1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, 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, 4in 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.
5Those 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. 6The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
9You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
12Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation — but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (NIV)
I have broken chapter 8 up into two readings as there is so much here. In this section, Paul crams a whole lot of ideas into a short space. But as you read, two words (two contrasts) are repeatedly raised; “flesh” and “spirit.” Paul uses the term “flesh” three different ways in his writings. First is literal as when he talks about bodily circumcision. He also uses the phrase, “according to the flesh” which generally means human teaching or human point of view. And finally, he uses phrases like “in the flesh” when talking to Gentile Christians about their life before Christ.
Then there is his use of the word “spirit.” In this 8th chapter alone, he uses the word around 20 times. For Paul, “spirit” is something not of humanity nor within the power of humanity to control. It is a power that is heavenly and of God alone.
Paul begins this section of his letter with one of the great truths and points we must always remember: “In Christ, there is no condemnation.” What a great reminder that when we go before God, whether in prayer on earth or stand before him in death, there is no condemnation. There is nothing that God will hold against us. Paul goes on to say that it is our sin that God has condemned through the life and death of Jesus Christ and in condemning our sin, he has destroyed its power over our new lives.
Paul then makes the contrast between living in the flesh and living in the Spirit. When we live in the flesh, our focus is on us. It is a selfish focus. We are seeing this kind of living more and more today in our society. And I believe by what is happening, a selfish living leads to an angry and lonely life. Statistics of our young people today show that they are feeling more isolated and lonely than any time ever. All too many young people cannot name even one friend. This is a sad state of affairs.
Paul then moves to say that those who live by the Spirit have lives of peace. Our focus is the same of Christ’s which is to love as he loves. When we spend our time giving of ourselves to help others, we find that we are not alone. We find ourselves shoulder to shoulder with other likeminded people. This is the power of the church. I still remember a very old woman in my first church I served. She would tell me that Sunday morning is the only day she gets a touch of kindness, a hug reminding her that she is of value. She said, without the church, I would be so lonely because of where I live. But every Sunday, she would beam and talk with those who came.
Paul ends this part of chapter 8 with the reminder that we are children of God and address God as “Abba,” which is a term only used by children in the closest of relationships to their own dad. This is the relationship we now have. And therefore, we can live boldly in this new relationship. We can step out and try things because we do not have to fear failure because in Christ, there is no condemnation. What a wonderful reminder of the love we have.
How does knowing that God will always forgive you help you to live each day to the fullest? What does it mean for you to live by the Spirit?
Blessings and Peace