There is therefore now no condemnation for them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.
The eighth chapter of the Romans is a beautiful, inspired song of redemption, sung in the pure and clear atmosphere of the wondrous grace of God on the very mountain-tops of faith. Beginning with the negative, yet emphatic declaration that there is no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus, the apostle sings of the glorious liberty of the sons of God, of their freedom from the law of sin and death, of their blessed hope of everlasting glory, of their safety and preservation in this present world, and of the certainty of their final adoption unto children and heirs in the day of Ghrist. The law of the Spirit of life made them free from the law of sin and death, and they walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. The Spirit of God in Christ Jesus dwells in them, causes them to mind the things of the Spirit, leads them, so that by His grace they mortify the deeds of the body, witnesses with their spirit that they are the children of God, and is the earnest of their final salvation. Sons of God they are, and co-heirs with Christ. And even though in this world they will have to suffer with Him, they may be assured that they will also be glorified with Him. And the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in them. AH creation, now subject to vanity and to the bondage of corruption, eagerly looks forward and groans in longing for its share in that glorious redemption of the sons of God. And we ourselves, that have the first fruits of the Spirit, also groan, as we are saved in hope, while the Spirit within us prays for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. And the realization of this future glory is absolutely certain. It is rooted in God’s immutable counsel. To that end all things must work together. God is for us. Christ died1, was raised, is exalted at the right hand of God, intercedes for us. And nothing in heaven, on earth, or in hell, can ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!
All this is introduced by the emphatic statement of the first verse: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus!” And to this we would like to call your attention more particularly.
It is plain that in these words the apostle draws an inference, a logical conclusion from what he had expounded in the preceding part of the epistle. I would find the connection, not in any expression in the immediately preceding chapter only, but in all that has been set forth in the previous section concerning the righteousness of God which is by faith in Christ Jesus. “There is therefore now no condemnation.” The word “now” does not imply that there ‘was condemnation before, but that now it is removed, for there never was any condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus. Rather must we understand the words as meaning: “in the light of all that was expounded concerning the righteousness of God by faith, it is now evident that there is not, that there never was any condemnation at all for those that are in Christ Jesus!”
Thus conceived, the words have a tremendous significance!
To apprehend their full import we must understand that they place us, sinners, in our present existence, with all our present experience in judgment before God, the righteous and only Judge of heaven and earth. For that is the implication of the word “condemnation”. It is a legal term. It means that God sits on the throne of judgment, and that we stand before Him as the defendants. It implies that the Most High judges us according to the strictest standards of justice and righteousness, and that He passes sentence, expresses His verdict concerning our moral, ethical state. And, mark you well, we must realize that this is a present and constant reality. We dare not project this whole situation into the future, the still distant day of judgment, as if the text should mean that in that future judgment day we shall be judged and acquitted. For that would deprive the text of its tremendous significance. It is true that there will be a day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, and that in that day it will publicly and finally appear that there is no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus. Nevertheless, this is not the meaning of the words here. We must conceive of the judgment as present. We are now in judgment. For always God judges. And always He passes a righteous judgment, and expresses a righteous verdict upon us. And that verdict is, for those that are in Christ Jesus: No condemnation!
Do not imagine that this negative expression is rather weak, and that the declaration of the apostle would have, been much more forceful if he had written positively that, there is an eternal righteousness for us. For by the negative assertion the apostle refers to our real situation, to what we are in ourselves, and to what verdict might be, nay, must be expected when we stand in judgment before God. Condemnation, utter and complete condemnation, nothing but condemnation, could possibly be expected when we stand before the bar of divine justice. For God is the righteous Lord. He is God! He is the Holy One, that can have no communion with sin. He cannot deny Himself. When He judges, His judgment must always be according to righteousness. He cannot acquit the guilty. His favor cannot be upon the ungodly. To the sinner He is a consuming fire, always, in time and eternity. O, if you might conceive of God as some good natured being, who winks at sin, and who is so weakly and effeminately merciful that He cannot maintain His righteousness and pass a righteous judgment, there would be nothing profound and amazing in the statement of the apostle that there is no condemnation. In fact, then there is no condemnation for any man, and the addition: “for them that are in Christ Jesus,” has no sense. But now it is different. The words place us before God, Whose very essence is justice and righteousness, and who will surely reward every man according to his works!
And, as we stand before that highest tribunal, what is our situation? Is there, in our present existence, anything at all that can serve as a basis for the hope and expectation that there is no condemnation? You know better. The very opposite is true. The fact is that absolutely everything in our present situation loudly and persistently clamors for our condemnation. Nay, what is worse, everything very definitely testifies that we are already, that we are always under condemnation i. As mere men, we are born under condemnation, for with the whole human race we are guilty of Adam’s transgression, and we are children of wrath. Moreover, our nature is corrupt, so that there is no good at all in us, and we are always inclined to do evil. And we know it, and are keenly aware of it, when we stand before the judgment seat of God. Moreover, whatever may be our boast of righteousness before men, when we face the Judge of heaven and earth, we know only too well that we have sinned, and that we have always corrupted our way. Our own conscience accuses us, and loudly proclaims to us the inevitable judgment of God that we are under condemnation. And so does all our experience in our present existence. For we lie in the midst of death, and there is no way out. We are mortal and corruptible. We suffer and die. And in all our suffering and death we feel the heavy hand of God, the Judge of heaven and earth, upon us. His wrath is revealed from heaven! Condemnation, utter and irrevocable condemnation,—that is the testimony that is, as it were, shouted at us from every side, as we stand before the bar of God’s justice!
Thus conceived, the words of the apostle are seen to have an astounding significance. They are not the expression of actual experience at all, but its flat contradiction. Our own conscience condemns us, yet here is a testimony that overcomes and contradicts the voice of that conscience, and says: there is no condemnation! Our relation to Adam condemns us and assures us that we are children of wrath, yet here is a bold declaration that lifts us out of that damning connection with the human race, and asserts: there is no condemnation! All our actual sins clamor for our condemnation, yet the words of our text contradict their persistent clamor and declare: there is no condemnation! All our experience emphatically witnesses that we lie in the midst of death, yet even while we suffer and die, the words of our text would have us cry from the depth of death; there is no condemnation! They are not the words of experience, but the triumphant shout of that faith that overcomes the world, and that casts itself upon the mercies of God, and clings to Him as seeing the Invisible!
And the words are very emphatic. In the original they read: in no respect is there any condemnation. Experience testifies that there is condemnation in every respect: in respect to our relation to Adam and the human race, in respect to our original guilt, in respect to our corruption and the defilement of our nature, in respect to our actual walk and life, in respect to our suffering and death: wherever we look, and from whatever aspect we consider our present existence and situation, there is nothing but condemnation. But as we by faith lay hold on the Word of God in our text, we boldly declare that in all these respects there is no condemnation. Positively, this means that according to the judgment of God who cannot lie we have no sin, we are perfectly righteous, we are the objects of God’s favor, and worthy of everlasting life and glory! In the midst of sin we declare that we are righteous! Under condemnation we insist that we are justified! Crying from the depth of death, we triumphantly claim that we have eternal life! There is no condemnation!
But how is this possible?
Where may be found the solution of this paradox?
The answer is in the words: “for them which are in Christ Jesus.” These words signify that in the midst of the natural body and organism of the human race, of which Adam is the head and first father and root, and which lies under condemnation and wrath, there is another, a new corporation and body, of which Christ Jesus is the Head and representative. And for those that belong to this new corporation, and that are members of this spiritual body, there is not, there never was, and there never will be condemnation. In Christ Jesus, and1 because of their relation to Him, they are free from the condemnation of the whole human race, perfectly righteous, and worthy of everlasting life and glory. Where does this new body have its origin? Who forms it? How do we become members of it? And how do we know that we belong to it, and that, therefore, we are free from condemnation?
The answer to the first question takes us to eternity, to the eternal sovereign grace of God. For this new, spiritual corporation and body for the which there is no condemnation, has its origin solely in God’s eternal counsel of redemption. Christ Jesus is the eternal Son of God, ordained from before the foundation of the world to be the Head of His people, their Redeemer from sin and death, the Captain of their salvation through whom it pleased God to lead many children to glory. And the members of this corporation, those that are in Christ Jesus, are those whom God has from all eternity chosen in Him. Christ Jesus and His body were established and determined in eternity by the sovereign grace of God. For thus the Word of God teaches us in: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” That is why we said that there never was condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus. Even, though in time they are born as children of wrath, in God’s eternal counsel they stand eternally as the company of the redeemed and justified and glorified! For them there is no condemnation!
(to be continued)