Grace For The Journey
This morning we come to a wonderful section in the book of Romans. Paul will still be dealing with many of the same issues we have been looking at in the past several weeks, but as we come to Chapter 8, Paul states the result of being justified by faith in Jesus Christ in emphatically clear terms, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Those are words that would have sent shock waves through the hearts and minds of both his Jewish and Gentile readers. Both groups had been spending their lives trying to somehow avoid God’s wrath and never being sure they could, but now Paul is stating with absolute confidence that those who were in Christ Jesus were no longer under God’s condemnation.
The Gentiles would have come from pagan backgrounds in which they were always striving to appease the gods in some way so as to avoid their wrath. But no matter how much they worked at their religion, they could never be sure that they had succeeded in appeasing their god. Paul’s opening arguments in chapters 1 & 2 would have further destroyed any hope they had in their own efforts because he explained that not only was their only one God who had created them and to whom they were responsible, but that they had disobeyed this God and His wrath did abide upon them. Even those who thought themselves to be moral found themselves condemned by their own consciences for they not only failed to live up to God’s standards, they failed to live up to their own (see Romans 1:18-2:16).
The Jews did not fare any better. Though they had the law of God, they did not follow it. Even the Pharisees who had twisted the law around to the point that they claimed to obey it would still find themselves condemned by it. They could not live up to God’s perfect standards, and also found themselves under God’s wrath (See Romans 2:17-3:20).
Paul explained in chapter 3 that the only way for a person to be made right before our holy Creator was to be made judicially righteous through something God would have to do. God’s means of doing that was through Jesus Christ being our substitute payment for the penalty of our sins and then rising from the dead so that we could be justified by faith in Him. Again, justification is the judicial action of God by which He declares us “not guilty” for our sins because the price for them has been paid by Jesus Christ. It is also God’s action by which He imputes or attributes the righteousness that belongs to Jesus Christ to us.
Paul explained the nature of this faith that brings justification in Romans 4 by pointing out the example of Abraham who “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3). In chapter 5 Paul explained some of the ramifications of being justified by faith including having peace with God and gaining a new nature to replace the old sinful one we had received by inheritance from Adam. There have been radical changes made in the believer. His old self was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6) and he has been freed from the law’s condemnation. He has been changed and has a new master.
Whereas before he had no ability to do anything except sin, even his efforts to do righteousness was filthy before our Holy God, now, he could obey God and do what is righteous. And though, as we saw in our study of Romans 7, the believer is still going to struggle with sin, this radical change in the believer causes him to want to obey God and fight against the sin that is still within him.
The one who has placed their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ is not immediately made sinless. In fact, as long as the Christian is alive in this body of flesh, they will have a conflict with sin. 1 John 1:8-10 makes that same point even saying that the person who says they have no sin does not have the truth in them. They are liars. Yet, even with this continuing struggle with sin in their lives, the Christian is no longer condemned by God. That is a radical and wonderful truth that makes Biblical Christianity different from every religion. I do not strive to obey God and walk in holiness in order to avoid God’s judgement. Jesus Christ has already been judged for my sin and I have been declared “not guilty” in God’s court. I strive to obey God and walk in holiness because I love God.
Now let’s look at Romans 8 and learn . . .
Why We Are No Longer Under Condemnation?
Verse 1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The idea of “condemnation” in verse one is that there is no judgement, verdict or sentence against the person who is in Jesus Christ. There is no penalty for them to pay. Paul is again using legal terminology and the picture is one of being in God’s court room. In this example, the case has been presented, but there is no decision by the judge against the defendant. But notice that there is a qualification. The person that is not condemned is the one who is in Christ Jesus.
Recall from chapter1:18 that God’s wrath is “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” and from chapter 3 verse 10 that “there are none righteous, not even one.” Every human is under God’s sentence of judgement against them except those who are ‘in Christ Jesus.” Your lineage, social status, personal moral character, and religious endeavors do not matter in God’s courtroom, because no one meets God’s perfect standards.
- Your inheritance from your parents is that of a sinner tracing all the way back to Adam.
- Your social status on earth has no bearing on your relationship to God. You are simply one of His creatures.
- Your claim to own anything does not hold in His court, because He is the one that owns it all, you are a steward that must give an account to Him of how you have used what He has entrusted to you.
- Your moral standards do not meet His of perfect holiness.
- Your religious endeavors are not only filthy rags before Him (Isaiah 64:6), but are actually self-deceptive, because no one seeks God unless He first draws (Romans 3:11; John 6:44).
To be “in Christ Jesus” means to be someone who has been made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22, 26). To use the language of Romans 6, this is the person who has been “united with” Jesus “in the likeness of His death.” Recall that Romans 6 speaks of our identification with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection through baptism. Baptism is a ritual that pictures a spiritual reality. We go under the water in
identification with Jesus’ death and burial and the crucifixion of our old self with Him. We are raised up from the water in identification with Jesus’ resurrection and our being raised to newness of life in Him. This is not an intellectual assent to Biblical facts about Jesus, but a spiritual relationship in which I am united with Christ and the Holy Spirit dwells within me. As 1 John 5:12 puts it, “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who
believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”
There is no condemnation remaining on those who are “in Christ Jesus.” They have received the promise of John 3:16 that “. . . God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” As John 3:18 adds, “He who believes in Him is not judged.” But please note that John 3:18-19continues, “He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.” There is no condemnation for those “in Christ Jesus,” but those who are not in Jesus Christ remain under God’ sentence of eternal damnation.
How Is It That The Christian Is Freed From God’s Condemnation?
As verse 2 points out, there is a different law that is now at work in the believer. It is “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”
This is the new covenant that brings about
My justification through faith in Jesus Christ
And then places God’s law within my heart,
So that my desire to obey Him is from my heart
And soul out of love for Him, and not from an
External effort to appease Him and His wrath.
This “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” breaks my bondage to “the law of sin and of death.” Many commentators want to leave this as another statement about justification, but I think it also goes on to sanctification because this phrase goes back to 7:24 which says, “Who will set me free from the body of this death.” Do you see that? “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.” I have been justified from by sin through faith in Jesus Christ. I no longer stand condemned in God’s court. However, I know that I still struggle with sin. As I examine God’s law, I continually see my failure to live according to it even though it is my great desire to show my love for God by obeying Him (cf. John 14:21, 23). This is part of the New Covenant of having the law written upon our hearts and minds (see Hebrews 10:16). The Holy Spirit indwells us, as Paul points out in verse 11 (see also John 7: 38-39; 14:17). It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the Christian is to battle this residual sin nature that is still within us. We cannot overcome this sin on our own as Romans 7:14-25 explains. We overcome it only through the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”
As Paul explains in verse 3, the law itself was too weak to change us. Our sin nature was too strong and all the law did was to excite our sinful flesh to more sin. The law exposed our sin, convicted us, condemned us, and killed us (See Romans 7:7-11). Even for the Christian, the law continues to expose our sinfulness. We agree with the law and concur that it is holy, righteous, good, and spiritual; but it causes us to cry out for help to overcome our exposed sinfulness. The law cannot bring about holiness in either the non-believer or the believer. Only God could do that, and He did.
God did it by sending Jesus Christ to meet the requirements of the law and bring about our justification through faith in Him. Though Jesus is holy and infinite as the second person of the eternal Godhead, He humbled Himself and came to Earth in the likeness of finite sinful man. Then, after living a sinless life, He offered Himself as the payment of sin and died in His flesh. When He did, God brought His judgement sentence to bear against sin. The same word for “condemn” is used here at the end of verse 3 as was used in verse 1. The condemnation that used to fall upon the sinner has fallen upon sin itself. Though we cannot at this time understand the fulness of the passage, we know from Revelation 20:14, that at the final judgement, the condemnation of sin, which is death, along with Hades, are thrown into the eternal lake of fire.
Jesus’ atonement for sin fulfills the law’s demands, and also enables the believer to obey God. The NKJV translation of this verse brings out this idea a little better., “That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” The word translated here as “righteous requirements” refers to the “concrete expressions of righteousness” that exist in the law. The “us” that can fulfill the law are those that walk according to the Spirit of God and not according to the flesh.
From this verse through verse 11 Paul contrasts the difference between the true Christian and the unbeliever in terms of their relationship to the Holy Spirt and ability to subject themselves to the law of God. The idea of “walk according to” refers to the manner in which a person lives and conducts themselves. Those that live their lives according to the desires of their flesh cannot do the righteous deeds God desires for us to do. Those that conduct themselves according to the leading of the Holy Spirit can do the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10), which should be true of every Christian.
Notice the conflict that exists
The flesh and the Spirit.
They are opposite each other. In verse 5, Paul notes that those living according to the flesh do so because their minds are set on the things of the flesh. What is most important to such a person is the cravings of their body, the pleasing of their mind, and the satisfying of their ego (See 1 John 2:15). Those who conduct themselves according to the Holy Spirit do so because their minds are set on the Spirit.
What is most important
To such a person is
Knowing and pleasing God.
What Are Consequences To These Two Different Mindsets?
Paul points this out in verse 6 . . .
Those who have a mind set on the flesh will find it will result in death. Those who have a mind set on the Spirit will have life and peace. 1 John 2:15,16 explains, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that [is] in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” The flesh and all that the flesh would desire is of temporal value. It declines . . . It decays . . . It dies. The world and all that is in it is passing away.
But that which is according to the Holy Spirit is of eternal value. It never declines . . . never decays . . . or never dies. What is according to the Spirit will last forever and so will the one whose lives according to the Spirit. They have life and peace. They are in harmony with God instead of conflict.
The flesh and the Spirit are in conflict with each other. Paul says in verse 7 that the “mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God.” There is enmity, hatred between the two. That is why the person who lives according to their flesh cannot please God. They will not subject themselves to the law of God. They do not desire to do what God says or to please Him in how they live.
As Paul pointed out back in chapter 3, the person who is apart from Christ is not righteous, does not do righteousness, and does not seek God. Paul also contrasted the flesh and Spirit in Galatians 5:16-24. In that passage he also delineated the differences in the actions of the flesh in contrast to those by the Spirit, and so it a passage we need to look at, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told [you] in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those [who] [are] Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
How do you know if someone is walking according to the flesh or according to the Spirit? Look at the conduct of their lives and it becomes very evident. You cannot walk by the Spirit and at the same time carry out the deeds of the flesh. The reverse is also true as Paul points out here in Romans 8:8, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
What is the nature of a Christian? Verse 9 tells us – They are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. The Spirit of God indwells them, and if that is not true, then they are not Christians.
Notice the exchange of terms for the Holy Spirit in this verse.
- He is the Spirit of God.
- He is also the Spirit of Christ.
- The Holy Spirit is the third member of the triune Godhead.
Each member of the Godhead is distinct, yet each member is also fully God. The Holy Spirit is not some impersonal force as many cults claim, including Jehovah’ Witnesses.
- The Holy Spirit is called “God” (Acts 5:3-4).
- He performs the work of God including the work of creation (Genesis 1:2), giving life (Job 33:4), sanctifies people from their sin (1 Corinthians 6:11), knows the mind of man and God (1 Corinthians 2:11; Romans 8:26-27), reveals the words of God to men (2 Peter 1:21), raised Jesus from the dead (1 Peter 3:18).
- The Holy Spirit has a multiple ministry to believers including regenerating them (John 3:6), baptizing them into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13;), sealing them (Ephesians 4:30), filling them (Ephesians 5:18) and teaching them (John 14:26; 1 John 2:27;).
- He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement (John 16:8).
- Other attributes of the Holy Spirit’s personality include His being grieved (Isaiah 64:10; Ephesians 4:30), blasphemed (Matthew 12:31), lied to (Acts 5:3), and insulted (Hebrews 12:29).
None of those things can be done to an impersonal force.
Another important point to note from this verse is that anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him. There is a common charismatic teaching that splits salvation into two parts. First you are saved, and then sometime later you get the Holy Spirit which is then manifested by speaking in tongues. Simply put, that is a false doctrine. The Bible very plainly teaches that if you do not have the Holy Spirit, then you are not a Christian. In addition, you are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ at the moment of salvation (I Corinthians 12:13), not some time afterward. And finally, speaking in tongues is not the sign of receiving the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12 makes it clear that any of the many spiritual gifts is evidence of having the Holy Spirit, and Galatians 5:22-23 make it clear that the evidence of being controlled by the Holy Spirit is bearing His fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
In verses 10,11 Paul comments again about the difference the Holy Spirit makes in the life of the believer.
Every Christian will still struggle against the residual sin nature within his flesh, but since Christ is in the believer, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit of the believer is alive because of righteousness. As Paul stated back in chapter 7 that the law of sin still residing in the believer’s members wages war against the law of the mind. Our bodies still bear the scars of this war including physical death, yet even in the midst of this conflict our renewed inner being is now alive in Christ. We were once dead in trespasses and sin, but now we have been made alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5). The battle against sin demonstrates the reality of the new life that we have for prior to salvation, there was no conflict with sin for it was our undisputed master. Now there is a new master and by yielding to the Holy Spirit, we can obey righteousness instead of sin.
In addition . . .
We Have A Hope For The Future That Is Even Better.
Though the Christian should improve in his walk of holiness in this life as he gets older, the reality is that we will not reach perfection in this life, and the more righteous we live, the more ugly our remaining sin will seem to us. But we have a promise for the future (1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Revelation 21:4-5) that there will be a day in which this body of sin will be done away with and we will receive new resurrection bodies in which there will be no corruption. We will no longer sin.
The proof of the promise is in the Holy Spirit’s raising Jesus Christ from the dead, for He is the same Spirit that indwells the Christian. His promises to give life to our mortal bodies is proven in His having already done that for Jesus Christ. I am looking forward to that. I trust that you are too. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. We are justified through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We are declared “not guilty” in God’s courtroom. Though we are Christians, we still struggle against sin, but we are being sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives at present even while we are looking forward to the completion of our sanctification and the fulfilment of all His promises when we receive our resurrection bodies. Bodies in which we will no longer have to struggle against sin. Bodies that will be like that of Jesus Christ. True Christians have a right relationship with God. He holds no judgements against us.
But this is only true for those who are in Jesus Christ.
If you do not have the Son of God in your life, then you are still under His condemnation. Talk with someone today so that you too can know the forgiveness of your sins and can also praise God that you are also no longer condemned.
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!