Let's talk about the word "condemnation" for a moment. It's a very interesting word, katakrima. It's used only in Romans. It's a very special word. There are other words similar to it. But this particular word focuses not so much on the sentencing of a criminal, it focuses on the paying of a penalty after the sentencing. It focuses on the punishment. It focuses on the penal bondage, if you will. It focuses on the imprisonment. It focuses on the execution, not so much on the verdict. It isn't a condemnation as in a court when a judge says you're condemned to this sentence, it is the condemnation in the sense of the actual paying of the penalty, the prison, the bondage, the execution. And so what Paul is saying is that there is no penalty to be paid.
There is no penal bondage to be born. There is no execution to take place. There is no prison to be put into because the believer's penalty has already been paid. And by the way, when it says "no condemnation," it isn't just the simple Greek word for "no," it is a strong negative, oudan(?)...no, no, not a bit of condemnation, not the slightest tinge of condemnation. And it is in my mind a marvelous illustration in Matthew 18 with Jesus and you remember the servant, and we studied it some weeks ago, who came and it was brought to light that he owed Jesus an unpayable debt. And he fell down and worshiped Him and he cried out and begged for mercy really in one sense and in another sense he said, "Be patient with me and I'll pay you all." And the Bible says the Lord loosed him from the debt and forgave him.
In other words, he never had to pay. All that debt, an unpayable debt, an astronomical sum and he just loosed him from the debt and said you never have to pay any of it. Well that's the meaning of katakrimahere. You're free from bondage. You're free from any enslavement. You're free from any need to pay for anything you've done wrong. That's an incredible truth. This, my dear friends, is the heart and soul of the Christian gospel. The most wonderful message the Christian has is the message to the sinner, you are condemned but in Christ there is no, not a bit of condemnation, not a bit, not the slightest bit, for you've been forgiven and loosed from any obligation to pay anything.
(John MacArthur -Grace to You)