Romans 8:1-8

No condemnation. The law weakened by the flesh. Flesh vs. Spirit.

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"1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2)
One member of the class pointed out the significance of the word "now" in this beloved verse of the Bible for those who genuinely seek God's forgiveness for their sins. "Now" implies that from this point forward, God will no longer condemn us for our inevitable and ongoing failures as long as we still live in this earthly existence.

However, it’s not sufficient to merely accept this incredible truth without comprehending the reason why it’s possible for God to no longer condemn us. Verse 2 provides an explanation for this.

For countless ages, humanity has been under the dominion of the law of sin and death, as expressed in Romans 5:12-14:

12So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned - 13for before the law was given, sin was in the world, but there is no accounting for sin when there is no law. 14Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed. (Romans 5:12-14)

This law is also written in Ezekiel 18:20:

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:20)

When sin entered the world, it brought death to all, and no one was exempt. However, God, in his grace, has provided a new way for us through Christ Jesus:

13And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation) - when you believed in Christ - you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

You are now free from condemnation not because you are unable to sin, or because of your exceptional ability to do good and avoid evil. Rather, it is solely because of God’s grace and mercy towards you that you have been released from the powerful hold of the law of sin and death. Through Christ, you now have the privilege of living under the new law of the Spirit that brings forth life.


3For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)

The law was unable to assist sinners in meeting its righteous standard. As mentioned before in Romans 6:17, we were enslaved to sin and unable to fulfill what the law required of us. Nonetheless, Jesus fulfilled all of the law’s righteous requirements on our behalf.

However, before we can fully experience this benefit, there is a condition that we must meet, which is that we must “not walk according to the flesh.” The following section will explain this concept in further detail.


5For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit. 6For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, 7because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)

It is a common assumption among many that living according to the flesh refers to indulging in anything associated with earthly life such as overeating, sexual immorality, or gambling. However, the context of the book of Romans that we have studied so far shows a contrast between a religious lifestyle based on our own efforts to obey the law and a life of faith in what Christ has accomplished for us on the cross.

Based on that context, we can reasonably infer that “living according to the flesh” refers to religious attempts to fulfill God’s righteous requirements. Examples of such attempts include the Colossians’ observance of “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch (Colossians 2:21),” religious practices that emphasize celibacy as a way to get closer to God, and self-infliction of pain as an expression of repentance or contrition, among other practices.

Having learned what it means to live according to the flesh, let us now consider what it means to live according to the Spirit. It may be easy to assume that living according to the Spirit entails engaging in activities considered spiritual, such as prayer, Bible study, fasting, evangelism, and other admirable pursuits. However, we must not forget what Paul stated in Romans 7:18: “For I know that nothing good lives in me.” Hence, the only way we can live according to the Spirit is by relying on Christ’s completed work on the cross:

20I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!(Galatians 2:20)

In essence, living according to the Spirit means relying on Christ’s completed work on the cross. This fact must be emphasized repeatedly to counteract the appeal of false spirituality. Furthermore, any attempt to please God through the flesh is ultimately futile, because “the flesh cannot please God.”

The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

Instead of commanding yourself to live by the Spirit, it is more beneficial to recognize that the Holy Spirit is already living within you and guiding you towards the truth. The key is to rest in this truth, rather than striving to live by the Spirit through your own efforts.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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