There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Father, we pray for wisdom and understanding as we look into Your word, knowing that You have revealed Yourself, chosen to reveal Yourself by it. And Lord You desire that we would know You, and know You more fully. And so God speak to us today by Your Spirit, and through Your word, that You would transform us by the renewing of our minds, that we would be able to prove what is that good and perfect and acceptable will, Your will for us. So God, make us more like You, is our prayer; that we would reflect Your glory in the world in which we live; and that we would experience the victory that this passage of Scripture describes, each of us, Lord. We pray this in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
It is so good to be back with all of you. It’s been a number of weeks now since we studied together in the book of Romans, and we now come to one of the most glorious passages of the book. In fact, since many people count the book of Romans as one of the great sections of Scripture in the Bible, this being one of the greatest sections in the book of Romans, it has been called by some, “the most important chapter in the Bible.” Another writer wrote that Romans 8 is the “inner sanctuary in the cathedral of the Christian faith.” Romans 8 has been referred to as “the golden chain of redemption.” I’ve had several individuals in our church, over the last several months, as we’ve been going through the book of Romans, share with me that Romans 8 is there favorite section, and that they’ve been looking forward to going through it. And to that I would say, “I agree.” I think this is a great passage of Scripture. We’re going to spend a bit of time going through it. I’ve been greatly anticipating it.
To be quite honest with you, I’m very happy to be out of Romans 7, because Romans, chapter 7 is a heavy passage of Scripture. And we ended several weeks ago with Paul’s impassioned cry, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” And we saw clearly the battle that rages between the flesh and the Spirit. And we recognize that, though we may be new creatures in Christ, and that’s what the Bible says, in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, that if anyone be in Christ “they are a new creation.” And so, although we are new creatures in Christ, we maintain a sinful nature. And that sinful nature it desires that which is contrary to the Spirit of God. As Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, in Galatians, chapter 5, verse 17, “For the flesh lusts,” or wars, “against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are contrary the one to the other, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” This is the very real experience of the Christian in their Christian life. Every blood-bought, Spirit-filled individual, Spirit-saved individual, recognizes this conflict. And the problem arises when we set out to address this issue, we try to address this issue in our own strength, and by our own might; which is always our initial response. Our initial response is always to try and “suck it up and do better.” Can anybody relate? “Just suck it up and do better.” We live in a culture that’s all about “suck it up and do better.” I mean, even from the youngest age, you fall down and skin your knee, and they say, “Come on, get up, you’re not hurt.” And so we experience that; we carry it on into our Christian lives, where we find ourselves injured by sin, we find ourselves wounded by the sin nature, and we say, “No, no, I can do this.”
And so we try, in our own strength, to maintain righteousness by keeping the Mosaic Law; because the Mosaic Law is that which was given to us by God. There in the book of Exodus, God has said, “This is what I call you to do.” And so Moses delivers the law to children of Israel, and he announces it to them there in Exodus, chapter 20, and then 38 years later, he proclaims the law to them again. The book of Deuteronomy is the second stating of the law of God. And He says, “This is what I’ve called you to do, and to be obedient to. This is what it looks like to maintain righteousness before a holy God.” But the whole purpose of the law, as we have seen in the book of Romans is not to make man righteous. The purpose of the law is to show us our error; and it’s very effective at showing us our error. It’s very effective at revealing just how completely lost we are. Because the law exalted the righteousness of God, and in light of the righteousness of God, we see that we are not righteous.
And so in Romans, chapter 7, the apostle Paul has highlighted this reality, that when we apply the Mosaic Law to our lives, not only do we recognize our sinfulness, but the law has this amazing affect on the sinful passions resident within our flesh. Within our nature, our human nature, because we are all sold to sin, when we come in contact with the “Thou Shall Nots” of the Bible, it inflames the passions of sin resident within us. Romans, chapter 7, verse 5: “For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.” So, there are resident in every single human being sinful desires. And even the person who has been saved by Christ, set free from the law of sin and death, they still maintain this old nature. And we saw this in Romans, chapter 7, as we looked at that thing I called, several weeks ago, the “I/me key.” Every time that Paul refers to “me,” he’s talking about his sin nature; every time he refers to “I,” he’s speaking about this new nature that we have in Christ.
So in the same way that Jesus, when He came, was fully God and fully man, has two natures, the Christian experiences this, and in some way as well, that they have two natures. They have their old sin nature and they have this new nature given them by God. They are a new creation in Christ. They experience this newness, this new life that is created in righteousness and true holiness that Paul says in Ephesians, chapter 4. But Galatians says, in chapter 5, verse 17 that this new nature is at war with the old nature, or rather the old nature is fighting against it, and so you do not do the things that you desire. The sinful passions of the flesh are aroused by, or inflamed by the law. Even though the law is holy, just and good, it brings out everything in us that is contrary to what is holy, just and good. Romans 7:8, “But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.” The result, verse 19 of Romans, chapter 7: “The good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil that I will not to do, that I practice.” Anyone here today relate to the apostle Paul in this?
You know, I think a lot of times we think, “Oh, it would be so great to be like the apostle Paul.” That’s the apostle Paul!!
He experienced that. “The good things I want, I don’t do; and the bad things I don’t want to do, that I practice.”
This is the conflict that only a Christian experiences. A non-believer doesn’t go through this. A non-believer doesn’t have that place where they go, “I just really delight in the law of God and wish I could keep the law of God.” The non-believer doesn’t experience that, but the Christian, once made new by the Spirit of God, experiences this conflict. And the ultimate end is spiritual frustration, as we come to recognize this reality. It’s highlighted for us in verse 14 of Romans, chapter 7: “For we know,” and this concept of knowledge here is an intimate experiential knowledge. “For we know,” experientially, “that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” The struggle is real.
But I’m here to tell you today that the salvation that we have in Christ is a reality too. It is very real, the salvation we have in Christ, church. And it is a victorious salvation that God desires we would walk in; that we would walk in this victory, as more than conquerors. The Christian is saved by grace through faith, and that salvation reaches to the deepest part of who we are; deeper than just rendering us righteous before God, just saying, so He looks at us and says, “Okay, I declare you righteous.” It’s greater than just that. Although it is that, it’s greater than that. The salvation we have in Christ brings about an actual transformation as well. And God’s transforming us more and more into the likeness, the image of His Son.
Look, if you will, at 2 Corinthians; you’re in the book of Romans, just turn a couple of books to the right – Romans, 1st Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians, chapter 3. We’ve already studied through the books of 1 of 2 Corinthians, here at Cross Connection, but looking back at verse 18 of chapter 3, we see this, 2 Corinthians 3:18 – “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” This is the verse that we started this year out with, because our theme, or our vision for 2013 is the idea of Reflect. And we take that from this verse – 2 Corinthians 3:18; in fact you can see it on a poster in our lobby. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,” or reflecting the glory of the Lord, “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Notice that 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us there, at the end of the verse, that this is a spiritual work – “as by the Spirit of the Lord.” You see, the Westminster Catechism says, or asks the question, “What is the chief end of man?” And some of you may know that the answer in the catechism is: “The chief end of man is the glory of God.” And so, the chief end, or the chief goal of humanity is to bring forth glory to God. Not just to glorify Him in their worship, but actually to manifest His glory in their life, so that they’re reflectors of His glory. That’s what God’s desire is for us. That’s chief end of man, as revealed in the Scriptures. The problem is, when we look at that we try to “muster it up.”
“I can do this. I can glorify God in my actions.”
The apostle Paul was like that, and that’s what we see in his life, that’s the frustration that’s revealed in Romans, chapter 7. Because when we set out, in our own strength and by our own might, to glorify God in our members, we find that we cannot do it. We find ourselves frustrated. Because the will is present with us, Romans, chapter 7 makes it very, very clear – the desire to do it is there. That’s one of the very first things that the Christian, who’s a newborn follower of Jesus experiences. They have new desires they didn’t have before. So there is a desire to manifest the glory of God. Romans, chapter 8, later on in the chapter we’re going to see, “all of creation is groaning for the manifestation of the sons of God.” All of creation is desiring and groaning together that this would come forth from us, that we’d glorify God in our bodies. So, in ourselves we try to do it, and we find ourselves met with complete frustration because we cannot do it. It’s not possible that you and I can do this in and of our own strength.
So, it’s got to be a spiritual work. This is accomplished, as we’re going to see here in Romans, chapter 8, as by the Spirit of the Lord. Furthermore, Paul tells us in Philippians, chapter 1, (you can turn there if you’d like), Philippians, chapter 1, (it’s still to the right a little bit more from 2 Corinthians – 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians); Paul tells us in Philippians, chapter 1 that this is something that we can be sure of that God will complete. Philippians 1, verse 6 – “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will… what? Say it again louder. “…complete it.” Who will complete it? Me? No. He that began this good work in you, He will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. God will complete this work. Furthermore, God has predestined us unto this. Now I know there’s some people, when I say the word “predestined,” you like have a little shiver go up your spine, and you go, “O-o-h, predestined.” There’s some people that have a real hard time with that word.
Go back to Romans 8; Romans 8, verse 29, look at this. Romans 8:29 – “For whom He,” God, “foreknew He also predestined.” Predestined to what? Look at this – “…to be conformed to the image of His Son.” This is not, and I know there’ll be some people that will e-mail me on this, this is not predestined unto salvation, this is predestined unto glorification. What do I mean? Notice – “He also predestined that they would be conformed into the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” So what’s being said here? Well, we notice in 2 Corinthians, chapter 3, verse 18 that God, by His Spirit at work in us is going to reflect the glory of Himself. He’s going to do that by His Spirit. We know Philippians, chapter 1, verse 6, that He will complete this work which He began in us. And then we know in chapter 8, verse 29 of Romans that this is something that He predestined according to His foreknowledge that we would be conformed into the image of His Son. Thus, although we find ourselves in a struggle between the flesh and the Spirit here and now, we can be confident that that we will be victorious. Let me say that again: although we find ourselves in conflict in this battle between the Spirit and the flesh here and now, we can know for certain that we will be victorious. Look at Romans, chapter 8, verse 37 – “Yet in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Another way of saying it is that we have surpassing victory. Say that with me: “surpassing victory.” Say it again: “surpassing victory.” In Him we have surpassing victory – more than conquerors. It’s good to be a winner, but it’s better to be more than a winner. So we have surpassing victory in Jesus. Because of what Jesus did for us, we have victory. “It is finished.” J.B. Phillips, he renders this “Now in all things we win an overwhelming victory through Him who has proved His love for us.”
How did He prove His love for us? How did He demonstrate His love towards us, in Romans, chapter 5, verse 8? “When we were yet sinners, Christ” did what? “…died for us.” Therefore we have absolute certainty – the section before Romans, chapter 5, verse 8, in Romans 5, verses 1 through 7 – we have absolute certainty that we are going to be with Him. We hope in the glory of God, and that hope is absolute certainty. It’s not the wishful thinking sort of hope, where people say, “I really hope I win the lottery.” Anybody ever said that before? Come on, be honest. That’s not the kind of hope that the Bible describes. The hope that the Bible describes is akin to this: Maybe some of you have had that wishful thinking where you go, “I hope I win the lottery.”
But imagine someone comes to you and says, “I’m going to give you a million dollars. And just so you know I’m going to give you a millions dollars, here’s a hundred thousand dollar down payment.”
Then when you say, the next day, “I really hope he makes good on this.” It’s not like a wishful think, it’s like, “I hope he make good on this.”
He’s gonna do it!!! Why? “Because he already gave me the down payment.”
This is what God has done. The Bible describes it to us in Ephesians, chapter 1 – the down payment is the presence of His Holy Spirit, which we’re going to see here in Romans, chapter 8. His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are indeed His children, and if we are His children then we are joint heirs with Christ. What do we inherit? The fullness of God. The fullness of God is like that million dollars; although a million dollars doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, the down payment is that hundred thousand, that the Holy Spirit is in us. It is the proof, it is the assurance that God will make good on what He promised. “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Therefore, we know that in all things we are super victorious in Christ.
The unfortunate reality is that many Christians do not live as victors, they live as those who are defeated. Defeated by what? By their flesh. They have no victory over their flesh, they walk in absolute defeat because they have allowed themselves to be defeated by their flesh, and the desires of their flesh. This is what Romans 8 is going to speak to – the victory that we are supposed to have in Christ. But unfortunately there are far too many people who live their life as a Christian in Romans, chapter 7, and never experience the victory of Romans, chapter 8. And I suggest to you that one of the existential reasons that our culture is rejecting Christianity is because too many Christians live a defeated Christian life. And a lot of onlookers say, “You don’t seem to have anything better than me.” It’s unfortunate, but it’s a reality. God desires us to live in victory. Amen?
Now I recognize there is a tension. There is a tension here in Romans. And, in actuality, it’s a tension in the whole Christian experience. It’s not just here in Romans, it’s in the Christian experience. It’s the tension between God’s work and ours. The victory is won by Him; but what, if any, responsibility do we have? He is transforming us and will finish the work that He started, but when we read things like Romans, chapter 12 – you can turn there briefly, 1 and 2, Romans 12:1 and 2 – we recognize that the Bible seems to be speaking on both sides: God’s work and our work. Look at Romans 12, verse 1. Paul is begging here, the word “beseech” is “I pray” or “I beg.” “I beg you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And you do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” So God has done and is doing a good work. That’s what the Bible says – He will be faithful to complete that good work; He has predestined that it would be accomplished, according to His foreknowledge. He is doing and has done a good work. He has conquered sin and death on behalf of every single one of us, giving us life in Christ. He will perfect what He started. Ultimately, we read in Philippians, chapter 3, verse 21, “He will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” So, in Romans, chapter 12, verses 1 and 2, he says: YOU offer yourself as “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship, and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Then in Philippians, chapter 3, verse 21, he says: “HE, by HIS power will transform you to be conformed into His image. Now what’s going on here?! There’s a tension between His work and ours.
So He will finish it, but we are to present our bodies to be transformed into His image, not conformed to this world, that we would prove… There in Romans, chapter 12, verses 1 and 2, when it says, “that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God,” it’s the same word for reflect – that you would reflect back to the world what’s God’s perfect will. Do you feel that tension there between His work and our work? It’s there. One of my favorite verses in the Bible, and I have about 30,000 of them, but one of my favorites is Philippians, chapter 2, (it’s actually two verses) verses 12 and 13. Turn there, if you would, Philippians 2, Philippians 2, verse 12: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence,” speaking of the church, he says this, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Now, I’ll admit to you, if the verse stopped there and nothing more was said, then we would be left in fear and trembling. “You work it out…your salvation, your sanctification…work it out…with fear and trembling.” Verse 13: “…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure.” So we see – our work and His. There’s tension there. There’s supposed to be tension there. Our work and His. You, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to do His good pleasure.”
Now this tension is commonly referred to in two different doctrinal camps: One, Calvinism; and the other, Arminianism. How many of you have heard of Calvinism and Arminianism? It is the tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Is it completely God’s work, or is it yours too? Yes! How can you possibly say that?! There’s much division in the church as it relates to these two camps of theology. Primarily, although it goes back much further than this, but primarily since the reformation of the 16th Century, and the reformers that came about in Western Europe, predominately in Germany and Switzerland in the 16th Century. Now it goes back further, I recognize that, because it goes all the way back to some other individuals in church history, if you’re a student of church history, the names like Pelagan will come to mind. Names like Augustine will come to mind. These two individuals were divided on this issue. Pelagan leaned more towards the issue of man’s responsibility; Augustine leaned more towards the issue of God’s sovereignty. And then you fast-forward a thousand years or so, and then you come to the time of Martin Luther; and you have names like Luther and Zwingli and Calvin, and all these different reformers in Western Europe. And they started to establish, Jacob Arminius, they started to establish different doctrinal statements, catechisms, if you will. These were ways that people would articulate their faith. And as these people would articulate their faith, as backed up by the Scripture, over a period of time, there started to behold systematic theologies backing these sort of things. And then there started to be battles between the different camps, because they highlight two different things that are actually there in the Bible – Calvinism and Arminianism. Now, in our day, in America, in Western culture, predominately in the United States of America, the most vocal, and seeming to be the largest group because of the fact that they’re the most vocal, is the group that would be called the Reformed group or the Calvinistic group. Now, just because they’re the most vocal does not mean that they are the predominate philosophy as it relates to the systematic theology, if you will. But they are the most vocal.
Now, we don’t like this tension. And since we don’t like this tension we’ve tried to build up a case for why our view is the best view and the other view is not so good. The problem is this: you know there are hundreds of ways, in the Scriptures, in which you can explain away man’s responsibility in favor of God’s sovereignty. But the problem is there are a hundred ways, in the Scripture, in which you can emphasize man’s responsibility and bring down God’s sovereignty. So you have both presented in the Scriptures; and since there’s tension, and we don’t like tension, I mean we hate tension. We live in a culture where we’re always kind of, “Oh, just calm down, calm down. We don’t like tension. Can’t we all just get along?” The great philosopher of the L.A. Riots – Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”
I mean, that’s the cultural mantra. I find it very interesting, and we were all gripped by, this last week, what has happened in our nation. Not just in Boston, but also in Texas. I find it very interesting that these alleged bombers, two alleged bombers, when they carjacked a guy, in his black Mercedes Benz, he had a COEXIST sticker on the back of it. [laughter] TENSION!! [laughter] And probably the biggest area of our culture where there is a real desire for COEXIST is the Northeast. “Can’t we all just get along?” I mean, how ironic is it that they hijacked a guy with a COEXIST sticker on the back of it? I wonder if he’ll probably be not putting that on his next car? Sorry to make light of this, but it’s interesting. “Can’t we just get along?”
And so within the church there is this tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Some people really don’t like this. I love it, because this is mystery. Let me tell you something about God; you will never, with your finite mind, be able to grasp all of God. That’s actually a good thing, because if you could, He would not be worthy of our worship. If you could explain Him, He would not be worthy of your devotion. This is mystery. And I am a hundred percent certain that God is sovereign, and I am a hundred percent sure that man has responsibility before God. Just as I am certain that Jesus, when He came, was a hundred percent God and a hundred percent man. You say, “Well how does that work? How can you have these things be equal and yet be true?”
It’s a mystery. Let me remind you of something about God. Luke 1:37 says, “For with God nothing will be impossible.” What does “nothing” mean? Nothing. That’s not a hard question. It means nothing. “With God nothing will be impossible.” And so, in Christ, He is able to bring these things together, so, they coexist. [Laughter] Is God sovereign? Yes. Does man have responsibility? Yes. The Bible reveals both. How do these things work together? There’s no easy way to explain it, and I recognize that we live in a world in which we think everything should be able to be explained. And yet there are things that can’t be explained. Go and talk to the smartest physicist and ask them to explain to you Higgs boson or the other things of physics that they’re trying to explain and they will tell you, “Well, it’s a mystery. We’re trying to figure it out.”
You know the awesome thing about physics and all the aspects of science is that every single time they think they’ve got it, they get stumped again and go, “Where’d that come from? What? That’s not in any of our theories.” That’s the awesome thing about science. Science is always going to be pursuing and seeking after fact. They’re always going to be looking deep into these things, and they’re always going to find themselves scratching their head going, “Wow, it wasn’t quite the way we thought it was going to be.” Why? Because God created it that way. He wants us to be those who are seeking truth. Why? He’s not worried that we’re going to find something that’s against Him. Why? Because He is truth. He’s not bothered by our search for truth. He’s just not. Although we get freaked out by it.
“Oh, what if they find something that disproves God?”
Come on!!!! Are you serious?!?! Are you honestly worried about that? I’m not. So particle colliders. God bless ‘em. Have fun with particle colliders!! Figure it out!! You know it would be great if they could figure out this whole transportation thing, because flying on a plane for 14 hours is terrible! If I could just go stand there, put my bags in it and go, “Okay, beam me up.” Awesome!! Missions would be revolutionized!! Just think about how we’d be using that!! Let’s do it!! Collide some more particles. Figure it out. I’ve no doubt they’ll figure something like that out. Will it disprove God? No. It will only just make our minds go, “Wow!!! That’s amazing!!”
Is God sovereign? Yes. Does man have responsibility? Yes. There is no easy way to explain these things other than to say, “Listen, when we come, in the Bible, across passages of Scripture that deal with God’s sovereignty, we say ‘Look, God is sovereign.’” When we come across passages that show that man has responsibility, we say, “Look, man has responsibility.”
You say, “How do these things coexist?”
You say, “With God nothing shall be impossible.”
Now this is one of the philosophical tenets of Calvary Chapel that I love – a recognition that these things do exist in the Scriptures, and we experience that tension, but not to the point where we go, “It’s wrong.” We just say, “There’s tension there.”
Now there’s a “sweet spot” somewhere in the middle? Sure. But just when you think you’ve found something that proves your point that God is sovereign. You go, “Oh, but what a minute. What about this verse?”
You go, “Oh goodness. Let’s just collide another particle.”
You see, there are things that are in the Scriptures that are revealed in the Bible that are not easy to explain. Let me give you another one that is actually very clearly seen, although not easy to explain, in this passage, Romans, chapter 8. It’s the doctrine of the Trinity. You see, the Trinity, the concept that God is three in One – there is one God who exists in three Persons – is clearly revealed in the Bible. But it in no place is clearly articulated. There’s no single passage in the Bible that says, “This is exactly how you explain it.” And so there’s a lot of people who have a hard time with this. But we do find, in the Scriptures, that God the Father is revealed as God, having intellect, emotion, and will. We find that Jesus the Son is revealed as God, having intellect, emotion, and will. We find that the Holy Spirit is revealed as God. And yet there’s just one God. And yet, you know, I just love the way that Pastor Jeff explained this – I listened to his message online after he spoke last week – and he said it’s the concept, when we come to the word “God” in Genesis, chapter 1, and it’s the Hebrew word Elohim, which is One, but it’s plural. And we go, “Well how does that work?” It’s like when we say “family. We understand that a family is a single unit, but consisting of a group, a team. I’ll give you another one that Pastor Jeff didn’t give – church. The church, singularly, is a community of believers. So we recognize when we say “church,” we’re not just describing one, we’re describing many within one church. So the Trinity; it’s seen, it’s revealed in the Bible that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. He doesn’t exist as the Father, and then he stops existing as the Father and then exists as the Son, and then exists as the Spirit. Because there are times where we see them there together as One; as when Jesus was baptized. And there is Jesus the Son, and God the Father saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” as the Spirit descends and remains upon Him. There are many passages like that in the Scriptures that reveal this concept of the Trinity. How many of you can perfectly articulate the doctrine of the Trinity? Gosh, I don’t see a single hand. And yet we accept it. Why can’t we accept that God is sovereign and man has responsibility? Why can’t we accept that?
Now trust me, I have some very good friends who lean to one side or the other, and we interact about these things. But at the end of the day we say, “Hey listen, you love Jesus, I love Jesus; we’re a part of the body of Christ.” I have some friends who are extremely passionate about this issue, especially God’s sovereignty. And they just can’t stand that I say, “Hey, it’s a mystery.” It just drives them mad, and there’s part of me that loves it. It’s a twisted part, I recognize it. [laughter] Hey, in our own community one of the most well-known Reformed seminaries is right here in Escondido – Westminster Theological Seminary. Michael Horton, one of the key guys there, great, great mind; the guy is a genius when it comes to theology. Josh and I went to a pastors’ conference earlier in the year, it’s a Reformed pastors’ conference; we’re not, I’m not a Calvinist, I’m not Reformed in my view of the Scriptures, sovereignty. We’re walking through there, we have our name tags, it says Escondido, every single person who saw us said, “Oh yeah, Escondido.” Like they knew where Escondido was. I’ve never been somewhere else in the world where people go, “I know where Escondido is.” All these guys knew where Escondido was. Why? Westminster Theological Seminary – very well known, prestigious when it comes to soteriology.
Is God sovereign? Yes. And we could have Michael Horton here, and he could give you a thousand verses in the Bible that would prove that God is sovereign. And every one of us would walk away rejoicing in the sovereignty of God. And then the following week we could have someone come with a counterpoint. In fact, two great books came out last year, one by Michael Horton and another by Roger Olson. One was called For Calvinism, the other Against Calvinism. Michael Horton wrote For Calvinism, the counterpoint was written by Roger Olson. And when you read these two books, I’m reading through both of them going, “Amen. Amen. Amen.” Every time. Because it’s Scripture; it’s there. And I suggest to you that when you take a truth and you make it the truth, it becomes a lie, and you find yourself down on a tangent that is outside of the gospel.
So God is sovereign and man has responsibility. Both sides are presented in the Scriptures. And there is a “sweet spot” somewhere in the middle. And this is what Calvary Chapel has endeavored to do, is to stand there in the middle, and say, “We believe in the sovereignty of God, we believe in the responsibility of man.”
And I’m telling you, there are people within the church that just say, “Well that’s crazy. That doesn’t make any sense.”
We say it’s a mystery, because we believe in a big God. He’s bigger than our minds can grasp. And there are some great minds studying these things out there, some great minds. And I love reading some of their books. And there are things I totally agree with them on, and there are things I go, “Hey, you may have stretched that a little far.” But I still enjoy reading their stuff. And I recognize that sometimes “you eat the fish and spit out the bones.” I suggest to you that the “sweet spot” is found in the Spirit of God, which, again, the idea, the concept of the Spirit of God is mystery. We don’t fully grasp everything about pneumatology – the study of the Spirit of God. But we recognize it.
And so here in Romans, chapter 8, the Spirit of God takes center stage in the equation of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. The discussion of Romans, chapter 8 centers completely on the Person and work of the Spirit of God. Twenty-seven times in the book of Romans Paul uses the Greek word pneuma, some people say pneuma. It all depends on which Greek teacher you had. But the Spirit is presented 27 times in the book of Romans; 21 of them are in Romans, chapter 8. That should tell you something about the book of Romans, chapter 8; Romans, chapter 8 is focused on the Spirit of God. He takes center stage. So, whereas Romans, chapter 7 reveals the futility of man’s ability, in and of himself; Romans, chapter 8 highlights the potency of God’s Spirit – the power of the Spirit of God at work in the life of the believer. Man, because of the fall, is sold to sin. Sin’s power is clearly evident in the life of an individual, even post-conversion, even after a person is saved, we still see the effects of the sin nature. It’s there. Every single one of us, if we’re honest, we’ll say, “Yes, I’ve experienced that reality in my life. ‘The good things I want to do, I don’t do; the bad things I don’t want to do, that’s what I practice.’” Let me illustrate it like this: Have any of you ever said, “I need to lose some weight?”
We live in America – billions spent on weight loss every single year. And you know what, if you watch a spending curve, on spending as it relates to weight loss, for some reason, we can’t figure this out, for some reason it peaks right around December/January. For some reason. A lot of New Year’s resolutions. So, you have this thought, “I need to lose some weight. I need to get fit. It’s a good thing I want to do. The good thing that I want to do, I don’t do.” Why? “Well, because there’s things like dessert; there’s things like holidays. And man, there’s some good things to eat.” Right?! Existentially good, not so good to the body.
And so we all have experienced that “the good things I want to do, I don’t do. The bad thing I don’t want to do…” What’s that bad thing I don’t want to do? “I don’t want to eat the Coldstone big, you know… I don’t want to do that, because that’s not going to be a good thing. That’s what I practice. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” Anybody relate? You don’t want to raise your hands, do you? I know, I know. We’ve all been there.
Romans 7 highlights the futility of man’s ability. But the power of God’s Spirit, as we walk in the Spirit, we can overcome the power of sin resident in our flesh. If we try to overcome sin’s power by our own might, we fail and we fall every time. In our own might, we are always conquered by sin. Sin has victory when we are standing by our own strength; but in Christ, we are more than conquerors through Him. Through Him we have victory. And, look at verse 1, Romans, chapter 8; I know, it took me 40 minutes to get there.
Romans 8, verse 1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Now I recognize some of you may have noticed when I read this at the beginning of the service today, you may have thought, “He didn’t read the rest of the verse.” I did that purposefully. In many of your translations, verse 1 reads: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Most of the earliest, in fact all of the earliest manuscripts do not have that last clause at the end of verse 1. It is found in verse 4, so it’s not like the truth is removed from the text. It’s just not in verse 1. Most Bible scholars will tell you they don’t believe it should be in verse 1 because it adds a condition that shouldn’t be there. It’s not consistent with the text. You see, read it with the condition if it’s there: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” that is, “if you walk according to the Spirit.” You see that doesn’t fit with the context of the passage. Jesus paid it “some.” No! Jesus paid it all. Jesus didn’t cry on the cross, “It is nearly finished!” “It is finished!” He is victorious. His resurrection proves His victory. And so, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Now it’s important we define, or at least give a better understanding to the idea of the word “condemnation.” Because a lot of times we’ll hear people say, “Well, see you sinned and you’re experiencing all this guilt. That’s condemnation.” No, that’s not condemnation; that is conviction. And yes, sometimes the enemy, our adversary, the devil, he will take advantage of the convicting work of the Spirit in guilt – guilt is a good thing, if it leads us to God in repentance and confession. But the enemy, he’ll take advantage of guilt and that conviction, and he will cause you to be deflated and to run from God. As we see with Adam and Eve in the garden; they hid themselves from God. That’s the wrong response to conviction. The word “condemnation” here is a damnatory sentence. It’s that you are sentenced to punishment by God. It’s not just feeling bad over sin; that’s conviction. In Christ, because of what Jesus did on the cross, there is no more damnatory sentence. He has taken away condemnation. Where did condemnation come from? Well, if you look back in Romans, chapter 5, we find where it came from, because in verses 16 and 18 we find that Adam sinned bringing judgment and condemnation. When Adam sinned, he brought a damnatory sentence upon humanity, and in Christ, that is done away with. Adam brings condemnation, Christ, in Him, there’s no condemnation.
So it’s wrong to use this verse as just, “Well you shouldn’t feel bad for your sin.”
No, yes you should feel bad for your sin!! You should.
And we should never use this verse to say, “Well, because of what Jesus did on the cross, I just don’t feel bad when I do bad things.”
Wait, wait, what?!
I’ve met some Christians who say that. “No, He paid for it. It’s okay. I sin; it’s alright. He paid for it. It’s okay. I don’t need to do anything more.”
No, no; repent, confess!! Receive His forgiveness. Walk in newness of life. “Walk in the Spirit, not fulfilling the desires of your flesh.” Why? Because you no longer have a damnatory sentence in Christ. You’re no longer condemned to hell because of sin, because of what Jesus did. It’s taken care of. “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; sin had left its crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.” It’s done. There is no condemnation to those who are… Where? …in Christ.
What does that say by implication? Those who are outside of Christ stand under condemnation. Why? “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and death spread to all humanity,” and through that sin comes judgment and damnation, punishment. “But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” Now that’s Romans 7, verse 6. And Romans 7, verse 6 is actually the logical place where Paul is pointed back to when he says, “Therefore…” “There is therefore no condemnation.” You see, any time we see a “therefore” in the Bible, we have to consider what it’s there for. And the “therefore” of Romans 8:1 takes us back to Romans 7:6. Romans 7:6 – “But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by,” to sin, we’ve died to it, so that now “we should in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the” law, “the letter. There is therefore now no condemnation,” no one under damnation any longer, “to those who are in Christ Jesus.” His grace is abundant, it is rich to all who call upon Him. Romans 10, verse 12 says, “For there is no distinction between Jew or Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.” He is rich in grace. It never runs out. There’s never a time when you come before His throne of grace, and He goes, “Aw, I’m really sorry, John took all of it about 20 minutes ago. It’s gone. Not enough there.” Never a time. He’s rich to all who call upon Him. And this is not conditional upon us walking in the Spirit. It’s conditional upon what Jesus did on the cross; that’s all. He paid it all.
How does it work? Look at verse 2: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made us free from the law of sin and death.” Now it’s probably more accurate to read this: “For the principle of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the principle of sin and death.” It’s not law in the sense of the Mosaic Law; it’s just a principle at work in my life. And because of what Jesus has done, He has brought into our lives a new standard, a new principle – the principle of life in the Spirit, the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. In John, chapter 1, verse 4, it says, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. And that light shines in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.
“But there was a man sent from God, whose name was John. Who came to bear witness of the light, that everyone who believes would have that life.”
And then we read in John, chapter 1, verse 14: “The Word,” the light, the life, “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.” The glory of the light and life in Jesus Christ. “We beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Full of grace and truth; not kinda like, “Well, is it half empty or half full.” No!! FULL of grace and truth.
And so the law of the Spirit, the principle of the Spirit of God at work in us; the Spirit of life that’s in Christ Jesus; He sets us free from the principle of sin and death that we were subject to in Adam, Romans, chapter 5. Now, we have the Spirit of life in Christ – Victory in Jesus.
Verse 3, Romans, chapter 8: “For what the law could not do;” the law was incapable of bringing this. The law of God, given in Exodus, chapter 20, through the hand of Moses, it was incapable of doing what Jesus does. “For what the law could not do in that it was weak.” Why is the law weak? “It was weak through the flesh.” Who’s flesh? Our flesh. It’s not that the law is lacking. It is holy, it is just, it is good; the law of the Lord is perfect the Bible says; it’s perfect, but we are imperfect. We cannot fulfill the requirement of the law. And so: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh God did.” Would you circle that in your Bibles? God did it. How did He do it? “By sending His Son.” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” God did what we could not do. Jesus comes, the incarnation – fully God becomes fully man. He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Notice He did not take on sinful flesh; He comes like us, in human form Philippians, chapter 2, verse 5 through 11 tells us. He comes “in the likeness of sinful flesh on account of sin.” He came as the payment for sin. How did He do it? He condemned sin in the flesh. He took the punishment of sin upon Himself in His flesh. The law could not do this. Hebrews 10:1 says, “For the law, having a shadow of good things to come, can never with the same sacrifices, which they offered continually year by year, it can never make us perfect.” Even though Psalm 19 says the law of the Lord is perfect, it can never make us perfect. Never. It could never set us free from sin. But Jesus comes. You see, we’re willing, our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. “For what I will to do, I do not practice.” Sound familiar? Romans 7:18, 15. “For the will is present with me, but the power to do so is not there. For I know; “for the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”
So, what? God does it. He accomplishes it. Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh. He is not sinful because the Bible tells us in Hebrews, chapter 7, verse 26 that “He is holy and harmless and undefiled and separate from sinners.” He is the perfect High Priest for us because He came as a human being, but He is holy and harmless and undefiled. “He was tempted in all points like as we are,” says Hebrews 4, verse 15, “yet without sin.” As a man, Jesus took upon Himself all of our sin, 2 Corinthians 5, verse 21 says, “He became sin for us.” And what did He do? 1 Peter, chapter 2, verse 24: “He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the cross that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes we are healed.” And Peter is quoting Isaiah chapter 53, verse 5 – “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
And so, the law couldn’t do it, “that it was weak through the flesh,” but God did it “by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,” verse 4, Why? “That the righteous requirement of the law;” what the law requires of humanity, that that righteous requirement of the law, “might be fulfilled” by us? “…in us.” “…in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” There it is. Jesus did all of this so that “the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” He fulfilled the just requirement of the law; He lived a perfect life; He died on account of sin there on the cross. Therefore, now God desires to fulfill, completely fulfill, the righteous requirement of the law; that is what the law requires in righteousness. God wants to accomplish that in me and in you. How does He do that? Well He tells us: He does it by us walking not in the flesh, but according to the Spirit. The righteous requirement of God’s law is fulfilled in us as we walk in the Spirit.
Turn in your Bibles to Galatians 3 – Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians. Galatians 3. (It’s only the first service and I’m losing my voice already.) Galatians 3 – “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ is clearly portrayed as crucified?” He was crucified; He paid it all. “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” You have the Spirit of God dwelling in you; did you do anything spectacular to get that? No. Jesus did it all. How? He was crucified. “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, that you are now going to be made perfect by the works of your flesh?”
Look at Galatians, chapter 5, verse 16. What’s the answer then? Because we want to live righteously. That’s what that spirit in us yearns to live in a way that is glorifying to God. So, how can we do it? Well, verse 16, Galatians 5: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the desires of your sinful” nature, “of your flesh. For the flesh, it lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that you do not do that which you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
“Now the works of the flesh, they’re evident.” It’s clearly seen what is fleshly and carnal and of your sin nature. What are they? “…adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.” It’s all entertainment in America. All of that; it’s the work of the flesh. “Of which I tell you beforehand, just as I told you in times past, that those that practice;” that is perpetually walk in and continue in, “such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
If we live in the Spirit – that is, we’ve been made alive by Christ. He made us alive!! Therefore, let us walk in the Spirit. Let us walk in the Spirit; denying the flesh, walking in the Spirit, we will have victory.
What does it look like? You have to come back next week. It’s a big chapter.
Let’s stand together.
Father, thank You for Your word; it is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. And we need You to work, by Your word and by Your Spirit in our lives, that we would experience the victory that Your word describes. Lord, help us to walk in that place, in the middle, in the “sweet spot,” knowing that You are sovereign, You have won the life for us, and You’ve given us the responsibility which You enable us to accomplish by Your Spirit. Lord, we pray for Your enabling power in our lives. Lord, I pray for my brothers and sisters here this morning, God, You know the desires of our hearts. Lord, You know our desire to live in a way that reflects Your glory; work that in us. Lord, I know that perhaps here today there are some who don’t know You yet. We pray, God, that You would be working by Your Spirit; that You would bring salvation. Lord, bring sanctification in our lives, that we would see You glorified by who we are. Amen.