NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson I)
NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson I) – 10/18/17
Verse 1: So then, anyone who is in Christ Jesus is, therefore, no longer living under a death sentence.
Both the KJV and NIV use the phrase “no condemnation,” as do many other standard English translations. The New Life Version has, “the punishment of sin,” While the Amplified Bible renders it as, “no adjudging guilty or wrong.” It comes down to understanding the two words used in Greek for “condemnation:” One is “katakrisis,” which means to make a judgment on something as being right or wrong, good or bad.1 The other is “katakrima,” which means having a judgment rendered with a sentence to follow.2 For the English reader, it is obvious that “krisis” relates to our English phrase, “crisis,” while “krima” has an affinity to our English word, “crime.” Here in verse 1, Paul uses “katakrima,” meaning that we are no longer under the sentence of spiritual death brought on by Adam’s sin and perpetuated in us because we could not extricate ourselves from this curse on our own. This led the translators of the New Matthew Bible to render this verse as: “There is then no damnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” In the commentary of the 1599 Geneva Bible, they paraphrase the next line: “who are grafted in Christ through His Spirit.
Paul made this distinction clear in his letter to the Galatians where he tells them: “The law says we are under a curse for not always obeying it. But Christ took away that curse. He changed places with us and put Himself under that curse.”3 And he shares this message with the believers in Corinth: “It is God who has made you part of Christ Jesus… He is the reason we are right with God and pure enough to be in his presence. Christ is the one who set us free from sin.”4 And by being set free from the power of sin, we are, therefore, free from the penalty of sin – which is spiritual death. That’s why Paul goes on to tell the Corinthians: “In Adam, all of us die. And in the same way, in Christ, all of us will be made alive again.”5 Paul is talking here about the fact that we may physically die under the sentence of death due to Adam’s sin. However, while the body is destined for the grave, once we are born-again we will never spiritually die because the soul has been given eternal life.
Among the early church scholars, there are some, such as Origen, Chrysostom, Augustine, Pelagius, etc., who see Paul using the term “condemnation” in a moral sense. However, Bishop Diodore and Ambrosiaster apply the judicial connotation of “damnation.” Gennadius believes that having been released from the curse of a death sentence makes God’s grace look even more compassionate and forgiving.6 His grace implies that we need no longer walk around feeling like a condemned person because of the sins of the past. Paul may be the first writer to signify what became a movie title in 1995, – Dead Man Walking.
Reformer John Calvin offers his understanding of what Paul is saying here. He notes that after Paul describes the conflict that believers have within themselves, he returns to the theme of consolation which they need to hear. And that is, although they were still in a battle with sin, yet they were exempt from sin’s penalty of death because Christ paid the price to set them free. So why not live like free people. They no longer had to figure-in their certain demise as a factor in calculating their future. This life down here became only the first chapter in their promised eternal existence. So stop living for this world and start living for the world hereafter.
John Bengel points to the grammatical highlights that help us better understand what Paul is saying in this important verse. He begins by showing that Paul is writing about deliverance and liberty. Moreover, he does not employ the antithesis, “but there is now no condemnation,” rather he uses the conclusive “therefore, there is now no condemnation”7 because, at the end of the previous chapter, he was suffering in the final stage of a fatal sinful condition. Bengel believes that Paul returns from his admirable diversion of thought to the new way of the Spirit which he has pursued beginning in Romans 7:6. And, as proof of this, Paul uses the particle “now no condemnation,” which denotes that he is speaking in the present tense.8 We also see that the phrase in verse 1, “Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” as retained in the King James Version, but is missing in the New International Version. When we look at what Bengel points out, we can confirm that such a change in the text is permissible. Not only is this backed up by the most respectable Bible scholarship, but seems to have been a scribal, or clerical error. Whoever did the copying back then, before the printing press, inserted this phrase from verse 4. Whether this be the case or not it doesn’t matter because the statement is true regardless of where it appears in the text.
Adam Clarke also speaks about how the believer must not live as though they were comfortable in a worldly lifestyle. He credits Paul for having put in this one verse the power and virtue of the Gospel plan, which is to pardon and then sanctify. No doubt Paul felt this necessary since the Jewish law could do neither. It is only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ the repentant sinner, already condemned by the law, can be forgiven and pardoned. Not only that but then the forgiven sinner can surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit and be sanctified for God’s glory and the Spirit’s full use. No longer does the sinner need to be afraid as though they are only out on parole. The sentence of death that would permanently separate them from God for eternity has been reversed. They are freely justified by the work of Christ on the cross. That means, they need not fear that if they were saved by works some of those works would fail the test at heaven’s gate and they would be barred from entering.9 They are now moving forward in sanctification so the flesh can be brought more and more under control of the spirit.10
Robert Haldane also writes concerning the cancellation of condemnation. He says that Paul’s statement that there is now no condemnation implies that there would have been condemnation to those to whom he wrote had they remained under the law. But now, through Christ, the penalty for sin has been paid and thereby the demands of the law have been completely satisfied. Paul explains in verses 2-4 how this exemption was completed. Then Paul distinguishes between conditions under the Law, and conditions under Grace, for the believer. Paul is referring to their natural and their supernatural status. Haldane points out that by nature we were all bound for punishment. But God, in His mercy, identified us as accepted through His Beloved Son and removed that penalty. Now that we are in Christ, we are no longer judged under the curse of the Law. Our Savior has carried it all for us to the cross. You are guaranteed that from the moment you believed in Him, you were ransomed from its curse because the price has been paid on Calvary. Not only that, but you have entered into a new covenant totally unlike the Law. This covenant is based on nothing but grace and pardon.11
Albert Barnes shares his view that the Gospel does not seek to pronounce condemnation like the Law. Its main purpose is to pardon, while the central function of the law is to condemn. None of us could ever afford the price of deliverance. All we ever received was the wages of sin, – death. The object of the Gospel is to set us free from condemnation and to bring liberty to our soul. So the Gospel does not aim to enforce the death penalty. Its basic design and disposition are to provide an acquittal for all who believe, thereby freeing them from the condemning sentence of the Law. Little do people know that when the angels sang on the night of our dear Savior’s birth the song they sang contained an untold message that He came to save the lost and forsaken, lying helpless upon sin’s trash heap, clean them up and free them from the most fearful and terrible condemnation possible, eternal separation from God and His love.12 That certainly fits in with what the angels did sing: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”13
For British Baptist preacher Octavius Winslow, when a person claims they are “in Christ,” it means they have been accepted by God, not on their own account, but on account of the work of Christ. And that work on the cross has resulted in their being justified to receive eternal life, not everlasting separation from God. And when they came to be cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, it required laying out on the altar all their wickedness, deficiencies, and guilt. The reason they were laid on the altar is because they must all to be sprinkled with His blood and done away with. Nothing they were lauded over that was that good, nor anything they might have been accused of that was so bad, did meet the requirement in fulfilling the request by the Father for a perfect sacrifice, without blemish or disfiguration. Like the thief on the cross, who was crucified openly next to our Lord, so the sinner must be willing to meet Christ openly so that all can see what a poor, helpless, ruined, and condemned sinner is being ransomed and rescued from the trash heap of sin. So that they could receive their pardon through the free mercy of God in Christ Jesus with great joy.
Winslow also added that to be “in Christ,” was subject to living a holy life, based on the influential principle of faith. They have surrendered to the will of God and the leading of the Spirit to be led into the blessed state described by the Apostle Paul: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”14 Not only that but to be “in Christ” also means being one with Him. To put it another way, to be in unison with Him based on everything He stands for and all that the Word of God says. It also denotes being part of the mystical body of Christ – the Church, of which He is the spiritual head, and the believers are individual members.
Furthermore, it is not only Christ dwelling within, but also our dwelling in Christ: “Christ in you the hope of glory”15 By having Christ dwell in us, we are easily identified as not one of the lost,16 but one of the found.17 Yes, to dwell in the heart of Christ is to rest in the pavilion of His love. It is to have found a hiding place in the shadow of the Almighty.18 There we can be better sheltered from evil and to find comfort there in times of sorrow. Being “in Christ” is a blessed state of existence. Who would not want to experience that? 19
1 See 2 Corinthians 3:9; 7:3
2 See Romans 5:16, 18
3 Galatians 3:13
4 1 Corinthians 1:30
5 Ibid 15:21
6 Gennadius of Constantinople: Pauline Commentary, op. cit., loc. cit.
7 Cf. Romans 2:1
8 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 287
9 It is apparent that Clarke sees the word “condemnation” being used in its moral sense rather than the judicial sense.
10 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
11 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 311
12 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
13 Luke 2:14
14 Galatians 2:20
15 Colossians 1:27
16 2 Corinthians 13:5
17 John 17:23
18 Psalm 91:1
19 The Works of Octavius Winslow: op. cit., loc. cit.