I’ve been spending a lot of time in Romans lately. I was particularly stuck on Chapter 8. I spent an inordinate amount of time grappling with the nuances and implications of the Apostle’s words here. I’m going to do a couple of posts on this chapter and their relevance to college students/young adults.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
This should be everyone’s favorite verse. It is the striking reality of the Christian faith that so often goes overlooked. We are not condemned. We are set free (vs. 2).
One of the reasons that I have endeavored to re-read Romans again was that I am interested (and by interested I mean perplexed) by Paul’s constant juxtaposition between Law and Grace. I sort of get it, but the more I read both the Bible and other theological works, the more I realize that I don’t. Sometimes I wonder if Paul even understood what he was saying. I think he did. I think he was a genius.
The first 4 verses of Romans 8 are about this theme of Law and Grace (though the word Grace is not used). Paul says that we are set free from the “law of sin and death” (vs. 2). Paul claims in verse three that the law was “powerless” to do what was ultimately accomplished on the Cross. Sin then, is what gets condemned. The law couldn’t free us and condemn sin. The law had its uses (see everything before chapter 8), but the ultimate freedom of humanity and the condemnation of our greatest ailment was not one of them.
So we’re not under law but under Grace (6:14).
But why is it that we so quickly return to law in the Christian world? Why is it that so many students and young people are able to clearly articulate their own sin and God’s laws, but are unable to articulate God’s grace? Nobody, not I and certainly not the Apostle, is suggesting that obedience is unnecessary or that sin is without consequence. But what Paul is saying, and I hope to reiterate, is that the New Covenant is different. We don’t relate to God primarily through our obedience. Nor is that how we primarily please him. We relate to him through the Grace shown in his sufferings knowing all along that any attempt of righteousness on our part is as “filthy rags”.
When we had the privilege last October of hosting Chuck Bomar at our church, I was reminded and exhorted that this generation (and every generation for that matter) needs to experience Christianity as Grace rather than as law. They know their sin and they understand what laws they’ve broken; which is and always will be a good thing. But they must also understand the solution to those problems. The implications of the Gospel is that nobody has to sit and forever stew in their own condemnation. Unfortunately however, and I say this from personal experience: most late stage adolescents experience the church as condemnation rather than as grace.
That should make you puke in your mouth a little bit. Isn’t there now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? Some of us proclaim grace and live law like were suffering from split-personality disorder. Some of us, unfortunately, don’t even waste the time proclaiming grace.
Reclaiming grace then becomes not only an issue of Biblical theology, but an incredibly pragmatic solution and advantageous opportunity in reaching college students. Grace, Grace, Grace, Grace, Grace.