Romans 8:1-8

Thursday Evening Bible Study

September 11, 2008


Last week we saw Paul talking about the frustrations he has had with his own sin nature.  These are some amazing things for an apostle to be saying.  In fact, some people can’t believe that Paul is talking about himself as an apostle.  Some folks feel better by saying that Paul was talking about his life before becoming a Christian.  But pay attention to the language friends – Paul isn’t talking about the past, he’s talking about the present.

(Rom 7:18-19 NLT)  I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right. I want to, but I can't. {19} When I want to do good, I don't. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway.

The truth is, when I became a Christian, I gained a new nature, a living spiritual nature.  And now there is a conflict inside of me – my new nature and my old sinful nature.
If I ignore this truth, I am going to get discouraged and disillusioned.  I’m going to wonder what’s wrong with me when everyone else must be doing just fine.
It seems to me that the sooner I recognize the truth about myself, the sooner I find the path to victory.

:1  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,

condemnationkatakrima (“against” + “judge”) – damnatory sentence, condemnation

“No condemnation” is what we call “forgiveness”.

There is a qualification of who has forgiveness…

those who are in Christ Jesus

This is what happened when we put our trust in Jesus, we were “immersed” in Him, we are now “in Him”.

This is part of the imagery of baptism.  The word “baptism” means “immersion”, being soaked, being covered.  Baptism is all about identifying with Jesus, being “immersed” in Him.  This is what Paul was talking about back in Romans 6:

(Rom 6:3 NKJV)  Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

When I’m “in Jesus”, I in effect go everywhere and do everything that Jesus does, or has done.

When I’m “in my car”, I go everywhere my car goes.  If my car goes to McDonald’s, so do I, if I’m in it.  If my car goes through the car wash, and I stay in my car, then I go through the car wash.  If I’m “in Christ”, then I participate in the benefits of who Jesus is and what He offers me.
When Jesus died and paid the price for sins, my sins were paid.  When Jesus rose from the dead and conquered death, I conquered death.
Abraham Lincoln was walking into town one day when he was overtaken by a man in a wagon going in the same direction.  Lincoln hailed him and asked, “Will you have the goodness to take my overcoat to town for me?”
“With pleasure,” responded the stranger, “but how will you get it again?” “Oh, very easily; I intend to remain in it!”

If you have trusted in Jesus, then what Jesus did on the cross He did for you.

(2 Cor 5:21 NKJV)  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
God performed a “great exchange” on the cross.  He took my sins and put them on Jesus.  He took Jesus’ good deeds and put them on me.


Freedom from Condemnation

Jesus has come to free us from condemnation.  He has come to bring God’s forgiveness.
(John 8:1-11 NKJV)  But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. {2} Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. {3} Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, {4} they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. {5} "Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" {6} This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. {7} So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." {8} And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. {9} Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. {10} When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" {11} She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
Pastor Lee Strobel shares this account:
We were doing a baptism service. We told people before they came up to the platform to be baptized to take a piece of paper, write down a few of the sins they’ve committed, and fold the paper. When they come up to the platform, there was a large wooden cross on the stage. Take that piece of paper, take a pin, and pin it to the cross, because the Bible says our sins are nailed to the cross with Jesus Christ, and fully paid for by his death. Then turn and come to the pastor to be baptized.
I want to read you a letter a woman wrote who was baptized in one of those services. She said:
I remember my fear. In fact, it was the most fear I remember in my life. I wrote as tiny as I could on that piece of paper the word abortion. I was so scared someone would open the paper and read it and find out it was me. I wanted to get up and walk out of the auditorium during the service, the guilt and fear were that strong.
When my turn came, I walked toward the cross, and I pinned the paper there. I was directed to a pastor to be baptized. He looked me straight in the eyes, and I thought for sure that he was going to read this terrible secret I kept from everybody for so long. But instead, I felt like God was telling me, I love you. It’s okay. You’ve been forgiven. I felt so much love for me, a terrible sinner. It’s the first time I ever really felt forgiveness and unconditional love. It was unbelievable, indescribable.
Do you have inside of you a secret sin that you wouldn’t even want to write down on a piece of paper out of fear somebody might open it up and find out? Let me tell you something about the Jesus I know. Not only does he want to adopt you as his child, he wants to lift the weight of guilt off your shoulders.

Lee Strobel, "Meet the Jesus I Know," Preaching Today tape no. 211

:1  who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

This part of the verse isn’t in all the ancient Greek manuscripts, so some of your translations leave it out – which is a shame.

The same phrase is found in verse 4 though, so in all practicality, it could just as easily be here as well.

walkperipateo (“around” + “to tread”) – to walk; to make one’s way, progress; Hebrew for “to live”; to conduct one’s self

according to … – How do you live your life?  What is your life aimed at right now?

the Spiritpneuma – Spirit, soul, human spirit or the Holy Spirit

In Romans 7, the focus was on “me”.  Paul used the word “I” 32 times.  Remember all those “me” verses? Like…

(Rom 7:15 NKJV)  For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.
(Rom 7:24 NKJV)  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

In Romans 8, the focus changes.

The word pneuma appears 21 times in Romans 8, all but one of them referring to the Holy Spirit.  The word “I” only appears twice.
We’re going to see Paul’s frustration change.


Spirit living removes condemnation

Here, I think the idea is that if you are currently walking according to the Spirit, you are learning to experience a freedom from condemnation.
I don’t mean being a “perfect” Christian, but one who is learning to live close to the Lord.
You will still sin, but when you do, you will bring it to the Lord and be cleansed.
Even as a Christian, when you are living your life aimed at the flesh, the sin nature, then you are probably experiencing condemnation, not forgiveness.
It’s not that you don’t have God’s forgiveness, but that you aren’t experiencing it.

You may be experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit, reminding you that you are not right with the Lord.

We don’t “earn” forgiveness by cleaning up our life.
We find forgiveness simply by jumping into the river of cleansing that God has for us through Jesus.

When I learn to yield my life to the Holy Spirit, I find that river.

:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

law … law

Paul has been contrasting different kinds of “laws”.

Through the first 6 chapters of Romans, Paul has used the word “law” to mostly talk about the “Law of Moses”.
(Rom 3:20 NKJV)  Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
But through the last part of Romans 7, Paul has used the word “law” to contrast a “law of God” at work in his mind versus a “law of sin” that is at work in his body:
(Rom 7:22-23 NKJV)  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. {23} But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

has made me freeeleutheroo – to make free; set at liberty; aorist tense

One law sets you free from the other law.


The law of “sin and death” is kind of like the law of gravity.  There’s not much you can do about it.  What goes up must come down.
Except there is another law.  The law of aerodynamics is used by an airplane to overcome the force of the law of gravity.

When I “walk” according to the “Spirit”, I find forgiveness (freedom from condemnation) and I find victory over my flesh (freedom from sin and death).

It’s all about making choices.

Which way do I choose to go?  Where do I walk?

:3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh,

the law – Paul now goes back to the original idea of “the law”, the Law of Moses.

could not doadunatos – without strength, powerless, weakly, disabled; unable to be done, impossible

This is the opposite of dunamai, or dunamis, the word used to describe the “power” of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8)

weakastheneo – to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless

The Law is spiritual (Rom. 7:14), and when we are trying to obey it in the power of our own flesh, we can never accomplish God’s standards.

:3 God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,

in the likenesshomoioma – a figure, image, likeness, representation. 

Like the difference between a real person and a cardboard cutout.  Who really got their picture taken with the President?

Paul is saying that Jesus was a man, a human, with real flesh, but it wasn’t complete in that He had no sin.  Just a likeness.

condemnedkatakrino – to give judgment against, to judge worthy of punishment; The verb form of “condemnation” in verse 1.

Robertson:  “He condemned the sin of men and the condemnation took place in the flesh of Jesus.”

God sent Jesus to take on human flesh.  While He was a human, He went to a cross to die, where God heaped the sins of the world upon Him.  Jesus died, paying the price for our sins.

(Isa 53:5 NKJV)  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

: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.

righteous requirementdikaioma – that which has been declared to be right; what has been ordained by law

might be fulfilledpleroo – to make full, to fulfill, to cause God’s will to be obeyed as it should be

Two ways this applies to us:


Jesus did it all for me

The law requires us to be perfect.
When a person is not perfect, they must pay the price.
If you don’t want to pay the price yourself, you present a “sacrifice”, someone else pays for you.
Jesus meets all the requirements of being a perfect sacrifice for us.
When we are “in” Him, His blood is applied to our sins, and the requirement of the Law is met.


Spirit filling looks a lot like the Law

When we’re walking in the Spirit, we will find the Holy Spirit shaping our lives to look more and more like the things described in the Law.
A legalistic person is one who looks at the Law and tries to make their life match the Law.
A Spirit-filled person is one who looks at Jesus, allows the Holy Spirit to work, and ends up doing things in the real spirit of the Law.

Both people might look the same on the outside – both might not smoke, both might not drink, but how you get there makes all the difference.

One is trying to clean up their life from the outside.  The other is allowing God to work in the inside.

For example:
The law says,

(Exo 20:13 NKJV)  "You shall not murder.

The legalist looks at that and keeps his gun in his holster.  He might get angry with people.  He might curse and yell at people.  He might hate and carry grudges against people, but he does his best not to kill them.

The Spirit-filled person might be aware of what the Law says, but his focus is on something else:

(Rom 13:8 NKJV)  Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.

The Spirit filled person isn’t going to allow the hatred and bitterness in their heart.  They are going to learn to love others.

Both persons are not going to kill.  But they get there by different routes.

The outside looks the same, but the inside is very different.

: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.

those who liveeimi – to be, to exist, to happen, to be present

It’s not the usual word for “to live”.  We could say it’s talking about people who “exist” according to the principles of the flesh or the Spirit.

set their mindsphroneo – to feel, to think; to direct one’s mind to a thing; to be of one's party, side with him (in public affairs)

The verb is present tense – continually setting their minds on…

The word can almost give you the impressions of political parties. Here we are in a presidential election year – both sides are claiming that they want to do away with “politics as usual”.  I think the implication is that they want to do with government leaders doing what is right rather than what their party says.  Yet that’s what I still see happening – you see most politicians sticking to what is “politically correct” for their party.

The idea here isn’t about Democrats and Republicans, it’s about the Spirit and the flesh.  Which “party” are you voting with?  When the Holy Spirit votes a certain way on an issue of your life, if you are “minded” or of the same party as He is, then you’ll vote the same way to.

The non-Christian doesn’t even have a choice – they have a mind that only knows the “flesh”.

(1 Cor 2:14 NLT)  But people who aren't Christians can't understand these truths from God's Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them because only those who have the Spirit can understand what the Spirit means.

The Christian has a choice, they can “vote” for the Spirit or they can vote for the flesh.

The sad thing is when the believer continually votes for the “flesh” in their life.

:6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

mindedphronema – what one has in the mind, the thoughts and purposes; based on phroneo in verse 5.

carnally … spiritually – the words for “flesh” and “spirit”, same as in verse 5.

deaththanatos – the death of the body; separation (like the soul from the body); hell; all the miseries arising from sin

lifezoe – life; of the absolute fullness of life; life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous

peaceeirene – not being at war; peace between individuals; security, the state of a person who is sure of their salvation and doesn’t fear anything from God.


My head affects my heart

Though words like “death” and “life” make us think of heaven and hell, they also make me think of the kind of emotions I experience in my heart.
Where my head is at has something to do with what kind of emotions I experience, whether I’m living under “death” or “life”.
You have a say as to what kind of state your heart and mind are in.
You can choose the misery of death or the blessing of life and peace.
The choice is based on whether you are choosing to have your mind camped out in the flesh or in the Spirit.
(Isa 26:3 NKJV)  You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
John Ortberg writes, “FTT—my wife first introduced me to those initials. Nancy was a nurse when I first met her. There were many parts of nursing for which she did not care. But she loved diagnosis. To this day there cannot be too many episodes of Grey's Anatomy or ER for her. (Oprah either, but that's another story.) She is constantly telling me her private diagnoses of people—even total strangers—based on their skin color. She can tell you how long you have to live if she gets a long look at your face and the light is good.
But of all the diagnoses I ever heard her discuss, FTT is the one that sticks in my mind. Those initials would go on the chart of an infant who, often for unknown reasons, was unable to gain weight or grow.
Failure to thrive.
Sometimes, they guess, it happens when a parent or care-giver is depressed, and the depression seems to get passed down. Sometimes something seems to be off in an infant's metabolism for reasons no one can understand, so FTT is one of those mysterious phrases that sounds like an explanation but explains nothing.
Failure to thrive.
I didn't know why it struck me as so unspeakably sad until I read Dallas Willard's The Spirit of the Disciplines, a book that has affected me more than any book other than the Bible, from which Dallas actually gets his best ideas.
Dallas writes that although we have tended to think of the word salvation as the forgiveness of sins or the escape from punishment, it actually has a much more robust meaning for the writers of Scripture: "the simple and wholly adequate word for salvation in the New Testament is 'life.' 'I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.' 'He that hath the Son hath life.' 'Even when we were dead through our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ.' "
This is the human condition. FTT.
Thrive is a life word; a word full of shalom. Thriving is what life was intended to do, like a flower stubbornly pushing through a crack in the sidewalk. It is why we pause in wonder at a human being's first step, or first word; and why we ought to wonder at every step, and every word. Thriving is what God saw when he made life and saw that it was good. "Thrive" was the first command: be fruitful, and multiply.
John Ortberg, "Ministry and FTT," (June 2008)
There is a sense in which part of our “thriving” comes from where we’re sticking our head.

:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

carnal mind – literally, “the mind of the flesh”

enmityechthra – enmity; from echthros – hated, odious, hateful; hostile

There is a state of war between God and the flesh:

(Gal 5:17 NLT)  The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict.
(James 4:4 NLT)  You adulterers! Don't you realize that friendship with this world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can't be a friend of God.

not subjecthupotasso – to arrange under, to subordinate; obey; to submit to one’s control

This is that “awful” word “submit” used in:

Eph 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Also in:

Eph 5:21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

can bedunamai – to be able to do something; to be capable, strong and powerful

The mind that continually setting itself on the things of the flesh will not be yielding to the things of God.  It is not even capable of doing so.

It sounds to me that one of the keys to learning to do the right thing, learning to “submit” to God, is learning to put your mind on the right things.


Follow through depends on diet

One of the things that can happen at church is “inspiration”.  We get “inspired” by a message – we come away from church thinking that we’re going to change.
The problem is that we can set ourselves up for complete failure if our head is in the wrong place.
If I have the kinds of lifestyle habits that are constantly feeding my old sin nature, I’m going to have a hard time keeping those commitments I make at church.
Could my TV viewing habits affect my ability to obey God?  Absolutely.

:8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

in the flesh – the chapter started with talking about being “in Christ”.

cannotdunamai – to be able to do something; to be capable, strong and powerful

pleasearesko – to please; to strive to please; to accommodate one’s self to the opinions desires and interests of others

This is because in my flesh alone, there is “no good thing”.

(Rom 7:18 NKJV)  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells…

If I am living my life as “in the flesh” rather than “in Christ”, I don’t have a lot to work with when it comes to doing the right thing.

You are not ever going to be able to please God by yourself.  This is why it’s totally futile for a person to think they can clean up their life and make God happy.  Impossible.


Pleasing God

It starts with living after the Spirit
(John 7:37-38 NKJV)  On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. {38} "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."
How do I live after the Spirit?
Choose the Spirit.

Make a choice tonight that you want to live under the Spirit’s control.  Cast your vote.

Yield to the Spirit.

Get out of the driver’s seat.  Let the Holy Spirit direct you.

Feed the Spirit.

Continue to make choices that build up your inner man, move away from the things that feed your flesh.