Liberty in the Spirit
in justification

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 32a of 83


1  There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-11).

Every Christian will struggle against sin. A true Christian is a wretched Christian. He is wretched because his old man, though crucified with Christ, is still strapped to him. He has a remnant of corruption. “The body of this death” is tied to him and will remain with him for the rest of his earthly life.

Paul has a new heart that desires to do good and glorify God,—but because of sin dwelling in his flesh, all that he is doing is tainted with sin. Paul is not happy. But this is reality. It pleases God, in His wisdom, that it must be so for now, for the Christian.

This is the apostle Paul’s testimony. It is a testimony that has helped many a struggling Christian. Had Paul not written as he did, many a conscientious Christian would be left wondering if he is truly saved?

But now that we know that a Christian will struggle against sin, what comfort and assurance do we have that we will not be destroyed in by sin.

How do you know you are in the right path? How do you know that sin will not overwhelm you? How do you know God will not forsake you because of your failures in your Christian walk?

I don’t know about you, but I have many failures. And sometimes I wonder if I am for real (as a Christian) and if God is pleased with me.

I thank God for that answer that God by His Spirit gives to us in chapter 8. In the first 17 verses of this chapter, He tells us that we can have freedom and assurance through the benefits of redemption purchased by Christ for us. In particular, we can have freedom and assurance (1) in justification, (2) in regeneration and sanctification, or in other words, in the new life, (3) in glorification and also (4) in adoption!

The Lord helping us, we want to consider the first three benefits in this exposition on the first eleven verses.

Paul first assures us, that though we will struggle against sin, we will not be condemned, for we can have…

1.  Freedom & Assurance in Justification

Paul says:

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

We must notice first of all that the word ‘therefore’ does not connect to the last sentence of chapter 7.[1] Some, commentators, including Luther, suggests that Paul is saying that there is nothing worthy of condemnation in the Christian because—with his mind he serves the Law of God and with his flesh the law of sin.

But this can hardly be the case, because Paul ends the statement by telling us that he still serve sins! And all sin is worthy of condemnation! If we connect Paul’s ‘therefore’ with the last thing he said, he would be saying: “Since I still sin, there is therefore now no condemnation, &c.” This does not make sense!

I believe Paul is saying, rather, that because Christ Jesus our Lord is our deliverer (v. 25a), we are not condemned!

We are all worthy of condemnation. We are worthy of condemnation because: firstly, we are guilty in Adam; secondly, we have by nature a sinful heart inclined to evil; and thirdly we actually rebel against God.

This is so for the natural man. But what about the Christian? The Christian also deserves to be condemned because he still sins against God. Even our most righteous deeds are filthy rags in His sight!

But thanks be to God: There is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” All men deserve condemnation. Unconverted persons deserve condemnation. Converted persons deserve condemnation.

Such as are outside Christ faces God’s condemnation and will one day experience the full manifestation of His wrath. But thank God there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. We deserve condemnation because of our sin, but we are not condemned and will not be condemned.

Despite our imperfection, we are not exposed to condemnation. We are placed beyond the reach of condemnation. We will never be condemned.

It is like we have a diplomatic immunity. Ever seen cars with a CD number plate? CD stands for certificate of diplomacy. What it means is that the driver has diplomatic immunity. If the police stops him for speeding or any traffic offence, he cannot be charged. He cannot be condemned!

Such as are in Christ Jesus wear a CD badge. But what does it mean to be “in Christ Jesus”? And why do they have such a special privilege?

Paul says:

2 For the law [principle] of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law [principle] of sin and death. 3 For what the law [of God] could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law [of God] might be fulfilled in us…

What is the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (v. 2)? It is none other than the Gospel and its principle of justification by grace through faith in Christ Jesus!

All men in Adam are guilty in him and sinful. All men deserve death. This is the law or principle of sin and death. The law of God could not overturn this principle because sinful flesh cannot keep the law perfectly (v. 3). No sinner can attain eternal life by keeping the law God.

What is God’s solution? It is His sending His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to take on human flesh to suffer and die on our behalf to pay for our sins. In doing so God in Christ “condemned sin in the flesh” (v. 3). Christ fulfilled the righteousness of God’s law on our behalf—so that it is said to be “fulfilled in us” (v. 4).

Who are those “in Christ Jesus”? They are those represented by Christ. They are His sheep. “I lay down my life for the sheep” says our Lord. They who are in Christ are the elect of Christ.

Why is there no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus? Because Christ Jesus was condemned on our behalf!

Therefore, beloved brethren, though you will struggle against sin, you can have the full confidence that God does not condemn you.

Yes, as a child of God, you will hate it that you still sin. You will grieve when you fall into temptation. You will be sad that nothing you do is perfectly sinless. But one thing you must know: God will not condemn you for your failures and your faults.

I don’t know about you, but this is a tremendous encouragement for me. It is tremendously encouraging for me because I know that my labours are not perfect. My conscience tells me that they are not perfect and well-meaning brethren remind me that they are not perfect.

I am not perfect in all the roles that I play—whether, as pastor or father or husband or brother or son or neighbour or friend or citizen.

I am not perfect in all that I do: whether I am talking to someone, making a decision, preaching a sermon, praying privately or publicly, disciplining my children, writing an email or SMS or letter.

All that I do is tainted with sin.

Oh how I fail not just myself and those I love!  Oh how I fail the God who loves me so!

But thanks be to God, there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus! Though I reproach myself, God does not condemn me! Though the world condemns me, God does not condemn me.

This is the first thing that encourages us in our Christian walk. God does not condemn us. Sin will not destroy the child of God though he struggles against it.

But now the second thing that encourages us in our walk is that God has not left us to walk alone. He changed our hearts and Christ not only promises to walk with us, but actually walks with us by His Spirit.

to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim

 



[1]So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Rom 7:25b).