Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Remember that the proposition Paul is setting out to prove in this section is that grace gives us victory over sin. In 8:1-13 Paul’s supporting point is that grace gives us complete victory over sin by the Holy Spirit. This is broken into 2 sub points: 8:1-4 shows that grace has taken care of the penalty for sins, and 8:5-13 shows that we can overcome our sinful natures by the working of the Spirit within us.
In chapter 7 Paul went to great pains to demonstrate that we cannot overcome sin on our own and he brought that point to its climax in 7:24-25:
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
These verses are the reason for the connective “therefore” in 8:1 and it is as if Paul were saying, “Oh no, I can’t do it on my own, but wait; Christ has done it for me!” Clearly, verses 3-4 establish that Jesus has fulfilled the righteous requirements of Law relating to our sins.
If we were to stop reading after verse 4, then we will shortly return to chapter 7 and despair. We already know that Jesus has paid the price for our sins, and so we want to live the right way from now on, but we are still weak in our mortal bodies, surrounded by sin and temptation; it is only a matter of time until we stumble again. I really believe that this is the reason that many Christians struggle with guilt, self loathing and sheer frustration, with the result that they question the very foundation of their faith.
But Paul kept on writing.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
In these verses, Paul once again gives us the challenge of a choice: Will we live according to the old way, or will live according to the new way? As he often does in his writings, Paul uses flesh and spirit as his means of describing the old and new ways of life. Yet here he adds another element to the challenge by describing the two ways of life in terms of our focus; “mind set on…” If our mind is set on the flesh (old ways of life that center on the sensations, needs and desires of the physical body) then we cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (8:9) If we are a follower of Christ, then the Holy Spirit lives within us; He is our Comforter, our Helper, promised to us by Jesus Himself. This is where our minds are supposed to be focused, not on our circumstances. 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 because of his Spirit who lives in you. (8:11) If we are followers of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit within us will give life to our mortal bodies so that we are no longer living in death (separation from God). It would be helpful if we recognize that Paul isn’t talking about after we die in this sentence; he’s talking about right now.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
We have an obligation to live according to the Spirit, to set our minds on the Spirit within us; Jesus has already done the work, now we need to make a choice. Oh, and by the way, we are expected to make the right choice to live according to the Spirit. When we do, when we set our mind on the Spirit, the Spirit will guide us, sustain us, strengthen us and enable us to not only walk away from the legal penalty for sin, but to put sin to death in our lives.
Therefore, grace gives us victory over sin in every sense.
Now if all things are possible with God, and if God is in us through the Holy Spirit, and if we set our minds on the things of the Spirit, then we really can overcome sin in our lives, not by our own human strength, but by His life in us.
Remind me please: What was it again that is too hard?