Our recording equipment malfunctioned on July 5 and the message was not recorded on that date. That was the message that concluded a five Sunday study of Romans 8:1-3. I do manuscript the message every Sunday and though when it is preached it will vary from what I have written, I am including what I wrote that you might be able to read it even if you can not hear it. (I am not including my introductory remarks.)
Six points to ponder from Romans 8:1-9
1. Every person who is united by faith to Christ is no longer in bondage to sin. (1)
Paul has been wrestling in chapter 8 with how we are delivered from the bondage of sin in our lives. He has made the statement that it is Jesus Christ our Lord who will do that. So he begins chapter 8 by stating that there is now no condemnation – slavery to sin – for those who are in Christ Jesus. If we trusted in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins and eternal life we have become united to Him. We are in Christ Jesus. Since Jesus has won the victory over sin and we are in Him we too are no longer slaves to sin. That is the word of God!
2. This freedom from slavery to sin was won for us through God sending His sinless Son as a sin offering to pay the penalty for our sin. (2-3)
A second point is found in the following two verses. We did not win this freedom from the prison house of sin by anything we did – not by keeping any rules; not by joining any church; not by doing any good deeds. This victory could not be won by any natural born human being. God had to step in and send His Son who lived a totally sinless life, inside and out, as an offering for our sin. As such He paid the penalty for our sin and stripped away the bondage that held us captive to sin. Much as that article stated, this victory does not come from within us, but from outside us. It is God coming to us in the person of His Son to do what we could not do for ourselves. All we can do is, with open hands, receive this gift from the hand of God.
3. When we live our daily lives oriented to the desires of the Holy Spirit through His power we are living out God’s intentions for us as revealed in His word. (4)
God said that if we were going to be saved by our own works we would have to keep every point of the His law perfectly. We not only had to keep them outwardly, but inwardly as well. When we orient our lives toward the desires of the Holy Spirit and live through His power we are living life as God intended. The requirement of the law is fulfilled in us. That is the only way it can be lived out. If we attempt to do it without the power of the Holy Spirit it turns into legalism and we end of simply trying to obey a bunch of rules with out the love of Christ controlling us and living from the inside out.
4. The focus of our thought-life reveals whether we are living according to the Spirit or according to the flesh. (5)
All actions start in our minds. Paul speaks of us taking every thought captive to Christ. He also says that if anything is true or honorable or right or pure or lovely or of good repute or excellent or worthy of praise that we are to ponder these things. Think about them. Ruminate on them. How we think reveals how we are living. If we are living according to the flesh our minds will be dwelling on those things in which our flesh delights. If we are living according to the Spirit our minds will be dwelling on the things that delight the Lord as found in His word. In practical terms it will be reflected in the kinds of TV programs or movies that we watch. It will be reflected in the kinds of books we read . It will be reflected in how we think about people and treat them.
In other words, our minds reveal our hearts. Only we and God know what is going on in our minds.
5. The focus of our thought-life also determines what kind of life we will live. If the focus is our flesh we will experience a living death. If our focus is the Spirit we will experience life and peace. (6-7)
Not only does our thought-life reveal whether we are living according to the flesh or the Spirit, but it also determines what kind of life we will live. If our thoughts are turned toward the flesh we will experience a living death. It will be one that does not include God and will be lived on our own terms and power rather than God’s terms and His power. It is characterized by boredom and a strong desire to always have our own way. It is the way of pride and competition in a bad sense where our delight is to be right and to be on top and always beat the other guy. That is where we get our significance. It is a living death.
However, if our thought-life is focused on the Spirit of God and His desire for our life, the result is life and peace. The circumstances of life no longer determine us, but rather it is the mind of Christ that has priority. There is a realization that I am held in the hands of an all loving and all powerful God. We do see life in a totally different perspective than those around us because the Spirit of God controls our lives. We have peace not based on our control over life, but His control over our lives. Our times are in His hands.
6. The one big difference between Christians and non Christians is that Christians have the Spirit of God and Christ dwelling in them and non Christians do not. (8-9)
The last point to ponder is one that we spent an entire Sunday on. We traced the words of Christ to His disciples the night before the cross when He told them He would be leaving them, but that was to their advantage because he would send a Helper just like Himself who had been with them but would be in them. Then we traced the emphasis on the reception of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts. We noted that Peter’s message did not end with just the promise of the forgiveness of their sins, but also the promise that those who believed would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We saw that as the gospel spread to the Samaritans and to the Gentile world that the reception of the Spirit was prominent in Luke’s account. If a person did not have the Spirit it was impossible to live as Christian. It is through the Spirit of Christ that we are able to live out the life of Christ before the world.
13. The translators of the ESV and the NKJV translate v. 10 “. . . “the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” The NASB and the NIV translate it, “. . . “the body is dead because of sin, yet (the, your) spirit is alive because of righteousness.” What difference does that make in the meaning of the verse for how we view our victory over sin?
This difference in translation is not due to any difference in the text. There is no question in any of the manuscripts that this is what the Greek text is saying, However, we know that every human being has a human spirit. In fact in v. 16 Paul says that the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God. Man has an immaterial part. Some teach that all people have souls, but only Christians have a spirit that is given to them when they believe. Others say that all people have a spirit, but that it comes alive when we trust in Christ. What does seem to be true is that the Holy Spirit dwells in our human spirit and in that place no sin can enter. Yet there is a place in our immaterial being where sin still does dwell. And we might agree that it is through the life of the Holy Spirit that our spirit does receive the very life of Christ.
If we simply translate the verse the way it is written in the Greek language we have to translate it as “ the Spirit is life,” because that is what it says. In the margin of my NASB Bible I have a note that literally it should read “life” rather than “alive.” I believe that is the way we should translate it and it is a reference to the Holy Spirit. Paul says that our human body is dead because of sin. As Paul has been emphasizing throughout a person is dead in terms of being powerless to live up to the demands of the law or to resist indwelling sin. But the life of the Spirit in every believer enables us to do just that. Zane Hodges states it very well.
By means of this description of the Christian’s physical body as dead Paul makes clear that the Christian’s body it is incapable of producing the life of God on its own. This is precisely what Paul had discovered in the fruitless struggles recorded in 7:15–25. Apart from some kind of intervention by the Spirit, the resulting spiritual defeat cannot be reversed.
Hodges, Z. C. (2013). Romans: Deliverance from Wrath. (R. N. Wilkin, Ed.) (p. 217). Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society.
But we should notice carefully how Paul begins this verse –“If Christ is in you.” In verse 1 Paul spoke of us being in Christ. Both are true. Remember how Jesus told His disciples that it was to their advantage that He go away and yet He also told them he would always be with the even to the end of the age. The Spirit who is life is he who gives us the life of Christ so that, in fact and in reality, Christ is in us. Every person sitting here this morning who has come to faith in Christ has Christ in them. The very life of Christ is in us, which was impossible before the coming of the Spirit. Once again this verse emphasizes just how important for living as a Christian is to understand that the Spirit is life within us – and it is the life of Christ within every believer. So our ability to live in victory over sin is assured by the Spirit who is life.
14. Is v. 11 speaking of a believer’s future resurrection or present experience?
Like so many of these spiritual truths in Romans this once again is a difficult question to answer and commentators come down on both sides of the coin. Certainly the future is used which makes it sound like a future experience rather than one in the present. However, we know from 1 Cor. where Paul spends a lengthy section speaking of the believer’s resurrection body that it is not our mortal body that is given life, but a new body that is not mortal or perishable or natural at all. Rather it is imperishable and spiritual and Paul will get to the longing for what he calls the redemption of the body in v.23. Yet, perhaps Paul could use the expression, “Give life to your mortal bodies” as a reference to the future resurrection of the body. And that for sure is our great hope that there will come a day when we will be free from the struggle of the flesh. We know that will only happen when we are changed at the resurrection, which in time is yet future, but in eternity is already a present reality.
But it seems to me that he is still also speaking of this present experience. While it is true that the body is dead because of sin in the sense that the flesh still dogs us all our days, it is also true that in these mortal bodies we truly experience the life of Christ through His Spirit who indwells us. He has already said that we have been raised up with Christ so that we might walk in newness of life. That is His desire for all of to experience on a daily and regular basis – that we might live life from His power and His perspective. This is remarkable thing that we seem to struggle in grasping its importance. In these very mortal and weak bodies that we have we carry the very resurrection life of Christ – Christ in you. That can and should make all the difference in the way we live. It is not that we have a different set of rules than the world – although we do – but that we have a different life. I once heard it put like this. Unbelievers live in the land of the living on their way to the land of the dying, while believers live in the land of the dying on their way to the land of the living.
15. What is Paul’s conclusion as to how we can live victoriously as a Christian in verses 12-13?
Paul uses an accounting term here and says that we are not indebted to the flesh. We don’t owe the flesh a thing. We have been bought with a price, even the precious blood of Christ. The debt to the flesh has been more than fully paid. So as we go back to that illustration we used some time ago concerning the old landlord. We just have to tell him that he will have to take it up with the new owner. We don’t owe the flesh a thing. That seems to be difficult to believe when the flesh seems to keep making such strong demands on us, as Paul pointed out in chapter 7. But here is the reality. If I give in to the demands of the flesh I must die. I will experience nothing but defeat and frustration and discouragement. But if I live in faith by the power of the Spirit I will put those deeds of the flesh to death. It is then that I will truly live.
To live in victory does require that we do something. Paul uses very strong words in saying that we must put to death the deeds of the body. It has the idea of being ruthless in our dealing with sin. We cannot play games with sin and expect to live in the victory of Christ. Usually when a person falls greatly into sin the losing was long in coming. Sin gets just a little foothold and then little by little it takes over. But how we deal with it once again is just as important to see. It is by the Spirit that we put to death the deeds of the body. It is not by legalism or asceticism. Martin Luther lived in a monastery and was constantly plagued by his sins. It is only through the Spirit that we overcome and are set free to truly live.
John Stott has some words that are helpful concerning the idea of putting to death the deeds of the body which he calls mortification.
First, what is mortification? Mortification is neither masochism (taking pleasure in self-inflicted pain), nor asceticism (resenting and rejecting the fact that we have bodies and natural bodily appetites). It is rather a clear-sighted recognition of evil as evil, leading to such a decisive and radical repudiation of it that no imagery can do it justice except ‘putting to death’. In fact, the verb Paul uses normally means to ‘kill someone, hand someone over to be killed, especially of the death sentence and its execution’
Secondly, how does mortification take place? We note at once that it is something that we have to do. It is not a question of dying or of being put to death, but of putting to death. In the work of mortification we are not passive, waiting for it to be done to us or for us. On the contrary, we are responsible for putting evil to death. True, Paul immediately adds that we can put to death the misdeeds of the body only by the Spirit, by his agency and power. For only he can give us the desire, determination and discipline to reject evil. Nevertheless, it is we who must take the initiative to act. Negatively, we must totally repudiate everything we know to be wrong, and not even ‘think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature’ (13:14). This is not an unhealthy form of repression, pretending that evil does not exist in us and refusing to face it. It is the opposite. We have to ‘pull it out, look at it, denounce it, hate it for what it is; then you have really dealt with it’. . . Positively, we are to set our minds on the things the Spirit desires (5), set our hearts on things above, and occupy our thoughts with what is noble, right, pure and lovely.47 In this way ‘mortification’ (putting evil to death) and ‘aspiration’ (hungering and thirsting for what is good) are counterparts. Both verbs (verse 5, ‘set their minds’, and verse 13, ‘put to death’) are in the present tense, for they describe attitudes and activities which should be continuous, involving taking up the cross every day and setting our minds on the things of the Spirit every day.
Thirdly, why should we practise mortification? It sounds an unpleasant, uncongenial, austere and even painful business. It runs counter to our natural tendency to soft and lazy self-indulgence. If we are to engage in it, we shall need strong motives. One is, as we have seen, that we have an obligation (12) to the indwelling Spirit of life. Another, on which Paul now insists, is that the death of mortification is the only road to life. Verse 13 contains the most marvellous promise, which is expressed in the single Greek verb zēsesthe, you will live.
Stott, J. R. W. (2001). The message of Romans: God’s good news for the world (p. 229). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
That is the great motivation that Paul has been giving us all through these 13 verses – the promise of life – of really living in the fullness that God intended all of us human beings made in His image to experience and enjoy. He wants to be free to really live!