Friday, February 09, 2007

Romans 8:7-8

The sinful mind [or the mind set on the flesh] 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.

The reason the mind set on the flesh is death is because it is hostile to God, against God. Unbelievers reject His rule by doing what they want to do rather than what the Lord commands. The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it neither does nor can subject itself to the law of God. In other words, a concrete manifestation of this hostility to God is that the person refuses to submit to God’s word. God’s word says, “Do such and such.” And the hostile mind says, “Well, I don’t want to, so I won’t.” God’s word says, “Don’t do such and such,” and the hostile heart says, “Well, I want to and I will.” The concrete manifestation of hostility to God is a resistance of His Word, a resistance of His rule.

Paul says that the pagan mind is not even able to subject itself to the law of God. It is morally impossible for the unbeliever to subject himself to the law of God. Now you might be thinking, “Well, that doesn’t seem fair. God holds him responsible for it. Why would He do that if it’s morally impossible for him to do?” Paul is not saying, “Well, somehow there’s this grand scheme whereby God forbids people from doing what they want to do.” He’s pointing to the heart again, and he’s saying, “Look, if your heart is set on the things of the flesh, it is impossible for your heart to at the same time be set on the things of God, the things of the Spirit.” Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” It’s impossible. It’s a moral impossibility to seek after the things of God while you are wholeheartedly seeking after the things of the flesh.

Paul says in v8 that it is absolutely impossible to please God and love the flesh and love mammon at the same time. The believer, in contrast to the unbeliever, does subject his mind to the law of God. The mind of the believer is subject to the law of God. He has a reverence, a love for, a subjection to the law of the Lord. It’s the mark of the Spirit. He wants to be a Bible Christian. He wants to obey what God commands in His Word. Whereas the unbeliever is not even capable of subjecting himself to the law of God, the believer is able. Because of the Spirit’s change of our hearts, we love the law. And notice the believer in v8 is able to please God in contrast to the believer, and he does. The Christian loves to fulfill the law, the Christian loves to fulfill his chief purpose in life, his chief end in life, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. It’s something that he delights in. God’s work of saving grace always produces a heart change in believers that manifests itself in their lives so that their attitudes, their goals, their purposes are different from those who are unbelievers. Working backwards from v8-4, we see the 5 step process: hostility, life, a spiritual mindset, a new walk in the Spirit, fulfilling the law in love. Fulfilling the law is evidence of grace.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Romans 8:5-6

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. The mind of sinful man [or the mind set on the flesh] is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

Paul begins in v5 to contrast people who are in the Spirit, in whom the Spirit dwells, and people who are in the flesh and in whom the Spirit does not dwell. These are the only 2 varieties of people: controlled by sin or controlled by the Spirit. This is an important fact to realize. Many Christians might think that there is a third class of people who are neither controlled by sin nor by the Spirit. But this is not Biblical teaching. We hear it from Paul; we hear it from Christ: “The person who is sins is a slave to sin.” We are all controlled by the sin nature until freed by Christ. So there is no third class. There are only two: Spirit-controlled and sin-controlled. And Paul points to the differences of character, desire, attitude, and conduct between those indwelt by the Holy Spirit and those not. Paul’s primary reason for this contrast is to remind believers that the Holy Spirit gives us life and the power of the Spirit is tremendous. In v5-11 we see the absence of the spirit and its result, the presence of the Spirit and its result, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul first talks about the sinful nature, or the flesh, as human nature corrupted, directed, and controlled by sin. He’s speaking of unbelievers as people whose mind is on the things of the flesh and who walk after the flesh; he’s talking about a basic moral condition, an inward frame of mind. It’s characterized by captivation with the things of this world and one’s own agenda. Desires are in control, and the sin nature controls those desires. Some of those things are civilly good, but they’re not sought after in the frame of glorifying God, and so they are sinful. Interestingly, Paul’s description of the unbeliever here does not contain a list of sins; rather, Paul focuses on the disposition of the mind of unbelievers, and the control of the sin nature and its desires that they are under.

Paul contrasts the unbeliever with the believer, saying that the mind of the believer is focused not on the desires of the sin nature, but on the desires of the Spirit, which is now in control of the believer. Either way, it’s the nature and the desires that control the person. And this was exactly what Jonathan Edwards said. So here is Scriptural proof of Edwards’ conclusion.

Notice that a Christian has his mind set on the things of the Spirit. His heart is controlled by the Spirit. His reason, his desires, and his will reflect the Spirit’s work. His purposes are spiritual. He’s at peace with God because of justification. He’s reconciled to God, has life, a true knowledge in fellowship with God, and tranquility, peace even in difficult circumstances because of that justification that God has granted to him.

Unbelievers do not look at the things of this life from the standpoint of God’s glory, or their neighbors good. They are self-centered; they pursue their own agendas and have set their mind on the things of the flesh, things that will pass away. And the result for them is death. Believers, on the other hand, look at things from God’s perspective; they strive for the glory of God and their neighbor’s good, even if that comes at their own expense. Believers store up treasures in heaven, where they will never pass away. And the result is life; notice that it’s not just life, but life and peace - peaceful life.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Romans 8:3-4

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature [or flesh], 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, 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.

Notice the “for” at the beginning of v3. This tells us that God sent His Son as a human so that God could condemn our sin in His Son’s death rather than condemning us. The ground of our freedom from condemnation is the work of God for us on the cross, and it is given as the basis of v2. “The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death, because God condemned sin in His Son’s death.” So the very thing that accomplishes our freedom from condemnation is not given as the result of our triumph over sin by the Spirit (v2), but as the foundation of our triumph over sin by the Spirit. No condemnation therefore precedes and supports our liberation and transformation. Not the other way around. This means that v2 (our liberation from sin) is the evidence, not the basis or cause, of our justified condition without condemnation in v1. Why go to such lengths to point out what could be seen as obvious? 4 Reasons:

First, it’s the difference between fighting fearfully to get justified and fighting confidently because we are justified. Second, it’s the difference between your heavenly court-trial being behind you with an irrevocable verdict of not guilty, and your trial being in front of you with the verdict up in the air depending on your performance. Third, it’s the difference between the freedom of confidence and the bondage of fear. Finally and most importantly, it’s the difference between giving Christ the double glory of both being our righteousness as well as working righteousness in us, and giving him only the single glory of helping us become our own righteousness.

On a practical level, Paul elaborates on the principle he offered in v1-2 and explains how it works to help us understand our freedom in Christ. God accomplishes through Jesus what neither we nor the law could ever accomplish because of sin. And he gives us five things to consider: (1) God did what could not otherwise be done; (2) God not only did what could not otherwise be done, but He did it through Christ and in Christ and with Christ—at Christ’s expense; (3) He did it by making Christ in the likeness of sinful man (God actually became fully man, in the closest possible relationship to us); (4) God did this for the purpose of dealing with sin; He sent Christ for sin, to conquer it; and finally, (5) Jesus has vanquished sin’s power; He’s freed us from sin’s enslaving dominion; He has condemned sin in the flesh.

Paul explains in v4 that Christ’s victory over sin not only liberated us from the curse of the law, but it frees us not from, but to the obedience of the law. God justifies us in order to sanctify us. God grants us pardon and declares us to be free from the condemnation of sin in order to work the requirement of the law within us, so that we ourselves actually become those who are godly and holy. Christ died so that we could and would become holy. He died so that the requirements of God’s law would not only be fulfilled for us, but in us. Paul is teaching here that God’s work of justification is inseparable from His work of sanctification. And v1-4 really show us that without justification, sanctification is impossible. The latter is a result of the former. This is the method of holiness that glorifies him, not the law and not us.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Romans 8:1-2

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, [who did not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit,] because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

In chapters 1-7, we saw God’s holiness, man’s sinfulness, the coming and even now present wrath of God, the perfect Savior given by God in Jesus Christ, and justification and sanctification by faith in Christ. Previewing chapter 8: In v1-4, Paul addresses how it is that we are able to grow in grace despite indwelling sin and how we can retain an absolute sense of our assurance even as we continue to wrestle with the patterns of sin. In v5-11, he deals with how we can tell the difference between worldliness and godliness in ourselves. In v12-17, Paul tells us how the Holy Spirit shows us that we are children of God. Then in v18-25, he explains how is it that our present sufferings, trials, tribulations, and difficult circumstances are used by God to work for our future glory. In v26-27, he deals with how the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. In v28-30, Paul explains how a believer can be certain that God’s promises to him or her will be fulfilled. In v31-32, Paul explains how we as believers can understand how much God is for us. In v33-34, he explains how we can be secure in God’s justification of us. Finally in v35-39, Paul addresses how we who feel like sometimes we’re limping along, as if the world is going crazy, our hearts being broken every day, are more than conquerors. The main theme of chapter 8 is the Holy Spirit working in the justified to sanctify.

How is that you can be sure that you will not be condemned when you stand before God on the Day of Judgment? How can a person who has seen his own sin, who has cried out with Paul in Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am!”, how can he have the kind of absolute confidence of Romans 8:1, “There is now therefore no condemnation for me in Christ Jesus”? How can he have that kind of confidence? Paul suggests that there is more than struggle with sin; there is more than battling our conflicting desires. Believers war against sinful desires with spiritual desires, but that’s not all there is. There is the Spirit of life indwelling each believer, and Paul is saying that the story of this battle with sin is not only the battle between renewed desires and sin. It’s the battle between God the Holy Spirit and sin.

Even struggling believers can be assured of their justification because of two realities: First, our justification was accomplished by God and not by ourselves; secondly, it is God Himself, God the Holy Spirit Who is working in us. God is working in us. Think about that! Condemnation is the opposite of justification. And Paul’s theme is the complete and irreversible nature of God’s justification. When God justifies you, He gives you the final verdict. And so Paul glories in that fact that there is no condemnation. When? Already now, and finally now. “Finally now” is seen in v3. After all these years of promise, it was finally realized in time. The “already now” won’t be seen clearly until v33-34. No one can bring a charge against God’s elect, because they’ve been justified in Christ. It’s already done. Now there is no condemnation. When a person is in Christ, and when Christ is in a person, there is no condemnation. In Christ Jesus, God is always for you. This is where Paul will go in Romans 8, once we get to v30-39.

This can be hard to believe sometimes. But notice 1 Corinthians 11:28-32 (Sometimes we get sick…) “But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” When we are judged, with weakness or sickness or even death, we are, Paul says, being disciplined by the Lord so that we would not be condemned with the world. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, even if their sickness is a token of God’s fatherly displeasure and discipline.

But how can believers have comfort? How can believers be confident? Paul says, “The law of the spirit of life through Christ set us free from the law of sin and death.” In other words, God has justified us, and God the Spirit is working to sanctify us. Justification and sanctification are the grounds of our freedom and our sense of freedom. Do not take confidence in your feelings, your law-keeping, or your circumstantial blessings; rather take confidence in God, because of what He has done and is doing. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us (Ephesians 1:18-20). In Luther’s classic hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, we read, “Did we in our own strength confide our striving would be losing.” That’s true for both justification and sanctification, so our trust for assurance is in God Himself.

Notice the connecting link between v1 which speaks of no condemnation, and v2 which speaks of Spirit-empowered liberation. The verses are connected by the word “for” or “because.” Now there are two possible meanings for that word “because.” It could mean that practical sanctification and liberation from sin is the basis for my justification, so I have to defeat my sin in the power of the Spirit first in order to be justified; but I don’t think it does. Rather, I think it means that the practical sanctification and liberation from sin is the evidence of my justification. So I am justified (forgiven, pardoned) first, and then I give evidence of this reality by living it out in practice. V1 is a declaration of no condemnation, of our justification; v2 is a description of practical transformation. First, we can say that being united to Christ by faith makes His pardon and righteousness ours, so there is now no condemnation. Second, we can say that being united to Christ by faith makes His power and authority over sin ours, so the law of sin and death can be defeated. In Christ we get pardon from sin and power over sin. V3 offers another example of this, and we'll examine it next time.