For God’s children all things work together for good (verses 1-30) In close connection with the immediately preceding paragraph-note “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (7:25)-, as well as with the entire preceding contents of this epistle, this chapter opens with the triumphant exclamation, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Christ’s substitutionary atonement has removed the guilt of their sins. As to sin’s polluting power, the effective operation of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within their hearts and is the controlling influence in their lives, has “set them free from the law of sin and death.”
God did for them what the law, operating by itself, could never have accomplished. Because of sin the law was unable to save. But God, by means of his Son’s vicarious death, brought about salvation. He did this without in any way sacrificing the demand of divine righteousness according to which sin must not be allowed to go unpunished. Only those people whose aim is to live in accordance with the demands of the Spirit can derive comfort from this great truth. On the other hand, those who are “in the flesh,” that is, who allow their lives to be basically governed by their sinful human nature, do not have this comfort. They “cannot please God” (verses 1-8).
Directly addressing his Roman audience, Paul continues, “You, by contrast, are not basically under the control of sinful human nature; on the contrary, you are being governed by the Spirit,” implying, “Therefore you are, indeed, able to please God, and you do, in fact, please him. (Of course, not necessarily every one of you: if any individual reveals by his words, actions, and attitudes that he does not wish to be controlled by the Spirit, that person does not belong to Christ).”
It should be our aim, therefore, to live in harmony with the Spirit’s direction for our lives. Those who do so will truly live. Those who do not are doomed to die. All those, and only those, whose lives prove that they are being led by the Spirit are truly sons of God.
Those people are not slaves but children. The Spirit adds his own testimony to the voice of their regenerated consciousness, thus providing them with a double assurance that they are God’s children. And if they are children, they are also heirs. Their Testator is God. It is he who will bestow on them a glorious inheritance, an inheritance which they will share with Christ, who, being God’s Son by nature, is Chief Heir. They are co-heirs, that is, heirs along with him. Those who here and now share Christ’s suffering will afterward share his glory (verses 9-18).
To the day of this future glory for God’s children the entire sub-human creation is eagerly looking forward. As the groaning of a woman who is in labor indicates both pain and hope, so does also Nature’s groaning. The entire sub-human creation is, as it were, craning its neck in order to behold “the revelation of the sons of God,” because that event will also mean glory for the entire creation.
But this is not the only groaning that is taking place. “Not only this, but we ourselves, who possess the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, as we eagerly await our adoption, that is, the redemption of our bodies.”