Romans 8:1-4 (NKJV) 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 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, 4 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.
We have been spending our time this year looking at how the grace of God works in the life of the believer. The first thing we understand is that salvation is by grace through faith. Simply put, the vehicle by which God provided salvation was his unmerited favor, grace, at work in the ministry of Jesus. The vehicle by which an individual can access that favor is faith. If I want the gift provided by grace I must believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess his lordship over my life.
The issue we have been studying currently is what role behavior has in our walk of grace. Does behavior matter at all? Since salvation is by grace and grace is a free gift, is everything I do already paid for making repentance and behavior in general irrelevant. Paul did not think so.
Romans 6:1 (NKJV) 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
How do we overcome sin under grace? We find from romans 7 that we are not under the bondage of the Law of Moses. However, we also find that if we allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies we end up in a wretched condition (Romans 6:12 & 7:24.) How do I keep sin out of my life if not by the Law? We see the answer in the first 4 verses of Romans 8. I must walk in the spirit not in the flesh.
Paul tells us there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, but he qualifies this statement by saying that this applies to those who walk in the spirit not in the flesh. We might say that Paul is implying that all who are in Christ automatically walk in the spirit. We will learn as we go farther into Romans 8 that this is not the case. Paul makes it clear that not all who have received salvation walk in the spirit. Many still walk in the flesh. Romans 7 describes them and the result of that kind of life.
When we allow sin to reign in our “mortal bodies” we are vulnerable to condemnation. It is not God who will condemn us. However, when we allow sin to remain we become vulnerable to condemnation from the devil and our own heart (1 John 4:20-21.) God has made provision for this in 1 John 1:8-10. When we repent he forgives and cleanses us from the condemnation and restores our sense of being right with God.
There are two truths here that we must understand as we begin to learn how to walk in the spirit. First, Paul mentions two laws. Although Paul is using the word to contrast the freedom of the spirit and the bondage of legalism, the word law in this context is not really speaking of legalities. It is a law in the same way that natural principles can be described as laws.
A natural law is a statement that describes a natural truth. We know the law of gravity. Very simply stated it says, “What goes up must come down.” It is a law because everywhere and for all time “what goes up will come down” at least here on planet earth. The statement is true because there is a natural force at work that causes things that go up to come down. You do not go to jail for breaking that kind of law. There is no legal penalty.
In the same way “the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus” and the “law of sin and death” are truths that describe spiritual forces that are at work in both the natural world and the world of the spirit. When we walk in the spirit, the power of God produces life in us and around us. Sin is overcome as is the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13.) This is a law. It always works.
However, the law of sin and death is also true. A more complete statement of this law might be that wherever sin reigns death is produced. If it rules in the spirit of a human being the effect is spiritual. If a person dies in that state he will live subject to death in physical life and will experience eternal death, separation from God who is life, when he leaves the physical world.
If a person is a Christian, he is not subject to this law when he dies physically. The life in his spirit will bring him to the presence of God. Nevertheless, as long as he is in the world, he will be subject to it in the flesh. When sin reigns in our “mortal body” we are exposed to the affects of “sin and death” in the flesh. All of the negatives of the human condition flow from this law.
Sickness, poverty and depression are some of the things this law produces. More important, a Christian who allows this law to work in his physical life will grow farther from God. He will become more and more comfortable with sin until he no longer recognizes that he is not living the life that God wants for him. Jesus gives us another statement of the truth of both these laws in John 10:10.
John 10:10 (NKJV) 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
The thief is Satan who is the personification of the law of sin and death. Jesus is the personification of the Law of the spirit of life. The thief only comes to kill, steal and destroy. This may apply to our “stuff” but it is really talking about us. He wants to kill us if he can, so we are out of the world and no longer a threat. If he cannot do that he wants to steal us from active relationship with Jesus and the body of Christ. If he can do that, he will destroy us. He may destroy our marriage, our health or our finances, for example. His real goal is to destroy our testimony and effectiveness in building the Kingdom of God.
Jesus came initially to make the law of the spirit of life available to all people. Salvation brings that life to our spirit and ensures that we will spend eternity with God. However, we all know believers who have fallen in sin or been overcome by the battles of life. They may not be able to overcome sin even though they want to. They may live in perpetual defeat in body, soul or both.
This does not mean they will not go to heaven. They are saved. The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus is at work in their spirit. In Romans 7:23 Paul says that in the state he calls wretched, there is another law at work in the flesh. What law? He is speaking of the law of sin and death.
The powerful truth we must understand from Romans 8:2 is that I am already free from the law of sin and death since I have access to the law of the Spirit of Life through my salvation in Christ Jesus. Why does the law of sin and death still seem to sometimes work in my flesh?
We will continue tomorrow.