Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Therefore There Is Now No Condemnation

Fr. Dale Matson

In Wednesday’s lectionary, the Epistle lesson is from Romans Chapter 8:1-11. There is a profound portrayal of Christ in the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel. The Prologue is the finest description of Jesus the Christ using words. In Chapter Eight of Romans, St. Paul uses words to describe for me better than anywhere else the work of the Holy Spirit, who we are in Christ and our relationship to God. St. Paul’s statement, “Therefore there is now no condemnation” has been understood by commentators like Matthew Henry, John Wesley and John Darby to mean that if we are a new creature in Christ and He dwells in us then we are no longer condemned to an eternal Hell by God. I believe they are correct but I also believe there is another level that Paul intends this statement to reach. It is because Chapter eight follows the intrapersonal battle previously described in Romans chapter seven. I believe he is also talking about the voice of condemnation in our own minds. This is the daily struggle of an inner Hell addressed in Verse 33. “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” In this case Paul is not referring to God but I believe the voice of condemnation inside our own mind.

There are times in our lives when we do or say something wrong and suddenly a voice inside our own head brings shame and humiliation immediately upon us. Have you ever actually had a hot flash and broken out in a sweat at such a time? I have.

As a Priest and a Psychologist, I know that there is a critical voice of an opportunist lying in wait to pounce upon us like a roaring lion. I believe it is the voice of one who is called the accuser of the brethren. He is also called the liar. So, even after we are a new creation we are still under attack from the false condemnation of Satan. It is he who still brings up sins we have already asked to be forgiven for and been forgiven for. It is he who tells us we are not among the elect who are cleansed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is he who causes doubt and despair.

Does this mean that we are not also taught, led and even convicted by the Holy Spirit? Yes, that is His role in our journey of Sanctification. However, when we are accused, shamed, blamed, humiliated, it is not God the Holy Spirit doing this. He is called the comforter, the advocate and the counselor.

I believe one of the most beautiful sections from Handel’s Messiah is the soprano Air, “If God Be for Us, Who Can Be against Us.” Handel scored it to three verses from Romans Chapter 8 provided to him by Charles Jensen. (31) If God is for us, who can be against us? (33) Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies. (34) Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is raised again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.

It is here, I think the second meaning for condemnation is understood. It is not just the eternal meaning of condemnation; it is the everyday, living the life of a Christian, understanding of what it means. This Gospel of, “God is for us” speaks life daily into a heart filled with pain, doubt and condemnation and becomes an antidote for the words of the evil one. Those words in Romans set to music by Handel still fill me with joy. Amen

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