“Those who live according to the spirit [set their minds] on the things of the spirit.”—ROMANS 8:5.
1, 2. Why are anointed Christians interested in Romans chapter 8?
YOU may have read Romans 8:15-17 during the time of the Memorial of Jesus’ death. Those verses explain how anointed Christians know that they have the hope of living forever in heaven. Romans 8:1 speaks of the anointed as “those in union with Christ.” But does Romans chapter 8 apply only to the anointed? Or can it also help those who hope to live forever on earth?
2 Romans chapter 8 was written mainly for the anointed. They receive “the spirit” as ones “waiting for adoption as sons, the release from [their fleshly] bodies.” (Romans 8:23) In the future, they will be God’s sons in heaven. Jehovah has forgiven their sins on the basis of the ransom. He has declared them righteous so that they can be his sons.—Romans 3:23-26; 4:25; 8:30.
3. Why should those who hope to live forever on earth also study Romans chapter 8?
3 However, earlier in the book of Romans, Paul wrote about a man who was not anointed but who was still considered to be righteous by Jehovah. This was Abraham. That faithful man lived long before Jesus gave his life as a ransom. (Read Romans 4:20-22.) Today, Jehovah can also consider to be righteous those faithful Christians who have the hope of living forever on earth. They too can benefit from the counsel given in Romans chapter 8.
4. When we read Romans 8:21, what should we ask ourselves?
4 At Romans 8:21, we find Jehovah’s guarantee that his new world will come and that humans will be set free from sin and death. This verse says that they will enjoy “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Do you see yourself in that new world? Let us discuss what we need to do to live there.
“SETTING THE MIND ON THE FLESH”
5. What situation did Paul describe at Romans 8:4-13?
5 Read Romans 8:4-13. In the eighth chapter of Romans, Paul described two different kinds of people, those who live “according to the flesh” and those who live “according to the spirit.” Some think that Paul was describing those who were not Christians and those who were. But here Paul was writing to Christians, those who were “called to be holy ones.” (Romans 1:7) So both those who lived “according to the flesh” and those who lived “according to the spirit” were Christians. How were they different from one another?
6, 7. (a) What are some meanings of the word “flesh” in the Bible? (b) How is the word “flesh” used at Romans 8:4-13?
6 When the Bible uses the word “flesh,” it can refer to various things. Sometimes it means the actual flesh of our body. (Romans 2:28; 1 Corinthians 15:39, 50) It can also refer to a family relationship. For example, the Bible says that Jesus was “from the offspring of David according to the flesh,” and Paul called the Jews his “relatives according to the flesh.”—Romans 1:3; 9:3.
7 So, what did Paul mean when he spoke about those who live “according to the flesh” at Romans 8:4-13? To find the answer, we can look at Romans 7:5. There Paul wrote: “When we were living according to the flesh, the sinful passions that were awakened by the Law were at work in our bodies.” Here Paul explained that people who live “according to the flesh” are those who are focused on and follow their own sinful desires, doing whatever they want.
8. Why did Paul need to warn anointed Christians against living “according to the flesh”?
8 Why did Paul warn anointed Christians against living “according to the flesh”? And why do all Christians today need this warning? Because any faithful servant of God could begin to make his own desires the main thing in his life. For example, Paul wrote that some brothers in Rome were slaves “of their own appetites.” By this he could have meant that sex, food, or other pleasures were the most important things in their lives. (Romans 16:17, 18; Philippians 3:18, 19; Jude 4, 8, 12) And for a time, there was a situation in the congregation in Corinth in which a brother was having an immoral relationship “with his father’s wife.” (1 Corinthians 5:1) Clearly, those early Christians needed Paul’s warning about living “according to the flesh.”—Romans 8:5, 6.
9. What is Romans 8:6 not talking about?
9 This warning also applies today. Even a person who has served Jehovah for many years could begin to live “according to the flesh.” So, was Paul saying that we should never think about things such as food, employment, recreation, or romance? Of course not. These are normal things in life. Even Jesus enjoyed food and fed others. He also realized that he needed rest. And Paul wrote that in marriage, sexual relations have an important place.
10. What does the expression “setting the mind on” mean?
10 What did Paul mean by the expression “setting the mind on”? The Greek word that Paul used refers to focusing all one’s thoughts and plans on something. One scholar explained that this expression refers to those who “are most deeply interested in, constantly talk about,” and focus most on their own selfish desires. They allow those desires to control how they live.
What is our main interest in life?
11. What are some things that could become too important to us?
11 The Christians in Rome needed to examine themselves and find out what they were setting their minds on. Was it “the things of the flesh”? Today, we too need to think about what is most important to us. What is our favorite thing to talk about? What do we really love to do? Some may realize that they are constantly thinking about trying different types of wine, decorating their home, buying new clothes, investing money, or planning vacations. These things are not wrong. They may be normal things in our life. For example, even Jesus provided wine at a wedding, and Paul advised Timothy to have “a little wine” for his health. (1 Timothy 5:23; John 2:3-11) But wine was not the most important thing in their lives. What about us? What is our main interest in life?
12, 13. Why should we be careful about what we focus on?
12 Paul warned: “Setting the mind on the flesh means death.” (Romans 8:6) What did he mean by this? If we live “according to the flesh,” we could lose our relationship with Jehovah now and lose our life in the future. But this does not have to happen. A person can change. Remember the immoral man in Corinth who had to be disfellowshipped? He changed and stopped following his immoral desires. Once again, he served Jehovah in a clean way.—2 Corinthians 2:6-8.
13 That man was an extreme example of living “according to the flesh,” and yet even he was able to change. So if a Christian today has begun to follow his sinful desires instead of Jehovah’s standards, he too can change. Remembering Paul’s warning can motivate us to make any changes we need to make.
“SETTING THE MIND ON THE SPIRIT”
14, 15. (a) What did Paul recommend we set our mind on? (b) What does “setting the mind on the spirit” not mean?
14 After Paul talked about the dangers of “setting the mind on the flesh,” he explained: “Setting the mind on the spirit means life and peace.” What a wonderful reward we can have!
15 But “setting the mind on the spirit” does not mean that a person is not in touch with reality. It does not mean that someone thinks and talks about only Jehovah or the Bible. For example, God’s servants in the first century lived normal lives. They enjoyed food and drink, got married, raised families, and had jobs.—Mark 6:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:9.
The most important thing in Paul’s life was serving God
16. What was the most important thing in Paul’s life?
16 But Paul and other early Christians did not let these normal activities become the most important things in their lives. For example, we know that Paul earned a living by making tents. But his job was not the most important thing in his life. The most important thing in Paul’s life was serving God. Paul was focused on the preaching and teaching work. (Read Acts 18:2-4; 20:20, 21, 34, 35.) The brothers and sisters in Rome needed to imitate Paul, and so do we.—Romans 15:15, 16.
17. What are the benefits of setting our “mind on the spirit”?
17 What will our life be like if we focus on serving Jehovah? Romans 8:6 states: “Setting the mind on the spirit means life and peace.” Doing that includes letting our mind be directed by Jehovah’s spirit and learning to think as he thinks. Jehovah promises us a happy and satisfying life now and eternal life in the future.
Thanks to Jehovah, we can have true peace of mind
18. How can we have peace when we set “the mind on the spirit”?
18 What did Paul mean when he said that “setting the mind on the spirit” can bring us peace? Everyone wants peace, especially peace of mind, but very few find it. Thanks to Jehovah, we can have true peace of mind. We can also have peace with those in our family and those in the congregation. Since we are imperfect, at times we will have problems with our brothers and sisters. When that happens, we follow Jesus’ advice: “Make your peace with your brother.” (Matthew 5:24) Remember that your brother or sister also serves Jehovah, “the God who gives peace.”—Romans 15:33; 16:20.
19. What unique kind of peace can we enjoy?
19 If we set our “mind on the spirit,” we will also have peace with God. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “You [Jehovah] will safeguard those who fully lean on you; you will give them continuous peace, because it is in you that they trust.”—Isaiah 26:3; read Romans 5:1.
20. Why are you thankful for the advice in Romans chapter 8?
20 Whether we hope to live forever in heaven or on earth, all of us can benefit from the wise words found in Romans chapter 8. We are thankful that the Bible encourages us to focus on serving Jehovah rather than on our own desires. We know that by setting our “mind on the spirit,” we can have a marvelous reward. Paul wrote: “The gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Romans 6:23.