Lesson 14: No Condemnation In Christ (Romans 8.1-17)

Our Need For A New Spirit

The importance of man being a spiritual being reaches back to the Creation account. In Genesis 1’s abbreviated account of man’s creation we see that man was created in God’s own image (vs. 27), but in the fuller account of chapter 2 we see just how man was made in His image: “ then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (vs. 7). God, who is Spirit (John 4:24) breathed spirit into man. Being created in God’s image has moral implications, for just as God is holy, righteous, faithful, etc., so was man who was created in His image. Thus, everything God created was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Yet, as we know man did not remain very good. Because of his sin, unholy man was separated from holy God. The very nature of God’s creation had changed!

We have noted this horrific change in our study of Romans. The gospel is needed because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (3.23). The glory of God is His very nature that we have failed to uphold and emulate. Just like the first man, Adam, we were once created in His very image, but we have come to be defined by sin and death, we have all become part of the epoch of Adam, “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (5.12) We, each of us, needed a new spirit. Significantly, God promised that His people would be given a new spirit; His Spirit! “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances,” (Ezekiel 36:25–27).

At the close of chapter 7 Paul lamented on his failures to keep God’s will while he belonged to Adam’s age (i.e. before he was a Christian). “I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  ” (7.23-24). The answer was/is Christ. Chapter 8 expounds on that answer showing the complete transformation that occurs in Christ, including the new spirit that God had promised through Ezekiel. The age of Adam is over for the Christian. Everything has changed.

No Condemnation For Those In Christ Jesus (vss. 1-11)

The epoch of Adam was one of condemnation. Condemnation because all were guilty of sin . Condemnation because none kept God’s Law. Condemnation because all were deserving of death (Romans 3.23; 5.18; 6.23). It was the condemnation Paul experienced under the Law while governed by his flesh. So, he exclaimed, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7.24). Thankfully, in Christ everything has changed. So, Paul could exultantly proclaim that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (8.1) The passage goes on to show why this statement is true.

  1. There’s a new dominant principle (law) in our lives (vs. 2). Many question what the two “laws” are in this passage, but the best option would be to take up what Paul described in 7.22-25 where there was the “law” of Paul’s mind that wanted to serve God, but the “law” of sin in Paul’s flesh prevented that and won. But in Christ, everything has changed. So, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” refers to the Christian’s ability to finally follow the Law of God, i.e. the law of my mind finally wins, while the “law of sin and of death” refers to the former reality of being unable to follow God, to succumbing to the flesh time and again.
  2. Jesus has fulfilled the righteous requirement of the Law (vss. 3-4). Paul gives all credit to God, but says that God freed us from condemnation not through the Law (recall Romans 5.20-21; 7.7-12), but through Jesus. His perfect life in the flesh and His death condemned sin! What man could not do, even with the Law of God, God did through His Son! The result is that “the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us.” God’s Law was something that was to be kept (2.13), something Paul desired to keep, but failed to keep (7.22-25). But now because Christ’s death “condemned sin in the flesh” (vs. 3), it is now possible to walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.
  3. We now walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (vss. 5-8). We can now do what was not possible before: we can walk according to the Spirit and not the flesh. Remember, this was the struggle Paul said he had, and even though he delighted “in the law of God, in my inner being” (7.22), he still found himself “captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (7.23). But because of Christ has done it is now possible to walk “according to the Spirit.” Note, this is done with the full agency of man; man must set his mind on the Spirit and not on the flesh. Only when man sets his mind on the Spirit can he find life and peace. But wasn’t that what Paul said he tried to do, yet he failed? Yes, but something occurs in Christ that changes everything…
  4. God’s Spirit not dwells within us (vss. 9-11). This is what makes the difference; we aren’t in the flesh but in the Spirit. Yes, we still have human bodies, but we aren’t dominated by the flesh anymore and that’s because we now have the Spirit of God dwelling in us! Note a few things about this wonderful passage:
    • The terms “Spirit”, “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of Christ” are used interchangeably (as is “Christ is in you”). To have one is to have them all!
    • This is the fulfillment of God’s promise in Ezekiel 36.25-27, the reality proclaimed by Jesus (John 3.5) and the apostles (Acts 2.38).
    • I do not believe this is teaching that we receive God’s Spirit that will dwell alongside our spirit, but rather that we are once again in God’s image with a spirit like His (Genesis 1.27; 2.7).
    • But won’t we make the same mistake as Adam, and thus find ourselves condemned? Yes, we will make mistakes, sin is still a problem. But the difference is Christ! He “condemned sin in the flesh” (vs. 3) and we are saved by His life (Romans 5.10). We are in Him if we have God’s Spirit, and in Him is life!
    • Note: I take the phrase “the body is dead because of sin” to speak to the reality of our physical bodies dying, also the result of sin. We may have new Spirits, but our bodies still die. Yet, vs. 11 shows that our mortal bodies will also have life! Truly, there is no condemnation!

Application: we are debtors to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh (Romans 8.12-17)

Recall that in Romans 6.16-19 Paul stated that we are all slaves of one of two masters: either of sin or of God. Paul returns to that idea in Romans 8.12-13 by saying we are “debtors, not to the flesh” but to the Spirit. The fact that in Christ, with His Spirit, we find ourselves free from condemnation is what makes us debtors to the Spirit! Note again that this involves the full agency of man (see Romans 6.19; 8.5-6), we must “live by the Spirit” and be “led by the Spirit of God”.

Furthermore, we have a new relationship with God; He’s now our Father! (vss. 15-17) Those who are still characterized by the flesh have a relationship with God based on fear. He is their Creator, but nothing more. He is the One who will judge them, who’s wrath they will experience. But in Christ, everything has changed. Our relationship is that of adopted sons, those who can approach God as their Father. We can do this because of the working of His Spirit along with our spirit (again the idea that our spirit is being transformed in the likeness of His Spirit. The family resemblance, if you will). Now, instead of fearing wrath and condemnation, we have become fellow heirs with Christ. This will necessarily involve suffering (the world has always hated God and will hate those who belong to Him), but the pattern of suffering and glory that occurred in Christ will also occur in us, the focus of our next lesson.

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