Summary: Part 2: no condemnation in Christ.
Deliverance from Bondage
Last week I gave you the background for what Paul tells us in Chapter 8. Remember from last week’s message that in order for us to be joined with Christ, we must be dead to the Law. Also, because of our new relationship with Christ, our old nature is in a constant battle with our new nature. In the closing 2 verses of chapter 7, Paul cries out as in exasperation “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of the death.” He follows this up in verse 25 with the answer “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul ends with an understanding that we are delivered through Christ, not through any action of our own. With this understanding, he now begins to explain to just what it means to be delivered through Christ.
In the first two verses of chapter 8, Paul says “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Paul opens the chapter explaining that there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ Jesus. Condemnation from what? In the mind of Paul there is a vivid sense of contrast between the character, the position and the prospects of the true Christian and those of unbelievers, whether Jews or Gentiles. This contrast is kept throughout this chapter. Paul is defining a clear difference between the saved and the unsaved. Paul made it plain that personal religion did not consist in our external condition or relationships, or in association with any family or nation. Our personal relationship with God is individualized and born through our acceptance of Christ, being “in Christ Jesus”. This is a spiritual union, not one that can be purchased or inherited, but must be accepted and then cultivated into what God desires for us. To be in Christ means that Christ Himself has joined with us. The New Testament represents Christ’s people as “in Him”, “found in Him”, “standing in Him”, “walking in Him”. After this life we are said to be “sleeping in Him” or “dead in Him”. All of these references centers on the one true reality that we must accept, as Christians, we are “in Him” meaning Christ. So Paul confirms this in the first verse, there is no condemnation because we are in Christ.
What was this condemnation that Paul was referring to? It is the penalty for sin. In the Old Testament, the law as we discussed earlier, that was previously given to Moses had set it forth. The law brings condemnation because it points out, stimulates and condemns sin. But as Christians, we are no longer under the law, but under grace in Christ Jesus. In other words, the Divine displeasure and judicial anger, the present punishment of remorse and fear and the future punishment of destruction and death are removed because we are in Christ Jesus. In verse two, he states that the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” This contrasts the controlling power of the Holy Spirit who is life giving versus the controlling power of sin, which ultimately produces death. I like to think that every time I overcome a sin I am fulfilling this Scripture. But I am wrong, you see I cannot overcome a sin under mine own power. The forgiveness does not come from me nor does the power to walk away from the sin. When I realize that I was born into sin, that sin is my true nature, what my flesh desires, then I begin to understand my need for Christ’s grace and the Holy Spirit being active in my life. It is only when each of us individually comes to this conclusion that we are able to take the steps that lead us on the path to righteousness. As long as we believe that we have the power, that if we do “enough works” that we can be justified within ourselves, we never reach the understanding of our own need for Christ. You cannot sell someone a new car, house or even clothes if they do not believe within themselves that they need it. There must be a need present for someone to accept Christ. Paul is carefully pointing out the need that we all have for Christ because of what the Law could not do. Look at verse three.
“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” Because the Law could not complete the work within us because our flesh was weak, God sent His Son. Through Christ, sin was condemned in the flesh. Christ took victory over sin in His flesh. The Law addressed our flesh (sin nature) and because our flesh was weak, we continued to fail. Through God sending Christ, He addressed our “spirit nature” which when combined with the Holy Spirit is very powerful. Now because God was now addressing our spirits through Christ and not our flesh through the Law, verse 4 tells us that “…the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Whereas before we walked according to our flesh and could not fulfill the law, we are now walking through the Spirit and are fulfilling the Law. The Law plays a role in life of ever believer, not leading to salvation as it did in the Old Testament, but as a moral and ethical guide, obeyed by our love of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit. By God sending Christ to us, we are able to embody the true and full intentions of the Law. We no longer let our sinful nature sway us as we yield to the directing and empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit.