"There is ... now no condemnation ..." (Romans 8:1)
That is the most amazing news we could hear. No condemnation!
((At the end of this devotion read the entire Chapter 8 of Romans. It will do you good, no matter how many times you have read it before!))
There was a survey. They asked people questions about the pandemic. A lot of people responded that they thought it was judgment from God. Or that God was trying to get our attention, and they were reading their Bible more than they have in a long time. Or that this could be heralding the end of the world.
It's a natural reaction. Suffering comes, tragedies happen, even the latest plague, and we wonder. We look inside. We examine our lives. What have we done with our days? Have we failed to do good and done wrong instead? How have we treated others? What sins have we taken into our souls? And there is enough in each one of us to make us tremble. "Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep for ever ..." (Thomas Jefferson)
But in the face of all the fears and worries Paul comes along and says, "There is therefore now no condemnation ..." (Romans 8:1) "Therefore" means we should have been paying attention to what Paul was saying before this. In the first 7 chapters of his letter to the Roman he tells about
"Therefore now no condemnation ..." is what God has been preparing and bringing us into for a very long time. In fact the plan was put in place "before the ages" (1 Corinthians 2:7), "from days of eternity" (Micah 5:2). Now it has come and no matter what anything around you looks like this is the time of "therefore now no condemnation".
But this is specific and that was only the first part of the verse.
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1)
What does it mean to be one of "those who are in Christ Jesus"? More often we hear verses about Christ being in us. But Paul is turning that around and talking about being "in Christ." In an earlier letter Paul said, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. ..." (2 Corinthians 5:17) In a later letter Paul says that God "raised us up with Him and seated us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus ..." (Ephesians 2:6)
Being "in Christ Jesus" means that Jesus carried us in His body on the tree. Peter says, "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness." (1 Peter 2:24)
To be in Jesus is to be in the shelter from the storm. It is to be kept by Jesus Himself, in the one safe place that holds together even when the entire world is coming apart. When there is chaos and turmoil all around to be "in Christ Jesus" is to have been brought safely through the time of judgment and be set free. To be "in Christ Jesus" means that we are connected with God and cannot be destroyed ever, not in all eternity. That is the shelter He gives to every one of His people. It is like it says in Psalm 46, "Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way, though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea." (Psalm 46:2) Or Psalm 27 "For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me ..." (Psalm 27:5) Or Psalm 121 "The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul." (Psalm 121:7)
The promises are all bound up "in Christ Jesus." So all of us who shelter "in Christ" are not just sheltering. We are sheltering in Him with promises that last forever.
Lord Jesus, You are my shelter from the storms of life; let me find my shelter in You. With You are promises, bold, eternal, enduring, and strong; let me find my strength and courage in You. You are the Savior who took all the condemnation and took it away; lift my worries and let me find my peace and joy in You. And whatever the days ahead may bring let me remember that I am safe in You. Amen.
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Rev. Mark Willig
Pastor Willig is pastor emeritus of Friends in Christ Lutheran Church.