Freedom in Christ
July 9, 2023

Freedom in Christ

Passage: Romans 8:1-4


We all care what people think about us. When people size us up, we want them to approve of us – to approve of how nice we are, or how smart we are, or how successful we are. We want people to say that we’ve done things right.

Unfortunately, we’re often so concerned about what people think, we don’t give much thought about what God thinks of us, even though God is the one we’re ultimately accountable to. We’re content to hear people tell us that we’ve done things right – but what if we actually haven’t? Does God think you’ve done things right? Does he view you as righteous? Or does he view you as unrighteous?

When the apostle Paul was writing this letter to the Christians in Rome, he was deeply concerned about these questions. And in order to better understand our verses here in Romans 8, I want to summarize what Paul has said so far. Earlier in this letter, back in Romans 1, we’re told that “the wrath of God has been revealed from heaven against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of [humanity], who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” This opens up the question – who has done everything right in God’s eyes? Who can perfectly meet God’s standard? Who will escape from his wrath? Romans 3 tells us that none of us can hit the mark – “None is righteous, no, not one. No one understands. No one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless.” For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

But later, in Romans 3, we’re introduced to the solution for our problem. Though we are not right in God’s eyes – though it’s impossible to make ourselves righteous by keeping God’s law perfectly – Paul tells us that there’s another way to find favor with God.  – that “now the righteousness of God has been [revealed] apart from the law” and that “[this] righteousness of God [is] through faith in Jesus for all who believe.”

Jesus is able to supply us with righteousness because he lived a perfectly righteous life, because he bore the death penalty to remove our sin from us, and because He’s specially qualified to be a representative for humankind. When we put our faith in Jesus, He stands in our place before God. He represents us, kind of like when you have a Congressman voting on your behalf in the capital building. And as our representative, he presents us as righteous before God, he reconciles us to God, he rescues us from the enslaving power of our sin (of our corruption), and he raises us to a new way of life. These things all get discussed in Romans 4-6.

Chapter 7, though, deals with the complexities of this new life. Christians are no longer enslaved to sin, but we’re still affected by it. Paul describes his own internal conflict between sin’s influence in his life (which he calls the law of sin) and God’s influence in his life (which he calls the law of his mind, or the law of the Spirit of life). And Paul wants us to realize heading into Chapter 8 – though Christians will continue to be assailed by sin, Jesus Christ has destroyed its power to control us, and we will be delivered from our bodies of death.

In the opening verses of Romans 8, Paul reaffirms the big ideas he’s been making for the past several chapters. Here he points out two things that are true for everyone who trusts in Christ. Two things: They’re freed from condemnation and they’re freed from the law of sin and death.


1: Freedom from Condemnation

First, those who trust in Christ are freed from condemnation. Verse 1 clearly states, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

In the context of Romans, the opposite of condemnation is justification. If you’re condemned, that means that God declares you to be guilty and worthy of punishment. But if you’re justified, that means that God declares you to be, not only innocent, but righteous – and thus worthy of eternal life. Earlier in Romans, Paul states positively that those who trust in Christ are justified – that they’re counted as righteous in the eyes of God.

And here Paul says the inverse. In Christ, there is no longer any penalty – no condemnation. The wrath of God which is revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of mankind won’t touch us. The accusations of the devil won’t stand. The guilt, and shame, and regret we feel for our wrongdoings will be dissolved. On the Last Day, when the dead are raised and stand before God for judgment, the voice from the great white throne will declare, “NO Condemnation.” But you don’t have to wait until then to hear this verdict. Because there is therefore now – today, this moment – no condemnation for you if you’re in Christ Jesus.

Notice carefully, though, what qualifies someone to receive this verdict. It isn’t based on how nice or ethical you are. It isn’t based on how sorry you feel or how much you cry when you mess up. It isn’t based on how much you know about theology and history. It isn’t even based on how much you read the Bible and pray. The people who God declares to be righteous, who receive no condemnation, are those (and only those) who are in Christ through faith.

If you aren’t in Christ – if you aren’t trusting in the work of Christ at the cross – who else will take away your sin? Who else will supply you with righteousness that meets God’s standards?

There’s no other solution outside of Jesus.


2: Freedom from the Law of Sin and Death

And just as verse 1 tells us that there’s freedom in Christ from condemnation, verse 2 tells us that all who trust in Christ are likewise freed from the Law of Sin and Death.

Here in verse 2, Paul identifies two different laws – two different forces that are competing against one another to rule his heart (which is the same way he speaks at the end of Romans 7[:21-23]).

And one of those “laws” which is competing to control his heart is the law of sin and death. The reason that no one is righteous is because we’re born into this world imprisoned under this law of sin. For as long as we’re enslaved to sin – for as long as we’re under sin – we’re condemned. Death stands in victory over us.

But Paul insists that those who are in Christ – those who trust in Christ – are no longer condemned, for they have been set free in Christ from the law of sin and death.

Ultimately you and I can have freedom from the law of sin and death when we’re in Christ, because he’s done everything that’s necessary to set us free.

What has Christ done? Verse 3 tells us.

It says God did what the law could not do – he sent His Son, Jesus Christ – and notice how this is carefully worded – he sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, and condemned sin in the flesh. Jesus himself didn’t come in sinful flesh – he was totally without sin. So when Jesus went to the cross, he didn’t have any sins of his own to die for. He was able to represent us, and bear God’s judgment in our place. God condemned sin in the flesh – in the flesh of Jesus Christ.

If we had no substitute taking our place – no mediator standing in the gap between us and God – that condemnation would fall on us and crush us. But the text tells us that the condemnation fell on Jesus instead.

The result is that just as Jesus died, we have died to sin; we have been set free from the old slavemaster of sin because our old self which was a slave to sin has died. And just as Jesus has risen from the dead to new life, our new self has risen to a new life with new freedom.

And because we are in Christ, there is now a new law at work in us. Verse 2 says that “the law of the Spirit of life” has set us free from the law of sin and death. In other words, Christ has sent His Holy Spirit into our hearts to set us free from our bondage to the law of sin.

The text does not say that sin has been totally eliminated from our flesh – because it hasn’t been. Sin still dwells in our bodies – it still gives him problems. But we’re free because we now have a new principle – a new force – a new law that enables us to have freedom from the law of sin and death.

God knew that we needed a new operating system for our heart. We continue to need God himself to work, by his Spirit, to overcome the law of sin and death within us. This is how we experience freedom – it doesn’t come from ourselves – it’s found in Christ.

And this has extremely practical application for the Christian life. We won’t be able to fight sinful desires successfully if we’re relying on our own willpower. Freedom from the law of sin and death doesn’t come from us. It comes from the Spirit of life working in us and with us. So in our moments of temptation, we can call out to the Spirit of God and ask Him for strength. We can plead this verse, and say, “Spirit of God, you say you’ve set me free from the law of sin and death – please strengthen me to walk in this freedom, to set my mind on the goodness of your ways, to set my hope on the life to come, and to remind me again that your grace is sufficient for me.” Ukraine wouldn’t turn down 500 tanks if the US offered them – yet so often we neglect the greatest resources that God has given us in our war against sin.

As we walk according to the Spirit, our future is no longer determined by the law of sin and death. The wages of sin is death – but for those who are in Christ, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Those who are in Christ are no longer doomed to a life of unrighteousness and condemnation. Rather, in Christ we can live a new life, walking according to the Spirit.

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