Two weeks ago I directed our attention to verses 12 and 13 and tried to answer one of four questions. These verses say, “So then, brethren” — and the “so then” follows from the glorious truth in verse 11 that our mortal bodies are going to be raised from the dead and made alive by the Spirit of God, so that we can enjoy God forever as he created us to be, body and soul — “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh [that old, rebellious self], to live according to the flesh.”
You don’t owe the flesh anything but enmity and war. It’s been trying to kill you since the day you were born. Don’t join forces with your enemy and pay for your own destruction by giving in to the flesh. You are not a debtor to the flesh.
“You don’t owe the flesh anything. You owe the Spirit of God everything.”
Now he continues in verse 13: “For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” You don’t owe the flesh anything. You owe the Spirit of God everything. He is going to make you alive in the resurrection (verse 11), and even now, you can only have victory over your sins “by the Spirit.”
“If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” You owe your final resurrection life to the Spirit, and the perseverance you need to make it to the resurrection as a believer in war with sin, you owe to the Spirit. If you try to survive as a Christian in any other way than “by the Spirit,” you will not survive. You will die. What I tried to show last time is that this threat is real and the demand to fight is all-important.
Until you believe that life is war — that the stakes are your soul — you will probably just play at Christianity with no blood-earnestness and no vigilance and no passion and no wartime mindset. If that is where you are this morning, your position is very precarious. The enemy has lulled you into sleep or into a peacetime mentality, as if nothing serious is at stake. And God, in his mercy, has you here this morning, and had this sermon appointed to wake you up, and put you on a wartime footing.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:12, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” Do you want to enter the kingdom of heaven? Take it violently! But violence against whom — or against what? Listen to Jesus’s answer: “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire” (Matthew 18:8).