I think one of the most difficult concepts for Christians to grasp is that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1. Have any of you felt condemned lately? And by lately I mean since you’ve started reading this blog post (shouldn’t you be doing something else instead of playing around on the internet?). I’m sure I haven’t felt condemned in the last 10, 15 minutes anyway.
I suspect we all know people who wake up and go to bed feeling guilty about something. I suspect, too, that we all know people who wake up and go to bed making others feel guilty. In my last two posts, I have discussed forgiveness at length. Condemnation is the companion of unforgiveness. Actually, condemnation is just another form of unforgiveness. It is an unwillingness to forgive yourself, and the consequences of condemnation are just as dire.
In quoting Romans 8:1 above, I left out the most important word in that verse: “Therefore”. Romans 8:1 actually reads, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The great Derek Prince would say, “When you find a therefore you find out what it’s there for.” I couldn’t agree more. One of these days, take a book of the New Testament and underline every “Therefore” and read what is written right before and right after. If you have ever had difficulty understanding portions of the Bible, this is a good way of extracting explanation.
Here is how it works. Romans is great for practicing this because it is packed full of therefore’s. Before the Romans 8:1 “Therefore” the first paragraph following the last paragraph with a “Therefore” is Romans 7:14. Therefore, a new lesson. “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold into bondage to sin.” Verse 7:21 begins the next paragraph, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.”
Let’s stop for a minute and contemplate this. Paul is describing the internal struggle that goes on in all of us. Paul, in essence, is saying, “I want to do good so badly, but this evil within me just won’t let me. I’m a prisoner to my own sin.” That paragraph concludes, 25“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”
Now, the “Therefore,” 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are Christ Jesus.” What??? [Insert head scratch here.] Yeah, I know, it’s a little weird. Paul is saying, “We can’t win this struggle against the flesh, we can’t escape the slavery to sin. Therefore, we shouldn’t worry about it.” It’s one of those things that make you go “hum”?
Actually, that is exactly right. This is why, verse 8:2 says, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” This is key. Paul does not say we are free from sin or death, rather that we are free from the law of sin and death. Even better. We would all like to be without sin and death, but how much better is it be out from under the system of law that fashions sin and death in the first place?
Paul goes on in verse 3, “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Notice, God did not condemn us. He condemned “sin in the flesh so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us…”
The word “For” in verse three is just as important as the “Therefore” in verse one, it is the “because”. You will find this structure repeatedly throughout scripture: concept, conclusion (therefore), explanation (because). Because “the requirement of the Law” is now “fulfilled in us” who walk according to the Spirit, there is no condemnation in Jesus.
We all understand this: If you do the crime, you do the time. As a lawyer, I have heard this countless times. Similarly, we understand the idea that sin has consequences. But, through faith in Christ, we are no longer under the rule that if we do the crime, we do the time. Jesus served our sentence for us. This is not to say that we don’t deserve to do the time. We do, and God knows this, so in order to make sure that justice was served, He sent Jesus to be punished in our place. How much better is it that the law is fulfilled in Jesus than merely abolished (which would have put God in a compromising position since his Law was perfect)?
Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” Matthew 5:17. To fulfill means to pay in full. We owed a debt to God, we may still run up the bill from time to time, but our obligation is fulfilled in Christ. It is PAID IN FULL.
Will you continue to pay your bills after they are paid? Will you keep sending the bank or credit card company a check after your debt is paid off? Of course not. Yet, this is exactly what we are doing when it comes to sin. We are still trying to pay for what has already been paid for. However, the currency we try to pay with is good deeds, not sinning too badly, giving a little here and there, and not being as bad as the next guy.
We are still using scales to measure our “goodness” when we can never, ever do enough to make them balance. Does this sound familiar, “I go to church occasionally, I volunteer here and there, I don’t drink or use drugs, and I’ve never hurt anybody, so, I think I’m a pretty good person.” That is a lie from the devil. He wants you thinking like this for a whole host of reasons I’m sure, but two that I know of: (1) so that when you do do something wrong, he can hammer you for it, and (2) so you will continue to be under the bondage of the law. The law of sin and shame is a prison, and you have been set free. Why go back?
God doesn’t measure our “goodness” the way we do. We have got to grab hold of this (and not let go). We are righteous through faith in Jesus. God doesn’t look at us and see dirty, rotten scoundrels. He sees the righteousness of Christ. If we could ever see ourselves as God sees us, there would be no limit to our potential.
Which do you suppose is more distressing to God, that we sin or that we render Christ’s sufferings worthless by walking in condemnation? “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No condemnation. No condemnation means no condemnation. No condemnation.
It still means no condemnation. No, not yet, still no condemnation.