In the eighth chapter of Romans, the epistle reaches its highest point. The seventh has presented to us the deplorable condition of the man who has been awakened by the law to a sense of his condition, bound to sin by cords that can be loosened only by death. It closes with a glimpse of the Lord Jesus Christ as the One Who alone can set us free from the body of death.
Our union with Christ and with His righteousness may be and should be just as close and complete as our union has been with sin. The figure of marriage shows that to be so. We were held in union with sin—married to the old man—to the body of sin. That was an unlawful connection; consequently, the body of sin was a body of death to us, because we could not be separated from that body except by death. That body and ourselves were identified—we were married; therefore, we were one, and the body of sin was the controlling influence in that union; it dominated everything.
Now Christ comes to us; and when we yield ourselves to Him, He looses the bonds that have bound us to the body of sin. Then we enter into the same intimate relation with our Lord Jesus Christ that we previously sustained with the body of sin. We become united to Christ—married to Him—and then we are one. As in the other case, where the body of sin was the controlling influence, so in this second marriage, Christ is the controlling influence.
Notice how perfectly that figure of marriage is carried out. We are represented as the woman. The husband is the head of the family; and so Christ is our head, and we yield ourselves to Him. We are one with Him. What a precious thought it is, that we are one flesh with Christ! In this we see the mystery of the incarnation appearing again. If we can believe that Christ was in the flesh, God incarnate in Christ, we can believe this—Christ dwelling in us and working through us—through our flesh, just the same as when He took flesh upon Himself and controlled it. It is a mystery that we cannot understand, but we acknowledge it; and that gives us freedom.
He says that our old man was crucified with Him. That is true, but it is not raised with Him. Christ came to minister, not to be ministered unto; but He came to minister to us, not to be the minister of sin. Therefore, when we and the body of sin together are crucified with Christ and are buried together, we are raised up to walk in newness of life; but the body of sin remains buried, so we are free from it. Now what follows?
Freedom from Condemnation
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Romans 8:1.
Why is there no condemnation to those who are in Christ? Because He received the curse of the law that the blessing might come on us. Nothing can come to us while we are in Him without first passing through Him; but in Him, all curses are turned to blessings and sin is displaced by righteousness. His endless life triumphs over everything that comes against it. We are made "complete in Him." Colossians 2:10.
Some say, "I do not find this scripture fulfilled in my case, because I find something to condemn me every time I look at myself." To be sure; for the freedom from condemnation is not in ourselves, but in Christ Jesus. We are to look at Him, instead of at ourselves. If we obey His orders and trust Him, He takes the responsibility of making us clear before the law. There will never be a time when one will not find condemnation in looking at himself.
The fall of Satan was due to his looking at himself. The restoration for those whom he has made to fall is only through looking to Jesus. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." John 3:14. The serpent was lifted up to be looked at. Those who looked were healed. Even so with Christ. In the world to come, the servants of the Lord "shall see His face," and they will not be drawn away to themselves. The light of His countenance will be their glory, and it is in that same light that they will be brought to that glorious state.
The text does not say that those who are in Christ Jesus will never be reproved. Getting into Christ is only the beginning, not the end, of Christian life. Association with Christ will more and more reveal to us our failings, just as association with a learned man will make us conscious of our ignorance. As a faithful witness, He tells us of our failings. But it is not to condemn us. We receive sympathy, not condemnation, from Him. It is this sympathy that gives us courage and enables us to overcome.
When the Lord points out a defect in our characters, it is the same as saying to us, "There is something that you are in need of, and I have it for you." When we learn to look at reproof in this way, we shall rejoice in it instead of being discouraged.
The law without Christ is death. The law in Christ is life. His life is the law of God; for out of the heart are the issues of life, and the law was in His heart. The law of sin and death works in our members, but the law of the Spirit of life in Christ gives us freedom from this. It does not give us freedom from obedience to the law; for we had that before, and that was bondage, not freedom. What He gives us is freedom from the transgression of the law.
This is made very plain in verses 3 and 4. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." Romans 7:12. There is no fault to be found with it but with us, because we have transgressed it. Christ’s work is not to change the law in any particular but to change us in every particular. It is to put the law into our hearts in perfection in place of the marred and broken copy.
The law is strong enough to condemn; but it is powerless, with respect to what man needs—namely, salvation. It was and is "weak through the flesh." The law is good, and holy, and just; but man has no strength to perform it. Just as an ax may be of good steel and very sharp yet unable to cut down a tree because the arm that has hold of it has no strength, so the law of God could not perform itself. It set forth man’s duty; it remained for him to do it. But he could not, and therefore Christ came to do it in him. What the law could not do, God did by His Son.
There is a common idea that this means that Christ simulated sinful flesh, that He did not take upon Himself actual sinful flesh but only what appeared to be such. But the Scriptures do not teach such a thing. "In all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." Hebrews 2:17. He was "made of a woman, made under the law, that He might redeem them that were under the law." Galatians 4:4, 5.
He took the same flesh that all have who are born of woman. A parallel text to Romans 8:3, 4 is found in II Corinthians 5:21. The former says that Christ was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us." The latter says that God "made Him to be sin for us, although He knew no sin, "that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
All the comfort that we can get from Christ lies in the knowledge that He was made in all things as we are. Otherwise we should hesitate to tell Him of our weaknesses and failures. The priest who makes sacrifices for sins must be one "who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that He Himself also is compassed with infirmity." Hebrews 5:2.
This applies perfectly to Christ. "For we have not an High Priest which can not be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Hebrews 4:15. This is why we may come boldly to the throne of grace for mercy. So perfectly has Christ identified Himself with us that He even now feels our sufferings.
"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit." Romans 8:5. Note that this depends on the preceding statement, "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Verse 4. The things of the Spirit are the commandments of God, because the law is spiritual. The flesh serves the law of sin (see the preceding chapter and Galatians 5:19–21. where the works of the flesh are described.) But Christ came in the same flesh to show the power of the Spirit over the flesh. "They that are in the flesh can not please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of Christ dwell in you." Romans 8:8, 9.
Now no one will claim that the flesh of a man is any different after his conversion from what it was before. Least of all will the converted man himself say so; for he has continual evidence of its perversity. But if he is really converted and the Spirit of Christ dwells in him, he is no more in the power of the flesh. Even so, Christ came in the same sinful flesh, yet He was without sin because He was always led by the Spirit.
"The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Romans 8:7.
The flesh and the Spirit are in opposition. These are always contrary the one to the other. The Spirit never yields to the flesh, and the flesh never gets converted. The flesh will be of the nature of sin until our bodies are changed at the coming of the Lord. The Spirit strives with the sinful man, but the man yields to the flesh and so is the servant of sin.
Such a man is not led by the Spirit, although the Spirit has by no means forsaken him. The flesh is just the same in a converted man as it is in a sinner; but the difference is that now it has no power since the man yields to the Spirit, which controls the flesh. Although the man’s flesh is precisely the same as it was before he was converted, he is said to be not "in the flesh" but "in the Spirit," since he, through the Spirit, mortifies the deeds of the body."
"And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." Romans 8:10. Here we have the two individuals of which the apostle speaks in II Corinthians 4:7–16. "For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." Though our body should fail and be worn out, yet the inward man, Christ Jesus, is ever new. And He is our real life. "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Colossians 3:3.
This is why we are not to fear those who can kill only the body and after that have no more that they can do. Wicked men can not touch the eternal life which we have in Christ, Who can not be destroyed.
Surety of the Resurrection
"But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you." Romans 8:11. Jesus said of the water that He gave, which was the Holy Spirit, that it should be in us a well of water springing up unto eternal life. (See John 4:14; compare John 7:37–39.) That is, the spiritual life which we not live in the flesh by the Spirit is the surety of the spiritual body to be bestowed at the resurrection when we will have the life of Christ manifested in immortal bodies.
"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh." Romans 8:12. All the work that the flesh can do avails nothing, for its works are sin and therefore death. But we are debtors to the Lord Jesus Christ, "Who gave Himself for us." Consequently, everything must be yielded to His life. "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." Verse 13.
Those who yield to the strivings of the Spirit, and continue so to yield, are led by the Spirit; and they are the sons of God. They are taken into the same relation to the Father that the only-begotten Son occupies. (See I John 3:1.)
We Are Sons Now
There is a notion held by some people that no man is born of God until the resurrection. But this is settled by the fact that we are now sons of God. "But," says one, "We are not yet manifested as sons." True, and neither was Christ when He was on earth. There were but very few who knew Him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. And they knew it only by revelation from God. The world knows us not because it knew Him not. To say that believers are not sons of God now because there is nothing in their appearance to indicate it is to bring the same charge against Jesus Christ. But Jesus was just as truly the Son of God when He lay in the manger in Bethlehem as He is now when sitting at the right hand of God.
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." Romans 8:16. We know that we are children of God because the Spirit assures us of that fact in the Bible. The witness of the Spirit is not a certain, ecstatic feeling but a tangible statement. We are not children of God because we feel that we are, neither do we know that we are sons because of any feeling, but because the Lord tells us so. He who believes has the Word abiding in Him, and that is how "he that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." I John 5:10.
"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Romans 8:15. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." II Timothy 1:7. "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." I John 4:16–18.
Christ gave Himself to deliver those who through fear of death were all their lives subject to bondage. (See Hebrews 2:15.) He who knows and loves the Lord can not be afraid of Him; and he who is not afraid of the Lord has no need to be afraid of any other person or thing. One of the greatest blessings of the gospel is the deliverance from fear, whether real or imaginary. "I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." Psalm 34:4.
Joint-heirs with Christ
If we are sons of God, we stand on the same footing that Jesus Christ does. He Himself said that the Father loves us even as He loves Him. (See John 17:23.) This is proved by the fact that His life was given for ours. Therefore the Father has nothing for His only-begotten Son that He has not for us. Not only so, but since we are joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, it follows that He can not enter upon His inheritance before we do. To be sure, He is sitting at the right hand of God. But God in His great love for us "hath quickened us together with Christ, . . . and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places." Ephesians 2:5, 6. The glory which Christ has He shares with us. (See John 17:22.) It means something to be a joint-heir with Jesus Christ! No wonder the apostle exclaims, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." I John 3:1.
Suffering with Him
"If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." Romans 8:17. "For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted." Hebrews 2:18. Suffering with Christ means, therefore, enduring temptation with Christ means, therefore, enduring temptation with Him. The suffering is that which comes in the struggle against sin. Self-inflicted suffering amounts to nothing. It is not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh. (See Colossians 2:23.) Christ did not torture Himself in order to gain the approval of the Father. But when we suffer with Christ, then we are made perfect in Him. The strength by which He resisted the temptations of the enemy is the strength by which we are to overcome. His life in us gains the victory.