The first verse of Romans 8 is the declaration of hope and rejoicing that is unfortunately broken by the chapter break. In chapter 7 Paul described the conflict of sin. We delight in the law of God and desire to serve God. But at the same time the members of our body is waging war with that knowledge. The flesh with its passions and lusts are tempting us to obey it. In chapter 6 we learn that we have been set free from sin’s slavery. But this does not mean that there is not a continuing battle for the Christian. Even when I want to do what is right and do what is right, evil lies close at hand (7:21). But there is hope for the Christian. Paul says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Even though we must fight against sin and even though we may slip and fall, there is no condemnation.
Who is not condemned? Who are the people who are not condemned even though our flesh serves sin at times? This is important, for Paul says that there is not condemnation “for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Only those who are in Jesus are those who have no condemnation. Paul has instructed earlier about who are the people who “are in Christ.” In Romans 6:3 Paul taught that we are baptized into Christ and that through baptism we are united with Jesus (6:5). But Paul is certainly not teaching that those who have been dunked in water, no matter what they believe or do, have no condemnation. The baptism is symbolizing our death to sin, that we are not practicing sin and sin is not the ruler over our lives (6:7,11,13). It is not just that we were baptized. Rather, it is that our baptism had meaning. Baptism was the point when we started living for Jesus and stopped living for sin. Those who are in Christ Jesus are not those who are being ruled by sin and are not those who have given their allegiance to sin. Those who are in Christ Jesus are those who are fighting sin and striving to serve Jesus. To those who have their allegiance to Jesus, there is no condemnation.
When are we not condemned? Now. Right now we stand before God justified… not condemned. The focus of God’s wrath is not upon us. God as the judge does not condemn us. In Christ, life replaces the condemnation and death that rests upon every person right now. We are sinful and deserve condemnation. We have separated ourselves from God by our sinning. In Christ, life has replaced that condemnation. God has fulfilled his covenant promises, offering life rather than condemnation. How is this possible? How can God do this great act of mercy for us? Paul explains how in the next few verses which we will examine in the upcoming posts.