The apostle Paul has been laboring to show and explain how the Gospel of justification by grace through faith establishes the Law of God rather than nullifying it (Romans 3:31) and how justification by faith NEVER gives a license to sin (Romans 6:1-11) but justification by faith ALWAYS results in sanctification (Romans 6:12-23).
All of Romans 6, Romans 7, and Romans 8 is an explanation for why people who are justified by faith alone will not continue in sin and how justification by faith establishes the Law rather than nullifies it.
So, in Romans 7, Paul had to deal with both the intent of the Law (Romans 7:1-13) and the inability of the Law (Romans 7:14-25) to show that he was not preaching against the Law and that the Law was indeed that which is good (Romans 7:16). The intent of the Law is to show us God’s righteous character and our unrighteousness. The Law shows us how bad we are; it actually stirs up our badness. However, the Law also has an inability – it cannot justify a single sinner! So not only can the Law not justify – neither can it sanctify.
Then in Romans 8, the apostle Paul got to the heart of the matter as to why justification by faith NEVER gives a license to sin and ALWAYS issues in sanctification – the person who is justified by faith is given the Holy Spirit of God who is the power of godliness.
Paul has been making two comparisons and contrasts in Romans 8:1-17. He has been comparing and contrasting the lost man to the saved man; the man of the flesh to the man of faith; the self-led man to the Spirit-led man. One of the primary dangers that Paul is warning about in this section is that of having a form of godliness but denying its power. In other words Paul is warning about being controlled by the flesh and claiming to be saved when in reality that is impossible. No one is saved who does not have the Spirit of God and who is not controlled by the Spirit of God no matter how religious he appears.
Romans 8:1-4 teaches us of exempted living for the believer. The believer is exempted from the Law and its penalty because his penalty has been paid for by Christ. And now the believer can live for Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit rather than attempting to please God by the Law in his own power.
Romans 8:5-8 teaches us of the excluded life for the unbeliever – even if he claims to be a believer. The unbeliever has no power or ability to obey and please God because he does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. The unbeliever can only live by the flesh and not by faith and therefore can never please God.
Romans 8:9-17 teaches us of the exalted life for the believer. The believer lives the exalted life; he lives on a higher plane because he has the Spirit (Romans 8:9-11) and the Spirit has him (Romans 8:12-17).
In Romans 8:12-17 Paul gave five evidences of the Spirit having the believer:
The first evidence that the Spirit has you is that by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body (Romans 8:12-13). This means that you are committed to the Lordship of Christ in your life; that you are not leaning on your own understanding; and you are not being self-led. You are growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and are learning to obey all that He has commanded. You are not your own – you have been bought with a price – so you are learning to glorify God in your body and surrender it to Him. You have a new relationship to self and sin – you are fighting against it.
The second evidence that the Spirit has you is that you are being led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14). This means that the government of your life rests on His shoulders and that He is in control and not you. This also means that you are being led by the Word of God because this is what the Spirit uses to guide God’s children. You will be growing in both hearing and obeying the Word of God. The Spirit will lead you into all truth and will give you the power to obey that truth by adjusting your life to that truth. You will begin to have discernment and will know the difference between true and false teachers because you are being guided by God’s Word which is evidence that you are being guided by God’s Spirit. All of this added together will mean that your walk is characterized by living by faith and not by the flesh.
A third evidence that the Spirit has you is that you have a new relationship to God with Him as your Father (Romans 8:15). This means that you are not a slave but a son. You obey God because you love Him and want to please Him, not because you are afraid of the consequences. Christians are not slaves afraid of a mean master but are children in awe of a loving Father. We see how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God; and such we are (1 John 3:1). This is our motivation for putting to death the deeds of the body. The Spirit does not lead us into obedience by stirring up slavish fear. He leads us into obedience by stirring up family affection – love for God as our Father. The Spirit does not make us slaves who act out of fear but sons who act out of faith. Faith is trust and trust is based on love, not fear! So not only do we have a new relationship to sin and self (putting to death the deads of the body), we also have a new relationship to God (with Him as our Father).
A fourth evidence that the Spirit has you is that He witnesses that you are a child of God to your spirit (Romans 8:16). The Spirit of God makes God’s love for us real by pouring out God’s love for us in us (Romans 5:5; 1 John 4:16). And then we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). So you see, our service to God is out of love for God and not out of fear. And since we serve God out of love we serve Him the way that pleases Him and not our own way. We do the will of God the way of God from the Word of God because we love Him – and this is how the Spirit of God witnesses to us that we are the children of God (see 1 John 2:3).
A fifth evidence that the Spirit has you is that you suffer because of your love for God and your relationship to Him (Romans 8:17). We suffer for the sake of righteousness and for the sake of Christ. The reason is because we live by faith and not by flesh and the world hates us for it. They do not know God and therefore they do not know us (1 John 3:1). This is why they hate us and why we suffer with Him (John 15:18-21).