Made Free by the Spirit of Life

James D. Slopsema is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Walker, Michigan.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 

Romans 8:2

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.

This is how the holy apostle begins this beautiful chapter in his letter to the church at Rome.

No condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.

This is the very heart of the gospel of salvation.

How important it is to demonstrate the truth of this statement.

This the apostle Paul does by a personal confession.

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Here Paul claims that, belonging to Jesus Christ, he had received the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. The Spirit of life is, of course, the Holy Spirit. This Spirit had set Paul free from the law of sin and death. This, by the way, is true of all who belong to Jesus Christ. And this, claims Paul, is proof that there is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. Were there any condemnation for those in Christ, they could never be set free from the law of sin and death.

The law of sin and death.

What a cruel bondage!

Law does not refer here to the law of God. Law is used rather in the sense of a power or force that rules and governs our lives according to a certain predictable pattern.

Thus, for example, we speak of the laws of nature. The laws of nature are forces God has created in the universe which always operate according to a predictable pattern and which govern the activities of the creation. There is the law of gravity, the law of expansion and contraction, the law of magnetism . . . .

In like manner there are laws in the spiritual realm that govern the lives of men. There is the law of sin and death. There is also the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Our concern at this point is with the law of sin and death.

Sin is viewed here as a tremendous power that has taken hold of mankind and that exercises absolute control over man’s spiritual life. It all began when in Adam mankind sinned against the living God. This original sin brought the whole human race under the power and domination of sin. Ever since then sin has controlled man’s thoughts, his desires, his speech, his actions, his whole life. It has led man to live his whole life contrary to the will of God.

Sin has become a law that rules and regulates the life of man.

What a cruel bondage this law of sin is for man!

The trouble is that those who are under the law of sin do not see it this way.

There is a certain amount of pleasure that the fallen man derives from sin. He finds it pleasurable to gossip, to profane God’s name, to commit adultery, to become drunken. Whenever man comes under the power of sin, he finds his delight in doing exactly what God forbids in His holy law. For that reason the natural man does not consider the law of sin to be a bondage. Gladly and willingly he serves the power of sin. Blinded by the pleasures of sin, he considers the ability to live in sin to be freedom.

But the truth is that the law of sin is a most cruel bondage.

For the law of sin leads to death.

The Bible is very clear. The wages of sin is death. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. This is not because sin is some kind of poison that slowly works the death of man. This is because God punishes sin with death. God punishes every sin with death. God also punishes your sin with death.

Consequently, we read here of the law of sin and death.

The death that results from the law of sin is the complete destruction of man.

This death is realized ultimately and finally in hell. Hell is the place of God’s wrath, where God terrorizes the wicked for their sins. And there is no escape from hell. Those who enter the inferno of hell face an eternity of hopeless agony and despair at the hands of an angry God.

Of this endless death the sinner has a foretaste even now.

For God judges the sin of man even in this life. Even now the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. (Romans 1:18)

God reveals his wrath against the sin of man by sending sickness and disease. His wrath is revealed through poverty, famine, and starvation. Perhaps the greatest revelation of God’s wrath upon sin is the strife and turmoil God brings to mankind: marital problems, family disturbances, racial discrimination, riot and revolution, war among the nations.

What agony the world suffers at the hand of a vengeful God!

And it is but a small foretaste of the greater sufferings yet to come.

The law of sin is freedom?

It is the most cruel bondage.

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

From the viewpoint of man’s ability, there is no escape from the law of sin and death.

When a person finds himself in bondage to a fellow man, there is always the possibility of escape. He may redeem himself from his slavery through the payment of a price or through faithful service. Or he may simply run away.

But there is nothing that man can do to escape from the law of sin and death.

He can not overthrow the power of sin that has taken hold of him. Fact is, so long as he is under the domination of sin, he does not want to. He counts his slavery to be freedom.

Nor can man overcome the impending death which God sends as punishment for sin. Oh, man tries. He seeks to prolong death and, if possible, even conquer death through advancements in medicine. He also seeks to make his life more bearable through psychology and scientific advancements. But always he fails. A miserable life ending in a hopeless death is inevitable. For these are the punishments of God upon man for his sin.

As is evident from the apostle’s confession, liberation from the law of sin and death is to be found only in the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

The Spirit mentioned here is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead.

The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. This emphasizes that the Holy Spirit is the One through Whom we receive the life of Jesus Christ.

On the basis of the perfect work on the cross, Jesus was raised on the third day to a glorious, heavenly life.

And our Savior Jesus shares this life with us. In fact, the very purpose of His death was to earn this life for us. He was raised again on the third day exactly that He might both receive this life and give it to us. To this end Jesus also received the gift of the Holy Spirit at His ascension into heaven. This Spirit the exalted Jesus poured out upon the church. And through the indwelling Spirit, Christ shares with every member of the church His resurrection life.

Hence, the Spirit is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

When the Spirit of life takes up His abode in our hearts and bestows upon us the new life of Jesus Christ, He becomes an irresistible power to direct the whole course of our life. Sin may have taken hold of us from the beginning, leading us into every way of disobedience. But when the Spirit accomplishes His great work, the power of sin is broken. And the Spirit becomes as a law, regulating our lives according to the holy will of God.

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made us free from the law of sin and death!

And what a glorious freedom this is!

Many consider life under God’s law to be a terrible bondage. And bondage it is, if our hearts despise the way of God. But we are forced to conform our outward behavior to it.

However, the Spirit of life so changes our hearts that we delight in God’s law and gladly keep His ways. And that is freedom. For in the way of willful service of God there is the joy of God’s friendship, the security of God’s protection, the hope of life eternal.

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made us free from the law of sin and death. Now we must walk in this freedom.

Belonging to Jesus Christ, we possess this freedom of the Spirit. However, this freedom is not yet complete and full. For we still have a sinful nature. And that sinful nature delights in the way of sin. In fact, it seeks again and again to lead us into the bondage from which we have been delivered.

Hence, we must remember that we are not debtors to the flesh to live after the flesh. We owe the flesh nothing.

Rather, through the power of the Spirit we are to mortify the deeds of the flesh and live in the glorious liberty that is ours in Jesus Christ.

In that liberty we also have the certainty that in Jesus Christ there is for us no condemnation.

For there is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.