The natural man does not have the Spirit. The natural man can be either religious or irreligious. Regardless of whether he is religious or not, the natural man does not have the Spirit. It is the religious natural man for which the Bible has the most negative denunciations and against which the severest of warnings are directed. The religious natural man who claims to be saved and claims to be a servant of God only has a form of godliness but has denied its power (2 Timothy 3:1-5). He does not have the Spirit; he is not saved; he cannot properly interpret Scripture; he cannot and will not subject himself to the Law of God; the requirement of the Law is not fulfilled in him; and he cannot please God (Romans 8:4-8).
The Christian does have the Spirit. The Christian doesn’t have a form of godliness that is devoid of the power of godliness. The Christian has a form of godliness and the force of godliness – the Holy Spirit. Because the Christian has the Spirit he receives the things of the Spirit; he sets his mind on the things of the Spirit; he can properly interpret Scripture; he obeys the Scriptures because he loves Christ; the requirement of the Law is being fulfilled in him; and because he is living by faith and not the flesh he can please God.
The Spirit has the Christian (Romans 8:12-17). Here we are getting to what is the all important and logical conclusion of the matter – not only are we indwelt by the Holy Spirit we are owned by the Spirit. When a Christian stops short of this conclusion he may wrongly believe that he has the Spirit and that the Spirit is under his control or that the Spirit is only there as some form of mystical magic genie to solve our problems when we can’t solve them ourselves. However this is a reversal of true Christianity and the purpose of the Spirit’s indwelling us. We don’t have the Spirit so that we can control Him – we have the Spirit so that He can control us!
Many a person has falsely concluded that Christianity is inviting Jesus into ones life. The fallacy of this kind of thinking is that it turns Christianity into a utilitarian religion where Jesus is “added” to ones life for selfish reasons. Some examples of this would be someone “adds” Jesus to his life so that he can have his best life now, or so that he can have the purpose driven life, or so that he can have a fire insurance policy from hell, and all sorts of other wrong and selfish reasons for “adding Christ to ones life.”
Christianity is not inviting Jesus into ones life. Christianity is “Christ, who is our life!” Christianity is not us holding on to our lives and “adding” Jesus to it. Christianity is dying to our life and having it replaced by His life. “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” Christianity is substitution not supplementation; it is replacement not redecoration. Christianity is exchanged living!
The sooner we learn that it is the Spirit who gives life and that the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63) – that the flesh cannot add anything of any value to serving God and pleasing God – the sooner we can learn the lesson of Romans 7 – that there is nothing good in us, that is, in our flesh (Romans 7:18). We cannot and dare not serve God in the flesh.
So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – (Romans 8:12). We don’t owe the flesh anything. The flesh has only brought trouble into our lives. It does not subject itself to the Law of God, it is hostile to God, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. The one who sows to the flesh will from the flesh reap corruption (Galatians 6:8). Instead we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts (Romans 13:14).
We are not to coddle the flesh we are to crucify the flesh! “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). And since that monumental moment when we first died to self and crucified the flesh through identification with Christ our substitute we don’t revert back to believing that our old self is capable of being reformed and being able to serve and please God. No! Instead we die daily and set aside the old self with its evil practices and put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.
We have no obligation to the flesh – we have no obligation to the old self – we are not to live according to the flesh. We are to no longer be guided by our sinful and selfish desires.
For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die (Romans 8:13). Here we understand that those who are living by the flesh and not by faith are going to face eternal death. We know this because everyone whether saved or not is going to die a physical death except for the saved that are alive at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. So this death that is warned against in this verse is eternal death and judgment that will happen to those who although they may claim to be saved and claim to be serving God have not crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. They are not living by faith; they are not being guided by the Word of God but instead are leaning on their own understanding and attempting to do the will of God the way that seems best to them. They have not been saved and they must die!
But if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13). Here we understand that those who are putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit are never going to face eternal death and destruction. Christians do and will face physical death but never eternal death. In these verses we are seeing the differences between living in the flesh and living by faith – between being self-led and Spirit-led. Those who are self-led do not have the Spirit no matter how loudly they proclaim that they do. Genuine Christians do have the Spirit but more than that – the Spirit has genuine Christians. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to control and guide the Christian. The Christian does not lean on his own understanding but trusts God with all his heart. Yielding to the Spirit’s control means that the deeds of the body are being put to death.
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God (Romans 8:14). And all who are not being led by the Spirit of God, these are not the sons of God!