Romans 8 is the kernel not only of the book of Romans but also of the whole Bible. For this reason, the experience in this portion of the Word must become our daily life.
In this chapter the Spirit of God is called the Spirit of life and the Spirit of Christ, terms not used in the Old Testament, the Gospels, nor the Acts. The term the Spirit of God, however, was used many times before Romans, but Romans 8 reveals that the Spirit of God is the Spirit of life and the Spirit of Christ. In verses 9 and 10 the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, and Christ are used interchangeably. This indicates that the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Christ and that the Spirit of Christ is Christ Himself. Today Christ as the Spirit of life indwells our spirit. We experience this as we walk not according to flesh but according to spirit.
Verse 6 says, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace.” Here we see that the result of minding the flesh is death and that the result of minding the spirit is life and peace. In the very beginning of the Bible life is signified by the tree of life, and death, by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These two trees represent two different sources with two opposite results. The tree of life brings us into life, and the tree of knowledge brings us into death. Furthermore, the Bible concludes with two consummations: the lake of fire, which is the second death, and the New Jerusalem, which is the city of life. Therefore the Bible ends as it begins, with death and life.
Romans 8 is on the way between the beginning in Genesis and the consummation in Revelation. Between the two sources and the two consummations there are two lines: the line of life and the line of death. As we pointed out in the last message, sometimes we may have one foot on the line of life and the other on the line of death. At other times we may be altogether on one line or the other. Romans 8 deals with these two lines from the aspect of our experience.
In John 15 the Lord Jesus reveals that He is the vine and we are the branches. He also says that we need to abide in Him and that, if we do, He will abide in us. What a wonderful life this mutual abiding is! Although John 15 tells us to abide in Christ, it does not present the way to abide. As we shall see, the way to abide in Christ is found in Romans 8, which is a progression from John 15.
For more than fifty years, I have been considering how we can abide in Christ. Christ is far away in the third heaven, and we are on earth. How can we abide in Him? Years ago, the Bible teachers under whom I studied could not answer this question adequately. They could only tell me that we abide in Christ through the Holy Spirit. But in John 15 Christ does not say to abide in Him through the Spirit. As a young man who desired to know the Bible in a logical way, not according to superstition or tradition, I thought it was not logical to say that we abide in Christ through the Spirit. How can you abide in one person through another person? Thus, concerning the abiding in Christ, we first need to seek the answer to this question: Where is the Christ in whom we must abide?
The second question is this: What is the “Me” spoken of in verses 4 and 5 of John 15? To answer we must know not only who Christ is but also what Christ is. If we would abide in Christ as the vine, we must be able to answer this question. How can we abide in something if we do not know what we are to abide in? How can Christ be the One in whom we abide? We can understand the meaning of the words “Follow Me,” but it is not easy to understand the words “Abide in Me.” To follow the Lord means that He goes ahead of us and that we walk behind Him. But what does it mean to abide in Him? We can easily understand what it means to abide with Christ, but not what it means to abide in Him.
The third question is this: How can we abide in Him? Even if we know where Christ is and what the “Me” is in whom we must abide, we still need to know how to remain in Him. The words “Abide in Me” certainly are mysterious and perplexing. Like many other sayings in the Gospel of John, these words are simple, but their meaning is profound.
In order to answer all these questions we have raised regarding abiding in Christ, we need to come again to Romans 8. The divine revelation in the holy Word is progressive; therefore, to understand this matter of abiding in Christ we need to proceed from John 15 to Romans 8. Suppose your father wrote you a long letter of many pages. In order to understand your father’s thought as revealed in the letter, you would need to read the whole letter, not just the first few pages. The thought in his letter would be revealed progressively. Likewise, as we go on from John 15 to Romans 8, we see a progression in the matter of abiding in Christ.
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