Romans 8:1 contains teaching that can mean a great deal to each
of us. I'll read the verse in a moment.
In must be an awful thing, in our justice system, to be a condemned person. To violate criminal law; to be apprehended; to be convicted and sentenced. And therefore be a condemned person. Knowing your condition and having no hope of relief.
But this may not concern you. If you are not guilty of any crime. If you entertain no fear of going through the justice system and being incarcerated. You may not easily identify with someone in prison, awaiting future punishment.
There is, however, a spiritual counterpart to this. Let me ask - have you ever transgressed God's law? Have you ever committed any sin? If you have sinned, you stand condemned in the court of divine judgment and the indictment against you is written in the Scriptures. Sinners are condemned. As Paul wrote in Romans: "to those who...do not obey the truth - indignation, wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek," (Rom. 2:8,9). Regarding those who violated the Law of Moses, the Scripture said, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them," (Gal. 3:10). Participation in sin brings to the sinner - earned condemnation; the curse of violating God's law.
All of this brings us to our text, which is the first verse of Romans chapter eight. Remember, sinners are condemned. But because of God's grace, there is a place of safety; a way to escape that condemnation.
Here is the verse. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit."
Sinners deserve condemnation, but "in Christ Jesus" there is "no condemnation." What does that mean?
In order to have a good understanding of the first verse in Romans 8, it will be necessary to follow the flow of thought out of chapter seven and into chapter eight.
Back in Romans 7, seeking to be right with God under the Law, but guilty of sin - Paul found himself to be "wretched, carnal, and sold under sin." This was before he found and received deliverance in Christ; prior to his conversion. He had been attempting to live right with God, based on his own obedience to what he thought was right - but he was wrong and disobedient. That frustration is the subject of Romans chapter seven.
This is the common experience of people who seek to be justified before God, only by their compliance with law; depending upon their works, without receiving the forgiveness offered in Christ. The pattern is, you sin; the law convicts you of your sin; you make some attempts to do better, but you sin again and thus remain guilty before God. This cycle is what Paul is talking about in Romans 7. It is the common experience of people who seek to be justified before God, only by their works, without accepting pardon in Christ by the activity of faith.
Paul relates his own experience, as a Pharisee, before his faith in Christ. He was keeping the law as he understood it, but without the forgiveness Christ purchased on the cross. He was, therefore, "wretched, carnal, and sold under sin."
Where did he find an end to this misery? Rom. 7:25 - "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 7 is about the frustration (the inner conflict) of trying to be right, trusting in your performance apart from the blood of Christ.
In Romans 8, he leaves the past and speaks to the present: "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." Before trusting in Christ, Paul was depending on his own performance. As a result, his life was wretched and he was under condemnation. But now, as an active believer in Christ (thus, a justified man), he suffered no condemnation.
Romans 8:1 - "There is, therefore, now, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." Paul left his old life of sin and human tradition. He was baptized to have his sins washed away by the blood of Christ. Then, he engaged heart and life, walking according to the Spirit. Thus, there was now "no condemnation."
When challenged about their spiritual welfare, some will say: "I am a good person. I try to do what the Bible says. I keep the Ten Commandments."
In these claims, no reference is made to Christ. No remembrance of the Cross, and no praise for the grace of God. Some people simply depend upon what they do. No interests in repentance and baptism, to participate in the blessings of Christ. No involvement in a local church with other Christians. Justification, from their perspective, based on their efforts to be good.
For them, it is as if Jesus never died for them or died needlessly (see Gal. 2:21). No choice is made to repent, to be baptized into Christ, to receive the forgiveness He died for sinners to have. They resist the appeal of being washed in the blood of the Lamb. They go from day to day, year to year, depending upon what they do, but without a personal response to the gospel of Christ. Thinking they can handle the sin problem by themselves.
Paul lived that way for a time. A militant Pharisee, not just indifferent to Christ, but defiant. Yet, attempting to maintain good standing with God based on his own righteousness. He describes this in Romans 7 and in Philippians 3.
In Philippians three he calls it - confidence in the flesh.
Listen to what he wrote in Philippains 3.
1Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.
2Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
7But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
It is clear, as Paul writes about his own experience, that for a time before his obedience to the gospel, he lived his life based on "confidence in the flesh." As the Pharisees interpreted the Mosaic Code, Paul was "blameless."
But there came a time when Paul became aware of his own condemnation; that without the pardon from God in Christ, he was lost. I believe he is documenting that awareness of conscience in the later part of Romans 7. He said things like: "I am carnal...sold under sin...sin dwells in me...I am in captivity to the law of sin which is in my members...O wretched man that I am."
These were the emotions of this lost soul, trying to keep the law but failing; now aware of his own condemnation. In Romans 7:24, he accounts for his despair: "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" The answer comes back, "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
There may be a lot of good things you do. You may be generous. You may carefully avoid certain kinds of immorality, crime and dishonesty. You may have a positive mental attitude. It may well be, there is a commendable work ethic you have pursued all your life. You may shun immorality, oppose evil and talk about God favorably. But without Christ, you are lost; you stand condemned before God.
If you have ever sinned once, you need Christ. God is a merciful, forgiving God. But the forgiveness God offers is not automatic; nor is it conferred because of your good record.
God forgives sin in Christ. So when Paul personally discovered the condemnation of his own sin, there was no where to go but to Christ! He needed more than what the Mosaic Law provided (a provisional forgiveness). The Pharisees didn't have access to God. When Paul personally discovered the condemnation of his own sin, there was no where to go but to Christ. And today, when we read Romans seven, and keep reading into chapter eight, that truth cannot be missed, if we are honest with the text.
Our text says: "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit."
Once you realize your sinful condition, and the condemnation it brings, there is only one place where there is "no condemnation." There is only one plan of salvation.
The plan is not for me to solve the sin problem by doing better, though I should. The plan of salvation is not for me to just start doing good things. The plan of salvation is not for me to just ignore my past sin. The plan is, to accept the salvation God provides in Christ. To hear, believe and obey the gospel, in order to receive the forgiveness in Christ I cannot have anywhere else. The plan is, to seek relief in Christ, so that even though I have sinned, in Christ I am not condemned.
As a sinner, I stand convicted and condemned. But now, in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation.
If you are a sinner, just doing better will not save you; you must be baptized into Christ; in Him, there is no condemnation. This is God's plan.
I want to show you how this is developed in the book of Romans; and I want us to consider three things:
The cause of condemnation
The removal of condemnation
The personal participation of the sinner
First, the cause of condemnation. Sin is the cause. This is established by Paul, beginning with Romans 1:18, and continuing through Rom. 3:23. And the point is simple. We have a problem. The problem is sin; we have disobeyed God. Paul begins to affirm this and prove this in Rom. 1:18, and he concludes, in Rom. 3:23 - that all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. Sin, personally chosen, is the cause of condemnation. If you have ever committed one sin. If you know, you are living in sin today, that's the cause of condemnation.
Second, consider the removal or remedy. It is the atoning work of Jesus Christ. At the center of the book of Romans is Christ; who He is, and the giving of Himself for us. Everything is connected to Him. The epistle begins with this statement about Christ:
1Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, 6among whom you also are the
called of Jesus Christ;
Right from the start, the apostle Paul puts Christ at the center of everything. Then, at the end of the epistle He is there:
25Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith-27to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.
Paul begins and ends the letter to the Romans - with these statements exalting Jesus Christ. And everything in between is an explanation or application of the truth about Jesus Christ, as the Savior who died for us.
So, once I realize that I'm condemned by my own sin, the next step for me to take is - act out of trust in God, to receive the forgiveness Christ died for me to have.
So there is the cause of condemnation, which is sin. There is the remedy God provides in Jesus Christ.
Third, we must not leave out the personal participation of the sinner. Let me carefully explain what I mean by "personal participation."
Sin causes condemnation. Jesus gave His life to provide the removal of condemnation, but personal participation is required!
Being saved by the blood of Christ is not automatic. Jesus doesn't twist our arms and compel us to be forgiven. We must personally participate; we must receive and keep what is offered. Trust and obey.
There is something the sinner must do! In order to receive the benefit and have the condemnation removed. And, all through the book of Romans, we are given instruction about this participation. And two things are prominently connected - faith and obedience. Romans 1:5 - "obedience to the faith."
But listen to this, found in Romans 6:17,18.
17But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Now observe with care - what they were, in contrast to what they became. They were "slaves of sin" before obeying the gospel. They became "slaves of righteousness." How did they make that transition? How did these "slaves of sin" become "slaves of righteousness." They heard the preaching of Jesus Christ, and they obeyed. They "obeyed from the heart."
Sin condemns. Christ died to remove the condemnation. Once I realize I'm a sinner, I can participate in that benefit, when my faith in Christ becomes active in obedience. My personal participation is required, initially - then after baptism and until death, walking in newness
The Christian can say, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit."
In a moment, I'm going to take you through the steps, in obedience to the gospel of Christ. And the appeal will be made to everyone who hasn't been baptized, to escape the condemnation of sin - by entering into Christ.
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 11.4, April, 2004