Romans 8:1-11


Paul had just said in 7:24-25: "What a miserable man I am! Who will rescue me from the body that bring me to this death? Thank God - He does it through our Lord Jesus Christ! So I serve the Law of God with my mind but with my flesh the law of sin."

The Christian is both saint and sinner. He has "the flesh" that part of him which cannot serve God. But he also has a "new man" that part of him which does serve God. Christ has freed him from both the guilt and power of sin. By virtue of this freedom from the guilt and power of sin, the Christian can serve God. That's where we pick up Romans 8:1.

Romans 8:1 (NIV) Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

The "therefore" picks up the thought from 7:25 that the "my real self" serves the Law of God with his mind, the new man.

Stoeckhardt: The Christians need not fear because they serve God's law with their real self, with their renewed mind and will, because they have pleasure in God's law and, on the other hand, hate and abhor evil. God judges Christians according to the new man, not according to the old man, and does not lay to their account what evil the flesh does.

That is very important in view of what Paul had said in 7:18-25. Note the prominence of the world "none at all."

"Condemnation" denotes God's verdict of curse on sin.

"In Christ Jesus" to be in Christ means to be His by faith. Think of it! God is no angrier with me than He was with Adam before the fall. Think of it! God is disposed towards me just as He is disposed toward His dear Son, Jesus!

Lenski: It is easy to follow the thought of verses 1-11: 1) Because of our connection with Christ the Spirit frees us for living in the spirit, 1-4; 2) We differ entirely from those who live in the flesh, 5-10; 3) The Spirit will bring even our bodies to spiritual perfection. 11

Romans 8:2 (NIV) because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

This verse speaks of freedom and bondage. "For" points back. It is explanatory, meaning "you see." It explains.

Stoeckhardt: The law of sin is sin itself, inasmuch as sin determines man's conduct. In other words, the text is saying that Christ has freed us from sin and death themselves.

Now we return to the first part of the sentence.

Stoeckhardt: The law of the Spirit is the Spirit Himself, the Spirit of God, inasmuch as He determines man's conduct . . . It is especially the office and work of God's Spirit, through Word and Sacrament, to apply Christ's work and benefits to the individual.

Franzmann shows in many places in the New Testament how the Holy Spirit has brought us the fruits of the work of Christ through the means of grace and how we, therefore, live a life of freedom in Christ, serving him.

What kind of a person is the Holy Spirit? He works and effects life in us. All of this is based on the vicarious atonement of Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit unites us with Christ our Savior.

Franzmann: Men do not 'enjoy' the Spirit or luxuriate in Him; they are LED by Him and walk lives in the heart of the contrite man. Isaiah 66:2. Such a heart is often sad but God comes to that sad heart and cheers it. The point of this verse is that not only am I free because I've been absolved of all my sins but I am also free in my Christian living. 'The life which I now live I live by the faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.' Galatians 2:20.

Unless I am deliberately living in sin or deliberately rejecting the Word of God I should never be sad because I am free, free, free from sin, death and condemnation.

Romans 8:3 (NIV) For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,

Arndt: Here we have an irregular construction. The first five words of the sentence do not have any definite connection with the rest of the sentence. We may look upon them as being in the accusative case and translate freely: 'as far as the inability of the law is concerned.' And 'that in which it was weak through flesh.'

So far Arndt. Why was the law unable?

Franzmann: The Law can only bring out into the open, intensify, and increase the trespass of Adam, and it makes of man's body a 'body of death.'
Lenski: All that the law could and did secure was an aggravation of our lust (7, 7b), nothing beyond stirring up and making alive the sin-power in us (7,9) thus producing 'sin's realization' (3, 20; 7, 7a), but no liberation from the sin-power, no free, happy obedience to the law's righteous demands.

First of all, then, it was impossible for the law because the law can only condemn, not free. Secondly, since the law cannot make alive (Galatians 3:21) and its "impossible condition" was made even worse through the sinful flesh of man (it was totally powerless), man's condition was truly hopeless.

But the second part of the verse is glorious Gospel. The whole phrase means "in similarity of sinful flesh."

Bengel: He took away, finished, put an end to, destroyed all its strength, deprived sin of its power.

Does the very last phrase means "in the flesh" (man's flesh) or "in His flesh" (Christ's flesh)? Though JB uses "body" instead of "flesh" we think they translate correctly: "in that body (Christ's) God condemned sin." John 1:14 says "The Word became flesh." In what sense? Christ was without sin, Hebrews 4:15, but Stoeckhardt says:

Stoeckhardt: Yet His human nature was like the sinful flesh of mankind, inasmuch as it was also subjected to the weaknesses and frailties which are the result of sin, and so also to death. God sent His Son on account of sin.

And who can comprehend what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21?

Romans 8:4 (NIV) in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

This entire verse is a purpose clause. Why did Christ totally condemn and do away with sin in His very own flesh? RSV translates: "The just requirement of the law might be fulfilled." TEV: "The righteous demands of the Law might be fully satisfied." AAT: "so that we will be as righteous as the Law demands." Paul is speaking of sanctification, not of justification.

Stoeckhardt: By redeeming us from the power and law of sin, Christ brought it about that we now fulfill God's law and live not after the flesh but after the Spirit . . . The flesh does not govern the Christian' life and conduct.
Arndt: Christ's work has taken place that we might do that which is right and good. We have been redeemed not for a life of sin, but for a life of holy obedience, not merely for salvation in heaven but for a holy life on earth. . . . The Christian really fulfills the works of the law according to the new man because he is in Christ; just as in Christ sin was condemned and robbed of its power, so the Christian is connected with Christ by faith. God looks upon the Christian as a doer of the law, not only on account of the vicarious work of Christ, but on account of the works which the Christian does himself.
Franzmann: No fulfillment of the will of God is ever a fulfillment BY us. Chapter seven has made that plain. It is fulfill IN us, in men whose life is no longer determined by the flesh but in whom the Spirit dwells and creates a new will.

Romans 8:5 (NIV) Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

The best comment on this verse is Galatians 5:13-25, where "flesh" and "spirit" are contrasted, compared and their works and fruits discussed. Most of our versions capitalize "Spirit" both times in this verse, meaning the Holy Spirit. NASB is typical: "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. AAT is typical of the majority of the translations: "Those who follow the flesh have their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who follow the spirit have their minds on the things of the spirit." The difference is not serious. The Holy Spirit constantly concurs with the renewed spirit in man.

A heart ruled by the "flesh" will think and produce nothing but sinful thought and deeds. A heart ruled by the "spirit" will of course produce the fruits of the spirit. There is both stark warning and wonderful comfort in this verse. How easy to enjoy sinful thoughts! How difficult to fight pleasurable sinful thoughts! But, now comforting to know the true meaning of Psalm 130! Read Psalm 51. The "spirit" had the upper hand and the angels must have sung when David composed that Psalm.

By the way, there are only two kinds of people in the world. They are described in this verse. Sometimes people look and act so pious but later we determine that the flesh rules them. Sometimes people act and look as hopeless but then we detect that by faith they are crying to their Lord from the deepest depths. Learn to distinguish the two and learn to distinguish in yourself.

Romans 8:6 (NIV) The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;

"Mind" denotes the whole action of the affections and will as well as of the reason. That involves the entire mental process and its works.

The flesh produces thoughts, intentions, and finally deeds. Likewise the spirit produces thoughts, intentions, and finally deeds. In the first instance it results in death, both in time and in eternity. Furthermore, the thoughts of the flesh are deadly in nature. One can observe that. On the other hand the spirit produces thoughts which are "life" and "peace".

Lenski: The fact that this life shall go on into a blessed eternity is reserved for the statement in verse 11.
Franzmann: These two bents, or impulses (mentioned in verse 5), are an absolute antithesis; one means death, the other life and health (peace).

It is incumbent upon you, dear preacher, to preach clear Gospel and then to encourage your people to fruits of the spirit, Galatians 5:22-25. Read Ezekiel 33:7-16. It says much to our text.

Romans 8:7 (NIV) the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.

The majority of the translations begin this verse with  "because." AAT brings it out more clearly by reading "this is so because etc."

"The fleshly mind" isn't just part of man's mind. It is his entire mind, insofar as he is unregenerate.

What kind of animosity? Animosity which is directed against God. "For" goes on to explain why such a mind is animosity against God. And then two reasons are given:

  1. Animosity toward God amounts to refusal to submit to God's Law, God's Will, God's "thus saith the Lord;"

  2. Secondly, because of the fallen nature of this mind, it simply cannot subject itself (it's middle voice) to God's Law. That's what Paul was talking about in Romans 7:18-21.

Deal carefully, pastor, with a grieving person who comes to you confessing the truth found in Romans 8:7.

Formula of Concord  (Tappert 524) The Word of God testifies that in divine matters the intellect, heart, and will of a natural, unregenerated man is not only totally turned away from God, but is also turned and perverted against God and toward all evil. Again, that man is not only weak, impotent, incapable, and dead to good, but also that by original sin he is so miserable perverted, poisoned, and corrupted that by disposition and nature he is thoroughly wicked, opposed and hostile to God, and all too mighty, alive, and active for everything which is displeasing to God and contrary to his will. Genesis 8:21; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 8:7; Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:14; Romans 7:18, 22, 23.
Stoeckhardt: When the law forbids natural man and punishes carnal lusts, the flesh rises up and opposes God and His will with all its powers.
Franzmann: The essence (of the flesh) is an instinctive resistance to God.
Lenski: It is not God who has this enmity, but the sinner. This whole thought, Paul says, is "hostile", which means personal animosity, hatred, dislike, and opposition directed against God.
Arndt: Man's disposition is altogether corrupt. He has no ability to obey the law. Freedom of the will in natural man is rejected here.

Romans 8:8 (NIV) Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

The verse immediately reminds one of Hebrews 11:5-6. Where there is a saving faith, there is regeneration, and visa versa. And where there is regeneration, there you have a person who pleases God. Read John 15:5.

In our verse "Those" denotes a type of people, the unregenerate. It is impossible for them to please or serve God. Their life is nothing but sin and death.

Stoeckhardt: Only God through His creative power and grace can change the direction of the natural will. And that God does when He converts the sinner. Out of the unwilling He makes willing, out of enemies, friends.
Franzmann: Men in the flesh can render Him (God) no free and willing service.
Lenski: All synergism in conversion is to be rejected, for conversion is IN TOTO the gracious work of God through the means of grace, Word and Sacrament. Synergism is a perverted idea, non-existent in reality.
Bengel: 'Please' here as elsewhere, signifies not only 'I please', but 'I am desirous' to please, 1 Corinthians 10:33; Galatians 1:10.
Arndt: It may be that some works of the unconverted man will please a community. Their services may be very impressive. Paul is here speaking of something that pleases God.

Romans 8:9 (NIV) You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

AAT reads the first as "spirit" (of man) and the last two "Spirit" (of God). In other words, in the first instance the old Adam is compared with the new man. And on the last two Bengel says: "Spirit of God" and "Spirit of Christ", a remarkable testimony to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and its economy in the hearts of believers."

Lenski: In all charity Paul assumes that all his Roman readers are true Christians, but he does not want to be their judge. They are to judge themselves, and Paul gives them the criterion by which they may be easily determine whether they are 'in spirit' or still 'in flesh.'
Stoeckhardt: The apostle refers to the pretended Christians. Many a one makes the claim that he belongs to Christ, yet is no Christian since he does not have the Spirit of Christ. In these words lies an earnest invitation for all Christians to examine whether theirs is the true Christianity.
Franzmann: The Christian is no longer 'in the flesh' in the sense of 7:5, in the sense, namely, that the flesh wholly dominates his life and dictates his actions: he is 'in the Spirit.' That is the dominant and decisive reality of his existence. There still is indwelling sin, but it is the indwelling Spirit that is the characteristic mark of the Christian, of every Christian.
Arndt: We must observe here that Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ are identical.

Romans 8:10 (NIV) But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.

Look at John 17:23 Jesus speaks of the union mystica. We are one with Christ and god by grace. They are one with each other by nature. Note the beautiful symmetry in the verse.

AAT: "But if Christ is in you, even though your bodies are dead because you were sinful, your spirits are alive because you are righteous.

Stoeckhardt: Our body is like a corpse. The body is already dead during the time of life, since it conceals the germ of death and dies from day to day until death swallows up life completely. This has its cause in sin. Because of sin the whole human race is subject to death. And Christians are not exempted from this fate through the new birth. As all children of man, they must die . . . According to their spirit, Christians, in whom Christ and His Spirit live, share in eternal life, already have a foretaste of eternal life . . . But this life has its basis in righteousness, the perfect righteousness in Christ.
Lenski: Look at all the graves of Christians in the cemeteries. But when we look at Christ in us, there we see life indeed, not the spark of physical animation which flickers for a while and then goes out, but a new-created inner nature which itself is LIFE, never to end, but to pass into glory . . . This must be Christ's righteousness, imputed to us, not our own acquired righteousness.
Arndt: Paul here refers to the righteousness of Christ. Look at Romans 5:12ff . . . There is the direct causal relation between righteousness and life when Paul emphasized in Romans 5.

Romans 8:11 (NIV) And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

The verse starts with "moreover." Verse 10 spoke only of this life. Verse 11 gives us further information on what is going to happen to this mortal body which, in this life, is dead. Note how the Trinity simply pervades this verse.

The "if" clause does not denote uncertainty but cause one to ask: "Is this really true?" Of course it is. It was answered in verse 9. the Triune God lives in me by faith.

Note "life" occurs twice in this verse, both of which refer to Jesus' resurrection. But, on this is based the fact that our mortal, dead bodies will be made alive. Just as sure as Jesus' resurrection, just that sure is my resurrection from the dead.

Stoeckhardt: God will make alive our mortal bodies. He will free them from death and translate them into the life of glorification. 1 Corinthians 15:23, 35ff. . . Our perishable bodies will become like unto His gloried body. Philippians 3:21.
Franzmann: If the indwelling of the Spirit determines the present, it determines the future too. In fact, it determines the present just because it determines the future . . . If He was raised, that involves us, for we are by Baptism incorporated in Him.

The word "spirit" occurs with higher frequency in this chapter than anywhere else in the New Testament, twenty times. It is the great New Testament chapter on the work of the Holy Spirit. In our text, verses 1-11, it occurs eleven times. Scholars argue as to which should and which should not be capitalized. If capitalized it denotes the Holy Spirit. If not, it denotes the new man in the Christian. The translations reflect this dispute, if it is one. It is not always easy to come to a definite conclusion. We have the same "problem" in Galatians. Luther was not unduly exercised by this matter.

The little preposition "en" occurs thirteen times in Romans 8:1-11. It has a variety of meanings, depending on the context. It can be used in an adverb sense or in an adjective sense. It is always time well spent when one determines the precise meaning of this little word.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A Epistle Texts, Festival Season Sundays, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1983, pp. 91-95.

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