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Lent 5A 2nd Reading

Romans 8:6-11

Gift Mtukwa

The apostle talks about two scenarios, the first being where one sets his or her mind to the flesh (Rom. 8:6) and the other where one sets his or her mind on the Spirit. (Rom. 8:6, 9). Verse 6 is a continuation of verse 5 which has already spoken of two lives, one for those who live according to the flesh with the mindset on things of the flesh and another for those who live according to the Spirit with their minds set on things of the Spirit. (Rom. 8:5) Paul goes on to describe the state of one whose mind is set on the flesh; such a mind is hostile to God. This hostility is nothing short of enmity with God (ἔχθρα εἰς θεόν). Such a mind has no relationship with God, in fact, it is opposed to God. Neither does such a person live by the law of God. These people live by the law of their making. That is they make their own rules as opposed to those which God has provided. Consequently, such people cannot please God (ἀρέσαι). They can only please themselves and their flesh in which they are (σαρκὶ ὄντες).

The life in the flesh is contrasted with the mind set on the Spirit (φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος). To do so results in life and peace. The life in view here is not just bios life but ζωὴ life, one who has it is not just merely surviving but living as humans were meant to. This brings into focus the abundant life which Jesus talked about in gospel of John. The Roman Christians are reminded that they are not in the flesh but in the Spirit. Douglas J. Moo is right when he says, “no Christian can be “in the flesh”; and all Christians are, by definition, “in the Spirit.”[1] The reason this is the case is that they have the Spirit living in them. The Spirit is the evidence that they belong to Christ. The Spirit itself is the πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ, that is the Spirit of Christ. In other words, to have ones mind on the Spirit is to have the mind on Christ himself. This means there are two spheres, one of the flesh and one of the Spirit. One cannot be in the middle; one is either in Christ or in the Flesh. Moo asserts, “No neutrality is possible; without the Spirit’s mind-set, found only through union with Christ (see vv. 9–10), people can only order their lives in a way that is hostile to God, and that will incur his wrath.”[2] Robert Jewett speaks of the self-centeredness of those who live by the flesh when he says, “There is no middle ground here, no possibility of successfully combining these contrary orientations.”[3]

In verses 10 and 11, Paul describes further the life in the Spirit of Christ. The fact of being in Christ makes a huge difference, in that though the body is dead because of Sin, the Spirit leads to because of righteousness. The sphere of Christ is what makes the difference for those who are in Christ. The effects of sin can no longer have any impact on those whose location is Christ. In a way, Christ has nullified the effects of sin. Verse 11 is even more emphatic, in that it makes reference to God who raised Jesus from the dead. It declares that what happened to Jesus will happen to the believers, this, of course, happens only to those who participate in the reality of Christ.[4] In this sense Romans 8:6-11 is very much Trinitarian, in that it speaks of the Spirit of God (v 9b), Christ…in you (v.10), the Spirit of Christ and God who raised Jesus from the dead. All these points to the same reality, in the words of Greathouse and Lyons, it is “experientially synonymous”[5] It is through the Spirit, that life is infused in the mortal bodies of believers. For Greathouse, this life, “draws its sustenance, direction, and satisfaction from God in Christ.”[6] This verse anticipates that what happened to Christ will also happen to believers. Paul not only has the resurrection in mind, but he is also thinking about present life. The resurrection life is must be lived in the present moment.

What Paul is talking about in this passage makes a difference in how Roman Christians are to live. To set your mind on the flesh is to live an ungodly lifestyle. On the other hand to set your mind on the Spirit is to live a godly way of life. Those who live by the Spirit are the only ones who can please God. There is no other way to please God. Verse 13 completes the thought of this passage when it says “13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” The only way to live is then to live by the Spirit. Moo is right when he says “‘Death’ reigns in this life over all those who are outside Christ (cf. 5:12, 15, 21).”[7] The Spirit is the instrument through which the misdeeds of the body are to be put to death. The Christian life is not one in which we put out best foot forward. It is a life of total dependence on God himself to live a victorious life.


Greathouse, William M, and George Lyons. Romans 1-8. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2008.

Jewett, Robert. Romans: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2015.

[1] Douglas J Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2015),489.

[2] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 488.

[3] Robert Jewett, Romans: A Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007),487.

[4] William M Greathouse and George Lyons, Romans 1-8 (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2008), 245.

[5] Greathouse and George Lyons, Romans 1-8, 245.

[6] Greathouse and George Lyons, Romans 1-8, 235.

[7] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 487.

About the Contributor

Professor: Africa Nazarene University Religion Department

Gift Mtukwa



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