About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Life Through The Spirit  (ch. 8:1-17)


Romans 8 is not an isolated chapter unto itself.  Paul is not introducing a new topic.  He is continuing his account and defense of the gospel.  After reading chapter 7 one might feel pretty depressed.  The struggle between the two natures of a Christian, that is, one's new self in Christ and one's old self in Adam, might lead many to despair.  Here in chapter 8 Paul tells us how to have victory in this battle over our sinful nature. 


From my vantage point it seems that many Christians skip the last few chapters of Romans and dig right into chapter 8.  It's a bit easier to understand and it's more pleasant to read.  The problem is that if you don't understand what Paul says about the Law, sin, grace, and  our sinful nature, things he has spoken about prior to chapter 8, you cannot understand or even live out what he says in chapter 8.    


Paul connects chapters 6 and 7 with chapter 8 by the word "therefore".  We should ask what the word "therefore" is in reference to.  To be specific, "therefore probably refers back to Romans 7:6 where Paul says that we've been released from the Law in order to live by the Spirit.  In general, "therefore" could be in reference to the struggle Paul speaks of in chapter 7.  


He goes on to say that "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus".  The words "now no" are meant to be emphatic.  After all that has been said in chapters 6 and 7 Paul clearly and emphatically says that there is now no, meaning, right now as I write, no condemnation. 


There is now no "condemnation".  The Law condemns us all to death.  It punishes us and enslaves us to its demands without giving us any help to be obedient.  The Law simply leaves us under the sentence of being a condemned law breaker, but for those who are "in Christ" as Paul says, there is no condemnation.  We are free from both the Law that condemns us and the guilt that is placed on us by the Law.


Now that I've mentioned the word "guilt" I should make a comment on it.  Guilt is not a feeling.  We often say "I feel guilty", but one can't really feel guilty.  He can feel the results of guilt but he can't feel guilty because guilt is not a feeling.  It's the position in which we stand before God apart from being in Christ.  Guilt is positional.  Guilty is the label that hangs over the head of all people prior to their salvation.  For example, if a judge declares a man guilty in a court of law he is guilty whether he feels guilty or not.  He has been declared by law to be guilty.  Therefore, standing before the judge he stands as a guilty man.  Many guilty criminals don't actually feel guilty, but they are none the less guilty.    


I was raised in an Evangelical church that in my opinion produced feelings of guilt because of its legalistic preaching.  I suffered with these feelings throughout my youth until the day Jesus rid me of these feelings for good.  Even though I had what many people call guilty feelings, I wasn't guilty because I had accepted Jesus' declaration of me being righteous.  I was in fact justified in terms that Paul use3s the word here in Romans. 


There is no condemnation for those in Christ.  I talked about the term "in Christ" before.  One is either "in Adam" or "in Christ".  Being "in Christ" means that we have accepted God's designation of us as being righteous even when we are far from righteous.  If one is still "in Adam" and has not accepted God's new declaration then he is still condemned, still on his way to the Lake of Fire .                


After all the frustration with sin in chapter 7, you might think that Paul would need to deal with the idea of one feeling condemned.  A sense of condemnation would easily come over a person described in chapter 7.  You want to do what is right.  You try hard, but you can’t.  You may feel condemned, but like feeling guilty, the feeling is not the reality.  Like being guilty, condemnation is a legal word.  It's a position in which you stand before a judge, and in this case, the judge is God. 


Paul said that he was one wretched man.  A wretched man has no hope, so why not give up.  Paul doesn't give up because there is hope, but it's just not found in himself or in the Law.  Understanding our wretchedness before God is a prerequisite to appreciating the fact that the believer stands before God guilt free and without any condemnation.     


Before we leave verse 1 I should note that the King James Bible adds "who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit".  The NIV and other translations omit this phrase because it's not in the earlier manuscripts.  It's in later manuscripts and it is felt that some translator added these words.


Paul says in verse 2 that the law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death.  The law of sin and death is not speaking of the Law of Moses.  It's the law that states when you sin you will die.  That's basically what God told Adam in Genesis 2:17.  That's the law of sin and death.  Sin leads to death.  That's just a natural law.


Yet Paul introduces a new law in verse 2 that we have not seen prior to this in Romans and that is the law of the Spirit of life.  Simply put, sin leads to death in all aspects of life, but the Holy Spirit leads to life in all aspects of life.  What the Law could not do the Holy Spirit can do. He gives us the ability to win the struggles that Paul speaks of in chapter 7.  Without the Holy Spirit in our lives there is no victory over sin or self. 


In Greek, the words "set me free" are an aorist indicative verb.  That means at one particular point in Paul's life the Holy Spirit, without any doubt, had certainly set him free from the law of sin and death.  The fact that this is an aorist verb, that is to say, a verb where the action takes place at one specific time, suggests to me that the Holy Spirit comes into a life in one specific moment.  He doesn't slowly slip into one's life over a period of time.  It's a one time action, and, as soon as this action takes place, as soon as the Holy Spirit comes into one's life, he is at once set free from the law of sin and death.  He is at once set free from giving into the struggle with self and sin.  


In verse 3 we note that the Law was powerless. It only told us what was wrong.  It condemned us.  It could not help us overcome sin, but, what the Law couldn't do Jesus could do, and that He did by living the sinless life the Law wanted us to live.   


Note the words "sin offering" in verse 3.  Paul is equating Jesus with the Old Testament sin offerings that were required by the Law of Moses.  In fact, Jesus was the ultimate sinning offering.  2 Corinthians 5:21 states that Jesus became sin that we might become  righteous.


Verse 3 also says that Jesus condemned sin in sinful man. Not all translations translate this phrase alike.  It appears to me, as it does to other scholars and translators, that what Paul is saying here is that God condemned sin by placing Himself, meaning Jesus, in a human body.   Remember, the context as seen in the first part of this verse is talking about Jesus, not us.  The Greek word "sarx" that is translated as "sinful man" in the NIV is better translated in other versions as "flesh".   What flesh was sin condemned in.  It was the flesh of Jesus when He was on earth.  He condemned sin in His flesh by living a sinless life.   


We now come to verse 4.  Paul has just said that Jesus condemned sin in sinful man.  Now he states the reason why God condemned sin in Jesus.  It was so that the righteous requirements of the Law might be seen in us.  It's thus my thinking that because Jesus condemned sin in His body and fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law He did so on our behalf.  He did so for us that we might be seen by God as righteous.  This is why God can count us as being righteous, because Jesus lived the righteous life on our behalf.  We are credited as being righteous because Jesus lived righteously for us.  That is the meaning to justification as I've stated before.


The phrase "those who walk in the Spirit here" I believe should be defined in its context.  In the modern Charismatic Movement I've often heard the term "walk in the Spirit".  It's used in the sense that all Christians have the Holy Spirit within but not all Christians walk in the Spirit.  Not all Christians are motivated and live each day of their lives in the Spirit.  I don't believe that is what Paul is talking about here.  I believe those who Paul had in mind who walk in the Spirit are those, like him, who knows and understands that their real person is not the person in Adam but the one in Christ.  If you are indeed in Christ, you are not condemned and you are in the Spirit, or, walk in the Spirit.         


In verse 5 he says that “those who live according to their sinful nature have their minds always on their sinful nature, yet for those who live according to the Spirit are always mindful of the Spirit”.   Paul goes on to say that those who have their minds set on their sinful nature are opposed to God and as a result death comes to their life.  We have seen Paul speak many words on this thought before. This is one of the main problems we have as Christians today.  We're too involved with our sinful nature and not the Holy Spirit.  For this reason we do not see the miracles and the supernatural life as we see in the book of Acts, and we experience death in many ways, more than we should.  


In verse 5 Paul speaks of two types of people.  One type of people live according to their sinful nature, and therefore they spend their time on things of the sinful nature.  They think on such things and they do such things.  The other group of people is those who live according to the Spirit.  Those people do what the Holy Spirit would have them do.  If I'm going to be consistent in my thinking here, those who live by the Spirit are those who are in Christ, justified, and declared righteous by God.  I believe that it's Paul's thinking that if one really does have the Holy Spirit living within him; He will live as if this is so.  This doesn't mean one will quench the Sprit because he will at times as stated in 1 Thessalonians 5:19.  This also doesn't mean he won't grieve the Spirit at times because he will as seen in Ephesians 4:30.     


In verse 6 Paul says that the mind of the sinful man leads that person to death while those who have their mind set on the things of the Spirit, the Spirit leads them to life.  Remember what I said in chapter 7 about how Paul views himself.  He believes his real person is the person in Christ, not in Adam.  The real Paul is in the Spirit, not out of the Spirit.  So, the one in Adam or out of the Spirit has his mind set on the old sinful nature that we already know leads to death.  Those , like Paul, who are in Christ, in the Spirit, have their mind set on the Spirit that leads to life, and, I'd suggest a better life now as well as in eternity.  By a better life now I don't mean wealth and prosperity.  I mean the joy of doing God's will, whatever that means for you.     


In verse 7 Paul makes it very clear.  He says the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It cannot submit to God.  This shows us the depravity of our situation.  In our natural self, we are hostile to God.  That means we are enemies to God.  We cannot obey Him even if we wanted, but since we are so sinful we can't even want to obey Him.  This is what we need to admit to when we repent.  One of our problems is that we think too highly of ourselves, when in fact we need to admit that we are so lost, we can't even want to come to God.  We need the Holy Spirit to help us along in this respect.         


Romans 8:9 is extremely important.  Paul says, "You however are not controlled by your sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit lives within you".  I am sure that James would love these words of Paul.  James says that he will show the world his faith by what he does.  Here Paul says that if you truly have faith and the Spirit of God within, you will not live according to your flesh but according to the Spirit. 


In verse 9 Paul makes a couple important statements.  First of all he says that the Roman believers are indeed controlled by the Spirit.  He says this because He says they have the Spirit of God within them.  His point is simple.  If you have the Holy Spirit, He will be in control of you.  Again, this does not mean you won't quench or grieve Him at times.  What it does mean is that there will be evidence in your life that the Holy Spirit of God actually does live within you.    


Paul then goes on to make a very dramatic point.  He says, "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ".  We note a couple of things here.  First, note that the Spirit is called “the Spirit of Christ”. The Spirit is often referred to as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, but here He is the Spirit of Christ.  This means the Spirit of God the Father is also the Spirit of Christ.  They are the same Spirit. 


Secondly, Paul says very clearly that "if you do not have the Spirit of Christ, you do not belong to Christ'.  Simply put, if you do not have the Holy Spirit within you, you are not a Christian.  These are vital words.  Peter, in Acts 2:38 says, "repent and be baptized … and you will receive … the gift of the Holy Spirit".  Receiving the Holy Spirit “must” be a part of our conversion experience.  If this is not the case, then you are not fully converted.  Your salvation has not been sealed.  You do not belong to Christ, according to what Paul says here.  This is something that really scares me.  I just wonder how many people that attend church actually have the Holy Spirit living in them.  If they don't have the Holy Spirit, they're not Christians.   


In verse 10 Paul says that if Christ is in you, even though your body is dead because of sin, meaning a deadly depraved state, with all of its problems, the Holy Spirit will give life and righteousness to you. We need to understand that even though we are alive physically, we are dead.  We can't imagine how dead we really are because we have never experienced life in its fullest.  Life in its fullest was only experienced before the fall of man by Adam and Eve.  No other humans have experienced such life.   


Again, we see the two natures of a Christian in Paul's statement here.  He speaks of the body and the Spirit.  The body is dead because of sin.  The body, even a Christian's body is part of the old nature who is in Adam, and once again, Paul does not believe his body is the real Paul.  It is filled with death due to sin.  The real Paul is the Spirit man inside. 


Allow me to suggest, and hyper faith people won't like this, that if our body is dead because of sin, in this life we will not live in perfect health as some hyper faith folk believe is possible.  That being said, our spirits are very much alive in Christ as Paul also says in verse 10.  Paul speaks to this point in 2 Corinthians 4:7 when he says that we have this treasure, that's the Spirit, in earthen vessels, that's our body.  He also says that our bodies are always in the process of decay while our spirits are in the process of coming into life (2 Corinthians 4:16).           


Paul takes this thought one step further in verse 11 by saying the Holy Spirit will give life to your mortal body.  I think this life is in the present as well as in the future when Christ returns.  So does this negate what I just said about our bodies being dead?  Should we expect to live in perfect health because of this verse?  My answer is this.  I believe what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4.  Our outward man is perishing, but, to bring some balance, even though our bodies are perishing, the Spirit can keep it going for us until such time that Jesus takes us from this earth. I do believe in healing.  The Holy Spirit can certainly heal sick bodies today, but it's clear He does not do that all of the time.  The fact of the matter is that our bodies are mortal, as Paul says here.  They will not be without sickness until we receive our glorified bodies at the return of Christ.


It is important to know that the Holy Spirit's presence in our life is actually a deposit, or, a down payment, of the next life as Paul says in Ephesians 1:14.  For this reason, when Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit here, the Holy Spirit is merely a deposit of better days ahead.  This tells me that the life the Holy Spirit gives to our mortal bodies isn't total regeneration.  Our bodies are still mortal, still will have its problems.  So, even though one might say verse 11 applies to our mortal bodies in this life, I believe the total fulfillment of the Spirit's presence in our life will be realized in the days of our resurrected bodies.      


In verse 12 Paul says that we have an obligation, and it's not to give into our sinful human nature.  Again, I believe we see the two natures of a saved person here; the sinful nature and the new spiritual nature.  Paul says our obligation is not to the sinful nature.  I would suggest that if it weren't possible for one in Christ to give into our sinful nature then he would not make the admonition.  Therefore, even those in Christ; and I'm sure it's obvious, struggle with our sinful nature.


Verse 13 has been well debated.  Paul says that if one who is in Christ, who has the Holy Spirit, lives according to his sinful nature he will die.  The debate is over the idea of one dying.  Does this mean he loses his salvation?  I don't think so.  I believe it could lead at some future point to one losing his salvation.  I don't believe one particular sin causes one to lose his salvation, but, one particular sin can lead to unbelief and it's unbelief that causes one to lose his salvation.  I think the death spoken of here is that death comes to your relationship with Jesus. 


The rest of the verse says that if through the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live.  Note that it's through the Spirit we should put to death the deeds of the sinful nature.  Humanistic attempts that have often been seen in the Evangelical world can never put to death the deeds of the sinful nature.  To me, this verse tells us that even though we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, we still have the struggle with our sinful nature, but, we're not left without hope because through the Spirit, there is victory over the sinful nature.  


Verse 14 is also important.  Paul says that those who are led by the Holy Spirit are sons of God.  This statement needs some thought given to it.  Does it say that if a Christian who has the Holy Spirit isn't a son of God if he slips up and is not led by the Spirit?  Is he a son of God one minute but not the next?  In Galatians 3:26 Paul states that those who have faith in Jesus are sons of God.  I believe this is the definition of sonship throughout the New Testament.  We need some common sense here.  One doesn't stop being a son if he stops being led by the Spirit for a few minutes.  I'm not even sure Paul's thinking concerning being led by the Spirit is the same as the common consensus among Pentecostals and Charismatics.  I think Paul expects us to be led by the Spirit all of the time, but from all he writes, it's clear that is not the case with the Christians to whom he writes. 


In verse 15 we see that the Holy Spirit doesn't make us slaves of fear.  Instead, we become sons of God so that we can affectionately call God "Daddy".  That's basically what "Abba Father" means.  Therefore, we are heirs, along with Jesus Himself.  We inherit all of what God has for us, all that God has for Jesus.  That means we do have the ability to live as we should before God. 


I need to say one thing about fear.  In this verse it clearly says that we aren't a slave to fear.  That means we should not be in constant fear.  Fear may creep in at times, but when it does, we look to the Holy Spirit to relieve us of the fear.


Concerning the words "Abba Father" meaning something similar to our English word "daddy"; I think some Christians these days overplay this verse.  It is true that God is our loving Father, and in the way is our daddy, but, we need a balance here.  Throughout the Bible we are admonished to fear God.  God might well be our daddy, but we shouldn't take advantage of that fact and not have reverence for him.  In our day in age many children have little to no respect or reverence for their fathers.  That should not be the case with our Heavenly Father.


Paul says that the Holy Spirit testifies to the fact that we are the children of God.   Anyone who has the Holy Spirit in his life knows that He speaks to us, and in this case, He confirms that we are indeed children of God.  We should have no doubt about that.       


In verse 17 Paul closes this section with words that most of us won’t like, especially if you are of the hyper faith persuasion.  He says; "if we share in Jesus’ suffering, we will also share in His glory."   Paul certainly shared in the suffering of Jesus.  Suffering is yet another one of those words that the modern church does not like to talk about, but throughout the centuries Christians have suffered, even unto death.  This suffering has not ended.  We see the saints in the book of Revelation being executed for their association with Jesus.   


The reason why I believe western Christians haven't suffered so much is because of the Christian gospel that has influenced the western world over the last few centuries.  Now that Christianity is losing its hold on western culture, we can't expect to suffer; we can expect to be persecuted, assuming we live the life that Jesus expects us to live.  


We suffer at the hands of the world because of our association with Jesus.  If we don't demonstrate to the world that we are associated with Jesus then we won't suffer.  Jesus Himself said that if the world hated Him it would surely hate those who have given their lives to Him (John 15:18

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