Romans on Living Life in the Spirit
Life in the Spirit is a journey, and while there are many great passages throughout Scripture that discuss the role and person of the Holy Spirit, Romans 8 is perhaps one of the most insightful. Here are 7 suggestions that will fuel a passion for the things of the Spirit and further educate how to live a life directed by him.
1. Walk in the Spirit (Rom. 8:4)
There is no shortcut to learning how to walk with the Spirit. It's not just for ultra-spiritual people nor is it reserved for charismatic Christians. Life according to the Spirit is not simply trying to do the right thing, nor is it trying to live according to God's Law. Walking in the Spirit is the central metaphor for describing what it means to live as a Christian. The person who walks according to the Spirit will in fact have the essence of the Law fulfilled in his life.
2. Set your minds on the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5)
The question "how does one overcome the pull of the flesh?" sounds like an old riddle: How can someone extract all of the air out of a drinking glass? The most direct way to get all the air out of a glass is by filling it with something else. You cannot extract thoughts that displease God from your mind. Like [the solution to the riddle], you need to be filled up with thoughts—indeed with an entire mindset—that is oriented toward the things of the Spirit (e.g. Gal. 5:22–23).
3. Put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit (Rom. 8:13)
The person who has been regenerated by the Spirit is not stuck in sin. By the Spirit, the pull of the flesh can be resisted. To "put to death the deeds of the body" is pretty much the same thing as "saying no to sin," but unlike the anti-drug campaign among youth many years ago, just say no by itself will never be successful. Just saying no will never allow you to consistently overcome sin. Then what must you do? You must say no by the Spirit.
4. Be led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14)
The Holy Spirit leads us broadly (always) and more specifically (sometimes). He always leads us through his written Word, which was revealed to the prophets by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20–21). We are to prayerfully, carefully, and humbly apply broad biblical wisdom to the situations we face in our lives.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit leads us directly. The Holy Spirit can choose to act in any way and according to any timetable that he wishes; we do not dictate to him how or when he will move. Since the Bible gives many examples of him acting more specifically, we should anticipate that he will sometimes choose to lead us directly if we are open and available to his guidance.
5. Know the Fatherhood of God by the Spirit (Rom. 8:15–17)
Without the Holy Spirit, we would never know our freedom and identity as God's adoptive children. Thankfully, God has freely given us his Holy Spirit, and these verses from Romans 8 display three amazing things the Spirit does:
He acts as the go-between who takes us out of a place of slavery and fear and brings us into a place of adoption and acceptance.
He helps us to cry out to God as Father.
He testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.
6. Hope in the Spirit (Rom 8:22-25)
The biblical concept represented by the English word hope is so strong that it is almost a synonym for "eager expectation." The focus of the expectation isn't that life will get better here; it is absorbed with the glorious life to come.
What is the role of the Holy Spirit in all this? Rom 8:23 says: "We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." Paul claims that it is because we have the Spirit, not despite it that we groan. In this passage, it is precisely the presence of the Spirit within you that causes you to feel this particular kind of suffering—the longing for final redemption in the midst of a fallen world. In this way, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives reminds us of the stark contrast between the wonderful things God has prepared for us who believe and this fallen world that is so full of sin, suffering, and futility.
7. Pray in the Spirit (Rom. 8:26–28)
These two verses (Rom 8:26–27) are so rich and helpful in our lives in the Spirit.
We learn that we are weak when we come to prayer. We often don't know what to pray for in any given situation. The concern is not about the manner of prayer (the "how"), but rather the content of our prayers—what do we actually pray about?
We learn that the Spirit joins to help us when we are struggling to know how to pray by interceding for us with wordless groaning. It is not, as some propose, that we should just pray whatever we want since we don't have any idea how to pray, and that the Spirit fixes them up and prays on our behalf to the Father. Rather, the verb often translated as "helps" has a preposition attached to the front of it, which suggests that it really means "joins to help."
The Spirit is searching our hearts and knows that we have a mind-set that is focused on him, even if we do not know exactly what we are supposed to pray.
The result is that our prayers are prayed "according to the will of God" because the Holy Spirit is moving us thus to pray and is presenting the prayers that he is guiding us to pray to the Father.
This article is adapted from Walking in the Spirit by Ken Berding.
- Communing with the Holy Spirit (Jonathan K. Dodson)
- "Just Say No" to Sin? (Kenneth Berding)
- The Work of the Trinity in Salvation (Michael LeFebvre, Philip Graham Ryken)