“There Is No Condemnation” (Romans 8:1): But Why Not? -- By: Chuck Lowe
JETS 42:2 (June 1999) p. 231
“There Is No Condemnation” (Romans 8:1):
But Why Not?
Why is there no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom 8:1)? For card-carrying evangelicals the reflexive response is: because Christ died in their place and for their sins.
Justification through the substitutionary atonement of Christ is one of the first precepts drummed into new believers, and Romans 8:1 is often the prooftext employed to establish the point. 1 Yet while the meaning of this verse may seem self-evident, commentators have considerable trouble with it.
The crux of the problem is that 8:1–2 appears to ground escape from condemnation not in the death of Christ as a substitute for sinners, but in the work of the Spirit in transforming sinners: “for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus freed you from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2). 2 At first blush, this seems to suggest that justification depends on sanctification.
Basically one of three approaches is taken to harmonize this passage with traditional Protestant doctrine. 3 One interprets 8:2 as a reference to the death of Christ for sinners so that condemnation is averted through justification rather than through sanctification. 4 The second solution accepts 8:2 as a
* Chuck Lowe is lecturer in New Testament at Singapore Bible College, 9–15 Adam Road, Singapore 289886, Republic of Singapore.
JETS 42:2 (June 1999) p. 232
reference to sanctification, but suggests that “condemnation” in 8:1 refers not to a judicial verdict but to “penal servitude.” 5 The third approach accepts what is probably the most natural reading of the two clauses but reconfigures the relationship between them: the most popular suggestion is that sanctification is the consequence—rather than the grounds—of justification. 6
Theologically, each of these propositions is flawless: that is what makes them feasible. Justification is grounded in the substitutionary atonement of Christ, not in transformational righteousness (Rom 3:21–26). Sin ...
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