Notes from a small group study
Sources: MacArthur Study Bible, NIV
The Grace of God: A Journey of Discovery in Romans, by Alan Perkins
Romans, by Thomas R. Schreiner
NIV Application Commentary: Romans, by Douglas J. Moo
In chapter 7, Paul has contrasted life under law with life in the Spirit. Paul’s conclusion to chapter 7 might be expressed this way: To those who minimize God’s Grace in favor of the standards of the law, it is not God they are serving but the flesh, which is the law of sin. In chapter 8, Paul continues his discussion of the law versus the Spirit, emphasizing again that the Christian has been set free from the law.
1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
V.1—“…there is now no condemnation…” In contrast to living under the law in the past, the Christian is released from the law.
V.2—“…because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
Paul described the bondage to sin and death in 7:7-25. He is now telling us that Christ has set us free from the law. The “law of the Spirit who gives life” is the new life we now have with the Spirit dwelling in us.
V.3—“For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh…” (alternate translation: “…weakened by the sinful nature…”).
The law cannot overcome sin in a person not because the law is defective in some way, but because of the weakness of our flesh and the law’s lack of power over sin. The law was powerless to overcome the flesh (our sinful nature), but God provided the solution “…by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh.” By condemning sin is meant more than simply exposing sin as evil. God rendered sin powerless for those who are in Christ Jesus. The law could not condemn or defeat sin, but God accomplished both through Christ.
V.4—“…in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be full met in us...” Our guilt and our sin were taken on by Christ through His death and resurrection. At the same time, His righteousness was credited to us. In this way, the righteousness required by the law was completely satisfied.
“…who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Our righteousness means we are in right standing before God. But we also experience a changed life. The Holy Spirit lives in us, and our manner of living is different from what it was before, as we walk in accordance with the indwelling Holy Spirit. Our rebirth has set us free not only from the penalty of sin, but also from the power of sin over us.
V.5—“ Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”
This is a key verse in understanding the regenerate versus unregenerate mind. This is the contrast between the nonbeliever and the believer. The nonbeliever is focused on his or her own desires, while the believer can focus on what pleases the Spirit. For the faithful Christian, what pleases him or her is in line with what pleases the Spirit, and the aim of his or her life is the glorify Christ and not to serve self.
V. 6—“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
The nonbeliever’s mind, being self-centered, is focused on sin, which brings death. Remember, Paul uses the term “death” to refer to spiritual death, or eternal separation from God. The faithful believer’s mind, on the other hand, is focused on the Savior, and that faithful focus on the Savior brings life and peace. Paul uses the term “life” to refer to eternal union with God.
Vv. 7-8—“7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”
There is no such thing as a neutral mind. The mind of the nonbeliever is hostile to God and cannot submit to Him. Consider the Pharisees, whom Christ called “children of hell.” The Pharisees observed the law. Jesus called them hypocrites because while they observed the outward requirements of the law, they rebelled against God in their hearts. Their zeal for the law served their self-centeredness and self-righteousness, rather than observing the law as a means of glorifying God and as an expression of what was in their hearts.
It is impossible for the nonbeliever to please God. Keeping the law but having no real faith, like the Pharisees, does not earn God’s favor. Look at how Isaiah summed up the hearts of the Israelites as he prophesied to Israel. Speaking of the Israelites who went through the motions of observing their religious traditions but did not have real faith in God, Isaiah said, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
“You, however…” Once again, Paul draws sharp contrast between the nonbeliever and the believer. Believers are not under control of the flesh, or the sinful nature, but serve the Holy Spirit instead.
“…if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you…” All believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and can choose to be controlled by the Spirit. Otherwise, Paul says, “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” In this verse, Paul gives us one means of evaluating our own standing before God: those who belong to Christ demonstrate the indwelling Spirit in their thoughts and actions; those who do not belong to Christ serve their sinful natures as a lifestyle and not the Spirit.
Vv. 10-11 deal with the promise of eternal life. “If Christ is in you,…the Spirit gives life” (v.10). And if the Spirit lives in us, then we are promised a resurrected life, just as Christ was raised from the dead.
Vv. 12-13—“12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” The “old man” and its sinful nature are still part of us, but no longer have to control us. Our obligation as believers is not to serve the sinful nature, but to serve the Spirit who lives in us.
In v. 13 Paul again contrasts the lifestyles of the nonbeliever, who lives according to the flesh (or sinful nature) and will be separated from God in death, with the believer, who will live eternally in communion with God. The Spirit-led life is characterized by the putting to death of the deeds of the sinful nature through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul emphasizes this in Galatians 5:16-18: “16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
It should be noted that both our own will and the Holy Spirit are involved in putting to death the misdeeds of the body, and it is the Spirit who enables us to overcome the sinful nature.
Note that Paul is not giving this putting to death the misdeeds of the body as a requirement for salvation, but rather, he is describing the ability of the Christian to do so and offers the putting to death of our misdeeds as a characteristic of one who belongs to Christ.
Vv. 16-17—“16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
Believers have the inner presence and inner witness of the Holy Spirit as a means by which we know we belong to God. So Paul has given us two ways that we may know this: (1) the standard of being controlled by the Spirit and not the sinful nature and (2) the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, who lives in every believer. And so, being the children of God, we can look forward to a rich inheritance, that of being in His presence forever.