Romans 8: 1-10 (Lent Four – 2013)
“In Christ You Are Not Condemned”
John records for us the story of the sinful woman that the Pharisees had brought to Jesus. She was known to be an adulterous woman, perhaps a prostitute. Jesus invited them to consider which of them was without sin and to be the first one to begin stoning her according to the demands of the law. They all went away realizing their own sin. Jesus turned to the woman and asked “Has no one condemned you?” Her accusers had fled the scene. Jesus spoke to her: “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” That gospel lesson is a living illustration of what Paul is teaching in Romans 8. Those who were seeking to justify themselves on their own went away condemned. The gal who realized her sin and her need for Jesus went away forgiven and empower to live a new life in Christ.
Christ Met the Law’s Demands
Paul explains: “what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature … God did by sending his own Son … in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us.” The laws of God are righteous requirements. Many of the Old Testament laws were ceremony laws meant to lead Israel to the truths of Christ. Some of them, the Ten Commandments, were moral issues that applied to them and still apply to us. No one human being could meet any of the requirements of God’s Laws. “The law was made powerless and weakened because of our sinful nature.”
When I receive a credit card bill, the bill shows me the required payment. That statement does not, however, give me the ability to pay the required amount. The bills that pile up on our kitchen tables are factual. They are real. But they do not give us the ability to meet their required payments. God’s laws are like that. We could not do what God’s law demands. Why? Paul explains so clearly in verse 6-7: “The mind of sinful man is death … it is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so.”
“God did [the requirements of the law] by sending his own Son … in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us.” In the Old Testament God designed certain sacrifices to be made in order to picture for them the sacrifice of atonement that Jesus would make on the cross. The people of Israel were required to do them. They knew that these sacrifices needed to be repeated over and over again, because they were God’s teaching tools. They were repeatedly learning that God was going to one day meet the requirements of his entire law through the Messiah, his Own Son.
Paul was underscoring that point with the Jew and Gentile Christians assembling in Rome. This was the very heart of his letter to them: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (3:23-24). Christ ended their obligation to the ceremony laws by keeping the righteous requirements of the entire law as the human born Son of God.
Christ Liberated You from Sin
The righteous requirements of the moral law still apply to us. The Ten Commandments are as real as the credit card bill on my kitchen table. I owed God what I cannot pay. The reading of Law can only tell me what I cannot pay. Apart from Christ the Law still condemns me. The Law condemns sin that lives in me. The Law cannot rescue me. I cannot rescue me by attempting the keep the Law. “The mind of sinful man is death … it is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so.” The moral statements of the Law stand as a clear reminder for all of us the times we have fallen short of those righteous requirements.
“Through Christ Jesus the law of Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death … what the law was powerless to do … God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offerings, and so he condemned sin in sinful man” … on Christ on the cross! The ceremony laws were pointing to the shedding of blood for atonement. Jesus fulfilled the ceremony laws and rescued us from the condemnation of the moral laws.
When Paul was speaking to the Colossians about their new freedoms in Christ he said this “God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and stood opposed to us; he took it away nailing it to the cross!” (Colossians 2: 13-14). He went on to remind them that because of this they were liberated from judgment on ceremonial laws and requirements because “these were a shadow of the things to come; the reality is found in Christ” (2:17).
The writer to the Hebrews emphasized that point throughout the whole book as well. He outlined that the Priesthood was pointing to ahead to Christ. “Unlike the other high priests, he did not need offer sacrifices day after day first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once and for all when he offered himself” (Hebrews 7: 27). The next verse ties into our lesson: “the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath which came after the law appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever” (28).
Christ Makes You Alive to Righteousness
What comes next is Paul’s “so what?” “You are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit … if Christ lives in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.”
Apart from, Christ we are spiritually bankrupt. Apart from Christ we are completely controlled by the natural born condition of sin. We are all dead to the Spirit of God and to righteousness. Those who continue to live outside of faith are living illustrations of this dead condition and our natural tendency to live in hostility to God. When we stumble and fall the billing statement of the law stares us in the face and reminds us that we are not capable of righteousness apart from Christ.
The Spirit of God changes that status. The Spirit makes us alive with Christ. He transfers to our spiritual bank account the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus. Earlier Paul had been discussing the importance of Grace in our Christian living. He made the point that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5: 20). He was basically saying that you cannot “out sin” God’s grace. Christ Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world, and therefore paid for all your sins. In Christ there is forgiveness for those who repent and believe in his Name.
Paul anticipated the natural question and concern “Shall we go on sinning, so that Grace might increase? By no means! We died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6: 1-2) He then goes on to point out the importance of our Baptism. In Baptism we have been spiritually attached to God’s abundant blessings in Christ. His death to sin is our death to sin. His burial is our burial. His resurrection is our resurrection “through the glory of the Father that we, too, may live a new life” (Romans 6:4).
The sinful woman could not prevent her own condemnation before men, or before her God. The men who accused her could not condemn or acquit her based on a comparison of their lives with hers. The law condemned the sinful nature in them all. In Christ Jesus she left was a free gift: “Neither do I condemn you!” In Chris she left with a new empowerment that came, not from the law, but from the forgiveness of her many sins. “Go and leave your life of sin.” Jesus had made her alive to righteousness.
In Christ, you are not condemned. He met the requirements of the Law that we could not keep. He cancelled our debt before God by taking our sins to the cross. He sends his Holy Spirit into our hearts, through Word and Sacrament, to cling to his free gift of Grace. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! This is good news … news that makes us alive to Christ and his righteousness. Go with Christ. Go in peace! Amen.