Christ, Forgiveness, and the Cross

Posted by on Dec 19, 2014 in Featured, Person and Work of Christ

Christ, Forgiveness, and the Cross

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help our readers this holiday season to think through the doctrine of the person and work of Christ.

*****************index7 Christ, Forgiveness, and the Cross

“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’”
(Luke 23:34)

Jesus Christ, the God-Man, committed the most scandalously humble act in human history: He made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born as a man who was obedient to the point of death, slaughtered by His own creation (Philippians 2:7-8). Try to wrap your mind around that one.

Shamefully, man was so proud to have done it. Sin blinded our eyes to the beauty of this Christ. And those who hated Him cried, “Crucify Him!!!” again and again. They would not settle for any ordinary death; it had to be one of intense suffering and shame. As Jesus, an innocent man, hung there, He opened his lips not to curse his oppressors but to plead with the Father on their behalf.

THE ROOT OF MAN’S NEED

I love A.W. Pink‘s words on this:

The first important lesson which all need to learn is that we are sinners, and as such, unfit for the presence of a Holy God. It is in vain that we select noble ideals, form good resolutions, and adopt excellent rules to live by, until the sin-question has been settled. It is of no avail that we attempt to develop a beautiful character and aim to do that which will meet with God’s approval while there is sin between him and our souls. Of what use are shoes if our feet are paralyzed. Of what use are glasses if we are blind. The question of the forgiveness of my sins is basic, fundamental, vital. It matters not that I am highly respected by a wide circle of friends if I am yet in my sins. It matters not that I have made good in business if I am an unpardoned transgressor in the sight of God. What will matter most in the hour of death is, Have my sins been put away by the Blood of Christ?

THE GROUNDS OF FORGIVENESS

Every single one us us is born dead in our sins (Ephesians 2) and without life. There is no one perfect. Because of this sinful nature, you and I cannot justify ourselves before God. We can try, but we will fall short, every one of us. And guess what. God would still be a good God if He left us in this state, ushering each of us to suffer under His righteous wrath. The only ground on which a Holy God will forgive sins is this: One had to satisfy His good and righteous wrath in our place. And One did. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. Through Him, we have the forgiveness of sins.

“IT IS FINISHED.”

Divine forgiveness is complete forgiveness. It is not half-hearted. It is not in need of additional labor or recompense. We don’t need to purify in purgatory. We don’t have anything to add to this free gift of salvation. It is finished.

If you are reading this as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, then rejoice! Rejoice in the forgiveness of God which you have received through the finished work of Jesus Christ.

You are completely and eternally forgiven!

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 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,t he condemned sin in the flesh, 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.
(Romans 8:1-4)

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Christ Our Substitute: The Meaning Of The Cross

Posted by on Dec 18, 2014 in Featured, Person and Work of Christ

Christ Our Substitute: The Meaning Of The Cross

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help our readers this holiday season to think through the doctrine of the person and work of Christ.

*****************index7 Christ Our Substitute: The Meaning Of The Cross

Several biblical terms express (but do not exhaust)  the ministry of Jesus as Substitute—and the meaning of the cross—including (but not limited to):

Jesus as our PROPITIATION.

“He is the propitiation for our sins…”
(1 John 2:2)

Related to the ancient Jewish world of temple sacrifices, the core meaning of propitiation (Greek=ἱλασμός “hilasmos”) speaks of Christ as our “wrath taker” (see also 1 John 4:10; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17).

Jesus as our SACRIFICE.

“But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
(Hebrews 9:26)

Also related to the ancient Jewish system, sacrifice (Greek=θυσίας “thusias”) speaks of Christ as the final and all-sufficient substitute, pouring out His blood for our life, rendering the old system of animal sacrifice obsolete.2

Jesus as our REDEMPTION.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”
(Ephesians 1:7)

Related to the first century world of slave trading, redemption (Greek=ἀπολύτρωσις “apolutrosis”) speaks of Christ paying the price to purchase freedom for slaves (like us) incapable of self-liberation (see also Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:12; 1 Corinthians 6:20; Galatians 3:13).

Jesus as our RECONCILIATION.

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
(2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

Related to first century family and social relationships, reconciliation (Greek=καταλλάξαντος “katallaxantos“) speaks of Christ mending the relational rift between God and men resulting in relational peace where there used to be war and a deep love connection where there used to be a vast disconnect (see also Romans 5:10).

Jesus as our JUSTIFICATION.

“who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
(Romans 4:25)

Related to the first century legal world, justification (Greek=δικαίωσιν “dikaiosin”) speaks of Christ as the one in whom we are declared legally righteous in the eyes of God, the divine Judge (see Romans 4:25, 5:16, 18). God the Father declared His own Son, who was actually righteous, sinful and punished Him as such, so He could declare us, who are actually sinful, righteous and reward us as such (see also John 11:50-52; Romans 5:8-9;Philippians 3:9; Titus 2:13-14; 1 Peter 2:21-25, 3:18).

Jesus as our ADVOCATE.

“…we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
(1 John 2:1)

Another term from the first century courtrooms, advocate (Greek=παράκλητον“parakleton”) speaks of Christ as our defense attorney arguing our “not guilty” verdict before the Father by appealing to His own completed death sentence as sufficient payment for our law-breaking.

IN CHRIST ALONE

In this manifold work of God, through Jesus, we find the incredible gospel truth of substitutionary atonement. This grace-saturated doctrine reminds us that, in submission to the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ stood as our substitute, in our place, to serve as our propitiation, our sacrifice, our redemption, our reconciliation, our justification, our advocate.

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
(Ephesians 1:11-14)

AMEN.

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Christ, Our Substitute

Posted by on Dec 17, 2014 in Featured, Person and Work of Christ

Christ, Our Substitute

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help our readers this holiday season to think through the doctrine of the person and work of Christ.

*****************index7 Christ, Our Substitute

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
(2 Corinthians 5:21)

WHAT IS SUBSTITUTIONARY ATONEMENT?

The cross of Jesus is where the substitutionary atonement happened. On the cross, Jesus served as our substitute and atoned for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).

At the cross, our sin became Christ’s sin, our blameworthiness became Christ’s blameworthiness, the wrath we deserve from an infinitely just Being became the wrath He absorbed from an infinitely just Being. It made salvation possible for spiritually dead sinners wrought with guilt. As if this weren’t good news enough, Christ’s blamelessness became our blamelessness, Christ’s reward became our reward, Christ’s perfection our perfection, and Christ’s confident standing before the holy and just Father became our confident standing before the holy and just Father.

We can no more improve on Christ’s imputed righteousness than we can count past infinity.

“This is our acquittal: the guilt that held us liable for punishment has been transferred to the head of the Son of God…We must, above all, remember this substitution, lest we tremble and remain anxious throughout life—as if God’s righteous vengeance, which the Son of God has taken upon himself, still hung over us….[To] take away all cause for enmity and to reconcile us utterly to himself, he wipes out all evil in us by the expiation set forth in the death of Christ; that we, who were previously unclean and impure, may show ourselves righteous and holy in his sight.”
(John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 2, pp. 506, 510)

“When we think of such an act of grace on God’s part, we have the answer to our question: how can God justify the ungodly? The righteousness of Christ is the righteousness of his perfect obedience, a righteousness undefiled and undefileable, a righteousness which not only warrants the justification of the ungodly but one that necessarily elicits and constrains such justification. God cannot but accept into His favor those who are invested with the righteousness of His own Son.”
(John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 124)

“Religion says, ‘attain’; the gospel says, ‘obtain.’ Religion says, ‘attempt’; the gospel says, ‘accept.’ Religion says, ‘try’; the gospel says, ‘trust.’ Religion says, ‘do this’; the gospel says, ‘it is done.’”
(Ajith Fernando, The Supremacy of Christ, 144)

OTHER ATONEMENT THEORIES

The redemptive suffering of Jesus stands in stark contrast to the following sub—biblical theories:

Origen’s Ransom Theory: Alexandrian thinker Origen taught in the 3″’ century that Jesus’ death was a ransom paid to the devil. As Wayne Grudem points out, “it falsely thinks of Satan rather than God as the one who required that a payment be made for sin and this completely neglects the demands of God’s justice with respect to sin. It views Satan as having much more power than he actually does, namely, power to demand whatever he wants from God.”
(Systematic Theology, 581)

Abelard’s Moral Influence Theory: French thinker Peter Abelard taught in the 12″“ century that Jesus’ death was just God’s way of saying “l love you” to the human race, but there was no payment for sin involved. Although the cross is a powerful “I love you” from God to humans to influence us to a moral life, this view leaves us without a solution to our problem of our objective blameworthiness before a just God. This view has witnessed a resurgence in today’s church as God’s wrath and our guilt have been downplayed (to appease consumers) so that the cross becomes merely an expression of God’s love rather than of God’s love and justice. The cross-work of Christ is the ultimate display of God’s retributive justice and His redeeming love. If either God’s justice or love is compromised, so is the gospel.

Socinus’ Example Theory: Italian thinker Socinus taught in the 16th century, Jesus’ death does nothing more than give us with an example of the kind of obedience God desires from His creatures. While the cross does serve as a powerful example of costly obedience we ought to mirror, this view, along with the Ransom and Moral Influence theories, overlooks that God requires payment for the offense of sin against His holy nature.

Leo X’s Penance Theory: As Pope Leo X and John Tetzel taught in the 16th century, the crosswork of Jesus is not sufficient to save sinners. We must supplement the work of Christ by purchasing indulgences, gazing at relics, and committing acts of penance to work off whatever sins were not payed for on the cross. This view resorts to our own religious performance in a futile attempt to gain God’s favor. It reduces “good works” to insecure attempts to become saved  rather than grateful acts because we are saved thanks to Christ’s work as our Great Substitute.

When the Church loses sight of the good news of Christ’s substitutionary death we slide into performance-based spirituality, embracing the bad news (the anti-gospel) that man must save himself.

m4s0n501
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6 Things Christ Accomplished by His Death

Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Featured, Person and Work of Christ

6 Things Christ Accomplished by His Death

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help our readers this holiday season to think through the doctrine of the person and work of Christ.

*****************index7 6 Things Christ Accomplished by His Death

Here’s a very brief summary of the six core things Christ accomplished in his death.

1. Expiation

Expiation means the removal of our sin and guilt. Christ’s death removes — expiates — our sin and guilt. The guilt of our sin was taken away from us and placed on Christ, who discharged it by his death.

Thus, in John 1:29, John the Baptist calls Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus takes away, that is, expiates, our sins. Likewise, Isaiah 53:6 says, “The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him,” and Hebrews 9:26 says “He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

2. Propitiation

Whereas expiation refers to the removal of our sins, propitiation refers to the removal of God’s wrath.

By dying in our place for our sins, Christ removed the wrath of God that we justly deserved. In fact, it goes even further: a propitiation is not simply a sacrifice that removes wrath, but a sacrifice that removes wrath and turns it into favor. (Note: a propitiation does not turn wrath into love — God already loved us fully, which is the reason he sent Christ to die; it turns his wrath into favor so that his love may realize its purpose of doing good to us every day, in all things, forever, without sacrificing his justice and holiness.)

Several passages speak of Christ’s death as a propitiation for our sins. Romans 3:25-26 says that God “displayed [Christ] publicly as a propitiation in his blood through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because in the forbearance of God he passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration of his righteousness at the present time, that he might be just and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.”

Likewise, Hebrews 2:17 says that Christ made “propitiation for the sins of the people” and 1 John 4:10 says “in this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

3. Reconciliation

Whereas expiation refers to the removal of our sins, and propitiation refers to the removal of God’s wrath, reconciliation refers to the removal of our alienation from God.

Because of our sins, we were alienated – separated — from God. Christ’s death removed this alienation and thus reconciled us to God. We see this, for example, in Romans 5:10-11: “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

4. Redemption

Our sins had put us in captivity from which we need to be delivered. The price that is paid to deliver someone from captivity is called a “ransom.” To say that Christ’s death accomplished redemption for us means that it accomplished deliverance from our captivity through the payment of a price.

There are three things we had to be released from: the curse of the law, the guilt of sin, and the power of sin. Christ redeemed us from each of these.

  • Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13-14).
  • Christ redeemed us from the guilt of our sin. We are “justified as a gift by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
  • Christ redeemed us from the power of sin: “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your fathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Note that we are not simply redeemed from the guilt of sin; to be redeemed from the power of sin means that our slavery to sin is broken. We are now free to live to righteousness. Our redemption from the power of sin is thus the basis of our ability to live holy lives: “You have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

5. Defeat of the Powers of Darkness

Christ’s death was a defeat of the power of Satan. “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 3:15). Satan’s only weapon that can ultimately hurt people is unforgiven sin. Christ took this weapon away from him for all who would believe, defeating him and all the powers of darkness in his death by, as the verse right before this says, “having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).

6. And he Did All of This By Dying As Our Substitute

The reality of substitution is at the heart of the atonement. Christ accomplished all of the above benefits for us by dying in our place – that is, by dying instead of us. We deserved to die, and He took our sin upon Him and paid the penalty Himself.

This is what it means that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20). As Isaiah says, “he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities . . . the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him” (Isaiah 53:5-6).

You see the reality of substitution underlying all of the benefits discussed above, as the means by which Christ accomplished them. For example, substitution is the means by which we were ransomed: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Christ’s death was a ransom for us — that is, instead of us. Likewise, Paul writes that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

Substitution is the means by which we were reconciled: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). It is the means of expiation: “He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21) and “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). And by dying in our place, taking the penalty for our sins upon himself, Christ’s death is also the means of propitiation.

To close: Two implications. First, this is very humbling.

Second, “Greater love has no one than this, than he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

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Humanity Participates in Divinity

Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 in Featured, Person and Work of Christ

Humanity Participates in Divinity

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help our readers this holiday season to think through the doctrine of the person and work of Christ.

*****************index7 Humanity Participates in Divinity

Colossians 1:15-20 teaches that the Son created all things in heaven and on earth. As the original image of God, He is both preeminent in creation and supreme Creator-God. He holds all created things together, from the beginning and into eternity. Starting at verse 18, there is a shift in our passage from the Son in His divine Creator-glory to the Son in his Incarnate glory. This passage demonstrates that the Incarnate Son- as simultaneously “Word without flesh” (logos asarkos) and “Word in the flesh” (logos ensarkos­)- is always “ruler over all” (pantocrator). Applying this revealed mystery to our previous post: the divine Son at Gethsemane is both suffering Savior- anguishing over the Cross before Him- and timeless Creator-God- sustaining all things, at all times, and in all places. With this mystery firmly in place, we are better prepared to adore the Incarnation.

Creator-God, image of the invisible God, and moment-by-moment Sustainer of creation, these are what the Son is in abstraction from his assumed humanity. The Incarnation is the Son’s becoming what He created in order to join what He had created to Himself. The Son does not cease to be these things when he becomes man. Keeping this truth in the background, this post will explore: 1) the divine Son’s vicarious participation in humanity, and 2) redemptive participation in the Trinitarian life of “God in the flesh.”

Second, the Incarnation is the Ground of Participation.

Gregory of Nazianzus, “For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved.” (Against Apollinarius, NPNF 7.440).

The divine Son’s vicarious participation in humanity

The Son of God sinlessly enters into the depths of sinful human nature (Rom. 6:6; 8:3; 2 Cor. 5:21). All of His life of humiliation and glory is in participation with our nature. Christ’s obedience to His Father is the obedience of the adopted children who would call on God as Father. Likewise, Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and ascension is regeneration (Luke 1:41; 1 Cor. 15:20-28; 2 Cor. 5:7), justification (Rom. 4:25), and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30) for those who would be joined with Him (See Rom. 6; Co. 2-3; Eph. 2). What became true of Christ- according to his humanity- becomes true of believer’s when they are united to Christ. This means that Christ’s work is inseparable from his vicarious humanity. Therefore, any discussion of the doctrine of union with Christ must drive our attention back to the greater union of divinity and humanity in the divine Son of God.

The personal union of divinity and humanity in the eternal Son of God is the objective basis for our salvation. Every aspect of the Incarnation is- in some sense- for His people, and their salvation: Christ’s faith is our faith; Christ’s obedience is our obedience; Christ’s death because of sin is our death to sin; Christ’s resurrection-vindication is our justification; and Christ’s ascension is our being seated with Him at the right hand of God. This is what it means when we say that the Incarnation is thoroughly vicarious. There is nothing wasted in the deep participation of the divine Son in human nature.

Redemptive-participation in the Trinitarian life of “God in the flesh”

Irenaeus, “But how could we be joined to incorruptibility and immortality, unless, first incorruptibility and immortality had become that which we also are, so that the corruptible might be swallowed up by incorruptibility, and the mortal by immortality, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Against Heresies, 3.19.1)

The believer’s union with Christ is the fruit of a work outside of time and a work in time. While the first concerns the pre-temporal covenant between the Father and the Son, the second is the enacting of the divine plan of redemption in time. To be perfectly clear– these two realities are- once again- inseparable. Ephesians 1:3-14 is an example of this. Every reference to the Son in this passage concerns “God in the flesh.” From eternal election, to the application of redemption, the personal union of humanity and divinity in Jesus Christ is central. In Christ, sinners are elected to salvation, in Christ, sinners are predestined to adoption, and in Christ, sinners are redeemed by His blood, unto the praise of His glory.

Since all of this “in Christ” language has to do with the Incarnation of the eternal Son of God, human participation in the divine nature cannot be conceived of apart from God in the flesh.

2 Peter 1:3-4, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”

In the Incarnation, divinity assumes humanity so that humanity may partake in divinity. To Western ears this claim sounds extreme. You can get on board with Jesus being fully God and fully man. You like that Christ’s death is an atoning sacrifice. And maybe you even have a growing appreciation for the significance of Christ’s resurrection and the believer’s union with Christ. But you stumble over what it could possibly mean for humanity to “become partakers of the divine nature.” Rest easy, this phrase does not mean that creatures become God. In the Incarnation, divinity remains divinity and humanity remains humanity. But to stop there is to fail to press into revealed Truth. Christ’s human nature participates in the Father’s love for the Son and the Son’s love for the Father. He possesses an abundance of God’s overflowing fullness (Matt. 3:17). When the Spirit joins believers to the Incarnate Son, they are initiated into the inner-Trinitarian life of overflowing love. To partake of the divine nature is to escape from Adamic corruption and enter into the true humanity of the Incarnate Son; a humanity that was created for true communion with God.

Application

The eternal Son of God penetrated human nature so that humanity might enjoy the overflowing love of the Father and the Son. We get glimpses of this overflowing love throughout Jesus’ ministry, but especially see it at Jesus’ Baptism and at the Mount of Transfiguration. To be a Christian is to be a recipient of the Father’s love for the Son in all of its fullness. Participation in Christ is to enjoy all that Christ enjoyed, for comfort, for communion, and for warfare. He is the source and pattern for all human participation in the divine nature. The mystery of the Incarnation has been revealed for our benefit. As we reflect on divine truths, we are strengthened in much the same way that the Incarnate Son is strengthened. Pray that the Spirit would enable you to see the beauty of this mystery, to taste the glory of Christ’s person and work, and to be strengthened by these truths, as you enter more fully into the love of the Father for the Son.

Next Post: The Incarnation is Central to Our Worship

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How to deal with guilt, condemnation and shame with the gospel

Posted by on Dec 13, 2014 in Featured, Person and Work of Christ

How to deal with guilt, condemnation and shame with the gospel

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help our readers this holiday season to think through the doctrine of the person and work of Christ.

*****************index7 How to deal with guilt, condemnation and shame with the gospel

Romans 8:1

Therefore in Romans 8:1 indicates that Paul is stating an important summary and conclusion related to his preceding argument. The “therefore” is based first on the exclamation of victory that comes “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (7:23-25), which in turn is linked back to 7:6 where the idea of the “new life of the Spirit” is first mentioned. But more broadly Paul seems to be recalled his whole argument about salvation in Christ form 3:21-5:21. The now in 8:1 matches the now in 7:6, showing that the new era of redemptive history has now been inaugurated by Christ Jesus for those who are “now” in right standing before God because they are united with Christ. But the summary relates further to the whole argument presented in chs. 3-5.

No condemnation echoes the conclusion stated in 5:1 (“Therefore we have peace with God”) and underscores the stunning implications of the gospel first introduced in and underscores the stunning implications of the gospel first introduced in 1:16-17. As Paul immediately goes on to explain, there is “no condemnation” for the Christian because God has condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son (8:3) to pay the penalty for sin through his death on the cross. The following verses then show that indwelling sin is overcome through the power of the indwelling Spirit, with ten references to the Spirit in Romans 8:4-11.

Guilt, Shame, Condemnation and the gospel

Many believers struggle with guilt, shame and condemnation. Romans 8 marks a major change in the focus of the flow of the epistle. At this point the apostle begins to delineate the marvelous results of justification in the life of the believer. He begins by explaining as best as possible to infinite minds, some of the cardinal truths of salvation (no condemnation, as well as justification, substitution and sanctification).

God’s provision of salvation came not through Christ’s perfect teaching or through His perfect life but through His perfect sacrifice on the cross. It is through Christ’s death, not His life, that God provides the way of salvation. For those who place their trust in Christ and in what He has done on their behalf there is therefore now no condemnation.

The Greek word “katakrima” condemnation appears only in the book of Romans, here in 8:1 and in 5:16, 18. Although it relates to the sentencing for a crime, its primary focus is not so much on the verdict as on the penalty that the verdict demands. As Paul has already declared the penalty, or condemnation for sin is death in Romans 6:23.

Paul here announces the marvelous good news that for Christians there will be no condemnation, neither sentencing nor punishment for the sins that believers have committed or will ever commit.

“No” in the Greek is an emphatic negative adverb of time and carries the idea of complete cessation. In His parable about the king who forgave one of his salves an overwhelming debt (Matthew 18:23-27), Jesus pictured God’s gracious and total forgiveness of the sins of those who come to Him in humble contrition and faith. That is the heart and soul of the gospel- that Jesus completely and permanently paid the debt of sin and the penalty of the law (which is condemnation to death) for every person who humbly asks for mercy and trusts in Him. Through the apostle John God assures His children that “if  anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).

Jesus not only pays the believer’s debt of sin but cleanses him “from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  Still more amazingly, He graciously imputes and imparts to each believer His own perfect righteousness: “For by one offer He Christ has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrew 10:14; Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9). More even than that, Jesus shares His vast heavenly inheritance with those who come to Him in faith (Eph. 1:3, 11, 14). It is because of such immeasurable divine grace that Paul admonishes Christians to be continually “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). Having been qualified by God the Father, we will never, under any circumstance, be subject to divine condemnation. How blessed to be place beyond the reach of condemnation!

The truth that there can never be the eternal death penalty for believers is the foundation of the eighth chapter of Romans. As Paul asks rhetorically near the end of the chapter, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (v.31), and again, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies” (v.33). If the highest tribunal in the universe justifies us, who can declare us guilty.

It is extremely important to realize that deliverance from condemnation is not based in the least measure on any form of perfection achieved by the believer. He/she does not attain the total eradication of sin during his earthly life. It is that truth that Paul establishes so intensely and poignantly in Romans 7. John declares that truth as unambiguously as possible in his first epistle: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The Christian’s conflict with sin does not end until he goes to be with the Lord. Nevertheless, there is still no condemnation-because the penalty for all the failures of this life has been paid in Christ and applied by Christ.

It is also important to realize that deliverance from divine condemnation does not mean deliverance from divine discipline. “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6). Nor does deliverance from God’s condemnation mean escape from our accountability to Him: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7).

The therefore that introduces Romans 8:1 refers back to the major theme of the first seven chapters of the epistle- the believer’s complete justification before God, graciously provided in response to trust in the sacrificial death and resurrection of His Son.

The divine condemnation from which believers are exonerated (8:1) is without exception or qualification. It is bestowed on those who are in Christ Jesus, in other words, on every true Christian. Justification completely and forever releases every believer from sin’s bondage and its penalty of death (6:23) and therefore fits him to stand sinless before a holy God forever. It is that particular aspect of justification on which Paul focuses on the beginning of chapter 8.

Paul’s use of the first person singular pronouns (I and me) in 7:7-25 emphasizes the sad reality that, in this present life, no Christian, not even an apostle, is exempt from struggles with sin. In the opening verses of chapter 8, on the other hand, Paul emphasizes the marvelous reality that every believer, even the weakest and most unproductive shares in the complete and eternal freedom from sin’s condemnation. The holiest of believers are warned that, although they are no longer under sin’s slavish dominion, they will experience conflicts with it in this present life. And the weakest of believers are promised that, although they still stumble and fall into sin’s power in their flesh, they will experience ultimate victory over sin in the life to come.

The key to every aspect of salvation is the simple but infinitely profound phrase in Christ Jesus. A Christian is a person who is in Christ Jesus. Paul has already declared this truth in Romans 6:3-5. Being a Christian is not simply being outwardly identified with Christ but being part of Christ, not simply of being united with Him but united in Him. Our being in Christ is one of the profoundest of mysteries, which we will not fully understand until we meet Him face to face in heaven. But Scripture does shed light on that marvelous truth. We know that we are in Christ spiritually in a divine and permanent union. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.” Paul explains in 1 Cor. 15:22). Believers are also in Christ in a living, participatory sense. “Now you are Christ’s body, Paul declares in that same epistle, “and individually members of it” (12:27). We are actually a part of Him, and in ways that are unfathomable to us now, we work when He works, grieve when He grieves, and rejoice when He rejoices. “For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body,” Paul assures us, “whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). Christ’s own divine life pulses through us.

Conclusion

The key to dealing with guilt, shame, and condemnation is to grow in understanding of the work of Christ. As we’ve seen throughout our examination of Romans 8:1- the believer has a new identity and a new nature. The believer is now in Christ because of the work of Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Because of the believer’s new identity and new nature in Christ- the believer can deal with guilt, shame and condemnation because the gospel addresses these issues. The gospel addresses our guilt by showing us that Christ bore our sins and now offers us forgiveness of sin through the cross. The gospel addresses our shame because Christ took upon Himself our shame and was thoroughly humiliated and yet died in our place for our sins. The gospel addresses our condemnation because we justly deserve to be condemned to hell but God in His grace and mercy offers us a full pardon through the work of Christ.

If you’re struggling with guilt, shame, condemnation or a litany of other issues- I implore you to grow in your knowledge and understanding of the gospel. By growing in the knowledge and understanding of the gospel you will be able to deal with these issues but most importantly you will grow in what it means to be in Christ a marvelous truth that one can drill down deep upon until the day one dies and goes to be with Jesus.

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