Is guilt the same as condemnation?

"The Last Judgment." Niche Sculpture...

Image by Cornell University Library via Flickr

Question: Romans 8:1-2 says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. My question is, if the guilt you feel when you sin, which leads you to repent, is not condemnation and not from God then what is the difference between guilt and condemnation? And what then is Judgment day?

Answer: Condemnation is an objective judgment from God resulting in some penalty being measured out against you for your sin. It could be some illness, death, loss of income and the ultimate condemnation is hell. For those who are in Christ Jesus, who have believed in him for life and forgiveness, the penalty we deserve from God he took for us and we no longer have to pay it. God now never responds to us in condemnation, but views us as righteous in his sight because of what Jesus did for us. He may discipline us, a response of love and favor to help someone become what they’re supposed to be. Discipline is not punishment. It is a desire to instruct and reform. Punishment is only about getting justice, what you or I deserve. Discipline is all about growth in Christlikeness.

Punishment from God is always for objective guilt, that is, real failure to obey Him.  Our objective guilt has been paid for by Jesus.  However, we also feel subjective guilt.  The guilt we feel when we sin is our conscience telling us that what we have done is wrong and an offense against our relationship to the Lord. It is a gift from God to help us move in the right direction rather than keep running away from him and what is best for us. If you feel, in your guilt, that you need to be punished for what you did, you have failed to grasp what Christ has done for you – taken your punishment for you completely. When you feel guilt you should acknowledge to God what you did wrong and ask His help to do better. It should never result in your feeling hopeless, even if this is a repeat of what you have done before. God is eager to mold you into the image of his son, Jesus (Romans 8:29) and he will not cease working toward this while we are alive.

When Jesus comes back we will be made perfect in body and soul and never have to deal with our sinfulness and waywardness again. Those who do not know the Lord will experience Jesus’ return as a day of judgment where they must answer for their sins and their unwillingness to receive Jesus’ forgiveness. They will have to pay for their sins on their own by eternal separation from God.

Randall Johnson

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