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. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. – Romans 8:8-11 ESV
Paul has made it clear that we are to live according to the Spirit of God who lives within us, not according to our old sinful nature. But as he so honestly confessed in chapter seven, there will be times when we find ourselves giving in to that old nature, doing the very things we do not want to do. Our minds, while well-intentioned, will give in to our sin nature – if we attempt to live holy lives apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit. That is why Paul opens up verse nine with the statement: “You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.” In other words, those who had placed their faith in Christ had died along with Him on the cross. And because they died with Him, their spiritual natures had been set free the control of their earthly bodies. Christ “condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4 ESV). To walk according to the Spirit simply means to live in submission to His will and in dependence upon His power. When Paul says, “you, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,” he is not saying our sin nature is gone and all fleshly desires are done away with. He is saying that we have a new way of living provided for us by God. It is the law of the Spirit of life that has set us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).
And Paul makes it clear that if anyone has placed their faith in Christ, they have the Spirit of God living within them. NOT to have the Spirit is to be unsaved and unjustified before God. “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9 ESV). The Spirit is given by God to every believer at their conversion. Paul told the believers in Ephesus, “when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV). It is the indwelling presence of the Spirit that provides proof of our justification before God. He places His Spirit within us, signifying our new status as His children and providing us with a new capacity to live holy lives that is no longer externally, but internally driven. And while we still live in these earthly bodies that are destined to die because of sin, the Spirit provides us with life because we are now righteous before God. We have the guarantee of eternal life, never-ending fellowship with God, but also abundant life here and now. Jesus said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT). Satan, our enemy, wants to rob us of life. He wants us to live according to our old sin-enslaved nature, which is driven by the passions of our earthly bodies. But Jesus died so that we might have life, and the Spirit provides us with the power to enjoy that life, right here, right now. Zane Hodges nailed it when he wrote, “. . . whenever you see a Christian living the Christian life, you are witnessing a resurrection miracle!” (“The Death/Life Option,” Grace Evangelical Society News). Because we have been made right with God through the death of Christ and have received the Spirit of God as proof of that newly restored relationship, we can walk in newness of life. We can live differently. We can actually live holy lives, not based on our feeble human effort, but because we have within us the very Spirit of God. And as Paul reminds us, the Spirit who lives within us is the very same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. And, Paul tells us, “he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11 ESV).
There is a day coming when we will be given new, resurrected bodies. We will no longer struggle with sin, sickness and pain. Death will no longer be a looming reality hanging over our heads like a sword. The apostle John tells us, “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). But while we wait for that day to come, we can still walk in newness of life. We can enjoy abundant, rich and satisfying life on this earth, even while saddled with these earthly bodies and our old sin natures. Why? Because we have resurrection power living within us in the form of the Holy Spirit. He is not dormant or biding His time until the Lord returns. He is alive and active in every believer, providing guidance, encouragement, and death-to-life kind of power that makes our transformation into the likeness of Christ possible.