Calvary Road Baptist Church

“NO CONDEMNATION”

Romans 8.1-4 

Let me tell y’a story about a man named Jed. A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed. When one day he was shootin’ at some food, up from the ground came a bubblin’ crude. Oil, that is.

The beginning of this story is known to one and all. But do you know the real details? Are you aware of the fact that Jed was a Christian? Did you know that Jed always felt guilty about not being able to feed and clothe his family properly? And did you know that as a result of that feeling of guilt and condemnation, after he became wealthy, Jed indulged his kids to the point that every one of them turned out rotten to the core? As fanciful as that little yarn might seem to sound, it rings true. I know of men whose rearing of their children is perverted by feelings of guilt springing from memories of their past inadequacies or present inconsistencies. I mean, it makes them wimp fathers.

I knew a Christian man who regularly stayed home from evangelism and other appropriate activities for a Christian man because he felt guilty about not spending enough time with his kids. He never pursued an education that would have enabled him both to spend time with his kids and serve God. So, it turned out that the kids were repeatedly shown that they were more important than God when the time crunches came. Boy, did that help them as adults. Yes, you want to raise your kids, so they think they are more important than God.

Or how about the father who felt so bad about his past failings as a parent that he was overly lenient with his teen? He knew that she took advantage of him. He knew what the Bible said about disciplining his child. Why, then, did he allow his past to ruin his child’s future?

Then there’s the guy whose wife committed adultery. She committed the adultery. But he felt so bad about being such a poor husband that his wife would step out on him that he provided no spiritual leadership to that woman at all. And her response? Same as the response of the kids whose dads are dominated by feelings of condemnation. They take advantage of the situation and lose respect for that individual.

And what about the man who felt so bad about the past life that he dragged his feet whenever God led him to do something? Whether it involved teaching a Sunday School class, picking up kids to bring them to Church or Sunday School, preparing for the pastorate, or participating in evangelism, his feelings of guilt and condemnation overwhelmed him to the point that he was simply nonfunctional in the Christian life.

These guys had the same basic problem as the Christian woman who always apologized. Apology, apology, apology. Falling all over herself with demonstrations of guilt and remorse for not living up to this standard, or failing to do that, or bothering someone about the other thing. Or the single mom who felt so condemned because her child didn’t have a dad in the home that she quite literally overreacted to every problem, real or perceived, that the child had. What gives?

You know what gives? We’re dealing with behavior that is characteristic of people who have no real understanding of the consequences of being justified by faith. That’s what’s wrong. They know they have trusted Christ. They know that their sins are forgiven. They know they are going to heaven someday. But beyond that, they seem to know little else.

Before I begin my sermon, are you of the opinion I am referring to you at any point so far? Keep in mind that my opening remarks are taken from recollections jotted down almost thirty years ago. So, unless you were here then and your problems today are identical to what they were then, you need to realize that the issues I just rehearsed are very common matters that many believers in Christ wrestle with every day.

There is only one of you. There will never be another one of you. But your problems are common and ordinary. First Corinthians 10.13 is where Paul declares, 

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 

Though each of us is unique, our problems are common and not at all unusual.

We begin an examination of one of the most exhilarating chapters of the Bible. This is a chapter that has nothing in it that can make a Christian feel bad unless it’s to make you feel bad about not feeling good. The subject of Romans chapter 8 is glorification. And though I’ll define what glorification is on another occasion, realize that glorification is the ultimate and inevitable conclusion of justification. Everyone who is justified will be glorified, and you are justified (even if you don’t know what that word means) when you trust Jesus Christ as your savior.

But there are some things (perhaps processes is a better word) that must and will take place over the course of the Christian’s life before the glorification event occurs. One of these processes involves the Holy Spirit’s deliverance of the believer from sin. The Holy Spirit gives believers in Jesus Christ deliverance from the domination and control of sin. Not perfectly. Not immediately. But gradually.

And the first aspect of the Holy Spirit’s gradual and sometimes seemingly erratic deliverance of a Christian from sin relates to the subject of condemnation. Do you remember the awful feelings of frustration and heartache that were expressed by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 7, as a result of the lost Jewish person’s inability to live up to the demands of the Law of Moses? How guilty he had to feel. How condemned he realized he was in the sight of God before he came to Christ.

The passage we deal with today shows us that, in Christ, the condemnation which leads to such feelings of frustration and despondency no longer exists as far as God is concerned. I invite you to turn to Romans 8.1-4. When you arrive there I invite you again, this time to stand with me for the reading of God’s Word: 

1  There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

3  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

4  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 

There are three important descriptions provided in these four verses which should establish in the believer’s mind, once and for all, that the Holy Spirit has positioned him with good standing as a believer in the sight of God, free from condemnation: 

First, THERE IS THE DESCRIPTION OF THE PERSON WHO IS JUSTIFIED (8.1) 

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” 

This verse does not suggest if only they will walk after the flesh. Please notice something of extreme importance in this verse, Christian. Please notice that this verse does not describe how it ought to be with you. Please notice that this verse does not describe how it can be with you. This verse describes how it is with you in Jesus Christ.

First, there is the description of your position as a Christian. Your position in Christ and before God as a believer deserves several clarifying remarks: First, recognize that your position is present. This is not a position before God that will someday be realized. This is not a position in Christ that you need to strive for or be particularly spiritual to attain. Another word for position is standing. What is your standing before God the moment you trust Christ as your savior? The Bible says, 

There is therefore now no condemnation.” 

That there is now no condemnation means that at this present time, as a result of your justification by faith, which occurred when you trusted Christ remember, there is absolutely nothing about you or your standing before God and in Christ that is found wanting. God has no complaint against you. None whatsoever. Let me ask you, what kind of nonsensical claptrap is this when people have a complaint against themselves that does not reflect God’s disposition at all? Second, recognize that your position is particular: 

“no condemnation to them who are in Christ.” 

Please take care to observe that the position you enjoy as a believer in Jesus Christ is one that only a child of God enjoys, that only someone who has been justified by faith in Jesus Christ can enjoy. This does not describe a relationship that God has with all members of the human race. This is unique not to the religious, but to the blood-bought and blood-washed child of God who has believed by faith in Jesus Christ to the saving of his eternal and undying soul. This is what makes it particular. Third, recognize that your position is privileged. Your relationship with God, by what Christ did on the cross and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God, is not owed to you. It is not due you. It is not planned for you. You have no right to it. You did not earn it. It was given to you as a gift by the Father. Amen? And it was paid for by the Son and appropriated by faith. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Then, there is the description of your practice, Christian. Notice the realm of your practice: 

“Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” 

Paul is not describing two sides of the street here, that you can cross back and forth at your leisure. He’s referring to two entirely different universes, two modes of existence, two kingdoms, and two realms. There is that realm which is after the flesh, in which lost people live. Then there is that realm which is after the Spirit of God, in which only saved people and in which all saved people presently and perpetually exist despite how you feel right now. Notice the regularity of your practice. This is where the presently and perpetually that I referred to comes in. That word “walk” is a present, active, indicative verb in the Greek language. You grammarians will recognize that such a verb describes regular, ongoing, continuous action. And what does this mean? It means that although no one would deny that Christians can and do things that are obviously fleshly, obviously sinful, obviously carnal, our routine manner of living, our normal type of behavior, our habitual style of existing reflects the truth that we are in Christ Jesus and we live after the Spirit. Perfectly? No. Sinlessly? Of course, not. But differently, than we used to live? Certainly, and increasingly as time passes. This, then, is the Apostle Paul’s inspired description of the individual who is justified by faith in Christ. It is the Biblical description of you, friend, if you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, even with your warts and flaws and inconsistencies. Even with your failings, this is still a description of you. 

Second, THERE IS THE DESCRIPTION OF THE POWER FOR THE JUSTIFIED 

You might ask yourself, “How can verse 1 describe me? I am weak and impotent. I am inconsistent and often double-minded.” That is true of every Christian. So how great must be the power that accomplishes what is accomplished when we behave as we do. (8.2) 

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” 

The first part of the description of this power Paul alludes to deals with the liberating law. Just to comment on the word “law” in verse 2. One commentator has stated that the particular construction of the Greek word for “law” in this verse strongly suggests that Paul does not have in mind here the Law of Moses, but the general idea of authority or the general idea of power.[1] I completely agree with him. The “law of the Spirit of life” is, in my opinion, a reference to the authority that the Holy Spirit of God has, Who is the Spirit of life. The Holy Spirit of God, being, as He is God, is coequal with God the Father and coequal with God the Son. Beyond that, He functions as the omnipotent Administrator and Executor of God’s will in the life of the believer. Therefore, He has authority to act on behalf of the Father and the Son in our lives, and He does. And, being omnipotent, He also has the might. The association that I refer to is this: Paul writes 

“the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” 

This particular authority and power of the Holy Spirit are used only in connection with Christ Jesus, and then only in the lives of those who are “in Christ Jesus.” That is, believers. Verse 2, then, tells us that the authoritative and powerful Holy Spirit of God has worked in the lives of those who are in Christ, we who are Christians. Not may work. Not will work. Not can work. This work of the Holy Spirit is seen as a completed act whereby I am; you are, we all are who know Christ, set free from the law of sin and death. It is accomplished fact.

The last part of the description of this power deals with the law of sin and death. Let me begin with the authority. As I said before, “law” in this verse is not the Mosaic Law. It’s authority. Remember that sin and death rules in the life of every unsaved person. And anything that rules exercises authority. Sin’s authority and death’s authority is an illegitimate authority, to be sure, but authority nevertheless. The association is not stated expressly in this last half of the verse, but the implication is clear. The first half of the verse is associated with being “in Christ.” The second half of the verse must, therefore, be associated with not being in Christ, which is, of course, the unsaved state. Some would say the first half of the verse refers to the spiritual person and the second half of the verse refers to someone who is not free from “the law of sin and death,” meaning to the carnal Christian. Not possible. To not be free from the law of sin and death is the opposite of being in Christ, which is to say unsaved. On the ground of what the Lord Jesus Christ did for you and me, then, the Holy Spirit of God asserted His great and overwhelming authority and power to liberate me, to liberate you, to liberate every child of God, from the authority of sin and death that had held us in bondage. You might say, “Pastor, I don’t feel as though any of that has happened to me. I still feel like I’m under the authority and domination of sin and death. I still feel like I’m condemned and I have a terrible problem with guilt.” My response? So what? This verse tells us how it is, not how it feels. Go back and read it again. This verse tells us what the Holy Spirit has done, not what we have seen Him do. It’s about time Christians took Bible truth at face value and lived as though these things have happened because the Bible says they have happened. To do otherwise is to doubt the truthfulness of God’s Word, which is, in effect, doubting God’s truthfulness. 

Finally, THERE IS THE DESCRIPTION OF THE PROVISION FOR THE JUSTIFIED (8.3-4) 

3  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

4  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 

Here we see the ground for our deliverance from condemnation, or the basis for our deliverance from condemnation. This is why you should recognize that you are not condemned.

Take a look at the reason for Christ’s deliverance (8.3). Consider Christ’s deliverance of believers from two sides: Negatively, there are two things about the Law to take note of here (and by Law here I return to referring to the Law of Moses): 

“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” 

First, the Law’s results. Paul’s words are 

“what the law could not do.” 

This is bad news for 7th Day Adventists, isn’t it? This is where legalists live. Concerning deliverance from sin and the condemnation of sin, the Law of Moses can do nothing. We have already seen that. Next, the Law’s resource. Again Paul’s words: 

“in that it was weak through the flesh.” 

The Law of Moses supplied no power, no strength. The Law relied upon human flesh to obey and to accomplish. And since human flesh has no strength to do right and be right before God, there is no resource for any spiritual results from the Law of Moses. Positively, and in stark contrast to the Law of Moses, note two things about the Lord Jesus Christ: 

“God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” 

First, Paul draws our attention to Christ’s incarnation. Understand that God did not send His Son in sinful flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh, because the Law produced no results. Thus, one should not conclude that God tried the Law, and since it didn’t work out, He decided to send His Son. That’s not the way it happened at all. God declared His intentions to send His Son millennia before the Law was given. And, then, Paul draws our attention to the crucifixion. This is what is meant by the words “and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” The Lord Jesus Christ did this when He experienced physical death on the cross. Sin was judged on that hill, once and for all. So, the reason, really, for Christ’s deliverance of us from the condemnation of sin has to do, not with us at all. It has to do with His uniqueness. Thus, this is not about you and me, but about Him. The Law was never an option for deliverance. Only Christ’s sacrifice could and did provide for our deliverance.

We now address the result of Christ’s deliverance (8.4): 

“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” 

As to our righteousness in Christ. Let me read you this poem that I wrote on the flyleaf of my Bible that sums this first half of verse 4 nicely: 

“Do this and live the Law commands

but gives me neither feet nor hands.

A better word the Gospel brings.

It bids me fly and gives me wings.” 

What the Law of Moses demanded from the sinner Christ provided for the sinner. Isn’t the love of Jesus something wonderful? When the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled, there is no condemnation in God’s sight, which should mean no guilt felt by believers. As to our response to Christ. Because of what Jesus Christ accomplished by His doing and dying for us, we who know Christ are properly described as those 

“who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” 

Paul has now come full circle. He described us in verse 1. Then in verses 2-3 he explained how we came to be described that way, describing us that way again at the end of verse 4. 

Allow me briefly to explain how the Holy Spirit sometimes does, but typically does not use guilt in a believer’s life, and then we’ll be finished. There is no condemnation of you, Christian. None. There is, however, the conviction of the Holy Spirit when you sin. Christians sin. When we do things that are wrong, the Spirit of God deals with our conscience. Sin, and the Holy Spirit will temporarily convict you of that sin only until you recognize the conviction for what it is and purpose to respond properly. Once that is done the Holy Spirit has no more use for the guilt that comes from conviction. He has done what He set out to do, and then He returns to His preferred activity of producing joy in your bosom. The fruit of the Spirit is what He likes to do in your life.

Where, then, do all these guilty feelings that so many Christians live with so much of the time come from? Two sources: Number one, you’re stubborn in your refusal to yield to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and acknowledge sin to be sin and purpose to deal with it in a manner that pleases God. So, the guilt persists because you persist in being stubborn. But that is your fault, and it need not be. Or number two, you are not taking God at His Word here, and you are allowing Satan to use your memories of sins, sins that are forgiven and forgotten by God, to ruin your life.[2] If you insist on living that way, if you refuse to study God’s Word and gain the assurance of your complete and irrevocable pardon from sin and the free conscience that goes along with it, that’s your problem. But it need not be. Twice in Hebrews, we read that God says “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” Hebrews 8.12 and 10.17.

I refuse to be weighed down by a burden God does not want me to carry as His child. And if you want to deal with these feelings of condemnation properly, I invite you to talk to me sometimes, so we can discuss your confession to God of the sin of not taking His Word as true, #1, or for stubbornly refusing to yield to the Holy Spirit as He convicts you of a sin you’ve committed, #2.

But we’re not finished. My unsaved friend, my friend who is terrified of the thought of committing your life to Christ. I’ll bet that if you were truly honest you’d admit that you’re greatest fear in life is the horror of facing your unsaved friends and telling them that you are now a Christian. That may be one reason you’ve not committed your life to Christ. Do you know what that is? You fear the condemnation of your so-called friends. But let me tell you something. The condemnation of God is infinitely worse than the condemnation of any so-called friend could be. Why not give your life to Christ? Only He frees you from the condemnation of sin. Only He saves from the sins that bring eternal hellfire that awaits every unsaved man who dies without Christ.

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[1] John S. Harvey, Romans - EGGNT, (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2017), page 189.

[2] Hebrews 8.12; 10.17

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