Summary: This article was written and published March. ’16.
The first eight chapters of Romans gives us a detailed view of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:16). The emphasis or viewpoint used by the Holy Spirit in explaining the gospel in this book is by showing how God has dealt with the responsibilities of man in Adam as a creature standing before his Creator. God has done so through the redemption in Christ Jesus freely given to us, that is, to the believer (Rom. 3:24). This epistle speaks of sins, guilt, sin in the flesh, law, justification, peace with God, deliverance, life in Christ, being in Him, Christ dead and then risen, and the believer not being in the flesh, but rather, in the Spirit. All of this is detailed for us in the first seven chapters so we may know that now we have no condemnation (Rom. 8:1), that we have freedom from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), and that we may realize that sin in the flesh, the old state, the old man, was condemned on the cross (Rom. 8:3).
From Romans 1:18 through Romans 5:11 the discussion is about “sins” and how God has dealt with them on behalf of the believer. These are our sins, our failures in responsibility, the acts committed or the bad thoughts entertained, the fruits of the bad tree. In the Adam man all his sins are imputed to him by a holy and righteous God. And by them he harbors guilt in his conscience – guilt is always connected to his sins. When there is guilt there can be no peace with God, no confidence to stand before Him in His presence. All these were the consequences of sins in the child of Adam’s relationship with God his Creator. The Adam man’s responsibilities or works became his sins. But in redemption God has justified the believer from his sins – all our sins are forgiven and gone.
After this, starting in Romans 5:12 and running to the end of chapter seven (7), it is our “state,” the bad tree itself and not its fruits that is addressed – the old man, the Adam state, existing in the flesh. We find that God has not forgiven this, for a “state” of existence cannot be forgiven; it must be condemned (Rom. 8:3). God condemns it to death – the “old man” was crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6). Then based on Christ raised from the dead (resurrection) we have a new life, and may walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4, 22, 23; 8:2, 10). It is the believer’s new life we want to examine in this article.
The first section (Rom. 1:18-5:11) of the gospel is summarized by the first verse of chapter eight – the outcome of God’s dealings with us concerning our sins is that “There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” The verse should end here. If in your bible this verse has an added part, it is a mistranslation and error. The simple truth is that Christians have no condemnation period. We no longer have any imputed sins, and so we no longer have any guilt. This did not depend on what we did, but on the shed blood of Christ in our redemption freely given to us by God (Rom. 3:23-26). If we are truly in Christ Jesus, then there can never be any condemnation from God – He cannot ever impute any sins to us because of the shed blood of Christ. No condemnation means we have been justified from our sins – they are all forgiven. All our sins, the fruits of the bad tree, are gone, and this forever, for it is based on a perfectly efficacious and eternal sacrifice.
The second section (Rom. 5:12-7:25) of the gospel is summed up in the second and third verse of chapter eight – the outcomes of God’s dealings with us concerning our nature in Adam, sin in the flesh, the old man, the bad tree itself. God condemns it to death. Christ dies, being made sin on the cross, and we die with Him (Rom. 6:2-11; 7:1-4). Jesus has new life and so do we. The Spirit is shown to be the power of that “new life.” (Rom. 8:2; 8:4-14)
The first three chapters of Romans makes a vital point concerning the preaching or sharing of the gospel. It is only effectual if it brings the unbeliever to the consciousness of his sins and guilt before God. The importance of this is brought home in three separate verses in chapter three:
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.”
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
When the conscience is enlightened to its sins by the word and Spirit of God the unbeliever realizes he can’t stand in the presence of a holy God. This enlightenment itself is a work of God’s grace (John 6:44). The unbeliever will never have peace until he looks in faith to Jesus Christ as his Savior.
After salvation is settled in the individual’s heart as to forgiveness of sins and justification, it becomes a matter of teaching that we learn that Christ is our life and that there is no other life. We learn that this is a risen life, the operation of such must be according to our conscious relationship with God. We learn that this life is a new existence; we are new creatures in Christ. Not the same as we were, and not simply an improved Adam. This life is a new creation in Christ, the second Adam. Christ is our life.
After His resurrection Jesus breathed on the disciples and said “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Here the disciples are given life and it is through Christ raised from the dead – resurrection life (John 20:22). In Romans 8:2 we are told for the first time that the Spirit is the source and power of this life of Christ:
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
Also then, we understand that the Holy Spirit personally dwells in us:
“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”
These passages put together the association of the Spirit with the life we receive. For the disciples it was separate and distinct. Jesus breathed on them after He was raised from the dead in John 20:22 – this is the resurrected life of Christ, because He was raised. Then they had to wait until Pentecost to receive the Spirit dwelling in them – the seal of the Spirit (Eph. 1:13, Rom. 8:15-16). This is the proper Christian state – in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9). It is life in our relationship with God, consequent to the knowledge of salvation by the remission of our sins, through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the resurrected life of Christ in us, and the Spirit given to us as the power of that life. This is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:2). The knowledge of this law is the only thing that sets the Christian free from the law of sin and death, that is, being set free from its dominion and power.
The law of sin and death comes into the world through the disobedience of the first man, Adam. The consequences were tragic and comprehensive:
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men…Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come…For if by the one man’s offense many died…For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation…For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one…Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation…For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners…”
You see how this passage instructs us that Adam was only a type of Him who was to come, the second Adam, Jesus, the Son of Man. In salvation we have life in resurrection, through the second Adam, for faith in the person of Jesus Christ gives us this life.
The reality of the risen life in Christ (John 20:22) and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) are separate truths. But now both have been fulfilled – Jesus is risen from the dead, and the Spirit has been sent to seal us. Thus the two are now inseparable (Eph. 1:13). Both involve the Holy Spirit, but in a different way. Also then, beyond our individual redemption, there is another important work of the Spirit:
1 Corinthians 12:13
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”
Every individual believer, consequent to his salvation, is made a member of the universal body of Christ – by the Spirit we are all baptized into the one body. This is the forming of the church on earth by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. The Holy Spirit is always the direct instrument of God’s grace and workings. And this defines for us what the Scriptures teach as the church – it is the body untied to its Head, who is in heaven and in glory, by the baptism of the Spirit. If we speak of the divine order, then I believe scripturally it looks like this:
1.) The unbeliever’s conscience is quickened by God to know the reality of his sins and that he cannot possibly stand in the presence of a holy God when judged. The Spirit plays the role of the direct agent in this preparatory work, because the Spirit was sent to convict the world of sin (John 16:8). This is what it means to be “born again” (John 3:3-8). By the quickening of the unbeliever’s conscience he can “see” the kingdom of God and has only been prepared for entrance. He is being drawn by God to faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior (John 6:44), God using the Spirit and the word as the common instruments in this preparatory work (John 3:5). But his sins remain in the way, and he is convicted of this before God.
2.) Life is given by sovereign grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The Son of Man is lifted up as Moses lifted the serpent in the wilderness. He is crucified and dies, His blood being shed for redemption. Those unbelievers who are drawn to faith in Christ, are given life (John 3:14-16) – eternal life, the resurrected life of Christ, Christ to live in them. Their sins are all forgiven and put out of the way. By faith they are justified from sins, and all guilt before God is gone. The believer, for now he is no longer an unbeliever, has peace with God (Rom. 5:1-2). He has a relationship with God based upon the risen life of Christ (Rom. 4:24-25; 6:4-11). He who has the Son has life, because he has eaten of Jesus, the bread of life (I John 5:11-12, John 6:32-40; 6:47-51; 6:53-55).
3.) Now after believing, he is sealed with the Spirit of sonship (Eph. 1:13, Rom. 8:15, 16, Gal. 4:6). The Spirit of God is dwelling in us, and our present “state” before God is said to be “in the Spirit” (Rom. 8:9). Sonship is individual, and by the presence of the Spirit in us we know, having His witness, we are sons of God, and also have been made heirs of Him along with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17, Gal 4:6-7). God never seals an unbeliever. The seal of God is on that which is His.
4.) After this, the further work of the Holy Spirit is the forming of the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:12-13). We spoke of this earlier in this post. The individual work must be first and therefore has the priority. Only believers are baptized by the Spirit into the one body of Christ. This is, in my scriptural opinion, the only baptism of the Spirit, and represents the only true union we have with Christ – the body in union with the Head.
The first three above are shown in type in the Jewish ritual followed after the healing of a leper. When he presented himself to the priest as healed, he would be washed with water, sprinkled with blood, and anointed with oil. This is the divine order of our individual redemption (Lev. 14). Leprosy becomes a type of man’s sin as disease and defilement. It excluded the individual from Jehovah’s presence, and from fellowship with God’s people. The order of the ritual, followed after the healing of the leper, is type of our redemption in Christ from the disease and defilement of sin. .Now we are fit for the presence of God, and made members one of another in the body of Christ.
It is in Romans eight (8) that steps two and three above are seen as together. Until you receive the Holy Spirit personally, you cannot learn that He is the power of the life of Christ in you. But now that we are past Pentecost and the Spirit has been sent, these two steps are practically together and dependent, although distinct. If we look closely at Romans eight (8) we see:
· the power of the life of Christ – Rom. 8:2, 10, 13, 14
· the personal indwelling of the Spirit – Rom. 8:8-9; 8:11, 15, 16
“At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”
“In that day” refers to when the Holy Spirit was sent as the Comforter. He is given to dwell in the Christian personally. It is then that the believer knows that he is in Christ and Christ is in him – “…you in Me, and I in you.” And this we see in Romans eight (8). “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…and if Christ is in you…” (Rom. 8:1, 10) So the knowledge of the life of Christ comes after the Holy Spirit was sent to personally dwell in the believer. Now we may know the Spirit as the power of that life.
Romans seven (7) is not the proper Christian state before God. Notice that verse five (5) takes the believer back to his former state in the first Adam – “For when we were in the flesh…” Existence in the first Adam is “in the flesh.” Our new existence in Christ, the second Adam, is “in the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:9) Chapter seven (7) teaches the believer what he should come to know that gives him deliverance from the dominion of sin, and also the dominion of the law as it is associated with the knowledge of sin (Rom. 7:1, 6, 7) – it starts the chapter by saying, “Or do you not know, brethren…” This is Paul’s attempt to impart knowledge of our deliverance. Notice that when he speaks of our former state of sin, which he does from verse five (5) to the end of the chapter (Rom. 7:5-25) there is no mention of the Spirit or Christ’s life. All that is spoken of is the law being the enabler of sin; that which gave power to sin so that it may have dominion. The law, although good and holy from God, never had any power to give the individual in order to set him free from sin.
“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
It is by God’s grace and it is the Christian as being always under His grace that is the unchanging “state” in his relationship with God, that the believer is delivered from the dominion and reign of sin and its associated relationship to the law. Notice that the law has a connection to sin in a similar way that the Spirit has a connection to the life of Christ. Law is the strength of sin and empowers it (I Cor. 15:56, Rom. 7:5-18). The Spirit is the strength and power of the life of Christ given to us (Rom. 8:2). This is the power of deliverance.
But let’s speak more about this life we receive. Jesus has been crucified for us. This was more than bearing away our sins, but “in that He died, He died unto sin once, but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:10-11) Redemption is founded on this truth – Christ died, but we died with Him. Christ was raised from the dead, and we were raised with Him. If Christ has a new life, we have this new life through Him. “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” (Rom. 6:8) Those who receive Him into their hearts now live by Him.
The charge is made at the beginning of chapter six (Rom. 6:1) – “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound.” Paul answers, “Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it.” If you die to anything, you no longer have any relationship with it. So in the next verse he says, “Or do you not know (this is the critical knowledge) that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death.” The obedience of Christ was unto death, and if you are dead with Christ, a dead man does not live. This strikes at the root of our old man, the old state. Believers have this justification of life by Christ’s death and resurrection. We have death to sin (Rom. 6:7) and life to God (Rom. 6:8-10). If you have died with Christ to all that is in this world, you cannot be living to it or in it (Col. 2:20). “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” If I died with Christ, I am dead to all that I was previously living in – to flesh, to sin, to the world, and to the devil.
With the law we see the same principle: the law has power over a man as long as he lives (Rom. 7:1). A man may be in prison for being a thief – the law has power over him and has placed him there. But if he dies in prison, this is all over and finished. The law can no long deal with him. What can it do, give him ten more years to serve? Now the law has not lost its power; it just can’t touch a dead man. And as a believer I am dead with Christ. His life in the flesh is over; my life in the flesh is over. Death has closed the door; I have no relationship to anything in my previous life. I have an entirely new life where obedience becomes obedience to God for the fruit of holiness (Rom. 6:16-22).
Jesus has died for us; not only this, but we can also say, we have died with Him. This last part cuts at the root of the flesh – everything that the flesh desires and seeks. What can a dead man seek? What can he desire? We are to reckon ourselves dead (Rom. 6:11) – this is not thinking that you must die, but that you have already died and are dead. Power is in what God has done, not in what you try to do. God has caused every believer to have died already, died with Christ. There is no power in you, as a believer, in your attempts to die to the flesh. God has already condemned the flesh, put it to death; the old man was crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6). By faith we reckon ourselves to be dead to sin, dead to the flesh. This is different than at the present time attempting to die to the flesh. The one is the already accomplished work of God; the other is man attempting in his own strength to accomplish something. If you ask the flesh to die it will only laugh at you. The person who talks of dying to sin is actually holding himself to be presently alive in it (Rom. 6:2). As soon as I have Christ as my life I can say with all the confidence of Scripture, I am dead to sin. Therefore sin or the flesh has no right or power to reign over the believer (Rom. 6:11-12).
“But present yourselves to God as alive from the dead.” (Rom. 6:13) Resurrection brings out what is the positive side (Col. 3:1): “If you are raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.” I have received this Man who is risen, as my new life – nothing could be more important for the believer than a distinct and accurate apprehension of this. In comparison to my old life in Adam, my new life in Christ is another kind of life altogether. The old man may come visiting from time to time, but I’m convinced I am dead to sin and it has no power over me. As to life and living, “I am alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
If risen with Christ I am to seek those things above. What are the things that belong to a risen life? Are they things down here in the world? What can a risen man seek in the world? He has nothing to do with the things of the world or this life down here (Phil. 3:17-20). And that is the position God has placed us in through redemption. And a risen man has his objects; his life belongs to another world, even to heaven. If Christ is my life, where is He? He is above, at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1). We are not there yet, but he tells us for now, “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Notice how closely we are associated with Christ. He says Christ is hidden in God; then our life is hidden there also, because Christ is our life. But Christ will appear again to the world, and when He does, we are with Him in the glory (Col. 3:4). It is a complete association with Him in all things, except of course, His own divinity. But in everything given to Him as the risen Man, He shares with us. This is true in all His relationships as raised from the dead (John 20:17). It is true with the glory given to Him as the risen Man (John 17:22). And it is true concerning the place He goes to as glorified (John 17:24). He is hidden, we are hidden. He appears, we appear. In resurrection we are completely associated with Him now for life.
These associations give character to the believer’s life, and show what his life is – so that, in exercise down here (II Cor. 4:11), “…the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal bodies.” The life we live as believers is the reproducing of Christ in this world – our life is Christ in a very practical sense, in a manifested way. This life is the treasure we have in earthen vessels, so that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us (II Cor. 4:7). It is not the old bad tree just dug around and fertilized – Jesus came to the old tree and found no fruit. Then He cursed it saying, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” The old Adam, the flesh, is a judged and condemned thing. The last Adam, the Lord from heaven, is a life-giving spirit. He is the source of all blessing.
And if He is my life, then He is the object: “…Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” This life has an object. Seeing Christ glorified at the right hand of God acts upon and feeds this life. It becomes our growth and sanctification: “We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (II Cor. 3:18) Our life has this glorified object which it delights in and contemplates – not a Christ in the flesh or humiliation, but a Christ in glory. Then what we look for is, a perfect man, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13). Nothing short of the fullness of Christ, as seen in Him, is the aim of this life – purifying myself as He is pure and getting more and more of His grace by looking at Him –beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord (II Cor. 3:18).
How does this life play out practically in the believer? The old nature is not the life any more. The last Adam is my life, the new creation of God. So the Spirit says, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth…” And what are these members? He says they are the grossest of sins – all the members upon the earth are lusts (Col. 3:5-7): fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, covetousness which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. And then he adds more: But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, but Christ is all and in all. The power of the life we have in Christ does not do these things, and it masters over that in our flesh that wants to do them. I am to put off any movements of the old man, his gross lusts as well as his passions.
We put on the new man, which is Christ. But take notice what is added here first concerning this new life in Christ – all the previous relationships that existed as associated with the Adam man and the first creation are no longer found to exist in Christ. There is no doubt in my mind that as believers we will have this exact reality after our bodies are glorified and the church is taken from this world and to the Father’s house. In Christ, and therefore in the church, these relationships no longer exist. We have title to this now because we are in Christ and the church exists on the earth. But we now have title to many truths through redemption and our position in Christ. Having title and having a certain spiritual blessing enjoyed now in spirit and soul is one thing; yet having to patiently wait for their future physical fulfilment is another. We have title to many things in Christ; we even enjoy them to a certain extent now spiritually; but we wait for their physical reality in the power of God.
God has created a new man who has a new life. But what is the character of this new life? Christ is the source of it and the measure of it. “He who says he lives in Him ought himself also so to walk even as He walked.” (I John 2:6) “Be imitators of God, as dear children.” (Eph. 5:1) “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1) Whatever the power of this life is as coming from God, it will manifest itself in the believer giving himself to God. “…the life that he lives, he lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves…alive to God…” (Rom. 6:10-11) “And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:2)
Now different exercises are added as the character of our new life: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do you.”This is the practical experience of the new life in which we are called to walk, of which the Holy Spirit given to us is the indwelling power:
Rom. 8:2 (NKJV)
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
Remembering, Christ is all. He is the only object of our life. What do we want? Christ. What am I to follow? Christ. What is the object that my heart should think of? Christ. Christ is all and in all. This is true for every true believer. We know nothing else.