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The Death/Life Option

by Zane Hodges

In Romans 8:13 Paul offers his Christian readers a significant option. He writes:

    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.
This may clearly be called a death/life option.

But just what is Paul talking about? As usual, the context is crucial. A few verses before (in v 10), the Apostle had also written this:

    And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
We may say that the death/life option is related to the body/Spirit contrast found in this verse.

Romans 8:10 might be called a "snapshot" of the believer. When Christ is in someone (i.e., a Christian is under discussion here), two things may be said of him. His body is spiritually dead (obviously, not physically dead!), but inwardly he possesses the life of God's Spirit.

In Paul's teaching, the physical body is the seat of the sin nature (see Rom 7:22-25). But because a believer has been justified ("because of righteousness"), in his inner man there is eternal life and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.

If a Christian lives according to the dictates of his physical nature, he will experience the "death" that is in his body. That is, he will be cut off spiritually from the fellowship of God and from any vital realization of the eternal life within him.

On the other hand, if he so chooses, he can rely on the Holy Spirit's leadership (through the Word) and on His power and enablement. In that case his experience will be an experience of the life of the Spirit who dwells in him. Obviously this involves fellowship with God and fruitfulness of life.

But not only that. Such a life is nothing less than a "resurrected life." Paul goes on to say this very thing in v 11:

    But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
As the context shows, this has nothing to do with our future resurrection. Rather, it refers to a present resurrection.

As Paul has just said (in v 10), our body is "dead" to the experience of God's life. Can such a body as that become the vehicle for expressing the very life of God? It certainly can!

But not by our own struggling and self-effort. Paul found out the futility of that in Romans 7 (vv 15-25). No, what is required is a resurrection miracle! So great is the power of God's Spirit within us that He is able to overcome the spiritual "deadness" of our bodies so that we may live to God as those who are alive from the dead and can yield the members of our physical bodies to God as instruments of righteousness (see Rom 6:11-14).

What an amazing truth! The same Spirit who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead dwells in us. And by His mighty power He can make our poor mortal bodies vessels for the expression of divine, supernatural life.

That is why Paul can go on to say that we have no obligation--no necessity--to live according to the flesh (v 12). Although unsaved people have no such choice (see v 8), we Christians do. We can enjoy the life of the Spirit being expressed in our daily experience.

So we have an option. And if we choose to depend on God's Spirit so that the wicked "deeds of the body" are "killed" (v 13), our experience will be life by the resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit Himself!

And what discerning Christian would want to make any choice but this? If he chooses differently, his folly and blindness are manifest.

But remember: whenever you see a Christian living the Christian life, you are witnessing a resurrection miracle! Paul says so.

Therefore choose life.

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