Scripture Text: Romans 8:1-11
In the previous chapter of Romans, Paul described the battle within every Christian who wants to do what is right, but constantly fails to do it. Paul ended chapter seven of Romans with these words:
Romans 7:24–25 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
After describing the sinfulness and utter despair Christians have in trying to do what is right, Paul gave encouragement to the believer in chapter eight. Romans chapter eight has been called by some the most wonderful chapter in the Bible. John Piper referred to it as “The Great Eight.” Indeed, there are many great truths expounded within this portion of Scripture. The chapter begins with “no condemnation” (v. 1) and ends with no separation from God (v. 39). Whereas Romans chapter seven described the follower of Jesus Christ in relation to the Law of God, chapter eight describes the follower of Jesus Christ in relation to the Holy Spirit and His work in and through the new believer.
Live in the Freedom of Christ
After giving us a depressing reminder of our own sinfulness, Paul wrote chapter eight to remind us of our acceptance and security in Jesus Christ. We need this reminder. Those who believe in Jesus Christ, who have trusted in Him as Lord and Savior, do a really good job of not believing the Gospel. Let me explain. We will say we trust in Jesus Christ, that we serve Him, and that we have eternal life because of Him. We will even say that our sins are forgiven and we are free from the guilt and punishment of sin, but we will then live our lives as if we must earn God’s favor. We will live our lives as if there is something we must do in addition to believing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The truth of God’s Word is that once we have received God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we are free in Christ and longer in bondage to sin.
Romans 8:1–2 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
You are not condemned if you have believed in Jesus Christ. Another way to read this is that there is now no sentence of death against those who have faith in Christ. Since we have the promised victory of Jesus Christ mentioned in Romans 7:25 we are not condemned to death. We are free from the law of sin and death. As we have already seen, the Law of God was not given to save us, indeed it could not. No one will be saved by following the Law. It was given to show us our sin and our need for a Savior. The words “no condemnation” echoes Romans 5:1, “Therefore…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We have peace, not condemnation.
Although we are not condemned, sin is. Through Jesus Christ, God pronounced a death sentence on sin. When Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished,” He drove the last nail in the coffin of sin. Jesus Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh to do what the Law of God could not do — condemn sin so that you would not be condemned. God sent his Son as a sacrifice to pay the full penalty for sin in his sacrifice. Since there is now this new era of redemption through Jesus Christ, the believer is now in a right standing with God because he or she is united in Jesus Christ. To be in Christ means to belong to Him. If you have receive the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, you belong to God. In fact, you are now a child of the King and adopted into His family. You have a new relationship with God and He will never forsake you.
But some of you do not live like you belong to Him. Some of you live with the fear that God is condemning you. Some of you think you must improve upon what God has already done for you in Christ. Maybe you think you are not good enough. Maybe you think whatever you do is not good enough for God. You are right! You can never do enough good or be good enough to please God. That’s the point! Christ came so that you would not have to be good enough. Yet, Christians condemn ourselves thinking that that somehow they have lost favor with God. Some of you look to other people for favor and then are discouraged when you do not measure up to what others think you should be. It is not their favor you should seek. It is not man’s favor you should have, but God’s. Do not condemn yourself. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ, you have favor with God, you are not condemned, and you have freedom with Christ. Rejoice in that!
Live Intentionally in the Spirit
Today, many churches are celebrating Pentecost. Pentecost is a time in the Church where Christians celebrate and remember when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and followers of Jesus Christ who were waiting in the Upper Room. (Acts 2:1-13) Many consider Pentecost as the “Birthday of the Church,” when God empowered His people by His Holy Spirit to be His witnesses and disciples. The work of God’s Spirit in our lives cannot be understated. In fact, the word “spirit” is used eleven times in this passage alone. Look at the importance of the Spirit in verses five and six.
Romans 8:5–6 5 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. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
To set the mind on something means to give careful consideration to something or to be intent on doing something. To set the mind on the flesh means to think continually about and constantly desire the things representing fallen, sinful human nature. Basically, it means to think just the way the unbelieving world thinks, emphasizing what it thinks important, pursuing what it pursues, in disregard of God’s will. That is not how God’s people ought to think. We ought to be thinking God’s thoughts. We ought to be desiring what God’s wants. We ought to be pursuing God’s will. Paul was describing here two kinds of people — the unbeliever and the believer — who had two different kinds of “mind-sets” with two different outcomes: death versus life and peace.
Paul was saying that those who are living in the flesh, do set their minds on things of the flesh, and those who are living in the Spirit, do set their minds on the things of the Spirit. This is a description of two kinds of people, not an exhortation to be one or the other. On the one hand, there are unbelievers who live according to the flesh that ultimately leads to death; on the other hand, there are believers who live according to the Spirit that leads to life and peace. This makes sense because Paul encouraged his fellow Christian brothers and sisters saying: “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” (Romans 8:9) If you have trusted in Christ, then the Spirit of God lives in you and you set your mind on the things of God.
What does it mean, though, when we fail to live by the Spirit, or as Paul described in the previous chapter, “The evil I do not want is what I keep on doing?” (Romans 7:19) Each day of our lives presents us with opportunities to serve God or not to serve God. Each day, you have opportunities to live by the flesh or to live by the Spirit. Each day, you have choices to make — will I please God or will I please myself. Every attempt to live the Christian life apart from the empowering presence of the Spirit of God ends in defeat. We lose the battle only when we engage the enemy without the resources supplied by the Spirit. Did Jesus not say, “Apart from me you can do nothing?” (John 15:5) Perhaps today, you made a choice to please yourself and not God. Maybe today, you had a choice to love another sacrificially or to serve yourself selfishly. Ask God to reveal to you where you have “lived in the flesh”…and then repent of it.
Without Christ, We Are Incapable of Pleasing God
Before we move on to the final section of this passage, I want to briefly point out one other thing. We will spend more time on it later. Verses seven and eight describe the condition of an unbeliever who is unable to please God.
Romans 8:7–8 7 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. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
What Paul mentioned here is that unbelievers (those who are in the flesh) do not keep God’s Law, and indeed are unable to keep it because they are slaves to sin (Romans 6:6, 17, 19–20). Because unbelievers are in bondage to sin and unable to do what God commands, they fail to please God. They are hostile to God and unable to submit to His Law because they lack the Spirit of God, which makes submission possible. Either we are oriented toward “the flesh” with a natural inclination to sin and hostility to God that leads to death, or the Spirit re-orients us to desire God and a life of peace. To have the desire for God that brings peace requires the Spirit of God. God has to intervene in our lives to free us from bondage and to set us on the Spirit. We will come back to this later when we tackle the last half of chapter eight.
Live Abundantly In Spite of Death
Even though we live in this fallen world with bodies that are tempted and desire sin and ultimately succumb to death, we can still live fully for Jesus Christ…right now!
Romans 8:10–11 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.
Earlier, Paul wrote, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Now, Paul wrote about Christ being “in you” and “His Spirit who dwells in you.” Which is it: Being in Christ or Christ being in us? Well, it is both. The Christian receives God’s grace and has faith in Jesus Christ, thus belonging to Him, or being in Christ. In turn, the Spirit of Christ begins to dwell within the Christian believer to give life to his body so that he can desire and please God. Before Christ, sin dwells within the unbeliever. After faith in Christ, the Spirit of Christ dwells within the believer. Being in Christ means Christ is in you and you are being led by the Spirit of Christ.
More than that, since our physical bodies are not yet redeemed, they still die. We will each die a physical death, even though we are freed from the condemnation of sin. Yet the presence of the God’s Spirit within believers testifies to the new life they enjoy because of the righteousness of Christ that is now theirs. Though we wait for the Jesus to return and to give us new bodies that will not die or get sick or see decay, we can live now abundantly in Christ with His Spirit dwelling within us. This means that we have hope! We have the assurance of life now, but also the promise of everlasting life when we cast these mortal bodies off and exchange them for new glorified bodies.
In closing, Jesus came to give life and to give it abundantly. Are you really living today? Are you living fully for Jesus Christ by His Spirit dwelling within you? What in your life have your not yielded to him? What part of your life are you still holding on, trying to be master of your domain? Is it lust? Is it greed? Is it money? Is it fame or favor of man? Set your mind on the things of Christ and live fully for Him today. Put off the worldly desires and things that are contrary to God and live in the freedom of the Spirit, not in bondage to sin and death. Say with full assurance, “It is well with my soul.” We are not condemned if we are in Christ, in fact, we are more than conquerers. Even though trials happen, even though discouragement comes, even though evil has it way for a time, say with full assurance, “It is well with my soul,” for the Spirit of Christ dwells with you. This is Good News! Thanks be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.