The Request of Grace
In the previous chapter we looked at the final section in Paul's epistle that dealt with God's response of grace to man's sins. In chapter 7 he explains that even though grace saves us through faith, there is a constant struggle in our lives because the new regenerated man must dwell in the confines of sinful flesh. Grace saves the soul but does not eliminate the suffering and struggle caused by sin in the body, and this experience is felt by every Christian.
In chapter 8 the Apostle describes the demands of this grace and how God enables us to meet these demands.
The Request of Grace
Grace demands and empowers at the same time. It demands that we live spiritual lives no longer slaves of sin, and it provides us the two things that enable us to do this.
1. Grace Provides Justification
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
- Romans 8:1
This verse is the high point of the section we have just finished and the summary statement for all that has been said so far. That we are not condemned by God for what we are guilty of doing is called, being justified.
In today's language "justified" usually means that we have a good cause or good reason to do something. It suggests that we have a good excuse for what we have done. In biblical usage it means that we have been found innocent, or that we are considered not guilty (even if we have committed the crime).
The first seven chapters of the book of Romans explained how God accomplished this "justification" on our behalf through Jesus Christ, and why. To summarize: we were guilty of sin and were condemned to hell because of it. Nothing we could say or do could change the judgment upon us. Because of His grace, God sent Jesus to suffer the punishment of death for us, and because of His sacrifice, our sins were paid for. God then offered this innocence (justification) to those who believed and obeyed the gospel.
This is how grace provides justification for sinners. This is why there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because those who are in Christ (associated/linked/with Jesus through baptism) have been justified. There is now no condemnation if you are justified.
However, God's grace demands that you live a "spiritual" life and now that you are justified, you can do so. Why?
- There are no sins that separate you from God. He now looks favorably upon you. Your prayers, your actions and your efforts to please Him are acceptable because you are acceptable.
- You know what spiritual living is. Christ who justifies you also reveals, in His Word, what spiritual living is all about (a lifestyle very different from your old one).
- You have hope. There is no motivation to live spiritually if there is no hope of heaven. Jesus guarantees our acceptability to God and our entrance into heaven through His death and resurrection.
The first way, therefore, that grace provides for the spiritual lifestyle that it demands is by assuring us that we are innocent before God and will be with Him one day in heaven, despite the struggle with sin we continue to experience here on earth.
2. Grace Provides for Sanctification — Romans 8:2-39
Justification is a one time event. You are never any more innocent, acceptable or justified as the day you come out of the waters of baptism. You cannot become more innocent, sin free, acceptable or righteous in the eyes of God than on the day you are justified by the blood of Christ as you confess His name in the waters of baptism. For example, a newborn baby is as alive as a 50 year old man. The baby cannot become any more "alive" physically than on the day of its birth. In the same way, the day you are justified is the day you are "born again," the day you become alive in Christ. Nothing you do can make you more alive or more saved than you were on that day.
However, a baby can develop, mature and grow in its skills and appreciation of life. In the same way, a Christian can (and must) develop, mature and grow in his skill to appreciate and function in the spiritual world. If the baby does not grow, it will remain helpless and die. If the Christian does not grow, he will also die spiritually.
This process of spiritual maturation and growth is called sanctification. Justification is a one time even that makes us alive or born again in Christ. Sanctification is a lifetime process of growth and development that ends when the physical body is shed in death, and the fully formed spiritual body emerges to be with God in heaven eternally.
Grace provides for this sanctification process by giving us the Holy Spirit. In the book of Acts, Peter explains how one obtains justification ("...repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins" - Acts 2:38a). He then mentions that those who are justified in this way receive the gift of the Holy Spirit ("...and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" - Acts 2:38b). He does not mention why we receive Him, or what the Holy Spirit will do within us. It is left to Paul in the eighth chapter of Romans to explain that the Holy Spirit is given to dwell within each Christian in order to complete the process of sanctification in that person. Jesus, therefore, accomplished justification by dying on the cross for us, and the Holy Spirit accomplishes sanctification by dwelling within us.
In verses 2-29 Paul explains how the Holy Spirit works to accomplish this sanctification within every believer.
1. The Spirit Leads Us
2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For 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, 4so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7because 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, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9However, 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. 10If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
The Holy Spirit provides the Word of God (II Peter 1:20-21), gifts to serve (Romans 12:1; I Corinthians 12:1-11) and encouragement to do what is right (I Thessalonians 5:19). In all of these ways He directs the way that a spiritual person should go. Living according to the Holy Spirit's direction contributes to our spiritual maturity.
2. The Spirit Resurrects Us
11But 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 dwells in you.
The final step in the process will occur after death and it is the Holy Spirit that will resurrect the believer from the grave. Sanctification is only a taste and a glimpse of what is to come, and the Holy Spirit guarantees that He has the power to resurrect us by demonstrating this power in resurrecting Christ before us.
3. The Spirit Empowers
12So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13for 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. 14For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
Sin is what causes separation from God, and through the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to gain the upper hand over sin in our lives. This is important because we want to keep a close relationship with God and enjoy the fellowship with Him that produces our peace, joy and assurance. The more we overcome sin, the closer God draws near to us. The Holy Spirit is critical in helping us overcome the sin in our lives.
4. The Spirit Comforts
15For 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!" 16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
18For 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. 19For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23And 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. 24For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
We have been justified, promised heaven and told that God loves us, but as we look around we see ourselves weak and sinful. In addition to this difficult reality we observe that everything around us, including ourselves, is dying. We also witness the terrible injustice and violence that exists unabated in the world. The Holy Spirit works to sustain our hope in salvation despite the evidence we see to the contrary. He helps us to continue believing and hoping in the face of relentless attacks by Satan and the mocking of an unbelieving world.
5. The Spirit Prays for Us
26In 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; 27and 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 Holy Spirit is God and, as God, He knows our hearts and the mind of God as well. He guarantees that our prayers come before the Deity in an acceptable way, always wrapped in faith toward Christ. We are physical, sinful and limited to the material world. The Holy Spirit makes our communication with a spiritual Being possible and profitable for us.
6. The Spirit Protects Us
28And 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. 29For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; 34who 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. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36Just as it is written,"For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
37But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Once we are justified, the Holy Spirit's work is to make sure that the evil one does not destroy our souls. He works all things for the good of our salvation. We can deny the Holy Spirit and willingly permit Satan to come into our lives, and in so doing lose our salvation. However, without that invitation and our willing cooperation to abandon Christ, Satan can no longer capture or possess us. The Holy Spirit works to guarantee our growth and development in Christ, as well as our protection from Satan and his schemes.
In these verses, Paul describes the various ways that the Holy Spirit enables our growth and development in Christ, a process called sanctification:
- He directs us in how we should live.
- He empowers us to overcome sin.
- He comforts our fears, doubts and pain.
- He helps our prayer life.
- He protects us from the evil one.
- He resurrects us from death.
God's grace demands that we live spiritual lives (and we want to do this because grace ignites this desire within us). Spiritual living, however, requires two important things. Thankfully, God's grace also provides the things we need to live that spiritual life: complete justification through Christ and complete sanctification through the Holy Spirit.
In the following chapters (9-11) Paul will write about those who refused grace and why they did so, and then he will finish his epistle (chapters 12-16) by describing what living by grace looks like in everyday life.