Epistle: Romans 8:1-11 (Lent 5: Series A)

Reading Time: 3 mins

Look to the cross of Christ and there we see sin has been executed to death.

Our last Sunday in Lent sets before us a magnificent text in Romans 8:1-11. Important for the preacher to remember is that this text sits within the Apostle Paul’s existing, multi-chapter argument. Resist the temptation to preach a detail and miss the whole. Take note how the same argument is in play from chapter 7 pertaining to the Christian’s relationship to the Law, although the tone of voice has been greatly altered. The argument from chapter 7 stretches all the way to 8:11.

The reasoning expresses the intention of the Law to facilitate the way of life where one only finds achievement when, by the Holy Spirit, God gives resurrection life to all those who belong to Christ Jesus. In the first instance, this refers to baptism; the point of contact with the resurrection and the life, Jesus Himself. In the second instance, and by extension, it refers to the resurrection of the body on the Last Day. In our present passage, the foundation for this conclusion is firmly laid, as Paul unveils the glorious gospel response to the Law (the Gospel in Jesus Christ) who fulfills the Law on our (both Jew and gentile) behalf in perfect righteousness but also absorbs its justice by being the atonement and propitiation on the cross for the whole world.

Paul opened the door for discussing the role of the Holy Spirit in chapter 7. Now in chapter 8, he unfolds the mystery of Christian life in Christ: It is life in the Spirit. Extending the trajectory of the chapter (and Paul’s argument), the final verses celebrate the assurance we, who have been re-created in the Messiah, have in Christ Jesus, that we will not be condemned by the Law.

Verse 1 declares Paul’s central point: “There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” How is this so, one may ask? Verses 2-11 unfold the explanation, starting with the words: “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” The connectedness of chapter 7 to 8 and, within 8, versus 1 through 11, underscore the point that we see the whole glorious argument and not take a myopic approach to this text. Very frequently, for Paul, the Gospel is a big picture message.

God has acted in and through His Son and the Spirit to condemn sin and provide resurrection life.

For there to be any appreciation of the force of the words “no condemnation,” there must be a preceding apprehension of one’s own sinfulness. Whereas you once stood condemned, and rightly so, now there is no condemnation. How is this so? Interestingly, Paul has baited us: He put the “therefore” before the explanatory “because.” The “because” follows, saying there is no condemnation because the Spirit or, better, the law of the Spirit, has freed you, both Jews and gentiles, from the sin-condemning Law. God has acted in and through His Son and the Spirit to condemn sin and provide resurrection life. There are now two types of human beings in this world (Jesus being the firstborn of the new creation) and you are of the new Spirit-of-God humanity (not of the law-of-death humanity) because the two types of humanity are heading toward either life (in Christ Jesus) or death (in Adam). For you, that is for you who are in Christ Jesus by the gift of faith imparted through preaching the Word or the Word manifest in holy baptism, there is no condemnation.

The Apostle says, what the Law was intended to do (give life) but could never do because of fallen human nature and sinfulness, the Spirit has done through the law of grace; a higher law, as it were. The law of the Spirit is a spirit of obedience and a disposition of divine love within the renewed, recreated person. That is life in this age. On the Last Day, this is taken to the perfecting of our salvation with resurrection life.

Paul then deals with the question of the resurgence of sin. Will it not nullify this work of God when it resurfaces, as it does again and again? True, Paul knew all too well about the persistence of sin within the Christian. But, he says, sin and death have been dealt a fatal blow. Yes, sin has been condemned, but more than that it has been fatally wounded. Look to the cross of Christ and there we see sin has been executed to death. There has been a blood atonement for sin. Jesus is our propitiation. Jesus has expiated sin. Lent climaxes with this expectation, which is why the text has been set for the final Sunday in Lent. All eyes shift to the victory on the cross. Jesus has “become sin” or “in the likeness of sinful flesh” sin is, as it were, terminated in Christ Jesus. Paul maximizes his language by saying sin had become “exceedingly sinful” through the Law which condemned Israel and all mankind, who were now being represented by the world’s rightful King — Jesus. He, then, is condemned and sin receives a blood atonement. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This is the best possible news for the baptized who have ventured through Lent conscious of their own sinfulness. Jesus has made a blood atonement for you. Now, you who are in Christ Jesus are to live as resurrection people under the influence of Spirit. Verses 5-11 unfold what this looks like through juxtaposing images of Spirit and flesh, life and death.


Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you preaching Romans 8:1-11.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Romans 8:1-11.