clearly and put it beyond any doubt whatsoever.