Let us listen to it--"There is therefore now no
condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (v. 1).
The remarkable opening and ending of our chapter have
often been observed; what, in accordance with the name of this Book, I may
call the Antiphon. The Voice or Harp-note begins with "NO
CONDEMNATION." It is answered in the close of the chapter with "NO
SEPARATION." The key is struck by the inspired musician. This is followed by
an ever-augmenting volume of melody, until it culminates in an anthem "like
the voice of a great multitude and the sound of many waters." It reminds us
of another Master of sacred Song (Haydn)--with his "Let there be
Light!"--and the Light broadens and deepens into the perfect day of heaven.
"No condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."
This first proposition is ushered in with "Therefore." It is the
summing up--the great inference from the preliminary thesis of the earliest
and best of Christian Apologists. And this initial thought of consolation
and peace, like a golden thread, is interweaved throughout the chapter.
"In Christ Jesus." We cannot now pause to expound and
illustrate all which these pregnant words imply. They set forth, in a flash
of thought, the personal, vital union or incorporation of the Believer with
his living, loving Lord; transforming the old into "the new man which after
God is created in righteousness and true holiness." The expression is
explained and unfolded in the sixth chapter (4-11). It is a favorite and
often recurring formula which permeates the writings of him who
specifically calls himself "A man in Christ" (2 Cor. 12;2). "In Christ"--safely
immured in Him who is "the refuge from the storm and the covert from the
tempest." I have read, in the terrible story of the Crimean War, when
rampart after rampart, bastion after bastion of the doomed city were being
stormed and battered into shapeless ruin--deep down in the foundations of
one of the grim fortresses was a hold, where the wounded were conducted safe
from the iron hail--away too from the din and roar of artillery which in
that battle of giants made night as hideous as day. There they were, for the
time, safe and sheltered--"The weary to sleep and the wounded to die."
Christ is that sheltering Covert. He is "the Stronghold
in the day of trouble" (Nahum 1;7). "In Him"--in the clefts of this
Rock of Ages--within this Citadel of faith I am safe. The law and its
avenging thunders crash against me in vain. Crippled and wounded in the
stern struggle hours of life--sin-stricken and sorrow-stricken--assailed
with temptation and legion foes--principalities and powers--spiritual
wickedness in high places; I can listen to the voice of the Great Rest-giver
as amid the shot and shell of battle He thus speaks--"Come unto Me!" "Come,
My people, enter into your chambers, and shut your doors about you, and hide
yourself for a little moment until the indignation be overpast." "The peace
of God which passes all understanding shall keep (as the word means in a
citadel or garrison) your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus."
"In Christ." It was the vital truth so beautifully
enforced by the Divine Master Himself in His valedictory Parable of the vine
and its branches--"Without Me"; out of Me; severed from Me, you are nothing,
and can do nothing. Out of Christ, apart from Him, each soul is like a
stranded vessel--mastless, sailless, rudderless, the sport of ocean
forces--lying high and dry on the sands, away from its buoyant element. But
the tidal wave flows--the rocky inlets and creeks are one by one filled--the
"abandoned" is set once more a living thing on the waters--anew "compassed
by the inviolate sea."
That is the man "in Christ." Environed with this new
element--life in his living Lord with its ocean fullness and unsounded
depths--he is safe, joyous, happy. No cyclone above, no submerged rocks
beneath; a halcyon calm around. "In Me you shall have peace." Not in
vain did the early Christians--even in the midst of their great fight of
afflictions--"the sea and the waves roaring and their hearts failing them
for fear"--write on the slabs of their catacombs--IN CHRISTO--IN PEACE.
Enough now farther to say, that grasping thoroughly the
phrase in its full evangelical meaning, all the varied succeeding
affirmations of our chapter become at once comprehensible and luminous. It
is the "Basket of Silver" in which "Apples of Gold" are inserted. Let us
keep this in mind all through our exposition, as affording the guarantee of
every covenant blessing--specially the two already distinctively indicated.
It forms Paul's security and the security of all believers as he utters the
closing challenge and "persuasion" --"Shall be able to separate us from
the love of God, which is IN CHRIST JESUS our Lord."
"No condemnation in Christ Jesus!" How blessed the
thought, if we are participants in what Dean Alford calls "the bringing in
of life by Him, and the absolute union in time, and after time, of every
believer with Him!" "Condemn" or "Not condemn;" "Condemnation" or "No
condemnation" are no longer open questions--indeterminate and unsettled. He
the Great Redeemer and Lord--the Brother in my nature has taken me into
living membership and fellowship with Himself. In Him the debt is
cancelled--liquidated. In Him I am pardoned and accepted. These are
the words of the divine Pardoner (none more precious in all Holy
Scripture)--"I will be merciful to your unrighteousness; your sins and your
iniquities will I remember no more." Paul, we must bear in mind, was now
writing to Romans; who were familiarized with the forensic terms he uses.
They knew well what was the significance of the proclamation "Condemno," or
"Non condemno," as it rang through their pillared basilicas. Happy for those
who have listened, as here, to the Great Absolution from the lips of the
Just, yet the Justifier. Happy for me if, feeling my new covenant position
in Christ, I can go forth to the world--to my daily work and business--amid
"the loud stunning tide of human care and crime," and hear this chime of
heavenly music ringing through it all--"No condemnation."
And to have the full comfort of this opening strain of
the song, let me think of it, too, as denoting a present discharge--a
present immunity. Not the limited and partial thought of being one day
called to the tribunal of a Judge to receive the sentence and assurance of
remission; but "There is therefore, NOW, no condemnation." The absolution is
already pronounced from which there is no appeal. "I AM pacified towards
you" (Ezek. 16;63). "We who have believed do enter into rest" (Heb.
4;3). "He that believes shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from
death unto life" (John 5;24). "Beloved, now are we the sons of God"
(1 John 3;2).
The Prodigal in the parable is not ordered to undergo
probation--to tarry outside as a dependent among the menials of his father's
house and halls, before restoration is accorded. The robe, the ring, the
sandals, the welcome, are his at once. Let me accept the same lofty
consolation, that the blessedness is even now mine of those whose iniquities
are thus forgiven and their sin covered--that I am now a chartered citizen
of that heaven of which the subsequent portions of this "Song of Songs" tell
me I am to be a glorified inhabitant.
Yes, in beginning these successive cadences of Paul's
sacred Cantata, I can appropriately take up the words of other and
older singers--"O Lord, I will praise You; for though You were angry with
me, Your anger is turned away and You comfortest me" (Isa. 12;1).
"He has put a new Song in my mouth, even praise unto our
God'' (Ps. 40;3).