Romans 8:2

Sermon preached on October 12, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

A few years ago I read a book called, "
The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage". As the title says, the book is about the quest in the 1800's to find the Northwest Passage, a route for ships to navigate through the Arctic Ocean and reach Japan and China by a much shorter route than going around the tip of South America or Africa. At that time the British were very interested in finding this route. In April 1818 four ships set off from the Thames River near London heading for the Arctic Ocean to test a theory that today sounds crazy. (p. 14 & 6)

"Their mission was to test the theory, widely credited at the time, that the Arctic Ocean was in fact not frozen except around its edges. Within its tonsure of ice it was an open sea and it ought to be possible, if the theory were correct, to penetrate this frozen rim and sail to the Pacific over the top of the earth, right across the North Pole, cutting thousands of miles off the usual routes around Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope.""For generations… men deluded themselves into believing that sea ice did not exist, or that if it did, it occurred only in shallow water, in the vicinity of land, while in the open oceans it could not form because of the action of the waves. Some scientists even theorized that salt water could not freeze at all."

What a crazy idea. Back in the early 1800's, and ever since, the Arctic Ocean has been filled with ice, all the time. Up until the 1980 and 90's it hardly melted at all. Today some scientists tell us that the Arctic Ocean will be ice free sometime in the future because of climate change. But that certainly wasn't the case in the 1800's.

Just like that crazy idea back then, today there are a lot of things that are totally wrong that are being pushed on Christians. For example, in schools today, with sex education, our society tells Christian teenagers that the idea of abstinence as birth control is laughable and foolhardy. Now that may be true for most young people in our society. Without the power of the Holy Spirit to help them—sexual promiscuity is rampant and perhaps it is naïve to think that unbelievers can keep themselves under control.

But when our society tells Christian young people that the idea of abstinence is ridiculous—it's then that they go too far. At that point they don't have a clue about the power of the Spirit in Christian young people.

But what about you as a Christian? Do you have a good understanding of the Spirit's power in your life? Or are you buying into the ideas of our pagan society? The prevailing attitude of society today is that in many areas there's no point in struggling against sin (although they don't call it 'sin') because it just doesn't work.

Such attitudes toward sin are being accepted by some professing Christians. Many professing Christians just accept their sin. They've made a truce with it. At first they tried to overcome it, but after trying without success for awhile, they have accepted the fact that sin is just part of their lives that they have to live with.

There are many examples of this. At presbytery last month someone was telling us that it's quite common now for unmarried professing Christians to live together before they're married. According to them, many professing Christian young people are doing that. They've become just like the world. Waiting till you're married is old fashioned, outdated, unreasonable. It's more economical for two young people to live together than for them to live apart. So they indulge in their sin because it's too hard to wait until they get married. They disobey God and think that they're still Christians in good standing.

Or a husband or a wife is an difficult marriage and they don't have biblical reasons for divorce. What do they do? They try for awhile and then they throw in the towel. They give up. They file for divorce.

Another example is pornography. Pornography is so accessible in today's world that apparently many professing Christians have it as a regular part of their lives. They perhaps have the idea that the temptation is so strong that it's too much for them, that they have to give in to it. Their wives may even grudgingly accept and in a way approve of the fact that their husbands indulge in porn.

But of course it's easy to talk about other people's sins. What about your sins, the sins you've made a truce with? It may be pride, discouragement, gossip, lack of hospitality, failure to actively love others—if we examine our hearts I'm sure we can find sins that we've let live in our hearts.

All in all, there is a defeatism in the air that really has no place in Christianity. Consider what Paul says in our text. (Romans 8:1–2)

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus,
because through Christ Jesus the law
of the Spirit of life set me free
from the law of sin and death."

Jesus rules. He has given us the Spirit. He has freed us. He has given us a status of no condemnation. The implications of this are far reaching. We should rejoice in this. We should be overcoming sin and temptation. In a certain sense we should be living the life of the new age—filled with the Spirit and bringing much glory to our God.

The teaching of verse 1 is tremendous—

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus…"

But the question is: how do I know that this applies to me? One of the answers to this question is found in verse 2.

"through Christ Jesus the law
of the Spirit of life set me free
from the law of sin and death."

God has not only forgiven our sins and counts us as righteous, but He has also given us the Spirit to transform us. This is one of the ways we know we are in Christ.

I love how John Calvin expresses this truth,

"The Spirit sprinkles our souls with the blood of Christ, not only to cleanse us from the stain of sin in respect of our guilt, but also to sanctify us to true purity."

The Spirit gives us power. The Spirit liberates us. The Spirit transforms us. In Christ Jesus we have a new principle of life. John Murray notes that the context here has to do,

"with sanctification and what God has done in Christ to deliver us fro the power of sin. Hence what is thrust into the foreground in the terms 'no condemnation' is not only freedom from the guilt but also freedom from the enslaving power of sin."

Christians, one of the pressing needs of the day is for all of us to realize the power of the Spirit in our lives and to draw on His power to live lives that glorify Jesus Christ.

There are three things we see in our text.

The first is

we are set free from the law of sin and death.

Because of the sin of Adam, all Mosaic Law has for us in our natural state is sin and death. Without the Spirit the law only produces death. It's a curse to sinners. As Galatians 3:10 says,

"All who rely on observing the law
are under a curse, for it is written:
'Cursed is everyone who does
not continue to do everything written
in the Book of the Law.'"

The law in itself is good. But because of our corruption, it is the source of sin and death to us. As Romans 6:23 says,

"For the wages of sin is death…"

The Mosaic Law cannot save. It can only condemn. Galatians 3:21 says,

"For if a law had been given
that could impart life,
then righteousness would certainly
have come by the law."

The law could not give life. It's impossible. For children of Adam the law is only about sin and death. As Romans 7:5 says,

"For when we were controlled
by the sinful nature, the sinful passions
aroused by the law were at work
in our bodies, so that
we bore fruit for death."

But the wonderful news of our text is that for those who are in Christ Jesus, the Spirit of life has set us free from all that. The idea of being 'set free' in our text refers to being set free from 'domination'. We are no longer under the authority and control of sin. As Paul said in Romans 6:14–15

"For sin shall not be your master,
because you are not under law,
but under grace."

Christian, this means two things for you.

First, it means that you ought to be rejoicing in your standing in Christ.

There is no condemnation to you. You have been set free from the law of sin and death. Your new status is incredible. You have been raised with Christ. You stand in the power of the age to come—the power of the Spirit.

So this means, secondly,

that you should have a confident attitude about overcoming sin.

You can overcome the evil one. I love how Paul puts it in Ephesians 6 when he tells Christians to put on the whole armor of God. In verse 13 of that chapter he says,

"Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything,
to stand."

There should be no defeatism in your attitude. Instead there should be a triumphant optimism. You should not have this confidence because of your own strength, but because of your union with Christ your having the Spirit.

The second great truth we see in our text is that through Christ Jesus,

the law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death.

The Spirit refers to the Holy Spirit. In many places in the New Testament the Spirit and life are associated. For example, in John 6:63, we are told that 'the Spirit gives life'. 1 Corinthians 15:45 tells us that the last Adam, Jesus, became 'a life-giving Spirit'. John Murray, (Romans, p. 276)

"'The law of the Spirit of life' is…the power of the Holy Spirit operative in us to make us free from the power of sin which is unto death."

Jesus died for our sins. After He ascended into heaven He send the Spirit upon the church. The coming of the Spirit changed everything. We have the principle of 'life' given to us through the Spirit.

We are under the law of the Spirit of life. What does this mean? Does this mean that the law has no relevance to our lives?
No. It's the same law but now it's entirely different for us. We are not under the law as far as it being a curse. As the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:18,

"But if you are led by the Spirit,
you are not under law."

But we are under the law of the Spirit of life. We have newness of life. Does this mean that we don't have to be holy, that we don't have to obey the law? Not at all.

For a Christian, the law of God is good. The law reflects God's character. We were created to be like God. We are saved by Jesus Christ to be like God. Jeremiah 31:33 spoke to the Old Testament people of God about the new covenant that God would one day make. He said,

"'This is the covenant I will make
with the house of Israel after that time,'
declares the LORD.'
'I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.'"

Sinclair Ferguson writes, (The Holy Spirit, p. 166)

"the new covenant believer does not receive the moral law in the same way as did the believer under the Mosaic administration; now it is received in Christ who has fulfilled its ordinances and suffered the penalty of its breach in our place, as well as in the power of the Spirit who energies Christ's people to fulfill it in their own lives."

Jesus has forgiven our sins and taken the curse away. He has given us His Spirit in order to live the law, not as a way of salvation, but as a way to glorify God.

Christians, this means that

you need to love God's law.

The law shows you what God is like. The law shows you what God loves. The law of God ought to be your delight. Just as Jesus said that His food and drink was to do the Father's will, so you should delight in God's law. It should be more precious to you than gold or silver.

The third principle we see in our text is that

this is all through Jesus Christ.

All these benefits come to us because of the work of Jesus on our behalf. It's all about Him.

We don't keep God's law in order to trust in our works, in order to get into heaven. That relationship to the law has always been impossible. We are not saved by our works. We are saved by Jesus and His work for us. That's what we should boast in.

But now that Jesus has taken away the curse,

this means that we can be, and we should, be holy.

Cranfield writes, (Romans, Vol. 1, p. 377-378)

"While the Christian never in this life escapes entirely from the hold of egotism, that is, of sin, so that even the best things he does are always marred by its corruption, and any impression of having obtained a perfect freedom is but an illusion, itself the expression of the same egotism, there is a vast difference between the ways in which the believer and the unbeliever are prisoners of the law of sin… The believer is no longer an unresisting, or only ineffectually resisting, slave, nor is he one who fondly imagines that his bondage is emancipation. In him a constraint even stronger than that of sin is already at work, which both gives him an inner freedom… And also enables him to revolt against the usurper sin with a real measure of effectiveness. He has received the gift of the freedom to fight back manfully."


for those of you who aren't Christians,

this shows you that you need Jesus, that you need Him to give you the Spirit of life.

You are under the law. For you it's the law of sin and death. In your present relationship to the law, the law will destroy you. Go to Jesus. You need Him to save you.