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Commentary on Romans 8:1

Chapter 8

C. We have victory over the flesh through the indwelling Spirit:

 

This introduction is from Robert Haldane:

“This chapter presents a glorious display of the power of Divine grace, and of the provision which God has made for the consolation of His people. While the Apostle had proved, in the sixth, that his previous doctrine gave no license to believers to continue in sin, he had still kept in view his main purpose of establishing their free justification. In the seventh he had prosecuted the same object, declaring that by their marriage with Christ they were delivered from the law as a covenant of life or death, while he vindicated its character, use, and authority. In this chapter, he continues the subject of justification, and resumes that of the believer’s assurance of his salvation, of which he had spoken in the fifth, establishing it on new grounds; and from the whole train of his argument from the commencement of the Epistle, he now draws the general conclusion, that to them who are in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation. While this could not have been accomplished by the law, he shows that it had been affected by the incarnation of the Son of God, by whom the law has been fulfilled for all who are one with Him as members of His body. Paul next points out the difference of character between those who, being in their natural state under the law and under sin, are carnally-minded; and those who, being renewed by grace, in whom the law has been fulfilled, are spiritually-minded. The condition of the former is death, that of the latter life and peace. Of these last he proceeds, through the remainder of the chapter, to assert the high privileges and absolute security.

Those who are spiritually-minded have the Spirit of Christ, and possess spiritual life. Although their bodies must return to the dust, they shall be raised up again. They are led by the Spirit; they are the sons of God, and in His service are delivered from a spirit of bondage. They look to Him as their Father; are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. To encourage believers to sustain the sufferings to which, while in this world, they are exposed, the most varied and abundant consolations are exhibited. Their salvation is declared to have taken its rise in the eternal counsels of God, by whom, through all its steps, it is carried into effect. Their condemnation, then, is impossible; for who shall condemn those whom God justifieth, — for whom Christ died, and rose, and intercedes? The Apostle concludes by defying the whole universe to separate believers from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. In this manner he follows out, in this chapter, what had been his grand object through all the preceding part of the Epistle.” [20]

 

Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

 

The word “therefore” does not mark or draw a conclusion just from the few verses that preceded this verse, but is the conclusion of the first seven chapters of this epistle. Paul has shown that believers are dead to the law and married to another by the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. Not only that, but God has justified us by faith in Christ, who bore our sins, so that we have been declared legally just, by an imputed righteousness. Thus there is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ. The Greek word used here for “condemnation” occurs only three times in the New Testament and every instance is in Romans [5:16, 18]. This word is the opposite of the word justification. It is a judicial word signifying the verdict of the guilt and the penalty that verdict demands.

Since the sins of those who are in Christ have been paid for by Christ and his righteousness has been imputed to them, then they can never again be condemned before God’s judgment seat, though they sin again. No sin that the believer could commit will ever reverse the decision that was made in their case. Romans 8:33-39 will clarify what I have just said. Also Ephesians 1:7 states: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” We have forgiveness of sins according to the riches of God’s grace and since God’s grace is a storehouse of grace that is without measure, then we could never exhaust it.

The words “to them which are in Christ Jesus” mean those who have been born again and have been adopted into the family by the regenerating power of the Holy Ghost. Those that have been given a new or second birth are not condemned before God’s judgment seat. This is in contrast to all those who do not know him. As we shown in Romans 1 that all Gentiles are condemned before God and in Romans 2 all Jews are condemned before God. In Romans 3 Paul declared that all were condemned before God, but those who are in Christ Jesus are no longer condemned, because Christ is their Surety. He paid their penalty for their sins and his righteousness has been given to them.

The later part that states: “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” is not found in the most ancient manuscripts and is thought by many scholars today to be interpolated. To interpolate means to add to a text in order to alter or corrupt the meaning of the text. But even though I do not believe it to be part of the actual text, I will still comment on this portion of scripture.

Many interpret this to mean that those Christians who somehow live a complete holy life with no sin will be those who are not condemned before God. But this teaching does great damage to the doctrine of justification by faith alone. We are not justified by our works, but are justified by faith in Christ. I am not saying that faith has no good works, but we that are born again and regenerated by the power of the Spirit are not trying to be justified, but are already justified. Also Paul has already explained in Romans seven that believers in Christ will struggle with sin as long as they are in this body. So to be in the flesh is to be unregenerate. Again in Romans eight here, Paul will declare that those that are in the flesh cannot please God.

What is Paul talking about then when he contrasts walking in the flesh with walking in the Spirit? I believe as many other commentators believe that Paul is contrasting the works of the law with being justified by the Spirit. In other words there is therefore now no condemnation in those who are not seeking to make them selves righteous by law works, but who are seeking their righteousness by grace through faith in Christ. In Romans 4:1-2 Paul asks this: “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.” See here how walking in the flesh doesn’t necessarily mean that someone wasn’t trying to live a holy life, but instead depicts someone who is trying to be righteous by the works of the law. Another example is Galatians 3:3 “Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” Paul is rebuking the Galatians for going back to law works and this is described as trying to work out a righteousness in them selves which is described by the word flesh. Robert Haldane states: “In this passage the word flesh cannot be taken for wicked works, any more than in the fourth chapter of the Romans, just quoted. It must be understood in the sense of working for life, or self-justification, in opposition to the way of salvation according to the Gospel. The Apostle’s main object, in the whole of that Epistle, is to reclaim the Galatian churches from the error of mixing ceremonial observances, or any works of law, with the faith of Christ, and thus walking according to the flesh, and not according to the Spirit. ‘Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from (the doctrine of) grace.” [21]

Again Philippians 3:3 Paul states: “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” This example and many others can be used to show that the word flesh doesn’t always mean wicked works. Also since Paul has been arguing through this entire epistle that we are not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Christ, then I believe when he concludes his arguments from the first seven chapters, here in verse one of chapter eight, he is not speaking of someone who is living an ungodly life when he uses the word flesh, but is depicting someone who is trying to become righteous through their own works. Therefore Paul is saying, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who is not trying to make them selves righteous through the flesh, but who has been regenerated by the Spirit.

This interpretation is in contrast to what many say today. They will read Romans eight here and teach that those that are not under condemnation are those who are not committing sin by not walking in the flesh, but again I say that this doctrine destroys the whole doctrine of justification by faith because it teaches that in order to be righteous you must do something besides being in Christ.

Let me add a little note here: Many when interpreting scripture interpret scripture with the same definition of a word that is given in the English Bible. In other words when they see the word “world,” they will define it the same way every time. The word “world” carries seven different definitions through out scripture. John 1:10 alone has the word “world” three times and all three times it has a different definition. In Romans Paul has used the word “law” in six different ways or with six different definitions. So it is here with the word “flesh.” The word “flesh” is almost always in the negative, but the scriptures use it in the positive to. In Ezekiel11:19and 36:26 the word flesh is used as a synonym for being regenerated or born again. Ezekiel says: “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh:”

So you see that the word “flesh” does not always mean to walk in wicked works. But Paul uses it many times in his epistles to speak of someone who isn’t righteous through imputation, but instead those who are trying to make them selves righteous through their own works in the flesh. Paul contrasts the regenerate with the unregenerate. Those who walk in the spirit are regenerated. Those who walk in the flesh are the unregenerate.

This comes from a “Commentary on Romans” by Hershel Lee Harvell Jr.

 

20)  This comes from Robert Haldane’s Introduction on Romans Chapter 8 found in the Master Christian Library Version 8 put out by Ages Software Copyrighted 2000-2003.

21) This comes from Robert Haldane’s comment on Romans Chapter 8 verse 4 found in the Master Christian Library Version 8 put out by Ages Software Copyrighted 2000-2003.

 

Concerning Works

Works? Works? A man get to heaven by works? I would as soon think of climbing to the moon on a rope of sand!

George Whitefield (1714-1770)

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