What Does Romans 8:13 Mean?

Q.  Romans 8: 13 says, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live”  Can you please explain this more thoroughly? What exactly is this implying, and to whom was Paul addressing it?

A.  Romans 8:13, is surrounded by definitions put there to help us understand.  For example Romans 8:5 says those who live according to the sin nature have their minds set on what that nature desires. Romans 8:7 says the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so.  This means the sin nature cannot be saved.

That doesn’t mean those who are saved no longer have a sin nature. In Romans 7:18-20 Paul showed from his own experience that believers continue to sin.  But he said God does not count those sins against us.  He counts them against the sin nature that lives in us.  At the rapture / resurrection the sin nature will be removed.  Our new bodies won’t have one (1 Cor. 15:51-53).

These verses tell us that Paul was not speaking of behavior in Romans 8:13 but of intent. If a person’s intent is to live according to the sin nature, it’s an indication he or she is not saved.  But a person whose mind is set on living according to the Spirit, even though he or she still sins, is saved.

We can have confidence in this interpretation because Paul made a point of saying our salvation is guaranteed from the moment we believe and cannot be revoked by anyone for any reason (Romans 8:38-39, 2 Cor. 1:21-22, Ephesians 1:13-14).

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