Read Romans 8:1-17
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Wow! That is good news to us! Chapter 2 tells us about the wrath from God that is coming against us sinners, and none of us can escape it by our own efforts. But God sent His Son to take the wrath of God for us, and we simply receive those benefits by trusting that Jesus died for us.
As we get into Romans 8, we find that it’s all about living as a Christian. Much of what the Apostle proclaims to us are the many benefits of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us the righteousness of Christ (8:3-4), transforms our minds (8:5-8), give us evidence of our salvation (8:9, 16), provides a physical resurrection on the last day (8:11), helps with obedience (8:12-13), and makes us God’s own children and co-heirs with Christ (8:14-17). These benefits are given to God’s people as a gift through the power of the Holy Spirit. No wonder Jesus said that it was to our advantage that he leave and send the Holy Spirit! (John 16:7)
One of the biggest advantages of the Holy Spirit is real power to live a life that pleases God. Look at Paul’s argument through Romans 8. First, he reminds us that we have no ability whatsoever to meet the requirements of God’s holy Law, or even please God! (8:3, 8:7-8) Then verse 13 says: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” It seems as though obedience is now a condition on the gift of eternal life! Is Paul contradicting everything that he has said about grace being a gift? No way!
First, verse 13 is restating the law of sin and death—those who live in sin earn death. (6:23) Paul is clearly affirming that those who continue to live in sin will be damned. But then, the reality of the Holy Spirit’s help is added when Paul includes the phrase, “…if by the Spirit.” This means that while our status before God has been indelibly changed from “unrighteous” to “righteous”, we now have real power to live out that reality in our actual lives! John Murray, a Scottish theologian from the 20th century, put it this way, “The believer’s once-for-all death to the law of sin does not free him from the necessity of mortifying sin in his members; it makes it necessary and possible for him to do so.” For any of us who have ever felt stuck in a sin, trapped in an addiction, or seem to struggle in obedience to God’s commands, we have hope! The Holy Spirit lives inside of you and He makes it possible for us to obey.
Questions for study and discussion:
1) Which benefit from the Holy Spirit do you find the most comforting? the most helpful?
2) Romans 8:7 explains how those who are not Christians are “hostile to God”. (Also see Romans 5:10 and John 15:18-25.) How does this reality explain the tension that Christians experience in this world?
3) In Romans 8:13, Paul commands us to put the deeds of the flesh to death. What does this mean? What are some tangible ways Christians can rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to do this?
4) Some may interpret Romans 8:13 to mean that it’s possible for Christians to lose their salvation if they are not obedient to God. Others interpret this to mean that those who are not obedient must not have ever really been a Christian. How does Paul’s emphasis on the assurance of our salvation help us to understand how to read this? (See Romans 5:9-11; 6:17-18; 8:1-4; and 8:10-11. Also, check out Jeremiah 31:9, 31:31-34, and Ezekiel 36:26-27.) How should we understand Romans 8:13 and the security of our salvation in light of this?