Wasn’t it just awesome to finally arrive at Romans chapter 8? Chapters 1-7 are, of course, an indispensable foundation, showing how mankind is completely without hope apart from Christ. Even just in the preceding few verses, Paul spoke of his continuing wrestling match with his flesh: yes, in Christ he has peace with God (Romans 5), dead to sin and is released from the law. And yet, at the same time, the old man of the flesh is still around, tempting us to do the things we don’t want to do in our new spirits. Who will deliver us – at last! – from these bodies? God Himself, through Jesus Christ.
Condemnation and Conviction
As we launch into Romans 8, we are immediately confronted with this word: condemnation. It means the judgement due to sin. It’s not the same thing as conviction, which is the awareness and understanding of sin. The law brings about conviction as it shows sin for what it is. In Life Group, we discussed how, following conviction, we can choose to confess (an interesting word in Greek, literally meaning “to say the same”, i.e. to agree with God) and thereby find grace. Or, in the case of the unrepentant, we can choose to suppress the truth which, ultimately, will lead to a judgement – condemnation.
It’s key for us, as Christians, to understand the difference here:
There IS conviction, and conviction is a good thing.
It means the Holy Spirit is working to show us where we need to repent, change and grow. Hebrews 12 even speaks of God’s discipline as proof that we are His children. Greater awareness of our sin is a good thing: it’s evidence of God’s work in our lives, which is evidence of our salvation!
There IS NO condemnation.
When we sin, the enemy is so often there to rail on us, and tell us whatever egregious thing we’ve done is proof we are unregenerate, and/or that God is done with us. These are absolute lies! There is a judgement for our sins, but thanks be to God that it fell upon Christ, and not upon us!
When the Lord makes us aware of sin, confess it. Agree with God. Remember the gospel, and that it means there is no condemnation. And then pray: pray that God will continue your sanctification, that He would help you practice repentance through making changes. Pray that He would help you walk away from temptation.
No condemnation for whom?
When we read “there is therefore now no condemnation for whose who are in Christ Jesus,” whose name do we substitute in there? If you’re like me, don’t we sometimes see our own name there, praise God for His mercy, but then fail to acknowledge it applies to others, too? Aren’t we so often quick to condemn others? When our brothers and sisters sin, they may need our help to see it so that conviction can take place. But there is no condemnation: not from God, and there should not be from us, either. Instead, there is grace from God and there should be grace from us, too.
This verse means that we are all freed from pretence that we are fine. God’s intention and heart for the church is that deep and trusting relationships arise, in which iron can sharpen iron, and we can be part of one another’s sanctification journey.
Debtors and Heirs
It’s a strange pairing, isn’t it? In Romans 8:12, Paul declares that we are debtors. It means that we have obligations – there are things we ought to do (or not do). Paul says our obligations are not to the flesh, but leaves it to us to fill in the blank: we’re indebted to live according to the Spirit. Why is that, Paul? Because, he says, we received the Spirit of adoption, and became heirs! We don’t normally associate heirdom with the burden of debt, which is why I think the work “obliged” probably works better. An heir does have obligations to conduct him or herself in a befitting way.
Whatever our experiences of earthly fathers, we have a Perfect Father in Heaven now. The Holy Spirit says He will help us to acknowledge that, and to call on Him. Our Heavenly Father is worthy of our worship – not just meaning our singing, but worship through conduct. By living for Him. That’s the obligation we have. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:20 “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.”
That’s our challenge and our privilege as His heirs!