Excerpts taken and adapted from, “PAUL’S SONG OF SONGS:
A Practical Exposition of the Eighth Chapter of Romans.”
Written by, John MacDuff, 1818-1895
In entering on the exposition of the eighth chapter of Romans, we listen to the music of the greatest of the Church’s prose-minstrels. It is a Gospel enshrined in the most precious of the Epistles–an epitome of divine truth. Though blended with other chords, let it be noted at the outset, that the Love of God, and the Security of the Believer, constitute the special dual strain intoned by our Apostle in his sublime Canticle.
Let us listen to the key-note of the song...
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus”
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.” (Phil. 4;7).
“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).