Romans 8:1 KJV
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
I’ve seen this verse used so many different ways. In fact, I’ve used it so many different ways myself.
Some will use it to say – “Look, I’ve said yes to Jesus. Now I’m free, don’t judge me, let me enjoy my sins, you aren’t perfect either.”
Others will use it to sayp – “Believing is just the beginning. You have to prove you are a new creation by living a perfect life free from sin or you were never really born again and haven’t received the Holy Spirit baptism of Christ in you.”
So I think that this is a good verse to examine deeply.
Romans 8:1 GW
So those who are believers in Christ Jesus can no longer be condemned.
Romans 8:1 AMP
THEREFORE, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit. [John 3:18.]
Romans 8:1 Οὐδὲν ἄρα νῦν κατάκριμα τοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ μὴ κατὰ σάρκα περιπατοῦσιν, ἀλλὰ κατὰ πνεῦμα
The inclusion of the word “now”, I feel is important – because it’s use will inevitably bring up counter arguments about God being the same yesterday, today, and forever. The word used is vuv in the Textus Receptus, and there is no doubt as to its indicating the present as spoken by the author:
So one might argue if God works one way now, but worked another way previously, that God changes. I hope that I can help explain that the change is not in God, but in our revelation of God and what has changed from our perspective.
You see, John 1 tells us that Christ, the Word of God, has been since the beginning. The interactions that people had with God in the old testament were with the Word of God, with the part of Him that manifests into this earthly realm. Prior to Jesus Christ’s life on earth, these were only partial revelations because God had not yet come fully in the flesh as Jesus Christ.
So up until that point, people did not have a full understanding of God’s nature. They could look at the demonstrations of His power and His justice and it was awesome and mighty – and quite frankly, this dim, veiled understanding of God and His relationship with respect to most humans was quite terrifying.
God made it clear that He was not just some magician or trickster, but weilds the full power of being the creator and author of everything.
And even those pieces of wisdom that God handed down to man – man was so distant and far from understanding God’s ways, that man twisted wise guidance and instruction meant to help him, and he turned it into law and religion that he used to control and oppress and judge his fellow man.
To fully reveal God’s love and grace and mercy and to shine light on the foolishness of man who had turned beautiful wisdom into filthy law, He came to earth in the flesh, fully revealed in his nature and character as Jesus Christ, who demonstrated love and mercy and forgiveness towards others and a personal dedication to obeying God.
Christ did not condemn or accuse those that did not live up to His own level of righteousness – no, He offered them love, forgiveness, healing and redemption.
Christ did not use another person’s sin or lack of sin as a point of comparison to be proud of his own righteous life or as an excuse to justify being less obedient in his own life – no, He loved unconditionally, forgave unconditionally, and remained faithful to His father’s will regardless of the faithfulness or betrayal of those around Him.
You see, this is the light that man had twisted into darkness. Man foolishly thought that it was his actions that mattered, when what really matters is our heart.
Jesus Christ himself tells the religious teachers to go and learn what this means, that God desires mercy and not sacrifice. And He tells us that if we do all sorts of religious things and even perform miracles, if we do not have Love, then we are nothing.
He teaches us that love is the answer, not religious practice, and not a rulebook to hold up against everyone else to compare, accuse, judge and condemn – but to love, forgive, heal, and show mercy.
So this is why the word “now” is there. Without His example, we only knew the law. We didn’t see that this Law, the part of it that truly matters, the Spirit of the Law, Love – that it can be written on our hearts if we are His. So if we have Christ in us, we know love, because the Word of God is written on our hearts – and our eyes are unveiled as to how this Word of God can be used as loving guidance in our own lives – not as a weapon used against others.
That’s a pretty big shift of perspective when it happens. But the change is in us who are unveiled and who are no longer blind and in darkness, it isn’t a change in God, or in the truth that has always been the same since the beginning.
So Jesus Christ is where we find our Hope. Before Him we were blind to the hope, because we only saw an oppressing book of rules, not helpful and loving advice that truly is good and fruitful and positive and a blessing for our lives.
In fact, once we accept Him into our lives by believing in Him, and once we experience the shift of direction and purpose and attitude that comes with a repentant heart – the Holy Spirit, Christ in us, that Spirit part of God that interacts directly with our Spirit part in order to guide us, comfort us, teach us, and convict us about sin – our lives will begin changing from the inside out as we become more like our teacher.
Our Hope is fulfilled in the words of this verse “those who are in Christ Jesus”, because scripture tells us that if He is in us, then we are in Him, and that nothing can separate us from the love of our heavenly Father once we are His.
So that covered the original “now” at that moment that we received Christ – but doesn’t “now” follow us along this path, moment by moment? Even yesterday was “now” when we were in that moment, and tomorrow will soon become “now” once we reach it.
So “now” also means that we are walking
So “now” we are to walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Flesh – man nature, sensual, physical and visible
Spirit – the spiritual nature of God, demonstrated through Jesus Christ
And scripture is even nice enough to “break it on down” in Galatians 5 for us:
Galatians 5:16-18 ESV
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
So the Faith part of this walk is about while we are in the “now” we aren’t to follow the desires of the flesh. And you know what, scripture is nice enough to “break it on down” for us again:
Galatians 5:19-21 ESV
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
So the verse that we are studying makes it clear that if we have Christ in us, that we don’t “gratify the desires of the flesh”. I think that it is important to point our that not all of these are sexual in nature. I’ve seen plenty of religious folk ready to toss someone or of a church for sexual impurity white they are themselves known to have fits of rage and beat their wives – so each one is important to be aware of. Because if we are living in these, we are not living in Christ and we are not walking by the Spirit – and no amount of religious practice is going to earn that person’s way into heaven.
You see, it’s because God weighs our hearts and our minds. God is interested on what’s on the inside. He’s looking for love. He desires mercy, not sacrifice. And when we are right on the inside, when we are walking in the Spirit, we are fruitful:
Galatians 5:22-26 ESV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Yes, there is no law against love.
In fact, scripture process to us that love is the fulfillment of the law:
Romans 13:8-10 ESV
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
And that trends to make sense, since God is Love:
1 John 4:7-8 ESV
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
And His purpose for coming in the flesh was not to gather religious zealots who offer sacrifices to Him, but to teach us love, true love, sacrificial, unconditional love and mercy, so that we might share that same love and mercy and forgiveness towards others:
1 John 4:9-12 ESV
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
And we can have confidence in our salvation because of this Love that we have and we know:
1 John 4:14-16 ESV
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
Because even though the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom:
Proverbs 9:10 ESV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
Psalm 111:10 ESV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
Love is the fulfillment of the law, and we who are His have no reason to fear our Father who loves us:
1 John 4:17-19 ESV
By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.
And our love for others is the proof of our salvation, it is the fulfillment of His righteousness, it is what we do to honor and praise our Father God:
1 John 4:20-21 ESV
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
So, what am I doing with my “now”?
What am I following “now”?
Am I forgiving and showing mercy towards others the way that He demonstrated His love for me?
Romans 8:1 ESV
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 2:1-29 ESV
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. …
John 3:17 ESV
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Romans 8:34 ESV
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.