The Law and the Gospel
Having corrected mistaken impressions about the law and how the gospel relates to it (Rom. 6–7), Paul explains how there is “now no condemnation” for believers “in Christ Jesus” (v. 1). Christians are “set free” from sin’s guilt and power by the work of the Holy Spirit as he imparts spiritual life (v. 2). Neither the law nor human obedience could confer this life. Only the Son by his coming could, and did (v. 3).
By Christ’s finished work, what the law calls for—living in harmony with God and his will—can actually take place through the work of God’s Spirit (v. 4). But we all face a stark either/or: either we are oriented toward “the flesh” (the human inclination to sin), which leads to death; or the Spirit reorients us, so that our present possession and final destiny are “life and peace” (vv. 5–6). Without the Spirit, we “cannot please God” (vv. 7–8).
Life in the Spirit
Believers live “in the Spirit” rather than “in the flesh” (v. 9). Physically speaking, in this life our bodies are mortal and sin is present. But God’s “righteousness” through the gospel (see 1:16–17) means (among much else) that the Spirit brings life (8:10). The Spirit who raised Jesus transforms believers’ everyday lives (v.11) as he “dwells” among God’s people and in their personal spheres. As in chapter 6, Paul teaches that the very resurrection life of Christ dwells in those who have been united to this risen Lord.
In 8:12–17 Paul discusses the payoff and implications of the Spirit’s presence. Before we received the gospel, we could not do God’s will freely nor please him fully. But now, through the Spirit, believers have new affections (vv. 5, 15) and can turn their back on sinful behavior (v. 13; for a description of “deeds of the body,” seeGal. 5:19–21). God’s Spirit leads (Rom. 8:14), grants a new status in God’s sight, and prompts an outcry that is quite the opposite of the cry of “Wretched man!” in 7:24: believers, instead, call out, “Abba! Father!” (8:15)
God is not their stern judge but their confidant and helper as he makes them his children by adoption. There is an inward sense of sonship (v. 16). There is the promise of present and future inheritance—on the condition that we receive the cross that the gospel calls for as well as the crown that it promises (v. 17). The way of the cross is the only path to the glory awaiting “fellow heirs with Christ.” The gospel means strength for trials, not escape from them.
Through it all, however, we remain confident that we are God’s own children. By grace, through faith, Christ is our elder brother and we are heirs of God.
Glory awaits the believer in Christ, but “this present time” brings “sufferings” in abundance (v. 18). All creation is “groaning” in anticipation of the “freedom” from “bondage” and “corruption” that God promises (8:19–23; see Gen. 3:16–19). Believers groan, too, as their full salvation lies in the future, which calls for patience (Rom. 8:24–25), a fruit the Spirit gives (see Gal. 5:22–23).
We see in these verses that one day God is going to renovate and restore not only our souls, and not only our physical bodies, but the entire cosmos. All will be put right. Eden will be restored. This globe will become what it was always meant to be.
Secure in Christ
The whole array of gospel benefits are glimpsed here: the Spirit’s intercession (v. 26), combined with God’s omniscience (v. 27), God’s omnipotence in and over “all things” (v.28), and the full, unbroken succession of God’s savings acts so that believers are assured of their eternal security, and consequently can “be conformed” to the image of God’s Son (vv. 29–30). Our salvation is utterly secure: those whom God has foreknown before the dawn of time will one day be glorified.
We could not be more secure. Reflecting on this, our hearts are calmed as we give glory to God for the utter stability of our deliverance.
In 8:31–39 Paul extolls the glories of “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39). No one can frustrate God’s purposes (v. 31). Since he gave Jesus (the ultimate treasure of heaven) for us, we can be assured that his care and all his promises stand firm for our present time and for eternity (v. 32; cf. v. 28). Any accuser—Satan, circumstances, sins—shrivels in stature alongside the risen Christ who is interceding for us at God’s right hand (vv. 33–34). Paul makes the testimony of the psalmist his own (v.36). “In all these things” (v. 37; see v.35) that could seem to defeat God’s people, God and the “elect” (v. 33) whom he loves remain united and inseparable, now and forever (vv. 38–39).