Introduction to Romans
The book of Romans is considered to be Apostle Paul’s magnum opus. Considered his greatest letter ever written. A masterpiece that summarized his theology.
However, the main point of Paul’s letter was not to create a systematic theology of Paul. It was actually to unite a people of differing cultures to understand God’s plan for salvation for us all. And at the center of this plan, as Paul explains is salvation by righteousness that comes through faith.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”Romans 1:16-17
We can see Paul’s main point of uniting differing cultures under the Gospel by the themes of the Gospel that Paul addresses in this letter and also by knowing who his audience is in the church in Rome.
Paul is writing to the church in Rome where there were Gentile Christians, those who were not Jewish by heritage, having grown up in the Roman culture of the day, living freely from the restrictions and laws which are found in the Mosaic laws, the laws of Moses. And there were also Jewish Christians, law-observing by their Jewish heritage.
And so, through his letter, Paul intends to unite the Christians in Rome under the Gospel by bringing understanding to the things that were dividing them. Namely the source of righteousness and justification by faith.
And Romans 8 is his climactic declaration of God’s solution to the problems of finding justification, highlighted by sin and rebellion, as well as highlighted by striving to keep the law that Paul talks about in the previous chapters.
Brief Summary of Romans
To quickly summarize, Paul says that the law, although good, only revealed even more our sinful nature and utter hopelessness in our flesh. And grace, although a free gift of salvation, was not meant to give us only the security of heaven, but that it was an invitation that now enables us to live in a new reality of grace.
Paul shows us in very meticulous ways through the first 7 chapters that it is possible to profess a saving faith but not possess a saving faith and what distinguishes true faith from a mere claim to faith is the evidence of our lives being dead to sin and alive to God. This is the evidence of fruit that leads to sanctification. Sanctification simply meaning, becoming more like Him. More like Him in character and holiness. This is the evidence of having life in the Spirit.
And now in chapter 8, he sets the stage for the Gospel to shine. We’re only going to focus on a small part of this chapter so I encourage everyone to take some time and read through Romans chapters 1 to 8 and mediate more deeply on the many implications of our faith that Paul is addressing through this letter.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.Romans 8:1-2
Paul begins our passage with “There is therefore now.” He uses the conjunction to point us now to the new reality found in those who are justified before God or in other words, being declared righteous by God. And as Paul already explained in the previous chapters, this is by faith alone, not a faith in our works and not in keeping the law but through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
And so what is this new reality of being justified before God? As it says in our passage today, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We have been freed from the law of sin and death. And we have been freed to walk according to the Spirit. Further down in chapter 8 we see that we have become children of God, having now been justified by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross by his death and resurrection.
This concept of justification by faith alone is sometimes confused even by people who grew up in church as much as those who are newly introduced to it. But it is at the very foundation of our faith and it is one of the things that separates Christianity from all other religions and philosophies of life.
Simply put, there is no other message, religion or philosophy that can rectify or make right the problem of sin except for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God knew it would be impossible for us to become right before God through our own merit or works. God alone could provide the solution. The problem of sin is finally resolved when we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Lord, to recognize who He is to us. And Savior, to recognize what He did for us.
He alone, Jesus alone, being in very nature God, was able to fully pay the penalty of our sins by dying on the cross And through his resurrection, Jesus provided the final and complete victory over sin and death. In other words, we are made right before God, we are justified, by surrendering our unrighteousness, our sinful nature, to Christ and receiving by faith, Christ’s righteousness, His Holy nature.
When we put our faith in Him, just as Jesus was crucified and died on the cross, we also crucified our flesh with Him and died to our flesh. And just as Jesus rose from the dead, we now rise with Him and are now alive in Him. And so we have been given a new life, a new spirit. His Spirit, the Holy Spirit.
So, what does it mean to be alive in Christ by His Spirit? Simply put, being justified by faith means we now have the power to live according to the Spirit because the Holy Spirit now dwells in us.
And the result or the work of justification in our lives is an unfailing confidence and hope in this world as well as the power and freedom from sin, fear and death. In a single word: Sanctification. We have the Holy Spirit to become more like Jesus. And to be alive in Christ by His Spirit means we live according to the Spirit and not the flesh.
There are so many things we can talk about from Romans chapter 8 but I want to highlight just three things from this passage and this chapter that shows us what it means to live according to the Spirit.
Those three things are:
- A NEW DESIRE. (Romans 8:1-11)
Setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.
- A NEW IDENTITY. (Romans 8:12-17)
As children of God, put to death the deeds of the body and live in the freedom from sin and fear.
- A NEW POWER. (Romans 8:18-39)
Living in the Power of the Holy Spirit as we are more than conquerors!
Through the Spirit, being made alive in Christ, we have a new desire from a new identity with a new power.
A New Desire
The Christian who understands what they were saved from, who actually understands what it means to be declared righteous before God, has no other response but to live with a new desire.
And it is possible that we have not believed before. But for most Christians, the reason why we’re so easily swayed by the things of this world and we so easily fall to our flesh is because we have still kept our minds on the things of the flesh and we have not put to death the deeds of the body.
Paul reminds us that we must set our minds on the things of the Spirit. And by setting our minds on the things of the Spirit, we are thereby living according to the Spirit. If we do not live according to what we have learned, we will never fully experience the grace we received. We’ll always have a weak faith, easily defeated and distracted.
Although we have been given the Holy Spirit, our desire for God is something we must cultivate. Because desire is intrinsically connected to our emotions. And our emotions are easily moved. You can experience this in marriage. We fall in love and we marry someone we know we truly love. But that doesn’t mean we stop putting effort into loving one another. Marriage and loving your spouse takes work and so does cultivating our desire for God.
And so, setting our minds on the things of the Spirit means that we must support our hearts with something that will never change. And not only never change, but also be reliable and true. Namely, we must set our minds on the Word of God.
Ephesians 6:17 says that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. So when we are battling the desires of the flesh, to set our minds on the things of the Spirit, we must learn to wield the sword, which is the Word of God!
When do we find ourselves battling the desires of our flesh most? Most of the time, it’s in relation to people. It’s when we feel like we’ve been treated unfairly. When we feel we’re not understood or accepted. When we’ve been humble or kind but find no sympathy or respect.
“Where is the justice!” We say.
Where is the love!” We say.
We judge and cry foul so quickly. It is before these moment we cry foul that we need to stop and set our minds on the things of the Spirit. Instead of lashing out at someone, or going to a friend who simply agrees with the way you feel, still your heart and go to God and cry out to Him just as King David does in the Psalms. And also keep near to you, friends who lead you to pray.
And I know, when faced with the harshness of this world, and injustice, death, destruction and despair surround us, we are easily moved to set our minds on the flesh. We say, “Prayers are worthless. I don’t need prayers. I need justice. I need action.” And we begin to blame God, blame people. Hatred and anger fill our hearts.
How do we respond then? It is only by the help of the Holy Spirit You will see that no matter what injustice, no matter what extent of loss, no matter the amount of pain and suffering, no matter what has taken hold of your heart today Jesus went through even more for you and said, “Forgive them for they do not know what they do.”
How should we as Christians respond to the world that says we are ignorant, bigots, unloving and delusional? How do we keep our new desire to live according to the Spirit?
1… I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.2 Peter 3:1-7
As those who are alive in Christ by the Spirit, how should we as Christians respond to the world?
We must remain patient as God is patient. We must remain hopeful and diligent in holiness and godliness. We remain confident as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.
When you begin to set your minds on the things of the Spirit, you are rooting yourselves in the Word of God. It is a promise that does not change. It is the solid Truth that is forever reliable.
New Identity and Power
As we set our minds on the things of the Spirit, the new desire that we actively seek to cultivate is only possible because of the new identity we have in Christ. Because with this new identity comes a new power.
If you are alive in Christ, You are a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come. By putting your faith in Jesus, you have been given the perfect righteousness of God. This perfect righteousness comes alive when you put to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit and live in the Spirit.
How does it come alive? When we begin to live according to the Spirit, we exercise the rights of being Children of God.
If we don’t live according to the Spirit, it’s like being royalty and yet continuing to live in poverty and slavery.
Some of us have lived in slavery and have believed the lies of the enemy for so long that we don’t even realize that not only have the chains been broken and set free, but we have been invited to take our rightful place in the royal courts.
We are not only forgiven of our sins, but also called, adopted, as sons and daughters, children of God.
The Holy Spirit gives us the power to no longer obey the sinful nature of our flesh. The Spirit gives us boldness and self-control. We are no longer slaves to fear or sin or death.
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.Romans 8:14-17
God’s hand is never too far to save. It is we who turn away from Him. But as any parent who loves their children, God disciplines and reproves those whom He loves.
If you have failed in your flesh today, if you have been living according to the flesh and not the Spirit, and your desires have been far from God, no matter how many times you’ve turned away from God, Jesus invites us today to turn to the Lord.
If we set our minds on the things of the Spirit, these new desires can be cultivated because we have the Holy Spirit. That is the power of the Holy Spirit.
So stand on your new identity as children of God, and set your minds on the things of the Spirit. In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Stand on the new identity and power you have in Christ and begin to cultivate our desires to be aligned with the Word of God. We need to fight our flesh and fight to desire God.
How can you begin to cultivate your desires today? Open the Bible at home. Begin hiding God’s Word in your heart. Come out to prayer and pray with the church. Seek out opportunities during the week to be a witness of Jesus. Take steps of faith, pray for someone in person this week. Because it is only when you move in faith, you begin to experience the power of the Holy Spirit.
God has made the way. He has already fulfilled the requirements of justification and our sanctification by His Spirit. He is at the door of our hearts today. All we need to do is open it and invite him in.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”Revelation 3:15-22