There Is No Condemnation

Dallas Willard Part 6 of 7

In 1977 while Faith Evangelical Church of Chatsworth, CA was just forming, the church asked Dallas, who many knew, to step in as their morning and evening preacher for a few weeks. This morning series on the book of Romans is an adaptation of material Dallas had been teaching elsewhere and appears in part in chapter 6 of The Spirit of the Disciplines. [Editor’s Note: We are missing sermons 2-4, dealing with Romans 1-4 and would love to find somebody with copies!]


Dallas:  . . . the things that you have had to say as we have held forth upon these very central truths about the way of faith as a process of experience and as it is presented in the central books of the book or Romans.

Now, I have this morning and next morning to complete what I have set out to do and there is much to be done. The central topic that I shall address this morning can be taught in the old fashion term—sanctification—and next week, I am going to talk about glorification. [00:41]

The verse I shall focus on is on the board in front of you from the 1st verse of the 8th chapter of Romans but I’m going to follow a slightly unusual pattern this morning for a morning service and I’m going to divide my time into two parts and one is, I am simply going to read the first 17 verses of the 8th chapter with brief comment as I go along and the reason I am going to do this is because there is so much that is so good in this that I simply can’t deal with it all by way of separate exposition. And so, what I am going to try to do, given the work that we have done in past weeks, I’m going to simply try to read these verses in such a way that hopefully you will see as you have never seen before what they contain.

Just by way of preface, let me remind you of the verse which you read a moment ago with Art as he read the scripture from Colossians 1 and there Paul in his great prayer, thanks God in the 13th verse that you have been delivered from the power of darkness and have been transformed. (Colossians 1:13) I love the old English version, which says, “hath translated us”—translated—put out of one language and one system of thought into another. Translated us into the Kingdom of his dear Son.” (Colossians 1:13)

I love the Old King James version there because it’s such a strong concept of picking a person up and moving them over and that you see, identifies with what I was talking about last time when the person who by faith says, when he looks at the sin which is still in his members, says simply “that is not me and in faith and dependence on God, it is not I that do it but sin that dwelleth in me and continues who then shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:18-19)  he answer comes in the 25th verse of the 7th chapter of Romans. “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law . . . “   (Romans 7:25) I myself, the real me, now that I have come in contact with God and his Kingdom, “ . . . I serve the law, even if my flesh continues to be under the domination of sin.” (Romans 7:25) [3:29]

Now, you see, that is not something, which Paul intends to continue forever. But he is cognizant of that great turning point in ones life where they come to the place of faith that allows them to say, Now, it is not I. I am a different person from the one who does that. I would not do the things, which I do and the things, which I would not that I do.

Now I make a great shift and by faith I say, “IO myself, I myself—that why that I myself is in there—I myself, the real me and in response to that faith—God makes it so. And all of the motions of sin, which prevailed in my members, the feelings and the thoughts and the habits gradually move out and their place is taken by holy and right and good feelings and thoughts and habits. [4:40]

Now then, that’s what the “therefore” the 1st verse of the 8th chapter is there for. Do you see? Therefore, the great therefores of Paul’s writings do more than anything else to clear up what he is saying in them and when you go through Paul’s writings and you find sometimes a difficulty and as the 2nd epistle of Peter says, “the writings of Paul are very hard.” (2 Peter 3:16) Hmmm? Very hard, he says. And people who are unlearned struggle with them sometimes to their own destruction.

And when you go through an experience that, remember to look at the therefores and say, “What is that therefore there for? What does it refer me back to? How does it tie together with what is going on?” You see? Paul is referring back to the great disassociation by faith of myself with the evil, which is in my members. And he’s referring to the fact that when we yield our members unto righteousness instead of yielding them unto sin, we are taken over by that upon which we depend and as we depend upon God in faith, he modifies our whole personality and we become new creatures in deed. [6:14]

Now, you see, that is sanctification. We have, I’m afraid become afraid of that word—sanctification. But sanctification is a definite point in the experience of the Christian in which they come to know the triumph of God in their very members and throughout their life.  And Paul now says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus . . . “ These are the very ones “who walk not after the flesh . . .” that is, after the natural powers of human beings and who depend simply upon their abilities as a human being. “. . . but after the spirit.” (Romans 8:1) That is they are those who know how to wait upon the movement of God in the real course of their life and to see it happen.

Just as Isaac was a child of the spirit and a child of the promise, they know how in the course of life to look to and wait upon supernatural forces to accomplish what is good for them. “For the law of the Spirit of life . . .”— the prevalence, the dominance of the Spirit of life which was in Jesus Christ has made me free from the dominance of the law, the spirit of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2 Paraphrased) Law here simply refers to the regular pattern of forces in the life. Those who live in the flesh are dominated by the law of sin and death; those who have their minds fixed upon Christ and upon his spirit and have their expectation from him, they are the ones who are set free by the law of the spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus. [8:35]

Now, you have to remember as I‘ve said to you before, that when Jesus gave his life, he gave it to you. He gave it to God and he gave it to you. And this is talking about not a doctrine, which you should believe in, in order that God might accept you, it is talking about a reality which you should be open to to see at work in your own life. And that is the law of the spirit of life, which is in Christ Jesus.

And how does it set us free from the law of sin and death. It sets us free from the law of sins and death by giving us something else to rely upon—a place to stand, a force, a power to count upon on and to be guided by. I’m set free from one source of power by finding another source of power. [9:45]

When I was a child, we had coal oil lamps. Do you know what coal oil lamps are? I don’t know if many people have even heard the word coal oil anymore. You know a long while ago, they had whale oil and they had coal oil and then they got fancy and began calling it kerosene. When I was a child out in the Ozarks in Missouri, we had only coal oil lamps. Then there was a great day when I was a Senior in high school, would you believe, when something called the REA—the Rural Electric Association—put posts down the road and strung wires. They put wires in our house—electric lights, and electricity came through and set us free from the coal oil lamp.  Hmmmm…

Now, when you are depending simply upon this strength that you have as a natural human being, you’re living by coal oil lamps. One of our neighbors who was very fancy, he even got a refrigerator that would run on kerosene.  And it was very impressive but when you turn to Christ and learn the reality, you have moved to a different power source, you see. [11:30]

Now, re-read the verse with me. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the

law . . .” (Romans 1:1-2 Paraphrased) Now the word law changed its meaning to refer to the written law—the law of the Scribes and the Pharisees, the law of Moses and its elaborations—“what the written law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh . . .”  (Romans 1:3) That is to say it was weak because that which it made its claim upon could not come up to what it demanded. “ . . . God sending his own Son in the likeness or form of sinful flesh, and because of what sin was, condemned sin in the flesh.” (Romans 1:3) Now, I am not condemned but sin is condemned in the flesh. It is condemned by Jesus Christ who came into the arena of sin, right where it was; that is, in the natural powers as organized into a world of human beings, Jesus came into that world and showed it up to be what it was. [12:47]

Namely, the soul destroying bitter, hopeless system of manipulation and soul crushing force, which destroys the souls of men and makes them unhappy and miserable and makes them believe that God could not possibly be good. Jesus Christ came right into that system. Born in a stable, living in a carpenter’s home, and learning how to go through all the things and bear all the burdens that people had to bear, a father who died while he was young so that he had to support the family and he knew all of the restrictions and yet right in the middle of that, he showed sin up to be what it was and that condemned it.

That condemned sin in the flesh. He didn’t condemn sin from his Heavenly throne. He didn’t condemn it by standing off away over against it and saying, “Oh that’s bad.” He condemned it by moving right into it and standing next to it and letting people see the awful nature of it. So that they could then say, “God forbid, how could we keep on in that stuff when there is an alternative available in Christ?” He condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walked not after the flesh but after the spirit. The righteousness of the law is to be fulfilled, not in the letter, but in the spirit and by the spirit. “The righteousness of the law is fulfilled by those who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit. For they that are after the flesh . . .” (Romans 8:4-5)—now you have to handle that phrase carefully and remember again, I say, over and over, flesh is simply the natural organized human abilities. When Paul speaks about being in the flesh and out of the flesh, he’s not talking about being alive and then dying. [15:15]

You recall in (Romans) verse 5 of chapter 7—“For when we were in the flesh . . .”—when we were in the flesh, Paul says, well is Paul dead? No, Paul’s not dead. He’s still in the flesh in that sense, but he’s not in the flesh in the sense of living by the flesh. Of letting his mind be focused upon it and expecting whatever good may come to come from the natural abilities that he may have. [15:47]

See, the world does that. He takes a young person, sets them up, teaches them through advertising and the roly-poly rough life of high school and junior high school and even before, teaches them how to manipulate and be manipulated to get what they want, teaches them to rebel and to be angry and hurt and self-pitying if they do not get what they want. Teaches them how to punish and to be punished. That’s life in the flesh. That’s life lived within the natural abilities of human beings.

Paul now says in the 5th verse, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh . . .” After the flesh means to have your mind focused solely upon the powers of the flesh and to expect whatever good may come to come form the powers that are natural to a human being. It is to be in rebellion against God. It is to be turned away from God. It is to act as if there were no God. It is to say, “I am the captain of my fate. I am the master of my soul.” Hmmmm… [16:54]

And they that are after the flesh have their minds fixed upon the flesh but they that are after the spirit have their attention and have their expectation upon God. They look to him. They expect him to do something.

“For to be carnally minded . . .”—now, to be carnally just to be fleshly minded is death and the clearest meaning of that is very simply that if you place all of your hopes and your expectations in the natural powers of the human being, there is a time called death which will come and that will be an end of that. But to be spiritually minded is life and peace. To mind the things of the spirit is to turn yourself to a place where there is no end. There is no death and because of that, there can be peace. [18:09]

Next Sunday, I am going to talk some about Heaven. I’m not for sure anyone believes in that anymore. You don’t hear people talking about it very much. As the old song, which says, “Everybody talking about Heaven ain’t going there,” you know? But, today, I’m afraid, if everyone talked about Heaven did go there, there wouldn’t be many there. Not many people are talking about it.

See, but this is a part of what Paul is saying here is that when we mind the things of the spirit, we know we are brought from the bondage of literal death. And life becomes a larger arena in which we understand and know and see the goodness of God because the “ . . . carnal mind is enmity against God. It cannot be subject to the law of God . . . ” (Romans 8:7 Paraphrased) Why not? Well because the carnal mind simply focuses its attention upon the flesh, not upon God. It is in enmity against God simply by its in-attention to God. It has no attention to God. “ . . . It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be . . .” (Romans 8:7) so then “ . . . they that are in the flesh cannot please God . . .” because if they are in the flesh, they mind the flesh; they expect from the flesh; they have nothing to do with God.  [19:42]

Now, he turns to those to whom he has been speaking these Romans Christians but he says, “But you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” (Romans 8:9 Paraphrased) There is in your life a new principle. You now have something else to turn to and you can do that day by day and know the presence of God, the great Spirit in your lives constantly.

“You are not of the flesh, but you are of the spirit. Now, if any man have not the spirit of Christ . . .” (Romans 8:9 Paraphrased)—that is, if there is not this presence in their lives—no matter what they may profess in the way of mental assent to beliefs, if there is not this presence in their lives, then they are there none of Gods. “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin;”—it is cut off because it is dominated by sin—“but the Spirit of life is in you because of righteousness.” (Romans 8:10 Paraphrased) The spirit is life. [20:53]

Remember, you have crossed the great divine. You’ve been translated now see? The spirit is life. That is your life. Again, the verse of last Sunday, “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. (Galatians 2:20) “ . . . If the spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken . . . ” (Romans 8:11 Paraphrased)

Quicken means to give life to you. See, we think of the “quick” under our fingernails. You know that language; and the quick in your fingernail is the point at which you begin to feel it. Hmmm? And the spirit of life, which is in Christ Jesus, shall give you a new range of feelings. It will make your body respond to things to which it did not respond before and “ . . . your mortal body will be quickened by the spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Romans 8:11 Paraphrased)  [22:08]

See what Paul wishes them to understand is not that they will be left with this old dead weight of a body, filled with sin, but rather that as they transfer their identity, very surely the spirit that dwells in them will bring new life into their body itself.

Some people picture the spiritual life in Christ in a manner, which is perhaps best portrayed by the old custom in some of the ancient Greek provinces where if you killed another person, they had a very simple punishment. They simply chained the dead body to you; and many people, I’m afraid think of the spiritual life in that way as well, “I’ve just got this old sinful carcass which is going to keep on doing like its been doing forever until I die and get rid of it.”  [23:15]

And see, this is Paul’s point in the verse, “Christ shall quicken your mortal body” (Romans 8:11) as you make that transfer of identification and therefore you’ll be able to say, “ . . . brethren. We are debtors, not to the flesh . . .” We don’t owe anything to the flesh—“ . . . to live after the flesh.” (Romans 8:12)  Speaking now of those who live by the power of the spirit of Christ in their lives as an experiential reality. See, we don’t owe anything to the flesh. What we owe it to is the spirit; the life which we now live is a manifestation of the Spirit of God present in our lives. “For if you live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Romans 8:13) To mortify the deeds of the body is simply to live on a different place and let those old deeds gather dust and shrivel away.

One of the things you have to learn about sin is that there is very little you can do by attacking it directly. It’s like the story of the tar baby in Uncle Remus’ stories, you know? Brer Rabbit speaks to the tar baby and the tar baby, being a tar baby, doesn’t say anything back and after awhile Brer Rabbit begins to take this very unkindly and hits the tar baby—the result being that his fist is stuck in the tar baby. And after awhile of telling the tar baby he better let him go, he hits him with the other fist and he’s stuck with two fists and after some more discussion, he kicks him. And pretty soon, you know it’s hard to tell Brer rabbit from the tar baby.  Now, sin is like that always. If you take sin on head-on, you know who’s going to lose? You are going to lose. [25:19]

What you have to believe in is that as you give yourself to new and good and positive principles in the way of Christ and above all as you fix your mind upon him and let him dwell in your thoughts, the old tar baby body will just wither away and that’s what Paul is saying. He is saying, you through the spirit, you don’t take the deeds of the body on directly. If you do, they will just obsess you. You place your mind elsewhere and through the spirit, you mortify the deeds of the body and you live. “For as many of you are led by the Spirit of God take on the family resemblance they are the children of God” (Romans 8:14 Paraphrased)—the leading of the Spirit of God, the attention and response to the new principle of life which comes as we turn and give our minds and wills up to Christ and believe in him—it takes over and we bear the family resemblance. [26:24]

To believe in Christ is not just to believe something about his relationship to God—to believe in Christ is to believe that Christ was right, that what he did was good and what he said was true and to accept that as your guide to life and say, “Yes, I will follow him.” And as we do that, we take on the family resemblance.

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, the family spirit, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15 Paraphrased) Dear Father—it is sometimes felt almost blasphemous but you have to put it in terms like “Daddy,”—“Dad.”

You see there is an intimate connection that arises as we claim our daughter-ship and son-ship to Christ and God, through Christ—our brother ship through to Christ and we are on very intimate terms—very familiar terms with God and we cry, “Abba, Father”—not the spirit of fear, not that of the cringing slave, not that of the person who hides from God and fears and thinks that God might be going to do evil to them, but that of the trusting child who just bellies up to the table at breakfast and says, “Where’s food,” who just assumes that provision is made because they are a child and you are a parent. Alright? That’s what you are supposed to do. You are supposed to provide for children and they don’t know anything different. See? [28:28]

Abba, Father? Now, where did that come from? That came from the experience of faith to faith, of growth in grace as a result of our initial faith and of our following along to learn and of God continuing to respond to us and “The spirit then bareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Romans 8:16 Paraphrased) How does it do that? The spirit bares witness with our spirit that we are the children of God by showing our similarity—the likeness of our life to the likeness to the Holy Sprit and to the likeness of the father.

In Matthew 5, there is a touching passage, which describes this family relationship by which the spirit bares witness to our spirit. Matthew 5—

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbor . . .”—verse 43 and following—“ . . . and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and bless them that curse you and do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.”  (Matthew 5:43-44 Paraphrased) [29:45]

And now notice—“in order that you may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven . . . “ (Matthew 5:45) What’s the “in order to?” That is in order that you will resemble, that you will be like—

“ . . . your Father which is in heaven:–continuing—for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? Do not even the publicans, the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore complete in this manner, even as your Father which is in Heaven is complete. (Matthew 5:46-48 Paraphrased) [30:27]

You see, now why there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit—no condemnation—the world is so full of condemned people. If you sit and listen, you hear it coming from all sides. No condemnation—that is what is intended for you. That is what is intended for me. That is what is intended for this whole world is to live without condemnation. [31:04]

Condemnation is many-sided.  There is condemnation of ourselves. The condemnation, which we might think God was going to impose upon us and from that, we are free. We are free because we have entered into a new kind of righteousness. Our righteousness no longer depends upon our having never done anything wrong.  Our righteousness depends simply upon our faith in the goodness of God. Our commitment to that goodness, our reliance upon that goodness and just as it says in the scriptures in Romans 4:3, Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness so it is for you and for me.

Our righteousness before God and our freedom from condemnation before God stands in the face of all of the evil we may have done simply as a result of our faith in God and in His goodness. And in so doing, in having that faith, you see, we remove that sin into which Eve and Adam fell because we no longer mistrust God. We look at the goodness of God in Christ and we say we believe in that goodness of God—that Jesus is the manifestation of that goodness. And as Jesus said to Philip—“He that hath seen me hath seen the father” (John 14:9) and we say God is like that and because of that new attitude in our heart, God says I’ll take that for righteousness. [32:39]

We are not only free from condemnation of, we are free from condemnation in ourselves. It is amazing how many people feel that they may have committed the unpardonable sin. Do you know that? There are many people, good people in the churches who feel that they may have committed the unpardonable sin. Their sense of condemnation is so great that if you even mention this fact, it touches them to the core and they are filled with fear—condemnation—for things that they have done and many times , they are pathetically small things but they have grown in their minds to the point that they stand between them and God. [33:34]

And then there is failure, which isn’t even a sin but people are so filled full of condemnation because of their failures. Do you know we know now that even tiny children who are involved in a home where there is a divorce or a death blame themselves; many times blame themselves for the divorce or the death and they carry this as a failure.

The sense of failure is so awesome and then there is simply a sense of shame about who we are often. We are unhappy that we are short or we are tall or we are male or we are female or whatever and we stand before the world with all this condemnation and then there is condemnation from. There is the condemnation, which goes out to us from others. Blaming—scolding—tearing down other people—Jesus was not like that. He said, “I have not come into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through me.” (John 3:17 Paraphrased) [34:51]

In Matthew 12, we read the words from Isaiah,

“Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased; I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment unto the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.” (Matthew 12:18-21) [35:29]

Do you know why the Gentiles will trust him?  It is because he is so gentle. It is because he doesn’t come at them scolding and condemning. Do you know it is some kind of an important truth to understand that scolding never accomplishes anything. Scolding never accomplishes anything good.  That is why Jesus said, “Do not judge.” He was not saying Don’t discern. He’s not saying call white black and black white; he was saying do not try to manage people by condemning them, by putting them down, by damning them.

Now this whole scope of condemnation—condemnation of and condemnation in and condemnation from is removed from the person who has entered into the life of the spirit and who knows the power of God to accomplish good and who depends upon that power for everything and every issue that faces them in life. Spread the word, dear friends. Tell people that it is possible to live free of condemnation, to never accept it, to never give it out, to never feel it.  [36:50]

In the 8th chapter of Romans in a passage, which I will be dwelling at more length on next time, we find Paul rejoicing in this freedom from condemnation and he says in the 32nd verse and following:

“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?” It is God who says? They are okay. “Who is he that condemneth? Why, it is Christ who died, for the one who is condemned. Yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, now making intercession for that one you are condemning.” (Romans 8:32-34)

You are down here on earth condemning him; Christ is up there pleading for him.

You see, when our spirits match the Spirit of Christ, condemnation just goes. There is no place for condemnation. It has no use.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature . . .”

(2 Corinthians 5:17) and that creature and that world in which it lives is a world where condemnation is simply unknown. [38:20]

Let’s stand together and sing our closing hymn—Have Thine Own Way. This may be an occasion upon which you wish to make some decision public and there will be some friend here at the front to greet you if you wish to do so. Decision is important. We would not try to press you, but we give you an opportunity if that is what you would desire today.

Let’s bow together for the benediction, please. Now may the grace of God present in your lives sanctify you holy in spirit, soul, and body and therein teach you to know the goodness of life lived in the family of God for his glory. Amen.

Listen to all parts in this Romans series