Romans 8:1. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Paul has been systematically moving us toward this most glorious of chapters. Romans 8. The work of Christ FOR us has secured our justification (Romans 3-5). We have his imputed righteousness. We are IN CHRIST. We have died to sin (Romans 6) and to the law (Romans 7). Now, here in Romans 8, we will dive head first into CHRIST IN US. Life in the Spirit. The Christian life the way it’s supposed to be.
But before we can begin to experience this “normal Christian life,” we have to embrace the foundational truth that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Listen I get it. This is hard to believe. Most of us believe it intellectually. We can quote this verse. But do we really believe it in our hearts? Accept it? Live it? Do we really live like those who are not condemned? The word “condemned” literally means to deserve penal servitude. Prison time. To be cut off from society. Proving our guilt is probably not the task of this blog. If you are reading this, most likely you know you’re a sinner. What you really struggle with is the idea that you are free from condemnation.
Why is this so hard for us to accept? Because we are constantly looking at ourselves instead of at Christ. We are free from condemnation ONLY because we are in Christ. We share his risen life. The Spirit of Christ is our new law. And he is a law that has already been satisfied by the life of Christ and our union with him. This is not a union of degrees. We are not partially in Christ and partially guilty at the same time. No. With Christ it is all or nothing.
Why does Paul start with this statement of no condemnation before he explains our life in the Spirit? Because he knows that if God is after our holiness, it will never come from condemnation. The feelings of condemnation never produce true repentance and righteousness. Only God’s kindness and grace do (Romans 2:4). Condemnation leads to self-condemnation and self-condemnation always produces either a fight or flight response.
Take for example this Gillette ad that debuted this past week.
Everyone has had an opinion on this commercial. But I’m not going to comment on “toxic masculinity” or what it means to be a man. That’s another blog post for another time. What’s interesting to me is the visceral reaction to this ad. At the time of this writing, this video had 648,000 “likes” on YouTube. But it had 1.1 million “dislikes.” There’s been all kinds of articles and blogs written in defiance of this ad. But why? It seems like the biggest complaint about it is that it “condemns” all men. It condemns masculinity.
And when people feel like they are being condemned they will hit the “dislike” button every time. When we feel like we are being condemned we will fight or we will flight. When we feel self condemnation we will do all kinds of things to escape. We will compare ourselves to others. We will turn it around on the one who we think is condemning us. Or we will lessen the “law” that is condemning us, turning it into “no big deal.”
Maybe this is why so many men hate the Gillette commercial. Because it’s a law that condemns us but we haven’t really learned how to deal with such laws through our union with Christ, through the Spirit.
The Spirit removes all condemnation from God and therefore all self condemnation. The result is something very powerful. What I once saw as condemning is now encouraging. What I once saw as humiliating, I can now use for self evaluation. What I once called a short sighted viewpoint, I can now use to challenge my viewpoint.
The beauty of no condemnation is that even when a commercial, or anything else in life seeks to condemn me, I can allow Christ to turn it around and use it to teach me, enlighten me, and encourage me. It may be true that these kinds of ads would do far better if they were less condemning and more encouraging (which is in fact the whole message of Romans 8), but when I am confronted by a law that seems to condemn me, I no longer have to be condemned. Why? Because, “to live is Christ” says I’m NOT.
This is the end of self hate. This is the end of fight or flight responses. And it might just be the beginning of humble and grace filled conversations with others.
What has sought to condemn you recently? How can your union with Christ allow you to be encouraged by this very same thing? How can you use it to challenge yourself, and find grace and compassion for others?