“Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4 HCSB)
I’ve lived my entire life as a resident of Oklahoma. I was born in Tulsa, raised through Jr. High there but went to High School in Wagoner (about 40 south east of Tulsa). I have pastored in Muskogee, Loco (yes, that’s a real place), Agra, and Shawnee. If you’ve ever lived in Oklahoma, then you know the truth of this statement: if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes. We really do have four seasons, early summer, summer, late summer, and almost winter. This week is a prime example of that experience. As I write these words it is sunny and 55 degrees (Fahrenheit) with no wind. I just finished a funeral service and the weather at the graveside was pretty nice.
But the forecast is calling for winter weather all next week with the highs every day below freezing. We are supposed to have at least five straight days with the high temperatures around 25-27 degrees and the lows each night from 6-15 degrees. The wind chills are going to be brutal at -20 to -30 degrees below zero. I know, if you live up north then you read this and just shake your head. What’s my point? We are already looking forward to the first signs of spring (or early summer for you Okies). The trees will bud and the leaf out, the daffodils will start poking through, and the grass will turn green (until summer, when it turns brown again – from the heat). I then take on my unpaid job of grounds keeper as I attempt to keep my yard mowed, until the summer heat makes it unnecessary. I know, you didn’t come here to get a run down on the Oklahoma weather outlook for the year, but stay with me. There is a purpose in my insanity.
We all look forward to spring because of the barrenness of winter. Over the past seven chapters of Romans, we’ve struggled through Paul’s bleak assessment of our sin and its consequences – it felt like the cold, bleak winter of our souls. For example:
God’s wrath is revealed against all godlessness and unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).
Any of you who judges is without excuse – for when you judge another, you condemn yourself. (Rom. 2:1)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23)
Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all have sinned. (Rom. 5:12)
For the wages of sin is death… (Rom. 6:23)
For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. (Rom. 7:11)
But Paul gives a hint of spring with the opening verse of chapter 8 – based on all these things I’ve been telling you, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus. Wow! No condemnation. None. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Nothing there! If that doesn’t feel like a breath of warm spring air blowing through the winter of your soul, then you really need help (more on that later). So, I want us to consider what happened to remove condemnation, who did it, and what it really means for our lives moving forward. Let’s get to it…
First, what happened that removed the condemnation that Paul so clearly describes and ascribed to our sin in those first seven chapters? Simply put, Jesus is what happened. If you didn’t notice, I failed to pull a quote in the verses cited above from chapter four because that chapter is all about Abraham’s faith. Abraham was guilty of sin, just like the rest of us. But Paul uses Abraham to show us that God’s covenant and the fulfillment of His promises are not based on Abraham’s faithfulness, they are based on God’s faithfulness and Abraham’s trust in God’s faithfulness and promises.
Notice how Paul words verse one, “no condemnation now exists for those IN Christ Jesus.” There’s more to faith in Christ than just a casual acknowledgment of Christianity’s truth claims and principles. For example, there are many who may lay claim to Christian beliefs and moral principles, but have never abdicated the authority over their own lives to the Lordship and authority of Christ. They know WHO He is, but they have never surrendered control to HIM. As James says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe – and they shudder.” (James 2:19) In other words, the demons know the truth of scripture, the oneness of the triune God, the facts of the resurrection but they refuse to bow their knee to His authority over their lives. Do you?
Notice that Paul says, “no condemnation NOW exists for those in Christ Jesus.” This emphasizes the current state of affairs in the lives of believers – not just some future hope. It also focuses a spotlight on the scope of Christ’s redemptive work. Jesus hasn’t just removed condemnation from your past sin, or even your past and present sin. He has removed condemnation from your past, your present and even your future sin. Oh, God’s judgment on your sin is not just held back. It isn’t just restrained. He’s not waiting for you to slip up so He can jump on you and put you back under your deserved condemnation. Nope. Condemnation doesn’t even EXIST for those in Christ! Let that sink in, a bit. We didn’t just get a stay of execution, condemnation no longer exists for those in Christ. That’s not just good news, that is the BEST news ever.
Does that mean we never sin? Nope. Doesn’t mean that, at all. We did and still do. The difference, we are no longer under the law but we are now in Christ. When we sin it isn’t a transgression of the law it is now a failure to love Christ in the way He deserves. That’s very different and it results in a very different response. If I’m guilty of breaking the law, then I have the just condemnation of the law upon my actions. If I fail to love Christ in an appropriate way through obedience to His commands, I’m not condemned but I am ashamed. He deserves better and it should be reflected in my subsequent actions. Perhaps an illustration will help… if I break a law in response to my marriage, then I am subject to the law’s condemnation but I may not be subject to my wife’s condemnation – even though I would deserve it. She has the ability to choose to forgive and not allow condemnation to exist in that situation. Why? Because our relationship is based on love and not law. She deserves better, and that should be reflected in my subsequent actions.
So, how did condemnation become non-existent for those in Christ? Paul tells us, “what the law could not do because of the limitations of the flesh, God did.” The law was unable to remove our condemnation because of our continual failure and inability to follow the law’s demands, so God stepped in and DID what the law was unable to do. First, He condemned human sin by sending His own son as a man living under sin’s domain. Jesus was able to achieve what we continually failed to do, live as God demanded. Yet, He willingly died as the perfect sacrifice for our sin. So, He met the law’s demands morally but He willingly sacrificed Himself to fulfill the law’s demands and the condemnation for our moral failures. What we couldn’t do for ourselves, God did for us! So, legally our condemnation has been removed or has become non-existent based on Christ’s death on our behalf.
Second, Christ provided the Holy Spirit to live within each of us in order that sin might be defeated within us and we might “live (or walk) according to the Spirit.” We are no longer justified through observance of the law but the Spirit is able to use our obedience to its principles for the development of our personal righteousness or Christlikeness. So, we are not obligated to it for justification but we are bound to it for holy, Christlike living. Pay attention to this: Christ didn’t just sacrifice Himself to remove your condemnation, He also sacrificed Himself to enable you to live like Him. He didn’t give Himself so that we can walk around smugly telling others how forgiven we are with a sense of prideful disdain. He gave Himself so that we might more closely resemble Him, reflect His Spirit, model His love and His lifestyle.
As believers, we have had the condemnation we deserve because of our sin completely eliminated. It no longer exists. Here’s the kicker, we didn’t have anything to do with it. God DID IT! Catch that. Your salvation is not dependent upon you and that means you didn’t earn and you certainly don’t deserve it! But, it also means that because you didn’t earn it and don’t deserve it, then you can’t lose it. Now, that’s NOT a license to sin. In fact, if you truly understand what Christ did and what it cost Him then the thought would disgust you… and that’s really where this is going. If you live because of the Spirit, then you must live according to the Spirit. So, don’t miss this. You live according to the Spirit in the same way. God does it! The Holy Spirit is doing a work within you, right now, if you are in Christ. That’s what the rest of Romans is all about… so, join me right here – next week.