Condemnation is being given an identity based on our performance. Paul looked at his performance and cringed. He had given in. His renewed resolve and good intentions failed. Again. And now he hears his performance yelling out his identity – “wretch” (Romans 7:15-24).
Paul Zahl says it this way in his book Who Will Deliver Us:
“If I do enough of the right things, I will have established my value. Identity is the sum of my achievements…In Christian theology, such a position is called justification by works. It assumes my worth is measured by my performance. Conversely, it conceals a dark and ghastly fear: If I do not perform, I will be judged unworthy.”
We use other words than “wretch” when our performance condemns and pastes an identity on us. Loser. Failure. Fake. Unworthy. Different words but we discover the same dilemma—we can never perform our way out of condemnation. The good news of the gospel is our identity is now based on the performance of Jesus. It is grace alone that changes the wretch into a saint.
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