33 miners emerged safely from 69 days of being entrapped in a Chilean copper mine and the world watched. “Welcome to life” read the headline on the next day’s Oregonian. Many offered prayers of thanksgiving and rejoiced that the men had been set free. In Romans 8:1-4 Paul exults in the freedom you have in Christ Jesus. You have been delivered, not from a slow death underground, but from the law of sin and death, from eternal condemnation. You have more reason to rejoice than the family and crowds that welcomed each miner as he emerged from the rescue capsule.
Our text could be described as the heart of Paul’s gospel. He draws a big picture of God, including the activity of the three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He compactly summarizes what happened on the cross. He holds out the glorious, certain hope that there is no condemnation to you in Christ Jesus. Consider memorizing this summary of the good news!
Paul has reminded you earlier in this letter that the wages of sin is death, 6:23, and that you need deliverance from “the body of this death” 7:24. The law alone was powerless to free you. The law can declare you guilty. It can make you aware of sin. It can even make sin alive, 7:9. The law brings death. The problem is not some deficiency in God’s law. Rather, the law is weak because it is dealing with the flesh. “Flesh” here, as often in Paul’s writings, has negative ethical overtones. It is flesh as it is corrupted and weakened by sin.
But what the law cannot do, God has done. God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. Paul is not qualifying the humanity of Christ, but rather, is safeguarding his sinless character. God condemned sin in the flesh. In the flesh of his Son God poured out all of his wrath against your sin. Here is the ultimate sacrifice. Our Old Testament reading is Genesis 22:1-19, where Abraham is called to make the ultimate sacrifice of his son. You know that God intervened and stopped the father from bringing down the knife. But you also know that the ram that was offered in Isaac’s place looked forward to the sacrifice in which the Father would not spare his Son.
Because of that sacrifice, Paul describes the Spirit as the Spirit of life. He was involved in the resurrection of Christ, and he gives life to you. You are free from the guilt of sin, and you have also been liberated from its enslaving power. There is no condemnation! Remember this passage when Satan tries to discourage you by focusing on your sins and failures. Take heart, and tell the Accuser (and your heart) that there is no condemnation for you.
God’s great work of condemning sin in the flesh of his Son took place so that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in you. The Spirit who sets you free, has freed you to serve. He enlivens you. He enables you to obey. This passage makes your obedience a thing of joy, rather than a burden.
(In preparation for the message on October 17.)