No Condemnation in Christ
May 16, 2019
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).
I’ve had the privilege of serving as a juror in several trials. After the tedium of evidence presentation and debate about the facts, and the slow progress of the search for justice, the verdict is always a welcome, liberating climax. Usually the jury foreman is given the duty of announcing the long-awaited verdict. There is often a sigh of relief from half of the courtroom audience and a murmur of disappointment from the other half. The verdict is read and explained by the judge and the jurors are thanked and dismissed. Later that verdict leads to a sentencing.
The verdict is the final declaration from the judge as to guilt or innocence. Of course, in our legal system a verdict can be appealed but the verdict is final and enforceable if not overturned. The Judge in the legal system of the universe is God Himself. His word is always final and cannot be overturned. The Bible is clear that one day He will render a final irrevocable judgment upon every person who has lived.
God’s law is very strict and He allows no violations. When we put two of Paul’s statements together this strictness is obvious. In one place Paul says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) and in another “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). If we stopped there we would simply throw up our hands and collapse in hopelessness because according to God we have committed the crime and the penalty is death and we’re not talking about physical death alone.
Thank God that in His omniscience He purposed a way that His righteous judgment could be rendered against mankind in such a way that His love prevailed. Paul said it this way: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5;8). As if knowing the sinful potential of beings with free will to choose, long before the actual entrance of sin, God provided His answer. The Lamb of God was “slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). The only way to understand this is to realize that God made the provision for the payment of the wages of sin at the very same time that He declared His eternal purpose. His ultimate answer was that a member of the divine godhead would pay the penalty. This is Love’s answer to the sin dilemma.
The caveat was that this gift of love would have to be received freely into repentant hearts. God had offered eternal life freely to the first humans and that offer would remain for those whom He chose before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before God in love (Eph. 1:4). God would provide a way that His chosen ones could be holy and blameless even in the wake of sin’s devastation. Paul told us that “love never fails” so it follows that God’s love, in which His people were called, cannot fail. It would accomplish its purpose in the end. Like the “deep magic” in the story of Narnia, love prevails because the One who established the rules from the beginning would pay the price for the freedom of His called ones.
So, Paul, having received the revelation of this truth, wrote, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). The “therefore” of this verse refers back to chapter 7 in which the apostle comes to the end of his fleshly rope realizing that it is impossible for him in this earthly body to live a life without sin. He cries out at chapter’s end, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (v. 24). The answer that came to him was that in Christ there is no condemnation; no guilty verdict, because Christ provided the payment at the inception of God’s eternal purpose.
God always knew that sin would not be a dead end for mankind. Rather, He included an escape plan that would allow people of goodwill to return to Him. That esape plan was hinted at in the Garden when He told the originator of sin "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" Gen. 3:15). This escape plan is the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned (John 3:16-18).
God’s rescue plan involved coming to earth as a man and paying the price that His justice required for the offense of sin. He would never renege on His perfect standard in regard to sin but would provide His perfect Son to meet the standard and give Himself as life for those who fell short. This is what Paul means when he declares "… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed" (Rom. 3:23-25).
The lengthy word “propitiation” refers to the provision of a remedy that meets the standard of the person demanding justice. In other words when a judge pronounces a sentence the “propitiation” is a payment or action made that satisfies the judge’s standard of justice which is the law. The word hints of the mercy seat upon which the redemptive blood was shed in Old Testament times. It is that place of mercy where God overlooks the sin of many because of the death of One—His Son. Justice is served because someone with a perfect standing offers Himself as the redeeming payment for all who will accept it.
People who reject the propitiation are left to suffer the original punishment for sin. Why would anyone do that? Because they do not believe. Paul said they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest within them” (Rom. 1:18, 19). The truth is revealed. It is there for all to see and know but many suppress that truth because of their unrighteousness. What we need to know about God is manifest within every human. God made us that way. He has revealed Himself fully to those who want to find Him. We are without excuse if we reject Him and His free offer of salvation.
Those who are “in Christ” are absolved of their crime of sin because Christ paid the ransom for them. That ransom price was His own death on the cross. “You were bought with a price,” Paul declared (1 Cor. 7:23). Because of His great love from the origin of God’s purpose, He purchased us with the price of His life.
There will be a final judgment one day. Of course, this does not match up with modern secular thinking about God and right and wrong. On the other hand, it is wonderful to know that God has declared the verdict ahead of time in His Son— “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”