Romans 8:1-17 – Life in Step with the Spirit

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21 of 35 instances of the word “spirit” in Romans occur in chapter 8. Some have taught that the Holy Spirit is not active today. There are two extremes that have caused a rejection of the Spirit’s operating in the life of the believer today. The first extreme are those who have made a big deal out of spiritual gifts, prophesy, and speaking in tongues. We have seen that so abused that we wonder if it is even real. The other extreme is that the Holy Spirit is hard to pin down and the modern mindset likes things cut, dry, and quantified. The Holy Spirit is an unknown quantity. The funny thing is so is God the Father. We readily accept his role and yet somehow we think we can nail him down because we limit him to the words in the Bible. We dissect his words, translate them, interpret them, and memorize them to gain mastery over them, as if that was possible! We learn in Romans 8 that the Holy Spirit is alive and well and that we better understand the crucial role of the Spirit in our lives because without it not only are we mistaken, we are dead (Rom 8:9).

Romans 8:1-4 – What Jesus Came to Do:

Romans 7 concludes with that famous passage of the struggle that we face in life with the flesh and how the answer to our problem comes through Jesus Christ (7:25). Romans 8 continues talking about the deliverance that is found through Christ. Paul writes, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” This points back to what Paul was saying in Romans 6 about dying to self and sin and being raise to walk with Christ in newness of life. It also points back to Romans 7:1-4 that death brings freedom from past obligations. Then in 8:3-4 Paul adds on to something he brought up back in 7:7-13 – that the law served a purpose but ultimatly the law did not have enough power on its own to bring an end to sin and death. The law was incapable of bringing transformation to our lives. So what do we say? Do we say that the law was left unfilfilled? No. Christ fulfilled the law in us through his death on the cross (8:4).

There is something that has to be pointed out in verses 3,-4 “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful humanity to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in human flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” Jesus came in the flesh and died in the flesh in order to fulfill the requirement of the law perfectly. Christ didn’t come as a divine spirit and do battle with sin and death to fulfill the law. He came just like us, in flesh. And in that flesh he met every obligation and requirement of righteousness that was found in the law and in doing so he accomplished two things. He fulfilled the law and through his death he freed us of our obligation to live driven by the desires of the flesh. He could only do that as a man, like us.

Romans 8:5-17 we have contrasted life by the Spirit and life by the sinful nature:
I find it helpful to list the things Paul says about life by the Spirit and what Paul says about life by the sinful nature

Life by the Spirit:

  • Life (8:6)
  • Peace (8:6)
  • Submission to God (8:9) – controlled by the Spirit
  • Children of God (8:15)

Sinful nature:

  • Death (8:6)
  • Hostility (8:7)
  • Unable to submit to God (8:7)
  • Slaves (8:15)

Fear and Security:

These two ways of living are diametrically opposed to each other. It is important that we realize that Paul is not saying that one sin means you are no longer living life by the Spirit. He is talking about being controlled by the Spirit or being controlled by the sinful nature. It is not a one sin and if you die before you confess it you are out! No. He said in 8:1 that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and just one unconfessed sin is not big enough to seperate us from the love of God! (We will talk more about that in a minute). Many of us have grown up in our faith with real fear issues. Are we in or are we out? For Paul our salvation is not as tenuous as that because it is based upon God’s faithfulness that we are saved. It is not a in one day and out the next. If God were that fickel we should all just give up. But we have better promises than that! Verse 11 gives ms so much hope, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

Imagine you were going to wire your house for surround sound. You get the speakers, the wire and all the necessary equipment. You get up in the attic and run the wire. You drill holes in your walls and ceiling. You read through instruction manual after instruction manual on how to wire your receiver, DVD, TV, etc. After you have done all that hard work and gotten yourself covered in insulation, bought expensive equipment and got the job done there was one final thing that had to be done for it to work. You had to press the “on” button. Would you press it? Of course! You wouldn’t leave it off after going through all that trouble and paying a high price for the equipment to make it work. You wouldn’t let a silly button keep you from your desired goal. That is how it is with what Christ has done for us. Paul is saying that if God was willing to send his own Son to die for us in order to redeem us he is certainly willing to sweat the small stuff that comes after. If he was willing to send his Son to suffer, die and be risen again we can have hope that he will also raise us from the dead at the proper time and give us life. That gives us a certain assurance that God is going to make good on his promises because we see how much he has already done for us!

Adopted as Children of God (8:14-17):
What gives us even more assurance is that we have been adopted by God into sonship. That means we are heirs and that there are things in store for us that have not yet occurred. Witherington and others point out in 8:16 that you have two witnesses  God’s Spirit and ours that testify and based on Deuteronomy 19 two witnesses make a valid testimony. He is saying that it is certain that we have become God’s children and heirs to the promise. In verse 17 he ties suffering to glory. He will explain that more in 18-30. And so we are the children of God and because we are God’s children we don’t need to live with a spirit of fear, rather we live in the light of the fact that our father has made some powerful promises to us that we know will be made right because he has already opened the way through Jesus Christ. We have already caught a glimpse of what is to come and because of that we can withstand whatever this world has to throw at us.

0 Responses

  1. What I find interesting is that again Paul seems to vindicate the Law. It’s almost as if he’s saying that those who are indwelt by the Spirit and follow His lead fulfill in some mysterious way the intention of the law (v.3-4). Thus, the whole “do this and you will live” of the Law comes to fruition in the indwelt believer. What do you think?


  2. I don’t know if you caught this post but it should shed some light on that –

    We often mistake Paul’s warning not to lean on the law for our salvation as in some way saying that law was not important or that the law was evil. Bottom line here in Romans 8 is that the law had to be fulfilled and we proved that we were unable to do it because of our fleshly desires. So God sent his in the flesh to master those desires, to fulfill the law “in us” and to defeat sin and death – which the law was powerless to do. This is just more unfolding of God’s master plan to redeem humanity that he had from the beginning.

  3. I am still confused and often get upset when I hear that the Spirit is only in the word. As you pointed out within our fellowship people go from one extreme or the other when discussing the Spirit. Thanks for providing great teaching. May we continue to walk in the Spirit and continue to help others walk in the Spirit.

  4. Paul was not trying to write off the Law.. he was only trying to show that salvation is not got by following the law. The law was just a set of guidelines to lead us in the right direction. When you are in Christ, you die to ur sinful nature and do what the Spirit wants you to…. you walk a life in the spirit. when we say the law has become obslete, we need to realize that when we walk in the Spirit these are the same things we adhere to… cause our lives are controlled by the spirit.

    The discussion and views were enlightening.

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