I’m planning to focus entirely on Romans 8:1 today. Romans chapter 8 is a passage of Scripture that I turn to often. It’s a passage of Scripture that describes the Holy Spirit’s work in setting us free from the bondage of slavery to sin.
Romans 8:1…1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
It might be easy to miss the importance of what Paul is saying in this chapter. So let me draw your attention to something briefly before we dive into the text in front of us.
I want you to notice that up until now in the book of Romans, Paul has only mentioned the Holy Spirit twice. (1:4; 5:5) But now in chapter 8 he mentions the Holy Spirit no less than 20 times. 20 times!!
Think about this as you think about the last 20 times you committed a sin. The last 20 times you gave into temptation again. The last 20 times you craved acceptance from someone. The last 20 times you tried to control someone or some circumstance. The last 20 times you chased power or success. The last 20 times you tapped out of doing the right thing because you wanted comfort.
Every one of those 20 times that you gave into sin and therefore acted like a slave to sin again, the Holy Spirit was right there working to set you free. Proclaiming that there is a way out of the jail cell. Preaching to your heart that the cell doors are unlocked through the work of Christ at the cross. Teaching you that in Christ you have been set free to love God through your obedience to him.
In all of your struggle with sin, the Holy Spirit has been right there calling out to you like a forgotten lover. And this brings me to the word “therefore” in our passage.
#1: What is the therefore there for?
The word therefore should always cause us to ask: What’s it there for? In other words, we must ask: What has Paul already said that shines light on what he is saying now? What came before this? What has he just said that makes what he is saying now so good?
The connection to the word “therefore” in Romans 8:1 is what Paul says in Romans 7:14 – 25. In Romans 7:14 – 25 Paul describes his struggle with sin. He says that he knows that the law is good because it teaches him the difference between right and wrong. But even though he knows the difference between right and wrong and he hates doing what is wrong he still struggles with doing the very wrong things that he hates to do.
Can you identify with this struggle? You hate it when you entertain a lustful thought. Or you hate it when you get angry with your kid. Or you hate it when you get impatient with your spouse. But for some reason, you keep doing the things you hate to do.
Paul knows what this is like. He knows that sin is very much alive inside of him and he knows that his flesh is corrupted by his sinful desires. He admits that although he wants to do what’s right, he doesn’t have the ability or the power inside of himself to do what’s right. Instead, he sees that in his own human strength he is hopeless to ever do what’s perfectly right. Evil is always nearby. Sin is always working against him. In his flesh he is a captive or a slave or a prisoner to the slave-master of sin.
Can you feel the struggle here? Can you identify with the almost hopeless sense that sin is always crouching around the corner just waiting to take you out? One author said that the road to changing and overcoming sin is a lot like and endless tightrope walk over Niagara Falls. It feels like you could fall off that tightrope at any given moment. And, when you do stumble and fall it almost feels like you are going to die because of the fall.
What do you do when you realize that you still struggle with sin? I think I oftentimes want to ignore the fact that I still struggle with sin. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that I’m ok because I’ve read my Bible today or I prayed with my wife and kids or I helped a friend with something. But the reality is that I’m no different than Paul in this passage. I know the difference between right and wrong and the right that I want to do isn’t always what I wind up doing. The wrong things that I hate doing are what I often wind up doing. I’m like a sick dog that continues to return to his vomit.
I hate being overworked. I hate struggling with lust. I hate the anger that wells up inside of me. I hate the fear that often controls me. I hate the doubt that creeps up inside of me. I hate it when I sin. I want to do what’s right. But the right things I want to do aren’t always what I wind up doing. The wrong things that I hate doing are what I often wind up doing. Anyone else struggle with this? Anyone else just realizing that you struggle with this?
This realization for Paul causes him to cry out, “I am a wretched man! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Who will set me free from slavery? Who will loosen the shackles of bondage? Who will break the chains of my sin? Thank God that through Jesus Christ our Lord, I am now set free to serve God with a transformed mind even though my flesh still serves the slave-master of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Do you see? This whole section of Scripture is all about taking a cold, hard, look at our very real struggle with sin and being encouraged in the truth that we are no longer condemned to a life of slavery.
We are no longer in bondage. The chains have been broken. The cell doors are open. Our struggle with sin, while it is not over this side of Heaven, will be over on the other side of Heaven. There is nothing that will make you hunger and nothing that will make you thirst for Heaven more than the stark realities of your struggle with sin. To ignore your sin or to minimize your sin is to ignore and minimize the hope of Heaven.
This is what the “therefore” is there for. The therefore is there for the purpose of shining light on the truth that I am a sinner in need of salvation. I was a prisoner who has been set free. I was condemned but now I am included. I was in chains but now I wear a white robe of perfection. I was a slave but now I am a son. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! Now let me ask another question.
#2: How would you describe your spiritual health right now?
Right now you might describe your spiritual health as pretty good. You’re sitting in a church gathering. But what about a few hours ago? What about last night? What about earlier this week? Sometimes I am guilty of living in the past too much. An sometimes I live in the future too much. When I live in the past, I tend to dream of the good old days. Or I get depressed because of some harmful event or sinful behavior from the past that still affects me now. When I live in future, I tend to dream about a better life. Or I get worried about what’s around the next corner. Both the past and the future can be destructive to my spiritual health. They can be good but they can also be destructive.
This is the beauty of the word “now” in our passage. Paul says “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We need to notice the immediacy of the word “now” in this passage. The word “now” simply means “right now, this instant, this moment, right here.”
I can still hear the tone of my Mom’s voice when she would call out to me and say “Joseph Michael Marino you get your butt over here right now!” When I heard her tone of voice, I knew that “now” meant “right now, this instant, this moment, right here.” What tone of voice do you hear from our Heavenly Father? What tone of voice do you hear when he says there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus?
I have a tendency to live in the past in a destructive way where I miss the right here and right now of this promise. Whatever happened in my past and whatever I did in my past is covered by the right here and right now of this promise of immediate freedom. The Spirit of God was just as powerfully present back then as he promises to be right now. Those chains of the past, that shameful thing, that gross sin that I was guilty of, has been nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ and I am no longer a slave to it because of the promise of the word “now”.
Do you understand the immediacy of the word “now”? There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Where are you at right now? How would you describe your spiritual health right now? Maybe you don’t live in the past as much as I do. Maybe it’s your current circumstances that you find yourself trapped in or enslaved to or condemned by.
Maybe you find yourself living in fear because you can’t seem to earn enough acceptance in your relationships. You walk around all day fearing who will reject you next. Or maybe you find yourself bored with life. Every time a challenge arises you tap out because you are afraid of failure. So you just continue putting one foot in front of the other doing the same old things and hoping for different results while deep down inside you’re bored with the sanitary little cocoon of comfort you’ve created for yourself.
Or maybe you’ve worn yourself out trying to control everything. At one point in your life everything got way out of control. You hurt people and people hurt you in that season. So you’ve convinced yourself that it’s better to be in control of every little detail so you never get hurt again. But in the midst of all your striving to be in control you keep finding out that you are out of control. So you run around in fear of what bomb is going to drop next.
Maybe you feel weak and incapable of accomplishing anything good. You look at your life and you think you will never amount to anything. Your friends are getting ahead in life. They’re getting married. They’re having children. Their careers seem to be skyrocketing.
So you obsess every day about what you need to do to get ahead in life. To be successful. To achieve something of value that will outlive you as a legacy. You work your fingers to the bone with little to nothing to show for it except blood, sweat and tears. Your tombstone has a gap between the dates and you feel helpless to fill that gap with anything of significance.
If any of this hits home with you… can I just remind you again about the word “now” in our passage? There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. No condemnation simply means to be completely free from bondage. It means to be a slave to your sinful desires no longer. No condemnation means to be justified, made right with God, set free to love Him who loved you first. And this truth is not just a promise of future inheritance.
It’s the promise of something you have right now. Right now you are free. Right now you are justified. Right now you are perfect in front of your Father in Heaven. Right now there is no condemnation. If that kind of immediacy is available to you right now as you survey your past and your current struggle with sin… then what kind of desire is being awakened inside of you for Jesus right now? What kind of desire is being awakened in you for Jesus right now?
#3: What kind of relationship do you have with Jesus?
This might seem like a funny question to ask. But it’s an important one to ask. What kind of relationship do you have with Jesus? Is it intimate or distant? Is it overflowing or empty? Is it coexisting or nonexisting? We ask these questions about our human relationships all the time. We wonder if our human relationships are ok. We think about whether or not our human relationships are in good shape or bad shape.
We wonder if our kids are tired of us. We wonder if our spouse is bored or angry with us. We wonder if our friends still like us or not. We obsess sometimes (sometimes we obsess a lot) over whether or not we need to do something to make a relationship right. Or we wonder if we’ve done something to offend someone. And we worry if our human relationships don’t seem to be going in the right direction. What kind of relationship do you have with Jesus right now?
Paul says that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Notice that last phrase: for those who are in Christ Jesus. It’s a phrase that describes close relationship. To be in Christ Jesus is to be hidden in his presence or resting in his presence or satisfied in his presence.
This is the picture of a child hiding from the wrath of an enemy in the arms of their mom or dad. It’s the picture of a baby sleeping in absolute peace and comfort in the arms of his mother or father. It’s the picture of a starving child in a dark alley sitting safely at a banquet table with a master chef. To be in Christ is to be in a relationship with Christ. And to be in a relationship with Christ is to be safe and secure and satisfied.
What kind of relationship do you have with Jesus right now? Is it intimate or distant? Is it overflowing or empty? Is it coexisting or nonexisting? There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The invitation of this passage is to come and to hide your self in Christ. It’s to come and rest in Christ. It’s to come and be satisfied in Christ. There is therefore now no condemnation for you who are in Christ Jesus.
One of the things that Jesus said when he walked this earth was that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set free those who are being oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) The good news here is that Jesus came to set the captives free. He came to set you free.
If you haven’t trusted in Jesus yet as your Lord and Savior, you are not yet free. You are condemned to a life of slavery to your sin. Your sin separates you from God and your future will look no different unless you surrender to him today. He’s here today by the power of the Holy Spirit and he’s calling out to you. He’s proclaiming the good news of the gospel to you. He wants you to know that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. You’ll still struggle with sin. But you don’t have to stay in prison. You don’t have to be a slave to sin any longer. Will you stay in prison? Will you run back to your slave owner? Or will you accept Jesus’ invitation to come and to trust him and to be free?
For those of you who have accepted this invitation already… the promise of this passage is even more overwhelming because you realize now more than ever that in your human flesh you are hopeless to overcome sin. You face your sin every day. You know what it’s like to return to your vomit even though But thanks be to Jesus that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. You are free. You are no longer enslaved. Your sin last night doesn’t define you. You are not the sum of your sins. Your Savior is better at saving than you are at sinning. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.– Amen!