Romans 8:1-2, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 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 marks another significant turning point in Paul’s magisterial epistle to the church at Rome, and this verse gives one of the most marvelous and succinct statements of the gospel in Scripture: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” There is no better news than this. Our greatest need is to come out from under the wrath and condemnation of our Creator, and this need is satisfied in Christ.
This satisfaction is eternal—we will never be under the wrath of God again if we have truly trusted in Jesus alone. We noted this in our study of Romans 5:1 and its description of the permanent peace—the shalom—that Christ brings between the Lord and His people. The assurance of Romans 5 is not limited to the point of conversion, but, building on what happens when we move from being outside of Christ to being in Christ (1:18-4:25), it has a particular focus on justification as the entry point into the kingdom. However, Romans 8:1, while not limited to our life in Christ, builds on Paul’s description of the believer’s ongoing struggle against sin in chapters 6-7. Thus, 8:1 focuses on how the reality of our once-for-all justification continues to apply to and have bearing on our lives as Christians. God’s good law reveals our sin and drives us to Christ and to the decisive point of conversion. However, this use of the law—commonly known as the second use of the law—does not cease at conversion. Instead, God’s law continues to expose our sin, the weakness of our flesh, and our desperate need for a savior. It is at these points that we need to hear Romans 8:1 and be reminded that although we continue to fall short and cannot muster the perfect obedience needed to escape the wrath of God, the Lord condemns us no longer if we are in Christ. When we stumble in our sanctification by sinning, Romans 8:1 reminds us that our righteous standing on judgment day is secure, for it does not rest in ourselves but in the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to us in our justification (2 Cor. 5:21).
Because we have been declared righteous in Christ, the Spirit of God also sets us free from “the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). Before we knew Christ, we could only sow to the flesh and reap eternal destruction. Now that we are in Christ, we sow to the Spirit and reap eternal life (Gal. 6:8-9). By our sanctification and through the Holy Spirit, God prepares us for the eternal life that is guaranteed by our justification and grants us a taste of that eternal life in the here and now.
As we strive to obey God and walk in the Spirit, we will find ourselves falling short. It is at those points that we must remember that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Our sins and failures do not move the Lord to give up on us or to cast us out of the kingdom, for we are secure in Christ. Secure in Christ, we live a life of faith and repentance, continually serving the Lord and putting sin to death.