"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Images of the Savior (15 – The Darkness before the Dawn) | Main | The Critical Difference Between Monergism and Synergism »

    Understanding Romans 8:1

    I was asked this question: Pastor John, I am confused. Romans 8:1 tells me that the one in Christ Jesus is no longer under condemnation and yet when I read the King James Version, that is not the case. My heart sinks to think that I have to live a life pleasing to God “in the Spirit” before I can be certain of my standing with God. I can never look at my life for even a day and say I am fully walking "after the Spirit." I have anxious thoughts and sin is sadly a daily reality in my life. I can really identify with Paul's struggle against sin in Romans chapter 7. Yet it would seem that Paul’s whole message of justification by faith alone would be destroyed if the King James Version rendering of the Romans 8:1 verse is correct. What is going on? Can you provide any insight here?

    I seek to provide an answer here.

    Posted by John Samson on June 6, 2011 01:26 PM


    Rev. Samson, Just wondering after reading your answer if you really helped out your inquirer. Romans 8:4 in the ESV says also,
    "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." Now we can't explain this away as an error in the ESV I think all texts read this way.

    Wouldn't it be better to along with the older commentators have said: We are not in the state of no condemnation because we walk according to the Spirit and not the flesh - that is not the reason even as intended by the Greek Text translated in the KJV at Rom 8:1. But rather we are not condemned because we are "IN CHRIST." This is clear from the text and especially clear as the whole analogy of scripture is considered. So then the second clause as found in Rom 8:4 and in some MSS evidence in Rom 8:1 is not describing the cause of the "no condemnation" but the evidence that follows describing those who already are IN CHRIST. Those who are in Christ as well as those for whom the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled are those who walk according to the Spirit. It is a description of who they are and not the cause for who they are. Further as we continue in Romans 8 we learn plainly that all believers are "in the Spirit" for if whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ is not belonging or of Christ - not a Christian truly, then all Christians indeed walk not after the flesh but the Spirit. This does not negate also exhortations that we who live in the Spirit should also walk in the Spirit. The exhortations work in us to be the means of growing in grace. This is probably too simplistic of an explanation and lacking in a fully complete logical connection. Hoping more that you get the general idea of what I mean - which is succinctly this: Because of Rom 8:4 explaining Rom 8:1b KJV as an error does not help, we should look at the full revelation of scripture and understand Rom 8:1b and rom 8:4b as describing those for whom this is true and not the cause that made it true.

    In my above comment, as an added comfort to your inquirer, I would like to emphasize that we are NOT Condemned because we are "IN CHRIST."

    Walking in the Spirit does not secure our justification, but being justified we have the SPirit of Christ, we have been born again, God has shone the light upon us and in us and made us alive.

    Romans Seven still true and applicable to the believer. But also being made alive as a work of God alone which is real and faith resulting therefore To be "IN CHRIST" is a guarantee that we will have the Spirit of Christ. And having the Spirit of Christ we consequently will mortify the deeds of the flesh - we will cry out Abba, Father, we hope and are saved by hope, weak in prayer the Spirit helps us so we can with confidence knowing he is there open our mouths and pray trusting the Spirit to teach what and what manner to pray. Though we can say with Paul nothing good abides in me, the power to perform good is not in me, but thanks be to God though I am wretched I shall be delivered though Jesus.

    I hope this isn't too much commenting.


    Interesting analysis yet I (and all the scholars I have ever read) believe what I have written is correct - that the second clause of verse 1 in the KJV is not found in the most authoritative manuscripts and should not be part of the text of any Bible. I stand by my article.

    Also, if we were to assume your view of the text and "It is a description of who they are and not the cause for who they are" we are still left with the idea of analysing our performance to know if we are justified... the necessary question still remains, how well are we walking not according to the flesh but after the Spirit and what constitutes failure to reach the grade and what does not?

    Thanks John, agree we cannot view on the one hand Rom 8:1b or Rom 8:4b as a need to "reach the grade" I don't want to teach that. There is no condemnation based on the fact that we are IN CHRIST. But without considering or debating the authenticity of Rom 8:1b, I just wanted to at least consider that the same problem solved in your way in Rom 8:1 yet pops up again in Rom 8:4. The whole of scripture teaches how we should interpret the clause. -- I don't want to take away from the gospel at all. You would agree I'm sure that it is true that believers have the Spirit of Christ or they are not Christ's at all. It is not necessary to understand the clause in Rom 8:1 or Rom 8:4 as teaching a justification by works. I think you said that Rom 8:1b if authentic would indeed teach that our standing with God is based upon performance. You probably are aware that numerous older commentators do not stumble in this way at Rom 8:1b for example:

    Barnes: "But after the Spirit - As the Holy Spirit would lead or prompt. What the Spirit produces may be seen in Galatians 5:22-23. If a man has these fruits of the Spirit, he is a Christian; if not, he is a stranger to religion, whatever else he may possess. And this test also is easily applied. "

    John Gill: "but after the spirit, by which is meant, not spiritual worship, in opposition to carnal ordinances; but rather, either a principle of grace, in opposition to corrupt nature, called "Spirit", from the author, subject, and nature of it; or the Holy Spirit of God, the efficient cause of all grace: to walk after him, is to make him our guide, to follow his dictates, influences, and directions; as such do, who walk by faith on Christ, and in imitation of him, in the ways of righteousness and holiness; and such persons walk pleasantly, cheerfully, and safely: now let it be observed, that this walk and conversation of the saints, is not the cause of there being no condemnation to them; but is descriptive of the persons interested in such a privilege; and is evidential of their right unto it, as well as of their being in Christ: and it may be further observed, that there must be union to Christ, or a being in him, before there can be walking after the Spirit. The phrase, "but after the Spirit", is left out in the Alexandrian copy, and in the Vulgate Latin, and Syriac versions; and the whole description of the persons in some copies, and in the Ethiopic version. "

    And John Calvin: "After the Spirit. Those who walk after the Spirit are not such as have wholly put off all the emotions of the flesh, so that their whole life is redolent with nothing but celestial perfection; but they are those who sedulously labor to subdue and mortify the flesh, so that the love of true religion seems to reign in them. He declares that such walk not after the flesh; for wherever the real fear of God is vigorous, it takes away from the flesh its sovereignty, though it does not abolish all its corruptions.

    Again, it is another thing to argue for the authenticity of this passage and then to consider this "what is the proper way to deal with the clause which appears in both Rom 8:1b and Rom 8:4b.

    Hi Scott,

    I do understand your position and the fact that it is possible to interpret the words in the way you describe. I believe verse 4 does indeed describe the life of a genuine Christian, however there is actually no debate or dispute amongst scholars as to whether or not the KJV clause in verse 1 should stand - it is not part of the original text. The newer translations I mention eliminate any possible or potential confusion as to whether justification be based upon sanctification and rightly so.

    An interesting answer to a difficult question.

    Open Theism answers Dr. Norman Geisler here...

    John S,
    IMHO, it would appear to me, that your inquirer's initial question comes from a lack of understanding about the 'christian's' position [IN CHRIST], with regard to walking in the flesh or the Spirit.

    The mistake lies in NOT whether a christian walks sometimes in the flesh and therefore tries to walk in the Spirit, but more to the point, that a 'christian' walks IN the Spirit and therefore does not walk in the flesh.

    This, I believe, is what we are meant to understand from Paul's letter.

    John Murray, in his excellent Commentary on the book of Romans, says this on page 282 [with regard to verse 1 to 3]

    [Quote}"....Hence freedom from condemnation must embrace freedom from judgement of sin's power as well as the judgement of sin's guilt. The emphasis placed upon NO condemnation would in itself suggest that every aspect from which condemnation can be viewed is included in this negation.

    And, in relation to the preceding context, what comfort is more appropriate and necesssary for the believer engaged in the conflict described, a conflict in which the power of sin and of the flesh is so patent, than the ASSURANCE [my emphasis] that the power of sin has been ONCE FOR ALL DECISIVELY JUDGED[my emphasis] and that the ruling power in the believer is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus?"

    I take Murray's commentary to be therefore saying that the apostle Paul is saying that a "christian" walks NOT by the flesh, but by the Spirit.
    IOW, a "christian" cannot walk in the flesh, if he/she is walking in the Spirit.

    'IN CHRIST' means believers are not condemned, but are justified.
    [just-as-if-I'd].....never sinned.

    They walk in the Spirit.
    They do not walk in the Flesh.

    If we make the mistake of thinking that christians walk BOTH in the flesh and the Spirit, then we are not understanding Romans 8 correctly.



    This is a very important point you made clear, "If we make the mistake of thinking that christians walk BOTH in the flesh and the Spirit, then we are not understanding Romans 8 correctly."

    Romans 8 if misunderstood as teaching Christians walk both in the flesh in the Spirit will bring the condemnation experienced by the inquirer. The great promise and description of Romans Eight is that believers indeed are in the Spirit and not the Flesh.

    Romans 8 has long been a very favorite chapter of mine - and yet I know in my earlier Christian years I did not understand properly the clear declaration that true believers are not in the flesh. So even the chapter I loved so much was condemning me as I saw remaining corruption in myself. Fleshly mind is enmity against God, they that are in the flesh cannot please God, WE must be mortifying the flesh. All true, but not to be understood as a believer vacillating between Spirit and Flesh but rather, unbelievers who have not the Spirit at all, and the the great promise of the Spirit given to every true child of God.

    John S, Truly Thanking God that you are making us think deeper. Praise the Lord.

    The King James "version" of the text in Romans 8:1 is incorrect in that it was not taken verbatim from the oldest/original, and most widely known writings among the common people, aka the koine Greek texts. According to Bible scholar Merrill F. Unger (Unger's Bible Handbook), "'The words "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" obscure the radiant truth of verse 1, and are interpolated from verse 4, where they belong.'"

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