“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh (deprived it of its power over us as believers) 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4) Paul says in Romans 5 and 6 that we now reign in life through Christ Jesus, and sin no longer has dominion over us, so that we can be slaves of God and righteousness. Though we will struggle with sin as believers as seen in Romans 7, we want to (Romans 7:22) and can obey the Lord as we “walk according to the Spirit.”
I have heard the following parable many times and although it is does not fully represent the gospel it can help us grasp it as fathers or parents because of our love for our children:
There was a guard who worked on the river and his job was to raise and lower a drawbridge that spanned the large river. His son was fascinated by what his father did and wanted to spend a day with him, so one day the father took him along. The job of raising and lowering the bridge didn’t seem to be too significant but there was one time each day when it became very significant because at four o’clock the bridge had to be raised to let a ferry through and at 4:15 it had it be lowered because there was a passenger train rattling through the country-side at top speed. On this fateful day the guard let his son wander out of the guardhouse and venture down to get a better look at the ferry boat and he got a little too close to areas he shouldn’t and he fell and his foot got caught in the gears. And the father looked from out of the guardhouse and realized that he had to put the bridge down because the train was coming with all of its cars and all of its passengers. But if he put the bridge down he would kill his son. On the other hand, he could run down and rescue his son and the train would plunge into the river and everyone would be drowned. At that point he was shocked back into reality because the train whistle could be heard in the distance. He had two choices. He owed his son a lot, he was his son. He owed the passengers nothing, he didn’t even know them. And if he was to lower the bridge at the expense of his own son, it would be purely an act of love and mercy. But once he decided to do that he would have to give up his own son…which he did.
We need to add to this parable that in the gospel account the cross was no accident but planned before the foundation of the world and that the Son knew His plight and told the Father to lower the bridge – “not My will but Thy will be done.” And we also need to add that many of the passengers (those who reject Jesus’ sacrifice) just continued to read their newspapers or chat away, completely indifferent to the love and merciful sacrifice of God. And we need to ask ourselves as believers who know the story and know the great sacrifice the Father and the Son made for us, do we forget about it in the midst of our busy and fun-seeking lives and world or do we live in constant gratitude and loving service for this great deliverance from hell by our Lord. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Rom. 12:1)
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We see Paul’s struggle with the flesh and indwelling sin in Romans 7 and now we see him rejoice in the fact that even though he struggled, and at times fell in his battle against sin, he knew he would never be condemned because of it. The Greek word for condemnation is katakrima and means “damnatory sentence” and refers in particular to the payment of the penalty of sin; i.e., not the sentence but the punishment itself – e.g., in this life that may mean imprisonment, hard labor, and execution. But spiritually it refers to the eternal condemnation of hell. What struck me most in these first four verses in Romans 8 is how we need to understand and grasp the horror of hell to fully and continually appreciate what we’ve been delivered from by simply putting our trust in the great sacrificial and humiliating death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. If not, I may become like the passengers on the train in the parable above in my indifference and ingratitude for the great price God paid for my spiritual and eternal good and my deliverance from everlasting misery and torment – hell. Let’s look at what Scripture says about hell.
Jesus taught the existence of hell. He had more to say about hell than anyone did and He spoke more about hell than he did about heaven, in order to warn us and turn us to salvation. In Luke 16, Jesus gives a parable about Lazarus the beggar and a rich man in hell. “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20 And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31) Hell will be eternal, conscious torment.
In addition to this parable, Jesus’ words and many other Scriptures describe and affirm the existence of hell. [“A place of weeping and gnashing of teeth – And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30). A place of outer darkness – “Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13). A place of torments – “And in hell he lifteth up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:23). A place of sorrows – “The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me;” (2 Samuel 22:6). A place of everlasting destruction – “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;” (II Thessalonians 1:9). A place where men are tormented with fire and brimstone – “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). A place where fire is not quenched – “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44). A bottomless pit – “And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit” (Revelation 9:2). A place of no rest – “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:11). It is ultimately a lake of fire – “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14).”] http://www.fillthevoid.org/Christian/Hell/HellBiblicaldescription.html
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” God promises that once we are saved we are in Christ Jesus forever and we will never be condemned to hell. “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Eph. 1:13-14) “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Let us rejoice in our eternal security in Christ.
“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh (deprived it of its power over us as believers and its right to condemn us to hell).” This is the heart of the gospel. Jesus came into the world primarily to save us and set us free from sin; not as an example of humanity, although He is the perfect example of humanity; not just to speak words of truth, although His words are perfect truth (John 18:37); not just to show us God’s love, although that is also what He did. But he came primarily to deal with sin and deliver us from the just condemnation that goes with sin: “retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10) And His coming “as an offering for sin” – meaning Jesus had to die as a sin offering to receive the wrath of God due us and give us His perfect righteousness for that alone makes us acceptable to God. (2 Cor. 5:21) Jesus was in the “likeness of sinful flesh”– this means that He was 100% human but not sinful and thus able to be the perfect human sacrifice (the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin –Heb. 10:4). He paid the price for our sins and as 100% God He was resurrected to break the power of sin that enslaved us and condemned us to hell. “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh (100% human), 4 who was declared the Son of God (100% God/Divine) with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:1-4) “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:14-16) As Man He understands and sympathizes with our humanity and as God He forgives us (“receive mercy”) us and empowers us (“find grace to help in time of need”) to grow in His likeness.
“You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save (deliver) His people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21) The Jews wanted to be delivered from Roman oppression more than they wanted deliverance from sin; Peter and the disciples wanted the kingdom promised to Israel to be delivered to the Jews more than they wanted deliverance from sin; and we all may want to be delivered from trials and suffering more than we want deliverance from our sin. But Jesus knows that the misery and condemnation of sin is our greatest need and tells us many times that the cross (redemptive suffering) always precedes the crown (victory in Christ and for Christ).
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. Did the parable about the drawbridge help you grasp and appreciate the gospel even more? Did it motivate you to share the gospel with the “indifferent passengers”? Did it motivate you to live in constant gratitude and loving service for this great deliverance from hell by our Lord? “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Rom. 12:1)
2. How did the parable about Lazarus and the rich sinner in Hades speak to you? What do you think verse 31 refers to and how does that represent the unrepentant today?
3. Which description of hell given by Jesus or the other Scripture verses disturbs you the most?
4. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” God promises that once we are saved we are in Christ Jesus forever and we will never be condemned to hell. Let us rejoice in our eternal security in Christ. Do you do this regularly?
5. “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh (deprived it of its power over us as believers and its right to condemn us to hell).” This is the heart of the gospel. Jesus came into the world primarily to save us and set us free from sin. “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save (deliver) His people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21) How does this apply to us now in this life as believers?