Category Archives: Romans

Justification: The Other Side of Condemnation


Condemnation and justification are two key concepts in our faith. They are opposites; different sides of a coin. One is very good; the other is very bad. Let’s look at both and bring the contrast into a sharp focus. We start with the bad one.


Mankind has been condemned since Eden. When God warned not to touch the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil he said that doing so would cause death. Indeed, the moment Adam and Eve took and eat, they were spiritually dead and instantly began to die physically (Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:6, 7, 22-27). Spiritual death spread because sin, now in the world, also spread. Like a viral contagion sin has found its way into every life. In the very first generation after the sin of Adam and Eve, their son slew his own brother. Today we see the impact of sin and lawlessness everywhere. Why? Because all have sinned (Romans 3:9, 23; 1 John 1:8).

Paul writes that the payment (wages) of sin is death (Romans 6:23). In your Bible you might want to write Genesis 2:17 in the margin next to Romans 6:23 and vice versa. You must understand that sin brings death. There are always consequences to our actions. In the case of sin, death is always the consequence. So we can say that sin brings condemnation and that condemnation is a sentence of eternal death.

Man is in a sorry condition because of his own choices. Nothing but eternal death awaits him. There is nothing beyond the grave except horror. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

[bctt tweet=”Where there is justification there is no condemnation!”]


It is good news that the story doesn’t end there. It is the gospel message that proclaims the news that the Creator has intervened in our world. He steps in to justify and save us from our own, well-deserved condemnation.

Justification is a profound topic and there is no way to do it service here. It is just too deep to fully comprehend in a brief article. Volumes have been written and still do not cover justification fully.

The Father, working through Jesus, has given us a way to escape to punishment; a way to escape condemnation and be justified despite our sins. That too is part of the gospel message. In order to gain justification one must obey that gospel message (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17). In the case of the first Christians (and us) obedience was the result of the frightening reality that we are sinners (Acts 2:36-41). In Paul’s case, it was described as having his sins washed away (Acts 22:16).

[bctt tweet=”darkness cannot co-exist with light, condemnation cannot co-exist with justification!”]

Now here is where it really becomes wonderful. Where there is justification there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1)! Just as darkness cannot co-exist with light, condemnation cannot persist in the presence of justification!

Are you in Christ? Condemnation does not exist in Christ as we walk in the light (Romans 8:1; 1 John 1:7-10). Again, are you in Christ?




The Struggle

Almost everything in life is a process. Our physical growth is a process occurring over decades. Education is a process spanning years and years. In the same way, spiritual development is a process. It takes time to purge the bad habits and develop new, godly habits. Sometimes we become impatient with ourselves and with others when progress doesn’t come fast enough. We want to be perfect now. We expect perfection in others as soon as they become a Christian.

But it doesn’t work that way.

A hurry up approach to Christian growth is often deadly. Rushing the process almost never works.

Sins Are Forgiven but Habits Remain

The Bible teaches that our sins are paid for at baptism (Acts 2:38). All our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11). It is the blood of Jesus that removes the sin (1 John 1:7). The beautiful gospel message is that every sin can be forgiven. No matter how terrible or embarrassing, all sin can be washed away.

But just because the sin vanishes it doesn’t mean that our bad habits disappear as quickly. Indeed we all struggle. Consider the man who has lived most of his life without Jesus. His language is filthy and his words harsh. Would you imagine that it will take time to change his language?

The Lord envisions the struggle and provides for our needs. Notice 1 John 1:7:

“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.”

This wonderful passage envisions someone who is in fellowship with Jesus but who still sins! But that sin is constantly being forgiven by the blood of Jesus! As the bad habits are fading, the Lord is still providing cleansing if we are walking in the light or in fellowship with Jesus.

Evil is Always Near

I have been intrigued lately with Romans 7:15- Romans 8:11. Paul declares himself a wretched man because he cannot escape his own sinfulness. He tries, but fails to live perfectly. He realizes that sin is never far from him and even lies close by when he is striving to do good (Romans 7:21).

Do we not suffer in the same way? Have you ever noticed that no matter how hard you try, sin still seems near? Sin arises from within us and from within our own desires (James 1:13-15) so it is never far away.

The very struggle that Paul faced we face. It is the same struggle that new Christians face and it takes time to overcome.

There is Hope

Go back to the Romans passage. After wrestling with his own sin a defects he suddenly declares “There is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1). How can that be? How can it be that in spite of bad habits, sin and lurking evil there is no condemnation? It is because we are no longer of the flesh but of the spirit. We walk in Christ and live in him. Our desire is for Christ and our goal is to walk daily worthy of our calling in him (Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12).

Rejoice in your salvation and seek each day be transformed more and more into the image of Christ (Romans 12:2).

There is Also Danger

This salvation found in Christ must never be used as an excuse for sin. We must never deliberately sin while counting on the blood of Jesus to save us anyway (1 Peter 2:16).

Remember, the blood of Jesus washes us while we walk in the light. When we step out of the light and live in a worldly, fleshly way, we have no sacrifice on which to depend (1 John 1:6; Hebrews 6:4-6).

As the Christian grows and develops the blood of Jesus will keep right on cleansing him. It may be that the type of sin changes but sin is never far away. Yet, for the one striving to love his Lord and to be obedient to him, there is no condemnation.

Walk in inexpressible joy and never venture from the light!


Romans – Know the Book

Book of Romans; is the most profound book in the Bible. Written by Paul it plumbs the depths of theology and offers  magnificent pearls for every reader. It is a book that raises praises to the Almighty God and centers the readers thoughts upon Jesus his inestimable Son.

Tragically, many errant doctrines are taught based upon misunderstandings of this grand volume. Although it is rich in doctrine it must not be set above other inspired writings.  In 1522 Martin Luther did exactly that. He declared the Gospel of John and Paul’s writings to be more important to the Christian. In comparison to Paul’s writings Luther said of the Book of James it is an epistle full of straw, because it contains nothing evangelical.” He could not reconcile James and Paul and on one occasion said “ I almost feel like throwing Jimmy [James] into the stove, as the priest in Kalenberg did.” While Romans is great it must not be made superior to other inspired books. It can, should and must be understood as part of the greater whole.

Luther was not the only one to sense the greatness of Romans. The letter is placed first among all other letters and immediately follows Acts as the sixth book of Scripture. Dating can confidently be placed within a span from about 57AD – 64 AD. Nero was the Emperor and Paul was probably writing from Greece.

Paul was writing to Christians in Rome that he had not met. The Spirit had not yet allowed Paul to travel to the west although it’s clear Paul desired to make such a journey. He would make the journey later but would do so in bonds (Acts 27:1 ff). It is probable, but not an absolute certainty, that Paul died in Rome at the hands of an executioner.

What can we say of the purpose of Romans? Given the weighty topics, one might say that Paul’s purpose was doctrinal or even theological. But that creates another question: Why write such a deep letter to people he did not know (Romans 1:10)? You might expect such a letter to the Corinthians or the Philippians but why the Romans? We can only speculate. It is unlikely that Rome had ever been visited by an apostle. That being the case Rome may have lacked the depth of the revelation given through miraculous gifts of the spirit. Paul’s letter was to provide the knowledge they needed until such time as an apostle could visit and give the power of the Holy Spirit to some in that great city. Again, this is only speculation. Some who received such a gift could have traveled to Rome. Indeed many there were known by Paul. But it is not unreasonable to suggest that Paul’s meaty letter was to supply what was lacking in his readers.

Romans meets an important need today. In a time when God’s direct revelation has ceased, Romans provides a rich supply of teaching on redemption, salvation, grace, mercy and the relationship of works and law to the present day. Romans met a need in the first century and certainly meets a need today.

It is important to remember that Christianity first arose from within Judaism (Acts 2:41, 47). The Jewish economy and the entire Levitical Priesthood served as the backdrop of this new faith. Nevertheless there were great differences. So while it is necessary to understand Judaism we must also understand how faith in Jesus now completes Judaism and stands alone as the only path unto the Father (John 4:6). Paul shows those differences and brings to the table the grand conclusion that God’s chosen people, the Jews, must find their salvation in the one they despised: Jesus Christ.

Romans is a marvelous book which must be studied for a lifetime. Every return to the tome brings deeper understandings. It must also be studied together in context of the entire Bible. Romans will not contradict any other teaching of God’s word. When studied together with those other books, the reader will grow greatly in the knowledge of his Lord.


Wake Up, Man Up – Romans 13:11-14

While studying for another article I came across this paragraph in Romans. I think because I have been  reading David Platt’s Radical the passage grabbed my attention. Paul is essentially saying get ready, man-up, its time to get serious about our faith.

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:11-14)

The passage breaks down into a simple three part outline:

I. The Day of Salvation is Near

II. Cast Off Evil

III. Put On Christ

The Day of Salvation is Near

Paul’s  use of the world “salvation” (SOTARIA) is a little odd here. The sentence seems to imply that the apostles and his readers are not yet saved; they are still waiting on salvation. Jesus said in Luke 19:9 that salvation had come to the house of Zacchaeus. In Romans 11:11 Paul says salvation has come to the Gentiles. In Titus 2:11 salvation has come to all people. No, Paul’s use of the word here means something different from the salvation one finds in Christ and in this life.

Paul looks forward to the ultimate salvation, the ultimate delivery from wickedness which comes at the end of time. Paul’s use of the word “day” and salvation” seems to be near synonymous with “the day of the Lord” which is a day of judgement (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10). The faithful are ultimately delivered at the judgement when they enter in to the joys of their Lord (Matthew 25:23). Paul uses the future idea of salvation in a similar way in 2 Timothy 2:10 when he looks forward to salvation coupled with “eternal glory.”

So Paul’s encouragement is to be prepared for coming judgement. Every day of our lives brings us closer to that day whether it be in our own physical death (Luke 16:19-31) or in the return of the Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Therefore, let us prepare now for that moment.

Cast off Evil

At least some in Rome needed to be reminded to separate themselves from evil. He uses the oft repeated contrast of light and dark, day and night, to make his point. Christians should be walking in the light of daytime (c.f. 1 John 1:5-10). The deeds of darkness (night) include orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, sensuality, quarreling and jealousy (c.f. Galatians 5:19-21). Paul’s list is not exhaustive but comprehends much of the scope of wickedness in the first century and in our day. It’s time to put away such deeds and rise to walk worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Revelation 3:4).

The urgency to purify is found in  the first verse of this passage: “the day is at hand.” The apostle is horrified that any of his readers might be found soiled by worldliness when standing before the righteous judge. He wants them to cleanup their act and be ready for the Lord.

I learned a long time ago to be very careful when eating out on Sunday or when enjoying a fellowship. Sauces are deadly! With me, I will almost always drip something on my tie or dress shirt. Then I have to stand before the assembly wearing barbeque sauce. It’s ugly, sloppy and even distracting. How much more should we strive to present ourselves before the Lord in judgement?

Put on Christ

It’s just not enough to clean out the bad; we must bring in the good. In this case we put on Christ. Jesus tells a sad story of what happens when one cleans out the evil but fails to put righteousness in its place (Luke 11:24-26).

The Christian life is so much more than not sinning. Our life is to be like Christ in all ways. The idea of putting on Christ suggests that we cover our own lives with his life, our ways with his ways, our bodies with his body. We walk as  he walks (Romans 6:3-14).

The final verse connects putting on Christ with rejecting the flesh:

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

That verse kind of explodes on you. The first part is not unexpected but the second part really shook me up. Did he really say to make “no provision” for the flesh? Like our discussion of salvation above, the word flesh has different meanings. Here Paul uses it to speak to the sinful desires of men. It doesn’t mean to ignore the needs of the physical body but instead to avoid feeding our temptations. We must never surrender to Satan’s call. Don’t give him any room. Don’t let him in even for a second. It causes me to think of Ephesians 4:27, “give no opportunity to the devil.”

In the time it has taken you to read this little essay, you have moved closer to your final destination. Are you prepared?

Truth Haters

A couple of verses for your consideration without comment from me. You are encouraged to offer your thoughts in the comments section.

“They hate him who reproves in the gate and they abhor him who speaks truth” (Amos 5:10).

And from the New Testament:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:16).

Romans 6, Part Four (Romans 6:12-13)

The crucial challenge for Christians is to live righteously. As a chosen race and a holy nation( 1 Peter 2:9) we should live, act and think differently from the world. It is not always easy but it is possible. In Romans 6:12-13 we see the call to godly living.

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

This thought is based upon the discussion that began back in Romans 5:20 and tries to answer an questioner who might think, in a convoluted way, that sin was good since it brought grace. The obvious answer was no, it does not, but Paul gives a full answer for anyone who thinks otherwise. Here is the conclusion: Do not sin!

Notice the word “reign.” This word has the idea of a king or sovereign being in full or absolute control. Paul does not want his readers to be under the control of sin.

No one wants to be controlled. We want to be our own person and in full control of our own destiny. But stop and think about a person controlled by sin. He may live in fear of being discovered. He may surrender his health, wealth and even his family for one more drink or one more hit of some drug. He may literally gamble his life away at casinos and gambling sites. He must carefully remember  his lies so that he won’t be caught and shown to be dishonest. The man or woman who cheats on their spouse knows the risk is high and the cost of discovery even greater yet they continue in sin and hope they are not caught.

Continue reading Romans 6, Part Four (Romans 6:12-13)

Romans 6, Part 3 (Romans 6:1-11)

This section of Romans 6 contains 3 very powerful analogies to help us understand our walk with Christ. Remember from chapter 5 that Paul is arguing that although grace exceeds sin (Romans 5:20) we must avoid sin if we intend to claim that we belong to Christ (Romans 6:1-2).

Now Paul offers three key comparisons to help us understand what he means. The Christian has become one with Christ or “united” with him. We will examine each of these comparisons and see just how important each on really is. Remember, Paul’s goal is to teach us about being with Christ and joining with him in death.

Here are the analogies:

Continue reading Romans 6, Part 3 (Romans 6:1-11)

Romans 6, Part 2 (Romans 6:3)

As we continue our look at this great chapter of the Bible we want to examine verse 3 in some detail.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3, ESV)

Paul is building on the thought begun in Romans 5 where he argues that grace “abounded” in the presence of sin which was made evident by the Law of Moses. He has answered the previous question from Romans 6:1 “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” He has declared in Romans 6:2 that we do not continue in sin because we have died to sin. Now he reminds the readers of a step taken in connection with that death: their baptism.

As he did in verse 1 this is a rhetorical question, that is,  the answer is obvious. For Paul, there is no such thing as a non-baptized Christian. Those in Acts 2:41 who gladly received the word were baptized. Paul himself was baptized upon the direction of the Christ-sent Ananias (Acts 22:16). And here, it is as if Paul simply assumes that all his readers had been baptized. For him, baptism was just as much as part of his faith life as his belief. So no, baptism is not the main thrust of this passage because it is already a matter settled for Paul and the readers of this letter.

Paul’s main idea is to show the connection between baptism and death of Jesus. As Jesus was buried, so is the man who has died to sin and is buried, symbolically, in the waters of baptism. We’ll look closer at three key analogies in the next article.

Romans 6

For some reason I have been thinking about Romans 6 quite a bit lately. I did a lengthy discussion of it at the University in Lethem and then used it as the basis for a Bible Study class in Georgetown on Wednesday night. There is  a lot of meat on these verses! Romans is arguably the most complex of Paul’s writings and deals with some very deep issues like redemption, justification and righteousness. But these verses at the beginning of chapter 6 say so much. I think I will post a few articles on the different aspects of this chapter.

Sin & Grace from Romans 6:1

The thought with which Paul begins the chapter actually begins in chapter 5. ((Any time you see the word “wherefore” or “therefore” look back and find his thought. The reason for what he is now saying has already been stated.)) Romans 5:20 is the key, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” God never left man without hope. Grace was always present in some form. As we came to know sin through the Law of Moses, ample grace was available to serve God’s purpose of our salvation. Of course salvation never came through the Law alone. It took the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary to complete the redemptive process. But there was never more sin than grace!

But some imaginary reader might argue that since more sin brought more grace, and grace was a good thing, maybe we just need to keep sinning so grace will continue to multiply! It seems a foolish idea but evidently the Holy Spirit thought Paul should address it. His answer is a stunning “God forbid!” (KJV)

Death & Sin from Romans 6:2

Paul offers a powerful rebuke to those who want to claim Jesus as their Savior but continue to live worldly: “…How can we who died to sin still live in it? This is a rhetorical question. The answer is obvious – we cannot. But I am convinced that herein lies one of the greatest challenges the Christian faces.

Have you known someone who professes a faith in Christ yet lives like the world? There is no objective difference between them and the non-believer. How such a duel life possible? Well, of course, it is not possible. The child of God does sin (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:10) but he does not live in sin. His intent is to serve his Lord and his sin is almost incidental to his life ((Do not take this to mean that it is not important, it is, but it is not the primary goal or function of his life.)) and is not a major characteristic. He is “walking in the light” but still stumbles. His sins are forgiven (1 John 1:5-10).

In Matthew 8:22 Jesus told a man to “leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Of course, that cannot happen because a dead man does nothing. Likewise, the Christian who is dead to sin does not do it any longer. The ideal church is actually represented by a graveyard of dead sinners who now live unto Christ. Because I am dead to sin, its power over me is gone. What a great opening from Paul and he is just getting started!

Stay with us as we work through Romans 6. If you haven’t done so already, please subscribe through one of the options above. As always, I would love to hear your comments.


Romans 5:6, 15-17

Matthew 18:21-35

Independence Day is upon us and we celebrate the founding of our great nation. Marked by outdoor parties with mounds of ribs, beans and potato salad we will stuff ourselves immensely and then settle down to watch a sky-show of fireworks. Many will hardly consider the cost of our Declaration of Independence in 1776. It’s was the ever wise Benjamin Franklin who warned his fellow freedom seekers “We must hang together , gentlemen…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.” Freedom always comes with a steep price.

As followers of Christ, we are bought with a steep price: Continue reading Freedom