“No Condemnation” Has a Storyline

The best way to understand Romans 8:1–17 is through a storyline. Many, many words have been written to explain this wonderful story, but I will simply give you the outline of the plot for you to think about in the context of this week’s Sabbath School lesson.

1. Wanted children: God’s and my story always begins with the triune God family wanting children in their image (see Genesis 1:26, 27). And it continues with the assurance that the Family will never turn its back on the wanted children (see Isaiah 49:15). This aspect of God often gets lost in the many ways we think of and study Him/Them.

The God Family chose freely to “have us,” even though, in Their omniscience, They knew there would be a rocky road ahead. They still chose to have children in Their image (see Psalm 139:13–18). The children were given boundaries to protect them, as all adored, wanted children are: “Stay together, and don’t take candy from strangers” (see Genesis 3:2).

2. Born kidnapped: Since the first infraction, the whole human race of adored, wanted children have been born kidnapped, dead in trespasses and sins, hostage “children” of our kidnapper, the devil (see Ephesians 2:1–3).

3. And brainwashed: We are also completely infiltrated by our kidnapper’s value system and thought patterns (see John 8:44).

4. The ransom plan: But the God Family has, from the beginning, had plans to rescue us and bring us back home (see Jeremiah 29:11–14). “By infinite love and mercy the plan of salvation had been devised” (God’s Amazing Grace, 246).

5. For the God Family’s adored, wanted, only child: “One soul is precious, very precious, in the sight of God. Christ would have died for one soul in order that one might live through the eternal ages” (Testimonies, Vol. 8, 72). That makes each person potentially God’s adored, wanted, only child for whom the entire ransom demand was paid in full.

6. After the rescue: But a child born kidnapped and brainwashed, even after they realize they have been ransomed, has a lot of “unprogramming” to go through. Some kidnapped children can never come to understand who they really are, and that they have been rescued. Occasionally kidnapped children choose to continue identifying with the kidnapper.

Others finally realize their true identity, but have to go through a process of un-brainwashing to come fully into their true and joyous identity.

“To restore in man the image of his Maker, to bring him back to the perfection in which he was created, to promote the development of body, mind, and soul, that the divine purpose in his creation might be realized—this was to be the great work of redemption” (God’s Amazing Grace, 246).

David seemed to understand this process, and he outlined it in Psalm 51:5–13.

7. The Holy Spirit, the un-brainwasher: Each member of the triune God Family has had a vital and distinct role in the dramatic ransom and rescue. The Holy Spirit is the primary un-brainwasher as the adored, wanted children focus on the “firstfruit” Elder Brother who provides the example of what it is like to be a true, adored, wanted only child of the God Family.

“When one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:16–18, NKJV).

8. There is no condemnation. There is therefore no condemnation to those who have accepted the ransom, embraced their true identity, and who walk following the Elder Brother pattern, Jesus Christ, through the indwelling Spirit of the God Family. They know they are free from kidnapped bondage. Sometimes they may stumble. Sometimes their “being un-brainwashed” minds go back to ingrained patterns of negative, selfish thought and action. But they are living by the Spirit of their family of origin. They keep returning to the wonderful Good News that they are brothers of Jesus, sons of the Father, protégés of the Spirit who dwells in them.

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. When we stumble we cry out, “Abba, Father, Help.”

There is therefore no condemnation. There is only loving un-brainwashing. “By the transforming agency of His grace, the image of God is reproduced in the disciple; he becomes a new creature. It is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, which Jesus said He would send into the world, that changes our character into the image of Christ; and when this is accomplished, we reflect, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord.”

Where could condemnation possibly fit into this storyline? There is condemnation only for the kidnapper, and all those unfortunate children who never accept that they were free to choose their real Father, and to go to their true home.

Kathy Beagles Coneff is editor of Guide Magazine.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8418
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Loved the illustration, Kathy! How could we possibly feel anything but the unconditional love of the God Family? The Kidnapper continues to try and make me feel irredeemable and broken. But my Father is SO gentle and tender and encouraging! I will continue to say “yes” and choose the escape that He provides daily!


Good input on the Holy Spirit the un-brainwasher.

Soteriology addresses guilt & depravity. Rom 8 deals with both…condemnation/guilt & depravity.

The word Spirit is used in this chapter of the bible more than any other chapter…19 times.

Our SS teacher suggested we read Romans 8 two or 3 times for this class.

What % will read it? How many SS superintendents or teachers will read ALL or much of Romans 8 before or during the class.

“But the heart that is surrendered to God, loves the truth of God’s word; for through the truth the soul is regenerated. The carnal mind finds no pleasure in contemplating the word of God, but he who is renewed in the spirit of his mind, sees new charms in the living oracles; for divine beauty and celestial light seem to shine in every passage. That which was to the carnal mind a desolate wilderness, to the spiritual mind becomes a land of living streams. That which to the unrenewed heart appeared a barren waste, to the converted soul becomes the garden of God, covered with fragrant buds and blooming flowers.” FCE 182

Who has appetite or interest in reading bible with TV comedy, games, drama , news, sports, politics, crime stories?

Neglecting bible reading is like saying…“we will not have this Man rule over us, Give us Barabbas, We have no king but Caesar.”

Spirit vs Flesh/world…

Also…which would Rom 8 fit into the foundation 6 elements in Heb 6?

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” Heb 6:1&2

In case anyone reads this post after 12-3-17…
How many verses of Romans 8 or of the vs 1-17 from the lesson focus were read or quoted in your SS class??

In ours, only 2 verses got exposure out of the 17 or 39…

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I would like to offer a few comments about this week’s adult SS lesson.

As I have mentioned a couple of times in the past when prefacing certain comments, if you are convinced and satisfied that Adventist theology is the final instalment of God’s truth then please skip these observations.

If you are open to other views, then you may be interested in the following:

One of the things I have found in my studies is that each faith group focuses on familiar verses which verify their concept of the nature of God, His plan for humanity and how it is unfolding. This means that in many cases certain teachers from long ago arrived at conclusions which are now taken as givens and no longer questioned. Rather than grapple with passages which challenge this accepted understanding, it’s easier to pass by difficult (sometimes even apparently contradictory) passages.
Yet, I believe Paul’s statement in 2Tim 3:16 is meant to be applied to our Bible today: ‘All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;’.

Gideon brings up a good point when he wonders what percent of the SS teachers and students have read all of Romans 8. The adult SS quarterly is moving through the book of Romans chapter by chapter. This week is concerned with chapter 8 and next week moves on to chapter 9. This week’s lesson stops half way through chapter 8 and so ignores the last 22 verses. (The Sabbath afternoon lesson begins, ‘Read for This Week’s Study: Rom 8:1-17’).
The authors of the quarterly don’t go into vs 18-39 and it appears don’t want to encourage you to go there either.
There is much in this passage worthy of consideration and it’s too bad the quarterly chose to ignore it.

So, let’s take a look. I’m not going to quote the verses but ask you to read them and consider some questions:
V20-21: Whose will landed us in the situation in which we find ourselves? Ergo, who is ultimately responsible to resolve it?
Is everyone and everything included in ‘the creation’?
Is the creation to be ultimately ‘set free’ or, as many maintain, to be burned up in a huge fireball?
V23: if believers in this age are the ‘firstfruits of the Spirit’, but also ‘a kind of firstfruits of His creatures’ as James 1:18 says, and one understands what the offering of firstfruits signifies, does that imply a positive future for the rest of God’s creatures?
V38: Paul lists many things, including death, that cannot separate us from the love of God. Does this apply to every created being or just believers?
V28-30: Apparently, some group of people, those ‘who love God’ and have been ‘called according to His purpose’, are ‘…those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.’
This is a foundational passage to my Calvinist friends. They take this to mean all believers. They say salvation is God’s doing. He has already chosen who will be saved. This group is called ‘the elect’ and they are thankful to God to be a part of it. They think that Paul wrote as if all the actions were in the past because it has all been decided. Besides, God is outside of time and sees things in the future as though they had already occurred (Rom 4:17).

Rom 8:28-30 is an especially challenging passage for those, loosely called Arminians, who believe in free will. Hence, its avoidance by the SS lesson.
One Adventist commentator from long ago offered an alternate explanation by saying that it refers to those mentioned in Matt 27:51-53 who were raised from their graves when Christ was resurrected. They were certainly called for a purpose, so Christ could be ‘the firstborn among many brethren’ because the offering of firstfruits given in the temple on the day Christ was resurrected was not a single head of grain but a handful or sheaf. So, perhaps God felt more than Christ alone was required for the antitypical offering in heaven. If they did go to heaven (and perhaps are those mentioned in Revelation), why wasn’t more written about them and why didn’t people ask Christ about them when He came back to the disciples? An interesting idea but if true they were still predestined by God before they were called and justified.

What if both the Calvinists and Arminians are partly right? What if God did choose or elect some ‘who love God’ to be saved and glorified but with the purpose or calling to help lead all the rest of creation, ‘from its slavery to corruption’ into glory in the age to come?


I very much appreciate Kathy Coneff’s strong emphasis on children and love in the “God Family.”

I can’t help noticing, though, that the theodicy issues in the entire “storyline” are such as to take one’s breath away. I find these lines particularly poignant:

You see, if “No Condemnation,” has a storyline, then “Condemnation” has one also, for all the “unfortunate children.” You know how it ends.

For those of you who have children, do you have different “storylines” for different individual children based on their valuing your directives?

Do your individual children have potential “No Condemnation” and “Condemnation” storylines that emanate from your heart? Would such a thought be in any way morally comprehensible to you, especially the storyline of burning your “Condemned” unfortunate children alive?

Further, on the topic of storylines, could your heart conceive of casting out your recalcitrant children and then replacing them with more children, who would also similarly be on life-and-death trial with you?

That is exactly what the Adventist Storyline, The Great Controversy Theme, spells out with great specificity:

God created man for His own glory, that after test and trial the human family might become one with the heavenly family. It was God’s purpose to repopulate heaven with the human family. —The S.D.A. Bible Commentary 1:1082. {TA 48.7}

The vacancies made in heaven by the fall of Satan and his angels will be filled by the redeemed of the Lord.
—The Review and Herald, May 29, 1900.{TA 49.1}

God created man for His own glory, that after test and trial the human family might become one with the heavenly family. It was God’s purpose to repopulate heaven with the human family, if they would show themselves obedient to His every word. Adam was to be tested, to see whether he would be obedient, as the loyal angels, or disobedient.
—The S.D.A. Bible Commentary 1:1082.{TA 287.2}

Adam was to be tested, to see whether he would be obedient, as the loyal angels, or disobedient. If he stood the test, his instruction to his children would have been only of loyalty. His mind and thoughts would have been as the mind and thoughts of God…
{CTr 26.2}

Have we so learned Christ?

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This ties into another discussion on whether God defines good and evil; or, is there a concept of good and evil to which God is subject to. There is a third option, I believe, in which God creates (defines) good and evil, and at the same time, operates within the constraints he has, himself. established. Otherwise, he would be placing himself under an incongruent position of “do as I say; not as I do”.

If evil is the direct opposite of good, both cannot emanate from God. If God wants Christians to forgive 70 X 7 (defined as “infinitely”) then he, himself, cannot do anything contrary; but, neither can he abide evil and just dismiss it, out-of-hand. I believe it is this conundrum that God solved through the cross - paying for the evil among and within us by paying for it himself. You have asked (elsewhere), “PAY WHOM?” I think the answer is pay the CONCEPT OF JUSTICE which God created and under which the universe is supposed to run - otherwise “good” and “evil” lose their meaning and power.

The issue of “God’s children” being rewarded, when “good” and fried when “bad” doesn’t compute in any case. If God payed the price for human sin, then it applies to those who couldn’t be “deprogrammed” since God also forgives 70 X 7 - I assume. THEN WHY THE CROSS?

We humans are bad at theoretics. We need graphic pictures to understand. We need consequences - like the little children the writer claims we are. It isn’t God who demands blood - we do - whether an innocent lamb, or the Son of God.

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