One of my favorite films is A Few Good Men. And one of the most striking scenes to me is the one where sentence is handed down to the defendants. Just prior to this, a colonel had just incriminated himself as the one who had given an order to two marines who, because of the order, had unintentionally caused another marine’s death.
Now the two marines stood before the judge who read the jury’s verdict concerning their actions.
On the charge of murder, the members find the defendants, “Not guilty.”
On the charge of conspiracy to commit murder, the members find the defendants, “Not guilty.”
At this point everyone is expecting the defendants to be cleared of all charges.
But then the judge said,
On the charge of conduct unbecoming a United States Marine, the members find the defendants, “Guilty as charged.”
And their sentence was handed down.
But unlike these marines, Paul says of us,
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (1)
I like how John Gill translates it. “There is not one condemnation” or “There is not one sentence of condemnation” toward us.
It’s not that God looks down the list of our sins, and says, “Not guilty,” “Not guilty,” “Not guilty,”….”Guilty as charged.” Rather he looks at us, and says “Not guilty…on all charges.”
Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (2)
What is the law of sin and death? It’s the simple principal that if you sin, you will die. If you break the commands of God, you will be judged for it. And because of all of us have sinned, all of us stand condemned.
But the law of the Spirit of life sets us free from the law of sin and death. What is the law of the Spirit? It’s that through God’s grace, we are made righteous before God. That through his Spirit living in us, we now have a new life.
Paul explains further.
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (3-4)
What was the law powerless to do? It was powerless to make us righteous in God’s eyes. Why? Because all it could do was show us what righteousness is. It did not have the power to make us righteous, because all of us had a nature that rebelled against God.
So what did God do? He sent his Son to deal with our sin. Jesus led a perfect life, and when he went to the cross, God put all our sins upon him. And he put all of the condemnation we deserved on Jesus. The law said sin must be punished. And all the sins we committed were punished when Jesus died on the cross. So in that sense, the righteous requirements of the law were met in us.
But it doesn’t stop there. God sent his Spirit into our hearts when we became Christians. And like I said before, through his leading, we actually start to become righteous. Though our bodies and minds still feel the residual effects our sinful nature left on us before it died, the Holy Spirit helps us fight through through them so that we can live the kind of life God originally intended us to live.
And during those times when we feel condemned, and unworthy of God’s love and grace, the Spirit whispers to our souls, “But you are God’s children. You do belong to him now. There is no condemnation.”
How about you? Do you feel like God’s just stringing you along, making you feel like you’re okay just to lay down the hammer at the last minute? He’s not. If you belong to him, not one charge will be laid against you.
So Paul says,
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “‘Abba,’ Father.” (15)