Romans 8:1-4- No Condemnation
Explanation- The word ‘condemnation’ is a legal term. It is used in the sense of judgment when a party is found guilty and must come under the just consequence that the law demands. The verdict is passed on the guilty party, and the result is condemnation under the Law. In God’s court of law, this same principle applies. When a sinner is found guilty of having broken the righteous Law of the Almighty Judge, the sentence is inevitably condemnation and death. This is the just penalty passed on guilty criminals, and God is perfectly holy, righteous, and just in passing it. Having this in mind, when Paul says that there is, ‘therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ he is making a legal statement. The believer has entered the court of God under the representation of another, the Lord Jesus Christ, and having been found with His righteousness, the believer is now justified in the sight of God, and his case is dismissed. This is not something that we should too quickly read over, but it should cause us to meditate on the wonderful grace of our awesome God deeply.
This courtroom is perfectly balanced and without flaw. A court where justice flows like a rushing river, where righteousness stands like a mountain that reaches the sky and wrath is kindled like a mighty flame when it meets with dry brush. Never once has a case been handled in an unjust manner in this court, and all criminals who have entered in without the proper representation have received a just sentence. This is not a court where the judge can be swayed with a bribe, nor will a lighter sentence be imposed due to the smooth speech of a crooked defense attorney. Yet, in light of all of this, there are those who enter into this court and receive a sentence of mercy on behalf of another. How can this be? How can God legally dismiss a case that deserves condemnation? The answer lies in the coming forth of a new law; ‘the law of the Spirit of life.’ Under this law, we have been set free from the law of sin and death. Faith in the finished work of Christ has fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law and is now the means by which God can legally dismiss our case and set us free from the penalty of condemnation! The Law, although perfect, holy, and just, has been weakened by the presence of sin in the human heart. It is unable to justify a man because it continually testifies to the infractions that man commits. Where there is an infraction, there must be a penalty. In this respect, the Law stands in God’s court as the prosecuting attorney and testifies against our unrighteous deeds. And because our sinful nature is evidence to the prosecutor’s argument, we are without hope and find ourselves without excuse and rightly condemned. But, as Paul says in verse three, God has done what the Law could not, or was unable to do. He sent His Son in the ‘likeness of sinful flesh.’ This does mean that Christ was sinful, for if He was, then the Law would have testified against His deeds as well. This word ‘likeness’ denotes a resemblance, not an exact copy. Christ came in the flesh of man, which for all intents and purposes, has a connotation with sin. This resemblance was enough to allow the penalty of sin to be meted out within Himself, yet because of His perfect righteousness before God and upholding of the Law, He was not able to be condemned under the Law and therefore, was freed from the bondage of death that the Law prescribes. In turn, His righteousness before God and upholding of the Law is able to be credited to those who place their faith in His completed work, and instead of standing alone in God’s court without representation, we now have Christ who stands as our defense attorney and answers to the prosecutor’s (or the Law’s) indictments. Therefore, unless there can ever be proper accusation measured out against Christ (which is an impossibility), the believer stands without condemnation before the righteous Judge of the court.
Application- It seems fit now, having discussed the legal aspects of our justification, to touch on the practical ways in which God’s works this out in the believer’s life. Entering into chapter eight of Romans, Paul makes a profound statement when he says that, “There is, therefore, no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but the Spirit.” (KJV). It is important to set forth a definition of exactly what Paul means when he refers to those ‘who walk not after the flesh.’ Similar to the word “conversation” (see Gal. 1:13; Eph. 2:3; Eph. 4:22; Phil. 1:27; 1 Tim. 4:12; Jas. 3:13, 1 Pet. 2:12, 3:16), the word ‘walk’ presents the idea of our general conduct or natural way of living. To walk according to the flesh is to walk in a manner that enjoys the deeds of the flesh and freely practices them without the burden of conscience. As Paul will go on to say, ‘if you live according to the flesh, you will die.’ (Rom. 8:13). For the believer, this would be contrary to everything that Paul just spoke of in chapter seven. There can be no lasting pleasure in the works of the flesh because our new nature desires conformity to the will of God. The works of the flesh, though we may fall into them from time-to-time, are distasteful and bitter, and we have come to hate them because God hates them. How then can one who has been granted the new nature of the Spirit regularly conduct themselves in the former way of the flesh? That is, how can they regularly make a practice of doing what they hate without the burden of conscience and repentance. The answer is that they cannot. This way of living is evidence that the Spirit of Christ does not dwell within you, and your nature has not yet been renewed. The born again are those who walk according to the ways of the Spirit, and as such, the fruit of the Spirit will be evident in their lives. ‘No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.’ (Matt. 6:24 KJV). If Christ is our Master, then we will not be able to love that which is contrary to our Master’s will. In turn, if our Master is sin and the desires of the flesh, then we will be unable to love those things of Christ, which our current master despises. Obedience to God is conformity to His Law, and as those who live by the Law of Faith, our conformity to the Law takes place in our joyful agreement of the Law’s goodness. If then we are under the Law of Faith and in agreement with God that the Law is good, the Spirit will work through the process of sanctification to conform our earthly members to the Law’s righteous requirements. This is what it means for us to live according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.