Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…
In the year 1739, that great English hymn writer Charles Wesley composed the lyrics to the beautiful and enduring work, And Can It Be That I Should Gain. In the fifth and final stanza of this majestic hymn we hear these words of glorious triumph:
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine;
Alive in him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Over the years as a minister I have noticed that condemnation is probably one of the greatest weapons in Satan’s arsenal. There is no telling how many millions of Christians labor under condemnation of one sort or another. There is also no telling how many tens of millions of Christians over the centuries have resorted to Romans 8:1 in their battles against the devil. This is the verse that causes Satan to slink away and wait for a
Some older translations and even the New King James Version add the phrase “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” We should note that this phrase is not found in the oldest manuscripts of the Bible. That is almost a relief to us because Paul’s statement without this addition makes the verse a quick and mighty weapon against evil forces.
The word “condemnation” is a forensic term coming from the courtroom. There is another legal word that is the opposite of condemnation and that is “justification.” Paul has already used this term several times in Romans. It is clear in scripture that justification is a once-and-forever act of God toward believers. Through justification God has declared us “blameless,” “not guilty,” and “acquitted” of all our sin. It is clear in scripture that one Christian cannot be justified more than another since this is a one-time act of God on behalf of each believer.
In Romans 5:18 we read: “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” In 2 Corinthians 5:19 it is said “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them…” Hebrews 10:14 goes on to make plain that by the one sacrifice of himself, the Lord has made us perfect forever. This “forever” justification is made effective in our lives the moment we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. However, it was a fact in God’s mind eons ago.
The popular theologian Dr. J.I. Packer says: “Justification is decisive for eternity, being in effect the judgment of the last day brought forward.”1 Paul sums it up another way at the end of this chapter (Rom. 8:30): “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” The Bible says that we were chosen in Christ before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4). We were thus predestined, called and justified before the world began. In other words, our salvation is a “done deal.” That is why there can be no condemnation. As Paul will say later in this chapter (8:31), “…If God is for us, who can be against us?” Who would dare? Hallelujah!
NEW LIFE THROUGH THE SPIRIT
…because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2
Romans chapter 8 is known for its focus on the Spirit (pneumatos) and for the great assurance that the Holy Spirit brings into our lives. We have noticed how the Holy Spirit was not mentioned at all in the previous chapter but in this chapter is mentioned at least twenty times.
In the previous chapter Paul spoke of a law in his members that was waging war against his mind and making him a prisoner of sin and death (Rom. 7:22-23). Here we see that there is another law and it is called “the law of the Spirit of life.” We might wonder why it is called a law. Perhaps it is called this because it is “an inward principle of action, operating with the fixedness and regularity of a law.”2 Just as the earlier law brought condemnation and bondage, this law brings justification and freedom. As we have said before, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17). We might liken this law to the law of aerodynamics which defeats the law of gravity and allows a plane
to soar. 3
This law of the Spirit is in essence the power and authority that is being exercised by the Spirit in our individual lives. For us to be governed by the law of sin and death means that we are living in the flesh. For us to be governed according to the law of the Spirit means that we are living in the Spirit. To be “in the flesh” means exactly the same as being “in Adam.” It means bondage and death. However, to be “in the Spirit” is to be “in Christ.” That means freedom and life.
Today we speak of people “driving under the influence” of alcohol or drugs (DUI). The Lord Jesus desires that we “live under the influence”4 of the Holy Spirit (LUI). This is the same thing as “walking in the Spirit.” What does this mean? Luther defined it as one “who, inwardly and outwardly, lives only to do those things which are of use to the Spirit and to the life to come.”5 Paul puts it another way in Galatians 5:16:“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
In order for us to be in this state we must first of all be born again by the Spirit (Jn. 3:3, 7), or be truly converted to the Lord. Next we must be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). After that we need to allow the Spirit to sanctify our lives each day (1 Pet. 1:2). We must then learn to “walk in the Spirit” as a little child would learn to walk (Gal. 5:16).
There are several other things we must do, like pray in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18); love in the Spirit (Col. 1:8); worship in the Spirit (Jn. 4:23); sing in the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:15); be led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:18); be strengthened by the Spirit (Eph. 3:16); be quickened by the Spirit (Jn. 6:63); be sealed with the Spirit (Eph. 1:13); offer sacrifices in the Spirit (1 Pet. 2:5); and keep the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3).
We must always be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). It is the Holy Spirit who will make us victorious today and especially in the last-day. Also in our lives we need to exercise the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1ff.) and produce the spiritual fruit like that mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. All this is but a partial description of “living in the Spirit.”
In Chapter 7 Paul spoke of the law in his members which waged war against his mind. Now that the Holy Spirit has come to us we are given “a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7 NKJ). Indeed we are undergoing a “mind transplant” as the “mind of Christ” is being placed within us (1 Cor. 2:16). Now through the Spirit and with our new mind we can begin to “speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words”(1 Cor. 2:13).
Paul says: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man” (8:3). We saw earlier that the law was perfect but that its perfection could not help us because we were weakened by our sinful flesh. When the Bible uses “flesh” it is not talking necessarily about our fleshly bodies (skin, flesh, and bones). It is rather talking about our human nature in all its weaknesses, its vulnerability to sin, its separation from Christ. It is talking about our seeing things from a purely human point of view. 6
I once heard a preacher say that man has made such a mess of things that only God could straighten it out. That is essentially what is being said in this verse. God had to solve the sin problem and he did so by sending his only Son. His eternal Son came to this earth clothed in the flesh of a little baby. He lived thirty-three years here essentially as we live; he was even tempted with all the things that tempt us, yet he lived without sin (Heb. 4:15). The word “likeness” (homoiōmati) used here might make us think that Jesus only appeared to be a man and not a real person in flesh and blood. This was what the ancient Gnostic heresy of Docetism claimed, that Jesus’ physical body was only an illusion and that he only appeared to die on the cross. We know that Jesus was truly man while he was at the same time truly God. While in his flesh he probably even had headaches and backaches like the rest of us.
The word “likeness” has been used a number of times in Romans (cf. 1:23; 5:14, 6:5) and in all these places it has the meaning of “limitation.”7 Jesus the Son of God came to live here with all the limitations of human flesh. Philippians 2:7-8 sums it up perfectly in saying that Christ “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Phil. 2:7-8).
Jesus came to earth; lived and died as a sin offering “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” (8:4). We should note here that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us and not by us. God had to come and do it for us (cf. Phil. 2:13). We remember how it was said of Abraham that he obeyed the Lord and kept all the Lord’s commands. This was over 450 years before those commands were ever given. Abraham enjoyed “imputed righteousness” just as we believers in Messiah do today. This righteousness is based on Christ, on him only and not on our works. Long ago John Berridge wrote this little poem:
Run, John, and work, the law commands,
Yet finds me neither feet nor hands;
But sweeter news the gospel brings,
It bids me fly and lends me wings! 8
HAVING THE PROPER “MIND-SET”
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:5
The mind is of great importance, as we see here. What is of even more importance is the renewing of the mind. Paul will speak of this later in Romans 12:2. God wants to give us a brand new mind-set.
We have already seen in Romans how those people live whose mind-set is on the flesh. Paul spells it out even more clearly in Galatians 5:19-21: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” “This does not mean that the unsaved person never does anything good, or that the believer never does anything bad. It means that the bent of their lives is different. One lives for the flesh, the other lives for the Spirit.”9
We see an entirely different mind-set among those who live by God’s Spirit. In Galatians 5:22-23 it is said: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” We usually don’t hear of people being sent to jail because of their kindness, gentleness or self-control. It is usually because of the lack of these things that people end up in jail.
“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” (8:6). The Bible assures us that people who are merely flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom (1 Cor. 15:50). The mind of sinful man opposes God’s things and detests them. Such a mind is often filled with abominations, impurities, blasphemies and curses. We have already seen God’s judgment on the sinful mind. We remember in Romans 6:23 God says: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Already we have seen how the Spirit gives life. Here we note that the Spirit also gives peace. Peace, eirēnē in the Greek and shalom in the Hebrew, also conveys a sense of harmony, completeness, soundness, and welfare. In the Hebrew the word shalom is commonly used as a greeting to this day.
Paul says: “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (8:7-8). Often people in the world think they are pretty good folks and that somehow God is pleased with them. This is not in any sense the case. If they could only see how far removed their minds are from God’s things and how hostile their minds are to his kingdom they would shudder. There is no pleasing God through fleshly means. Their minds cannot and will not submit to God’s law. The word used here is hupotassō and it is a military term meaning “arranging in order under.” This is probably referring to arranging things under a commanding general. The mind of the sinful person is not arranged under God’s command and order but under the command and order of Satan. 10 Newell has remarked concerning this text: “Perhaps no one text of Scripture more completely sets forth the hideously lost state of man after the flesh.”11
SPIRIT CONTROLLED LIVING
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. Romans 8:9
Stedman says about the spiritual walk that if we don’t learn to walk in the Spirit our lives will likely be an enigma not only to ourselves but to everyone else as well. Those who are walking in the flesh are living below their possibilities. This means that they are carnal Christians, either sinfully or legally carnal. 12
We must now be controlled by the Holy Spirit of God. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” We have a new dynamic, a spiritual one. To walk in the Spirit does not mean that we are at last rid of the old body as Greek thinking would have it, but that the Spirit of God will now energize the body and give new life to it.
Now we need to clear out the cobwebs from some of our left-over twentieth-century thinking. Since the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements fully blossomed during last century, the idea has been prevalent that the coming of the Spirit to the saved person is a “second work of grace” or a “second blessing.” Thus it is subsequent to the salvation experience. This is not sound theology. We see here in this verse that “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” This passage assures us that when a person is born again by the Spirit he or she has the Spirit from that point onward. Indeed, we are assured that the Spirit will never leave us but will abide with us
forever (Jn. 14:16).
It would be impossible to be born again by the Spirit and not have the Spirit. So as Guzik states, “It is a misnomer to divide Christians among the ‘Spirit-filled’ and the ‘non-Spirit-filled.’”13 These are in fact expressions of carnality. This practice disputes the clear teaching of scripture, for we are told not to consider ourselves better than others (Phil. 2:3). This is indeed a source of much tension in the church today and has caused many to show contempt for the Holy Spirit’s work.
The question is not whether we have the Spirit or not but whether the Spirit has us. 14 There are a number of scriptures that picture the Spirit as something put within us that begins to grow and finally even overflows from us. We probably need to get away from the expression “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” This expression clearly appears only seven times in the Bible and always has reference to the initial historical outpouring of the Spirit. Instead, we should probably use expressions like “Filled with the Holy Spirit” which more accurately describes our ongoing experience (Acts 9:17; 4:8; 4:31; 13:9, 52). We have only to look at scriptures like 2 Peter 1:3-4; Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 2:9-10; John 4:14; and John 7:37-39 to see that the Spirit’s filling is something that wells up within us and begins to flow out of us. It can indeed be a dramatic event and could seem like a “second blessing” as the carnal self is broken up and as the Holy Spirit begins to gain dominance.
We have the responsibility of being filled with the Spirit every day as Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18-20: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Maybe we should ask ourselves this question: “When was the last time we spoke to someone in a spiritual song?” God wants us to move on in the Spirit and experience spiritual gifts. It is of note in verse 9 of this chapter that the titles “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of Christ” are used interchangeably. This is not only a great argument for the deity of Christ but it shows that “the Father and the Son are related to the Spirit in the
We have mentioned before how in Genesis 1:2 the Spirit of God “hovered” over the old creation as it was being formed. Now we see that the Spirit of God in a sense hovers over us as God’s new creation. His creative work within us and within the church will apparently be much more spectacular than his glorious original work with the old creation.
“But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness” (8:10). There doesn’t seem to be a practical way of distinguishing between the Holy Spirit living in us and Christ living in us. There is simply no way to divide the members of the God-head. There is one thing for sure. When God comes to live with us the old man has to go. There is a real sense in which the old man within us has already been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). There is another sense in which this death must be worked out in our lives. This death is not a passive one where we are not involved. Indeed, it is a very active one where we “die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31). As we have said before, we must “reckon” ourselves to be dead to the old life and alive to the new. We are alive because of “imputed righteousness” or his righteousness that is now given to us.
“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (8:11). There are two things that seem to be indicated here. First, this verse clearly applies to the coming resurrection of the dead. The verb form zōoporeō used here means “to cause to live, make alive, or give life.”16 We know from scripture that when the last trumpet sounds, those still living will be transformed into new and glorious bodies and those already dead will be raised with their imperishable bodies. This will all happen in a “flash” or “twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52).
But there is a second thing implied here. God will not only raise us from the dead in the last day but he is already doing so in a real sense. We are already commanded to consider ourselves as people who are “brought from death to life” (Rom. 6:13). We are already transformed new creatures in Christ, body, soul and spirit. As a result we can even now walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4; Jn. 5:24; 1 Jn. 5:13). So we can see that God promises each of us a spiritual resurrection here and now. 17
We can see by these verses that some religious denominations have made a dreadful mistake by denying the Holy Spirit, his work and his gifts. Such an act is tantamount to locking up Christians and churches in a prison of carnal thinking which will war against the spiritual development that Christ has in mind for his people.
OUR OBLIGATION TO THE SPIRIT
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. Romans 8:12
We have a daily obligation and responsibility and that is to live each day under the power of the Holy Spirit within us. We have no debt to the flesh to live any longer under its power and influence. After all, what did the flesh ever do for us? If as Christians we continue to live under the influence of the flesh, we are headed for trouble. Brown puts it in very simple terms: “If you do not kill sin, it will kill you.”18
Thus we see the biblical pattern is for us to “put to death” the sin that is within us on a practical day-to-day basis. Paul says: “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live (8:13).
Putting to death the sinful nature is not something we ourselves can do in our strength. Only the Holy Spirit working in us can accomplish this. He can do so as we “reckon” or “count” ourselves to be dead to sin (Rom. 6:11) and as we agree in putting to death whatever belongs to the sinful nature (Col. 3:5). The Greek verb used in this verse is in the present tense and this indicates a continuous action. 19
Paul goes on: “because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (8:14). We are not begotten sons like Jesus but we are adopted sons. As we know from the Roman adoption procedure the adopted son lost all obligations and connections with his former family and at the same time gained all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family.20 Through Jesus we believers are now sons of God in the fullest sense. As we live by the Spirit, Jesus is not ashamed to call us “brothers” (Heb. 2:11).
CRYING “ABBA FATHER”
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15
This is certainly a well-known and well-worn passage to many believers. We are no longer slaves and no longer do we serve in fear. We are now sons, even adopted sons, and we serve our Father in love. We have “received the Spirit of sonship” and because of it we can call our Father “Abba” or “Daddy” (cf. Gal. 4:6). The ancient words of Hosea 1:10 have come to pass for us Gentiles. We are now called “sons of the living God.” I think of the times back in the 1960s when John Kennedy sat in the White House as President of the US. At the time he was probably the most powerful man in the whole world. Occasionally there were pictures of little John playing under his desk while the president was working. What a position we have as sons of the Living God, the King of the Universe. We can snuggle up beside his great throne and call him “Daddy.”
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (8:16). In Jewish law, matters had to be verified by the testimony of two witnesses (Deut. 17:6). We see here that the Holy Spirit is a witness on our behalf. Also, our own spirit testifies along with the Holy Spirit that we are God’s children. In the Roman adoption, the process had to be witnessed so we see here that our adoption into the family of God is also witnessed.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (8:17). In Roman society the adopted son had just as much right to be an heir as the natural born son. So we are heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ.
Yet, there is a popular saying: “no pain, no gain.” How true it is that there is a cost of discipleship and sonship. We have been running into the subject of Christian suffering several places in this book. The subject just won’t go away no matter how much we postmodern western Christians would like it to. The message is simple, “no cross, no crown” (cf. 2 Tim. 2:12).
Jesus the natural Son of God was destined for suffering (Lk. 24:26). He was careful to point out to the adopted sons that suffering would also await them (Jn. 15:20). He said, “…anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Mt. 10:38). We see here that suffering is presented as the normal state of the Christian. Paul has already discussed this truth in 5:3. Here we see how far the modern and postmodern western church has fallen away from the biblical norm. Paul does not speak of suffering for our own mistakes but suffering on behalf of Christ and his gospel. In western Christendom we somehow no longer have a gospel that produces this kind of suffering.
OUR COMING GLORY
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18
That old gospel song puts it well: “There’s a promise coming down that dusty road.” There has been a lot of dust, dirt and flesh over the many centuries but the promise is still coming. It is the promise of glory for all of us who believe in Jesus. All the trials and tribulations are nothing when compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.
We have to use our “reckoning” once more when we consider this. Although it doesn’t seem possible with our present situation and with the situation of the world, we still “reckon” or “consider” (logizomai) in faith that it will come to pass.
As we just said, Paul never gets away from the idea of Christian suffering. Stott says that suffering and glory are the themes of this whole section. He says the two themes of suffering and glory are “married” and that they belong together indissolubly. 21 However, again in 2 Corinthians 4:17 Paul says that these troubles we experience are “light” and “momentary” when compared with our eternal glory that is coming.
Now Paul introduces a surprising and even shocking new element. He says “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” (8:19). Not only do we wait in eager expectation but the whole created order waits eagerly for the revelation of God’s sons.
The creation was spoken into existence by the word of God so it always has a vital connection to the word and even responds to the word. In some way that we do not understand the whole creation is in a sense personified and is anticipating the word of God concerning renewed man to come to pass. There is some sort of “mysterious sympathy between the world and man.”22
In a very real sense the fall of man in the garden dragged down the whole glorious created order. Because of that fall a curse was placed on the ground and the creation began to endure many pains, problems and hardships. A sense of futility along with decay and death resulted. Sin is almost like sand thrown into a delicate machine. There begins to be a creaking, groaning and overheating as a result of it.
“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (8:20-21). What we see here is almost a replay of the Book of Ecclesiastes, which speaks of the existential absurdity and meaninglessness of life lived “under the sun.”23 We hear a similar thing from the world of science which assures us that our cosmos is running down and is being depleted of usable energy. However, God has subjected the world in hope so that at the proper time its redemption will come. Strangely though, “the transformation of the universe depends upon the completion of man’s transformation by the working of God’s grace.”24 Man can only complete his part of the transformation as he is found “in Christ.” As the scripture has said, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
This section of scripture has at the same time been neglected and abused. The church has not comprehended the wonder of what is mentioned here and it is seldom spoken of in most places. The wonder is that there is an unspeakable glory coming to faithful humanity. We have seen earlier how this glory is one sense is already available for us. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10: “…No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit….” The whole natural order is waiting expectantly for man to get it together in Christ and to be what he was meant to be in the beginning. The downside is that some have taken these scriptures and have unduly magnified man, claiming that certain groups will become a class of proud and selfish “super Christians” in the last day. 25 The problem with this heresy is that man is magnified at the expense of Christ who has made it all possible. We must not forget that these promises are real and they will come to pass even in this age as well as in the next.
We know from scripture that our present world order is due to come to an end and that there will be new heavens and a new earth. The scripture assures us that the present heaven and earth will be remade and restructured. It will be purged by the fires of the last days and everything will be laid bare. Yet in 2 Peter 3:13 we read: “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”
GROANS FOR GLORY
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Romans 8:22
The creation is groaning as we have seen and it continues to groan. We sense that groaning all around us as earthquakes, floods, fires and numerous other natural disasters take their toll. Many Jewish traditions portrayed the time nearing the end of the age as a time of “birth-pangs” as is seen in Matthew 24:6-8. These pangs were pictured as “messianic woes” in other places and it was thought that these pangs and woes would usher in the messianic age.26
“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (8:23). The creation groans and we Christians groan in our half-saved condition. We have the firstfruits of our salvation but we do not yet have the last fruits. That will involve our being clothed in unbelievable splendor as our bodies are fully redeemed and changed. We will then be found in his likeness. No doubt, with this we will rejoice, but not only will we rejoice, all creation will rejoice with us. Perhaps it is at this point that “…the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isa. 55:12).
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (8:24-25). The changes we speak of are related to the “blessed hope” of the appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Tit. 2:13). Until this point we are caught in a dilemma, a tension, and we groan awaiting our full adoption and redemption. This is what it means to be “between the times” between the “already” and the “not yet.” In such times our correct Christian posture is to wait eagerly 27 and to wait in hope.
Philippians 3:20-21 assures us: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” We are much like the people of Israel in the wilderness who received the firstfruits of Canaan as the spies returned but who would have to wait for the full enjoyment of these fruits. Now we may enjoy the firstruits of the Spirit in our midst but we must wait for the full harvest of the Spirit.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (8:26). This is one of the great prayer passages of the Bible. Long ago the Greek Pathagoras actually forbade his disciples to pray for themselves. He felt that they in their ignorance could never know what was appropriate for them. 28 We also have a similar problem and the Spirit has to help us in our weakness. Probably the worst thing that could happen to us would be for God to answer all of our prayers. Some of our prayers are selfish and totally out of alignment with the divine purpose for us.
We learn here about the blessed truth that the Holy Spirit actually intercedes for us. And as we could guess, he is groaning. What fortunate people we are though. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us and we also learn in scripture that Jesus himself intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25). All this goes on constantly and without our knowledge. Both the Holy Spirit and Jesus know for certain what we really need and their intercessions for us will not go unheeded by the Father in Heaven.
“And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (8:27). We essentially have the triune God working on our behalf through prayer and intercession. In Revelation 8:3-4 we see that even the angels are involved in the matter of intercession. We see them placing our prayers on a golden censer and along with incense offering them up to heaven. Yes, we are blessed people!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
From this point onward in Romans 8 Paul takes wings and soars to sublime heights unequaled anywhere else in the New Testament. “His great Spirit-directed mind now sweeps over the whole plan and purpose of God from a past eternity to an eternity still to come, from the divine foreknowledge and predestination to the divine love from which absolutely nothing will ever be able to separate us.”29 This is such a precious portion of the Bible that many Christians have committed it to memory.
Perhaps the only passage that could compare with this one is found in Ephesians 1:3-14. In this passage we also learn of God’s choosing us before the world was formed that we might live before him in love and without blame forever.
It is obvious that this grand relationship with God is one of love. In 1 Corinthians 8:3 it is said: “But the man who loves God is known by God.” For those who love him and know him, God is ever at work to conform all things to their good. Yes, there will be persecution but nevertheless the one who knows God will be blessed through it all. This whole creation belongs to God and when he wants to bless us the creation will quickly join in to make that blessing abound. Conversely, when God decides to bring a curse, even the stars in their courses will fight against us as they did in the case of Sisera long ago. (Jud. 5:20).
The verb synergei (works together) used here is in the present tense and conveys the idea of a continuing activity. 30 In other words, God is presently working for this purpose and will continue to work for it. All this reminds us of that great verse in Jeremiah 29:11 which assures us in these words: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Paul now continues on as he soars to the heights of glory. He says: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (8:29). We see here that we were foreknown to God. The word used here is ginosko and it has the meaning of being known intimately and by experience. There are no surprises in the Kingdom of God for he knows those who are his (2 Tim. 2:19).
Because God knew us he also predestined us. The idea here is that God predestined us to look like himself. Originally humans were made in the image or likeness of God as we see from Genesis 1:26. The fall greatly marred that image in ways that we could hardly imagine. Now God’s purpose is to remake us in the image or likeness of his Son (1 Jn. 3:2). God wants us all to look and act like Jesus. Those earlier disciples were like “firstborn” of the flock. Obviously, there would be many brothers after them (Heb. 2:12).
“And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (8:30). This passage (29-30) is often referred to as “the golden chain.” It describes a five-step program wherein God brings people to himself and to glory. 31 True believers are foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified. This is not all future, but it is happening now. Osborn points out that “glorified” is not future but is in the Greek aorist tense indicating something that has happened. The other verbs in this string are also aorist. 32 In 2 Corinthians 3:18 we read: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Our foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification and glorification are all “done deals” in a real sense and we can begin in some ways to enjoy them all right now.
WHO CAN BE AGAINST US?
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
When my wife and I went to Israel in 1989 as Christian workers we went by simple faith in the Almighty God. I remember at the time we wrote at the top of every personal financial record “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” This is taken from that grand passage in Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms…” We proved that passage true and somehow God began to underwrite all the expenses of our ministry. Today after more than twenty years and even after our official ministry time has ended there, God is still faithfully supplies and on a monthly basis we still continue to write the same words atop each of our financial pages.
If the Almighty God is for us who would dare be against us? In Psalm 118:6 there is a beautiful passage: “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Indeed, the Old Testament speaks often of God watching over his people and being “with” them and “for” them. (cf. Ps. 56:9; 118:6; Ezek. 34:30). If they are challenged by anyone it is a challenge to God. For those of us who are parents or grandparents, when someone comes against our young children in a threatening way our children don’t have a problem, we have a problem and we are usually right there to settle that problem.
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (8:31-32). This is another of Paul’s arguments from the greater to the lesser. He is saying that “if God has paid the highest price why would he quibble about anything less?”33 It is interesting that the word “spare” used here (epheisato) is the very same word used in Genesis 22:12 (Greek Septuagint version). This was the story of Abraham not withholding his only son Isaac from sacrifice to God. 34 On that same hill of Moriah or Zion, God did not withhold his only son many centuries later (Jn. 1:29). With Jesus the very best of heaven is given to us. God will surely not fail to give to us all other things abundantly through him.
“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (8:33). We have seen that our total justification was accomplished by God before the foundation of the world. How can others condemn us since we are justified by God? Court is over! Furthermore, how can Satan condemn us because he certainly knows about our true and eternal condition? His many condemnations are but a bluff. His condemnations will be thrown out of court.
“Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (8:34). How can we be condemned with Jesus Christ the Son of God as our advocate or defense attorney? (1 Jn. 2:1). After all, he has never lost a case. He has now ascended and is seated on the right hand of God. This is surely a reference to Psalm 110:1. It is of note that this Psalm is the most quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament. It is quoted thirteen times, with five quotes in Hebrews alone.35 In the book of Hebrews (Heb. 7:25) we see that Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (8:35). Paul here lists a number of things that could come against us in an attempt to separate us from Christ’s love. First he lists trouble and hardship. Today Christians are facing such things all over the world. We think of the financial chaos that has descended on the world at this time. Many families are facing extremely difficult financial challenges. Such things must not cause our love for Christ grow cold. Then there is persecution, which seems primarily of a religious nature. Many Christians in Moslem countries and elsewhere are facing severe persecution at present, even to the point of death. We do not hear of them turning back from Christ, but rather they are rejoicing and their churches are growing.
The other perils include famine and nakedness which many Christians face in Third-World countries. Still they do not give up. Then there is danger and sword. There is always the danger of having children or property taken away because of being a Christian. Some traces of this are now beginning to show up in the western world. Finally there is the sword. This was the standard mode of execution in Bible times. According to tradition Paul himself would in the end face the sword and be executed with it. Time and again we have mentioned how suffering goes hand and hand with real Christianity.
Long ago the Psalmist (44:22) had sensed such things would come upon God’s elect. Paul quotes him saying: “As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered’” (8:36). If Jesus our Master, as the Lamb of God, faced slaughter, why would we think it strange if he bids us follow him. The early church father Tertullian stated: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” In 1 Peter 4:13 we are challenged: “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” As Osborne states, “Every time Satan conquers the saints by killing them, they conquer him by being killed.”36
MORE THAN CONQUERORS
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:37
The word used here for “more than conquerors” is hupernikōmen, and it could have the meaning of “super-conquerors.”37 We are reminded of Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Paul goes on to say:“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:38-39). Our life or even our death cannot separate us from Christ. Whether we live or die we are with him. Evil angels cannot harm us and certainly the good ones will not, since they are sent to minister to us.
Paul may then refer to the hosts of supernatural entities that also cannot separate us from Christ, whether demons or other powers. We cannot be haunted by the past, hindered in the present or fearful of the future. It may be that Paul is dealing with cosmic opposition as he goes on. It is possible that the “height and depth” mentioned here is not only referring to profundity and mystery but that they probably related to astrological
thought. 38 Still, absolutely nothing in all creation, the seen or the unseen, can separate us from Christ and his love.