Most commentators seem to think that Romans is a legal argument explaining how some people will be justified and others will be condemned, and so they pick it apart for knowledge to be used in preparation for judgment day—your day in court.
It’s rather ironic since Romans—and particularly chapter eight—appears to be a legal argument against legal arguments and a picture of something far more personal, passionate, and existential than any day in any court.
Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
That verse fills me with Hope: Can you imagine the freedom? Where would you go? What would you do? How would you live? . . . if there were no condemnation.
Then, it fills me with Confusion: If there were no condemnation, would I even recognize myself? For all of my “life,” I’ve been preparing for my day in court.
Then, it fills me with Terror: Last Thursday I woke up at 3AM with Romans 8:1 running through my mind, “…no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I thought, “I sure do condemn myself… a lot.” Then I condemned myself for condemning myself. Then I thought, “I’m not in Christ Jesus, for there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus!” Then I thought, “What’s not in Christ Jesus? ‘In him, all things hold together.’” Perhaps I don’t exist and can’t hold together! And Judgment Day is coming; Sunday is coming, and I have to preach on “no condemnation” when I am trapped in a raging vortex of self-centered condemnation…
Romans 8:1-3, “There is therefore now no condemnation… For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned the sin in the flesh…”
How exactly that works is a topic of great debate, and according to Paul, ultimately beyond our comprehension. But this much is clear: Through the cross, God condemned my raging vortex of condemnation; he condemned sin in the flesh—my ceaseless attempt to justify myself by condemning others, then myself, and ultimately God.
Jesus was NOT condemned so that I would never be condemned.
Jesus was condemned so that we would all be condemned by condemning him.
Jesus died so that we’d all die in him, and then live in him, in a reality where there is no such thing as condemnation, for that is God’s Judgment: Eternal Life—an endless communion of sacrificial love, the condemnation of condemnation.
“The mind of the flesh is death; the mind of the Spirit is Life and Peace.” (Romans 8:6)
“But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit since the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 8:9)
Paul speaks as if the Spirit of God (the Breath of God) is entombed in every human heart until Jesus delivers up his Spirit on the tree in the garden and the curtain separating the inner tent from the outer temple rips from top to bottom as if something gets in and something gets out.
Paul speaks as if the Spirit of Jesus really is the Promised Seed, the “sperma,” and that through his death he impregnated us with himself, such that his Spirit becomes one with our spirit (God’s Breath), such that my old “me” has become pregnant with my new “me” that is also Jesus’s “me,” and that that “me” is growing and fixing to be born… fixing to breathe the breath of God in the New Creation. .
It takes faith to breathe. To breathe is to expire and inspire the Spirit.
Romans 8:10, “The Spirit (Breath) is Life because of righteousness (that’s faith).”
Romans 8:15, “When we cry ‘Abba Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God…”
Thursday morning around 3:30 AM I lay awake trapped in a vortex of condemnation. The Accuser was breathing down my neck, whispering “you’re not worthy” and I wanted to die.
And then I remembered the Gospel we’re preaching; I cried out “Dad, Abba, Father.”
And something happened: Just by speaking the word, I became a child and entered the kingdom; just by speaking the word, I passed through judgment and entered the innermost tent; just by speaking the word, I surrendered my knowledge and received the Life; and just by speaking the word, I began to breathe.
Something was lost: Me-sus, The “me” that I think I create.
And something was found… or perhaps born: Jesus, or Jesus in me, or me in Jesus; I was lost and found in Jesus—There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
The true “me” is actually born of a false “me” that doesn’t exist and cannot hold together; a “me” that cannot be condemned is born of a “me” that is already condemned, into a reality that is incorruptible and eternal.
And it’s not just “me,” it’s all of reality (Romans 8:18-24).
In this hope, we are saved, we are delivered (Romans 8:24).
Several years ago, a young friend of mine, rushed his young girlfriend to the hospital with severe pains in her abdomen. Perhaps it was appendicitis or an obstruction? Anxiously he awaited the doctor’s judgment: Would she live or would she die (condemnation)?
When the doctor found him, he informed him: “She’s not dying; she’s giving birth; you’re about to be a Daddy.” To my young friend that was very good news. And yet, something did die. He lost his old psyche and found a new one; he lost his old world and entered a new one—the moment he heard the Good News.
What if in a moment of great stress and failure, someone told you, “You’re not dying; you’re giving birth . . . and you’re being born”? Maybe, “in this hope, you would be delivered.”
You will be judged but not by Judge Judy, Antonin Scalia, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
You will be judged and have been judged, by your Creator.
And this is His Judgment: “You must be born again (John 3:7).”