The two bookends of a chiastic structure in this chapter are:
“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.” Rom 8:1
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Rom 8:31-34
The book of Romans opened with the universal unrighteousness, thus condemnation, of all men, both Gentile and Jew. When man stands in the heavenly courtroom to have his case decided, justice requires that his unrighteousness receive a guilty verdict. The guilty verdict leads to a sentence of wrath, or condemnation.
But those who place their faith in Jesus Christ, for righteousness, find the blood of Jesus brushed over their guilty verdict, resulting in a judgment of not guilty. The wrath has already been satisfied. This is justification by grace through faith.
Did we read that? The Just Judge of all the earth proclaims us, Not Guilty. He is the One who ought to know.
Condemnation is a sentence. The sentence of condemnation can only follow a guilty verdict.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
Furthermore, God is for us. He is not against us. If He is for us, who can be against us? It is God who justifies, who is he who condemns?
I’ll tell you who. The accuser of the brethren is the one who condemns (Rev 12:10). That is Satan. But he is a liar and the father of lies (Joh 8:44). He is not the just judge of all the earth. His judgments are not true and righteous altogether, as our heavenly Father’s are.
Paul is not saying, that now that we are in Christ Jesus, we will never sin again. But we are not enslaved to sin. We are not walking in sin as a lifestyle. We are walking in the Spirit. What happens when we sin now?
This is where the enemy can trip us up if we do not know Rom 1-8 thoroughly from the heart. The awareness settles on our hearts and minds that we have just made a terrible mistake. In fact, we have slipped, and sinned. The enemy then jumps in, does his one trick pony thing which is accuse us of wrongdoing, lying enough so that the feeling of guilt and condemnation might come over us.
Feelings are not the word of God and can sometimes be misleading, did you know that?
That awareness of our wrongdoing and the wish to resolve it, to repent of it and to make reparation for it, is called conviction. That is the work of the Holy Spirit, and He makes us aware of these things without recrimination and without condemnation (Jam 1:5).
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Joh 16:7-11
Bringing conviction of what is sin and what is righteousness, is one of the jobs of the Helper, the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Truth). Do you see what Jesus calls sin? Not believing in Him. That is because all the sins of the world have already been forgiven it (Joh . Nothing is separating any man from God any longer, other than unbelief. (And who is judged, or condemned? The ruler of this world, i.e., Satan.)
But back to our main point. Conviction is not condemnation.
Conviction is healing. It helps us take care of business, let it go, and move on. Conviction and our response to it (confession, repentance, reparation if needed, and the request for forgiveness, 1 Joh 1:8-9) brings life.
Condemnation is injurious. It makes the damage done by sin worse and not better. Condemnation brings death.
We need to start teaching the difference between the two again.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Joh 3:16-18
For further reading:
romans 8, dominion of the flesh or of the Spirit (2011)