Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Romans 8:1 is NOT unqualified!

“There is now no condemnation [possible] for the believers” - this is so very often on the mouth of believers.  Preachers and pastors said that, often too.  It is one thing to say it, within context (within specific life contexts), this good news, but it is another, to preach Romans 8:1 as totally unqualified. To assert that Romans 8:1 unqualifiedly said, “there is now no condemnation possible for the believers”, is NOT quite correct.

The Greek word in this Romans 8:1’s condemn (or condemnation) is the word, katakrima – G2631, and its meaning is “a judgment against” or God’s judgment against.  “krima” is a judgment, “kata” is against, and katakrima is “a judgment against”.  Does it necessarily mean, in this Romans 8:1 that the judgment is referring to condemnation to Hell? I believe it is NOT necessarily, although, many just simply assumed that.

If you take katakrima as a God’s judgment against a believer, then, the opening sentence of this article may read, “There is now no God’s judgment [possible] against the believer”.  If you still take katakrima as condemnation to Hell, then the opening sentence will read, “There is now no condemnation to Hell possible for the believers”.  As you go through the exposition I give below, you will quite easily come to conclude with me that Romans 8:1 cannot be unqualifiedly saying “There is now no God’s judgment possible against the believers”.  I will show you that Scripture does talk about “fearful expectation of judgment” possible.

I am inclined to believe that even if katakrima here is taken as condemnation to Hell, Romans 8:1 still CANNOT be unqualifiedly saying “There is now no [God’s] condemnation to Hell possible against a believer” (remembering that when one is condemned to Hell, {like in the case of a non-believer}, there can be nothing whatsoever that is apparent in the mortal or physical realm).

A superficial look at the Word, even in a few translations, appears to support the skewed “unqualified saying” interpretation.

For example, the NIV reads: “… there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”; ESV: “… now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

But if we look at older translations, like KJV, you will see that it is NOT unqualifiedly.  KJV’s Romans 8:1 reads: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Now, this I believe, is the proper understanding:

1.   When one enters into salvation, he is forgiven of all his sins (all sins up to that moment), and with that forgiveness, therefore, is no more condemnation for this new believer, at the point in time - the point of salvation entry.

2.   Moving forward, it is the believer has to walk [habitually] NOT after the flesh, but after the Spirit, to continue to be of “no more condemnation”.

Now, if you are asking why some Bible translators dropped the “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”, I can suggest these could be what they took into account:

1.   The “in Christ Jesus”, perhaps, was taken to have already implied the people would have to walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

2.   Because they left the “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” intact, in verse 4.  Perhaps, they consider it superfluous to have it also written in, in verse 1, since verse 1 already has “in Christ Jesus”.

Just so that you are convinced, I will put down the Romans 8:1-4 for both KJV and NIV below, for you to see.

Romans 8:1-4 (KJV) – 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Romans 8:1-4 (NIV) – 1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

What then does this mean?  It means we CANNOT say there just cannot be any condemnation for a believer, regardless!  It is NOT regardless; the believer has to walk NOT after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Is there another Bible author implying the same – that we are NOT to live according to the flesh?  Yes, the author of the Book of Hebrews; Heb 10:26-31 reads: 26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. [This definitely is referring to believers]

Now, the Apostle Paul, in this Romans 8, went on further to state this:

Romans 8:12-14 (KJV) - 12 Therefore {that the Spirit is indwelling}, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify {to put to death} the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Now, can we argue that there is only fearful expectation of judgment, and NOT God has judged?  My answer is this: How do you see Romans 8:13 above?  A pronouncement, a judgment already, or expectation of judgment?  To me, there is already a judgment, even though that judgment can be changed depending on what happens afterwards in the life of the person, like he repents or NOT; the same way we look at the non-believer, that he is condemned to Hell already (a judgment), unless and until he enters into salvation. 

Also, there was the example of the Holy Communion being cited in Scripture, which we will look at, in a little more details, further down this article, where believers did get judged, leading to some being weak, sick or even died (1 Cor 11:28-34 (KJV)).

Now, if you are thinking of how then do I reconcile the common saying that “[the moment] when we accept Jesus Christ we become a child of God”, I adopt this as what happens:

John 1:12 (KJV) - But as many as received him {Jesus}, to them gave he {Jesus} power {exousia – G1849} to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Now, when we look up the Strong’s Lexicon, on this Greek word for power (or authority, as in other some Bible translations), “exousia” (G1849), the very first meaning given, and is the most appropriate definition to be adopted, is this:

“I. power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases

A.   leave or permission”

I will explain:  Those who enter into salvation (convert or accept Jesus Christ), the Lord gives him the power of choice, the liberty to be a child of God; or the Lord grants him the permission (even be lawful for him to choose) to be a child of God. 

The important understanding here is that one has to choose to live out his life as a child of God, even as he enters or has entered into salvation (convert/converted).  If you have NOT entered into salvation or converted, you do NOT have this power of choice; you just cannot say you are a child of God or lay claim to any powers or authority associated with being a child of God.  That you have entered into salvation or converted, it is as you choose {hold fast to} and live, as a child of God, that you are indeed the child of God and can lay claim to any powers or authority (and benefits even) associated with being a child of God.

In other words, entering into salvation is just the starting point; you and I need to live out our lives as a child of God.  Scripture, in 1 John 3:10 gives us 2 tests to check if we are indeed sons of God.  This 1 John 3:10 implies a very important thing, that it gives us the 2 tests, and that is, it is NOT the moment you entered into salvation or converted, it is cast in stone, so to speak, that you are a son of God, ultimately (This is also the reason, it is NOT uncommon to find salvation being discussed as the hope of salvation {Romans 8:24-25 – definition of what is hope; thus saying salvation is a hope;1 Th 5:8 – hope of salvation as the helmet;1 Pet 1:13 – we are birthed into a living hope}; it is a hope for there is a possibility [regardless, minute] of us NOT coming to the expected end).

What are the 2 tests?  One of them, which is NOT the subject of this article is that you and I have to love our brothers (neighbours, even).  The other is that we have to practise what is right.  What is “what is right”? I give us 1 John 3:9-10.

1 John 3:9-10 - 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed {Spirit of Christ/Holy Spirit} remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.  10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

Verse 9 gives us the clue.  The Spirit of Christ/Holy Spirit is the key.  Who is the holy one and so, too, is the righteous one or know what is right?  Yes, the Holy Spirit.  When you and I are led by the Spirit, we will end up doing what is right; and we have seen above, in Romans 8:12-14, it is either we are led by our flesh or we are led by the Spirit, the former leads to death, the latter, life (v13); and when we are being led by the Spirit we are [true] sons of God (v14).  1 John 3:9-10 agrees – either one practises what is right (led by the Spirit – Romans 8:13) and is a child of God, or he does NOT and is a child of the Devil; there is no two-way about it.  It is how you live/walk out your life that determines, ultimately, if you are indeed a son of God; and there is no condemnation for you who walk NOT after the flesh but after the Spirit – Romans 8:1!

If you want another verse where we can see the “non-cast in stone sonship” concept I have highlighted above, you can take a look at 1 John 3:1 where the word, “called” (Greek word, “kaleō” – G2564), as in the “that we should be called the sons of God”, can be referring to “invited” (from the Strong’s Lexicon); making the phrase in 1 John 3:1, of “that we should be called the sons of God” can be reworded as “that we should be invited as the sons of God”.  In fact, the second sentence of this verse 1, “And so we are!”, its very presence there, helps to explain the meaning of “being invited” could well be the most appropriate one to use, and it is also the very first meaning listed in the Strong Lexicon for the Greek word, “kaleō” – G2564.  I quote below, 1 John 3:1, for you to see.

1 John 3:1 (Amplified Bible) - See what [an incredible] quality of love the Father has given (shown, bestowed on) us, that we should [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! The reason that the world does not know (recognize, acknowledge) us is that it does not know (recognize, acknowledge) Him.

So if I were to paraphrase the relevant part of the verse, we can get this – “See what an incredible quality of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be invited as the children of God!  And so we are!”  The Bible translators for the Amplified Bible did NOT use the word, “invited”, but the use of the equivalent of “be permitted to be named and called and counted the children of God”, is saying along the same line; especially, the use of the word, “counted” – “we should be … counted the children of God! And so we are!” 

To be counted means to be presumed; and so, when we say a non-believer is counted with Satan, it means he is presumed to be with Satan, aligned to his camp or included with him, Satan; and the person is presumed so, until there is a switch or turning.  When we are counted as a child of God, we are prima facie a child of God; meaning, after close scrutiny and investigation over time, what is prima facie, may turn out to be true or untrue; even though initially, the benefit of doubt is given to the person.  An apt proverb to describe this is: The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  And I believe God applies this to us, ultimately!

While it is NOT for us, another man, to condemn another, the believer who deliberately keep on sinning, is marked for the Lord’s judgment, even if we want NOT to believe he is already under judgment.

If you sin as a believer, you ask for forgiveness from God; and Scripture said in 1 John 1:9, that when you confess your sin, God is just and faithful to forgive you and cleanse you of all unrighteousness; and when you have been forgiven, you will not be condemned/judged against.  This is the way to “unmark” yourself from the impending judgment of God or get yourself out from under the judgment of God.

It works the same manner you done it (ask for forgiveness for your sins), the first time; and that first time was when you entered into salvation, at which time your forgiveness was wrought from “your sins being imputed onto Jesus” who as a result, took your condemnation, by the crucifixion.  The wages of sins is condemnation (is death – Romans 6:23a); and so, you who sinned is NOT condemned, only by virtue of “Jesus’ agreement” that He was condemned for this fresh sin (sin subsequent to your salvation entry), too.  When you confess your sin, and He agrees; the result is you are forgiven, and you are cleansed of all your unrighteousness (from the sin).  You are forgiven now, at the time of your confession, although the virtue for that, has flowed from the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus more than 2,000 years ago.

It does NOT work in this manner that is purported by the overly grace preacher: that your FUTURE sins were also all forgiven you at the time you entered into salvation.  When you entered into salvation, and that could be a long time ago, and at which time, your FUTURE sins were NOT fixed, contrary to what was implied by the preacher. 

If at that point in time, God did look into your future, and could see you would be committing a sin in a time in the future relative to that point in time (the time you entered into salvation), He (God) wouldn’t be forgiving that, at the time of your entry into salvation, because if He had to take that in, He would have to take every other specific future sins. 

If He had treated them as inevitable, so that He could forgive you of them, then it would have implied you would never grow as a believer to any level that would have you no longer be committing any of the then-seen future sins.  No, your future and my future are NOT fixed like that; otherwise that would make our lives like completed movies, (already directed) now being screened, where nothing can be changed anymore; we know it is NOT the case.  This is clearly contrary to the Word.  We are to grow, NOT we are instantly perfected; neither is it everything of our lives is already fixed.

It is more along the line (metaphor only) of the works of Jesus on the Cross (some 2000 years ago) had wrought such a gigantic pool of “credits”, that whatever sins you commit subsequent to your entry into salvation, He is still able to say, “I am applying the credit against this sin or that sin of his”.  This pool is so great that it will be good even for generations to come, until He (Jesus) comes back again.

Don’t listen to preacher who tells you that Scripture is referring to asking us to ask for forgiveness for dead works/religious works but NOT for sins.  No, you and I have to repent and confess our sins (NOT just dead works) to God and ask for His forgiveness.

A believer who does NOT endeavour to live right, is living NOT according to the Spirit; and if he is NOT living according to the Spirit, he can only be living according to the flesh.  There is still no condemnation/judgment against him, possible, regardless???

You can even consider the warning concerning the Holy Communion to be reflective of the need to be watchful of how we live; it may NOT be a case of condemnation to Hell, but it mentioned judgment from God can result from partaking of the Communion unworthily.

1 Cor 11:28-34 (KJV) - 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation {judgment from God} to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep {died}. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned {condemned to Hell} with the world. 33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation {judgment of God}. And the rest will I set in order when I come.

In case, I get labelled as an extremist, I am NOT necessarily saying the moment a believer sins, the New Covenant he entered into, on entry into salvation, becomes void (immediate); I am NOT saying that.  I am saying that you and I have entered into that Covenant (and by grace, too), we are NOT to profane the grace of God; ultimately He judges.  The Hebrews 10 text we have just read above is very clear – the Lord judges, ultimately. 

Now, I am NOT also necessarily saying that God writes you off the moment you sin, but if you (a believer) are, as a matter of lifestyle, living according to the flesh, and NOT according to the Spirit, you are at risk of chastisement from God, and in the worst case scenario, face the wrath of God presently (or God lifting His hands of protection from you).  God can be expected to be reluctant to write you off, rather wanting you to repent, but if you are stubbornly wicked or evil, it is possible that you are leaving God no choice, so to speak, ultimately.

Also, I am NOT saying God does NOT love you anymore when you have sinned and have NOT repented and confessed your sin before Him.  God loves you still, alright, but you have to know that God’s love for men is love unto righteousness (‘ahab love), and ultimately, His love must still be subject to His holiness (His most fundamental nature-attribute), and there would come a time, Judgement Day, where final reckoning is inevitable.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

PS: I am also aware that there are those who claim that the phrase, “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”, was NOT found in the “original text” of the verse, Romans 8:1.  On the other hand, it has also been pointed out that many early manuscripts supported the presence of that phrase in Romans 8:1 & 4.  I remain supportive of the view that not only that many early manuscripts pointed to it, the overall counsel of Scripture supported it.  If you want read about the support of many early manuscripts on the phrase, read this - [where it contains the excerpt from Dr. Thomas Holland's Crowned With Glory, ©2000].

If you go deeper into this, you will come to the discussion on the Critical Text and the Received Text.  The KJV was translated from the Received Text.  Many of the more modern translations were based on the Critical Text.  The Critical Text was a collection of older manuscripts (older than the collections of the Received Text) which was more localized (found in particular locality - Alexandria, Egypt) when compared with the Received Text which had many manuscripts from many locations.  Also to be noted is that there are many discrepancies within the Critical Text collection.  Also to be noted is that because the Critical Text was discovered much later, there was a period of some 1,500 years where God's Word was translated from the Received Text; for this, there is often, the question of "if the Received Text was that off, would God has just made do with that?"  So, Romans 8:1 is NOT the only verse where some modern translations have the verse truncated or omitted; there are more.  For example, from the Critical Text, there will be no Mark 16:9-20, which is from the Received Text!  What Bible translators should have done, and in some cases, they did (as in the case of Mark 16:9-20), is that they should put the text in, and tells us so, in some kind of note/footnote.  For the case of Romans 8:1, the subject of our study here, the 2011NIV, did NOT do so; it merely omitted the text altogether!  What I consider important to maneuver through this, is for us to develop the overall counsel of the Word, to discern if particular interpretations or omissions are appropriate.
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