Romans 8:5–13: The Christian’s Life

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 4: Sunday

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.
Romans 8:6 LSB

Romans 7–8 is the daily Bible reading for Sunday of Week 4, but there are still some things I want to say about Romans 8. I’ve written about Romans 8:1–4, and now I want to give you a few things to consider from Romans 8:5–13. In Romans 8:1–4 I wrote about the reality that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The charge Paul faced in Romans 6:15 “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” he continues to answer in Romans 8 as he writes about the Christian’s life as a new person in Christ.

In Romans 7–8: Law & Grace, I quoted Francis Schaeffer as saying:

“Beginning with verse 15, Paul describes his own ongoing struggle with sin even after becoming a Christian.”1

When he introduces Romans 8, he writes:

“As we look at the first seventeen verses of Romans 8, we should keep in mind that it is the conclusion of Paul’s teaching on sanctification, which began in 5:1. Throughout our study of Romans, and especially in chapters 6 and 7, we have seen that the law is not enough to save us, and it is not enough to sustain us after we have been saved. Both before and after we become Christians we need the power of Christ through the agency of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. In chapter 8, Paul introduces us to the Holy Spirit specifically as the agent of Christ’s power in our lives.”2

I came across something Kent Hughes writes about Romans 7 and 8 that concurs with Schaeffer:

“…chapters 7 and 8 are simultaneous. Chapter 8 is not subsequent to chapter 7 in Paul’s experience, for he experienced both alternately and continued to do so in the years that followed.”3

I think that’s important to keep in mind as we read. As long as we are alive we will experience this battle of sin, and we will always be dependent on Christ to help us and sustain us.

Reread Romans 8:1–4 and continue reading through verse 13. Throughout verses 4–13, you will see Paul make constant contrast between the flesh and the Spirit. Paul writes that those who walk according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh. The mind set on the flesh is death; it is hostile to God; it doesn’t subject itself to God’s law—indeed, it can’t do so—and it cannot please God.

In contrast, those who walk according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit, and the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. You can find other passages in Paul’s letters about walking according to the Spirit and setting your mind on the things of the Spirit in Galatians 5, Colossians 3–4, and Ephesians 4–6.

In Romans 8:9 Paul reminds us that those who belong to Christ are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit and then he tells us that now through His Holy Spirit within us, our spirit is alive—and one day through His Holy Spirit our mortal bodies will be given life.

So then, brothers, 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 practices of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:12-13 LSB

The phrase in verse 13, “…by the Spirit you are putting to death the practices of the body,” is a part of life in the Spirit that hardly anyone ever talks about; the name of this doctrine alone—the mortification of sin—can scare people. I think it’s because we so automatically assume this means we can or we have to perfect ourselves through legalism (Galatians) or asceticism (Colossians 2). Paul vehemently opposed both. In Romans 8, he clearly teaches what he has being writing throughout this letter—that in and of ourselves we cannot please God. The Holy Spirit enables us by His power and that by ourselves. As Schaeffer said, “we need the power of Christ through the agency of the Holy Spirit who lives within us.”4

At Grace to You, Tommy Clayton wrote a series on the Christian’s war against sin. I’ve quoted John Owen in previous posts, and Clayton introduces you to one of Owen’s classics, The Mortification of Sin. G. Gabriel Powell brings the series to a close with encouragement in the final post, I Can’t Handle This! Here are the links:

Be Killing Sin, or Else
Our Relentless War Against Sin
Know Thy Enemy
How to Slay Sin, Part 1
How to Slay Sin, Part 2
How to Slay Sin, Part 3
How to Slay Sin, Part 4
When Sin Plays Dead
I Can’t Handle This!

I titled this post, The Christian’s Life. It has a double meaning; it refers not only to how we live, but also to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of life who has made our spirits alive in Christ, and who will one day give life to our mortal bodies.

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.
Romans 8:6 LSB

Set your mind on the Spirit.


Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Barbary Dove: Sh1019. GFDL. (CC BY-SA 3.0). See John 1:32.
1, 2, 4Francis Schaeffer, The Finished Work of Christ (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 1998) 182, 187, 187.
3R. Kent Hughes, Romans (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 1991) 142.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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