Romans 8:1 declares, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
1. To pronounce to be utterly wrong; to utter a sentence of disapprobation against; to censure; to blame. But the word often expresses more than censure or blame, and seems to include the idea of utter rejection; as, to condemn heretical opinions; to condemn one’s conduct.
2. To determine or judge to be wrong, or guilty; to disallow; to disapprove.
3. To witness against; to show or prove to be wrong, or guilty, by a contrary practice.
4. To pronounce to be guilty; to sentence to punishment; to utter sentence against judicially; to doom; opposed to acquit or absolve.
5. To doom or sentence to pay a fine; to fine.
6. To judge or pronounce to be unfit for use or service; as, the ship was condemned as not sea-worthy. To judge or pronounce to be forfeited; as, the ship and her cargo were condemned. (Noah Webster)
The word condemnation looms large in Romans 8:1, so the promise offers overwhelming relief. So why is it too often hard to embrace? Why am I more comfortable claiming Webster’s definitions over my life than I am the simple promise that I, as a lover of Christ, stand inculpable? Not one jot, not a whit of a tittle of Webster’s six definitions of the word condemnation applies to me. Yet my heart insists on distrusting God by walking in the fear of disapprobation, censure, guilt, and rejection from him.
I know myself. I know my shortcomings, and worse, my reflexive, unpremeditated inner dialogue. Sure, I capture those wretched thoughts the moment, or as soon as possible, after they burst into my mind. But I fear that if they are bursting into my mind in the first place, I must be providing fertile soil to give them at least a little bit of viability. The persistence of the pre-justified version of me hinders my acceptance of Romans 8:1. I can be, after all, a real jerk.
When I am inclined to reject God’s grace-fueled offer of absolution, I go straight to prayer and meditation on his word. There I am cheered, as I come to this marvelous and comforting conclusion: God does not think I’m a jerk. He knows I am.
Jesus did not wait until we were composed and impeccable before he subjected his body and spirit to the anguish of the cross. He did it while we were yet sinners. (Romans 5:8). That is, messy, reproachable, fractured jerks. As Christ followers, we are assured of some pretty glorious and indisputable promises. Believing anything else is buying into the crafty untruths of the enemy.
Here are five promises that affirm that Romans 8:1 applies to those of us who believe and accept the necessity and reality of salvation in Christ.
1. We are forgiven.
Colossians 2:13 says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.” A holy God created creatures in his image, gave them free will, watched them employ that free will to take advantage of his goodness, then forgave them with the caveat of accepting his plan of salvation, that is, the finished work of Christ on the cross.
2. We are accepted.
2 Corinthians declares, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Here is the mystery we must accept. Christ became the sin we needed to shed. Then we became the righteousness that he freely relinquished. It is that righteousness, imputed to us through the sacrifice of Jesus, that secures our total acceptance.
3. We are adopted.
Galatians 4:5-7 proclaims that God sent Christ, “to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
To adopt is “to take a stranger into one's family, as son and heir; to take one who is not a child, and treat him as one, giving him a title to the privileges and rights of a child” (Noah Webster).
We were strangers, now we are sons. We were rejected, now we are heirs. Ours is the title, the privilege, and the rights to all that is Christ’s!
4. We are free.
In John 8:34-36, Jesus explains, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” If our adoption has made us sons, then we remain with Christ forever, eternally free. Free from sin. Free from guilt. Free from condemnation. Free to love, to live, and to serve the One who bought our freedom with his blood.
5. We are not alone.
Zephaniah 3:17 exclaims, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Romans 8:38 and 39 assures us “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If we are in Christ, the Lord of all Creation loves us with an inseparable, inexhaustible, indefatigable, quieting, exulting love that transcends trial, sin, and even death.
John Newton said, “assurance is the result of a competent spiritual knowledge of the person and work of Christ as revealed in the Gospel, and a consciousness of dependence on him and his work alone for salvation.” He said that this knowledge will “overpower the objections arising from inward corruptions, defects of obedience, unbelieving fears, and the temptations of Satan.”
We are assured by the very words of God, that if we are in Christ we stand approved, uncensurable, guiltless, and cherished, as his children and heirs, with inexpressible joy, in his kingdom that has no end.