8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For being a person who is fairly organized and task oriented, always looking for ways to be more productive, I certainly have a penchant for procrastinating when it comes to tackling the hard stuff. For example, when I set out my task list for my work day, I find that I’ll do nearly all the stuff on my list that I know how to do and am comfortable doing before trying to tackle the really difficult stuff that I don’t understand yet how to do. So it is with my approach to scripture.
I don’t understand justification. I feel that I should, it’s such a major component of not just theology; but, more importantly, of salvation. I understand that justification is to be made right based on the declaration of God, who is the judicator. I understand that through justification, I am declared just, or free from guilt and the penalty of sin, because God decides it is so. But I don’t understand how it works. And I don’t understand why.
This verse (Romans 8:1) in Romans 8 has always stumped me. It stumps me today, after spending some time researching and writing on it in my Logos Bible Software. If I may be honest, I truly have avoided studying the whole of Romans, including Romans 8, because of the work it takes to wrap my mind around the theology of justification and of salvation and sanctification in general. But just like the fact that there comes a time in my work day when I must buckle down and attack the hard stuff, there also comes a time in being a believer that one must buckle down and confront the hard concepts in scripture as well.
There is therefore now…….
The use of the word “therefore” looks back to the struggle in chapter 7. In chapter 7, Paul gives words to the struggle that I believe we all face; at least, I know I do. Look at verses 14 and 15:
Oh, how true that is for me in my life. I do the very thing I hate. I sin, I sin, I sin. I am the known offender.
But then we come to the verses in 7: 24 and 25:
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
All of this leads into verse 8:1….There is therefore now no condemnation….
In my studying of this verse today, I was most taken with the word “now”. You see, I think it is difficult to even begin to comprehend that God forgives even the most heinous acts of sin I have committed. I certainly know that I, in and of myself, have done absolutely nothing to deserve his forgiveness, his compassion or his love. He had to give His son for me–and for you–His only son, as a sacrifice for my sins. For the awful things I have done.
And that “no condemnation”? It is now. Now. I can not work hard enough in order to earn this “no condemnation”, though in my flesh I want to. No, his forgiveness, my justification as declared by God, is now. I don’t understand that. Good grief, I can’t comprehend it even enough to be as thankful for it as I should be; as I want to be.
This “no condemnation” is for “those who are in Christ Jesus.” What does it mean to be “in Christ Jesus?” It is the positional place of grace given by God to those that believe. Believe what? That God is God. That Jesus is God’s son, given as a sacrifice for forgiveness of our sins, who died on the cross, was buried and three days later was resurrected and is now seated with God. And either a person is “in Christ Jesus”, or they are not. There is no other place to be.
The next three verses in Romans 8 help to solidify what Paul expresses to us in verse 1:
2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
In verse two, “the law of sin and death” is clearly explained at the end of chapter 7…..it is the law that kills. It wages war against my mind (verse 7:23). But we are set free–in Christ Jesus–from that deathly law, by the law of the Spirit of life. Once one believes, it is the operation of the Holy Spirit that overtakes the other law and expels it. These are hard things to grasp; I do not understand this at all, but one must try. If one does not wrestle and fight with these things, then their truth may never sink deep into the weave of our souls.
Verse 3 and 4 are rich and deep and complex. God did what the law-that was weakened by the flesh-could never do. The law tried. It tried and it tried and it tried, and yet it was weakened by the flesh, it was weakened by the law of sin and death. The law could not save. It could not justify. It could not produce life. But God, in His ultimate plan, sent His son to be a man among us without sin, but rather for the forgiveness of sin through His death, therefore “condemning sin in the flesh…”. Here’s the key–don’t miss this—sin was condemned through Jesus’ death–it’s been dealt with. It’s been forgiven. And so therefore, now, there is no condemnation……..
But why? Oh, how I struggle with the why. In verse 4 it says that these things were caused to happen so that “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us…” Not by us, but in us. It is not something we can do on our own. I know I can’t. Good grief, the things I have done to mock my Savior’s name!! The ugly, horrid, hateful things I have done!! There is nothing righteous about me. Nothing. And yet all these things–the putting to death of the law of sin and death, the giving of Jesus as a sacrifice for my sins–all these things have been done so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in me. Humbling. Overwhelming.
These are not easy things to work through, but they are so important. And I wish that I could say that I have a better grasp of them now, after my scripture work and then my writing here, but I don’t. I most certainly do not. But, maybe part of being in Christ Jesus is being able to say “God, I don’t understand how all of this works, but I’m so incredibly grateful that it does.”
My brain hurts.