Hope in Christ and the Spirit
March 26, 2023 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: Romans
Topic: Expository Passage: Romans 8:1-4
(Read Text) We’ve made it to one of the very best chapters in the Bible. Romans 8 begins by promising “no condemnation for those who are in Christ,” and it ends by promising that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” Between these amazing bookends, Paul describes the amazing security we enjoy.
It’s not because of anything in us; it’s because all three members of the Trinity are working for our salvation, and they will accomplish their purpose. Therefore, I know that God will sustain me to the end and bring me to glory. We can be sure of our relationship to God and our eternal home with him.
This is great news! But it is especially meaningful considering its place in Romans. Remember that Paul just finished rehearsing his failure as a Pharisee to fulfill the Law. No one was better positioned than Paul to earn salvation through obeying the Law. He had all the credentials, all the training, and all the motivation. But even Paul was ultimately crushed and condemned by his own sin. So, he cries out in v. 24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” Mankind has no hope of escaping condemnation in his own strength.
Then Romans 8 answers his despair. It declares that God did for us what we can never do ourselves, and he most certainly will finish what he started. Today’s passage begins the chapter with a bang. It describes how all three members of the Trinity are working for our salvation from both the penalty and the power of sin. Verses 1–2 begin by declaring…
I. God’s Promise (vv. 1–2)
Notice again the assurance of 1. God promises the Christian…
No Condemnation (v. 1): This is a great verse, but again, it is especially significant in context. The word “now” represents a major shift in God’s salvific plan that we have been discussing. Specifically, 6:14 announced that we have moved from the age of Law to the age of grace. Chapter 7 explained that this transition was necessary because they law cannot make sinners righteous. It only leaves them condemned and despairing.
But “now” we live in a new era. We live in the age of grace. Paul sums up what it means to live in this new age as being “in Christ Jesus.” Remember that this phrase is loaded with significance. It means that through Christ’s perfect life, his substitutionary death, and his victorious resurrection, he has secured every spiritual blessing. When someone believes the gospel, he is united to Christ, and every blessing he has secured. We are justified, redeemed, reconciled, regenerated, and adopted, all in Christ.
As a result, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Condemnation is a judicial Remember that Romans often describes the gospel in terms of a courtroom. We have all sinned against God; therefore, I deserve to have God declare me guilty and to condemn me to judgment.
We’ve also seen that we have no hope of escaping this condemnation on our own. The Law of Moses was our best hope, but in the hands of sinners it could only reveal our sin and hopeless condition. So, we are doomed on our own.
Therefore, considering all that Paul has said and especially how he closes chapter 7, the promise of 8:1 is truly incredible. If you are in Christ, you don’t need to fear condemnation in God’s court room.
Why ? It’s because of the opposite reality of justification. When I put my faith in Christ, I am placed in him. God forgives my sin and replaces it with Christ’s perfect righteousness. We are still ungodly sinners, but because we stand in Christ’s righteousness, we are justified. God declares us “not guilty.” It is because of this incredible gift, that God promises no condemnation.
No matter how long you have been saved or how familiar you are with this truth, don’t ever lose sight of how incredible it is that a wretched sinner like me can escape condemnation. John 3:18 warns, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Eteranl condemnation and wrath are terrible realities. But in Christ, “There is now no condemnation.” We have a great Savior who has given us a marvelous gift. I hope you remember that and give thanks every day.
But even if we understand this truth well, Satan works hard to convince us it’s not true. Revelation 12:10 calls Satan the “accuser of our brethren.” He is especially aggressive toward Christians with a sensitive conscience or who battle habitual sin.
We should grieve over our sin, but Satan turns legitimate grief into feelings of insecurity regarding our standing with God and his commitment to us. He plants seeds of doubt regarding God’s love and uses it to drive us away from God rather than into his arms. It devastates spiritual progress because you can’t mature spiritually or enjoy deep fellowship with God if you are always questioning God’s love and your security in him.
Therefore, when Satan tempts you to despair, lean on Romans 8:1. If you have believed on Christ and you have been placed in Christ, you don’t have any reason to fear God’s judgment. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No means no. God’s people will never be condemned. Praise God that we are forever safe in Christ.
Then v. 2 tells us why we can have this confidence, and it also makes 2nd Not only do we not need to fear condemnation; we also don’t fear…
No Bondage (v. 2): Notice that this verse is built on a contrast between two laws—“the law of the Spirit of life” and “the law of sin and death.” But neither of these are the Law of Moses, which factored so heavily into chapter 7. Rather, law in v. 2 means principle or authority.
So, v. 2 describes a change in authority. First, the unbeliever is under the law/authority of sin and death. They dominate his life and drive his behavior. But in Christ we have a new authority. We are now under the authority of “the Spirit of life,” meaning the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit plays a huge role in Romans 8. In fact, Paul mentions him by name 19 times. This is because The Spirit’s ministry is one of the most dramatic differences between the age of Law and the age of grace.
Paul hinted at this dramatic change in 7:6. The Law could only condemn because it didn’t give sinners any power to obey. But God promised Israel that someday he would establish a new covenant that didn’t just tell us what to do but gave us the power to do it. He promised, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ez 36:25–27).
And 8:2 declares that the age of the Spirit has arrived. The Holy Spirit is the one who applies to the sinner all that Jesus secured on the cross. The Spirit places us in Christ, he places in the body of Christ, the church. He regenerates us and indwells us. The Christian life really is life in the Spirit.
This verse especially notes that the Spirit applies Christ’s victory over sin. He liberates us from sin’s dominion, and he enables us to live for God. He empowers us to pursue righteousness in a way that is otherwise impossible. God hasn’t simply declared us righteous; he has empowered us to be righteous.
Again, this is incredible when you set it alongside the discussion of chapter 7 (v. 23). The “law in the members of my body” is the “law of sin and death” in 8:2. In my natural state, sin and death are overwhelming powers that imprison me and ultimately condemn me. It’s hopeless and awful.
But then chapter 8 comes along and says that the new age of the Holy Spirit has changed everything. Through Christ, the Holy Spirit “has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
This doesn’t mean that I am perfect or that I never sin. As I said last week, we still live in sin-cursed bodies, and we still have a sin nature. 1 Peter 2:11 says that “fleshly lusts” continue to “wage war against the soul.”
But it does mean that I am no longer enslaved to sin, and I can make progress toward holiness. Verse 4 says that in a very real sense I can fulfill the requirements of the Law. That’s why 6:14 said, “Sin shall not be master over you.” The victory of Christ applied by the Spirit changes everything.
Before we get to application, I want to consider the connection between vv. 1 and 2. “For” links these verses together and seems to say that v. 2 is the reason for v. 1. So, in what sense is freedom from sin through the Spirit the reason for no condemnation? Isn’t the substitutionary death of Christ the only basis of justification?
The simple answer is yes. We can never do enough, even in the Spirit’s power, to come remotely close to earning heaven. Our only hope is the alien righteousness of Christ credited to our account.
But Romans 6 taught that union with Christ does more than address our legal standing before God. When you receive Christ, you enter a relationship that transforms your life. God is not merely working to populate heaven; he is creating Christlike worshippers of God.
Therefore, even though sanctification can never produce justification, sanctification is essential to God’s work of salvation. That’s a basic assumption of Romans 6–8. We need freedom from sin and the law. We must become righteous.
So, the practical transformation the Holy Spirit produces is essential to God’s overall work of salvation. It doesn’t pay for our condemnation, but it does stand necessarily alongside it. And v. 2 says that as we see the Spirit sanctifying us, it should bolster our confidence that we are safe from condemnation.
It should also be a source of great joy. Christ has also rescued me from bondage to sin. I can live to God. So, when was the last time you thanked God for new life in the Spirit? We must give thanks for the “Spirit of life” and for the freedom he provides. Then we must live it out daily. I’ll say more about that later.
So, God has given us two wonderful gifts—no condemnation and no bondage. Then v. 3 describes how God provided these blessings.
II. God’s Provision (v. 3)
Paul makes his point by contrasting the impotence of the Law with the power of Christ. Let’s talk first about…
The Impotence of the Law: Verse 3a is a quick summary of chapter 7. The Law cannot produce genuine godliness in people who are dead in sin. It was very good at telling people what they needed to do, but it couldn’t solve our bondage to sin. Therefore, although the Law is “holy and righteous and good” (7:12), it was “weak…through the flesh” of sinners like us. So, there is no salvation in the Law, only the knowledge of sin and further condemnation.
But thankfully, God didn’t leave us to our condemnation. At the center of v. 3 is the glorious, good news that “God did” something about it.
I mentioned earlier that this passage describes how all 3 members of the Trinity are working for our good. We’ve already seen Christ and the Spirit, and now Paul brings the Father into the equation. He tells us that God the Father ordained the plan for our salvation. He sent “His own Son” into the world.
BTW that’s how the NT always describes God’s work of salvation. The Father ordains, the Son executes, and the Spirit applies. Of course, the Father’s plan changes everything because while the Law is impotent to save, Christ is powerful to save.
The Power of Christ: Verse 3 describes Christ’s mighty work in three stages. First, God sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” That’s what we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus did not grasp tightly to the glories of heaven; instead, he embraced all the limitations of human flesh, and he truly became one of us, even as he remained truly God.
Concerning this, Paul says he came in the “likeness of sinful flesh.” That’s an interesting way of saying it, and it has raised a few eyebrows. Is Paul saying that Jesus just appeared to have sinful flesh or that he wasn’t truly human?
We can be confident that Paul is not denying the true humanity of Jesus since he affirms it in several other places. I believe Doug Moo explains the thought well when he says, “Paul is walking a fine line here. On the one hand, he wants to insist that Christ fully entered into the human condition…On the other hand, he must avoid suggesting that Christ so participated in this realm that he became imprisoned ‘in the flesh.’” He is one of us in every way except that he is free from sin. It’s incredible to consider.
Then as a man he became “an offering for sin.” It’s possible, even likely, that Paul is saying Jesus became our “sin offering” referring to one of the central sacrifices under the Law. We know the story. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin our behalf.” Christ took our guilt on himself, and he endured God’s wrath against our sin.
This is the fundamental reason we have no fear of condemnation. Jesus took our sin out of the way. It was nailed to his cross. You can’t escape condemnation yourself, but you can be saved in Christ if you will simply receive him by faith.
If you are feeling the weight of your condemnation, please receive Christ today. He will forgive your sin and justify your soul. Just pray to the Lord and repent of your sin and declare your faith in the finished work of Christ.
So, praise the Lord that Christ became our sin offering. Then the 3rd stage Paul mentions is, “He condemned sin in the flesh.” This is another interesting description of Christ’s cross work. The idea seems to be that even as Jesus was punished for our sin in his body, he also judged sin. Specifically he broke its tyranny over humanity by annulling its power both to condemn and to enslave.
For thousands of years, sin had strutted the earth as an obnoxious, arrogant bully. But on the cross Jesus exposed sin’s weakness and humiliated it before all creation. He condemned it, he broke its tyranny of mankind, and someday, he will destroy it.
Romans 8 will mention many different works of God that offer us assurance, but Christian, don’t ever forget that the cross is the center of it all. Sometimes, we get distracted from the cross, and Satan plays some terrible mind games. When you feel lost, overwhelmed, discouraged, and frustrated always run to the cross as the anchor for your relationship to God. The cross is the answer to every fear of condemnation. So, we should pray, “Jesus, keep me near the cross.” So, v. 3 says that God has made a wonderful provision. Finally, v. 4 describes God’s purpose in it all.
III. God’s Purpose (v. 4)
The Goal: God says that his purpose in the cross was “so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us.” This was not God’s only purpose in the cross, but it is very important.
A verse like this should put to bed any thought that getting saved doesn’t demand a changed life. The gospel is not a magic pill to help you fulfill whatever desire you have. No, Jesus died so that those in Christ would fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law.
7:6 said, “We have been released from the Law (of Moses).” So, Paul cannot mean that we are obligated to that same Law. Rather, we should understand this as God’s general moral will which boils down to loving God preeminently and then loving my neighbor as myself.
So, God saved me to make me like Christ (8:29). His sovereign plan of salvation includes my sanctification. And as I’ve emphasized several times in this series, this is good news.
Sometimes, we think the best life is a life of autonomy, doing whatever I feel like doing. But what sounds better—life in Romans 7 or in Romans 8? I’ll take Romans 8 every day of the week. God’s will is good, and it ends in eternal glory. So, we should rejoice that Christ has enabled us to fulfill his Law. But how has he made this possible? Paul answers…
The Method: “(We) do not walk…” The basic idea behind walking according to either the flesh or the Spirit is to live under the authority and control of particular power. It directs your steps and empowers your actions.
The implication of v. 4 is that we used to walk according to the flesh. Sin reigned over our lives compelling us to live in rebellion against God (v. 7). It’s a terrible place to be, and chapter 7 describes how oppressive that bondage was.
But through Christ, we are now indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He provides a new direction and a new power to get there. God hasn’t simply demanded that I keep the requirements of the law; he’s given me the desire and the ability to do so. Again, it is a wonderful gift.
And the challenge for us is to take full advantage. Galatians 5:16 commands us, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” The implication of a command is that it’s not automatic. We’ll see next week that walking by the Spirit will be the normal pattern of a Christian’s life, but I must actively rely on the Spirit for strength, and obey his will as given in Scripture.
If my heart is hard toward God’s will and I’m not looking to his grace, I will not enjoy the same victory. But if I walk by the Spirt, I always have the power to resist the flesh. So, take advantage of the Spirit this week. Pray to him for help. Let him minister to you through the Word, and watch him empower you as you strive to obey God’s will. Don’t limp through your week. Pursue godliness aggressively and with confidence in the Spirit’s power.
There is no better place to be than “in Christ Jesus.” Please receive him today if you have never been saved. Then give thanks for every blessing that is yours. Rest in the certainty that you are forever safe from condemnation. And fight sin with the confidence that you are “free from the law of sin and death” through the Spirit.
More in Romans
May 28, 2023Almighty, Unfailing Love
May 21, 2023God’s Best Good for You
May 7, 2023The Spirit’s Help