Romans 8:1-13 – The Power for Sanctification

According to Romans 8:1, “There is no condemnation for the believer in Christ Jesus” because God himself has met the righteous requirements of the law through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  Paul has already used the noun κατάκριμα (katakrima, an intensification of the more common noun κρίμα) in 5:18, the trespass on one man led to the “condemnation” of all men, but now “in Christ” there is “no condemnation.”  The word has the sense being under a judgment for breaking the Law and is often translated “justice.”  To “do justice” is to treat people fairly with respect to the law, usually the word has a negative connotation.  To “bring someone to justice” means make them face the penalty for breaking the Law.

But for those who are in Christ, there the Law no longer condemns because the “Law of the Spirit of life” sets the believer free from the “Law of sin and death.”  I think Paul is intentionally using language which evokes the coming New Age of the Spirit anticipated by the prophets.  The Old Covenant was broken by God’s people, so in the coming age God will make a New Covenant and enable his people to keep the New Covenant through the Holy Spirit.  Texts like Jeremiah 33:31-33 indicate that the messianic age would be an age of the Holy Spirit.  By combining “no condemnation” and the “Law of the Spirit,” Paul is claiming that the future, messianic age in some ways began with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The Spirit of God is at work in the ones who are “in Christ” so that we are the beginnings of the eschatological age.  I do not think this exhausts those prophecies, rather, we live in the “already” and look forward to the “not yet” of the consummation of God’s plan (Eph 1:20-22).

In fact, the requirements of the law are met in us (8:4).   This is done through the death of Jesus Christ, who was the perfect God-Man.  His voluntary death on the cross fulfills the requirements of the law.  In the present age, Paul says, we participate in a state of “no condemnation.”  This is a foretaste of what God was planning from the very beginning when condemnation first came upon the human race.  “Paul deliberately recalls the once-for-allness of the eschatological indicative, the opening of the new epoch effected by Christ.” (Dunn, Romans, 1:415.)

How one lives by the Spirit is the subject of the rest of Chapter 8.   There are therefore two “mind-sets” possible, the believer ought to have the mind-set of the Spirit (8:5-8).   The mind of the sinful nature is set on what that sinful nature desires; it cannot submit to God’s law, it is hostile to God, it cannot please God.  The result of this mind set is death.  On the other hand, those that walk by the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires, and by implication they are able to submit to God and they are able to please him.  The result of this mind set is life and peace.

9 thoughts on “Romans 8:1-13 – The Power for Sanctification

  1. This “already not yet” idea is interesting. The tension is very evident in the life of Paul (Philippians 1:21-26). Paul desired complete life in the Spirit. He desired the promises of God not yet fulfilled (Romans 8:23-25). He also acknowledges the Spirit’s help to us in the now (Romans 8:26-27). But what does it really mean to live by the Spirit? On a practical level, what does that look like? I know its outworking involves the fruits of the Spirit being evident in our lives (Galatians 5). I know it involves our new nature in Christ through the Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17). Often though I do not feel, think, or act much different than those who are not new creations in Christ (Romans 6:4-14). I recognize that, “believers are not yet perfected this side of the general resurrection” and that “they still live in a sinful world and are constantly being pulled into its ways” (Polhill 290).

    But I know this mindset idea means totally transformation of our thoughts, ideas, perspective, and philosophies takes place. All this to say, I recognize the tensions faced by Paul in my own life. I have so many questions when it comes to understanding what it is to live by the Spirit in the present while looking forward to the future realities of God’s promises. We should “strive to live like those who have been brought from death to life in him” (Polhill 290).

  2. Like Anna, I find this idea of already/not yet to be quite fascinating. This idea is something I have come to know and understand over the last semester at college, and it has greatly improved my understanding of scripture. In Paul’s teaching of the two mindsets, the flesh and the spirit, he is teaching us how to live a life that is in accordance with the Spirit that has brought us into this already part of the Kingdom. This is also seen in passages like Philippians 3:17-20. In this passage Paul makes reference to those who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” This language seems similar to the teaching in Romans 8. Both the man who lives by the flesh and the man who walks as an enemy of Christ have their minds set on earthly things and have death and destruction as their end. Conversely, living in the spirit seems similar to the language of having our citizenship in Heaven. We are called to have our mind set on things of the Spirit and to be citizens of Heaven, but this calling cannot be met without the power the Spirit gives us to overcome. “The Christian still lives in a sinful world and a mortal body, but the Spirit provides the power to cope with sin’s pull…” (Polhill 292). It is the already/not yet aspect of the Christian life that gives us the power to live according to the Spirit. We already have the Spirit, so we can already live with the worldview and the citizenship of a kingdom not yet here.

  3. “To “bring someone to justice” means make them face the penalty for breaking the Law.” I really like this statement, P. Long, however, I feel like it forgets that part of justice is also being righted by the Law. It is an equal balance, which is what Christ did for us. Romans 3:10 says, “No one is righteous, not even one.” And Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” Jesus is the balance, He is bringing justice. Our penalty is death, we deserve that, however, we are made right through Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross. Our punishment is death, however we are judged according to a new standard which delivers justice. This standard is viewed through the blood of Jesus Christ. We are made right.

  4. I think this already/not yet idea is interesting, not only because of the tension, but because I think there are more modern intensely debated issues the answers to which may require us to live in a similar sort of tension. One big fairly broad issue is election/predestination vs free will debate. I tend to lean pretty heavily on the predestination side of this spectrum, but I truly believe that if, on arrival in eternity, we find ourselves in full understanding of these issues, we may well have an odd sort of “ah-ha” moment in which we realize that there was a considerable amount of both/and-ness going on in this issue. It doesn’t really make any sense to us now–two different entities cannot both be in full control of a situation at the same time–but I think that this, the already/not yet, and several other ideas require us to simply live in the tension until glory. I Cor 13:12 – For now we see in a mirror dimly, then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

  5. I think I must have ether grown up thinking and believing in the “already not yet” view, or understood it to a great level because I am surprised when Anna and Tyler find it interesting or fascinating. Maybe because of how my mom taught me that I understand to a degree. I also think Caleb was making a great point in explaining his point, which helped me to kind of understand how another would think when they did not grow up with that view.
    P. Long I have a question, In your post, the last thing you wrote was “ The result of this mind set is death. On the other hand, those that walk by the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires, and by implication they are able to submit to God and they are able to please him. The result of this mind set is life and peace.” What exactly did you mean by that, and is it alright that I struggle with understanding where this is an issue.
    I think it is entirely possible to throughout one’s life live in both mind sets, maybe even at the same time, not exactly split personality style, but in the knowing both and knowing that I am thinking out of both mind sets. I think that people take the bible more literally that needs be, I think that Christians should embrace both mind sets and build up the relationship between them and Christ from both views. Because mankind will never stray from the “sinful” view, because man was born into sin, we cannot be apart from it.
    Does that make any sense? Do you understand what question I am asking, or how I am trying to ask it…

  6. Reconciling the present with the future can be a struggle. The reality is that as members of the Body of Christ, we are presently seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph 2:6), yet what we see in practicality is a tension between what we were before Christ and what we actually are in Christ. Even though our flesh was crucified with Christ (Gal 5:24, 2:20), we still need to reckon it dead and live in the newness of life Christ offers us (Rom 6:11). The key is found, in my experience, in giving up control of our lives, letting Christ live His life through us. After all, Christ is our life (Col 3:4).

  7. “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Rom 8:6-10)

    Those of us who are in Christ have the Spirit of God within us, and therefore should be living by the Spirit, right? Paul keeps saying this over and over here, and that if we aren’t living by the Spirit then we are living by the flesh (which is death). But what about the Christians who have the Spirit of God in them, but they still live by the flesh? Do they ACTUALLY have the Spirit then? Or, because the Spirit is not evident, are they merely deceived by their flesh to think so? Paul says “IF Christ is in you” you are alive because of the Spirit’s righteousness. This bring to mind for me the subject of eternal security/ assurance of salvation. If a person claims that they KNOW they have accepted Christ as Savior, but fail to live out their faith and produce fruit, how can we be sure?

  8. Reading N.T. Wright this weekend has given me a better perspective of exactly what you are talking about here, which really brought this post alive for me. I like what Tyler Cooks said, “We are called to have our mind set on things of the Spirit and to be citizens of Heaven, but this calling cannot be met without the power the Spirit gives us to overcome” (Cook). This is true. With Christ’s death, we are now part of the family of Abraham, one family in Christ with the Jews, and this is the New Covenant. When we were added to that family, we of course could not fulfill the Torah anymore than they could, and God knew this. Because of this God gave us a gift, the Spirit, and Paul charges those in the Spirit to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). N. T. Wright says “The new covenant work of the Spirit, [is] transforming the heart so as to enable it to keep the commandments of the Torah…” (Wright 146).

Leave a Reply