Romans 7 ends with Paul’s anguished cry, “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24). Inwardly, Paul delights in God’s law (Romans 7:22) and longs to do good (Romans 7:18). Unfortunately, he finds himself unable to live out his calling fully (Romans 7:18–23). The dissonance between what Paul wills to do and what he actually does fills him with a sense of wretchedness. He is stuck painfully between two worlds—the world Adam created and the new world Jesus made. The world of Adam is a world of sin and death, and the world of Jesus is a world of righteousness and life (Romans 5:12–21). The tension between these worlds can be excruciating.
Like Paul, we are stuck between Adam’s world and Jesus’ world, and we groan under the weight and pain of our fallen condition. Indeed, all creation groans right along with us (Romans 8:22).
What hope and assurance can be offered to the groaning believer stuck between the world of Adam and the world of Jesus? Paul’s hopeful answer is, “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” (Romans 8:1). In Jesus, we have the assurance that we are not condemned.
Paul outlines systematically why those who are in Christ are not condemned. His reasoning is that Jesus’ death transforms our relationship with the law. In Christ, the law is the law of the Spirit and life. Outside of Christ, the law is a law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). When we become believers, we are not condemned because the law is no longer a law of sin and death. It is a law of the Spirit and life.
This change in our relationship with God’s law happens because God acted decisively in Christ. He sent Jesus to earth to become fully human. Jesus was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. On the cross, God condemned all of humanity’s sin in the flesh of Jesus (Romans 8:4). On the cross, Jesus took upon Himself all of the condemnation that sin deserved. By taking our condemnation, Jesus changed the believer’s relationship with the law from one of sin and death to one of Spirit and life.
Paul assures us that all who are in Christ Jesus, who feel the wretchedness of being stuck between Adam’s and Jesus’ world, are not condemned because Jesus took our condemnation and forever changed our relationship with the law.