IX. The Spirit Leads Us to Glory (Romans 8:1-39)


IX. The Spirit Leads Us to Glory (8:1-39)

8:1 Paul’s therefore in this verse is tied to the “thanks be to God” in 7:25. In light of what God did through his Son, there is “therefore” no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. If you are a believer in Jesus, it does not matter what your heart tells you; God says you stand before him with zero condemnation.

8:2-3 Until now, Paul has been talking about the law of Moses. Here he introduces a new law—the law of the Spirit of life. Unlike Moses’s law, this one can set you free from . . . sin and death (8:2).

Which law you operate by determines whether you live in victory or defeat. The law of sin and death is like gravity. It inherently pulls you down, no matter how high you jump. But the law of the Spirit overrides gravity. It’s like climbing aboard an airplane, where the laws of aerodynamics apply. You cannot get rid of the law of gravity, but you can transcend it. The Spirit’s law transcends the law of sin so that sin no longer controls the agenda.

8:4 For the Spirit’s law to apply, we must not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. The word “walk” refers to our entire way of life, and it has three concepts imbedded in it. First, it implies a destination: you must point your life toward the will and glory of God. Second, it implies dependence: when you walk, you place one foot in front of another, putting all your weight on that foot for that step. You must rest all of the weight of your soul on God’s power, not your own. Third, walking implies dedication: you must continually take steps, perpetually calling on God to do in you what you could never do alone.

8:5-8 If we have a problem with our walk, the problem is not in our feet. It’s in our minds. If we have [our] minds set on the things of the flesh, we will live according to the flesh (8:5). Conversely, if we set our minds on the things of the Spirit, we will live according to the Spirit (8:5). If our minds are set on the wrong things, our feet will automatically go the wrong way. Setting your mind is like choosing a television station. You can watch channel 5 or channel 8, but you can’t watch channel “5-and-8.” You have two different channels—one that leads to death and one that leads to life and peace (8:6). God says, “Choose life!”

8:9-10 When you became a Christian, the Spirit of God came to live in you (8:9). The Spirit cannot dwell with sin, so he kicked sin out of its place of authority in your life. Where did it go? It took up residence in your body, which still is dead because of sin (8:10). It’s dead, unresponsive. When you try to “be better” for God by getting more religious, you are kicking that dead body and trying to get it moving. It won’t move.

8:11 We become alive, not by telling our dead bodies to live, but by letting the Spirit do to us what he did for Jesus—raising him from the dead. If his Spirit . . . lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal [body] to life. We have a new power within us: the Spirit is like an engine in a car that can take us where God wants us to go. Too many of us are trying to push the car of life around, when God wants us to let the engine do the work.

8:12-13 Paul wants us to kick the flesh to the curb so that we can experience the abundant life God has promised. If we put to death the deeds of the body, [we] will live (8:13). We can overcome the discouragement of a bad marriage, or singleness, or financial stress because he who is in us is “greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4)! Jesus promised that we would have trouble (see John 16:33), but he also promised to give us overflowing life in the midst of it.

8:14-15 If we walk according to the Spirit as God desires, we prove ourselves to be God’s sons (8:14). Not only are we sons (and daughters), but we are adopted children (8:15). If a person was adopted in Paul’s time, that individual immediately received all of the rights of an adult heir. The chief right that Paul mentions here is intimacy with God. We therefore can pray, Abba, Father (8:15). Abba is a term of intimacy meaning “Papa” or “Daddy.” We can say it with complete assurance that God is listening.

8:16-17 Being adopted as God’s children (8:16) may come with extreme benefits, but it also carries with it intense responsibility. Yes, we are already heirs of God, but we can only become coheirs with Christ if we suffer with him (8:17). If we do suffer, we will be glorified with him (8:17). If we shrink back in the day of trial, we’ll lose something valuable. We cannot lose our salvation, but we can certainly lose some of the reward God intends to give us.

8:18 If we focus exclusively on our suffering, we may be tempted to lose heart. Paul therefore reminds us that the sufferings of this present time are not even worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For believers, the glory ahead is not only greater than our present suffering. It is so much greater that should we look back on our earthly existence from the joys of eternity, our only response will be, “Suffering? What suffering?”

8:19-21 Our present suffering, though small in the context of eternity, actually gives us a window into what God is doing cosmically. Our suffering mirrors that of the rest of creation, which eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed (8:19). God has tied the sanctification of believers together with the perfection of the created order so that creation will only be set free from the bondage to decay when God’s children experience their own glorious freedom (8:21). Human sin corrupted creation and dragged it down into the messes we see today. It brought about things like earthquakes, volcanoes, and disease. But our righteousness, bought and perfected by Christ, will act as the agent of change in creation. When the sons of God are ruling, the earth will once again have order, perfection, and untarnished beauty.

8:22-23 In the meantime, we share with creation in painful anticipation, groaning within ourselves, eagerly waiting for . . . the redemption of our bodies (8:23). But this anticipation is colored with hope, because the creation groans with labor pains (8:22), a fact proving that the present suffering is not meaningless. It may be difficult, but our groaning now is leading to life then. And just as a mother forgets the pain of childbirth once her baby is born, we too will forget our pains in the world to come.

8:24-25 This context of suffering and anticipation requires hope. Hope is a joyful expectation about the future, a trust that our tomorrows will be greater than our yesterdays. But hope that is seen is not hope (8:24). Real hope combines a radical trust in God with the candid admission that we don’t know the details about our own futures. What we do know, however, outweighs what we do not. We know that what awaits us is salvation, which gives us the confidence to eagerly wait for it with patience (8:25).

8:26 We have a helper as we wait for our sanctification. The Spirit helps us in our weakness, and he helps by praying for us, interceding for us with unspoken groanings. I’m glad the Spirit is praying for us because we do not know what to pray for as we should. That is, we don’t know the language of prayer like God does. We’re like foreigners, wandering around a country completely helpless. But in this unknown territory, the Spirit of God translates for us.

8:27 The Greek word for “intercede” that Paul uses means “to appeal.” In our weakness, we may simply be groaning, but the Spirit translates that into an appeal that is according to the will of God. If we pray from the heart—even if our prayers are only groans—they are exactly as they should be by the time they reach God.

8:28-29 Everybody likes the first part of 8:28, where all things work together for the good of those who love God. Most people, though, ignore the second part—which is even more important. God is working in our lives for our good, but not so that we’ll live on Easy Street. Rather, he works for our good according to his purpose.

So, what exactly is God’s purpose for our lives? God desires to conform us to the image of his Son (8:29). He wants to make us clones of Christ, people who mirror Christ’s character and conduct. Sure, he wants to give us “all things,” but we can only receive them if we are conformed to Christ. Therefore, the promise of 8:28 is a conditional one. If believers are not loving God and progressively being “conformed to the image of” Christ, they will not see things working together for good. Unfortunately, not all Christians steadfastly remain in God’s love (see Jude 21).

8:30 God always finishes what he starts. It’s an unbroken chain. Note that all who are called reach glorification, which guarantees the eternal security of all believers. This should give us tremendous assurance.

8:31-34 The staggering promise of 8:30 launches Paul into the most beautiful and victorious passage in the book. He asks, What then are we to say about these things? (8:31). If God has done all of this for us, what could possibly overrule it? If God did not even spare his own Son (8:32), why would we ever doubt his goodness and generosity toward us? And if God is for us (8:31), then who could bring an accusation against God’s elect? (8:33). If God says you’re not guilty (and he does!) then charges against you are irrelevant.

8:35-39 Paul ends this chapter with another eternal security question: Who can separate us from the love of Christ? (8:35). The answer, at this point, should be obvious: no one. But Paul wants us to feel that answer, so he piles up problem after problem. Will affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (8:35). In other words, can the worst circumstances on earth separate us from God’s love? What about death . . . rulers . . . things present . . . things to come? (8:38). Will the spiritual powers of the invisible world divorce us from God? Will one’s past, present, or future do it? Will any other created thing (8:39)? Paul covers every possibility with that phrase. That’s as “everything” as “everything” gets.

Paul’s answer to every possible objection is, “No!” Of course these things can’t separate us from God’s love! Nothing can. In fact, even in the midst of terrible situations, we emerge more than conquerors (8:37). With God’s love, we don’t just get by. We overwhelmingly conquer.