James Smith, 1859
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the fleshóbut after the Spirit." Romans 8:1
Paul had spoken of what he was before the law came to him in power, of what he experienced under the working of the law, of the two natures within him, and the constant warfare he felt as the resultóand of the delight he now had in the law, and the joy he had in God. And now as the conclusion of his statement of his experience he joyfully exclaims, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the fleshóbut after the Spirit." Let us glance at,
The PECULIARITY."In Christ Jesus." Union to Christ, and identification with Christ, form a great part of the mystery of the gospel. Every believer is in Christ; and Christ is in every believer. The saint and Christ are one. Are we in Christ? "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ!" Philippians 3:7-8
If so, we know Christ. Not with a mere theoretical knowledge, which may be obtained from books; but with a knowledge which the Holy Spirit works in the heart. We know Christ in the glory of his person, the perfection of his work, and the riches of his wondrous grace. We so know Christ, that he stands out before us, as the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely one. And the more we know him, the more intimate we wish to become with him: and cry out with Paul, "That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death."
We not only know Christóbut we need him. And the longer we liveóthe more we need him. Nor do we merely need Christóbut we need everything in Christ, or that Christ has. We need his blood to cleanse us, his righteousness to clothe us, and his Spirit to sanctify us. We need Christ daily, hourly; and in our dying day, in a dying hour, we shall need him most of all.
As we need Christ, so we come to Christ. Not once
for allóbut having come to Christ once, we continue to come. We come to him
in every trial, in every trouble, and in every conflict; we come to him for
wisdom, and strength, and holiness. We come to him to unburden our minds,
and we come to him to find rest for our souls. Much of experimental religion
consists in coming daily and hourly to Jesus. "Come to me, all you who are
weary and burdened, and I will give you rest!" Matthew 11:28. As we come to
Jesus, we seek union to Jesus, nor can we rest but as we realize that we are
identified with him, and that he is identified with us. It is not enough to
be with Jesus, we must be in Christ: members of his body, of his flesh, and
of his bones. Being in Christ, we participate in all Christ has, and are
interested in all Christ has done, and so there is "no condemnation to them
that are in Christ Jesus." This leads us to notice,
The PRIVILEGE."There is now no condemnation." There was once when we were Tinder the law, for then we were children of wrath, even as others. Being under the law, we were bound to obey the precepts of the law, and failingóto suffer the penalty. We sinned, and the law condemned us: such was our state once. But becoming united to Christ, we were delivered from the law, and became dead to that under which we were held. Death to the law is the result of union to Christ, and then it is said, "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the lawóbut under grace."
"There is therefore now no condemnation," for believing in Jesus, his perfect work becomes ours. His life and death are placed to our account, and we understand the meaning of the Apostle, "He was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Our sins were transferred to Jesus, were laid on him, that he might bear them in his own body; he became answerable for them, and therefore made an infinite atonement to deliver us from their guilt.
Not only soóbut he took our place in such a sense, and in such a way, that we might be made righteous; not only soóbut righteousness; not only righteousnessóbut the righteousness of God in him.
Now if Jesus took our sins, and we take his righteousness, to us there can be no condemnation; Jesus was condemned for usóJesus was executed for usóand because Jesus had given full satisfaction to the law and justice of God, as our representative, he was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. In consequence of this, the moment we believe we are acquitted from its charges, for every charge has been met, and a full atonement made. We are pronounced righteous by God, for the perfect, the magnificent, the God-like, righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ is placed to our account, and thus we are righteousóeven as he is righteous!
In this way, God justifies the ungodly by faith. We are accepted in the Beloved, and God is well pleased with us. Viewing us in his Son, as members of his mystical body, and as clothed with his glorious robe, he smiles upon us, manifests his love to us, and rejoices over us to do us good with his whole heart, and with his whole soul. We are now placed among the brethren of Christ, and Jesus, highly as he is exalted, is not ashamed to call us brethren. We are now treated as children of the same family, as possessing the same nature, and as loved with the same love as Jesus.
"There is therefore now no condemnation." Doubts and fears there may beóbut no condemnation. Persecution and opposition from men, and from Satan there may be, will beóbut no condemnation. Deep trials and sore troubles, there may be, there will beóbut no condemnation. Infirmities and sins there may be, will beóbut no condemnation. Men may condemn usóbut God will not. Conscience may at times condemn usóbut the Judge of all will not. Satan may bring many accusations against usóbut the righteous Advocate will appear, and reply to them for us, so that justice will not condemn us.
O glorious truth, that now, as poor as we are, imperfect
as we are; as tried, tempted, and distressed as we areóthere is no
condemnation! No, not one condemnationóbut we are justified freely by grace
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesusówe are justified from all
things. But it is time, that we considered,
The PROOF of being in Christ."Who walk not after the fleshóbut after the Spirit." The course, or path of the justified, is like the shining fight, which shines more and more unto the perfect day. "Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin may be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin," Once the flesh, the body, and the soulóas under the influence of carnal principles, ruled us. But, as renewed in the spirit of our minds, as created anew in Christ Jesus, as having Christ dwelling in usówe no longer walk after the motions, carnal desires, and lusts of the flesh.
The flesh will struggle, it will lust and fight against the Spiritóbut it shall not reignóbut shall be brought into subjection. Occasionally it may gain the mastery, and cause the Christian much sorrowóbut it will not be allowed to have the dominion; the conflict will be renewed, and the victory will again be gained. Every one who is in union with Christ, has to do battle with the flesh day by day; and at length is crowned as an overcomer. In Christ, we have the Spirit of Christ! In Christ, we receive constant supplies from Christ! In Christ, we pant, pray, and strive to be like Christ! In Christ, we aspire to dwell with Christ! In Christ, we can never be satisfied until we are holy as Christ!
All who are in Christ, "walk after the Spirit." The precepts written under the inspiration of the Spirit become the rule of their life. They strive to keep themódoing all that they require, and avoiding all that they prohibit. The inward enlightening, and operation of the Spirit, reveals to them the beauty of holiness, and urges them to seek its attainment. The life of Jesus as set forth in the sacred Scriptures, is the great pattern which they strive to imitate. They would be like Christ. Just like Christ. Altogether like Christ. With the precepts of the gospel laid at their feet, and the operations of the Holy Spirit in the heart, and the holy life of Jesus kept before the eyeóthey walk in the paths of righteousness, and endeavor to live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present evil world.
Just in proportion as we realize our union to Christ, and our freedom from condemnation through Christ, shall we pant to be holy, and seek to walk after the Spirit; and if we live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit, we shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Let us not be satisfied without union to Christ. Let no convictions, impressions, enjoyments, or duties satisfy us; but let us seek to be one with Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Being united to Christ, let us seek daily to realize and enjoy our privilege. Let us walk as one with Christ, act as one with Christ, and go nowhere, nor do anything, that is not in accordance with our profession of being one with Christ.
Realizing our justification as one with Christ, let us seek deeper sanctification. If justified by faith in Jesus, we are perfectly justified; for there are no degrees in justification. But though we are really sanctified, we are not perfectly sanctified. We may be more holy, more like Christ, and have more of the Spirit of God. Let us not then be satisfied with littleówhen we may have much; but let us be constantly coming to Jesus, that we may receive out of his fullness and grace upon grace. But however deep our sanctification, let us never live upon it, or look to it for peace. Jesus is the bread of life, let us live on him. Jesus is our peace, let us look to him for peace.
We may look at our justification and rejoice in itóbut the more we look away from our sanctification to Jesus, the better; for it is while we are looking to Jesus, that the Spirit deepens his work, and conforms us more and more to the object before us. If justifiedówe shall be sanctified, for a change of state, is always accompanied with a change of nature. If in Christ, we must be in some measure like Christ.
Out of Christ there is neither justification nor sanctification. The soul therefore that is living without faith in Jesus, without union to Jesus, is condemned already; and instead of being able to say "to me there is no condemnation," if it speaks truth, it must say, "To me there is nothing but condemnation. My person is condemned, my sins are condemned, and my very religion is condemned. I am condemned by the gospel too. The law says, 'Cursed is every one who continues not in all things written in the book of the law to do them;' and I have not done them, therefore I am cursed. The Gospel says, 'He who believes not shall be damned, he who believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God,' and I have not faith in Christ, therefore I am condemned, and, Oh, dreadful! I shall be damned!"
But, sinner, though you are condemned now, you need not be condemned five minutes longer, for through Christ Jesus is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all who believe are justified from all things." Believe, and to you there is no condemnation, nor ever shall be! Believe, and life is yours, peace is yours, heaven is yours, for Christ is yours, and yours forever!