The life-giving Spirit. 8:1-11
In our passage for study, Paul first reminds us that we are free from the condemnation of sin and the oppression of the law. He then goes on to explain that we may now choose to live either a natural, or spiritual life. We may strive to live the Christian life by obedience to the law and end up controlled by sin and at enmity with God, or by faith in Christ, be led by the Spirit and find ourselves at peace with God.
v1. Paul makes the point that believers, through their identification with Christ (though they are still sinful in themselves), are now liberated from the condemnation of the law which served to expose and accentuate sin.
v2. The agent of this liberation is Jesus. In our union with Christ we are set free from the condemnation of the law. The law served to expose and enhance sin, but now, through the indwelling-compelling Spirit of Christ, the law serves to give life, ie. guide righteous living (enliven us).
v3-4. Paul goes on to explain how Christ has achieved this liberation for a believer. The law was powerless to make us holy, in fact, it made sin more sinful. Christ, the sinless one, legally gave himself as a sin offering for us. The worth of this righteous act was applied to those who identify with Christ. Thus, the believer not only stands right before God, but begins to act rightly. In Christ's resurrection power we find ourselves living, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, ie. we begin to live a righteous life.
v5-8. In the remaining verses Paul explains how a believer begins to live a righteous life apart from the law. In verses 5-8 he compares two lives, a natural life and a spiritual life. A person aligned to the corrupt fallen nature and held to it by the law finds their whole being driven toward sin and thus, hostile to God, they face judgment. A person aligned to the Spirit finds their whole being driven toward righteousness and thus, they are blessed with life and peace.
v9. A believer is no longer aligned to their fallen nature if indeed they are aligned to the Holy Spirit. If a person has not received the Holy Spirit, and thus by implication the Spirit's indwelling-compelling toward Christ-likeness, then obviously they have not received Christ.
v10. It is true that the person who has received Christ still possesses the old fallen nature, a nature that resists godliness, particularly when confronted by the law, but by being in Christ they are righteous before God, which righteousness drives them toward uprightness (Christ-likeness).
v11. If the Spirit of Christ indwells us, then we will begin to live the new life of a righteous son of God through the resurrection power of the indwelling Spirit of Christ.
The unending struggle with indwelling sin is the common experience for all believers. We constantly find ourselves overwhelmed by our failure to live up to even the most reasonable of expectations. We are plagued by recurrent sin; it eats away at us, undermining our assurance.
This problem is compounded if our Christian circle is legalistic. If we were taught to function in an environment where expectations are laid on us to please Jesus, then the problem gets worse. The more we place ourselves under God's law, the more we find ourselves slaves to sin.
The problem is compounded further if we have learnt to apply denial techniques in the way we handle guilt. If we get into guilt transference (speck removal), reductionism (insect law), then we end up reinterpreting or denying our own sinfulness. Such is a sign of classic Pharisaism.
The simple fact is that every believer possesses a sinful "Adamic" nature which is in constant conflict with their renewed nature and this will continue to be so until the last day. As the apostle Paul says of our condition, our "body is dead because of sin", v10.
So then, what assurance can we find for our eternal salvation in this condition of ours?
1. Free from sin's guilt, 8:1-4. In truth, it doesn't matter how we feel, or how overwhelmed we are by the temptations of life. Jesus' death and resurrection on our behalf is not limited by our feelings, weaknesses or failings. God offers us, in Christ, right-standing in his sight. In Christ, the law no longer condemns us, we are set free, having fully met (in Christ) the righteous requirements of the law.
2. Free from sins power, 8:5-11. Again it doesn't matter how we may feel about the quality of our service to Christ. There may be little noticeable change in our life-style since we first believed. Yet. the truth is, if Christ is in us, then he is giving life to this mortal frame of ours. As we open ourselves to him, he takes control. If we trust him, he will enliven us. If we set our minds on the "Spirit's desires", we will find ourselves beginning to "live in accordance with the Spirit".
Assurance in our eternal salvation is not dependent on our victory over indwelling sin, but on Christ's victory. "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" and "he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you."
Given that indwelling sin is a common experience for believers, how do we overcome its tendency to undermine our assurance?
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