“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh” (Romans 8:12)

Why should we wage war against our flesh? Why is it necessary to kill sin?

Before I answer that question, one point needs to be made:- when the Apostle Paul is talking about the flesh, he is not talking about the flesh in the sense of our skin. “Flesh” is an old Biblical term, to describe the old proud, self-centred, self-sufficient, rebellious nature that we all have. Paul said that “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh“(Romans 7:18).

The reason why you must wage war against your flesh is because if you do not, it will cost your eternal salvation and peace with God. I am not saying that once you’re a Christian you will lose your salvation. Absolutely not. What this means, is that if you lose the battle against sin in your life, you will be sent to Hell like an unbeliever because you are one. And the way to kill sin is to live according to the Spirit. God calls us to live holy lives, and it is through the pursuit of holiness that we will gain victory over sin and killing it.

James Montgomery Boice, in his commentary on (Romans 8:12-13) said that in verse 12, Paul is arguing that Christians ought to – that is to say, they are obligated to – live holy lives in the Spirit. He then gives a few reasons why. First, because the Holy Spirit has united us with Christ so that, we would be delivered from the wrath of God and be transferred into the realm of grace (Romans 6:5-10). Second, because the Spirit has given us a new heart, a new nature, to keep us alive from their previous sinful nature which was spiritually dead (Ezekiel 36:25-27, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 2:1-5). Third, we have the assurance, based on our predestination and calling by God that we will live with Him forever (Ephesians 1:4-6, 11-14). And in Glory our physical bodies will be resurrected. God has done all this for us. Therefore we are obligated to live for Him and Him alone and not according to the sinful nature.

This same teaching is also repeated in Romans 6:11-14 where Paul teaches that since we have been united, we are one in Christ’s death, burial and ressurection; we belong to Him. And so we are not slaves to sin anymore but rather slaves of righteousness, slaves of Christ. And the result of this fact, is that Christians “must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus”. That is why Paul said in verse 12 , “we are debtors not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh“.

This is a real case, a real fact for a Christian, that he has been set free from the terror and reign of Sin. This is the reason and the motivation for us to then take what Paul wrote in Romans 8 seriously.

Boice said “if we are Christ’s, if the Holy Spirit has joined us to him, the past is dead for us and we must live now as what we truly are.” (page 825).

One thing to notice is that Paul here is addressing this to Christians. If that is the case, then why would he say to them “if you live according to the flesh you will die” ?

It is a fact that a non-Christian lives according to the flesh, and believers don’t. Christians live according to the Spirit. Why does he address it then?

Boice points out that ” if you live like a non-Christian, dominated by your sinful nature rather than living according to the Holy Spirit, you will perish like a non-Christian” the reason is “because you are a non-Christian” (page 826).

This means that the Christian will live according to the Spirit, simply because he knows who he is. He knows who he belongs to. He acknowledges who he is in Christ Jesus. So sanctification is realizing who we are in Christ, and then putting it into practice in our lives. In other words, living by that truth which is found in God’s word. If we go back to our obligation to live holy live for God, we can now also realize this:

That our reason for our obligation to live holy lives for God is also, our motivation to continue to walk in the Spirit of God. Our foundation, therefore, for the whole Christian living is found only in God’s Holy Scripture. Let us delight in them as the Psalmist did also (Psalm 119:9-11,20,24).

The Christian will inevitably be victorious for no matter what sin may come which tries to separate him from Christ, it will never ultimately succeed. Because he has the Spirit of God, which is a seal, it is his guarantee for his eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14). Through grace the Holy Spirit gave me new desires which focus on pleasing God and living for Him, so that He would be praised and be manifest to unbelievers through my life. Having this desire also means that I will not be OK living as a non-Christian, because I simply cannot – I want to please God, not indulge the flesh. Every Christian has that same desire, because they have the Holy Spirit. This is why we can be sure of  our eternal security and union with Christ. As the Apostle says, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace“(Romans 6:14).


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