No Condemnation (Part One)
© C. O. Bishop 12/25/15 THCF 12/27/15
We have taken a bit of a guided tour through Romans over the last several months: We saw in the first five chapters the utter bankruptcy and lostness of the human race, contrasted against the Grace of God freely offered through the person of Christ. We saw that we are to enter into that Grace through faith in the shed blood of Jesus as being the full payment for our sins.
We saw that upon our placing our faith in His shed blood, his complete righteousness was posted to our account as a believer, so that we are no longer seen as bankrupt, but as fully solvent in Christ, and completely righteous in Him.
We saw that because of that transaction at the Cross, we are no longer seen as enemies, but rather that we are at Peace with God, and, more importantly, He is at peace with us.
In chapters six and seven we saw that we no longer have to sin…we have a genuine choice available to us because we have a genuine new nature. The old nature is still present, but no longer holds any authority. It has not only lost its authority, but it has lost its identity, as God no longer sees our old sin nature (frequently called the “flesh” in scripture, but not to be confused with tone’s physical body) as the “real” person. He will only address Himself to the new nature, sometimes called the New Man, and sometimes the “mind” or the “spirit”, (not to be confused with the Holy Spirit.) We finally saw the results (chapter 7) when a genuine believer earnestly attempts to live the Christian life in His own strength.
The trilogy of Romans 6, 7 and 8, then, is completed with 12 “layers” of truths in chapter eight:
- There is no condemnation to those in Christ.
- Those in Christ are free from the Law of Sin and Death.
- Those in Christ are responsible to walk in Him.
- Only those in Him can walk in Him.
- Only the Holy Spirit can do the walking.
- Only saved people have the Holy Spirit…and, conversely, if you do not have the Spirit, you aren’t
- The Flesh cannot be subject to God, so it cannot please God.
- The Flesh is always an agent of death, whether physical or spiritual…always remembering that “death”, in scripture, is always some sort of separation, whether spiritual or physical, and whether temporary or eternal.
- Those who are indwelt by the Spirit of God are already the Sons of God, and, because of that we are joint-heirs (not co-heirs) with Christ.
- At the “adoption” (Greek “huiothesis”) we will be recognized (publicly) as the heirs of God, and, at that point, too, the Earth will be freed from its bondage…when we receive our new bodies.
- We cannot be separated from God, because we cannot be separated from the love of God which is in Christ.
- We cannot separate ourselves from His love, because He specifies that “no created thing” can separate us from Him…and we are, by definition, a “created thing”.
I don’t think it would be profitable to try to cover all of these twelve layers of teaching in one service; partly because we would have to rush, and partly because it does not give the hearer the necessary time to think things over. There is a great deal here upon.which to meditate
So, let’s see how far we can get:
This is one of the most important foundational truths for the believer in terms of confidence, peace, and functionality. If you do not grasp the central truth of your security in Christ then you cannot serve effectively because you will be constantly looking back to see if your salvation is still safe.
8 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
This comment alone has generated more arguments among evangelical Christians than most of the rest of the Bible. Some see it as a dangerous teaching that will be misused to produce licentiousness. And that is true. Any valuable tool or privilege can be misused. A hammer (or a pair of scissors, etc.) can be used as a weapon; that does not mean that people should not have hammers or scissors. It means that we have to use responsibly the gifts and tools that God has given us. That same principle applies across all levels of truth. The fact that truth can be misused does not negate its truth…it simply means that responsibility goes along with truth.
Let’s examine both the truth and the responsibility that accompanies it.
How sure am I (and why am I so sure) that I am secure in Christ? It is clearly stated in many passages that offer no qualifiers. It is the key theme of this particular chapter, and is stated by Jesus personally, in passages where no conditions were added to modify the promise.
John 10:27, 28 is a fairly important passage. He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish.” Notice that he did not say, “IF they follow me, I will give them eternal life”…he said “…they follow me, and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” I have many times heard someone protest, “well, yes, but you can jump out!” No…because, in the first place, if you could “jump out”, then the central promise to this passage (“They shall never perish!”) would be untrue.
Also (again Jesus is speaking), in John 6:37-39, Jesus promised “all that the Father hath given me shall come to me, and him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out. For I came not down from heaven to do my own will but the will of Him that sent me, And this is my Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” Let’s think that one through:
- All that the Father has given to Jesus will come to him. He won’t fail to find them.
- No one who comes to Jesus will ever be cast out…ever.
- God’s specific will regarding all those given to Jesus is that Jesus will never lose one of them, but that
- They will be raised up at the last day.
That is pretty specific. There are no honest ways to refute the promise. Sometimes people try to bring up counter-examples:
- Judas Iscariot (He was never saved to begin with—Jesus himself said so. John 13:10, 11)
- Ananias and Sapphira (they lost their physical lives—there is no evidence that their eternal destiny was involved.)
- Samson seems a “poster-child” for an unfaithful believer, if you only read his history. But when we read God’s commentary on him, we find him in Hebrews 11:32, listed by name under God’s “hall of fame” for faith. Many other such examples exist, but the point is that we need to believe God’s promise, not keep trying to find loopholes.
One thing we don’t want to overlook is the second half of verse one: “…who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit”. There are those who argue that this half of the verse is a copyist error, and that it is only supposed to be in verse four, not verse one. But let’s set that argument aside: What would it say if we knew for sure that it should be in both places?
Looking back at Chapter seven we see that Paul concluded that a “disconnect” had occurred between his old sin nature and his new righteous nature: that the old man, the flesh, was no longer him. Does that shed any light on the subject? Who is it that verse one promises will not be condemned? The old man or the new? The old man is already condemned, and irrevocably so: even God couldn’t save it or change it. The new man is created in the likeness of God to the extent that it is completely righteous and holy, just like Him (Ephesians 4:22, 24).
Do you suppose he may be simply reiterating the separation between old and new, here? God does judge sins…and he judges sinners, if they cling to their sins. The moment you trusted Jesus as your savior, your sins were judged at the Cross, and you gained a new nature, so that the Lord will never again see you as a sinner. Will you see yourself as a sinner? Actually, I rather hope that you do—Paul saw himself that way.
Paul said (1st Timothy 1:15), “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; among whom I am chief.” (Greek protos eimi ego: Not “was”, but “am!” Jesus used nearly the same construction when he said [John 14:6] “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life…”, and Paul used exactly the same construction when he said [Romans 11:13] “I am the apostle to the Gentiles.”) It is interesting, too, to realize that of all the apostles, and all the potential people who might say such a thing about themselves, Paul is the only one through whom the Holy Spirit elected to say such a thing…and he said it three times, in so many words. (“To me, who am less than the least of all saints…”; “not worthy to be called an apostle…”—these words are not just Paul’s “emotional outlook”.
Peter might have possibly said such a thing in his own private grief at having denied the Lord, but in his epistles there is not a trace of that. Paul, who arguably is the one who laid the foundation of the entire Gentile church, is the one through whom the Holy Spirit made all three of those statements… about Paul, no one else. So, while I think it is fine for me to soberly look at myself and say, “I am a sinner, saved by grace!”, it is not OK for me to declare myself the “worst of sinners” or anything similar, because Paul already holds that title. That is what it says. I do not claim to understand it, but there is no question that it is what it says.
So, those who “walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit” includes all believers. God has permanently separated you from your sins.
Set Free from the Law of Sin and Death
The next thing Paul states is that he has been made free from the Law of Sin and Death.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
Notice the tense in this verse: does he say that the Spirit will make him free? No, he says that the law of the Spirit has made him free from the Law of sin and Death… past tense! So, what does that mean? What is the Law of Sin and Death, anyway? Is it the same as the Law of Moses?
I think that the Law of Moses could certainly be included, because, as you recall, the Law of Moses certainly called for death to the disobedient. But the “Law of sin and death” goes back even further: In Genesis 2:17, God warned Adam, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; thou shall not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” There is the first iteration of the Law of sin and death. “If you break the Law you will die”. That is the central theme of Law. Notice that there were no “safeguards” set up—no invisible fences or anything similar. They broke the Law, and died spiritually the moment Adam ate that fruit. 3,500 years later, God re-stated the principle: Ezekiel 18:4 says “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”
So, in what way have I (past tense) been set free from this ancient principle? I can see that the Law of sin and death recognized me as someone who should be put to death. But, according to Galatians 2:19, “I, through the Law, am dead to the Law, that I might live unto God.” Jesus fulfilled the Law for Himself by living it perfectly. He fulfilled the Law for me by dying in my place. Now I am free, not because the Law has changed, but because it is satisfied regarding my sin. I am dead!
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
That is what Jesus accomplished through His perfect life and substitutionary death. He deposited His righteousness to our accounts by His perfect life, and took our sin in his vicarious, substitutionary death. The Law made no provision for such a thing. The Law of the substitute was there, to be sure, but in very limited form. The Kinsman redeemer was there, but only to a certain extent. Jesus fulfilled all the promises of God for a redeemer and a savior, and a perfect sacrifice that takes away sin, rather than temporarily covering it.
What Should be the Result in Our Lives?
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
We are alive to God, and He wants us to respond to His Grace by allowing Him to live through us, and demonstrate His righteousness in us. For what cause? To keep us from going to hell? No, to glorify God in our bodies, and to keep others out of hell. Jesus said that we were to let our light shine in such a way that others will see our good works and not glorify us, but glorify our Father in Heaven! Our good works are part of the Christian life, but they are not part of how we are saved, nor part of how we are kept safe. They are part of our testimony and part of our worship: part of how we honor God with our lives. All the saving and keeping is done by Jesus.
But, What if We Fail?
Are there consequences for disobedience? Of course there are…but they still do not negate the promises we just read. My salvation and my security in Christ are entirely His responsibility, not mine. I could do nothing to save myself, and I can do nothing to stay saved. But I want my life to count for eternity: I want to honor God with my life. I do not always succeed in that. Many times I fail: If you don’t believe me, just ask my family.
But we are told to confess that we have failed, and get up and walk again. We are just as secure when we are wallowing in sin and self-pity or self-righteousness, as when we are soberly, joyfully, honestly walking with God…but we will not be aware of it, nor happy about it. 1st John 1:9 is not just a statement of fact, or even a command, it is a precious promise. We can be restored to fellowship and joyful service!
Make it a priority in your life to go back over chapters 6, 7 and 8 until the lesson sinks in and you can apply it to yourself. That is what I am having to do as I teach through these passages.
Lord Jesus, make us able ministers of your Word, and teach us to place our faith in your divine safekeeping, so that we are not constantly working to make ourselves better, but to make your name shine before those who don’t know you. Shape us into the Men and Women of God that you have chosen us to be.