Romans 8:5-8

Romans 8:5-8


Ask God to guide your discussions and to experience his presence as you read his word together.

Some people think in very black-and-white terms, and others have a high tolerance for thinking in the gray.
  • Are you more of a black-and-white person or more of a gray person? Give an example.
  • What are some ways black-and-white thinking can be helpful or harmful? What about gray thinking?
In Romans 8:5-8, Paul will speak in some black-and-white categories by showing us that there are only two ways we can relate to God. One way brings death, and the other brings life.


Read Romans 8:1-8 aloud.

To understand Romans 8:5-8, we first need to ensure we understand Paul’s argument up to this point in the letter. We could chart the flow of his argument as follows:

  • Question: how can sinful humanity escape the condemnation of the Law since we are all law-breakers (7:1-24)? 
  • Answer: sinful humanity can only escape the Law’s condemnation through union with Christ and his saving benefits (8:1).
  • Explanation 1 - the Spirit’s Work: Paul goes on in verse 2 to show that there are only two ways of relating to God, which Paul refers to as “laws.” The first way of relating to God is identified as the “law of sin and death.” Paul spent all of chapter 7 explaining this way of relating to God, in which humanity stands before God in the sinfulness of our flesh, exposed and condemned by the Law and awaiting the just sentence of death. By contrast, the second way of relating to God is identified as the “law of the Spirit of life.” In this way of relating to God, the Spirit unites us to Jesus and all his saving benefits, and we are freed from the condemnation of the Law. Paul is saying that this is what has happened for all Christians. The Spirit has transferred us from the realm of the Law to the domain of Christ, and therefore, we can live joyfully free from all condemnation and guilt!
  • Explanation 2 - Christ’s Work: How does the Spirit’s uniting us to Jesus deliver us from the Law’s condemning power? This is what Paul explains in verses 3-4. Here, Paul shows that the Law could only make demands of sinful humanity, but it was impotent to take away their guilt and condemnation. Therefore, God did what the Law could never do! He sent his Son to become a man and to absorb the “righteous requirements of the Law” on behalf of humanity in his crucifixion. This is why Paul says in verse 4 that those who “walk according to the Spirit” (i.e., those whom the Spirit has united to Jesus by faith) have the righteous requirements of the Law fulfilled in them.1

In Romans 8:5-8, Paul continues his argument by further explaining the two fundamental orientations of life available to humanity: living according to the flesh or the Spirit (8:5). One way brings death, and the other brings life and peace (8:6-8).


  • In verse 5, Paul contrasts those who “live according to the flesh” with those who “live according to the Spirit.” In the context of Paul’s argument, we have seen that Paul is using this language fundamentally to refer to the two opposing ways of relating to God: trusting in your flesh to justify you before God (which leads to death) or trusting in Christ (which leads to life and peace).  Which of these two ways describes you right now? If you are a Christian, share the story of when you first came to see your sin and guilt before God and your need for a Savior.
  • In verse 6 Paul, says that to set the mind on the flesh leads to death, but to set the mind on the Spirit leads to life and peace. While this shift from setting our minds on the flesh to setting our minds on the Spirit happened decisively when we first put our faith in Christ, there is also an ongoing sense in which we must daily set all of our hope in Christ instead of in our flesh in order to experience the life and peace of God. 
    • Where do you sense you are currently setting your mind on the flesh? (think of areas where you might be experiencing excessive guilt, shame, anxiety, fear, ruminating thoughts, or where you feel that everything rests on your shoulders, etc). 
    • What are some specific things you might be forgetting about Jesus and his promises to you that you need to fill your mind with in these situations?
    • Share a trial or struggle you’ve gone through in which the Spirit enabled you to trust some specific promises of the gospel, which resulted in life and peace. What were those gospel promises?


As a group, spend some time thanking the Spirit for His work in drawing you to Christ, your Savior, who has set you free from the condemnation of the Law. Also, spend some time praying for one another, asking for the Spirit’s power to help you trust Christ in every area of your life.
 1 To “walk according to the Spirit” in verse 4 is not primarily a reference to Spirit-filled behavior (think fruit of the Spirit). Remember, Paul is making the point that there are only two ways humanity can relate to God: through our flesh (which is condemned by the Law) or through the Spirit (who unites us to Jesus by faith). So in context, Paul is not talking fundamentally about our Spirit-filled behavior, but rather our Spirit-wrought position in Christ. Those who “walk according to the Spirit” are fundamentally those who, by the power of the Spirit, are actively trusting in Christ and his salvation. This, of course, will result in the fruit of the Spirit, and will be evidence of the Spirit’s work, but Paul’s primary emphasis is on the believer’s position and only by implication on behavior.