Struggling, nevertheless?

by André Piet
November 8th 2012

In my previous blog, I pointed out that in Colossians 3 verse 5, in the original, is not spoken of "killing" but of "starving to death". We do not struggle against fornication, uncleanness, etc. but we ignore it. By focusing on "the things above" we starve to death "the things that are on earth".

A critical reader noted that in Romans 8 verse 13, however, there is mention made of killing (making dead). It is worthwhile to take a closer look at that verse, also in the context in which it stands.

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. (KJV)

The practices of the body

The Greek word for "deeds" in Rom.8:13 is "praxis". We immediately recognize it in our word ‘practice' (See also: Col.3:9). Paul talks about "the practices of the body". In Galatians 5:19, he speaks about "the works of the flesh". It might seem that Paul, with such expressions, despises the body or the flesh, but that is a misunderstanding. For Paul, too, it was normal to love his own body. He writes elsewhere: "… no one ever hated his own flesh" (Eph.5:29). The point is that the body (or flesh) requires guidance. Without control, the body is like a loose cannon, with lamentable results: "the works of the flesh":

… adultery, prostitution, uncleanness, wantonness, idolatry, enchantment, enmities, strife, jealousies, furies, factions, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkennesses, revelries, and the like of these…
Galatians 5:19-21

Through the Spirit?

The expression "by the Spirit" in Romans 8:13, unfortunately, gives us the wrong impression, as if the Spirit would be our tool by which we have to tackle "the practices of the body". Both "by" and "the" are additions. The word "Spirit" is a (3rd case {grammar}) and indicates Spirit as sphere or location. Much better is therefore the rendering:

… if, in spirit, you are putting the practices of the body to death, you will be living.

The Spirit is not the instrument where with we kill the practices of the body. The spirit is the environment in which this occurs. If I jump in the water, then I get my pants wet. To achieve the latter, I do not need to do anything, because it is inherent to being in the water. So also, is it with putting the practices of the body to death. We do not do this through the Spirit, but it takes place in-Spirit. But what is that?

Disposition (mind-set)

"In-Spirit" is a disposition (inner focus) in which one lives. As Paul wrote a few verses earlier:

For the disposition of the flesh is death, yet the disposition of the spirit is LIFE and peace.
Romans 8:6

It, therefore, is the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead

Now if the spirit of Him Who rouses Jesus from among the dead is making its home in you, He Who rouses Christ Jesus from among the dead will also be vivifying your mortal bodies because of His spirit making its home in you.
Romans 8:11

As so often, the Spirit here is synonymous with life ("the Spirit is life"; 8:10). Here is that the life of the rolled-away stone. It is the message of the life that is stronger than death. That defies everything and gives joy and strength and peace! And this (disposition of) Spirit is fatal to "the practices of the body."


Translation: Peter Feddema

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