No condemnation

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. Rom. 8:1

Five Reasons from Romans which demonstrate that justification is a one-time declaration that will never be repealed.

1. The absolute nature of the statement in Rom. 8:1 points to this reality.

If Paul believed that we can lose our justified status before God, it’s hard to see why he would have made such an absolute statement as this: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”  Now suppose it is the case that Christians can lose their salvation.  Suppose that every time we sin we lose our justified status and remain unjustified until we confess our sins and repent.  If this were the case, the statement of verse 1 is little more than cold comfort.  The fact of the matter is that in that case the truth of this verse would provide not comfort but fear in the believer as he or she was constantly re-evaluating their position with respect to God.  It would not create peaceful assurance but around-the-clock introspection. To make continued justification depend upon continual confession and repentance is like putting ice-skates on a person who is walking across a narrow metal beam a thousand feet in the air.  I don’t think Paul intends for the believer to sweat their way to heaven, but that is exactly what will come of our journey if we allow justification to lose its permanence.

2. The qualifying phrase “for those who are in Christ Jesus” points to the security of the believer.

Now I can imagine that some will say, “Yes, you have no condemnation as long as you are in Christ.  But it is possible to become out of Christ, even for those who are now in Christ.”   However, such an argument will not stand the scrutiny of the larger context of Romans.  According to the apostle, to be “in Christ” is not a state into which we move in and out of.  For one thing, he precludes this possibility in Rom. 5:1-2: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”  Being in Christ is a “grace in which we stand.”   This points up to the fact that union with Christ is a permanent, rather than a temporary, state.

3. The word “now” in Rom. 8:1 indicates that at the present time in a believer’s life there is no condemnation.

If it were possible to lose one’s justification, how could we ever know that we were justified?  The word “now” would become meaningless.  We would never know whether or not we were justified, because we could never be absolutely sure that we had settled all our accounts with God.  For example, Paul makes this observation in another place: “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court.  In fact, I do not even judge myself.  For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted.  It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Cor. 4:3-4).  Now, if it is true that a failure to confess my sins results in a coming back under condemnation, how could we ever know that we are justified?  Paul’s observation here would then be terrifying: we would never know now, and could never know in fact until the Day of Judgment.  In that case, the believer would never be able to be at peace.  There would be absolutely no hope that could be derived from Rom. 8:1.  What is interesting, is that even though Paul makes the observation that he could never know with certainty whether or not he was sin-free, this did not seem to bother him.  Why?  Surely because his hope was not in himself but in Christ and what he had done for him.

4. That justification is a one-time and final declaration is indicated in the passages that refer to justification as a past event.

For example, in Rom. 5:1, Paul writes, “Therefore being justified” (KJV), or “having been justified, we have peace with God” (ESV).  Justification is never referred to in Paul’s writings as a continual process, but rather as a once-for-all, permanent declaration.  

Imputation is also seen to be this way.  Referring to Abraham as the example for believers in all times, Paul asks when righteousness was imputed to him: “How then was it counted to him?  Was it before or after he had been circumcised?  It was not after, but before he was circumcised” (Rom. 4:10).  As you can see by comparing chapter 4 with chapter 3 of Romans, the imputation of righteousness was another way Paul talked about justification by the righteousness of God.  If it were possible to move in and out of a state of justification, it would have been so with Abraham.  However, Paul speaks of his justification as happening at a specific point in time; namely, before he was circumcised.  That argument makes no sense if justification is in fact an on-going process.

Romans 8:30 also bears this out: “…and those whom he [God] justified he also glorified.”  This way of referring to justification in the past tense makes most sense if justification is both a one-time event as well as a permanent event, and one that secures the final inheritance.  There is no on-going justification here, nor a justification that, once gained, can be lost.

5. The context of Romans 8:1 bears this out.

The whole chapter is dedicated to establishing the security of the believer.  To refer to the words of John Stott, it begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation.  It is no mistake that Paul works out his argument in this way.  Justification is the first plank in his argument to establish this.  It would be strange, therefore, if our righteous status before God could be lost.  Imagine working through the argument of this mighty epistle and especially this mighty chapter of Romans 8 in terms of climbing a ladder.  At the top, the unshakable confidence in the believer’s relationship with God.  Now, climb up these rungs, verse by verse, to the top.  However, the way some people interpret this chapter, it would be like some of the rungs are loose and can come off.  You try to climb up only to put your weight on a rung that will not bear it and you fall down.  Surely that is not how the apostle intends the argument of this chapter to run! Rather, we are meant to know that the foundation of the Christian life, being declared right with God through faith in Christ, is an unshakable foundation for our joy and peace and assurance.

By: Jeremiah Bass