Romans 8:1-4 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Romans 8:1
  • Romans 8:2
  • Romans 8:3
  • Romans 8:4

God sent His son, Jesus, as a sacrifice to free us from sin and the condemnation of the law. Christ died and resurrected to restore our relationship with God, to save us from eternal condemnation. Now, saved from Hell, we can also be delivered from the earthly consequences of sin, if we walk by the power of the Spirit. We do not have to suffer from sin. Although we are not under the law, we fulfill the requirement of the law when we walk by faith in the power of the Spirit.

All believers are delivered from condemnation in heaven before God just by believing in Christ. But earthly condemnation through the power of sin in a fallen world can still be experienced by believers living in a fallen flesh—if we do not walk in the resurrection power we have been gifted. Paul has just finished discussing his own struggles with his fallen flesh, the sin nature that still remains and its conflict with his new nature in Christ. Now he states emphatically that the deliverance from that fallen flesh is through the power of the resurrected Christ. “Who will deliver us from this body of death?” asked Paul in 7:24. The answer is: Jesus.

When believers walk in the Spirit, they channel the resurrection power of Jesus, and the result is escape from the earthly condemnation that resides in the fallen world. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That does not mean we do not still encounter sin and temptation, because we are still in the world. But it does mean that we can escape the negative consequences we experience when we succumb to sin, and we can do that through walking by faith in the power of the Spirit moment by moment. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death, we do not have to walk in sin.

In Romans 7:25, Paul sets up Chapter 8 by summarizing Chapter 7: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” Paul expresses the pain of continuing to have a sinful nature, even after believing in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, being delivered from eternal condemnation, and walking with the Spirit. The path to deliverance from the daily pain caused by the sin nature is living the resurrection power of Jesus each day, and Paul thanks God for Christ’s sacrifice, and the power it provides to live a new life. 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. Believing delivers us from the eternal consequence of sin, but we must walk in faith daily in the resurrection power of the Spirit to experience daily deliverance from our sin nature.

There is still a choice in a Christian’s daily life, to serve God or to serve our old sinful desires (Romans 6:11-12), and it is Christ who has given us the power to overcome the flesh. Now, in Chapter 8, Paul discusses the impact of our new life as children of God, and advocates a perspective we should choose that makes the daily obedience of faith the only sensible path for daily living. There are only three things we control as humans: who we trust, the perspective we adopt, and the actions we take. In Romans 6-8, Paul explains a true (and therefore immensely powerful) perspective of ourselves, our relationship with Christ, and the path that leads to our greatest fulfillment. Adopting this perspective leads to fully trusting God, walking by faith, and taking actions that lead to the fullest experience of life.

Though we still live in a body of death and sinful desire, we are no longer condemned thanks to Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection. While Paul expresses frustration toward the inner battle all Christians face in whom to serve daily, sin or God, he gives thanks to God whose grace is eternally more powerful than sin. Paul is culminating his argument here. There’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Why? Because Jesus Christ removed the eternal consequences of sin. Past, present, future. It’s all gone. There is no more eternal condemnation. The perspective he will now persuade us to adopt is that since we are not condemned, we ought not be motivated by fear of condemnation under the law. Rather, we ought to strive to receive all the amazing gains Christ enables us to, if we will walk in the obedience of faith.

It is important to remember Paul is writing to the Roman Christians, whose faith was being talked about throughout the world (Romans 1:8), who were living obedient lives to God already (Romans 6:17-18). Competing Jewish “authorities” were slandering Paul’s teaching (Romans 3:8) and were trying to impose the Old Testament law on the Roman Christians, so Paul has continuously stressed that it is not through the law but by faith that we are made righteous in the presence of God . (Romans 4:9-15) A way to gain power over other people is to threaten condemnation if they don’t “follow my rules.” It is likely the competing Jewish “authorities” were condemning the believers in Rome for not “following the rules” as a coercive means to recruit them as followers. Paul wants the Roman believers to follow Jesus and live in grace, not follow these “authorities.”

Therefore Paul emphasizes that they have been delivered from condemnation by Jesus; therefore they should not worry about condemnation pronounced by mere humans. Here in Chapter 8, Paul loops back to this distinction between law and spirit, expressing how there is no condemnation for believers in Christ, that the law of the Old Testament could not save humankind from their sin, but only caused sin to increase (due to our fleshly weakness, our inability to obey it).

It is through a new “law” from the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ that sets us free from sin and death. This was done by God Himself, who sent His own Son to save us; this is the story of the Gospel in verse 3, that the Son of God came to earth in a fleshly body to defeat the sinful flesh by His death. We who believe in His death and resurrection are freely given eternal life, now no longer condemned, and now empowered to live in freedom from our sin nature.

The requirement of the Old Testament Law was fulfilled because of what Jesus did, and as a result we are justified in the presence of God unconditionally. However, if we also walk in the Spirit, putting sin nature to death daily, we cause the law to be fulfilled. In chapter 2, Paul skewered the competing Jewish “authorities” for being hypocrites who break the law. Now, in an ironic twist, Paul demonstrates that while competing Jewish “authorities” claim to be defenders of the law, the actual reality is that the requirement of the law has been met in Jesus, and the way to actually fulfill the law is not to try to obey the rules, but to walk in the Spirit.

Paul exhorts believers to live the resurrected life. Not because they have to in order to “go to heaven.” But because it leads to experiencing the fullness of life, and the fulfillment of the law. The very law the slanderers say Paul is breaking, that is the law that can only be fulfilled by recognizing “I can’t keep the law” and instead walking by faith in the power of the resurrected Spirit of Jesus, the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. This is the second “faith” of living daily in the theme verse of Romans 1:16-17, “…from faith to faith.”

If we are looking to the law to justify us (our own good works), we will always feel condemned, because we cannot live up to the law; we will always fail at some point (Romans 3:23).

It is the Holy Spirit that lives in Christians. The Holy Spirit is a central figure in chapter 8, as Paul doubles down on explaining the freedom and new life we have, now that we walk in Spirit and not flesh. We finally have the power to obey God, in His grace, rather than be trapped in our selfish desires which will always cause us to fail to live up to the law.

Biblical Text

8 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 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, 4 so that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

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