"Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us."
To Remove our Condemnation
Week after week, it seems, there are fresh revelations of awful cases of child abuse where the perpetrators of crimes have been allowed to get off scot free. Just this week it has been the turn of the city of Sheffield to hit the headlines with the police failing to proceed to prosecutions even though in many cases they had names, dates and other details sufficient enough to mount a serious case in the courts.
We hear it on the news and our reaction is that it is all so unjust – the guilty should be tried and condemned; they should be made to pay for their crimes, their acts having caused such damage to the lives of others.
In a more light hearted vein Gilbert and Sullivan in the Mikado expressed a point a view that for many of us is so obvious that it hardly needs stating. Do you remember these lines?
"To let the punishment fit the crime,
The punishment fit the crime."
We simply don't like to see wickedness go unpunished, do we? And in that I think we provide further evidence that we are made in the image of God. Why so? Because the LORD God does not wink at injustice either nor does he sweep wrong-
When in fact turn to the Bible we find that one very prominent theme that is developed there is that of condemnation.
Let me give you a glimpse of what I mean.
It was Adam's sin that set the ball rolling. He chose to eat the wrong fruit.
Now someone might protest that this was only a minor matter – oh but it wasn't! It was a flagrant act of repudiation. It wasn't as though he had been presented with a long and complicated code of conduct to adhere to, Adam had one command to obey when it came to food. But Adam had decided that he was not prepared to let God chose for him what was right and what was wrong, nor was he going to allow God to tell him how to live. So Adam rebelled and in his rebellion he tried to throw off God's rule over his life.
Since Adam men and women have been repeating this attempt at making unilateral declarations of independence. But try as they might they no more succeed in their efforts than did Adam.
Viewed from this perspective the history of the human race makes for depressing reading.
Adam's sin was just "one trespass" yes just "one trespass" but what consequences it had. Firstly, it led to Adam and Eve being excluded from God's immediate benign presence in the Garden of Eden and secondly it led to the condemnation of all men and women (Rom.5:18).
The sin that excluded Adam and Eve from the Garden also drew other consequences upon the entire human race – pain in childbirth, work becoming drudgery etc.
Sin having entered the world through Adam and Eve's disobedience did not long remain confined to them. Cain murdered his brother Abel and a heavy sentence was pronounced upon him:
The first sin was that of disobedience in the Garden and was followed by condemnation. The next sins come as something of a cluster (not doing well, anger, murder) and these too are followed by condemnation.
And so the pattern is set as mankind spirals downwards in moral decline. It is not long before we are reading:
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth."
Sin has become rampant and wide spread – condemnation follows: the flood.
Noah and his family are the only survivors of that flood because God looked favourably upon them but they weren't free from sin – the flood is not long gone before Noah is lying in a drunken stupor and curses are soon falling upon his son Ham.
In fact as human life re-
I could go and describe the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and many more examples but enough has been said already – we know all too well that condemnation follows sin and we also know that it is right that it does!
During all this time God was at work not just in the mechanics of imposing judgment but also in what we might think of as much more positive actions. He was involved in choosing and forming a people for himself, he was also making them promises.
None of this led directly to an easy existence for this people: in order to escape from a severe famine the Israelites would need to seek refuge in Egypt and in time that refuge would be turned into a prison where for centuries the people would live under conditions of forced labour.
Yet even as God protected his people and prepared to deliver them so that they might begin a new life in the land he had promised to give them so we see once more further examples of how wilful wickedness brings with it condemnation. Just think for a moment of the way in which stubborn Pharaoh brought chaos and catastrophe upon the land of Egypt as he continued to refuse to do what God told him to do.
Thus one strand, one important theme of Biblical revelation, is that sin has consequences, serious consequences, devastating consequences: sin leads to condemnation.
Just in case we might have missed that in the descriptive/historical sections of the Bible there are a number of Bible texts that serve to summarise and crystallise the matter making sure that we understand the message we are to take from human history.
A few days after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt he received the Law of God on Mount Sinai instructing the people how God expected his people to live. Some 40 years later as Israel stood on the borders preparing to finally enter the Promised Land Moses went over the Law all over again with the people. (The name Deuteronomy signifies the second reading of the law.) As he reached the end of this second reading we find the following words:
Dt.27:26 "Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them."
In other words law-
Gal.3:10 " For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse;"
The prophet Ezekiel spoke clearly about what outcome awaited the person who was guilty of sin:
Ezek.18:4, 20, 30 "the soul who sins shall die… The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself… Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin."
The apostle Paul had much to say too about this unbreakable link between sin and condemnation:
You'll be very familiar with Paul's summary of all this:
Rom.6:23 " For the wages of sin is death"
And the same fundamental message is still being proclaimed in the last book of the Bible:
Why draw attention to all of this?
Well I'm drawing attention to the fact that condemnation follows sin because:
History demonstrates it
God affirms it
Natural justice calls for it
And deep down we know it
But the problem is that throughout human history there has never been a way out of the problem – everyone in the past has been guilty of sin in some shape or form and the same remains true of us all today. (There is an exception to that rule but only one and it is the Lord Jesus Christ and shouldn't we be glad!)
Down through the centuries since the earliest days of the human race men and women have turned their backs on their Creator and have come into a state of condemnation. Judgment does not always fall immediately and in God's long-
But the regular state of every single one of us is that we live in a state of condemnation. It is just as though that great divine sword of Damocles were hanging over our head. The only thing preventing it from falling and destroying us is the thread by which it is suspended, but sooner or later it will drop and we will be lost.
Throughout the centuries men and women have been vaguely aware that things somehow aren't right between them and God. Many have tried the route of religion to try to pacify a hostile God and this has taken many different forms in different places. Others have tried the morality route. Some have tried to suppress the truth by asserting the non-
But none of these methods has ever or will ever secure a release from that condemnation that we know deep down we deserve. We know well enough that we have failed in life – if we're honest with ourselves we know we had not always done what we think we ought to have done let alone what a perfectly holy God says we ought to have done. No man or woman in history can honestly survey his/her life and approve of absolutely every thought entertained, every word uttered, every deed carried out. And every failure calls for condemnation.
It was into just such a context that burst the Lord Jesus Christ. He stood out as he lived the only pure life that has ever been lived on earth and he died a death that he of all people never ever deserved to die.
And why was that?
He died to take away our condemnation! He certainly won't condemn us because he died – that is what our text declares:
Rom.8:34 "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us."
For the first time in history a way had been made whereby the condemnation of guilty sinners could be safely and successfully passed over. Yes, condemnation did follow the sin of guilty sinners but that condemnation was born by our Saviour and our Friend the Lord Jesus. It was born by the only One who need never have born any condemnation because he always did what pleased his Heavenly Father, he never did anything that his adversaries could properly charge him with. But he came as our representative and as our substitute to do what we could not. He bore our condemnation, he was made a curse that we might be declared to be righteous in our faith union with him.
Do you see? Do you understand? Oh never lose sight of the wonder of this! When we begin to grasp that this was the first time and the only way in which the words "No condemnation" might be sounded forth we should rejoice and be glad and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and trust him with everything we've got!
Small wonder then that Paul in that wonderful 8 th chapter of his letter to the Romans can begin it with that gloriously triumphant declaration:
Rom.8:1 "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!"
Well might Wesley pen his great hymn "And can it be?" Do you remember the words of the last verse?
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
There is hope for guilty sinners because Jesus Christ came into this world not to condemn but to be condemned in our place. His offering of his spotless life as a bloody substitutionary sacrifice has been wonderfully successful and wonderfully declared to be acceptable in God's sight – he has been raised from the dead and lives to plead the merits of his own life and righteousness on behalf of all those who place their trust in him.
If you haven't trusted him before then trust him now – call upon him for mercy and ask him to save you.
If you have already believed into him and now live in a faith-
Jn.5:24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment (that is, condemnation), but has passed from death to life."
What a wonderful resolution to the age long association of sin with condemnation – now, there is no condemnation!
Praise God! Amen.