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More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #1 “No Condemnation!” Romans 8:1

12 Aug

For many people Romans 8 is the high point of the Bible, especially because of its emphasis on the Christian’s assurance of victory over all opposing forces. Godet (295) remarks that this chapter begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation. It is truly the logical climax of the gospel of grace.

Paul’s heart-cry in 7:24, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”, was immediately answered in brief: “Thanks be to God [because he has rescued me] through Jesus Christ our Lord” (7:25a).

While the main concern of this question and its answer is freedom from the power of indwelling sin, we need to be reminded again of the main point already established in 3:21-5:21, that the penalty for our sin has been paid in full by Jesus. In the midst of our intense spiritual struggle against sin, in which we are sometimes on the losing end, we need not fear that our forgiveness

This is a very difficult passage because it is so highly compressed, and because, all through it, Paul is making allusions to things which he has already said.

Two words keep occurring again and again in this chapter, flesh (sarx, <G4561>) and spirit (pneuma, <G4151>). We will not understand the passage at all unless we understand the way in which Paul is using these words.

(i) Sarx (<G4561>) literally means flesh. The most cursory reading of Paul’s letters will show how often he uses the word, and how he uses it in a sense that is all his own. Broadly speaking, he uses it in three different ways.

(a) He uses it quite literally. He speaks of physical circumcision, literally “in the flesh” (Rom 2:28). (b) Over and over again he uses the phrase kata (<G2596>) sarka (<G4561>), literally according to the flesh, which most often means looking at things from the human point of view.

For instance, he says that Abraham is our forefather kata (<G2596>) sarka (<G4561>), from the human point of view. He says that Jesus is the son of David kata (<G2596>) sarka (<G4561>) (Rom 1:3), that is to say, on the human side of his descent. He speaks of the Jews being his kinsmen kata (<G2596>) sarka (<G4561>) (Rom 9:3), that is to say, speaking of human relationships. When Paul uses the phrase kata (<G2596>) sarka (<G4561>), it always implies that he is looking at things from the human point of view.

(c) But he has a use of this word sarx (<G4561>) which is all his own. When he is talking of the Christians, he talks of the days when we were in the flesh (en (<G1722>) sarki, <G4561>) (Rom 7:5). He speaks of those who walk according to the flesh in contradistinction to those who live the Christian life (Rom 8:4-5). He says that those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom 8:8). He says that the mind of the flesh is death, and that it is hostile to God (Rom 8:6, 8). He talks about living according to the flesh (Rom 8:12). He says to his Christian friends, “You are not in the flesh” (Rom 8:9).

It is quite clear, especially from the last instance, that Paul is not using flesh simply in the sense of the body, as we say flesh and blood. How, then, is he using it? He really means human nature in all its weakness and he means human in its vulnerability to sin.

He means that part of man which gives sin its bridgehead. He means sinful human nature, apart from Christ, everything that attaches a man to the world instead of to God. To live according to the flesh is to live a life dominated by the dictates and desires of sinful human nature instead of a life dominated by the dictates and the love of God. The flesh is the lower side of man’s nature.

It is to be carefully noted that when Paul thinks of the kind of life that a man dominated by the sarx (<G4561>) lives he is not by any means thinking exclusively of sexual and bodily sins. When he gives a list of the works of the flesh in Gal 5:19-21, he includes the bodily and the sexual sins; but he also includes idolatry, hatred, wrath, strife, heresies, envy, murder. The flesh to him was not a physical thing but spiritual. It was human nature in all its sin and weakness; it was all that man is without God and without Christ.

(ii) There is the word Spirit; in Rom 8 it occurs no fewer than twenty times. This word has a very definite Old Testament background. In Hebrew it is ruach (<H7307>), and it has two basic thoughts. (a) It is not only the word for Spirit; it is also the word for wind. It has always the idea of power about it, power as of a mighty rushing wind. (b) In the Old Testament, it always has the idea of something that is more than human. Spirit, to Paul, represented a power which was divine.

So Paul says in this passage that there was a time when the Christian was at the mercy of his own sinful human nature. In that state the law simply became something that moved him to sin and he went from bad to worse, a defeated and frustrated man. But, when he became a Christian, into his life there came the surging power of the Spirit of God, and, as a result, he entered into victorious living.

In the second part of the passage Paul speaks of the effect of the work of Jesus on us. It is complicated and difficult, but what Paul is getting at is this. Let us remember that he began all this by saying that every man sinned in Adam. We saw how the Jewish conception of solidarity made it possible for him to argue that, quite literally, all men were involved in Adam’s sin and in its consequence—death.

But there is another side to this picture. Into this world came Jesus; with a completely human nature; and he brought to God a life of perfect obedience, of perfect fulfilment of God’s law. Now, because Jesus was fully a man, just as we were one with Adam, we are now one with him; and, just as we were involved in Adam’s sin, we are now involved in Jesus’ perfection. In him mankind brought to God the perfect obedience, just as in Adam mankind brought to God the fatal disobedience. Men are saved because they were once involved in Adam’s sin but are now involved in Jesus’ goodness. That is Paul’s argument, and, to him and to those who heard it, it was completely convincing, however hard it is for us to grasp it. Because of what Jesus did, there opens out to the Christian a life no longer dominated by the flesh but by that Spirit of God, which fills a man with a power not his own. The penalty of the past is removed and strength for his future is assured.

(Romans 8:1-2 NIV)  “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, {2} because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

At the end of chapter 7, Paul assures all believers of having power to overcome sin and the assurance of final deliverance from this evil world. But he includes the reminder that during this lifetime, there will be constant tension because in the sinful nature, even a believer is “a slave to the law of sin” (7:25).

The question arises, So, are we to spend our entire lives defeated by sin? The answer is a resounding no! In this chapter, Paul describes the life of victory and hope that every believer has because of Christ Jesus.

Paul’s heart-cry in 7:24, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”, was immediately answered in brief: “Thanks be to God [because he has rescued me] through Jesus Christ our Lord” (7:25a). While the main concern of this question and its answer is freedom from the power of indwelling sin, we need to be reminded again of the main point already established in 3:21-5:21, that the penalty for our sin has been paid in full by Jesus. In the midst of our intense spiritual struggle against sin, in which we are sometimes on the losing end, we need not fear that our forgiveness is in jeopardy. Christ has already secured this for us on the cross.

With the suddenness of Pentecost, Paul begins his description of the victorious Christian life, referring repeatedly to the Holy Spirit. Up to this point in the letter, Paul has only mentioned the Spirit twice and not at all in 7:7-25; from here on, the Holy Spirit is mentioned specifically nineteen times. In the overall framework of the letter, Paul seems to have held this teaching in restraint. We must be aware of our need for the Holy Spirit before we are ready and willing to appropriate his help. The Holy Spirit’s presence and power answers much of the momentary despair of chapter 7. “The law of sin” triumphed in chapter 7 but is defeated in chapter 8 by the power of the Spirit of life.

This great chapter is, in a sense, the heart of Romans, being a shout of victory contrasting with the wail of despair which closed the seventh, the transition from the bleak and depressing condition of the unregenerated there, to the enthusiastic and joyful optimism of the eighth, being signaled by the adverb “now.”

In the very first clause of this chapter, one encounters the dramatic affirmation and proof that the condition just described in Rom. 7 was not describing Paul’s or any other Christian’s experience, but was a depiction of something prior to and diverse from the situation prevailing “now.”

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed Congress on the state of the war in Europe. Much of what he said that day has been forgotten. But at the close of his address, he said that he looked forward “to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.” He named them: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These words are still remembered, even though their ideals have not yet been realized everywhere in the world.

Romans 8 is the Christian’s “Declaration of Freedom,” for in it Paul declares the spiritual freedoms we enjoy because of our union with Jesus Christ. A study of this chapter shows the emphasis on the Holy Spirit, who is mentioned 19 times.

The basis for this wonderful assurance is the phrase “in Christ Jesus.” In Adam, we were condemned. In Christ, there is no condemnation

The verse does not say “no mistakes” or “no failures,” or even “no sins.” Christians do fail and make mistakes, and they do sin. Abraham lied about his wife; David committed adultery; Peter tried to kill a man with his sword. To be sure, they suffered consequences because of their sins, but they did not suffer condemnation.

The Law condemns; but the believer has a new relationship to the Law, and therefore he cannot be condemned. Paul made three statements about the believer and the Law, and together they add up to: no condemnation.

Although the Bible is a book offering the good news of salvation from sin, it is also a book that presents the bad news of condemnation for sin. No single book or collection of writings on earth proclaims so completely and vividly the totally desperate situation of man apart from God.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul declared, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

Because of that sinfulness, all unbelievers are under God’s condemnation and are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).

Sin places men under the power of Satan, the ruler of the present world system (John 12:31). They are under the control of “the prince of the power of the air” and “of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).

As Paul went on to remind the Ephesian believers, all Christians were once a part of that evil system (v. 3). Jesus declared that Satan is the spiritual father of every unbeliever (John 8:41, 44), and that “the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning” (1 John 3:8; cf. v. 10).

Because of sin, all the rest of  “creation was subjected to futility (and] … groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom. 8:20, 22).

Because of sin, the unbeliever have no future to look forward to except eternal damnation in hell. The lost will be in a place of “outer darkness,” Jesus said, where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12).

Jesus’ perfect teaching and sinless life actually increased the condemnation of those who heard and saw Him.

And this is the judgment,” Jesus said, “that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19-20).

As the Lord had just explained, that was not God’s desire: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:17).

Some have called Romans 8:1 the most hopeful verse in Scripture. It is bewildering that any thinking mind or searching soul would not run with eagerness to receive such divine provision. But perhaps the greatest tragedy of sin is that it blinds the sinner to the life-giving promises of God and causes him to trust in the false and death-giving allurements of Satan.

The Reality of Freedom—No Condemnation

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (8:1)

“Condemnation” is κατάκριμα (katakrima), used only here and in 5:16, 18. This is a judicial or forensic term. It refers to a judge’s sentence upon a guilty person, not only as pronounced but also as carried out. I.e., it means “penalty, punishment, doom.”

The word for “no” (οὐδέν, ouden) is emphatic and means “not a single one” of any kind (Lenski, 494). “In Christ Jesus” identifies those to whom this wonderful blessing applies, namely, those who have entered into the saving union with Christ described in 6:1-11.

The point of the verse is this: even though sin still lives in our bodies, causing us at times to do sinful things that we hate, we can be assured that these sins will not condemn us because Christ has already died for them and we belong to Christ

. Though we may still sin, we are “justified by his blood” (5:9); there is “no penalty” for us, none of any kind. No disaster or tribulation suffered in this life should now be interpreted as a punishment sent by God. No damnation to eternal hell awaits us after death, and even the sting of physical death has been blunted by the promise of resurrection from the dead:

1 Corinthians 15:53-57 (ESV)
53  For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
54  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55  “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
56  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We feel condemned because Satan uses past guilt and present failures to make us question what Christ has done for us. Our assurance must be focused on Christ, not our performance.

  • Our own conscience reminds us of guilt.
  • Non-Christian friends will notice (and point out) our inconsistencies.
  • Past memories of how we lived can haunt us.
  • Personal dysfunctions such as shame, low self-esteem, or compulsions will trip us up.
  • The perfection of the law will show how imperfect we are.
  • We can allow Christ’s perfect example to discourage our efforts rather than encourage our trust.
  • Unhealthy comparisons with other believers will make us feel inadequate.

“This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20 niv).

Often, we are like the criminal who hates his incarceration while at the same time denying that he finds any security in his cell. Then, beyond all expectations, the warden announces a pardon and unlocks the cell. As the door swings open, the prisoner meets the delight of freedom and a tinge of fear of the unknown.

What will this new life be like? Many find a strange comfort in the familiar state of condemnation. Christ invites us to leave the cell behind. Some rush out joyfully, some calmly and thoughtfully, and others leave the cell of their old life with painful slowness. Once outside, most of us experience, from time to time, a strange longing for the old familiar cell. We must remember that what may seem appealing was actually a filthy holding cell on death row.

Because we have been rescued by Christ (7:24-25), and are thus in Christ Jesus, we are not condemned. To be in Christ Jesus means to have put our faith in him, becoming a member of his body of believers as you have believed, repented, confessed, and been baptized in order to have sins forgiven.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 niv).

There can be no condemnation, for “we have been justified through faith” and “have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:2).

In the original manuscript, there was probably no break between Paul’s summation in 7:25 of the struggle between the two allegiances (two minds) within himself and the proclamation in 8:1 that in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation for our vacillations.

Christians must never forget the reality of our rescue and our indebtedness to God’s grace in Christ. We can persevere in our daily struggles knowing that “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself’ (2 Timothy 2:13 niv).

Our need for the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit is so clear at this point that some early manuscripts add, after Jesus, the phrase from verse 4, “who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” But putting that phrase here completes the thought too quickly, an approach Paul seldom used.

By simple definition, therefore introduces a result, consequence, or conclusion based on what has been established previously. It seems probable that therefore marks a consequent conclusion from the entire first seven chapters, which focus primarily on justification by faith alone, made possible solely on the basis of and by the power of God’s grace.

Chapter 8 marks a major change in the focus and flow of the epistle. At this point the apostle begins to delineate the marvelous results of justification in the life of the believer. He begins by explaining, as best as possible to finite minds, some of the cardinal truths of salvation (no condemnation, as well as justification, substitution, and sanctification).

God’s provision of salvation came not through Christ’s perfect teaching or through His perfect life but through His perfect sacrifice on the cross. It is through Christ’s death, not His life, that God provides the way of salvation. For those who place their trust in Christ and in what He has done on their behalf
there is therefore now no condemnation.

The Greek word for condemnation appears only in the book of Romans, here and in 5:16, 18. Although it relates to the sentencing for a crime, its primary focus is not so much on the verdict as on the penalty that the verdict demands. As Paul has already declared, the penalty, or condemnation, for sin is death (6:23).

That is the heart and soul of the gospel—that Jesus completely and permanently paid the debt of sin and the penalty of the law (which is condemnation to death)  for every person who humbly asks for mercy and trusts in Him through baptism for remission of sins.

Through the apostle John, God assures His children that (1 John 2:1-2)  My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. {2} He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Jesus not only pays the believer’s debt of sin but cleanses him “from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Still more amazingly, He graciously imputes and imparts to each believer His own perfect righteousness: “For by one offering He [Christ] has perfected for all time those who are sanctified (Heb. 10:14).”

(Romans 5:17)  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

(2 Corinthians 5:21)  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

(Philippians 3:9)  “…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

The truth that there can never be the eternal death penalty for faithful Christians is the foundation of the eighth chapter of Romans. As Paul asks rhetorically near the end of the chapter, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (v. 31), and again, “who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies” (v. 33).

It is extremely important to realize that deliverance from condemnation is not based in the least measure on any form of perfection achieved by the believer. He does not attain the total eradication of sin during his earthly life.

John declares that truth as unambiguously as possible in his first epistle: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The Christian’s conflict with sin does not end until he goes to be with the Lord.

But remember: the believer is to be judged for his faithfulness to Christ. He will be judged for how responsible he is—for how well he uses his “spiritual gifts” for Christ—for how diligently he serves Christ in the work of God. The judgment of the believer will take place at the great judgment seat of Christ.

The key to every aspect of salvation is in the simple but infinitely profound phrase in Christ Jesus. A Christian is a person who is in Christ Jesus. Paul has already declared that “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death,” and that “therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rom. 6:3-5).

Our being in Christ is one of the profoundest of mysteries, which we will not fully understand until we meet Him face-to-face in heaven. But Scripture does shed light on that marvelous truth. We know that we are in Christ spiritually, in a divine and permanent union. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive,” Paul explains (1 Cor. 15:22).

Believers are also in Christ in a living, participatory sense. “Now you are Christ’s body,” Paul declares in that same epistle, “and individually members of it” (12:27).

We are actually a part of Him and, in ways that are unfathomable to us now we work when He works, grieve when He grieves, and rejoice when He rejoices. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,” Paul assures us, “whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). Christ’s own divine life pulses through us.

Many people are concerned about their family heritage, about who their ancestors were, where they lived, and what they did. For better or worse, we are all life—linked physically, intellectually, and culturally to our ancestors. In a similar, but infinitely more important way, we are linked to the family of God because of our relationship to His Son, Jesus Christ. It is for that reason that every Christian can say, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

The story is told of a man who operated a drawbridge. At a certain time each afternoon, he had to raise the bridge for a ferry boat and then lower it quickly for a passenger train that crossed at high speed a few minutes later.

One day the man’s young son was visiting his father at work and decided to go down below to get a better look at the ferry as it passed. Fascinated by the sight, he did not watch carefully where he was going and fell into the giant gears. One foot became caught and the boy was helpless to free himself.

The father saw what happened but knew that if he took time to extricate his son, the train would plunge into to the river before the bridge could be lowered. But if he lowered the bridge to save the hundreds of passengers and crew members on the train, his son would be crushed to death.

When he heard the train’s whistle, indicating it would soon reach the river; he knew what he had to do. His son was very dear to him, whereas all the people on the train were total strangers. The sacrifice of his son for the sake of the other people was an act of pure grace and mercy.

That story portrays something of the infinitely greater sacrifice God the Father made when He sent His only beloved Son to earth to die for the sins of mankind—to whom He owed nothing but condemnation.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

Seven times already in this letter, Paul had stressed the significance of being “in Christ.” Faith (Rom. 3:26), redemption (Rom. 3:24), peace (Rom. 5:1), rejoicing in God (Rom. 5:11), abundance of grace and of the gifts of righteousness (Rom. 5:17), being alive unto God (Rom. 6:11), and eternal life (Rom. 6:22), were all mentioned by Paul as blessings available to man “in Christ” and nowhere else. The expression “in Christ” opens and closes this chapter, and no understanding of Paul’s gospel is possible without emphasis upon this concept.

What does it mean to be “in Christ”? Smedes wrote: “Incorporation into Christ means, in practice, incorporation into the church. The church is the social organism which forms Christ’s earthly body now … Being in the church, incorporated into it by baptism, the Christian is in Christ himself. “

This view is disparaged by some as sacramentalist; but Paul himself stated exactly this conception in his declarations that people are baptized into “one body” (which is the church) (1 Cor. 12:13), and that all Christians are likewise “baptized into Christ” (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:26,27). Of course, being “in Christ” means far more than mere enrollment in an earthly society that calls itself a church.

Being truly “in Christ” means having been born again, having believed with all the heart, having received the remission of sins and the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13), walking in newness of life, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God, etc.; in short, it means having become a partaker of the salvation Christ came to deliver. However, the participation in community is without any doubt included. No man is an island; and since it true that, from the very beginning, God added to the church those that were being saved (Acts 2:47), it is axiomatic that one not in the church is not saved either.

This view does not fit in with modern man’s passion to be relieved of any obligation toward the church; but it is nevertheless the viewpoint of the word of God. The Scriptures affirm that Christ gave his blood for the church (Acts 20:28); and no philosophy of religion that downgrades the church and reduces it to a non-essential status can ever be reconciled with such a truth as this. If men may truly be saved without the church for which Jesus shed his blood, then the death of Christ upon Calvary is reduced to futility.

No condemnation … refers to man’s justification, defined negatively as a state wherein is no condemnation. The ground of justification is the perfect righteousness in Christ; and it includes the perfect faith and obedience of Christ, in whom the righteousness of God truly exists; and the availability of that righteousness of Christ for the salvation of sinners does not derive from some magical transfer of Christ’s righteousness to them in consequence of the sinner’s faith nor of anything else that the sinner might either believe or do; but it derives from the fact of the sinner’s being transferred into Christ Jesus where the righteousness is. Briefly, salvation is not procured by the transfer of righteousness to the sinner, but by the transfer of the sinner into Christ.

The addition to this verse found in the KJV has been rejected by the scholars on what surely appears to be sound critical judgment, because it is not found in any of the oldest manuscripts that have been handed down through history. There is a plausible explanation of the error by Murray, who wrote:

It is most likely that it was inserted from the end of Rom. 8:4 in the course of transcription.

* Coffman Commentaries – Coffman Commentaries – Coffman Commentary: Romans.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 12, 2021 in Romans

 

One response to “More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #1 “No Condemnation!” Romans 8:1

  1. William Bradley

    August 12, 2021 at 12:36 pm

    This passage is the basis for one of my favorite songs from Acappella. We have been made more than conquerors, over-comers in this life. Thanks Gary!

    Like

     

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