Here’s a summary of the Bible study on October 2.
The Spirit of Life (Romans 8:1-17)
As many of you know, I like blueberries. We have blueberry bushes in our yard, and we harvest a good amount every summer. Birds like them too, so we have a netting system to keep the birds out. But occasionally, a bird finds a way inside the net. The bird enjoys it for a while, but when it tries to get out, it finds itself trapped. A few times, I’ve found a dead bird caught in the netting.
So, as soon as I see a bird inside the net, I go out to set it free. I open the netting at one end, and I go to the other end to get the bird to fly out. The bird is usually confused for a while, flying this way and that, failing to see the way of freedom, and failing to go in the right direction to realize its freedom. But with my help, the bird eventually experiences freedom.
In some ways, humans are like these birds. We find ourselves trapped in our sin; or to use Bible language, we are “slaves to sin” (Romans 6:19-20; 7:14, 25) – the result of seeking “forbidden fruit” (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-24; Romans 5:12). Unless we are set free from this situation, the result is death. God has provided the way of freedom, but we need to see it and respond appropriately. And to fully realize that freedom, we need to go in the right direction
Last week, we studied Romans 7:14-24, which talks about the struggle with sin. We may want to do good, but we keep doing bad things. As Paul thought about his struggle, he said, “I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me… making me a prisoner of the law (rule, power) of sin at work within me” (7:22-23). Paul continued, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (7:24)
Who Will Rescue Me? Who Will Set Me Free?
Paul answers these questions at the end of Romans 7: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:25) Paul’s answer continues in Romans 8, which begins, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (8:1-2, NIV).
What does this mean? How does it work? How is this freedom realized in our daily lives?
Freedom by the Spirit
After God created the first humans, he “saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). However, the first man disobeyed God’s clear command (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-24; Romans 5:12). He rebelled against God’s authority. Humanity was corrupted by sin (that is, attitudes and actions opposed to God’s authority and moral will), and humanity became enslaved to sin.
Thus, all people have sinned (Romans 3:23) and deserve God's condemnation. But those who are united with Jesus Christ through faith are not condemned (8:1). Through Christ, “the Spirit who gives life” (that is, the Holy Spirit) sets them free from the realm of sin and death (8:2).
As Romans 7 indicates, the written law was unable to set people free because sinful people could not obey the law (8:3). So what the law could not do, God did by sending his own Son, Jesus Christ. The Son humbly entered the human condition, took our sin upon himself, and died for our sin (8:3). He fulfilled “the righteous requirement of the law” (8:4). He was sinless, but he died for our sins so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fully met in us.
When we trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:14). The Holy Spirit is the empowering presence of God in our lives, setting us free from the realm of sin and death, and guaranteeing our final salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit, who is not mentioned in Romans 7:14-24, is the theme of Romans 8:1-17.
Life by the Spirit
Romans 8:5-8 describes two categories of people: 1) those who live according to the flesh; and 2) those who live according to the Spirit (8:4).
The Greek word sarx, literally translated "flesh,” is sometimes translated “sinful nature." Though "flesh" can refer to the human body or "human-ness" in general, it has a negative meaning in this context. Here it generally refers to fallen humanity (or fallen “human-ness") in rebellion against God. It’s basically a human-centered, this-worldly, self-centered orientation.
So what are the differences between “those who live according to the flesh” and “those who live according to the Spirit”? As verses 5-8 indicate, they have different mind-sets (human-centered vs. God-centered), different relationships with God (hostility with God/unable to please God vs. peace with God/pleasing God), and different results (death vs. life).
After describing these two categories of people, Paul says to Christian believers, "You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh (that is, under the control of the sinful nature) but [you] are in the realm of the Spirit” (8:9, NIV). Why? Because "the Spirit of God lives in you" (8:9). Every true believer has received the gift of the Holy Spirit to live in him or her!
This means that believers have a new ability or power to do what God desires. It also means we are guaranteed everlasting life. We will die physically. But as Christ was raised through the Spirit, so believers will be raised through the Spirit (8:11). And we will have renewed bodies (suitable for everlasting life in heaven), which is necessary for complete salvation (1 Corinthians 15:53-54).
Living by the Spirit
So, we know how Christians are supposed to live – according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh! But sometimes, we Christians seem to live according to the flesh. So we need to be reminded of some things. First, we must remember that we’ve been set free from the realm of sin. (Remember Romans 6?) Like the birds in my opened-up blueberry netting, we need to see the way of freedom and go in the right direction to realize that freedom.
Also, we must remember that we have an obligation (8:12). We must live according to the Spirit. We must "put to death the misdeeds (wrong practices) of the body" by the power of the Spirit (8:13). We must not offer any part of ourselves to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of ourselves to God as an instrument of righteousness (6:13).
Colossians 3:1-17 is a great passage concerning this subject. As I often do, I encourage you to read and reflect on this passage. And as I often do, I encourage you to read and reflect on Romans 12:1-2; making these verses part of your daily prayers.
The Spirit of Adoption
Believers are not only set free from slavery to God’s opposition, they enter a special relationship with God. The believer is adopted into God’s family and becomes a child of God (8:14-17). The Holy Spirit is instrumental in making us God’s children, but he also makes us aware that we are God’s children. He “testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (8:16).
I was struck by this realization when I first trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord. It brought a great sense of security and well-being to my life. It gave me peace and hope. But it also affected my depth of gratitude and my motivation and commitment to live in a way that’s pleasing to my heavenly Father.
It’s a tremendous blessing to be adopted into God’s family! We are not adopted because of our goodness or attractiveness. We are adopted because of God’s gracious action toward sinners who need a Savior. This is a gift to be received through faith. Adopted children become heirs of God and share in his glory! However, the path to glory involves suffering. That’s what we’ll talk about in the next lesson as we read one of the Bible’s most encouraging passages.
But before ending the summary of this lesson, let me ask…
What About You?
Which better describes you? Living according to the flesh, or living according to the Spirit? Which one do you want? Which one do you think is the better way of life? The Bible says life and peace come by the Spirit, and the Spirit is received through faith in Jesus Christ. Have you trusted in Jesus? What do you need to ask, or do?
Brothers & sisters, reflect on who you are – a child of God, with the Holy Spirit living in you! When people look at your life, do they see a person living according to the Spirit? Identify some specific attitudes and actions that you need to "put to death." Read Colossians 3:1-17, and take appropriate steps, asking God to help you change by the power of the Holy Spirit.