Romans 8:1 breathes a deep sigh of relief from the apostle Paul! It is an exclamation that provides immeasurable comfort to the believer. It reads, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” What a relief!
Even though we live in a world of unbelief where men suppress the truth about God for a lie (Rom 1:18-25), though we should be counted among those unrighteous men (Rom 3:10), though our bodies of death still cling to sin and the indulgences of the flesh (Rom 7:21-24), we are now exonerated, restored, and reconciled! Instead of condemning us, God condemns sin, because, through Jesus, he satisfied the requirements of the law and rendered sin’s allegations worthless.
Those realities provide a sense of security in our justification. They solidify our confidence that no charge can stick against God’s elect. The judge has become our defense attorney! Who could possibly bring an accusation? That brings us to our memory verse for this month (Rom 8:34). It continues the train of questions and answers, stating, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of the father, who indeed is interceding for us.”
The obvious answer to the question, “Who is to condemn?” is nobody. No person, human or angel, can successfully condemn us! Why? Because of the death, resurrection, and intercession of Jesus Christ. Below are some of my reflections about each.
The Atoning Work of Christ
You and I deserve condemnation. We deserve judgment. Paul clearly articulated that we deserve condemnation to death—the rightful penalty of sin (Rom 6:23). Yet Christ Jesus suffered the torturous death every sinner deserved so that no one else would have to. He satisfied the just wrath of God toward us by offering himself as the perfect sacrifice. He atoned for our sin—He stepped in front of us before the judge and said, “I’ll serve his sentence. Let him go free.” It is only because he died that we find forgiveness.
Yet we need more than mere forgiveness. God’s standard is righteousness. We must be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48). Are we forever righteous because God washes us clean once? Would we not, wretched as we are, sin again? Then we would again stand condemned. Here once more, Christ’s death is sufficient. His death did not simply wash our filthy garments one time. He transfers to us his own pure, incorruptible ones. His death propitiated God’s wrath once for all AND imputed his righteousness to us (Heb 10:10-12, Rom 5:17-19). So, who is to condemn? No one! Through His death, we are acquitted forever because of His righteousness, not our own.
The Resurrection of Christ
Nevertheless, the death of Christ alone will not bring us forgiveness (1 Cor 15:17). For what good is a dead deliverer? Thus, Paul emphasizes a greater fact—Christ also rose from the dead! Without the resurrection, we serve a dead savior and preach an empty hope. Without the resurrection, we have nothing to celebrate. We should rather be mocked, pitied, and even ashamed, for we misrepresent God by claiming to be forgiven. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” (1 Cor 15:20). His resurrection also brings a promise. We too will rise! His victory over death gives us confidence in his power to save us from it! Without this, surely death would condemn us. Yet the answer remains, no one can condemn us! God resurrected Jesus, and He will also raise us!
The Intercessory Work of Christ
The resurrection anchors our hope, but one more reality further secures it—Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father. So, not only did our Savior rise to give us life, but He also ascended to mediate for us. While the death and resurrection of Jesus confirm His love for us in antiquity, the intercession of Christ evidences His love for us in the contemporary. The intercessory work of the Son has a twofold benefit for believers. It means he, our Savior and Justifier, also acts as our Defender and Advocate. Jesus stands in the heavenly courtroom, defending us against the accuser and petitioning the Father according to our present needs. What a comfort! Dane Ortlund beautifully captures this comforting truth. He states,
The atonement accomplished our salvation; intercession is the moment-by-moment application of that atoning work. In the past, Jesus did what he now talks about; in the present, Jesus talks about what he then did… His interceding for us reflects his heart—the same heart that carried him through life and down into death on behalf of his people is the heart that now manifests itself in constant pleading with and reminding and prevailing upon his Father to always welcome us.
Putting it all Together
Imagine the scene that scripture paints... Satan stands in the heavenly courtroom, ready to accuse. Each time you sin, however small or insignificant, he rushes hastily to the judge to shout, “This man is guilty! The prosecution pleas for the maximum punishment!” Suddenly, Jesus rises from His seat next to the Father. He steps down to our corner and responds to the accuser. In a triumphant voice, he objects, “Your accusation is invalid, O accuser! This man’s sentence has already been served, for I died in his place. I rose from the grave to give him new life. I ascended to my Father to be his advocate. I intercede for him. He is mine. No one will condemn him.”
What precious confidence! Were he to count our sins against us, who could stand before him, but with him there is forgiveness! May we fear him (Psalm 130:3-4). Thank God for such a loving Savior, who saves to the uttermost we who draw near to him. He died that we should live. He always lives to make intercession for us (Heb 7:25).
 Ortlund, Dane C.. Gentle and Lowly (p. 79-80). Crossway. Kindle Edition.