As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who
are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ
Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what
the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did:
sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an
offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the
requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk
according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Verse 1 declares that in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation.
God does not condemn us for our sins if we are in Christ Jesus.
Jesus is a safe place from the hurricane of God's holy and just
wrath. Verse 2 declares that in Christ Jesus there is freedom from
the power of sin. Not yet perfect and final freedom, but decisive
and irrevocable freedom. That is, the triumphant blow has been
struck, the dominion of sin has been broken, and its final defeat
The reality of verse 1 is called justification, and the reality
of verse 2 is called sanctification. And the relation between them
is that the freedom of verse 2 supports acquittal of verse 1 as
evidence, but not as cause. We are not justified because our lives
have changed. Our lives are changing because we have been
justified. That's what we saw last week.
Now we look at verse 3. "For what the Law could not do, weak as
it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the
likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned
sin in the flesh." It has four statements in it. 1) God condemned
sin in the flesh. 2) He did this by sending his own Son in the
likeness of sinful flesh and for sin. 3) The law was not able to do
this. 4) The reason the law could not do this was because of our
"God . . . Condemned Sin in the Flesh"
Let's draw out some of the wonders in these statements. First,
"God condemned sin in the flesh." Notice three wonderful things
about what this statement says.
1. Sin Has Been Condemned, not Merely Shown to Be
First, sin has already been condemned. What does that mean? It
does not mean that sin has been criticized and called condemnable
– as when we say, President Bush "condemned" the terrorist
attacks on the World Trade Center. We know it does not mean this
because this is something the law could do and did do quite well.
The law criticized sin and called it condemnable. The law says, for
example, "You shall not covet" (Exodus 20:17). And the law
pronounces punishments on law breakers (Deuteronomy 28:15). So the
law clearly "condemned" sin in this sense.
But Romans 8:3 says, "What the Law could not do, weak
as it was through the flesh, God did." So God did something more
than merely criticize sin and call it condemnable. What then does
Paul mean when he says, "God condemned sin in the flesh"? He means
that in Jesus' flesh – in his suffering and dying body on the
cross – God executed a final sentence of condemnation on the
sin of everyone who is in Christ. In other words, "God condemned
sin" means God found sin guilty and sentenced sin to be finally
punished and carried out the penalty of suffering in the death of
That's the first wonderful thing about this statement, "God
condemned sin" – in the death of Christ, sin was not merely
shown to be condemnable, it was condemned, it received its full and
just sentence and penalty – for all who are in Christ
2. Our Sin Was Condemned in the Suffering and Death of
Christ, Since He Had no Sin to Condemn
Now here is the second wonderful thing about this statement:
There was no sin in Jesus Christ to condemn. Paul says it here
indirectly and says it directly elsewhere. Here he says, "Sending
His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an
offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh." Notice that word
"likeness." He says "likeness of sinful flesh" because he was not
sinful. Jesus had no sin. His flesh was human, and it was like
sinful flesh. But it was not sinful.
So how could God condemn sin in his flesh? There was none there
to condemn. The clearest answer is given in 2 Corinthians 5:21,
"[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we
might become the righteousness of God in Him." There it is. Paul
says it as clearly as it can be said: "He knew no sin." Jesus never
sinned. Of all the people who have ever lived, Jesus is the only
one who did not deserve to die. Jesus is the only person who ever
lived who did not deserve to suffer. But he died and he
So the question is: Whose sin was condemned when Jesus' flesh
was tortured and killed? God condemned sin in the flesh of his
completely innocent Son. Whose sin? The answer is given clearly.
Romans 4:25, "He . . . was delivered over because of our
transgressions." 1 Corinthians 15:3, "Christ died for our
sins according to the Scriptures." Galatians 1:4, "[He] gave
Himself for our sins." 1 Peter 2:24, "He himself bore
our sins in his body on the tree." 1 Peter 3:18, "For
Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the
unrighteous." Isaiah 53:5-6, "But He was pierced through
for our transgressions, He was crushed for our
iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fellupon
Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have
gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has
caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him."
The answer is that our sin was condemned in the
suffering and death of Christ, not his. He had none. Which
practically means what? Let Paul say it the way he likes to say it
in Romans 8:33-34, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect?
God is the one who justifies; (34) who is the one who condemns?
Christ Jesus is He who died." When the question rises, "Who can
condemn God's elect?" the answer understood here is, "Nobody."
Nobody in heaven or hell or on the earth. Why? Answer: "Christ
Jesus is he who died."
And now we know why the death of Jesus Christ takes away all my
condemnation. Because when he died God was condemning sin,
sentencing it, and punishing it completely and fully and finally
for all God's elect – all who are in Christ by faith.
Therefore it was my sin that was being condemned and sentenced and
punished completely and fully and finally when Christ died. And if
my sin was punished there finally and fully, I will not be punished
for it again.
Brothers and sisters, there is no other cleansing agent in all
the universe that can clean your conscience, besides this one.
There is no other shield that can protect you from the white hot
wrath of God, besides this shield. There is no other argument that
will hold up in the final courtroom of heaven than this argument:
Christ died for my sins. Christ bore my condemnation. Christ
absorbed all the divine wrath that would and should have come on
I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that he died for me.
That's the second wonderful thing about this statement that "God
condemned sin in the flesh." The first is that sin has already been
condemned, sentenced, punished, executed in Jesus. The second is
that Jesus had no sin to condemn. It was ours that was punished.
"[God] made Him who knew no sin to besin on our behalf."
3. God Condemned Sin in the Flesh
The third wonderful thing about this statement is that
God did it. "God condemned sin in the flesh." Two
things are powerfully relevant for us here.
The Love of God Rescued Us from the Wrath of God
3.1 One is that Jesus Christ did not put himself forward between
God and man to reconcile them to each other. It's not as though God
is only angry at sinners, and sinners are hostile to God, and Jesus
loves sinners and puts himself between his angry Father and sinful
man to rescue man from God's anger. That is not what Christianity
teaches. That is not what happened.
The text says – and the whole Bible is built on this view
– that God did this. "Sending His own Son in the
likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God!]
condemned sin in the flesh." Jesus did not put himself forward
between God and man; God put Jesus forward between God and
man (Romans 3:25). God "sent His own Son." God
saw to it that the eternal, uncreated Son of God took on "the
likeness of sinful flesh." God poured out his wrath on the
Son as the condemnation and punishment of our sins. Jesus didn't
butt in to save us from God. God sent him in to save us
from God. God himself saved us from the wrath of God.
When you ponder the cross, don't just ponder the love of Jesus
rescuing us from the anger of God. Ponder the love of God rescuing
us from the anger of God. If you know Jesus, you know the Father.
The heart of Jesus is the heart of the Father. Jesus is as angry at
sin as the Father is. And the
Father is as caring for sinners as
Jesus said in John 14:7-9, "'If you had known Me, you would have
known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.'
(8) Philip said to Him, 'Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough
for us.' (9) Jesus said to him, 'Have I been so long with you, and
yetyou have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has
seen the Father; how canyou say, "Show us the Father"'?"
So be crystal clear on this: the work of Jesus the Son of God is
the work of God the Father. If you know Jesus, the Son of God, you
know God the Father. If you love Jesus, the Son of God, you love
God did it. God condemned sin in the flesh. And the first thing
that is so relevant about that for us is that it keeps us from
playing Jesus and God off against each other. It helps us see that
the Father and the Son have one heart and one mind as they take
their different roles in saving us from our sin.
The Exclusivity of the Gospel of the Glory of God in
3.2. The other thing that is so relevant about this third point
(that it was God himself who condemned sin in the flesh of the Son
of God), is that this does not fit in with other major religions,
like Islam or Judaism or Hinduism or Buddhism. The point here is
not to be inflammatory in a tense global situation. The point is to
preserve the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4), the
divine Son of God and only sin-bearing Mediator between God and
man, in the midst of a cultural stampede toward inclusivism.
What I mean by inclusivism is the teaching that all religions
are legitimate paths to God. There is a fear today to speak of the
exclusivism of the gospel of Jesus – that he is the Way the
Truth and the Life and no one goes to the Father but by him (John
14:6). But this is what Paul is saying here in Romans 8:3. God
– the one and only Creator of the universe – sent his
Son (his pre-existing, divine, eternal Son) in human flesh to bear
the outpouring of his wrath in condemnation on sin. THAT is who God
is. If you say, "God did not do that," then the God you worship is
Who is the true and only God? The true and only God is the God
and Father of Jesus Christ who was in "the form of God" and "equal
with God" (Philippians 2:6) and took on the form of a servant in
the likeness of sinful flesh, so that all the fullness of deity
dwelt in him bodily (Colossians 2:9). The true and only God sent
this divine Person into the world and in his flesh condemned sin
– sentenced it, punished it, executed it. Yours and mine. And
everyone's, who by faith are in Jesus Christ.
This is the gospel we preach to the entire world – to
every religion. There is one God, the Father of our Lord, Jesus
Christ, the uncreated, eternal, divine Son of God, whom God sent in
the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin in order to die for
sinners, so that all who believe might be saved – from his
wrath and for his glory. The most loving thing we an do for Muslims
is to peacefully, meekly, and sacrificially proclaim to them the
gospel of Jesus Christ, without which no one will be saved.
To love people like this will require that you have come to see
Romans 8:3 as the most precious event in the history of the world.
God did it. God condemned sin in the flesh of his own Son. There is
no other cleansing for the conscience. No other protection from
wrath. No other argument in the last judgment.
Let's believe it, bank on it, live it, and sing it.
My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device nor creed;
I trust the ever living One,
His wounds for me shall plead.
I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that he died for me.
Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul, I come to him,
He'll never cast me out.
My heart is leaning on the Word,
The written Word of God,
Salvation by my Savior's name,
Salvation through his blood.
My great Physician heals the sick,
The lost he came to save;
For me his precious blood he shed,
For me his life he gave.