Summary: Explains how after being declared positionally righteous, we can become actually righteous.
I. Romans 8:1 speaks of us being in a righteous position before God, but says nothing of actual righteousness. That is, at this point the one who believes in Jesus and the one who doesn’t may have the exact same actions, but a different verdict is reached, based not on their actions alone, but on their position as righteous. Now I want to make clear two points.
A. There is no other way to be declared not guilty. That is, aside from Christ there is no way to be perfect. Even if it were possible to be completely sinless form this moment on, which it’s not, it would be completely impossible to undo the sins of your past.
B. This declaration of “not guilty” is not a license to sin, knowing that you cannot be convicted. For example, I saw a television show recently, I forget the name of it. But it was a cop show based in Washington D.C. The police were after a heroin dealer and found him very quickly. They arrested him, but had to immediately release him. Can anyone guess the reason that they couldn’t arrest him? He was the son of an ambassador and had a “diplomatic passport.” Someone who carries a diplomatic passport cannot be convicted of a crime. Now this law was made so that hostile countries couldn’t just arrest diplomats from another country on false charges. But this one guy was taking advantage of the process. Well, you can’t do that with Christianity. God knows you much more deeply and he is much more just. So, he knows how to separate the too. If you use this promise as a license to sin, you will find condemnation close behind.
II. Paul continues in Romans 8 to explain after being declared righteous how one can become actually or practically righteous. The weight or yoke of worrying about condemnation has been removed, not so that you can avoid becoming righteous, but to make it possible for you to become righteous. We call this sanctification.
Romans 8:2, “For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death.”
The Holy Spirit himself gives you the power to be free from the power of sin. Previously, and yes even after coming a believer, in our own strength it is impossible for us to resist sin. We were completely unable to resist, because we were like Paul when he said.
Romans 7:25, “but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
But it is the Holy Spirit himself, living in you, that gives you the power to actually overcome sin.
In order to understand more clearly just how the Holy Spirit helps us to overcome sin, lets’ look at
Romans 8:3, “The law of Moses could not save us, because of our sinful nature. But God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful. God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.”
In the first part of this verse, Paul mentions the Law of Moses again. He says here that the Law of Moses couldn’t save us, because of our sinful nature. The fact is, that as I’ve already mentioned, the Law could change the actions or appearance, but it couldn’t change the heart, which is what really matters. All the Law could do was tell us what was right or wrong. But we were already predisposed to do what is wrong, and the Law gave us no power to change that predisposition. Really the Law is good for one things: to show us just how bad we really are. To show us just how impossible it is for us to do it on our own. So that we will turn to Jesus, the one who can really change our hearts.
In Romans 8:2, some of the translations say, “the Law of the Spirit and the Law of Sin and death.” Here Paul is using a play on words. Putting the way of the Spirit against the Law. We know clearly what the law of sin and death is, but sometimes we’re unclear as to what the Law of the Spirit is. For this reason I think many people miss the whole point that Paul is trying to make in Romans 8.
We can look back to the Old Testament promise of a new covenant for this answer in
"The day will come," says the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah.
This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife," says the LORD.