Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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No Condemnation

Rev. Cornelius Hanko (no date given)


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

Two men went into the temple to pray. The one was a highly esteemed Pharisee; the other was a despised publican. They both entered the temple. The one walked in confidently and stood where everyone could see him. The other barely got within the portals. The one lifted his head proudly upward. The other with bowed head beat his hand upon his breast.

They both spoke of sin. The one was glad to be able to say that there were much worse people than he around, even this publican, for example. The publican did not think of anyone but himself. He knew but one great sinner, and that was himself. The Pharisee sought peace in the fact that he was an esteemed member of the church. The publican begged only for mercy.

The Pharisee when home with no more peace of heart than when he came. The publican found peace. He could sing this triumph song of our text: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:1).

Paul tells us that he had a very similar experience. In the previous chapter he does some very serious soul searching. He knows that God’s law is good, holy, just; but he is a sinner. He finds in him that principle, that new law, that he loves God. But he also finds sin.

That is the big conflict, the big tension in his life, for when he wills the good he does the evil. The very thing he hates and does not want he finds himself doing over and over again.

What shall he say? He looks at himself, and says, "O wretched man" (Rom. 7:24). He looks to God and His work of grace and says, "I thank God in Jesus Christ" (Rom. 7:25). And thus he comes to the conclusion of our text, which must also be ours: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:1). Let us consider:

No Condemnation
I. What?
II. How?
III. For Whom?


I. What?

Condemnation is strictly a legal term. It implies a court trial, a judge, an accuser, an accused, a verdict and a sentence of condemnation.

Paul finds himself confronted with such a court trial from day to day.

God is Judge, the righteous Judge of heaven and earth. He sits on the throne and His eyes behold the children of men. He sees, hears and knows everything. He searches our inmost thoughts, our secret desires, our whole being.

He is always passing judgement. He must because He is holy and righteous. He calls the good good and the evil evil. He judges according to His perfect law. That perfect law demands love, love to Him with our whole being, and love to Him reflected in our love to the brethren.

He calls each of us before His judgement seat, even in our consciences, every day, just as really as we shall one day appear before the great white throne.

O, I know, we can try to make excuses.

We can compare ourselves with others, as the Pharisee in the temple did. We can think of notorious sin that some people commit, and be rather proud that we haven’t done anything like that ourselves. We may even curl the lip in scorn at the way some people live.

We can even appeal to the many good deeds that we do and our good reputation among our fellow church members. We do, after all, live respectable lives. We pray, read our Bible, attend church, and so on.

We can appeal to all that—but, there is still the conscience. And God who searches the heart speaks to the conscience in secret. He points out those outstanding sins that we have committed. He causes us to blush with shame when we think about them.

But He also points out that there is much more. We are always sinning. He makes us aware of our depraved nature, which we had from the time we were born. What a guilty stain rests on our souls! Guilt before we were born! Sin increased every day! We only increase our sin more and more!

We might almost say, "O God depart from me, for Thy judgement is righteous. Thy verdict is true. Thy sentence is always a death sentence, of eternal death in hell. Nothing less can satisfy Thy justice."

But then, wonder of wonders, we hear the verdict clear and simple there is no condemnation. This is wonderful because it is so positive. There is condemnation as to nothing. God tells us that our sins though they be never so many are done away, forgiven, wiped out, as if they never existed. We stand before Him as those who never had had any sin. We art holy and righteous in God’s sight. Therefore no condemnation. This is what the word of our text means!

Still it is more wonderful than that. God says to us, "You are worthy of eternal life. As I see you, you are worthy to be My son, My heir. It is as if all your works have merited life, everlasting life and glory."

Father does not merely forgive the wandering, unfaithful son, but restores him to His love, to his place in the family. He gets out the best robes and kills the fatted calf. God assures us that we never will be destroyed by sin, we will never be condemned. We are justified, righteous before Him forever and heirs of salvation! Condemnation? No, quite the contrary, life, blessedness! "Come, my beloved, to my table of communion," says the Lord.


II. How?

Our text also points out how that is possible. Not all men are thus justified, of course, but only those who are in Christ Jesus.

"In Christ Jesus" is a very familiar expression, and a very important one. Paul likes to use it and does so over and over again.

God’s people are in Christ. I don’t have to tell you; you know that this is solely by sovereign good pleasure. We do have to remind ourselves though that according to our text this, too, is entirely a legal matter. It is based on strictest justice.

Just as a wife is included in her husband by law, or just as children are reckoned with their parents by law, so God’s people are in Christ. The parents are responsible for the children; the husband is responsible for the debts his wife accumulates. They are legally one. They vowed this and established this legally when they were married. And let me add that all that the husband owns belongs legally to the wife; all that the parents have belongs also to the children as long as they are minors under their parents.

Similarly, we are in Christ. Legally! We belong to Him by God’s decree, by God’s righteous law in heaven. This cannot be changed … ever.

This means that we belonged to that faithful Saviour on Golgatha. He died our death under our curse in our stead.

We belonged to Him when He arose. He triumphed over our death and arose. God proved to him, to us, and even to the whole world that death was overcome, that He and we have the right to eternal life.

We belong to Him now as He is in heaven. That is why He intercedes for us as our advocate there. Legally, we are already in heaven in Him.

All of which means that Christ is our righteousness. He is righteous. He is righteous in Himself. He is righteous by His merit. He arose because He had overcome death. He is rewarded with heavenly glory. Jesus Christ, the righteous One, is our advocate in heaven.

And in Him God sees us. He was our cover on the cross. Our wrath He bore. He is our intercessor and Lord in heaven. God hears Him and blesses us.

But how do God’s people come to share in that? By faith. Faith is a bond, a living bond, even in our consciousness. Faith causes us to say that we belong to Him. He tells us, "You are mine." We say by faith, "He died for us, arose and lives for us." Thus, we are righteous. No condemnation!

The Christian says to the devil, "You can never claim me any more." He says to the world, "I don’t belong to you any more." He says to the flesh, "You will never have dominion over me again."


III. For Whom?

But who are they who are not condemned? How do we know that we are not condemned? He is the earmark: "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom 8:1). Flesh refers to our sinful nature. Sin works through our will, mind, ears and eyes.

The Christian has a new principle and a new spirit. Christ dwells in us as Almighty God and Saviour. The Christian has a new will, a new desire and a new mind. This does not mean perfectionism, for sin is still in our members. Thus there is a bitter struggle in us. Is that true of you and me? It is true of us, beloved, who believe in Jesus Christ.

But what happens when we sin? The Spirit withdraws and we are far from God. There is no peace and no assurance; only anxious concern. God has no fellowship with sinners in darkness.

But walking in the light we have fellowship with God and with one another. We enjoy that too. We can say, "There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus for me! I know, for the Spirit draws me. That is not my work but His and He will finish it." To God be the Glory! Amen.

The life of Rev. Cornelius Hanko, the author of these devotional sermons on Romans 8, is covered in his memoirs, Less Than the Least.