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What Luther Says

No Condemnation...For Those Who Are In Christ Jesus

We begin by looking at a verse from Romans 8.

Romans 8:1 (ESV) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Ok, so what does it mean to say that there is "no condemnation" in Christ?

“No condemnation” can be defined in courtroom language. To have “no condemnation” declared means to be found innocent of the accusation, to have no sentence inflicted and no guilty verdict found. By the grace of God, believers in Jesus Christ will not face the condemnation of God. “We have passed from death to life” (1 John 3:14).

The Bible teaches that every human being will be brought before the judgment throne of God for an ultimate and decisive judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10), and Christ Himself will be the judge (John 5:27). We are all naturally under the condemnation of God: “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already” (John 3:18b). But Christians will not be found guilty on Judgment Day (John 3:18a; Matthew 25:33–34).

However, the “no condemnation” involves more than acquittal on Judgment Day. In Romans 8:1 the apostle Paul speaks in the present tense, as evidenced by the word now. Also, notice the word therefore, which points the reader to the previous passage of Romans 7:21-25. In Romans 7 Paul describes his struggle against the sinful nature -- a struggle that every believer experiences. Paul writes, “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me” (Romans 7:21) and, “What a wretched man I am!” (Romans 7:24). Paul is expressing his hatred for the sinful nature which continues to war against his new nature in Christ -- Paul hates the sin he commits, but he is also thankful because he has been set free from slavery to sin. He now has the ability to do what is good because Christ has delivered him (Romans 7:25).

Paul takes this a step further in Romans 8 when he teaches believers are not only free from bondage to sin, they are free from the inner emotions and thoughts that tend to bring feelings of condemnation to the Christian when he does commit sin (Romans 8:2). Christians are free from the “law of sin and death,” which means, although they will commit sin, the Law no longer has the power to condemn them. We are not under the Law’s condemnation because Jesus fulfilled the expectations of the Law perfectly, and believers are “in Christ” (Romans 8:3). Because believers are in Christ, they have the joy of being counted as righteous, simply because Christ is righteous (Philippians 3:9). Paul also points out that genuine Christians, although they struggle, will not live “according to the flesh”; that is, they will not persist in a constant state of sinful living (Romans 8:5).

Paul encourages us that we need not fear condemnation because we can come to God as our loving, forgiving Father (Romans 8:15–16). Christians who live in shame and guilt over past failures are needlessly condemning themselves when they ought to be “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13). Fear can be paralyzing, “but perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). As Christians, we must understand that our justification is found in Christ alone -- in His finished work on the cross -- not in what we do or don’t do (Romans 3:28). Believers can find solace in the assurance that we have been adopted into God’s own family and have been made heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). Nothing can separate us “from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39).

[*Transcribed by me and shared here for you, but I can't recall the primary source where I got it from in this succinct version!]

I thought about all of that after reading this brief devotion that was emailed to me recently by the Institute of Lutheran Theology. I personally like the message, because it's one we don't hear often enough, IMHO. However, please be sure to note the CRITICAL distinction!

When it mentions that Jesus is "not a Judge" it is speaking to those who are already believers in Christ and who are part of the Body of Christ having been reconciled to God through the imputed righteousness He alone offers.

We must understand the audience being addressed to here in light of how Scripture also tells us that Jesus came to cause division and not bring peace (Luke 12:51) and that He will come again one day as the King of kings to judge both the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 1 Peter 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 19:16) since that will give us a proper understanding of what's trying to be communicated regarding the truth.

You may have noticed how we enjoy quoting Luther in our magazine articles, in our emails, on our website and on our Facebook page. We do this not only because Luther was right on many things, but also because he had an extremely vivid way of saying these things. In our email this week we want to hold up Luther's picture of Christ.

This picture of Christ gave him, and even now gives to us, the confidence needed to live free. The following quote from Luther gives us a picture of Christ quite different from the picture portrayed by the piety of his age. Luther's age so often depicted Christ as a stern judge. Luther ultimately came to see that Christ is actually our source of eternal help. He writes:

Christ assures us that He is not a judge. He is a Mediator, a Helper, a Comforter, a Mercy Seat, a Bishop, a Shepherd, a Brother, an Intercessor, our Gift, and our Deliverer - not a judge. He was given and presented to us so that we would not have to flee from Him.

We do not need to run from Christ. Rather, we are encouraged to run to Him in faith and stick to him like glue. For Luther, as well as for us, faith is the God-given glue that cements our relation to God through Christ. Again, Luther writes:

For it is all-important, as we always say, to know that the direction comes down this way from above, from the Father through Christ, and ascends again through Him. For the Son comes down to us from the Father and attaches Himself to us; and we, in turn, attach ourselves to Him and come to the Father through Him.

We hope you find comfort in these words from Luther's pen, not because they are his words, but rather because they share with you what the Scriptures say concerning Christ for you. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Roman 8:1; ESV).

My dear brothers and sisters, I hope you believe these truths.

We fell under God's wrath and displeasure and were doomed to eternal damnation, just as we had merited and deserved. There was no counsel, help, or comfort until this only and eternal Son of God -- in His immeasurable goodness -- had compassion upon our misery and wretchedness. He came from heaven to help us (John 1:9). So those tyrants and jailers are all expelled now. In their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness, every blessing, and salvation. He has delivered us poor, lost people from hell's jaws, has won us, has made us free (Romans 8:1-2), and has brought us again into the Father's favor and grace.

*- Large Catechism II 28-30

God's Law declares that all people are guilty of sin and deserve to die (Romans 7:5; Romans 7:10-11; Romans 7:13; Romans 7:24).

In a Lutheran layman's terms, Paul now concisely summarizes God's reverse declaration for those in Christ: "Not guilty!"

Those who believe and are baptized into Him (Romans 6:3-4) are now and forever free from the Law's cold verdict and terrifying sentence.

[NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Finally, you might discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. I decided to leave those published posts up only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time and help. Grace and peace to you and yours!]


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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