We have been considering the ways in which men are held in bondage by fear, guilt, and shame. Fear threatens their safety. Guilt challenges their righteousness. Shame assaults their glory. Given the reality of sin, our response to this has to be true safety, genuine righteousness, and real glory—all given to us by another.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:1–6).
Summary of the Text
Those who are in Christ Jesus are described as those who walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (v. 1). For these, there is no condemnation. There are two contrasting laws. One is the law of the Spirit of life and the other is the law of sin and death (v. 2). The former sets us free from the latter. What the law could not do, God accomplished by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be condemned on the cross (v. 3). This condemnation on the cross did what all the righteous injunctions of the law could not do. This is what enables those who walk after the Spirit to fulfill the righteousness of the law (v. 4). Fleshly minds seek out fleshly things. Spiritual minds seek out spiritual things (v. 5). This means, at the end of the day, the fleshly mind seeks out death while the spiritual mind seeks out life (v. 6).
Freedom from Three Chains
In this passage, we see that the gospel liberates us fully and freely from fear, from guilt, and from shame. Fear? There is no condemnation. We are set free from the law of sin and death. Guilt? The righteousness of the law is now fulfilled in us. Shame? Our minds are elevated to the things of the Spirit.
What Liberation is Like
“When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, We were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing: Then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us; Whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, O Lord, As the streams in the south. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Ps. 126:1–6).
This is a passage of Scripture that brings into high relief what it is like to be saved. Getting saved is only a cliché if you are unaware of the threat, or the condemnation, or the shame. There is good news that can just fall out of the sky on you (like winning a lottery you never entered), but there is another kind of good news—this is the good news that presupposes a full awareness of the antecedent bad news. This would be like finding out that the governor had signed the pardon preventing your execution ten minutes prior to them flipping the switch. You were fully aware of the dilemma, and you are fully appreciative of the salvation.
The Eyes of Faith
We sometimes try to create the exhilaration of “getting saved” by finding some bad sin and wallowing in it for a while. If we can’t get saved, we can at least rededicate our lives. That’s almost as good, right? Wrong. We don’t see the goodness of God by plunging into the badness of rebellion. We don’t need a covenantal and Reformed rumspringa. We see that we were objects of wrath by nature in the same way that we see everything else that is important—by faith. Scripture tells us what we are apart from Christ, and when we consider the bent of our hearts, we can find confirmation enough.
Jesus the Savior
Jesus is our Deliverer. He was named Jesus because His mission was to save His people from their sins. “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Ps. 18:2).
So then, we are saved from fear of death because Jesus has conquered death, and because we fear God through Him. We are freed from fear. We are saved from guilt over our unrighteousness because Jesus lived a perfect sinless life on our behalf, which has been imputed to us, and He died on the cross as the perfect satisfaction for the penalty we owed God because of that unrighteousness. We are freed from guilt. We are saved from shame because God has resolved to glorify us with His own glory. We are freed from shame.
We walk by faith now. The time will come when we will see what we have been walking toward, and at that time everything will come into perspective. At the same time, because God knows our frame, He has given us an earnest payment of the deliverance to come. He has given us His Spirit as a foretaste of all that is coming, and this Spirit is a seal and guarantee of the life everlasting. When that day arrives we will see it as the culmination of all our days.