Law Fully Met in Us Through Christ (Romans Sermon 49 of 120)
December 16, 2001 | Andrew Davis
Purpose of the Law, Incarnation, Assurance of Salvation
I. Full Assurance, Can It Be?
Would you take your Bibles and open them to Romans Chapter 8, we're going to be looking this morning at the first four verses of this magnificent chapter. We had an overview last week, but now we're going to dig in and look at a little more detail in Romans Chapter 8, verses 1-4. What happens to an individual soul when that person comes to faith in Jesus Christ? Well, a number of things happen, but I want to talk about some writing that occurs. Do you know that the moment you come to faith in Jesus Christ, your name is written in indelible ink the Lamb's Book of Life? And you will suffer no condemnation for your sins, for your name has been written there in the Lamb's Book of Life. That is one writing that occurs when you come to faith in Christ, but there's another writing that occurs as well.
At the moment that you come to faith in Christ, God's law is written on your hearts with flaming letters, and the indwelling Spirit will compel you to walk in those ways the rest of your life. And that is the power of the text that we're going to look at today. God has given us a full and complete salvation from sin. When the angel appeared to Joseph, he said, "You will give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins." Not merely from the penalty of sin, as we discussed last time, and we'll continue thinking about. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." But from the power and the daily practice of sin. "In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us," it says, "Who do not live according to this sinful nature, but according to the Spirit." It's a full and complete salvation that we have, and that's what we're going to contemplate today. Now, we're looking at the idea or the concept of assurance of salvation.
Is it really possible that sinners can be fully assured on earth that they are going to Heaven when they die? Is that possible? I think it is, and I believe that's the whole reason that Romans 8 was given, that we might have a full assurance, all the way from no condemnation in Christ Jesus to no separation from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. A full assurance. But some people do not believe that assurance is possible, and some people do not believe that assurance is even beneficial to the Christian life. I was raised myself in the Catholic church. The Roman Catholic church denies the doctrine of assurance of salvation. In the Council of Trent, January 13, 1547, the sixth session on justification, they said this, "No one can know with a certainty of faith which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God." I grew up under that bondage, and praise God, He delivered me from it. That I might know that it is possible to know for sure and for certain that we have eternal life now.
"And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." Assurance of salvation, I believe, therefore, is your birth right as a Christian. You should have a full and healthy assurance. Now, when I was in seminary up in the Boston area, around Christmas time, and especially during the winter, some friends of mine and I would go into the inner city, and we would minister to street people. But the mentor who has started this ministry and taught us about it said, that you never want to give money to street people because you're not really quite sure what their situation is going to be. They may be in bondage to some kind of substance, maybe to alcohol or to drugs. And if you give them money directly, they may use it for that. It may end up being the very thing that you intended for life might bring destruction through them. Instead, what you want to do is find out what their needs are and meet the needs directly. And so if they needed work boots, because they had a job opportunity, if they just needed food, if they needed a place to stay, meet the need directly.
Well, I think that the Catholic church and others believe that that's what happens with assurance. It's like giving a $20 bill to an alcoholic. If God gives us assurance, we're going to take it and squander it on sin. That is not the case at all, and I think this whole concept is going to come together in the four verses that we're looking at today.
II. Basic Proposition: No Condemnation by God! (8:1)
Let's look again at Verse 1. It says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
The Context: Reverting to Romans 5
Now, the context here is that Paul has been unfolding the grace of God that is given us as a free gift, salvation through faith in Christ. And so, we have this magnificent sense of the power of the grace of God. If God's grace has taken hold of you, He's going to get you to Heaven. "And where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. So that just as sin reigned in death, so also, grace might reign like a king through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." So we have this solid sense of the grace of God, which opens us up to that very question. If we have this solid sense of assurance, aren't we just going to squander it in a life of sin? Doesn't matter how we live, and he's been dealing with that. Romans 6 and 7. And then he sums the whole thing up, and says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." So the context is this whole unfolding argument of the powerful grace of God, justification through faith in Christ alone.
Greater Context: Judgement Day
But the greater context is Judgment Day. Someday, every single one of us is going to face the Judgment Seat of God. We must face it, and we must understand that death comes without an announcement, and we must be ready. And Jesus Christ came into this world. He came from Heaven into that manger, not so that we might have kind of glowing Christmas celebrations every year, that's wonderful, but that we might have eternal life, that we might face judgment unafraid, that there might be no condemnation for those who have faith in Jesus Christ. And the greater context of Christmas and of our text here is the Judgment Day that we're going to face someday. Revelation 20, "And I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from His presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead great and small standing before the throne and books were open. Another book was open which is the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
What is “No Condemnation?”
And so therefore, the most important thing that could be said of you this morning is that your name is written in the Book of Life, through faith in Jesus Christ. And that's exactly what He's saying; in other words here, in verse 1, "There is therefore now, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." How sweet is that, that even now, not there will be no condemnation. That is true as well. But now, today, we can experience and enjoy a full assurance that there's no condemnation for us in Christ Jesus. What does this mean? It means the full record of all of your sins has been thrown into the depths of the sea. Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." Micah 7:19, "You will again have compassion on us. You will tread our sins under foot and you will hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." Have you ever imagined all of your sins, all of your transgressions bundled up in one place and hurled into the depths of the sea, to be seen no more?
That's what these words mean. No condemnation, and why? Because that babe in the manger grew up to be your atoning sacrifice for sin. And also, the New Covenant promise in Jeremiah 31:34, "For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more." And so He's seeking to give us this assurance. There is no condemnation, but then it's so stupendous, it's so astounding that He's got to prove it to us. We need to be assured, don't we? We need to be told again and again. Can it really be true? It is really possible for us to have assurance?
III. Proof #1: Deliverance Through Union with Christ (verses 2-4)
And so He gives us one proof after another, and we're going to look at the first today in verses 2-4, deliverance through a union with Christ. The fact that there is no condemnation is true only of one category of people; those who are in Christ Jesus. Did you see that? There is therefore now, no condemnation for who? For everybody? No. For those who are in Christ Jesus. What does this mean to be in Christ Jesus? Well, it means to be spiritually one with Him; to be united with Him by faith; to have trusted in Him as your Lord and Savior; to be one with Jesus Christ. It is for those who are in Christ Jesus. Every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms is given to you only in one place, in Christ Jesus. I want to put an image in front of you, and it's the image of Noah's Ark.
Whenever you think of that, you think of the little children's story, right? That tiny little boat with the huge giraffes sticking their heads out through. You know what I'm talking about. It wasn't tiny. It was massive, and God ordained that it be the vessel of salvation through eight souls that He had chosen. Now, let me ask you a question. How important was it to be in the Ark of Noah? Is that important? When the rain started coming down, did that matter whether you were in the Ark or not in the Ark? Did location make a difference at that point? Oh, yes, it made all the difference in the world. In the Ark, there is salvation from the wrath and the judgment of God. Outside the Ark, there is none. And so it meant everything whether you were in the Ark or not. And so also, it means spiritually for us, everything, whether we are in Christ Jesus or not. If you are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation, but if you are not in Christ Jesus, you are under the wrath and the condemnation of God. Look at the very end of Romans 8, the chapter we're looking at this morning.
It says there so beautifully, "I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is, [where?] in Christ Jesus." Is this an accident? No. There's no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and there's no separation for those that are in Christ Jesus. That's where the love is found, and there is no other place. Look back at Romans 6:23, back a page or two. It says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus." Do you see that? That's the only place to be. It's the only safe place. I don't care if it's Christmas time or the middle of the summer. In Christ Jesus is the place of safety, spiritually. It is the place of union. Now, this is what's being taught here, union with Jesus Christ. While you're in Romans 6, look at verses 4-5. It says, "We were therefore buried with Christ through baptism and a death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too, may walk in newness of life. If we are then united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection."
So, in Christ Jesus is the same as being united with Jesus spiritually. And what it means is that when Jesus died on the cross, you were one with Him spiritually. His death was your death, spiritually. And when He rose again from the dead, through the glory of the Father, by the power of the Spirit, His new life is your new life. And you're going to walk in newness of life if you are one with Christ. That's the basic message we're trying to get through in Romans 8:1-4. "His death is your death. His life is your life." Paul put it this way, "I have been crucified with Christ," that's union, "And I no longer live but Christ lives in me." So not only am I in Christ Jesus, but Christ Jesus is what? In me. There's a complete union spiritually between me and Jesus Christ. Now, why is this important? Well, we were born originally, spiritually, in Adam. Every single person on the face of the earth born in Adam.
What does that mean? It means you're under law. You're under condemnation. You're under judgment. That's where you were born, in Adam. At the moment of faith in Jesus Christ, you get transferred, you get rescued from that whole realm, that whole dominion, and brought into the new dominion of faith in Jesus Christ, of Christ, the dominion of Grace, the dominion of the law, of the spirit of life. You've been moved, you've been transferred from the law of sin and death to the law, the spirit of life. You were in Adam, and now you are in Christ. He puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:22, "As in Adam, all die. So in Christ, all are made alive." So, there's all kinds of categorizations that people do. If you're a poll-taker, you can categorize people by race, ethnic origin, by gender, by location, by educational status, by social status. Basically, God looks at the world and sees two categories of people: Those who are in Adam, and those who are in Christ Jesus. There's no third category. You're either in Adam, therefore, under law and under condemnation, or you're in Christ Jesus, therefore, free from law, free from condemnation, and under the leadership and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, the reason that there's no condemnation is given in verse 2, we already alluded to it, but it says, "The law of the spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death." There is a realm that we have been moved into. It is called the law of the spirit of life. Basically, you are under the law of the spirit of life if you're a Christian. What does that mean? It means you're not just going to sin all you want. It means that you are living by the power of the Spirit under Jesus Christ. The law of the spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death. Look back again at Romans 6:18. It says, "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." That's a deliverance, isn't it? Set free from sin. And have become slaves to righteousness, Romans 6:22, "But now that you've been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." Twice he tells us in that passage that we have been set free. We're no longer slaves to sin. We've been rescued. It says in Colossians Chapter 1, "From the dominion of darkness and brought over into the kingdom of the Son that He loves."
You've been delivered. Well, how was the deliverance made? It was done by the cross of Jesus Christ. Colossians 2:13 and 14, "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature," it says, "God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code with its regulations that was against us and that stood opposed to us. He took it away, nailing it to the cross." What does that mean? The law, the law of God stood opposed to you. Every line testified to your sinfulness and your condemnation. God took that written code and nailed it to the cross through the body of Jesus Christ. And you are under it no longer. Somebody say amen. Let's celebrate this. You're not under law anymore. You're not under condemnation. You're free forever from that. You're free from the condemning power of the law through the body of Jesus Christ.
Now, here, I want to make a key distinction. We are talking about justification here, not sanctification. We'll get to that in a minute. Why is that important? I will tell you why. I was raised as Roman Catholic. Justification is the declaration of God that I am not guilty for my sins. It's the admission into Heaven, the declaration from God that I'm righteous in standing before Him. Sanctification is the gradual working out of righteousness into my life so that my habit patterns and my life style become more and more conformed to Christ. Now, we understand from scripture that justification comes first, and then, sanctification follows as a result. That is exactly what Paul is teaching here. The Catholic church reverses them. The sanctification comes first, the holy life, the holy living. And then, as a result of that comes the justification on Judgment Day.
Does that make a difference? A world of difference, because that is bondage. Every moment you're never sure. Am I going to go to Heaven or hell? You never know for sure. Am I holy enough? Have I prayed enough? Have I gone to church enough? Have I given enough money? Is it enough? Let me ask you a question, is it ever enough? When do you know for sure that you've ever really made it? If you reverse sanctification and justification, you're under bondage. And that's what Martin Luther found. He said that it's never enough. I'm never free. My conscience is never free. I'll never know for sure. Now, the Christian doctrine is justification comes first, apart from works of the law, simply by faith in Jesus Christ and then comes the gradual working out of that through sanctification.
IV. Why Was the Deliverance Necessary? (verse 3)
Now, why was the deliverance necessary? Look what is says in Verse 3, "For what the law was powerless to do, in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so, He condemned sin in sinful man." The reason that the deliverance by Jesus Christ was necessary is that the law was weak through your flesh. The law couldn't save you, it was powerless to get you to Heaven. All the law could ever do is stand over you and tell you right from wrong, tell you what you needed to do, but it couldn't make you do it. Hebrews Chapter 7 is even stronger, it says, "The former regulation [the law] is set aside because it was [listen to this] weak and useless, for the law made nothing perfect." The law can't make you perfect, and so the law is powerless to get you to Heaven, because you must be perfect to go to Heaven.
I think a great illustration of this is the that the law is like a shiny steel shovel, a beautiful shovel like the kind they use for breaking the ground in a new building or something like that, a beautiful shovel with a rotten handle. See what I'm talking about? There's nothing wrong with the law, there's something wrong with the way it attaches to us, our flesh. The law is perfect but we cannot live it out, and it's only ever going to condemn us. It was weakened by the flesh, that's the whole point of Romans Chapter 7, we want to do it but we can't. And so therefore, we cannot deliver ourselves, we must be delivered.
V. How Was the Deliverance Achieved? (verse 3)
Well, how is the deliverance achieved? Look again at Verse 3, "What the law was powerless to do, in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering for us." That is the Christmas message. You know something, when we look at that little baby in the manger, we should worship and we should praise God as the angels did, and we should give glory to God that our salvation has come to earth and praise Him for it. But we should also be humbled by it. Why should we be humbled by the giving of God's own Son?
Because there was no other way to get you to Heaven. And so that is God's testimony to the human race's ability to get itself to Heaven by works of the law. Answer: You can't do it. "I have been crucified with Christ," Paul said, "And I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:21: "I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could come by the law, Christ died for nothing." You understand? If righteousness could come by the law, if you could climb the ladder of law up to Heaven, why did Jesus need to come down from Heaven to earth? He didn't, but He did, because we can't climb the ladder of law to Heaven. And so this deliverance was achieved by God. God sent His Son, it says, "In the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering."
Now, this is interesting. It says that He sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, this is very troublesome to some people. In the ancient church, a man named Marcian represented a group of people that were called the Docetics, what they believed is that Jesus was not really a human being. He only seemed to be a human being because the world, the physical world, was considered evil by this group, material stuff was evil. Furthermore, God could not suffer at all. A God that suffers is no god at all, so they believed. And so for these two reasons, Jesus could not truly have been man. And they pointed to this first, it says, "Likeness" of sinful flesh.
What is Paul doing, though, by putting this word "likeness" in here? Likeness of sinful flesh, the word sinful is in there. Jesus Christ came and looked like a sinner, just like the rest of us, didn't He? But He wasn't, He was a human being, "in the likeness of sinful flesh." He came to earth. Paul's being very careful to establish the humanity of Christ, but to separate Him from what? The sin of the human race. And so God sent His Son. It says, "In the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering." Jesus Christ was truly human. If you had been able to stand with Him on the hill that overlooked Jerusalem, and heard Him and seen Him cry, you could have taken your hand and wiped the tears off His cheeks and your fingers would have felt wet. If you could have walked along the roads with Him into Samaria, where He was about to have an evangelistic encounter with a Samaritan woman, you would have seen Him sit down tired by a well. He wouldn't have just appeared to be tired, He would have been tired.
If you'd been in the boat with Him during the storm and seen Him asleep with His head, it says, "on a cushion." Why do you think He put His head on a cushion? Why do you put your head on a cushion? Because the bench is hard, and so you put a folded up cloak or something because the bench is hard. He was fully man. If you had been with Him out in the desert and watched Him not eat for 40 days, at the end of that time you'd have seen Him hunger. If you had stood at the foot of the cross and heard Him cry out, "I thirst," you would have seen that He needed something to drink. He was fully human, yet was without sin. That's the point. And if He had not been without sin, He could not have been our sin offering. He could not have died in your place, but He did.
He took on a human body and He died in your place to be a sin offering, and in so doing He condemned sin forever. That is the sin condemnation, not on you. You're going to go free through faith in Jesus Christ. Isn't that beautiful? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, that He took on a human body and the likeness of a human being, walked along those roads for 33 years and died in your place that you might have eternal life.
VI. What Does the Deliverance Accomplish in Us? (verses 3-4)
Well, what does this deliverance accomplish in us? This is the point. Look again at verses 3-4. It says, "And so He condemned sin in sinful man in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." This is sanctification. This is sanctification. Jesus did all that for a purpose. Why? Because He wanted God's law to be met in your life. And so there are two great aspects of the new covenant that He brings.
Please take a minute, put your finger in Romans 8 and go over to Hebrews 8:12. There it says, in the middle of an Old Testament quote from Jeremiah, it says, "I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." What is that? Is that not justification? God declaring that you are forgiven of all your sins. No condemnation through faith in Christ Jesus for those who are in Christ Jesus. Look back two verses to Verse 10. "This is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people." Do you know if you're a Christian God did that the moment you came to faith in Christ, He took his law, all of it, and wrote it on your heart, and in your mind.
Shall we sin all the more that grace may increase? May it never be. If you're a Christian, you've got the law of God written in your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. It's written inside you and it changes the way you live, doesn't it? We don't walk according to the flesh. We walk according to the Spirit, along the tracks of the law. "You have set me in the path of your commands, and therefore my heart is set free. I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free." Psalm 1:19.
Now, what law has He written in the heart? Well, look at it this way, when Jesus Christ, it says, came into the world, He said, "Here I am. Your law is written on my heart, I have come to do your will, O God." That's the Christ who's living inside you and He delights to obey his Heavenly Father moment by moment in the tracks of the law. And what law? Jesus summed up all the law in two great commandments. You remember what they are. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind. And secondly, love your neighbor as yourself. This is what you'll be working on the rest of your life. By the power of the Spirit He's going to say, "Love me, love me all the time. Love me with all you are and all you have. Love me now. Love me in the moment of temptation. Love me in the moment of sorrow. Love me in the moment of grief. Love Me." He's going to be saying that, and by the Spirit you will love Him.
When you come in here on Sunday morning to worship, you're not going to be worshipping in the flesh, not at all. You're going to be worshipping in the power of the Spirit. He's going to be saying, "Love me. Worship me. Sing these songs to me. Pray these prayers to me. Love me with all you have." The Holy Spirit has been put inside you, that you might fulfill the righteous requirements of the law, that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in you who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. And when you see your neighbor, He's going to say, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." And that goes from little things all the way to big things. Do to others what you'd have them do to you. Love them the way you'd want to be loved in that situation. That's what the Holy Spirit is going to be doing in you, if you're a child of God.
And so this is genuine Christianity, no condemnation, and yet a powerful drive toward holiness in your life. I just want to conclude this morning by asking, do you have that? Do you know for sure, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that your sins are forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ? And at the same time, do you feel a relentless drive toward holiness inside you? That's what the Holy Spirit does in you. It's not a license to sin, rather it's the testimony of the Spirit. You're a child of God, and also a pressing of the Spirit to keep running the race with endurance; a testimony that when you die, you're going to Heaven, along with a pressure, put that sin to death. And I believe that the two of them coming together are the surest testimony to us that we have come to faith in Christ; a full assurance of salvation and a constant yearning after holiness. Do you have that in your heart today?