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Read Introduction to Romans


12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.


Verses 12 to 13 argue for the personal obligation of those who are in the Spirit—they are to live daily in the power of the Holy Spirit.

12 Therefore,

The “therefore” shows the compelling conclusion of verses 5 to11—Christians have no further obligation to the flesh. They are to live according to the Spirit rather than the flesh. There is enormous privilege in Christian living in having the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. All that we have is from God, even the power to conquer sin in our lives. We do not have this power in ourselves without the Spirit.


Paul was clearly dealing with Christians in this section of Romans eight. This is the fourth time so far he used the term “brethren” in Romans.

we [including Paul himself] are debtors

The Christian has a negative and positive sphere of responsibility. We have an obligation to live under the control of the Holy Spirit and then the responsibility not to allow the flesh to dominate us:

Not to live according to the flesh

To live according to the Spirit

—not to the flesh [the sin capacity],

The Christian is not under obligation to subject himself to the tyranny or mastery of the flesh. The believer does not have to live on its terms. The Spirit is the countervailing force that makes the difference. This is a fact that is true of believers because they have the indwelling Holy Spirit in them.

to live according to the flesh.

The necessity of righteousness before God is absolute. We cannot separate our justification from our sanctification. Salvation provided freedom from the rule of the sin capacity over our lives. We do not have to be dragged back into a life of practicing sin devoid of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.


We owe God a holy life.


Since Jesus went to the extent of Calvary for us and rose from the dead to give us new life and eternal life, we owe something to Him. We are debtors to God’s plan of salvation in Christ. The flesh has no rights with the believer.

Privilege involves responsibility. When a person becomes a Christian, the flesh is not eradicated. There is a need to put the sin capacity to death operationally. Although the flesh is still ever present in believers, it has no rights with the believer. The Christian should refuse to follow the dictates of the sin capacity.

TI 2:12, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

Privilege includes responsibility. The privilege of being in the family of God involves obligation to live like a child of God. The sin capacity has lost all claims on us. The sin capacity will not robotically fall away when a person becomes a Christian. There is responsibility on the Christian to deal with sin in his life. The biblical way to deal with sin is to enter fellowship with the Spirit. Reliance on the active presence of the Spirit in our lives will introduce a dynamic of spiritual living.

All biblical obligations rest on blessings and promises already fulfilled by the Lord. We cannot live the Christian life without those provisions. Most New Testament epistles are based on this principle—first doctrine then application of principles from doctrine. We cannot live the Christian life until we understand God’s revelation about how to do it.