When I was talking about the third chapter of Romans, I pointed out that Romans 3 is the heart of the Bible. If that is true, Romans 8 is the Bible’s climax. It is a climax because it takes us from the matter of our deliverance from the penalty and power of sin to that final glorious consummation of our salvation when we are made free from sin in all respects and are brought into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father forever.
We have a problem squeezing the scope of salvation from eternity past to eternity future into one message. Other expositors have also found difficulty with this. Donald Grey Barnhouse spent ten years teaching the Book of Romans on radio, and when he got to Romans 8 he spent 80 messages on just this one chapter! I used to think that was unusual until, in preparation for this study, I glanced over Martin Lloyd-Jones’s exposition of the same chapter and found that he took 77 chapters, or two and one-half volumes, in order to go through it. The reason is that this chapter covers the whole plan of God in salvation and therefore stretches our minds in all directions. There is no way to do justice to this chapter in one message.
If there were no other reason for loving this chapter and focusing attention on it, certainly the first verse would be enough. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” There should really be a period at this point. True, the verse goes on to explain why. But this is a statement that well deserves to stand by itself.
Some of you may be looking at this verse in the Authorized Version and will see there the additional words “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” This is one of those few but very clear cases where there has been a copyist’s error early in the history of the manuscript traditions. The earliest manuscripts did not have this phrase, though some early manuscripts do. The manuscripts from which the King James translation was made did have it, and so it was included in that version. But it does not really belong there. As a matter of fact, it is easy to see how it got there. If you look just a little further on in the chapter, to verse 4, you find the very same phrase: “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Somewhere in the early transmission of the text, a scribe, who was copying verse 1, allowed his eye to drop down accidentally to verse 4, picked up the last phrase, added it to verse 1, and then went on with the copying, including the last phrase of verse 4 again when he got to that.
So we have a repetition here, and the repetition has introduced an error. The text is not saying, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, if we continue to walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh,” but simply, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” In a certain sense, the remainder of the chapter goes on to explain why that is the case and why there is no condemnation. This is good news. And it is good news because apart from the work of God in Christ we do stand under condemnation.
Why could we say Romans 8 is the Bible’s climax?
Why can Paul say that Christians do not have to wait for the final judgment to hear God’s declaration of not being condemned, but possess it now?
Application: Knowing that the future is secure, what are the practical implications for how you live in the present?