No Condemnation

Reading: Romans 8.1-17
Conscience is a funny thing. Some people seem to have no conscience at all. Yet every year the Taxation Office receives anonymous cheques from people who have understated their tax liability - their conscience is getting at them. Then we have the other situation. The police are looking for the perpetrator of a serious crime and someone having no connection at all with the case confesses to it.

In Romans chapter 7 we saw Paul's anguish over the presence of sin in his own life. Do you remember what it was like trying to ride your pushbike along the broken edge of the bitumen without dropping onto the gravel? Somehow the edge seemed to draw you closer to the danger point all the time. And Paul, sincerely trying to do the right, felt himself drawn away from the right to the wrong. He felt despairing and condemned. He said, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" Paul doesn't end with despair. He gives the answer to his question, "Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

How is your conscience? Do you face the inward struggle that Paul wrote about? Do you identify with his experience? Do you sometimes wonder whether you can ever rise above the despair and self-condemnation?

No Condemnation

Then hear the good news! "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (8.1). As we have just been singing (AHB 138) -

What is the hymn-writer saying? I have put my faith in Jesus - he is mine, he is my Saviour, my Lord, my Friend. Because Jesus is mine by faith, I therefore share in all the benefits of his saving and redeeming work. In him I am alive and already clothed in his righteousness. God still has many things that he is doing in my life. He hasn't finished with me yet. But already he looks at me in terms of the finished work of Christ in dying for me on the cross. Already he views me as being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Because Christ has died for me I have confidence to come into God's presence. Even now I face no condemnation. Even now I come to claim the crown "through Christ my own"!

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." In union with Christ Jesus, God has already forgiven you! Praise his name!

All that the Law could do was bring the knowledge of sin, the guilt of sin and the condemnation of sin. The Law couldn't make people better, much less right with God. But God has done what the Law couldn't do. He sent Jesus his own Son. He came with a human nature just like the one that is spoilt by sin. The Law rightly demanded satisfaction, rightly demanded the death penalty. He died that death, took that death penalty, fully satisfied the righteous demands of the Law.

Life in the Spirit

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." The Law is still there, but we are forgiven. We are now to "live in accordance with the Spirit." We are now to "live as the Spirit tells us to," as the Good News Bible puts it in v. 5. We are to "have [our] minds set on what the Spirit desires." Controlled by our human nature we act as enemies of God and our lives can only result in judgment and death. "The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace" (v. 6).

Thinking back to Paul's struggle, he isn't saying, "I am forgiven. I mustn't worry! It doesn't matter if I fall into sin again. Christ has died for my sins." No! What he is saying is, "Christ has died for my sins. I am forgiven. The Law can no longer condemn me. Now the Spirit of Christ lives within me. I am to allow the Spirit to control me and enable me."

Notice how strongly Paul insists that the Holy Spirit lives within each believer. If you truly believe in Christ, the Spirit lives in you. You cannot be a Christian without the Holy Spirit. Paul is not speaking here of particular evidences of the Spirit's presence. The whole of the teaching on the Christian life assumes that every Christian believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Our part is to choose to allow the Spirit control of our minds, our feelings and our actions.

Paul had been talking about the body that was taking him to death. Now Paul is saying that "if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness" (v. 10). The Good News Bible reads, "the Spirit is life for you because you have been put right with God." Paul goes on to say, "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you" (v. 11). We will experience the Spirit's life-giving power. Now that we have the Spirit within us, we can choose to "put to death" our sinful actions. No longer are we bound to feel the drawing power of the edge of the road as we are led by the Spirit.

And our new actions are part of a new relationship. In a very personal way the Spirit leads us to know God as "Abba, Father!" (v. 15) - "Abba" the intimate Aramaic family word, equivalent to our "Daddy".

The New Life

The frustrated discouraged Paul could say, "Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (7.24b,25a). Therefore he can chart out the path to new life with confidence.

Because of what God has done for us in Christ, there is now no condemnation for those who live in union with Christ Jesus. Are you putting your trust in Jesus Christ? Are you depending, not on what you have achieved, but on what he has done for you? Be assured - "Therefore, there is now no condemnation…"

You have been set free! But how are you going to live? You belong to Christ. Your life is now to be controlled by the Spirit of God. There is an element of choice in this. Your life doesn't have to be controlled by your human nature any more. Allow the Spirit to do his work within you. The Spirit who brings us life in Christ Jesus is to lead us.

At the end of this chapter, Paul goes on to affirm that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him" (v. 28). Paul isn't saying that all things will necessarily be good, but that God will be at work for good in our lives, no matter what happens.

Forgiven - no condemnation! A life yielded to the control of the Holy Spirit. A confidence that God is at work for good through all the circumstances of our life. Thanks be to God - through our Lord Jesus Christ!

© Peter J. Blackburn, Home Hill and Ayr Uniting Churches, 7 July 2002
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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