By J.R. Miller
Someone says that if the Bible is compared to a ring, and the Epistle to the Romans be it precious stone, the eighth chapter would be the sparkling point of the jewel. It is one of the most precious chapters in all the Scriptures. It begins with no condemnation, and ends with no separation.
The very first verse tells us "There is therefore now no condemnation." This is a great word. They are not condemned, are not guilty, have nothing charged against them. How does this come? Are these people holy ones who never have sinned? If so, it can be no comfort to us, for we all have sinned. It is a word only for angels. But this is not what it means. It is not the sinless ones who are thus free from condemnation. The reference is to those who have sinned--but have been forgiven.
Those "who are in Christ Jesus" are the people who are free from condemnation. They have sinned, many of them very grievously. But when they accepted Christ as their Savior--all their sins were put away, blotted out. To be in Christ Jesus means to be in Him by faith and love. Then He takes away all our guilt, and when He does this, it is as if we never had sinned. Our sins are remembered no more forever. Their crimson red becomes whiter than snow. The divine forgiveness is so full, so complete, so thorough, that we are restored to our place in fellowship with God--as if we never had gone astray.
Those who are in Christ, have a new life in them. Christ Himself lives in them by the Holy Spirit. They are filled with the Spirit and are lifted out of the old life and thus are made free from its power. Elsewhere Paul said, "Walk by the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." If the Spirit lives in us and rules us--we shall no longer be under the influence of the old nature--but will rise into a new life, as when one carries a plant from a cold arctic winter into a tropical summer. One writer compares this "law of life" to the antidote, which counteracts a deadly poison and frees one from its "law of death." Another illustrates it by the coming of relief to a beleaguered city. The deliverer frees the people from prison and gives them a friendly government. Another uses the illustration of a balloon, which overcomes the attraction of gravitation and lifts its passengers upward. To be living under the power of the Holy Spirit, is to be free from sin's terrible bondage.
Those who are still living the old life, ruled by natural desires, have no care for spiritual things. Men who live only a worldly life, a life of self-indulgence and of sin, would find no comfort in a prayer meeting or at a church service; while you, if you are a true Christian, sitting in the same pew, would find great pleasure in the worship. Those who have the Spirit love spiritual things, while those who have not the Spirit are made unhappy in the presence of these heavenly enjoyments.
Only those who have received the Holy Spirit, are really spiritually alive. There are men who are as dead to the things of God and heaven--as is the man in his coffin to the things about him. Friends sob out their sorrow beside him--but he is not disturbed by it. There are people who never think of God or of heaven. Alive to this world, they are dead to all the things of the heavenly world and to the spiritual life--the love of God, the divine grace, the beauty of holiness, the promise of God--as dead as if their bodies were stone! One tells of seeing a retarded child growing up in a home. All the wealth of holy affection was poured out on it. Loving parents watched with intense eagerness for some response to their great love. But no response came. The child never became conscious of the tender love about it. So those who are devoted only to this world live amid the manifestations of the love of God, under the very shadow of the cross of Christ--and yet are dead to all this wonderful affection, utterly unmoved by it!
Those who are ruled by the Spirit--have the mind of the Spirit. That is, the Spirit dwells in their hearts and they are spiritually alive. They love God and love their fellow men. They commune with God in this world. They and Christ are close personal friends. They are alive to all the things of divine grace. In their hearts they have the divine peace, which is one of the fruits of the Spirit.
"If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ--he does not belong to Christ." It does not make one a Christian to have a correct creed, or to be a member of a church. We are Christians only when we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts. If the Spirit is in us, we shall have the marks of His indwelling in our life and character. One of these marks is love, another joy, another patience, another meekness, another gentleness, another self-control. No one can see the Spirit in us--no one can see God--but people soon know if the Spirit is in us--by the way we live, by our disposition and conduct.
Jesus once said to one of His disciples, "If I wash you not, you have no part with me." Not unless we are cleansed by Christ--can we really claim to be His. The words here are quite as strong--"If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ--he does not belong to Christ."
If we would have the Spirit of God, we must "put to death the deeds of the body." Out hearts are great battle fields where destinies are decided. Two forces are ever contending for the mastery: the flesh--the old nature; and the Spirit--the new life of God in our souls. If the old nature conquers, we have lost all and must perish. But if the new nature, the Spirit, conquers, then we enter life. Without Christ we can only be defeated; through Christ's help we can be victorious. We must be careful not to make this simply a human struggle, for alone we never can contend with the power of evil. But there is a beautiful promise in this same chapter, which says that we can be more than conquerors through Him who loved us. We must make sure to have Christ with us in the battle.
Those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God. It is a wonderful thought that we can be led by the divine Spirit Himself. The Spirits leads us not from without, as in old times the pillar of cloud led the people--but by living in us and filling our hearts with right motives, feelings, desires, affections. We must open our hearts to the Spirit, for He never will force His way in. He stands at the door and knocks, and if we open to Him, He enters and becomes our guide. It is a glorious privilege to be a child of God. Here we are told how we can enter this relation. In John's Gospel it is said that as many as receive Christ, to them He gives the right to become God's children. It is very plain, therefore--the door stands wide open into the household of the heavenly Father. All who submit themselves to the divine life and love and rule, become children of God.