Posted September 13, 2017
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
What a glorious sentence that marks the beginning of a glorious chapter of the Bible!
Before we dive into the significance of this phrase, let’s rewind to the beginning of the book of Romans. The apostle Paul starts off his letter to the church in Rome and brutally exposes the plight of every human before a righteous God: “there is no one righteous, no, not one… All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:10; 23).” JC Ryle said, ”Sin pervades and runs through every part of our moral constitution and every faculty of our minds. The understanding, the affections, the reasoning powers, the will, are all more or less infected.” Whether we recognize it or not, we all stand rightfully condemned before a perfect Judge who, unlike an earthly judge, sees our sin perfectly. He doesn’t wonder about our heart motivations or the extent of our depravity, but knows and sees it all plain as day. This is incredibly unnerving and exposing. What’s even more unnerving is not just that we are completely seen, but that our verdict was already pronounced: condemned. We stand guilty of every charge!
Thankfully, Paul doesn’t stop there. We are told of a new righteousness (not our own) that steps onto the scene and can be graciously poured out on the unrighteous and condemned. This new righteousness is given through faith in another person’s work in our place: namely Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God who died in our place and took our sin upon Himself (Romans 3:22-25). Where prior to Jesus, we were enemies of God and in rebellion against Him, we can now be justified by faith and at peace with Him (Romans 5:1). For the condemned, unrighteous sinners living in darkness and death, this is incredibly good news. It is the gospel.
So we make our way back to Romans 8:1. Through this gracious work of Jesus, those who knew only condemnation are led to a place of no condemnation. The voice that once pronounced us guilty now declares us to be free. Tim Keller commented, “These two words (‘no condemnation’) tell us of our position as Christians. To be ‘not condemned’ is, of course, a legal term; it means to be free from any debt or penalty. No one has any charges against you. A person who is in Christ Jesus is not under any condemnation from God… The moment we come into Christ Jesus, condemnation is gone forever. There is no more condemnation left for us— it is gone. There can never be condemnation for us. There is nothing but acceptance and welcome for us!”
It’s precisely this breathtaking truth that led Charles Wesley to pen these lyrics to his song “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” in 1738.
No condemnation now I dread
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ, my own.
Christian, may you never forget these two words: no condemnation. Not an ounce. Live like one who has been set free.
Song by Ben Haley.
Artwork by Jonathan Lindsey.
Devotional by Joel Limpic.