A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF ROMANS Romans 8
Dr. Jerry A. Collins
The Basis of the Spiritual Life
Verse 1: Here is the core of the Christian victory. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The term "condemnation" in Paul means ultimate condemnation for sin, and not merely defeat in the spiritual life. God cannot condemn and will not condemn those who are "in Christ," because He condemned Christ on their behalf.
Verse 2: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. By coming to faith in Christ, we have received the Holy Spirit; and that Spirit produces life, whereas the Law produced death. So we have been set free—it has been accomplished—we do not have to strive to get freedom, but rather stand in the freedom that has been given to us. It is like getting on an elevator—you do not have to push your way upward.
Verse 3: For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh. It was weak because of that with which it had to deal—sinfulness and the punishment for sin. It exposed it but could not remedy it. God did: sending His Own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh. What did set us free was God's sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. Thus, He condemned sin in sinful man.
Verse 4: So that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, for what the Law revealed, "the righteousness of God," is the standard to be met. To say we are no longer under the Law is true, but that is not a license to avoid the righteousness that the Law revealed. Who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who are in Christ do not continue to live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit. They might try for a while, but the Spirit will begin to deal with them and convict them. Note also in the verse that the idea of might be fulfilled in us is passive—someone does it in us.
*The power for the Christian walk is the Holy Spirit—even though it is still our walk.
The Victory of the Spiritual Life
Verse 5: For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh. To walk “after” the flesh would mean to respond throughout life to those forces of human nature apart from God. Simply put, if one lives with a fleshly orientation—even if it is the result of a vigorous effort to keep the law—he is going to fail because he has the wrong mindset. But those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
*To walk “after” the Spirit means to live in accordance with the guidance, dictates and desires of the Spirit.
Verse 6: For the mind set on the flesh is death, those who live in the flesh, that is, sinful minds, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. By having the Spirit of God in our lives, we can see that life and peace result; Paul is simply showing the influence of the Holy Spirit on our minds—our choices and desires. Some folks do not even realize the Spirit is at work in their lives—they think they need some spectacular experience, but most of the Spirit’s work is not that way.
Verse 7: because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; death results because they are hostile to God's laws for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so. That being so, we should not attempt to impose biblical principles on unbelievers. So it would seem that trying to fix the world, make it Christian, or convert it into the kingdom of God through political, social, or cultural changes is a waste of time. For a believer to be trapped in the wrong mind-set is to be trapped in a life of continuous defeat—the experience of Romans 7.
Verses 8-9: and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Applying the mindset of this realm is to please the flesh meaning this mindset is entirely incapable of pleasing God—in addition to being openly hostility toward God—his ways and will. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Since we still have a sinful flesh and nature within which our new life resides, we have another option. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. The point being that an unbeliever is distinguished by an absence of the indwelling spirit of God. The implication being that unless one is born again he or she is not saved so there is no way to experience the spiritual life.
Verse 10: If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, On the one hand the physical bodies of believers and the old nature which animates them remain morally dead. yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. On the other hand, the inner presence of the HS gives them life within those very same dead bodies. A person cannot be related to Christ if Christ is in you apart from the Spirit yet the Spirit is alive. Here the Spirit is called the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ, showing he carries out the purpose of God by producing the fruit of Christ's redemptive work.
Verse 11: But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you. The presence of the Spirit is the evidence of justification, proof of the salvation that has come through Jesus Christ. He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. the presence of the Spirit is also the pledge of that final phase of salvation through resurrection to life.
*The indwelling Spirit can make our present mortal bodies into vehicles for expressing the divine life within us.
Verses 12-13: So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—No one can deal effectively with sinful nature by mere determination—the Holy Spirit is needed, and He is the Spirit of power. for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die. The verse shows that we still have this nature; it has not been eradicated. The solicitations of the flesh are constant; therefore, we have a duty not to live according to them, but to put them to death. But if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. If the believer is so preoccupied with putting on the Lord Jesus, doing His will, there will be no provision made for the flesh. We can now live the righteous life.
The Ramifications of the Spiritual Life
Verse 14: The life experienced in the Spirit’s pathway is appropriately described as being led by the Spirit of God. This is a life in conformity to the revealed will of God as found in His Word. Jesus said that when the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth (John 13:13). This is not circumstantial leading. It is these [who] are sons of God in such a way that they have transferred their spiritual growth from performing the Law to following the Spirit’s lead through the Word of God. They are growing up spiritually.
An Application—If you are being led by the Spirit of God you will not remain a spiritual baby. Acting like a baby is natural, normal, and cute—if you are a baby. But after a time, those same actions are not natural or normal. Carnal (fleshly) believers are those who continue to be spiritual babies by focusing on this world instead of the next. However, the HS is producing adult sons and daughters, not keeping you spiritual infants or even spiritual adults. As long as you do not grieve or quench the HS of God you will grow up spiritually. It is inevitable.
Verse 15: Here is the reason why—for you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again. The Spirit did not again place us under the law. But you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Union with Christ means newness of life in which we are welcomed home as a son or daughter and so moved to exclaim “Abba! Father!” not big man upstairs etc.
Verses 16-17: Thus, the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. The HS supports the testimony of our human spirit when we claim God as our heavenly Father. To begin with not only are we God’s children, we are heirs of God. The point is that we have an inheritance as part of this spiritual family. Additionally, we are fellow heirs with Christ on the condition that we suffer with Him. In OT inheritance law the firstborn in the family normally received twice as much as the other sons. To be co-heirs with Christ is to be co-heirs with the firstborn. It is after the suffering that we will then also be glorified with Him. So sharing life with Christ involves more than anticipating our eternal life with him. It requires we share in Christs’ sufferings as we live our our Christian life. And we will suffer as we put righteous living into play.
An Application—We must never avoid suffering for the sake of righteousness. Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). That cost may be at the expense of your career, a relationship or two, or the possibility of humiliation in some way. This suffering is required by God in order that we avoid shame in his presence at his coming, or loss at the judgment seat. This is the only pathway to sharing also in Christs’ glory to also be glorified with Him.
The Hope of the Spiritual Life
Verse 18: Compared to the glorious future that lies ahead for us who believe, the sufferings of this life are light indeed. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. There is a huge disparity between the present suffering and future glory. The point is that the glory of eternal living God has planned for us far exceeds in worth and value the temporary deprivations that our sufferings here entail.
Verse 19: Paul enlarged the discussion to the whole of creation, which he personified to be groaning for the great day of redemption for the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly. It’s because nothing has been able to fulfill its capabilities or achieve perfection under sin. So the creation waits for the revealing of the sons of God as it longs to share the glorious freedom of the children of God, a freedom that liberates them also from the bondage of decay for which creation waits eagerly.
Verses 20-21: God’s splendid creation, the one detailed in a six day 24 hr. sequence, was subjected to futility, not willingly, but as a result of Adam’s fall in Eden. This was because of Him who subjected it, did so in hope with special reference to man’s hope for the future. This is why creation waits for the revealing of the sons of God (v 19) so that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption. Corruption and death will be entirely eradicated from the natural world. Nature will no longer be in bondage to these things. This deliverance will allow creation to share in the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We, too, will be totally set free from all the effects of sin, corruption, and death when we are resurrected. Into that kind of liberty, the creation also will come.
An Application— These verses are quite contrary to “green peace” and similar movements. The point is that nature is suffering, and will do so until it is redeemed by God. It’s not going to be saved by man. Pantheism and the Native American idea of “Mother Earth” are also contrary to this passage. Nature is not a model of how things should be, but a perversion of the way things were created. So we see the creative work of God in nature, but only what’s left of it, after the creation was subjected to futility.
Verses 22-23: Paul paralleled the creation and the saints in two ways: they both groan and they both wait eagerly for the new era. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. The entire created natural order is racked with severe pain, undergoing agonies that as such motivate to look toward a new age for deliverance. But it is not only creation that groans but also we ourselves, the very ones who have the first fruits of the Spirit. Only the people of God have the seal or pledge or down payment toward that complete renewal by resurrection. In the meantime, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons. We already possess resurrection life which is never fully realized while living in our mortal bodies. That will come when we are resurrected/transformed into our future bodies the redemption of our body. At the rapture will be the full harvest. Our bodies will be something like that of the glorified Christ.
An Application— perhaps the best passage in the Bible for perspective about the natural world.
Nature is not evolving, it’s groaning.
Nature is not to be saved by human ecological efforts, it’s waiting to be redeemed by God.
The physical world is not some “mother nature” or “mother earth” to be honored, worshiped, adored, or learned from. It’s cursed by God in that it was subjected to futility.
What we see in the physical world is not advancement through natural selection, but slavery to corruption.
Verses 24-25: For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope. The point is that since an element of our redemption is held in reserve—the redemption of the body—we have a legitimate exercise of hope. Yes, we are still in our mortal bodies, but that only increases our anticipation of our eternal hope for who hopes for what he already sees? We want perfect deliverance not partial deliverance. This ‘deliverance’ we do not yet see but if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. This is how we manage suffering—by perseverance or endurance.
Verse 26: We urgently need divine help to bear up under suffering. So part of enduring is through the Spirit [who] also helps our weakness or infirmity which is especially manifest in our times of prayer. For we do not know how to pray as we should. Indeed, how true. The implication of the word helps is that we still will be doing our part—praying. But as we pray, in the background and often unknown to us, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. So, into this gap comes the intercessory work of the Spirit Himself [who] intercedes for us with groaning’s too deep for words. He prays the requests we ourselves do not know to pray. The groaning of the Spirit might seem to us to be unintelligible prayers, but God is no stranger to the intent of the Spirit, especially since the groaning’s are in complete harmony with the divine will. By this groaning the Lord hears what we ourselves could not have told Him, so that He will accept what He Himself has to offer.
Verse 27: What happens at such time is God who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is. God knows what His Spirit within us desires for us in the context of our need shared is prayer. This is so because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. It seems that the Spirit takes our (often foolish) prayers and offers them to God the Father in a manner consistent with God’s eternal plan. So all our prayers are precious to God because the Holy Spirit clears out all our foolishness before they get to the Father. It seems our true motives and intentions, not necessarily our words, are that which are brought to God. It would also seem there is a language of groaning’s too deep for words within the godhead which no one else knows. The Father and HS are united in their aspirations for us.
The Certainty of the Spiritual Life
Verse 28: In addition to praying for us is the reality that when suffering we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God. All things that happen to us are not good, but they work together for good. When we suffer we should not think merely of our personal troubles, but rather we now enter into a much larger reality as part of God’s greater goal of preparing for the day when God’s children are manifested. This promise is not for everyone, but only to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. It is those who love God that share deeply in his cosmic plan in harmony with His divine purpose for it all.
An Application— Often we are faced with an adverse isolated event, and we cannot see how it works for good. It has to be seen in relation to all that God is doing in our lives. In the final analysis, it will be good. When Joseph was in the pit crying out for help, it did not seem good. But later, when he was in power and could look back to see how God worked in his life, then he could say, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.
Verses 29-30: God contributed five elements to the spiritual life.
(1) He knew in advance of our salvation for those whom He foreknew. Individual believers in no way catch God by surprise when they become born again. God knew of such far in advance.
(2) He predetermined our sanctification. He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son. God determines that we share in the likeness of His Son. The reason is so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. The point of eternal living is to experience the resurrection life.
(3) He called us in harmony with His purpose for us and these whom He predestined, He also called. This call is consistent with all that God has given us including our personality, physical situation, talents, opportunities, spiritual gifts, life heritage and so on. We take these and move with them in a righteous direction—one that pleases God and prepares us for eternal living.
(4) He justified us and these whom He called, He also justified. We have been given an entire new state of being. A righteous on with a new nature and indwelling Spirit of God. We have new status.
(5) He glorified us and these whom He justified, He also glorified. All of this together leads to our ultimate sanctification.
They are all written in the past tense to stress the certainty of fulfillment, because He who has begun a good work will complete it. It is as good as done because in the mind of God it has been done. The verse reveals how glorious and majestic God is, and how our destiny is in His hands, from beginning to end. In Christ Jesus we stand; but we stand because God has a purpose for us, conformity to Jesus Christ, and that purpose will carry us through to glorification.
Verses 31-32: Paul's conclusion of this discussion is that if God is for us, who can be against us? God has not made empty promises. He has not started something He is unable to finish. He is fully aware of our sins and our failures. He has acted, and what He has done in Christ and through the Spirit constitutes all the proof we need that the glorification will be ours one day. It cost God dearly to act. He… did not spare His Own Son in the process. Christ died in place of us and for our eternal salvation but delivered Him over for us all. Now, if our eternal welfare required God to make so enormous a sacrifice how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? The greater benefit makes the lesser one reasonable enough, even though both benefits are staggering to our minds.
Verses 33-34: So who will bring a charge against God’s elect? Satan is very busy accusing the saints in heaven. But he gets nowhere in his self-righteous efforts. God is the one who justifies. Since all sin is against God, only God can bring charges. And God has already paid for those sins in Christ Jesus. So who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the only one who can condemn—but He died and secured the removal of sin and guilt, Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
Verse 35: Christ is more than just a disinterested defense attorney. Considering all He has done for us who will separate us from the love of Christ? Well, lets consider all eventualities and what we will learn is that ‘nothing whatever’ can do so. Will tribulation, or distress? These are synonymous. What about persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? These suggest various forms in which tribulation and distress often come. His point is that suffering cannot separate us from the love of God. Separation through suffering is no more thinkable than the idea that the Father ceased loving the Son through the agony on the cross. It all has a purpose; our suffering is a part of our ID with Christ.
Verse 36-37: Such troubles are attested to by saints throughout history such as in Psalm 44 when the nation cried out to God for deliverance. Just as it is written, “For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” This distressing trouble was not due to any sin. As tragic as the experience was in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. A suffering believer’s situation as difficult as it might be, moves irresistibly toward complete and unequivocal victory.
Verses 38-39: Paul affirms his complete conviction that none of the following entities can separate the suffering and persecuted believer from the ongoing reality of divine love. For I am convinced that (1) neither death, nor life. That is, nothing in our experience of living nor its cessation. (2) nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers. That is, no supernatural being whatever its exalted position. (3) nor things present, nor things to come. That is, no eventuality already present or in the future. (4) nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing. That is, nothing at the highest level of existence or lowest level or in between. None of these will be able to separate us from the love of God. It is that specific love in the risen and exalted One which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. He is the bulwark that shields us from any separation from God’s love.
• Be aware of the tendency of your fleshly sinful nature to be appealing to you.
• Acquiesce to the HS by yielding your will to what God’s Word teaches you.
• Sanctification happens not by trying to change and reform my human nature but by obeying the aspirations of the HS who empowers me to please God.
• The spiritual life is developed by cooperating with the HS not grieving Him or Quenching Him.
• Walking in the Spirit does not eliminate suffering and the groaning it produces. We still live in a fallen world and still have our sinful flesh. This will only be eliminated when Jesus comes again.
• Don’t be anxious about anything but with prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God.