Dear CSOPC brothers and sisters,
From the Pastor’s Desk
Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Paul’s letter to the Romans is a theological tour-de-force. It is Paul’s most detailed and systematic presentation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And arguably Romans chapter 8 is the pinnacle of the book. For this week’s devotion, I want to consider how Paul opens Romans 8: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” There are several things to note if we are to appreciate the fullness of what this verse teaches.
First, we notice the transition term, ‘therefore.’ Likely this term has in view all that has come before in chapters 3-7. In these chapters the Apostle Paul has expounded God’s glorious answer to the sin problem. Mankind is helplessly and hopelessly lost in sin (1:18-3:20). But God in Christ has reconciled us to himself. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us … while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom 5:8, 10).
Second, Paul writes, “There is therefore … now no condemnation.” No condemnation. No longer do we stand before the bar of God’s perfect justice as condemned sinners; but rather we ‘now’ stand before him righteous – perfectly righteous. Indeed, Christ has ‘set us free from the law of sin and death’ (v. 2). We are justified. We are counted righteous. And we are counted righteous ‘now.’ The moment one repents and turns to Christ, he is declared ‘not guilty’ and – even more than this – is counted righteous. That is to say, when the Father looks at us with respect to our standing before his law, he sees the perfect, spotless, sinless righteousness of his son (cf. Phil 3:9; 2 Cor 5:21). Just as the blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat of the ark in which was the law of God – thereby covering the broken law of the people of God; so the blood of Christ washes us white as snow (Lev 16:14; Is 1:18; 1 John 1:7; Rev 1:5; Eph 1:7). Now no condemnation! Now justification! Now the perfect righteousness of Christ!
Third, we note for whom the glorious benefit of justification is present: “There is therefore now no condemnation … for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The benefit of forgiveness and justification is not a benefit indiscriminately bestowed on all people. Rather, it is for those ‘in Christ.’ It is for those who belong to Christ – who are in union with Christ – who rest in Christ – who have repented and believed in Christ. That is to say, it is for believers (Eph 1:3). Justification is one of the glorious benefits of Christ’s salvific work for those who trust in him (the other benefits being adoption, sanctification, glorification, perseverance, etc). But the tragic reality is that the opposite is also the case; namely, there is condemnation for those not in Christ. The unbeliever stands before the bar of God’s justice condemned and guilty – worthy of God’s just wrath and judgment.
Brothers and sisters, may we rejoice that we are found in Christ by his grace. May we rejoice that today we are righteous in Christ – that there is now no condemnation for us! But at the same time, may we mourn for the lost. For those who do not know such glorious forgiveness. May we pray they would fall to their knees, repent, and turn to Christ – in whom alone there is ‘no condemnation.’