“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4)
In a court of law, the penalty for breaking the law ranges depending on the crime. In all states, the maximum penalty for murder is condemnation, either by separation from society or separation from life. From the beginning the penalty prescribed by God’s dictates for breaking His commands was condemnation – death. This played out in two ways: 1. separation from the Garden and the intimate relationship that was once experienced in the presence of Almighty God. 2. eventual separation from life through death as a result of the corruption of creation that sin had wrought.
Justice requires payment for transgression. Holiness demands death from sin. It’s an inescapable fact. It’s the consequence of natural and spiritual law of life. However, because of God’s great love for His creation, through His mercy and grace, justice is paid and holiness is satisfied in the cross of Calvary. Jesus Himself, having known no sin, was the spotless Lamb of God – having no blemish – stood in our place as the perfect, acceptable sacrifice for our sin as demanded by the law.
No more was the requirement of sacrifices at the temple, because the eternal Lamb had been slain “once for all.” No more would condemnation rain down upon those who are “in Christ Jesus.” But what does it mean to be “in Christ Jesus.” The very phrasing of the entire statement implies that there are some who are NOT “in Christ Jesus”, and as a result, condemnation is still reserved for them.
The ones who are “in Christ Jesus” are those “who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” The “flesh” in this case is simply those who live life according to their own appetites, instead of in obedience to the Word of God and the expectations of His righteousness. Not our own self-righteousness. Not the “righteousness” that is dictated by the world, but the righteousness that is spelled out in His Word. It is a different way of life because our old way of life before we were “in Christ Jesus” wasn’t working. It was self-destructive and leading to death and separation apart from Him. Why then would anyone who was “in Christ Jesus” want to continue to live life according to the flesh knowing that such a life leads to condemnation?
Repentance is the lost doctrine of the gospel that has been swept under the rug in the name of appeasement and self-aggrandizement. The Bride of Christ has become more interested in having the world like us that we have become conformist, rather than transformative. And this is indeed the great tragedy of the Church of today. If the “gospel” is not transformative, then it is not the gospel. Good news, truly good news, inspires action, celebration, and change. We act through repentance. We celebrate the good news through worship. We change through spiritual growth. But it all begins with the act of repentance. Without it, our worship is hollow and lifeless, and a lifeless existence cannot grow.
If you want to know for sure if you are “in Christ Jesus”, examine yourself. Examine your attitudes. Examine your habits. Examine your words. Examine your heart. Are you living life in accordance with God’s Word or in accordance with your own prejudices and desires that naturally conflict with His dictates? As Charles Haddon Spurgeon once put it “if I am a friend of God, I must be the foe of Satan and from this day I pledge myself to fight forever with Satan till I get the victory and am free from sin.” (“Consider Before You Fight”, c 1865)
It has been asked: “If you were ever on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I ask you, please, examine and consider your answer to this critical question. It’s not a matter of right or wrong; it’s a matter of life and death.