The Spirit is greater than the Flesh, PT 1
Good Morning! Please open up your Bibles to Romans chapter 8. If you do not own a Bible, please take one from the table in the back as our gift to you. We have looked at 7 chapters of the Apostle Pauls letter to the churches in Rome. As such we are getting ready to jump in to chapter 8. This is called by some as the Best Chapter in the Bible.
Paul has thus far dealt with practical and deep theological issues, such as salvation, justification, sanctification, regeneration, Original Sin, total Depravity, Penal Substitutionary Atonement, a whole lot of big words for clear, sometimes simple, sometimes not, Biblical truths. And he continues here into chapter 8, with this first part, the part we are dealing with this morning. Paul will deal especially the freedom we have in Christ and the Holy Spirit who gives us that freedom. He deals with the difference between the flesh and the Spirit.
Before we look at Chapter 8, I want to reread the last two verses of Chapter 7, as we continue to remember to look at the context of the passages we look at. No verse in the Bible is in a vacuum. Every verse needs to be looked at in context. So Paul writes in Romans chapter 7, verses 24 & 25:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Jesus Christ has delivered us from the law of sin and death. Thanks be to God! Paul had just gotten down talking about the struggle between the flesh and the spirit to do the things of God. Our flesh continues to be corrupted by sin and we continue to fall and give in to temptation. We are being sanctified and we continue to grow in Christ, and we are human beings, with a sinful nature and fighting against powers and principalities.
You read chapter 7 where Paul is talking about his struggles and doing things he knows he shouldn’t do, and you can almost hear him beating himself up. And that feeling, that thought process and that knowledge are what lead to his statement and question in 7:24… Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
And it leads right into his writing that we are looking at this week. Lets go ahead and read Romans chapter 8, verses 1 through 11. I am reading out of the English Standard Version. Again, Romans 8:1-11.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Theologian Charles Hodge gives an introduction to this chapter of the Bible and shows us what the underlying main point that Paul is making at this section in his letter. Hodge says: The whole of the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is designed to prove the certain salvation of all who believe. The proposition to be established is, that there is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” That is, they can never perish; they can never be so separated from Christ as to come into condemnation.
Now, starting right from the beginning of the section that we are looking at today. Now, as I just said, no verse exists in a vacuum. No verse exists without context. However, verse 1 right here, IF understood correctly and fully, and that’s a BIG IF, verse 1 can be a stand alone verse. There are fewer of thee than we think in the Bible, but they are there. It is obviously placed here in context, coming right after Paul’s inner battle he related in chapter 7. He makes sure we have to know the context by “Therfore,” but within that context, the verse in full is beautiful and complete. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
What a beautiful statement. What an encouraging word that the Holy Spirit gives Paul to write to the churches in Rome and, as part of Gods inspired and inerrant Word of God, onto us.
Paul has made it clear throughout this book and through the rest of his letters that our process of sanctification is, in fact, ongoing. It is not complete and it is not finished. We are still going to trip up and sin in this life. But, if, IF we are in Christ, that’s the main point that we will bring all this back to, but IF we are in Christ, those sins that we will commit, will not condemn us.
For there is now no condemnation in Christ. Outside of Christ, all are condemned. Thats an unfortunate truth. All who are in Christ, are without condemnation. All who are in Christ, are saved, are justified, standing in right legal standing before God, are forgiven. All who are in Christ, have had ALL their sins forgiven, past, present and future. And only if you are in Christ. That condemnation is taken away. That condemnation that is deserved is taken away. We are delivered by grace through faith into the family of God.
Paul is going to talk later in this chapter about us being adopted in his family and us only then becoming children of God and co heirs with Christ. And we will touch much deeper on that then. But my point at the moment and an underlying point of this verse is that there is a very real, very tangible, very necessary difference in our lives and more importantly, in our souls, depending on if we are in Christ or if we are not.
Here is a quick and simple Gospel. God created us to worship him and bring him glory. He created us to be with him. We messed that up. We all sinned. That separates us from God. Sinning comes from worshiping anything and everything except God. Sinning attempts to bring us and others glory instead of God.
Sin corrupts so totally and completely that we cannot stop ourselves from sinning. We cannot not sin. God is a Holy God. He has perfect, Holy Standards. He is also a Just God, meaning that sin needs to be dealt with and not just swept under the rug. The wages of sin is death.
God knew all this before time began and God the Father, God the Son, Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, One God, Three Persons, they had a plan. That plan was for Jesus, the Son of God, to be born as a human baby, the incarnation. He lived his life as 100% human, but also 100% God. He lived a Holy and sinless life. He showed us what obedience to God looks like, he lived as an example and taught how to rightly interpret the scriptures. Most importantly, he died a death that he didnt deserve. He was crucified for sins he didnt commit.
Because he died without any sins, his blood was sufficient to cover up our sins. His righteousness is enough to cover our natural, innate, all-encompassing unrighteousness. We cannot earn, influence or achieve our salvation in any way. We cannot access Jesus righteousness in any way on our own. No matter how moral, how upstanding, how nice, no matter how law-abiding, conservative or churched we are. None of that matters or affects our salvation or access to Jesus righteousness in any way.
He gives it freely. We have been saved by grace through faith. Faith in Jesus Christ and who God in the Bible tells us he is. Sin blinds us to the Gospel, it blinds us to the saving work of Christ on the cross. The Holy Spirit lifts the veils from our eyes and turns our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. The Holy spirit regenerates us, changes us from the inside out.
When that happens, we become covered in Christs righteousness, so when God looks at us, he does not see our sin, and therefore no longer demands blood for payment of our sins. We are justified, which means we are no longer seen as guilty, but are declared as having right legal standing before God. Our sins are forgiven. That happens instantaneously, the moment we are saved by grace through faith.
Gods work in us and on us, and his demands from us are not finished in that moment. We are freed from the curse of sin and the condemnation of the law, but God calls us to follow the law. The law is good and Holy and is not a method of salvation. And so we are called to follow it in order to grow in Holiness, to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, as Paul will tell us later in Romans.
Sin loses its grip on us and we grow in our walk and relationship with Christ. This is a process, it is not an instant. This starts in that instant and it continues for the rest of our lives. This is Sanctification.
We are no longer condemned, but are now citizens of the kingdom of God. If we are in Christ. The unfortunate reality is that many people are not in Christ. Many people dont believe God exists, they see no reason to believe in sin or that they are sinners. Other people believe in God, may even belive in Jesus, but consider themselves good enough people that they have no need to repent, or to change their lives, or church or anything that would impede on their lives.
The problem is that morality without being in Christ leads down the same wide and easy road that leads to destruction as does unbelief and immorality. Again, Jonathon Edwards says that “The only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin that makes it necessary.”
Without Christ, we are in a state of natural rebellion. Both those positions I just described are states of rebellion. I don’t need Christ because he and sin don’t exist. I don’t need Christ because Im good enough without him. The only right view and lifestyle is I need Christ. Period. For everything. I am nothing without him. He gives me everything.
Without Christ there is only condemnation. Without Christ, we all deserve and will only receive eternal torment and the weeping and gnashing of teeth that Jesus talks about in Hell. Without Christ there is no hope, no salvation, no assurance and no future.
And yet, there is now no condemnation in Christ. This verse stands alone with no buts if we understand what it means to be in Christ. He tells us that we are to take up our cross daily. We will face resistance and persecution. We will see it unfair that we can’t treat others in the negative way that they treat us.
We are called to live a holy life, set aside from the society and culture around us. Different. Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit. And we cant do it ourselves. We have to lean on the grace and mercy of Christ, the empowerment of the Holy spirit. We cant do it, but we are called to do it. Christ will help us do it. Because we will not become sinless, we will get down on ourselves, maybe even feeling that condemnation that has been taken away.
I like the way Derek Thomas says it:
We are Christians; we believe in Jesus Christ, and there’s no condemnation. But then we sin, and we revert to a state of condemnation again, so we try to do a little better. We come to church, we read our Bibles, we sing more lustily one of the hymns. We have nice thoughts about Jesus. And then we slip back into a state of no condemnation again. But then tomorrow we sin again, and we slip back into a state of condemnation, and we try to do some more good things and try to love Jesus more, and read perhaps an extra chapter of the Bible. And then we slip back into a state of no condemnation again. That’s performance mentality. It dogs us, doesn’t it? It hounds us all the time. We can hardly believe our eyes; we can hardly believe our ears when we read here in Romans 8 not just about the state of justification, but about the state of sanctification, about the reality of our condition now as ongoing sinners: there is no condemnation. If you are in Jesus Christ, there is no condemnation. Yes, I have sinned. Yes, I have fallen short of God’s glory. Yes, I have come to Jesus Christ. I have put my faith and trust in Him, and I continue to sin. I fall short this morning, even now. Even at this very minute I fall short of the glory of God. But I am in Jesus Christ, I am resting in Him, I am trusting in Him, and there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
First off, if you are not in Christ. Please change that. Stop rejecting the Gospel and Christs completed and sufficient work on the cross that he did for you. Call our to Christ. Do as he said, Repent and Believe! The Bible says in Proverbs that we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart, and lean not on our own understanding. You cant do it yourself and it has eternal and dire results. Open the Bible and read God crying out to you. Paul writes later in Romans that Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. See Gods Word for what it is, His revelation of himself to us so that we can know him and trust in him. If you have any additional questions, you can come talk to me afterwards or anyone that you have seen up here on stage this morning.
Second off, therefore, there is now no condemnation in Christ. If you are in Christ, Paul is writing and has been writing to assure us that we are not in Christ because of ourselves but that it is a wonderful, incredible, undeserved gift from God. Because it is a gift, because it is all from God, we can have an assurance of our salvation in Christ. There is no condemnation, there is no being snatched out of the hand of God, there is no God taking back his forgiveness. We will get more into that coming up in this chapter.
But there is more to it as well. What are some the best gifts you have ever received? When you got the gifts, did you hide them and keep them a secret? Of course not. You went and told people. You were excited, you wanted others to know. We are called to do the same with our faith. This literally a matter of life and death. Eternal life with Christ, or eternity in Hell.
Charles Spurgeon shows how we should be looking at this, crying out: “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
Being in Christ changes us from the inside out. Sometimes the fruit that we are supposed to be bearing, don’t always show up immediately. But there will always be fruit. AW Tozer says: The Holy Spirit never enters a man and then lets him live like the world. You can be sure of that.
Lastly, If you are in Christ, Rejoice! Thank God! Sing praises to him, honor him, worship him! Sing the songs we sing here as we are gathered in worship. Lift up your voices and make a joyful noise! Honor him by following his commands, including reading his word, gathering together with the saints and living a holy life that HE gets to define, not us. Worship him by putting him above all else. Not work, not school, not house,, not football on Sunday mornings, not fishing, camping, or being out on the lake, not sleeping or family and friends, nothing goes before God.
Im going to leave us with more scripture, Paul writing to the Ephesians, Ephesians 2:1-10, he writes:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.