PUTTING AN END TO CONDEMNATION
God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 38
Romans 8:1 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
Someone once took the time to count all of the commands in the New Testament. They came up with a whopping 1,050! That’s 437 more than the Old Testament’s 613! Broken down into some 800 categories they cover every aspect of believer’s life both in their relationship to God as well as to others. For instance, there are 74 “Be’s” and 30 “Be nots,” 10 “Do’s” and 10 “Do nots,” 4 “Thou shalt’s” and 12 “Thou shalt nots” and so on. Impressive, to say the least. But I immediately began to smell something rotting when I read one statement introducing the list. It said, If obeyed, they will bring rich rewards here and forever; if disobeyed, they will bring condemnation and eternal punishment. The implication is that if I keep say 95 % of them, that is 998 out of 1050, but fail in following just 5% (53) of the remaining commands, I was inviting God’s condemnation into my life! In other words, God’s acceptance of me is conditioned upon my keeping all 1,050 commands! I give the person an “A” for their hard work of putting a thorough list together, but an “F” for their understanding.
The commands are all true; they reflect the life God has called us to as believers. But we know from Romans 7 every believer goes to battle on a daily basis with sin. We struggle to keep our thoughts from going into the gutter. We wrestle with self-control. We don’t always say the right things. We have habits that haunt us from the old life of sin. We don’t always get it right. Our batting average is below what is known as “the Mendoza Line.” In other words, it’s terrible.
Tragically, there are many believers today who base their security of God’s love and acceptance on their performance. If I keep all 1050 commands, God won’t reject me. But is that what the Bible really teaches?
This morning we’re going to look at one verse that single-handedly silences all 1,050 accusing voices of condemnation. Open with me to Romans 8:1. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus(Romans 8:1, NAS). The very first verse is Good News of the Gospel that makes you want to shout with joy from a mountain top! There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus! The entire chapter of Romans 8, for that matter, is one of the greatest chapters of assurance and comfort for the Christian in the Bible. It begins with no condemnation (8:1) and it ends with no separation (8:39). As I spent time working through Romans 8, I kept coming back to this one verse. I want us to spend some needed time working through this verse in hopes that it will cause your heart and soul to soar with praise to God and a newfound freedom in your relationship with Christ. Two Questions: What does it mean to live without condemnation? And, what does it mean to be “in Christ”?
- What does it mean to live without condemnation? Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus(Romans 8:1, NAS). When Paul begins with “therefore” he is connecting everything he has just said in Chapters 1-7. Paul answers the age-old question: What is wrong with our world? Why is there death and pain and grief? How do you explain the unconscionable evil of man’s sick cruelty toward others like Hamas. Paul’s answer: Man’s rebellion against God. Because of man’s sin, God’s righteous judgment is coming. He explains man is a sinner by birth, by nature, and by choice. Sin has a death grip on every human life. Man cannot save himself. Someone could live a thousand lifetimes trying to escape the chains of sin, but it would never work. That’s why God in His grace sent a Savior, Jesus Christ. He is our sin-substitute who died on the cross for our sins. Jesus Christ bore the penalty of our sins on His own body on the cross. Through Jesus resurrection from the dead He broke the power of sin and death for all who would turn from their sins and trust Him. Paul walks through all of this in chapters 1-7. His main point in seven chapters is that by God’s lavish grace we are justified by faith alone in Christ. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). God’s justification means we can now life free from God’s condemnation. The death grip of sin, both is penalty and its power, have been broken. Now, Paul says, God’s wrath has been completely absorbed toward the believer. Therefore there is now no condemnation.
What does it mean we are now absolutely free from God’s terrifying condemnation? It means as a believer you don’t need to fear God’s punishment anymore, not now or in the future. On what basis? Verses 3-4 remind us Christ took our punishment on the cross two-thousand years ago. Jesus last words on the cross were: It is finished!(John 19:30). Meaning: Paid in full! God does not say: I want you to keep all 1,050 commands of the New Testament. Keep the rules and I won’t be angry with you. Notice, it does not say: No condemnation… if you don’t make any mistakes or fail. We still sin. We still make mistakes. But are we condemned? No. Why? Because Christ took all your punishment on the cross. No condemnation means we need not fear God’s punishment for sins we have committed or ever will commit. Later in Romans 8 Paul asks: If God is for us, who is against us?…Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies(Romans 8:31,33).
Some of live in tortured fear of that day when you will stand before God, and you hope you’ve been good enough. You hope you’ve done the right things. You hope God will let you into Heaven. God is saying to you: You no longer need to live in fear. If God in His omnipotent love and grace are for you, then what or who can be against you?
Why is this so important for us to understand? Because there are some days when we may really wonder if God really loves us, if He is really for us. When pain and sickness enter our lives, we may be tempted to wonder if God is punishing us. When a debilitating illness that doesn’t go away but gets worse comes into our lives, we may wonder if God is angry with us. When your heart is set on some great expectation and instead it gets broken by great disappointment. When life, when marriage, when parenting is disappointing. At those moments we may be tempted to be swallowed up in our own doubts. Satan and his minions may whisper in your ear, you deserve this. You may have friends like Job who tell you this is God’s punishment. How should respond? Romans 8:1! There is NOW no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! Jesus promised in John 5, I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life(John 5:24, NLT).
We are free from God’s condemnation, but that does not mean we’re free from His loving discipline. Hebrews 12 tells us God disciplines those He loves. For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes each one he accepts as his child (Hebrews 12:6). If God does not punish us, then what is discipline? Punishment is for retribution and separation where discipline is for correction and reconciliation. Bruce Nerhmore writes: The purpose of punishment is to pay back for wrong. You want to get even, settle the score. The purpose of discipline is to correct and promote growth. The focus of punishment is. The past. “You’re going to pay for what you did! Pay for how you hurt me! Pay for the past period” The focus of discipline is on the future. “Here’s how you’re going to change period” Discipline is to help you change, to help you be. Different in your future conduct. What is the attitude behind the two? The attitude behind punishment is righteous anger. God gets angry. But he doesn’t get angry at Christians. The focus behind discipline is love. The result of punishment is fear. The result of discipline is security.
Experts tell us that. The most insecure children are those who are undisciplined. Every child needs to have some parameters, rules, boundaries. “You can go this far and no further period.” Immediately the child walks over to the line and steps across. He wants to see if you care enough to do something about it. Who’s in control here? If the walls are continually pushed back so that there are no walls, no restrictions, no boundaries, then that child will be very insecure. The most secure children, with the highest self-esteem, are brought up in homes of loving discipline, loving boundaries. Not punishment, but discipline. One of the ways you can know that you’re a follower of Christ is when you start getting off track, God is going to correct you. If there is no correction and you’re living in blatant sin., You should question whether you really are a follower of Christ. God is a faithful Father and does not let us get away with sin.
What does it mean to live without condemnation? It means being assured that no sin, no failure, no struggle with sin, will end in God’s condemnation. The penalty for all our failures has been paid in full in Christ. It means God who loves you with omnipotent love and grace, God who never slumbers nor sleeps, God who is eternally for you, God who will never leave nor forsake you has promised we no longer need to live in fear of His judgement – not now or when we stand before Him.
- What does it mean to be “in Christ”? Does no condemnation apply to everyone? No. Only those who are in Christ. You’re either in Christ or you’re outside of Christ. There is no in between, no other option. To be in Christ does not mean that you belong to a denomination or were baptized or you believe in God. To be in Christ means you are united in Him through faith. Christ’s life is in you. There is no condemnation; you’ve already passed from death to life. If you were to stand before God today and He asked you why He should let you into His heaven, you would say: Because Jesus died for me; He took my condemnation. I was made right with You the moment I turned from my sin and trusted in Your Son.
To be outside of Christ is to be separated from Christ. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:36). Someone might say, didn’t Jesus die for the whole world? Isn’t He the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world? The answer is yes! I like the words of John Piper here. There is infinite room in Jesus. Christ is not a small hotel. There is room for everyone. And everyone is invited and commanded, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden. . . . Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. . . . The one who comes to me I will certainly not cast out”(Matthew 11:28; Revelation 22:17; John 6:37).
Piper goes on to ask: So Where are you? In Christ, or outside Christ? Free from condemnation or under condemnation? There is room in Christ. You don’t have to stay under condemnation. There is room in Christ. There is always room in Christ. He is right.
Where are you this morning? In Christ or outside Christ? Would you come to Him today?