Early in the sixth chapter of Romans, Paul states that our old man is crucified with Christ, so that the body of sin might be destroyed, Ro 6:6. Which in my mind leaves the matter of our sin nature, the old man, and the problem of sin in the flesh, unresolved because it is written, “might be destroyed”. Now, that is not the only time in the scriptures where the reader is left up in the air, so to speak, in regards to sin in the flesh being done away with.
He 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto to them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Paul asks in the sixth chapter of Romans if we should continue in sin so grace might abound, Ro 6:1. And also asks if we should sin because we are not under the law but under grace, Ro 6:15. The answer of course is no, but we are still left up in the air in regards to the problem of sin in our lives. Paul then, in the next chapter poises the problem of sin in the flesh, by describing the insidious nature of sin in the flesh. That in fact, sin has a mind of its’ own.
Ro 7:18-20 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Thankfully, in the eighth chapter of Romans, Paul gives the sinner some relief from the problematical nature of sin in the flesh, and a sinner’s worry concerning it.
Ro 8:1 ¶ There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
The reason for this is that God has provided a process by which the sin nature of the body of Christ will be destroyed. Which is Jesus role as a sin offering.
Ro 8:3-4 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
But even still, the mechanics of exactly how this is all worked out in the flesh, is not made clear. There is a verse in the eighth chapter of Romans that shines some light on how the sin nature in the body of Christ is destroyed, so that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.
Ro 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
This naturally brings to mind the question of how exactly does the Spirit, with our apparent involvement, mortify the deeds of the body? It is not too much later in the 8th chapter that this question is answered but it took me a good many years to see and understand these verses and their implications.
Ro 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
The following is a definition from Strong’s for the word infirmities.
G769 astheneia as-then’-i-ah
feebleness (of mind or body); by implication, malady; morally, frailty.
I would contend that the infirmities or weakness of the flesh that the Spirit is interceding to God in our behalf, in regards to the redemption of our bodies, are largely moral weaknesses. Largely the lusts of the flesh as listed in Ga 5:19-24. But when a person reads the word infirmities, they can naturally assume it means sickness or bodily weakness. No one wants healing of the body more than I do after having lived 30 years with a spinal cord injury. But in the last decade, maybe less, I have been doing much groaning in the Spirit. I didn’t really know what was going on as I never gave it much thought. When chancing upon Ro 8:26 in my daily scripture readings, I thought it to be my ardent desire to be healed that was behind the groaning in the Spirit. The funny thing about scripture is, that as you read the verses, you often feel you know what they mean, when in fact you don’t. Not fully. You always have to read scripture in context, so let us look at a couple verses just before Ro 8:26.
Ro 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
Now it comes into focus. The Spirit of God in me has been interceding to God, on my behalf, for the grace to grow in the fruit God wants me to possess, in this age and the one to come. The redemption of our bodies entails our being made righteous and the fruit of righteousness are the fruit of the Spirit. It is through the travail of the difficulties of my life, that I am giving birth within myself, to a new creation. The manifestation of the sons of God, mentioned in Ro 8:19, is the birth of this new creation. This is not a easy process and the analogy of being in childbirth describes it quite well. The pain, suffering and travail are all a necessary part of my godly character development. So by the prompting of the Spirit, I groan within myself quite often. The Spirit is searching my heart and interceding on my behalf for the weakness and even hostile and negative attitudes I posses because of the difficulty of my situation. In short, God is purifying my heart by faith. Now we can fight this or facilitate it. We are told to pray in the Spirit always, Eph 6:18, and to not quench the Spirit. 1Th 5:19, and for good reason. Because, it is by this symbiosis with the Spirit of God, that we mortify the deeds of the flesh. It is also necessary to come before the throne of grace in times of need. If you read He 4:16 in context, you will again see it is talking about infirmities of the flesh, He 4:15, and links them to being tempted, or tested by sin. The word of the Lord is a sharp two edged sword and shows you, the thoughts and intents of your personal heart, and what comes out of our hearts is often what defiles us. These scripture verses in Mark, recording the words of our Lord, and are quite relevant.
Mark 7:20-23 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
Galatians 5:19-21 also lists some of the works of the flesh and against these infirmities is what the Spirit of God is interceding to God for, on our behalf. Often times the Spirit moves on me and I pray in the Spirit, in tongues or with groanings which can not be uttered. This whole process was prophesied by John the Baptist, before he first saw Jesus.
Mt 3:11-12 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
The baptism of fire is compared to burning the chaff of wheat at harvest. The chaff, outer covering of the grain, being the flesh and we know that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, 1Co 15:50. Fire is also used to refine silver and gold. In my past I have smelted aluminum at a junk yard. Just before a ingot was poured you would skim the dross off of the top of the liquid aluminum in the furnace. So to, unless one has the dross brought to the surface and removed in the refiners fire, Mal 3:3, by the difficulties of life, he has little value to God in the age to come. Hand in hand with the Spirit mortifying the deeds of the flesh, is also suffering. Because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 1Pe 4:1-2, so that we no longer should live the rest of our time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. In light of the analogy of smelting or refining gold, the fire of the sufferings of life, is what brings the dross, weaknesses and impurities of character, to the surface to be removed from our hearts by God.