This scripture would have to be one of the most quoted verses amongst Christians in the bible. And yet it is also one of the least understood. But when we understand the power of these words and the blessing that the Lord has bestowed upon us in the unselfish and obedient act of Jesus who died for us, then the wonder of the power of God becomes even more astounding.
Every person at some time in their life has done something of which they are ashamed and they wish they had never done. As a result they suffer from pangs of guilt whenever they think about this thing, whatever it was, and they suffer from self-condemnation.
Now there are plenty of people who will condemn others on the basis of their own standards, and for the most part they can be ignored. But we struggle to ignore the condemnation we heap on ourselves for what we recognise as our own shortcomings. And too often we ignore or forget the condemnation that comes from God when we fall short of His glory and fall into sin.
But these first few verses of Romans 8 change all of that for they are powerful words of transformation, specifically the transformation that now only becomes possible in and through Jesus Christ.
First let us consider condemnation for a moment.
Whenever a person does the wrong thing, particularly when they break the laws of God as laid out by Moses, they stand condemned as sinners. Sin is the mechanism through which man is condemned in the sight of God for it is sin that separates man from God.
God does not like sin. In fact He hates it and all things sinful. Thus it was that He condemned sin and those who commit sin for God is perfect and without sin and wants no part of it.
The condemnation for being a sinner is to die. Death is the judgement that follows sin. When we commit sin we earn death as Paul writes in Romans 6:23,
For the wages of sin is death
Every person who sins can expect only one outcome; the condemnation to death. No man can escape the condemnation of death because all men sin.
But, as the last verses of Romans 7 says, which was the subject of my last post, we thank Jesus for His sacrifice wherein we have been freed from this bondage to death. Romans 7:24-25 says,
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
And in these words we see Paul recognise the salvation of the Lord. He recognises how his and our frustration and anguish of suffering under sin has been removed and we have been delivered from this condemnation to die through Jesus Christ.
Freedom From Condemnation
This freedom from condemnation comes through God’s grace. He allowed us to take on the death of Jesus as our own so that we could die and thus pay the penalty of sin before the due time.
Our bodies will continue to age and will wear out and pass away, but in Christ Jesus through faith our spirits will not die. We have the promise of life in the spirit through the actions of Jesus Christ.
And what is the basis upon which this promise stands? Is it through anything we do or have done? No. This promise of salvation and freedom from condemnation comes by faith alone, not by works nor anything else a man can do but by believing what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
Faith is a thing of the spirit of man. It is a state of mind based upon what you believe to be true even though you may not yet see it. We believe in the working of God’s grace through faith and so we understand that Jesus died to set us free from our sin. We believe in faith that we ARE set free and thus no longer bound under slavery to sin. We believe through Jesus suffering and death that we are set free from the law of sin and death so as to now and in the future live under the guidance of the Holy Spirit rather than the guidance of the written laws of Moses.
This is why we see in Hebrews 10:15-18 that the writer says of God,
15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
It is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who impresses the will of God as encapsulated in the law directly onto our hearts and minds. This is the Holy Spirit speaking directly into our spirit through faith to transform the way we think. And through faith we understand that we are no longer sinners because God has said, “I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.”
God has stated that He will no longer hold our sins against us. And not just past sins but future lawless deeds as well. If this were not so, then in the future we would need more sacrifices for sin, but as the scripture from Hebrews above shows in verse 18, “…there is no longer any offering for sin.”
And now that God has set us free from sin and is transforming our spirits through working in our hearts and minds to write His righteousness into us by the working of the Holy Spirit, we are no longer under condemnation.
We are not condemned as sinners because God has chosen to overlook our past sins and our future mistakes so that He can work in us and on us to bring us into a place of perfection in Jesus Christ. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus who walk not according to the flesh but according to the spirit of the Lord.
Righteousness of The Law
We are no longer bound under the law to keep the law for fear of the punishment of death. In Jesus Christ death has passed away and been swallowed up by life. Death no longer has power over us because our spirits are alive to God through His gift of righteousness by faith so that our spirits will live on with Him.
And in Romans 8 Paul tells us in verse 4 that God has done all of this so that,
…the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Here is the key to this gift of God given to us. That we walk not according to the flesh but according to the spirit. When we walk in the spirit we do not walk in the flesh, and we will cover that in more detail in the next post.
But the aim of this work of God in us is that we will uphold the “righteous requirements of the law.” That is, we will live according to the righteousness of the law. It is God’s aim and hope for us that we will choose to do what is good and right and true in His sight, not because of the written demands in the law, which lead to fear of death through disobedience, but because it is our hearts desire to do what is right in the sight of God.
This is the transformation that God seeks for all of His people and this is the transforming work of the Holy Spirit going on each day in us as we look to God and seek His path rather than our own or the pathways of this world.
There are many things in the law that show wisdom, but not all of them are relevant to the righteousness of the law. It was because the Pharisees put on a show of keeping these outward appearances of the law but ignored the justice and righteousness of the law that Jesus so soundly condemned them.
The letter of the law says many things such as not to eat certain types of meat, not to wear certain fibres together, not to do certain things at certain times and to keep certain days as holy days. It also spoke of the need to tithe for the upkeep of the priesthood and the Levites. But none of these speak to the “righteousness” of the law.
The righteousness of the law is about living with your neighbour peacefully, acting in a manner of love towards those around you, helping when you can, giving and sharing if you are able and doing right by one another. It is these things that build our relationships and make us the kind of people that Jesus taught us to become, and it is these attitudes and behaviours that the Holy Spirit is changing us to become so we can live in peace with God and one another.
Sure all of this other laws are useful and helpful and there is wisdom in them, but they do not necessarily promote the righteousness of the law. They deal with physical matters. But the righteousness of the law deals with the spirit of men and that is what the focus of the new covenant is all about. God wants us to be sound in the spirit so that when we come into His kingdom we can all get along together.
And so He established this mechanism for no condemnation through faith in Jesus Christ. It is our job now to ensure we do not condemn ourselves and stand righteous in the free gift of righteousness that God has given us by faith in Jesus Christ. This is the only way we can come before God and it is the only place we can stand to enable and allow the Holy Spirit to do the work of transforming us from the inside out.
You might also like:
Grace And Truth Came Through Jesus Christ
Jesus Came To Save Not To Condemn
Are You A Sinner
The Truth Will Make You Free
Why Jesus Died
What Is Truth
Jesus Could Not Be Held By Death
Who Should You Listen To
The Most Important Thing
Keeping The Law Of Moses
No Prison Could Hold Them
Jesus Foretells His Death And Resurrection
Temptations To Sin Are Sure To Come
The Disciples Will Fall Away
The Peace Of Christ
Speaking In Tongues
Jealousy The Green Eyed Monster