Paul sets out two very different perspectives for his audience in the letter. There are two opposing priorities. Two distinct paths. One is the way of the flesh and one is the way of the Spirit. The eighth chapter will try to show where these paths lead. It’s interesting that “Satan” doesn’t appear by name in Romans until the 16th chapter. It seems that Paul is trying to eliminate an excuse people have for choosing the way of the flesh. There is no “the devil made me do it” for Paul. But we will see that Satan does indeed have a role in the chapter.
Paul starts off by telling us that there is, for us, no condemnation. Condemnation is a legal term and it is rarely used outside of Paul’s writing. Even rare inside them. It is the opposite of justification. Condemnation occurs when Satan accuses God’s people of covenant violations. This is what leads to death. But what we see is that the Spirit has set us free from sin and death. What the law couldn’t do and was never designed to do, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews, Jesus did. That’s why the Father sent the Son. In Christ, the Church is grafted into Christ as his very body. We have been adopted by the Father because we are now part of the son. Having died in Christ, neither the law nor Satan has grounds for accusation against us.
We are now free. But freedom in Christ doesn’t mean political freedom. A representative republic and a free market economy is the highest ideal of Christianity. We are not guaranteed to be free from pain, suffering, trials or even bad luck. In fact, it seems that we are actually promised that those things will befall us.
Paul tells us that the Father sent the Son in “likeness” of sinful flesh. Jesus came with a human body and tempted in every way humanity is tempted but sinless. Blameless. Christ understands us and empathizes with us, therefore God understands us and empathizes with us. And then the blameless life of Christ offered as a sin offering for all of humanity.
This new covenant we enter into has both rights (salvation) and responsibility (Christ likeness). Alone, we could not have either but the Spirit leads and encourages us this new Christlikeness but it never forces our compliance. This work of the Spirit is part of the peace given to us. The work is a binding together that which was broken. That brokenness comes from walking in the flesh. We are slaves to it in both thought and deed. Sin is a powerful force and it is running its course in this world. It is spiritual death that led to physical death but Paul tells us that it is spiritual life that will lead to physical life.