Romans 8:12


The apostle in these verses makes a high claim for believers - the claim of being children of God. In this eighth chapter he unfolds, as in a panoramic view, the whole plan of salvation. He begins with the idea that those who are in Christ Jesus are delivered from condemnation. But salvation is something more than that. It means sonship also. And step by step, verse by verse, the apostle advances, at each step unfolding some fresh view of the Christian's privileges, till at last, as he surveys the whole field of sin and sorrow, of joy and suffering, of trials and temptations, of time and eternity, he grows stronger in the confidence of his sonship, and exclaims, "For! am persuaded, that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

I. THE PRIVILEGES OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD.

1. God is their Father. They can say that in a special and spiritual sense. In one sense all human beings are the offspring of God. We are all the creatures of his hand, and are dependent continually upon his bountiful care. But sin has come in and separated us from him. It has made us prone to disobey rather than to fulfil our Father's commands. Jesus came into this world that he might bring us back again into the relationship of God's spiritual children. He became a child of humanity that we might become children of God. He became "sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." All who believe on him are born again. They are by creation God's children; now they are his by a spiritual birth. Now they receive "the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father" (ver. 15). Oh, the greatness of our heavenly Father's love! He has not cast us off. He has sent his own Son to bring us back, to restore his image in our hearts, and by-and-by to have us sit down with him in his everlasting kingdom.

2. Jesus Christ is their elder Brother. "If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (ver. 17). The inheritance which Christ has we have, if by receiving him we become children of God. It is almost too great a privilege to conceive, but it is plainly revealed to us by God. If we are Christ's, all things are ours; for we are Christ's, and Christ is God's. Christ's own prayer was, "Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me be with me where I am." And then there is a family likeness between the children of God by adoption and their elder Brother. If children of some humble rank were adopted into a noble or royal family, there would be a great dissimilarity between them and the children of that family. There would not be community of feeling. It seems a wonderful thing that we, poor, weak, sinful creatures, should be adopted into the family of God, and made the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. How can there be any likeness between us and him? But God has provided for this. Those are remarkable words, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the Firstborn among many brethren" (ver. 29). Thus God has provided that as we are to be the brethren of Christ, we shall be like him. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him: for we shall see him as he is." This likeness to Christ is a gradual growth. It is the development of the Christian character. It is not in the infant lying in the cradle that much likeness to its parent can be detected. But as the body matures, as the features become more marked, as the individuality of character begins to show itself, then we see the likeness, and we say, He is his father's son, She is her mother's daughter. Those beautiful statues of the Louvre or of Florence, which are the admiration of the world, did not spring by magic from the sculptor's hands. He had his ideal. He had his plan. With that ideal before him, he took the rough material, and on it he gradually worked out his plans. He first modelled his figure in clay, and then took the rough, shapeless mass of marble, in which no one could see any traces of the future statue's loveliness or symmetry of form. But the sculptor's love for his work, the skill of his hand, the patience and perseverance of his mind, the hammer and chisel which he wielded, slowly but surely accomplished his purpose, until at last the statue stood forth in all its beauty. So God has his ideal for the Christian - likeness to Christ, the image of his Son. He has his plan, the plan of redemption, of sanctification. With that ideal before him he takes our human nature, and, by the slow and sometimes painful discipline of Christian experience, he develops the Christian character, until at last the believer is found meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.

3. The Spirit of God is their Helper. There are three ways mentioned by the apostle in which the Spirit helps us.

(1) He shows us the path of duty. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (ver. 14). The Spirit uses the Word of God, and applies it to our conscience and our heart.

(2) He gives us assurance of our sonship. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (ver. 16). How does he give us that assurance? By producing in us the fruit of the Spirit. "Hereby do we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments" (1 John 2:3). If our delight is in the Law of the Lord, if we are striving, however imperfectly, to walk in his ways, to follow in the footsteps of Christ, then this is the Spirit's testimony to us that we are the children of God.

(3) The Spirit also makes intercession for us in prayer. We are more accustomed to think of Jesus as interceding for us. But the Spirit's work of intercession is here described in very forcible words. "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what to pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, for he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (vers. 26, 27). Christ intercedes for us in heaven; the Holy Spirit intercedes in us on earth. We know not what we should pray for aright. But the Holy Spirit reveals to us our need. He helps our infirmities. He creates within us high and holy aspirations; and even when we cannot rightly express our wants, be that searcheth the hearts knows what our desires are; for the Spirit expresses them better than we can. Let us avail ourselves more of this threefold help of the Spirit of God, that we may be guided in the path of duty, that we may receive a stronger and clearer assurance of our relationship as children of God, and that we may be assisted in the prayers we offer at the throne of heavenly grace.

4. Heaven is their home. "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (ver. 18). While enjoying the fellowship of our earthly homes, let us think of the better home on high, the only home that shall never be broken up.

II. THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD. They are summed up in the apostle's brief words, "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh" (ver. 12). "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (ver. 13). We are to remember that we are debtors. We are to reflect how much we owe. We are to realize God's claims upon us. We are to think of the claims of that heavenly Father who has condescended to adopt us as his children, and who is constantly caring for us. We are to think of the claims of that loving Saviour who gave himself for us. We are to think of the claims of that Spirit who has quickened us from the dead, who has been enlightening our minds, and who is renewing us after the image of God.

"All that I am, e'en here on earth,
All that I hope to be
When Jesus comes, and glory dawns,
I owe it, Lord, to thee." C.H.I.









Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh to live after the flesh.
I. HOW ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND THIS. We are debtors —

1. To all times.(1) To the past. To such who have preceded us we owe the purity of the Church. Shall we not, in some degree, repay the immense debt of our obligation by seeking to make the future also debtors to us, that our descendants may acknowledge that they owe us thanks for preserving the Scriptures, for maintaining liberty, for glorifying God?(2) To the present. We are living in a most marvellous age. We have around us appliances for doing good, such as never before. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers, and, perhaps, far greater.(3) To the future. Who can tell the fearful consequences to future generations if we now betray our trust? Sow well, for others must reap. You are fountains for coming generations; oh, be careful that your streams are pure.

2. To all classes. There are some that always get well paid for what they do, whose claims, therefore, need no advocacy. I will only mention one class — the poor. Charity to them is a debt, and God requires us to remember the poor. The rich are indebted to them, for while the one hoard wealth the other make it. But in the case of the believing poor, their claim upon us is far more binding. When I think how the poor toil day after day and receive barely enough to keep their souls within their bodies, and how frequently they serve their Church, unhonoured and unrewarded, I cannot but say that we are their debtors in very large degree. We little know how many a blessing the poor man's prayer brings down upon us.

3. To our covenant God; that is the point which swallows up all. I owe nothing to the past, future, rich, poor, compared with what I owe to my God. We are all born God's creatures, and as such we are debtors to obey Him. When we have broken His commandments we are debtors to His justice, and owe him a vast amount of punishment which we are not able to pay. But in the case of the Christian, Christ has paid the debt. I am a debtor to God's love, to God's power, to God's forgiving mercy, and are we not His sons, and is there not a debt the son owes to the Father which a lifetime of obedience can never remove? Remember again, we are Christ's brethren, and there is a debt in brotherhood.

II. WHAT OUGHT WE TO DRAW FROM THIS DOCTRINE.

1. A lesson of humility. If we be debtors we never ought to be proud.

2. How zealous we should be for our Master! Though we cannot pay all, we can at least acknowledge the debt, and, if we cannot pay Him the principal, yet to give Him some little interest upon the talent which He has lent to us, and those stupendous mercies which He has granted to us. If we all believed this, how much easier it would be to get our Churches into good order! I go to one brother and say, "There is such and such an office in the Sabbath school; will you take it?" "Well, sir, I really work so hard all the week that I cannot." There, you see, that man does not know that he is a debtor. I take him a bill to-morrow morning, and he says, "Do you come begging?" I say, "No; I have brought a bill." "Oh, yes," he says, "I see; there is the cash." Now that is the way to act. Conclusion: Be just before you are generous, and especially before you are generous to yourselves. Take care that you pay your debts before you spend money upon your pleasures. If it is robbing man to spend the money in pleasure wherewith we ought to pay our debts, it is robbing God if we employ our time, our talents, or our money, in anything but His service, until we feel we have done our share in that service.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The word "flesh" may be taken in its physical consideration. There is a debt which every man in a sense does owe unto it. We may be said to be debtors to the flesh, that is, to our bodies, in sundry regards: as to feed them, clothe, and to nourish them. No man ever yet hated his own flesh (Ephesians 5:29). And there are some kind of people in the world which are scandalously debtors to it: as, for example, your misers and muck-worms, which pinch and straighten themselves even where God has enlarged them; live poor, that they may die rich. And so likewise not only your covetous, but your superstitious persons, which needlessly, and out of a conceit of merit, macerate their flesh, and put a piece of religion in abstaining from such kind of meats, which God had created to be received with thanksgiving of them that believe and know the truth, as it is in 1 Timothy 4:3. The denial of the flesh, in this sense, is the withholding of a debt from it which is due unto it. Indeed, as to the pampering and inordinate setting out of our bodies, so we are not debtors unto them. A Christian owes his flesh no such special or extraordinary service as this is. And the reasons hereof is taken from the nature and conditions of the body, considered in itself, which, as it is styled in the verse before, is corruptible and mortal. And then, besides, the great impediments which it does cause and contract to the soul, from the inordinate serving of it, whereby it is made so much the more unfit for the duties and exercises of religion, taken in its physical consideration, so far forth as it does denote the body, or outward man. The second is by taking it in the moral. The flesh, that is sin and corruption: and so it seems principally to be understood here in this place. Christians, they are by no means debtors to the fulfilling of their lusts. First, we are not debtors to the flesh, nor have any cause to do service to that, because we have received no answerable benefit from it. A debt it is upon consideration, and does usually and for the most part imply some benefit received. We never got a farthing by sin, any of us, in all our lives. All that we get by sin is nothing but shame and loss. Therefore it is not we that are debtors to it, but it is it, indeed, rather that is a debtor to us, in all those fair promises which it hath some time made unto us, whilst it has performed none. Secondly, as we are not debtors by receipt, so neither are we debtors by promise. That is another way sometimes of coming into debt. Though a man have nothing which he hath received from another, yet if he hath promised him, and bound himself to him, he becomes a debtor to him notwithstanding. There is no man that is a true believer, and that has given up his name to Christ, who has made any promise to sin for the gratifying of it in any particular. Thirdly, there are too many of us who are, as I may say, aforehand with the flesh, in the days of vanity and un-conversion, therefore not debtors to it. If ever they owed anything to it, they have paid it over and over again, and more than enough (1 Peter 4:3). Fourthly, we are not debtors to the flesh, because the flesh and we are at absolute enmity and opposition one to another. We have killed and crucified the flesh, as many of us as belong to Christ, therefore we are no longer debtors to it. "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Galatians 5:24). Now, therefore, we are not to conceive as if we owed anything to it. Why, thus it is now with us in regard of the flesh. It concerns us all we can to spoil it, and to divest it of that which it has, therefore we are not to think that we should owe anything to it. Fifthly, we are absolutely freed and discharged from the exactions of it. It has no part or share in us, nor anything at all to do with us, therefore we are not debtors to it (Romans 6:28). Those who are regenerate and born again they are made free from sin, and so nothing engaged to the services of it. Sixthly and lastly, we are not debtors to the flesh, because the flesh is not a warrantable creditor for any to be indebted unto. Where there is nothing due, there is no man can be said to be a debtor. Now for the flesh, it is a cheater, and an usurper, and an oppressor. The consideration of this point serves to this purpose: First, to discover to us the sad and miserable condition of all such persons as are out of Christ. There is no man so deeply engaged as that man who is in thraldom to his lusts; and he has all the properties of a sad debtor upon him. First, he is a servant to it; this is the property of a debtor; the borrower is a servant to the lender, as Solomon speaks. He that committeth sin is the servant of sin, so says our Saviour. Why, thus now is every carnal and unregenerate person to his lusts; he is a slave and servant to them, and they lead him whither they please. He that is a debtor to one lust, he shall be a slave to many more with it, which will engage him occasionally from it. Thus he who is a debtor to ambition and pride and vain glory in the world, he is a debtor occasionally to flattery and falsehood and sinful correspondences, for the promoting of such ends to himself. He that is a debtor to covetousness, he is a debtor consequently to cozenage and fraud and oppression, and such causes as these for the satisfying of that humour in him. And he that is a debtor to wantonness and lasciviousness and drunkenness and intemperance, and the like, he is a debtor also to other sins which have an affinity and agreement thereunto. Thus lust is not a single debt, but involves many others besides together with itself, which is a special misery considerable in it. Secondly, another misery in a debtor is that he labours all for another many times and not for himself. He is not only a servant but a drudge. Those that are addicted and given up to such affections as these are, they can have time and leisure for little else but the following of them, whereas in the meantime their inward man it lies waste, and those means which God has appointed for the advancing thereof are neglected accordingly. Thirdly, another inconvenience of debtors is restraint and want of freedom. Lastly, he that is a debtor to sin, he is the worst kind of debtor of all, because the more that he pays to it the more he still comes in debt to a greater Creditor, and runs in arrears with Him, who will be sure at last to call him to a most strict account about it. And so now I have done with the first general part of the text, which is the negative in that which is expressed, "We are not debtors to the flesh, to live after the flesh." The second is the affirmative, as that which is implied. But we are debtors to the Spirit, to live after the Spirit. First, for the Creditor: the Spirit. Every Christian is a debtor that is bound and engaged to do this. And first of all, as it denotes the third person in the Trinity, which was spoken of in the verse immediately preceding. Every Christian is a debtor to the Holy Spirit, and that in these respects. First, as the beginner and worker of all grace in him. Secondly, we are engaged to the Spirit, not only as the first beginner, but also as the further increaser of those graces in us which are begun. Thirdly, as our Comforter in afflictions: we are debtors to the Spirit thus. Lastly, as the continual suggester of good thoughts unto us, and restrainer of us from evil. But, secondly, we may take it as denoting the regenerate part in us, in reference to a spiritual life. And thus in this sense are we debtors to the Spirit also. First, we are debtors to the spirit, that is, to the spiritual part in us, in regard of what we have not paid already. There is no man, whoever he be, but he is behind hand, as I may say, to the spirit in this respect. He has not bestowed that time, and pains and endeavour upon his heart, and soul, and spirit as he should, and as it hath become him to do. Secondly, we are debtors to the spirit, in regard of what we ought and are bound to pay unto it, It is a debt which lies upon us to lead a godly and holy life: and that in sundry respects. Thirdly, we are debtors to the Spirit, from the great benefit which does accrue and come to us herefrom, and which we have already had experience of. Let us consider how far we have discharged this debt which we are so much engaged in. Let us cast up our reckonings and see what we have expended answerable to what we have received. Set creditor on one hand and set debtor on the other, as we use to do in other matters. We are debtors to the Spirit, and He will not be put off with such payments as belong rather to the flesh. Were it not a strange thing for a debtor to mistake his true creditor — to run and carry that to one man which belonged rather to another? Why thus it is with many people in regard of their debts for their souls. They are debtors to the Spirit, of their health, of their strength, of their time, of their parts, of their estates, and of all they have. And they offer the payment hereof all to the flesh, What an incongruous thing is this? Therefore I say still, let us be careful to discharge our proper duty in that particular. And to set this so much the more upon us, let us consider these things with ourselves. First, the power of the Creditor. And if we neglect or refuse to pay Him, He knows how to help Himself. No securing or saving themselves from Him who is able to meet with them. Secondly, the strictness of the Creditor. That is another thing considerable likewise. He is one that is exact in His demands, which should make us in our returns to be so likewise. Thirdly, let us further consider to this purpose the great advantage of paying, and the special benefit which comes to us by it, while being debtors to the Spirit we are careful to be payers too. We have a threefold accommodation from it. First, a further entrusting and committing of more unto us. Such debtors as are not careful to pay, there is nobody will trust them with any more. Secondly, further enablement. The more we are careful to pay the more we shall be able to pay. Every new performance is a preparation and disposition to another. To him that thus hath shall be given. Thirdly, peace of conscience and satisfaction and tranquility of mind. Debts they are commonly troublesome, and do much disquiet the minds of those who are entangled with them.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

At the time this Epistle was written, and among the people to whom it was addressed, the creditor exercised over the debtor a power which the humanity of modern times has abolished. The unfortunate man who was insolvent was at the mercy of his creditor, and might be treated as he chose. It has long been a question whether, according to the Roman law, the creditors had not the right of cutting the man's body in pieces in proportion to the amount of their claims; and there can be no doubt that the debtor's person as well as his property, his family as well as himself, were liable to be apprehended and disposed of; just as we read in the parable, where the king is found ordering that the servant who owed him ten thousand talents should be sold, with his family and all that he had, that payment might be made. In this sense, therefore, the debtor of the flesh would have been a man over whom the flesh had established an absolute power; whose mind as well as body were devoted to its service, and bound to do its will — who, if he laboured, was to labour that he might make "provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof"; who, if he rested, was to rest that he might indulge it in all its inclinations more freely; who, if he thought, was to be thinking about things to be had in the body, or, if he spoke, was to be speaking of them, and was to show a distaste for thought and conversation of a higher, purer character. There are many who are debtors to the flesh; who acknowledge the obligations, and show no inclination to be released from it. Listen to the voice of the world. Hear how the young are told that they ought to enjoy themselves while they are able, and that no one can condemn them if they do so. Hear how those who are more advanced are told that in dress, furniture, table, amusements, they ought to do what ethers do, and that they ought not to give offence by adopting a more Christian course of life than that which their neighbours lead. And when this language of the world comes to be translated into the words of the text, is it not equivalent with saying, "We are debtors to the flesh, to make provision for its indulgence; we are debtors to the flesh for everything we enjoy or desire; and therefore we are bound to do all we can, in order to fulfil its purposes and gratify its wishes"? "Therefore," as the apostle continues, "if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." If you have persuaded yourselves that you must owe to the flesh the happiness you wish for, and if, acting under this impression, that you are "debtors to the flesh," you determine to "live after the flesh," death will soon come and put an end to all these dreams you have been cherishing; but long before death comes to chill your mirth, long before those rosebuds are withered with which you have been crowning yourselves, a deadness of heart shall come over you, a deadness to all spiritual things, which shall be the pledge and token of eternal death.

(H. Raikes, M.A.)

I. THE OBLIGATION DUE TO THE BODY. We are in the flesh, and the flesh has claims which rest upon Divine appointment.

1. Observe the form in which the apostle puts the matter. We may be debtors to the flesh, but not to live after it. The duty we owe it is not that of servants to a master, but of a master to his servants. We are debtors in respect to food, medicine, raiment, shelter, temperance and cleanliness. And to those who belong to us after the flesh we are debtors for earthly things; and he that careth not for them is worse than an infidel.

2. Let us go further. Our bodies are the Divine workmanship, and their faculties are of God's malting and giving. Why? Not that they should run away with us or rule us, but that they should be subject to us.

II. THE LIMIT OF THE OBLIGATION. "Not to live after the flesh." Men live after the flesh —

1. When the flesh is made the chief object of care, and this we are not obliged to do by any Divine law.

2. When we allow carnal indulgence to interfere with Christian duty.

3. When we decline bodily suffering in the cause and at the call of God.

4. When we are guided by a carnal policy in the conduct of life.

III. THE DIFFICULTY OF THE OBLIGATION. We shall find the flesh so tyrannical that to keep within the actual limit of obligation is no easy matter. To mortify the deeds of the body thus becomes an important duty. This mortification is evangelical in motive, spiritual in nature, gradual in consummation.

IV. THIS MORTIFICATION IS AT ONCE THE TEST OF SPIRITUALITY OF MIND AND THE FRUIT OF THE EFFECTUAL WORK OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD. Salvation is not only a work for us, but in us.

1. The Great Helper. We are not left to ourselves.

2. But a helper implies our own activity.

3. This proclaims the energy and reality of the spiritual life.

(Percy Strutt.)

I. NOT FROM RELATIONSHIP. The flesh is no part of our original nature.

II. NOT FROM GRATITUDE. Its effects upon us have been only evil.

III. NOT FROM DUTY. It is opposed to God, who commands us to crucify it.

IV. NOT FROM INTEREST. Only misery and death aver to be reaped from it (Galatians 6:8). We are debtors to the body, which is God's creature (Acts 27:34; Ephesians 5:29), but not debtors to the flesh, which is Satan's production (Matthew 13:38; 1 John 3:8). We are debtors to the body to satisfy its wants, but not to the flesh to gratify its lusts (Romans 13:14).

(T. Robinson, D.D.)

You take a wild briar from the hedge, and plant it in your garden; upon that briar you graft the choicest rose, and the result is — what? not two distinct identities, the briar flourishing as a briar, and the rose as a rose, nor the briar being completely absorbed into the rose, but two distinct natures forming one individuality, of which one represents the original individuality of the briar, while the other the imparted nature of the rose. This original individuality is only to be allowed to express itself through the imparted nature. All self-assertion on the part of the original briar stock, as distinct from the new nature engrafted upon it, is to be rigorously repressed. Neglect this process of repression, and the briar may make shoots below the graft; and as these shoots develop themselves the rose nature begins to lose ground, and suffers in foliage and flower, until, if the process be only allowed to go far enough, the rose is extinguished, the old briar is supreme. Yet observe: the briar itself is not repressed; it is allowed to develop itself in accordance with the laws of its own nature, but only through the rose. None of its personal rights or functions are to be interfered with; it is not to be robbed of the enjoyment of full vital vigour; but all this is to go to the production of a flower worthy of your garden, instead of the scanty and quickly-fading bloom of the hedge-rose. What is it that produces the standard rose? Not the rose without the briar; not the briar without the rose, but the rose and the briar united in one. In that standard rose, Christian, behold a picture of thyself if Christ is formed in thee! Thy individuality is not to be repressed; no healthy function of thy nature is to be laid aside. Yet is it necessary that you should be prepared to mortify the deeds of the body, or the old nature may assert itself apart from all reference to the new. "Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth." Do you ask how? I reply that the same Spirit which has already introduced the new nature, and united Himself, provides the pruning-knife. "We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." We are debtors, not to the old briar-stock apart from the rose, for what did that ever bear that was worth gathering? what fruit had we but those things whereof we are now ashamed? the end of those things was death. But we are debtors, not only to that God whose sovereign love has made us what we are; not only to that Saviour who has redeemed us from the slavery of sin; not only to that Spirit who has condescended to make our body His temple; but we owe it to our new selves — that self into which the new Adam has been grafted, and wherein the new Adam claims to have His way; we owe it to that sense of harmony which pervades the once distracted elements of our nature; to that calm which has taken the place of our former disquietude; to that joy which has already furnished us with a foretaste of heaven; that we should be true to the instincts of our new life, and to the laws of our renovated nature! To forget this solemn debt is to turn our backs on all that makes life profitable, is to give ourselves over to spiritual bankruptcy; to recognise it and pay it with loyal and grateful devotion, is to secure boundless resources of infinite wealth. "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die"; and he who dies is stripped of all: "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live"; and he who thus lives, lives in the enjoyment of all.

(W. Hay Aitken, M.A.)

I. THE SOLEMN OBLIGATION OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD. We are debtors; but the flesh is not our creditor. Do we owe anything to sin, the parent of all woe? To Satan — who plotted our temptation and accomplished our downfall? To the world — ensnaring, deceitful, and ruinous? No; to these, the allies of the flesh, we owe nothing but hatred and opposition. And yet the saints of God are "debtors."

1. To the Father, for His electing love, His unspeakable gift, His spiritual blessings in Christ.

2. To the Son. He was the active agent in our redemption. He left no path untrodden, no portion of the curse unborne, no sin unatoned, no part of the law uncancelled, nothing for us in the matter of our salvation to do, but simply believe and be saved.

3. To the Holy Spirit, for leading us to Christ; for dwelling in our hearts; for His healing, sanctifying, comforting, and restoring grace; for His influence which no ingratitude has quenched; for His patience which no backsliding has exhausted; for His love which no sin has annihilated. We owe Him the intellect He has renewed, the heart He has sanctified, the body He inhabits, every breath of life He has inspired, and every pulse of love He has awakened.

II. THE DUTY TO WHICH THAT OBLIGATION BINDS THEM. Holiness, or the mortification of sin, the opposite of "living after the flesh," a subject strangely misunderstood to mean a mere maceration or mortification of the body, the mere excision of outward sins, or the destruction of sin altogether. True mortification is —

1. An annulling of the covenant with sin: "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness," no union, "but rather reprove them." "What have I to do any more with idols? "The resources of sin must be cut off: "Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." Whatever tends to, and terminates in, the sinful gratification of the flesh, is to be relinquished.

2. A crucifixion: "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh." Death by the cross is certain, yet lingering.

III. THE TWOFOLD AGENCY BY WHICH THE WORK IS ACCOMPLISHED.

1. "If ye." The believer is not a cipher in this work. His usefulness, his happiness, his hope of heaven, are all included in it. The work of the Spirit is not, and never was designed to be, a substitute for the personal work of the believer. "Work out your own salvation." Let us, then, be cautious of merging human responsibility in Divine influence; of exalting the one at the expense of the other; of cloaking the spirit of slothfulness beneath an apparently jealous regard for the honour of the Holy Ghost. Is no self-effort to be made to dethrone an unlawful habit, to resist a powerful temptation, to dissolve the spell that binds us to a dangerous enchantment, to unwind the chain that makes us the slave of a wrong inclination? Oh, surely, God deals not with us as we deal with a piece of mechanism — but as reasonable, moral, and accountable beings. "I drew you with the hands of a man."

2. And it infinitely transcends the mightiest puttings forth of creative power. "If ye through the Spirit do mortify."

1. This He does by making us more sensible of the existence of indwelling sin, by deepening our aspirations after holiness, by shedding abroad the love of God in the heart. But above all, by leading us to the Cross, and showing us that, as Christ died for sin, so we must die to sin, and by the self-same instrument too.

2. The Spirit effects it, but through the instrumentality of the Atonement. There must be a personal contact with Jesus. This only is it that draws forth His grace.

(A. Winslow, D.D.)

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