“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1, 2).
Every day you and I are confronted with temptations that go against the desires of the God who created us; the God who saved us; and the God who loves us.
Romans 8 gives us hope that the struggle we experience is solved by Christ Jesus. This passage does not teach a life of perfection, nor does it teach a life free from struggle. It teaches us how God has come into human experience and done what no mere man — no sinful man — could do. God, through Christ, defeated that which bound us. He defeated sin. Paul announces that with the coming of Christ Jesus the condemnation that has hung over the saints is removed.
The saint is saved not only from the verdict of condemnation, but also from the condemnatory condition that accompanies the verdict of condemnation. Part of the condemnation under which the saints existed is detailed in Romans 7. They are under the dominion of sin and under the power of sin.
Paul says in Romans 7:14, that he is in bondage to sin. There is now NO condemnation either in declaration or in condition, either in “verdict” (Romans 5) or in “prison term” (Romans 8) for those who are in Christ Jesus. All condemnation is done away with in Christ Jesus. It is this treatment of condemnation, that of bondage, that Paul teaches in this passage.
There is no condemnation or bondage because “the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” What does this mean? “Law”, as it is used here, has reference to dominion or jurisdiction, similar to a constitution. Consequently, it could be read that the dominion/constitution of the Spirit of Life has set us free from the dominion/constitution of sin and death. A good example of this can be found in our experience with the recent war in Iraq: the dominion of the coalition forces set the Iraqis free from the dominion of Saddam Hussein.
The Spirit of Life is the Holy Spirit. He is the One who was sent to the church on Pentecost. The dominion of the Spirit of Life, then, is the reign of the Holy Spirit. It is, in essence, the Kingdom of God. This kingdom always existed, for God always existed. This kingdom, however, did not exist with man until Jesus Christ came. The miracles He performed indicated that the Kingdom of God had come … and the righteous of that time were waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God. It is a kingdom of life, peace, and righteousness.
But Paul does not just explain that one dominion has released us from another. It is “in Christ Jesus” that we are set free. We need to be set free from the dominion of sin and death. This dominion is all that is opposed to God since it goes against His will. This dominion is opposed to us since it results in our death. The saints of God want to be set free – this is the anguished cry of Paul at the end of Romans 7. Romans 7 is the cry of the regenerate, not the unregenerate. However, we were not set free because of the Law. Paul taught this in Romans 7. It is “in Christ Jesus” that we are set free.
Paul is contrasting our experience under the Law with our experience under Christ Jesus.
The Law could not set us free from the dominion of sin and death. It was not because of the Law itself.
As Paul said in Romans 7, the Law is not sin. It was because we were in the flesh. The Law could not release Paul from the dominion of sin. It did not have the power. The Law merely stated what was righteous and pleasing to God. The Law merely required of its hearers what to do. The Law did not perform or do anything. It came from God written with human letters on tablets of stone… merely reference and documentation.
What the Law was unable to do, though, God did. God did not do this through the Law. He did not do it through Moses. He did not do this only for the Jews. God set us free by sending His Son. It is in sending His Son that we have been set free.
Jesus was not sent only to be a good moral teacher. Jesus was not sent only to be someone to teach us how we can be in touch with God. Jesus was sent with the express purpose of dealing with sin. To make His primary mission anything else is to twist His purpose.
There is no condemnation for us because sin was condemned. The Law condemned sin in the sense that it declared a judicial verdict against it as Paul says in Romans 7. What the Law could not do, however, was execute or carry out the verdict. While the Law could declare sin “guilty” it could not lock up sin in prison. The Law was unable, but God through His Son was able, and He did it by His death and resurrection.
The wages of sin is death. The wages that the dominion of sin pays is death. Jesus received and endured those wages, not because He Himself had sinned, but because He came in the likeness of sinful flesh. He took upon Himself our sins. Consequently, when Jesus died, he was as much under the dominion of sin as is possible — HE WAS DEAD.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead overthrew the dominion of sin. The dominion of sin had no dominion over the Son, Jesus Christ. The dominion and power of sin could not hold Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords. The dominion and power of sin could not hold Him who was the author of Life. The dominion of sin could not hold back God.
In the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the condemnation of sin is complete. Consequently, for all those who are by faith united to Christ Jesus, there is no more condemnation. The agony of Romans 7 has been replaced by the triumph and comfort of Romans 8. The dominion of sin so powerfully and fully presented by Paul in Romans 7 is even more powerfully and fully shown by Paul to have been overthrown in Romans 8. He condemned sin in the flesh. The judgment declared by God back in the garden, in Genesis 3, is finally executed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God removed the dominion of sin so that His people would be able to present a righteous life to Him. God did not save us so that we would live in what displeases Him. God does not save His people so that they can identify themselves as thieves, adulterers, coveteous, rebels, homosexuals, alcoholics, or any other thing disgraceful to God. You cannot call yourself a Christian and still identify yourself as a sinner.
That is what is so wicked about the voices in our own day. There are some who say that you can identify yourself as an alcoholic and yet be a good Christian. There are some who say that you can identify yourself as a “celibate” homosexual and yet be a member in good standing in the church of Christ, even a minister or pastor. There are some who say that you can be a rebellious teenager and yet should make profession of faith. There are some who say that a man may look at a woman lustfully (as long as you don’t touch) and partake of the Lord’s Supper. NO! Christ did not set you free from the dominion of sin so that you can still identify with it. To walk according to the flesh, to set your mind on the things of the flesh, is to be under the dominion of sin… it is death. To those whose identity is “in Christ” there is no other identity. There is no identification with sin.
To those who are outside of Christ, the law that is now given to us may seem restrictive, because they have no heart for the law. But for those who are in Christ Jesus, this law is still our delight. Just as Paul delighted in the Law in Romans 7, how much more does he delight in the Law due to Romans 8… but only because he is in Christ Jesus. If someone were to receive the law apart from being identified with Christ, it can only result in condemnation for him or her. But, in Christ Jesus, the righteous requirement of the Law is fulfilled. There is no condemnation! The law is one of gratitude for us, precisely because we are in Christ Jesus… precisely because we are identified with Jesus.
Mr. Talman Wagenmaker is a member of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is also a student at Mid-America Reformed Seminary.