The Great Eight (Part 1)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1).

Today we begin a journey of some length. The eighth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Roman Church is the centerpoint of this great treatise dealing with the grace of the gospel. In my opinion, it is the most essential chapter in the New Testament. We must start with some introductory statements. First, the greatest danger today in all the talk about faith-based social organizations is that Christians will begin to think about their faith the way the world does. The world views Christianity and other religions as useful, depending on what social, psychological, or physical benefits it may bring. In other words, the world doesn’t assess Christianity in the categories of true or false, but in the categories of useful or harmful. The world does not think of Christianity as divine revelation but as human opinion. The world does not believe that God must reveal our deepest need, and then provide the remedy in Jesus Christ. The world believes that we know our deepest needs and that religion can be respectable if it helps meet them.

We are defined by what the world sees us doing for them: “What are you doing about affordable housing? How do you help people get jobs? What’s your strategy for improving health care?” Those are valid questions. But if you let the secular mind determine your starting point and then define the categories for explaining Christianity, then you will promote the erroneous notion that the church of Jesus Christ and the gospel of Jesus Christ are not an authoritative revelation from God that is true and necessary, but instead, an activity of man that is useful. I want you to know from the outset, and to feel, that if you start where the world starts — by thinking you know your real needs and that God is useful in meeting them — you will not know what Christianity is.

 

Second, the essence of Christianity is that God is the supreme value in the universe, that we do not honor him as supremely valuable, that we are therefore guilty of sin and under his omnipotent wrath, and he alone can rescue us from his own condemnation, which he has done through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ, for everyone who is in Christ. Knowing this, if what we promote is housing, jobs, health care, sobriety, family life minus this message, we are not Christian – we are cruel. We comb man’s hair in the electric chair and hide his freedom in our hands. The essence of Christianity is that God is the supreme value in the universe. Without Him there is no hope of recovery in this world or the next. With these things as a starting point we now can see how easy it is for Paul to say, “Now, there isn’t any condemnation in Christ.” That’s the gospel of grace. Rejoice!