(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 10/13/02 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Three weeks ago, when we went through Romans 7:14-25, we saw that Paul, and thus every Christian, calls himself fleshly, having been sold under sin, being taken captive by the law of sin in his members, serving the law of sin in his flesh. Now let's read Romans 8:1-2:
Romans 8: (1) [There is] therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to flesh, but according to Spirit. (2) For the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set me free from the law of sin and of death.
Now Romans 8:8-9:
Romans 8: (8) And those being in the flesh are not able to please God. (9) But you are not in flesh, but in Spirit, since [the] Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not [the] Spirit of Christ, this one is not His.
How can this be? How can it be that in one breath, Paul can say that he and all true Christians are fleshly, having been sold under sin, being taken captive by the law of sin in our members, serving the law of sin in our flesh, and in the next breath, say that he and all true Christians do not walk according to the flesh and are free from the law of sin and death and are not in the flesh? We know these things do not contradict each other, because God never contradicts Himself, and thus His Word never contradicts itself. What we saw three weeks ago is that being FLESHLY does NOT mean that a Christian walks according to the flesh - it means that our remaining sin is so great and so repugnant to us as we hold our character and conduct up to the light of God's Law that we can only conclude that, in light of this perfect standard, we are fleshly, meaning that the sin in our flesh is ever before us. And we saw three weeks ago that being SOLD under sin does NOT mean that we serve sin or are slaves to sin or live in sin - it means that no matter how much we may try to get away from it, the sinfulness that we inherited in Adam clings to us and harasses us, so we can never be free from the INFLUENCE of sin. Now if some people say that we are not being biblical when we say that Christians do not serve sin and are not slaves to sin and do not live in sin, we just use the Bible to refute them. We quote Romans 6:2, which says, "We who died to sin, how shall we still live in it?" We quote Romans 6:6, which says, "our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be nullified, so that we no longer serve sin." We quote Romans 6:14, which says, "For your sin shall not lord it over you, for you are not under Law, but under grace." We quote Romans 6:18, which says, "And having been set free from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness." We quote Romans 6:22, which says, "But now having been set free from sin, and having been enslaved to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end everlasting life." And we quote our current passage of Romans 8:1-9. Let's read the entire passage:
Romans 8: (1) [There is] therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to flesh, but according to Spirit. (2) For the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set me free from the law of sin and of death. (3) For the Law [being] powerless, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in [the] likeness of sinful flesh, and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh, (4) so that the righteous demand of the Law might be fulfilled in us, those not walking according to flesh, but according to Spirit. (5) For the ones that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh. And the ones according to Spirit [mind] the things of the Spirit. (6) For the mind of the flesh [is] death, but the mind of the Spirit [is] life and peace; (7) because the mind of the flesh [is] enmity towards God; for it is not being subjected to the Law of God, for neither can it [be]. (8) And those being in the flesh are not able to please God. (9) But you are not in flesh, but in Spirit, since [the] Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not [the] Spirit of Christ, this one is not His.
I'd like to go sentence-by-sentence through this passage, but today, I want to just focus on verse 1, because it really encapsulates the objective and subjective aspects of the life of a believer. It says, in just one sentence, what a believer is all about. Let's pay close attention to what it says:
Romans 8: (1) [There is] therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to flesh, but according to Spirit.
We see the word "therefore," which connects us to what Paul said right before this sentence. Let's look at what the "therefore" refers to by reading Romans 7:24-25:
Romans 7: (24) O wretched man [that] I [am]! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (25) I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I myself with the mind truly serve [the] Law of God, and [with] the flesh [the] law of sin.
Now, after saying that God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, shall deliver us from the body of this death, Paul says, "THEREFORE there is now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus." Having established that God through Christ shall deliver us from the body of this death, Paul logically concludes that there is NO CONDEMNATION to those in Christ Jesus. Let us meditate on this for a while. We've just been described as fleshly, having been sold under sin, being taken captive by the law of sin in our members, serving the law of sin in our flesh, and yet there is NO CONDEMNATION! We've just been described as doing what we hate, not doing the good we desire, and doing the evil we do not desire, and yet there is NO CONDEMNATION! We've just been described as wretched men, people who disobey God's Law, people who do not meet up to the standard of God's Law in our own character and conduct, and yet there is NO CONDEMNATION! The Greek word for "condemnation" is kah-TAH-kree-ma, which comes from two words: ka-TAH in this context means "down or against." KREE-no means "avenge, condemn, damn, judge, or sentence to." So kah-TAH-kree-ma is a judgment against, a sentence handed down. When one is CONDEMNED, a judgment, a sentence is handed down - a judgment of GUILTY. Yet we, who have sinned and continue to sin against Almighty God, whose sins cling to us so we cannot do the good that we want, who, when we desire to do the right, evil is always present with us so that everything we do is tainted with sin, we who are wretched sinners, are NOT JUDGED TO BE GUILTY OF EVEN A SINGLE SIN! There exists no sentence against us condemning us for even ONE of our countless multitudes of sins! But how can this be? Doesn't God's Law say that those who do not continue to obey in ALL THINGS that the Law demands are under a curse? It sure does. Doesn't God's Law justly condemn ALL those who do not have a righteousness that equals the perfect righteousness of God? It sure does. How, then, are we, who do not even come close to continual perfect obedience to God's law, not judged to be guilty? Well, you know what's coming next, don't you? And don't EVER let the answer be something that is merely memorized by rote and not held onto as exceedingly precious beyond measure. Don't EVER take this answer for granted. When you give your answer, PRAISE GOD in the highest for it. Okay, now for the answer to the question, "How are we, who are constantly under the influence of sin, who sin in our thoughts, words, and deeds, how are we not judged to be guilty?" The answer is THROUGH THE WORK OF CHRIST ALONE. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those in ..." what? "To those in CHRIST JESUS." For those of us who are in Christ Jesus, He took all of our sins, past, present, and future, upon Himself, was nailed to the cross, and was CONDEMNED IN OUR PLACE. The judgment of GUILTY came down upon Him, because He was reckoned GUILTY when our sins were imputed to Him. And when the sentence of GUILTY comes down from God in His Law, the consequence also comes down, which is a CURSE. Jesus Christ became CURSED because of the sins that were imputed to Him. And while Jesus was CURSED, He suffered the full fury of God's wrath as he was hanging on the cross, even to the point of crying out, "My God, My God, why did You forsake Me?" We cannot imagine the intensity of the fury of God's wrath that was poured out on His Son that day. It was equivalent to the very infinite torments of hell, because all sin is an infinite offense against an infinitely holy God. When Christ was suffering the full wrath of God, it could not have been said about him that there was NO CONDEMNATION to him. There was FULL CONDEMNATION to him. And it is the condemnation that we deserved. WE are the sinners; Jesus was totally sinless! WE are the ones who have broken God's Holy Law; Jesus was the perfect Law-keeper! Yet instead of OUR being condemned, JESUS CHRIST was condemned IN OUR PLACE, as our REPRESENTATIVE and SUBSTITUTE. And when God saves us, the perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, so we are counted as holy and righteous as Jesus Christ Himself. So, instead of being condemned for our sin, there is therefore now NO condemnation because of what Jesus Christ has done for us! In verses 33 and 34 of this chapter, Paul says:
Romans 8: (33) Who will bring any charge against God's elect? God [is] the [One] justifying! (34) Who [is he] condemning? [It is] Christ who has died, but rather also [is] raised, who also is at [the] right [hand] of God, who also makes intercession on our behalf.
We who are in Jesus Christ are NOT CHARGEABLE! We are NOT CONDEMNABLE! So, although we struggle with indwelling sin and will continue to sin in this life, our sin is NOT CHARGED TO US, because it was ALREADY CHARGED TO JESUS CHRIST, and the CONDEMNATION that our sins deserved has ALREADY HAPPENED, so all those for whom Jesus Christ died will NEVER BE CONDEMNED TO HELL! We should NEVER lose sight of that fact and NEVER take it for granted. It should ALWAYS be in our minds and should be our meditation all the day. It is the precious truth of the gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone.
So in the first half of this sentence in Romans 8:1, the OBJECTIVE, POSITIONAL reality is established - that believers are not condemned, they are declared RIGHTEOUS, based on the righteousness of Christ. Now in the SECOND half of this sentence, we have the SUBJECTIVE, WAY-OF-LIFE reality, if you will, of believers. Let's read the second half: "who do not walk according to flesh but according to Spirit." In the FIRST half of the sentence, God says that believers are declared POSITIONALLY HOLY in Christ. In the SECOND half, God says that believers WALK IN HOLINESS OF LIFE. The first half is talking about the IMPUTATION of righteousness to the believer, and the second half is talking about the IMPARTATION of a principle of righteousness into the believer. Righteousness IMPUTED means that we are no longer under condemnation. The principle of righteousness IMPARTED means that our Christian walk is one that is characterized by holiness.
You can't be a Christian without BOTH of these realities. BOTH of these realities are present in EVERY TRUE BELIEVER without exception. There's no such thing as a believer who is under condemnation, who has not been declared righteous. And there's also no such thing as a believer who has not been infused with the principle of holiness, who walks after the flesh, who lives in sin, whose life is not characterized by holiness. But something else very important must be said before we go any further. Even though BOTH of these realities are present in every true believer, it is a DEADLY ERROR to get the two mixed up. ONE has to do with the GROUND of salvation, and the other has to do with the NECESSARY FRUIT of salvation. To get the ground and the fruit mixed up is to believe a false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner.
The GROUND of salvation is the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ. It is the work of Christ ALONE that is the BASIS of our salvation. That has to do with the first part of Romans 8:1. We are declared to be not guilty based on the work of another, the alien righteousness of Christ. It has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with our own life of holiness, our own walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh. The life characterized by obedience that every Christian has is a FRUIT of salvation that works itself out in our character and conduct. It is the OUTCOME of, the RESULT of, the PRODUCT of the new life in Christ. Do you get the distinction? If our life of obedience were the GROUND of our salvation, then our salvation would be based on our works. And even if that infused principle of HOLINESS were the GROUND of our salvation, then our salvation would be based on something OTHER THAN the work of Christ alone. Our salvation is not based on ANYTHING IN US, not even anything that the Holy Spirit PRODUCES in us, because if it were, then the work of Christ would be of no effect. Our salvation is based on something COMPLETELY OUTSIDE OF US. We are DECLARED to be righteous, to be perfectly holy, because of the righteousness of ANOTHER, not because of our own righteousness. It is vitally important that we know that distinction, because if we do NOT know that distinction, we show that we do not believe the gospel and are thus unregenerate.
Look how the verse is constructed. It first says that there is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, and then it gives a DESCRIPTION of those who are in Christ Jesus, which is those who do not walk according to flesh but according to Spirit. It DOESN'T say that there is no condemnation BECAUSE we do not walk according to flesh but according to Spirit. Do you see that? Our state of no condemnation, our being declared not guilty, is NOT a RESULT of our walk. But this verse is ALSO saying that EVERY SINGLE PERSON who is in Christ Jesus is a person who does not walk according to flesh but according to Spirit. BOTH are true of EVERY believer. This one verse confounds both the legalists and the antinomians, doesn't it? It confounds the legalist because it says that a declaration of righteousness is totally apart from the sinner's works. There is NO CONDEMNATION to those who are in Christ Jesus, even though those in Christ Jesus still sin. Our sin does not bring us back under condemnation. It confounds the antinomian because it says that all who are in Christ Jesus walk in holiness, according to the Spirit. Every believer's life is characterized by obedience. No believer walks in sin, according to the flesh.
Let's look at the wording of the second half of the verse. The first part of the second half says, "who do not walk according to flesh." What does that mean? Well, the Greek word for "walk" is per-ee-pa-THE-oh, which comes from per-EE, meaning "around" or "through," and pa-THE-oh, meaning "to tread a path." In this context, per-ee-pa-THE-oh means "to make one's way," "to deport oneself," or "to be occupied with." It is a walking through one's life, a making one's way through life. It is talking about how one conducts his life. Let's look at some Scriptures that use this word in this sense:
Mark 7: (5) Then the Pharisees and scribes questioned Him, Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?
The Pharisees and scribes are asking Jesus about the disciples' manner of conducting themselves.
John 8: (12) Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, I am the Light of the world. The [one] following Me will in no way walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.
Jesus is saying that those who follow Him do not live in, have their conversation in, darkness.
Acts 21: (21) And they were informed about you, that you teach falling away from Moses, telling all the Jews throughout the nations not to circumcise [their] children, nor to walk in the customs.
The elders are saying that they were told that Paul was teaching the Jews are not to conduct themselves according to the Jewish customs.
Romans 6: (4) Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that as Christ was raised up from [the] dead by the glory of the Father, so also we should walk in newness of life.
This is something we went over not too long ago. Paul is saying that we should conduct our lives in newness of life.
Romans 13: (13) Let us walk becomingly, as in [the] day, not in carousings and drunkennesses, not in co-habitation and lustful acts, not in fighting and envy.
Paul is making a command as to how Christians are to conduct their lives. Now to some more Scripture, and I won't comment on them, the Lord willing. Just keep in mind that "walk" means "the conduct of one's life" in each of these. And also pay attention to what is being said about our walk in each of these. Some of these have to do with our walk before we were saved, and some have to do with our walk after we were saved.
1 Corinthians 7:17:
1 Corinthians 7: (17) Only as God has divided to each, each as the Lord has called, so let him walk. So I command in the assemblies.
2 Corinthians 4:2:
2 Corinthians 4: (2) But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor corrupting the Word of God, but [by] the revelation of the truth commending ourselves to every conscience of men before God.
Ephesians 2:2 & 10:
Ephesians 2: (2) in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience, ... (10) for we are [His] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before prepared that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 4:1 & 17
Ephesians 4:(1) Then I, the prisoner in [the] Lord, exhort you to walk worthily of the calling in which you were called, .... (17) Therefore, I say this, and testify in [the] Lord, that you no longer walk even as also the rest [of the] nations walk, in [the] vanity of their mind,
Ephesians 5: (2) and walk in love, even as Christ also loved us and gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell. ... (8) for you then were darkness, but [are] now light in [the] Lord; walk as children of light. ... (15) Then watch how carefully you walk, not as unwise, but as wise ones,
Philippians 3: (17) Be fellow-imitators of me, brothers, and consider those walking this way, even as you have us [for] a pattern.
Colossians 1: (10) [for] you to walk worthily of the Lord to all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work and growing into the full knowledge of God;
Colossians 2: (6) Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him,
Colossians 3: (5) Then put to death your members which [are] on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil lust, and covetousness, which is idolatry; (6) on account of which things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience, (7) among whom you also walked at one time, when you were living in these.
Colossians 4: (5) Walk in wisdom toward the ones outside, redeeming the time.
1 Thessalonians 2:12:
1 Thessalonians 2: (12) testifying for you to walk worthily of God, the [One] calling you to His kingdom and glory.
1 Thessalonians 4:1 & 12:
1 Thessalonians 4: (1) For the rest, then brothers, we beg you and we exhort in [the] Lord Jesus, even as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, that you abound more. .... (12) that you may walk becomingly toward those outside, and that you may have need of nothing.
1 John 1:6-7:
1 John 1: (6) If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and we walk in darkness, we lie and are not practicing the truth. (7) But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of His Son Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 2:6:
1 John 2: (6) The [one] claiming to rest in Him ought so to walk himself as that [One] walked.
2 John 1:6:
2 John 1: (6) And this is love, that we should walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, even as you heard from [the] beginning, that you should walk in it.
These are good verses not only to show the meaning of the word "walk" but to show exactly what "walking according to flesh" versus "walking according to Spirit" mean. If one walks according to flesh, he is conducting his life in accordance with his lusts. For some, walking according to flesh means living one's life in open immorality, living in obedience to one's unlawful desires to fornicate, steal, murder, or openly and blatantly disobey any of God's Law. Christians do not walk in such a way. For others, walking according to flesh means living one's life in outward obedience to God's law, thinking that one's obedience forms at least some part of the ground of salvation or acceptance before God. Christians do not walk in such a way. Now if one walks according to Spirit, he is conducting his life in accordance with the new life he has been given by the Holy Spirit. His life is characterized by obedience to God's Law. This doesn't mean that he perfectly obeys God's Law throughout his life. As we saw three weeks ago, sin is always present with the believer so that he is UNABLE to perfectly obey God's Law. But, even though sin is present with him, his WALK - the way he carries on his life - is CHARACTERIZED by a striving to obey God's Law out of love and thankfulness to the One who met all the conditions for his salvation. The life of one who walks according to Spirit is also characterized by belief of the gospel. Now I need to say something right away to make sure nobody misunderstands what I just said. When it comes to belief of the gospel, a person who is indwelled by the Holy Spirit ALWAYS believes the gospel. There is never a time in a believer's life where he does NOT believe the gospel. This is different than obedience to God's Law that I mentioned before, in which a believer can and does fall into disobedience but is characterized by striving for obedience. In the case of the gospel, a believer CANNOT fall into not believing the gospel, even for a nanosecond. We find Scriptures that clearly show this. And also, if you think about it, what is a BELIEVER? It is someone who BELIEVES the gospel. So a BELIEVER can never become an UNBELIEVER. There's no such thing as a BELIEVER who does not BELIEVE. So it is very important to make that distinction.
Okay, let's sum up what Romans 8:1 says. First of all, it says that, even though believers still sin, they are not condemned for their sin; in fact, they are declared to be NOT GUILTY of their sin because of the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. Secondly, it says that all believers, which is all who are declared not guilty because of what Christ has done, will not conduct their lives according to the lusts of sinful flesh but will conduct their lives according to the Holy Spirit that has been given to them at regeneration. Their walk will be one of holiness and obedience according to the principle of holiness that has been implanted in them by the Holy Spirit at regeneration. Again, I emphasize: BOTH are ALWAYS present in a believer. BOTH ALWAYS characterize a believer. Believers are declared to be holy, righteous, not guilty, not condemned because of a righteousness outside of themselves, which is the righteousness of Christ, which is the only GROUND of their salvation. They are also caused to walk according to the Spirit, in obedience and holiness, as the FRUIT of their salvation. We are POSITIONALLY holy in Jesus Christ, and this is a perfect righteousness that is IMPUTED. We also WALK according to the principle of holiness that has been IMPARTED to us, and this is NOT a perfect righteousness, because we still sin, but our WALK, our MANNER OF LIVING, the way we CONDUCT our LIVES, is characterized by a striving after holiness and obedience. Let us who are believers thank God for both of these things: For IMPUTING Christ's righteousness to us so that we are not condemned and will never return to a state of condemnation no matter what we do, and for IMPARTING a principle of holiness into us by the power of the Holy Spirit so we will NOT live in sin but will walk according to the Spirit and obey Him, not out of any notion that our obedience forms any part of our favor with God, but out of love and thanksgiving for the God who has declared us to be NOT GUILTY in Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.