Pastor David B. Curtis


No Condemnation!

Romans 8:1-4

Delivered 09/18/2011

We live in turbulent times, the world's economy is shaky at best. I believe that America is in a recession. But even with all that is going on we certainly don't lack for things to be thankful for in this country; we have so much. We have truly been blessed by God. But what if you didn't have all that you have in this country; could you still be thankful? Let's say that you didn't have your health. What if you were very sick; could you still be thankful? What if you were not financially blessed; could you be thankful in poverty? What if you didn't have a family or friends; could you be alone and still be thankful? What if you didn't have your freedom, if you were imprisoned could you still be thankful? Maybe you fell like you can't even answer these questions; you are not sure how you would respond to difficult circumstances.

I think that we should be able to answer all these questions in the affirmative. If you are a Christian, you should be able to be thankful in any and every situation because you have eternal life. Even total misery here for 85 years, and no condemnation in the presence of the all-satisfying God for 85 million ages of years would not be a bad exchange. We are immortal because of our trust in Jesus. Look with me at the attitude of Habakkuk, which is the attitude we all should have:

Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds' feet, And makes me walk on my high places. For the choir director, on my stringed instruments. Habakkuk 3:17-19 NASB

Habakkuk describes the worse case scenario he can think of; if his world comes crashing down around him, he says he will rejoice in the Lord. Can you say that? You should be able to if you understand your position in Christ Jesus. Look with me at our text for today, which is one of the most comforting, encouraging verses in all of Scripture:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 NKJV

"Therefore"--this always links us to what has already gone before us. What he is saying now is something that is related to something that he has said previously. How far back do we go? Some say this goes back to 7:6:

But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. Romans 7:6 NASB

This does fit, but I think we have to go back further to the Adam/Christ contrast of 5:12-21, because the condemnation that was imposed there is done away with here. We'll look at this in more detail in a moment.

Please remember that many see chapters 6-8 dealing with sanctification, personal growth in holiness. But I see the context from 5:20 thru 8:11 as being the Jewish believer's relationship to the Law of Moses. In 6:1 Paul's objector is asking, "Shall we stay under the Law so that sin will increase and grace will increase?" Romans 7 shows us Israel's failure to obey the Law. They desired to keep it, but they continually failed.

One thing that really stands out in chapter 8 is the number of times that the spirit is mentioned. The term "spirit" is mentioned only five times in the preceding seven chapters of the Epistle to the Romans and only once in Romans chapter 7. But when we turn to chapter 8, we have the Holy Spirit mentioned about twenty-one times. This chapter contains the greatest concentration of references to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, an average of one almost every two verses.

"Now no condemnation"--reading this in the original text the emphasis rests upon the word "no." "There is now therefore no condemnation," that's the emphatic word in the Greek text.

The Greek word that Paul uses here for "condemnation" is katakrima (katakrima is the normal word for condemnation). Katakrima is only used three times in Scripture, all of them by Paul in Romans. Paul uses katakrima twice in Romans 5:

The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. Romans 5:16 NASB

We see here that Adam's sin resulted in judgment, which is the Greek word krima, a sentence, or a decision on the part of a judge. This sentence from the judge resulted in condemnation, katakrima. Katakrima is defined by Suttor in his Lexicon as the punishment following the sentence. It is in a passive formation in the Greek and it is not likely to refer to the sentence as an edict from the judge, but rather to the punishment. Adam's sin is imputed to all, this is condemnation, which is spiritual death, separation from God.

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. Romans 5:18 NASB

Again, in this verse we see the same idea. Adam's transgression resulted in condemnation, katakrima, or spiritual death, to all men. When Adam sinned, he sinned as our federal head or representative. Adam's sin is imputed to the account of every individual in Adam's race. Everyone is born spiritually dead, separated from God because of Adam's sin. His act was a representative act, and you and I, as being represented by our federal head, participated in Adam's sin.

Romans 5:12-21, is a comparison of two men, Adam and Christ. The comparison is very simple. There are two men, who each performed a single act that brought forth a single result, and the result is experienced by every member in their respective races. In Adam there was nothing but death and hopelessness; but in Christ there is life for He has brought His people out from under the rule and authority of the sin and the death.

There will never be, in the life of any believer, spiritual death. There will be chastening and discipline in this life, but there will never be any separation from God.

Who are those who can lay claim to "no condemnation"? There are parameters to that claim. This promise is only "to those who are in Christ Jesus"--only those "who are in Christ Jesus have life." Some are in Him and some are not. Paul assumes this everywhere in his writings. There are those "in Christ" and there are those "outside." Paul is not a universalist. He says explicitly in Romans 9:3, with grief, that there are those who are "accursed, separated from Christ." And we see in Matthew 25 that there are sheep and goats:

and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matthew 25:33-34 NASB

The sheep get eternal life, but the goats get eternal death:

"These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Matthew 25:46 NASB

The Bible does not teach universalism. Jesus doesn't love, and He didn't die for everyone. When a man or a woman believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, they are placed in Christ. That is their position. And being in Him, they now are free of eternal judgment because the penalty has been paid by a substitute. The Lord Jesus came and bore that judgment, and because our penalty has been paid, it is impossible for us to have that penalty laid upon us.

If you are in Christ, what happened to Him, happened to you. Union with Adam, the first man, led to our condemnation/death. Union with Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, secured our righteousness/life. And this idea of our union with Him, who is our representative, is really the heart of the Pauline theology:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 NKJV

There is a textual problem with this verse; depending on what translation you use, you might get different ideas of who it is that has no condemnation. The NKJV has the phrase, "who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." The NIV and the NASB do not:

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 NASB

So the phrase, "who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" is in some translations and missing in other translations. If the phrase is in the text, we have to ask, "Is our not being condemned a result of our daily walk?" All of a sudden this is not such a comforting verse. Which of these translations is right? Should we just pick the one we like? The one that fits our theology best?

The modern translations are based on additions of the Greek text that go back to the theories of Westcott and Hort, which wound up producing a text that is more like the manuscript we've recovered from ancient Egypt than it is like the majority of the surviving manuscripts, many of which are much later. And discussions, even in Hort's day and since then, have been over whether the Egyptian manuscripts represent a closer approximation to the original text, or whether the majority of manuscripts do that. The Majority of text have the phrase, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit." A very large majority of the manuscripts contain these words.

So, the majority of texts have the phrase "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" in them, but I believe that the Scriptures teach that our justification is unconditional, so how do we deal with this?

I'm sure you would all admit that if not being condemned is based upon our daily walk, we are all in trouble. Yet the better manuscripts say that, so now what? The problem lies in our understanding of the phrase, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Most Christians would define "walking after the flesh" as doing sinful things. I think that if we understand how Paul uses these words, it will clear up the difficulty. Paul says in:

and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:8 NASB

Is Paul talking here about Christians who are doing sinful things or about unbelievers? There is a vast difference, I'm sure you would agree. Let's look at how Paul uses this phrase in other places. Let's look at Galatians 4. In verses 21-31, Paul speaks of the births of Ishmael and Isaac:

But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. Galatians 4:23 NASB

Ishmael had fleshly parents, i.e., Hagar and Abraham. But Isaac also had fleshly parents, i.e., Sarah and Abraham. So it is clear that Paul uses "flesh" here in a sense other than biological. They were both born of physical parents in a physical birth. So what does he mean that Ishmael was born after the flesh? Look at verse 29:

But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. Galatians 4:29 NASB

When these two verses are viewed together, you can see that Paul is saying that Isaac was born by promise, according to the Spirit. Ishmael was not born by promise of the Holy Spirit. Ishmael was born only after the flesh. So the word "flesh" cannot mean simply a biological process, and it can't mean evil acts. We can see what Paul means when we look at:

This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Galatians 4:24 NASB

Paul says, "these women are two covenants." Here, Paul reveals that the two women in that Genesis account actually represent the two covenants of God. So Hagar and Sarah represent the Old and New Covenants. So being born after the flesh or after the Spirit does not refer to a difference in the physicalness of their births, or to doing sinful things per say, but to two opposing covenants.

Paul's purpose in the allegory of the two covenants was to show that God's promise to Israel through Christ could not be received in the Old Covenant age. Jews under the Law were the "children of the flesh," who were of the bondwoman, the Old Covenant, as typified by Hagar. The Old Covenant could not give freedom by reason of the "weakness of the flesh."

In Paul's view, flesh and Spirit fall into redemptive-historical categories, serving to elucidate the contrasting natures of the two covenant ages. Seeking to live by law really boils down to seeking life independently of God, which was the basic sin of Adam. To walk after the flesh is to seek life in terms of what man can accomplish of himself:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8 NASB

If we take "flesh" here to refer to a sinful life, then sowing to the Spirit would mean living a holy life. This would mean that everlasting life is a product of living right. This would be salvation by works. We know that salvation is not of works.

Sowing to the flesh is seeking to live under the Old Covenant. And sowing to the Spirit is living under the New Covenant. It is trusting in Jesus the Messiah:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 NKJV

The phrase "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" is not a qualifying phrase: it is a descriptive phrase. A Christian is one who does not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Notice Paul's definition of a Christian in Philippians:

for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, Philippians 3:3 NASB

To walk after the flesh is to seek to live under the Law. The Jews placed all their confidence in their possession of Torah. They were physical decedents of Abraham, they had the mark of circumcision, they physically performed the ceremonies, and they outwardly did the duties and traditions of the Law. But it was all of the flesh, and it got them nowhere. To place one's confidence in anything outside of Christ is to have confidence in the flesh. To walk in the Spirit is to trust in Christ and His finished work on Calvary.

Romans 8:2 gives the reason for no condemnation when walking in the Spirit:

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of the sin and of the death. Romans 8:2 NASB

John Piper writes, "Verse 1 is a declaration of no condemnation. Verse 2 is a description of practical transformation"(, "Set Free by the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus," October 7, 2001, p. 2). By practical transformation he means sanctification. This is not what this verse is talking about. Paul says, "For," which is gar in the Greek, he's giving the reason why there is no condemnation.

"The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus--this is Torah of the Spirit. This introduces us to a new facet of Torah, this is New Covenant Torah. N.T. Wright states: "Speaking of Torah, after all, was a thoroughly Jewish way of speaking of God's saving action. Though Paul has spoken with eloquent passion of the way in which Torah locks the door on those who are imprisoned within Adamic humanity, he has never forgotten its promise of life. He can therefore speak, with deliberate but comprehensible paradox, of the Law itself as the agent of that which God has accomplished in the Messiah and by the Spirit."

Paul is saying the same thing here as he said in Romans:

Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. Romans 7:4 NASB

Paul says that the Torah of the Spirit "has set you free"--he is talking of setting slaves free is exodus language. Those in Christ are brought out of the Egypt of sin and death and made citizens in the kingdom of God. Paul puts this in the past tense. He uses the aorist verb "set you free," which declares something that has already happened by the Spirit's application of our union with Christ. They were not yet set free from the body of death, but were set free from the "Law" of sin and the death.

There is a textual variant here; some manuscripts have "me" and some have "you." "You" seems to be better supported. Paul is addressing each reader as a individual with this glorious message of freedom.

The Law of the Spirit is the same as the idea of :

for he who has died is freed from sin. Romans 6:7 NASB

Through the death of Christ, they become dead to the Law of sin and death. The Law of sin and death was the Old Covenant Law. Look at what Paul said about the Old Covenant:

who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:6-9 NASB

The Old Covenant was a letter that killed, but the Spirit gives life. The Old Covenant was a ministration of condemnation, but the New Covenant is a ministration of righteousness.

Those who have trusted Christ are free from the Law of the sin and of the death. They are no longer in the body of Adam/Moses, but are in the body of Christ, and are the eschatological bride who is under the Law of her new husband.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned the sin in the flesh, Romans 8:3 NASB

For what the Law could not do--the meaning of the Greek term "could not do" is: "impossible." It is the word "able" with an alpha prefixed to it, meaning: "not able" or "impossible." What was impossible was for the Law to give life. It offered it, but could not deliver. It wasn't the Law's fault, the problem was in the flesh.

Now, this is nothing new in Romans! If there's anything that we've seen over the course of our study it is that the Law cannot save. The Law was helpless to change this situation in the same way that the Law is helpless to change a marriage if it goes wrong. The Law was never intended to change the hearts of people, but to protect the relationships that it recognized.

"Weak as it was through the flesh"--the NIV translates "flesh" here as "sinful nature." While most scholars acknowledge that, for Paul, sarx describes man in Adam (or in the kingdom of darkness), many commentators prefer an understanding of personal guilt.

Most Western commentators read Paul's letters (and the NT in general) from an Augustinian perspective. Augustine's understanding of the biblical teaching on sin was tainted by his background in Greek philosophical schools, which he explored before his conversion. The consequence of this mindset was that Paul's corporate view of sin was minimized, and the power of his argument lost. We have to guard against this individualization of the argument to control the passage. In the context of Romans 8:3, Paul is not writing about man's "sinful nature," but his fallen condition in Adam.

"God did: sending His own Son"--what the Law couldn't do, God did. Salvation is the work of God.

"In the likeness of sinful flesh"--Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh. The Greek word for "likeness" is homoioma, which means: "similar but different." The difference was that He wasn't sinful. Christ's experience was not identical with man's, because He did not share man's guilt, having never sinned. For this reason, Paul qualifies his description of Christ's coming by saying that He came in the "likeness of sinful man."

Paul does not mean that Jesus was not fully human, He was. Had Jesus only appeared to be human (the error of the Docetists) then He would not qualify as our Representative any more than an angel would qualify to represent us before God. Docetics use to say, essentially, that He was a divine being who looked like He had human nature, but really did not have our human nature. Jesus was 100% human, but He was sinless. (John 7:18; 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 7:26;):

knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:18-19 NASB

Jesus' humanity was both real and sinless simultaneously.

"As an offering for sin"--"For sin" is the Greek, peri hamartias which is the regular phrase that, in the LXX, translates the Hebrew terms for the specific sacrifice known as the sin offering. Christ's death is a sin offering; it is the Paschal offering that brings deliverance.

Now, remember God is that holy God who is so holy, so righteous that He will not put aside His Law of holiness and righteousness in order to save one individual. Instead of forgiving our sins without a penalty, He makes an anointed substitute smart for us.

"He condemned the sin in the flesh"--"Condemned sin," is katakrino; to judge against. Sentence was passed and executed on sin in Christ's flesh. He condemned sin. He judged it with finality. The aorist tense emphasizes that He has already, with finality, condemned sin. There is no clearer statement found anywhere in Paul or anywhere else of the early Christian belief that what happened on the cross was the judicial punishment of sin. In the flesh is in Adam:

so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:4 NASB

"So that"--is hina and expresses the divine purpose, which is, "the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us"--the righteous requirements of the Torah are fulfilled in us. Paul is repeating what he has said in Rom 6:7: "Those who have died with Christ are freed from Sin. There is no charge that can be made against the new relationship. It is not an adulterous one as the Law's righteous requirements have been met in the representative, covenant-annulling death of Christ. The argument continues to be a corporate one, describing the conditions of two communities.

Commenting of this verse, John Stott writes:

Verse 4 is of great importance for understanding of Christian holiness. First, holiness is the ultimate purpose of the incarnation and atonement. The end God had in view when sending His Son was not our justification only, through freedom from the condemnation of the Law, but also our holiness, through obedience to the commandments of the Law. Secondly, holiness consists in fulfilling the just requirements of the Law. The moral law has not been abolished for us; it is to be fulfilled in us. Although law-obedience is not the ground of our justification (it is in this sense that we are 'not under the law but under grace'), it is the fruit of it and the very meaning of sanctification. Holiness is Christlikeness, and Christlikeness is fulfilling the righteousness of the Law. Thirdly, holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit. Romans 7 insists that we cannot keep the Law because of our indwelling 'flesh'; Romans 8:4 insists that we can and must because of the indwelling Spirit (221-222).

So he sees verse 4 as something we are to do. He sees it as: God put His Son to death as a sin offering so we would live a holy life. But Paul uses the passive voice to emphasize that Jesus Christ fulfilled this requirement so that nothing of God's justice, no more legal demand remains for us. Nothing is left for us to do in order to meet judicial satisfaction before God.

Along the same line as Stott, Tom Constable writes: "God fulfills the Law's requirements in us by His Spirit who indwells and empowers us. However this is not automatic because He indwells us. He fulfills them if and as we walk by the Spirit rather than walking according to the flesh. Walking by the Spirit means walking in submission to and dependence on the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:16). Walking according to the flesh means behaving as the flesh dictates and allowing our sinful nature to govern our lives."

He also wants to make this about us and our obedience. But we have already seen that "who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit"--doesn't have anything to do with how we act. It is about being under the Old Covenant, which is death, or being under the New Covenant, which is life. This verse doesn't say that we might fulfill the Law, but that it might be fulfilled in us. We are passive; God is the actor. The requirement of the Law is fulfilled in us by God. What is it the Law requires? Righteousness! Covenant faithfulness:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB

Jesus Christ took our sin and bore it upon the cross. He paid our sin debt. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness. Believer, we will never be separated from God because we have the righteousness of Christ. We are as righteous as Christ is righteous. We stand complete in Him.

Walking after the flesh was not a problem only faced in the first century. Many today are walking after the flesh, they are trying to gain favor with God by their works. They are trying to please God by the things that they do. For example, Catholic theology says: "By my deeds I can not only earn merit for myself, but if I earn more merit than I need to get into heaven; my extra merit goes into the treasury of merit to be applied to someone else to get them out of purgatory." What that says is not only can I by my merit earn my own salvation, but I can over earn it and apply what is left over to someone else's salvation. That is walking after the flesh. And to walk after the flesh is to be condemned. If you are trusting in something that you've done to get you into heaven, you'll never get there. To walk after the Spirit is to trust in Christ and Christ alone. To trust in Christ alone is to receive the righteousness of God and thus never face His punishment.

Believer, we often fail to live in love. So often we don't live a life that imitates Christ. We are so often selfish and self-centered. There are many times when because of our sinfulness we feel so far from God. But, believer, hang on to the truth of Romans 8:1, there is no condemnation to us who are in Christ. God has made us righteous, He has made us accepted in the Beloved. We will never suffer His wrath, we will never face His punishment, because Jesus Christ bore it for us.

No matter what our situation in life may be, if we are a Christian, we have cause to be thankful. We will never be condemned. We stand before God righteous. Thank God, our eternal destiny is not determined by our works, but by our trust in Christ's work. We can joyfully and confidently sing out the words written by Edward Mote. "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name."

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