“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
No condemnation in Christ Jesus—how wonderful!
There is therefore now no condemnation in Christ Jesus. These words, “therefore” and “now,” indicate the meaning of this Scripture in the light of its context. The word “now” must not be understood temporally, but logically—now, at this moment of the apostle’s epistle and reasoning. The word “therefore” means that what now follows is a conclusion, a result of something, a logical conclusion.
According to some, we must connect this text with the entire preceding part of the epistle, man’s hopeless sin and guilt and his redemption by grace through Christ Jesus. And, in a certain sense, one cannot object to this interpretation Analyzing this text, one will discover that he must refer to all this. Others seek the connection in the conclusion of chapter 7. We would maintain this latter interpretation. First, we would maintain the old exegetical rule: do not go too far upstream; remain as close to the text as possible. Secondly, there is no reason to look beyond verse 25 of chapter 7: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And he begins this song of victory in verse 1, the ground of this victory. And so the connection is plain. In Romans 7:25 the apostle had spoken of victory. Of this victory he now sings in Romans 8. And the ground of this victory is expressed in verse 1.
What a wonderful Scripture this is! In Romans 7:15-17 the apostle gives expression to the fearful struggle of the Christian: the evil he hates he does and the good which he would he practices not. That we now have the victory over this fearful power of sin is only because of Jesus Christ, our Lord, as we also read in this particular word of God.
The apostle expresses himself negatively here: no condemnation; He does this for the sake of emphasis.
Condemnation is a legal idea. It means, first of all, that we are judged by the Judge of all the earth, the living God. The Lord alone may judge because He is alone the Judge of all the earth, the Potentate of potentates. And He alone can judge because He is God—He alone can read and know the hearts and minds of men. And when He judges He never caters to man, never perverts the judgment; He always judges righteously, and only therefore in the light of Himself and man’s relation and attitude toward Him. Secondly; the word means that we are judged guilty. The Lord judges us to be in conflict with His law. A robber or murderer may be sorry that he violated the law, but he is never sorry for God’s sake. He is sorry only for his own sake. This is the sorrow of the world (II Cor. 7:10). God judges only in the light of Himself. And it means, thirdly and finally, that the Lord also enforces this verdict of guilt. A worldly judge may declare a person guilty and then pervert justice. But God always enforces His judgment and executes it, immediately—the Lord never postpones or delays it.
The opposite of condemnation; positively, is justification. Justification is that official decree or verdict of the Judge of all the earth, declaring us to: be in perfect harmony with His law, that He sees no guilt in us and declaring us to be heirs of everlasting life and glory.
No condemnation—how fundamental!
God alone is the living God. He is the Potentate of potentates, the Judge of all the earth. In His hand He carries the entire universe; His is all the power and the glory; He alone rules and exercises absolute dominion. He alone is God and there is none besides Him.
Hence, this judgment of God is fundamental because it is absolute and final. There is no appeal from His verdict because there is no judge either next to Him or above Him. Neither is there any power to oppose or annul His judgment. His judgment stands and it can never be frustrated or changed. What the Lord therefore declares of you and of me is final; it determines our lot, even forever, as is also stated in Romans 8:33-34: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?”
The negative language of the text must not escape us. We read: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” We do not read here, positively, of justification but, negatively, of condemnation. Why does the apostle express himself thus? This emphasizes the amazing character of our salvation. Imagine: no condemnation!
Amazing, first of all, because of what we are. Are we not conceived and born dead in sins and trespasses? Is it not true of us, according to Romans 8:15-17, that we do the evil we hate, and practice not the good we would? We do only the evil and never the good! How, then, can the Lord judge concerning us that He sees no evil in us? We ourselves are aware of this evil. And the Lord does not see it, the Judge of all the earth? Secondly, is not the Lord the righteous Judge of all the earth? His judgment is surely always just and true. He is not a man who perverts judgment. Is it, then, not an amazing thing that, judging us, He declares of us that He sees no sin in us, when we ourselves see so much of it, and He certainly sees so much more? Thirdly, how amazing is this judgment because God is always executing us! Is it not true that we die every day and all the day long? And, remember: the Lord is doing this! We are not dying accidentally. We die every day because His hand rests upon us. How, then, can God say that we do not deserve death, are entitled to everlasting life and glory, while at the same time causing us to die all the day long?
However transcending all human understanding, this justification of God’s people is real. Christ Jesus is the Head of His people. He is this Head judicially. This means that He represents us, represents us in death and in life. As such He is responsible for all our sins and trespasses, and His merits belong to us, even as Adam was the representative head of the whole human race and his sin was imputed and charged to us. This Christ is also our Head organically. And this means that He is the Head and we are His body. In Him is all our life and salvation and we live out of Him. He is the Vine and we are the branches who live out of the Vine.
Indeed, this is the basis for our “no condemnation.” The apostle is emphasizing this. We read here: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” And we feel instinctively that the expression, in Christ Jesus, gives us the reason, the ground for this amazing truth. Only as in Christ Jesus we are justified by and before God. This is eternally true: in God’s eternal counsel, we are His body, covered by His blood and clothed with His righteousness, so that it is actually true that God sees no guilt in us because there is none. Then, this is true upon the cross of Calvary. Christ is our Head and we were in Him. He suffered and died for our sins and paid our debt; when He died we died and when He was buried we were buried. This is clearly held before us in Romans 6:3-4. In His suffering and death our old man of sin was condemned so that it may never again reign over us. Indeed, we glory in the cross of Christ, provided that we do not destroy that cross by presenting it in a universal, head for head, sense of the word. And, thirdly, this is true now in principle and presently in perfection forever. O, it is true now only in principle. We are perfect now, but only as we are united with Christ and live out of Him. What is born of God cannot sin, it is holy; but only that is holy and perfect that is born of God. Presently, however, this earthly house of our tabernacle will be dissolved, this old man of sin will be destroyed forever, and as God has known us eternally, we shall appear in the new heavens and upon the new earth. Then the righteous in Christ will shine forth in all their glory and perfection, even as God has sovereignly known us in Christ Jesus from before the foundation of the world.
No condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.
This does not mean, cannot mean that our conduct as not after the flesh but after the Spirit is the ground of our justification. Indeed, this word of God does not say this. We do not read that there is no condemnation for us because we walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. We do read, however, that there is no condemnation to them who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. How impossible this would be! How contrary to all the teachings of Holy Writ! How Scriptural is the truth that we are righteous before God not because of our works but by grace. Indeed, by grace we are saved, through faith, and not of works lest any man should boast. No condemnation for us because we walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit? If this were true then surely our many sins would condemn us! Then our sins would surely rise up against us and demand of the Judge of all the earth our condemnation. On the other hand, however, our justification rests only upon and in Christ.
What, then, does this expression mean? First, only God’s people for whom Christ died and rose again will (in principle) walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. Indeed, this, we understand, does not apply to every sinner, that Christ died for every man, and that every man can by his own free will decide to walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. This expression simply designates those of whom it is true that there is no condemnation. Rut this emphasizes, then, how we experience this blessed, incomprehensible truth, how this blessed assurance is consciously known by me, only in the measure that we walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. We are righteous only in Christ Jesus and therefore experience this blessedness only as we walk in Christ Jesus.
Our sins rise up against us day by day.
The evil we hate we do and the good we would we practice not.
In Christ Jesus there is no condemnation.
Let us glory, then, only in the cross of Jesus Christ, our Lord.