Romans 8

8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

The word “therefore” should be understood in light of what Paul has written in Romans 6:1-7:25. It can be understood as meaning, “The conclusion of the matter is this.” Notice the believer’s victory over sin as stated in verse 1: “no condemnation.” “Condemnation” is the opposite of justification.

8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

The believer’s victory over sin is again stated in verse 2: “free from the law of sin and death.” Sin no longer has a claim on the believer. He is acquitted and no longer under condemnation. The “Spirit of life” is the Holy Spirit.

8:3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,

What is it that the law could not do? It could not condemn sin or break the power of sin. Why? Because it was weak through the flesh or because it had to depend upon sinful human nature to carry out its precepts. But God was able to break the power of sin and bring its authority to an end through His Son, that is through the death of Christ.

8:4 in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Sin was condemned to the end that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled, that is, that the righteous demands of the law might be carried out, in us. The latter part of the verse refers to an identifying characteristic of the true child of God: “who do not walk [order one’s behavior or conduct] according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

8:5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are of the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

Our mind-set, or what our minds are set on, matters. What we set our minds on determines what we think about throughout the day, how we view life, what we value, what motivates us, and how we behave. We must understand that the battle for control of our lives takes place in our minds. Paul differentiated two distinct and opposing mind-sets in the world—the mind-set of the flesh and the mind-set of the Spirit. Those who habitually set their minds on the things of the flesh allow the direction of their lives to be determined by their sinful nature. Those whose minds are set on the Spirit see life from God’s viewpoint. Consequently they seek to live in a way that pleases God.

“Flesh” here denotes the sinful nature. The phrase “set their minds” refers to deliberately and habitually setting one’s mind upon a certain thing, in this case, the flesh. Cranfield comments that Paul’s meaning here is “that those who allow the direction of their lives to be determined by the flesh are actually taking the flesh’s side in the conflict between the Spirit of God and the flesh, while those who allow the Spirit to determine the direction of their lives are taking the Spirit’s side.”

8:6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,

Notice that “death” is the fruit or direction toward which the fleshly mind moves. The fruit or inclination of “the mind on the Spirit” is toward “life and peace.”

Paul described the results we can expect from either of the two opposing mind-sets. Following the flesh is always a losing proposition. The flesh, or our sinful nature, is opposed to God and always leads to death, both spiritual and physical.

Following the Spirit leads to the full and abundant life on earth that Jesus promised (Jn. 10:10), to eternal life, and to peace with God.

Paul made it clear that there is no middle ground between walking in the Spirit and walking in the flesh. We must choose to live according to the Spirit, or we will be walking according to the flesh.

8:7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so;

The reason “the mind set on the flesh is death” is because it is “hostile toward God.” That is to say, it is at enmity against God. Swindoll comments, “Within their mind-set, non-Christians have clenched fists raised toward heaven in open defiance to the King. Those without Christ refuse to submit themselves to God’s standard of right and wrong. Instead, they go their own way…they do their own thing.”

Paul’s words echo what Jesus said — we cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). Those who try to serve two masters end up loving one and hating the other. The principle is simple: the closer we draw toward one master the more we will despise the other. Those who daily set their minds on the Spirit lose interest in and despise the things of the flesh. And, those who set their minds on the flesh have no interest in the things of the Spirit—the things that please God. They are, in fact, hostile to or at enmity against God.

Hostility toward God is a key characteristic of a sinful mind-set. Sometimes this hostility is expressed in obvious hateful attitudes and irreverent rhetoric against God. These more public expressions of hostility can be seen and heard from comedy clubs to college classrooms. However, more often, hostility toward God is expressed through quiet everyday living that disregards God by going its own way and doing its own thing.

8:8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Cranfield comments, “Those who allow the direction of their lives to be determined by their fallen nature are, so long as they do so, unable to please God, because they are fundamentally hostile to Him and opposed to His will.”

Those whose lives are controlled by the flesh cannot please God because the flesh is devoted to its own self-gratification. And, like a hungry beast, the flesh constantly needs nourishment. That is why Paul cautioned us to clothe ourselves with Christ and not to feed or make provision for our flesh in regard to its lusts (Rom. 13:14).

We must daily and intentionally choose to set our minds on the Spirit and to place all of our desires and actions under His control. And, we must understand that the most spiritual thing that we do every day is to make choices. We must choose to be in the right mind!

8:9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

Paul here directly addresses the Roman Christians. They were not in the flesh (in the sense in which the term is used in verse 8) but rather “in the Spirit.” The direction of their lives was not determined by the flesh but by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Phillips notes, “This passage distinguishes between the saved and the unsaved, for the unsaved do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit.” The “if indeed” of verse 9a should be understood as meaning “inasmuch” or “since.” The word “dwell” comes from the Greek word for “home.” The Holy Spirit resides within every believer [that is, makes his home in] and desires to work in the life of every believer to help him overcome sin and produce His own fruit (see Galatians 5:22-23). This verse also points out the fact that the indwelling Holy Spirit is a distinguishing mark of every believer (see Romans 8:16).

8:10 And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

The word “body” in this verse refers to the believer’s human body. Swindoll comments, “When individuals become Christians, they die to sin and become spiritually alive forever. Their physical bodies, however, do not receive immortality right away. The bodies of believers remain subject to physical death, even though they will be resurrected and thereby become immortal (I Cor. 15:50-57).” The word “spirit” is a reference to the human spirit rather than to the Holy Spirit. Wuest defines it as “that part of man which gives him God-consciousness and enables him when that spirit is made alive by the Holy Spirit, to worship God.”

8:11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.

This verse refers to the promise of the believer’s future physical resurrection. Vaughan and Corley comment that this verse “brings out two additional thoughts: (1) that the resurrection of believers is dependent upon the resurrection of Christ and (2) that it is the Spirit who both raised Christ and will raise us.” The words “give life” means “to cause to live, make alive”

8:12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh —

The word “obligation” translates the Greek word for “debtor.” The believer is no longer under obligation to or bound by some duty to the flesh. Commentator David Brown paraphrases verse 12: “Emancipated from the tyrannous service of Sin into the service of Righteousness, we owe nothing to the flesh; we disown its claims, and are deaf to its imperious demands.” Cranfield comments that Paul probably intended to continue the thought by stating that we are rather under obligation to the Spirit to live according to the Spirit but broke off to insert the warning of verse 13a.

8:13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

The verb “die” in verse 13 refers to more than physical death, for even those who live according to the Spirit will die physically. Cranfield notes that it refers to the fact that those who live according to the flesh “will die without hope of life with God.” Note that it is only “by the Spirit” that one can put to death the deeds of the body or flesh. Vaughan and Corley comment that the phrase “putting to death” is an equivalent to “reckon…dead” (Romans 6:11). They add, “The statement of the verse suggests that either we kill sin or it will kill us.”

8:14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the Sons of God.

This verse explains verse 13b. The only way in which a believer can put to death the deeds of the body is by allowing himself to be led, directed, and controlled by the Holy Spirit (see also Galatians 5:16-18 and Ephesians 5:18). Swindoll comments that “the key to the Christian life is personal commitment to and cooperation with the Spirit’s work in our lives.”

8:15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”

The Holy Spirit, who resides within every believer, is not a “spirit of slavery” who keeps men enslaved to the anxious fears they knew before their conversion. The Holy Spirit is rather a “spirit of adoption” or the agent who brings about our adoption into the family of God by enabling us to believe in Him. Because the believer has been adopted into the family of God, he enjoys an intimacy with God that allows him to “cry” out to God. Cranfield notes that “cry” should be understood as denoting “an urgent and sincere prayer to God irrespective of whether it is loud or soft (or even unspoken), formal or informal, public or private.” The word “Abba” was a term used by Palestinian children (but not confined to their use alone) to refer to their fathers. It has variously been translated as meaning “Daddy,” “my Father,” or “dear Father.” It is a term that witnesses to the intimacy of a child’s relationship with his father.

8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

Here we have yet another assurance that we belong to God. The Holy Spirit “reassures us and testifies with us that our salvation in Christ is secure” (Swindoll). Phillips comments, “The ‘witness of the Spirit’ in this connection is significant. This function of the Spirit of God is mentioned three times in the New Testament. He witnesses to us (Heb. 10:15), in us (I John 5:10), and with us (Romans 8:16).” Johnson comments, “This consciousness perhaps consists in the indefinable but real conviction through the promises of God that we now belong to God (I John 5:6, 9-12).”

8:17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

The word “if” in verse 17a should be understood as meaning “inasmuch” or “since” (as in verse 9). Notice that we are both “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” Wuest notes that “Roman law made all children including adopted ones, equal inheritors.” Phillips points out, “The condition for enjoying the inheritance is suffering ‘with Christ,’ not mere suffering.” Erdman adds, “These sufferings are not merely the trials and distresses incident to all human life, but rather, the hardships and sacrifices and persecutions we suffer for the sake of Christ, and specifically in His service. Those who thus suffer, or who endure all distress patiently as His servants, will surely share his heavenly glory, a glory he had with the Father ‘before the world was.'” Vaughan and Corley comment that verse 17b introduces the next subsection (verses 17b-30) which Paul wrote to encourage the Roman Christians in the midst of their sufferings. E.H. Gifford entitles this section, “The sources of comfort under the necessity of suffering.”

8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Wuest comments that the word “consider” refers to “a process of reasoning which results in the arriving at a conclusion.” Based upon his understanding of the gospel, Paul was convinced that the sufferings of the Roman Christians (see verse 17b) were “not worthy (that is, weighing as much, of like value, worth as much) to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” Cranfield notes that “this present time” refers to “the period which began with the gospel events and will be ended by the Parousia [the second coming of Jesus].” Swindoll comments that “when we are ushered into Christ’s presence, we will bathe in the everlasting joy that far exceeds the temporary groans now threatening to drown us.”

8:19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.

Verses 19-22 reveal the fact that all creation has suffered because of man’s sin. Vaughan and Corley comment, “These verses express what has been called Paul’s ‘cosmic soteriology.'” The phrase “anxious longing” translates the Greek word apokaradokia, a conjunction of the words apo [away], kara [the head], dokein [to watch]. It means watching with the head outstretched. Swindoll writes that “creation’s groans will not last forever [but] will come to an end when believers inherit Christ, the radiant glory of God.”

8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope

When was the creation subjected to futility? When the ground was cursed after the fall (see Genesis 3:17-18). Swindoll notes that the subjection of creation to futility “was an act of God in response to man’s sin.” The first chapter of Genesis acknowledges that when God created the universe He declared it to be “very good.” But as a consequence of man’s sin, the earth itself became a victim of man’s disobedience.

8:21 that the creation itself will also be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Wuest comments that Paul “conceives of all creation as involved in the fortunes of humanity.” Vaughan and Corley write, “Creation, though subjected to the effects of man’s sin, will also partake of the benefits of man’s deliverance.” Swindoll notes, “The enslavement and corruption the world now experiences will end after Christians are glorified and non-Christians are judged.”

8:22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

Vaughan and Corley write, “Even now creation is experiencing the birth pangs that will issue in a new day. The whole creation will eventually undergo a change corresponding to that which believers will experience.” See Revelation 21 which speaks of “a new heaven and a new earth.” Vaughan and Corley comment, “Implied in all of this is that if creation exhibits expectation concerning the future, believers should do no less.”

8:23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

Not only is creation groaning, but believers as well. Wiersbe comments, “The reason we groan is because we have experienced ‘the first fruits of the Spirit,’ a foretaste of the glory to come…we Christians have tasted of the blessings of heaven through the ministry of the Spirit.” Swindoll comments, “Deep within us resides a taste of the wonderful inheritance that will one day be ours.” Johnson writes, “First fruits are the pledge or first installment of the whole harvest which is to come (Lev. 23:10; Rom. 11:16). The Spirit’s present work in us is the pledge of all that God has promised to do in the future for us.” Vaughan and Corley comment, “The meaning is that the Holy Spirit within us is the first fruits (the God-given guarantee and the foretaste) of our full inheritance (cf. Eph. 1:13, 14).” The reference to “our adoption” is to “that condition in which all the privileges and benefits of our status as sons of God will be realized” (Vaughan and Corley).

8:24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one hope for what he sees?

The believer was saved “in hope.” The believer’s salvation experience is characterized by hope. Vaughan and Corley comment, “This hope (expectation) which is an ingredient in our salvation implies that there is more of God’s bounty in store for us.”

8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Johnson comments, “Our present salvation includes the hope of the future resurrection of our bodies (Phil. 3:21), but inasmuch as it is not yet realized (“seen”) we must wait for it patiently (v. 25; 5:3-5).”

8:26 And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;

“And in the same way” that hope helps us during times of suffering and weakness, the Holy Spirit also helps us. The word “help” translates the Greek word sunantilambano, made up of sun [together with], anti [over against], and lambano [to take]. Robertson suggests the meaning of the word to be: “The Holy Spirit lays hold of our weaknesses along with (sun) us and carries His part of the burden facing us (anti) as if two men were carrying a log, one at each end.” Johnson points out, “The word is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in Martha’s plea to Jesus to tell Mary to get into the kitchen and help her (Luke 10:40).” Paul uses the example of prayer to show how the Holy Spirit helps us. When we are at a loss regarding what to pray for regarding a particular situation, the Holy Spirit lends a hand by interceding for us. Vaughan and Corley comment, “The idea is that in those times when our yearnings are too deep for words but can only groan under the sense of need, the Holy Spirit prompts, and is in, these sighs and groans.”

8:27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

The believer can pray with the assurance that God “who searches the hearts and knows what the mind [the meaning, the desire, the preferences] of the Spirit is” understands our groanings and sighs.

8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Swindoll comments, “The Greek term for know in this context refers to the possession of absolute, unshakable confidence.” This verse teaches that God causes (or uses) everything that enters the life of the believer to work for his best interest, to contribute to his welfare. He is truly the Potter and we are the clay.

Notice also that God causes “all” things to work together for good. Swindoll notes, “Many times we do not see, even in retrospect, how some events in our lives could possibly be for our good. But simply because we may be unable to figure out all the whys and the hows does not imply that God is without good reasons or that He has lost control.”

Recall that Paul stated in I Corinthians 13:12 that “for now we see in a mirror dimly” and “know in part.” But God knows what He is doing. He knows how to take the threads of life’s experiences and weave them into a beautiful pattern. There is no experience that can baffle God’s ability to do such a wonderful work. As Swindoll comments, “Every circumstance is for our ultimate good.”

Refer to the words of Joseph to his brothers in Genesis 50:20 – “And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Vaughan and Corley note, “Two expressions describe God’s people: They are those who love Him; they are those who are called according to His purpose. Only those who fit these two qualifications can legitimately claim the promise of Romans 8:28.”

8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;

This verse defines the “purpose” (verse 28) of God and the “good” which is denoted in verse 28. It is the purpose of God to conform all believers “to the image of His Son.” Someone has defined “conformity” as an inner change with an outward expression. God uses the “all things” of verse 28 in the process of making the believer more like Christ. The word “foreknew” can be translated “set His heart on beforehand.” Swindoll comments, “Even before He created us, He was committed to this task; and He will not quit until He finishes it in every Christian.” Paul also wrote of this work of God in Philippians 1:6. Cranfield comments on the latter part of the verse, “It was in order that His only-begotten Son might not be alone in enjoying the privileges of sonship, but might be the head of a multitude of brothers, of the company of those who in, and through, Him have been made sons of God.”

8:30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Vaughan and Corley comment, “It has often been remarked that verses 29 and 30 contain an unbroken chain reaching from eternity to eternity. All those foreknown of God are, without exception, eventually glorified.” MacGorman writes, “In verse 30 Paul bridged eternity past and future with his summation of God’s redemptive purpose.” MacGorman points out the four mighty spans in this bridge.

“Predestined…called…justified…glorified.” Notice also that Paul speaks of glorification (a future event) in past tense terms. Erdman comments, “That past tense, ‘glorified,’ in reference to an experience which at least in its fullness is still future, has been termed ‘amazing,’ ‘the most daring anticipation of faith that even the New Testament contains’; but the future glory of believers is a present reality in the mind and purpose of God.” Jensen adds, “God sees us not only as we are, but as we shall be; with Him it is done; with us, experimentally, it is yet to be.”

8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

Wiersbe writes, “The emphasis in this final section is on the security of the believer. We do not need to fear the past, present, or future because we are secure in the love of Christ.” Phillips comments, “The closing verses of this magnificent chapter explore all possible avenues of departure from the salvation which is in Christ Jesus only to find every one blocked and guarded by the grace of God.” Vaughan and Corley point out that in verses 31-35 Paul raises five unanswerable questions, which “are all designed to give to believers a deep sense of spiritual security.” The word “if” in verse 31 should be understood as “since.” Wuest paraphrases the verse, “In view of the fact that God is for us, who is or could be against us, so as to do us harm? That is, since God is for the saints, on their side, who can harm them?” Cranfield comments, “The statement ‘God is for us’ is a concise summary of the gospel.”

8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

Wiersbe comments, “The argument here is from the lesser to the greater. If when we were sinners, God gave us His best, will He not give us all that we need?” Cranfield notes that “by ‘all things’ is probably meant the fulness of salvation (compare 5:10) or else ‘all that is necessary for our salvation.'” Swindoll writes, “The Lord will see us through to our glorification. No one will be able to thwart the achievement of His goal in our lives.”

8:33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies;

Indeed who can bring a charge against God’s elect, those who have been declared righteous in Christ. Wiersbe comments, “We may accuse ourselves, and men may accuse us; but God will never take us to court and accuse us. Jesus has already paid the penalty and we are secure in Him.” Swindoll writes that “no one will ever be able to make a case against a believer that will put his or her salvation in jeopardy. How do we know this is true? Because it is based on the fact that ‘God is the one who justifies.'”

8:34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

Swindoll comments, “In this passage we learn that not only is the eternal Judge of all on our side, but so is the eternal Attorney of all believers.” So, “who is the one who condemns?” It is certainly not Christ Jesus, answers Paul. As MacGorman notes, “The only one who could condemn us is actually pleading our case at the right hand of God.”

8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

If no person can accuse us, then who or what can separate us from the love of Christ? Paul pulls out all the stops to illustrate his point that there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ? Notice the items listed in verse 35. Paul had experienced all but the last (“sword”) of these. Refer to Paul’s personal testimony about these things in II Corinthians 11:23-33. Remember too, that the things listed in verse 35 are a part of the “all things” of verse 28.

8:36 Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

This is a quote of Psalm 44:22. Cranfield comments, “The main effect of the quotation of Psalm 44:22 is to show that the tribulations which face Christians are nothing new or unexpected, but have all along been characteristic of the life of God’s people.” Erdman writes, “Surely, for Paul and his friends in Rome, these were no empty words. They knew so well, and were yet to know, what it means to suffer for the sake of their Lord.”

8:37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

“But” is a little conjunction sounding a triumphant note in verse 37. “In all these things,” writes Cranfield, “probably means ‘in the experiencing of all these things’, not evading them or being spared them, but meeting them steadfastly.” Cranfield adds that “we overwhelmingly conquer” “not through any courage, endurance or determination of our own, but through Christ, and not even by our hold on Him but by His hold on us, that we are victorious.”

8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,

Wuest comments that “For I am persuaded” should be understood as meaning, “I have come through a process of persuasion to a settled conviction.” Paul was persuaded that neither “death, nor life” shall be able to separate the believer from the love of God. “Death” is not a menace to the believer (see Philippians 1:21-23). Neither is “life” with all of its trials and distresses, afflictions and inflictions. Neither is there any unseen spiritual power (“angels…principalities…powers”), whether good or bad, which can separate us from the love of God. Neither will any “things [in the] present” or any “things to come” be able to separate us from the love of God.

8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Erdman comments that “height…depth” means that “nothing in the illimitable spaces above or beneath” shall be able to separate us from the love of God. Neither can “any other created thing,” a phrase which makes Paul’s list comprehensive, separate us from the love of God. There is absolutely nothing that “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Thus the great eighth chapter of Romans begins with “no condemnation” and ends with “no separation.”

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