This is going to be more of a thinking out loud or a processing-my-thoughts post rather than a wrapped-up conclusion, and therefore it won’t be very polished (not that my other posts are, either. 🙂 )
I joined Do Not Depart in memorizing Romans 8 after seeing Lisa mention it. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t memorized anything in ages and I am discovering just how rusty the ol’ brain cells have gotten. I’m a little behind since Thanksgiving week, but it’s coming along.
Of course, the first verse of Romans 8 is one of the most blessed to believers:
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
What an amazing blessing to know that God loved us enough to be willing to take our condemnation for us, paying the debt in full. When we believe on Jesus as our Savior, we know our sins are forgiven and we can look forward to seeing Him without dread.
But I’ve seen people use this concept lately in a different way, such as when they’re feeling guilty about mistakes in parenting or besetting sins. While it’s good to rejoice and comfort ourselves that God covers our everyday mistakes and sins with Jesus’ blood, and we can be forgiven on that basis, “no condemnation” doesn’t mean a number of things (please forgive the awkward grammar):
1. “No condemnation” doesn’t mean God will never deal with my sin any more.
Hebrews 12:5-13 tells us about God’s chastening of believers. Believers. Those who have already been forgiven and delivered. Chastening is a different thing from condemnation for sin, yet I have seen people confuse the two.
“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,” verse 6.
“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”, verse 7.
“But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons,” verse 8.
“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby,” verse 11.
I’ve been a little concerned with what I’ve been reading about grace-based parenting– I need to read one of the books going around to see what exactly is being taught. But the way I have seen some people apply it is to ditch everything Proverbs says about disciplining children in favor of grace, in the sense that as adults, when we sin, we confess it to God and whomever else is involved, and that’s it. That’s it as far as forgiveness goes, but sometimes God chastens us to help us learn how serious sin is, to help discipline us not to do it again. I think it goes back to the idea of progressive sanctification: our position in Christ is secure when we’re saved, but our everyday lives should be looking more and more like Him as we grow in Him. In fact, sometimes the more we grow, the more we’re saddened to learn just how pervasive our sin is and how much we need for Him to work on us.
There is an interesting passage in Leviticus 26:40- 42: “If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.”
2. “No condemnation” doesn’t mean no one else can ever speak to me about sin in my life.
I’ve seen sometimes when one believer tries to speak to another about a glaring problem in his or her life, he or she will react by saying something like, “Why are you condemning me? The Bible says believers face no condemnation.” (Of course, there is a right way, attitude, demeanor, and time and place to confront someone and wrong ways, and sometimes that reaction is sparked by the way someone confronted rather than the confrontation itself.) But God uses believers to help deal with issues in each others lives, and that is not the same thing as condemnation for sin.
Proverbs 25:12 says, “As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.”
Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”
Even Matthew 7:1-5, which warns us to take the beam out of our own eye before trying to remove a speck from our brother’s, isn’t saying no one should ever try to take anything out of anyone else’s eye, so to speak: it’s just warning us not to be hypocritical by dealing with other people’s issues when we have our own. Verse 5 says, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Balance is always required: these passages don’t mean we’re to become nitpicky fault-finders. There’s plenty in the Bible warning against that. But when we are aware of a definite glaring sin in another’s life, we are supposed to meekly, gently, kindly, under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, confront her about it. That’s not condemning the person: that is trying to help her fully be all God wants her to be.
3. “No condemnation” doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences to our actions.
Consequences are sometimes a part of chastening, sometimes a natural outgrowth of sin. If we harm our bodies with smoking, drinking, drugs, or overeating, there will be natural consequences. If people get into a fight and destroy property or maim someone, grace doesn’t erase those consequences. It provides for forgiveness before God, but we still have to deal with the consequences.
4. “No condemnation” doesn’t mean that I won’t or shouldn’t experience guilt.
I think of guilt similarly to pain: they both indicate that something is wrong and needs attention. Guilt can be a good tool of conscience to prick us about a sin we’ve been excusing or ignoring.
If we still feel guilt after we have confessed and forsaken the sin, then going back to verses like I John 1:9 helps. We might still feel regret, even though a sin has been forgiven: I don’t think it is wrong to wish that a sin had never happened, even as we rejoice that we have been forgiven.
Of course, there is such a thing as false guilt, guilt over things that aren’t wrong in themselves that other people say are wrong, guilt over standards that the Bible doesn’t express. Conscience is a tool in God’s hand, but conscience itself isn’t infallible. A former pastor used to put it jokingly, “If I had been captured by cannibals and they were about to toss me in their cooking pot to stew, I wouldn’t say, ‘Let your conscience be your guide,'” because obviously they have no conscience about eating people. Conscience has to be trained according to the Word of God.
5. “No condemnation” doesn’t mean I can take sin lightly.
God doesn’t take sin lightly. Some of the ways He dealt with sin in the Old Testament and even in the New Testament in places like Acts seem rather harsh to us. But we need to remember that’s how He really feels about it. That’s how awful it is, that’s how much of an affront it is to Him. And if we multiply that offense by all the sin anyone has ever committed in all of history and realize the full weight of it was all borne by Christ on the cross…it’s incomprehensible and overwhelming to consider.
So when we realize that we are not condemned for our sins, our attitude shouldn’t be, “Whew! I got away with it.” We shouldn’t have a light regard for what seems like the easy grace of I John 1:9. It wasn’t easy at all. Salvation and grace are free to us because Someone else paid the price that we could not.
Our response to the truth that in Christ we face no condemnation should rather cause us to magnify, worship, thank, and love Him even more. It should have a sanctifying effect in our lives, helping us to have a hatred for sin and a desire for holiness.