Romans 8: 1
“This is the best news you ever heard.” But it is not always easy to believe. “Often we make the mistake of thinking that the gospel is simply what we believe in order to be saved. We hear it, we believe it and we are born again. Though we wouldn’t say it this way, we often act like that gospel has no further relevance to us. It gets us ‘in the door,’ so to speak, but it’s not part of our daily life.
It’s easy to believe it for someone else, harder to believe it for ourselves so we need the constant reminder that in Christ we are eternally and always “not condemned” by God.
With that as background, let’s consider what this verse really means.
Two Tremendous Truths
What do we discover when we move from the last part of Romans 7 to the first part of Romans 8? 2 great truths about our Christian experience.
1. There is a struggle in the Christian life.
Paul said - “In my mind I want to please God. But there is something in me that makes me want to do the opposite.” “That which I would do, I do not do. That which I hate, I do.”
We all understand that, don’t we? In the morning we get up and say, “Lord, this is your day and I’m going to be your servant and do your will today.” So we set out to accomplish a number of things that we know will be pleasing to God. We say, “Lord, with your help, I’m not going to lose my temper.” “Lord, help me with my critical spirit.” “Lord, help me not to gossip.” The very thing we said we were going to do, we don’t do. The thing we said we’d never do, we do. Romans 7 is not the whole story.
Let’s be honest. You can be a very great Christian as the Apostle Paul was, and you can at the same time struggle a great deal in your walk with God. Paul is just being honest. He’s saying that even though he was an apostle, he felt a struggle between his desire to please God and the pull of his flesh.
This struggle is part of your walk with God. Thank God, it is not the whole story, but it is one part of the story.
When Paul says, “O wretched man that I am,” I understand him. He’s not just talking about himself. He’s talking about me and he’s talking about you. We all struggle in many ways.
We struggle between what we know and what we actually do. We also struggle between our better desires and our lesser desires. We struggle between what we know God wants us to do and what we would rather do if God would just leave us alone. We struggle all the time, torn this way and that way. That’s part of what it means to live in this sin-cursed world.
Sometimes people come to Christ and then they get upset because things don’t go well for them. They get upset because they have relationship difficulties, financial difficulties, personal difficulties, emotional difficulties, marital difficulties, problems in different areas in life. They get discouraged, they get disillusioned, they get angry with God and wonder what’s wrong with them. Often there’s nothing deeply wrong with you if you’re going through a period of struggle. It’s just “part and parcel” of what it means to live on this earth. There is a struggle in the Christian life.
2. That struggle is without condemnation.
In the Greek the first word is not “therefore.” The first word in the Greek is the word “no.” Paul wants to emphasize in the strongest possible way that there is no condemnation. You might translate it this way: “There is no condemnation—none whatsoever—for the believer in Christ Jesus.”
Let me see if I can explain what it doesn’t mean. Then I’ll try to tell you what I think it does mean. He is not saying there is now no cause for condemnation. That wouldn’t be true. You fail and I fail. You stumble and I stumble. You fall and I fall. You get off the path and so do I. Sometimes we’re just barely making it. Paul is not saying there is no cause for condemnation in us because if God were to look down from heaven and were to judge you moment by moment, he’d find plenty of cause for condemnation in you.
Is Paul saying, “There is, therefore now, no failure for those who are in Christ Jesus?” No. Is he saying, “There is, therefore now, no struggle for those who are in Christ Jesus?” No. Is he saying, “There is, therefore now, no stumbling for those who are in Christ Jesus?” No.
He is saying there is, therefore now, no condemnation, no punishment, no coming into judgment for the follower of Jesus Christ.
Do you know what that means? We may stumble, we may fall, we may trip, we may make a thousand mistakes, we may sin and we do, we may get off the path, we may go astray, we may have a thousand problems, but for the believer in Jesus Christ, there is no condemnation because God has said it is so. You can fall, but you’re not condemned. You can trip, but you’re not condemned. You can stray off the path, but you are not condemned because God has said he will not condemn those who are in Christ Jesus.
When Jesus saved you, he didn’t say he would take away all your problems. No, but he did say this. In your problems, there is no condemnation. In your struggles, there is no condemnation. In your failure, there is no condemnation. In your going astray, there is no condemnation.
A. It means there is no rejection for the believer.
God is not going to reject you just because you struggle. Most of us know the lovely story of the Prodigal Son. He was in his father’s house and went off to the far country. There he gave himself to riotous living, spent all his inheritance, and ended up in the pig pen. He hit the very bottom. The son who had it all went from top to bottom. Left his family, squandered his inheritance and is now living with the pigs. What is the difference between a pig and a man in a pig pen? The pig just keeps on eating the husks. After a while, the man says ’I will arise and go to my father.’
Where was the father when the son returned home? Not in the house. He was out on the road coming to meet him. It’s a picture of our experience as believers. There is no rejection for those who are in Christ Jesus. Even those who wander, even those who stray, even those who have been living for a long time in the far country and are embarrassed because they have squandered the spiritual inheritance of God’s kingdom. You are scared to death to turn back because you think God’s going to condemn you. Remember, God already knows everything you’ve done and everything you’ve dreamed of doing. He loves you anyway. You’re still in his family. The moment you say, “I will arise and go to my father,” in that very moment he will say, “Kill the fatted calf. Let’s have a party. My son who was lost, has been found. He was away, but now he’s come home.”
So what do we do when we fail? Sometimes we make the same dumb mistakes over and over again. What then? We repent, by God’s grace our eyes are opened to see what we have done, we change our minds, we stop making excuses, we confess to God and to others, we seek God’s help, we ask others to help us, and we ask God to help us as we move forward.
B. It means there’s no punishment for the believer.
There’s discipline and there’s correction, which may be very painful, but there’s no harsh, abusive punishment.
What does God do when we fail. He helps us back up, he tells us where we went wrong, and he puts us back in the game. That’s what Paul means when he says there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ. Some Christians go through life with a heavy load of guilt not just because they struggle but because they feel condemned by God. They feel like God hates them. But he doesn’t. His thoughts toward us are thoughts of love. Even when he must discipline us severely, he does it for our own good. Even his chastising is for our ultimate benefit.
I don’t know of any truth more important, more satisfying, or more liberating than the great truth that for those who know Jesus Christ, there is no condemnation. Why? Because Jesus paid it all. Why? Because your sins are gone. Why? Because Jesus condemned sin by his death on the cross.
The devil condemns us day and night and whispers in our ear, “Condemned! Condemned!” God says, “No condemnation!” Who are you going to believe? The devil or God? You’ll have to make up your own mind, but I’m going to believe what God has said.
I can’t think of a better, more encouraging spiritual truth that I could share with you. For those who are in Christ Jesus, now, today, not tomorrow, not next week, not next year, but NOW, there is no condemnation.
Three Things That Remain True in the Midst of Your Struggles
1. You are eternally secure.
You can never lose your salvation if you are a believer in Jesus Christ because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Here is the great good news of the gospel: What God demands, he supplies. He demands a perfect sacrifice for sin, and he provided that sacrifice in the death of his Son. Listen to me carefully. If a child of God ever goes to hell, God will be a liar because God has said there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
2. You are internally free.
You’re not bound any more. God doesn’t have you on a performance standard in order to earn his grace. His grace is a gift, freely given.
3. You are positionally perfect.
When God looks at you, he sees Jesus Christ, and he credits you with all that is said about his Son. Who is it that is not condemned? Those who are “in” Christ Jesus. When it comes to salvation, there are only two places you can be. You’re either outside of Christ or you’re in Christ. You are either outside of Jesus Christ and on your own, or you are in Christ and you are saved.
If you are outside of Christ, you are condemned already. If you are in Christ, you are not condemned. If you are outside of Christ, judgment is still in front of you in the future. But if you are in Christ, your judgment is behind you, in the past. That’s why there can be no condemnation if you’re in Christ. You’ve already been judged. You trusted Christ by his death on the cross took the judgment meant for you.
Are you in Christ? Where are you right now? Are you outside of Christ and lost or are you in Christ and safe? I urge you with all of my heart, with every fibre of my being, if you are not sure, if you do not know where you stand, run to Jesus Christ and embrace the cross. If you are outside of Christ, come by faith to Jesus. When you come, you will discover the most liberating truth in the world—that in Christ there is no condemnation.