1 - 7 Walking According to the Spirit
1 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. 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, 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. 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],
V1. After experiencing the struggle to leave the marshes in Romans 7, you now have firm ground under your feet. This firmness is in Christ. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Isn’t this a relief? This is how God sees you and this is how you should see yourself. Every fear of judgment is gone because Christ bore the judgment and rose from the dead.
V2. If you have come far enough in your faith-life to be Christ-centered instead of self-centered, then the Holy Spirit can start working in you. The Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of life” here. The Holy Spirit doesn’t work death, but life. This is how He worked in the Lord Jesus. Everywhere the Lord Jesus went, He brought life. When the Lord Jesus died, He rose from the dead by the power of the Spirit of life. In the same way, the Spirit of life has delivered you from the power of sin and death.
V3. Remember how the law promised life to anybody who kept it, but no one could keep it. Not because the law wasn’t good, but because in the flesh there wasn’t the power to keep it. I once read the following comparison that may help make this clearer. Imagine a skilled woodcarver who can create the most beautiful figures from a piece of wood. He has the best tools money can buy. But if you give this man a piece of rotten wood, he can’t do anything with it. You can’t blame him, for he’s certainly skilled enough. Nor can you blame his tools because you would not find any better. What then is to blame? The piece of wood!
This is how it is with the law and us. God is not to blame. He is perfectly skilled. Nor is the law to blame: it is holy and righteous and good, as we saw in Romans 7. It is therefore our fault if the law is not seen to its full advantage. It is our flesh that makes the law powerless. How marvelous that God didn’t leave us struggling all by ourselves! When it became clear it was impossible for the law to deliver you from sin and death, God set to work. He sent His own Son as Man into this world. At the cross of Calvary, God judged sin in His Son when He made Him sin for us (2Cor 5:21).
When verse 3 says “in the likeness of sinful flesh”, this applies to the incarnation of the Lord Jesus, that is, His becoming Man. In this respect He became like us, but with the exception of sin (Heb 4:15). He didn’t partake of the wicked, sinful flesh that we, being born from sinful parents, have from our birth due to our human nature. Being like us applies to His outward appearance which was that of a man. When the Lord Jesus was hanging on the cross, and even then, only during the final three hours, did God condemn sin in the flesh. He has finished with it completely and put it away forever.
V4. The new source of power that wants to work in your life from now on is the Holy Spirit. If you let yourself be led by Him you will fulfill the righteous demand of the law. Am I then still subjected to the law? Of course not. But do you think the Holy Spirit would have you do something against the law? No, of course not. For that reason, if you allow yourself to be led by the Spirit, you will automatically, so to speak, do what the law says. But this is not the aim of walking according to the Spirit. Walking according to the Spirit means a lot more than this. It means you give the Holy Spirit freedom in your life and that He fills your thoughts.
V5-6. The way you think makes it clear what is guiding you. On what do you fix your thoughts? What do you long for? You have been converted. You have been given the new life. You have received the Holy Spirit. Despite the battles you’ll have to fight now and then, you’ll have other things on your mind than before your conversion. Then you were thinking fleshly thoughts; you were self-centered. What is the result? Nothing other than death. Now that you think of spiritual things, your life is God-centered. What are the results? Life and peace!
The real and true life is what you received in your inner being and it becomes visible by the way you live. You now have a different outlook on the things around you than before. Only now does life have a real significance. You know God and you know Christ. There is peace in your heart because in relation to God everything is in order. Read Romans 5:1-2 again (Rom 5:1-2). You will experience this peace in deeper and deeper measure as you surrender yourself to God in all the areas of your life and if you stay God-centered.
V7. With the flesh it is entirely different. In the flesh there is no life or peace. On the contrary, whatever it thinks of is always at enmity with God. The flesh is completely evil without the possibility of improvement. It can’t subject itself to God’s law, nor does it want to. Keep all the things mentioned here as characteristic of the flesh and of the Spirit firmly in mind. Then you will recognize whether a certain desire is from the flesh or the new life.
Now read Romans 8:1-7 again.
Reflection: What is the difference between walking according to the flesh and walking according to the Spirit?
8 - 14 If the Spirit Dwells in You
8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 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. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 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. 12 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. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
V8. For someone who is in the flesh, it is impossible to please God. Being in the flesh means having yourself, your abilities, your labors, your plans and intentions as a center. Even if someone in the flesh would try to please God by keeping the law, this would be unacceptable to God. The starting point is wrong. God has dealt with the flesh, the nature of man corrupted by sin, once and for all. So how then could He accept anything from it? There is a definitive separation between God and the sinful flesh.
V9. He who has received God’s Spirit is no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit. It is the Spirit of God who lives inside you. The Spirit of God doesn’t make you important, but Christ. You are connected with Christ and you belong to Him through the Spirit of God. If someone doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he doesn’t belong to Him.
Why do these verses suddenly speak of the Spirit of Christ? I think it is to show you that the Spirit you have received is the same Spirit by which Christ was led during His life on earth. When you read the Gospels, you can see this all the time. For example, take the Lord’s temptation by satan in the desert in Luke 4 (Lk 4:1). There you read how, filled with the Holy Spirit, He returned from Jordan to the desert. Then when He was in the desert, He in His perfect holiness was led by the Spirit. His holy nature was not tempted by outside temptation: there was no failure with Him. He was God-centered.
V10. With you, the Spirit wants to do the same. The Spirit of God is living in you because Christ is in you. The Spirit of God can only connect Himself with something of Christ. This implies that the body, as used by sin for evil practices, is dead. Otherwise God’s Spirit couldn’t enter it to live there. But now, Christ being in you, it is completely right for the Spirit to live in you and to have authority over the life you now lead, just as it was with Christ.
V11. Another important thing is connected with the indwelling of God’s Spirit within you. This has to do with the resurrection of your mortal body. Your body is still subject to the consequences of sin. It can become sick and it can die, but look at what God has done with the Lord Jesus. God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead. So, what do you do with yourself now? Your body is still mortal. Is this consistent with the Spirit of God living in you, who has everything to do with life? The answer is that God will raise your mortal body as He has done with the Lord Jesus because His Spirit is living in you. Other verses, like in Philippians 3, tell us this will take place at the return of the Lord Jesus for His own, commonly called the rapture (Phil 3:21).
V12. All of this puts you under a certain obligation. You have become a debtor to live according to the position God has given you. He has provided you with all it takes to live a godly life – the new life and the Holy Spirit. You no longer have any obligation towards the flesh. It has no claim on you because you died as to your former life.
V13. You still have the flesh in you, but you shouldn’t give it an opportunity to manifest itself. If you live according to the flesh, you will die. This must be the case. God’s judgment over the flesh never changes, but now you have the responsibility to deprive the flesh of any possibility to regain authority in your life. By the power the Holy Spirit gives, you have the ability to stop sinning in your body. Though you will never reach a state of sinless perfection here on earth, yet moment by moment you are responsible and able to not sin.
V14. Then you will live life with God as God meant it to be. Everyone who is led by the Spirit of God looks like the Son of God, the Lord Jesus. Sons of God are people in whom God recognizes the Son. In Him God found His joy and His pleasure. If you will be led by the Spirit, God will be pleased by it.
Now read Romans 8:8-14 again.
Reflection: How can you kill the workings of the body?
15 - 21 Children and Heirs 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!” 16 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]. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
V15. Being led by the Spirit is quite different from planning your life according to some law. If your rule of life is a law, then you’re nothing but a slave to it. A slave doesn’t have a tender and intimate relationship with his master. He must simply do what he is told. In the back of the mind, there is always the fear of doing something wrong.
The Spirit, that is, the new life you have received, has nothing to do with slavery and fear. The Spirit you have received is a Spirit of adoption. There’s the difference! Through this you can address God as Father. You cry out “Abba, Father!” This indicates a trusting and friendly relationship. You know the Father as someone who is very close to you and to whom you have been brought very close. He loves you and you trust Him completely. You have been brought into a family relationship with Him. You have become His child.
V16. The Holy Spirit living in you witnesses with your spirit, that is, the new life you have received, that you are a child of God. You are a child of your parents because you have been born out of them. This is a completed, irreversible fact. Nothing can change this. Similarly, you’re a child of God because you have been born of God. Nothing can change this either. Hence it can be said that once a child of God, always a child of God. In a child the features of the parents are visible. Likewise, God’s features find their expression in a child of God. In Philippians 2 you can read about this, but there it addresses more your responsibility (Phil 2:14-16). Here in Romans 8, it speaks more of your privileges. This chapter is full of them.
V17. If you’re a child, then you’re an heir as well. An heir is someone who receives property from someone else. God is the Owner of all creation. He will give His property to you when you are glorified with Christ. Christ is the Heir and you are a fellow heir with Him. Whatever you receive, it is always in connection with Him. This includes suffering. If you suffer with Him, it proves you possess the new life. Here it is the kind of suffering our Lord Jesus knew when on earth. He suffered in this creation when He saw what sin had done and how it was doing its devastating work.
V18. You will suffer in the same way if you see the consequences of sin around you. What misuse man makes of what God has created! He uses everything for his own glory and satisfaction. Don’t you long for the moment when the inheritance, the creation, will again be in the hands of its rightful Owner? Paul did. He was looking forward to the future glory he was going to see. The suffering he had to bear was nothing compared with the future glory. For us, this is an encouraging lesson. The more this glorious future becomes a reality to you, the more you will be able to bear the unpleasant things you experience as a believer.
V19-20. What does the “revealing of the sons of God” mean? This means a moment is coming when all the sons of God, all the believers, will visibly appear in this creation to reign over it together with the Lord Jesus. As a result of man’s mismanagement, creation fails to yield as much as God intended. Despite all the attempts of man to reach a fair distribution of creation’s riches, the chaos is steadily increasing. Man trusts in his abilities, but forgets he is fallen in sin. He has dragged creation along with him in his fall. So, creation has been made subject to vanity, not of its will, but by the conscious sin of man.
V21. And yet, there is hope for creation. It will be set free. Currently the curse rests on creation like a slave’s yoke. You can see this by the corruption that attaches itself to everything. The corruption of the creation means that creation has been pulled downward to a lower state. She no longer has the glorious state of Eden. This pulling down is because of the corruption that entered creation along with sin. But the moment is close when the children of God will be in glory. When the Lord Jesus takes them away, they will really be free and out of the reach of the corruption in creation. And soon afterwards, the creation itself will be set free. Do you also look forward to this?
Now read Romans 8:15-21 again.
Reflection: Can you say what Paul says in verse 18?
22 - 27 The Spirit Helps Your Weakness
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for [our] adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he [already] sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for [us] with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to [the will of] God.
V22. In a concordance of the Bible, or via a search program on your computer, look up how often the words “we know” occur in all the letters. These words fit only in a Christian’s mouth. Man without God makes much of his knowledge. By research he attempts to understand everything. Yet even the simplest Christian has a source of knowledge these very knowledgeable people have no idea exists.
By the Spirit of God Who lives in him, he has insight into the true state of creation. He sympathizes with the need it is in. For example, take a look at the vegetation. The short-lived beauty cries out for a new creation. These groans are compared to someone at the point of giving birth to a new life. The travails of creation point forward to the new birth of creation. In Matthew 19 the Lord Jesus calls this “the regeneration” (Mt 19:28). Then the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus, will sit on the throne of His glory and will direct everything in such a way that creation will meet its goal by being a blessing and enjoyment given by God to man.
V23. Inwardly, you already have seen a renewal. You have received “the first fruits of the Spirit” when you received the new life. The new life is a work of the Holy Spirit. You already are a new creation (2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15) because God sees you completely in connection with Christ and His finished work.
Only your body still awaits redemption. If you understand that your body can still be sick, tired and suffer pain, you realize that through your body you are still connected to this creation. For this reason there are, besides the groans of creation, groans within yourself. You’re longing for the redemption of your body. This will happen when the Lord Jesus returns to take us to the Father’s house. Then He will change your body of humiliation into a body that is like the glorified body He now has (Phil 3:21). Philippians 3:20 says we eagerly await the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, which speaks of Him as the Redeemer (Phil 3:20).
So here in Romans you can see that the Lord Jesus is not only the Redeemer in regard to your sins, but in regard to your body as well. The first happened when the Savior died on the cross. The latter will only happen at His coming. Don’t be disturbed then by people who claim you shouldn’t be sick. Sickness has entered the world through sin. Sin has been judged by God in Christ, but not all of its consequences were removed through this, not in creation nor in your body. God uses these consequences to keep alive your desire for the full result of Christ’s work. If you’re prospering, you’re more likely to forget this.
V24-25. God wants you to live “in hope” that aims at the future. Then redemption will be complete; your soul and body will no longer be affected by the consequences of sin. But this full redemption isn’t here yet. If it were, there would be nothing left for which to hope. Although you haven’t seen what you hope for, you are sure it will come. Since you still don’t have it and you have to wait, perseverance is necessary. It can all weigh heavily on you, and at times you may feel as though you have lost all hope.
V26. How marvelous to know that the Spirit helps you in your weakness. You can have moments or even periods when you don’t know how to tell God the way you feel. You can’t find the words for it, but the Spirit living in you knows all about it. He makes Himself one with you in the way you feel in this creation that is under the curse.
V27. He tells God what you cannot express. God searches the heart and there He meets the Holy Spirit, as it were. The things the Holy Spirit tells God will never be misunderstood by God. The Spirit knows exactly how to tell God about all your experiences. How good God is to help us in such a way in all our weaknesses.
Now read Romans 8:22-27 again.
Reflection: What are you hoping for?
28 - 30 Called According to God’s Purpose
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
V28. There are only three verses this time. They are so full of blessings that you must read them carefully and let them speak to you.
Again this portion starts with “we know” (see verse 22). It indicates a contrast with verse 26. There it said we don’t know what to pray for. If you feel in your body and spirit how much everything is corrupted by sin, it results in a sense of powerlessness, of not being able to cope. It could even make you feel depressed, but then come those encouraging words “we know”. This is the language of faith. If you see everything around you decaying and that your body is so vulnerable, you may know that “all things … work together for good to those who love God”.
What a rich comfort to know God is above all change. He even uses it to make those who are His own richer, that is, richer in their life of faith. Haven’t you experienced that when something miserable happened to you, it brought you nearer to God? Notice “those who love God”. It’s not true to say that all things work together for good. You can only say that if you love God.
Your love of God will affect you so you will not doubt Him, even with the disappointments that will come in your life. He really makes everything work together for good. This doesn’t allow for any exceptions. Would it hold as well for the sins you do? Yes! Peter experienced this. Three times he denied the Lord. He repented of it and thus received forgiveness. This is a necessity, but as a result of this he came to love the Lord Jesus more when he saw the Lord hadn’t let go of him. He had a better understanding of himself and of the Lord.
But in the first place, “all things” have to do with everyday life. God makes all things that take place in it to work together for good. He uses all things, including sickness, joblessness, poverty, disability, an accident, even death to loosen you from the things around you and to direct your desire to eternal things.
How real are those eternal things to you? Do you know that in eternity past God had the intention of calling you? God was thinking of you long before you came into being.
V29. He knew you all along as someone for whom He had a magnificent destination in mind. Isn’t it wonderful that He wants to transform you into the image of His Son? This is incredible, but God says it is so. He formed this idea when nothing had yet been created and when sin had not yet entered the world. And what God thinks of and says, He will do.
He is able to make people who are nothing but poor, tiny, rebellious, lost creatures look like His Son. This makes an enormous change in their situation. This change has come through what the Lord Jesus has done. Therefore, among all those people who are like Him, He will have the first place, the place of honor and respect. This is what matters to God. He wants His Son to be the radiant center of all the redeemed ones, among whom you may count yourself.
V30. What becomes clear to you through these verses is that God works according to His own intentions. What you have done as a sinner isn’t mentioned in these verses. You can have a look into God’s heart here, knowing He doesn’t lose control of anything, even if everything around you seems contrary to this. He has a purpose with your life and He will reach it. In verse 30 you can see how He reaches this purpose. You can see what He has done.
He destined you for this purpose (from verse 29) before you were even born. When you were born you turned out to be a sinner who couldn’t participate in God’s glory. Then God called you to Himself to make clear He didn’t want you to perish. Instead of perishing, He had a plan to which you belonged.
He couldn’t execute that plan with you being as you were. Therefore He justified you. In the previous chapters of Romans you have read about this. You are someone who belongs to God because everything of you that didn’t belong to God has been put away by the work of the Lord Jesus. In its place you have received the new life that is at home with God. And to make this complete, God sees you as glorified. To Him, it is already finished. What God intends to do will happen. If He is the Guarantor, would you doubt the outcome?
Now read Romans 8:28-30 again.
Reflection: Thank God for His counsel.
31 - 39 God Is for You!
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God [is] for us, who [is] against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
V31. You have just read a powerful final note. Paul reached it because he was so impressed by everything God had done. He has explained all of this in the previous chapters. If you let this speak to you, you can only come to the same rhetorical question: “What then shall we say to these things?” God Himself is for us! Maybe you have doubted this. You knew the Lord Jesus died for your sins and that God couldn’t punish you anymore. In itself, this was a great relief. Despite this, you were still somewhat afraid of God, the stern Judge who was against you. But now you have seen the opposite is true.
V32. God has made everything right by giving His Son so you could be saved. There was no clearer way for Him to prove His love for you. And even this is not all. With His Son, God will “freely give us all things”. You will share with the Lord Jesus everything God has given Him as the wages of His work. Now this is something!
V33. Is anyone left, man or angel, who wants to lift an accusing finger against you? God defends your cause! You are someone He has elected to have with Him. He is the One who justifies. He acquits you because He sees you in Christ.
V34. Hence, no one can condemn you because Christ has died for your sins. And “yes, rather”, or more than that, He has been raised for your justification. Christ is in heaven now, and God has given Him the place of honor, at His right hand. Christ has gained the victory and has received the reward that belongs to Him.
But this doesn’t mean He is there doing nothing. He is committed to those who are His and are still here on earth, by praying for them. He speaks continually with God about you because He knows from His own experience how difficult it is to live in a world where God and His Word are not respected. Everything you experience He knows from experience, apart from sin. He can sympathize with you because He has not forgotten what He endured while He was living here.
V35-37. No matter how much you suffer, nothing can separate you “from the love of Christ”. His love goes out to you more and more when you are oppressed or persecuted because you follow Him and do His will. His love enables you to go straight through all dangers and conquer them. You belong to those who “overwhelmingly conquer”. You are a conqueror who gives all honor to Him who loves you.
V38-39. So, with the fullest certainty you can say that nothing can separate you “from the love of God”. “Death” cannot separate you from the love of God. If you died you would go immediately to the Lord Jesus in whom God’s love has come to you. “Life” cannot separate you from the love of God. All the problems, troubles and cares you experience in your life give God occasion to make you experience His love. Neither are “angels” able to separate you from the love of God. The devil is a powerful prince of the angels who rebelled against God and dragged other angels with him in that rebellion. They are always trying to create a separation between you and the love of God, but they are conquered enemies. They have been defeated by the Lord Jesus and they are subject to Him.
The same is true for the “principalities” or governments. They can make life difficult by proclaiming laws that believers cannot keep because those laws hinder them in serving God. Neither can all sorts of “things present” or “things to come” separate you from the love of God. You may hear of catastrophes in nature or of threatening wars. It shouldn’t make you worry. God’s love will stay with you. “Powers” may make you think of spiritual powers that in a shrewd way try to undermine your faith so you start to doubt the truth. God’s love is always greater.
Don’t be fooled by “height”, the achievements of man who in his arrogance tries to climb higher and higher in many fields. God’s love towers far above all that. Christ Jesus our Lord is ascended above all the heavens (Eph 4:10). There, as Conqueror, He has taken His place at God’s right hand.
Can “depth”, a deep fall, separate you from the love of God? However deep you have fallen, even there, God’s love is present. The love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord, descended to you when you were a miserable fallen creature. He descended even deeper than that into judgment for your sins. These struck Christ in full wrath and laid Him in the dust of death. God did this to lift you up and bring you to His heart.
There is not “any other created thing” that has the ability to separate you from the love of God for poor, lost sinners that has become visible in a surpassing way in Christ Jesus.
Take your time now to thank and praise God and the Lord Jesus. He is worthy of it because everything has come from Him.
Now read Romans 8:31-39 again.
Reflection: Sing a song of victory to God’s glory!