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By The Rev. Alex Stevenson
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The story is one right out of the newspapers. A man is accused and convicted of a murder. He sits on death row for years awaiting his execution. Time and again he comes within days or even hours of execution only to receive a stay or execution.
Finally after years he is exonerated. Perhaps the real killer is captured or confesses. Maybe DNA evidence proves his innocence. Either way the man is freed—and one who was under a sentence of death is set free. There is now no longer a reason to condemn the man to death.
This is kind of like us. The main difference is that we are guilty. Paul himself says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) This is one of those rare Christian truths that is empirically verifiable. Just consider the best people you can think of: Martin Luther King Jr., Bishop Desmond Tutu, Pope John Paul II, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, the Apostle Paul … Were any of them perfect? No, they would all admit that they had sinned.
Paul the Apostle is a good example. Here was the man God chose to take the Gospel to the Gentile world. Paul was the inspired author of almost half the New Testament. Yet he admits, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7:19) He also says, “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.” (Romans 7:18) If even the best of people are sinners, then what about the rest of us?
But most people say, “Oh, no one is perfect, but I am better than most.” Maybe you are better than most. It’s kind of like the man who responded to an ad for a used car. He called the car dealer and asked, “How does the car run?” He dealer replied “Better than most of the cars on my lot.” Then the man asked, “How fast will it go?” “Faster than any of the other cars here.” “How does it look?” “Best looking car on the lot.” So the man asked “By the way what kind of dealership is this? Are you Ford or Chevy or Honda?” “Nope, we’re a junk dealership.” Are you sure you want to compare yourself to the majority of people in our world today. I mean just look at the human race! Saying that we are better than most people doesn’t say much!
God doesn’t compare us to other to the rest of the human race anyway. God is not a junk dealer. God deals in only the best. So he compares us to the best, and that is Jesus. How do you measure up to that standard? Have you died on a cross for dirty rotten sinners and prayed for the forgiveness of the very people who nailed you to the cross lately? So by God’s standards we’re all toast!
We are guilty! And we are sentenced to die! The Bible says “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) It also says, “it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) So we will all die and then we will face judgment.
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You and I are on death row. We are living on borrowed time. The only reason any of us is here is because we have been given a stay of execution from on high. And remember we deserve to be here on death row. It’s not like the person in the beginning of the sermon who was innocent. We are all guilty.
What should we do? Maybe we can all try to be the best we possibly can be! Maybe if we keep all ten of the commandments we’ll slip by. But Paul said that for millennia people had tried that and it never worked. Remember even the best people are sinners. And what about all the sins we’ve already committed. There is no DNA evidence to prove our innocence, because we are as guilty as sin.
Based on all of this Paul declares “There is therefore now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Excuse me, umm, there seems to be a problem here. I must have gotten the part of different sermons mixed up here or something. I mean didn’t I just say that we are all as guilty as sin—and that there is no way to get off for good behavior?
Yep, that is what I said. It’s written right here in my notes. Then why does Paul say that there is now NO condemnation? It’s all because of Jesus. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! There once was condemnation but it is gone now.
It is gone and Jesus is the difference! Jesus granted each of us a pardon. But it was not for good behavior, but just as a gift! We were set free because he chose to die in our place. He took on our sin and died in our place! That is why we are freed from eternal death row!
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! We were all sentenced to death, and rightly so. But Jesus purchased our freedom through his death on the cross. We were once condemned but there is now, after Jesus, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. What about those who are not in Christ Jesus? Well, the condemnation still stands.
You see that is why you have to accept Jesus to be saved. All salvation is through Jesus. No one has ever been saved by being good enough! Jesus is the only one who can grant any of us a pardon.
If you have given your life to Jesus, there is now no condemnation for you! If you haven’t … Well, that’s another matter. You better. I don’t know how much longer your stay of execution will continue. And after death comes the judgment.
Give your life to Christ. Admit that you are a sinner who needs forgiveness and ask Jesus to pardon you. Maybe you have been a Christian all your life and you don’t know if you have ever given your life to Christ. Then do it today and be sure. Then you can declare with joy “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!”
Copyright 2008, Alex Stevenson. Used by permission.