Saturday, 29 June 2013
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
This first verse of chapter 8 shows the culmination of all of Paul’s previous discourse. He has worked slowly and methodically through the various doctrines of the previous seven chapters to come to this marvelous conclusion. It is a conclusion which needs to be evaluated in connection with everything that has thus far been said, or it will lead to further confusion. If properly understood, the fact that the chains of bondage are destroyed in Christ becomes evident.
In this coming chapter, as evidence of this certainty, Paul will deal extensively with the role of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Spirit will be spoken of 19 times in the NKJV translation. The work of Christ had to come before the giving of the Spirit and this is the logical progression of thought in Paul’s writings –
1) The state of man
2) The introduction of the law and its consequences
3) The work of Christ
4) The effect of the work of Christ in man
5) Life in the Spirit for man in Christ
Obviously, much more has been involved thus far, and the thoughts have moved back and forth through a vast array of interwoven concepts, but he has given us an overall framework which has led to today’s verse and which will carry us through the coming verses.
“Therefore” is the key to connecting us back to what has been submitted. Based on these things, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…” The things which bound us are gone “in Christ Jesus.” This doesn’t mean that those who are in Him have been given a free pass to sin, nor does it mean that sins committed in Christ aren’t to be condemned. Instead, we are given a contrast.
Based on the discussion of the law in chapter 7 we see that in Christ condemnation isn’t pronounced in the same manner as it was under the law. Where the law always condemns, the gospel graciously pardons.
A problem and a misunderstanding does arise though from the rest of the verse – “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Is this a conditional statement on ultimate “condemnation” of the believer? In other words, is this saying that if one doesn’t outwardly walk “according to the Spirit” they can lose their salvation and go back onto the avenue of destruction?
The answer is, “No.” However, because of the wording and a misunderstanding the context of Paul’s thoughts, this is often what is proposed by scholars. As always, the context of a passage must be considered. Right from the beginning of Chapter 7, Paul gave the example of death nullifying law and then he equated that with Jesus’ death nullifying the law for us. Thus we are positionally “in Christ” and dead to the law and thus “in the Spirit.” He then said that because of this “we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”
The choice is still given to us how we will conduct our earthly walk, regardless of our heavenly position. “Condemnation” in this verse is the word katakrima. FF Bruce rightly calls it “punishment following sentence – in other words, penal servitude. There is no reason for those who are in Christ Jesus to serve sin as if they had never been pardoned and never been liberated from the prison-house of sin.”
If you follow the logic, this isn’t speaking then of condemnation in eternal hell, but the condemnation of living in prison which results from living in sin. If we “walk according to the Spirit” we are living a life of freedom from the bondage of sin. If we fail to conduct our lives according to this walk, then we will suffer the prison of our walk. As evidence for this, the rest of the New Testament shows us it time and time again.
For example, Paul says to those in Ephesus, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:28-32
For those in Christ who fail to follow the instruction and live in agreement with the Spirit they have been granted, they will receive the condemnation in the flesh that they deserve. However, this doesn’t effect their eternal state in Christ. As always, the biblical truth of eternal salvation is upheld.
Life application: In Christ, we have freedom from the penalty of the law and we stand justified in God’s presence because of the work of Jesus. We also have the ability to serve God in the newness of the Spirit. Why would we want to cling to the flesh and suffer the consequences of such a choice? Instead, let us endeavor to live in Christ in holiness and virtue.
Glorious beautiful Lord! Thank You for the freedom You have given me through the cross of Christ. In His death, the law is taken away. In His resurrection, the Spirit is granted and pardon is bestowed upon undeserving me. I never want to forget the marvel of what You have done. May I boast in nothing but the cross of Jesus. Thank You, O God, for the marvel of the cross. Amen.