No Condemnation

by Charles Hodge

"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 Apostle Paul commenced this epistle by announcing the Gospel, to be the wisdom and power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed. Having declared, where "the righteousness of God," or a righteousness which justifies with God was to be obtained, he proceeded to prove that neither by Gentile nor Jew could it be properly expected from any other quarter. To establish this truth he refers to the manifest departure of the heathen world from the knowledge and service of God, which, being voluntary and opposed to the clear dictates of the law of nature, brought them under condemnation. "For God will under to everyman according to his deeds, to those who obey not the truth indignation and wrath."

By the Jews, this fearful doom of the Gentiles, which seemed to favour their pride of privilege and nation, was freely acknowledged to be just. The Apostle then, with redoubled emphasis turns on them the sentence they just had ratified "wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself." "For with God there is no respector of persons if then they who had no written law were justly liable to perish, how much more ye "who through breaking the law you boast, dishonour God" Therefore every mouth must be stopped and all the world become guilty before God. From the fact of guilt and consequently condemnation being thus universal, the Apostle draws the conclusion, that "by the works of the law can no flesh be justified."

This, opens the way for the Gospel which comes proclaiming "we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood. The doctrine of justification by faith however, took not its rise from the Apostle Paul. It had before been witnessed both by the law and the prophets and the Jewish scriptures themselves, being taught that it was the faith of Abraham that was counted to him for righteousness. Thus it appears that under every dispensation it was the man justified by faith that lived.

Having established this important point the Apostle derives from it the following conclusion, "being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." This salvation is in the work of sanctification, commenced on earth and in the perfection of holiness consummated in heaven. That this salvation from sin is not from the law, is evident because the law simply commands without imparting strength to obey. So far is the Law from subduing corruption that sin revives at its approach and by the law becomes exceeding sinful. Whence then can deliverance come? Through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This Christ-preaching. Apostle having now proved to both Jews and Gentiles that justification and deliverance from sin were not to be obtained from the law, but through the redemption that there is in Jesus, proceeds to announce in the text the glory of the plan of mercy he taught, viz., the certainty of the final salvation of all believers. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit."

Before we proceed to speak of this delightful truth, it will be necessary for a moment to consider the import of the not phrases "in Christ Jesus," "walking not after the flesh" but after the spirit, because these expressions serve to designate those to whom there is no condemnation. To be in Christ Jesus is to be in covenant with Christ Jesus and implies a close and vital union. This is sometimes illustrated by the connection being the human family and their great progenitor "as in Adam all die so in Christ shall be made alive." Other illustrations are shown by the union between the vine and branches and our Savior compares the bond between himself and people to that which exists between himself and Father. "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father and ye in me and I in you." There are some expressions of the Redeemer on this subject of such a fearful import that he seems to prefer using them himself, rather than communicating them by the holiest of his servants.

But the most probable allusion of the Apostle in the text, is to the cities of refuge. It was a statute in Israel that when a man by accident had slain his neighbour and was exposed to death by the hand of the avenger of blood, he was to fly to the nearest of these cities where alone security was to be found. This beautifully illustrates the act of saving faith. When the soul is awakened to a sense of guilt and beholds the Law approaching with its sentence and its sword, anxiously looks around for some way of escape. But finding every successive avenue closed, flies at last for refuge to lay hold of the hope that there is in Jesus, and within the compass of his arms finds salvation. By being "in Christ Jesus" therefore we are to understand being united to him by faith. That such is the import of the expression is rendered certain from the same effect being ascribed to "believing" and to this union. "He that believeth is not condemned" and "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." It is not sufficient therefore to be in the visible church, to be found within the pale of orthodoxy, or to the number of regular professions we must be "in Christ by faith not having our own righteousness which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ the righteousness of God by faith."

This faith is not the simple assent of intellect, it is an active vital principle, hence they who are in Christ "walk not after the flesh," but "after the spirit." In the preceding chapter the Apostle had spoken at length of the existence and conflicts of these two opposite principles. He here introduced the subject again and clearly teaches that our character and destiny is to be decided according as we obey the one or the other. "If ye live after the flesh ye shall die, but if through the spirit ye do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live."

By the flesh we are to understand our nature in its present corrupt state. The phrase "walking after" imports "regulating our conduct according to." This explanation being admitted, we may easily discover the outlines of the character they serve to designate. It is the great principle of fallen beings "to love and serve the creature more than the creator." If then this principle governs us, our character can be no longer dubious. In order to ascertain this interesting truth it will only be necessary to determine the object we supremely love and seek and the motive that mainly regulates our pursuit. It then any creature is good, whether wealth or pleasure or honor or friends or anything else than God occupy supremely our thoughts and affections, it is evident that the creature still holds the creator's throne and receives his tribute, that we are still living in obedience to the characteristic principle of our corrupted nature, that we are still walking after the flesh. Again, as the motives which actuate our conduct are always of a similar nature with the objects we have in view, the slightest examination will enable us to discover that the main spring of our actions is selfishness or some natural affection. This is even though dignified by names which serve to conceal their nature from ourselves and help them on the world for honourable principles. But brethren, every man whose treasure and whose heart is this side of heaven, whose desires and whose plans seldom reach farther than the grave, whose maxims, rules and motives are drawn from the world, is walking after the flesh.

Walking after the Spirit is walking agreeably to the directions of the spirit and as these directions are contained in the word of God, those who regulate their creed and conduct by the dictates of that word walk after the spirit. It also implies the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a principle of life and action. They then who walk after the spirit are those who have experienced the renewing of the Holy Ghost. They have heard the voice of the son of man and live wherever this principle has been spoken into life as it constitutes the character in the sight of God. Because wherever it is, it governs, it is ever at the helm and however, often the soul may by storms of passion be driven from its course, still it is this that steers man faithful and keeps a steadfast y eye upon the star which stands above its haven. This spiritual life is evinced by the pursuit of spiritual objects from spiritual motives. By considering heaven as our home and its joys as our portion, by labouring to subdue our sins in all their vast variety of forms, by dying daily, by seeking with diligence and prayer the salvation of souls, the progress of piety, the diffusion of the Gospel and the coming of the latter day of glory. It is being and doing all this from love to God and holiness. They and they alone who thus live, walk after the spirit which has been sent down from heaven to shed through the word illumination on the pilgrim's path. They who thus live, though now they may be clothed in sack cloth are seen to be clad in white raiment and stand with palms of triumph, singing the song of salvation. For there is now no condemnation to them "which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit."

We come now to show that those who believe are already saved or that to them there is now no condemnation. The Apostle had shown, that as by the offence of one a judgment, had come on all men condemnation so by the obedience of one man's righteousness had come on all to justification of life. That is by Adam's violation of the conditions of the covenant, all included in him, were subjected to the curse so, by Christ's fulfillment of these conditions, all united to him are freed from the curse. When the sinner believes he becomes thus united with Christ as his head and substitute and receives of God the gift of the Redeemer's righteousness, thus by the obedience of one many are made righteous. All the Law demands of the believing sinner is answered by his Saviour and to the sinner therefore there is now no condemnation. Hence as long as this union remains unbroken, the believer remains secure, to prove therefore that this union never will be broken is to prove that the believer never will be lost.

The considerations to be adduced at present in support of this point will be drawn from these two sources the faithfulness and the love of God.

The idea of the faithfulness of God includes that of his immutability and implies a steadfast adherence to all his purposes and uniform execution of all his plans. From what God has revealed to us of his perfections, we cannot but believe that he has a plan comprehending all things and that his watchful providence is ever engaged in its steady prosecution. Though we who perceive but a narrow circle in the immensity of his operations and cannot now see how all things are to work together for good, yet what we know not now we shall know hereafter, when we see the whole resulting in the most perfect harmony and beauty affording the subject of ceaseless study and praise to saints and angels. Will it not be admitted then that God has a design in all he does in the result of which there can be no uncertainty?

If this be true, God has his purpose in the work of redemption, "the magnifying riches of his grace in bringing many sons and daughters unto glory." That he should fail in his design is utterly inconsistent with his foreknowledge, his wisdom and his power, some therefore must we saved. But the same attributes which secure the entrance into glory of some of the subjects of his grace constitute the ground of confidence of all. For if the event be uncertain with respect to one, it is to each one and to all, but it cannot be uncertain in regard to all and therefore it is not in regard to any. Hence we infer that where God has begun a good work, he will carry it on to perfection, that where the day hath dawned the sun shall not forget its rising. What God begins, he finished but the salvation of all who are in Christ Jesus is begun, therefore the faithfulness of God is involved in its completion. They were dead and are alive again, but since it is not they who live but Christ who liveth in them, while he lives they must live also. In the morning of their resurrection they heard the delightful assurance "I will never leave you nor forsake you. Though the mountains should depart and the hills be removed yet my kindness shall not depart from thee neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee."

Again, the faithfulness and constancy of God secured the believers' union to Christ because he has already recognized them as his children in him. "They who are in Christ Jesus walk not after the flesh but after the spirit, but as many as are led by the spirit of God are the sons of God and have received the spirit of adoption. The spirit bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, and if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." And will a faithful God permit his own children to be lost? If enclosed in if arms of parental fidelity whence can danger come? Can any in earth or hell elude a father's watchfulness and steal his children from his arms, or can any pluck them from his hands? The embrace of our God is the strong tower of the righteous, it is a sanctuary the adversary dare not enter. The believer knows in whom he has confided and that he is able and determined to keep what has been committed to his charge. Do the children of the kingdom still fear they may be forgotten and will someday fall by the hand of their enemies? Let them hear their Father say, Can a woman forget her sucking child? Yea, they may forget yet will not I forget them. Behold I have graven thee on the in the palms of my hands. I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer the mighty One of Jacob." The Psalmist had never seen the seed of the righteous begging bread and shall the children of Almighty God lose their inheritance? If children, they are heirs.

The faithfulness of God affords the believer yet another ground of confidence. It is his covenant. "Wherein God willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel confirmed it by an oath that by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us." The heirs of promise are Jesus and the joint—heirs with Christ, that when we have seen are the children of God they are known by their walking after the Spirit. To these, there are promises confirmed by the oath of God. The promise to Jesus is that he should see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied, that all who had been given him should come to him and that those who believe upon him should not perish but have ever lasting life. The promise to the believer is grace on earth and glory in the heavens. Behold, O Christian the deed of thy inheritance. Relying on this covenant Jesus Christ came down from heaven to seek and save his people, to accomplish the condition on which their salvation was suspended and "It is finished." For these he has suffered and obeyed. The demands of the holiness and justice of God are completely satisfied. And since Christ has died and God has justified, who is that condemneth? Can Satan their accuser before God effect it? We answer no, because he that died, has risen and standeth at the right hand of God where he maketh intercession for us and he it is whom the Father heareth always. Can our own corruptions condemn us? We answer no because the salvation of Jesus Christ is a salvation from sin, every believer has the promise of the Holy Spirit to abide with him forever, to be in him as a well of water springing up unto everlasting life. The believers' hold of heaven is not the grasp of his own palsied hand, it is the upholding of the Lord, it is being kept by the mighty power of God through faith unto salvation.

Secondly, that the union between Christ and believers never can be broken or that to them is no condemnation may be argued from the love of God, on this we shall dwell but a moment. The opinion that believers may fall into condemnation proceeded on the supposition that our intrinsic holiness or moral excellence is the ground of divine love. If so, its continuance must indeed be suspended on our character or conduct and we may easily pass from being objects of his love, to subjects of his wrath. But look back to the look whence you were known, remember thy nativity, "in the day that thou wast born none eye pitied thee but thou wast cast out in the open field to the loathing of thy person, and when I passed by thee and saw thee polluted in thy blood, it was a time of love and I said unto thee, live and I spread my skirt over thee and entered into covenant with thee, saith the Lord God and thou becamest mine."

From this affecting description of the state of the people of God when they first became the objects of his love we learn its entire freeness. And we infer that unless there be mutability in God his love is everlasting. Nor is this all, for the sure effect of this love is to raise every soul on which it rests from its state of sin and wretchedness. This the Prophet Ezekiel expresses in the continuation of his beautiful allegory. Still speaking in the name of the Lord, he says, "Then washed I thee with water, yea I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with provided work and I girded thee with fine linen. I decked thee also with jewels. And thy renown went out among the heathen for thy beauty for it was perfect through my comeliness which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord." The argument thence derived is this, that if God so tenderly loved the soul when involved in corruption, how much more when renewed in the image of his son, enwrapped in his righteousness and crowned with his salvation. Or in the powerful language of the Apostle "God commendeth his love towards us in that while we were enemies Christ died for us, much more being now reconciled by his blood shall we be saved from wrath through him."

Moreover the greatness of the love of God is such as effectually to preserve the believer. As this love is sovereign in the selection of its object, so its degree is not to be measured by their intrinsic merit, no my brethren, it partook of the infinitude of God. It is an immensity which stretched far beyond the reach of any finite intellect, its—height, its depth, its length, its breadth admits of no created measurement. Men and angels are fatigued with the effort to comprehend it, sink in ad ovation and confess it passes knowledge. The expense at which this love was exercised magnifies its greatness beyond conception. "He loved us and gave himself for us," himself in the person of his son. Can love so infinite fail of its effect? If God spared not his own son but delivered him up for us all how shall he not with him freely give us all things? And brethren, in giving us Christ has he not already given us all things, is not Christ our all? Our wisdom righteousness, sanctification and redemption in him our Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength in him, is all the fullness of the God head. They then to whom Christ is given have everlasting life. To them there is no condemnation for neither life nor death, nor angels nor principalities, can separate them from his love. He that is in Christ Jesus may be defiant t to the universe and smile at the myriads of Satan as they gather for the contest, in Christ Jesus their discomfiture is easy, the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly, the right hand of the Lord hath already gotten him the victory.

That there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, we infer because an faithful and unchanging God has already begun their salvation, has acknowledged them as children and as heirs, and has this his covenant confirmed their safety by two immutable things, his promise and his oath. And this is because it is in consistent with the freeness and immensity of his love.

Are "we walking after the flesh" or "after the spirit?" Walking after the flesh does not necessarily imply a course openly immoral. It is consistent with an exemplary deportment and belongs to many who are adorned with much of the loveliness of virtue. It belongs to all who do not truly desire as their chief good, deliverance from sin and the enjoyment of God. Because when the Spirit is implanted in any soul, that soul must be spiritual in its supreme affections and whenever this Spirit dwells it will be evinced by strong desires after holiness and holy enjoyments. "O God thou art my God, early will I seek thee. My flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is." The soul which has this thirsting after righteousness and God cannot be satisfied with the pleasures and profits of the world. They can no more satiate his thirst than the sands of the desert the thirsting of the hunted hart. It is for rivers of holiness here from the throne of God for which he pants. Whether those who are satisfied with the things of this present life and whose main object is their acquisition and enjoyment can hope for this Spirit, judge ye. If not, they are walking after the flesh. If so they must die. Does this rule appear too severe? Search and see if it be not in the sacred Scripture, the only true criterion of character, and if that word condemn us, here it will hereafter.

How great is the blessing of being "in Christ Jesus." It is connected with exemption from the penalty of the law with progressive holiness and eternal glory. By being in Christ the believer becomes one with Jesus, has his strength to protect him, his grace to adorn, his fullness to satisfy and his glory to enable him. He has the right even now if looking round on all things as his, "whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come." Yea his present afflictions by virtue of this union are brightened into mercies, the very storms of life which chill his soul still waft it on to glory. Christian brethren, prize your privileges, being "in Christ Jesus," live upon the riches of his grace. Study much the chapter whence the text is taken, you will find it a spiritual Pisgah, which you may see beyond the vale where clouds and darkness settle, the hills of glory rising in the land of your inheritance And when called to descend from this mount of vision to resume your journey through the wilderness, let it be with confidence. Though you may be forced to groan, being burdened, remember the sufferings of this present state are not worthy to be compared with glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. Wait then for your adoption with humble confidence for is now no condemnation. But to him who is walking in the flesh there is nothing but condemnation. The law, the justice, the holiness of God all sentence him accused. There is no view of his condition which is not filled with gloom, their mercies received without gratitude turn to poison. Their afflictions are unmingled bitterness, their brightest hopes but visions, their sure inheritance, eternal death, their present refuge forgetfulness or delusion. To escape from a God who is anywhere and everywhere but in Christ Jesus is a consuming fire, is vain. To that sole refuge fellow sinners fly, for "in him there is now no condemnation."

To him be glory everlasting.


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