Security affirmed by the indwelling Spirit of God – Romans 8:1-17


Our study in the book of Romans takes us now to the gem of the entire book, if not perhaps, the entire Bible. Romans chapter 8 is a classic. It contains some of the greatest words of encouragement to those who have come to faith in Christ. It is placed at the summation of the section of the book of Romans concerning the great doctrine of sanctification. In Romans chapters 1-5 we saw the doctrine of justification. We learn that we are totally depraved sinners and are only hope is found in Christ. When we trust in Jesus by faith we are then justified or declared as righteous even though we are not righteous. Then as we come to chapters 6-8, we have the doctrine of sanctification. This is the process that every believer goes through to become more like Christ. This is our life right now, as God is working in and through us in order to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ.  In this sanctification process we have victory in Christ (chp. 6). In Christ we have victory over sin and death. We are given the power over sin in this life so that we do not have to sin. Sin no longer has dominion over us. In chapter 7, we find that we also have freedom in Christ. We are free from the bondage of sin and from the law. We do not have to keep a list of do’s and don’ts to be acceptable to God. Our acceptance is based solely on who we are in Christ. Therefore, our focus should be on being rather than doing. Now here in chapter 8, we learn that we also have security in Christ. We are given the promise from God that He will finish what He started. He has justified us and is sanctifying us and He will complete His sanctifying work in us as He will one day bring us to glorification and we will be just like Jesus.

We will be looking at Romans chapter 8 in five different parts all pointing to the security that we have in Christ. The outline of Romans 8 is as follows: (1) Security in Christ affirmed by the indwelling Holy Spirit (v. 1-17) (2) Security in Christ established in our future hope (v. 18-24) (3) Security in Christ demonstrated in our present sanctification (4) Security in Christ realized in who we are (v. 29-30) (5) Security in Christ found in our eternal union (v. 31-39).

At the moment of justification, the Holy Spirit of God indwells the believer. This indwelling of the Spirit affirms God’s work in the life of the believer. The Holy Spirit is the seal of the believer’s salvation. The indwelling Holy Spirit makes eternal security a reality. In the first seventeen verses of Romans eight, we see three things that the indwelling Holy Spirit does for the believer.

The indwelling Holy Spirit frees us from condemnation. Notice what Paul says in verses 1-4. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”[1]The law condemns us in our sin. However, the new life that we have in Christ sets us free from such condemnation. We no longer stand before God condemned, instead, we stand before God justified. The freeing from the condemnation that we technically do not deserve is made possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The New American Commentary says, “The unfavorable verdict has been removed. Now all those who are in Christ are the beneficiaries of that forgiveness. It follows that if condemnation as an objective reality has been removed, there is no legitimate place for condemnation as a subjective experience. To insist on feeling guilty is but another way of insisting on helping God with our salvation. How deeply imbedded in human nature is the influence of works-righteousness!”[2] As a born-again justified believer, we should live in the fact that we are no longer condemned. So often we live with the guilt and shame of our sin and our old life. However, we do not have to. The guilt is gone. The shame has been removed. The righteous demands of God have been satisfied. We do not have to live in guilt. I have seen many Christians who are way too hard on themselves. Sometimes, the guilt they put upon themselves becomes so heavy that it drives them right back to the very sins that make them mourn. Be encouraged child of God. You are free from guilt. There is no condemnation for those who are truly saved!

Such freedom from guilt and condemnation is made possible because of the Spirit of God that lives within us. “The apostle was contrasting two different laws (or principles). The old law is the power of sin that inevitably results in death. The new law, which sets the believer free from the power of the old, is the law of the Spirit. The new law of the Spirit says that only by living in union with Christ Jesus can believers break the power of sin in their lives. It is the Spirit of God who provides victory, and that Spirit is the possession of every true child of God. When the freedom of the Spirit, celebrated in chap. 8, is compared with the repressive power of sin in chap. 7, it seems strange that both could be operative in the same person. Yet does not experience teach us that every attempt to live the Christian life apart from the empowering presence of the Spirit of God ends in defeat? We lose the battle only when we engage the enemy without the resources supplied by the Spirit. God never intended us to go it on our own. Did not Jesus say, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)? The difficulties of the Romans 7 experience are self-imposed. They show the natural outcome of failing to appropriate the Spirit of God. The victory of Romans 8 results from living in vital union with Christ Jesus, sustained and empowered by the Spirit of God.”[3]

In verses 3-4 we find that the law is powerless to free us from sin. However, what that law could not do, God did for us through His Son Jesus Christ. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “He came to do something about sin. What He did was to condemn it; by His death on the cross, He condemned sin (katekrinen, “passed a judicial sentence on it”; cf. katakrima, “punishment,” Rom. 8:1) so that those in Christ are not condemned. The goal of this was so that the righteous requirements of the Law—a life of holiness (Lev. 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7)—could be fully met as believers do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. The provision of deliverance from the power of sin is through the death of Jesus Christ, but experiencing it in one’s daily conduct comes through the controlling power of the Holy Spirit.”[4] Child of God, aren’t you glad that God loved you so much that He did for you what you could not do for yourself? Praise God! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

The indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to live pleasing to God. We know that apart from the power of the Spirit in our lives, we are incapable of living a life that is pleasing to God. This point is reiterated in verses 5-11. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”[5] The English Standard Version provides a more clear translation of verse 5: “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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” [6] We need to be clear about something here. Setting your mind on something is different than having something. You can be truly saved and have the Holy Spirit in you, and yet not have your mind set on the things of the Spirit. The carnal or fleshly mind is not of God and cannot please God. However, one can certainly have the Spirit of God in him while at the same time have a mind that is not pleasing to God.

At the same time, one who is truly saved will be changed in such a way that their desire and longing will be for the things of the Spirit, even though, sometimes the flesh (carnal mind) will hinder such longings being fulfilled. R.C. Sproul writes, “Those who are in the Spirit are delighted by the things of God and follow after the things of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives within such, and when he comes into their lives, he does something to each human spirit. Their human spirit is changed and they have a new delight, a new appetite, a new sense of longing and yearning for spiritual things.”[7] To follow after the things of the Spirit does not mean that perfection is achieved. One can be following after the Spirit while at the same time, in the flesh, struggle with sin. This is the dilemma that we all have as believers in Christ.

We are then told in verse 9 that if the Spirit of God is not in you then you do not belong to God. The Spirit of God indwells all of those who come to faith in Christ. However, living a life that is pleasing to God is impossible apart from complete reliance upon the indwelling Spirit of God. The point that Paul is making here is that since we have the indwelling Spirit of God, we now have the power to live a life that is pleasing to God. In order for this power to be activated, we must set our minds on the things of God and not on the things of this world. When we set our minds on the things of this world, we will fall into sin. However, when we set our minds on things of God, thus yielding to the Spirit’s control in our lives, we will then live a life that brings glory to God.

The indwelling Holy Spirit gives us a new life. Notice what Paul says in verses 12-17. “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”[8] The Bible Knowledge Commentary sheds good light on these verses. “Each believer’s responsibility is a positive one—to live each day in the control and power of the Holy Spirit.”[9] “Each Christian is to refuse to follow the inclinations and desires of his sin nature. He is to deny the efforts of that nature to impose its lifestyle on him (cf. Titus 2:12).”[10] Denying the efforts of our sinful nature is made possible only by yielding to God on a daily basis.

Paul warns that such giving in to our sinful natures results in death. “This does not suggest that a believer who sins will face eternal death in hell; instead, it means he will not enjoy his spiritual life. He will seem like an unsaved person (1 Cor. 3:1–4) and will be unable to enjoy the indwelling presence of the Spirit. You will die is literally, “you are about to die,” or “you are at the point of dying.”[11] Notice what I Corinthians 3:1-4 says, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?”[12] In these verses, Paul is addressing true believers in Christ. He uses the term ‘carnal’ to describe the way in which the believers at Corinth were living. The point is that when we as believers live as if we are unbelievers and we find ourselves giving in to our carnality, we experience ‘death’ or a strain or separation in our relationship with God. Therefore, when we do not yield to Christ and live a life that is controlled by the Spirit of God, then we miss out on God’s best for us. On the contrary, when we do yield ourselves to God and live a life that is controlled by the Spirit then we will live. In other words, God’s best for us will be realized in our lives and we will truly live. A Christian who is burdened with sin is despaired and weak. However, a Christian who is yielded to God is free to live and is joyous and strong.

Starting in verse 14, Paul explains that those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Many Bible students see no difference between the word translated “sons” in 8:14 and the word translated “children” in verse 16. However, in verse 16 the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence attests the believer’s birth relationship to God. The word for children in verse 16 is the Greek word ‘tekna’. This word literally means the ‘born ones.’ So, when Paul says that the Spirit of God bears witness that we are children of God, he is referring to the new birth. It is referring to our identification as a born-again child of God. However, in verse 14 we see the word ‘son’. The Greek word for ‘son’ is ‘huios’ which means a child that is mature enough to take on adult family privileges and responsibilities.  So, Paul is implying here that a ‘son’ of God is a mature believer and not just a ‘child’ or a believer in general. Therefore, he says that a mature believer is one that is led by the Spirit of God. A mature believer is living a Spirit-filled life. It must be understood here that not all true believers are living such a life of maturity.

Paul goes on to describe the fact that all believers have been set free and have been adopted into the family of God. Both mature believers who are living in the Spirit and immature believers who find themselves struggling in their carnality are able to call God their Father. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit we are given the assurance that we are a part of God’s family. There is something within every believer that gives them the confidence that their salvation is secure.

Since we are children of God, then we are also heirs of God. “We are co-heirs with Christ. “All that Christ claims as his will belong to all of us as well!” (Phillips). How rich in significance is the fact that we are full members of an eternal family in which God is our Father and Jesus Christ is our elder brother (cf. Heb 2:11–12). What appears to be a condition on this promised inheritance (“if indeed”) is actually a simple statement of fact. Sharing the sufferings of Christ leads to sharing his glory. Obviously we do not share the redemptive suffering of Christ, but we do share the consequences in terms of opposition from the world he came to save (cf. Phil 3:10; 1 Pet 4:13). As members of the same family we share in the trials of life as well as the benefits.”[13]

Since all those who have come to faith and Christ are brothers and sisters of the same family, a responsibility is given to us to help each other grow in our walk with Him. Some of us are carnal. We have been justified and our salvation is secure, yet, we are living in the flesh. Others are more mature and are living lives of complete surrender to the Spirit. However, a good number of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle. We are living for the Lord, we yield ourselves to God, yet we still struggle with sin. As a family with one Lord and one Spirit living within us all, we should walk together hand in hand pulling each other along in this process we call sanctification.




[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 8:1–4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, p. 174). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, pp. 174–175). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Witmer, J. A. (1985). Romans. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 469). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[5] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 8:5–11). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ro 8:5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] Sproul, R. C. (1994). The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (p. 132). Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications.

[8] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 8:12–17). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[9] Witmer, J. A. (1985). Romans. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 470). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[10] Witmer, J. A. (1985). Romans. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 470). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[11] Witmer, J. A. (1985). Romans. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 470–471). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[12] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 1 Co 3:1–4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[13] Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, p. 183). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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