Welcome back to our series on Romans. We are up to section three in our outline of Paul’s letter. Remember, Paul builds his case following his thesis statement, or thematic verse, Romans 1:17: “The righteous by faith shall live.” Chapters 1-3 were about righteousness; chapter 4 covered faith, and now chapters 5-8 are bound by the idea of life.
The root word of what’s translated as “live” or “life” is, in Greek: zaō or zōē. These terms are translated pretty comfortably into English, so I won’t break them down any further. In chapters 5-8 alone, though, the word life (or some form of it) occurs 23 times:
In chapter five, Paul says that the first man, Adam, brought about death for all of humanity. Then, as a sort of new Adam, Jesus precisely reverses this curse, giving life to all humanity–Jew and Gentile alike. This new life in Christ requires dying to sin, that is, reorienting our lives in the ways of Christ and holiness.
Rom. 6:1-4 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
v.10-14 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
There is a clear relationship, then, between grace, life, righteousness/justification, and obedience. We cannot say we have been born again if our lifestyle does not reflect submission to the ways Jesus. That is not to say we will never stumble or sin again, but there must be a clear reorientation toward living a life that is pleasing to God (on His terms!) rather than merely living for the sake of our own short term happiness each day. Paul is aware of the possibility that the freedom found in God’s grace (v.14) may lead someone to say Paul teaches that we can live however we want, so he immediately doubles down on the necessity of Christians living in ways that lead to righteousness and sanctification (6:15-23):
Rom. 6:15-19 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
Rom. 6:20-23 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Again you notice very quickly in these verses a connection between grace, obedience, righteousness, sanctification, and eternal life. We cannot skip the stuff in the middle, which brings up a debate that is certainly central to this section, regarding justification and how we are made right with God: imputed righteousness versus effective righteousness. Are we treated as righteous even though we aren’t (imputed righteousness), or are we made righteous by being transformed into people who actually live out lives of behavior that God requires (effective righteousness)? This is a false dichotomy. We are considered righteous on the basis of Jesus and yet we are clearly expected to then live according to God’s idea of what is right, good, and holy. (Cf. Rom 6:12-19, 1 Cor 7:19; Gal 5:16-24). We will give an account as Christians for the deeds done in our life (Rom 14:10-12, 2 Cor 5:10).
God does not leave us alone in this effort, but rather, He gives us new life with the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is highlighted especially in chapter 8. With that in mind, along with all the other key points so far, let’s read Romans 8 in full and hear it afresh.
Romans 8 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Thank you for listening. Stay tuned for the next post where we’ll dive into Paul’s explanation of the decline of the Jewish flavor of the church, including some important comments about the nature of election in Romans.
Until next time, God bless you, and happy studying.