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Teaching

Life in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-17)

Summary of Romans 1-7

Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.

The unrighteousness of men is revealed in Romans 1:19-3:20 as is their incapacity to be justified on the basis of their obedience

Romans 3:20-4 is the Revelation of Christ our Mediator.  He has fulfilled all righteousness standing in the place of sinful humanity.  Christ is declared unrighteous for our sakes and God condemns sin in Christ while all who turn from their sin and trust in Christ are declared righteous in Him.

Romans 5 declares that we have peace with God in Christ and that God will finish the work He began in us.  God saved us from death while we are His enemies and will not cast us off now that we are His friends.

We also learn in Romans 5:12ff that there are two humanities.  We are born in Adam.  He sinned and plunged all men into sin and guilt with Him.  All are dead in sins and trespasses in Adam.  Christ came as the second Adam so that all who trust in Him are now reckoned to be in a new humanity with Christ.  Where sin reigns for those in Adam, grace reigns even more for those in Christ.

Romans 6 asks the question that, since we’re counted righteous by being identified with Christ by faith, is this simply a license to sin.

Paul answers by demonstrating that the purpose of Christ’s work was to break the power of sin and death at the Cross.  Sin as power was broken on the Cross so that those in Christ are no longer slaves to sin but are alive in Christ.  Our union with Christ by faith means that a new principle of obedience reigns in Christians.  Where we were slaves to sin, we are now to reckon ourselves slaves to Christ.

Romans 7 underlines the nature of the dominion of sin and its power over fallen humanity.  It is called the flesh not because of our human bodies but because it is a name given by Paul of sinful humanity apart from Christ.  Being in the flesh is the same thing as being in Adam – the first humanity.

The flesh is shown to be in bondage to sin in Romans 7 in that, if we do not know Christ, the only thing the law produces in us is a desire to violate it.

If we are not in Christ we are still God’s enemies so everything He commands provokes us to desire to do the opposite.  He tells us not to covet and so we desire to covet.

Paul also demonstrates the power of sin in that, even though it can no longer enslave believers, we still see a principle operating within us.

Indwelling sin still causes us who believe to desire to do the opposite of what we know our new nature is calling us to do.

An internal war exists between our old nature in Adam that was crucified with Christ and our new nature as we trust in Him.

We find ourselves desiring to do the right thing because we love God but we see another principle still operating that tempts us and leads us to disobey.

Paul concludes with a lament that he still feels wretched at times and cries out with anguish at the sin that remains.

He concludes with thanksgiving that, in Christ, he has confidence that this battle will be resolved.

This brings us to Romans 8.

Romans 8:1-17 (ESV)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 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, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

 

As I was meditating upon this passage and its importance I realized how key this particular passage is to understanding the Gospel and the nature of our walk with Christ.

Paul presents the Gospel in several different ways and approaches it from several different angles.

Contrasts are drawn between unrighteousness and righteousness.

Condemnation and justification.

Law and grace.

First Adam and Second Adam.

Slavery to sin and slavery to Christ.

Death and life.

These are all ways of stating the same fundamental contrast.

In the Fall we are dead and that is expressed in terms of unrighteousness, idolatry, being in Adam, slavery, and the flesh.

Christ came to redeem us from the realm of Sin.  He came to redeem us from the dominion of unrighteousness.

Many people fail to see that the effect of the Fall is one of dominion.  They fail to understand the enslaving power of sin and our deadness to the things of God.

Thus, they don’t understand that Christ’s fundamental work is not merely to deal with the guilt of sin but the POWER of it.

Only Christ can break the dominion of death and sin.

Let’s explore this passage and consider what it teaches us.

Romans 8:1-4 (ESV)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Remember what I just said about Christ breaking the power of sin.

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Most of you hear that and think that there is no condemnation because Christ has been judged for your sin.

That is true.

If you are in Christ then you are not going to be condemned for your sin because Christ was condemned for you.

But that’s not all.

Sin is *condemning* not merely because you are guilty.

Sin is condemning because you were condemned to be *ruled* by it.

Remember what I said about slavery.

Apart from Christ, the dominion of sin reigned.  You could only sin.  You could only disobey.

Christ broke that power.  We learned this in Romans 6.

Sin as power was put to death as Christ died on a Cross for all who trust in Him.

There is now *no* condemnation for those in Christ because both the guilt and the power of sin have been dealt with by Christ.  Get that into your bloodstream.

Paul puts this another way:  Christ freed us from the law of sin and death.

He freed us from the principle or rule or realm of sin and death that we were under.

This is called “the flesh”.  The flesh is not our physical bodies as Paul is using it.

The flesh is being in the first Adam.  It is being under the reign of sin.

The Law of God is holy and just and good.

Yet the Law was powerless to change us while we were in the flesh – while we were in Adam.

Why is that?

Because we were enslaved to sin.

The Law could tell us what God required of us but it could not change us.

It could tell us not to covet but what did Paul just write in Romans 7?

He said that the command to covet was a good command but it came to us in the flesh.

The dominion of the flesh took the command and because it was hostile to God, it did the opposite.

I need you to understand this because Christ’s enemies and all who never embrace the Gospel miss this point.

We are powerless, under the dominion of the flesh, to obey the law of God.

The law of God can only condemn us.

Those who think they can accomplish the law while still under the reign of sin and death can only sin when they try to obey the law of God.

This is why the Gospel is so offensive to those who are still dead.

It tells them two things:

First, it tells them that they are unrighteous and condemned for their disobedience to the law of God.

Secondly, it tells them that they are powerless, in themselves, to do anything about it.

We cannot, in ourselves, free ourselves from the prison-house of the flesh – the prison-house of sin and death.

This is why Christ came.

The law of the Spirit of life is the new principle for those who are in Christ.

It is the Holy Spirit Who comes to us in the Gospel and takes us out of this prison.

He gives us a new mind and eyes and ears so that we see Christ and His work.

It is the Spirit Who reaches out with our hand to lay hold of Christ and all of His indestructible power to defeat the reign of the flesh and place us under His reign of life.

Verse 3 tells us that God did what the law was powerless to do.

He sent His son to condemn sin in the flesh.

I’ll remind you again:  what is the flesh?

What is it?

The flesh is the dominion of sin and death.  It is the enslaving principle of those fallen in Adam.

Christ came to condemn sin in the flesh.

Hear Christ in John 12:27-32

John 12:27[32 (ESV)

27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

 

Now, will the ruler of this world be cast out!

Did you catch that?

Christ’s death condemned sin in the flesh.

How?

Did Christ’s death bring condemnation for sinners?

No!

Remember that the flesh is the dominion of sin and death.

Christ stated that He came for this very hour that He might be lifted up.

His death was to cast out the ruler of this world.

It was to condemn the power of sin so that as He is lifted up the power of sin and death is broken.

The power of sin – the flesh – is condemned on the Cross.

As the power of sin was condemned, all of Christ’s people are drawn to Him by the power of the Spirit.

The law could not cast out the power of sin and death.

It took the Son of God, coming just like us.

He came as a man, in the likeness of sinful flesh.

Not sinful but like us in every way.

And He hung between heaven and earth with one hand on Deity and the other hand on humanity so that the power of sin could be judged and destroyed in Him.

So what is the result?

We walk no longer according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We are no longer under sin’s dominion to only be enslaved by it.

We now walk as those who have the Spirit of God – we are now Christ’s freed to love and obey.

So now consider this:  the same law of God is no longer something that condemns.

The law of God, for those in Christ, is the law of the Spirit.

We have a new nature and so the law takes on a new relationship to us.

When we were enslaved we could only be condemned by the law.

The law now reveals the same God to us but we are now in a new relationship, in Christ, to the law.

If you understand everything I just said, now listen to this from Romans 8:5-8

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

It’s what we just said.

Those under sin’s dominion cannot please God.

But you are no longer under the dominion of the flesh to set your mind on things of the flesh.

A new principle reigns because you belong to Christ.

This is important because we often forget our position.

It is not natural for those who are now in the Spirit to live as if they are still in the flesh.

The flesh cannot submit itself to the law but those who are in the Spirit can do so because they are now in Christ and His life reigns in us by the Spirit.

Paul continues to make the same point in a different way in Romans 8:9-11

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 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.

Again, if you are in Christ you are in the Spirit and you are not in the flesh.

If you do not have the Spirit then you do not belong to Christ.

If you are in Christ then some part of sin’s allure remains because you are still in this world BUT you possess the Spirit of Him Who raised Jesus from the dead.

Not only that but He promises resurrection of your body from the grave just as He raised Christ from the grave.

Do you think this changes things at all?

Do you think it makes any difference if you are to consider yourself as possessing the Spirit of life that raised Jesus from the dead?

It makes all the difference in the world.

What’s the mindset we ought to have?

Romans 8:12-17

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

We often act as Christians as if we still owe the flesh something.

We become enticed and tempted by sin and think that we owe it to ourselves to indulge in sin.

What does Paul say?

You owe sin nothing!

You are to consider yourself as being in the Spirit and to put to death the deeds of the flesh.

This is eternal life.

All who are led by the Spirit are sons of God.

The pattern of their lives is to reflect the fact that a new principle reigns.

We are sons of God if we are in the Spirit.

What characterizes us is not an affection for the things of this world and the delights of the eyes and the flesh.

We are not to pattern our lives as if sin still has dominion and that the law is some sort of burdensome or loathsome thing.

The Spirit Himself moves within us.

He speaks through us so that we can say, with the Spirit, “Abba, Father.”

It is a recognition that God is such a father that a familial tone can be taken.

We see God as a loving Father so that we can say it with double certainty.

And because we are children we are heirs of everything that is Christ’s.

We consider everything that Christ has given us as being of more value than anything in this world.

What effect would this have if this is true for us?

If you’ve been paying attention then you would recognize that sin is no friend.

It is a mortal enemy.

It is out to enslave and kill you.

John Owen is famous for saying:  Be killing sin or it will be killing you.

Do you ever stop to consider whether you are really in the faith?

Do you ever stop, in your day to day busy lives to think whether your mind is captivated by the principles of this world?

Are your affections really taken up by the things of God?

Do you take sin lightly and think that it is only an occasional thing you need to deal with?

Or do you see it as a power that has been defeated by the Cross and that you must hate and put to death?

Sin never rests?

Do you rest and think that there’s no battle ongoing because you sense no battle?

I think if truth be told, many of us do not sense our ongoing need that we would live our lives as if we are united to Christ.

Do we cry out to Christ, by the Spirit, constantly to turn away our minds from temptation?

Or do we simply love to entice ourselves and give ourselves to the pleasures of this world?

If it is true that we are now to think of ourselves as being in the realm of the Spirit of life, do we spend our time and energy laying hold of the things that Christ says build us up in Him?

Christ tells us that we are strengthened when we pray and read the Bible.

Do we sow our lives to the things of this world and consider this only to be a burdensome command?

I don’t have time to pray and read the Bible today.

Or so we tell ourselves but would we tell ourselves that if we believed there was a battle raging?

Christ tells us to pray one for another.

We have a prayer service at 7 pm this Thursday.

Do we tell ourselves that we have too many things going on Thursday to pray for the Church and one another?

Why is that?  Is it because we don’t believe that we need prayer even though the Word of God says we need each other for strength in the battle?

The Word tells us to encourage one another daily.

Do we consider this to be a burdensome command?  Does this reveal that we live according to the flesh and that what God would say to His children is interpreted as some sort of burden?

The Word commands us to be matured in our understanding and so we offer Sunday School and other opportunities to dig into the Word together.

But is this just another burdensome command that you might have to sacrifice a little sleep or even go to bed early on Saturday because, after all, there are things in this world far more important than being built up in the Word of God.

God invites us to worship and delight in Him on the Lord’s day.

Is this just another burden because we don’t sense ourselves in a spiritual battle in need that the Word of God would come to us every week that we might continue to die to sin and live to Christ?

Is everything I’m saying to you simply heard as condemnation?

That’s not my intent but do you understand why this might be the case?

Are you in the faith, beloved?

Faith is not the power of the flesh.

The Spirit of Christ loves to see us pray, when we encourage, when we gather when we learn together, and when we learn to shift our affections from things of this world to the things of the Spirit.

I say all these things so that you might take stock of who you belong to.

The Word says to you:  LIVE!

LIVE!

LIVE!

Christ came to put to death sin and its enslaving power.

I pray that you would receive hearts that beat with an anxious need that Christ would be the controlling principle in your life.

Christ came not to condemn you.

Christ came to condemn the power of sin that would enslave you.

Come to Him all who labor and are heavy laden.

Cast the guilt and power of sin at His feet.

Turn to Christ and live!

Let us pray.

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