Romans 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Here indeed is a word of good news! Many others condemn us, but through Christ Jesus God acquits us of our guilt and sets us free.
Fleming Rutledge begins one of her sermons in this way:
“One of the most familiar images that I remember from almost a half-century of going to the movies is that of the courtroom as the verdict is handed down. The person on trial sits and waits, and all the onlookers sit and wait, to hear the decision of the jury. One by one, the members of the jury are polled.
The camera focuses on each as he or she stands in turn and, in crushing repetition, one after another pronounce the word – “Guilty!” “Guilty!” “Guilty!”
Guilty! We have all heard that word – in its many variations – pronounced against us at many times in our lives. Friends have condemned us. Family members have condemned us. Employers or co-workers have condemned us. Strangers have condemned us. Probably there have been times when we deserved the condemnation and times when we did not. Regardless the message of “you messed it up,” “you let me down,” “you’re no good,” “you’re not worth anything,” and “I can never trust you again” can become overwhelming and crushing.
The good news of God’s actions in Christ is not that we are, in ourselves, not guilty. The gospel does not deny our guilt. The gospel does not deny the realities of our lies, our lusts, our hatreds, our broken promises, our adulteries, our thefts, our anger, our thirst for revenge, our murders, or our inner rebellion against God. Instead, the gospel faces the reality of our guilt head-on. The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ, who was not guilty in any way, willingly took our place under the condemnation of God. On the cross Jesus Christ willingly took our guilt upon himself. The sentence – “Guilty!” – was pronounced against him and on the cross he suffered what should have been our punishment. So guilty humans condemned the innocent Christ and thus in the plan of God Christ took our place. But when God raised Jesus from the dead He reversed the human verdict against him and exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name (Phil. 2). Risen from the grave, Christ stands victorious and vindicated and now all who come to him receive his pardon and his righteousness. In this way “now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus!”
So, the gospel faces our guilt, over-turns the guilty verdict against us, and pronounces us “Acquitted!” “Forgiven!” “Clean!” and “In the Right!” This is called grace!