But how can that be that condemnation does not come to us? There should be condemnation for us because we are sinners. I think that in the days before Christ’s crucifixion no one really understood how that could be. Certainly the men who set out to trap the woman did not understand it. Earlier they had been trying to trap Jesus in foolish ways. They quizzed Him about a woman who had seven husbands and asked whose wife she would be in the resurrection. Just before that they had asked Him about paying taxes. Jesus dealt with these problems easily.
But the matter of the woman caught in adultery was not like these because it really did hit upon the fundamental problem in which the mercy and justice of God seem in conflict. God is a judge. If the judge of all the earth does right, sin must be condemned and we must die. Jesus did not condemn the woman. But if there had been anybody left to question Him, they might have asked, “You have certainly shown your mercy, and we do not fault you on that; but on what possible basis have you done it? Where is the justice? Where is faithfulness to God’s law?”
What they did not know is that Jesus forgave the woman on the basis of what He was going to do. Just as Adam, Moses, David, and all the Old Testament figures were saved, though they were sinners, so did Christ save the woman, knowing that the time was coming when He would die upon the cross to pay the just punishment, not only for her sin, but for all whom the Holy Spirit should draw to faith in Him, ourselves included. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That is, there is freedom from judgment for those for whom Jesus died. Think of all the problems we deal with today: nuclear war, disarmament, guerrilla insurrections, hijackings, hostages, problems of the economy. These are great problems. But they are next to nothing compared with the problem of human sin and the love of God. How does God save the sinner? The marvelous answer is: through Jesus Christ. For those who are in Christ there is, therefore, now no condemnation.
At this point Romans 8 goes on to speak of something else. Not only is there now no condemnation; there is also no defeat. This is important, because you and I could easily say, “Well, it is wonderful, of course, that there is no condemnation. God is not going to judge me. I am not going to be sent to hell for what I do. Jesus Christ has borne the penalty of my sin. But, you know, I still have to live here. I still have to live with sin and temptations day by day. What I want to know is: Can I have any victory on that level?” Paul shows that, being united to Jesus Christ in saving faith, the Holy Spirit dwells within us. So because of His presence there is victory over sin as well.
There are several reasons we might worry about being defeated. Paul lists three. First, beginning with verse 3 through verse 17, he talks about our sinful natures. When we look at our hearts (even after we have been led to faith by the Holy Spirit) we say, “Yes, but glorious as that may be, there is still a nature of sin within me.” We find ourselves talking as Paul himself does in Romans 7. We say, “I really want to serve Jesus. I want to live for him, to have a holy life. But I do not have a holy life. I sin daily, in thought, word, and deed. Isn’t it going to be the case, since I possess this sinful nature, that somehow this sinful nature will get hold of me and overpower me, and in the end I will be lost?”