Romans 8:1-17


I can still remember the feelings invoked when, as a child I first watched the fantasy movie, “The Wizard of Oz.”  A young girl is taken from her home in Kansas and finds herself in a far country “somewhere over the rainbow.”  In her quest to find her way back home, she is directed to seek the counsel of the high and wise Wizard of Oz.  Surrounded by the brainless, the heartless and the cowardly, Dorothy makes her way to where help has been promised, only to find that the only help available is that which she provides for herself.


That is the way of religion.  Be good enough.  Pray hard enough.  Be sincere enough.  Give enough money.  Do all of these, and perhaps you will win a reprieve.  Romans contains a similar search.  It is a search for righteousness.  The difference is that we are helpless and completely unable to help ourselves.


Romans 7 ends with a desperate cry for deliverance:  “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”  As we open in chapter 8, we find the source of that deliverance.





            Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:1-2).


Paul has presented the condemnation required by the Law.  It is a condemnation which the Law placed upon all who transgressed the Law.  But in Christ there is no condemnation.  This chapter begins and ends with the fact that there is no condemnation for the one who is in Christ.


There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1).

Who is the one who condemns? (8:34).


Notice the tense.  It is present.  It indicates a continual action.  There continues to be no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  Why is this the case?  Why are we not condemned?  If there is a natural law that clearly states that the wages of sin is death, then why does that natural law not put me to death when I have sinned?  The answer is that there is a higher law in effect.


The Law of Sin and Death

The Law of the Spirit of Life

This law was powerless to do away with sin.

This law condemned our sins in Christ by putting Him to death in our place.

This law could only kill.

This law gives life.


The universe is run by certain principles or laws.  There is the law of gravity.  The law of gravity says that apples fall down.  They do not fall up.  They can only go up if some higher force is put into effect.  When you throw an apple into the air, you are not breaking the law of gravity - you are merely putting a higher law into effect - the law of kinetic energy.  In the same way, the cross does not break the law of sin and death, it merely places a higher law into effect.


The law demanded that sin be condemned.  We have sinned.  But there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ.  The reason is that God condemned sin in Christ.  He paid the penalty of sin and He took upon Himself the condemnation of our sin.


What is this “law of the spirit of life”?  It is the GOSPEL.  It is that which provides spiritual life to men.  It is that which condemned our sins, nailing them to the cross of Christ and setting us free.





            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, 4 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 8:3-4).


The Law is like a mirror which shows me where the dirt is.  It is not designed to be a cleaning tool.  It is diagnostic in its purpose.

God did what the Law could never do.  The Law could set forth a requirement, but the Law could never keep that requirement on your behalf.  That is not a failure on the part of the Law.  The Law is not designed to do that.  The weakness of the Law is not in the Law but is in our sinful nature.


The Law tells me what to do.  When I don’t do what the Law tells me to do, whose fault is that?  Not the Law’s.  It is mine.  When I am pulled over by a police officer for having driven over the speed limit, I cannot blame my speedometer or his radar device if those instruments accurately measured my speed.  They are doing what they are supposed to do.  The fault is in the lawbreaker, not it the law.


The Law was right to find fault in me, but God took away my fault and applied it to Christ.  He did this by sending His Son in the image and likeness of that sinful flesh — not that Christ was sinful, but He was in every other respect like us.


He who came in the likeness of sinful flesh

Became an offering for sin


He condemned sin in the flesh.


Verse 4 contains a purpose clause.  It introduces WHY Jesus condemned sin in the flesh.  It was so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us.


“Christ’s coming into the world had no relevance apart from sin.” - John Murray.

What was the requirement of the Law?  The Law required death.  The Law said that the wages of sin is death.  And the Law demanded that the sentence be executed.  It WAS executed.  It was executed in Christ.   And it was executed on behalf of those who “do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.


Verse 3 points out our redemption and our justification.  Verse 4 points to the result of that redemption and that justification - our sanctification.


We must be careful here.  Paul does not say that this righteousness is fulfilled THROUGH us.  That would indicate works as the basis of our salvation.  He says that it is fulfilled IN us.  It is God who does the fulfilling.  It is accomplished on the basis of the death of Christ.


For whom is this work accomplished?  For all men?  No.  It is for those who “do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  What does it mean to walk according to the Spirit?  This is answered in the next paragraph.





                5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

            6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8).


Paul gives three reasons why it is impossible for those in the flesh to please God. Let us consider each of these reasons.


1.         It is impossible for those in the flesh to please God because those who are “according to the flesh” have their minds set on the flesh.  They have a one‑track mind.  They are like an AM radio which can receive only signals on this band.  FM signals are not received and cannot be.  The spiritual life is only seen and understood by those who are in the realm of the Spirit.  They are only seen by faith.


Do you remember the time that Jesus first told His disciples that He was going to be rejected by the Jews and killed?  Peter took Him aside and began to lecture Him on the power of positive thinking.  But Jesus rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on god’s interests, but man’s.” (Mark 8:33).


2.         It is impossible for those in the flesh to please God because the mind set on the flesh is death.


Notice the tense.  The mind set on the flesh not only leads to death in the future, but it IS death right now.  This is not mere physical death.  This is true death - separation from God.


3.         It is impossible for those in the flesh to please God because such a mind is hostile toward God.  God is not pleased by that which hates Him.  Pleasing God in the flesh is as impossible as trying to train a wolf to be a sheep dog - they are on opposite sides.


There is a contrast here.  It is a contrast of two minds.  Paul contrasts those who have their mind set on things of the flesh versus those who have their minds set on the things of the Spirit.


Mind on the Flesh

Mind on the Spirit



Hostile toward God

Peace with God

Neither able nor desiring to be subject to the Law of God

Obedience to God’s Law

Cannot please God

Pleases God


All of mankind fits into one of these two categories.  There is no third option.  Those who are of the flesh are pitted against God.  They cannot obey, they are powerless to obey, and they don’t even want to obey God.

It is often not WHAT we do that makes us either fleshly or spiritual, but HOW and WHY we have done it.


But there are some who have come to a place of peace with God.  They have entered from death into life.  How did they obtain this life?  It was through the Spirit of God.


Here is the principle.  When God seeks to truly change a person, He does it from the inside out.  When Dorothy went to seek help from the Wizard, he told her to look inside of herself and utilize her own strength.  God says, “You have no strength inside yourself, but that is okay.  I will place my Holy Spirit within you to provide that necessary strength for living.”





Romans 8 is the central chapter in the Bible about the Holy Spirit.  The word “spirit” is mentioned more times in this chapter than in all of the rest of the epistle to the Romans.


1.         The Implications of God’s Indwelling Spirit.


            However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (Romans 8:9).


The indwelling Holy Spirit is the mark of God’s ownership upon a Christian.  Just as a brand upon a horse or a cow signified ownership, so the indwelling Spirit is God’s brand upon His people.


If You Do Not Have the Spirit

If You Have the Spirit

You are in the flesh

You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit

The Spirit does not indwell you.

The Spirit indwells you

You do not belong to God.

You belong to God.


This brings us to an obvious question.  How can I determine whether or not I have the Spirit of God?  The answer is seen in the results of that indwelling Spirit.


You see, the Spirit is invisible.  That is what Jesus told Nicodemus.  He said that the Spirit is like the wind.


            “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8).


There is a play on words since the Greek word     µ  can mean either “spirit” or “wind.”  You can’t see the wind.  Even when a tornado hits, you don’t actually see the wind.  You can only see the things that the wind moves.  You can see the dust and the debris and the leaves and the branches bending.  You can see the wind’s effects and you know that it is there without actually seeing the wind.


The Spirit is like that.  You can’t see the Spirit.  You can’t touch the Spirit.  You can’t feel the Spirit.  But you know that He is there when you see the effects which He produces in people’s lives.


2.         The Immediate Result of God’s Indwelling Spirit.


            If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10).


The normal Greek word for “alive” is zao.  But that is not the word translated “alive” in this verse.  Here we see zoe, normally translated “life.”  It is not merely that the spirit is alive.  It is that Christ brings spiritual LIFE.


This is not future life — we’ll talk about that in a moment.  This is life in the NOW.  We have a present spiritual vitality because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.


Notice that the “body is dead because of sin.”  From God’s perspective, the principle of death resides in your body.  Your body is destined for the grave.  You are a clock that is winding down.


You can take all of the health food in the world, but you will eventually die.  Even natural food will not provide permanent escape, since God has cursed the creation.  Nature is under a curse (we’ll see that later in this chapter).  And everything that is under the realm of nature is also cursed.  But the Spirit is not under the realm of nature.  It is in the Spirit that you will find LIFE.


3.         The Eventual Result of God’s Indwelling Spirit.


            But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11).


There is also a long-term result of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  It is that the spiritual life will result in physical life.  Those who have died will be dead no longer.  We look forward to a resurrection.




The Spirit was in Jesus

The Spirit dwells in us.

The Spirit raised Jesus from the dead.

The Spirit will give life to your mortal bodies.





Obligation is different than mere duty.  A duty is something which you are supposed to do.  But the idea of an obligation indicates that someone has already done something for you and now you are under obligation to reciprocate.


1.         What It Is Not.


            So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh ‑‑ 13  for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:12-13).


Paul used this same term back in Romans 1:14 when he said that he was “under OBLIGATION both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.”  Now he points out that we are all similarly under obligation.


Our obligation is not to the flesh.  The flesh hasn’t done anything for us except to put us under the condemnation of death.  It is only when the deeds of the flesh are put to death through the ministry of the Spirit that you find life.


This is something of a paradoxical statement.  The way to achieve life is through death.  The way in which I shall live will be by putting to death the deeds of the flesh.  Jesus said something similar:


            “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25).


This brings me to a question.  How can I put to death the deeds of the flesh?  It is “by the Spirit.”  The Spirit is the means by which this is accomplished.  This is the language of dependence.


My consistent temptation is to try to accomplish this process on my own.  The only person who can deal effectively with me is the God who lives in me.  And the only person who can deal effectively with you is the God who lives in you.


2.         An Obligation of Sons.


            For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba!  Father!” (Romans 8:14-15).


The fact that one is led by the Spirit of God is an evidence of sonship.  I don’t tell the kid down the street how to live.  But I DO lead my own child.


What did you do to become a son or a daughter?  Nothing!  Your parents had to do something, but you played a passive role in the proceedings.  But even though your role was passive, it resulted in an obligation on your part.


I have a daughter.  She did nothing to become my daughter.  She did not say, “I think that I shall choose John and Paula Stevenson to become my parents.”  WE took an action to make her our daughter.  But that resulted in an obligation on her part.


She was then obligated to act as befits a child of John and Paula Stevenson.  There were duties which were required of her as a result of being our child.  These duties did not apply to the kid who lived down the street.  But they did apply to our daughter.


If you are a son of God, then you have a resulting duty.  It is a duty to act as befits a son of God.  You are called to act as befits your position in His family.


3.         The Privilege of Children.


            The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:16-17).


The Holy Spirit gives assurance of your salvation.  Notice the preposition which Paul uses.  He does not say that the Holy Spirit bears witness TO your spirit as though there were some magical inner touch.  Rather, He bears witness WITH your spirit.  How does He do this?

           By drawing you to the word of God and illuminating its words to you.

           By convicting you of your sin and of your need to live righteously before your God.

           By granting you faith and repentance for the forgiveness of sins.


In verse 14 Paul said that we are “sons.”  Now he says that we are “children.”

Specifically, this witness is that we are children of God.  We are able to go to God and call Him “Abba - Father.”  The fact that God is your Father brings some ramifications.  Notice the progression:


You are God’s children


Children are heirs of their parents


You are fellow heirs with Christ


You are a “fellow heir” with Christ.  The old King James Version translates it “joint-heirs.”  Paula and I have a joint checking account.  It is a checking account which belongs equally to the both of us.  While it may be true that I put more money into it and that she takes more money out of it, the account equally belongs to the both of us.  Indeed, either one of us has the power and the authority to take every penny from that account.  And that is what our relationship is like with Christ and His kingdom.  We can draw upon the total resources of the Kingdom - and they are a lot more extensive than my bank account or yours.  Every promise of God.  Every blessing of the Scriptures.  Every possession of the King.  It is all yours to claim.


Our problem is that of the rich man who lives like a pauper.  We forget about the riches that are rightfully ours and we live as though it were not so.  And so, we are called to REMEMBER.


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