If I asked you to take a red pen and circle all of the contrasts you can find in Romans 8:1-25, I would imagine this particular page in your Bible would be filled with red markings. This chapter is perhaps one of the most deeply significant and highly impactful in all of Scripture. Since time and space won’t allow us to comment on every treasure of truth, let’s highlight three contrasts.
Condemnation and Conviction
There are some — perhaps many — Christians who live in a state of defeat. Life has not dealt kindly with them, and they’ve continually fallen prey to Satan’s schemes. The weight of sin, especially those habitual ones that lead to strongholds, is almost more than they can bear. And when Satan points an accusatory finger, they slump knowingly to the shame.
But there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Christ took all of the condemnation that was rightly ours and bore it on the cross in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us (Romans 8:4). Let’s be clear, we deserved condemnation, but in His grace and mercy, He took it for us.
Jesus condemned sin so we could be free of condemnation.
Our position in Christ is the reason we can turn the enemy’s accusatory finger around and claim the cross as the power to overcome sin.
Now, the word “conviction” does not appear in these verses. But conviction is certainly the contrast to condemnation. While condemnation is a work of the enemy, conviction is a work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gently nudges and whispers when we do or say something that is displeasing to God, and gives us the opportunity to change our minds and actions. Conviction over our sin leads us to repentance and forgiveness, whereas condemnation only leads to prisons of guilt and shame.
How can we live in the power of the Spirit? Refuse condemnation and respond only to conviction.
Flesh and the Spirit
The flesh and the Spirit are at odds.
Perhaps that’s stating it too gently.
The flesh and the Spirit are in a ferocious war, and the battleground is our minds. Here in the thought life is where the loud demands of the flesh attempt to drown out the still small voice of the Spirit.
The difference between walking in the flesh and walking in the Spirit lies in focus. People who walk in the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, while people who walk in the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5). But the difference is not always immediately obvious to the onlooker. Just because a person is not engaged in blatant sin does not mean their minds are not fixed on the flesh. Thoughts of self instead of others, seeking the approval of people instead of God, pursing happiness instead of holiness, and wanting to be the centre of attention are all subtle ways our minds are consumed with the flesh.
When our minds are consumed with the Spirit we pursue the things of God. How could I glorify God in this situation? What is God trying to teach me? What would God want me to choose? How can I love and serve others? These are all questions that run through the minds of those who are fixed on the Spirit.
The question is: Is our lives marked by obedience to the Holy Spirit or by obedience to the flesh?
If we want our pattern of life to be according to the Spirit, His voice must be the one we obey.
When we allow the flesh to control our minds and our decisions we will find ourselves right back in the inner struggle of Romans 7 and ultimately this pattern of life brings death. But when the course of our lives are directed by the Spirit, we will experience life and peace (Romans 8:6).
And quite simply, if we walk in the Spirit we will not carry out the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
The Spirit of God dwells in you, therefore you are empowered to walk in the Spirit.
How can we live in the power of the Spirit? Choose to walk each day in the Spirit, and thereby crucify the flesh.
Sufferings and Glory
We can’t turn a blind eye to suffering, ignoring its obvious presence in this world. Neither can we naively believe difficult times will never come to us. Suffering is a part of our fallen world, and sadly no one is immune.
Romans 8:18 is perhaps my favourite verse in our present text. I clung desperately to it’s truth during the death of my mother and a cancer diagnosis. Regardless of the degree of suffering we experience in this life, future glory will outweigh present sufferings. That’s a promise.
Our sufferings are not even worthy to be compared to the glory we will experience in His presence. That hard thing you are going through? No comparison. Don’t even try. If you and I could catch a glimpse of what one moment in heaven will be like, we would gladly turn our faces resolutely to our trials and praise God in the midst of the storm.
Life in the Spirit enables us to understand and persevere through suffering. Life in the Spirit gives us a hope for a glorious future.
How can we live in the power of the Spirit? Fix our eyes on the glory promised to us.