You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. – Romans 8:9-10 ESV
According to verses 5-8, we have choice. We can either set our mind on the things of the flesh or on the Spirit. We can be earthly-minded or heavenly-minded. We can live with our ambitions focused on this world or on the world to come. We can act as if we are purely physical beings living in a material world or we are spiritual creatures whose true essence is not of this world. The flesh and the Spirit are at odds with one another. Paul writes, “for the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God” (Romans 8:7 ESV). Those who choose to live according to the flesh refuse to submit to the law and the righteous reign of God, ultimately proving to be displeasing to Him.
But Paul reminds us that a change has taken place. Those who have placed their faith in Christ are no longer “in the flesh”. In other words, the physical realm is no longer to be our primary focus. We have been placed in the Spirit’s domain, which is why he states that we have been placed “in the Spirit”. We now live under a new set of criteria, a new law, the “law of the Spirit of life” (Romans 5:2 ESV). We have been set free from the law of sin and death. Paul says, “to set the mind on the flesh is death”, but “to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 5:6 ESV). When we fail to remember that we are spiritual creatures living in a spiritual realm, under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit, we risk falling back into our old ways, giving in to our old nature. But not only are we spiritual creatures living in a spiritual dimension, we are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit Himself. We who were once dead have been made alive, spiritually alive, and given new life and a new capacity to live righteously and obediently.
It is the Spirit within us that enables us to have new life and to live in a new way. The very same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead now lives within us. He has made His home in our hearts. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?,” Paul asks. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV). The Holy Spirit lives in us and lives through us. It is through His power that we are able to fight against our own sinful flesh. It is with His help that we stand against the temptations of the enemy and the attacks of the world. Without His presence and power, we would find ourselves totally helpless against our own flesh. And even with Him living within us we can still find ourselves giving in to the flesh and falling easy prey to our own sinful passions and desires. That is why it is so essential that we set our minds on the things of the Spirit. We must make Him a top priority in our lives. We must learn to trust in Him and lean on Him.
It is the Spirit who makes possible the new life we have been given in Christ. He is the one who equips us to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. Paul reminds us, “no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3 ESV). We can’t live obediently without the Spirit’s help. We are incapable of producing fruit without His divine enablement. In his letter to the Galatian believers, Paul wrote, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NLT). The Holy Spirit, also referred to as the Spirit of Christ, lives in us. It is His presence that makes possible the new life we have been called to live. Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus was that “ according to the riches of his [God’s] glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17 ESV). It was his desire that they know and comprehend the full love of God as expressed in the gift of His Son and to experience the fullness of God Himself. The Spirit is the one who makes it possible for us to comprehend the love of God and to know what it means to experience the fullness of God – which is true life. There is nothing this world has to offer that can compare. The flesh is dead, but the Spirit IS LIFE. Life without the Spirit is impossible. Not only is eternal life impossible without the Spirit, but so is life on this planet. We may live, breathe, walk about, interact with others, accomplish great things, accumulate great wealth and rack up a lot of years, but we will never know true life apart from the Spirit of life.