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©John Yerkes

Chapter 8:12-17 (ESV)

Posted on December 28, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 8:12-17 (ESV) -  So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 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.

Question to consider: What does Paul mean by “live according to the flesh”?

It is kind of amazing to think that at the beginning of this letter, Paul started out dealing with issues related to the authority of Jews versus Gentiles in the church. He had to wreck their view of self-righteousness by works of the Law to make sure everyone reading this letter knew that all of our works fall short of the glory of God. Knowing that we all stand condemned because of a sin nature that was inherited from Adam is devastating until Paul pointed out that it paved the way for the second Adam, Christ Jesus, to meet the righteous dictates of the Law and exchange His righteousness for our sin debt on the cross.

This righteous exchange, Paul declared, happened at our baptism where our flesh was crucified with Christ, and our spirit was raised with Him so that we can walk in newness of life. With this knowledge, people may have been tempted to go back into the bondage of sin since we are dead to the penalties of the Law, but Paul emphasized that our salvation from sin means that we have been set free to bear the fruit of righteousness given to us from the Spirit of God.

Because we still live in fleshly bodies and a world filled with sin, Paul warned that the sin living in our flesh will always be at war with our desires for righteousness as long as we live in it. In the meantime, we should walk according to the Spirit rather than according to the flesh. This applies both to our fleshly desires to sin and our nature to boast in our own good works and think they have some merit before God. If we indeed have the Spirit of God living in us, He will help us stand in the faith as redeemed sinners.

This brings us to today’s passage where Paul pointed out that because we have the Spirit of God dwelling in us, our obligation is to live according to the Spirit and not the flesh. Once again, this is not just referring to us putting to death our fleshly desires to sin, but to get rid of any notion that we do “good deeds” to earn God’s favor. If I think that I am more worthy to receive the grace of God because I go to church, fill the offering plate, or feed the poor, I’d be wrong. If I think that I am holier because I eat the right foods, get the right amount of exercise or excel in my knowledge of scripture, I’d be wrong. No matter how well I may stack up to other people on the “righteous deeds scale”, I would still be condemned if God were to judge me by them.

If instead we are led by the Spirit and claim only the righteousness of Christ, we no longer need to fear the judgment of those who are servants to the Law, but instead the Spirit will give us the assurance of grace that we have become the adopted children of God. Not only does this allow us to call God our dear father, but we become heirs along with Christ. Of course, as heirs along with Christ in glory, we also share in His sufferings while we are still in the body.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for adopting us and giving us Your Holy Spirit who leads us in the way of righteousness and gives us the assurance that our faith will one day be realized and our hope fulfilled. Help us to rest in this knowledge as we endure the sufferings of Christ in this world. Amen.