“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” — Romans 8:1-2 ESV
Having grown up with chaplains, or pastors, as the son of a career soldier I was exposed to a variety of different theological views. And after leaving home for university I was exposed to even more. I changed the course of my life after my sophomore year, choosing to study the Bible rather than physical therapy. During my time at Evangel College I was taught to think critically, and how to study and research the scriptures for myself. But it is difficult to set aside your preconceived notions and experiences when you approach your study. After all, we are the summation of our experiences, right?
This is one of the great paradoxes in life in Christ Jesus. The truth of scripture is not bound by our experiences. The Word of God is true regardless of our experiences! Romans 8:1-2 is true whether your experience with Christians is one of freedom or one of condemnation. I see three different schools of thought when I look at this scripture.
Growing up I was wracked with guilt. Yes, I was taught that there was forgiveness in Jesus, He forgave all of my sins. But I, nonetheless, could not forgive myself. In my first two years of college I found several groups who shared my experience with “forgiveness but…” theology.
“Forgiveness but…” theology always attaches conditions to our forgiveness. It leaves us with questions about our salvation, and fear that we still don’t, and may never, measure up. This type of thinking produces two kinds of Christians: the perpetually guilt ridden, and the proud. The proud see themselves as “holier than thou.” They are quick to point out other people’s sins to bring them other down and make themselves feel and look better.
But there is another group of Christians who see the “no condemnation” part of our text as a license to live however they choose. In Romans 7, just prior to our text Paul says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me,that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:18, 20). Paul addressed this kind of thinking in the Galatian church. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13 ESV). Being forgiven means that we have no condemnation. And we will be forgiven for all of our sins, but that doesn’t mean that we should continue to sin willfully.
And then there’s a third group. The ones who do their level best to live godly lives in Christ Jesus, but refuse to brought down by sin. These are the ones who have joy in their hearts, the one’s who are quick to repent and move on. They refuse to let the devil shame them into defeat, but they find strength in the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. They see scriptures like Romans 8:1-2 and rejoice that they are free from the power of sin. The letter of the law has been replaced by the “the law of the Spirit of life.”
We decide the state in which we are going to spend our mortal days. We choose joy and freedom; or we choose condemnation and defeat. Consider your life. Identify the attitude that usually wins out in. And determine that you will walk upright and joyful, with no condemnation.
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