Eleven—Life in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-17)
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Life in the Spirit
In chapter 6, Paul explained why a Christian wants not to sin even though Christ has taken all the penalties. However, Paul's advice on how a Christian can avoid sinning was: "count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God" (6:11); "do not let sin reign in your mortal body" (6:12); and "do not offer the parts of your body to sin... but rather... to God" (6:13). All this counting, not letting, and not offering might sound as though life under grace is much like life under law—we acquire the holy character God desires by sheer effort of our wills.
But then Paul explained how we died to the Law as well as to sin (7:1-6). Because we were sinful, the Law brought us death, not life (7:7-13). Therefore, we had to die to the Law through Christ. Having died to the Law's penalty of death, we now find we fervently desire to keep God's Law, but we are unable to do so because our sin nature persists in us (7:14-25). How, then, can we become holy and righteous in our characters?
Chapter 7 makes it clear that we cannot by willpower obey 6:11-13 or keep the Law we delight in. Read 7:4-6 and 8:1-17 for God's solution.
No condemnation (8:1-4)
No condemnation (8:1-4)
Condemnation (8:1). Penal servitude, imprisonment. Not just the legal status, "guilty," but also the punishment after the sentence.
1. How does Paul describe the Christian's life in the following verses?
Law (8:2-3). In 8:2, the word means a controlling power in each case (compare 7:23). In 8:3, it means God's Law in the Old Testament, which is also a power in a way, since it can produce life or death, justification or condemnation.
Note: Likeness of sinful man
Likeness of sinful man (8:3). "Christ in his incarnation-became truly a man, but, unlike all other men, was sinless." However, at the end He took our sin upon Himself in order to die in our place (2 Cor. 5:21).
Note: To be a sin offering
To be a sin offering (8:3). Or, "for sin." The Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) always used these words to render the Hebrew for "sin offering" (Leviticus 4:3), and once for "guilt offering" (Isaiah 53:10).
Condemned (8:3). As in 8:1, the word means not just sentenced to death but also put to death.
2. The written Law of the Old Testament is powerless to enable us to obey God or attain life (7:10, 15-18)—it cannot free us from sin and death. However, how has God done what the Law is powerless to do (8:2-3)?
3. What is God's goal in releasing us from the law of sin and death (8:4; compare 7:4)?
Flesh or Spirit (8:5-11)
Flesh or Spirit (8:5-11)
4. In 8:5-8, Paul contrasts the way of life "according to the Spirit" with the way of life "according to the flesh" (nasb). List as many contrasts as you can find.
5. What do you think it means to "have their minds set on" (to "mind" in kjv) the flesh or the Spirit (8:5-7)?
Note: Controlled by
Controlled by (8:8-9). Literally, "in" the flesh or "in" the Spirit (kjv, nasb). To be "in" the flesh or the Spirit means to be united with, directed toward, and impelled by one or the other. It means to be controlled, but not in the extreme sense of loss of free will.
6. Is the directing power of the Spirit available only to some Christians (8:9)? Why or why not?
7. If the Spirit is in you, what else is true of you...
in the future (8:11)?
Put to death (8:12-13)
Put to death (8:12-13)
In 8:12-13, "Therefore" looks back to 8:1-11, and "For" points to a reason in 8:13.
8. What obligation does Paul imply we do have (8:12)?
9. Why do we have this obligation (8:1-11, 13)?
10. What does it mean to "put to death the misdeeds of the body" (8:13)? Explain in your own words.
Children of God (8:14-17)
Children of God (8:14-17)
Abba (8:15). An affectionate, intimate Aramaic word for "Father," comparable to "Papa." Jews did not use this term for God, but Jesus used it (Mark 14:36) and apparently encouraged His disciples to do so. See Luke 11:2; Galatians 4:6.
11. Romans 8:15-16 tells what is true of us if we are led and indwelt by the Spirit. Think of the implications for our lives. What sorts of attitudes and actions will follow if we are calling God "Abba, Father" sincerely?
12. Summarize what Paul has said in 8:1-17 about how we can win the battles of 7:14-25, how we can increasingly fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law (8:4).
13. What one truth from 8:1-17 would you like to focus on for application this week?
14. With what prayer, meditation, and/or action can you put this truth into practice?
15. List any questions you have about 8:1-17.
1. For Further Study: How does being baptized into Christ's death and united with Him in His life (6:1-14) enable us not to sin?
2. For Thought and Discussion: What is "the law of the Spirit of life" (8:2)?
3. For Thought and Discussion: According to 7:4 and 8:4, what place does God's Law have in our lives?
4. For Thought and Discussion: Is the path to holiness a daily process or a one-time victory? Support your answer from Romans 8:5-13 and Luke 9:23.
5. For Thought and Discussion: What difference should our hope of ultimate resurrection, both physical and spiritual (8:11), make to our lives now?
6. Optional Application: Meditate on your freedom from condemnation, sin, and death (8:1-2). How does this affect your attitude toward your circumstances? How can you reflect this attitude in your prayers and actions this week?
7. Optional Application: Thank God for killing sin by sacrificing His Son (8:3). Thank Him for giving His Spirit to make you holy. Ask Him to make you increasingly aware this week of the Spirit's availability to help you resist sin.
8. Optional Application: Make a list of the struggles with sin that you are currently facing. Toward what is the flesh pulling you? Toward what is the Spirit guiding you? Ask God to help you focus your mind on the desires of the Spirit. Thank Him that He will help you, and act in faith.
9. For Thought and Discussion: a. What does Paul call the Holy Spirit in 8:9-11?
b. What can we learn about the three Persons of the Trinity from these names?
c. What parts do the Father, the Son, and the Spirit each play in making us holy (8:1-11)?
10. For Thought and Discussion: How is 6:12-14, 19 related to 8:5, 13?
11. For Thought and Discussion: How is putting misdeeds to death different from trying to keep the Law by force of effort alone (7:6; 8:2-4, 6, 13)?
12. Optional Application: In what area of your life do you need to put the deeds of the body to death and set your mind on the desires of the Spirit (8:5, 13)? What can you do and pray to accomplish this? What attitudes toward your power and God's do you need?
For the group
For the group
Warm-up. Think of one time during the past week when you have experienced the Holy Spirit's guidance.
Questions. Questions 1-3 ask you to relate chapter 8 to chapter 7. It's essential to make connections like this when you are studying a systematic book like Romans.
On questions 4-6, discuss practical ways in which you each need to set your minds on the Spirit. Share some experiences of being drawn to set your minds on the flesh, and some strategies for disciplining yourselves to set your minds on the Spirit. Discuss what "the flesh" means to Paul.
Questions 8-12 can also lead to a lengthy discussion of applications. How does your adoption affect your behavior?
Chapter 8 is a tough but crucial passage. You may want to take more than two weeks for lessons eleven and twelve.
Worship. Thank God for setting you free from the law of sin and death, and for determining to fulfill in you the righteous requirements of the law of the Spirit. Thank Him for putting His Spirit in you, so that you can set your mind on Him and live. Thank God for adopting you as sons and heirs, and for promising to give life to your bodies. Praise God as "Abba, Father." Ask Him to help you obey Him as Father and to share in Christ's sufferings.
Box: Flesh and Spirit
Flesh and Spirit
The Greek words sarx and pneuma are central to Paul's teaching in Romans, but they are not easy to understand. In fact, while kjv and nasb follow the traditional rendering of sarx as "flesh" in all cases, the niv and other modern versions use various English words to convey the various senses of sarx. The niv uses "body," "mankind," "people," "human," and "sinful nature" to render sarx in Romans. Thus, the niv tells us what Paul means by sarx in any given verse, whereas kjv and nasb allow us to decide.
Scholars debate what Paul means by sarx in particular passages, but all agree that he does not think of it as the pagan Greeks did. Since Greek philosophy focused on man, the Greeks thought of "flesh" versus "soul" as distinct parts of a man. The flesh was considered the corrupt, mortal prison of the pure, immortal soul. The soul was good, the body evil. By contrast, Paul adopts the Old Testament idea of flesh. The Old Testament focuses on God, so it contrasts "flesh" and "spirit" (Isaiah 31:3). "Flesh" is the substance of human and animal life; hence, it is mortal, transient, and weak compared to "spirit," which is the power and vitality of God. This is the contrast we see in Paul's writings: (human) flesh versus (divine) Spirit or (God-centered human) spirit, not (human) flesh versus (human) soul.
More specifically, Paul uses "flesh" in the following ways:
1. Body. The human body in a morally neutral sense. In Romans 2:28, "physical" (niv) is literally "in the flesh" (nasb). (See also Galatians 2:20; Phil. 1:22, 24.)
2. Mankind. Again, morally neutral. In Romans 3:20, "no one" (niv) is literally, "no flesh" (kjv).
3. Human nature as weak, either physically, intellectually (Romans 6:19), or emotionally. This is less neutral than (1) or (2).
4. Human nature as earthly rather than divine. That is, not bad in itself, but inferior to the things of the Spirit. This includes:
a. biological relationship. Where we would speak of "blood" relatives, Paul writes of descent "according to the flesh" (kjv). Christ's physical descent from David (Romans 1:3-4) is important, but less important than His divine Sonship by the Holy Spirit. Likewise, the Jews' descent from Abraham (9:3, 5, 8) is not sinful, but it is less ultimately decisive than the elect's status as Abraham's spiritual offspring (9:8).
b. things of the world. The wisdom "after the flesh" (1 Cor. 1:26, kjv)—expertise in human endeavors like rhetoric, literature, and technology—is not necessarily evil but is far inferior to God's wisdom about spiritual things. (Compare "wisdom of this world" in 1 Cor. 2:6.) Fleshly ways of warfare (2 Cor. 10:2-4) are irrelevant in the important battles of the spirit.
5. Human nature as sinful. To be fleshly or human is evil when man focuses on the fleshly realm and desires, sees everything by fleshly standards ("according to the flesh," kjv), and rejects the authority and perspective of God's Spirit. This includes:
a. unregenerate human nature. Before accepting Christ, every person is "in the flesh" in this sense (Romans 7:5; 8:8-9), wholly given to his human, self-centered aims and against God's plans.
b. the old nature that persists in the believer. Although the believer's flesh has been crucified, it continues to have a sinful influence (7:18). Therefore, the believer must strive "by the Spirit" not to live according to the habits and outlook of unregenerate human nature (8:4-7, 12-14). The Christian has the Spirit's power to choose not to act according to the flesh, but rather to act in accord with God's aims.
The difficulty with interpreting pneuma is different. The Greek word itself is never capitalized, so only context and grammar can tell us when to translate it as "Spirit" and when "spirit." Normally, pneuma in Romans means one of the following:
1. The Holy Spirit of God. We can learn a great deal about the Third Person of the Trinity from Romans (5:5, 8:1-27; 9:1; 15:19).
2. The "spiritual" part of man, the part that enables him to relate to God, who is Spirit (Romans 1:9; Romans 8:16; Romans 12:11). Man's spirit is dead or asleep until it is enlivened by the Holy Spirit. (See also 1 Cor. 2:14-3:1; 1 Cor. 15:44-46.)
Twelve—Certainty (Romans 8:17-39)
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Putting to death the deeds of the flesh and setting the mind on the desires of the Spirit means nothing less than sharing in Christ's sufferings (8:17). On top of that, we have to face the normal afflictions of human life—health, money, work, people, and so on. What is Paul's perspective on our plight? Read 8:17-39.
1. Make a quick list of everything Paul says in 8:11-27 that the Spirit does or demonstrates.
Future glory (8:17-25)
Future glory (8:17-25)
Note: If indeed
If indeed (8:17). This phrase does not imply that our suffering is a condition for attaining glory, since Christ's suffering assures us of glory. Instead, the phrase means that sharing Christ's suffering points toward, and is evidence of, sharing His glory. Present suffering does not contradict future glory.
2. Why is sharing Christ's sufferings worth the pain (8:17-18)?
Frustration (8:20). "Vanity" or "futility." When Adam sinned, God announced the inevitable consequences: the ground that Adam would have to cultivate was cursed (Genesis 3:17-19). The creation was meant to glorify God, but it could not do this perfectly as long as mankind, to whom God gave dominion over the creation (Genesis 1:28), was not perfectly glorifying God. Therefore, the creation is frustrated, unable to fulfill its purpose. However, God did not leave it without hope of redemption through a descendant of Eve (Genesis 3:15).
3. The creation is waiting, frustrated but with hope, for something to happen. What is it waiting for (8:19-22)?
4. In one sense, we have already been adopted as God's children and heirs (8:15-16), but in another sense, our adoption has not been fulfilled. The Spirit is the pledge, guarantee, and down payment of our adoption (8:15-16, 23).
What will happen when our adoption is fully realized (8:11, 23)? (Optional: See 1 Cor. 15:35-44.)
5. Hope of glory sustains us in the midst of suffering and frustration (8:17-25). Another support we have is the Holy Spirit. How is His aid in 8:26-27 an enormous help to us?
6. Summarize what Paul says in 8:17-27.
God’s sovereignty (8:28-30)
God's sovereignty (8:28-30)
Paul has been discussing how we become holy, how we acquire the righteous character that conforms to the status we received when we were justified. He has acknowledged that this process of sanctification (being made holy) will be a long struggle full of suffering (7:14-25; 8:5, 10, 12-13, 17-27). However, he has encouraged us with the knowledge that hope of sharing Christ's glory lies at the end of our path, and the Spirit is in us praying and empowering us all along it.
Now Paul reaches the climax of his teaching on sanctification.
7. How does 8:28 encourage you as you face suffering and the struggle against sin?
Called (8:28). Effectually called. The word assumes a positive response. God loved and called us not only before we became perfectly holy but even before we were declared righteous.
Foreknew (8:29). Many people think Paul intends the kind of knowing in Genesis 18:19; Jeremiah 1:5; Amos 3:2—a knowing that implies choosing by grace. Others note that in Genesis 4:1 and Hosea 13:5, "know" suggests the intimate knowledge of a marriage relationship. However, others feel that Paul means no more than "that in eternity past God knew those who by faith would become His people."
Predestined (8:29-30). To appoint beforehand. See Romans 9:1-11:36 and Ephes. 1:4-12.
8. To what has God predestined us? What is God's purpose in choosing us (Romans 8:29; Ephes. 1:11-12)?
Glorified (8:30). Our future glory is so certain that Paul can speak of it as an accomplished fact in the past tense. Paul does not mention sanctification, partly because he has been speaking of glory (8:17-18, 21, 23, 29) and possibly because "Sanctification is glory begun; glory is sanctification completed.
Study Skill: Defining Words
Study Skill—Defining Words
Sometimes a word in the Bible has a richer or more precise meaning than it has in everyday speech. Sometimes the Greek or Hebrew original means something slightly different from what we think the English word means. You can use study aids to discover these fuller meanings. An ordinary English dictionary is often a great help. Comparing several translations of the Bible will also reveal different shades of meaning. Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias define words and give cross-references. If you write down your own brief definition after using study aids, you will be more likely to remember what a word means when you encounter it again.
9. How is 8:29-30 an encouragement to you as you suffer and battle sin in this life?
God’s love (8:31-39)
God's love (8:31-39)
10. Why can we be certain that God will give us everything necessary for our glorification (8:32)?
11. How can we be sure that in God's court of law, we will be found "not guilty"?
12. Christ intercedes for us and offers His own life in our place because He loves us. However, because we have pain and affliction, we might wonder whether Christ has ceased to love and intercede for us (8:35-36). How does Paul calm this doubt (8:37-39)?
13. Reread 8:17-39. What one truth from this passage would you like to take to heart and apply this week?
14. How would you like this truth to affect your attitudes and actions? What action can you take to help accomplish this by the Spirit's power?
15. Summarize 8:1-39.
16. You have now finished the second main section of Paul's explanation of the gospel. If you are not already working on an outline, use this space to outline 6:1-8:39. Think of a title for the whole section, then divide the section into logical units and give them titles.
17. Write down any questions you have about 8:17-39.
1. For Further Study: On question 4, see 2 Cor. 5:1-10 and Phil. 3:20-21.
2. For Thought and Discussion: Why is it significant that our bodies, not just our disembodied souls or spirits, will be redeemed?
3. For Thought and Discussion: Recall the meaning of "hope" from 5:2, 4-5. Why do you think God saved us "in this hope," rather than giving us our full inheritance of resurrection glory immediately (8:24-25)? Consider what waiting in hope accomplishes in us.
4. Optional Application: a. Think about your present status with God and the Spirit you have as a down payment. Then think about your hope. What specific areas of your life can your hope and down payment help you deal with patiently? Specifically how does your hope affect your attitude toward those circumstances?
b. Meditate on 8:17-25 this week.
5. For Thought and Discussion: Are you aware of the Spirit doing in you what 8:26-27 describes? How is this promise a comfort to you?
6. For Further Study: Read part or all of 8:28-39 aloud with feeling. Listen to God's promises.
7. For Further Study: See the words know and foreknow in John 10:14-15; 1 Cor. 8:3; Galatians 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:19; and 1 Peter 1:20. You can also look these words up in a concordance.
8. For Thought and Discussion: In what two ways does Paul describe us in 8:28? Why is each significant?
9. For Further Study: Give a brief definition in your own words of what it means that God (8:29-30)... foreknew you, predestined you, called you, justified you, has glorified and is glorifying you.
10. For Thought and Discussion: What does 8:28-39 reveal about God's and Christ's will, character, and attributes?
11. Optional Application: For the next week, meditate and pray about what God has predestined you to be (8:29). Ask Him to give you a fervent desire for this to happen and a peaceful faith that He can accomplish it. Ask Him to show you how you can cooperate with this purpose. Memorize 8:29.
12. Optional Application: Do your circumstances tempt you to doubt God's love or control in your life? If so, choose verses from 8:28-39 to memorize, meditate on, and pray about. Ask God to enable this passage to change your attitude. How can your actions and words reflect these truths about God?
13. For Further Study: Outline 8:1-39. The subtitles in lessons eleven and twelve may help you.
For the group
For the group
Warm-up. Ask, "What do you hope for? How certain are you of that hope?" Many people think hope is like wishing for something that is almost too good to be true. In Greek, hope is confidence in a certainty.
Questions. It might be helpful to make three lists showing what the Father, the Son, and the Spirit each does in our lives. Romans 8 tells us a great deal about the Trinity. In your worship time, praise the Triune God for the things you have listed.
Predestination is a major issue for many people. You may want to postpone any discussion of it until lesson thirteen, fourteen, or fifteen, since Paul unfolds his teaching on predestination more fully in 9:1-11:36. Some books on this subject are: Martin Luther's The Bondage of the Will, John Calvin's Institutes (the chapter on predestination), and Stephen Charnock's The Being and Attributes of God (chapters on God's wisdom and knowledge).
Focus on the nature of God in 8:28-39. What are His goals for us? How can we be certain that He will accomplish them? How does the passage reflect God's love, faithfulness, power, etc.? How do these guarantees affect our lives? In your worship time, praise God for His attributes as revealed in 8:28-39.
Application. Briefly report on the results of your applications during the last couple of weeks. Can you see God at work in your lives? If not, don't despair; it often takes time for fruit to become visible. Plan to pray for each other now or at the end of your meeting.
Worship. Thank God for the hope He promises and guarantees to you. Praise Him for His purposes to conform you to Jesus and glorify you. Praise His unfailing love and His faithfulness to keep His promises. Thank the Spirit who intercedes for you.