What Condemnation Importeth

Note: Read the introduction to this series here.


There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:1 

Wonderful things need backdrops to be more gloriously seen. A beautiful glacial lake is improved when a mountainous landscape is behind it. A sunset is made more precious by the clouds that capture and change the light. A master’s painting has a foreground that is made alive in part by the background. A jeweler will only show a diamond ring against the backdrop of a black velvet display. 

Romans 8 is considered to be one of, if not the, greatest chapter of the Bible. Thomas Manton’s sermons on Romans 8 dive deeply into the expansive theology of the “greatest chapter” and do not disappoint as they draw the hearer to Christ.  No head of doctrine is left untouched, no aspect of theological truth left unconsidered, no beam of the glory of Christ not basked in. And with all wonderful things seen more gloriously, the sermons begin with a black backdrop:

Condemnation. 

Condemnation—katakrima—the damnatory sentence of God’s wrath against sin is where Manton begins his sermons on the greatest chapter. Condemnation understood is the backdrop that allows the believer to bask in the glory of the statement: 

“there is therefore now no condemnation..!”

What is the condemnation from which the Christian is saved? Manton said that “the terror of it is unspeakable when it is sufficiently understood… (Works, 11:384).” The damnatory sentence  that all humanity deserves is worthy of meditation to aid in seeing the beauty of Romans 8 as the greatest chapter. Manton taught that the Christian must “consider whose sentence this is…the sentence of the law is the sentence of the Word of God.” The Bible speaks of condemnation of a whole race; to fully understand “no condemnation” one must first understand “what condemnation importeth” to the human race. 

The Guilt

Due to Adam’s rebellion, the world lay in condemnation, the damnatory sentence of God’s justice. “So the world is guilty before God…” and the Christian must meditate on what condemnation imports that he or she may fully come to see the glory of “no condemnation.”

Romans 3 is cited by Manton, which demonstrates the guilt under which the world sits:  “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one…There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God…Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”
 

The danger that guilt brings ought to cause one to seek a means to take away that guilt. Manton describes the one who seeks Christ as “sensible.” He says, “If men were sensible of their danger, they would be more earnest to get the sentence reversed and repealed before it were executed upon them…(Works, 11:387).” 

The testimony of the Scriptures is that man lies under this judgment and the guilt of sin brings punishment. Two aspects of punishment were meditated on by Manton. 

The Punishment

Often when Christians consider condemnation, the first thought is that of Hell and the eternal punishment that comes with it. Is that your first thought? Punishment equated with Hell?  

Manton does not begin with Hell, but instead begins with Heaven. The condemnation of those under the guilt of sin are punished, first and foremost, with the “loss of a heavenly kingdom.” Man was created to walk with God and to live in communion with him, yet through the fall, man lost that privilege. Man was sent east of Eden and the kingdom was guarded with a sword. The heavenly kingdom, which Adam would have earned through obedience to the Covenant of Works, was lost to him—and to you. Heaven rose out of reach for all who stood under the condemnation of sin. 

The Christian ought to meditate on the loss of heaven as the first punishment of condemnation, which makes “no condemnation” all the more sweet. 

Second to the loss of heaven then becomes “the torments and pains they shall endure.” Hell and the eternal torments of the full wrath of God is the punishment earned for sin. Condemnation—the damnatory sentence of God’s wrath—earns eternal death. Romans 6:23 reminds the Christian that the wages of sin is death; a wage is that which is earned. The punishment is just. 

The Justice

Manton would argue that this punishment is just because of the crimes against God that humanity has committed. Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God and justice must be served. This justice is deserved, according to Manton, for two reasons: 

The first is that original sin is imputed onto each human born by ordinary generation. Humanity “fell with him, in his first transgression.” It is just to condemn those that are “in Adam.” 

Secondly, God is just in punishing all sin that humanity actually commits. Ephesians 2:3 states that humanity is “by nature the children of wrath.” 

Conclusion

As believers are called to meditate on what condemnation imports to those found guilty, Manton concludes this section of 8:1 reminding believers that the Scriptures demonstrate that the conscience of all condemns: 1 John 3:20 demonstrates to all that our own hearts now condemn us. Manton said that “conscience standeth in dread of this judgment.” There is a level of understanding these things. 

Believers should meditate on this dreadful judgment, that they may see the words “no condemnation” in a more glorious light. Meditation on the condemnation—katakrima—the damnatory sentence of God’s wrath against sin gives way to praise for the children of God. 

Have you considered, with Manton, what condemnation importeth? 


Nathan Eshelman is the pastor of the Orlando Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPCNA). He studied for ministry at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Nathan co-hosts The Jerusalem Chamber” podcast, a paragraph by paragraph exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith; writes for Gentle Reformation; and has a forthcoming book on the Westminster Confession of Faith through Crown and Covenant Publications. Nathan is married to Lydia and has five children and is an avid book collector and antique aficionado.


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