The Law cannot condemn you (1-2)
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The apostle is here speaking of justification. For those who are in Christ Jesus their penalty for violating the Law has been paid by Jesus Christ. All who are under the Law are under the Law’s condemnation and curse. The Law condemns those who are not in Christ and it demands their execution for their violation of the Law. Romans 3:20 shows the “therefore” of condemnation because of the Law’s conclusion that by works of the Law no flesh shall be justified in God’s sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
Romans 8:1 shows the “therefore” of no condemnation on the basis of being in Christ under grace and not in Adam under the Law. For all who are in Adam and have not been transferred into Christ through faith in Christ, have not been justified; the Law’s condemnation on their lives has not been eradicated; and their penalty or condemnation must be paid by them just as the Law demands.
For those who are in Christ, the requirements of the Law have been fully satisfied on the basis of the sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection of Christ, so that the Law no longer has jurisdiction over the believer and it cannot condemn the believer. By faith in Christ and being in Christ we have died to the Law and been released from its condemnation of us.
What does “no condemnation” mean for those who are in Christ in this fallen sin-sick world? What is Paul saying in Romans 8:1 when he says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”?
Paul was saying that all of God’s just and righteous wrath and holy opposition toward us has been absorbed by another on our behalf. In other words, the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty has been turned away from us by being poured out on Jesus Christ so that what God’s holy nature and Law required for our sin was fulfilled in Christ our Substitute so that God can justify us and remain just in the process. This means that in Christ, God is for us and not against us. Paul comes to the glorious climax of this truth in Romans 8:31 – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”
But now on the other hand, those who are not in Christ Jesus, those who have a profession of faith but no possession of faith, and those who make no claim of faith whatsoever will find the terrible truth that the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty has not been turned away and that God is against them and not for them.
This truth is easily seen in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 – “…when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His might angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
So Romans 8:1 is the wonderful good news of no condemnation for those who have been justified by faith in Christ and are indeed in Christ. But how does one begin to know for sure that he has been justified and is indeed in Christ?
Well for starters as we answer that question let me state the obvious truth and then we will proceed to prove it – genuine and biblical justification always precedes and empowers sanctification. Without sanctification following justification there has been no justification. This is what James was writing about in his letter. A faith that does not work cannot be saving faith. In other words a justification that does not produce sanctification cannot be biblical justification.
Notice Romans 8:2 – “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Here we don’t see justification, we see sanctification. The declaration of our justification is in verse 1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” – that’s justification. But here in verse 2 we see a description of practical sanctification. Sanctification proves justification but does not cause it. Justification causes sanctification and if there is no sanctification then justification hasn’t taken place. This is the truth the apostle Paul was teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
The basis for the truth and assurance that there is therefore now no condemnation is the phrase “in Christ Jesus.” In Adam all die – in Adam we were all condemned. In Christ there is no condemnation because in Christ all shall be made alive – so in Christ all are justified.
But we also see the wonderful truth that all who are in Christ are also in the process of being sanctified because we have been set free from the law of sin and death through the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Paul went on to say in his letter to the Corinthians – “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
We have died to the Law and its penalty in Christ and have been given a new life principle by the Spirit of life so that the Law cannot condemn us. We are new creatures who are no longer under condemnation. Our penalty has been paid by our Substitute who loved us and gave Himself up for us so that we no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf. Because this is true we are in the process of being sanctified because we are now living for Jesus. This is exempted living – from the Law.