Life in the Spirit Part 1 “Freedom from Sin and Death” – Romans 8:1-4
Pastor Mark Hardy November 11, 2012
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to traveling if I have a choice I’d rather fly. But I am amazed at how a huge plane that can sometimes carry hundreds of people can even get off the ground with the law of gravity always pulling to keep it on the ground. However, when another law is applied by the plane’s powerful engines and specially designed wings to give it sufficient thrust and lift it not only defies gravity in taking off, but can climb to 45,000 feet, and cruise along at 600 miles per hour. That law is called aerodynamics. It is the law of aerodynamics that when applied enables a heavy plane to rise above the constant downward pull of the law of gravity.
Now just as this is true in the physical realm, in the spiritual realm it is true that “the law of the Spirit” when appropriated in believers’ lives enables us to rise above the constant downward pull of “the law of sin and death” to live victorious Christian lives. This is one of the things we will be looking at this morning as we begin looking at Romans 8. Turn there with me in your Bible.
Romans 8 has been called, “The greatest chapter in the greatest book in Scripture,” “The brightest jewel in the setting of the Bible,” and “The Christian’s Declaration of Freedom.” Charles Erdman said, “If the Epistle to the Romans rightly has been called ‘the cathedral of Christian faith,’ then surely the eighth chapter may be regarded as its most sacred shrine, or its high altar of worship, of praise, and of prayer. . . . Here, we stand in the full liberty of the children of God, and enjoy a prospect of that glory of God which some day we are to share.” (Alan Johnson pg. 137)
Now the focus of this chapter is on the Holy Spirit and the blessings and privileges that He has given to all those who belong to Jesus Christ. And Douglas Moo said, “If we were to sum up these blessings in a single word, that word would be assurance. From ‘no condemnation’ at the beginning (v. 1) to ‘no separation’ at the end (v. 39) (Godet), Paul passes in review those gifts and graces that together assure the Christian that his relationship with God is secure and settled.” (pg. 468) Therefore, it is in this great chapter that we are going to learn how to experience victory over sin in our Christian lives and know that we are eternally secure in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
In Romans 8:1-4 we see five aspects of our freedom from condemnation as believers’ because of our union with Jesus Christ.
The first aspect is this:
I. The Declaration of our Freedom
A. Look at v. 1, which has been called the most hopeful verse in all of Scripture: Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
1. This verse ends here in the earliest Greek manuscripts, as most modern version show. In the KJV the words, “…who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” are believed to be inadvertently added by a copyist from v. 4, which says exactly the same thing.
2. Now the word “Therefore” indicates that Paul is drawing a conclusion from what he has established previously. But the question of debate is how far back does he go?
3. Some scholars believe Paul goes back to his argument about our salvation in 3:21-5:21 and 7:1-6, and refers to the believers’ justification from the penalty and guilt of sin when he states “…there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
4. Yet, other scholar believe Paul is concluding what he has just said in chapters 6:1-7:25, and refers to the believer not being condemned to a life of servitude to the power of the sinful old nature or disposition because of God’s provision of deliverance through Jesus Christ (vv. 24-25).
5. F.F. Bruce expresses this second view in saying, “If ‘condemnation’ were simply the converse (or opposite) of ‘justification,’ Paul would be saying that those who are in Christ Jesus are justified; but that stage in the argument was reached in 3:21-4:25. The word ‘condemnation’ (katakrima) here means ‘probably not condemnation,’ but the punishment following sentence’ (BAGD, p. 4:13)—in other words, penal servitude. There is no reason why those who are in Christ Jesus should go on doing penal servitude as though they had never been pardoned and never been liberated from the prison house of sin.” (pg. 159)
6. Since the context of 6:1-8:39 is dealing with sanctification not justification, I tend to side with those scholars who take this verse as referring to both the believer’s freedom from sin’s penalty and guilt of sin in justification and the believer’s freedom from the enslaving power of sin in sanctification. It’s not one or the other but both.
7. Bottom line, God’s salvation promise of “no condemnation” to us as believers is already ours! This is why Paul says that “…there is now no condemnation,” whether referring to the sins of our past or “the sin which so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:1) in the present.
8. We do not have to wait until death or future glorification to enjoy freedom from guilt and from servitude to the sin nature. We can experience it right now because we as true believers are “…those who are in Christ Jesus.”
9. The phrase “in Christ Jesus” means to be united with or in solidarity with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection, which we saw in 6:3-5. On the cross, Jesus completely and permanently paid in full the penalty of our sin and He broke its power rendering it inoperative for all of us who receive Him as our personal Savior and Lord.
10. This morning you are either “in Christ” or you’re not!
11. Now this doesn’t mean that we don’t still struggle with indwelling sin this side of heaven, which theologians call the “old nature” or “sinful disposition” (Rom. 7:14-25; 1 Jn. 1:8, 10), or that God doesn’t lovingly discipline us when we sin (Heb. 12:5-11; Gal. 6:7).
12. But since Jesus has already paid the price for all of our sin—past, present, and future, we can claim this declared fact of freedom as our own “…there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” This is truly the most hopeful verse in Scripture.
13. The second aspect of our freedom is this:
II. The Reason for our Freedom
A. Look at v. 2: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
1. The word “For” (gar) indicates that Paul is giving the reason that believers are not condemned either to the guilt of past sins or to a life of servitude to the sin nature. It is because “…the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
2. The word “law” (nomos/nomou) used twice in this verse does not refer here to the Mosaic Law but to a rule or principle of operation that governs or controls. Therefore, the “law of the Spirit of life” refers to the controlling power of the Holy Spirit.
3. The Holy Spirit is the reason for our freedom from sin. He is the key to living a victorious Christian life.
4. Of the 21 times in 8:1-27 that the word “spirit” is used, the majority refer to the Holy Spirit. This is the most times that He is referred to in any one chapter of the New Testament.
5. Notice that He is called “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” This is because as the “Spirit of Christ” (v. 9) He is the author, source, and origin of life.
6. Paul says that it is the controlling power of the Holy Spirit that “…has set you free from “the law (or controlling power) of sin and of death.” Some manuscripts say “set me free” as in the KJV, but it makes no difference since this refers to all believers.
7. Since we saw back in 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death,” the “law of sin” is also the “law of death.” Sin always results in death of some kind; the two are inseparably connected.
8. But it is the Holy Spirit who has already freed us from the controlling power and domination of sin and death at the moment of our salvation (aorist active indicative). And He alone can continue to free us from sin’s controlling power in our daily Christian lives, for trying to keep the Law by our own self-effort as the means of sanctification will always end in frustration and defeat.
9. The third aspect of our freedom is this:
III. The Route to our Freedom
A. Look at v. 3: 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.
1. Again the word “For” (gar) indicates that Paul is giving the reason why we as believers are set free by the Holy Spirit from the law of sin and death. It is because of what God in Christ, not the Law, has done for us.
2. The word “Law” (nomou) in this verse does refer to the Mosaic Law. Whereas the Mosaic Law does prescribe a life of holiness and pronounces a sentence of judgment upon sin, it cannot execute judgment upon sin so as to destroy its power within us.
3. In other words, the Law cannot save us or sanctify us. As we have already seen in chapter 7, rather than depriving sin of its power, since sin high jacks the Law for its own evil purposes, the Law only arouses and intensifies sin.
4. The problem is not with the Law, for Paul made it very clear that the Law is holy, good, righteous (7:12) and spiritual
(v. 14). The problem is with us as sinful people.
5. Notice that Paul says God’s Law is “weak…through the flesh.” Again the word “flesh” (sarxos) here refers to our sinful human nature or disposition that is rebelliously self-reliant and wants to live independent from God.
6. But what was impossible for the Mosaic Law to do, since it was impotent and powerless due to our sinfulness, “God did” for us. Through the incarnation what God the Father did was in: “…sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.”
7. Now Paul was very careful about his words here. Notice that he did not say Christ came “in sinful flesh” because that would imply He was sinful and in need of a Savior Himself.
8. Nor did he say Christ came, “in the likeness of flesh” because that might imply Christ only seemed to be human flesh but that He really wasn’t (i.e. Docetic heresy). Paul says that Christ came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” because He took on genuine humanity but without our sinfulness.
9. Hebrews 4:15 states that Jesus was “…tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
10. As the God-man, Jesus Christ is 100% God and 100% man. His divine nature and human nature were perfectly joined together, without a diminishing or a mixture of the two.
11. Although Jesus’ sinless life was of great importance in His earthly ministry, the supreme purpose or mission for which He came to earth was as Paul says, “…as an offering for sin.” Here we see the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross on our behalf.
12. On the cross Jesus took upon Himself the holy wrath of God against sin that we deserved, paid in full sin’s penalty and broke its power for all those who belong to Him. He took our hell that we might have His heaven.
13. We see this repeatedly in the Scriptures. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we read, “He (God the Father) made Him (God the Son) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” What a deal!
14. First Peter 2:24 states, “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness…”
15. The prophet Isaiah eloquently predicted the incarnate Christ’s death in Isaiah 53:4-8: Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
16. It was in Jesus Christ, our sin offering on the cross, that “…He condemned sin in the flesh.” At that time God in Christ “condemned” (katekrinen) or executed judgment upon sin as an accomplished fact (aorist active indicative) in His flesh or human nature, which He had assumed.
17. John Murray said it like this, “In that same nature which in all others was sinful, in that very nature which in all others was dominated and directed by sin, in that nature assumed by the Son of God but free from sin, God condemned sin and overthrew its power. Jesus not only blotted out sin’s guilt and brought us nigh to God. He also vanquished sin as power and set us free from its enslaving dominion. And this could not have been done except in the ‘flesh.’ The battle was joined and the triumph secured in that same flesh which in us is the seat and agent of sin.” (pg. 282)
18. Beloved, praise God for what Jesus has done for you! He came in flesh, for the sole purpose of being sacrificed in flesh, in order to take care of our sinful flesh.
19. The fourth aspect of our freedom is this:
IV. The Purpose of our Freedom
A. Look at v. 4: so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us… (Stop there)
1. The words “so that” (ina) here indicate the purpose for which God in Christ condemned sin in the flesh. And that purpose is that “…the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us.”
2. The word “requirement” (dikaioma) here means “righteous requirement” and the use of the singular is significant. This means that all the commandments of the moral law are viewed as a whole, one harmonious divine will.
3. We actually see this in Luke 10:27 where Jesus says that the whole Law is fulfilled when you as a believer, “Love the Lord your God. . . and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-40; Rom. 13:9). This is why we have as the slogan of our church: Loving God supremely. Loving others sacrificially.
4. What Paul is saying is that the purpose of our freedom from sin as believers is not to live as we please, but to live as God pleases. To actually live out God’s Law in our daily lives.
5. Although justification and sanctification are distinct, they are not to be separated. Those who are truly justified will be sanctified.
6. This is exactly what the New Covenant promise was all about. For God says in Ezekiel 36:26-27, “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 statues, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
7. The Spirit of God has given us all we need to right now live holy, Christlike lives in accordance with the Law of God. F.F. Bruce said it like this, “God’s commands have now become God’s enablings.” (pg. 164)
8. Many centuries ago Augustine correctly observed, “Law was given that grace might be sought; grace was given that the Law might be fulfilled.”
9. Notice that Paul doesn’t say that “we might fulfill the law,” but that “the Law might be fulfilled in us.” The word “fulfilled” (plerothe) here is passive in the Greek, meaning that it is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live out God’s will; it is not ourselves trying to live the Christian life in our own strength.
10. But Thomas Schreiner is correct in saying, “The keeping of the law is God’s work, yet this does not exclude human activity and obedience. The two are not mutually exclusive. The word “to fulfill” (pleroun) in the passive does not rule out human activity, even when God’s work is envisioned.” (pg. 405)
11. This is the biblical balance of what I like to call “Responsible Dependence” that we see in Philippians 2:12-13, “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (showing our responsibility not independent self-effort). “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (showing God’s sovereignty that we are to depend on).
12. The purpose of our freedom from sin is to responsibly live out the holy life that God’s Law calls us to, but we can only do so as we depend on God’s Spirit to empower us to do so.
13. The fifth aspect of our freedom is this:
V. The Appropriation of our Freedom
A. Look again at v. 4: who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
1. This is not an admonition but a description of every true Christian, without exception, because we are the partakers of God’s grace. The word “walk” (peripatousin) here means to habitually conduct one’s life or lifestyle.
2. Here we see that we as believers are to be characterized by a lifestyle that is governed or patterned not after the flesh but after the Spirit. We are not to “…walk (or live our lives) according to the flesh.”
3. Again the word “flesh” (sarxa) here refers to the whole man in his fallenness against God. It speaks of everything that is about self and rebelliously living our lives independent from God.
4. A representative list of the “deeds of the flesh” are seen in Galatians 5:19-21, “…which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things (i.e. as an habitual unbroken pattern of life) will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
5. But in stark contrast to the flesh, believers walk “…according to the Spirit.” Since the Spirit of God indwells every believer He is the One who produces His fruit in our lives.
6. We see some of this fruit in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
7. Now although we as believer already possess the indwelling Holy Spirit who has set us free from the controlling power of the old sinful nature or disposition at the moment of our salvation, this doesn’t mean that we always experience this victory over sin in our daily lives. This is because we don’t appropriate the Spirit’s power.
8. This is why we are commanded in Galatians 5:16 to, “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
9. Power over sin resides in the Spirit not in the one He indwells. Therefore, it is only as we depend on Him and allow Him to control our lives that we will experience this victory.
10. Just as walking is a step-by-step procedure, in the same way the appropriation of Spirit’s power in our lives is a moment-by-moment experience. He does this to keep us dependent on Him in faith every moment of every day.
11. During those moments when we are depending on our own strength and resources instead of Him we will fail. But during those moments when we are depending on Him, we will experience His power over sin’s control, and our lives will be characterized by the fulfillment of His Law—Christlike holiness and the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
In closing, as believers the Holy Spirit has set us free from sin’s condemnation—its penalty and its power—because of our union with Jesus Christ. Just as the law of aerodynamics when applied enables a heavy plane to rise above the constant downward pull of the law of gravity, so the power of the Holy Spirit, when appropriated in our lives as we depend on Him, enables us to rise above the constant downward pull of sin.
But this doesn’t happen automatically! We must continually, moment by moment, “walk by the Spirit” and allow Him to control our daily lives. Only then will we experience the freedom and victory over sin that is promised in this chapter.