Verse of the Day 7.4.17 — Romans 8:1-2
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:1-2)1
Author: Perhaps unlike any other New Testament writing, there has been little scholarly dispute concerning the author of Romans — the Apostle Paul.2 Paul was a servant of Christ, called and set apart as an apostle of the gospel of God — a gospel that was foretold in the Old Testament — so that all the non Jewish nations/peoples (i.e. Gentiles (ethnos))3 might come to the obedience that comes from faith (Rom 1:1, 5).
Paul was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin (one of the twelve tribes of Israel), who was a former Pharisee so zealous for the Old Testament Law that he was persecuting the recently established Christian church (Php 3:8) — a group of primarily Jewish converts who believed that Jesus, the Son of God, had risen from the dead (Acts 2). So much so, Paul/Saul approved of the stoning of Stephen (Ac 7:54-8:1), one of the first seven deacons who became the first known Christian martyr.4 In addition, Paul/Saul made murderous threats against those who followed Jesus (Ac 9:1). After Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damscus, however (circa 33 AD)5 (Acts 9), Saul, whose named was then changed to Paul, became a believer, evangelist, and the most prolific New Testament author.
Date: According to scholars, Paul most likely wrote the letter to the Romans circa 55-57 A.D. At this time, Paul had already completed his missionary journeys throughout the northeastern Mediterranean region (Rom 15:19, 23) and was preparing to return to Jerusalem (Rom 15:25; cf. Acts 21, etc.) before finally arriving at his long sought after destination — Rome (Ac 28:11-30).6.
Audience: The churches in Rome — “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people” (Rom 1:7).
Scholars maintain that the churches in Rome included Jewish converts from the considerable first century Jewish community in Rome of 40,000 to 50,000. In Rome, Christianity most likely first took root in the Jewish synagogues. According to Suetonius, secretary to Emperor Hadrian until 121/2 AD, Emperor Claudius (died in 54 AD),7 banished many Jews from Rome due to “disturbances ‘instigated by Chrestus’ (Suetonius Claudius 25.4), where ‘Chrestus’ is almost universally taken as a reference to Christ”8 (cf. Ac 18:2). This took place circa 49 AD.9
The Roman churches also included Gentiles (non-Jews) who had also become followers of Christ. After Jews were expelled from Rome in 49 AD, it is reasonable to infer that many Gentiles then filled the vacuum of Christian leadership. Since by the time Paul wrote Romans (55-57 AD) Claudius had died (54 AD), many Jewish Christians may have returned to churches in Rome — plausibly resulting in tension and power struggles.10.
Purpose: Scholars believe that Paul likely had at least three kinds of purposes when writing the letter to the Romans: (1) missionary, (2) apologetic, and (3) pastoral. Paul sought to evangelize — proclaim the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, defend the true nature of this Gospel, and to address the aforementioned potential or actual divisions in the churches in Rome united by the Gospel.11
Literary Context: After the introduction/prologue (1:1-15), Paul thoroughly explains the nature of the Gospel (1:16-11:36), and explains how Christians should live in light of the Gospel (12:1-15:13).12 Paul concludes the letter with remarks concerning his ministry, his future plans, his personal greetings, warnings, and a doxology.13
1:18-3:20: In Paul’s exposition, he first emphasizes “the unrighteousness of all humankind (Rom 1:18-3:20),”14 which pertains to both Jews and Gentiles. In the eyes of God, everyone is guilty of sin and deserving of punishment. Furthermore, no one can be saved by their own efforts (e.g., works of — adherence to — the Old Testament Law).15
3:21-5:21: After explaining all of humanity’s need for righteousness, Paul discusses the “righteousness only God can provide.”16 Such righteousness is received through faith in Jesus Christ (3:21-31), was exemplified by Abraham (4:1-25), and results in peace, hope, reconciliation, and imputed righteousness.17 Imputed righteousness is righteousness ascribed to believers via the work of God to bring all who have faith in Christ into right standing with Himself — justification.18 This is made possible by the loving, atoning sacrifice of Jesus (Rom 3:25, 5:8-11).
6:1-8:39 Following his exposition on the doctrine justification, Paul now turns to the doctrine of sanctification. As Mounce elaborates, sanctification is the lifelong process of spiritual maturing and conforming to the likeness of Christ. And, “any justification that does not lead to sanctification is a sham. Any sanctification not founded upon justification is an exercise in legalistic futility and does not deserve the name.”19
Therefore: ‘Therefore’ refers back to the deliverance of believers by God the Father through Christ from sin (Rom 7:25).20
No condemnation: Some scholars see no condemnation as a contrast to the justification through faith mentioned in chapter 5 (Rom 5:1). Thus, condemnation would denote the opposite of justification.21 Other scholars claim, however, that the Greek word for condemnation — katakrima — in this context, refers to penal servitude. It is not just the proclamation of a guilty verdict, so to speak, but the punishment that then follows the guilty verdict. Thus, Bruce holds that “there is no reason for those who are ‘in Christ Jesus’ to go on doing penal servitude as though they had never been pardoned, never been released from the prison-house of sin.”22
In Christ Jesus: Those who are in Christ Jesus are those who have an active trust — faith — in the saving, atoning, work of Christ on the cross, and are “recipients of the redeeming and transforming grace of God”23 through Christ.
The law of the Spirit who gives life: In this context, law essentially means principle. The principle of the Spirit who gives life is contrasted with the principle of sin that leads to death — not necessarily the Old Testament Law24 (though cf. Rom 3:20). At this point in the letter, Paul begins his exposition of life in the Spirit — the Spirit that overcomes sinful, human impulses. 25
Set you free: The law of the Spirit who gives life is the “means of our liberation”26 from the law of sin and death.
The law of sin and death: Again, the law of sin and death does not necessarily refer to the Old Testament Law. Perhaps this principle is better understood as that which works within that prevents obedience to the law of God.27.
Summary: Everyone who has active trust in the redemption made possible through Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice are no longer viewed as guilty of sins in the eyes of God, nor do they face the punishment that ordinarily results from the guilty verdict. Followers of Christ have been set free from the principle or the rule of sin and death that would usually disallow us from keeping God’s law by way of the principle or the rule of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables believers to overcome their innately sinful desires. In sum, we are justified in spite of our sins by God through Christ, and we are liberated from that which causes us to sin through the Holy Spirit.
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Given the context of Romans 8:1-2, how might we apply the meaning of this passage to our lives today? Personally, it gives me great joy to know that I do not fight battles in this life alone. Our struggle is not merely against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12). But we have the Spirit of holiness (Rom 5:4) dwelling in us and within our midst (1 Cor 3:16, 1 Cor 6:19), who empowers us to come to the obedience that comes from faith (Rom 1:5, Rom 16:26). Through the grace of God we can say no to ungodliness and worldly passions (Ti 2:12). And, from within us, the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).
Neither our justification nor or nor our sanctification nor our liberation from sin are mere byproducts of human effort. They are gracious gifts from God (Rom 6:23, Eph 2:8-9, etc.). To him be the glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen (Rom 16:27).
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- The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ro 8:1–2.
- Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, eds., Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 838.
- James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
- Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids, eds., Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 1123.
- F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1243.
- Hawthorne, Martin, and Davids, 838
- Cross and Livingstone, 1565
- Hawthorne, Martin, and Reid, 838
- Hawthorne, Martin, and Reid, 839.
- Hawthorne, Martin, and Reid, 839-840.
- F. F. Bruce, Romans: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 6, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985.
- John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World, The Bible Speaks Today, Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001.
- Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 74.
- Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, ed. D. A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Cambridge, U.K.; Nottingham, England; Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Apollos, 2012), 82.
- Mounce, 113
- Mounce, 113-146
- Mounce, 147
- Mounce, 147
- Kruse, 322
- Stott, 217
- Bruce, 161.
- Kruse, 323
- Bruce, 161
- Kruse, 324
- Stott, 217
- Kruse, 324