NO CONDEMNATION (Romans 8:1)

NO CONDEMNATION (Romans 8:1)

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No condemnation! Are you in Christ? If so, that means you,
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Summary

No condemnation! Are you in Christ? If so, that means you,

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Submitted: March 12, 2017

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Submitted: March 12, 2017

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Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Introduction:

This is one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. It is packed with so much good news, hope and theology I get excited every time I read it, study it, or write about it. It's been a pivotal passage for me as I've grown and matured in my faith. It's just one line, a simple line, written by the New Testament's most prolific author, the Apostle Paul.

It's immediate context is powerful. Let's go ahead and look at it from verses one through four:

Romans 8:1-4, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (ESV).

What we have in our passage is a statement. It is a statement of what is. Let me put it this way, for those who are in Christ Jesus, who believe in Him and have put their faith in Him, there is no condemnation. There is no condemnation today, tomorrow, next month, next year; there is no condemnation ever for the believer.

Our passage is sandwiched between a section where Paul talks about the Law and its inability to set us free, it's power only to condemn because it cannot be kept. He goes on to explain how sinful he is and how that sin is tempting him constantly and how by the standard of the law he repeatedly fails. More specifically he speaks of the constant battle going on inside of him because he wants to do good, but no matter how strong that impulse or urge is to be obedient there is another powerful urge continually tempting him to sin. And just as he is giving up, so to speak, at the end of chapter seven, that's where we find our verse. Paul is like, “Man, I'm never going to make it. I can't obey the law, so it condemns me. I know I should obey God and I want to. But, I am so weak, my flesh is so weak. No matter what happens I am constantly tempted to sin. How am I suppose to win this? In fact, I can't win this”... BUT, and it's a big “but,” he flips it around right at our verse and thanks God that it isn't up to him. It was up to Jesus and Jesus already won. Jesus already paid the price for our sin and so if we are in him we are NOT condemned. We are free; forgiven and freed from our sins!

The battles, temptations, struggles, doubts, worries, desires that we have between our flesh and spirit, between our thoughts and actions, are things that in and of ourselves we are powerless over. However, Christ in us has already defeated these things. When the enemy starts causing doubt and our self talk convinces us of our guilt, it convinces us that we can never live the life we are commanded to live, all we need to do is read this portion of Scripture and remember, “Wait...even Paul struggled just like me. And Paul tells me through Scripture I am not condemned. There is NOW, right NOW, no condemnation coming my way because I am in Jesus.” This is EXCELLENT news!

Easy to Say, Easy to Hear, Not Always Easy to Believe:

One day I was listening to Tullian Tchividjian, the former pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, and I'm not sure if it was a sermon or an interview because it was a while ago, but he was talking about how we need to preach the gospel to ourselves. Not only did he say we should preach it to ourselves, but he said we should preach it to ourselves every day. Don't quote me because I can remember his exact words, but he said something along the lines of:

We often make the mistake of thinking that the gospel is simply what we need to believe in order to be saved. We hear it, we believe it, and then we are born again. Although we wouldn’t actually affirm this, we often act like the gospel has no further relevance to us. Too often it is simply viewed as a means to get us ‘in the door,’ so to speak, but we don't incorporate into our daily life.”

I interpreted this to mean that we need to preach the gospel to ourselves every day because we forget it every day. In fact, Tullian referred to a quote from the famed reformer Martin Luther. In Luther's Lectures on Romans he stated, “To progress is always to begin again.”

Tullian continued, “Real spiritual progress, in other words, requires a daily going backwards.”

The words of Romans 8:1 can be easy to say, easy to read or hear, but not always easy to believe. Even though it's right there for us to go back to as many times as needed, we tend to doubt and feel unworthy. In one sense this can be good as it can “keep us on our toes.” In another sense, it can be extremely unhealthy. In my observation there are far more believers who feel condemned and guilty than there are who recognize the truth that there is “therefore now no condemnation.” More believers seem to feel guilty than free and this shouldn't be the case.

We all go through this, every one of us. In counseling, conversations and discipling I have often heard the sentiment that one is unable to “feel” there is no condemnation because they are so frequently reminded of how God tests us. And having this “testing” in mind they feel they are constantly failing these tests and therefore are a disappointment to God, or are at the very least repeatedly displeasing Him. Now these are honest, raw feelings experienced by, I believe, the majority of the Body of Christ. So, how do we respond to this? How do we respond when people feel this way?

Let's just dissect the above paragraph for a moment. First off, there's the mention of God testing us. Is this true? Yes, it is. God does at times test us. So, let's move on. When people are tested they gravitate to the idea that they are continually failing those tests. Is this true? No, it is not. One may feel that way, I'm not discounting their feelings, but the truth of the matter is we are all passing tests every day. In fact, I'm willing to bet people are passing a lot more of God's tests than they think they are. What we tend to do is focus on the negative. Unfortunately, focusing on the negative comes more naturally to us and also makes a greater and longer lasting impression. Let me give just a few examples:

 

  1. If you're a bowler and you get perfect scores in nine of your ten boxes on the score card, but only get a nine in one of the squares, which square do you dwell on? You will rack your brain over that one incident you perceive as less than stellar.

  2. Golfers. You golfers can go out and play eighteen holes scoring two under par on seventeen holes, but if you score one over par on a single hole what do you do? “If only” takes over. “If only I'd have tapped it a little softer (or harder)...”.

  3. Report cards. You can be taking six courses and get an “A” in five of them and a “C” in one and where do you turn your focus? You can't get over that one “C.”

 

I think you get the point.

Next on our list as we dissect the above paragraph is the sentiment that we are a continual disappointment to God. Is this one true? Again, no, it is not. In fact, it cannot be true if Romans 8:1 is true. They cannot both be true. Believe God's Word, believe His promise, it's much more reliable than your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I think what is actually going on when they say they feel they are constantly disappointing God is that actually they aren't living up to some personal standard, usually unrealistic, that they have set for themselves. What's happening is they are disappointed in themselves for life not being what they expected it to be.

Tying It Together:

So, how do we sort of tie all this together up to this point? For starters, we have to accept that what God says about us is true. If God says we are “not condemned,” then we are not condemned. Part of what this means is that nothing, let that sink in for a minute, nothing, can ever separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Paul goes to great lengths to emphasize this point in Romans 8:38-39. Nothing means nothing, not even our own repeated mistakes.

Next, if and when God tests someone the test is not meant to destroy a person. The tests we go through help reveal weaknesses we may have where we need to learn to rely on God more. The tests we go through in life are a means to strengthen our faith, not weaken or destroy it. We are going to fail in life, we are going to fail tests. Life is all about our failures as well as our successes. It's what we do after we fail that determines the actual outcome of a failure.

Another thing to keep in mind, we are not the best judges of where we stand spiritually. You see, we are a little bias when it comes to judging ourselves. On our best days, we are nowhere near as holy as we think we might be. On our worst days, we are nowhere near as dreadful as we think we might be. I think it might be best if we throw out the notion of ranking ourselves on some kind of holiness meter each day and just strive to live in obedience as best we can.

As mentioned above, but worth repeating, life is always going to be a mixture of success and failure. Success comes and it gives us hope; failure comes (usually much more often than success) and it keeps us humble and reliant on God.

Something practical you might want to do is memorize Romans 8:1 and meditate on it daily. Maybe even put up post it reminders of the verse so you are reminded of it frequently. I know its much easier to believe about someone else, and since that is true, we needed to be continually reminded of it so we believe it for ourselves as well. In and through Christ we are forever no longer condemned.

With all of this in mind, with this as a back drop, using what has been shared so far as some background, let's now take a look at what this verse really and completely means in a bit more depth.

Two Main Truths:

When we go from the final portion of Romans 7 to the first part of Romans chapter 8 we discover two very relevant truths for the Christian life and experience.

I. We Will Struggle

That first point is, “we will struggle,” pretty much summarizes Romans 7:14-25. Paul says in this section, “In my mind I want to do what is pleasing to God. But there is something in me that always seems to make me want to do the exact opposite of that too.” Over and over again Paul confesses this struggle, “The things I know I should do, I end up not doing. And the things I know I should not do, the things I even hate, I end up doing.” All of us are able to relate to this. It's such a vicious cycle.

We wake up in the morning with the best of intentions. In fact, we may even pray, “Lord, this is your day and I’m going to be your servant and do your will. Help me live, act, and do things in a way that pleases you.” Then we, consciously or subconsciously, construct some kind of list of things we are going to do that day we know God will be pleased with. But then, we leave the house and the day actually starts. Before we know it, we've already skipped the first thing, we kind of limp our way through the second, we decide to leave out the third, we don't even remember the fourth, we do get the fifth thing right, and then the sixth thing completely slips our mind altogether.

Or, maybe it looks something like this. We pray, “God, I need your help with this, but I promise not to get angry or blow my fuse today.” What happens? We lose our temper in traffic on the way to work. We've blown it before the day even starts. Or maybe your prayer is, “Lord, help me not to be so critical. I don't know why I seem to have such a critical spirit, but today I'm not going to be critical of others.” But again, what usually happens? Before it's even lunch time we are criticizing not only the way our boss wants us to carry out a task, but we are criticizing the boss too. Maybe for you the prayer is, “Lord, help me to not gossip. Please give me the strength to think and speak only good and uplifting things.” And it happens again, two thirds of the way through the day there we are, “sharing concerns” about someone that may or may not be true in the guise of “caring.” The exact things we said we were going to do, we don’t do. And the things we said we were not going to do, we end up doing. I know Paul and I aren't the only ones. I know many of you, even most of you, have lived out a similar experience this week. To be honest, not even just this week. We've probably already done something similar today.

With all of that said I want you to keep something in mind: Romans 7 is not the complete story. In fact, I want to point out a couple of things regarding that fact. First, Romans 7 is an autobiographical account of Paul’s experience as a Christian believer. Some look at this portion of Scripture and try to say Paul is describing some sort of “defeated or subnormal” Christian, or even an unbeliever who is just feeling convicted. I don’t agree with that at all. I believe that Romans 7 is just a process, a normal process that all Christiansexperience. It's just something we naturally go through. The good news though is that Romans 7 is certainly not the full story of the Christian life. But, we can't just throw it out and say it has no bearing on us and our lives today. Let’s just be honest and straight forward. You can be an exemplary Christian leader, just like the Apostle Paul was, and at the same time struggle intensely in your walk with God. Paul is just being brutally honest. He’s saying that even though he was an apostle, he felt an intense struggle between his desire to please God and the “pull of his flesh.”

Next, not only was Romans 7 autobiographical of Paul, it's true of us as well. He's not only talking about himself, he's talking about you and I. The chapter describes a struggle that is part of our walk with God. That's why when Paul cries out in verse 24, “O wretched man that I am,” we can so readily relate to how he's feeling. But again, and praise God, it's not the whole story. It's just part of the story.

We Struggle in a Variety of Ways

We struggle in many different ways. For instance, we struggle between what we know and what we actually do. We also struggle between our better, more righteous desires and our lesser, more fleshly desires. We struggle between what we know God wants us to do and what we ourselves selfishly want to do. We struggle all the time, being pulled this way and that, back and forth. That is simply part of existing in a sin stained world.

Some people don't want to hear this truth. In fact, they'll deny it. Many preachers today won't even preach this truth. They will pamper the itching ears of their listeners with promises of “living their best life now.” They will claim that the only thing that limits God's blessings is a lack of faith. Well, that's a bunch of garbage. Our faith can't hold God back from anything; He does as He wills. God is sovereign and is plenty powerful to do whatever it is He wishes regardless of us

Some people want to hear that struggle should not be a part of the Christian life. That's what they want to hear and it's what they want me to say. But, I can’t do that. It wouldn’t be true not only to what I believe, but more importantly it wouldn't be true to Scripture. Anyone who tells you that struggles, suffering, and tribulation do not belong in the life of a Christian is actually painting an unbiblical picture of what it means to live as a follower of Christ. It only makes sense that if Paul struggled, if King David struggled, if Job struggled, we can expect to struggle too.If Paul felt he was being pulled back and forth, we can expect the same thing to happen to us.

Now, don't put words in my mouth here. Don't go from here claiming I said something I never said. I'm not saying that Romans 7 gives us a full explanation of Paul's spiritual life. I've said repeatedly it's not the whole story. In fact, Paul had one of the most dynamic spiritual lives of anyone that has lived. I just want it to be clear that the truth found in Romans 7 is a normal part of what it means to live a life devoted to Jesus Christ. There are times of struggle.

Sometimes people come to Christ and then they get all bent out of shape when things don’t suddenly turn around in their favor. They expect everything to automatically become easy and for their world to be filled with blessings. They get upset because they still have relationship problems, financial problems, personal issues, emotional struggles, marital conflict, and problems in almost every other area of life. They get discouraged and disillusioned, frustrated and frazzled, they get angry with God and wonder what’s wrong with them or what is it they are doing wrong. Most of the time there’s nothing “wrong” with you if you’re going through struggles. Most of the time it’s just a normal byproduct of what it means to live here on earth. So, that’s the first point for us from Romans 7. We will struggle in life.

II. That Struggle is Without Condemnation

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). This verse can be understood as the topic verse for the entire eighth chapter of Romans. Everything that he says in this chapter, all the way through verse 39, is basically a restatement of “no condemnation.” There IS now NO condemnation!

In the Greek the first word is not 'therefore.' The first word is not 'there.' The first word is not 'is.' The first word is not 'now.' The first word in this verse in the Greek is the word 'no.' The fifth word in our translation is first in the original because Paul wants to emphasize in the strongest possible way that there is no condemnation. That’s why he took the word 'no' and moved it to the front. There is therefore no condemnation. You might translate it this way: 'There is no condemnation—none whatsoever—for the believer in Christ Jesus'” (from “No Condemnation” at Keep Believing Ministries).

Let's take a look at what this does is not saying there is therefore now no cause for condemnation. That wouldn’t be true. All of us fail and all of us fall. All of us stumble. All of us stray from the path at times. In fact, sometimes it seems as if we’re barely making it. Paul is not saying there is no cause for condemnation in us because if God were to look down from heaven and judge us on a moment by moment basis, He would find plenty of cause for condemnation in us. So that’s not what Paul is saying.

Is Paul saying, “There is, therefore now, no failure for those who are in Christ Jesus?” No.
Is he saying, “There is, therefore now, no struggle for those who are in Christ Jesus?” No.
Is he saying, “There is, therefore now, no stumbling for those who are in Christ Jesus?” No.

What he is saying is this, there is therefore now, “no condemnation, no punishment, no coming into judgment for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Are you in Christ Jesus? If you have surrendered to His call then there's no condemnation, accept that truth.

Pound that into your heads. We may stumble and stagger, we may flail and fall, we may toil and trip, we may make mistake after mistake, we may stray from the path, we may have a boat load of problems, but for the one who has put their faith in Jesus Christ, there is no condemnation. There is no condemnation because God says so. You can and will struggle, but you’re not condemned. You can and will fall, but you’re not condemned. You can stray from the path, but you are not condemned because God has said he will not condemn those who are in Christ Jesus.

When Jesus saved us, He never said He would take away all our problems. But, He did say that in our problems, there is no condemnation. In our struggles, there is no condemnation. In our failures, there is no condemnation. In our straying from the path, there is no condemnation.

Great News for Prodigals

This means God is not going to reject you just because you struggle. Most of us know the story of the Prodigal Son. He was living in his father’s house and then decided to take off. He left and ended up giving himself over to a wild life of sin, spending all his inheritance, and eventually living in a pig pen. He hit rock bottom. The son who had it all went from the top all the way down to the bottom.

Do you remember where the father was when the son returned home? He wasn't in the house. He was outside on the road on his way to meet him, to welcome him. This is a beautiful picture of our experience as believers when we have strayed. There is no rejection for those who are in Christ Jesus. Even those who wander, even those who stray, even those who went off living a wild life for a while and are embarrassed because theyhave squandered away, or wasted, so much of the spiritual inheritance they have in God’s kingdom. Sadly, some people are too terrified to turn back, to come back home, because they think God’s going to condemn them. Remember though, nothing you do is going to catch God by surprise. God already knows everything you’ve done, everything you’ve thought about doing, and everything you will do in the future. He loves you anyway. You’re still in His family. You're still His child. And as soon as you say, “I'm going to get up out of this filth and go back home to my Father,” that very moment He will say, “Kill the fatted calf. Let’s have a party. My son (or daughter) who was lost, has been found. He was away, but now he’s come home.”

When we Fall Short

The fact of the matter is we are going to fail. The question is, what do we do when we fail?Often times we don't just fail, we fail in the same way multiple times. We make the same mistakes we have made before. We repeat dumb mistakes over and over again. So, what do we do then? The Bible is clear, we repent! By God’s grace our eyes are opened to see what we have done, so we then change our minds, stop making excuses, we confess to God and to others (when needed), we ask God for strength, we ask others for help (accountability), and we ask God to help us get past it and to move forward.

It’s very hard for us to believe that God truly loves us in such a mighty way. Especially when we get a good, honest reflection of ourselves in the mirror. I think all of us have times when we look at ourselves and think, “Oh buddy...there is plenty of condemnation for you! You've messed up, continue to mess up, and will mess up again in the future.” However, that's not what God says. We need less self talk and more God talk. God says, “NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Can you trust that? Are you willing and able to believe that? Can you believe what God has said over what you feel?

Charles Spurgeon once said, “If our debt was paid, it WAS paid, and there IS an end of it; a second payment CANNOT be demanded” (emphasis added).

So, is Jesus enough for you? Is His payment enough for you?

Discipline and Correction, but no Punishment

There may very well be some discipline, and it's very plausible there may be some correction, both of which can be quite painful (see Hebrews 12:4-11), but there is no harsh, vindictive, accusatory, abusive punishment. There can be, and usually is, a major difference between disciplining and punishing. However, that is a topic for another time. For our purposes, just know that with no condemnation there is no harsh punishment. Discipline for our own good? Most likely. Punishment for the sake of punishing? Absolutely not.

This may sound corny but it's so true, when we fail or fall God helps us back up. He shows us where we went wrong, and he puts us right back in the game. That’s what Paul is talking about when he says there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.Too may believers go through life with a heavy load of guilt weighing them down. And this is not just because they struggle, but because they feel condemned by God. They may even feel like God hates them because they're always failing. But you know what? He doesn’t. His thoughts toward His elect are thoughts of love. Even when He needs to discipline us He does so for our own good; He does it as a loving Father. He does it for our ultimate benefit.

I can't think of a single truth more important, more satisfying, or more freeing than the great truth that for those who know Jesus Christ, for those who are in Him, there is NO condemnation. One may be tempted to ask why? Well, because Jesus paid it all. Our sins our gone. Our Lord condemned sin by His death on the cross.

Be prepared though. Just a quick word of caution. The devil is still going to whisper, and sometimes shout, that word in your ear, “Condemned, condemned, CONDEMNED!” But who are you going to believe? God or the devil? God says, “No condemnation!” I think the choice is clear.*


*Sermon/article inspired by, and adapted from, “No Condemnation” at Keep Believing Ministries.


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