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Romans 8: Introduction, Justification and the Law of the Spirit
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Romans 8:1-4 NASB1995
This next devotional series examines what most Biblical scholars call the most consequential chapter in the New Testament (and probably the Bible) that addresses our salvation through Christ: Romans 8.
First, a little bit about the book of Romans and Romans 8 before examining the first four verses of Romans 8. This epistle was written by Paul to the church in Rome, most likely while he was in Corinth, Greece staying at the house of Gaius around AD 55-57. It is the longest epistle written by Paul and it lays out the requirement for salvation through belief in the gospel, death and resurrection of Jesus as our substitution for our sins. The first three chapters of Romans describe the sinful nature of humans and their condemnation under the wrath of God. Paul then introduces the Gospel message of Jesus in chapters 4-7 and talks about his own struggles in the flesh in Romans 7.
This message reaches an apex in one of the most breathtaking statements in the Bible in Romans 8:1: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Peeking ahead to the end of Romans 8, Paul tells us that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus. Romans 8 is a balm to the soul. It was a breakthrough passage for Martin Luther and other Protestant leaders. The remaining chapters of Romans reiterate this promise, address the Israelites, talk about how justification is transforming, and advise believers on how to live in this world.
After cringing at hearing all of the sins we are guilty of (and sadly, that some people in this world take pride in) and how we deserve the full wrath of God, Paul now provides calm and relief to those who have been saved and set free by the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. If we are in Christ Jesus, there is no more condemnation! That doesn‘t mean we are free to resume lives of sin; when we do succumb to the flesh, we should feel guilty and ask for forgiveness and not just shrug it off by claiming grace. Being in Christ means that we are in a relationship with Him, have recognized Him as our Savior, and have the Holy Spirit in us to move us forward from justification to sanctification. Romans 8 is dedicated to the Holy Spirit, the third and distinct Being in the Triune God. The Holy Spirit is mentioned many times in this chapter and we, as believers, must walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.
Here is what David Guzik from Enduring Word commentary has to say about walking in the Spirit:
i. God wants the Spirit to rule over our flesh. When we allow the flesh to reign over the Spirit, we find ourselves bound by the sinful patterns and desperation that marked Paul’s life in his “Romans 7” struggle. Our walk – the pattern of our life – must be according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh.
ii. Walking in the Spirit means that the course, the direction, the progress of one’s life is directed by the Holy Spirit. It is continued and progressive motion.
iii. “Observe carefully that the flesh is there: he does not walk after it, but it is there. It is there, striving and warring, vexing and grieving, and it will be there till he is taken up into heaven. It is there as an alien and detested force, and not there so as to have dominion over him. He does not walk after it, nor practically obey it. He does not accept it as his guide, nor allow it to drive him into rebellion.” (Charles Spurgeon)
It is definitely going to be challenging to fully understand what God is saying through Paul. I read several sermons and commentaries on these first four verses and I barely scratched the surface. My next devotional examines Romans 8:5-8: The Two Minds.