The Reality of Being In Christ
Truth Taught – All who are in Christ have been set free to follow Christ
Romans 7:14–8:5 (ESV)
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Last time we looked at these verses in some detail. We saw the war the Apostle Paul was fighting in his efforts to live according to God’s will. We saw that as hard as he tried there were still some times of significant failure and sin on Paul’s behalf.
He makes a summary statement concerning his sin when he concludes, 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Some will say that this is just Paul before he was converted, before he was saved. Oh, really? I have never heard a lost person speak like this. I have heard Christians who were battling sin speak exactly like this. I have said words similar to these under my breath or alone when struggling with the power of sin.
What I want us to see is in the middle of Paul’s battle and, beloved, in the middle of our battle with sin we must also come to another truth. This is the truth found in Romans Chapter 8.
Paul is a wretched sinful man. We too are wretched sinful people. As much as we’d like to think and especially like everyone else to think that we are so righteous and godly, at the end of the day, as Christians, we live in a corpse of sin as Paul exclaimed, who will free me from this body of death? Remember that our inner being is being renewed as our outer person is decaying.
Then, when Paul’s hopes of ever being able to live a life pleasing to God are lessening as he realizes just how bad things are, he shifts away from his sin to his Savior. When his attention leaves himself and is fixed on his Savior he is taken to the answer and remedy for his wretched condition. Beloved, this is where we too find the same answer to our sin and wretchedness…
8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 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, 4 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.
8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Paul begins Chapter 8 with a very clear and concise statement that is true for all believers. All who have come to Christ by faith alone and not by works are in Christ and will never see condemnation. He tells us over and over in Romans that it is entirely by faith alone with no works of the law.
Romans 1:17 (ESV)
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Romans 3:28 (ESV)
28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Romans 5:1 (ESV)
5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Because of the great work of salvation that Jesus performed for His people, there is therefore now no condemnation for those of us who are…in Christ. This concept is Paul’s favorite phrase. He uses it over 160 times in his epistles.
Paul’s statement is built on the previous truths he has presented. He inserts the word therefore as a connector to the previous 7 chapters.
Believers will not ever see the wrath of God. All condemnation either rests on the lost person or on Jesus Christ on behalf of God’s people. Never will we meet up with God’s wrath. The truth Paul presents in Romans is that either the sinner is justified by faith or suffers eternal condemnation. So, Justification and Condemnation are two opposites. All people will see one or the other.
Romans 5:18 (ESV)
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
He also tells us that there is therefore now no condemnation. The word now means that in Paul’s era something had happened that turn condemnation away. We know exactly what He is referring to. The death and resurrection of Jesus for God’s people has turned condemnation into justification.
He tells us that this is true for all who are in Christ. It’s not true for everyone, only, as Paul puts it, for those in Christ.
What does it mean to be in Christ?
To be IN CHRIST is the opposite of being in Adam. Paul has already taught us that everyone at birth is in Adam. In other words, Adam is our representative head and, if you remember, we said that headship means that everything that happened to Adam happened to us. He sinned, we sinned in Adam, he was condemned and we too are condemned with him, he was given the death penalty for his sin and we too die. So, for Paul, to be in Christ is to have Jesus as our representative head. Everything that happens to Jesus happens to us because He is our head. Jesus died for us and we died with Him, He was raised, and we are raised with Him, He is sinless and in God’s sight we are sinless with Him. He ascends to heaven and someday we too will ascend to heaven. So to be in Christ is to believe all God tells us we are in Christ by faith alone.
Let’s take a few minutes today to search out what the Bible has to say about what it means to be in Christ and what the amazing benefits are for those in Christ…
1 Corinthians 1:26–31 (ESV)
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Being in Christ or having our representative switched from Adam to Christ is God’s doing, not ours…He did it.
2 Timothy 1:8–9 (ESV)
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,
Ephesians 1:3–6 (ESV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Romans 8:38–39 (ESV)
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ephesians 1:7 (ESV)
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Galatians 3:26 (ESV)
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
Ephesians 2:6 (ESV)
6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
2 Corinthians 1:20 (ESV)
20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV)
2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
Philippians 4:7 (ESV)
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 (ESV)
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:23 (ESV)
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:22 (ESV)
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
As we should feel the eternal weight of glory because by faith we have entered into a new and eternal relationship for all who are in Christ, our Lord on the cross has turned the wrath of God away. There is therefore…right now no condemnation for those in Christ.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Why are we who are in Christ not condemned? It’s important here to realize that God had to do something very powerful and lasting to not condemn us.
Remember from Genesis…the day you eat thereof you will surely die? Yet, Paul has just told us that if you’re in Christ you will not be condemned. How can God do that and still be right and good and just? Paul addresses this eternal dilemma in Romans. How can God ever not condemn anyone when He has divinely stated that all who sin must die. The wages of sin is death etc. Justice would require that God keep His Word and condemn us and Paul is telling us there is no condemnation.
The way God can forgive sinners and still maintain holiness is that Jesus Christ was condemned for us. His death should have been our death. His scourging, our scourging, His cross, our cross and His death our death.
And in a wonderful way, the way of imputation, it was ours.
Romans 7:6 (ESV)
6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
God can forgive us our sins because Jesus died for them. So, sin was punished we can be forgiven and God can still maintain His complete holiness and His utter justice.
We are free. We are not free to do anything we like. Rather we are free from sin’s power and reign over us…
The freedom that Christ gives is complete and permanent deliverance from sin’s power and penalty (and ultimately from its presence). It also gives the ability to obey God. The very notion of a Christian who is free to do as he pleases is self-contradictory. A person who believes that salvation leads from law to license does not have the least understanding of the gospel of grace and can make no claim on Christ’s saviorhood and certainly no claim on His lordship.
3 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,
Remember we learned that the Law of God can provoke sin in us because of our rebellious nature when we hear someone tell us no or do not do something, it makes us want to do it even more. It is entirely good but we are entirely sinful. It doesn’t cause us to sin but stirs up the sin already in us.
Another the Law does is condemn us. It cannot save us but stands as a witness against us by proving the we are in fact sinners. It says do not covet and when I covet, the Law has just stood against me to condemn me.
Galatians 3:10 (ESV)
10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
So, God works on behalf of His people to do for us what the Law could never do…
Acts 13:38–39 (ESV)
38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
So the Father sends the Son in human sinful flesh although Jesus never sinned. In His flesh He died for our sin. When He died for His people, He bore their sin in His flesh…Paul tells us that He condemned our sin in His flesh.
Notice how we are going full circle. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus but He did condemn our sin and the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus as He bore our sin in His flesh. Because our sin was punished in Christ we can be released from sin’s eternal consequences and are set free to serve Christ in a new and fuller way.
4 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.
Why did God condemn sin in the flesh of Jesus? Why the cross? Why the gift of the Spirit to apply the benefits of the cross to the believer? The answer is so that something would happen in us that the Law was powerless to accomplish.
Paul tells us that the reason God saved us at least in part is so the righteous requirement of the Law would actually be fulfilled in us. Jesus paid the Law’s requirement, namely, the wages of sin is death. So, when Jesus died for us He took the punishment the Law required, so the punishment for being a law-breaking sinner is over. Now, something else must take place.
Because we have the indwelling Spirit of God and the Law of God written on our hearts, we begin to live out the righteous Law of God as a natural outflow of the Spirit residing within. He has written the Law on our hearts and we begin to walk or live according to the Law’s demands as a natural inclination of our heart.
Romans 8:4 tells us what a Christian’s walk is like. How can we get there? How can we walk more and more by the Spirit and less in the flesh? We might say it this way: how can we obey God more and sin less?
In the second half of verse 4 Paul tells us to simply walk in the Spirit. What he’s getting at is this…So many times we are guilty of a certain sin and the reason that sin plagues us is that it has offered something to us. We think we’ll get joy, significance, happiness or whatever by committing that sin. Paul is telling us to not try to disengage sin but walk in the Spirit. In other words if we are walking in the Spirit we are not sinning.
Galatians 5:16–18 (ESV)
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
John Calvin comments, “If we would obey the Spirit, we must labor, and fight, and apply our utmost energy; and we must begin with self-denial.”
Walking by the Holy Spirit is the denial of the self and one’s fleshly desires and turning to Christ to follow His example, asking the Spirit to enable us to do so. Consider today where you might be following the desires of the flesh and not the way of the Spirit. Repent and ask the Spirit to help you follow Jesus.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 403–404). Chicago: Moody Press.