Seeing that Christians have been transferred from the broken covenant of life in Adam to the unbreakable covenant of grace in Christ1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1a). And they have now begun a new life of walking “not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (v.1b).
There is a new power in the Christian soul—a new “law” as Paul calls it, which has replaced the law of the old man: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (v.2).
In our fallen nature we possessed no right-motivated desire or personal strength whatsoever to keep God’s moral law, in order to live a righteous life before him. But “what the law could not do” in us—though not because of any fault in the law; the fault was ours—“God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (vv.3-4).
Please note that this “might be” is not merely maybe2! Thus, the actual fulfilment of all the righteousness of the law is inevitable in us—it shall happen in us, if we are true Christians—i.e. if we are those who can and do walk after the Spirit.
By God himself working within us for this purpose (i.e. righteousness), our will is now inclined to do the will of God; and by his ongoing work within us we are being given the ability to perform his will (Philippians 2:13).
With our regenerated and liberated wills, we are now deeply concerned with the Holy Scriptures: we “mind…the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). In other words, our heart’s desire is now to study the special revelation of God in order to learn how to live the Christian life.
Christian, you are no longer “in the flesh”—because the Holy Spirit now dwells in you and he is leading you to walk in God’s ways. (Whoever does not have this Spirit of Christ does not belong to him—they are not true Christians—see Romans 8:6-9.)
Notice Paul’s plain speaking: he does not allow for anyone to rest assured of salvation if there is no evidence of it in their souls or in their manner of life—small though it will be, at first. We need to have this question answered with certainty: Do we have actual evidence (or as older Reformed Christians say, marks) of God’s grace?
Where there is genuine Christian spirituality, there is genuine Christian practicality.
The apostle James said it better: “I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:8).
“But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:20-24).
You can be sure that you are a true Christian if:
You are indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9);
You walk after the Spirit (Romans 8:1);
Your “former conversation” is your former conversation, not the way you still want to live (Ephesians 4:20-24).
As the apostle James says, “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone”—“Can [such] faith save…?” (James 2:14, 17). The answer is no.
God has not finished with you yet, dear Christian! Your current state, in which you must fight constantly against your remaining (though crucified) old man with the strength that God supplies in answer to your prayers—your current state is not how it will always be with you.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30).
There is coming a day when evil will no longer be present within you—it will be gone, never to return3! Let us be confident of this very thing that Paul was confident of: that “He [i.e. God] which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
That is the reason why there is the perseverance of the saints.
- See chapter 47, Them He Also Glorified.↩
- The single Greek word translated by the three words might be fulfilled means to make full or to fill up (Strong’s Concordance).↩
- Contrary to the Gnostics, who said that matter and flesh is evil, this does not mean that in Heaven we will have no physical bodies (see Romans 8:11). See also chapter 8, The Redemption of Our Body, and chapter 34, Work out Your Own Salvation.↩