By Tim Sullivan

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
(Romans 8:1)


The sacrificial death of Jesus was never meant to drown Christians in a pool of their own guilt-stricken tears. Although we do well to recognize our unworthiness of such amazing grace, we err to make that unworthiness the focus of our faith. It is the righteousness of Christ that is central, and not our unrighteousness. This we must understand, lest our faith be contaminated by the pursuit of self-justification.

Romans 10:3:
For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

On the other hand, the Cross is not a tool to hoist our self-esteem. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a message of indiscriminate self-acceptance. Sadly, this is the essence of the “feel-good” version of the gospel that has become so popular today.

A verse frequently cited to promote the feel-good gospel is Romans 8:1. This verse is misused to spread the notion that once a man accepts Christ as his Savior, he is forever free from guilt, shame or remorse. Romans 8:1 is used like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card in the game of Monopoly. A man can sin without fear of consequence because “there is therefore now no condemnation.”

Even a cursory look at the “no condemnation” assurance of Romans 8:1 shows that this promise is conditional. The promise of “no condemnation” is to them “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” This does not refer to our redemption; it speaks to our Christian walk.

The Law of Sin and Death

Romans 8:1 heralds a transformation from what was to what is now. There is therefore NOW no condemnation. But what was the situation previously, before now? For what reason were we aforetime condemned?

In order that man should know the requirements of holy living, God ordained righteous law. The blessing of the law was the promise of life to all that kept it. The curse was the promise of death to all who did not.

Deuteronomy 30:19:
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

With his law, God defined holiness. God’s standard of truth measured man’s deeds, and man was confronted by his sinful condition. As Paul wrote, “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Rom. 7:7). By his inability to keep the law, man showed himself guilty before God.

Romans 3:19:
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

Webster’s Dictionary defines condemnation as “the judicial act of declaring one guilty, and dooming him to punishment.” Through the offense of the first man, Adam, all mankind was made guilty before God. For this cause, all humanity was condemned.

Romans 5:18:
Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation...

The failing of the law of God was that it could show the requirements of righteousness, but it could not make a man righteous. This is “what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). The weakness of the law was due to the weakness of the flesh. In order to do righteous deeds, one must first be righteous. In his sinful condition, no man could keep the law of God. All the law could do was prove man’s guilt. If man could keep the law, he would not need the law. That is why 1 Timothy 1:9 says, “the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane.”

The Works of the Flesh

When we think of God’s Law, our thoughts often turn to the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17). But when asked, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus did not answer (as might be supposed) with one of the Ten:

Mark 12:29-31:
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Jesus answered from verses we now find in Deuteronomy and Leviticus (see Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18). But once again, there was a problem. No man of the flesh can keep these commandments because the works of the flesh (as revealed in Gal. 5:19-21) are entirely evil. The works of the flesh are sins against God and man, the complete antithesis of the great commandments. God’s commandments define man’s proper relationship with God and his neighbor. The compulsion of the flesh is to sacrifice these relationships in favor of its own selfish interests.

Galatians 5:19-21:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

In the list of seventeen works of the flesh, “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10). Clearly, sinful man was rightfully condemned. The first four acts named in the list of works of the flesh – adultery, fornication, uncleanness and lasciviousness – violate the call to moral purity. The next two – idolatry and witchcraft – violate the call to spiritual chastity. The following nine – hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, and murders – violate your neighbor. The last two in the list of the “works of the flesh” – drunkenness and revellings – violate the call to “yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness” (Rom. 6:19). More than your fingers and toes, your “members” are your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength – all which must be offered at the altar of the Lord in their entirety in order to fulfill the great commandment.

The Law Fulfilled

“The law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2) was “upon all men to condemnation” (Rom. 5:18). But in His mercy, God provided man a way to escape his doom.

Romans 8:3:
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

Jesus paid the penalty for our sin when he died on the cross, liberating us from the law of sin and death.

Galatians 3:13a:
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us...

Romans 8:2:
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Now, being made righteous in him, it became possible for mortal men to do righteous deeds. He could put off the works of the flesh, and keep the great commandments.

Romans 6:22:
But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

Man was now equipped to fulfill the righteous demands of the law. How? By walking after the Spirit!

Romans 8:4:
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Galatians 5:16, 18:
When we walk in the flesh, we fulfill the lust of the flesh. When we walk in the Spirit, we walk in righteousness, free from the law. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

When we walk according to the flesh, we are rightfully condemned for violating the laws of God. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die,” says Romans 8:13, “but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” But when we walk by the Spirit, the very nature of the Spirit is to uphold the righteousness of the law. We are not condemned by the law, because we fulfill the law!

Romans 13:10:
Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Galatians 5:14:
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

This is why “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”! When we walk in the Spirit we produce the fruit of the Spirit, fruit that does not violate the laws of God but rather fulfills it.

Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

The Chastening of the Lord

The “feel-good” gospel seeks to eliminate the consequence of sin. Even worse, it instills rebellion against God by teaching Christians to despise the chastening of the Lord.

Hebrews 12:5-6:
And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Feelings of remorse and shame are the HOLY response to uncovered sin. God forbid we should not feel condemned when confronted with our sin. Pity those who have so hardened themselves to the Lord’s correction that they have become numb to His leading. Such are those “having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2).

When we are led of the Spirit, our heart will not condemn us, and “if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God” (1 Jn. 3:21). But when we are led by the flesh, we will know his disapproval.

Hebrews 12:11:
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

The promise of “no condemnation” is to all who walk in truth, fulfilling the law of Christ. Let us strive to walk in this way, for then we are free from condemnation.



From the July 2007 issue of The Vine & Branches