The Bob Smith Library Collection

From Guilt to Grace to Glory

An Expository Study of Romans 1 tbrougb 8

by Bob Smith

Founding Elder, Peninsula Bible Church of Palo Alto



Romans 1-4
Reconciled by His Death .
Saved by His Life


Romans 5-8
A New Outlook--Rejoicing
A New Relationship--Restored
A New Freedom--Released
A New Husband--Remarried
A New Law--Relieved .
A New Nature--Renewed
A New Potential--Reinforced .
A New Certainty--Reassured


The scene is the old city of Corinth, the time about 59 A.D. A weary traveler arrived in Corinth, having left Antioch in Syria many long months before.

He had walked all the way to Ephesus in Asia Minor (with possibly a few donkey rides en route), then boarded ship to cross the Aegean Sea to Philippi in Macedonia. From there he walked down the coast of the Grecian Peninsula all the wayeto Corinth--another long walk.

As you may have guessed already, his name was Paul.

Having encouraged and strengthened the churches established on his previous trips, and no doubt wearied by his long journey, he welcomed the three months he could spend at Corinth. His trip had covered well over 1000 miles, and he was preaching, teaching and counseling along the way. So the respite at Corinth was certainly due and welcome. Yet his active mind and zealous spirit could not rest. For he had never yet been to Rome. Reports had come to him of a marvelous penetration of the gospel into that strategic city, reports of a growing Christian community, yet he had had no personal input into that pagan city, the very heart and center of the whole, vast Roman Empire.

So probably Paul asked his host where he was staying in Corinth if one of his slaves could take a letter to the Christians at Rome. Tertius was the slave's name.

What depth of feeling must have stirred in the apostle's heart, what intensity of purpose, what concern for the magnitude of his task--to fully explain the magnificent truth of the gospel to these new Christians.

"What potential!" he must have thought, to plant the seeds of the glorious gospel in Rome--to be disseminated from there throughout the whole of the Roman sphere of influence. How he must have prayed, and pondered, and prayed some more, about how he might communicate the Good News, with clarity and power, to this central hub of civilization.

Only by inspiration from the Lord Himself could he have written what we know now as Paul's Letter to the Romans. This, in the view of many, is the most magnificent document ever penned. Yet in the midst of the intensely theological content there is the gracious personal touch. It is seen in the greeting sent by Paul's secretary, Tertius, to the Christians at Rome. He must have asked, as Paul was finishing his dictation, "Could I send my personal greeting along with yours?" For he was also a Christian. So we read, 1, Tertius, the writer of this letter greet you in the Lord." (Rom. 16:22)

One day I hope to thank Tertius, slave number three, for getting the message straight. And Christians through the centuries, worldwide, stand with me to give grateful thanks to God, to Paul, to Tertius, and to all who have been used to transmit this marvelous letter--so that we may experience its undiminished power and superb logic in our day.

How this letter throws a floodlight of understanding on what life is all about, why the world is like it is, why we are like we are--and what God has done about it to create a new and better society, a redeemed people responsive to Him through the obedience of faith!

What a day it will be for Paul when the Lord displays all the dividends, in all those who have discovered their Savior and how to enjoy His victorious life through this God-inspired letter--coming from the heart of God through the devoted heart of Paul.

Reconciled by His Death ... Saved by His Life

It is remarkable, and significant, that the argument of the first eight chapters of Romans hinges on one verse in chapter 5:

"For if, being enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son' much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Romans 5:10).

Here, says Paul, reconciliation (that is, being restored to harmony with God) is through the death of Christ. This means that through the cross all our de`bts are paid and the believer in Christ is freely acquitted, fully forgiven.

This is just the first half of the gospel. That's not all there is. Paul says there is much more. The "much more" is being "saved by His life."

Let me put it another way: the first part of thegospel is the forgiveness side--as both David and Paul say, "Blessed is the one whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man aginst whom the Lord will not reckon sin." (Romans 4:7-8, quoting Psalm 32:1-2). Blessed indeed!

Certainly being forgiven is wonderful, and a cause for great rejoicing. And surely it is the only place to start with God, as absolutely essential in establishing a new basis for relating to Him. But the "much more" content of Romans 5 through 8 tells us that we can not only be forgiven and made fit for heaven but be fitted out for life on earth--here and now. This, I find, is the least understood part of the gospel, and almost not recognized as part of the Good News froin God. And because it is so important and central to Christian life, the study of this passage holds great promise of reward, in both time and eternity. However, before we get into being "saved by His life" let's see first about "being reconciled to God by His death." Here it is in outline form:


A. Through the Gospel of God

1. Centered in His Son 1:1-4

2. Addressed to Faith 1:16-17


The Case for the Prosecution

1. The Charge: Suppressing the Truth 1:18

2. The Verdict

a. The pagan man--guilty 1:19-32

b. The moral man--guilty 2:1-16

c. The religious man--guilty 2:17-3:8

d. The whole world--guilty 3:9-20


The Plea: Guilty as Charged!

1. But ... We are justified Freely by His Grace Through Christ's Redemptive Work on the Cross 3:21-24

2. We Are Acquitted Because the judge Paid Our Debt 3:25-26

3. By Faith, justification is Available to All,

Jew or Gentile 3:27-31

a. Witness no. 1 for the defense: Abraham--justified by faith 4:1-5

b. Witness no. 2: David:also justified by faith 4:6-8

4. justification is Always Apart from the Works of the Law 4:9-22

5. Anyone Qualifies 4:23-25

Now, to expand a bit on this summary outline, Paul begins writing the letter with this introduction:

"This letter comes to you from Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called as a special messenger and appointed for the service of that Gospel of God which was long ago promised by the prophets in the Holy Scriptures.

The Gospel is centered in God's Son . . ." (Romans 1:1-3a, Phillips New Testament, Macmillan).

He proceeds to make clear the humanity of Jesus, from David's lineage, and His deity--clearly marked out by His resurrection from the dead.

From there, after some personal words to the Roman Christians, Paul proceeds to unfold some essential facts about the gospel:

Then the scene changes to the courtroom, at the bar of God's justice, where Paul becomes God's prosecuting attorney, effectively marshalling the evidence in the case of "God versus man."

The Case for the Prosecution ...


Paul begins:

"The righteous anger of God is continually being made clear (by the miserable state of human affairs) against man's impious lack of regard for Him in the suppression of truth, for that which has been made known about God is--known to them--both His power and His deity. So they are without excuse" (Romans 1:18-20, paraphrased).

The charge: deliberate disregard of the facts about God and disregard of God Himself--even going so far as to suppress the truth about HIM.

The result:

We need to be clear that God did not give up on man--He simply gave man over to inherit the consequences of his folly, in experimenting in life without God.

The final indictment: man insists on doing all the things God hates (1:29-32)

The verdict: the pagan man is guilty (and even a casual look at the world today confirms this testimony).


Knowing full well the tendency of man's heart to say, "But I'm not as bad as those guys," the prosecutor proceeds to demolish the defenses of the "moral" man.

He does it in one bold stroke.

The accusation: "You are doing the same tbings!"And if you don't believe it, just take a look at the basis of God's judgment.

He judges:

The verdict: The moral man is equally guilty before God.


You who rely on your religious performance and boast of your relationship with God--how honest are you?

Then Paul answers his own questions: "Actually, the name of God is blasphemed because of you!" You are all the more culpable because you had more knowledge of God than others, yet you failed to live out the truth you profess to believe. Your pride is in your religious works but your heart is far from God.

The verdict: The religious man (pictured by the Jew in Paul's day) is also guilty before God.

The Prosecution's Summation: Romans 3:9-19

All men, whether pagan, moral, or religious--all are guilty before God.

And just to clinch the argument, he add, "No, not even you!"

The Prosecution Rests

But wait--the trial isn't over

The Case for the Defense Romans 3:21-4:25

Paul now changes sides and pleads the case for the defense.

The plea: guilty as charged! We throw ourselves on the mercy of the court.

"However," he says, "I understand (after a personal interview with the judge) that the judge Himself offers to pay the penalty and will actually set free those who accept His offer of pardon."

And here is the beauty and glory of the gospel. Any defendant who honestly believes that the judge has made full payment on his behalf is acquitted solely on the grounds that a sufficient redemption price has been paid by the judge Himself. Christ has become the satisfaction for all the charges He had against us, through the cross. Furthermore, God has proved that justice has been served and that He can righteously acquit all who place their faith in Jesus!

The Witnesses

Having laid down this premise, Paul now calls two witnesses, Abraham and David, both of whom were justified by faith, not by their own righteous deeds. Potent testimony from two famous historical figures.

He wraps up the case by declaring that any defendant who makes this plea before God, anyone being fully convinced of his own guilt and sure of God's ability to pardon as He said He would, will be acquitted.

The Verdict: case dismissed! Set the prisoner free.

Saved By His Life

With this background, we can now look ahead to Romans 5 through 8. And immediately we see that the scene changes from the courtroom to the living room. Having been judicially acquitted of all charges by God Himself, now the question is, "How does the pardoned defendant now live?" Will he go back to his old ways just to repeat his crimes, piling up more guilt? Or does he have a new quality of life with new resources to claim?

Romans 5 through 8

Looking ahead, Paul now takes Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8 to expand on what it means to be "saved by His life."

Saved By His Life in a New Relationship, now in Christ, no longer in Adam.

A New Outlook Romans 5:1-11

Now, starting back at Romans 5, we see that we have acquired six new things in our new life in Christ:

  1. A New Sense of Well-Being--peace with God. The war's over, the tranquility of an ordered life prevails. 5:1
  2. A New Attitude--Rejoicing. 5:2-11
  3. A New Standing--Access to God's grace. No longer under His wrath. 5:2
  4. A New Hope--a secure future with God. 5:2
  5. A New Stability--able to handle trouble. 5:3-5
  6. A New Resource--The Holy Spirit. 5:5

Add to that much more! Romans 5:10-21

We look at all of life with a new perspective. We are being saved by His life into a new attitude, having moved


Formerly helpless, ungodly, hostile to God, now justified by His blood, living in His love, reconciled, accepted. Now--rejoicing in God, not just in the good things He does for us, but in the living God Himself!

But in the midst of this there is a problem: I can see how we can rejoice in a secure future and in our gracious God, but how in the world can we be expected to rejoice in our troubles?

The apostle explains: "More than that (more than rejoicing in hope for the future), we rejoice in our sufferings,

And here's the key:

" . . . knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)


Knowing the sequence is the key. This is the process:

Suffering --> Endurance

Endurance --> Character

Character --> Hope

Hope --> Disappointment

Because all of this leads to a fresb experience of the love of God, flooded into our hearts by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Endurance here is patience in the midst of difficult circumstances, "hanging in there when the going gets tough. Character is the kind that God approves. Hope is a confident expectation, and it does not disappoint, for God always comes through with a new experience of His love as the end result of this sequence.

Knowing this, no wonder we have a new attitude. What a difference it makes to know that every trial is designed to give us a new appreciation of the love of God!

The explanation follows (vv. 6-10) that since God loved us when we were sinners, helpless, ungodly and hostile to Him, mucb more, now that we are His, will we expect His love to be evidenced toward us in the midst of life's trials--for a purpose. That purpose is to build our character. Life's trials are working for us as God's characterbuilding program. So, we can rejoice in suffering. And we begin to see that the reconciled life is indeed a new life quality. We can approach each new day with a new attitude--rejoicing.

A New Relationship--Restored Romans 5:12-21

In this passage Paul gives us a comparison and a contrast. He tells us in verse 14 that Adam is a type of Christ: that they are in some way similar. Then he goes on to point out a marked contrast: ways in which Christ is not like Adam. The progress of thought is very difficult to follow here unless we observe this feature. This chart may help to clarify the passage:

Theology of the SAVING LIFE of CHRIST
Romans 5:12-21

Adam --> like --> Christ

 Beginning of first creation Beginning of the New Creation

But NOT like -- in effects

  • One man--many died. v. 15
  • One mans sin brings condemnation. v. 16
  • One man's sin--death reigns. v. 17
  • One man's fall--condemns all men. v. 18
  • One man's disobedience--many made sinners. v. 19
  •  One man--grace abounds. v. 15
  • One man's free gift brings justification. v. 16
  • We shall reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. v. 19
  • One man's act of righteousness brings acquittal and LIFE. v. 18
  • One man's obedience--many made righteous. v. 19



Adam was the beginning of the first creation, and the result of his action in the fall brought with it certain consequences for his whole race. Similarly Christ is the beginning of a new creation, and the result of His action in redemption brought certain consequences also. The contrast is in the consequences. In Adam they are all negative--and deadly. In Christ they are all positive--and life-giving. And throughout the passage the emphasis is much more, more than that, all the more, telling us that Christ's redemptive act on the cross more than overcame the effects of Adam's sin.

The central promise in ;his section is fabulous:

"For if one man's offense meant that men should be slaves to death all their lives, it is a far greater thing that through another man, Jesus Christ, men by their acceptance of His more than sufficient grace should live all their lives like kings!" (Romans 5:17, Phillips New Testament, Macmillan).

Everyone would like to "live like a king." Thefigure here is in contrast to living as a slave; the slave doesn7t even own himself. Being in Adam is slavery, being in Christ makes us God's royal family.

The closing thought of this section gives the final contrast: whereas in Adam sin reigned, now in Christ grace reigns and the result is life!

"Now we find that the law keeps slipping into the picture to point the vast extent of sin. Yet, though sin is shown to be wide and deep, thank God His grace is wider and deeper still. The whole outlook changes--sin used to be the master of men and in the end handed them over to death: now grace is the ruling factor, with righteousness as its purpose and its end the bringing of men to the eternal life of God through Jesus Christ our Lord:' (Romans 5:20-21, Phillips New Testament, Macmillan).

We are restored, through a new relationship. No longer in Adam, now in Christ, having received abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, we reign in life through Him.

A New Freedom--Released Romans 6:1-23

Having asserted at the end of Chapter 5 that grace reigns, Paul addresses the question, "Shall we now exploit the grace of God?" He asks first, "Shall we continue habitually sinning?" (6:1), then "Shall we have an occasionalfling?" (6:15). His answer to the first question is, "How can we? We died to sin." Then he explains how that is so. To the second question he answers, "By no means! For that can lead to enslavement to sin again!" Then he explains how that works, and asserts that now we are servants of a new Master, God Himself--and to righteousness, as a result.


The truth of Romans 6 is obscured by our translation, sad to say. I have a continual quarrel with the translators whenever they use the words baptism or baptize, for these are Greek words which they have transliterated with the simple change of a few letters. Greek "baptizo" has become the English "baptize" and Greek "baptisma" has become "baptism ' " But these words are either meaningless or misleading unless we understand them as the Greeks used them in the first century. The real (not ritual) meaning of the Greek word "baptizo" is: to place into, or introduce into, with a consequent change of environment. So let's use the translation rather than the transliteration of "baptizo7' in the first few verses of Romans 6. 1 think it will make it much clearer.

"What then shall we say? Should we just keep on sinning in order to give God an occasion to exercise grace? May it never be! We who died to sin, how shall we yet live in it? Or don't you know that as many as were placed into Christ were introduced into His death? Therefore, we were buried with Him through being introduced into His death, for this purpose: that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so also we might walk in newness of life. For since we have become united with Him in His death, so we shall be in His resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, for this purpose: that the body, as it used to be related to sin, as its instrument, might be rendered inoperative in that regard, so that we should no longer be enslaved to sin:' (Romans 6:1-6, paraphrased).

This passage has been called "God's Emancipation Proclamation," for obvious reasons. just as Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves by his proclamation in human history, so God has issued this edict regarding His people. We died with Christ (that is, the old man did) so that we might be freed from slavery to sin. We have entered into a resurrection life through our union with our risen Lord. And just as the risen Lord enjoys a new quality of life, since through His death on our behalf sin has no more claim on Him--so with us.

Here's how we now understand the operation of the grace of God in our lives. In God's reckoning we have experienced:

  • Real Baptism--we died with Christ to sin7s enslaving power, to walk in newness of life. 6:2-4
  • Real Identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. 6:5 ,
  • Real Emancipation--God really has freed the slaves. 6:6-10 Real Application. We now have a choice not to sin. 6:11-13 Real Freedom--'For sin shall not lord it over you, for you are not under law but under grace:' (6:14, literally)
  • The application of this truth is described in three verbs in our text:

    KNOW ... RECKON (or consider) ... YIELD

    Here's a diagram that puts it graphically.

    We take this ATTITUDE: "Always carrying in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.."--Il Corinthians 4:10


    The way to render the flesh inoperative (what a marvelous prospect) is to judge it. That's how the job gets done! You see, God has already judged the flesh IN CHRIST. What we must do is to agree with him that the "old man" is dead and has no right to try to assert himself in us. Romans 6 tells the way it works:

    1. You Died with Christ.

    "For we know that our old man was crucified with Him so that the body as it was characterized by sin might be put out of work and we might no longer be enslaved to sin" (Romans 6:6, literal rendering).

    This is "God's Emancipation Proclamation!--and the key word is "know." We start by knowing this FACT: I am identified with Christ in his death--so I died with Christ, in God's reckoning.

    2. Count on It.

    "So also all of you [as with Christ] reckon yourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God" (Romans 6:11, literal rendering).

    "Reckon"' is the word here. This is the step of FAITH--believing the FACT. God has said it--now I believe it!

    Incidentally, "dead" here means "unresponsive to' " or separated from the necessity of responding to the 'old man."

    3. Go Free.

    "Stop yielding your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but yield yourselves to God, as men who have been brought out of death to life, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God" Romans 6:13, literal rendering).

    True liberty is being what God designed us to be--instruments of his grace. Now since our our old man died with Christ, we have the liberty to choose to serve God--to be his men and women. So the key word here is YIELD.

    We gain victory over the flesh as we:


    Then we can walk in newness of life "for since we have been united with him in conformity to his death, so also we shall be in his resurrection" (Romans 6:5, freely tendered).


    The Christians' heritage through the saving work of Christ is to be freed from slavery to sin and to live like kings, because we are the royal residence of the KING! For

    " . . . those who receive the abundance of grace [all the resources and ability of our risen Lord] and the free gift of righteousness [right standing with God--full acceptance before him] reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:17b).

    This is a description of the normal Christian life--God's provision for every one of his own, not just for super-saints!

    The apostle supports this truth on the other side with

    " . . . sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). Grace supplies what law never could: a Savior who died for us--that he might live in us! "Indeed, since we died with Christ, we believe that we shall live with him, (Romans 6:8, a literal rendering);

    " . . . so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4b).

    Do you see the implications of this truth? We are no longer enslaved by sin!

    If I had been a slave when the President of the United States issued his Emancipation Proclamation, I believe I would have carried a copy of that document wherever I went, even if I couldn't read it. Then if some rednecked sheriff had laid his hands on me and said, "Hey, boy, you're a slave" I would have flashed the proclamation and replied, "No, sir, I'm free!"

    That's exactly what God wants us to do when sin tries to take us captive. We can say, "I'm free! When Christ died, 'Old Bob' died. I refuse to accept those old shackles! I'm going to live like a king!" To me it's nothing short of inspiration that chooses the opposing figures of slavery and kingship to display the high value of the liberty we have in Jesus Christ. For who wants to be a slave? And who wouldn't want to "live like a king!"? The flesh is a defeated foe, through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us--and to us.

    We can have victory over all the sins of the flesh by applying this formula for freedom--all the forms of self, like selfishness, selfpity, self-righteousness, selfish ambition, self-justification, selfapprobation, self-indulgence, self-pleasing, self-protectiveness, self-assertiveness; all these can be put to death. Also the seemingly less serious sins, such as self-confidence, self-reliance, and self-effort, which in essence represent a fancied independence from God, also yield to the one acceptable self trait, self-judgment.

    Add to the list pride, lovelessness, bigotry, anxiety, hypersensitivity, impatience, withdrawal, vanity, inferiority feelings, hostility, avarice, envy, dissension, a critical spirit, false modesty, stubbornness and a host of others--all qualify for judgment as part of the "old man" who was crucified with Christ.

    Remember--the goal, that sin may no longer reign over us--is a worthy aim.

    A New Slavery

    In the last half of the chapter we are faced with the question, "Whose slave are you?"

    Face it--you're somebody's slave. 6:16-18

    1. You were slaves of sin. v. 17

    2. Now you're slaves to righteousness and to God. v. 18-22

    It's a matter of results--which do you want?

    1. These things? Greater and greater iniquity, freedom from righteousness, being ashamed, death? vv. 19-21

    2. Or these? Holiness (wholeness), freedom from sin, righteousness, eternal life? v. 22

    A sobering statement: sin pays wages, in the only coin it knows--death. But God has a free gift for all who will have it! He gives eternal life (endless in duration, new in quality) through Jesus Christ our Lord. v. 23 A new freedom--to be all that God has designed us to be. Release from the bondage to sin in which we were once held. All through the saving life of Christ.

    A New Husband--Remarried Romans 7:1-6

    The first six verses of Romans 7 are perhaps the least understood and often misused verses in the letter. It is not unusual to hear teaching on marriage from this text, but the apostle never intended it for that. Here he uses the marriage relationship as an illustration of what he has just been teaching in Chapter 6.

    Romans 7 deals with various laws (or principles) which relate to life, as we will consider later. The first one is "the law of the husband,'or the principles that apply to marriage. Paul sets up an analogy, using marriage and remarriage as the illustration of the old man who died and the new rn~n who lives, in Chapter 6. The key to understanding the illustration is identifying the matching parts of the analogy. Likewise is the word that sets up the analogy.

    The best clue we have is identifying the second husband as the risen Lord:

    " . . . so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead . . . " 7:4

    The passage frames up like this:

    A. The LAW of the HUSBAND 7:1-3

    1. Death breaks a marriage bond. 1-2

    2. Only one husband at a time.

    3. Adultery is professing faithfulness to one man and living with another.

    4. Death of the first husband frees the woman to be married to another without being called adulterous. 3

    B. The LAW of CHRISTIAN LIFE 7:4

    Likewise you, my brethren ...

    1. The woman is LIKE the believer in Christ.

    2. The first husband is LIKE the old man who died with Christ.

    3. The second husband is LIKE the Risen Lord.

    4. The death of the old husband is LIKE the death of the old man with Christ on the cross.

    5. You are only married to one husband at a time.

    6. Spiritual adultery is LIKE hypocrisy, i.e., pretending to be true to one while playing around with another.


    1. The old man bore fruit for DEATH. 5

    2. The old law (the principle of "try harder") has been set aside in favor of the NEW LIFE. 6

    3. The result of this: we now bear fruit for God. 4

    Can you see how this illustrates Romans 6? One relationship is severed and another is established, as pictured by the two husbands.

    A diagram may help here to clarify the analogy.

    Two Marriages--Romans 7:1-6

    Basic Foundational Data:

    1. Oneness in marriage is in view, in which the wife is to respond to and reflect the nature of her husband. This also brings in the headship of the man.

    2. The law which regulates the marriage relationship is the law regarding marriage, which says, "only one husband at a time."


    This illustrates Romans 6 by analogy:




    An unbeliever is hypocritical when he claims to be good, for he cannot be, in God's eyes, without Christ.

    Becoming a Christian terminates the first marriage, so a believer is hypocritical when he is not good. When we are not good we are being unfaithful, by going back to the old man and acting as if we were not joined to Christ. The death of the old man is the key. The old man died and we are now married to the risen Christ.


    Paul then adds another piece to the puzzle by referring to the Law of Moses and the believer's relationship to it. He says, "But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the written code (the Law of Moses) but in the new life of the Spirit:' 7:6

    If we think of being married to the first husband as being linked to one who made impossible demands, one whom we could never please, then I think we get the picture. The Law of Moses is always addressed to self-effort, without ever lifting a finger to help us comply with its demands. So it is with us in life. Without Christ all we can do is "the best we can," and that is never enough to satisfy the Law's demands. But, thank God, the "old man" died. Now I am married to a new husband, the Lord Jesus, who still makes impossible demands, but is one with me to fulfill them. That's the difference. And what a difference! That's why the old covenant of the Law is called a ministration of death and condemnation and the new covenant of life in the Spirit a ministry of life. (See 2 Corinthians 3:4-8).

    In human experience, this truth is illustrated in seeing a woman whose former husband was a tyrant have her life completely changed by remarriage to a new husband who lovingly fulfills her life, after her old husband has died.

    To reverse the figure, sometimes a woman is married to a loving husband who dies, then she remarries, and spoils her new union by constantly reminiscing about her old husband and how great he was, to her new husband. This is a picture of Christian hypocrisy--never quite letting go of the old man, even though he is dead.

    I hope by now you see how telling this illustration is, beautifully portraying the severance of an old, unhappy, unproductive relationship and a new union with the One who loves with unfading love and who serves in resurrection power.

    Are you happily remarried?

    A New Law--Relived Romans 7:7-8:4

    Having introduced the Law of Moses into his discourse, Paul now seeks to clarify its purpose and how it relates to our new life in Christ. Here's what he concludes:

    The Place of the Law, vv. 7:7-14

    1. It makes me face the truth about myself. vv. 7:7-11

    2. It merely reflects what is right and good. v. 12

    a. The law did not kill me, sin did. v. 13

    b. I'm the problem because I'm carnal. v. 14

    Then he introduces what I call "The Law of Frustration." As a matter of fact, he points out a number of conflicting principles to show how confusing it can be.

    The LAW OF FRUSTRATION Romans 7:15-25

    MY PROBLEM vv. 15-20

    1. 1 know what is right, but I don't do it. How come trying to do it right isn't enough? vv. 15-16

    2. The flesh is still around--and is incorrigibly bad. It WON'T behave! The principle of indwelling sin is what baffles me. vv. 17-20

    MY CONCLUSIONS vv. 21-25

    1. I find the LAW OF TEMPTATION. I can always do it wrong--even when I'm trying to do it right and agree with the law of God. vv. 21-23

    2. Is there noway out? Yes--through Jesus Christ our Lord! v.25a

    3. But trying to make the flesh behave through my own efforts is a vain endeavor. 25b

    It is necessary, in seeking to understand this passage, to sort out the various "laws." Here are some that I see:

    Laws, in Conflict vv. 7:15-25

    1. The law of frustration. vv. 15-21

    2. The law of God. v. 22

    3. The law of my mind. v. 23a

    4. The law of sin. v. 23b

    5. The law of misery. v. 24

    6. The law of victory. v. 25a

    7. The law of futility. v. 25b

    So far the picture is bleak. The chapter ends in frustration and futility, with only a hint of a way out in v. 25.

    But the story doesn't end here. There is one more "law," the law of the Spirit, of life in Christ Jesus.

    "No condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are in Jesus Christ. For the new spiritual principle of life in Christ lifts me out of the old vicious circle of sin and death.

    The Law never succeeded in producing righteousness--the failure was always the weakness of human nature. But God has met this by sending His own son, Jesus Christ, to five in that human nature which causes the trouble. And while Christ was actually taking upon Himself the sins of men, God condemned that sinful nature. So that we are able to meet the Law's requirements, so long as we are living no longer by the dictates of our sinful nature, but in obedience to the promptings of the Spirit" (Romans 8:14, Phillips New Testament, Macmillan).

    THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT--The way that wins

    There is NO CONDEMNATION! In Christ, I am not meant to live in guilt and frustration. v. 1.

    God's NEW LAW, of the Spirit, who ministers LIFE in Christ, has set me free from the old vicious circle of sin and death. v. 2.

    God did, through hl s Son, what the law of God could not do, by putting to death sin-in-the-flesh. v. 3.

    The result: the righteous requirement of the law of Moses is fulfilled in us, as we now walk in the power of the Spirit. v. 4.

    No need to live in the pattern of frustration described in Chapter 7, for the new law, the Law of the Spirit, of Life in Christ Jesus, has set us free from the old law of sin and death. This is the law that supersedes all the others. Paul goes on now to tell us more about life by the Spirit.

    A New Nature--Renewed Romans 8:5-17

    Having rescued us from the law of frustration into the freedom of the law of the Spirit, Paul now reverts to his comparison of the old and the new. This time he contrasts theflesh (the old life without Christ) with the Spirit. He mentions the flesh 12 times and the Spirit 14 times in this section (8:1-16), so his focus is obvious.

    Romans 8:5-17

    Two Life Styles--Two Mind Sets. vv. 8:5-7

    1. The fleshly mind-set is DEATH, hostility to God, not subject to law.

    2. The spiritual mind-set is LIFE and PEACE.

    Two Kinds of People. vv. 8:8-U

    1. Those in the flesh cannot please God--.r v. 8

    2. Those in the Spirit belong to Christ. vv. 9-10

    a. Two results

    (1) The body is dead.

    (2) The Spirit is life; He dwells in you to impart life. v. 11

    One Emphatic Conclusion vv. 8:12-13

    We are in no way obliged to live after the dictates of the flesh!

    1. The flesh always produces the same result--DEATH. v. 13a

    2. The Spirit is committed to putting to death the deeds of the body so we can LIVE! v. 13b

    The Spirit of Sonship. vv. 8:14-17

    1. Our destiny--not slavery but sonship. vv. 14-15

    Some think that the battle between the flesh and the Spirit is a toss-up as to who wins, but here the apostle is again contrasting the old life in the flesh (depending solely on our human resources) with the new life in Christ (with the new resources that the indwelling Spirit brings). He states that there are two life styles, based on two different mind-sets. Further, he insists that we are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in us. It should really say, since the Spirit of God dwells in us. This is a first class condition in Greek, which says, "If it is true, and it is." In verse 10 he says, "If Christ is in you, and He is." And in between he asserts, "But if (another condition assumed to be true) anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, this one is not His." So we see that Paul is speaking about two different kinds of people--those who are in Christ (in whom Christ lives by the Spirit) and those who are not Christians at all (those who do not possess the resources provided by the Spirit's indwelling presence).

    As an aside, this content gives us our best definition of a Christian. A Christian is one in whom Christ dwells. Being a Christian, in essence, has nothing to do with our behavior at any point in time. it is not performance, but presence--the presence of our indwelling Lord, that makes us Christians.

    The statement in verse 10, "your bodies are dead,' is a bit puzzling until we look at the Greek text and find it really says, "your bodies are dying." Certainly that's not hard to understand. It is all too pointedly verified by our experience. In verse 11 he adds, he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal (subject to death and dying) bodies also . . . " (Romans 8:11). This is a promise of resurrection. But his essential point is that the Spirit gives life even though He lives in dying bodies. And one day He will even give new life to our new bodies at the resurrection.

    "So then" in verse 12 introduces an emphatic conclusion:

    "So then, brothers, we have no obligation to the old fleshly nature to live according to the demands of the old man. If you live as though you had only your human resources (the old life style) it leads to death, but if you put to death the old practices of the body by the Spirit's power, you will by this very action of yours, LIVE" (Romans 8:12-13 paraphrased).

    In a sense, this statement is the conclusion of Paul's argument throughout these chapters (5-8).

    We need to recall here that in chapter 5 he told us we are no longer in Adam, but in Christ; in chapter 6 the "old man" died with Christ and we are risen with Him to newness of life; in chapter 7 the old husband died and we are now married to the Risen Christ, one with Him in life; in chapter 8 we are no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit-- and He in us. And the new principle, of the Spirit, of life in Christ, has set us free from the old principle of sin and death (8:2).

    But the apostle, having dealt with the negative side, now moves to a tremendous positive truth relating to the Spirit--he calls Him the Spirit of Sonship, introducing a whole new dimension of Christian life.

    The Spirit of Sonship Romans 8:14-15

    "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the Sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery again to fear, but you have received a spirit of son-placing, by which we call out, 'Father, dear Father!"' (Romans 8:14-15, paraphrased)

    You may think that I have taken some liberties with this text, but actually I have tried to give the exact sense of the verses. The concept taught here is so important, and so neglected, that I would like to treat it in depth.


    Twice in Romans 8, the Greek word huiothisia is used. It is a favorite word of the Apostle Paul's and is usually translated "adoption" in our English versions. But this translation is seriously lacking if we really want to carry over the import of the Greek word into English. A literal rendering of this word would be "son-placing" from huios, son, and thesia, placing.

    The first occurrence of huiothisia) in Romans 8 is:

    "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship ... (huioth6sia)" (Romans 8:15)

    This text speaks of our present heritage in Christ, being placed as sons (huiothisia) as part of the down payment given us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Later in this same passage the scene shifts to our future, the time when we shall receive our full inheritance.

    " . . . we groan inwardly (now) as we waitfor the adoption of sons, (huiothesia) the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:23)

    When we see the Lord, whether at our physical death or at the rapture of the church, we shall experience the fullness of our sonship. Freed at last to enjoy redeemed resurrection bodies. What a glorious prospect!

    But let's not move too fast, lest we miss some of the remarkable implications of this word huiothisia. How are we to understand this term? Well, first the translation, "adoption as sons.' is all right if we understand what it meant when Paul wrote it, instead of taking our modern usage of the word. We use the term "adopting" a baby, the New Testament word talks about adopting a son. The Greeks have words for babies, children, school kids, etc. But huios is the word used in this text to describe being placed by God as sons into the dignity of a responsible, mature relationship to the Father. It is wonderfully true that we who have been born spiritually into God's family are God's spiritual children by the new birth; but here we are told we have the added honor and responsibility of being in adultlevel partnership with God.

    This quotation* from Donald Grey Barnhouse illustrates the meaning of the word:

    "The Greek word translated "adoption" means much more than our English term suggests. It has been infinitely better rendered in the RSV where we read, "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship" But even this is not enough. Let us take the Greek word apart. It is huiotNsia. The first half is huios, the common noun for an adult son. The latter half is th~sia, a placement, an installation, a setting of a person or a thing in its place. So the whole word means not so much adoption as the placing of a son.

    At one time in the Roman Empire it became the custom for men to have a ceremony in which their own sons were acknowledged publicly. It is much more this idea that is present here. On the opening pages of The Robe, Lloyd Douglas has Lucia describe the ceremony by which her older brother had been acknowledged as a Roman citizen.

    "What a wonderful day that was, with all their good friends assembled in the Forum to see Marcellus--clean-shaven for the first time in his life--step forward to receive his white toga. Cornelius Capito and Father had made speeches, and then they had put the white toga on Marcellus. Lucia had been so proud and happy that her heart had pounded and her throat had hurt, though she was only nine then, and couldnt know much about the ceremony except that Marcellus was expected to act like a man now."


    Later in the volume Marcellus himself tells a friend of this ceremony.

    "When a Roman of our sort comes of age, Paulus, there is an impressive ceremony by which we are inducted into manhood. Doubtless you felt, as I did, that this was one of the high moments of life. Well do I remember--the thrill of it abides with me still--how all our relatives and friends assembled that day in the stately Forum julium. My father made an address, welcoming me into Roman citizenship. It was as if I had never lived until that hour. I was so deeply stirred, Paulus, that my eyes swam with tears. And then good old Cornelius Capito made a speech, a very serious one, about Rome's right to my loyalty, my courage, and my strength. I knew that tough old Capito had a right to talk of such matters, and I was proud that he was there. They beckoned to me, and I stepped forward. Capito and my father put the white toga on me--and life had begun." (Lloyd C. Douglas, The Robe, @ 1942 by Lloyd C. Douglas; copyright renewed 1969 by Virginia Douglas Dawson and Betty Douglas Wilson. Reprinted by permission of Houghton-Mifflin Co., Publisher.)

    That is what is in view of our text. Not the adoption of a child into another family, but welcoming as a grown-up man the child that long since has been born again. We have not received the spirit of bondage to fear, but we have received the spirit of a son come of age, publicly acknowledged by his faiher in the Forum."

    Speaking of huiothesia Gerhard Kittel says,

    "The term is used only for placing in sonship towards God and occurs only in Paul (including Ephesians). The choice of words shows already that the sonship is not regarded as a natural one but as a sonship conferred by God's act ... In Galatians 4:5 reception of sonship is identical with liberation from the law. Institution by, God is again set forth as the only ground of sonship. If Romans 8:15 presents the Spirit who governs the life of the community as the Spirit of sonship in distinction from the spirit of bondage, this is the same point. It is the all-transforming act of the Son that changes bondage into sonship. Ephesians 1:5 backs this with a reference to God's fore-ordination which rules out all the boasting of man with his natural or acquired qualities:' (Kittel-Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 8, p. 399, Eerdmans)

    The point is that God has given us something more than regeneration and membership in His family-- he has dignified our existence even further by placing us as SONS. We are thus no longer to be children, playing children's games. He has appointed us to be led by the Spirit of sonship into the mighty, redemptive, life-changing business in which God is engaged. By this we should be motivated to forget the kid stuff and get serious about God's cosmic concerns. (*Reprinted by permission of The Evangelical Foundation, Inc. Copyright @ 1963 Evangelical Ministries, Inc., 1716 Spruce St., Philadelphia, PA 19103.)


    Perhaps it is time for a review, to see where we have been and where we have come. Romans 5 through 8 can be summarized around the text "We are saved by His life . . . " (Romans 5:10)

    Chapter 5--Saved by His Life ... Through a New Relationship--now in Christ, no longer in Adam.

    Chapter 6--Saved by His Life ... Through a death in the family--the "old man" died, the new man lives.

    Chapter 7--Saved by His Life ... By being married to a new husband, the risen Lord Jesus.

    Chapter 8--Saved by His Life ... Through a new power source--Christ living in me, by His Spirit.

    Note the common feature of each of these chapters, that there has been a severance from the old life and the assumption of a new identity. We have been cut off from the old mode of existence to enter into a new life potential, based on a new orientation, a new power source. A drastic change has taken place, and we are no longer what we once were.

    A New Potential--Reinforced Romans 8:16-39

    The rest of Romans 8 is filled with positive affirmations. Paul now moves to statements of fact, only using questions to elicit positive responses. It is as though, having settled all the hard questions, his spirit soars, unhindered, to heights of expression he has just been waiting to unleash. The only negative note is dealing with suffering, but even that he turns to positive advantage.

    A New Potential--Reinforced by the Ministry of the Spirit Romans 8:16-39

    A. The Spirit's Witness 16-17

    1. That we are God's children 16

    2. That we are joint heirs with Christ 17

    3. That part of our inheritance is suffering with Him that we may be glorified with Him 17

    B. The Revealing of Our Sonship 18-21

    1. Means the creation will be released from its bondage to corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God; meanwhile we have hope.

    C. The Completion of Our Sonship 22-2S

    1. Now we groan--with all creation 22-23

    2. We long for the total fulfillment of our sonship--the redemption of our bodies 23

    3. We have the Spirit as our down payment on future glory 23

    4. Meanwhile we have hope. 23-25

    D. The Spirit's Ministry While We're Waiting 26-30

    1. He helps us in our weakness 26

    2. He intercedes for us with the Father 26-27

    3. So God works out everything for our good 28

    4. He fulfills God's purpose in us--to be His sons conformed to the image of His Son 24

    5. Mission accomplished-- called, justified, glorified. 30

    As I see it, the focus is still on the ministry of the Spirit to bring us to the full realization and completion of our sonship. Presently we have been placed into adult partnership with the Father, but we still live in unredeemed bodies which inhibit its full expression. One day we will experience the fullness of our son-placing, at the redemption of our bodies. Then we will fully express, without the present inhibitions of our mortal bodies, the glories of sonship. We shall have new bodies fully capable of fulfilling all the deep desires of our spirits.

    This will be accomplished by the Spirit of sonship. He is the one who guarantees, by His indwelling presence, the fulfilling of God's predetermined plan for His own dear children, sons, and heirs.

    Considering all this in a bit more detail, notice the flow of the apostle's thought. Having established our appointment by the Father to mature sonship, he now cites the Spirit's witness to our legitimate spiritual birth as God's born ones. How wonderful that we have the inner witness of the Spirit to confirm our new birth. Apart from that, I suspect that we would never be quite sure about our relationship to God.

    But the apostle doesn't stop there. He declares that we are not just children, but heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Here we have further intimation of an adult, mature relationship with the Father, for a child does not receive an inheritance while he is still a minor. And Paul doesn't say we shall be heirs, but that we are heirs--sons enjoying our inheritance with the Son.

    But now the bad news. Part of our inheritance is to suffer with Christ. Then the good news--suffering leads to glory. How this tempers the whole idea of suffering, and makes it worthwhile, even though painful.

    Then, in verses 18-25, Paul carries us on to that future glory, beautifully described by

    " . . . the creation itself will be set free from the bondage of decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:21).

    How descriptive--now we all experience the bondage of decay, but then the glorious liberty of the children of God. And noticethe release of the whole creation is linked to the revealing of the sons of God! (Romans 8:18-19). What an encouraging word to take us through the hour of trial.

    But now, in verses 26-30, the faithful apostle brings us right back to earth. All we get is a glimpse of glory--then back to the reality of our present situation.

    So what bappens while we wait? The Spirit prays to the Father for exactly what we need in our weakness, the Father answers by working out every detail of our lives for our good and for His gracious purpose.

    That purpose? To conform us to the image of His Son! That's where all this has been heading, for the Father wants to have a very large family, all bearing the likeness of His Son.

    So, in verse 30, Paul reviews the whole process: God foreknew us, predestined us, called us, justified us and glorified us. Yes, it's all God's sovereign activity in our behalf that has lavished all these blessings on His own!

    It's no wonder then that the next verse asks, "What then shall we say to these things?"

    What do you say?

    A New Certainty--Reassured Romans 8:31-39

    The last nine verses of chapter 8 contain eight penetrating questions followed by a strong, irrefutable affirmation of the certainty and security we enjoy, being "more than conquerors through Him who loved us:" 37

    The questions:

    In a sense Paul answers this question in the rest of the chapter. This is what he says. if God is for us, who can be against us? The answer--God is bigger than any opposition force, so no one can possibly prevail against us.

    The answer--a heartfelt "Yes!"

    The answer--no one who can make the charge stick. Satan has tried and failed!

    The answer--God has the last word on this subject, and He says, "there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (8:1)

    The answer--~'certalnly He will not condemn us." He died for us, rose to live in us, intercedes for us. He is the One who removed all condemnation and now is the One having all authority in heaven and on earth.

    The answer--I am sure that nothing will be able to separate us from His love.

    The answer--no, not even death! (And our troubles in this life just lead us to another experience of His love. Remember Romans 5:3-5?)

    Paul's final answer to all these questions:

    "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him who loved us:" 37

    So ... we have a New Certainty, Paul says:

    "For I am sure that neither death, nor fife, nor angels, nor principalities, 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." 37-39

    Notice he starts with death, then includes life, angelic forces, the present and the future, earthly powers. Then, to slam the door in the face of anything else that might separate us from the love of God, he adds, "nor anything else in all creation:'What magnificent assurancel And we who began with a new attitude, of hope and joy, end up with a new certai . nty--the certainty of love!


    Summary Observations

    It may be helpful now to observe the continuity in these chapters, Romans 5 through 8. Paul never changes the subject or loses sight of his goal.

    Why then does he include Romans 6 and 7? If we observe carefully, it's not hard to see: Romans 6 tells us how to be freed from the power of sin; the old man died with Christ. Romans 7 and 8:1-4 tells us how to be freed from the law of frustration--married to our risen Lord, freed from condemnation, now under a new law--the law of the Spirit, of life in Christ Jesus.

    The rest of Romans 8 wonderfully describes all the dividends we have in this new life. To be Saved by His life means no condemnation now, no separation ever--and no defeat in between. We more than conquer, through Him who loved us!

    From Guilt -- To Grace -- To Glory!

    1988. Online April 20, 1998