Guest Post: The Superiority of Living by the Spirit
This is a guest post from Lydia Gilger.
“ For those who live according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, about the thinks of the Spirit. For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. For the mid set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:5-8
Paul, a previous persecutor of Christians who was miraculously saved on his trip to Damascus, wrote Romans for the purpose of instructing the believers in Rome on Christian doctrine. Although the Roman Church was doctrinally sound, it needed practical guidance on how to apply this doctrine to their lives. (MacArthur Bible Commentary) In these verses Paul speaks of life according to the Spirit and life according to the flesh and why the flesh cannot be pleasing to the Lord. He illustrates how living for the flesh blinds us to the rich joys of living by the Spirit. Although the Roman church was not necessarily struggling with living by the flesh, Paul wanted to instruct them on how it might look if they were to do so.
In this passage Paul portrays and compares two different ways to live: one being that of the flesh, the other being that of the Spirit. He further describes the mind-set of the flesh as producing death, and the mind-set of the Spirit producing Life and peace. The mind set of death, desiring anything outside of or less than Christ, does not necessarily mean physical death, it more appropriately illustrates Spiritual death, that is, separation from God. The mind-set of life, desiring Christ and anything in alignment with Him, works for the advancement God’s glory and keeps eyes on things that are eternal.
The flesh is for itself. It desires its own glory, seeks its own pleasures, and lives for things that are less than the majesty of Christ. When one sets his mind on, he desires, dwells on, or takes pleasure in, and is completely secure on what his mind is desiring. Elevating oneself and seeking one’s own desires is not in alignment or agreement with the advancement of God’s glory. Therefore, the flesh cannot be in agreement with God. Because God is for His own Glory, anyone who desires anything outside of the advancement of that glory- those of the flesh – cannot please Him. This is why the Spirit can please God. Those of the Spirit seek His glory, and His glory alone, and this is very pleasing in His eyes. They strive for faithful living and are given the riches of Christ in return.
Living for the flesh results in blindness to what the Spirit has to offer. Those living this way are incapable of seeing and comprehending the joys and riches that exist through living for Christ and through the Spirit. What an utterly terrifying reality that is! However, although they are blinded, they are by no means trapped. Because of the cross of Christ, confusion and hostility towards God are capable of being broken; through the Spirit we are bestowed understanding of how to please and live for the Lord. How gracious our Father is in granting us this reality though are flesh is so undeserving! By living for the Spirit we are enlighten to the destructive nature of the flesh and are able to find greater joy in living for the Lord.
This portion of Romans was intended to clarify the difference between living by the Spirit and living by the flesh, why the flesh cannot please God, and how the flesh can blind us to the things of the Spirit. Although Paul wrote this letter to the Romans because he was not able to personally address them, it is to our benefit he had to do so, so that we might be enlightened today to our own way of living.