Romans 8: No Condemnation

In Christ we have absolute certainty that our salvation is secure, no matter what condemnation thunders forth from God’s law. And as we move verse by verse through this chapter we will climb higher and higher into the heavenly air of our union with Christ, seeing all the ways in which that union will blossom forth in our daily walk here and now. 

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

Few lines of Holy Scripture have been used more by God to encourage assurance and comfort in my own heart. In my own Bible, the page on which Romans 8 appears is a page well worn, smudged from the constant wear of my hands turning to it and my finger running along verse 1 as I have read it over and over and over again. This verse stands out as one of the Apostle Paul’s great indicatives, those statements of fact on which a believer is supposed to rest. It isn’t calling us to do anything, there’s no command to follow, it just is. It’s a declaration of good news given to believers. But what is it saying?

It comes right at the end of Paul’s description, in Romans 7, of what is characteristic of the Christian life, namely, our constant struggle against sin. The Christian believer, born again by God and given a new heart with new desires, now delights in the law of God, even in his inner being, says Paul. And yet Paul can also say, “I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” His answer? Jesus Christ!

And so, he declares with exultant, doxological joy that even though his own thoughts at times condemns him because of the still virulent sin which rages within, he can rest assured, that God does not condemn him. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. As D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it, “a Christian is a person who has been taken entirely outside the realm of any possible or conceivable condemnation. The Christian has finished with the realm of condemnation; he has been taken right out of it; he has nothing more to do with it… Had you realized that?”[1]

The word condemnation is itself a legal term. It’s what a judge declares when the court finds a defendant guilty of some crime. And so, the act of condemning is the final verdict, it is the law’s fiat giving official status to the guilty party: “Condemned!” Any criminal brought before a judge fears this verdict; infinitely so before the Infinite Judge of all creation! As Octavius Winslow writes, “To that court every individual is cited. Before that bar each one must be arraigned. Conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity (Ps. 51:5 KJV), man enters the world under arrest – an indicted criminal, a rebel manacled, and doomed to die.”[2]

What our world today does not realize, and many in the church have seem to have forgotten, is that all unbelievers right now stand condemned under God’s righteous wrath. Twice in John chapter 3 do we see this stirring truth where John tells us that “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (vs. 18) and “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (vs. 36).

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