More Than Conquerors! A  Study of Romans 8 #2 Free From The Need To Earn – Romans 8:2

19 Aug

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (8:2)

People spend a big part of their lives trying to qualify.

  • On the job, an employee hopes that his performance qualifies him for a raise or promotion.
  • In a dating relationship, the boy and the girl will each try hard to impress the other to “qualify” as someone special in that one’s eyes.
  • A major hurdle in a university doctoral program is cleared when the student passes the qualifying exams.

On the other hand, in certain situations trying to “qualify” is inappropriate.

  • Take, for instance, a child’s relationship with his or her parents. A child should feel unconditional love and acceptance from his parents. The child should not have to feel as though he must “qualify” for his parents’ love by his achievements. He should be able to receive their love simply by being their child.
  • The problem comes, however, when parents set unrealistically high standards and expectations for their child. They expect the child to behave perfectly, to achieve above all others both in the classroom and in athletics, and to use adult reasoning in every situation.
  • In that kind of situation, the child never feels as though he “qualifies” for the parents’ love and acceptance. At some point, the child may simply quit trying to win his parents‘ approval and just give up. If he is trying his hardest and never gets anywhere, why try at all?

 Must We “Qualify” With God?

Which way is it with God? Do we have to qualify with Him, or is striving to earn His acceptance  inappropriate? Many believe that we have to “qualify” in order to please God and have a relationship

with Him. The idea is that, to be a Christian, you either have to be a “good person” (usually defined

as “a nearly perfect person”) or you have to do all the “right things.” The other side of the coin

is that, if you fail to qualify, you cannot please God.

An author wrote of a recollection from childhood of hearing a lesson based on the story of Moses’ disobedience when he struck a rock to make water come out of it instead of speaking to the rock as God had commanded. Because of his disobedience, Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land (Numbers 20:2-12). The application of this story was made to my wife in this way: “Moses was a good man, but he made one mistake and did not enter the promised land. So, you had better not make one mistake because you see what will happen to you if you do!”

This use of that story fails to take into account that God still accepted Moses as His servant, that Moses apparently died in the grace of God (Deuteronomy 34:5, 6), that Satan had to argue with God’s angel about Moses’ body (Jude 9), and that Moses appeared with Jesus with God’s endorsement at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:4).

God meted out that particular discipline to Moses for that particular act, but that does not say anything about God’s punishment for “one mistake” that you or I might make.

It is hard to try to keep up the pace of perfection in your relationship with God, just as it would be for a child who has a demanding parent. After a period of time, during which you have tried your hardest to do everything you believe the Lord commands of you, you may well give up. “If I’ve messed up once,” you might think, “I’m no better off than the prostitute or the drunk! So why try? I’ll never qualify with God anyway.” I wonder how many who have dropped out of the church have done so for this very reason.

Something is not right with this perspective. Something here does not fit our lives the way they are. Something is wrong with the idea that God has given us a standard to follow which we cannot possibly meet. Something is wrong with the notion that we must go through life unsure about whether we are Christians and whether we will go to heaven when we die. One attempted fix is to suggest that if you pray for forgiveness right before you die, you will be all right. No, something is not right with this approach to God.

Jesus has good news for us. He frees us from the hopeless treadmill of earning salvation (which is impossible anyway) and saves us on the basis of faith (or trust) in His grace. Jesus saves us not on the basis of our goodness, but on the basis of His goodness, as God’s perfect Son who gave Himself as the sacrifice for our sins. That is good news. That means that we can be saved and know it. That means we can have hope.

 “Your Works Have Saved You”?

When Jesus was on earth, dealing with people face to face and showing mankind what God is like, how many times did He tell someone, “You have earned salvation”? Never! He told the woman with the long-term hemorrhage (Mark 5:34), and He also told the sinful woman who anointed His feet (Luke 7:50) that their faith had saved them (or “made them whole”). The paralytic on the mat (Mark 2:5) and the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43) performed no act that merited forgiveness, but they each received forgiveness from Jesus.

All of these incidents are pictures of faith, illustrations of what it means to come to Jesus in simple trust of who He is, regardless of the merit of one’s actions.

Jesus has plenty to say about works. The judgment scene portrayed in Matthew 25:31-46 shows that one’s eternal destiny is determined by what one does. In Matthew 12:37, Jesus said, “By your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”

What a person does, even in terms of his speech, has direct impact on his eternal status before God. But the main theme of Jesus’ teaching is that a person’s heart has to be right (Mark 7:20-23). From that correct center the correct actions will come. Correct actions that do not flow from a heart of trust mean nothing.

Jesus shocked the religious leaders of His day by eating with tax-gatherers and with people whom the religious leaders termed “sinners” (Luke 5:30-32). “Why do you eat and drink with the tax-gatherers and sinners?”

They asked Jesus’ disciples. Jesus told them, “Because they need Me.” He did not just associate with people who “qualified,” that is, people who justified themselves in their own eyes. He did not operate from the perspective that there are good people and there are bad people and that is the way it is. He came to call

“bad” people to a new life, a life in which “goodness” would be given to them by God on the basis of their faith in Christ. The very reason Jesus associated with “sinners” was that they did not “qualify” on the basis of their works, and they knew it. Jesus wanted to bring about a deeper goodness within the person, on the basis of faith in Him.

Is There Salvation Apart From Works of Law?

What is this “faith” or “trust” on which salvation depends? Paul, who did more “works” for the Lord than perhaps anyone else but who also called himself the foremost sinner (1 Timothy 1:15), provides an insight

into this basis of our salvation in Romans 3.

In Romans 3:19-28, there appear to be two similar but distinct ideas about “law” at work. Paul makes reference to (1) “the Law,” meaning the law of Moses, and also to (2) “law” (no “the”), referring to the general idea of works and law-keeping. Paul says in Romans 3:9 that “both Jews and Greeks [i. e., all people]

are all under sin.” The law (of Moses) speaks to this, he says, and he quotes several Old Testament passages to prove his point. Then in verse 20 he says, “By the works of the Law [the general principle of doing works of merit] no flesh will be justified in [God’s] sight; for through the Law [general principle] comes the

knowledge of sin. But now,” he goes on to say in verses 21 and 22, “apart from the Law [that general principle of works] the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law [of Moses] and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.” (Emphasis mine.) In verse 28 he concludes, “We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from

works of the Law [works of merit to gain favor],” since “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (v. 20).

Paul is saying this: Law-keeping, the good works that we might do, will not save us. Works religion does not earn salvation. You will never qualify for salvation by trying to earn it through your own works. Something

else, something different, is needed. That “something else” was provided by God, who offers salvation on the basis of faith or trust in Christ. Salvation by faith is not the same kind of approach to God that trying to be saved by “law” is. It is “witnessed to” by the Old Testament law, but it is a different, and superior, approach to God. This faith is an absolute dependence on Jesus’ death on the cross as your salvation. You do not “earn” or merit anything. You trust that Jesus has accomplished salvation for you by His merit.

This contrast between the works we do and the faith by which we approach God is vividly portrayed in Paul’s description of himself in Romans 7. He says, “The good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish” (v. 19). He wants to do right, but sin in him does wrong. “Wretched man that I am!” he cries (v. 24). “Who will set me free from the body of this death?” The answer? “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25). Paul’s works did not stack up high enough to reach salvation, and they never would. He knew he could not earn God’s acceptance by his actions because his actions were so often wrong.

Rather than living a life of always trying to “qualify” and always failing, Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:1, 2). The “law of sin and of death” says that if you sin, you die. However, the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” says that if you are in Christ, you will live because of the presence of faith in your life.

“But I’m Not Good Enough To Be A Christian”

How many times have you heard the statement “But I’m not good enough to be a Christian”? Have you said it yourself? An idea many hold is that a person has to be good enough to become a Christian. This person believes that only when he quits a particular sin or brings his general level of morality to a higher plane will he be able to approach God and qualify to be a Christian. This idea may reflect the works/salvation misunderstanding we have been talking about.

Actually, however, that standard line may be little more than a cop-out, unconscious though it may be. The problem is not that you are not good enough to be a Christian. The problem is that you do not admit that you are bad enough to need to become a Christian. The statement is not always made out of a heart seeking to change and to come closer to God. The statement sometimes is made as an excuse for why that person is making no movement or change at all. He says, “I’m not good enough to be a Christian—but I’m doing pretty well, and a lot better than some who call themselves Christians,” or “I’m not good enough to become a Christian. There’s nothing I can do about it because God has set too high a standard for me to meet.”

This person plods through life in this sort-of good, sort-of bad never-never land, never making a commitment

to anyone beyond himself and never looking for God’s real definition of “qualifying.” What would Jesus say to the person who laments, “I’m not good enough. . . .”? He would say, “You’re the very person I came for!

If you will admit your sinfulness, I can work in your life. I didn’t come for people who think they are good enough. There’s not much I can do for them.” No one is “good enough” to be a Christian. The question is, What are you going to do about it?

What About This Matter Of Baptism?

A person is saved on the basis of his absolute trust in Jesus to save him. Nothing he can do earns salvation from God. But what is included in this biblical idea of “trust”? What does it encompass? We must realize that salvation is conditional. Salvation is based on grace, but it is conditional. As K. C. Moser pointed out, if

salvation were unconditional, “it would be possessed by those who do not want it and who are wholly unfit for it.”1 A person could be saved without even knowing it. John 3:16, the golden text of the Bible, says that salvation is conditional. Not everyone will have eternal life, it says, but only those who believe in Jesus.

If salvation is conditional, what are the conditions? Surely a person must believe the gospel to be true.

In addition, a person must confess that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9). The person must repent of his or her sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19). The person must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to have his sins forgiven (Acts 2:38). All of these conditions are biblical and are elements of faith. They are merely acts of faith and depend upon faith in Jesus.

As an illustration, consider the woman with the issue of blood who was healed by touching Jesus (Mark 5:25-34). What saved her? Her faith. Jesus said so. But what did she do? She acted; she reached out and touched Jesus’ garment. Did the act save her, or did her faith save her? She believed before she acted, but it was only when she acted in faith that she was made whole. She did what she had to do to find wholeness, but the basis for her action was faith. She performed an act of faith and found relief.

Her faith and her act were inseparably bound. Mere intellectual assent is not usually what the Bible is talking about when it speaks of “faith.” Usually “faith” can also be translated “trust”: trusting Jesus so much that you act on the basis of what you have come to see as the truth. Without an act of faith, intellectual assent is empty. The main actor in baptism is not the person who is responding to the gospel.

The main actor is God who raises the person to newness of life, washes away the person’s sins, and gives the gift of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is not a “work” that earns salvation. Baptism is a response, an act of faith, in which God “works” to bring salvation to a person’s life. Why can we not be saved as the thief on the cross was, by a simple appeal to Jesus?

  1. First, Jesus was there in person and had the authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:10).
  2. Second, the new covenant had not begun because Jesus had not died.
  3. Third, Jesus’ great commission to the apostles (Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15, 16), the pattern of conversions in Acts (e.g., Acts 8:26-40), and several references to salvation in the letters (such as Galatians 3:27) all include baptism. Even Romans, which has much to say about faith,  discusses the essential role of baptism (Romans 6:3-11). No one in the New Testament ever says a “sinner’s prayer” and is saved.
  4. In the New Testament, those who come to accept the message of Jesus are baptized in His name. Understanding the essentiality of baptism does not mean that you must abandon belief in salvation by faith. You cannot separate faith and obedience. It is wrong to emphasize either to the neglect of the other. Faith must be defined biblically,ConclusionWhen Peter denied knowing the Lord three times on the night Jesus was arrested, Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75). After all his boasting and even after striking out with his sword in the Garden ofGethsemane, Peter was left with his life and his works in a shambles. Even though he was an apostle, his boasting and his works would not save him. He had failed. If he was ever to be right with the Lord, it would have to be by grace. If you and I have a chance at salvation, it will only be by the grace of God. Our workswill not do it. They are nothing more than a pile of rubbish. The only way that we will “qualify” in God’s eyes is to trust in Jesus’ Him and trust His goodness instead of our own.

    In addition, the grace of God is the best motivation for a Christian to do good works after he is converted. What will keep a Christian truly alive in Christ and willingly serving the Lord is not abject terror of God or threats given by other Christians, but the response of thankfulness to God’s gift of grace. Obedience comes when we realize Jesus is Lord and has authority over our lives. Heartfelt service comes when we realize that He is a loving Lord who died for us. That He is Lord should break our will. That He died on the cross for

    us should break our hearts. We cannot qualify for salvation on the basis of our works. Jesus does qualify before God and offers salvation to us when we trust Him as Lord and Savior. And that is good news!

    As noted at the beginning of the previous section, the therefore that introduces verse 1 refers back to the major theme of the first seven chapters of the epistle—the believer’s complete justification before God, graciously provided in response to trust in the sacrificial death and resurrection of His Son.

    The divine condemnation from which believers are exonerated (8:1a) is without exception or qualification. It is bestowed on those who are in Christ Jesus, in other words, on every faithful Christian.

    Justification completely and forever releases every believer from sin’s bondage and its penalty of death (6:23) and thereby fits him to stand sinless before a holy God forever. It is that particular aspect of justification on which Paul focuses at the beginning of chapter 8.

    Paul’s use of the first person singular pronouns (I and me) in 7:7-25 emphasizes the sad reality that, in this present life, no Christian, not even an apostle, is exempt from struggles with sin. In the opening verses of chapter 8, on the other hand, Paul emphasizes the marvelous reality that every believer, even the weakest and most unproductive, shares in complete and eternal freedom from sin’s condemnation.

    The holiest of believers are warned that, although they are no longer under sin’s slavish dominion, they will experience conflicts with it in this present life. And the weakest of believers are promised that, although they still stumble and fall into sin’s power in their flesh, they will experience ultimate victory over sin in the life to come.

    Paul’s teaching in Romans 8:1-4 is fundamental to the Christian life. The Christian need not be overcome by guilt or by fear, due to his sins. The cross of Jesus Christ is the solution from sin and its condemnation, for all who are justified by faith.

    The death which Christ died was for all of the sins of the one who receives His work, by faith. Pre-Christian sins and post-conversion sins are covered by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. This is no license to sin, as Paul shows in Romans 6, but it is the assurance that through the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ Christians have been delivered from divine condemnation. The forgiveness of sins Paul describes in Romans 3:21–4:25 applies to all the sins of the one who trusts in Christ.

    There is no condemnation! What a wonderful truth to the ears of every believer. But there is more. The death of Christ has delivered us from condemnation. While our Lord’s death at Calvary delivered us from condemnation, it also delivered sin to condemnation. In Christ, God condemned sin. God condemned sin in the flesh. The flesh was sin’s stronghold. It was the “handle” which sin found by which to lay hold of us and to bring us under condemnation. When God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, He came in the flesh. He came in the likeness of sinful flesh.173

    And when He suffered the wrath of God and the penalty of death in the flesh, sin was condemned in the flesh. In that very realm of the flesh, in which it seemed sin could not be defeated, God overpowered sin, condemning it in the flesh. Because of Jesus Christ, we are not condemned. Because of Him, sin is condemned, and in the flesh. For the Christian, the shackles of sin are surely broken.

    Paul’s first problem is that of sin and its consequences. The second problem is that of righteousness. The sin which Paul wished to avoid, he committed, in the flesh. The righteousness which Paul desired to practice, Paul avoided, due to his flesh. The problem was with his flesh. With his mind he could serve God, but in his flesh he could not produce the fruit of righteousness. If sin dominated him through his flesh, then something greater than him must empower him to live righteously in his fleshly body. The solution is the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

    The problem was not with the Law and its requirement. The “Law is holy, righteous, and good” (7:12). The flesh is simply not able to achieve what the Law requires (for reasons Paul is about to spell out in 8:5-8). The Holy Spirit is able to empower us to do that which the Law required (8:4).

    The righteousness of God is accomplished, not by walking according to the flesh, but rather by walking according to the Spirit. God’s righteousness cannot be achieved by the flesh, but it can be accomplished by means of the Spirit of God. Paul is soon to explain how and why this is so.

    The foundation for Christian living, living righteously, has been laid in verses 1-4. The Christian is not under condemnation because he is in Christ Jesus, who bore the penalty for all our sins. Sin is under condemnation, through the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ. The righteousness which the Law requires and which we find impossible to achieve, God achieves in and through the Christian, through the prompting of and power of the Holy Spirit. In Christ and through the Holy Spirit, God has delivered us from the penalty and the power of sin.

    Paul was not left with a continuing, constant struggle; God came in and did something about it. God reminded him of what he knew to be true, and he began to believe it. Paul brings out three reasons why there is no condemnation. First, look at Verse 18 of Chapter 7: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good,” {Rom 7:18a NIV}. His heart is right. Then again, in Verse 22, he says, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;” {Rom 7:18 NIV}.

    Paul really wants to do right, his heart is right; therefore there is no condemnation. Second, and obviously connected with this, Paul explains that sin has deceived us and overpowered us. It is too much for us. We can’t handle this wild beast raging within us when it is awakened by the demands and prohibitions of the Law. And God doesn’t condemn us for that, he knows that it is more than we can handle.

    Third, and this is the most important, God has already made provision for our failure in Christ, and our very struggle is driving us to Christ. When you have come to the place of saying, “Oh wretched man that I am!” the only thing left, if you want any escape at all, is to ask, “Why am I thinking of myself in this way?” and to realize, “God says I am different.” Reckoning on that difference that has come to you in Christ, you can rise up to act differently as well. That is the way out. God knows that even your failures are driving you to that moment; and, as a loving Father, he is patiently waiting for it to come.

    The third major thing that Paul says is that a provision has been made for victory. The law of the Spirit of life, which is in Christ Jesus, will set you free from the law of sin and death, which is in your members. That is why Paul cries, “Thanks be to God — through our Lord Jesus Christ!” {Rom 7:25a NIV}. This law of the Spirit of life is your faith in what God has already said he has done for you in Christ. He has cut you off, made you a different creature, brought you into Christ, and married you to him — you are not any longer the same man.

    When we are failing, and angry with ourselves, our natural way of thinking about ourselves is something like this: “I’m a mess, a hopeless, helpless mess! Why can’t I do what I want to do? Why can’t I stop this thing that is hurting me so, and hurting others, too?” You are all wrapped up in your own feelings and you think you deserve to be whipped and punished and cast into hell.

    At that point God says to you, “What is wrong is your view of yourself. That is not what you are; that is only a temporary delusion to which you are giving yourself over. The truth is, you have been cut free. You are married to Christ. Your human spirit has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit and it cannot sin. It has not sinned and does not sin. Now, you yourself, as a person, have been deceived by the sin in your flesh, and it has taken over and has gotten you into this difficulty. But that is not who you are. Don’t believe that about yourself anymore.

    There is a fresh provision of the forgiveness of God and the righteousness of Christ waiting for you. You are in Christ — this is who you are. Take his forgiveness, believe it, thank God for it, and go on, and know that your struggle has ended.” That is why Paul says in Galatians 5:17, “They [the Spirit and the flesh] are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want,” {Gal 5:17b NIV}.

    Of course this does not mean that God has ended the reign of the flesh in our lives. It is still there. The law of sin and death, like the law of gravity, goes on working all the time. But the moment you believe what Jesus Christ says is true about you, and you believe what he has done for you, a new law comes in. This new law is stronger than the law of sin and death; it even uses that law to accomplish its end.

    That is what Paul is telling us here. God has given us a new image of ourselves. We are not what we feel we are. As a result of that, we can be set free anytime we employ that law, anytime that we, by faith, reckon that what God says is true and we begin to see ourselves that way.

    The relationship between God and His chosen people Israel was beautifully illustrated in the garment of the high priest. Over his magnificent robes he wore a breastplate in which twelve different precious stones were embedded, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Each stone was engraved with the name of the tribe it represented. When the high priest entered the Holy of Holies once each year on the Day of Atonement, he stood before God with those visual representations of all His people.

    That breastplate was a rich symbolism of Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, standing before the Father making intercession on behalf of all those the Father has given Him (Heb. 7:24-25). In what is commonly called His high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed on behalf of those who belong to Him “that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me” (John 17:21).

    Luther also wrote, Faith unites the soul with Christ as a spouse with her husband. Everything which Christ has becomes the property of the believing soul; everything which the soul has, becomes the property of Christ. Christ possesses all blessings and eternal life: they are thenceforward the property of the soul. The soul has all its iniquities and sins: they become thenceforward the property of Christ. It is then that a blessed exchange commences: Christ who is both God and man, Christ who has never sinned, and whose holiness is perfect, Christ the Almighty and Eternal, taking to Himself, by His nuptial ring of faith, all the sins of the believer, those sins are lost and abolished in Him; for no sins dwell before His infinite righteousness. Thus by faith the believer’s soul is delivered from sins and clothed with the eternal righteousness of her bridegroom Christ. (Cited in Haldane, Exposition of Romans, p. 313)

    The phrase “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” appears at the end of verse 1 in the King James, but it is not found in the earliest manuscripts of Romans or in most modern translations. It is probable that a copyist inadvertently picked up the phrase from verse 4. Because the identical wording appears there, the meaning of the passage is not affected.

    The conjunction for, which here carries the meaning of because, leads into the reason there is no condemnation for believers: the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

    Paul does not here use the term law in reference to the Mosaic law or to other divine commandments or requirements. He uses it rather in the sense of a principle of operation, as he has done earlier in the letter; where he speaks of “a law of faith” (3:27) and as he does in Galatians, where he speaks of “the law of Christ” (6:2). Those who believe in Jesus Christ are delivered from the condemnation of a lower divine law as it were, by submitting themselves to a higher divine law. The lower law is the divine principle in regard to sin, the penalty for which is death, and the higher law is the law of the Spirit, which bestows life in Christ Jesus.

    But it should not be concluded that the law Paul is speaking of in this passage has no relationship to obedience. Obedience to God cannot save a person, because no person in his unredeemed sinfulness wants to obey God and could not obey perfectly even if he had the desire. But true salvation will always produce true obedience—never perfect in this life but nonetheless genuine and always present to some extent.

    When truly believed and received, the gospel of Jesus Christ always leads to the “obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:25-26). The coming kingdom age of Christ that Jeremiah predicted and of which the writer of Hebrews refers is far from lawless. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts” (Heb. 8:10; cf. Jer. 31:33).

    Release from the law’s bondage and condemnation does not mean release from the law’s requirements and standards. The higher law of the Spirit produces obedience to the lower law of duties.

    The freedom that Christ gives is complete and permanent deliverance from sin’s power and penalty (and ultimately from its presence). It also gives the ability to obey God. The very notion of a Christian who is free to do as he pleases is self-contradictory. A person who believes that salvation leads from law to license does not have the least understanding of the gospel of grace and can make no claim on Christ’s saviorhood and certainly no claim on His lordship.

    In speaking of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, Paul makes unambiguous later in this chapter that he is referring to the Holy Spirit. The Christian’s mind is set on the things of the Spirit (v. 6) and is indwelt and given life by the Holy Spirit (vv. 9-11). Paul summarized the working of those two laws earlier in the epistle: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

    When Jesus explained the way of salvation to Nicodemus, He said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

    God “saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness,” Paul explains, “but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6).

    It is the Holy Spirit who bestows and energizes spiritual life in the person who places his trust in Christ Jesus. Paul could not be talking of any spirit but the Holy Spirit, because only God’s Holy Spirit can bring spiritual life to a heart that is spiritually dead.

    The truths of Romans 7 are among the most depressing and heartrending in all of Scripture, and it is largely for that reason that many interpreters believe they cannot describe a Christian. But Paul was simply being honest and candid about the frustrating and discouraging spiritual battles that every believer faces.

    It is, in fact, the most faithful and obedient Christian who faces the greatest spiritual struggles. Just as in physical warfare, it is those on the front lines who encounter the enemy’s most fierce attacks. But just as front-line battle can reveal courage, it can also reveal weaknesses and vulnerability. Even the most valiant soldier is subject to injury and discouragement.

    But the Christian is no longer a slave to sin as he once was, no longer under sin’s total domination and control. Now he is free from sin’s bondage and its ultimate penalty. Satan, the world, and his own humanness still can cause him to stumble and falter, but they can no longer control or destroy him, because his new life in Christ is the very divine life of God’s own Spirit. That is the comforting truth of Romans 8.

    Romans 8:1 gives the “therefore” of no condemnation—a tremendous truth and the conclusion of a marvelous argument. The basis for this wonderful assurance is the phrase “in Christ Jesus.” In Adam, we were condemned. In Christ, there is no condemnation!

    The verse does not say “no mistakes” or “no failures,” or even “no sins.” Christians do fail and make mistakes, and they do sin.

    The Law cannot claim you (v. 2).

    You have been made free from the law of sin and death. You now have life in the Spirit. You have moved into a whole new sphere of life in Christ. The Law no longer has any jurisdiction over you: you are dead to the Law (Rom. 7:4) and free from the Law (Rom. 8:2).

    The Law cannot condemn you (v. 3).

    Why? Because Christ has already suffered that condemnation for you on the cross. The Law could not save; it can only condemn. But God sent His Son to save us and do what the Law could not do. Jesus did not come as an angel; He came as a man. He did not come “in sinful flesh,” for that would have made Him a sinner. He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, as a man. He bore ou

    The “law of double jeopardy” states that a man cannot be tried twice for the same crime. Since Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins, and since you are “in Christ,” God will not condemn you.

    The Law cannot control you (v. 4).

    The believer lives a righteous life, not in the power of the Law, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Law does not have the power to produce holiness; it can only reveal and condemn sin. But the indwelling Holy Spirit enables you to walk in obedience to God’s will. The righteousness that God demands in His Law is fulfilled in you through the Spirit’s power. In the Holy Spirit, you have life and liberty (Rom. 8:2) and “the pursuit of happiness” (Rom. 8:4).

    The legalist tries to obey God in his own strength and fails to measure up to the righteousness that God demands. The Spirit-led Christian, as he yields to the Lord, experiences the sanctifying work of the Spirit in his life. “For it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). It is this fact that leads to the second freedom we enjoy as Christians.

    The Man in Christ Jesus is Freed from Condemnation

    This is one of the most important passages in all of Scripture. Its subject cannot be overemphasized: the power of God’s Spirit in the life of the believer. If the believer needs anything, he needs the power of God’s Spirit. Forcefully, Scripture spells out point by point what the power of the Holy Spirit is.

    This is a very difficult passage because it is so highly compressed, and because, all through it, Paul is making allusions to things which he has already said.

    Two words keep occurring again and again in this chapter, flesh (sarx) and spirit (pneuma).  We will not understand the passage at all unless we understand the way in which Paul is using these words.

    (i)  Sarx literally means flesh.  The most cursory reading of Paul’s letters will show how often he uses the word, and how he uses it in a sense that is all his own.  Broadly speaking, he uses it in three different ways.

    (a)  He uses it quite literally.  He speaks of physical circumcision, literally “in the flesh” (Romans 2:28).  (b)  Over and over again he uses the phrase kata sarka, literally according to the flesh, which most often means looking at things from the human point of view.  For instance, he says that Abraham is our forefather kata sarka, from the human point of view.  He says that Jesus is the son of David kata sarka (Romans 1:3), that is to say, on the human side of his descent.  He speaks of the Jews being his kinsmen kata sarka (Romans 9:3), that is to say, speaking of human relationships.  When Paul uses the phrase kata sarka, it always implies that he is looking at things from the human point of view.

    (c)  But he has a use of this word sarx which is all his own.  When he is talking of the Christians, he talks of the days when we were in the flesh (en sarki) (Romans 7:5).  He speaks of those who walk according to the flesh in contradistinction to those who live the Christian life (Romans 8:4, 5).  He says that those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:8).  He says that the mind of the flesh is death, and that it is hostile to God (Romans 8:6, 8).  He talks about living according to the flesh (Romans 8:12).  He says to his Christian friends, “You are not in the flesh” (Romans 8:9).

    It is quite clear, especially from the last instance, that Paul is not using flesh simply in the sense of the body, as we say flesh and blood.  How, then, is he using it?  He really means human nature in all its weakness and he means human in its vulnerability to sin.  He means that part of man which gives sin its bridgehead.

  • There is the word Spirit; in this single chapter it occurs no fewer than twenty times. This word has a very definite Old Testament background.  In Hebrew it is ruach, and it has two basic thoughts.

(a)  It is not only the word for Spirit; it is also the word for wind.  It has always the idea of power about it, power as of a mighty rushing wind.  (b)  In the Old Testament, it always has the idea of something that is more than human.  Spirit, to Paul, represented a power which was divine.

So Paul says in this passage that there was a time when the Christian was at the mercy of his own human nature.  In that state the law simply became something that moved him to sin and he went from bad to worse, a defeated and frustrated man.  But, when he became a Christian, into his life there came the surging power of the Spirit of God, and, as a result, he entered into victorio

In the second part of the passage Paul speaks of the effect of the work of Jesus on us.  It is complicated and difficult, but what Paul is getting at is this.  Let us remember that he began all this by saying that every man sinned in Adam.  We saw how the Jewish conception of solidarity made it possible for him to argue that, quite literally, all men were involved in Adam’s sin and in its consequence-death.  But there is another side to this picture.  Into this world came Jesus; with a completely human nature; and he brought to God a life of perfect obedience, of perfect fulfilment of God’s law.  Now, because Jesus was fully a man, just as we were one with Adam, we are now one with him; and, just as we were involved in Adam’s sin, we are now involved in Jesus’s perfection.

In him mankind brought to God the perfect obedience, just as in Adam mankind brought to God the fatal disobedience.  Men are saved because they were once involved in Adam’s sin but are now involved in Jesus’s goodness.  That is Paul’s argument, and, to him and to those who heard it, it was completely convincing, however hard it is for us to grasp it.  Because of what Jesus did, there opens out to the Christian a life no longer dominated by the flesh but by that Spirit of God, which fills a man with a power not his own.  The penalty of the past is removed and strength for his future is assured.

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Posted by on August 19, 2021 in Romans


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