III.7. Romans 8:1-11. Life in the Spirit.
If we were to represent the Epistle to the Romans as a bas relief, there would be two passages which would have to stand in the highest relief — the end of the third chapter, in which St. Paul speaks of that free justification which is given to all men on the equal basis of faith in Christ the propitiation for their sins; and this eighth chapter, in which he speaks of the triumph which belongs to the life of the justified, lived in the power of Christ's Spirit.
The note of this chapter is struck in the words 'no condemnation' at the beginning — 'There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.' St. Paul knew so well what it was to be conscious of being under condemnation. He had never been what we should call a sinner. He had always been a man who, according to the standards of the Pharisaic righteousness, was pre-eminently righteous; he had always been a man who did much for religion. But he had known, in a form in which it is known to very few of us, what it was to be conscious of being under God's condemnation. God had been to him as a taskmaster over against him, breaking in upon his life with continual and searching warnings as to the divine requirements, with continual threatenings and continual terrors; and he had been as one standing over against God with the consciousness that, do as he might, he could never satisfy, or climb up to the level of, the requirements of the righteous God. There was always the haunting sense that he fell short — always the haunting sense that he was on his trial, and on that trial was condemned. But now all had been changed; and that by a process which in a certain sense was as simple as possible, but than which nothing could be more fundamental and deep. All was changed because the relation had begun at the other end. No longer was there a climbing up of man to God, no longer the effort of a Saul to commend himself to God. The relationship had begun at the other end, at God's end. Or rather, what had begun was the realization on the man's part of the true order. For God had been beforehand with Saul all along. All the time that he was striving, working, slaving to commend himself to a God whose righteousness he could never attain to, God was waiting there for him to find out his mistake — waiting to reveal Himself as no hard taskmaster, but as the Creator, the Father of his spirit. The process had now begun anew from the other side. God had simply of His own pure initiative manifested His love. He had sent His Son out of His own essential being into this world as it was, not asking whether it was a fit world for the Son to enter into; but taking it simply as it was, because it appealed to the divine compassion by the very multitude of its sins and the very vastness of its need, God had sent forth His only begotten Son out of the bosom of His love and of His pure initiative; had sent Him to take this nature of ours upon Him, in it to make atonement for us with God, and in it, raised from death and glorified, to be the source of a new and spiritual life, such as should triumph over sin in all who will believe in Him. That is the great point. It was all purely God's doing: a pure disclosure and act of God, who showed Himself ready to take men as they were, to forgive them and entrust them with the divine Spirit, if they would only trust Him. God is no longer the taskmaster over against men, with His threats and His terrors. He is the Father who has given His Son, who has given men a sacrifice whereby He can forgive their sins, and has given them the Spirit of His Son into their hearts. God is on their side, and they are on God's side. That is the great change. And the object of it all is that what formerly seemed so unattainable might now be the very thing that proved itself practicable — to live according to God; that the requirement of the law might be no longer an impossible claim over us, terrorizing us with its perpetual threats, but that by the power of the new life in which we live, 'the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.'
The following is a paraphrase of the passage we are now to study: —
The result then of all that has been said is that the divine verdict of guilty, which went along over men on account of their sins — that 'disclosure of divine wrath' which St. Paul had so profoundly felt and interpreted — hangs no longer over those who have passed into the new life in Christ Jesus. In the old life, sin with its attendant death held sway over us and gave the law to our actions. But we were freed from that despotism in passing under a new and stronger authority. It is the divine Spirit, by whom we have been brought into the life in Christ, who now controls us. Of old the Mosaic law was powerless to help us. It could inform us of God's will, but it could not enable our poor weak human nature to keep His requirements. But God has provided an effective remedy for this state of things. He has sent His own Son to take our nature upon Him, and come in among our sinful race without any apparent difference between us and Him. He put Him simply among us and in our position, to be the sacrifice for sin; and thereby did for us what we had so failed to do for ourselves — passed effective sentence of condemnation on sin, and that in our own nature. [Do we ask how sin was condemned? The answer is, it stood condemned by the perfect sacrifice of reparation for sin, which the sinless Man made to the divine character on our behalf, when at the requirement of obedience He shed His blood. It stood condemned, still more fully, by the fact that God raised Him from the dead and exalted Him far beyond the reach of sin, to the glory of His right hand, and made Him the head of a redeemed humanity, and poured forth His Spirit to be the new life of all that believe in Him]. And the object of this mission of the Son, and this judgement on sin in His person, was the creation of that new humanity to which we belong, which lives not under the control of human appetite, but under the control of Spirit: and because it so lives, in the life of Another, succeeds in the one point where man had until the point in time failed, in keeping the righteous requirements of the divine law. Our new way of life, therefore, is contrasted with the old in its whole tone. For just as, if we live in fact under the control of our weak humanity with its wants and appetites, our mind and conscious aim is directed to minister to its purposes, so in the same way if our life is in fact controlled by Spirit, our conscious aim also is directed to spiritual purposes. And the two lives are contrasted no less markedly in their prospects. The mind controlled by human appetites is under the doom of death, temporal and eternal. The mind controlled by the Spirit is in a state of life, so far as concerns itself, and of peace towards God. The mind controlled by human appetites is under the doom of death because it is at war with God. It does not, it cannot, keep His commandments. Those therefore who so live in their own strength merely, cannot please Him. But that is not now our state. We now live in the power of Spirit, since the Spirit of God and Christ — that is, Christ Himself — dwells in us. To have Him is the very meaning of being a Christian. Not to have Christ's Spirit, that is Himself, dwelling in us, is not to belong to Him. But if He does dwell in us, then, though the body must still pay the debt of death, because of sin to which it has belonged — no though it is already as good as dead — yet the Spirit within us is a superior principle of life, because of the divine righteousness which it presents as an honor upon us. And this life shall triumph over death in our case, as in Christ's. For God, who raised up Christ from the dead, shall also by the working of the divine Spirit which dwells in us, give life again even to our bodies, though now they are subject to death.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the spirit the things of the spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the spirit is life and peace: because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: and they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwells in you.
1. St. Paul declares that the Father sent His own Son to redeem us in 'the likeness of the flesh of sin.' The word 'likeness' is the same as that used in the similar passage, where we are told that the eternal Son in love for us 'emptied Himself' so far as to take the 'form,' or essential characteristics, of our servile human nature; nor only its essential characteristics, but also the outward conditions or 'likeness' of common men as they are. The point is that Christ, who Himself as man 'knew no sin,' appeared among us under all the circumstances of sin, and with no outward or apparent difference between us and Him — 'in all points like as we are' with the single exception of sin in the will or in the nature.
2. In verse 3 the Authorized Version, and the margin of the Revised, translating the Greek literally, give us, 'God sending His own Son ... for sin.' But the phrase 'for sin' is continually used in the Greek of the Old Testament for the sin-offering, and in the New Testament always has the sacrificial meaning attached to it; and accordingly its meaning here must be so defined.
3. The flesh of man, considered as a material thing, is not evil. It was that which the Son took, and it was 'in the flesh' so assumed that He pronounced sentence on sin — in that very flesh which was sin's domain; as, in the Epistle to the Ephesians. He is said to have 'abolished the enmity in his flesh.' The flesh as such then is not evil; but when, as in our fallen state, the proper order of our complex humanity has been reversed, and the flesh has become the predominant partner, having the mastery of the spirit, then it becomes a 'flesh of sin.' To live 'in the flesh,' or 'according to the flesh,' is to let the flesh have its way and be the master instead of the slave. Then the whole life becomes carnal — a carrying out 'the works of the flesh' — and even the rational faculty becomes a 'carnal mind.' What our redemption effects is to restore the right order and make the flesh again the instrument of the spirit — of the human spirit, that is, empowered by the divine Spirit, without which it cannot hold its ground. Then the whole life, with all its bodily faculties, becomes spiritual and carries into effect 'the works of the Spirit.'
In the passage we have been considering, the Revised Version distinguishes, by the use of capital letters, between the divine Spirit and the human, or spirit in general; but the fact that the divine Spirit is what liberates and restores the human spirit is so much in St. Paul's mind that it seems better to make the primary reference to the divine Spirit throughout.
It is of the greatest practical moment to grasp that, to St. Paul, the change in human life which comes about through our conversion and new birth is a change in order. What was managed from below is now controlled from above. That is the point on which we need to examine ourselves. Where do we begin from? Are we in the position of men struggling to manage their own lives, and commend themselves according to some standard more or less right, which either their personal pride or their social circle or the divine law has set up? If so, God is over against us, our taskmaster, our adversary, our stern judge, and our life is 'according to the flesh.' It is managed from below. It is ruled on its own level, and it fails. But there is another life which begins at once from the thought of God. God has made us, and therefore He is responsible for us. He has made me because He loves me. Therefore He is bound to make the best of me. If I will only put myself into His hands He is pledged, simply because He created me, therefore to redeem me, to save me, to glorify me. He takes that responsibility upon Himself. He has shown His love by the sending and the sacrifice of His Son and by the gift of His Spirit. And His Spirit I have received. At a definite moment He came upon me. He entered into my life, as into those first Christians to whom St. Paul wrote, at baptism and by the laying-on of hands. This is the fact then. God is on my side. He makes Himself responsible for my being. If I will only entrust myself to Him with the cordial return of trustful love, then all that He has ever breathed into my heart of human possibility He will realize and bring to perfection. The requirement of the law shall be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. — This is a point of view upon which it is worth while reflecting deeply, and over and over again. Unless we are continually practising ourselves in this conception of life, we find ourselves falling back again into the attitude of one standing over against God with God for his taskmaster. And that is the false and always ruinous idea.
We must also take careful note of what St. Paul means by 'spiritual' and 'carnal.' 'Carnal' does not mean made of flesh, and 'spiritual' does not mean immaterial. That is carnal which is ruled by the flesh, ruled from below. That life is carnal in which our spirit, meant for God, is dragged at the chariot-wheels of our lower life; and that is spiritual which is ruled and mastered by the Spirit. We must not suppose that we shall make our religion spiritual by disparaging external acts or bodily exercises of worship. No; that is spiritual which is ruled by the Spirit. The worship in 'spirit and in truth,' for us men who belong to the religion of the Incarnation, must be a worship in body. But it will be spiritual if it is full of spiritual intention. Secular business again is spiritual if it is ruled by the divine Spirit according to the law of righteousness. Politics are spiritual, commercial and municipal life are spiritual, art and science are spiritual, and everything that develops our faculties is spiritual, if we will allow the divine Spirit to rule in all according to the law of righteousness, truth, and beauty. For the whole of our being, with all its sum of faculties, is made by God and meant for God. What a mistake it is then, when people speak, as they so often do, as if sin were really natural, as if lust and worldliness were natural, and as if spirituality were something unnatural, belonging to another world. It is exactly the opposite. The only natural position for us is when our flesh is ruled by the spirit. It is an unnatural usurpation when the spirit is dragged at the chariot-wheels of the flesh, when our life is dominated by lusts or appetites. That is the very overthrow of nature. And grace does but restore to us the true order of our being, when the flesh and all the faculties of our body are again controlled by the spirit, so that our whole being expresses a spiritual purpose and obeys a spiritual law. The same external acts are spiritual or carnal, natural or unnatural, according as they express or do not express the mind of the Spirit. The same physical facts are the basis of true married love, and of the wildest licentiousness. In the latter case they are carnal because they express no spiritual purpose; in the other case they are spiritual because, consecrated in the family life, they become the organ and the vehicle of the divine Spirit. God will be responsible for our whole life, our politics, our commerce, our marriage, the workings of our intellect, the workings of our emotions, all the parts of our nature. He will raise our nature up through death; He will consecrate it to life immortal in the divine city; He will sanctify it here and now: if only, and in all things, we will believe that He who made our life is capable of making the best of it, and show ourselves ready to entrust it to His disposal.
4. We must notice what is implied in this passage about the Holy Trinity. St. Paul speaks of 'the Spirit of God' (the Father), 'the Spirit of Christ,' 'Christ,' and then again, the 'Spirit of Him that raised up Christ,' as if all these expressions were identical; as elsewhere he prays that the Father will strengthen men by His Spirit, in order that Christ may dwell in their hearts, and they be filled with the fullness of God. All which language means that where the Spirit is, Christ is, and where Christ is, God the Father is. So in St. John, our Lord speaks of the Holy Spirit as 'another' advocate who is to come 'in his name' from the Father; and yet adds that in the Spirit's coming He Himself will come; and with Him the Father — 'we will come.' The sacred 'persons' are spoken of as distinct — personally distinct — and yet as so mutually involved in the action one of another that the coming of one is the coming of all. So truly is God one in three. We find something like this in human personalities under the influence of love. Each single personality is not self-contained and exclusive. Love, to a real degree, fuses persons; and thus the husband and wife and child (to take the highest example) may be said to live and act in one another and through one another's influence. But this is only to a limited extent. We are also mutually exclusive. Our responsibility and actions remain individual and impermeable. What I am doing, I am doing, and not another. But with God the mutual interpenetration of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is represented in the inspired language as far more complete. The Godhead is a fellowship and relationship of perfect love 'in three persons.' But God is not three separate individuals. What each 'person' does the others do. The action of one involves all. God is inseparably one in His being and in His action. If the Father creates, He creates through the Son and by the Spirit. If the Son redeems, the redemption proceeds from the Father and is effected in the Spirit. If the Spirit sanctifies, it is from and in the Father and the Son. Thus when the Spirit came forth at Pentecost out of the uplifted humanity of the Son to impart to us all His richness, He came not merely to supply His absence, but to accomplish His presence. He makes Christ present within us, and also the Father: so that God, three in one, dwells in the hearts of His people.
5. 'The requirement of the law is to be fulfilled in us.' Do we ask how we are to keep the whole of that terrible law? It is by obeying the commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves, in which the whole law is 'briefly comprehended.'
6. If in the last verse of this passage we read 'through His Spirit,' and not (as the margin) 'because of His Spirit,' then the Holy Spirit is expressly spoken of as the agent of our resurrection and, by implication, of the resurrection of Christ. And this is the natural function for the 'Giver of Life': indeed 'Spirit' means nothing else than 'breath' — the 'breath of life from God.'
 The passage in brackets expands the sense in which St. Paul conceives the Father to have passed sentence of condemnation on sin, in the person and through the sacrifice of Christ, in accordance with such passages as vers. 21-24; iv. 25; Phil. ii. 8-10; Eph. i. 15 ff.
 Phil. ii. 7.
 2 Cor. v. 21.
 See Heb. x. 6, cf. 18, 26; xiii. 11; 1 Pet. iii. 18; 1 John ii. 2; iv. 10.
 ii. 15.
 Verses 2, 9, 11.
 Verses 4, 5, 6, 9, 10.
 Verses 9-11.
 Eph. iii. 14-19.
 John xiv. 16, 18, 23, 26.
 Rom. xiii. 9.
 Ezek. xxxvii. 9; Rev. xi. 11.
From St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Vol. I A Practical Exposition by Charles Gore D.D. Reprinted in 1900. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Reach for the Calling Creator
To the Romans, vol I - C. Gore
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your calling be the best.