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Fourth Quarter 2017 (September 30–December 29)
COMMENTARY—SALVATION BY FAITH ALONE: THE BOOK OF ROMANS
Week 9: November 25–December 1
COMMENTARY ON "No Condemnation"
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
The memory text establishes the theme for this week:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1)
The title for this week's lessons:
NOW NO CONDEMNATION
This is the opening statement in the quarterly lesson:
"Romans 8 is Paul’s answer to Romans 7. In Romans 7 Paul speaks of frustration, failure, and condemnation. In Romans 8 the condemnation is gone, replaced with freedom and victory through Jesus Christ. Paul was saying in Romans 7 that if you refuse to accept Jesus Christ, the wretched experience of Romans 7 will be yours...."
In chapter 7 Paul is addressing the "brothers", meaning fellow Jewish Christians who know and understand the obsolete old covenant "law of works". Paul shares with them (including all who are "brothers" in Christ) that Jesus is both Savior and Lord. As our Lord Jesus does the work of sanctification in our ongoing struggle against the "flesh", Rom. 7:21-25. Therefore "now (at the moment our sins are covered by the shed blood of Jesus) there is no condemnation". This is the message before we come to our study of chapter eight.
I. CONTEXT FOR UNDERSTANDING CHAPTER EIGHT
The study of this epistle that precedes our study of chapter eight reveals that:
This epistle was originally addressed to Christians living in Rome, where in chapter 7 Paul reminds the Jewish Christian brothers who know the Old Covenant law that you cannot be in two different covenants because to attempt to do so would make you guilty of adultery. Jesus death at Calvary fulfilled and replaced the Old Covenant where Christians (both Jew and Gentile) are "the bride of Christ" in the New Covenant that replaced the Old.
The covenant given to the Hebrew people at Sinai is called the "law of works". The failure of Jewish sinners to perfectly obey the "law of works" reveals what sin is and therefore points sinners to the "faith of Abraham" and God's promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, as the only perfect keeper of the "law of works" of the Siniac Covenant.
Jesus' sinless death at Calvary fulfilled and ended the Old Covenant "law of works" by ushering in the New Covenant "law of faith" founded solely on his shed blood for the complete atonement of the sins of the world.
The promise given by God to Abraham was the unconditional "law of faith", given some three hundred years prior to the conditional "law of works" and therefore cannot be altered by what comes afterwards. Even within the Old Covenant "law of works" salvation has alway been founded upon the promises of what God said to Abraham apart from the conditional "law of works" that came 300 years later.
The quarterly lesson author does point toward the truth when saying; "...the condemnation is gone, replaced with freedom and victory through Jesus Christ". However, Paul says this at the end of chapter seven:
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 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. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 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. (Rom. 7:21-25)
The Old Covenant "law of works" has been replaced by the New Covenant "law of faith". The above passage tells Christians that there is a struggle sinners who are still in the kingdom of darkness do not and cannot overcome by their own works. Those who are now in the kingdom of God still live in the flesh and must realize that it is only Jesus through his gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that brings victory over the flesh we still have. The "law of faith" reckons us justified even as the "law of works" still wages war against our "inner being". The life changing news is that victory over the "flesh" (sanctification) is the ongoing work of Jesus through his indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit.
These lesson statements contain a lie:
" “In Christ Jesus” is contrasted with “in the flesh.” It also is contrasted with the experience detailed in chapter 7, where Paul describes the person under conviction before his or her surrender to Christ as carnal, meaning that he or she is a slave to sin. The person is under condemnation of death (Rom. 7:11, 13, 24)."
"The word flesh here denotes the unregenerate person, whether before or after conviction."
Paul is isn't preaching the gospel message of repentance because the Jewish "brothers" (Rom. 7:1) are to those whose lives have already been transformed by the gospel. Instead he is teaching how Christians are to grow in their sanctification because those who have been transferred into the kingdom of God still have a body of "flesh" meaning we still sin because of our flesh. The Apostle John says Christians still sin and declares if we claim otherwise we attempt to make God a liar.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)
Therefore our 'desires of the flesh' must be surrendered daily to the work of Jesus Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit for our ongoing sanctification, our spiritual growth. As Paul says in his epistle to the Galatian body of Christ:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Gal. 5:16-18)
II. NOW THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION
Now, as we surrender ourselves daily to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we come to Romans chapter eight. The revolutionary declaration is that there is NOW no condemnation because the 'law of the Spirit of life' has set you free 'in Jesus Christ' from the "law of sin and death". Or said this way; the "law of faith" has set you free from the "law of works":
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 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, 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, (Rom. 8:1-4)
The significance is that Jesus is not just our Savior where he atones us from the penalty of our sins, he is also our Lord. As our Lord he is the one who does the work of our ongoing sanctification through his gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit who initially brings life to our dead human spirit at the moment we are transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God, John 3:1-21, Col. 1:11-14.
The initial vital part of "salvation" is when the sins of a sinner have been eternally covered by the shed blood of Jesus Christ because until this happens there can be no growing in sanctification, which Paul has made clear is also a work of Jesus. To repeat once more, sinners are not reckoned righteous (justified) by the "law of works".
The Apostle John also speaks of 'now no condemnation' by recording the very words of Jesus Christ:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God...." (John 3:16-18)
From Jesus himself we learn that sinners are saved and not condemned the instant they believe in "the name of the only Son of God". In this account Jesus is teaching Nicodemus (and us) following right after he had said “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”, John 3:1-15.
To summarize this teaching of Jesus; our dead human spirit is reborn of the Holy Spirit therefore we are eternally saved and secure in the kingdom of God. Because of this a repentant sinner is no longer condemned, through faith in Jesus.
With reference to Rom. 8:7-8 the quarterly lesson says this:
"Look at your past 24 hours. Were your deeds of the Spirit or of the flesh? What does your answer tell you about yourself? If of the flesh, what changes must you make, and how can you make them?"
The phrase; "the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God" is a description of someone not in the kingdom of God. However when you include this following passage you learn that those who are in the kingdom of God are those who God declares have "no condemnation" because "the Spirit of Christ" dwells in them:
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom. 8:9-11)
The "you" quoted in this passage are the "brothers" (in Christ) Paul is addressing. They are those who are not "in the flesh" even though they still have a body of "flesh" even as they have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
As Paul has already stressed in Rom. 7:21-25 we cannot do what we now desire to do by our own failed works. Instead victory over the flesh, ongoing sanctification, is the work of the Holy Spirit given as a gift from Jesus Christ. A gift is something we do not earn or work for. Rather our response to having this gift is to submit to the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul does caution us with; "if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you". If you believe your own work is how the needed changes occur in your life you will fail.
Now we come to this quarterly lesson comment concerning verses 9 & 10:
"Dwell on this idea that the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from death, is the same one dwelling in us if we allow Him to. Think about the power that is there for us! What keeps us from availing ourselves of it as we should?"
This is a foundational contradictory belief of Adventism apposed to what Scripture teaches. At the moment we surrender to Jesus Christ your sins are covered fully and eternally by the blood he shed at Calvary. In this same moment of your belief in the biblical gospel message you will and do receive Jesus' gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Surrender means Jesus is now both our Savior and Lord. We have unconditionally surrendered to our Savior which means we willingly "allow" the Holy Spirit to do his work of sanctification in our lives.
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom. 8:11)
In verses 12 through 17 Paul again mentions the "brothers" reminding us that they are the saints of God as he says; "...all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" and that "the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God...".
The quarterly lesson ends with verse 17 thereby failing to consider the 'high points' of this chapter.
IV. THE SURE HOPE OF GLORY (Verses 18-25)
• Our present sufferings do not compare to our sure hope of glory.
• All creation waits eagerly for "the revealing of the sons of God".
• All creation is under bondage.
• The "sons of God", the "firstfruits of the of the Spirit", await eagerly for "the redemption of our bodies".
• Hope seen is not hope, yet our hope is a sure hope.
V. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS OUR STRENGTH (Verses 26-30)
• The Holy Spirit intercedes with us (the saints) in our prayers "with groanings too deep for words".
• The Holy Spirit "intercedes for the saints according to the will of God".
• For those God loves "all things work together for good".
• For those God foreknew he predestined, he called, he justified and he will glorify.
• It is nonsense to believe or teach God needs to conduct an investigative judgement to know who is in his kingdom.
VI. EVERLASTING LOVE OF GOD (Verses 31-36)
• When God is for you who can be against you?
• God did not spare his own Son.
• God is the one who justifies you therefore there are none who can bring a charge against you.
• There is nothing nor anyone who can separate the saints from the love of Jesus Christ.
1. Jesus' death at Calvary fulfilled the "law of works" and replaced it with the "law of faith" thereby making the Old Covenant obsolete.
2. To attempt to be in both covenants would be adultery therefore the inclusion of the laws (conditions) of the Old Covenant is false.
3. Romans chapters seven and eight are specifically addressed to the "brothers", those who have "now no condemnation".
4. Even as the "brothers" (both Jew and Gentile Christians) still live "in the flesh" it is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit which leads to our spiritual growth and victory over the "flesh"...sanctification.
5. Those loved by God are eternally secure in his kingdom because nothing "in all creation" exceeds the work and power of God:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 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. (Rom. 8:37-39)