Once Saved. Never Lost.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
D.L. Moody said he would rather live in Romans 8 than anywhere else on earth. This chapter is one of the pinnacles of Scripture. “If the Bible were a ring, and Romans a precious stone, chapter 8 would be the sparkling point of the jewel” (Spener). We should approach our study of Romans 8 with high expectations.
This is one of the Bible’s best-known and most helpful verses. It is important to all believers, and adds much to our confidence and mental well-being.
No news can be better than Romans 8:1. This verse is the best message ever announced to believers, and richly deserves our closest scrutiny.
Romans 8:1a (Holman) Therefore,. . .
“Therefore” denotes one idea transitioning to another by natural sequence. Why Paul used the word here is not obvious. The verse’s assurance, at first glance, does not appear to grow naturally out of the conflict seen at the end of chapter 7.
Closer scrutiny, though, may explain the connection. The fact God has given us the strength to struggle indicates the presence of a new nature within us.
If sin is a misery to us, we have grounds to believe we are in Christ. Those who have no pains of conflict are the ones who need to worry. If we experience the conflict of Romans 7, we have the right to revel in the assurance of Romans 8:1.
When our truest self desires to serve God’s law (7:25b), there is evidence we have experienced new life in Jesus. The conflict indicates we have escaped the condemnation. Our present divided state is a cause for hope, not despair.
Romans 8:1b . . .no condemnation. . .
“No condemnation” means no Hell. For those in Christ Jesus, everlasting punishment is impossible. “No” is a small word, but all-inclusive. Our deliverance is absolute; the exemption is forever. A believer is totally outside the realm of any possible condemnation.
This does not mean we have nothing within us worthy of death. Plenty is wrong with us to cause us to deserve condemnation. The fact of our guilt is not denied, but the punishment it deserves has been repealed. We are spared from what we deserve.
There is plenty of cause for condemnation within us. Many valid accusations could be brought against us. We have committed sins aplenty, even since our conversion. Nevertheless, we are not going to be condemned.
Paul realized his failure to keep the Law could in no way condemn him. Sin would remain present in his old nature, but could never again bring a sentence of condemnation against him.
Paul’s confidence was based on his belief that for believers there is no longer any legally valid grounds for condemnation. God has declared all believers dead to sin (Romans 6). He has made His decision; no one can alter His divine fiat. We do not entirely understand this, we cannot fathom its depths, but we accept it by faith.
Sin remains in us, disturbing and vexing, but praise God it cannot ruin us. Sin can deter us, but cannot destroy us. Oh blessed thought! Though we perpetually struggle against evil, we have a blessed consolation. “No condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus.”
Satan hates this truth. He wants us to feel condemned, and always accuses us. He wants us to feel so guilty that we finally give up trying to live for God.
Never quit. When we sin, there should be shame, but not condemnation. We should be embarrassed, but not destroyed. We never have the right to quit trying.
We can never escape the fact we are children of God, and can never escape the responsibility to live like it. It is impossible for us to enter condemnation. Such love should constrain us to holiness. “No condemnation” should spur us to be more Christ-like.
Despite the difficulties we face in Christian living, we have the assurance of “no condemnation.” No matter how intense the struggle becomes, be encouraged by “no condemnation.”
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psalm 34:19). This truth is tolerable as long as we are freed from the possibility of condemnation. Freedom from condemnation is a balm that can take the sting out of many disappointments.
No condemnation! Believe it, brothers and sisters. There are many conflicts and setbacks, but no condemnation. There are failures and corruptions, but no condemnation. There are infirmities and inconsistencies, but no condemnation.
Romans 8:1c . . .now exists. . .
“Now exists” does not mean we can be in Christ now, but out of Christ later. It refers not to time with regard to the individual believer, but to time with regard to the realm of Grace in which we now live. We could substitute for “now exists” such phrases as “in the era of grace,” “since the cross,” “from this time forward,” “forever and forever.” In other words, from this day forward, anyone who is in Christ Jesus can never experience condemnation.
Romans 8:1d . . .for those in Christ Jesus.
“For those in Christ Jesus” is our key to safety. Jesus is the refuge where we hide to escape condemnation. Christ “in the believer” essentially bespeaks the availability of the Spirit-power for sanctification. The believer “in Christ” bespeaks the safety and security of justification.
What confidence believers could have if they understood their position in Christ. It is sad that we often have a shallow concept of what it means to be saved.
Believers often evaluate salvation solely in the terms of forgiveness. They think Christ has forgiven them for the sins of yesterday. This is true, but justification means more than only this. It means all our sins – past, present, future – are done away with legally, as far as everlasting consequences are concerned. We need only relational forgiveness.
By His death, Jesus satisfied all the claims of everlasting retribution against us. But if we think only in terms of past forgiveness, we will doubt our salvation every time we sin and feel guilty for it.
Salvation means being grafted to Jesus, dying with Him, being buried with Him, being resurrected with Him, being married to Him. These are not relationships we go in and out of at will. Arms and legs do not leave a body and come back repeatedly at will.
The metaphors used to describe salvation carry a central unifying theme: permanence. “In Christ” means we can never again be “out of Christ.”
“In Christ Jesus” is the permanent position of believers. We are placed beyond the reach of condemnation. Hell can never touch us.