Life in the Spirit
Imagine walking into a courtroom knowing that the defendant was in fact guilty of murder in the first degree. You would expect the sentencing process to be very clear and swift because of the insurmountable amount of evidence pointing to this decision. Seemingly at the very end of the case, a man comes forward and says that he will take the sentence and suffer the consequences so that the defendant would be able to walk out of the courtroom absolutely free. Think of what the people in the audience would do at this point! They would laugh and shout saying things like, “You’re crazy, he will simply do this again!” or “You’re insane. Why on earth would you do this for a man like this?” This is exactly the situation that we find Paul addressing in the book of Romans! Paul uses courtroom language to show that mankind is absolutely defenseless against our charge of treason against a Holy and Just God. Because of our guilt, we deserve the strongest of sentences - eternal separation from Him in a place called hell. However, as the first 7 chapters of Romans have built upon one another, is the climax of Paul’s argument as the Spirit of life combats and defeats the Spirit of our flesh (as we discussed last Sunday night!).
I talked about Romans a couple of weeks ago and we spent a little bit of time in the background of the book. I want to emphasize that this book was written to a church that was struggling with unity much like the Church is today. This book cost Paul a great deal of time and effort (it is estimated that it cost him as much as $4,000 dollars to write this letter to the Roman church) and it contains within it some of Paul’s greatest pastoral advice and theological arguments in all of his letters. With that said, though, chapter 8 stands as the climax of his argument in that we see that we are hopeless and in defiance before the Law that God has laid out, yet he says here that there is NO CONDEMNATION for those in Christ Jesus… How could Paul make such a bold claim? Let’s unpack this incredible passage together!
1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Good News! (1-4)
Good News! (1-4)
Whenever we see a “therefore” in Scripture, what must we do? We must see what it is “there for”! If we back track into , we see that this therefore in is better understood if we look at verses 24 and 25 of .
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
We see in these verses that there is a coming shift to Paul’s argument. He has spent 7 chapters talking about how the wages of sin is death and how we deserve separation from God. In , though, we see Paul shift and state that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus! This is a bold claim that should give us cause to celebrate two thousand years later! We deserve death and destruction because as we see in , we are a wretched people! In , Isaiah is in the throne room of heaven and says woe am I for I am a man of unclean lips and am of a people of unclean lips! We are unclean people, yet Paul states that there is no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus. If there were ever a reason for a Baptist celebration or fellowship, this would be it! If there were ever a reason to shout for joy and say “Hallelujah”, this would certainly be it!
The reason that we are able to celebrate that there is no condemnation in verse 1 is because of what follows in verses 2 and 3. Paul shows us that the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death. We saw in that Christ’s perfect sacrifice makes perfect those who draw near to worship the Father. This wonderful word, justification, simply means to be given righteousness. In our Christian lives we know what justification means. We know that without Christ we are sinners, yet whenever we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior what happens is His blood washes our sins away and our accounts are reckoned as righteous before the Father! The law could not bring about this relationship between us and the Father. We see that the law caused sin and death to increase because we could never keep the entire law! Christ, meanwhile, brings about life and hope. He bore sinful flesh and was offered for sin on the cross of Calvary. In dying on the cross, though, He broke the power of sin and He ended sins grip on humanity once and for all.
The ultimate result of His sacrifice is not simply that we will be justified before God on judgement day, but that we would be able to walk in the Spirit (v. 4) on the Earth. Once again, in Hebrews we saw that Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t just credit our accounts with righteousness but it also represents a present reality that Believers are saved right now! We are able to catch a glimpse of our future glory as we worship with one another and are led by the power of the Holy Spirit day in and day out as we live our lives and point people towards Christ. We are called to be conformed to the image of Christ () and we see in verse 4 that we meet the requirement of the Law as we walk in accordance with the Spirit rather than our flesh.
Whenever we see a “therefore” in Scripture, what must we do? We must see what it is “there for”! If we back track into
Think about the battle that rages on in our flesh day in and day out. It is a battle ground where sin resides. If Christ was going to bring about redemption and salvation, He had to do this where this battle was taking place. He had to take upon human flesh and live a perfect life. Where sin takes up residence in our flesh, it did not do this in Christ. If Christ had not taken on our nature, he could not have been one of us. On the other hand, had he become completely like us (i.e., had he sinned), he could not have become our Savior. Therefore we can defeat the power of sin and death not by simply obeying laws and regulations, but we can do this through Christ because He already has defeated these powers!
If Christ had not taken on our nature, he could not have been one of us. On the other hand, had he become completely like us (i.e., had he sinned), he could not have become our Savior. Therefore we can defeat the power of sin and death not by simply obeying laws and regulations, but we can do this through Christ because He already has defeated these powers!
Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, p. 175). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.Therefore we can defeat the power of sin and death not by simply obeying laws and regulations, but we can do this through Christ because He already has defeated these powers!
Bad News! (5-8)
Bad News! (5-8)
In verses 5-8, Paul begins to explain the differences of life in the flesh compared to the life in the Spirit. The law seems to be a double-edged sword to Paul because he says that our sinful self will use the law as a means for destruction and tell us to keep the law of our flesh, yet we see in verse 8 that this cannot please God. We are called to live a life that reflects the love and teachings of Christ, not simply some laws and rules that were written down. No one would say that living a sinful life would please God, right? You cannot please God by keeping the law because you are still in the flesh. It doesn’t work that way! · Just as sin is a higher power than us that causes problems. We require a higher power than sin to overcome the flesh – it is the spirit of God that allows us to overcome this power. In these verses, we see that there are 2 camps of people: people who walk in the Spirit of Christ and those who walk in the spirit of the flesh. You cannot live a life that promotes self satisfaction and gratification and claim to be following Jesus Christ! As we saw in , there are works of the flesh and Fruit of the Spirit. These are very different things and we cannot have both in our lives! This doesn’t mean that we live a perfect life, far from it. It means that whenever we come to a place in our lives where we fall short, we ask for repentance and forgiveness.
Humans simply do not do well whenever we are given a list of rules or laws to follow, do we? We have a “speed limit” wherever we travel yet we almost all disobey that law on a daily basis. We are given a law in Scripture to love our neighbors as ourselves, yet we almost all disobey this law daily as well. I want to point out that Paul does not give us a new “law” that we must obey here. James, in where he talks about “Faith without works cannot save” does not give us a list of things that we must do in order to be true Christians. We don’t find a “correct” list of things that we must do as Christians. What we find time after time is that we must have a mind that is set on the things of the Spirit and a heart that desires the things of Christ rather than the things of our flesh. We see in verse 8 that if we have a heart that delights in the things of the flesh, we cannot please God. If we were given a list or a law of things to do, we would undoubtedly mess up like we always do as humans! Our hope is that we are given grace and a command to submit to Christ. Rather than being in a state of rebellion against God, we are able to be in a position of justification because of the work of Christ!
Promise of Victory and Resurrection (9-13)
Promise of Victory and Resurrection (9-13)
Without his Spirit, there can be no assurance of Salvation. Paul reminded his readers that they were no longer under the control of their sinful nature because they were now under the direction of the Spirit of God. This is an already but not yet theological point made by Paul. We are already saved and able to have a relationship with God, however we are not yet in a perfect relationship with the Father because we are still sinners because we will always struggle with sin as long as we live on this planet. Paul tries to clearly point out that even though our bodies will suffer death, our spirits are enjoying life. This is something that we saw in Revelation in Jesus’ letter to the church of Smyrna as he told them that whoever remains faithful will avoid the 2nd death (our spiritual death). Christ does not say that our life will be without opposition or that we will not face persecution. It cost Christ His life. It cost Stephen his life. It cost Paul and Peter their lives! It might cost us our life. The wonderful truth, though, is that as believers we do not have to face the 2nd death which is infinitely worse than our physical death. Death comes as a consequence of sin; life is the reward of justification. Death is the absence of God; life is a right standing before him. Whether or not a person is indwelt by the Spirit is truly a life-and death matter! This should move us to share our faith with those around us.
Paul writes often about the connection between Christ’s resurrection and that of His followers. Not only will our spirits be raised, but Paul seems to make the case in verse 11 that our bodies will be raised one day as well! The blessing that we have today is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This blessing is a guarantee of our future resurrection.
If we try to keep the law to the best of our abilities, what will happen? We might make it a whole day, but eventually we will fall short and mess up. Eventually, we will realize that it is impossible to keep the law and our sinning will simply increase. What happens, though, whenever we strive to obey the Spirit? The result is life and righteousness. See, privilege involves responsibility. We have an obligation. That obligation is not to our sinful nature because that nature has no claim on us! We are not obliged to obey our old nature (as we talked about on Sunday night, why would you go back to being a slave to sin whenever you have been set free by Christ?!). We are called to put to death the evil practices of the body! We pick up our cross, die to self and put to death the desires of our flesh - daily!
In the words of the great Christian theologian, Robert Mounce, “The lower nature does not automatically fade away when a person comes to Christ. The need to put to death the evil practices of the body is ongoing. Note as well that the way to crucify the old self is to obey the promptings of the Spirit.” Whenever we walk in the Spirit, we fail to meet our selfish ambitions, passions and desires. For all intents and purposes, we put to death these practices whenever we focus our eyes on the things of God. The key to freedom from what we were is constantly relying on the active presence of the Holy Spirit. I want to stress again here that we will sin. We will mess up. What matters, though, is that we come back into fellowship with the Father by asking for forgiveness of our sins and seeking repentance and turning away from that sin. This is the process of sanctification. Being made more like Christ. We are not saved and immediately just like Jesus Christ! This is a process and we will never be “perfect” but praise God that our accounts are reckoned as righteous before the Father! Praise God that there is “no condemnation” for those who are in Christ Jesus!
Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, p. 180). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Wouldn’t it be easier if Paul gave us a simple formula to defeat sin and walk in the Spirit? I think that our society would appreciate that at surface level, however how well do we do at following instructions? Men, when was the last time that we truly read an instruction manual from front to back? Often times we are given instructions, whether it be in God’s Word or whenever we purchase something, yet we fail to read them until it is too late. On one hand it would be great if Paul would give us a “if you do this during this situation then this will be the outcome” like we see in Exodus when Moses received the law from God. What we see from Paul in these verses is that we are not given a clear method of how to “walk in the Spirit”. The beautiful thing about what Paul says in these verses, though, is that he shows the outcome of walking in the Spirit (avoid condemnation) verses walking in our flesh (failing to please God and being condemned). Regardless of where you are at right now, represents the greatest hope that you will find in Scripture. Jesus Christ died on a cross for your sins. He took the punishment that you and I deserved because of our sinfulness. If you accept Him as Savior and Lord, there is no condemnation for you! You can either turn from your sinfulness and trust in Him, or you can continue to live as a slave to sin. Those are your options. I pray that if you have not done so before, that today might be your day of Salvation and that you might know the peace and comfort that He can bring to your life.