Twenty some years ago, I was a guest on a radio talk-show program in St. Louis MO. It was on Sunday evenings at 7PM Central, I believe it was called "Grace Talk;" It was hosted by a brother named Dawan Ferguson. That particular evening the show focused on Romans 8:1-4. A caller named Jerry called in and insisted that verse four meant that one would be obedient to the law, and that walking in the Spirit meant walking in the law. I know that there are many who take that position but it is erroneous and misleading. Actually the text goes on to explain exactly what walking in the Spirit means. (5) For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (6) For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, (7) because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, (8) and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Several years later the Spirit grabbed my thoughts one Sunday morning as I was again reading this passage. It was an epiphany. I heard in my mind clearly, "Joe, did you get that? Having ones mind on the flesh, and fleshly things was walking in the flesh, and having ones mind on Spiritual things was walking in the Spirit." It went on to tell me, "Joe, if your mind is on the flesh to sin, or if your mind is on the flesh to try not to sin, it is still on the flesh." That was an earth shaking, paradigm shifting, thought. Especially in view of verse eight that clearly states that those with the mind on the flesh cannot please God. So then, all the preaching that focuses on talking about not sinning, actually puts people in a place where they cannot possibly please God. Ouch!
The mind on the Spirit is not the mind focusing on sin. No, the mind on the Spirit is the mind focusing on the gospel. We should have known that from Romans chapter seven. Didn't Paul plainly state that the Law brought about all kinds of sin because of the weakness of the flesh? So, all those who believe that once a person is saved that the Holy Spirit helps one obey the Law are off base. Being guided by the Spirit comes from having ones mind on the spiritual revelation that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting sin. (9) However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (10) If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. Any person confident that they have the indwelling Spirit of God must also be confident that there is NEVER any condemnation for them! So what is the righteousness that makes the Spirit alive? It is the righteousness of God that comes from faith in Jesus. Here is a place where the working of the Spirit in the redeemed needs some explanation. Let's just say that it is not simply that the redeemed believer automatically receives the ability to follow and obey the Law. There is a specific operation in the transformation process and it involves believing the gospel, and not reading, understanding, and fulfilling the Law.
In the following passage, Paul begins to explain how this supernatural operation of the Spirit in the believer works. Look at Romans 8:11-13... (11) But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (12) So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- (13) for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. The key in this passage is looking at how one puts the deeds of the body to death by the Spirit. It centers on the effect that believing the gospel has the individual. (14) For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (15) For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" Here is the key. The Spirit is not a Spirit of slavery and fear. This coincides nicely with the passage in First John Chapter 4. 1Jn 4:18 "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." It takes assurance and resting in the "no condemnation" to cast out fear. So what does it mean to be made perfect in love? That is simple, one is perfected by believing that the love of God has made one the righteousness of God. Now then, as one believes the gospel; believes there is no condemnation; believes that it is a gift of God by grace; believes that they are no longer are under law, but under grace, then they will begin to automatically love God. In fact, when they realize the truth of God's grace they cannot help but love God. This is precisely how to be made perfect in love, and it also is the way that one can walk in the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the body. It is only by this operation that one can ever be properly informed by the law and discover what pleases God. However, it always must be aside from fear, and it cannot be tied to pleasing God. One has to remember that without faith it is impossible to please God, so one has to have faith in the fact that he/she is righteous because God has declared it based on faith to please Him.
It is in verse eighteen that grammar plays an important and decisive part in proper interpretation. "(18) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." When you read Paul write about the present time, he is not speaking of *any* time present... it is NOT our present time. The reason is that the Greek word that is translated as time is not chronos, but rather kairos. The present time in Paul's usage is the right time, the ripe time, it is the time present to the Roman Believers only. They were suffering something specific, and awaiting something specific. The thing that they most awaited was the destruction of the temple, and the time/kairos (ripe time) when God would show who his real sons and daughters were. It would be the time when at last, Old Covenant Judaism would be judged with the destruction of the temple and the true sons and daughters of God, those who believed in Christ would be REVEALED, (manifested, made obvious.) It is stated plainly in verse nineteen: (19) For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. Notice my emphasis. The awaited manifestation of the sons of God was the destruction of the temple which would bring the dawning of the end of the Old Covenant and the FULL installation of the New Covenant.
Now comes a fairly long passage verses twenty through twenty-seven that explain the fall. (20) For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope (21) that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (22) For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (23) And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (24) For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? (25) But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (26) In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; (27) and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Who subjected the creature to the fall? The answer is God. Humanity had to experience the knowledge of good and evil to be able to recognize real good when they saw it. However, the fall was a painful process and it ultimately required redemption. It required that there ultimately be a First-fruits of redemption and righteousness. And, since we do not fully understand all this the Spirit must intercede and utter our petition according to the will of God. This is the purpose, function, and importance of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
"(28) And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Yes, we can individually rest in the promise that all things work for good, and why not, Paul says here that the fall worked for out good! Within the context of this passage, Paul is clearly stating that the fall, (the creature being subjected to futility) worked for the good. How much more will ALL THINGS not work out for our good?
Now comes Paul's great poetic doxology to the thoughts of this chapter. "(29) For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; (30) and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (31) What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? (32) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (33) Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; (34) who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (35) Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (36) Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." (37) But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. (38) For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, (39) nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." We were predestined, called, justified, and glorified from before the foundation of the world. Yes! Yes! Yes!!!! IF GOD IS FOR US, WHO CAN BE AGAINST US?