Romans 8:1-17


In chapters 6, 7, & 8 of Romans Paul explores three things we have because we have been made right with God. We have:

  • Victory over sin (Chapter 6)
  • Freedom from the Law (Chapter 7)
  • Life in the Spirit (Chapter 8)

In this session we are going to begin exploring Romans 8 in which Paul describes the wonderful life of being controlled by the Spirit of God. 


Romans 8 is one of the mountain peaks in God’s Word.  The chapter begins with the promise of no condemnation and ends with the promise of no separation and in between is a description of the amazing blessings we experience in Christ.

·         One writer says that if you imagine God’s Word as being a ring and the book of Romans being a precious stone in the ring, then Romans 8 would be the sparkling point of the jewel.

·         Dwight L. Moody said that he would rather live in the midst of Romans 8 than in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.  When asked why, he explained that while Satan got to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, he cannot get to a Christian living in the midst of Romans 8.


Romans 8 is the most complete description in the Bible of life controlled by the Spirit of God.  In this chapter the Greek word for spirit (pneuma) is used twenty-one times.  At least eighteen of those occurrences refer to the Holy Spirit.  There are more references to the Holy Spirit in this chapter than any other chapter in the writings of Paul.  This is especially noteworthy since Paul used the word pneuma a total of only five times in the first seven chapters of Romans.  Romans 8 answers the question, “What does a life controlled by the Spirit of God look like?”


Romans 8 tells us that a life controlled by God’s Spirit is a life characterized by:

  • Freedom from condemnation (vv. 1-11)
  • Freedom from rejection (vv. 12-17)
  • Freedom from despair (vv.18-30)
  • Freedom from defeat (vv.31-39)


Freedom from Condemnation (Romans 8:1-11)

Verse 1“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  This is the thesis statement for this paragraph.  The word “therefore” of this verse is very important.  The word points back to what has been previously said.  At end of previous chapter Paul went into great detail about the battle between good and evil, right and wrong, God and Satan, which was being waged in his life.  He said, in effect, that even though he desired to do right, he often ended up doing wrong.  Read again Romans 7:18-19.  Based on the context of this passage it is obvious that when Paul wrote “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” he was not saying that God’s people will never sin.  As a matter of fact, the Scripture says just the opposite.  In I John 1:8 the Bible says, “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  Even those people who love God and are committed to God and desire to serve God sometimes stumble and fall.  That can be seen throughout the Scripture.  For example:

·         Abraham, the man who is recognized as the father of the world’s three major religions --Judaism, Islam, and Christianity-- blatantly lied.

·         David, the greatest king in Israel’s history and ancestor of the Messiah, committed adultery and was an accomplice to murder...

·         Peter, the leader of the apostles and the preacher on the day of Pentecost, in a moment of weakness denied even knowing Jesus...

·         Paul, the greatest of all Christian missionaries and theologians, described himself as “the chief of sinners.”

And to say that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ” does not mean we must live under the illusion of perfection.  The word “condemnation,” which appears in the Bible only in the book of Romans, is a legal term.  It means to stand before a judge and be pronounced guilty.  This statement in Romans 8:1 does not mean that we are not guilty; it means we will be pronounced not guilty!

Verses 2-4 contains the very heart of the gospel.  These verses answer the question, “How is it possible that those who are admittedly guilty –those who have sinned against God, disobeyed God, fallen short of God’s ideal—could be pronounced not guilty?”  Read Romans 8:2-4.  Those verses tell us that what we could not do for ourselves Jesus did for us.  And He did it by coming to our world, living a sinless life, dieing a sacrificial death paying the price for our sins on the cross, and being raised from the dead by the power of God.  We, who are guilty, can be pronounced not guilty, because Jesus, who was not guilty, agreed to be pronounced guilty in our place!  One writer put it this way:  “The law of double jeopardy states that a [person] cannot be tried twice for the same crime.  Since Jesus paid the penalty for your sins, and since you are ‘in Christ,’ God will not condemn you.” [Wiersbe, p.88]

That is the heart of Christian theology.  Everything else is superfluous and secondary.  Jesus came to our world so that God could look at you and me in all of our sin and declare us not guilty.  Colossians 1:21-22 expresses this same truth:  And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach...”

What an amazing thought!.  All of our sin—our self-centeredness, selfishness, pride, stubbornness, lust, unkindness—has been replaced by holiness and blamelessness in the eyes of God.  Why?  Not because of anything we have done to earn or deserve such freedom from condemnation.  It is all the result of what Jesus has done for us. No other religion makes a claim like that.  In the other major world religious system, acceptance by God is dependent on human action.  For example:

·         Buddhists follow an eight point path to enlightenment.  It is not a free ride.

·         Hindu's believe in karma, which basically means that nothing comes to you that is not set in motion by your actions.

·         Both Jewish and Islamic religious codes are based on works, doing certain things to win the approval of God.

But Christianity is different.  It is based on grace.  God, Himself, has provided the way and He invites us to come and be declared “not guilty!”


Verses 5-8 contain a series of contrasts.  The contrast is not between two types of Christians.  It is between the old way of life controlled by the flesh or lower nature, and the new way of life controlled by the Spirit of God.  (See Galatians 5:16-24 for a further explanation of this contrast.)  Four specific contrasts are made in these verses:

  1. Life in the flesh verses life in the Spirit (v.5) – The unsaved person focuses his or her life on those things that satisfy the flesh.  The saved person focuses his or her life on the spiritual realm.  This does not mean that an unsaved person is incapable of doing good or a saved person is incapable of doing evil.  It means that the focus of their lives is different.  The unsaved person lives for the flesh and the saved person lives for the Spirit.
  2. Death verses life (v.6a) – The unsaved person, though alive physically, is dead spiritually.  Such a person is unresponsive to spiritual things.  The saved person has spiritual life and is responsive to spiritual things.
  3. Hostility toward God verses peace with God (vv.6b-7) – We have seen previously in this study of Romans that those who have not been made right with God through faith are in conflict with God (see the notes on Romans 5:1-11).  Every person lives in one of two states—at war with God or at peace with God.  Those who are unsaved are unable to live to submit to and to live in peace with God.
  4. Pleasing self verses pleasing God (v.8) – The heart of sin is self-centeredness or selfishness.  The unsaved person lives for self.  The orientation of his or her life is on those things that please self.  The saved person lives for God.  The orientation of his or her life is on those things that please God.


Verses 9-11 contain a great affirmation.  The phrase “However, you…” means that in contrast to those who are controlled by the flesh, living in spiritual death, hostile toward God, and bent on pleasing only themselves, those who are indwelt by the Spirit of God experience a different kind of life.  Those who are indwelt by the Spirit of God are alive both physically and spiritually now and have the assurance of both physical and spiritual life in eternity.


Freedom from Rejection (Romans 8:12-17)

The opposite of being rejected is being accepted.  The obvious teaching of this paragraph is that God has accepted us into His family just as a father accepts his own son.  gfAnd the great assurance of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we are sons and daughters of God.  To be a Christian means to be a child of God.  This paragraph tells us some significant things about our acceptance into God’s family. 


Verse 14  (“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”) gives us the evidence that we are accepted into God’s family.  That statement is striking in what it does not say.  It does not say that all who go to church on Sunday or all who lead clean, upright, moral lives or all who adhere to certain theological positions are sons of God.  But it says “...all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”  Two things about that statement that are particularly important:

·         First, it speaks of relationship.  The picture is of a person living in such close relationship with God there is a sense of God’s leading in that person’s life.  The basic idea is simply knowing and being known by God and being responsive to Him.

·         Second, it speaks of a current, continuing, on-going relationship.  The tense of the verb...”are being led...” indicates something that is currently happening. The evidence that a person is a child of God is not something that person did in the distant past; it is the current, on-going walk that person has with God today.

We can know we have been accepted by God only to the degree that we live our lives in meaningful relationship with Him.


Verse 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!’”) tells us about the privilege of being accepted into God’s family.  The phrase “Abba! Father!” is significant.  It is used only two other times in New Testament.  Jesus used it in His prayer in Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36) and Paul used it in same context as this verse in Galatians 4:6.  Abba is an Aramaic word for father.  It is the intimate, familiar word child would use in home, similar to our word daddy.  The word is a reminder that we have the privilege being loved and accepted by God in the same way dad loves and accepts his own child. 



Verse 16 (“The Spirit Himself, bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”) tells us about the assurance that we have been accepted into God’s family. I am kind of a skeptic by nature.  I believe that old adage that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  And I suspect Paul’s readers may have felt that way as they read this paragraph.  They probably thought, “This sounds too good to be true!  How can we know what you are saying is the truth?”  Verse 16 seems to anticipate that kind of question.  In effect Paul says, “Don’t take my word for it.  Just listen to the Spirit of God which dwells in you.”  In other words, when you begin to doubt the reality of God’s care for you, get off by yourself and allow God’s Spirit to speak to your spirit.  Listen to that still, small voice inside of you and it always calls you back to Him. I think that’s something of what is meant by Psalm 46:10 where God tells us to “Be still and know that I am God.”