Sermon preached by Pastor Jeff Owen at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 25, 2018
Today we come to what many call the greatest chapter in the bible. I can’t disagree. I will be honest, as a new Pastor, I was a little uneasy when I realized I would be preaching on Romans 8. I thought a,m I prepared for this? Am I equipped for this? I even thought, maybe I should just let pastor Phil take this one or at least start chapter 8. Then as these thoughts crossed my mind I saw the news that Billy Graham passed away.
I actually paused for a while and reflected on his life as I prepared my sermon. I think I listened to a few tributes and parts of some of his sermons. It occurred to me that while Billy Graham certainly had a presence at the pulpit, a way with words and a voice that could carry throughout a stadium. It wasn’t those things that drew people to him though. Those things didn’t hurt, God had gifted him with those skills. But more than anything it was the authority with which he spoke. Not his own authority, but on the authority of God – the rock of his word and truth.
I am not Billy Graham, but I can stand on the same authority of God’s word and proclaim to you the truth in Romans chapter 8.
It is full of so many great realities for a Christian. One can’t miss the work of the Holy Spirit, which we will begin to see today in our text. The Holy Spirit will be central to Romans 8 in fact, the word pneuma or spirit, is mentioned 21 times in this chapter, 19 of them referring to the Holy Spirit.
We will hear of the truth of our adoption as children of God in chapter 8. We will be reminded in Romans 8:28 that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. We will see the golden chain of Roman 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Then Romans 8 ends with reminding us we are more than conquerors and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If I had to sum up Romans 8 in one word, that word would be assurance. Today we start Romans 8 with a wonderful assurance.
Please stand as I read our text then we will pray and begin to unpack verses 1-4 today. (Page 1122 of the black pew bibles)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Chapter 8 starts with - There is therefore… What is the therefore - there for? This seems to be a big therefore. He doesn’t just say therefore. He starts chapter 8 with - there is therefore. We always say when we come to big connecting words like, because, since, for or therefore we need to look both ways, before and after, to see what point the author, in this case Paul, is trying to make. Is Paul summing up something or making a new point with this therefore or both?
Both is probably the best answer. Paul’s case for the Gospel has been building and is coming to a point that Paul wants to emphasize here, but for us to get the gravity of the therefore, I think it would be helpful to give a brief overview of where we have been in Paul’s defense of the Gospel.
Paul started to make his case with our first memory verse about six months ago, Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. We like Paul, should not be ashamed of it, we recognize it is the power of God that it brings salvation, and it is for everyone who believes.
Paul then proceeds to give us a clear, logical argument for this gospel often taking us off on what some might call rabbit trails, but rabbit trails of deep truths that we will spend the rest of our lives studying the depths. But the thread of the Gospel is obvious and everywhere in Romans. The truths of the Gospel and our realities as people of faith in the good news of Jesus Christ.
We can’t even begin the Gospel without stating the obvious. The truth that all men know, even those who suppress it, that there is a God who created all things and has authority, is sovereign over his creation. The evidence is overwhelming. Romans 1:19-20 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Then we have see God’s wrath being revealed, his righteous judgement and the law through Romans chapter’s 1 & 2.
Romans 3:10 made clear that no one is righteous and 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The truth is clear, that all mankind has no righteousness that would warrant salvation, both Jew and Greek have a sin problem. They can’t save themselves from.
Chapter 4 Paul reminds us of God’s Covenant with Abraham, that God’s plan for salvation has always been faith. Not faith in our own works, but faith in God’s promise – Abraham’s offspring - Jesus. Romans 4:3 Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
Chapter 5 begins just like chapter 8 with a - Therefore, another of the true realities of the Gospel for those who believe. Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The rebellion against God is over through Jesus. The war that we have waged against God is over. Our justification is by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and it brings peace with God.
Chapter 6 was focused on our death to sin and life in Christ. Which is what we believe baptism is picture of for believers. Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Paul makes clear that this is only possible because of what God has done. Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.
Which brought us to Chapter 7 that was back to the law. The law that aroused in us sinful passions in our flesh, that held us captive – we have been released from - another reality for believers. We have died to the law through the body of Christ. We have not only died to sin but also to the law. But then we see Paul delighting in the law – what Phil preached on last week.
Then Paul ends chapter 7 with an example, that some believe is an unbeliever’s battle with sin, but what Phil and I believe is: it a believer’s battle with sin. Whichever side of that debate you choose, Paul brings chapter 7 to a close with a question Romans 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Immediately followed with an answer in Romans 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So here we are at the beginning of what many say, and I agree, is the greatest chapter in the bible. Why? well we are just going to start that case today. But what a wonderful place to start. Verse 1 which I condensed a little for the title of my sermon.
Now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
When we put our faith in Jesus, the truth of the Gospel overwhelms a Christian. We see God for who he is, we see ourselves for who we are, and we see Jesus for who he is and what he has done. He has brought us peace with God, which is only possible through Jesus. And now we hear these sweet words in Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The penalty that we owe and deserve, we do not have to pay. For those of us here who believe in Jesus, and I hope that is or will be everyone. Let those words ring in your ears. Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
I hope that is as good to hear today, as the first time you heard it. But sometimes we can get a little casual as we read this text and not let the full meaning and weight sink in.
This sentence is from the highest court, the supreme court, the King of kings, the author and creator of the universe has declared those who believe in Jesus Christ not guilty.
When we think of condemning someone we think of the court rendering a judgement of guilty. Then there is the sentencing phase and then the actual punishment. Before we go to far into this not guilty sentencing. It would be helpful for us to understand the Greek word here for condemnation. It is katakrima (ka-ta-kre-ma). It is a word that is really inclusive of the guilty judgement, the sentence, and the punishment.
The word katakrima is only used in this form 3 times in all the bible, all in Romans. The other two times are in chapter 5 in reference to sin or trespass entering the world through one man, Adam and the judgement it brought to all. Romans 5:16 For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation and then Romans 5:18 one trespass led to condemnation for all men.
In the beginning, in Genesis, we see God making clear the punishment for trespassing God’s command. God said in Genesis 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Since then, death has reigned because all mankind sins. As it says in Romans 6:23 The wages of sin is death.
Now some people will try to tell you that, that death is all there is – you are just dead after you die – you just cease to exist, it is over for you. But that is not what this word Katakrima or condemnation is declaring here. And it is not the message of the bible.
The bible is filled with descriptions of God’s wrath and coming condemnation or judgement. We have seen God’s wrath described as already being revealed in Romans 2. And Romans 2:8-9 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
There is verse after verse that describe the condemnation and wrath that sinners deserve. Here are just a few examples to help us feel the weight of it:
Hebrews 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Ezekiel 25:17 I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon them.”
Speaking of the dead when they are raised in Daniel 12:2 some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
1 Thess. 1:9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
Jesus talks about condemnation and wrath, more than most things and here is a sampling in:
Matt 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matt 25:46 And these will go away into eternal punishment
Matt 13:50 And throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mark 9:48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’
Then when history as we know it wraps up in Revelation we see John writing of the condemned:
Rev 21:8 their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Rev. 14:11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night,
Now with that fuller, yet incomplete, understanding of condemnation – let me read verse one again:
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
How sweet are those words, when we are reminded of what we deserve?
Let’s start to dig a litter deeper in verse 1. There are 3 realities Paul makes about the No Condemnation or the Not Guilty Verdict that I want to highlight for believers today
Let’s start where Paul starts with the Now aspect of No Condemnation. What does it mean that there is Now no condemnation?
This is what we often refer to as the already. You are already justified, by faith, so you stand not guilty - now.
If you look at verse 2 of our text today. Paul gives us the reason. Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. The reality for a Christian is that you have been set free from the power of sin and death. You should find in your bibles the word Spirit here is capitalized. Correctly so, for it is the power of the Holy Spirit that has freed you.
Paul seems to be contrasting two laws, but what are these two laws? Paul has covered a lot of ground regarding the law in Romans so far, so what is he contrasting here?
What does Paul mean by the Law of the Spirit of Life? Remember the discussion Jesus had with Nicodemus in John chapter 3 we can see what Paul is speaking of in a sense of a law. Jesus did not call the Spirit, a law of life, but he did tell Nicodemus that unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
The reality is - that this no Condemnation is NOW, and this comes from the new birth of the Spirit. Ephesians 1:13-14 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Most theologians believe Paul is using the word law here to contrast the power that the law had over us with the power that the Gospel has when birthed in us.
We see this freeing, by the power of the Spirit, from sin and death described earlier in Romans 6:20-22 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God.
So you have been freed Now, for those who believe, from the power of sin and which led to death and condemnation. So there is therefore Now no condemnation! It is a current reality for a believer.
Next let’s look at the 2nd reality of a believer.
No Condemnation – it is a complete reality
It doesn’t say there is some condemnation or partial condemnation. It says No condemnation. The Greek word is Oude (U – de) according to HELPS word study online it says Oude means (“nothing at all") it is a powerful negating conjunction. It rules out by definition, i.e. "shuts the door" objectively and leaves no exceptions.
It seems the word chosen by Paul as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit was an emphatic NO. What assurance we have in this word and this not guilty verdict.
But the reason for the completeness of this verdict is given to us in verse 3 of our text today. Romans 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.
You see the problem is not the law, as Paul has said earlier in chapter 7 the law is holy, righteous and good. The problem is us - and the law clearly points that out – we can’t keep the law.
So, if God is sovereign, why not just remove the penalty - give a pardon or - a reprieve to sinners, just set aside the law? Does he really have to judge and condemn?
That would make God untrue to his word. Paul has made clear in Romans 3:4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,“That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”
God is always true to his word. God is holy, holy, holy and has set the law and it must be fulfilled. The only way the condemnation can be complete is if it is paid for in full. God’s wrath must be satisfied.
For those who believe in Jesus, we see that penalty paid by Christ. By sending his own son, not in sinful flesh, because he never sinned. He is the perfect, spotless, lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Not in sinful flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, He, God the father, poured out his wrath on the only sacrifice that could make the payment for our sin complete. He condemned the sins of those who believe in his son Jesus, on the cross.
He did not ask Jesus to pay for some of the sins of those who believe in him and we have to finish the job by good works. To use a football comparison – he did not carry the ball most of the way and we have carry it over the goal line ourselves.
Christ did not pay for some of our sins, not the worst of our sins, not just our sinful actions, but every sinful thought and every sinful deed. Past, present and future. I think that is why Paul uses himself as the believer still struggling with sin in chapter 7 from last week. To remind those who do believe that even the sins we do in the flesh after we believe in Jesus, even those sins are paid for. Past, present and future sins are paid in full.
And there is no purgatory, that someone else can save us from later after we have died. Once we have died we either stand in grace before God or we stand condemned.
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
On the cross, Jesus proclaimed it is finished – done - complete. The work on the cross, the wages for believer’s sins have been completely paid. Everyone of the sins of those who believe have been condemned on the cross in Jesus.
There is therefore now No Condemnation. A complete reality for a believer, because Christ has completed it.
Which brings us to the third and final reality for believer.
This reality of Now No Condemnation is conditional.
It is only for those who are in Christ Jesus. What is the significance of this word in. We can understand the basic concept of in or out. You are either one or the other you can’t be both. But what do you think of when you think of being in something? You were out, but now you are in, you are a part of, in union with, or a member of.
But how does this apply to believers in Jesus Christ? Have you ever heard anyone say they are in Buddha or in Mohammad? What does in Christ mean, for those who believe in Jesus?
Let me remind us of what we have heard so far in Romans
We have - the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ Romans 3:22
Our Redemption is in Christ Jesus Romans 3:24
We are - dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:11
the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus Romans 6:23
We have been - set free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 8:1
Everything that we are, in Christ, is everything that matters; and it is all because we are in Jesus Christ. But what does it look like for those who believe in Christ Jesus? Look at verse 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Believer’s, we are called live out this work that the Spirit of Jesus Christ has done in our lives. What we could not do before we believed the good news of the Gospel – We are now our empowered to live out by the Spirit, no longer does sin control us. For he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
If we believe verse 1. There is therefore Now No Condemnation – it is a reality Now, Completely and for those in Christ Jesus - live like we believe it. You have the power of the Spirit of Christ in you and you are in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. So we are a new creation in Christ.
We are also as a group of believer’s - called the body of Christ. Ephesian 5:30 we are members of his body. His hands, his feet, his arms, his legs – his body. We, the gathered assembly here are his body. We are places here as fellowship of believers to love as Christ loved and serve as Christ served. You are born into a family of believers called the church.
Now there are probably some here today who have not put their faith in Jesus. I want you to feel the weight of the coming judgement and condemnation. John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. I want you to know that there is only one way to be saved, by faith in Jesus Christ.
When Christians share this good news, we should not be ashamed to tell people of this coming judgement. We should love them enough to warn them that Jesus is the one and only way to salvation.
So, let us leave here unashamed for all our shame was nailed to the cross with Christ there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Let the freedom of that sentence bring joy to you and courage to boldly proclaim the good news. Thanks be to God in Jesus Christ!