No Condemnation (8:1)
The first verse of Romans 8 is the declaration of hope and rejoicing that is unfortunately broken by the chapter break. In chapter 7 Paul has described the Christian conflict. We delight in the law of God and desire to serve God. But at the same time the members of our body is waging war with that knowledge. The flesh with its passions and lusts are tempting us to obey it. In chapter 6 we learned that we have been set free from sin’s slavery. But this does not mean that there is not a continuing battle for the Christian. Even when I want to do what is right and do what is right, evil lies close at hand (7:21). But there is hope for the Christian. Paul says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Even though we must fight against sin and even though we may slip and fall, there is no condemnation.
Who is not condemned? Who are the people who are not condemned even though our flesh serves sin at times? This is important, for Paul says that there is not condemnation “for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Only those who are in Jesus are those who have no condemnation. Paul has instructed earlier about who are the people who “are in Christ.” In Romans 6:3 Paul taught that we are baptized into Christ and that through baptism we are united with Jesus (6:5). But Paul is certainly not teaching that those who have been dunked in water, no matter what they believe or do, have no condemnation. The baptism is symbolizing our death to sin, that we are not practicing sin and sin is not the ruler over our lives (6:7,11,13). It is not just that we were baptized. Rather, it is that our baptism had meaning. Baptism was the point when we started living for Jesus and stopped living for sin. Those who are in Christ Jesus are not those who are being ruled by sin and have given their allegiance to sin. Those who are in Christ Jesus are those who are fighting sin and striving to serve Jesus. To those who have their allegiance to Jesus, there is no condemnation. Paul is going to clarify this even further in this chapter, as we will see later in this lesson.
When are we not condemned? Now. Right now we stand before God justified, not condemned. The focus of God’s wrath is not upon us. God as the judge does not condemn us. In Christ, life replaces the condemnation and death that rests upon every person right now. We are sinful and deserve condemnation. We have separated ourselves from God by our sinning. In Christ, life has replaced that condemnation. God has fulfilled his covenant promises, offering life rather than condemnation. How is this possible? How can God do this great act of mercy for us?
New Covenant (8:2)
In verse 2 Paul gives the first reason why there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Paul says that there is no condemnation because the law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death. What is “the law of the Spirit of life?” Paul has taught us this earlier in Romans 7. In Romans 7:6 Paul taught that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. We noted in that lesson that the “written code” or “the letter” is used by Paul as a reference to the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments. The contrast, therefore, is the new covenant. The law of Christ, the new covenant, was promised by the Holy Spirit in which those who are in the covenant will obey God from the heart. God’s people will have the heart of obedience under the new covenant. Paul is revealing that we are set free from the Law of Moses which condemned us to sin because we are now under the new covenant, the Law of Christ.
There is much debate about what “the law of sin and death” is. Chapter 7 taught us that the Law of Moses was holy and good. But sin used the Law of Moses to kill us. Paul merges the problem of sin with the Law of Moses. The Law was not the problem. But we are condemned under the Law because no one has obeyed it completely and perfectly. When Paul writes that he “serves the law of sin” he is not saying that he is condemned that he serves the Law of Moses. Paul is condemned because he did not obey the Law of Moses. The Law condemns us and through the Law we become enslaved to sin. This is why Paul can speak of the Law of Moses as the law of sin and death. The effect of the Law of Moses was the sin and death of every person. The Law of Moses condemned the Jews and shut out the Gentiles. This is why Paul can use the Law of Moses as a universal problem. The Law of Moses condemned every person that was under the Law, that is, Israel. But the Law also excluded the Gentiles from the hope of salvation. Sin and death were not the purposes of the Law, but it was the result of the Law. However, in Christ and through his law of life, we have been set free. The Law of Moses did not offer justification. Christ and his covenant does offer justification.
God Has Acted (8:3)
Not only this, God has done what the Law of Moses could not do. The Law of Moses was insufficient for righteousness because of our sinfulness. The Law was weakened by our failures and sins. The Law cannot justify sinners. What did God do? God sent Jesus. God sent his own Son to come in the flesh to deal with our sins. Jesus came for sins. Jesus came to deal with the problem of sin (NRSV). The HCSB, NASB, NIV, and TNIV add the word “offering” to sin. Thus, these translations read that Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. There are many times in the Old and New Testament where the writer speaks of sin and he is referring to a sin offering. Hebrews 10:8 is one of many instances. In fact, in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures) 44 of the 54 occurrences of the phrase “for sin” refers to a sin sacrifice. It seems like that this is also the case here in Romans 8:3. Jesus came with a new law and as a sin sacrifice to set us free. Paul has done a magnificent job showing that all of us have the problem of sin in our lives. Even as followers of Jesus, the problem of sin continues. But there is no condemnation now in Jesus because Jesus has set us free through a new law and has given himself as an offering for sins. I think the NLT translates this passage accurately and clearly:
He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. (8:3; NLT)
Noticing the end of verse 3, God condemned sin in the body of Jesus, that is, in the sacrifice of Jesus. Please notice that God did not condemn Jesus. The text does not say that the wrathful God was condemning his Son. God condemned or gave judgment against sin by sending his own Son. The payment for sins was made in Jesus. Jesus paid the price for our sins. Jesus’ offering was the redemption price that sets us free from sins. The NIV makes a huge mistake here in its translation, if you are using it. The NIV reads, “And so he condemned sin in sinful man….” Paul is not saying that God sent his Son in a body like ours to condemn sins in us. He did not need to send his own Son to do that. The NIV makes a terrible blunder here and reveals the consequences of being a dynamic translation. Paul is saying that God sent his Son in a body like ours to condemn sins in the body of Jesus by being an offering for sins. Sin was judged through the body of Jesus, not us. What Jesus did in the flesh is what condemned all sin.
The Righteous Requirement of the Law (8:4)
Verse 4 is somewhat complicated. God sent his Son so that sin could be dealt with in the body of Jesus “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” The difficulty is that “the righteous requirement of the Law” must refer to something good and positive because it is fulfilled in us who walk according to the Spirit. I believe Paul is saying that Jesus fulfilled the Law and paid the price for our sins in the offering of his body so that we would do what is right. Jesus did not die so that we would go into sinful living. Jesus died so that we would be justified and thus live for what is right. I believe Paul’s point here in Romans 8:4 is the same as Galatians 5:13-14.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13–14; ESV)
What is the righteous requirement of the Law of Moses? Love the Lord your God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. Paul is saying that Jesus offered himself up for our sins so that we would live righteous lives, not sinful lives. Paul is tying back in the message of Romans 6. We cannot sin thinking that in doing so grace is abounding. We cannot sin because we are not under the Law of Moses but under grace. We have been set free to serve God and one another, not to serve sin.
How Are You Walking? (8:5-8)
Notice that this point is where Paul goes in his letter. He wants us to consider how we are living our lives and who we are serving. Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh. What does this mean? Paul is speaking about those whose lives are directed by the rule and values of sin. When we put our minds on the things of this world and world of sin, then we are walking according to the flesh. Paul wants to know what our interests are. Paul wants to know what our ambitions are. What are the things that we think about and hold as important in life? What is our mind set on? What are we preoccupied with? What do we value? Jesus spoke of having our minds on the things of the flesh when we have a worldly perspective. When Peter denies that Jesus is going to deny, Jesus replied, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23). Selfish thinking is having our minds set on the things of the flesh. The mind set on the flesh is all about me. Even religious people who seem to be followers of Jesus can have their minds set on the flesh. Seeking after the things of the world rather than the things of God reveals the problem. When we are more concerned about ourselves than the lost, we have minds set on the flesh. When we try to justify our sins rather than being heartbroken and repentant of our sins, we have our minds set on the flesh.
Paul offers a grave warning. To set the mind on the flesh is death (8:6). When sin controls our lives, we are separated from God. When we are thinking about ourselves and seeking after the things of the world rather than thinking about God and seeking after him, there IS condemnation. We have made ourselves enemies of God (8:7). Paul drives the point further in verse 8 by telling us that we cannot please God. Why can’t we please God? Go back to verse 7: because we do not submit to God’s law. We are choosing ourselves over God. We cannot please God when we are living with our allegiance to another master. When sin is exercising dominion over our lives, then we will not obey and love God. We may think we can, but we are deceiving ourselves. When the flesh is in charge of our lives, we cannot please God, we are hostile to God, and we are separated from God. This is why this point is so important. Yes, all of us are fighting against sin. But those only those who are fighting by seeking after God before self are those who now have no condemnation. If we are not seeking after God in all we do and making the determination to serve him, then we are living according to the flesh.
It should be pretty obvious what it means to “live according to the Spirit.” There is nothing mystical or supernatural about this act. It is the opposite of living according to the flesh. We place our life focus on God and his commands. God is in charge of our lives. He is the master, not sin and not self. We are following his covenant. We are submitting to God’s law, not perfectly, but submission to God is the rule of our lives. When our allegiance is to Jesus is to receive from God life and peace (8:6). Living according to the flesh is separation from God. Living according to the Spirit means we are joined to God and we have peace with God. We are reconciled and God’s wrath is not against us. We are able to have a relationship with God because Jesus has brought peace to the relationship. We are in Christ not in Adam, to bring in the thoughts of Romans 5. Paul is teaching that we need to change the way that we think about living and how we think about the world.
- There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
- Those in Christ set their minds on the things of God.
- Those in Christ submit to God’s law.
- Those who have their minds on the things of the flesh are dead, hostile to god, cannot please God, and are condemned.