So what are Paul’s premises leading up to that conclusion?
Premise 1: There are two walks.
One is a walk of the Spirit and the other a walk of the flesh. “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” (Romans 8:1).
What is the walk of the flesh? It is living under the burden of work, work and work and, then, if you work hard enough, God will notice just how hard you’re working and, as a result, might love you. The walk of the Spirit is the understanding that you don’t have the energy, goodness or skills to work long enough or hard enough to get God to love you. It is looking to his mercy and grace…period.
Some twit once said, “I’m a self-made man.” To which his pastor replied, “I’m glad. It relieves the Lord of a great responsibility.” Along the same lines and with great insight, C.S. Lewis once said that hell is getting your way for all of eternity.
What is walking in the Spirit? Quite simply, it is leaning on Christ. It is understanding that, if it weren’t for his grace, you would be lost. It is trusting in God alone for salvation and for sanctification.
Premise 2: There are two laws.
One is the law of the Spirit and life, the other the law of sin and death. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
What is the law of sin and death? It says that if you trust in the law for your goodness, you had better be very, very good. In other words, the law is the law and you are going to be measured by that law. Because no one has ever lived up to the law except Jesus Christ, you are in trouble, your sin will be revealed and you will die eternally. A scary thought.
What is the law of the Spirit? It says that Jesus Christ obeyed the law perfectly and became your sacrifice. If you trust in that sacrifice, it will be sufficient. When you trust in Christ, he is sufficient to free you from the law of sin and death.
Premise 3: There are two possibilities.
One is effective and the other is ineffective. “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own 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” (Romans 8:3-4).
Back when I was a pastor, at communion, I used to issue an invitation: “The only people we allow to take communion in this church are perfect people. And there are only two ways to be perfect…one never works and the other always works. You can work hard to become perfect on your own (which is impossible) or you can accept the imputed righteousness of Christ in your life. If you’re a Christian, you aren’t perfect, but you are in the eyes of God because of what Christ has done for you on the cross.”
If you are trying to be better, the law isn’t going to help. If you are trying to be perfect, nothing will help…except for the blood of Christ.
Premise 4: There are two thought processes.
One is centered on the flesh and the other is centered on God. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:5-8).
Proverbs says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (23:7). Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Let me say something that may surprise you. The truth is, I’m not so much concerned with your actions. I’m very concerned, though, with your heart and with your mind.
If you think you’re a horse, that won’t make you one...because that simply does not reflect reality. However, if you focus your thoughts on a reality, that reality will become even more real to you. Notice what Paul says here. Those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on things of the Spirit. That is what the Holy Spirit does in the life of the believer. The Holy Spirit reminds the believer of Jesus. Therein is the place where God makes us more like Christ. It starts in the mind long before it becomes a reality in our actions.
Premise 5: There are two internal realities.
One is his and the other is ours. “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:9-10).
Paul, in talking to Christians, makes a statement about a reality…not something to hope for or something to work toward, but something that is already a present reality.
You don’t have to force people into your mold. You don’t have to make people be good. You don’t have to require that people be righteous. You don’t have to condemn. You just have to trust Jesus with them. It is his Spirit that brings forth righteousness.
Premise 6: There are two destinations.
One is eternal life and the other is eternal death. “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).
If the risen Christ is in you, you will live forever. The grave will not be the final comment of your life. Jesus came back from the dead and he said we could too.
I often think of Home…where my mother, father and brother are. They weren’t perfect…but that isn’t the point. They all belonged to Christ. My father, in fact, became a Christian just before his death. The reason he stayed away from the church and from God for so long wasn’t that he thought believers were all hypocrites, it was because he felt that he was never good enough.
People don’t get to heaven because of what they have done but because Christ was raised from the dead…and he likes to be with his friends.
Listen. Let it ring in your ears and beat in your heart. It is the conclusion of everything God has been doing: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”