Romans 8:1-17

Thoughts from Passage

Life is full of pivotal moments, moments that shape the trajectory of our lives. I think this truth is applicable in all aspects of life. There are moments that shape us in terms of relationships, like the first time someone meets their spouse. If they never met that person then it is likely they would have never married them. Our spiritual lives are no different. They contain pivotal moments.

For many they can trace their spiritual journey to a person. Whether it is a parent, grandparent, friend, co-worker, or spouse there is a person that has influenced their spiritual journey. There was a pivotal moment in that relationship that brought them to a place they had never been before.

I believe that this text that Paul writes should in some way, shape or form, bring us to a pivotal moment of sorts. Paul is reminding his reader that if they are in a relationship with Christ then they are no longer in a relationship with sin.

A helpful illustration may be this, when someone gets married they are no more married 25 or even 50 years later. They are just as married after all those years. However, over that period of time there is a growth in knowledge of the other person and there is an awareness of things that were unknown at the wedding ceremony. So in another sense the couple is “more” married years later.

This is in part the point Paul is making, that in relationship with Christ we become more aware of sin in our life and we recognize we have to move toward Christ and not sin. Sin and Christ do not dwell in the same place. The good news in this is that we are not solely responsible for making the move from sin (death) to Christ (life) because the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is the same Spirit that dwells in those who follow Christ. Over time, we are “more” holy and yet we are no different than the moment we first believed. God wants us to be a holy people and he will do the work!

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a]free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c] And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Verse 1 gives the main point to that Paul is unpacking throughout this entire chapter, it will be seen even more clearly in verses 9-11. Paul also begins this text with the word ‘therefore’ as a way to make sure the reader knows that this is the continuation of the conversation from what we know as chapter 7. What he is saying is that sin may seem to have won, it and all its deceptive nature may seem to rule our lives, but it cannot overcome the resurrected Lord!

Paul talks about living not in the sinful nature and the “flesh”, but of living in the spirit and William Barclay has some great words in that regard, “To live according to the flesh is to live a worldly life, to live  life dominated by the dictates and desires of sinful human nature.”[1] Paul is clear, live for Christ because those who call themselves His followers are bought with a price and we are to move from a life of sin to a life of love and holiness. When we live into the life that can only be found in Christ we find, “The penalty of the past is removed, strength for the future is assured.”[2]

The answer is not far away, in the string of ‘because’ sentences that follow in the next verses. Indeed, in the Greek, verses 2,3,5, and 6 all contain the little word that means ‘because’ or ‘for’ indicating that each step in the argument is explaining what has gone before. There is no condemnation, because the spirit-law has set you free from the sin-law, because God has acted in his son and his spirit to condemn sin and provide life, because there are two types of human beings and you are the spirit-type, because these two types are heading, respectively, for death and life. There is no condemnation, because of all this.”[3]

It is important to not miss the implications of the word “those” in verse 1 and the word “us” in verse 4. God always works through a people. Though he does transform us individually our continual transformation happens together and through the people, we call the church, He is transforming the world.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life[d]because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[e] his Spirit who lives in you.

What cannot be missed is that Paul, in using the words “flesh” and “spirit” is not saying that the spirit exists separate from the body. The opposite is in fact what he is saying. Greek’s attempted to say the body and soul were separate, but a Jewish understanding of a person (which Paul definitely had) says that the body and soul are integrated together. What we can say with certainty is that Paul is trying to point out that if someone knows Jesus they are fully, both body and soul, in Christ, and if they do not know Christ then they are fully, both body and soul, in the “flesh” or sin.

If I was attempting to summarize this section it would be this, “If we choose to be a disciple of Jesus, and to be in right relationship with God through the resurrection of Jesus, then we will find the life God intends for us. A life that is not built upon sin, but upon radical love. God wants the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead to raise us to the life he wants us to have. A life of peace, and a life that is without end. Our choice is then this do we live as God’s people and allow His spirit to shape us, or do we choose ourselves and the sinful life that leads to death!?”

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Paul speaks of an obligation or we could talk about it as a ‘debt’ as NT Wright does. This obligation or debt is a call for us to live as a people who through the way we live we embody the resurrected life. We embody a holy life that is God’s call on our life and that is the way in which we are not only His agents of change in the world it is also the way in which we “pay” our debt.

Adoption in the Roman world contained some significant acts. There was the symbolic buying of the individual by the new family. In this process a set of scales would be used and the “old” family would “buy” back the individual twice and on the third time they would walk away and the “new” family would place the proper amount of money on the scale. In fact, this adoption was so complete that if the adopting person was in debt to someone that when they were adopted they did not have to pay that previous debt because that person did not exist anymore. The adopted person would go from having no rights in the new family to once being adopted they would inherit all rights granted a birth-child. In fact, this was such a significant shift that the old family had no more rights at all to the individual once they were adopted. All old rights were gone and only the new rights were granted to the new family. This is the way with God.

Jesus completely and totally paid the debt for all people. Sin and death have no more “rights” to the new believer, they have been “bought” with a price and the old life has no rights to the new! This is such a significant passage as Paul is laying down the reality that in Christ the life that leads to sin and death is no more and the new life leads only to Christ. Paul is begging for the believers in Rome to understand this and not try and go back to the old life!

Whose family have we joined? All are welcome, but not all choose to join God’s family, but He has paid the price and the scales have been measured, but it is the believer’s job to turn their back on the old life and walk toward Christ in the new life. The Holy Spirit is what gives guidance and direction in this journey towards Christlikeness and holiness.

What cannot be missed throughout this whole passage is the way Paul writes of the work of the Spirit. It is the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead that empowers believers to live as God calls. To be co-heirs with Christ is to allow the Spirit of God to guide in all aspects of life.

[1] Barclay, 105.

[2] Barclay, 107

[3] Wright, 137

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