Romans chapter 8 is the high point in this epistle because it reveals the means of your liberation and how you can enter into the Promised Land of victory and rest from your struggles. Eighteen times in this chapter Paul refers to the work that the Holy Spirit has done and desires to continually do in your life. Paul emphasizes the work of the Spirit in this chapter because He is your liberator, He is your hope, and He is your strength for gaining victory while you still live in your fleshly body. You have been delivered from the bondage of sin just like the Children of Israel were delivered from the bondage of Egypt (Micah 6:4; John 8:31-36; Rom. 8:21). You were baptized into Christ just as the Jews were baptized into Moses (1 Cor. 10:2). The Israelites were "our examples" in this spiritual journey (1 Cor. 10:6). Now we are to enter into the rest of Christ, which is typified by the Promised Land (Heb. 4:1-3). The Promised Land did not typify heaven, because the Children of Israel had battles in the land and even suffered occasional defeats. Rather, the Promised Land represents the life of victory over all your enemies and the enjoyment of the wonderful provision of Christ. In this "land" you will have to fight the good fight of faith, because if you don’t mix the Word with faith you will suffer an occasional defeat (Heb. 4:2). That won’t change the fact that you have still been delivered from the bondage of sin and may again walk in His victory by simply believing His promise. You are free! Your inheritance of rest and victory is waiting for you if you will receive it and just enter in. May God open your heart to know and experience these truths.
Our freedom (vs. 1-4)
In these first few verses, Paul declares some of the most glorious truths that any believer can comprehend. There is freedom in Christ, and it’s yours! You have been liberated from all that would bind and hinder you. What does this freedom that God has given you consist of?
(1) Freedom from condemnation. This passage must be compared with Paul’s previous statement in Romans 3:19 to be fully appreciated. "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." What an incredible contrast to this verse is revealed in chapter eight. The Law was given to bring all men to a realization of God’s lawful requirements, that made clear that they were guilty, condemned, and in need of a Savior because they were not fulfilling these commands. The Gospel came to proclaim that the price had been paid and that men could be free from guilt and condemnation because the Savior had redeemed us. The most important thing is to notice why there is no condemnation. There is only one reason. You are in Christ Jesus. Your position in Christ is what brings you all this freedom. This is glorious! If you are a Christian, this freedom is yours right now! Nothing further needs to be done. You are free from all condemnation. Will you receive this by faith? Let’s look at how this occurs.
If you are "in Christ" that means you believe in Jesus and this faith alone sets you free from all of God’s condemnation. Jesus declared this truth at the beginning of His ministry. "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). Why does simple faith in Christ bring this blessing? Because, if you believe in Jesus that means that you have repented of your sin and been forgiven. Jesus made it clear that repentance and real faith go together when He said "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). When you repent He also purifies your heart "by faith" (Acts 15:9). Therefore, if a person repents, believes, and is cleansed and forgiven of their sin, this means that they are justified from all that would condemn them. Paul has already taught this truth when he explained that God gives His righteousness "through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:22-24). However, this freedom from condemnation does not mean that God condones sin. No! He condemned sin, and He condemned it at the cross. But, He will not condemn those who believe, confess, and repent of their sin (John 8:11-12; 1 John 1:9). Have you believed, confessed, and turned unto Him for His help? Then there is therefore no condemnation for you!
But, as a Christian, do you still experience and battle with condemnation? What does this mean? It means that this condemnation is coming from another source. There are several possibilities that you should consider. (1) You may be condemning yourself because of a lack of understanding and faith in the truths taught here in Romans chapter eight (1 John 3:20). God knows your heart and He sees what is happening to you. If God sees that you are in the same predicament that Paul was in Romans chapter seven, He is not going to beat you up with condemnation. He knows all things. His plan will be to encourage and lead you to the freedom that is revealed in this chapter. (2) Condemnation can also come from Satan. He is called a liar, deceiver, and the accuser of the brethren (John 8:44; Rev. 12:10). Satan can also misuse your own conscience and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Satan loves to take the Holy Spirit’s conviction and turn it into condemnation. You must remember that conviction will always draw you to the Lord and cause you to repent. Condemnation, on the other hand, always drives you away from God, and makes you feel unworthy to approach Him. (3) You also may not actually be a Christian, which would mean that you are not in Christ. If you continually question your salvation, go back and make sure what you believe and determine if you've seen some actual fruit of your faith. If not, please read the study on this site called "How can you be sure that you have been born again."
Freedom from the Law of Sin and Death (vs. 2)
First, what is the law of the Spirit of life that has made you free from the law of sin and death? What are these two laws? Understanding these two laws and how they work will bring great freedom to your walk.
A law is an established principle or rule that controls actions. It’s a principle or rule that works the same way every time. A law of science is a principle that we count on as a fact. Every time an experiment is performed, this law of science can be proven. The law of the Spirit of life and the law of sin and death work the same way. The law of the Spirit will always bring life and set you free from the law of sin every time you yield to Him. Likewise, the law of sin will always bring you into bondage and death every time you yield to it. The glorious truth is that you have been set free from the law of sin and death once and for all. Why? Because the law of the Spirit of life is a higher law than the law of sin and death. The law of sin and death cannot hold you in bondage any longer. Let me illustrate.
Illustration # 1 - The Law of sin and death is like the law of gravity that holds you captive on the ground. The law of the Spirit of life is like the law of lift. Every time I fly in an airplane I am amazed. Here is this 747, made of hundreds of thousands of pounds of metal and steel, and yet it still lifts off the ground every time it runs down the runway and takes off. This plane is defying the law of gravity. Have you ever wondered, How does it do that? It flies because it is obeying a simple law called lift. It’s a higher law than the law of gravity. And that law of lift causes that plane to take off and fly. Lift is created by the shape of the wing and the airflow over its surface. The higher pressure that is created under the wing creates this lift pushing the wing up and causing the plane to lift off the ground. This is exactly what happens to someone that yields to the Holy Spirit. They begin to soar. But, perhaps you are thinking, That may work with gravity but it is impossible for me to believe that I could ever get free from my anger, my lust, or my pride. But, let me assure you that the law of the Spirit is a higher law than the law of sin and it works every time! But, you have to open and receive the power that’s available through His Spirit. That’s what Paul had learned and that’s why he was so excited to share it with us.
Illustration # 2 - The law of sin and death is like a 400-lb. Sumo wrestler. You are in a tag-team-wrestling match and you are about to be pinned by this Sumo wrestler. There looks like there is no way out. What should you do? The wonderful thing is that you have a 700-lb. wrestler on your team! Quickly you tag his hand and he jumps on this guy and you are set free. The Spirit is like having this 700-lb. wrestler on your team. The Spirit will set you free from certain defeat every time you ask.
Which law are you living your life by today? Which law do you experience on a regular basis? Do you live with the constant defeat of the law of sin and death or the freedom of the law of the Spirit? Jesus assured us, "How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those that ask Him" (Luke 11:13). Every time you ask for more of His Spirit in your life you are frustrating the law of sin and its attempt to dominate your life. As you wait upon the Lord and seek Him for His strength, you defy gravity and you begin to soar. Remember the promise of God. "But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31). This verse promises that you can experience strength, power, and ability far beyond what you've ever thought possible! Ask Him for it today!
Freedom from trying to be righteous (vs. 3, 4)
In verses 3 and 4 Paul declares, "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." How glorious this is! God chose not to condemn you. He chose to condemn the thing that stumbles us and destroys our walk, sin in the flesh. God dealt with the source of our problems, the source of our struggle (Rom. 7:18). Paul realized that because of what God had already done, the law of the Spirit of life was now able to do something in him. This work of fulfilling the righteous requirement of the Law was something that was impossible for him to do on his own. The Law could not do it, because it was weak through the flesh. That means you cannot fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law either. The Law can’t produce it in you. Your own flesh can’t produce it in you. Therefore, what did God do? He did it. He came and did what had to be done. He came and fulfilled the righteous requirement of the Law. He lived a perfect life and then He paid the penalty for each of us. Then He said you need to believe this work that I've done, and if you do I’ll come into you. What happens when He comes to live inside of you? By the power of His Spirit, He does in you what you could never do on your own. Here is the simple truth He declared in this text. In other words, Paul is saying to you, "Stop trying to make yourself righteous; it’s already done. Let the Spirit do His work of transforming you."
Paul declared in Colossians 2:10, "You are complete in Him." God’s work is complete and if you are in Him then you are complete too. The word complete means that there is nothing still wanting. That means that there is nothing still wanting or nothing you still need to do to make yourself righteous in the sight of God. Your standing in Christ is righteous by your faith in Him, and God is working out in you the righteous requirement of the Law. Just yield to His Holy Spirit. Paul also makes it clear that to experience this work, you must walk according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh. The word according to means, by or after. In other words, don’t walk by the means or power of the flesh, walk by the means of the Spirit, or under the control of the Spirit. This is where the freedom occurs! "Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). Be confident that He will do the work. Yield to Him and He will do it!
The Freedom to choose (vs. 5-11)
In the previous verses Paul has revealed our incredible freedom in Christ. Now he explains our responsibility to use this freedom to choose what is good. He states, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:5-8). Paul begins by explaining the essential difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. All people who live on this planet are in one of two categories: There are those who have set their minds on the flesh and choose to live according to the flesh, and those who make the opposite choice, to set their minds on living according to the Spirit. The phrase set your minds means to willfully direct your attention to, seek after, or to strive for something. These words reveal the obvious choice you must make which will determine the fruit your life produces. Do you understand that you have tremendous choices set before you everyday? See Isaiah 7:15; Proverbs 1:29; Proverbs 12:26; Isaiah 56:4; Mark 1:15. Your responsibility is to make the right choice. You have the freedom to make the right choice! What choices are you making? Are you setting your mind on the fleshly things or on the things of the Spirit? The problem is that many Christians want to set their minds and seek after the things of the flesh part of the time and the things of the Spirit part of the time. This double-mindedness results in great confusion in your life and allows the war to continue within. How can you stop this battle?
(1) Choose to seek the things that are above. Paul said, "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1). If you want what He is offering, then obey this command! It’s a choice you must make. Does the Lord have what you are looking for? If you believe that He does, then seek Him.
(2) Choose to control your thought life. Paul also said, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col. 3:2). What do you allow your mind to dwell upon? Fleshly things, worldly desires, or the things of God? What you think about will have a real effect upon your spiritual freedom and satisfaction. Remember that Jesus rebuked Peter for his wrong thinking. "For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men" (Mark 8:33). Is this what hinders you?
(3) Choose to reckon yourself dead to sin and alive to God. How do you do this? Go back to chapter 6 of this book and reread that section. Remember, your sinful desires do not have the right to rule you anymore. You have been bought with a price. You belong to God. He has the right to rule you. Surrender to Him!
(4) Choose to stop sowing seeds of failure. Paul warned the Galatian church, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Gal. 6:7-8). What seed are you sowing? You can’t reap life when you are sowing seeds that will only bring death. What do I mean? What kind of music do you listen to? What kind of movies do you watch? What kinds of books or magazines do you read? Who are your friends, and do they build you up spiritually or tear you down? What kinds of places do you go for recreation? All of these choices are what sow seeds of failure or victory in your life. It all depends upon what you choose to set your mind upon and how you choose to behave that will determine victory or failure in your life.
The fruit of your decision will either be death or life to your soul (vs. 6). There is no middle ground. Why? Because your carnal mind is at enmity with God. The word enmity is the same word translated adversary in Scripture, a term used for Satan. He is the adversary and enemy of God and is continually hostile toward God. Similarly, your carnal nature is also an enemy of the Law of God and can never be subject to the Law of God. Your flesh can’t please God no matter how hard you try. This is why Paul declares that those who live in the flesh cannot please God. This is why you should never try to reform your fleshly nature. The only thing you can do is, put it to death! Put it off by faith. Your carnal nature was crucified with Christ, therefore, put it off and refuse to be controlled by it anymore.
However, notice that Paul reminds us that believers are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in us. Our position has been permanently changed. We are in Christ, God dwells in us, we have been translated into His kingdom and His Spirit resides in us. The greatest proof that God does indeed live in us is that He has given us His Holy Spirit. "And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us" (1 John 3:24). If the Spirit lives in you, then this is proof positive that God dwells in you.
What does this mean for those who are in Christ and filled with the Spirit? Paul declares that "if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you" (Rom. 8:10-11). What does he mean? Simply this: Your body is dead in its ability to help you live the Christian life. The body is literally as lifeless and powerless as a corpse. Your body has no power to help you do what is good and it is appointed to die one day because of sin. But, the real you, your spirit, is alive because the Holy Spirit lives inside you. The Spirit lives in you only because of the righteous act of Jesus Christ. Therefore, when Christ makes His home in you, He does what comes natural to Him, He produces life within your heart. "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:12). Then the biggest blessing occurs when you die, the Holy Spirit who lives in you will raise you to life in the resurrection.
Paul’s encouragement to make your choice (vs. 12-14)
Paul now gives us an encouragement to be responsible and make the appropriate choice and live like free people. He also explains the key to living free. "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors--not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 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. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Rom. 8:12-14).
What one important fact proves that you are a son of God? The fact that you are led by the Spirit of God confirms that you truly are a child of God. What will the Spirit lead you to do if you are His son? According to Paul, the Spirit will lead you to put to death the deeds of your body. This is proof positive that you are a child of God.
What a glorious truth! You are free to put to death the deeds of your body by making the choice not to sin. You are no longer a debtor to the flesh. You don’t have to obey the dictates of your flesh anymore. But many times Christians say, "I can’t stop doing this sin." However, if this statement is true, then you must not really be a Christian, because Christians can stop their practice of sin. If you’re in Christ, you have been set free from the power of sin. You should rather say, "I am a believer, but I’m struggling with a particular sin in my life." This is very possible. The problem would then be that you either don’t know about the freedom you possess, or you aren’t exercising your faith in God’s Word to experience that freedom.
You are not a debtor to the flesh, but a debtor to God to live unto Him as His servant. You owe the Lord your entire life because He has set you free from the law of sin and death. You have been bought with a price, therefore, glorify God with your spirit and your body (1 Cor. 6:20). This is how you can glorify the Lord and fulfill your debt to God. Exercise your freedom of choice and put to death the deeds of the body. How can you do this? The word you is used four times in verse 13. Paul made it extremely clear that "if you" will take the action of putting to death these deeds, you will live. Who has this responsibility? You do! However, you don’t have to try and do this by yourself or in your own power. Remember, Paul said this putting to death is done by the Spirit. The Spirit of God is the only person who can help you put to death the desires and the deeds of your flesh. But, it begins with your choice.
Paul is talking to believers here when he said if you live according to the flesh. Therefore, it must be very possible for a believer to choose to give into the flesh. The result of that choice is, "You will die." The law of sin and death is still in effect for anyone who walks down that road. Your human responsibility is to yield to the Holy Spirit. Just surrender. Just say, "I give in, Lord. I can’t free myself from this sin. Lord help me. Fill me." Only by the power of His Spirit can you be made free. The Spirit causes the desires of your flesh to die. You cannot kill them by struggling to free yourself. That is a losing battle. Freedom only occurs when you cry out for the Spirit to come. It’s that simple! This is what Paul encouraged when he said, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). This where you find the freedom you’re looking for. The word "walk in the Spirit" means to order your life and your conduct according to the Spirit. In other words, allow the Spirit to control you as you walk through life. The result is, you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. It is no more difficult than that. That is where life is to be found.
Freedom from fear (vs. 15-17)
Paul now deals with one of the most destructive emotions known to man, fear. "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together" (Rom. 8:15-17). Paul’s principle point in this passage is that when the Holy Spirit comes to live inside you He delivers you from the bondage of fear. You have realized God’s love and grace and that He is calling you unto Himself. You naturally cry out ‘Abba, Father,’ [literally "Father, Father."] because the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.
Not only does the Spirit come within to set you free, but the Spirit also leads you to the One who sets you free. Think about that. The Spirit of God comes into our hearts to lead us to the Father. This is the result of surrender. It’s prayer. The result of surrendering to the Holy Spirit naturally leads you back to the Father to receive more of the Holy Spirit! So when you cry out to Him as Father, the fear is gone because your sins are forgiven. You’re justified. You’re a part of God’s family, and therefore, you just naturally want to cry out to Him as your Father. If you’re not praying very much, it means you’re not surrendering very much. Surrendering to Him brings this natural fruit of prayer. That’s what this verse is saying. Not only does the Spirit bring me to Him, but He also bears witness to me that I am His. This gives me assurance and confidence in prayer.
This assurance is the result of His Spirit at work within you bearing witness to the truth that you are His. Note what the apostle John taught: "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son" (1 John 5:9-10). If you have believed the testimony that God has given concerning His Son, you will have this witness in your heart. This witness is greater than anything that man could give. A non-Christian cannot have this witness and does not have this access by prayer to God as Father. Proverbs 28:9 and Proverbs 15:8 state clearly that the wicked have no access to God and their prayer is actually an abomination unto Him. The only prayer of the wicked that God will respond to is a sincere prayer for forgiveness and mercy. He will never turn that request away.
The Spirit that is given to us is also called the Spirit of adoption. The analogy of adoption into the family of God is a powerful illustration. In Roman culture when someone was adopted, all rights and responsibilities to the old family were severed, once and for all. The adopted child was then granted the status of an equal inheritor with all rights and privileges of a natural born child. What an awesome place you possess as His son or daughter. You are not a stepchild, an outsider, or child on probation. You have full rights and privileges as an heir of the king and a joint heir with Jesus Christ.
Think of it. You are a joint-heir with Jesus Christ to all that the Father possesses. It’s hard to comprehend all that this means. God has made you an equal partner with His own Son. You are seated in Christ in heavenly places! What an incredible statement! However, look at the Scripture: Paul rejoiced, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). Jesus promised that, "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Rev. 3:21). Jesus illustrated this in the parable of the prodigal son, "Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours" (Luke 15:31).
But, if you want this glorious inheritance you must also be willing to inherit one more thing, suffering. Notice this last phrase in verse 17. "If indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together." Willingness to suffer is another proof that you truly are His child. Scripture is clear: "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Phil. 1:29). "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). When you love someone you naturally would deny yourself and suffer for them. Our love for Christ will also draw us to make any sacrifice necessary to follow Him, even if it means suffering at the hands of others. Jesus told His disciples at the beginning of their ministry, "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt. 5:11-12). We would do well to remember these words.