THE IMPORTANCE OF NOW
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4,11 NRSV).
Many critics of the Christian faith have demurred that it is simply about “pie in the sky when I die by and by.” And, in fact, some have indeed preached a truncated gospel that goes like, “Jesus died on the cross for my sins, so I could go to heaven.”
These caricatures of the gospel make it all or primarily about post-mortem existence. Not so for the Apostle Paul. His gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ, is best seen in 3-D because it is so multilayered and multifaceted. One way to observe this is to trace how Paul uses the little word “now” throughout the Letter to the Romans.
Paul writes that now God’s righteousness is being revealed (3:21, 26), now believers have been made righteous (5:9), now Christians have been reconciled to God (5:11), now we are freed from Sin (6:22), now followers of Jesus are discharged from the law (7:6), and in our passage for today, now there is no condemnation for God’s people (8:1). Finally, Paul will say, now the mystery of God is being revealed (16:26).
There is a now or already sense to our faith in what God has done for us in Christ. This is never clearer than Paul’s words of hope at the beginning of chapter eight after the despair of chapter seven: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (8:1-2).
This newness, available now, is not because God has simply overlooked sin. Rather, it is because God has won a victory in life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and is making all things new. God’s new creation is breaking into the world. Perhaps if we were going to look for a summation of the gospel, we might consider Romans 8:11: “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” The Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us—now!
Perhaps the best action step is simply to contemplate what God in Christ has done for us—and be thankful.
Lord God, thank you for putting your Spirit in me. I am overwhelmed. Help me appreciate what I have in you now and live to your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Mark Manassee is Senior Minister of Culver Palms Church of Christ, a vibrant mosaic of people representing the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of Los Angeles. “Our experiences are varied,” says the church, “but we are united in and by the love of Christ.”