Theology of Romans, Part 5


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. (NKJV)

What a magnificent statement of fact! There was not a doubt in Paul’s mind when he wrote those words so long ago. In the Greek, it’s even more powerful—

No possible condemnation is there, therefore, for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Barnhouse)

1. “Therefore…”

What is the “therefore” there for? It actually connects 8:1 with what went before. Specifically, when we read the “therefore” of 8:1, our minds should flash back to Paul’s teachings in:

  • Chapter 3: the fact and truth of justification;

  • Chapter 6: our real union with Jesus Christ;

  • Chapter 7: our complete identification with Him.

In light of these three chapters, therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ; to whom these three chapters apply, there is no chance of any condemnation. Ever. How could God possibly condemn those He has justified; those who are spiritually joined to His Son; those who confessed faith in everything He did for them on the Cross? How could God condemn one He has previously declared—

…to be good in his sight if they have faith in Christ to save them from God’s wrath. (Romans 4:5b TLB)

No wonder there is no possibility of any Christian standing condemned before God by God! After everything He did for that redeemed person, for God to turn around and condemn him would make God a cruel, psychotic cosmic prankster. And He is definitely not that!

We will get to the rest of Romans 8 in due course, but for now, it should be understood that this chapter continues the idea of the believer’s sanctification, with an emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. Up to this point in Romans, Paul has barely mentioned the Holy Spirit, but in this chapter, he mentions the third Member of the Trinity some 20 times! Some Bible scholars refer to this chapter as “the Pentecost of Romans.” Why is the Holy Spirit mentioned so often now? It’s because true sanctification is possible only as the Holy Spirit works in the heart and life of a believer. John Knox:

The Spirit is the theme of this culminating section of the argument that began in 6:1 with the question, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may about?”

The only way a redeemed, justified, born again individual may experience victory over sin is by letting the Holy Spirit work in him. The Holy Spirit sanctifies our lives (a practical work) and He guarantees our final redemption (a spiritual work). The Law (for Jews) and our own grit and determination (all people) can never sanctify us actually; sanctification is more than just a cessation of sin; at its core, it is a spiritual work and may only be accomplished spiritually.

And in the same way—by our faith—the Holy Spirit helps us with our daily problems and in our praying. For we don’t even know what we should pray for nor how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows, of course, what the Spirit is saying as he pleads for us in harmony with God’s own will. (Romans 8:26, 27 TLB)

What a precious gift the Holy Spirit is! He does so much for us and in us. But above all, the Holy Spirit and His work in us is completely indispensable. A life that is pleasing and glorifying to God must be lived in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t drink too much wine, for many evils lie along that path; be filled instead with the Holy Spirit and controlled by him. (Ephesians 5:18 TLB)

2. “…now no condemnation”

The first word, “now” is awkward in this sentence, but essential. When is there to be “no condemnation?” The answer is NOW—right now. The blessing of “no condemnation” may be experienced immediately. In other words, believers don’t have to wait until the great by-and-by to discover the fact that they stand free and clear, forgiven and declared “not guilty” in God’s sight. It is a present reality! We stand not condemned right now. You may feel condemned, but in fact you aren’t and can never be. Our “no condemnation” is an objective truth independent of you, what you have done or not done. It’s all about God, not you. Now, later on in this chapter, we will deal with what the Holy Spirit works in you to perfect your sanctification, but for now understand that regardless of your present experience, you stand absolutely not guilty before God and, therefore, not condemned.

No wonder Paul wrote about “joy” earlier in this letter. Because of your new living relationship with Jesus Christ and subsequent new dead relationship to sin, you can walk through this world sin, sadness, and sorrow serene in the knowledge that you are free from all that! You may have the assurance that your sins are forgiven and your guilt erased right now.

3. “…for those who are in Christ Jesus”

The exclusivity of Christianity rubs against the grain of our modern sensibilities, but the truth is, Christianity is exclusive in the sense that its blessings are ONLY for those who have experienced the new birth—those who belong to Jesus. If you don’t belong to Jesus, you stand unforgiven and condemned before God and there isn’t a thing you can do about it. You must be “in Christ Jesus” if you want what Paul is writing about in Romans.

In the original, there are no verse or chapter breaks, so 8:1 is not a new topic but a continuation of what Paul began in chapter 7. Believers, including himself, have been set free not just from sin and condemnation, but also from the Law and the curse of the Law. The Law, which is not evil—something Paul bent over backwards to state—is incapable of saving anybody, and it doesn’t have the power to remove the guilt and stain of sin.

Sin fooled me by taking the good laws of God and using them to make me guilty of death. (Romans 7:11 TLB)

Paul, no matter how he tried to follow the Law, felt as though he were drowning in his sin.

I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to—what I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws I am breaking. (Romans 7:15, 16 TLB)

Now, you probably aren’t a Jew, but you more than likely can relate to what Paul wrote in these two verses! We all struggle with sin and temptation. Yes we know what the Word declares, and we know what’s right and what’s sinful, yet we are drawn to sin like a moth drawn to a flame. How, we ask like Paul did, is it possible to pray, go to church, read and study the Word, yet be tempted to sin and often give into that temptation? We get angry with ourselves and frustrated with God.

In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin. So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? (Romans 7:24, 25 TLB)

Have you ever felt like that? You probably have, and thank goodness Paul gives us the answer to his question:

Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free. (Romans 7:25b TLB)

The apostle recognized, as every believer must, that it is the work of Jesus and only His work that cleansed our soul, ridding it of the guilt and stain of sin. We can do nothing to cure our sin problem. Jesus Christ set us free from our enslavement to sin and God the Father, our Lord and Judge, declares us “not guilty,” eliminating the possibility of any kind of condemnation from His court forever.

From the obvious relief expressed in the last statement of chapter 7 to the triumphant and joyous declaration of chapter 8:1, we see a truly marvelous fact that ought to shine a light on our true standing before God. There is not a Christian anywhere in the world who should feel inferior or condemned because to entertain those feelings is to give credence to them and that shows a disregard for what Jesus Christ did for you. That’s not to say we should feel proud or self-sufficient in any way; rather in humble thankfulness we need to realize that ours is no lowly position. Consider:

But God is so rich in mercy; he loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, he gave us back our lives again when he raised Christ from the dead—only by his undeserved favor have we ever been saved—and lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with him in the heavenly realms—all because of what Christ Jesus did. (Ephesians 2:4—6 TLB)

That is our present position! We don’t sit around waiting for this to happen! We are sitting with Christ in the heavenly realms NOW. God, the Alpha and Omega, the One who sees the beginning from the end, sees believers as they will be. We may “feel” unworthy and not good enough—and in ourselves this may be true—but the facts of the Word are clear: our lives have been given back to us! Don’t let your feelings condemn you! Jesus, by His work on the Cross, elevated us to the greatest heights of all: HIS. We are with Him when we are in Him. And all believers are IN Christ.

When the Great Book is opened in Heaven, there will be recorded in it the names of all those who are in Christ. Those whose names are not written in that book are the Christless: those who, for their whole lives, may have relied on their good works and moral lives or their religion as their hope for a place in Heaven. Unfortunately for them, on this point God’s Word is abundantly clear. Only those who are in Christ will find eternity in Heaven.

Those who aren’t in Christ can’t blame God the Father:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 TLB)

Nor can they Jesus, the Son of God:

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10b NKJV)

And they cannot in good conscience blame the Holy Spirit:

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth… (John 16:13a NKJV)

Jesus Christ came into the world to do for sinners what they could never do for themselves: save them. Salvation is not possible apart from Jesus Christ.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18 NIV)

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