No Condemnation

     In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Wouldn’t some good news be welcome right about now?  A therapeutic cure for COVID-19 or a vaccine for it or the dawning of true Kingdom of God justice for every family, language, people, and nation or maybe even the dawning of the Kingdom itself on the last, great day.  Can you imagine how it would feel to have a tsunami of grace break upon us and wash this tired, old world clean?  Can you imagine how it will feel when heaven and earth are joined, when the dwelling place of God is with man, when he will be our God and we will be his people?

Revelation 21:4 (ESV): He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

Wouldn’t some good news be welcome right about now?  Can you imagine how it would feel?

We don’t have to imagine.  We just have to listen to Paul.  We just have to believe that what he says, as incredible as it seems, is really true — really true about us:

Romans 8:1–4 (ESV): 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. 3 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 for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 

This is the tsunami of grace that Paul proclaims to the Christians in Rome and to all Christians everywhere:  no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, freedom from the law of sin and death, life in the Spirit.  Frankly, bad as they seem, the recent troubles are as nothing, just the tip of the iceberg, just symptoms of the decay and death at the heart of the human condition:

Ephesians 2:1–3 (ESV): And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

How ironic that those who are dead in their trespasses and sins are afraid of a plague.  How ironic that those who cry for justice and those who pervert it are both alike the sons of disobedience.  How ironic that those who champion freedom are slaves of their own passions and are by nature the children of wrath.  And that is not just some of us, but all of us.

We stand in the dock guilty as hell awaiting the righteous judgment of God, and instead we hear:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, we could not have imagined this good news; we could not have dared hope for it.

Ephesians 2:4–10 (ESV): But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

We were dead in our trespasses; now we are alive in Christ.  We were consigned to the dustheap, to the dungeons; now we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places.  We were paupers; now we are heirs of immeasurable riches of grace.  We were disfigured image-bearers; now we are the very workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus for good works.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Just let that wash over you for a minute.  Let it wash away your fear and anxiety, your pain and suffering, your doubt and despair:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Isn’t this the good news that we really need, the good news the world really needs?  If our scientists discovered a cure for COVID-19 tomorrow, that would not eliminate disease and death.  If our society ended racism tomorrow, that would not resolve the broken relationships among men.  If tomorrow we solved the climate crisis, eliminated third-world poverty, destroyed our nuclear arsenals, beat our swords into plowshares and made peace among rival nations, that would not keep this broken old world from coming apart at the seams.  Please, God, let us strive for all these good things and may God, in his mercy, bless the works of our hands.  But, none of this would be the good news.  This is the good news:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

And like the accused in the dock who has, against all reason and expectation, been declared not guilty, we find ourselves free:  free to set our minds on the Spirit, free to put to death the passions of the flesh, free to live righteously in the Spirit, free to cry out to God, “Abba!  Father!” because

Romans 8:16–17 (ESV): The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 

Oh, it was tempting to leave off the last part of that last verse:  “provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”  It would have made this homily flow so much better.  But it would have been untrue and unfaithful to Scripture.  And, frankly, it would diminish the good news.  Though we are no longer condemned — if we are in Christ Jesus — though we are no longer condemned, we are nonetheless resident aliens in this fallen world.  And we will suffer.  We are suffering now in all the ways I mentioned earlier:  pandemic, anxiety, injustice, racial tension, and on and on it goes.  We suffer.  But how we suffer makes all the difference in this world and in the world to come.  With whom we suffer makes all the difference in this world and in the world to come.  We suffer with him — with Christ — in order that we may also be glorified with him.  We unite our suffering with his as our offering of obedience and love, praise and thanksgiving.  We suffer as he did:  not for unrighteousness, but for the sake of righteousness; not for injustice, but for the sake of justice; not with hatred and recrimination, but with love and forgiveness.  We suffer this way not on our own — who is able to do so? — but by the power of the Holy Spirit who bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom 8:16).  Oh, and if we suffer in this way — with him — we will surely be glorified with him.  And that truly is part of the great good news:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 7:25a).  Amen.

About johnaroop

I am a husband, father, retired teacher, lover of books and music and coffee and, as of 17 May 2015, by the grace of God and the will of his Church, an Anglican priest in the Anglican Church in North America, Anglican Diocese of the South. I serve as assisting priest at Apostles Anglican Church in Knoxville, TN.
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