Saturday, January 08, 2011

Now there is no condemnation

Someone asked about a favorite Scripture, and Romans 8:1 (whence the title) immediately came to mind. Here is how I remember it (and the next few verses):
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending his own son in the likeness of human flesh and (as an offering for) sin, he condemned sin in the flesh so that the righteous requirements of the law might be met in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Did I get it right? That should be Romans 8:1-4, NASB (

I wasn't always so excited about this passage. I mean, it's elementary, right? God sent Jesus his son so that our sins would be forgiven -- so we need not worry about meeting the requirements of the written code.

Elementary, yes, but that doesn't mean that it's boring. A couple of things happened in the decades since I read and memorized the passage (I see it's gotten rusty): one is I've become aware of more things in my soul that aren't right; the other -- well, maybe it's a subset of the first -- is that I see more clearly how much I need to be reminded of this very important truth. This morning I picked up The Message, where I read Peterson's paraphrase of this passage:

1-2With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. more...
from Romans 8:1-4 MSG
Something I like about the Message is that it points even more emphatically at the end of chapter 7. The NIV and NASB both say "therefore", and there's a rule of Bible study that says when you see a "therefore", find out what it's there for. That alone should have told me to look at what came just before.

Yet seeing Peterson's words "With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved" really drove me to look back at Romans 7:25, which says Jesus "acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different." (The Message)

Back to Romans 8:1-4, I also really like Peterson's reminder that spiritual transformation isn't a matter of "you suck, try harder." Here's the last paragraph, from Romans 8:3-4 (MSG):

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.
Romans 8:3-4, The Message (NIV here)
Indeed, it's not a matter of redoubling our efforts; did not the Lord himself say, "apart from me you can do nothing"? (John 15:5) Paul seems to think this is really important, too: "Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed" (Romans 12:2); we're being transformed from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18); the one who began a good work will complete it (Philippians 1:6); God himself will set us apart, sanctify us (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

And that sure sounds like good news to me.

No comments: