“Therefore, there is now no condemnation…”

The Apostle Paul lived a couple thousand years ago and did a whole bunch of stuff, including writing letters to local church communities which ended up being canonized and included in the Christian Bible. I’m guessing he didn’t sit down thinking “I think I’ll write some stuff today that millions of people over thousands of years will read and reread.”

Some of what he wrote was preachy — appropriately so — in that it is direct and directive.

Some of what he wrote was more personal and even confessional. It was not self-focused self-examination (aka “a blog”), but rather offerings of self-experienced examples of common realities.

“I do what I don’t want to do and don’t do what I want to do.”

Who can’t relate to that? Interesting that this declaration is couched in the middle of a discussion in Romans 7 about the role of the law to prove to us unequivocally that we are incapable of the holiness required to be in a relationship with God himself. Period.

I read Romans 7 and my head hurts. Followed by my heart hurting. Like Paul, I am incapable of the self-control required by a universe governed by law.

And then comes one of my favorite passages in all of the Bible — right there at the beginning of Romans 8:

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,

4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (NIV1984)

As much as I love the New Living Translation for clarity, I run back to the NIV for this passage — especially for the first line. There is something so powerful in that statement.

THEREFORE, THERE IS NOW NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS…

Christmas celebrations with a faith focus generally put the spotlight on a sweet baby in a manger. For those of us living on this side of history–in the era of A.D. dates–our celebration can be bigger and brighter because the wooden planks which might have formed the manger are overshadowed by the wooden beams which formed the cross. We see the import of birth magnified by the import of death which broke the power of death and overwhelmed the authority of sin and law with the amazing gift of grace.

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