(b) No Condemnation
The sinner is on God’s death row. We need to be emancipated, set free. No Condemnation.
In commencing this great chapter on assurance Paul leads us once again into the heart of the Gospel, which he does so frequently throughout this epistle.
The opening verse is a keynote statement for chapter 8. Assurance is built upon the premise that God’s people will never suffer condemnation. This text is also a summary of everything that Paul has teaching hitherto. The word “Therefore” emphasises this.
1: No Condemnation – The Promise
To be condemned is to be sentenced to prison or execution for crimes against law.
By nature we are condemned by God’s law. Man is condemned as a result of Adam’s sin (Romans 5:16,18). This condemnation becomes stronger as man resists the offer of the Gospel in Christ (John 3:18-19). It will become a solemn reality when Christ passes sentence at the last day (Matthew 7:23).
God, however, promises his justified people that they will not be condemned. The word “now” emphasises the change, the transformation. Once we were condemned in the filthy rags of our sinfulness. Now we are, not condemned, declared innocent at the bar of God’s tribunal.
The word “no” emphasises that this change in our standing is irreversible. The word means more than a simple negative. It is much stronger than our English word “no” and is difficult to translate. Martyn Lloyd Jones’ interpretation brings out the force of the word:
“Not only is the Christian not in a state of condemnation now, but never can be; it is impossible.”
2: No Condemnation – The People
The people who are not condemned are described simply as being “in Christ”. This denotes the very reason why we are justified, we have been joined to Christ, we are in Him. Therefore as Christ is not condemned so we have been justified.
Our Lord taught this truth using the illustration of the vine (John 15) and Paul employed the metaphor of the body (1 Corinthians 12:27).
The Christian is not one who chooses Christ or holds onto Christ. He is in Christ, joined to him in a mystical union, which assures us of our justified state (Colossians 3:3).
3: No Condemnation – The Process
In the verses 2-3 Paul describes the process by which we have been united to Christ and by which we have therefore been justified.
V2 “The law of sin and death” refers to the law of God. The law condemns us because we are guilty of breaking its precepts. “The Spirit of life” refers to the Holy Ghost. The law brings death but the Spirit brings life to our hearts and releases us from bondage and curse. Interestingly, however, Paul talks about the “law of the Spirit of life”. If the Holy Ghost sets us free then the law by which He functions is the Gospel of Grace. In other places the Gospel is referred to as being a law (Romans 3:26-27, 6:14, 2nd Corinthians 3:5,6,8, James 1:25).
The Gospel is a law in that we are under its gracious life giving power. The Holy Spirit has made us free in that he has joined us to Christ in our regeneration and has given us blessed assurance.
V3 leads us into the condemnation Christ received in order that we might be delivered from judgement. This is an astonishing text. God’s Son took upon himself the likeness of sinful flesh, even though he himself had no sin. This highlights the depths to which Christ stooped to bring salvation. As one who became the likeness of sinful flesh Christ suffered the condemnation that we deserved. The great doctrines of substitution, propitiation and the vicarious atonement of Christ, which lie at the heart of the Gospel are lucidly set forth here. The whole work of the Holy Trinity now comes into view where our justification is concerned. God the Father has justified us and he has sent his Son. Christ offered himself and was condemned for our sins. The Holy Ghost has set us free and has joined us to Christ’s body. How wonderful to be a Christian!
4: No Condemnation – The Path
At the end of v1 and in v4 Paul teaches us how the justified person should live. Sanctification again is taught as the logical outcome of Justification. The emphasis again is upon law. Those who are not condemned should fulfil the righteousness of God’s law in their lives. The flesh or the old nature is dominated by a desire to break the law but through the Spirit the Christian can keep the law and be conformed to Christ. The the Justified must walk in the Spirit.