“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”Romans 8:1
When I was eight-years-old, I convinced my father to sign me up for my first wrestling team, and I continued wrestling through high school at First Baptist Academy. I loved the sport of wrestling as it challenged me like nothing else. Wrestling pushes its participants to the brink of exhaustion as they contend head-to-head on the mat, all the while knowing their opponent is there—pressing, ready to strike—if they let down their guard for one second. I still wrestle today, but now I face-off against my four little boys who already think they can beat me if they work together. My wrestling career also continues in another way that is not nearly as fun. Like the Apostle Paul, and all Christians, I am consistently confronted with an ongoing grudge match within my own body.
In Romans 7:15-25, Paul describes this epic wrestling match between the sinful nature of the flesh and his desire to honor the Lord in his life. He bears his soul, writing, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do I do” (Romans 7:15). The reader can sense Paul’s frustration as he explains that he has the desire to do what is good, but cannot carry it out (Romans 7:18). There is a principle at work: though he wants to do good, “evil is right there with [him],” his sinful nature waging war against him, like an aggressive opponent in a wrestling match always ready to attack (Romans 7:21-23). This ongoing struggle causes Paul to exclaim, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). He immediately answers the question: “Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).
In light of this great deliverance from slavery to sin, Paul encourages and reminds us, “Therefore, there is no condemnation (punishment) for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). This is the great hope of our faith! Though we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and thus deserve to be punished through death and eternal separation from God, the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Those who place their trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins are identified with Him in His death and resurrection, justified or declared righteous by Him, and may enter into His presence in His grace without fear of His wrath or punishment.
This hope leads Paul to pronounce, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. . . [Nothing] in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:33-34, 39).
Moreover, though we will not be completely delivered from the temporal wrestling match against our sinful nature until we enter into Christ’s Kingdom, we have the power to defeat sin and to become more like Christ now! Paul writes, because we have received the Holy Spirit through Christ, we are “controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit” (Romans 8:9). Indeed, we are no longer slaves to sin, and as we live daily for Christ, we “are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:29; Romans 12:2).
Therefore, live as those who “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” that you may confidently proclaim to the world: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Romans 6:23; Galatians 2:20).