Summary: In Romans 8:5 Paul is focusing on the two ways Christians can choose to live. They can “live according to the sinful nature” or they can choose to “live in accordance with the Spirit.” What determines whether I will walk in the flesh or in the Spirit?
Last week we discussed the first four verses in Romans 8.
In Romans 8:1 we read the astounding statement that Paul makes about anyone who is “in Christ.” This statement can only be made concerning those who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior. But it does apply to all those who are “in Christ.” How many remember what Paul says about Christians in Romans 8:1” “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”i There is no guilty verdict against those who are in Christ. This is the Good News of the gospel. Why is God’s verdict over Christians so favorable? Because at the cross Jesus took our sin and paid its penalty for us; a great exchange occurred in which our sin was placed on Him and His righteousness is deposited to our account (for all who will receive it by faith). No strings attached—it is God’s gift through His Son.ii Romans 8:1 begin with the word, “Therefore.” Whenever you see that word in the Bible, you want to study the preceding statements to know what it is there for. In this case, the “Therefore” refers to everything Paul has written in the first seven chapters of this letter. Chapters 1-7 provide the foundational truths that support the statement. “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
But God’s salvation is not just an abstract reality written on some legal scroll in heaven. It is a reality that He brings into our lives in the form of practical holiness. “So if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed”iii; not just positionally , not just theoretically, but in reality: in our experience. “Little children,” the Apostle John wrote (1 John 3:7) “let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (NKJV). God’s salvation is designed to bring us into the practice of righteousness in our daily lives.
The alarming error of our day is antinomianism. Nomos is the Greek word for law. So in essence the term means anti-law or opposed to law. The error takes this line of reasoning: Since we are saved by grace and not by works, then the moral law is of no use to us; we have no obligation to it.iv God has declared us righteous. We are on our way to heaven. And it doesn’t matter all that much whether we live godly or not. In the end it will all work out. One reason people fall into that error is that they want to. They want to pursue their own fleshly desires and that kind of thinking makes them feel ok about that. The other reason people fall into that error is that they are taught a faulty theology. They are given half a gospel. They are told that grace means unmerited favor and that is true. But that is not all it means. That unmerited favor comes to us through the divine influence of the Holy Spirit. He comes into our hearts to guide us into all truthv and to empower us for godly living.
Remember the declaration in Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (NKJV). The Greek word, kurieuo, in that verse is translated “have dominion over.” It refers to the exercise of power. It’s talking about something that dominates or takes control of a person.vi Understand that verse is not addressing legal positioning or penalty. It does not say, “For you will not experience the penalty of sin….” That issue is dealt with in other places. What we must see in Romans 6:14 is that there is freedom in Christ from the dominance of an addiction, a habit, or any other expression of sin. The full gospel will make you free indeed.
So Paul says in Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And then immediately adds verse 2 “because” (that connects it with the previous statement) “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” It’s the law or operation of the Holy Spirit in me that frees me from the cycle of sin that leads to death. And in verse 4 he writes, “in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us….” God is not trying to excuse us from living holy; He is empowering us to live holy. Peter put it this way,
1 Peter 1:15-17 “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ 17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” So Romans 8:4 “in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” That last phrase makes sure we understand that this is stuff expressed in the way we live: “who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”