We now come to the eighth chapter of Romans, and will approach this remarkable passage of Scripture in two parts. First we discuss verse 1 to 25.
Chapter 8 is primarily about the Holy Spirit and the believer. It triumphantly succeeds chapter 7 where Paul shared with us his inmost thoughts about the effects upon him of the law and of sin. He reached a climax of near-despair with, ‘What a wretched man I am!’ (7:11). His inmost being, sensitive to God’s law, impelled him to one course of action, while his old sinful nature drove him to another. But despair? Oh no; that, Paul learned, was not God’s purpose for him, nor for any Christian. Now there is presented to us a new law, the law of the Spirit of life. This is ours through Jesus Christ, and has the power to liberate from the law of sin and death.
The first passage of this chapter, up to verse 17, expounds the difference between the natural mind of sinful man and the mind controlled by the Holy Spirit. The apostle reminds his readers of the spring and source of this Spirit-led victorious living. It was in God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. God forbid that we ever forget the glory and grace of this divine initiative. With the work of Calvary an accomplished triumph of deliverance, the Lord Jesus promised His own, ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you’ (Acts 1:8).
Now this strong apostle of Jesus Christ says, ‘If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you’ (8:11). And again he says, ‘if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God … we are God’s children … heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ’ (8:13-17).
In chapter 6 of Romans we read, ‘do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies, and, count yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.’ Now here in chapter 8 we are forcefully reminded of the available grace and power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to do just that. A study of Romans 8 can hardly help becoming a study of the work of the divine Spirit in, and for, the believer in Christ. We have the law of the Spirit; the witness of the Spirit; the first-fruits of the Spirit; and the intercession of the Spirit. Linked to the Lord’s own promises about the Holy Spirit in John chapters 14 and 16, we have a rich compendium of teaching about that wonderful self-effacing Person of the Holy Trinity who is designated in 2 Corinthians 3:18, ‘the Lord … the Spirit’.
Then following on from his vigorous exhortation towards a Spirit-controlled mind, and our bodies truly becoming instruments of righteousness, we are given a salutary insight into some of the wider purposes of God. If, says Paul, we indeed share in Christ’s sufferings, it is in order that we may also share in His glory. And that glory in which we are one day to share, and which will be revealed to us, is something that God plans to be shared by the whole of creation. Here God’s purposes are seen in all their cosmic grandeur. ‘Creation itself’, we read, ‘will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (8:21).
Yes, it is a Christian responsibility to conserve the environment today, and all in anticipation of God bringing all His purposes of universal restoration to fruition. ‘We wait eagerly’, says verse 23, ‘for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies’. Then at last will come the full deliverance from this body of death that we read about in chapter 7. In due course will follow the restored perfection of all creation beyond the wildest dreams of any ecologist. This God will do; and ‘in this hope we were saved’. But a final realistic call to patience as we hope for what we do not yet have: ‘We wait for it patiently’ (8:24,25).