No Condemnation

No Condemnation

No Condemnation for those in Christ Jesus
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain Bible Reading: Romans 8:1-4, 31-39

This week Phil explores another perspective of Romans 8 – looking at the amazing good news that in Jesus we are not condemned and that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

Sermon Text

When I was at theological college, my preaching lecturer taught us about the power of a well place …… pause.  A pause makes people focus as it is a hint that you are just about to say something important.

By the way that the gospel were written, it gives the impression that Jesus used the pause all the time.  Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, [Pause] and I will give you [Pause] rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, [pause] for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you [pause] will [pause] find [pause] rest for your souls.

You can do this with most of the passages where Jesus is teaching.  It is rich with pauses.

The Apostle Paul writing in the book of Romans is different.  Just like Jesus, Paul is a rabbi – a teacher – but he is also a Pharisee, was a key influencer and probably even a key litigator in the Sanhedrin.  Paul would have been more like a lawyer than a narrative preacher.  And this comes across in the book of Romans. 

And actually – I think this imagery of a courtroom scene unlocks the part of the power of Romans … especially Romans chapter 8.  Last week Kevin preached on Romans 8 from the perspective of Pentecost and the way that the Holy Spirit can help us and work in our lives.   It was a great sermon … but Romans 8 has more to offer to us, so today I am going to take another look at this great chapter from the perspective of Paul courtroom approach.  Are you ready for this?

So, in your minds image a courtroom.  A court of righteousness where we are the ones being judged and this court is going to determine whether we are right with God or not.  So far, the arguments in chapters 1 to 7 have gone back and forth, but Paul, the masterful court lawyer has been methodically explaining his understanding of the gospel of Jesus.

Yes, we were taught that perfectly following God’s law makes us right with God and the prosecution is correct – All of us have sinned and fallen short of that standard.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  We are reconciled through Jesus death and saved through his life.  The wages of sin might be death BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And then in Romans 8:1 the first part of our reading today … it is like Paul gives this dramatic gesture as he points at us – the accused – and declares that there is NO COMENDNATION for those in Christ Jesus!  We are not condemned!  Sure – the prosecution might be saying that we have fallen short and deserving of death but Paul is arguing on our behalf … we are not condemned.  There is NO COMENDNATION for those in Christ Jesus!   Are you getting this?  Do I need to pause to let this sink in?

Good, because Paul doesn’t pause but rather goes on to  encourage us that in response to all that God has done, we have an obligation to live Spirit-led lives – to live as one of God’s own adopted children!  This is what Kevin was saying in his sermon last week.  That as children of God we are to live spirit led lives … that the Holy Spirit should direct or influence all that we think, or say, or do.

But then it is like the prosecutor stands up to give their closing statements and points out the obvious – God might declare us as forgiven and perfect but the reality is that we are not perfect.  It is one thing to say that God declares us as his own redeemed Children and sees us as holy, pure and faultless … but declaring something doesn’t change the reality of what is happening day to day in our lives.  We still sin and fall short of God’s glory.

And this is the dilemma that the courtroom is struggling with.  Paul is right with his methodical argument … while we were still sinners Jesus died for us.  God through Jesus death and resurrection offered us forgiveness and reconciliation and we are made right with God through grace.  Yet, the prosecutor has a point … we are still sinners.

And the middle part of Romans 8 which Kevin preached on last week talked about the groaning – that we groan, that all of creation groans – because we are caught between the now and not yet. 

The NOW is that God declares that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, and through Jesus and Grace – we are totally forgiven.  God see us as holy, pure and faultless.  

But we are NOT YET holy, pure and faultless – that is the work of sanctification that I talked about two weeks ago.  That God through the Spirit is shaping and moulding us into the people who are holy, pure and faultless.  But that is a life-long process.

So God might see us NOW as righteous … but in reality we are still on that sanctification journey … we are NOT there YET.

Paul in the second part of our reading jumps into what is sometimes referred to as the “predestination argument”.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son….  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

I don’t have time to pull this apart – maybe if you want I can do a whole sermon on these two verses.  Put simply … God foreknew … God is beyond time; God can see all of human history from beginning to the end in one glimpse so God foreknew who would respond to his love and Grace … that is the big picture and if we zoom into this moment in time we see that God is working through the spirit within those who love him so that they will become like Jesus.  God knows that you love him, God calls you to love him, God justifies you, make you right so that he can be with you and also glorifies you.

It is interesting that in the Greek these verbs are written in the past tense but Paul writes them in a way that they point forward.  God has both justified you but we look forward to a point where you will be justified.  God has given you glory but in the future you will be glorified.  Just another link to the now and the not yet.

So what is the verdict then?  Do we have righteousness with God or not?  It’s time for Paul, the master courtroom lawyer, to present his closing argument.  Up to this point has been stepping through his notes in a structured and methodical way … but it is like at this point of the closing arguments – for this last part of Romans 8 – Paul tosses away the notes and speaks from the heart. 

He takes a rhetorical approach … asking a series of questions of which he doesn’t even pause before answering. 

Verse 31, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?“

Who can be against us … if I was replying I’d say plenty of things are against us.  The world, people who just don’t care, greedy corporations, corrupt politicians, life, heath … lots of things are against us.

This question really hit me when I was writing this sermon.  As you might know, I am a strategic thinker … I like to be thinking ahead to see where the challenges are and try to overcome them before they hit.  But over the past 12 months I am feeling a little overwhelmed because as a church I am seeing a whole lot of challenges – and I am not just talking about Turramurra or even the Uniting Church but THE church.  I think that the next 5 years will be some of the toughest years in the life of the church.  You ask me – who is against us – some days it feels like everyone and everything.

But Paul’s question is not “who is against us” – rather he is asking, “if God is for us, who can be against us”.  Not God who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all!

Yes – the sacrifice of Jesus shows that God is indeed for us.  And if God is for you then everything else fades away in comparison.  God is bigger than any challenge that the church is facing in the next 5 years.  God is bigger than anything circumstances or tragedy or issue that we might be facing.  Things might be against us … but God is for us. 

I really want Paul to pause at this point because I want this to sink in but Paul hammers on —“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?”  Once again … it is not God who bring the charges because God has justified you.  God is the one who says that because of Jesus you are forgiven and made right with him!

Verse 34 “Who then is the one who condemns?”

Not God who justifies, Not Jesus how died and rose again and who intercedes for us … Who then is the one condemning us.

Like the woman caught in adultery we have an epiphany moment … who condemns us?  No one.  No one.

It’s like we’ve done the full circle back to verse 1 … The reality of the declaration that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus has suddenly dawned on us …

Who condemns you?  No-one.

But Paul is still not pausing.  He is on a roll and continue to boom out across the courtroom … If God is for you, if no charges have been brought and if no-one condemns … then is there any barrier which is stopping you being in a loving relationship God. 

Verse 35 , “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”

Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? “  Paul could have listened so many other things … can bad luck or tragic circumstances or hurtful experiences or unjust accusations or horrible people separate us from the love of Christ?  Can difficulties, challenges, can the things that overwhelm us separate us from God?  Can any or all of these things separate us from the Love of Christ? 

And in one of those rare moments, I can imagine Paul finally pausing as the question hangs in the imaginary courtroom.  Can these things separate us from the Love of Christ? 

Paul pauses … then simply says, “No … No they can’t.  The love of Jesus is much, much more than these things.  The love of Jesus allows us to survive, to even rise above or conquer these things.”  Paul’s point is as profound as it is simple … Can trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword separate us from the love of Christ?  No … the love of Jesus is stronger … the love of Jesus conquers all.

Are you getting this?  Let me check by asking you a series of questions I asked at the end of my sermon three years go.  Let’s see if you still get it.

  • Is God for you or against you?  For you!
  • Because of the cross of Jesus …  Does God bring charges against you? No
  • Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus … Who condemns you?  No-one
  • Who condemns you?  No-one

Then who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

  • Can trouble or hardship? No
  • Can difficult circumstances or tragedies?  No
  • Can the harshness and darkness of this world?  No
  • Can hate overcome the love of God?  No

Verse 38 & 39 … Paul is convinced,  “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”