Romans 8:8–9b

We Can Please GodPrepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Romans 8:8 (Holman) Those whose lives are in the flesh are unable to please


“In the flesh” refers to those who abide in a state where unrenewed human nature rules. It describes people who have never submitted their lives to Jesus. It is impossible for them to please God.God is not callous. He can be moved internally. He looks on the affairs of people and passes judgment. He can be pleased or displeased. It would be better never to be conceived than to never please God.To please God is the purpose of human existence, and this is the one thing unbelievers cannot do. As long as people are rejecting God’s Son, we cannot expect the Father to smile on them.

Rejecting Jesus is an affront to God. “He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his son” (1 John 5:10). God cannot be pleased with people whose lives directly contradict Him.

Unbelievers, alien to the life of God, can only displease God. A person out of Christ may be profoundly moral and religious, but can never please God while in this condition. No essential difference exists between “good” lost people and “bad” lost people. The differences are only a matter of degree.

The Pharisee is as lost as a drunkard or thief. However fair the flower may seem, if not planted by God, it is a weed. Remember, Pharisees were ringleaders in crucifying Jesus. They hated him because he revealed their true colors.

“Those whose lives are in the flesh are unable to please God.” Their only hope is to renounce their present life, and submit themselves to the Spirit of God. Until lost people do this, they must live with the fact that even the “sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination” (Proverbs 15:8).

Romans 8:9a You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, . . .

“In the flesh” and “in the spirit” are the only two realms in which people can live. Individuals are controlled by either their sin nature, or by the Holy Spirit.

Believers live “in the Spirit”. This is their element, like water to a fish or air to a bird. Being in the spirit means we live in a sphere where the Holy Spirit rules.

It bespeaks our being overcome, subdued by Another. As we say a man is in love when totally obssessed with a woman, so we say a person is “in the Spirit”.

Christians are so enthralled with the Holy Spirit that they have completely placed their confidence in Him, and have ceased trusting in their own flesh for salvation. They have been forever delivered from putting any confidence in self.

A believer trusts solely in the blood and righteousness of Jesus. The Holy Spirit was given to glorify, magnify, and uplift Jesus (see John 16:14). Therefore, anyone who is “in the Spirit” will be concentrating on Jesus for salvation.

Romans 8:9b . . .since the Spirit of God lives in you.

This is true of every real believer. Christ-followers have the Spirit of God dwelling within. This is the mark of Christians. The Holy Spirit dwells in them.

Jesus ascended in order that the Holy Spirit might descend. Jesus “left” so He could be with everyone everywhere every moment. This indwelling of the Spirit is as incomprehensible as the Son’s incarnation. Both events are infinite condescension.

This indwelling is real, not just figurative language, and is not that of a force, but rather a Person. The Spirit is an individual, not merely an influence.

As use “the spirit of man” as a way to depict the inmost essence of people, so we use “Spirit of God” to depict the inmost essence of God that has been imparted to us. The Spirit brings the Father and the Son to us. Jesus said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (JN 14:23). God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit reside in us. This is one of the most remarkable statements that can ever be made. It is the highest peak of Christian mysticism. It baffles the imagination. God in me! Amazing!

Nothing compares to being a Christ-follower. The world may scoff at us, but they do not know what we have. A lost person can understand money in the bank, but not God in the heart. Ignatius, the Christian martyr, called himself Theophorus, meaning the God-bearer. He said, “I bear about with me the Holy Spirit.”

When the Devil attacks, and we begin to be depressed, remember who we are, whose we are, and what we are. We are Theophorus, God-bearers. We belong to Jesus, and are thus temples of the Holy Spirit.

Reverence yourself as you would the old Temple of Solomon. Do not pollute the Spirit’s temple. Sin in a believer is more than transgression; it is sacrilege. We must awaken to the truth that God’s Holy Spirit, a Person, dwells inside us.

If we remained conscious of this, it would aid us in our battle against evil. Contemplate the Spirit within, and we will find it harder to indulge in sin.

The word “lives” in our text is “oikeo”, the verb form of “oikos” the Greek noun for a home. The verb means to live in a certain place as a home, a residence.

When the Holy Spirit entered us, He did not come only to visit. He came to stay. Our heart is now His house, His permanent habitation.

He came not only to live in our hearts, but also to govern there. The Spirit of God comes in as a landlord ready to oversee all operations. Upon His arrival, He becomes the host, not a visitor. He is Lord of the house. We are merely guests.

Our hearts are to be His throne room. He is king. He must not be grieved or inconvenienced. Being the rightful Host and Ruler, He cannot be dispossessed or evicted. He is not going to leave. We might as well surrender to Him completely.

Everything we do should reflect His will. His thoughts should flow through our minds; His goodness and kindness should be performed through our bodies.

Our vocal chords should vibrate only with words His breath would prompt. Our hands should feel only what He would touch. Our feet should not walk unclean paths. Our eyes should observe only what pleases Him.

Our ears should hear only what would not annoy the Holy Spirit. Our lungs should be kept clean. Our stomachs should be a reservoir only for good things. God rules, and it matters not what we think. All that counts is to please him.

Our old nature has become the intruder and should be treated rudely. It should be renounced and denied. God alone should receive royal treatment.

Who rules in our lives? Who oversees our inner house? Who is treated as an intruder, God or our flesh? Whose interest is deemed supreme? If the Holy Spirit dwells in us, He will rule by means of our consent, or through his chastisement.