“Life in the Spirit”
Series: Not Guilty!
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
First Baptist Henderson, KY
- Take God’s Word and open to Romans, chapter 8.
If you’re visiting with us we believe in expository preaching through books of the Bible. We left off in chapter 7 so we’re now in chapter 8. Quick overview: Chapters 1-3 demonstrate that “all have sinned, all fall short of the glory of God (3:23)” and, “by the deeds of the law no person will be justified (3:20). Justification—God’s declaring us righteous before Him—comes by faith alone in Christ alone. Paul teaches and illustrates this in chapter 4. Then in chapter 5 Paul talks about why we need to be justified by God. We are born into sin. Adam, our first parent, brought sin into the world. If we have been justified—declared righteous by God—then no number of sins can change that. Indeed, where sin abounds, grace abounds much more (5:20).
Then in Chapters 6 and 7, Paul deals with two possible misunderstandings about sin and the law. In chapter 6, Paul clarifies that Christians are not to just “go on sinning” as believers. No, we are to “not let sin reign in our mortal bodies (6:12)” and we are regularly to “reckon ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (6:11).” In chapter 7, Paul stresses that the Law, the Old Testament moral Law, such as the 10 Commandments, while good and necessary, is not something God gave to us that we might earn, or even maintain, our salvation by keeping it.
So, having dealt with these two possible misunderstandings about grace in chapter 6 and chapter 7, Paul now returns to that great theme of justification by faith alone. Chapters 6 and 7 are like a parenthesis after which Paul returns to the great doctrine he was explaining in chapter 5. And chapters 5-8 are all about the assurance of our salvation. He will conclude chapter 8 with the grand passage where he asks, “What shall separate us from the love of God?” and of course, the answer is, “absolutely nothing!” God forgives all sin—past, present, and future.
- Stand for the reading of God’s Word.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,
4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Here is the third of four great “therefores” in the book of Romans. There are four critical “therefores” in Romans: Romans 3:20, 5:1, 8:1, and 12:1. Romans 3:20, “Therefore, no one will be justified by keeping the Law,” Romans 5:1, “Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God,” not Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” The fourth great “therefore” is Romans 12:1, “Therefore, brethren, I beseech you to present your bodies as living sacrifices to God.”
So this “therefore” is a summing-up of the teaching of justification by faith alone, particularly stressing its ongoing and eternal application to the Christian. It is as though Paul is saying, “Let me remind you of how wonderful is this great teaching of justification by faith” and off he goes!
As Paul reminds us of these blessings, he presents a fuller teaching of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He has mentioned the Holy Spirit a couple of times in preceding chapters, but in our text this morning, he mentions the Spirit about 20 times and so I have entitled this message, “Life in the Spirit.” Every person justified—declared righteous by God—by faith in Jesus Christ, has the Holy Spirit within himself. So what are these blessings that come to the one who has placed his faith in Christ alone? I will give five to you rather quickly. First, if we are justified by faith in Christ:
I. We have a new Freedom (1-4)
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,
The New King James Version adds this phrase, “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit,” but that phrase is not in the oldest Greek manuscripts. It comes later in verse 4, but does not belong in verse 1, which is why it is not in the majority of translations.
The original Greek of verse 1 is simply, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” What a grand statement! Isn’t that one verse a sufficient text for a sermon? Each of us could share for hours how great it is to know that, because of our faith in Jesus Christ alone, God does not condemn us. It is the very opposite of standing before God guilty of sin. Because of Jesus Christ’s work on the cross and our faith in Him, God declares us “not guilty.” “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” That wonderful phrase, “in Christ Jesus!” I love that teaching. Like sugar dissolved completely into coffee so as to never be separated, so is the Christian completely united together in Christ so as to never be separated.
Verse 1 is the main point of chapter 8. Chapter 8 is all about verse 1. Really! Verse 1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” and then Paul works out that statement in the next 38 verses. Verse 2 and following are just a working-out of what Paul says in verse 1.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
The power of the Gospel, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ sets me free from the law of sin and death that is within me, in my fallen nature. I am free!
3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,
4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Verses 3 and 4 are a wonderful summation of the work of Christ. Verse 3 and 4 answer why Christ came to us and what He did for us. Paul explains in verse 3 that Law, the Old Testament moral commands, could not save us. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the Law, it’s what the Law had to work with: us, we who are weak through the flesh.
I read this illustrated by the use of small spade or shovel in the garden. Have you had this happen where you are using a small spade and it breaks? You push down into the hard ground and try to dig and the wooden handle breaks away from the iron? There is nothing wrong with the iron. The problem is that to which the iron was attached, a weak piece of wood. The Law is like the iron spade. It is strong, but it was working with us, weak human beings with a fallen human nature. That is what “flesh” means here. It is our sinful nature. So we could not bear up under the Law. We could not keep the Law perfectly. So, “what the Law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son. We could not keep the Law, but Christ could! He is not weak. He is without sin.
So, you see, God does what we cannot. Verse 3, “What the Law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, our sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” That’s the incarnation. Continuing, “on account of our sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,”—verse 4—“so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us.” That’s the Gospel. God came to do what we could not. The Law is perfectly fulfilled in Christ who is our glorious substitute. He lived the Law for us and died, taking the penalty for our sins.
So we have a new freedom. Secondly:
II. We have a new Fruitfulness (4b-9)
… who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
The word “walk” refers to the Christian’s daily lifestyle. True Christians are those whose lives are dominated by the Holy Spirit rather than the sinful nature. Paul is contrasting here in these verses the true believer, the Christian, with the non-Christian. Those who walk “according to the flesh” are the non-Christians. Those who walk “according to the Spirit” are the Christians.
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, the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
How important is that statement there in verse 8! “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” The non-Christian cannot please God. No matter how good a person he may be, he cannot please God because he is not walking “according to the Spirit.” He cannot walk according to the Spirit because he does not have the Spirit. Paul contrasts this non-Christian with the Christian, verse 9:
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
So the Christian has within him the Holy Spirit. This is why he or she is different. It is not that he or she no longer continues to struggle with sin, but his or her life is no longer characterized by a pattern of sinful living. Sin no longer dominates the Christian the way it once did.
The non-Christian does not have the Holy Spirit. This is why the non-Christian “cannot please God.” He may well try to please God, trying by his own efforts to please God, giving his money to the church or charity, being a good person, living an upright life, but he cannot please God because he is not a new creation. He has not been born again. He does not have the Holy Spirit within him. Paul is so clear here at the end of verse 9, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”
Non-Christians cannot please God, but Christians can. Why? Because the Christian has within himself the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who empowers him to be fruitful, to walk in such a way as to glorify God. The Christian bears the fruit of the Spirit, fruit such as love, joy, peace, longsuffering, and so forth (Galatians 5:22). We have a new freedom, a new fruitfulness, and:
III. We have a new Future (10-11)
10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead (the physical body) because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Here is another blessing to those who are justified by faith in Christ alone. Because we are justified, the Spirit dwells within us. And because the Spirit dwells within us, we have the promise that this physical body of ours, a body that is breaking down day-by-day, will one day be changed into a body that will never again break down.
Our justification leads to glorification. What a great truth! Be encouraged, this body will one day be changed into a glorified body like unto the body of the Lord Jesus Christ’s. We have a new freedom, a new fruitfulness, a new future. Fourthly, because we are justified,
IV. We have a new Fight (12-13)
That is, we are now equipped for victory over our struggle with sin. And what is the weapon we use to conquer sin? It is none other than the Holy Spirit within us.
12 Therefore, brethren, 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.
Paul teaches here that every Christian will seek to live by the Spirit. We do not wish to live according to the flesh. That’s how we used to live. We used to allow the old nature to have its way and we didn’t really think much about it. But now we are different. We have been delivered from that old realm of sin and death and we now walk in newness of life. Now, we really do not want to sin.
Oh, we still struggle with sin. As long as we live in this world we will battle sin in the body. As long as we await glorification, we will fight the sinful nature. See how the Christian battles in verse 13? “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” The old Puritans referred to this as “mortifying our sin.” We are born-again, but we still have sin that remains in our bodies. So we are to “kill” the sin that remains in our body until we receive our glorified bodies. This is a process that is never complete this side of heaven.
We are to, verse 13, “by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body.” How? Anytime we are tempted to sin, we—remember this from chapter 6?—we say, “I’m dead to that.” We reckon ourselves dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (6:11).” We do not let sin reign in our mortal bodies to obey its lusts (6:12).” We can be victorious because we are not dependent upon our own strength to do this, but the strength of the Holy Spirit within us. God is within us, fighting for us. But this doesn’t mean we shift into neutral gear. We must “put to death the deeds of the body.” Action is required on our part.
So when faced with temptation and sin, we consciously think this thing through. We ask, “What will happen if I give-in to this temptation? What will happen if I sin? How greatly will I grieve the Holy Spirit of God within me? I must not sin. I will not sin. Spirit of God, help me.” Do you know that you can’t think about sin and the Holy Spirit at the same time? You can’t glorify God and be bitter at the same time. You can’t glorify God and be unforgiving at the same time. You can’t glorify God and lust at the same time. Put to death the deeds of the body.
We have a new freedom, a new fruitfulness, a new future, a new fight, finally, because of the great teaching of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone:
V. We have a new Family (14-17)
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
How wonderful that we should be regarded as sons of God! What a great family we have. God is our Father, we are His children. We are brothers and sisters with the same Heavenly Father. Our father once was Adam, but now we are “in Christ.” God is our Father.
15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
We once were in bondage to sin. Sin dominated our lives. We were in bondage to sin and fearful of God. But now, we have received the Holy Spirit of God. We are adopted into the family of God. In Rome a man could adopt a son to perpetuate his family name and inherit his estate. Roman government regarded that son as a legal son in every sense, a son just as it had been born genetically of his father. So God regards us as His very own sons! What manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1)!” It is by the Spirit of God that we cry out, “Abba, Father!” This is an intimate way of referring to God. It’s something like, “Dear Father.”
16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
We know that we are His children because the Holy Spirit assures us of our relationship with Him. That is what this phrase means. The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit—our human spirit—that we are children of God. I know I am a child of God.
17 and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
Yes, we are joint heirs with Christ. We share in the glory that is Christ’s. But we cannot share in the glory without sharing in the suffering. Suffering here, glory hereafter. We must “bear the cross” in order to “wear the crown.”
Don’t let anything discourage you, Christian. You are a child of God! You may be struggling now in this world, but be encouraged: you are a child of the Heavenly Father, your dear, intimate, Father. Never forget this! This fallen world is not our final destination. You may now be bearing the cross, but you will one day wear the crown. You may be suffering here, but you’ll be in glory there!
- Stand for prayer.
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