Living in the Flesh Vs. Living in the Spirit

Sermon Study Sheets

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

August 11, 2002

Living in the Flesh Vs. Living in the Spirit

Romans 8:12-17

Turn to Romans 8. We will be looking at verse 12-17 this morning where Paul
contrasts living in the flesh and its results with living by the Spirit and its
results. Paul begins this section by explaining the believer’s relationship to
the flesh.

Living in the Flesh (vs. 12,13)

The Believer’s Relationship to the Flesh (12)

12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live
according to the flesh.

As we have seen over the last several weeks in our study of Romans, the
person who is justified by faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ
has no obligation to the flesh. We have no debt to the flesh. We have no duty to
the flesh. It has no right to compel us to do its bidding.

Paul has explained the reason for this in chapters 6 and 7. Our old self
was crucified with Christ so that our body of sin might be done away with, that
we should no longer be slaves to sin
(6:6). God and His righteousness are
our new masters. Sin has no right to tell us what to do. Christ has broken the
law’s jurisdiction over us and joined us to Himself (7:1,4) so that we are
released from the law and serving it in the oldness of the letter and are now
bound to Him and serving in the newness of the Spirit (7:6). This is important,
for though the law is holy, righteous and good (7:12), it was used by our old
sinful natures to produce in us more sin. The result had been our conviction of
and condemnation for sin. But the believer has been changed.

Yes, as Romans 7:14-25 points out, Christians still struggle against the sin
that still exists within what Paul refers to as the "flesh," that part
of us that remains corrupt while awaiting final redemption when we go to heaven.
Yet, the believer has a new nature that is in conflict with this flesh and he
fights against it. The unregenerate cannot do that for they are slaves to sin.
Even their best efforts to do good fall short and are filthy before our holy
God. They cannot "joyfully concur with the law in the inner man"
(7:22). The true Christian does do this for he recognizes the spiritual nature
of the law, and even though it reminds him of his continual failure to live in
perfect holiness, he now strives to fulfill the law out of his love for God.
Though the body of flesh still struggles with sin, the Christian’s mind is set
on "serving the law of God" (7:25).

The true Christian is justified by his faith in the person and work of the
Lord Jesus Christ, and so he is no longer under God’s condemnation (8:1). His
sins are forgiven and He is clothed with the righteousness of Christ. As
wonderful as that is, if we were left in our flesh to battle sin by ourselves in
this life we would have very miserable lives. We, like Paul in 7:24, would be
continually crying out to be freed from the body of this death. God gave
us something additional so that we can win in our battle against the flesh. The
Holy Spirit sets us "free from the law of sin and of death"
(8:2). Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit we are enabled to fight against
the flesh and win. We will not have complete victory in this life because at
times we will try to do things in our own power instead of His, but through the
Holy Spirit are lives should be marked by less sin and more holiness. The Holy
Spirit also enables us to fulfill the righteous duties God has revealed to us in
His word (8:4).

The true Christian has the Holy Spirit dwelling within them (8:11) as part of
the new covenant. Non-Christians and those with false professions of faith do
not. As I pointed out from verse 9 last week, either you have the Holy Spirit
and you belong to Christ, or you don’t and you are not a Christian. Anyone who
teaches that the Holy Spirit comes upon the Christian as a separate act sometime
subsequent to salvation is teaching a false doctrine. 1 Cor. 12:13 even makes it
clear that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit comes upon the believer at salvation,
otherwise they are not part of Christ’s body.

The true evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence in a person is seen in the
fruit of the Spirit which Paul lists in Galatians 5:22,23love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.
Against such there is no law.
How is that fruit generated in the Christian?
It arises from the mind set of the individual, which in turn reveals the true
spiritual nature of the person. The mind set on the flesh is death, for it is
hostile to God (8:6,7). The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. The
importance of having a proper mind set in order to live for Christ and evidence
true salvation cannot be stressed enough. That is why Paul stresses it again
here in verse 12.

Again, as Romans 7:14-25 explains, the Christian is in a struggle against the
flesh. It is a battle that he will lose at times, but the primary reason for
defeat is what he has set his mind on. If he sets it on the flesh, then he will
obey sin, and it will be his master. If he sets it on the Spirit, then he will
obey righteousness, and it will be his master (6:16). The problem we often have
is that at times we think or feel like we have no choice but to sin. That is
simply not true, but it is the reality of how we think and feel at times.

We have God’s promise that He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what
we are able, but with the temptation, He is faithful to provide a way of escape
that we may be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13). We succumb to the temptation
because it is attractive to our flesh, which includes our corrupt thoughts and
our pride (1 John 2:15,16), and so we consider it and yield to it if our mind
set is to fulfill the flesh’s desires. But as Paul says here in 8:12, the
Christian has no obligation to the flesh. We do not have to give in to it. We do
not have to live according to it. That is a key element that makes the true
believer different from the person who has a false profession of faith. The true
Christian will stumble in sin and fall at times, but he is not characterized by
catering to his sinful flesh (8:5), and even when he does fall, it is contrary
to his true desires (7:23,25). The false Christian is characterized by catering
to their flesh. They may make effort to do some good things, but they are not
done for the glory of God. Their mind set and life is actually one in which they
are living according to the flesh.

Evidence of Living in the Flesh (Gal. 5:19-21)

What is the evidence of living in the flesh? I spoke about this briefly last
week and pointed out Galatians 5:1-21. "Now the works of the flesh are
evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry,
sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions,
dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the
This cannot be considered a comprehensive list for Paul adds on
a qualifier at the end, "and the like," that tells us there are
more things that could be listed. This is rather a sample of areas where the
flesh leads. But lets take a closer look at this list and see what they reveal
to us about those that live according to the flesh.

Sexual Immoralityporneiva / porneia.
This refers to all sexual sins. Those who live in the flesh view their sexuality
as something that must be fulfilled, which is not true. It is reserved for
marriage only. They also approach it as getting pleasure for themselves rather
than God’s design which is for it to occur only within marriage as an act of
vulnerability, intimacy and giving of yourself to your spouse.

Impurity: ajkaqarsiva / akartharsia. This
is moral impurity, dirty. It is the mind set of fornication. It would include
pornography, lewdness and obscene jokes. It differs from porneiva
/ porneia only in that this is mental rather than physical. It is the filthy
mind that could lead to immoral actions if the opportunity arises.

Sensuality: ajsevlgeia / aselgeia.. This
is lasciviousness, being unbridled in lust, without restraint. It is shameless
conduct. It seeks to satisfy the flesh by doing whatever feels good regardless
of its impropriety or offense to others.

Idolatry: eijdwlolatriva / eidololatria.
This is worshiping a false god. Those living according to the flesh do not want
to know the true God because that would make them uncomfortable, to say the
least, in their sin. They make up a god for themselves that will either accept
them or which they can appease in some way.

Sorcery: farmakeiva / pharmakeia. This is
"magical arts" of potions, etc. We get our word, "pharmacy,"
from it. These are drugs. Those who live according to the flesh are quick to use
drugs if they will give the desired effect. We live in a society that has
latched onto this in a big way in both street drugs and prescription drugs. I am
not referring to taking medications for genuine medical health reasons, but
taking drugs because they make you feel a certain way. The mind that is set on
the flesh wants to only experience good emotions, so if drugs will give you
those, or help you escape bad emotions, then that is great. The truth is that
God has given us the capacity for both positive and negative emotions. The
negative emotions are valuable tools in the process of maturing us into
godliness (James 1, Rom. 5). We should work through them, not escape them. There
are also those drugs given because it is easier to do than have the self control
necessary to avoid something, often diet related, that gives you a problem,
including eating too much food. There are also the drugs given to control
people. I am thinking especially of the many, many children that are on now on
behavior modification drugs. So much of it could be avoided with proper diet and
discipline in the home, but it is easier for the parent to give their child a
couple of pills. That is living in the selfishness of flesh instead of doing
what is best.

Enmities: e[cqrai / exthrai. This is
hatred, active hostility toward others. It is the opposite of love. When you
live in the flesh you see other people as competition that must be crushed, or
as enemies that must be subjugated. This is the mental and emotional driving
force that will express itself in several of the characteristics that follow.

Strife: e[ri" / eris. Contention,
quarrels, fighting. It is the outward expression of enmity, it is the hatred put
into action. Arguing has a basis in logic and exchange of ideas. Strife has no
such basis. Its only goal is to conquer and subject. It becomes adversarial even
over minor issues and resorts to yelling, berating, and name calling in order to
get its way.

Jealousy: zh’lo" / zalos. This is
ambition to equal or surpass others. Those living in the flesh cannot be content
when someone else has something they do not, so the effort is made to get the
same or surpass. While this may be expressed in the materialism of effort to
"try and keep of with the Joneses," the root is the idea that you are
the equal or better of everyone else, so it is also expressed in areas of honor,
prestige or position.

Outbursts of Anger: qumoi . Thumoi. This
refers to uncontrolled temper, fits of rage or anger that boils up. The mind set
on the flesh has little or no self control and so the enmity that is present
will erupt when something blocks you from getting what you want. This may
explode in a violent rage of words or physical force, or it may remain
relatively calm, but the effort will be made to destroy the opposition.

Disputes: ejriqei’ai/ eritheiai.
Mercenary, selfish ambition, to court by any means to gain for self or cause. It
is used of those electionerring, and it leads to strife & disputes. Those
who live according to the flesh seek to use other people for their own purposes.

Dissensions: dicostasivai / dixostasiai.
This means, "to stand apart," and refers to those will not work as
part of the team. The mind set on the flesh cannot humble itself to subject
itself to the will of others unless they can gain something for themselves
through it. If you don’t play their way, they will take their ball and go
home. Dissension leads to the next character.

Factions: aiJrevsei" / haireseis.
This refers to divisions or sects based on people choosing to group together
with those who share their opinion. The mind set on the flesh is more interested
in finding other who will agree than in searching out the truth. It can also
refer to social groups that form that then exclude others. We usually refer to
these as cliques. They evidence minds set on the flesh for they are the opposite
of the love Jesus told us we were to have for one another.

Envying: fqovnoi / phthonoi. This is
resentment of others because they have prospered in some way more than you.
Those who live in the flesh can only see life through their narrow little
window, so they cannot rejoice when others do better or get ahead of them. Among
people who want to think themselves to be spiritual, but they really are not,
this manifests itself in being envious of those who have more prominent
spiritual gifts or a larger ministry. And yes, I have seen it among men who call
themselves pastors.

Drunkenness: mevqai / methai. Being
intoxicated. Proverbs 31:6,7 says, 6 Give strong drink to him who is
perishing, And wine to those who are bitter of heart. 7 Let him drink and forget
his poverty, And remember his misery no more.
Hopelessness and misery belong
to those who walk in the flesh, and that is why they seek refuge in a bottle.
They want to escape their problems, but they are still their waiting when they
sober up.

Carousing: kw’moi / komoi. This refers to
the riotous, noisy parties that result from drunkenness. The inhibitions are
gone so the flesh is free to satisfy itself. There is a line of defense that is
now used that argues a person is not responsible for their actions when they are
drunk, as if the alcohol was the culprit. The truth is that the alcohol simply
pulled back the normal covering of restraint to reveal the debauchery that
really exists in that person’s heart. They live according to the flesh.

The essence of all the deeds of the flesh is a selfishness that wants the
world to work according to what you think is best for yourself, and so you labor
at making it work that way. The truth, God and other people are not really
important in the quest. You are the most important entity in the universe, so
the goal is to satisfy the cravings of your body, please your thoughts and
emotions and build up your ego. Obviously, that is against God’s declaration
that you are just a creature made for the glorification of Him. God is the most
important entity in the universe, not you.

Results of Living in the Flesh (13)

Paul gives the results of living in the flesh in Romans 8:13. "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."
point here is simply this. Genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ results in
some very significant changes in the individual. Yes, the Christian will still
struggle against sin, but he will no longer be characterized by it, for the true
Christian is no longer obligated to the flesh and so no longer lives according
to it. The true Christian lives according to the Spirit and is putting to death
the deeds of the flesh. How you actually live reflects whether your mind is on
the Spirit or the flesh. If it is characterized by the flesh, then your
profession of faith is false. You are believing something other than the gospel.
You do not have the Spirit of Christ, therefore you do not belong to Him and you
must die.

Living in the Spirit (13-17)

Living in the Spirit is radically different than living according to the
flesh. Paul explains this in vs 13

Its Effect on the Flesh (13)

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.
according to the Spirit has a direct effect upon your flesh. Paul had said back
in verse 8 that "those who are in the flesh cannot please God."
But the opposite is also true. Galatians 5:16 tells us that if you walk by
the Spirit, you will not carry out the deeds of the flesh; 17 For the flesh sets
its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are
in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

Notice that those living in the Spirit are "putting to death the
deeds of the body."
This is not something that is already accomplished,
but something that is on going. This is what Paul is referring to when he calls
on believers in Col. 3:5 to "mortify" (KJV), "put to death"
(NKJV) or "consider the members if your earthly body as dead to
immorality," etc.(NAS). True Christians are characterized by their struggle
against the sins of the flesh. The Christian will lapse into doing the deeds of
the flesh on occasion, but those deeds do not characterize them.

What does it mean to be "putting to death the deeds of the

It means that the longer they walk in the Spirit, the less they will give
into the deeds of the flesh. The process is the same as breaking an old habit
and developing a new one, except we also have the help of the Holy Spirit in
this process. How do you break an old bad habit. First, you recognize and
acknowledge that is something that you do not want to continue to do. Next, you
stop doing it. You put that desire to death. Then, you replace that bad habit
with a new habit that is good. Do that for a long time and it becomes your
normal way of life.

When opportunity comes along to do your old habit, you remind yourself that
you no longer want to do that and so refrain from doing it. Instead, you
practice the new habit you want to establish. The Christian can call on the Lord
for help in this. This can be done with any deed of flesh. For example.

Lets say a sinful habit you have had in living in the flesh is qumoi
/ Thumoi – anger. Something happens, you get angry and you lose your temper. How
is that changed? First, you recognize it is not a godly response. James 1:19,20
states, let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; the
anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God."
Col. 3:8 tells
us to put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech
from your mouth.

I ask the Lord to convict me when I am in danger asserting my own desire and
will instead of seeking His. If I find myself losing my temper, I stop and
apologize. I then strive to replace this sinful habit with a new one that is
good. I remind myself that with humility of mind, I am to consider others as
more important than myself – Phil. 2:3, and so as the Lord’s bondservant I "must
not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when
(2 Tim 2:24,25). Proverbs has several verses that apply. Prov
15:18 (NASB) A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger
pacifies contention.
Prov 15:1 (NASB) A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
Prov 14:29 (NASB) He who is slow to
anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.
can ask the Lord to bring these things to mind when I am in danger of giving
into my flesh, and then I step forward in faith to do them and leave the results

in God’s hands. If I strive to control the results, then I am stepping back
out in the flesh and taking what belongs to God.

Its Benefit of Living in the Spirit (14)

The benefit of living in the Spirit is in verse 14. "For all who are
being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
" When we follow
the leading of the Spirit of God, we give evidence that we do indeed belong to
Him and that we are sons of God. We entered into this relationship when we
received Christ as our savior. John 1:12 tells us, "But as many as
received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, [even] to
those who believe in His name."

This was a thrilling concept for John, the Apostle. He marvels about it in 1
John 3:1, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we
should be called children of God; and such we are."

And indeed, all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. Those
who are not Christians can claim God as their Creator, for such He is, but they
cannot claim Him as Father, for they do not have such a relationship with Him.

Its Confidence of Adoption (15)

Being Children of God gives us a confidence in coming before Him. Paul says
in verse 15, "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to
fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry
out, "Abba! Father!"

We are God’s bondservants, but that does not mean we have the fearful
relationship to Him that a slave would have. We had that fear before being
justified by faith in Christ, and it was a proper fear because we were under His
condemnation. But there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus
(8:1). Instead, we have the spirit of adoption by which we not only can approach
God as our Father, but as the text says here, it is "Abba! Father!"
This is not a formal relationship, but the rather the intimacy of loving
relationship between parent and child. "Abba" is the equivalent of us
saying, "daddy." We have a great confidence in coming before God
because of this intimacy of relationship that is bounded by His great love. And
please understand that adoption is a greater love, for it chooses to give to one
that is not naturally a member of the family. It is normal and natural to love
the child of your own flesh, but it is extraordinary to extend that love to a
child who is of someone else’s flesh.

The Spirit’s Witness (16)

We have additional confidence before God because, as verse 16 states, "The
Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God."
this is subjective, but it is that inner knowledge that God’s people have
within them that they are right with God and belong to Him. It gives us
assurance of our relationship to Him and our salvation, and by it we have
confidence to go to God with our troubles, trials and fears as well as our joys
and triumphs.

The two other witnesses to our salvation are: 1) a changed life that reflects
we are no longer walking in the flesh, but in the Spirit. 2) The witness of the
word of God to the truth and our commitment to believe and trust God’s
promises. When the devil accuses us of our sinfulness and the assurance based on
our changed life is lost, we fall back to the witness of the Spirit with our
spirit and then to the ground of truth in the promises of God’s word.

Fellow Heirs with Christ (17)

In verse 17, Paul explains an additional blessing of being adopted sons of
God. "and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with
Christ, if indeed we suffer with [Him] in order that we may also be glorified
with [Him.]"
As God’s children, we are His heirs and therefore fellow
heirs with Christ. We will hear those blessed words as we enter heaven, "Come,
you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world"
(Mt. 25:34). We will be part of God’s
eternal kingdom.

We are also fellow heirs with Christ. This is slightly different than our
normal concept of inheritance, for when we inherit from a relatives estate, we
only receive a portion of the total estate as designated in the will. Often this
means selling off the estates assets so that it can be divided. There is no
division of this estate, but we all become fellow owners with Christ of heaven.
That is why true Christians are heavenly minded. If your going to be inheriting
heaven, who can be that excited about amassing an earthly estate which will all
burn anyway?

Our being joint heirs is seen in our present reality of suffering with
Christ. By that, Paul is referring to the persecution that comes against all who
strive to live godly in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:12). The more we become like
Jesus, the more the world will hate us because it hates Him (Mt. 5:10-12; John

15:20). But that very suffering because of our identification with Jesus is
assurance of our also being glorified with Him. That is the great hope of the
Christian. It is that hope that drives the Christian on in their battle against
their own sin as well as the temptations and persecution of the world. All who
have this hope of being glorified with Jesus purify themselves (1 John 3:3).

What is your hope? What marks your life? Are you living according to the
flesh? Then be warned that you are bringing God’s wrath and condemnation upon
yourself. You do not have to continue to live that way. You can find forgiveness
for your sins in Jesus Christ and a new way of life through the Holy Spirit.

Are you living by the Spirit? Then rejoice in your hope and continue putting
to death the deeds of the flesh so that you might be further conformed to the
image of our wonderful Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ.



Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s
lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something
you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older
Children –
Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word
"flesh" is mentioned. 2) Discuss with your parents what Paul means by
"flesh," what it means to live in the flesh and what it means to live
in the Spirit.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

What is the believer’s relationship to the flesh? Why? How should the
believer be dealing with his flesh? What is the evidence of living in the flesh?
Consider each of the characteristics listed in Galatians 5:19-21. Which of these
do you struggle with? Do they characterize you or are you finding at least some
victory over them? What other evidences can you think of that would indicate
someone is living in the flesh? What are the essential characteristics of
someone living according to the flesh? What are the results of living in the
flesh? What is the effect of living by the Spirit upon the flesh? What does it
mean to be "putting to death the deeds of the body"? How can
that be done? Pick one of the areas you are struggling with and map out a
strategy to gain victory over it. What is the benefit of living in the Spirit?
What is the confidence given to true Christians? What is the witness of the
Spirit? What other things give assurance of true salvation? What does it mean to
be a "joint heirs" with Christ? What will we inherit? How can
suffering bring assurance? Are living in the Spirit or flesh?


Sermon Study Sheets

Sermon Notes – 8/11/2002 am

Living By the Flesh VS. Living By The Spirit – Romans 8:12-17

Living in the Flesh (vs. 12,13)

The Believer’s Relationship to the Flesh ( Review and vs. 12)

The true Christian will stumble in sin and fall at times, but he is not
characterized by catering to his sinful flesh (8:5), and even when he does fall,
it is contrary to his true desires (7:23,25). The false Christian is
characterized by catering to their flesh.

Evidence of Living in the Flesh (Gal. 5:19-21)

Sexual Immoralityporneiva / porneia.

Impurity: ajkaqarsiva / akartharsia.

Sensuality: ajsevlgeia / aselgeia..

Idolatry: eijdwlolatriva / eidololatria.

Sorcery: farmakeiva / pharmakeia.

Enmities: e[cqrai / exthrai.

Strife: e[ri" / eris.

Jealousy: zh’lo" / zalos

Outbursts of Anger: qumoi / Thumoi.

Disputes: ejriqei’ai/ eritheiai.

Dissensions: dicostasivai / dixostasiai.

Factions: aiJrevsei" / haireseis.

Envying: fqovnoi / phthonoi.

Drunkenness: mevqai / methai.

Carousing: kw’moi / komoi.

The essence of all the deeds of the flesh is

Results of Living in the Flesh (13)

Living in the Spirit (13-17)

Its Effect on the Flesh (13)

Putting to death the deeds of the body –


Its Benefit of Living in the Spirit (14)

Its Confidence of Adoption (15)

The Spirit’s Witness (16)

Fellow Heirs with Christ (17)