Hands of a woman with Bible praying

by Brian Shilhavy

The Problem

For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death…

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? Let it not be said!

But I did not know sin except through the Law. For also I did not know lust except the Law said, You shall not lust.

But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, worked in me all kinds of lust. For apart from Law sin was dead…

And the commandment, which was to life, was found to be death to me. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.

So indeed the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good…

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.

So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:5-24)

This passage of scripture written by Paul in the book of Romans clearly states the problem we all have with our physical bodies, or our “flesh.” Our flesh is weak and sinful, and totally incapable of obeying the perfect, spiritual Law of God that was given to the Israelites through Moses.

As sin works through our bodies via lusts (and pride: see 1 John 2:16), it separates us from God and kills us spiritually, working towards its ultimate outcome, physical death.

Our ultimate problem in our bodies is one of sin – our inability to keep God’s laws. We find ourselves in bondage as slaves to sin and its working in our bodies, which results in sickness and disease along the way, the by-products of sin.

The Solution

The solution to this problem in our bodies is a spiritual solution – not a physical solution:

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.

But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

But 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.

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh– for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:1-14)

Jesus’ physical death and resurrection broke the power of sin, and he now offers us the solution to our problem of sin and physical bondage. The solution is to receive the Spirit of Christ into our lives through the spiritual rebirth process, so that our spirits will be recreated. The wonderful truth of Christ’s breaking the power of sin and death on the cross is that God’s Spirit can now live in our sinful, imperfect body!

Physical Health for the Present Time

But notice that this process of spiritual rebirth, where God’s Spirit comes to live within us, is said to “also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

The text is very clear here. It is not referring to the future when we die the physical death and take on new immortal bodies. (See 1 Corinthians chapter 15 for the wonderful details about this.) It is referring to the present time.

It refers to those of us alive physically right now and living in our “mortal” bodies, which Paul calls “this body of death” at the end of Romans chapter 7. The Spirit of God living in us can make even these corrupt, sickly bodies alive! It is not a once for all event like dying the physical death will be, but instead it is a process where we are led by the Spirit of God to be “putting to death the deeds of the body” in an ongoing process of spiritual renewal.

So once we are reborn spiritually and become a part of Jesus’ spiritual kingdom, our life is to be a process of learning how to live by the Spirit, as opposed to living by the flesh:

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace..” (Romans 8:5-6)

“Living by the flesh” is living in bondage to the lusts of our bodies where sin still exists. But the spiritual process of “living by the Spirit” is to consume our life, as opposed to being consumed by the lusts of our flesh. Paul addresses this very clearly in his letter to the Galatian churches:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

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. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-25)

Our Spiritual Life Gives Life to our Physical Bodies

Considering the fact, therefore, that our spiritual life is what gives life to our physical/mortal bodies, what is more important: our spiritual health, or our physical health? What good is spending all our time and financial resources to purchase physical “health” for a “body of death” that is going to completely die sometime in the near (compared to eternity) future anyway?

Taking care of our bodies and respecting it as the “temple” (dwelling place) of God’s Spirit is certainly something everyone needs to do, but are our bodies more important than our spiritual life? Are we to be totally consumed with taking care of our bodies to the exclusion of our spiritual health?

What effort are you taking today to either obtain spiritual life, or to nourish the new spiritual life you already have and to be constantly “putting to death the deeds of the body?”

We need to be led by the Spirit of Christ and follow him on a daily basis! He is our personal counselor who will guide us each day in the way we should walk, (the sins we need to confess, the relationships we need to repair, the people we need to show love to, etc.) and empower us to follow him on the specific path he has just for us. That path is a path to health and fulfillment, but it is also a path to suffering as we constantly wage war against the sin in our flesh and the kingdom of darkness around us.

Our hope is not for this life, the current physical life, but for the eternal life to come after our physical death, when we receive new perfect bodies:

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 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.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:15-25)