Giving Thanks to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-3)
Giving Thanks to the Spirit
I've been a little bit confused about what I am to be preaching on these Sunday nights, but this week a couple of different things directed me to the book of Romans, and in particular the 8th chapter. And even though I've preached quite a lot from this chapter through the years, I looked at it in a different way this week and saw for the first time, the emphasis it places on the Holy Spirit.
So what I'd like to do is begin this evening a series aimed at providing us a better understanding of the work and ministry of the blessed Holy Spirit based on this 8th chapter of Romans, and we'll get there in a moment.
But before we do, just to focus our thinking on the subject, I want to comment on what maybe one of the most amazing things the Lord ever said and it is found in
So if you had been one of the original hearers of that statement, how do you think you would have responded? How do you think they responded? They have been with the Lord 24/7 for over three years. He was everything to them. They have turned their back on everything else in their lives to follow Him.
In fact, on one occasion, according to John 6, Jesus said after a group of people left, “Will you also go away?” and Peter, speaking for the rest, said, “Where would we go? Only you have the Words of life and we’re not about to go anywhere. Everything we want to know, everything we want to see, everything we need You have, You are.”
So how in the world would they respond when now, Jesus says, "You'll be better off if I go away"? What in the world could be better than having Jesus there with them?
And besides that, the Jews had been waiting for centuries for the Messiah to show up and now He's come, but it was just for three years of public ministry? Somebody missed a prophecy somewhere!
I can assure you those closest to Him didn’t want Him to go anywhere. They didn’t want Him to leave. They wanted Him to stay and set up His kingdom and fulfill everything they read in the Old Testament.
And yet in that last evening together when they were meeting in the Upper Room before He was taken and crucified, He says to them, “I’m leaving, I’m going to go away, and you’re not going to be able to get to Me, but I’m going to tell you something, it’s to your advantage that I go away.” That’s an amazing statement.
So how could that be true? How could things possibly be better? Well He tells them. He says this: “If I do not go away, the helper will not come to you. But if I go, I’ll send Him to you.” What is better than having Jesus? Having the Holy Spirit.
So does that mean the Holy Spirit wasn’t around. He was "around", He just wasn't "in". The Holy Spirit was always around. He is as eternal as God the Father and God the Son. He was the agent of Creation, moving on the face of the waters in Genesis.
The Holy Spirit’s always been the life-giver. According to Genesis 6, He was there, striving with men. The Holy Spirit has always been the one that brought life to spiritually dead people and all men have been dead since the fall.
So there would be no salvation in the Old Testament, no believing faith, no redeeming repentance, no genuine conversion apart from the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit was around to give leading and guiding. The ministry of the Holy Spirit can be seen in the Old Testament period to some degree. He is with you might be a way to understand that for those necessary things like salvation and sanctification, the Holy Spirit was required.
So He was around, but then, Jesus shows up and that seems to be a better situarion. Surely it is more wonderful to be in the very physical presence of the incarnate Son of God, at least one would think so.
So how can Jesus say, “It’s better if I go away”?
The answer to that is because the Holy Spirit brings to the believers, from the time of the founding of the church on, a ministry that has never been known before. It isn’t that the Holy Spirit wasn’t here, it’s not a question of absent and present, it’s a question of degree and extent.
And even though the disciples thought the best thing that could ever happen to any people was to have Jesus with them, even better is to have the Holy Spirit in them.
Now here's my point: If that is true, if Jesus meant what He said, then the Holy Spirit must be very special. And indeed He is. And that's what I want us to see as we study this chapter and take a look at the genuine ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Now obviously there are a lot of places in the Bible that talk about the Holy Spirit and we may look at some of them, but in Romans chapter 8, we have a great starting point for this because the ministry of the Holy Spirit is presented here with regard to salvation.
If we took the time to read the first 7 chapters of the book, what we would discover is all about salvation. It starts in chapter 1 verse 16 where Paul says he is not ashamed of the gospel . that's what he preaches. He mentions the power of God unto salvation. And then he starts to unpack the essence of the gospel.
He talks about sin and judgment and the futility of trying to achieve righteousness on your own. He talks about grace and faith, using Abraham as an illustration. Then he talks about the meaning of the cross and our union with Christ, and it’s all about salvation all the way up to chapter 8.
And then when you get to chapter 8, he concentrates on what is kind of the final summation of the glory of salvation and what it means to be saved. This is the ultimate good news!
And one of the primary subjects he covers is how our salvation is secured by the Holy Spirit.
Now in this chapter we have something of a grocery list of thing the Holy Spirit does but it all begins with what we read in
verses 1 and 2.
So verse 1 begins with this great declaration of there being no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Now that statement begs the question, "How can that be? How is it possible for people like us to not have some kind of consequences for our sin?
Verse 2 provides the answer. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and of death.”
That means there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ because of something the Spirit of life has done. The Spirit of life is the Holy Spirit. So right here in verse 2 we meet the Holy Spirit and He uses a law that makes us free from the law of sin and death. Let's call that law
1. The Principle
Now notice, the first verse begins with the word "therefore" which makes it incumbent upon us to back up to what has previously been said and he's not just backing up a verse or even a chapter.
He's going all the way back to the beginning of the letter at chapter 1, verse 16 where he started talking about the gospel. So all of this information he's been giving about the gospel means that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That’s the summation of the gospel. That’s the good news. You can be before an infinitely holy God as an utterly corrupt sinner and not be condemned at all, not now, and not ever. That is the good news.
Now to appreciate the good news, you have to understand the bad news. The bad news is that Scripture designates every human being born into this world as sinner.
What do we read in
Romans 3:10-18, 23?
We are overpowered by sin. We all come short of the glory of God. We’ve all sinned and we’ve all come short of the glory of God. We’re all cursed. Sin is a defiling disease that cripples the soul of every human being.
And because of that, as we read in Romans 6:23,the wages of sin is death and that's what we deserve.
When people die and go to hell, it is a just punishment. In fact, Paul makes that very declaration in Romans 3:9. We deserve what we get.
And that is the condition of every person until the Holy Spirit arrives. And in our text, in the darkness of this picture, our text brings this amazing ray of hope because there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Why?
Because the principle or the power or the influence of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
One of the most misunderstood things in the Christian faith is the purpose of the law of God. Many people believe God sent the law so we’d have standards to live up to and if you live up to those standards you'll be okay and get to heaven.
But that is a gross misunderstanding of the law. It is right in that it is a set of standards that are a perfect reflection of God. It is the ethics of God’s nature, written down and spelled out. Bu the problem is we can't keep the, And even if we could, the law can't make us holy. The law can’t deal with our sin, and the law cannot give us a way to escape condemnation.
Listen to what it says in
All the law does is give you the knowledge of sin. It just reveals an unobtainable standard. It is not, never was intended to be the path to overcome sin. It cannot do that. It cannot alter your condition; it can only reveal it. And it cannot change your condemnation; it can only enforce it.
In fact, the law makes things worse because the law expands the violations. So no one by the law is going to be made right with God. Rather by the law, our guilt is increased, our sin is expanded. There is, therefore, condemnation and only condemnation to those who are under the written law because the law can’t save or remove the condemnation.
That's what verse 3 of chapter 8 means when it says, “What the law couldn’t do, weak as it was through the flesh.” In other words, the law can’t operate in human beings to accomplish salvation.
But there is another law at work and that is the law of the Spirit of life. And that law determines that in spite of all the violations, in spite of breaking God’s law, in spite of being in a condition where condemnation would be just and righteous and holy and correct and deserved, in spite of that, in spite of our corruption, in spite of our belonging to the kingdom of darkness and Satan himself, we can be in a condition by salvation where there is no condemnation.
Now the word “no” is a strong word. There’s a lot of ways you could say no in Greek and this is means absolutely and unequivocally, there is no condemnation.
And that is the good news of the gospel. That means as sinful as you are, there is the possibility of coming into a position in which there is no condemnation at all and that position is "in Christ."
What does verse 1 say? “To those who are in Christ.” How about verse 2? “In Christ Jesus.” This position of no condemnation is all about union with Christ.
So what does it mean to be in Christ?
Paul covered that in chapter 6 beginning at verse 3
In other words, we are literally placed into Christ in His death and into Christ in His resurrection. We die in Him and we rise in Him.
In fact, that is exactly what we read in
And remember, all of that is leading up to what we read in chapter 8, verse 1. It's all a part of the "therefore" and the result is for those who are in Christ, there is no condemnation. In Christ, we ahve been placed in a position that is beyond the reach of condemnation.
By the way, that is not only how the chapter begins, it is also how the chapter ends.
In other words, list everything real, everything imaginable, things that are, things that are only imagined and nothing you can come up with will change our position in Christ. There is absolutely nothing that alter our no-condemnation status. We have been placed beyond the reach of condemnation.
And this entire chapter is really just a long and thrilling proof of the security of believers. In fact, later in the chapter we will read that even if Satan shows up, no one can bring a successful accusation against us before God. We are beyond the reach of condemnation. And it is all to be attributed to the Holy Spirit who does this for us.
The Holy Spirit has a law that sets us free from the law of sin and of death. The word “law” here is used in the sense of a principle or power. Better said, the dominating power of the Spirit of life has set you free from the dominating power of sin, which leads to death. It’s just an amazing, clear, specific statement on the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Those of us who are in Christ are really in Christ. We are joined to Him. And we were placed there by the Holy Spirit Who took us out of a condition of sin that leads to death and gave us life.
Only the Spirit has the power to do that.
2. The Power
Notice, in those first two verses of Romans the usages of the word "Spirit". He's talking about individuals who "walk according to the Spirit". It is "the law of the Spirit of life". What other spirit could that be referring to other than the Holy Spirit?
In fact, look over a few pages to 2 Corinthians 3 and you will see him identified in the same way where we are told "the Spirit gives life." It is repeated in verses 17 and 18 of that chapter as well as over in Galatians 6. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us life.
By the way, is that not what Jesus said to Nicodemus? If you want to enter the kingdom of God, you must be born of the water and the Spirit. You must be born from above. The Spirit is the source of life. He is the one who gives life. He is the regenerator.
Titus contains the same truth.
Notice, we were lost and he goes in to detail that describes every human being. But the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind showed up. How did He get there? By Him lavishly pouring out the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ our Savior.
And I just don't think most of us really know and appreciate just what all we need to attribute to the Holy Spirit, but we're going to try and discover that together over the next few weeks.
How did this renewal come? How did this washing come? How did this regeneration come? How did this life come? How, by whom have we been made alive? None other than the Spirit of life.
So how did He do it? He convicts us of sin and righteousness and judgment. He brought us the gospel. The Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. Holy men were moved by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit becomes our teacher, opens our minds by His regenerating power, and we believe the gospel, we turn from sin. That’s all the work of the Holy Spirit. He is the life-giving Spirit, the Spirit who gives life, the Spirit of life.
I don’t know if you’ve ever really spent time thanking the Holy Spirit for what He gave you, for convicting you of sin and righteousness in judgment, for writing the holy Scripture, the glorious gospel, the Word of Truth, the Spirit of truth who brought you the Word of Truth, and then who gave you life and understanding so that you heard the truth, you came alive, you repented, you believed the truth, and you literally were delivered out of a condition of sin and death into a condition of life.
And now your condition in life is a condition not only of being alive, but having been clothed with the very righteousness of Christ, you are beyond the possibility of condemnation.
So how is that possible? How can the Holy Spirit pull that off? He can do it because of the
3. The Provision
We'll look at this in a more in depth way next time, but I want to introduce the thought tonight.
Notice, the law couldn't do it, but God could. The law is too weak to empower the flesh. The law cannot make men better. It can set a perfect standard. It can show you what God demands and expects. But it cannot provide what a sinful human needs to keep it. That's what it means when we read "it was weak through the flesh". In other words, it’s weak not in its own self but in the sense that flesh can’t keep it.
But God did what the law couldn’t do and He did it through His Holy Spirit and by the sacrifice of Christ. God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as an offering for sin and notice, "He condemned sin in the flesh."
What does that mean? Let me tell you what the law can do. The law is good at condemning sinners. Have you ever noticed that? The law does what it does and that is condemn the sinner.
But on the other hand, the cross condemned sin. See the difference? The law can’t condemn sin! Only the cross condemned sin. The law sentences the sinner to death, the cross sentences sin to death.
And what happened when Jesus went to the cross is He killed sin. Sin died on that day in that it is no longer our master. It is no longer the power that controls our life. It is no longer the dominating force. Therefore, it can no longer call for a just punishment and execution. The law condemns the sinner; the cross condemns sin.
How did the death of sin happen? Jesus went to the cross and there He paid the penalty for every sin of every human for all time. At teh cross, Jesus paid the penalty in full. Sin’s requirement, which was just and right and established by God Himself, was paid in full.
And that’s what it means to be "in Christ". That's what he was talking about when he said we died with Him and we rose with Him.
When He died, all our sins were there and paid for in full. When He rose from the grave, we arose as well in victory and freedom and liberty from sin. The law couldn’t do that. But God did by the Spirit, through Jesus. By the way, that means the entire Trinity was involved in your salvation. So committed was God to you being saved, He used all the resources of heaven to make sure it happened.
I was looking around this week for some hymns on the Holy Spirit and to be honest, there aren't very many besides the syrupy choruses that we sing. I'm talking about songs that go deep in doctrine and help us understand the great doctrines of Scritpure.
I found one in a Presbyterian hymnal, and I don't think I've ever heard it, but it sure has great lyrics. It was written by a woman named Margaret Clarkson and she wrote:
“Spirit, we would worship You, crowning gift of resurrection sent from Your ascended throne, fullness of the very godhead, come to make Your life our own.” That’s exactly what the Holy Spirit did. He came to make the life of God our own life.
The hymn goes on, and it's written as one speaking to the Holy Spirit,
“You who in creation’s dawning, brooded on the lifeless deep, still across our nature’s darkness moves to wake our souls from sleep. Moves to stir, to draw, to quicken, thrusts us through with sense of sin. Brings to birth and seals and fills us, saving advocate within. You Yourself, the living author, wakes to life the sacred Word, reads with us its holy pages and reveals our risen Lord. You it is who works within us, teaching rebel hearts to pray. You whose holy intercession rises for us night and day.”
That’s absolutely true, and that’s reason to give honor to the Holy Spirit.