It may be helpful to see that at the end of chapter 7 the question of "I" has been settled. It is the mind or inner man which has been brought to delight in the will of God, and which is regarded as the true "I." In the last verse the apostle says, "So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh [he does not now say 'I myself '] the law of sin." Hence all questions as to my state are over; I have come to the conclusion that my inner man which delights in the law of God is myself, and that I have a Deliverer, Jesus Christ our Lord, from the working of sin and death in me. Then in chapter 8 deliverance is enjoyed by the Spirit of God becoming in us the Spirit of Christ, and so superseding by His operation the working of the flesh. In chapter 5 the love of God is shed abroad in the heart of the believer by the Holy Ghost. The soul thus knows the thoughts and feelings of the blessed God of all grace towards it.
Here in chapter 8 the Spirit is the controlling power of our thoughts and feelings, as those brought into liberty by Christ. In the end of chapter 7 the soul has found the Deliverer, the One in whom we have life and righteousness. Life for the believer is in Him who has been raised from the dead, and in chapter 6 he is taught to reckon according to what has taken place in Christ, who has died and risen again; he is taught to reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus. But in chapter 8 we get more than reckoning, the believer comes under a controlling principle, not the law, but the Spirit. The law had discovered in him another governing principle, that of sin and death; motions of sins were by the law, and sin working death in a man by that which was good; but the believer now by the Spirit is in conscious relationship with his Deliverer, being married to Him who is raised from the dead. This is no mere position or standing, but a link of life by the Spirit, and hence a link of love. The life is in Christ Jesus. He lives to God as alive from the dead, in perfect love. He has taken this place for us through death, and all this is the proof of love. The blessed and important point for us is that we have the Spirit as the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Christ is alive out of the whole circumstances and scene where sin and death are; we are not actually out of them, but the Spirit is the link of life with Him who is out of them. This is important for us, because where there were passions of sins by the law, now by the Spirit there are motions of life, and no longer obligatory compulsion, but living obedience.
A further point connected with the Spirit is that it is God's Spirit. It is not merely a question of a renewed spirit in us; but the apostle says, "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that God's Spirit dwell in you." Here we see that the believer has that which no angel possesses - God's Spirit. They are holy, unfallen beings, and we are fallen creatures; and yet, as those who are separated from the life of flesh by the death and resurrection of Christ, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, that the character of God as revealed in Christ might be formed livingly in us. No angel enjoys this privilege, they desire to look into these things. They are found after their own order in the heavenly Jerusalem, but they are not the city, nor is the character of the city, that is of Christ, seen in them. Now here we are in a scene of contrariety, once fallen creatures, but redeemed, and God's Spirit dwelling in us who believe in Christ. This chapter does not carry us into the full blessings connected with the Spirit, but shows us the leading elements connected with the Spirit of God dwelling in the Christian. We have noticed the immense privilege of God's Spirit being given, not to renovate in any way what is of man, but to bring in what is of God, that God's character in all its moral elements as seen in Christ might come out in us; hence we have the Spirit spoken of as the Spirit of Christ.
The apostle continues the sharp contrast which he had previously drawn between the mind or disposition of the flesh - the way in which the flesh thinks and feels - and the mind or disposition of the Spirit - that is, the thoughts and feelings which have their source in the Spirit of God. So here he says, "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is not of Him." It is no question of a renovated man, but being of Christ. God does not recognise any man but Christ. He has died to sin and lives to God. All is in death that is not of Him, and we are livingly of Him as having His Spirit. So it continues, "If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." We are still down here in the body, and our link with Christ is by the Spirit. "He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit." The effect of Christ being in the Christian is that the body is looked at as dead on account of sin, for Christ has died to sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Righteousness is established in Christ, and now life and righteousness go together. We are looked at as still in the body, the body not yet quickened with the Spirit, but dead, but the Spirit who dwells in us is life. Then verse 11 contemplates the mortal body being made alive because of the indwelling Spirit of Him that raised up Christ from the dead. It has often been noticed that it is this which completes the answer to the question, "Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" The first part of the answer is that we have found and reached the Deliverer, and the second that He has given us of His Spirit, and this involves as consequence that the body will be made alive in the power of the life of Christ.
Everything lies for the believer in having the Spirit; he is actually in the body and in a scene of contrariety, but God's Spirit dwells in him, hence he is in no way debtor to the flesh, though still living in the body down here. Indeed, living after the flesh is the way to death, but if by the Spirit, who is our link with Christ, we mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live. All this supposes that we are still in that condition where we experience the contrariety of the flesh, but the Spirit setting us free so that we may live in new affections and relationships. And here, as in Galatians, sonship is in contrast with legal bondage. Those who were under the tutelage and guidance of the law were servants, but to be guided by the Spirit gives us the character of sons. It is important to see the true character of sonship which belongs to Christians as linked with Christ. A man might adopt a child, give him the position and privilege of a son, make him his heir and so forth, but there is one thing he cannot do, he cannot give him the spirit and character of a son with its suited affections. Now this is what God's Spirit can and does do - guide the believer into all the movements of life and affection which belong to the position in which grace has set us in Christ. The Christian position is sonship, in contrast to that of servants under the law, and God's Spirit gives reality to the relationship of God's sons. It is in the cry, "Abba, Father," that the Spirit produces the response to the love of God which He sheds abroad in the heart. T. H. Reynolds.