The great eighth chapter of the book of Romans is the chapter of declaration of freedom, victory, and security for the believer. After expressing the reality of the personal struggle with sin and the enslaving law (Ch.7), Paul opens this chapter by highlighting the believers’ passage from sin’s condemnation to freedom in Christ. It is important to note that throughout this chapter of Romans, Paul demonstrates that all members of the Trinity are in unity as they bring a believing sinner to his/her new position. At the same time, he shows that the presence of the Godhead in a believer’s life is through the Holy Spirit. In this chapter, the Holy Spirit is referenced at least 21 times, probably more than in any other chapter in the Bible.
The Holy Spirit frees (v.1-4): After declaring in verse 1 that “there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ”, Paul goes on to give a reason in verse 2 why this is so: “because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life set me free…”. Our new life is through Christ since it is he who bore the punishment that we deserved. This new life is marked by the freedom given by the Holy Spirit. The giving of freedom appears to have two aspects. The first aspect is regeneration. By bringing new birth or creating new life in a believing sinner, the Holy Spirit gives them freedom from the condemnation and penalty of sin. The new believer is set free so that he stands before God justified and acquitted, with all charges dismissed. The second aspect is the aspect of sanctification. The Holy Spirit continues to teach the believer to walk in this freedom in daily life. He continues to remind the believer that their relationship to the law of sin is that of no condemnation. Although sin still tries to accuse and hold believers down, the life that comes from the indwelling Spirit gives them the power to soar above sin. Paul will continue to argue through the rest of the chapter that in the new life, the believer is enabled by the Holy Spirit to walk in obedience.
The Holy Spirit Indwells (v.5-8): The Holy Spirit has not only set us free; He continues His presence within us as the third person of the Godhead. This section of Romans 8 points out that the indwelling Holy Spirit helps us live in accordance with our new nature and to grow in it. Paul points out that the Holy Spirit helps us distinguish between the two natures, namely, the sinful nature and the nature of life according to the Holy Spirit. The indwelling Spirit works with our “minds” to help us will what he desires. He also works within us to produce virtues that are desirable for our new nature. Through the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are able to live lives that please God.
The Holy Spirit leads (v.9-14): Paul emphasizes in this section that the Christian life is marked by the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Verses 9 and 14 point out that the Holy Spirit’s presence and leadership in a person’s life is a sign that they belong to God through Christ. Although human obedience is not perfect, the Holy Spirit’s leadership means that He dictates the course of the believer’s life. Elsewhere, Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would come to convict the world of sin and to guide (teach/lead) believers into all truth (John16:8-13). The Holy Spirit prompts and teaches a believer to bring forth emotions, virtues, disciplines, and attitudes that are desirable and consistent with their new life. He teaches believers to pray, love, serve, be self-controlled, be joyful, et cetera. Leading also implies that the Holy Spirit performs particular ministries to a believer as He sees fit. He may come along to convict sin, encourage, empathize, strengthen, empower, illuminate, et cetera.
The Holy Spirit testifies (v.15-17): Believers have received the Spirit of adoption. It is He who testifies of their membership into God’s family. Believers must not be uncertain of their new reality and security in Christ, the Holy Spirit Himself bears witness to their inner being [our spirit] that they are God’s Children. Through the indwelling Spirit and his work, the once strayed sinners can call God their father and approach Him as His sons (children). Through the Holy Spirit, believers have access to the privileges of being God’s children. They are co-heirs with Christ. Although they now share with Him in His suffering, they look forward to sharing with him in His glory. Elsewhere, Paul wrote; “…after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:13-14).
The Holy Spirit adopts (v.22-25): In other places, adoption implies the Holy Spirit’s work of adding unbelievers to the family of God. But here, it has been uniquely used to refer to the Holy Spirit’s final work of confirming the “sonship” of believers in the family of God. That is “the final redemption” of the bodies of believers. This final redemption refers to the restoration and transformation of the believers’ bodies to immortality. This transformation is the final salvation and deliverance from the corruption to which all creation was subjected (8:0-22). The Holy Spirit will be at the center of our glorification. This point is further stressed in 8:28-30.
The Holy Spirit intercedes (v.26-27): The all-knowing third person of the God-head searches our minds and hearts, and discerns what we really need. He knows our needs better than we do ourselves. Even at our weakest points, the Holy Spirit ministers to us. Hard as it may be for frail humans living in a broken world to pray, and let alone decern God’s will, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. He prays on our behalf in accordance with God’s will.
The Holy Spirit assures (v.28-39): This great chapter closes by giving an assurance of victory for those that are in Christ. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in this section, but we must not make the mistake of thinking that He is silent or absent. We learned at the beginning of the chapter (8:1-2) that the reason there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ is because of “the law of the Spirit who gives life.” In the same vein, it is the same indwelling Holy Spirit who assures those who are in Christ of their victorious life. In this section Paul emphasizes that there is literally nothing that can undo the status of those who have been freed by the Holy Spirit: They cannot be separated from the love of God. For “if God is for us, who can be against us?” At the beginning of this great chapter, we are assured that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. And here at the end of the chapter, we are assured that there is no defeat in Christ and no separation from God’s love. The Apostle Paul sums this thought with “In all these things, we are more than conquerors (8:37).” What things? The trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, loss, and death of this world (8:35). The things that tend to shake us in this world. These are the things that cause us to question God’s love when they rise to our faces.
Implications: Although we now live in a broken world and are not exempted from suffering, God’s love is far-reaching. No depth is deeper than God’s love, no height is higher than God’s love, and breadth is broader than God’s love(8:31-39): We have been saved from the law of sin (8:1-2). We have been empowered by the law of life (8:2). We can walk in victory over sin (8:5-12). We are children of God by the testimony of the Holy Spirit (8:15-17). We will be glorified (8:28-30). And all of the Godhead is with us, even in this life (8:31-32). The father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are actively involved in transforming us into Christ’s likeness, even through the hardships of this world. The Holy Spirit assures us of this truth and makes it come alive in our lives. To emphasize His ministry, He helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us (8:26-27). This is our blessed assurance! Paul makes it clear that life in Christ by the Holy Spirit is the highest and most victorious, satisfying, and glorious thing. In view of this truth, we have no other life (which is indeed life) to choose apart from the one in Christ, lived out through the indwelling Holy Spirit.