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Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…

This verse is often used to teach that Christians do not and will not face condemnation from God because their sins have been forgiven through the death of Jesus Christ. Let’s see from subsequent verses in this chapter what the conditions are for this to hold for Christians.

2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

What does it mean to be set free from the law of sin and death? How does the law of the Spirit of life accomplish this wonderful deliverance?

Sin is condemned in us

3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,

Because of our sinful nature, we are simply unable to obey the righteous requirements of the law. In this way we can say that the law is powerless to change us and make us holy. And so God sent Jesus to die on the cross in order for sin to be condemned in us. The Greek word for the verb “condemn” also carries the meaning of to sentence or to damn. When a prisoner is sentenced to be condemned, he has no power but is completely helpless. In the same way, when Christ became a sin offering for us, sin in us was rendered powerless and helpless. What is the benefit of this?

4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

We are able to meet the righteous requirements of the law

The benefit is that we are fully able to meet the righteous requirements of the law. This is because we are no longer living according to the sinful nature, but now according to the Holy Spirit who lives in us. This goes beyond simply an imputed righteousness that we receive by faith in Christ. We now actually live holy lives according to the Holy Spirit in us.

5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

Paul emphasizes the utter contrast between the two kinds of people. Those who are controlled by the sinful nature live their lives according to that nature and, helplessly hostile to God, will sin against Him. They will die. But those who live their lives in accordance with the Holy Spirit will do what the Spirit desires and they will enjoy life and peace. The contrast between the two is not an hypothetical one, but one in actual practice and daily conduct. The one lives in sin and rebellion to God; the other in holiness and obedience to God.

9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

The difference is the Holy Spirit

The key aspect of this difference is the Holy Spirit who dwells in the disciple of Jesus Christ. How does the indwelling Holy Spirit make such a dramatic difference?

10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. 12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.

The Holy Spirit in us gives life to our mortal body which beforehand was a slave to the lusts of our sinful nature. But now our mortal body no longer needs to submit to our sinful nature, but rather to the Spirit who indwells us. No longer do we owe allegiance to our sinful nature because now we have a new master.

13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,

By the Spirit we can put to death the misdeeds of the body

By the indwelling Holy Spirit we have the authority to put to death the misdeeds of the body. No longer does our sinful nature rule over us as it did before we came to know Christ; now by the Spirit we are in charge and in authority.Whenever our sinful nature would seek to rebel against our authority and tempt us to sin against God, we put it to death.We rebuke it authoritatively and violently in the name of Jesus Christ. Putting something to death is a violent act.

The sinful nature can be likened to a deadly cancer which is to be destroyed and eradicated before it can destroy its host. When we take forceful action to resist and say “no!” to our sinful nature, it will submit to us and we will escape from temptation. When a believer learns how to exercise his or her authority over the flesh in such a manner, the believer will be able to resist sin successfully and to live a holy life pleasing to God.

14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

In the context of Romans 8, being led by the Holy Spirit therefore means that He empowers us to take forceful action against our sinful nature. The result is that we will be able to live a holy life and please God. In such a way we become like our Father in heaven and are truly sons of God.

Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…

Now we have a more accurate understanding of what Romans 8:1 teaches. It patently does not teach that simply because we call ourselves Christians and go to church, we are free to do as we want without fear of condemnation. It does not teach that God’s grace gives us latitude to sin because He will forgive us if we confess the sin to Him.

Sinning & forgiveness are the exception and not the rule

While there is forgiveness for a believer who has sinned according to 1 John 1:9, it should be the exception rather than the rule. The overwhelming focus in Romans 8, rather, is that those who are in Christ Jesus are set free from slavery to the sinful nature, and are given power and authority to walk in personal and practical holiness according to the Spirit of life. And they do so.

There is now no condemnation for those who have been set free and have overcome the law of sin and death in their personal lives by the law of the Spirit of life. These are the ones who are in Christ Jesus.