Summary: Life is never abundant without liberty. Jesus called Lazarus back into life, but He also commanded that they unbind him from his grave clothes that he might have liberty in life, for life without liberty would have been a burden and not a blessing.
The Civil War was a complex and complicated war. Lambdin P. Milligan was one of the
men who got caught up in the complexities of it, and changed the course of legal history in the
United States. Milligan was a lawyer active in local politics in Indiana. The war had been on
three years and was already the worst in the history of our land. Indiana was on the side of the
North, but many were in sympathy with the South. Secret societies were formed which were
called Copperheads, and they supported the Confederate cause.
When the Northern general Alvin Hovey heard that Milligan was a part of one of these
Copperhead groups, he had him arrested and tried for treason. Milligan charged that the army
had no right to try him under military law because he was a civilian. General Hovey ignored his
argument and went ahead and tried him. He found him guilty and sentenced him to hang.
Milligan’s lawyer went to President Lincoln directly to plead his case. All Lincoln could offer
was that if the war ended before he was to hang he would give him a prison term instead.
The war did end soon, but Lincoln was assassinated, and there was no record of this private
conversation. Nine days before he was to die Milligan’s lawyer took his case to the Supreme
Court. The court ruled that the military has no right to try a civilian, and only when the civil
courts are closed and unable to operate can a military court have any authority over a civilian.
Milligan was released and was a free man. It was not because he was innocent, but because he
was transferred to a different system of law. The civil law set him free from the condemnation of
the military law. The one system of law took away his freedom and sentenced him to die. The
other set him free to live his life. What system of law a man is under is literally a matter of life or
This is precisely what Paul is saying in these opening verses of Rom. 8. Life and death depend
upon what system of law you are under, and the good news that fills his heart with joy is that in
Christ we are transferred from the law that condemns us to die to the law that sets us free to live
in liberty without condemnation. With a theme like this it is no wonder that Rom. 8 is considered
to be one of the greatest chapters of the Bible. It begins with no condemnation and ends with no
separation. It is a gold mine of assurance, and a diamond field of gems that makes the Christian
who comprehends them rich beyond compare.
If the Bible was a ring and Romans its precious jewel the 8th chapter would be the sparkling point,
for it dazzles with beauty from beginning to end. We want to focus our attention on just one of
the many sparkling points of this gem.
THE EXCLAMATION OF LIBERTY IN CHRIST. v. 1.
G. Campbell Morgan points out that this opening sentence is emphatic and explosive in the
Greek. He writes, “It is the glad exultant cry of a soul apprehending the fullest meaning of what
the Gospel has wrought for men.” Paul souls like a man who has just emerged from the court
room where he was on trial for his life. Confronting the reporters he shouts, “I’m free! I’ve be
acquitted! The verdict was-not guilty. There is therefore now no condemnation. I can walk out
of here in complete liberty as a free man.”
Life is never abundant without liberty. Jesus called Lazarus back into life, but He also
commanded that they unbind him from his grave clothes that he might have liberty in life, for life
without liberty would have been a burden and not a blessing. Life was and is a burden for all
who live under law, for one is always under the law of condemnation. He who keeps the whole
law yet offends in one point is guilty of all. There is no way for sinful men to keep the whole
law, and so he is under perpetual condemnation.
Because we, as Christians, have never been where Paul was, under the law, we tend to lose the
full appreciation of the liberty that came with the Gospel. Most of us have never felt the bondage
and the burden of condemnation. One of the reasons there is more exclamation of joy for those
converted later in life is because they have felt this bondage and burden. They have felt the
heaviness, and so they more deeply feel the release and the liberty that comes with the Gospel of
forgiveness. The majority of Christians do not feel as deeply as Paul about the liberty they have