b. The contrasted Strength. Rom 8:3-4
c. The contrasted Spheres. Flesh. Spirit.
c. THE PRIVILEGE DESCRIBED. LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
The final section of this division sets forth the
life of sanctification on its positive side. It is perfectly evident
that the word "Therefore" is not related to the final statement of the
previous section. In order to discover the teaching which the word
recalls, it is necessary to go back to the first section, and to its
last declaration. That this may be clearly seen, let us bring the last
verse of the first section and this first verse of the third section
"But now we have been discharged from the law, having
died to that wherein we were holden; so that we serve in newness of the
spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.''
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them that
are in Christ Jesus."
The connection is self-evident; "discharged ... no
condemnation." Thus after having in the first section dealt with the
provision for sanctification, that of identification with Christ by
which the believer passes from death into life; and having illustrated
his principle in that section in which he described the condition of
death under law; he now returned in order to set forth the privilege of
sanctification to be that of life in the Spirit.
That to which we now turn stands in startling
contrast to that which we have been considering. Throughout the whole of
the paragraph of autobiographical illustration, the overwhelming sense
was that of condemnation. In this most glorious passage the language is
ever that of one discharged, and free from condemnation. From the
slavery of the law of sin and death we emerge into the freedom of the
law of the Spirit of life.
The section falls into three parts: a brief
proclamation; a careful explanation; and a final statement of consequent
1. The Proclamation
In the final stages of the previous section the
apostle, as though unable to avoid it for very gladness of heart, had
exclaimed, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." As we saw in
considering it, this was an interpolated answer of the man in Christ, to
the wail of the man under law.
He now turned to the full and positive statement of
the truth which compelled that cry of victory. The opening proclamation
is brief but all-inclusive. It rings with the note of absolute
assurance. The state of the believer is described in the words, "no
condemnation." He has escaped from the intolerable depression of the
awful agony resulting from the sense of sin created by the law. This
escape is the result of entrance into a new sphere of life, which he
described by the words "In Christ Jesus." The omission of the words,
"who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit" is no loss, but
rather gain. While what they suggest is true, and will be stated
presently under the consideration of obligation, the statement is more
complete, as a definite proclamation, without them. It is indeed a
gracious announcement that in Christ Jesus man is under no condemnation;
and inspired the great verse in Charles Wesley's hymn,
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne.
And claim the crown, through Christ, my
2. The Explanation
Having thus comprehensively stated the privilege of
sanctification, the apostle passed to a careful explanation thereof in a
series of contrasts between life in the flesh, and life in the spirit.
My own interpretation of this passage adopts the
distinction indicated in the spelling of the Revised Version in the case
of the word "spirit.'' Therein a small letter is used when the word
refers to the spirit of man, and a capital when it refers to the Spirit
of God. I am aware that some of our best expositors do not agree with
the interpretation resulting from this spelling. I do not propose to
enter into any argument concerning the matter, for I do not believe that
anything of vital importance is involved. Let readers desiring to
compare other interpretations refer to the works of Dr. Handley Moule
and Dr. Agar Beet. My own understanding of the passage leads me to the
conclusion that where the distinction is maintained as indicated in the
Revised Version, the result is a clear presentation of the truth that
sanctification is the full realization of the forces of regeneration;
and that a "picture of remarkable strength is presented, of a regenerate
man living under the control of the Spirit of God, his own spirit being
restored to its proper place of dominion over his body.
The first contrast is that between the two
sovereignties of life. In this relation the word law is used, not in
reference to the Mosaic economy, but as describing a master-principle.
On the one hand there is that of the Spirit of life
in Christ Jesus, on the other that of the law of sin and of death. These
two stand related to the two sections of the division already
considered, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus having been
revealed in the first section, and the law of sin and of death having
been dealt with in the second; the law which the apostle therein
described as "a different law . . . warring against the law of my mind,
and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin/' If this is the
contrast, it is stated only in order to declare that the victory is that
the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus makes us free from the law
of sin and of death.
The second contrast is between the ability of the law
- and in this case the reference is to the Mosaic economy - and that of
the Son of God. The weakness of the one consisted in the fact that it
had to do with man as the apostle had described him in the central
section, unable to obey. The strength of the Son of God lay in the fact
of His incarnation, and His work on the cross, all of which had been
dealt with in the first section. Again the contrast is made, in order to
declare that the victory is that of the Son of God, because in all such
as walk not after the flesh but after the spirit, the ordinance or
requirement of the law is fulfilled.
In the third contrast, which has to do with the two
possible spheres of life, flesh and spirit, the overwhelming victory of
sanctification is revealed. There is a three-fold movement in this
contrast, dealing with the two inspirations, the two issues, and the two
As to inspiration, there are those who live after the
flesh, and those who live after the spirit. The first mind the things of
the flesh, that is, desire them, and seek after them. The second mind
the things of the spirit, and again that is, desire them, and seek after
As to issue, the result of seeking the things of the
flesh is death, a present death, the death of the mind, its darkness and
limitation. The result of seeking the things of the spirit is life and
peace, present life and peace, the life of the mind, its light and
comprehension resulting in abiding peace.
Finally, in dealing with the contrast of experience
the apostle first declared that to live in the flesh is to be at enmity
against God, incapable of subjection to Him, and therefore unable to
please Him. His description of the experience of life in the spirit is
fuller. Declaring that the secret of spiritual life is that of the
indwelling Spirit of God, he parenthetically declared that this
indwelling Spirit of God will be manifest as the Spirit of Christ, and
that this manifestation is a test of possession. The immediate result of
the indwelling Christ is that the body is dead, that is to say, the body
does not immediately escape the consequence of past sin; it is still
mortal, not exempt from dissolution. But the spirit is alive, and that
fact will have its bearing upon the whole man, including the body.
In this connection there is finally one word
declaring that the ultimate victory of this life will be that of the
quickening of the mortal body.
This picture, then, is that of a regenerate man.
Sanctification is the full realization o f regeneration, and consists in
the spirit of a man being in subjection to the indwelling Spirit of God;
with the further result that the body of the man is under the dominion
of the spirit of the man, which is controlled by the Spirit of God.
3. The Obligation
The argument as to obligation immediately follows,
and of course is entirely dependent upon that which has already been
considered. The apostle stated it in relation to our responsibility and
The negative responsibility of believers is that they
are not debtors to the flesh. There is no longer any need for them to
live after the flesh, that is, to obey the dictates of the flesh without
reference to the claims of the spirit. Being free from the law of sin
and death which operates through the body, making it the master of the
life; to yield to its claims alone will issue in death. The first
responsibility of sanctification is that there shall be no such
yielding. The positive responsibility is that of the exercise of power
by the spirit over all the things of the flesh.
In order to the fulfillment of this responsibility
the resources of sanctification are then stated. The first is that of
sonship. The victory of the spirit of man results from the leading of
the Spirit of God, and those who have such leading are the sons of God.
They have received the spirit of adoption whereby they are able, under
the tender and gracious impulse of the indwelling Spirit, to call God,
Father. The witness of the Spirit of God with our spirits that we are
the children of God is the proof necessary, and granted, of our
justification and sanctification. All the logical method is nothing save
as we have this inner witness, the absolutely certain knowledge, proof
against all argument, that we are the children of God.
The sequence of this glorious sonship is that the
saints are heirs of God. This statement is so overwhelming that it
defies analysis, or exposition. In the presence of it the heart can but
be still in exulting meditation, while it confesses that the
profundities of the Divine love defy the fathoming of human
O love of God, how strong and true.
Eternal and yet ever new,
Uncomprehended and unbought.
Beyond all knowledge, and all thought.
O love of God, how deep and great!
Far deeper than man's deepest hate;
Self-fed, self-kindled, like the light,
Changeless, eternal, infinite.
Children are heirs of the Father's wealth and the
Father's home. And yet the apostle kept plainly in view the ground of
our claim. We are joint-heirs with Christ. He Who identifies Himself
with us in death, identifies us with Himself in life, and in all that
life means as to breadth, and richness, and continuity.
This joint-heir ship with Christ, and heirship of
God, brings us into fellowship, not only with the consummation, but with
the process. We are brought into the place of suffering with Him, Who
came into the fellowship of our suffering. This statement of the case
reveals responsibility. The privilege is evidenced by the declaration of
the same truth from the other side. Having fellowship with His
sufferings through the process, we shall at last have partnership with
the glory in the consummation.