Dear Radio Friends,
The greatest danger that we face today as Christians is that we begin to view our faith the way the world does. There is a great temptation to do that. It arises both from outside and from inside the church of Jesus Christ.
The world views Christianity (and, for that matter, all religions) in terms of: “Is it useful?” “What social, physical, psychological benefits does this religion bring?” “Does Christianity improve man’s earthly condition?” The world does not assess Christianity in terms of “Is it true?” For the world has forsaken any hope of ever knowing absolute truth. The world assesses Christianity, rather, in terms of “Is it useful?” They do not look at it in terms of divine revelation from God Himself, of truth. But they look at it terms of human opinion.
This, of course, is to set up the criterion by which everything must be judged, namely, man’s earthly good. All things must be judged in terms of its usefulness to man. The world does not believe that God must reveal our deepest need and provide a remedy. But the world believes that it knows its deepest need and that religions are respectable if they are able to meet that need.
So a reporter will interview a pastor in the Christian church. And the reporter’s questions will reveal the criteria he uses to judge the importance of Christianity. “What are you doing about affordable housing?” “How are you helping people get jobs?” “Which ways will you improve health care?” These are, of course, important questions. But if you let the world set the starting point and present the gospel of Jesus Christ first of all as an activity of people that is useful, then you will have denied Christianity.
Romans 8:1 is the essence of the Christian faith. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” In the light of the inspired Scriptures, that verse is saying, “God is the supreme value in the universe—not man. No one in the whole world, of himself, lives the way that God requires. Man is a rebel. He is a sinner, and therefore under condemnation, that is, guilty of sin. He is under the holy, omnipotent, just wrath of the living God. And God alone can rescue from condemnation through His Son, by grace, in a cross, washing and renewing from sin.
If we do not see what Christ has done in the removing of the condemnation of our sin, if we do not see that as the essence of the Christian faith, we lose the Christian faith. And if we fail to bring that message to the world, but rather merely promote activity from the church (healthcare, jobs, and social interests), then we are cruel. Then those who hold the Christian faith have become cruel. For that is the same as combing a man’s hair as he sits in the electric chair and hide from him the only way of eternal freedom.
The essence of the Christian faith is not to be understood in terms of man’s notion of its usefulness, but the essence of its Christian faith addresses what God says man’s great need is—the removal of his sin.
“There is therefore,” cries the apostle Paul in Romans 8:1, “No condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” The word “therefore” indicates that the apostle Paul is bringing a conclusion, he is tying things together. Really it is the conclusion of everything he said in chapters 1-7 of the book of Romans. There he laid down the building blocks of the Christian faith. He taught us about a holy God and about a sinful man, unable to save himself and guilty before God. He shows us a perfect Savior (Jesus Christ), and a perfect work through Christ, whereby Christ and Christ alone justifies sinners, that is, makes them right in the presence of God through His work upon a cross, a salvation received by the gift of faith alone. He went on to show that the result of this glorious work of pardon and righteousness will be a new and holy life, produced within believers by the Spirit of Christ. And then he went on to tell us that the Christian life now will consist of a battle—a battle against his sins—but not a hopeless battle, a battle, rather, that is finished, with the victory that is ours already in Christ.
And now he will sum it all up: Therefore, in view of everything that I’ve said, there is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus. That is the essence of the Christian faith. That is the message, the only message, worthy to hear that we carry into all the world. That is life. And around that message we arrange all of our life. We keep our life as Christians from becoming cluttered with the things of this world, and we live out of this precious gospel. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!
That is the gift of God’s grace.
To be condemned is to be sentenced to punishment for one’s guilt. It is to be found guilty before the judge. The apostle speaks of God’s condemnation. To hear God’s condemnation would be to have the iron door slammed shut and to be sentenced, justly, to an eternity of hell, banished from God because of my sin.
It is to have the responsibility of my sin upon my back, upon my conscience, and to have no peace as I stand before the living God. It is the truth of the courtroom, the real courtroom, to which all (you and I) are summoned. God is the Judge. And all my sins and deeds and all the thoughts of my heart and words of my mouth and all the awful vile things deep within me are brought forth.
To be condemned is to appear before God with all of this, my sin and guilt, upon my back, upon me. And it is to live today with that guilt upon me now.
In a sense, men and women (apart from Jesus Christ) know this condemnation as well. The apostle Paul, in Romans 2:14, tells us that by nature, apart from the grace of God, we excuse or we accuse ourselves. That is, we use the devices of a guilty conscience. We either dodge the reality of our sin and guilt by excusing, or we blame-shift by accusing. But it is the Holy Spirit who awakens within our hearts the reality of our sinful condition and we cry out that we are guilty before God.
And then, we hear the gospel: There is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus. That means that the guilt of my sin, the responsibility of my sin, and the punishment that my sin would deserve are lifted from me. I bear it no more. It is abolished. It is gone. It is a divine and glorious verdict that has been declared concerning me: “There is no condemnation!” It is the bliss, the indescribable joy of the sinner, that the punishment of his sins is gone! And that God has proclaimed him to be righteous before Him. It is as we read in John 8 concerning the woman who was taken in adultery and placed before Jesus. Jesus spoke these words to her: “Woman, hath no man condemned thee? Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.” Instead of fear, anguish, hopelessness, and despair, God says, “No condemnation. I have forgiven you. You may go in peace.”
There is no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus. How important! This condemnation does not come to us of ourselves. It is not on the basis of any merit, credit, or work that we have or could do. But it is the work of the Holy Spirit, who applies the benefits and the merits and the work of Jesus Christ to my account.
There is no condemnation in Christ. That means that the punishment that our sins deserved was not overlooked. But it was heaped upon the back of God’s own beloved Son Jesus Christ. My punishment was placed upon Him. Apart from Jesus Christ, one glance of the holy God and I would be burned forever in the judgment of God for my sin. But now there is no condemnation in Christ, who was given of God freely, to take the place of every sinner whom God chose merely of His grace. Christ delivers them from condemnation.
There is no condemnation now says the apostle. And that is so precious.
It means that Christ has accomplished our pardon right now. It is a present reality. It is not a possibility, it is not a perhaps or someday might be. It is not that the court of heaven is recessed and the verdict is still out. There has not been a delay of the verdict. It is not, “Well, we’ll wait and see. We have good hope, but we’re not sure.” No, the apostle says, Right now there is no condemnation for all those who are in Christ Jesus. There is forgiveness now for the child of God. I need to know that now, or I cannot live.
Certainly, in this beautiful chapter of Romans 8, the apostle looks into the future, and as perhaps you know, in the last part of the chapter (very important!), he says, “I’m not afraid of the verdict in the last day. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Who is he that condemneth?” The verdict shall be declared, in that courtroom on the last day, that we are not guilty. But that verdict will not be declared then for the first time. It has been handed down already, because of the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross in A.D. 33. There is no condemnation for all those who are in Christ Jesus. In the last judgment, when all will stand before God (and you will stand there!), and all of our lifelong failures will be made plain before all, what will you say before the flaming Judge? This is what you will say, “My judgment took place already long ago—A.D. 33—when my condemnation fell upon my Lord, the just for the unjust, that He might bring me to God.”
And now today, for I am a vile sinner (and so are you), it is different. Praise God, it is different! Now, through this verdict, I see and confess and hate my sin. My sin is there. But now there is no condemnation for me. It vanished because Jesus Christ bore it merely of grace and took it away.
This message is Christianity. Christianity is that message and nothing less. Do you know that?
There is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.
This is not for all. Not everyone can say “there is no condemnation over my life.” The apostle Paul is no universalist. He says, “Only for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That is a phrase that the apostle often uses. “In Christ Jesus” means to be joined to Christ inseparably. It is to be reckoned by God to be in Him. It is to be entrusted into Christ.
According to the Word of God, there are those who by grace are in Christ. And there are those in the obstinacy of their sin outside of Christ and without faith. The most terrible phrase to be pronounced over you is not “Homeless,” “Poor,” “Abused,” “Terminal Cancer,” “Near death.” But the most horrible phrase to be pronounced over a person is: “Apart from Christ.” It is eternal ruin. It is crushing condemnation. It is a barren an empty soul. Where are you?
Yes, it is by grace, through eternal election, in irresistible love, that we come to be in Christ. But God works that grace today through the call of the gospel. In His name, I say, forsake your sin. Stop your attempts to cover your sin. Cease from your rebellion. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ by the wondrous grace of God. For to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit, there is no condemnation.
The apostle is saying here that where this gracious pardon has been given, there will also, by the same power of grace, be a change, a renewal of life. I can put it this way: Those who are justified, made right with God, merely of grace through faith, are also sanctified, that is, made new and holy by the Holy Spirit within them.
Am I one for whom there is no condemnation? How would I know that? Well, do you, by the grace of God, walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit of Jesus Christ? You say to me, “What does that mean?” Your walk, in the Bible, is not simply your external life, the life that is seen of men. That is not your walk. But, according to the Bible, your walk is your life as you live it from your heart. The Christian walk of life is not simply, “Well, here I am—externally. I’m externally in the Christian community. Look, I’m a Christian. Of course I’m a Christian! I’m externally in the church.” That is not what it means to walk with Christ.
To “walk with Christ” is your life, your life as it proceeds from your heart, and as your heart is directed to please God. There are only two walks from the heart. It could be a walk, says the apostle, according to the flesh, that is, according to yourself, according to your own pride, your own way, your own rules. You set the direction, the approach. You live for yourself. It is all about you. Or, you live by the Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, that is, to follow the impulses of the Holy Spirit. That is a walk that is contrary to the flesh, it is contrary to the world; but it is a wonderful walk. The Holy Spirit whispers and sings to us of Jesus Christ and creates within us affections and desires to be like Him.
Do you know your need? Do you know it because God has shown it to you? You are a sinner. There is over you condemnation and guilt. It must be addressed or your soul cannot find rest. You can find no place to stand. Do you seek the assurance of that pardon and grace?
This is the message of God to you: There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who by the grace of God, from their heart, walk not after their own sinful flesh but now desire to live with all their impulses according to the Spirit of the Lord Jesus.
This is the most useful, this is the most practical, this is the most blessed thing that your soul could ever hear. This is the most sweet and the most precious message known throughout the world.
Maybe, today, as you are in the world with all of its earthly pleasures and needs, you are not convinced that the gospel of Jesus Christ and Romans 8:1 are the most blessed thing that a soul could hear. Perhaps you say to me: “Well, yes, but would it not be better for Christians and for the church that our leading message today is what Christ can do for you in terms of your hunger, in terms of jobs, in terms of healthcare, in terms of clothing? Then, after we address those issues, then, perhaps, later in the evening, perhaps, bring in the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ?”
Or, perhaps, someone would say to me, “Well, what difference does it really make if there is no condemnation now. How does that help me now with my practical problems, with these problems that are just too much—I can’t take them anymore? I need answers now,” you say.
Well, I will answer in behalf of my Master Jesus Christ. To hear from God the words “No Condemnation for you,” is ten-thousand times, a million times, more valuable than any other need. If you live for eighty-five years, ninety years, in troubles and in hardships; if your little girl is taken away from you in death; if your father or your brother is taken from you in death; if nothing goes right and your business fails and your past haunts you; nevertheless, if you hear these words in your soul: “There is no condemnation for you in Christ Jesus”—then all is well. You will have an eternity in the presence of God, God who satisfies and fills all your wants and needs. And now, with His blessing upon you, He calls you even in that difficult way that you live, that difficult trial before you, He calls you and tells you that you may go through those trials not thinking that everything is against you, but that those very trials are for your good, and that they do not contain condemnation from God.
We, as the Christian church, do not apologize for the message that Christ has given us. We are not intimidated by the world when it says, “What good is it? If you can’t tell us something about earthly ease, how can you be relevant?” We are not intimidated by that. We proclaim the good news.
And then we sacrifice our lives in thankful service of our God. You who suffer pain that seems only to get worse; you who have cancer and sickness and trials of the body and the devil comes and your own thoughts in the night arise within you and you say, “It’s punishment. I deserve this”—child of God, the message of the gospel is, “There is no condemnation.” This is what you must hear. “There is therefore now no condemnation for me. Christ is my righteousness and pardon. I have passed from death to life.”
You who suffer problems in marriage and, perhaps, with your children and family, and you say, “How can I possibly keep going? How will I not return evil for evil to those who have done evil to me? How can I go on forgiving, hoping, and loving?” The answer is Romans 8:1. Sink your soul into the ocean of God’s forgiveness. Draw up buckets of mercy for your spouse, for your child, for your parents. Deal with others as God has dealt with you. This is the gospel: Christ took my condemnation on Himself when He was nailed to the tree. Now, alive in Christ, by the Spirit, there is one holy impulse that would control our living, thinking, willing, acting, and speaking. A testimony of thanks and praise to God is upon our hearts.
May God Himself bind His Word to your heart. And may you hear Him say to you, “Son, daughter, neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.”
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the gospel, for the truth. Now, by the living Holy Spirit, apply it unto the hearts of Thy children. In Jesus’ name, Amen.