NO CONDEMNATION IN CHRIST
T. PIERCE BROWN
One of the many “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4) which God has given us is in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” Although in the ASV the expression, “who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit” is here omitted, it is in verse 4, and is inherent in the meaning of “in Christ Jesus.” We may have allowed the false doctrine of “the impossibility of apostasy” to cause us to react in denial of it in such a way that we lose sight of some grand truths which are affirmed here and in other places. I believe in “the security of the believer” and have no intention of allowing some perverted teaching to denude me of that wonderful truth.
It is our considered judgment that we have sometimes done the same thing with other mountain peaks of God’s revelation. The great truth of salvation by grace through faith is not simply a doctrine that we should talk about negatively, in denial of false doctrine. A winning team does not simply take the opponent’s rebound when they miss the goal and go dribbling down the court with the ball, making all our points primarily on their missed ones. In all probability, part of the rash of articles in the last few years by those who think they have discovered as a new truth the idea of “salvation by grace” has been caused by the fact that in many cases, we have not properly affirmed the truth of God, but primarily wrote about it in denying the false doctrine of “grace only.” It is doubly sad that many of those who have seemingly discovered the grand truth of “salvation by grace” are writing about it about the same way that denominations have been since John Calvin’s time. And I hear an increasing number of “gospel preachers” (or those whom I have considered such) that are teaching “salvation by faith” about the same way Martin Luther’s followers taught it. Let us go back to Romans 8:1.
It is probably true that some of us have taught that a person is “in Christ” and “out of Christ” much in the same way a needle of a sewing machine goes in and out of a piece of cloth, each time we sin. And I am sure, as I have talked with Christians about their fears and doubts, many have more of those than they do feelings of security. The feeling seems to be, in many cases, “If I go to bed and have not asked God to forgive me for every specific sin which I have committed (not to mention mistakes and shortcomings), and I should die before I wake, I am probably going to wake up in hell.” As one dear lady put it many years ago, “I do not have any fears of going to hell for sins of commission, but I am afraid I have left something undone and will be lost because of the sin of omission.” Of course, if our going to heaven is dependent upon our not having left something undone, none of has or ever will have any security or hope!
But what is involved in the fact that there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus? Among other things, the law of the spirit of life (the gospel of Christ) not only made the Jew free from the law of Moses, but has made all of free from the “law of sin in our members” as Paul puts it in Romans 7:23. We are no longer under bondage to sin, and “God will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, but will with the temptation also make a way of escape” (I Corinthians10:13).
Some who teach “the impossibility of apostasy” teach that a child of God can’t sin. Many admit that he can sin, but teach that even a sin of adultery or murder, if he died while committing it could not cause him to be lost! As with other perversions, they make “there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ” mean, “there will NEVER be condemnation to those who EVER were in Christ, whether or not they walk after the flesh.” As with the grand truth of John 10:27-28, which says, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand,” they try to make it mean, “Anyone who has ever been a sheep and EVER heard my voice and followed me could not quit following me if he wanted to, would not want to if he could, and if he did it would not matter.”
But perhaps instead of writing a whole book about it now, a simple illustration might help show the difference in the way the Bible teaches it, the way some of us have made it sound, and the way the false teachers have taught it.
Suppose a man is walking across a chasm above a raging fire in a high wind, on a tight rope. The false teacher says to him, “Don’t worry. You could not fall off if you wanted to, for once you have committed yourself to the rope you are eternally secure.” Some of us have taught in such a way that it sounded like this: “Worry constantly! If you do not keep your balance constantly, and walk the tight rope with such care that you make no false step, you are in immediate and mortal danger at all times of falling into eternal fire!” The Bible view is: “Attach this safety belt around your waist. Walk carefully, lest you make a misstep and hurt yourself. As long as you keep the safety belt PROPERLY ATTACHED, even if you make a misstep and hurt yourself badly, you will not fall into the fire below.” As I John 1:7 puts it, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” It is a constant cleansing — a constant security, and does not depend upon us not making a misstep or keeping the balancing rod in the proper position at all times, but depends upon our keeping the safety belt properly attached — that is, ALWAYS having a penitent attitude for ANY sin, known or unknown, and ALWAYS depending upon the blood of Christ for our cleansing, not on our perfect balancing act.
So, “no condemnation to those in Christ” not only was true with regard to the Jew who was released from the condemnation of the Law of Moses, but is true with those of us who have accepted salvation by grace
through faith, ON THE TERMS DIVINELY OFFERED, and continue to walk in trusting reliance on that blood. Sin must be condemned anywhere at any time, but if we remain “in Him,” or “walking in the light” He bears the condemnation just as He did when He took our alien sins when we were baptized into His death. He did not say that “walking in the light would PREVENT us from having sin,” but would “CLEANSE US from all sin.” But you and I have the choice of keeping “the safety belt” latched. We can keep a penitent, loving, obedient attitude, relying on the saving grace of Christ and be secure. Or we can have one of two other attitudes: One is an arrogant, presumptuous attitude that we have saved ourselves because “we have never transgressed thy law at any time” (Luke15:29). We do an excellent balancing act in a high wind, and never take a misstep. The other attitude is equally false: once we have made a commitment to Christ, we have lost our freedom of choice. The goat may become a sheep, but the sheep may NEVER become a goat! The Bible teaches no such foolishness! The sheep hear his voice and follow Him. Once a person quits hearing his voice and following him, he is a goat! But let us not allow our arguments against ANY false doctrine blind us to the great positive truths, precious promises and grand themes of the Bible.