Expositions

The Message of Daniel

James Hamilton, associate professor of biblical theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, has written a helpful book explaining the place of the Old Testament book of Daniel in biblical theology. I read the book in preparation for my sermon series on the book of Daniel at Farmdale Baptist Church. It served as a great introduction to the book and the larger themes of redemptive history that are prominent in the book.

Hamilton uses the chiastic structure of Daniel to summarize the message of Daniel into one sentence. I find this to be a helpful and concise, yet comprehensive explanation of the message of Daniel. It reflects the overall structure of the book and accounts for the content of each chapter (see below).2014-07-30 14.16.55-1

Daniel encourages the faithful by showing them that though Israel was exiled from the land of promise, they will be restored to the realm of life at the resurrection of the dead, when the four kingdoms are followed by the kingdom of God, so the people of God can trust him and persevere through persecution until God humbles proud human kings, gives everlasting dominion to the son of man, and the saints reign with him.

James M. Hamilton, Jr. With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical TheologyNew Studies in Biblical Theology 32. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014, 83.

The book is not available in the US until next month (September 2014), but you can pre-order the volume here. If you can’t wait until then, consider ordering the book from the UK where it has already been released.

“What’s in Your Heart?” Exposition of Matthew 12:33-37

Audio of this sermon is available here.

A 2007 study by the academic journal Science indicated that humans speak an average of 16,000 words per day. The study found that the difference in the number of words spoken by men and women is negligible with women speaking 16,215 words and men speaking 15,669 a day. This study contradicted a study the previous year by Louann Brizendine, founder and director of the University of California, San Francisco’s Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic, in her 2006 book The Female Brain. This book claimed that women speak an average of 20,000 words per day, nearly three times the mere 7,000 spoken by men. I don’t want to get into this debate today. I will let you husbands and wives settle this dispute on your own time.

Let’s assume for a moment that we only speak 10,000 words a day. If that’s the case every five days enough words come from your lips to produce a 200 page book. Every five days! That’s 73 books a year. You can do the math on how many books your words would fill in your lifetime. Of all those words you’ve spoken in your lifetime, how many would you consider to be said carelessly? A lot of them! This is sobering when we consider the words of Christ in our text this morning that “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” What does Jesus mean by this? There are two important principles that we need to consider. Let’s look at this morning’s text and see just what it means.

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37)

I. Our Words Reveal the State of Our Hearts, vv. 33-35.

Remember in the context that Jesus has just addressed the Pharisees who have committed the unpardonable sin by rejecting the evidence provided by the Holy Spirit through the miracles of Jesus that He was indeed the Messiah. Jesus was able to pronounce his judgment upon the words of the Pharisees precisely because He knew their thoughts (v. 25). In other words, Jesus know that the Pharisees’ words of blasphemy reflected hearts of blasphemy and He was therefore able to pronounce their final judgment in advance. The principle is stated clearly in the second half of verse 34: “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In other words, as I’ve stated it: “Our Words Reveal the State of Our Heart.” This is a scary proposition!

Having six children 13 and under means that for the last 13 years we’ve had a cup of something spilled every single meal. Often, someone will call out, “It’s just water.” This means they will be no sticky, sugary mess to clean up. We just have to get a towel and soak it up. Do you know what? We’ve never had anything come out of those cups that wasn’t in them. Whatever is in the cup, whether water, juice, milk, or Diet Dr. Pepper, that’s always what comes out. In a similar way, Jesus says that whatever is in our heart is what will come out of our lips with our words. When something jars you or upsets you and words come out of your mouth, it’s because they’re in your heart and they’re in your heart because you put them there!

We often say in words meant to comfort that “God knows our heart.” We are often reassured by thinking that although our actions and words may have been wrong, that God knows our heart and our heart is good after all. But this is not what the Bible tells us about our hearts. In Jeremiah 17:9, the prophet Jeremiah declared: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jehovah God responded, “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Biblically, it is usually not a good thing that God knows our heart! It certainly wasn’t good for the Pharisees in Matthew 12.

The teaching of Scripture is clear: the words that come out of our mouths reveals what is in our heart.

Therefore, the next principle is true.

II. Our Words Will be the Basis of Our Judgment, vv. 36-37.

Here’s where it gets serious! Jesus says that we will give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word which we speak! How many careless words have you spoken? If you’re 10 years old, consider nearly 700 books filled with your words. If you’re 40 years old, then you can imagine a library of nearly 3,000 two-hundred page books containing the words spoken in your lifetime. If you’re 60, imagine almost 4,500 such books. We have a lot to give an account for.

Jesus says in verse 37 that our words will either justify or condemn us. We need to realize that no matter how careful we have been with our words in our lifetime, there is more than enough evidence to condemn us to hell forever. If this is the final word, then we are all hopeless condemned sinners.

But I like the glimmer of hope of justification that is hinted out in verse 37. Some commentators take a lot of pains to explain why the gospel word “justified” is used here. They say that it is being used in its technical sense to refer to an acquittal in a court of law. That is certainly true, but I think there is at least a foreshadowing of the justification that comes through the “word of faith” which Paul talks about in Romans 10:5-10.

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

These verses state the same truth in a positive sense that Matthew 12:33-37 states negatively. Namely, your words reveal the state of your heart and your words will be the basis of your judgment. But here we are told that belief in the heart that is confessed with the mouth results in being justified/saved!

There is, therefore, hope for sinners whose hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. There is hope for sinners whose words should result in eternal condemnation. The hope comes from the fact that there was One who lived a sinless life. As the apostle Peter, one who knew Jesus, said, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” Because He was sinless in his words, yet suffered in our place the punishment we deserve for our wicked words and hearts, we can be forgiven/justified by one word! The “word of faith.”

Isaiah tells us that “they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth” (53:9). Yes, He was crucified, dead and buried though He was the spotless Lamb of God. Therefore, His death was not for His sins, but for the sins of all those who would put their trust in Him.

Conclusion:

Won’t you trust Him? One of my friends posted a great reminder on Twitter this morning. He said, “The Triumphal Entry occurred on lamb selection day for Jews. Jesus’ gesture: “Pick me as your Passover Lamb without blemish.” [@greg_thornbury Sun 24 Mar 08:26] This is Palm Sunday, the day of the Triumphal Entry, lamb selection day. Why look elsewhere for salvation? Here is Jesus, the Lamb of God who will take away your sin if you trust in Him.

“What is the Unpardonable Sin?” Exposition of Matthew 12:22-32

Audio of this sermon is available here.

There has been a lot of speculation about the nature of the unpardonable sin. Some have suggested that divorce, murder or suicide. But none of those sins are identified as unforgivable in the Bible. Others fear that they have committed the unpardonable sin because of an unguarded thought or word against the God the Father, Son or Holy Spirit. Some think that an irreverent joke might be the unpardonable sin. But the idea of the unpardonable sin comes directly from the lips of Jesus. In our text this morning, Jesus says that every kind of sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, except for one. What does He say that it is? That’s what we want to consider in this passage.

Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:22-32

I. The Occasion of the Miracle, vv. 22-23.

The occasion that produced the statement by Jesus about the unpardonable sin is this. Jesus has just healed a man who was oppressed by a demon. Jesus had healed the man by exorcizing the demons. This is exactly the kind of action that indicated that Jesus was the Messianic King, the descendent of David, for which the Jews had been waiting. Isaiah 35:5-6 prophesied the coming of the kingdom of God: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” Interestingly, when the crowd sees this miracle their minds must have immediately went to these Old Testament prophecies that link the coming of the Messiah with His Davidic kingdom to miraculous works such as they have just seen. No wonder, then, they ask the question “Can this be the Son of David?”

II. The Accusation by the Pharisees, v. 24.

It is unclear whether the crowd asks this question out of faith or doubt? There seems to be a hint of skepticism in the Greek at this point, like “He can’t be the Son of David, can he?” But the Pharisees did not even want the issue raised. They immediately reject this possibility by asserting that the miraculous deeds done by Jesus can only be attributed to Satan himself. Notice what they are doing. They are taking the miracles which Jesus has performed by the power of the Spirit which identify Him as the messianic king, the Son of David and are rejecting that evidence and saying that these miracles were performed by the power of Satan.

III. The Reaction by Jesus, vv. 25-32.

Jesus responds. He knows their thoughts, which was itself evidence of his divine power. He responds by pointing out two problems with their accusation:

  • First, he points out the illogical nature of their accusation, vv. 25-26. 
  • Second, he points out the inconsistency of their accusation, v. 27.

Then, in verses 28-29, Jesus argues that, contrary to the Pharisees, the inclination of the crowd to identify Jesus as the promised Davidic king was dead on. Jesus asserts that since He is performing this miracles, since He is casting out demons, this is evidence that the kingdom of God has come among them because the king was standing in their midst!

So, what is the sin that Jesus is discussing here that is unforgivable? It is a blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. John Walvoord has defined this sin as “attributing to Satan what is accomplished by the power of God.” D. A. Carson has defined the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as “the willful assigning of what is unambiguously the Spirit’s work in the ministry of Jesus (12:28) to the devil (12:24).” In other words, Jesus is referring to the sins of the Pharisees in this text who have rejected the evidence provided by the Holy Spirit through the miracles performed by Jesus that He is indeed the Messianic King. Their rejection is unforgivable at this point, because they have sufficient evidence that Jesus is the Messiah. They know the Old Testament prophecies and they have seen the miracles in person. Yet, they reject Jesus as their Messiah. Jesus essentially says in verse 30 that you’re either with me or against me. They have aligned themselves against Jesus by their rejection and therefore there is no forgiveness available for them.

Now, for the question: Can this sin be committed today?

If we take this question in a very strict sense, we would say no. This sin could only have been committed by people who were alive during Jesus’ earthly ministry who knew the Scriptures like the Pharisees and saw the miraculous signs performed by Jesus.

But, I believe that this sin can still be committed today. Because it is still possible to reject the evidence provided by the Holy Spirit in Scripture and through His internal conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of David, the Savior, the Son of God.

When an individual is brought to a certain point by the Holy Spirit where they are convinced that Jesus is indeed the only Savior, and they still reject Him at that point, then there is no other hope available for them and their sin is unpardonable.

I think this is what the author of Hebrews is talking about in Hebrews 6:4-6, 9. These people have been exposed to the working of the Holy Spirit, even having been enlightened, but not yet converted. If people brought to that point do not trust Christ, salvation is impossible for them.

Conclusion:

Don’t be that person! How can you guarantee that you’ve not committed the unpardonable sin? Don’t reject Christ. Respond positively to each step of revelation given to you by the Spirit. Don’t reject His testimony in the pages of Scripture and His working in your heart!

“The Redemption of the Body”: A Meditation on Romans 8:18-25

In the August 2011 issue of The Gospel Witness, I had an article published on Romans 8:18-25. The kind folks at The Gospel Witness have graciously granted me permission to post a PDF of my article. The title of my article is “The Redemption of the Body”: A Meditation on Romans 8:18-25.

For more information about The Gospel Witness, including subscription details see here.

To download my article, click here.

Barrenness and Mother’s Day

Yesterday morning at Farmdale Baptist Church I continued my sermon series in the book of Romans with a message from Romans 4:13-25 titled “Barrenness and Mother’s Day:  How God Used a Barren Woman to Bless the World”.  The audio starts after the introduction and Scripture reading, so I’ve included the text of the introduction and Scripture read below.

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One of the things that most bothers me most about the way that churches observe Mother’s Day is the knowledge that for many this is a very painful day.  Some people don’t come to church on Mother’s Day for this reason.  For those whose mothers have already passed, or mothers who have outlived their children this is a difficult day.  But it is perhaps hardest for those who, in God’s providence, have been unable to have children.

I think God allowed me to be aware of this when we were not able to have children for the first five years of our marriage. When Gretta had a miscarriage in 1996, we learned that having children is not a given.  God is sovereign over the womb and gives or withholds children to whom He wills.  I still remember going to the doctor for the first ultrasound when Gretta was pregnant with Haddon.  We were so scared that something was going to be wrong that we sat and cried in the car before going into the doctor’s office.

Our middle son, Isaac, was named at the ultrasound that revealed his gender.  Gretta, Haddon and Hannah picked the first name, I was allowed to pick the middle name.  Little did she know that I would choose the middle name of Watts.  The name Isaac means laughter.  He is appropriately named.  But the first Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah’s old age, was even more appropriately named.

They Called Him Laughter (by Michael Card)
A barren land and a barren wife,
Made Abraham laugh at his wandering life.
A cruel joke it seemed then to call him the father of nations.
A heavenly prank, a celestial joke,
Cause gray hair and babies leave no room for hope.
But hoping was something this hopeless old man learned to do.

Chorus: They called him laughter, for he came after,
The Father had made an impossible promise come true.
The birth of a baby to a hopeless old lady,
So they called him laughter, cause no other name would do.

This morning’s text shows how God made this impossible promise come true, how God used a barren woman to bless the world.

Romans 4:13-25 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.  (14)  For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.  (15)  For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.  (16)  That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring–not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,  (17)  as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”–in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.  (18)  In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”  (19)  He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  (20)  No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,  (21)  fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  (22)  That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”  (23)  But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone,  (24)  but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,  (25)  who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

The Spirit of Adoption (Exposition of Romans 8:12-17)

The following sermon was preached at Farmdale Baptist Church on Sunday, August 2, 2009.  Audio available here.
Russell Moore is the Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. A bout seven years ago, he had his wife adopted two boys from Russia. At the Russian airport an American lady asked the question, “But are they brothers?” To which Dr. Moore replied slightly irritated, “Well, they are now.” She then said, “Well, yes, but I mean, are they really brothers?” To which Dr. Moore replied, “Yes, now they are really brothers!” She said, “You know what I mean.” What she meant was do they share the same DNA, do they share the same genetic material, do they share the same blood-type? These are the things which she thought really mattered. Are they really brothers?

This morning’s text begins with the Apostle Paul addressing the Roman Christians to whom he wrote this epistle, “brethren.” How can Paul call this mix of Jewish and Gentile Christians whom he had never met his brothers? It is because he knew that these Christians had received the Spirit of adoption when they believed the gospel. Therefore these Christians were the children of God and thus his brothers in Christ. We are brothers and sisters today because of the Spirit of Adoption!

The Holy Spirit, who is called the “Spirit of Adoption” is this passage, is prominent in Romans 8. In the first seven chapters of Romans the Holy Spirit has only been mentioned two or three times. In Romans 8 alone, the Holy Spirit is mentioned twenty times!

In this morning’s text the apostle Paul highlights four important functions of the “Spirit of Adoption” in our lives as Christians. The Spirit of adoption assists our sanctification, issues our sonship, assures our spirits and ensures our salvation.

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. (13) For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (14) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (15) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (16) The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: (17) And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. Romans 8:12-17

I. The Spirit of Adoption Assists our Sanctification, vv. 12-14.
This is accomplished as the Holy Spirit aids the believer in the putting to death of the deeds of the body. This was the focus of last week’s post. I won’t say much more about it today, but it is our responsibility as those alive in the Spirit to put to death the deeds of the body (v. 12). It is also evidence of our relationship with the Father (v. 14). To summarize, it is those who are led by the Spirit to put to death the deeds of the body who prove to be the Sons of God!

II. The Spirit of Adoption Issues our Sonship, v. 15.
The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of Adoption”. It is the Holy Spirit of God that makes us the sons of God. We have “received the Spirit of Adoption” as opposed to “the spirit of bondage again to fear”. We have not received the law again (an instrument of bondage and fear) but a relationship with a Father! In a parallel passage found in Galatians 4:1-7, Paul explains in more detail this process:

Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

We’re familiar with adoption today in which a couple unable to have children naturally may adopt a child as part of their family. That’s a wonderful picture, but there’s more to our adoption as sons of God than this. In the first century an adopted son was a son who was deliberately chosen by his adoptive father to continue his name and inherit his estate. He was not in the least way inferior in status to a natural born son. But our adoption is even better than that. In the first century an adoptive father could only give an adopted son his name and inheritance. But the Spirit of Adoption gives believers a new nature! And this new nature results in a heart-cry, “Abba, Father!”

A lot has been made of the Aramaic term Abba being a more personal term than the Greek term Pater (translated “Father”). However, both these terms imply an intimate relationship with no discernable difference in meaning. I believe the real significance of the repetition of the Aramaic and Greek words for Father is to show that both Jews and Gentiles are now able to approach God as their Father. This is why Paul can address this mixed group as brothers. He and the Roman Christians have the same Father! Remember how Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Our Father . . .” This has been called by some the sweet “Our” of prayer. We approach God together with our brothers and sisters in Christ! This was made possible by the death of Christ on the cross. After His work of redemption was complete following the resurrection, Jesus told Mary Magdalene to “go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” John 20:17

III. The Spirit of Adoption Assures our Spirits, v. 16.
The text says that the Holy Spirit Himself bears witness together or alongside our renewed spirit, both testify that we are the children of God! In Hebrew culture the testimony of two witnesses was required to establish a truth, and here we have two witnesses: that of our innermost being which is crying out “ABBA, FATHER”, and that of the Holy Spirit. What a double testimony!

Do we need this testimony? We certainly do! Remember that Jesus Christ Himself was not exempt from Satan questioning His sonship. In Matthew 4:6 the devil said to Jesus, “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down.” If the devil tried to get Jesus to question his sonship, how much more will he try to get you and I to question our sonship! But we have the double witness of our spirit and the Holy Spirit to answer back to Satan that we are the children of God!

Note the shift in Greek terms from huios “sons” in vv. 14 & 15 to teknon “children” in vv. 16 & 17. This is a shift of emphasis from privilege to relationship. Not only do we have a privileged position as legal heirs but we also have an intimate relationship as children.

What is the significance of being called the sons or children of God?
In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel is called the son of God. In Exodus 4:22 it states, “Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn.” In Hosea 11:1 the Lord God says, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” These same words are applied to Christ in Matthew 2:14-15,

When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

And now we as New Covenant believers are also called the sons of God! As John wrote in 1 John 3:1, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God”!

How is this possible? Jesus Christ was the true seed of Abraham, the real Israel, the Son of God! We are united to Christ by faith, therefore we become the true seed of Abraham, the real Israel, the sons of God! As Paul states it in Galatians 3:26-29,

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

What a privilege! What a position! What a relationship! With the Creator of the universe!

IV. The Spirit of Adoption Ensures our (Final) Salvation, v. 17.
Just as Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham had an inheritance. We also as the spiritual descendants of Abraham have an inheritance! Abraham was promised a land and a people! We also have been promised a land (heaven) and we are called by the Apostle Peter a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

But what specifically is our inheritance in this text? Glorification – the final stage in our salvation. This is how the Spirit of adoption ensures our salvation. He guarantees the completion of our salvation, the redemption of our bodies!

This inheritance is only for those who suffer. But I have good news for you (or bad depending on your perspective). All Christians are called to suffer! As Philippians 1:29 states “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” In other words all who have been given the gift of faith have also been given the gift of suffering. Therefore if you are a true believer in Christ you qualify for this inheritance of glory because you have suffered, are suffering or will suffer in this life. There is no glory without suffering. No crown without a cross. But one day we will see Him (Jesus) and be like Him!

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2

“It doth not yet appear what we shall be”! We may not look like much now, but it doth not yet appear what we shall be! A fuzzy caterpillar may not look like much now, but soon he will soar effortlessly through the sky on multi-colored wings. An acorn may not look like much now, but before too long it will grow into a mighty oak where birds may nest and animal and human life may find shade under its branches. You don’t look like much right now, but if you are a child of God through faith in Christ Jesus, you will soon be like Him! No, “it doth not yet appear what we shall be”! Likewise Paul says in Philippians 3:20-21,

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

This is our inheritance! A glorified resurrection body like that of our Savior’s! On that day, there will be no doubt that we are really brothers! Not because we came out of the same mother’s womb, but because we will all be conformed to the image of our elder brother, the Lord Jesus Christ!

No Condemnation in Christ Jesus! (Exposition of Romans 8:1-4)

The following sermon was preached at Farmdale Baptist Church on Sunday, July 19, 2009.  Audio available here.
It’s not hard to imagine, given what we’ve all seen on the news in recent days, a home that has survived the hurricane and the flood waters and is still standing. But upon examination by an engineer it is found to have structural damage beyond repair. Therefore, this apparently safe home is ruled unsafe and scheduled for demolition. Likewise, we as individual humans have been examined by a holy God and have been found to have structural integrity problems. We are sinners by nature and by choice. Therefore we are scheduled for eternal damnation.

How may we escape the certain judgment that will surely and most deservedly befall us? Romans 8 begins with these great words of comfort: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”. How is this possible? The apostle Paul describes to us in the first four verses the essence of the objective work of God in Christ and three important results thereof which culminates in the declaration in verse 1 of “no condemnation”!

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. Romans 8:1-4

First, let’s examine the objective work of God in Christ described in verse three. Paul says, “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.” What could the law not do? It cannot justify (i.e., forgive sin and impute righteousness). As Romans 3:20 states, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” According to Galatians 3:21, “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” Likewise the author to the Hebrews cofirms that “the law made nothing perfect” (Hebrews 7:19). Yes, the law cannot justify you and it’s your fault! Paul explains the failure of the law as a result of the weakness of the flesh. The problem is not with the character of the law. The problem is that you and I are unable to keep the law.

So, God has done the humanly impossible. How did He do this? By “sending His own Son”! What amazing love of God! John says in 1 John 4:9-10,

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (See also John 3:16)

He sent His Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh”. Notice how carefully this is worded. He doesn’t say in the likeness of flesh, which would imply He was not fully human. Nor does he say in sinful flesh, which would imply that He was sinful. But Jesus is described as being sent “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” This means that He was fully human without sin.

He sent His Son “for sin”, i.e. as a sacrifice for sin and by His death “condemned sin in the flesh” of Christ! On the cross God condemned our sin in the flesh of Christ! This is the objective work of God that has been accomplished in Christ on the Cross. It has three important results. These results are found in vv. 4, 2 and 1. We will examine them in this order and conclude with Paul’s famous declaration of “no condemnation.”

I. The Righteous Requirement of the Law Has Been Fulfilled, v. 4.
The first result of the objective work of God in Christ is that the righteous requirement of the law has been fulfilled in us. What does the phrase “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us” mean? There are two popular interpretations. The first is that we receive the righteousness of Christ imputed to us as believers as a result of the obedient life and death of Christ. This is certainly true and taught clearly elsewhere in Scripture (see Romans 5:16-21), but I don’t believe this is what Paul is teaching in this particular verse.

Another view is to see this “righteousness of the law” as the moral actions of believers with a new heart controlled by the Spirit. I believe this is taught elsewhere in Scripture as well (see Hebrews 8:1-13), but again I don’t believe it is being taught in this particular verse.

Instead, I believe “the righteousness of the law” is the righteous penalty which the law requires, namely death. In the death of Christ, the righteous penalty has been paid. Since we as believers are united to Him in His death and resurrection, the righteousness of the law has been fulfilled in us.

In other words, because the law could not justify us, God sent His Son in human flesh, condemned our sin in His flesh, in order to fulfil the righteous penalty which the law requires for us, by His death.

II. We Have Been Set Free From the Law of Sin and Death, v. 2.
The second result of the objective work of God in Christ is that we have been set free from the law of sin and death. In verse two we are told that the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” has set us free from the “law of sin and death.” That sounds good, but what does it mean? What is the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” and what is the “law of sin and death”? I agree with Octavius Winslow who, in his classic work on Romans 8 titled No Condemnation in Christ Jesus, argues that the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is equivalent to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (or New Covenant) and the “law of sin and death” is equivalent to the Mosaic Law (or Old Covenant). Thus, verse two can be reworded to say: The “Gospel of Jesus Christ” has made me free from the “Mosaic law”.

I believe that this verse is a restatement of Paul’s argument in Romans 7:1-6. A woman whose husband dies is free to remarry. We have died with Christ and have been set free from the law. We have been resurrected with Christ in order to be remarried to the resurrected Christ. We are free from the law’s penalty and power.

To summarize Paul’s argument to this point: We’ve been set free from the Mosaic law (v. 2), because the law’s penalty has been paid (v. 4). This happened when God condemned sin in the flesh of Christ(v. 3)!

III. There is Now No Condemnation in Christ Jesus, v. 1.
The end result of the objective work of God for us in Christ is that there is now no condemnation! The word “condemnation” means a judicial pronouncement upon a guilty person. It is a declaration of guilt in a courtroom. This word also contains the idea of punishment. It is the very opposite of justification. If justification means to be declared “not guilty” then condemnation means to be declared “guilty” before the tribunal of God. Back to the analogy of a condemned house, when a house is condemned it is no longer habitable and is scheduled for destruction. Likewise a person condemned before God is already condemned and is destined for hell fire. But the good news for the believer who is in Christ Jesus is “there is now no condemnation!” In Christ we died, in Christ we live, therefore in Christ there is no condemnation!

There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (v. 1) because we have been set free from the Mosaic Law’s rules and regulations (v. 2), the righteous penalty of the law has been fulfilled in the death of Christ (v. 4) where our sin was already condemned in the flesh of Jesus on the cross (v. 3).

This is why Paul preached to the Antiochenes in Acts 13:38-39,

Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

How is this possible? Paul spells it out for us in a crystal clear manner in Galatians 3:13,

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Paul here quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26 “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” This was revealed by God to Moses thousands of years before the Roman Empire even existed. Who knew (but God) that the Roman’s main method of execution would be by hanging people on trees (crosses)?!? Christ bore our curse so we could escape the curse. God pronounced “condemnation” upon His own Son, so that He might pronounce “no condemnation” upon the believeing sinner. God declared His Son to be “guilty” in order that you and I might be declared “not guilty”! The Son of God was executed that we might have eternal life!

CONCLUSION:
The question is: Are you “in Christ Jesus”? The blessed promise of “no condemnation” is only extended to those who are “in Christ Jesus”. So, are you in Christ Jesus? How do you know? Well, the Bible teaches in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Are you a new creature? Have old things passed away? Have all things become new?

Jesus said in John 3:18,

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Paul urges his Corinthian readers in 2 Corinthians 13:5,

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

An Arab chief tells a story of a spy who was captured and then sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and the big, black door. As the moment for execution drew near, the spy was brought to the Persian general, who asked the question, “What will it be: the firing squad or the big, black door?”

The spy hesitated for a long time. It was a difficult decision. He chose the firing squad.

Moments later shots rang out confirming his execution. The general turned to his aide who asked, “What lies beyond the big door?”

“Freedom,” replied the general. “I’ve known only a few brave enough to take it.”
Don McCullough, “Reasons to Fear Easter,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 116.

If you’ve never turned from your sin to trust in Christ, there is a choice before you today. There is before you the firing squad of condemnation or the blood stained cross of the Savior. Which will you choose? Turn to Christ, trust in what God has done for you through Christ that you might be able to sing with us:

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Amazing love, how can it be?
That thou, my God, should’st die for me!