NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson XV)
Wesleyan Methodist theologian Adam Clarke spells it out in such a way that we can clearly see that at one time these Roman believers were under the control of their sinful nature and evil tendencies. Their lifestyle was evidence enough to prove that these carnal inclinations were active in them. But now the Spirit of God had moved in and taken over the control center of their conscience and the seat of power in their hearts. When that happened, they were convinced that God’s Spirit had taken up residence in their regenerated soul. It also validated that when God made mankind it was to be in union with Him. So He set up mankind’s heart to be the throne for His Son and mankind’s body to be the temple of His Spirit. But sin snuck in and defiled the temple and sat on the throne of man’s heart where Christ was supposed to rule as King.
So the Son of God had to come, and through His sacrifice and blood He cleansed the temple, sat down on the throne so that mankind could once again become the habitation of God through the Holy Spirit. And once this Almighty Spirit makes the heart His abode, then the soul is delivered from being bound by the chains of sin because of the moral effects of Adam’s fall. All of this was absolutely necessary to bring peace and the blessed assurance that salvation is real to all who believed in what Christ did. For as the Apostle Paul, he was telling the Roman believers, you are no longer doing what your sinful-selves want you to do. You are doing what the Holy Spirit tells you to do if you have God’s Spirit living in you. No one belongs to Christ if he does not have Christ’s Spirit in him.1 For Clarke, this is a message to everyone, and he pleads with them to let their heart hear what Paul is saying here.2
Bible scholar Robert Haldane continues his thoughts on how the flesh and spirit are different when talking about how to know and please God. He points to the preceding verses where the Apostle had given a description of carnal and spiritual-mindedness. Paul was applying it to the congregation in Rome, but it certainly applies to all believers. He told them, you cannot be living in the Spirit if you are still living in the flesh. As the word “flesh” is used here, it means the nature of man corrupted by sin. Therefore, one living in the flesh signifies being in a state of natural corruption. On the other hand, to be living in the spirit signifies that one lives, and moves, and has their being in a state of grace and holiness.3
Haldane continues by pointing out that carnal orientation is a principle that attaches human nature to the things of this world. The spirit of regeneration is as a light, which, coming from heaven, elevates the mind to the things of heaven. That is why the person living in the flesh, or the carnal man, receives nothing of the things of the Spirit of God to give them understanding and wisdom. Such things are foolishness to them. However, the one who lives in the spirit, or spiritually-minded, knows and approves the will of God, because the spirit of wisdom and revelation that comes from the knowledge of God enlightens the eyes of their understanding so they can see spiritual truths.4
Sadly, the desires of the carnally-minded person are such that their imagination is constantly fascinated with evil. But when their conscience is purged of such sinful contamination, they are then freed to serve the living God.5 To set one’s affections solely on things that are carnal is being hostile to God’s will, and rebellion against His law. But spiritually-minded individuals delight in the law of God and love His commandments.6 That’s why the former consider the things of the world as promoting their good fortunes, while the latter seek the things that are above at the right hand of God7.8
Charles Hodge espouses a similar theme by saying that the Spirit, so to speak, is the element in which you live. This is what the Roman Christians were known for because their faith was being talked about all over the Roman Empire. However, this was not a true measure of what they professed, or what they possessed. The Apostle, therefore, adds that if the Spirit of God dwells in you, this should be what determines your Christian character. This is the only decisive test. No matter what relationship one may claim with Christ, it is of no avail without the indwelling Spirit of God. Hodge told his reader that while they may be members of a church, and fellowship with others who are in fact children of God, that unless they are partakers of that vital union which arises from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they are Christians in name only.9
Albert Barnes offers what he calls a true test of piety that is easily applied. It should settle all questions about one’s Christian character. One question asked is this: If a person is not influenced by the meek, pure, and divine Spirit of the Lord Jesus, if they are not conformed to His image if their life does not resemble that of the Savior, can they claim to be part of the Christian faith? The answer to this question is to help them see that no matter what else this person may claim to have if they do not possess the Spirit of Christ, what they do have is of no value to God. They may be loud when they profess their beliefs, good-natured in their temper, bold in their zeal, and active in promoting the interests of the church they attend or denomination to which they belong. But, if they don’t exhibit the gentle disposition of the Savior, and do not openly manifest His Spirit in love, they are as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.10 Barnes was hoping that all who read his notes would honestly examine themselves so that they could know what was the true source of purest joy – having the Spirit and Mind of the Lord Jesus Christ.11
On the subject of the indwelling Holy Spirit, preacher Octavius Winslow says we must listen to the testimony of the Spirit on this doctrine. In one of his sermons, he pointed out that when looking into the Old Testament, even though the inspired Word of God is seen in a somewhat shadowy form when it comes to any New Testament doctrines, yet we to find a clear hint of the what Paul is saying here: “And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My Teachings.”12 And also: “I will put My Spirit within you, and you will come to life.”13 When looking in the New Testament, these words in Ezekiel help open the door for us to view with increasing clarity and brightness what our Lord Jesus said: “I will ask My Father and He will give you another Helper. He will be with you forever. He is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot receive Him. It does not see Him or know Him. You know Him because He lives with you and will be in you.”14
So when we read what Paul wrote here: “You are not doing what your sinful old selves want you to do. You are doing what the Holy Spirit tells you to do, if you have God’s Spirit living in you,”15 our appreciation for the Spirit within will grow when we also read: “The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. If the same Holy Spirit lives in you, He will give you life.”16 But there is more: “Do you not know that you are a house of God and that the Holy Spirit lives in you?”17 “Do you not know that your body is a Temple of God where the Holy Spirit lives?”18 “How can the house of God get along with false gods? We are the house of the living God. God has said, ‘I will live in them.’”19 “You are also being put together as a part of this building because God lives in you by His Spirit.”20 Winslow then sees no reason for him to go on multiplying quotations. As far as he is concerned, these are enough to prove that the indwelling of the Spirit is a revealed doctrine of Scripture in both Testaments.21
Charles Spurgeon once called out to his congregation as “Dear friends.” He asked if they knew that no matter how high a person my climb on the mountain of human morality, or on which pinnacle they may stand, they will still fall short of being in Christ. That’s because the Spirit of God must come down and dwell in us so He can take us high enough to be united with Christ. Christ will not recognize any as His own in whom the Spirit does not dwell. They may wear the Christian name; they may perform some works which look like Christian deeds; but it means nothing when it comes to being part of Christ. They must have the Spirit of God within them, or else they are none of His. Spurgeon said there is nothing worse than being declared, “none of His.”22
John Stott touches on the gray line between having the Holy Spirit living in believers as new creatures in Christ, and having the infilling of the Holy Spirit in order to have access to His gifts and works. The confusion among some is that when a person is baptized in the Holy Spirit, they achieve a higher status in the Spirit than those who only have the Spirit of Christ which gave them life after being born-again. As far as Stott is concerned, if Christ’s Spirit is not in us to begin with, then we do not belong to Christ at all. This makes it plain that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is an initial and universal blessing, received when we first repent and believe in Jesus. But this does not claim that all the rich experiences of the Spirit we find in Scripture are immediately given. There are anointings of the Spirit for special tasks; gifts of the Spirit to add divine power to our ministry, and others. But the personal indwelling of the Spirit is every believer’s gift from the beginning of their walk with Christ.23
1 Romans 8:9
2 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
3 John 3:6
4 Ephesians 1:17-18
5 Hebrews 9:14
6 Psalms 1:2; 112:1
7 Colossians 3:1-2
8 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 338-339
9 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 398
10 1 Corinthians 13:1
11 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
12 Ezekiel 36:27
13 Ibid. 37:14
14 John 14:16-17
15 Romans 8:9
16 Ibid. 8:11
17 1 Corinthians 3:16
18 Ibid. 6:19
19 2 Corinthians 6:16
20 Ephesians 2:22
21 The Works of Octavius Winslow: op. cit., loc. cit.
22 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
23 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.