An interesting topic ensued in a conversation with an old childhood friend who had firm religious background as me when growing up. We had an awesome time joking about how we navigated live as children of devout parents through teenage years. She was a model student and really excelled academically and morally since she belonged to a denomination known for enforcing authoritarian prominence on the doctrine of holiness. She described to me how on one occasion, she fell to teenage pressure and was seen by a member of her church. The gentleman later visited her family house and told her she was ‘no longer born again’ because of what she has done. Wow! That is absolute condemnation by fellow human! That is the power of a compromised mechanism called interpretation of denominational doctrine, I exclaimed.
Error of Interpretation
The subject of the Christian’s status if fallen to sin after salvation can be a little confusing, since our sins of the past and present have been forgiven in Jesus Christ. Like many, I was raised to believe that once a person is saved he or she lives a life on earth without sin. So I customarily lived with extreme intensity of condemnation, shame and guilt over mistakes and failures whenever I find myself caught in a struggle with volition to err against God’s word. When I fall, I then stay away from praying or fellowship because God is mad at me and will not entertain my presence , instead of making up with Him and “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13). I began to study the topic of condemnation in the book Romans chapter eight with special interest on the Christ-like living in a Christ less society. (I have written a book on this)
Actualities of Interpretation
In Romans 8:1-2 the apostle Paul writes “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
The two major actualities from the above scripture that changed my mentality are:
- Verse one puts forward that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit”.That is people who have submitted their lives to Christ and in whom He lives by the Holy Spirit are no longer under condemnation.
- Paul then gives his motivation, for making the above point, in verse two by saying “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death”.
These themes blew wide-open to me that justification is an act of God not man. It is a divine decision to acquit the guilty, to give all the benefits of the children of God to us who deserve hell. It is based on a transaction that happens outside of us, namely, the death of Jesus Christ in our place.
Condemnation Replaced by Conviction
As Christians we are free from the “law of sin and death,” which means, although we might fall to temptation, the law no longer has the power to condemn us. Instead, the Spirit, by its power, convicts us and leads us back to God in confession so as to be forgiven. This is true because 1 John 1:9 affirms that: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Trying to please GOD and obey His Word without the Spirit produces guilt and condemnation. And it makes us come up with our own standard instead of accepting and surrendering to GOD’s perfect standard. The truth is our freedom from condemnation depends on the spiritual in dwelling presence of the Jesus Christ which convicts us when we sin.
No Welcome Right to Err
So, since Christians are saved, does that mean that they can sin whenever they want? No, it doesn’t. Paul makes it clear that Christians don’t have a welcome right to sin. Before he wrote the verses mentioned above, he specified in Romans 6:1-2 that “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”
Jesus came to free us from bondage to sin and the inner emotions and thoughts that tend to bring feelings of condemnation to us when we betray His trust because none of us can survive this walk without His help in picking us up when we do fall or stumble.
The School of Transformation
A Christian’s first and most important decision in life is his salvation in Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:24). Then after being saved, the Christian is expected to yield himself to the leadership of the Holy Spirit so he can bear the FRUIT of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and please his Savior by enrolling in the school of transformation via renewal of the mind (Romans 12:1-2) by the help of the Holy Spirit to crucify the works of the flesh and produce the fruits of the spirit.