Larry Hunt's Bible Commentary

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Romans 8

Chapter 8

v. 1: Paul’s use of the present tense as a rhetorical device has ended.  The “now” of “There is therefore now no condemnation…” is literal.  I believe it is literal because in this chapter he is speaking in the context of a concrete event that has happened in the past: the coming of Christ.  “Now” is after the coming of Christ, but his use of the present tense in 7:14-25 has no such reference to suggest that his use of the present tense there might be literal.

v. 5: “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds [wills] set on what the Spirit desires.”  This mirrors Paul’s “law of my mind [will]” in 7:23 and later when he says, “In my mind [will] I am a slave to God’s law” in 7:25.

v. 6: Earlier (chapter seven) when Paul describes the body’s being controlled by the sinful nature, he describes the body as a slave that must obey its master.  He uses the same terminology here to describe the Spirit’s relationship to the minds [wills] of those who love God.  But the Spirit’s mastery of our will does not (as a rule) override our freedom to choose evil.  I know this because I do still choose evil sometimes in spite of the fact that I love God.  That Paul believed this mastery does not override our free will is evidenced in the fact that he is exhorting his readers to do good; there would be no need for him to do this if the Spirit always made them choose good.  Nevertheless, understanding this mastery by the Spirit is part of understanding the difference between trying to do good before and after Christ.

One way this mastery might manifest itself is in our ultimate fate.  Before Christ, when our fate depended upon the perfection of our wills, our non-physical being and our body died.  After Christ, although we must still die, we are and will be resurrected to new life through no strength of our own wills.  Our wills no longer have to act perfectly in order for us to have life; they have only to desire what the Spirit desires.  In this way, we really are controlled by the Spirit as a master controls his slave; the Spirit does not control our every action, but it does control our ultimate fate.

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