The Spirit Set You Free

Romans 8:1–4

Principle for Bible Reading

The word “for” is one of the most common in Paul’s writing. His letters often hang on what that little connecting word means, and there are at least a couple of options in each case. In this lab, Pastor John explains the relationship between our justification and sanctification by focusing on those three letters: f-o-r.

View the outline.


Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–01:57)

  1. In Christ Jesus, we have received the legal verdict: no condemnation (Romans 8:1).
  2. In Christ Jesus, we have received power to live transformed lives (Romans 8:2).

Understanding the Grammar: For (01:57–04:32)

There are two potential ways Romans 8:2 is grounding (“For” or “Because”) Romans 8:1:

  1. Cause — The second idea or activity produced the first. For example, “I am hungry for I skipped breakfast.”
  2. Evidence — The second idea or activity proves the first. For example, “I am hungry for my stomach is growling.”

Defining the “For” (02:32–09:08)

So there are two option for the “for” at the beginning of Romans 8:2:

  1. Cause — We are justified (“no condemnation”) because of our sanctification (“free in Christ Jesus”). Sanctification produces justification.
  2. Evidence — It is clear we are justified because of our sanctification. Sanctification proves justification.

Here is the evidence from the context that the “for” is communicating evidence, and not cause or basis:

  1. Romans 8:3 — God condemned our sin in Jesus. He accomplished out justification by sending his Son, not by our righteousness.
  2. Romans 8:4 — My walking according to the Spirit (sanctification) is a result (“in order that”) of Jesus having died for my sins (justification).

Study Questions

  1. How does Romans 8:2 relate to Romans 8:1? What does the “for” at the beginning of Romans 8:2 mean? What are the options?
  2. What does Romans 8:1–4 tell us about the relationship between out justification (being set right with God) and our sanctification (being set free from sin in our lives)?
  3. How would you explain the difference between a ground that is a cause or basis and a ground that is an evidence?
Piper: “Our freedom in Christ, experienced by the Spirit, testifies that we have been justified by God.”

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.