For Life and Peace, Walk in Accord With the Spirit
“Walk, not in accord with the flesh, but in accord with the spirit.”—ROM. 8:4.
“DISTRACTED driving is an epidemic and it seems to be getting worse every year.” That was the assessment of the U.S. secretary of transportation. Cell phones are among the devices that can distract the motorist from the one thing he or she is supposed to be doing—driving. Over one third of the people interviewed in one survey said that they had been hit or nearly hit by a vehicle with a driver using a cell phone. Multitasking while driving may seem to be expedient, but the result can be disastrous.
2 The same could be true of our spiritual well-being. Just as a distracted driver often fails to notice signs of danger, a person who is distracted spiritually can easily fall into harm’s way. If we allow ourselves to drift away from our Christian course and theocratic activities, the result could be the shipwreck of our faith. (1 Tim. 1:18, 19) The apostle Paul warned of this danger when he cautioned his fellow Christians in Rome: “The minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace.” (Rom. 8:6) What did Paul mean by that? How can we avoid “the minding of the flesh” and pursue “the minding of the spirit”?
They “Have No Condemnation”
3 In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote about a struggle he himself experienced—a conflict between his flesh and his mind. (Read Romans 7:21-23.) Paul was not indulging in self-justification or self-pity, as though he were so heavily laden with sin that he could not help himself. After all, he was a mature, spirit-anointed Christian, chosen to be “an apostle to the nations.” (Rom. 1:1; 11:13) Why, then, did Paul write about his personal struggle?
4 Paul was honestly acknowledging that on his own, he was incapable of doing God’s will to the extent that he himself desired. The reason? “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” he said. (Rom. 3:23) As a descendant of Adam, Paul was subject to the effects of sin on the imperfect flesh. We can relate to him because all of us are imperfect and have to face similar struggles every day. Moreover, there are many distractions that could divert our attention and take us off ‘the cramped road leading into life.’ (Matt. 7:14) However, the situation was not hopeless for Paul, and it is not for us.
5 Paul wrote: “Who will rescue me . . . ? Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24, 25) Then, he addressed those “in union with Christ Jesus”—anointed Christians. (Read Romans 8:1, 2.) By means of his holy spirit, Jehovah adopts them as sons, calling them to be “joint heirs with Christ.” (Rom. 8:14-17) God’s spirit, coupled with their faith in Christ’s ransom sacrifice, enables them to come off victorious in the struggle that Paul described and thus “have no condemnation.” They are set free “from the law of sin and of death.”
6 While Paul’s remarks were addressed to anointed Christians, what he said about God’s spirit and Christ’s ransom sacrifice can benefit all servants of Jehovah regardless of the hope they entertain. Although Paul was inspired to offer such counsel to anointed Christians, it is vital that all servants of God understand what he wrote and endeavor to benefit from it.
How God “Condemned Sin in the Flesh”
7 In the 7th chapter of Romans, Paul acknowledged the power of sin on the imperfect flesh. In the 8th chapter, he commented on the power of holy spirit. The apostle explained how God’s spirit can help Christians in their struggle against the power of sin so that they can live in harmony with Jehovah’s will and gain his approval. Paul pointed out that by means of God’s spirit and the ransom sacrifice of his Son, God has accomplished something that the Mosaic Law could not.
8 The Law, with its many commandments, condemned sinners. Moreover, Israel’s high priests serving under the Law were imperfect and could not offer an adequate sacrifice for sin. Hence, the Law was “weak through the flesh.” But “by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” and offering him as a ransom, God “condemned sin in the flesh,” thus overcoming the “incapability on the part of the Law.” As a result, anointed Christians are counted righteous on the basis of their faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. They are urged to “walk, not in accord with the flesh, but in accord with the spirit.” (Read Romans 8:3, 4.) Indeed, they must do so faithfully to the end of their earthly course in order to be granted “the crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10.
9 In addition to “the Law,” Paul mentioned “the law of that spirit” and “the law of sin and of death.” (Rom. 8:2) What are these laws? The word “law” here does not refer to certain rules, such as those in the Mosaic Law. One reference work suggests: “The Greek term for law here means an inward principle of action—either good or evil—operating with the regularity of a law. The term also designates a standard for a person’s life.”
10 The apostle Paul wrote: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) As descendants of Adam, all of us are subject to the law of sin and of death. Our sinful flesh constantly urges us to do things that are displeasing to God, with only death in view. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul called such acts and traits “the works of the flesh.” Then he added: “Those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” (Gal. 5:19-21) People of this kind are the same as those who walk in accord with the flesh. (Rom. 8:4) Their “inward principle of action” and their ‘standard for life’ are totally fleshly. But are those who commit fornication, engage in idolatry, practice spiritism, or get involved in other gross sins the only ones who walk in accord with the flesh? No, for the works of the flesh also include what some might consider mere personality flaws, such as jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, and envies. Who can say that he has totally freed himself from walking in accord with the flesh?
11 How happy we can be that Jehovah has made it possible for us to overcome the law of sin and of death! Jesus said: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” By accepting God’s love and by exercising faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we can be freed from the condemnation resulting from our inherited sin. (John 3:16-18) We may, therefore, be inclined to exclaim, as did Paul: “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
12 Our situation is similar to being cured of a serious illness. If we hope to recover fully, we must do what the doctor tells us to do. Though exercising faith in the ransom can free us from the law of sin and of death, we are still imperfect and sinful. More is involved in attaining good spiritual health and enjoying God’s favor and blessing. In connection with fulfilling “the righteous requirement of the Law,” Paul also brings out the matter of walking in accord with the spirit.
Walk in Accord With the Spirit—How?
13 When we walk, we are moving progressively toward a certain destination or goal. Thus, walking in accord with the spirit calls for steady spiritual advancement—not spiritual perfection. (1 Tim. 4:15) Day by day and to the best of our ability, we must endeavor to walk, or live our lives, in accord with the leading of the spirit. “Walking by spirit” leads to God’s approval.—Gal. 5:16.
14 In his letter to the Romans, Paul next spoke of two kinds of people with conflicting mind-sets. (Read Romans 8:5.) Here the flesh is not necessarily the physical body. In the Bible, the word “flesh” is sometimes used to denote the sinful and imperfect nature of the fallen flesh. This nature is what causes the conflict between the flesh and the mind that Paul mentioned earlier. Unlike him, however, those who “are in accord with the flesh” do not even put up a fight. Instead of considering what God requires of them and accepting the help he has provided, they are inclined to “set their minds on the things of the flesh.” They often focus on the satisfying of their bodily comforts and physical desires. In contrast, the inclination of those who are “in accord with the spirit” is to set their minds on “the things of the spirit”—spiritual provisions and activity.
15 Read Romans 8:6. To do anything—whether it is good or bad—one must set one’s mind on it. People who constantly set their minds on the things of the flesh soon develop a mental attitude or inclination that is totally focused on the things of the flesh. Their sentiments, interests, and affections usually become completely occupied with such things.
16 With what things are most people occupied today? The apostle John wrote: “Everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.” (1 John 2:16) These desires involve such things as promiscuity, prominence, and possessions. Books, magazines, newspapers, movies, TV shows, and the Internet are flooded with material of this sort, primarily because that is what most people set their minds on and really want. However, “the minding of the flesh means death”—spiritually now and physically in the near future. Why? “Because the minding of the flesh means enmity with God, for it is not under subjection to the law of God, nor, in fact, can it be. So those who are in harmony with the flesh cannot please God.”—Rom. 8:7, 8.
17 On the other hand, “the minding of the spirit means life and peace”—everlasting life in the future as well as inner peace and peace with God now. How can we pursue “the minding of the spirit”? By regularly setting our minds on the things of the spirit and allowing a spiritual inclination and attitude to develop in us. As we do this, we have a mind-set that is “under subjection to the law of God” and is “in harmony with” his thoughts. When we are faced with a temptation, we will not be uncertain about the course we should pursue. We will be moved to make the correct choice—one that is in accord with the spirit.
18 Therefore, it is vital to set our minds on the things of the spirit. We do this by ‘bracing up our minds for activity,’ building our life around a spiritual routine that includes regular prayer, Bible reading and study, meeting attendance, and the Christian ministry. (1 Pet. 1:13) Rather than allowing the things of the flesh to distract us, let us set our minds on the things of the spirit. Thus we will go on walking in accord with the spirit. Doing so will bring us blessings, for the minding of the spirit means life and peace.—Gal. 6:7, 8.
Can You Explain?
• What was the “incapability on the part of the Law,” and how did God overcome it?
• What is “the law of sin and of death,” and how can we be freed from it?
• What must we do to cultivate “the minding of the spirit”?
1, 2. (a) What serious situation has resulted from a person’s being distracted while driving? (b) What danger can result from being distracted spiritually?
3, 4. (a) What personal struggle did Paul write about? (b) Why should we be interested in Paul’s situation?
5. Where did Paul find help and relief?
6. Why should all of God’s servants take note of Paul’s words?
7, 8. (a) In what sense was the Law “weak through the flesh”? (b) What has God accomplished by means of his spirit and the ransom?
9. What is the meaning of the word “law” as used at Romans 8:2?
10. How are we subject to the law of sin and of death?
11, 12. What provision has Jehovah made to help us overcome the law of sin and of death, and what must we do to enjoy God’s favor?
13. What does it mean to walk in accord with the spirit?
14. What is the inclination of those “in accord with the flesh”?
15, 16. (a) How does setting one’s mind on something affect one’s mental attitude? (b) What can we say about the mind-set of most people today?
17, 18. How can we pursue the minding of the spirit, and what will be the result of our doing so?
[Pictures on pages 12, 13]
Do you walk in accord with the flesh or in accord with the spirit?