Darby on Romans 8 – Our Place in Christ and Security through Him

RomeThere are two things that Paul now assumes to be true of the Christian:

1. He is in Christ

2. The Spirit of God dwells in him.

His responsibility is something else.

Two passages describe the Christian’s blessing:

  1. Romans 5:1-11 – While we were still sinners, Christ died for us
  2. Romans 8 – There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus

Note that it is ‘those who are in Christ Jesus’, not ‘those for whose sins Christ died’. The latter are forgiven, justified and fully blest, but not in the enjoyment of their new standing as having died in the flesh, made alive to God in Christ. How could there be condemnation for those who are in Christ? It would be, so to speak, like condemning Christ.

In Christ we are on great and sure ground, the law of sin and death having lost its power. Instead the Christian has an inner spiritual or divine life, setting him free from the law of sin and death. Previously the deadly principle that ruled in him beforehand has no dominion. That is what he is before God in life.

Then why I am not condemned for me evil nature. It required the good, but provoked the sin.

The law:

1. Could not work good nor righteousness in me

2. Could not bring the question of flesh to an end before God

3. Could neither justify nor deliver me

4. Could not clear me before God of the evil that is in it

5. Could not hinder the flesh acting

6. Could not justify me while the flesh was there

7. Could not do the good it required.

Sin in the flesh has been condemned, because there can be no condemnation for one in Christ. My sins have been blotted out, but also the nature which produced them has been condemned, that is, sin in the flesh. The old man has been condemned to death, and the new man is alive. Having been set free, I walk after the Spirit, thus fulfilling the claim of the law – under grace. This is the true walk of the Christian in this world.

There are two natures, each with their respective objects:

1. The old nature in the flesh. The law fruitlessly forbade the old man’s desires as well as its acts. They that are after the flesh are governed by the things which that the flesh craves after. The mind of the flesh is death, enmity against God, resisting His authority. God comes in by law, asserts His authority and forbids lust; but the insubject, disobedient flesh loves its own lustful will and hates God.

2. The new nature under the power of the Spirit of God, the mind of the Spirit being life and peace. Such a one is not standing in the flesh, but in the Spirit, in liberty with God and free from sin – the fruit of redemption by Christ – of the ministry of righteousness and the Spirit. This characterises the Christian, and distinguishes him.

Christ has redeemed, justified, and cleansed us. The Holy Spirit makes us aware that we have a new place before Go – in His presence, accepted in Him, delivered and with no condemnation. This position belongs only to those who have the Spirit. Without the Spirit they do not have the proper Christian place, and do not belong to Him according to the power of redemption.

‘If Christ be in you, the body is dead, because of sin’ (v.10). If Christ is the power of life, the body, as far as will is concerned must be dead. Life must be by the Spirit, producing righteousness. This is the full answer to our being free from sin. Furthermore, our mortal bodies are quickened by the Holy Spirit.

In Rom 8, the Spirit is spoken of in three ways:

1. The Spirit of God, contrasted with flesh – man as he is

2. The Spirit of Christ, or Christ in us, formative of our practical state

3. The Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus, quickening our mortal bodies, giving us full liberty.

• Up to v. 11, the Spirit is presented as indwelling

• In v. 12-27, He is spoken of as a distinct and separate Person, acting on us and in us

• In v. 28-39, the Holy Spirit is for us, securing us in the blessing of God’s purpose.

The second part of the chapter is preceded by two practical verses (v.12- 13). ‘We are not debtors to the flesh.’ The flesh has no claim or title over us; It has done us all the evil it can, and has been condemned on the cross of Christ. We are dead to it, so we put to death the deeds of the body (See v. 18 Darby Translation).

Then from v.14, we are told, ‘As many as are led by the Spirit of God these are the sons of God.’ God has brought us here by grace, through redemption and the Holy Spirit. We now know that we are sons of God, so we cry, ‘Abba, Father’. We do not examine ourselves – that would be a false, unscriptural and evil procedure, but we are in a conscious relationship, the Spirit giving us the confidence.

As God’s children, we are joint-heirs with Christ, He being the great heir and firstborn. But then our path is characterised by His mind and nature. He suffered and now is glorified as Man, so we suffer with (not for) Him – this is a special privilege. Walking in holy love and heavenly grace, He could but suffer in the midst of the sinful world that rejected His love. His Spirit must always have been grieved by the sin and sorrow that was all around Him. So as saints we suffer in measure with Him, ‘If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him’ (2 Tim 2:12). But the sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory.

There is a beautiful connection between the suffering and the glory. Through the dwelling of the Spirit in us, God gives us to know that we are His sons, and reveals the glory to us, despite our being in this world of sorrow. We are delivered, and in the liberty of glory – something we can be intelligent as to.

This is a general statement. What follows is our personal connection with it as Christians. Christians, having the mind of Christ, know that the world is groaning and travailing in pain through the fall. Meanwhile the flesh, our own included, is trying to improve it. We, being creatures, have to wait for the redemption our bodies, the final part of our actual adoption and salvation. The redemption of our bodies and the purchased possession go together: we have redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of sins, but the Spirit is the earnest (or entitlement) of our possession. It is in this sense we are saved in hope, and know that we have been sealed for the day of redemption – Jesus’ return. We look back to Christ’s finished work; we understand its value, and patiently look forward to Christ’s glorious second coming. Meanwhile our unredeemed bodies have been bought with a price; and we suffer with the One who suffered here.

Through our connection with a fallen creation, He takes part also in our infirmities. There is a mass of sorrow which we feel according to God by the Holy Spirit, for which we, in our weakness, do not know how we should pray, but we feel the evil in the world pressing on our hearts. The Spirit works so that our prayers are according to God’s will, making intercession for us. ‘The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered’ (v.26). Thus He who searches the hearts, and scrutinises what is found there, does not find poor selfish feelings or complaints, but the mind of the Spirit. That is a wonderful privilege: as we see the glory and take part in it according to God, and we are through grace its voice.

But although we do not know what to pray for, we do ‘know that all things work together for good to them that love God’ (v. 28). God works in our favour, even though we do know not what to look for. Perhaps in the present state of things there is no remedy, but one thing is certain – God makes all things work together for good to those who love Him. There may be still sorrow, but in the sorrow we are blessed. We are called according to God’s purpose, and God orders everything for our good.

God works for us (not in us), and this is the third part of the chapter. We now have the counsel and favour of God – His own purpose. To set poor dying worms, in the same glory as the Son of the Father has nothing to do with responsibility, It is God’s Man sovereignty. If through grace we love God, it was because we have been sovereignly called according to His purpose. We have been foreknown and predestinated to a glory which was in God’s mind and counsels before the world began. We are ‘conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.’ (v. 29).

In Romans, the instruction does not go beyond the individual, even in speaking of the purpose of God. We are predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, that He may be the firstborn among many brethren. Our sins and our sin were met on the cross – this is surely sovereign grace.

‘As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly’ (1 Cor 15:49). He ‘shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body’ (Phil 3:21). Could we conceive anything more glorious, more blessed, than to be conformed to the image of God’s Son – to see Him as He is – and to be like Him?

The Spirit confirms the security of those whom God has perfectly predestinated to be sons, according His purpose, will and counsel. ‘That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us by Christ Jesus’ (Eph 2:7). He called us, justified us, and brought us to perfection in His plan – He glorified us. It is not as yet completed historically, but it is all one unbroken chain with God.

From this is derived – ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ (v. 31). God is for us, giving, justifying, and despite the difficulties, nothing shall separate us from His love – that is the great central truth of grace. He justifies us Himself – little matter who condemns us then!

So there may be difficulties, trials, and dangers in the way. Satan’s power against us, death, has been removed: therefore we more than conquer. Angels and powers – creature power or creature weakness – cannot separate us from the love of God. God is stronger than any creature; yet He who, as Man, went through everything, meeting the whole hostile power of death, secures us for glory against all opposition.

He intercedes for us: ‘It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.’ (v. 34). As the exalted Man; He is interested in us and intercedes for us, so we find our needed help and mercy. What can separate us from His love? In v. 39, it is the divine, supreme, and immutable love of God in Christ – stronger than anything that might separate us from this love.

Romans does not proceed into God’s counsels and privileges connected with the establishment of Christ’s glory as Head (that is Ephesians); but it reveals our standing by the word of God and the Holy Spirit’s reasoning.

This closes the doctrine of the epistle, carrying us on personally to glory – surely this is high and blessed enough!

A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans


A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans

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