Romans 8 – Sons of God

On Sunday we looked at Romans 8:14-18 which expands another benefit of the gospel to those who are in Christ and led by the Spirit in that they are adopted as sons of God. This means that everyone who is in Christ (male or female – Gal3:28) has the legal position of a son of God and gains all privileges and inheritance that comes with it, to the point where they are co-heirs with Christ Himself!

As with the rest of this chapter these few verses are rich in gospel meaning and significance, so take your time to meditate on them! Here are a few thought provokers.

Read Romans 8:14-17

Rom8:15 says the Spirit does not make us slaves but rather brings about our adoption to sonship. Consider the connections between this and Ex4:22-23 where God calls Israel His son and sets them free from Pharaoh’s slavery.
– What are the differences between a slave and son?
– In what way were we slaves before we knew Jesus and how does that change now we are sons?

Rom8:15 says that it is by the Spirit ‘we cry ‘Abba, Father.” Consider the connections between this and what happens at Jesus’ baptism (Matt3:16-17).
– How does the Spirit work in assuring us of our position as God’s sons?
– Why is the Father’s affirmation of His son important?
– How does God’s affirmation of you as a son impact you personally?
– ‘Abba’ is Aramaic for ‘Father’ or ‘Daddy’. Explore the implications of what this means for our relationship to God. How does this way of addressing God change the way we understand Him?

Rom 8:17 says as children of God we are co-heirs with Christ. Consider the connections between this and the statement God makes to the kings of Israel in Ps2:7-8.
– What does it mean to be a co-heir with Christ (the ultimate king of Israel)?
– In what way do we share in the sufferings of Christ?
– What do we know of the glory of Christ that we will also share?

Sonship is an important biblical theme and helps us fully understand who Jesus is and who we are in Him. In light of Rom8:14-18 read the story of ‘the Two Sons’ in Luke 15:11-32.
– What does Lk15 teach us about the depth of the relationship between the father and the sons?
– What does the story teach us about the type of inheritance we have in Christ?
– The story tells of one son who misused his inheritance and the other son who underused his inheritance. Where do you see yourself in the story?
– How can you live fully in the reality of God’s inheritance now as God intends you to (Lk15:31)?


Romans 8 – No Condemnation but Some Obligation

On Sunday we started to explore Romans 8 which has been described as the ‘inner sanctuary within he cathedral of Christian faith.’ You can hear the sermon by clicking here.

We looked at the complete removal of the condemnation that comes from the law of sin and death. And the difference between that and the conviction of the Holy Spirit (:2-3).

We looked at the contrasting ways of life that this chapters describes:

  • The law of the Spirit who gives life and the law of sin and death (:2)
  • The mind set on the flesh which is death and the mind set on the Spirit which is life and peace (:5)
  • The realm of the flesh which leads to death because of sin and the realm of the Spirit which gives life because of righteousness. (:9)

We rejoiced in the assertion that, if we are a Christian, we are not in the realm of the flesh but in the realm of the Spirit (:9).

We considered the balance we need to strike between knowing it is only the Holy Spirit who can work our sanctification and our obligation to submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit (:13).

Read Rom 8:1-13.
Take time to work through this wonderful passage of scripture and use the following questions as springboards for discussion, prayer and meditation.

What does this passage speak to you?
How does it make you feel?
What does it do to you as you read it?

Are you able to distinguish the difference between condemnation of legalism and conviction of the Spirit?

If you perceive you are feeling condemned as a Christian where is that condemnation coming from? How does Rom8:1 minister to these feelings of condemnation.

What does Paul mean in this chapter by the ‘flesh’? (‘Flesh’ is a translation of the Greek word ‘sarx‘ translated ‘sinful nature’ in Rom 7!)

Do you read this chapter and sometimes wonder whether you are in the realm of the flesh or the Spirit?
Is being in the realm of the Spirit optional or something we have control over if we are a Christian?

How does God’s grace practically work in our lives?
Is it the case that we have no responsibility at all in our sanctification?
If we have an obligation but it is not to the flesh, what is it to? (:12)?
Consider the balance that Rom8:13 describes between our responsibility and the Holy Spirit’s action.

Romans 7 – Thanks be to God

Apparently Romans 7 is one of the the most debated chapters in the New Testament. Primarily the question that is debated is ‘who is Paul speaking about in verses 13-24?’ Is he speaking of himself as he was before he met Jesus or is he speaking of himself after he met Jesus?
Personally (without wanting to think I have the simple answer to a 2000 year old controversy) I actually think this is missing the point! To me Paul seems to be speaking of a person (Christian or non Christian) who is trying to work out their sanctification themselves. Take verse 15 for example ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do’, the emphasis seems to be very heavily on ‘I’. However, the gospel is not about us working out our own sanctification but God doing it in us, it is His work not ours. This whole section is notable for it’s absence of any mention of the Holy Spirit, which I think gives the clue to the reason for the struggle and failure that Paul describes in verses 13-24. In conclusion Paul describes himself as a ‘wretched man’ (:24), which I think is his admission that he has realised he cannot change his own sinful nature, and as a result he asks the question ‘Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?’ Fortunately he does not leave the question unanswered, but goes on to say ‘Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ (:25). Whether it’s our sanctification or justification its always God’s work through Jesus in us. This is gospel!

I mentioned 2 ways on Sunday in which we easily fall into the trap of trying to work out our own sanctification, which I called Self Reformation and Self Resistance.
Self Reformation is when we try and change ourselves by doing things, such as develop new skills, new relationships or take on worthy activities. It is doing things to try and become a better Christian. The problem with this is that we are trying to change something that cannot be changed. Our sinful nature (:18) is unredeemable and no matter what we do we can’t change it. With Self Reformation we may be able to change certain aspects of our life (and that may not be a bad thing), but it will never succeed in transforming us. Issues will always resurface in other areas of our life, as we can never ourselves deal with the root problem which is the sin in our flesh.
Self Resistance is where we realise that we can’t change ourselves so instead we develop coping strategies to manage our sin issues. In doing so sin becomes an acceptable, and sometimes even welcome, part of our lives. But coping with sin is not the same as dealing with sin. As with Self Reformation it doesn’t matter how good you are at coping with sin, if you are never dealing with the root of the sin it will always get the better of you at some point.
Neither Self Reformation or Self Resistance work when dealing with sin. Our only hope is to deal with the root of our sin issues by dying to it. And only God can do this in us as we live in our baptism.


Take some time to consider areas of your life in which you may be trying to self reform or self resist sin. To do this you might want to meditate on a passage of scripture (Gal5:13-26 for example) and allow the Holy Spirit to highlight areas where you are trying to overcome sin yourself.
Take these areas of your life and give them over to God. Don’t try and change them but die to them and allow God to bring new life into your lives.
Pray for one another to grow in the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.

If you fancy reading more into the issues debated in Romans 7 you might find this blog that I mentioned on Sunday helpful.

Romans 7 – Free from Law

The beginning of Romans 7 returns to a similar idea we heard at the beginning of Romans 6, in that to be completely free from something we must die to it. The idea of dying to something always brings us back to the reality and power of our baptism into Christ, in which we die to the old and are born again into the new through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Rom7:1-6 uses marriage as an analogy of how this ‘dying to’ works in our relationship to Law. The comparison is that if a married woman has a relationship with another man it is adultery, but if her husband dies she is free from the law that says she married and is able to marry again. In the same way through Christ we have died to our ‘relationship’ with the Law which made us captive to sin, and have been made free to serve God in a new way through the Holy Spirit. Rom6:14 puts it this way, ‘we are no longer under law but under grace.’
The result of this is that we no longer need to follow the Law to be pleasing to God. Following the Law is not what makes us ‘good people’! Christianity and the gospel is not about what we do or don’t do, but always what God does through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
However, this extreme freedom of grace makes most, if not all, of us a little uncomfortable. We all feel more at ease when there are set boundaries for ourselves and the people that are around us. Surely freedom from Law just gives rise to lawlessness?! And with this fear and misunderstanding of what true gospel freedom is the church has been very good at creating laws, rules and restrictions that define things such as salvation, godliness, spirituality and maturity. Far too often the church becomes like the Galatians who started with grace and then added law, making free people slaves again (Gal3:1-3). The result is an unwritten but well known Christian Law that I call the Evangelical Torah that defines criteria by which we measure ourselves and others as Christians. For example:

  • ‘You must have a daily quiet and read the bible at least once a day.’
  • ‘You must attend church every Sunday (preferably well dressed)’
  • ‘You can’t smoke, drink or have tattoos.’
  • ‘You shouldn’t dance or generally show any enjoyment of life.’

Now I’m not saying that reading you bible every day is a bad idea etc, etc. What I am saying is that we all too easily slip into judgement when we take some of these ideas and make them requirements, because the emphasis has moved from what God has done and is doing, to what we are doing. We must remember that the gospel is always God’s salvation action in us.
Freedom from the Law through gospel does not result in lawlessness, but instead brings new birth in us by the Holy Spirit. Through baptism into Christ we receive the Holy Spirit who works in us to change and transform us into the likeness of God. Our sanctification is not something we ‘do’ but is something we allow God to do through the inner working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Consider what rules/laws/requirements you feel you live under or impose on others.
What are the signs that these things are enslaving you?

Does the idea of freedom from all law and commandment make you feel uneasy? If so why and how can you overcome this?

How can you be active in inviting the Holy Spirit into areas of you life that need freedom from legalism.

What is the point of the Law in the first place you may well ask? And that isn’t a bad question, and one we will look at next week. But for now let us revel in the fullness of God’s grace and soak in the reality that we have been made free from the Law!

Romans 6 – Eternal Life, the gift of God

On Sunday we took one last look at Romans chapter 6. The chapter ends with another ‘famous’ verse:
‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom6:23)
There is a stark contrast in this verse. Death is what sin earns, it is what is owed to sin. Whereas eternal life is what God freely gives, it is underserved gift that comes by the grace of God. In essence this is a ‘one liner’ that describes the gospel. Those who trust in their own works to earn salvation will receive death (don’t forget that Is64:6 says ‘All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.’), but those who receive God’s grace through faith in Jesus receive eternal life!
The gospel challenges us with one of two options – death or eternal life. Moses proclaimed something similar in Deut 30:19 ‘I set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life……’
The call of the gospel is to choose eternal life through faith in Jesus!

We considered what is meant by the term ‘eternal life’. ‘Eternal’ certainly does mean everlasting and this is probably the most common understanding of the word. But when we consider the word ‘eternal’ in terms of the gospel of Jesus it must have a greater meaning than just a ‘quantity’ ie everlasting, but also come with an understanding ‘quality’ as well. Primarily the quality of eternal life is that of a life free from the power of sin and death.
This eternal life isn’t just something that starts when our physical body dies it is something we are given to live in here and now, through faith in Christ. Jesus said ‘The thief comes only to kill steal and destroy; I have come that they may have life and life to the full.’ (Jn10:10 emphasis mine). Eternal life is life to the full, a life full of eternal quality. Therefore, choose eternal life!

Consider what the qualities of eternal might look like in our lives here and now.

Share areas of your lives that need that a healthy injection of eternal life or life to the full.

Pray for one another, specifically for eternal life in the areas of struggle and where sin and death still have a hold of us.


Romans 6 – Dead to Sin part 2

Following on from last week we are going to look further at the sanctifying work of the gospel in our lives which brings freedom from sin. We saw last week that our justification and our sanctification are two distinct things, and that understanding the difference between them is very helpful to us. However, we need also to look at what justification and sanctification have in common, namely that they are both works of the gospel, meaning they are both works of God.

It is a common mistake for Christians to think that whilst their justification is God’s work, their sanctification comes from their own effort. In other words many believers understand that their forgiveness comes only through the work of Jesus on the cross, but they also think that as Christians they have to work and try harder at living a better, more righteous life. This error can lead to many Christians living in a constant state of unnecessary guilt as they try, but continually fail, to live a better life.
The truth we must hold onto is that both our justification and our sanctification are works of the gospel of Jesus in our lives. They are actions of God’s grace and not our works. We can’t save ourselves and neither can we ‘make ourselves better’, only Jesus can do these things! We can’t work our way into the kingdom of heaven – it is only by God’s free gift of grace that we are saved. Equally we can’t work our way to being a more holy or righteous person – it is only by God’s free gift of grace that we are transformed. All we need to do is submit ourselves to it!

Rom6:11-13 gives 3 practical steps we can take in submitting ourselves to God’s sanctifying work in us:

  • Rom6:11 – ‘Consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.’ The battle for freedom from sin begins in the mind (Rom12:2). The word ‘consider’ (in some translations ‘reckon’) has the meaning of taking time to ponder and be convinced of the reality of something until you are completely convinced of it. It is transformative, renewing thinking that changes how we live by grasping what is actually real and true.
  • Rom6:12 – ‘Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.’ We must make a choice of what reigns in our bodies sin or God. Before we were born again we had no choice but to obey sin, but now we can choose to let God’s righteousness rule. At the point of temptation we need to ask for God’s help.
  • Rom6:13 – ‘Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.’ We need to place ourselves in the presence of God and not in the presence of sin. This will have different implications for different people as we all struggle with different areas of sin. However, for all of us, living in close relationship and awareness of the presence of God keeps us from the power of sin’s temptation.

These 3 steps are not us trying to reform ourselves but us submitting to God’s powerful sanctifying gospel. In essence they are ways in which we can daily live in our baptism – dead to the old and alive to the new – a miraculous transformation that God does in us through Jesus.

How do you go about considering/reckoning ie pondering something until you are completely convinced of it? Do you have ways in which you meditate on and explore biblical truths?
What biblical truths and verses can we consider/reckon to help us be convinced that we are dead to sin and alive to God?
Take a truth such as ‘I am born again through faith in Christ’ and consider/reckon it. Observe how this reality impacts your life over the coming days.

Share testimony and give thanks for how the presence of God has brought freedom from sin in your life. How has the presence of God manifested itself to you?

Pray for the application of these truths in your life.

Think of the people you know who do not yet know Jesus as saviour and how this message could help them.
Be bold in proclaiming the gospel!


Romans 6 – Dead to Sin part 1

On Sunday we began a new section of the book of Romans which starts at chapter 6. We identified that Romans 1-5 largely deals with the gospel and how we are justified* by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and that Romans 6-8 primarily deals with the gospel and how we are sanctified* by the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The purpose of our sanctification is set by key statements in Rom6:6&14, namely sin shall no longer be our master for we are no longer to be slaves to sin.

In speaking like this we are reminded that sin isn’t just the collection of things we do wrong but a strong and powerful force at work in us. This force is only overcome by the grace of God (Rom5:20-21) through the work of Jesus on the cross. Our sanctification, therefore, has it’s foundation in associating with the work of the cross through baptism. In baptism we are united with Christ in His death and resurrection, we die with Him to sin and are made alive with Him to a new life to God. This dying to sin is key to be free from it. Rom6:6 says ‘For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.’ And here’s the crunch, if we really want to be free from the power of sin we must be willing to die to it.

This may sound simple but in reality most, if not all, of us will struggle with dying to sin because, if we are honest, we often find pleasure in sin. Sin is a powerful force that makes us feel good when we do it, that’s what makes it so enticing! Whilst we may well feel intense shame and guilt after we sin, it is nearly always the case that we will find some pleasure or satisfaction whilst we are in the midst of sinning. As long as we are alive to sin it will always entice us to the point where we always give in to it, over and over again! This is why the only way to be free from sin is to die to it.

Dying to sin comes as part of full Christian repentance. However, it is my experience that most Christians only do half a job of repenting when they sin. My guess is that most of us regularly confess our sins to God – we acknowledge the sins we have done before God and know He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1Jn1:9). But what I doubt is that many of us take the next step of repentance by renouncing and dying to the sins we have committed. As a result we find ourselves confessing the same sins to God over and over again. However, true and complete repentance will literally transform our lives because we have died to sin! In dying to sin we are asking God to change our hearts so that what displeases Him doesn’t please or entice us. In dying to sin we are asking God to change our hearts so that we no longer desire the sin that once enslaved us. God’s desire is that we live free from the rule of sin and no longer slaves to it.

I’ve talked about sin in quite general terms here but it is more often the case that different people will struggle more acutely with different areas of sin in their lives. How aware are you of areas of sin that you particularly struggle with in your life? Are you able identify things that need to die?

Do you have testimony of areas of your life that have died to sin? If so are you able to share how you are different as a ‘new creation’ to how you were as an ‘old creation’?

Is this dying to sin in different areas of our lives ever a one off event or is it always an ongoing process?

Have you tried other ‘methods’ of dealing with sin issues? How successful have they been?

Can you give examples of how dying to sin works practically?

*There is an important between justification and sanctification!

  • Justification is the outworking of the gospel of Jesus in our lives that makes us right or justified in God’s sight. Through the work of Jesus on the cross all our sin is completely paid for and, if we receive this redemption by faith, we stand completely righteous before God.
  • Sanctification is the outworking of the gospel of Jesus in our lives that transforms us inwardly into the likeness of Jesus. It is an ongoing process of renewal that is at work in us continually.

Click here to listen to the whole sermon to find out more!