GOSPEL FREEDOM

FREEDOM FROM CONDEMNATION

In Genesis 3 a dimension entered human life that had not been there before: a destructive self-awareness that is characterised by shame and guilt. Accompanying this shame and guilt is fear: fear of rejection, fear of reprisal or retribution, in the presence of each other and in the presence of God.

One of the characteristics of the religions and cults of the world is the attempt to somehow escape or avert the retribution, the condemnation that threatens us. We shrink from the condemnation, and we employ all manner of strategies to defuse it, whether it is generated by the laws of the land, the expectations of our society, the laws of our religion, or our own personal moral standards.

We know that we fail. We know that we do not live up to what we believe is right. And by this failure we stand condemned.

Paul expressed this impossible dilemma, this tragic truth of human life, in Romans 7:7-25. Perhaps more than anyone he was committed to obeying the laws of God, yet even he failed, and knew that he failed. The good he wanted to do he failed to do; the bad he wanted to avoid he ended up doing. He was racked with this irresolvable tension within himself. He stood condemned by the law of God and he stood condemned by his own conscience. His cry, filled with personal shame, pulsating with personal guilt, is the cry of every honest human heart: ‘What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?’ [7:24]

Here in Paul’s cry we all cry. Here we all stand. This is who we are. This is what we are. And the human religions, and the human cults, and our own consciences all try to provide an escape from this condemnation … and they all fail. They might ease our inner pain for a little while but then the whole tragedy begins again simply because we fail again, and again, and again.

But Paul has discovered something. Paul has learned that there is another truth that transcends and overrides this impasse. Yes, this is who he is, this is who we are. But there is something else that is also true … something bigger, something more powerful, something more permanent. Something that sets us free forever from all the condemnation that is rightly ours.

That ‘something’ is Jesus Christ [Romans 7:25a; 8:1-4].

Jesus Christ succeeded where we fail, fully keeping the law of God.
He did this as our representative. What we cannot do, he did.

He took the condemnation due to us, fully satisfying the law of God.
He did this as our substitute. What we cannot survive, he bore.

For this reason ‘those who are in Christ Jesus’ [those united to Jesus Christ by true faith] are not condemned and will never again be condemned.

Consider:

‘He who believes in him is not condemned …’ [John 3:18]

‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes in him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned …’ [John 5:24]

‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ [Romans 8:1].

Condemnation will continue to harass us, from Satan, from our society, from our peers, from our church, from our own conscience.

But God says:

Who is this who stands before me condemning you? Who is this who is negating the work of my Son Jesus Christ? My Son Jesus Christ has died for you, bearing all the condemnation due to you; my Son Jesus Christ, who lived the perfect human life, is here at my right hand as your representative! Even if it is your own heart condemning you, I am greater than your heart! And what I have done for you through my Son, is done and stays done. [Read: Romans 8:34; 1John 3:20; Hebrews 9:12]. 

There is no condemnation. Not now. Not ever.

For those who are in Christ Jesus.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012