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The Judicial Language of Our Salvation

Romans 8:1 (ESV) …. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

When any court makes a ruling on a case, it expresses that ruling in terms of judicial language. That language is the court’s desire to give legal literacy, which includes the ability to identify accurately the varieties of statements that a court makes in the course of its judicial opinion. In other words, the language attempts to be the final word on the case of its decision.

Romans, in many ways, is God’s final word on a host of issues facing the church in Rome. One of those issues includes the final word regarding our sins which have been forgiven in Christ. Such is the case in Romans 8:1. D.J. Moo explains it this way>

In chapter 8 and verse one, we see the combination “therefore, now” is an emphatic one, marking what follows as a significant conclusion. As we have seen, these verses pick up various themes from chaps. 6–7 to restate the assuring message of 5:12–21 that Christ has secured eternal life for all who belong to him. The “now” alludes to the new era of salvation history inaugurated by Christ’s death and resurrection (see also 3:21; 5:9; 6:19, 22; 7:6). “For those who are in Christ Jesus,” this era is marked by the wonderful announcement that “there is no condemnation.”

Many interpreters, noting that Paul focuses in this context on the new life in Christ (vv. 5–13), think that “no condemnation” includes the breaking of sin’s power in all its aspects. It is, of course, important that we not separate the destruction of sin’s power from the removal of its penalty. But the judicial flavor of the word “condemnation” strongly suggests that Paul is here thinking only of the believer’s deliverance from the penalty that sin exacts. Like “death,” a parallel term (cf. 5:16 and 17; 5:18 and 21; and 8:1 and 6), “condemnation” designates the state of “lostness,” of estrangement from God that, apart from Christ, every person will experience for eternity.

Those “in Christ Jesus” are removed from this state—and removed forever from it, as the emphatic “no” indicates. No more will condemnation of any kind be a threat (cf. 8:34). How can this happen for those “in Christ”? Because those in Christ experience the benefits of Christ’s death “for us”: “He was for us in the place of condemnation; we are in him where all condemnation has spent its force” (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). Paul’s judicial “for us” language and his “participationist” “in him” language combine in perfect harmony. [1]

The judicial language makes it clear that we have exchanged places with Christ before God. Because Christ died in our place and we now stand in His place, we therefore now and forevermore will never face commendation from the Father. The verdict is given, and the case is now closed, AMEN!

[1] Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (pp. 472–473). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


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