There are a lot of people these days who are “cherry picking” scriptures which support their lifestyle choices, while they often ignore the context, as a whole, from which those scriptures are drawn.
This first verse here in Romans 8 is one of those scriptures. For, these people assume they are “in Christ Jesus” merely because they made a profession of faith in Christ, or merely because they made some acknowledgment as to who he is as the Lord, the Christ, the Son of God. Or, perhaps it was because they repeated some words after someone in a prayer where they were then congratulated that they are now in God’s family.
But, is that all there is to it to be “in Christ”? Or, is there more to it?
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4 ESV
So, what happens is they read verse 1 and they stop there, they claim they are in Christ, and therefore they are no longer under condemnation, no matter how they live their lives from that point forward; no matter how much they willfully and knowingly deny Christ, disobey his commands, and walk in sinful rebellion against Almighty God. So, they console themselves.
But, we have to keep reading. For, if we keep reading we soon learn who those are who are “in Christ.” They are those who walk (in practice) not according to (in agreement with) the flesh (sin nature) but according to the Spirit of God and his holiness and righteousness. These people are those who are not under condemnation, for they are the ones in whom the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled. They are the children of God.
For, you see, Jesus didn’t die on that cross that horrible death just so we could be forgiven our sin and no longer be under condemnation. He died that we might die with him to sin and live with him to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. With his blood shed on a cross for our sins he bought us back for God so that we would now be God’s possession, and so we would now glorify God with our lives (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15, 21; Tit. 2:14; 1 Co. 6:20).
“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. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:5-8 ESV
So, what does it mean to live according to the flesh? It means the flesh is still on the throne of our lives. The flesh is still in control. Our minds and our hearts are set on pleasing the flesh, not on pleasing God with our lives. Though we may profess faith in Jesus Christ, we feel his grace gives us license to sin without guilt and without punishment. And, so we habitually sin against God, committing the same (often premeditated) sins over and over again, while lying about them and while making excuses for them. This type of lifestyle will end in death, because it is opposed to God and his law.
And, what does it look like to live according to the Spirit? It means the Spirit is the one in control and Christ is on the throne of our lives. It means we want to please God with our lives for Jesus delivered us from our slavery to sin, and now the Holy Spirit lives within us empowering us to live to his righteousness. It means we are developing a relationship with Almighty God through genuine God-given faith in Jesus Christ, and so we are in his Word daily learning what he requires of us, and then in his power we are walking in obedience to what he shows us (Rom. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).
Nonetheless, it is possible for even those who have genuine faith in Jesus Christ to still sin against God, because we live in flesh bodies (1 Jn. 2:1-2). And, it is possible, too, for those who had been walking daily by the Spirit of God to wander off for a time and to need to be brought back to fellowship with the Lord via repentance (See Rev. 2-3).
But, God looks at our lives from beginning to end, and he sees who has genuine faith, and who does not. And, he sets the standard for how we must live. And he says if, in lifestyle, we habitually sin against God, as a matter of course, as our consistent conduct, then we don’t have eternal life with God. For, if we make sinning against God our regular practice, we don’t really know God, we are just going through the motions. So, we need to get this, for too many people have the idea that their conduct will not impact their relationships with God or their eternal security.
“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Romans 8:12-14 ESV
This makes it quite clear that our conduct does matter, and how we live our lives on this earth, either for the flesh or for God, will affect our eternity.
But, this is not works-based salvation. This is not us trying to be good enough to earn or to deserve God’s grace. This is not about our good deeds outweighing our bad deeds. For, not one of us can be saved by good works. But, when Jesus Christ saves us from our sins, he saves us to good works (Eph. 2:8-10).
So, this is the deal here. We can only be saved by God’s grace through God-given and divine-persuaded faith in Jesus Christ, and only because of what Jesus did for us in dying for our sins and in rising from the dead victorious over sin and Satan. We are all totally dependent on Jesus Christ to save us from our sins. I believe we can all agree on that (most of us).
But, this is where it breaks down, and this is where a lot of people have been deceived, and that is in thinking that some mere profession of faith in Jesus or some mere acknowledgment of him is enough to secure them eternal life with God. They think that some prayer they prayed at one time in their life means they are saved from their sins, heaven is secured, and that is all they need. But, is it? No! Not according to scripture.
So, let me try to put it in a nutshell for you. If we read the New Testament from beginning to end, word by word and phrase by phrase, in context, and if we interpret the scriptures in context, it will become clear that some or all of what we were taught about our salvation may not be true. For, it becomes clear that our salvation from sin is not past tense alone, but it is present tense and future tense, and it won’t be complete until Jesus returns.
And, then it begins to make sense when we read all these many scriptures which state that it is those who walk (in practice) according to the Spirit who have eternal life with God, and that we have to continue in that walk until the very end, too. It doesn’t mean there won’t be blips in the road, at times, but that our desire is for God to do his will and we are not living to please our flesh or making excuses in order to keep on in sinful addictions.
So, if you have this notion that your lifestyle or your addictions will not impact your eternal security, then know what the scriptures teach, for they say if we live according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, then we will live. For, we will all reap what we sow. If we sow to please the flesh, from the flesh we will reap destruction. But, if we sow to please the Spirit, then from the Spirit we will reap eternal life (Gal. 6:7-8). So, know the truth, and live the truth.
An Original Work / December 17, 2013
Based off Revelation 2-3
To the angels of all the churches write:
These are the words of your Lord and your God.
I know all your deeds, and your witness, too,
And who holds to My words and tells what’s true.
I know all your hard work and your perseverance,
Yet I hold against you: you’ve forsaken Me.
Listen to what I say to you.
You have people there who deny My name,
And who put the cross of Christ up to shame.
They entice the people to Me, profane,
And their worship of Me is all in vain.
They are so adult’rous as they chase their idols,
And you put up with them easily enough.
Listen to what I say to you.
You give off an image of godliness,
But what you present is so fraudulent,
Or else you lack passion for Jesus Christ,
So you look to others to tell what’s right.
I say turn from your sin, or you will face judgment.
He who overcomes will have eternal life.
Listen to what I say to you.
I know your afflictions and poverty;
How you suffer for your Lord patiently.
Do not fear the devil and company.
You be faithful to your Lord endlessly.
I know all your weakness and your dedication.
You have kept My Word and not denied your Lord.
I will write on you My new name.