Intro: This is why we do it
Good morning! Please turn to Romans, Chapter 8. I am so excited to be turning to Romans, Chapter 8, and not Romans Chapter 7. We’ve been in the book of Romans since January. And maybe there are some of you that are getting maybe just a little tired of it. Certainly, when we were just hitting chapter after chapter about God’s wrath, there were some who were ready for us to skip ahead to the good stuff. And for sure, after how depressing Romans 7 was, there had to be some that were wondering if the rest of the book was going to be like that. But I want to tell you that chapter 8 is the reason for all of it. I don’t know for sure if we will actually finish the book of Romans, but I’ll tell you one thing: If we quit before Chapter 8, it would be like waiting in line for the best ride at Disney World and then stepping out of line before you got on the roller coaster.
Many preachers and scholars have argued that Romans 8 is the greatest chapter in the entire Bible. One wrote that if all of Scripture were a golden ring, then the book of Romans would be the diamond on that ring. Romans 8 would be the most perfectly cut facet on the diamond.
It begins with the promise that there is no condemnation by God for those who are in Christ. It concludes with the promise there can be no separation from God for those who are in Christ.
And in between those two bookends, we see the greatest portrayal…
- Of the depth of God’s love for his children.
- Of the brokenness of creation
- Of God’s design and purpose for life
- Of the relationship we have with the Trinity
- Of our assurance of salvation
- Of the Holy Spirit empowering us to walk with Christ.
So let’s get to it. This morning as we get ready to celebrate communion, we are just going to focus on the first four verses. If you are physically able, please stand to honor the reading of God’s Word:
8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] 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,[c] 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.
Before we get into what the passage actually says, I want to make you aware of the Epic Shift that takes place between Romans 7 and Romans 8. Romans 7 is one of the most miserable passages in the entire Bible. Romans 8 is one of the most hopeful. Romans 7:24 is a wail of defeat: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 8:1 is a cry of triumph: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
And a key to understanding the change from Chapter 7 to Chapter 8 is to look at the pronouns.
In chapter 7, there are forty-seven first person pronouns. Let me just call your attention to a few of them:
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
I, I, Me, Me, My, My. Just in those six verses, there are twenty first person pronouns. It is literally the most self-centered passage of scripture in the entire Bible.
Do you want to guess how many times Paul uses the words I, Me, or My in chapter 8? Zero.
And in their place, Paul makes over 20 references to the Holy Spirit in chapter 8. How many in Chapter 7? Zero. In fact, up to this point, Paul has only explicitly referred to the Holy Spirit once in the entire epistle.
Let’s start with verse one. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And if you are reading anything other than the KJV, that’s where it stops. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, period.
King James, and the New King James, adds a phrase:
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
That phrase isn’t included in the earliest manuscripts. It’s the same phrase that is in verse 4, where Paul writes that we “walk not according to the flesh but according to the spirit.” So how did this phrase wind up at the end of verse 1? Well, somewhere along the way, some scribe must have been worried that if someone read “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” then they would conclude that a Christian was free to do anything they wanted. So maybe they wrote the phrase from verse 4 up in the margin of verse 1, as a reminder that the Christian doesn’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. Then, the next scribe saw it in the margin and figured, “well, this must be part of verse 1. So they wrote it with a comma, and not a period.
But here’s the problem: if you read this as “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, as long as I am walking according to the spirit, and not according to the flesh,” then you are back to making this all about your behavior. And what happens on those days when you are back in your flesh? What happens when you overeat, or drink too much, or flip someone off in traffic? Does that mean you are condemned? And if that’s the case, you are right back to the miserable state we find ourselves in in Chapter 7: “Oh, wretched man that I am! The good that I want to do I don’t do, but I wind up doing the very thing that I hate!” So understand this, Christian:
It is not about you. The earliest manuscripts end verse one with “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Why? Look at the next two verses:
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,
God condemned sin—not you.
God condemned sin in the flesh of His own son.
Notice how super careful Paul is with his words here. He says that God sent his own Son—not in the flesh, because he is making the point that flesh is sinful. And not in the likeness of flesh, because Jesus didn’t just appear to be human, He was fully human. But in the likeness of sinful flesh—Jesus was fully human, but he was completely without sin. And because He Himself was without sin, He was able to take the condemnation for our sin, so that we do not have to.
There is no condemnation for us, because Jesus Himself already took the condemnation.
What “no condemnation” does and does not mean
Now, notice this doesn’t say, “There are no mistakes” for those who are in Christ Jesus. Or no “failures.” Friends, we who are in Christ Jesus still sin. We still fall short. We still fight temptation, and we still lose the fight.
And it also does not say there are no consequences. Even a believer who sins can suffer the consequences of his or her sin. Drive drunk, go to jail. Cheat on your wife, lose your marriage. People face the consequences of their sin all the time. But in terms of penal condemnation—the punishment our sins deserve, damnation, eternal separation from God—that is settled. It was settled when Jesus died for your sins on Calvary.
Sometimes, you will hear Christians say that “God is punishing them” for something. Have you ever heard that? Have you ever felt that? I need you to remove that phrase from your vocabulary. If you have trusted Christ as your savior, you have eternal life, and “shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)
God doesn’t punish us for our sin, because He has already punished Jesus for our sin. If you are reading the Bible chronologically this year, then you read this passage from Isaiah yesterday:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5, NIV)
In the 1986 movie “The Mission,” Robert DeNiro plays a ruthless slave trader in 18th century Brazil named Rodrigo Mendoza. Mendoza makes his living kidnapping the natives who live above the Iguazu Falls and selling them to nearby plantations. After he kills his brother in a drunken duel, he is filled with remorse and converts to Christianity. As penance
[and by the way, do you know what penance is? It comes from the word penal. It means punishment. Penance is this idea that you need to do something to pay for your sins. And it is not in the Bible.]
But as penance, the local priest orders Mendoza to climb up the falls to ask forgiveness of the very natives he had been selling into slavery. And that’s not all: he must make the climb with all the tools of his slave trade lashed into a bundle tied around his neck. All his weapons. All his armor. All the nets and chains he used to capture the natives. When he reaches the top of the falls, he fully expects to be killed by the natives. Watch what happens:
Conclusion: The Theology of Tupperware
There is therefore now not one condemnation for those who are in Christ. I want to close by sharing with you a powerful illustration of what it means to be in Christ. Because let’s face it—there are times when we feel condemned. There are times when Satan tries to remind us of all we have done, and how we don’t deserve God’s grace, and how he can’t believe we’ve got the gall to even show up at church, and if all those people at Glynwood knew the things you had done, and on and on and on. So as we prepare to take communion, let me share this illustration with you. I stole it from David Platt, and I call it the theology of Tupperware.
This container represents you. Let’s just label it you. And when you trust Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and surrender your life to his Lordship, you are in Christ.
Paul’s favorite description for the Christian is “in Christ.” He uses that phrase 84 times in his letters. And if you add all the references to “in him,” it almost doubles.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, the new has come.
- We are chosen in him (Eph 1:4)
- We have redemption through his blood and the forgiveness of our sins in him (Eph. 1:4)
- In him God makes known the mystery of His will. (Eph. 1:9)
- All things are united in Him. (v. 10)
- We have an inheritance in Him. V. 11)
- We are sealed in him with the promised Holy Spirit (v. 13)
So, this is you, and now you are in Christ…
[label second Tupperware, put first inside it]
But it gets better. Not only are you in Christ, but Christ is in you. Skip down to verse 4: The righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us. How is that possible? The requirement is filled in Christ, so Christ must be in us.
Then verses 9 and 11 make it even more explicit: verse 9—the spirit of God dwells in you. The spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is in you. Look at Colossians 1:27—
27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
So let’s label this Tupperware Christ, and we will put Christ in you, and you in Christ.
But, it gets even better. Remember, I’m trying to give you an answer for what to say when the devil tries to condemn you for your sin—
Not only are you in Christ, and not only is Christ in you, but according to Colossians 3:3, we are with Christ in God.
3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
[Label biggest Tupperware God]
So here’s what all this means. For the devil to get to you, he first has to get past God. And he’s never been able to do that. But then, assuming he could, he would then have to get through Jesus to get to you. And even if he could do that, which he can’t, he would still have to deal with the holy spirit that is in you. Every time Satan tries to condemn you as a child of God, he has to deal with the full force of the Trinity. AW Tozer put it this way:
I’m not afraid of the devil. The devil can handle me – he’s got judo I never heard of. But he can’t handle the One to whom I’m joined; he can’t handle the One to whom I’m united; he can’t handle the One whose nature dwells in my nature.AW Tozer
Friends, it isn’t just that God doesn’t condemn you. It’s that Satan can’t accuse you. Because if you are in Christ, then the Holy Spirit is in you. And you are hidden in Christ, and you are with Christ in God. And the devil does not have a chance.