Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sin on Death Row

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.--Romans 8:3-4 (ESV)

In my last post I said that God set us free from sin.  This is a glorious truth which we can't afford to not make the center of our lives.  But God not only set us free from sin, he also put it in death row.  Romans 8:3 says, "he condemned sin in the flesh."  What does that mean?  I've been puzzling over it for a few days now, and the only explanation I have for it is that God has sentenced sin to futility and eventual death.

The word condemned as used in Romans 8:1 and 3 means: To confer some sort of eternal divine punishment upon.  So, when Paul says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, he is saying that there is no Hell for Christians.  Conversely, sin has been condemned.  I don't know exactly how sin, which is not a person, can be condemned, but I think it's most likely somewhat like a judge condemning a criminal to death.  The criminal is imprisoned, powerless and never to escape, but not dead yet.  
In the same way, sin has been imprisoned by God and made powerless over us, but he has not quite finished destroying the last dregs of sin yet.  Theologians call the bit of sin left in the flesh the indwelling presence of sin.  We all know the truth that we are not completely holy yet.  I can look back at the end of every day and point out many, many obvious sins.  The good news is sort of the theme of Romans 8: By the Spirit, Christians fight their flesh and sin and in the end, stand victorious over all their lusts and distempers.

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