The Christian is one who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who is “the Spirit of God” and “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:9). I will never get beyond this truth that each person of the Holy Trinity makes His home within me. Because of this, Paul makes a remarkable statement about the new Holy Spirit-given life that we experience in our fallen bodies. He says that since Christ, by His Spirit, dwells within us, “although the body is dead because of sin the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:10).
Up to this point in Romans 8, Paul has been speaking of “the flesh,” meaning our impotent and sinful human nature in opposition to the Holy Spirit. In verse 10, though, he speaks of our material bodies, which, he says, are “dead because of sin.” Because of Adam’s sin, we are under the curse of “the law of sin and death” (v. 2), which is exactly what God threatened would happen to Adam if he disobeyed (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12). Because we are sinners, our mortal bodies (6:12) will die: “The wages of sin is death” (6:23). From conception, the principle of death clings to our existence. Once we take our first breaths, the clock begins to tick on our lives.
“Although” that is true of our bodies, Paul goes on to say, “the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (v. 10). Does Paul mean the Holy Spirit, as the ESV indicates with the capital “S,” or does he mean our human spirit? As I said, up to this point he has been contrasting flesh and the Holy Spirit, but here, because he changes the contrast to the body, when he says “spirit” he is making a contrast between our bodies and our spirits, our outer and inner selves.
What is so stupendous is that while our bodies are already dead due to our sins, our spirits have already been made alive “because of righteousness.” Our spiritual life began when we who were unrighteous were declared righteous (3:10; 4:5). This happened when the Holy Spirit opened our ears to hear and embrace the announcement of “the righteousness of God” (1:17), which is that the saving righteousness of God was “manifested” in the work of our Lord Jesus Christ (3:21–26). That righteousness, which we do not naturally possess, was accomplished by the work of Jesus Christ for us.
Paul is also saying something more. He’s not speaking only of justification, but of what is going on within us—sanctification. Our spirits were made alive by the Spirit’s regeneration, and the righteousness of Christ was imputed to us by faith alone; but our spirits are also enlivened by His righteousness imparted to us to be lived out. As Spirit-filled people, then, our “Spirit-ual” life in the body is not a matter of legalism. It’s not merely that we have to obey God; it’s that we get to. It’s not a burden; it’s a blessing, because the Spirit lives within us.