by Mike Ratliff
1 Οὐδὲν ἄρα νῦν κατάκριμα τοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Romans 8:1 (NA28)
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to the ones in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Romans 8 is best understood after reading the Apostle Paul’s exposition of his own “wretched man” trapped in a “body of death” in Romans 7:14-25.
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:14-25 (NASB)
There are some who teach from this passage saying that it describes Paul’s life before Christ citing that this description is contrary to his own account or description of true believers in Romans 6 (cf. vv. 2,6,7,11,17,18,22) . However, as we read this passage it is obvious that this is a believer because he desires to obey God’s law and hates his sin. He is humble, recognizing that nothing good dwells in his humanness. He sees sin in himself, but not as all that there is, and he serves Jesus Christ with his mind. This very struggle was my desperate struggle for a couple of decades and I get private emails from many readers in the same boat, doubting the veracity of their salvation because they are in the same battle. Why are they in despair? Why was I in despair for so long? The churches, the religious systems of which we were part of told us in their pragmatism that there would be some point when we would outgrow this and reach some level of maturity and would no longer struggle like this. If that did not happen either we were very immature or not Christians at all.
While I agree that we are sanctified in this life and we are transformed through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), this battle over the mortification of sin is an ongoing battle that could last until the day our Lord takes us home. Thank the Lord that Paul finished his dialog above with v25 then took it up again with Romans 8.
Read again Romans 8:1 that I placed at the top of this post. The noun condemnation translates κατάκριμα (katakrima). It is something to be decided against anyone, a condemnatory judgment and is the opposite of justification. What is Paul saying here? Those who are in Christ are justified, and, therefore, are under no condemnation whatsoever. No sin a believer can commit—past, present, or future—can be held against him, since Christ paid the penalty and righteousness was imputed to the believer. No sin will ever reverse this divine legal decision. In the King James Version, the New King James Version of this passage, v1 continues with, “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” This phrase is not found in v1 in the earliest manuscripts, but it is found at the end of v4, which makes this a textual variant indicating that this is perhaps a case of an inadvertent copyist insertion. However, if you look at what Paul is saying, our Justification is not based on this, but on the work of Christ. Our Justification does not transform us. Imputation does not change us. Our regeneration unto faith does though and as we shall see in the following verses, we are not the same after faith in Christ as we were before.
1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. Romans 8:1-17 (NASB)
Were we saved to be able to be super-saints who never sin in this life? Well, I do admit that I would like that very much, but as Paul said very clearly in Romans 7:14-25, we have this thing called the flesh that we must work to crucify on a daily basis and God is continually putting us through fiery trials that test our faith. We are commanded to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, to become living sacrifices, to be transformed through the renewing of our minds, to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, yet the reality is that our Lord Jesus told us in John 15 that without him we can do nothing. How are you doing with abiding in him in all parts of your life all day long?
Soli Deo Gloria!