Dear radio friends,
Do you know what God did in the sending of His own Son into the flesh, to be born in a stable in Bethlehem? What was God doing? Many today do not know the answer to that question. And, indeed, if conviction over your own sin and the marvel over God’s wonderful grace is not burning within you, you will not know and you will not see it either.
There are some that say (that is, the theologians of the day) that God sent His own Son to reaffirm the intrinsic goodness and dignity of mankind. There are others (the moralists of our day) who would say that God sent His own Son to bring peace to nations, to highlight social inequities and the plight of the poor. And there are still others who will ask, “Why did God send His Son?” and they stand perplexed. They can talk only about a holiday season, holiday cheer, commercialism, and parties.
Do you know? Do you know because God sent His Son for you?
In all the explanations of the world, the word “sin” is omitted when it comes to talking about Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. But that was the reason: sin. God sent His Son so that He could pour out upon His Son the vial of wrath that our sins deserved, so that we might be forgiven and free. That is the confession of a child of God. Do you know that?
If you know that, your life will show it. And if you know that, you will tell others why God sent His Son.
The portion of God’s Word that we will consider for a moment today is Romans 8:3, where we read, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.”
In Romans 8 we are told of the wonders of our salvation. In verse 1 the apostle began with the declaration that there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ Jesus. There is no punishment, there is no judgment awaiting you if you are in Christ Jesus by grace. Jesus Christ is the safe place from the hurricane of God’s wrath.
In verse 2 the apostle went on to say that by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ a liberating force has come into our lives, freeing us from the power of sin. There has not been a final liberation from sin for the child of God, but there has been a decisive and irrevocable liberation from the law or power of sin, so that what Christ did severed the root of sin, so that the tree will die. The dominion of sin has been broken for the children of God.
Verse 1, then, of Romans 8 is the truth of justification; that God declares that His elect children are righteous and forgiven in the work of Jesus Christ accomplished for them and applied to them. Verse 2 inRomans 8 is the truth of sanctification; that is, all those for whom Jesus died will also, by His Spirit, be delivered from the tyranny of sin in their life. And the relationship between them is that sanctification (a holy life) is the evidence, not the cause, of justification. We are not justified (made right with God) because our lives have changed, but our lives are changed because we have been justified, or made right with God.
And now the apostle asks the question: “How did this happen? I’m forgiven. I’m justified in the sight of heaven. I will never be condemned. I am pardoned. I am sanctified. I am free from the law of sin and death. I am able, by grace, to live, to repent, to love God. How did this happen?” And the answer is, This happened through what God did in the sending of His own Son.
What did God do? God sent His Son to condemn sin. We read literally, “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for an offering for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” The apostle (or the Holy Spirit) says this not just so that we have an answer to a question: Why did God send Jesus into the world? Why was He born in the flesh? Why did the eternal Word, the second person of the Trinity, join Himself to flesh and blood in the virgin womb? But we are told about this so that our faith might be strengthened, that Christ might be magnified, that we might bow in worship, that we may be blest, and that we might be ready to bear the burdens that God brings upon us because we know what God has done in Christ.
Sin has been condemned by the coming of Christ. God condemned sin in the flesh. That is something that happened in the past. When God sent His Son, then God condemned sin in the flesh. To feel the force of that, you must know the meaning of the word “condemned.” The word “condemned” here does not mean what it is commonly understood to mean today: to pronounce something condemnable, to criticize, or to denounce. But the apostle means “reprehensible, evil, worthy of punishment.” That God condemns sin does not mean simply that God said sin was bad, but it means that He executed the punishment that sin deserved. In the suffering and dying body of Christ on the cross, God punished the sin of everyone who belonged to Christ. God did not simply pronounce sin as something that is condemnable and vile. God executed the sentence upon sin in Christ. The sin of all those in Christ received the full and the just sentence that it deserved. God carried out the penalty for sin on Christ.
Now here is the amazing thing about that. There was no sin in Christ to condemn. God punished sin upon Christ, but Christ Himself had no sin. For Paul said, “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” He sent Him in the likeness of flesh? No! He was sent in real flesh. Jesus was truly a man, not like a man. He was a man. But God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. He says it that way because Christ was not sinful. He appeared in the flesh alright, under the curse of our sin. He appeared like us, except that He was not a sinner. He had no sin. He was totally human. But He was not sinful.
In other words, when God’s Son, God’s infinite, eternal, divine Son, clothed Himself with humanity in the womb of the virgin, He was like us in everything with one exception: sin. There was no sin in Him.II Corinthians 5:21 explains this: “For he,” that is, God, “hath made him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” There it is. Jesus never sinned. Of all people who ever lived, Jesus is the only One who did not deserve to die. He did not deserve to suffer. And He suffered as no one else ever did.
Jesus did not deserve to suffer. And yet, He suffered as no other ever did. So the question is: Whose sin was condemned by God when Jesus was in the flesh and suffered and died for sin? Now, people of God and all who are listening, we must all know the answer to that question. A six-year-old must be able to answer this question, Christian parent. How could God punish sin in Jesus if He had no sin? If your little child cannot answer that, it is time to beef up the family devotions. It is time to begin to explain the heart of the gospel. Let me help.
Children, if Jesus had no sin, and God punished sin on Him, whose sin did God punish?
The answer is: God punished the sins of His people, of the elect.
But then, parent, you must not settle just for that answer. But you must say before your child: He suffered for my sin.
Listen to what the Bible says in Romans 4:25, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” Or I Corinthians 15:3, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.”Galatians 1:4, “Who gave himself for our sins.” I Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” Isaiah 53:5, 6, “But he was wounded for our transgressions…. All we like sheep have gone astray;…and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” These are verses that we must know. And we must thank God for such verses. God condemned my sin upon Jesus.
What did God do when He sent His Son into the flesh? He condemned my sin, the sin of all those who belong to Jesus Christ by the electing love of God. There is no other cleansing agent in all the world that can clean your conscience. Oh, how contaminated is our conscience. I am so dirty. I live with such horrible memories. I am inclined to believe that there is no hope. But here alone the gospel brings hope: the blood of Christ cleanses us from all our sins. There is no agent of cleansing apart from Christ. There is no escape, there is no self-improvement, there is nothing that is found in a bottle or a pill, there is no shield to protect you from the white wrath of God. There is no other argument that you can bring in the court of heaven. Only this: My sin was condemned upon Jesus Christ. In the words of a hymn: “I need no other argument; I need no other plea. It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me.”
His Son had no sin. God condemned sin in His flesh. The sin of all who were given to Him, all who belonged to Him by a true and living faith, every sin, fully, finally, decisively, irrevocably punished. Upon Jesus Christ. So that I cannot be punished for them again. No double jeopardy applies. God would be unjust. God would bring disrespect upon His Son’s blood if He ever did punish upon me my sin.
Are you in Christ? Not because you chose Him, but because, by sovereign, mighty grace; not by works, lest any man should boast, but according to the pure grace of God. The gospel is: Christ bore your sins. And He absorbed all the punishment. That is what God did when He sent His Son.
How did God do this? He did this by sending His own Son—His pre-existing, eternal, natural, only-begotten, divine Son, the One who lived in blessed love in the Trinity of God, who was God’s delight—the object of His love. Galatians 4:4, 5, “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
There was no other way. If God did not send His own Son, our sin would be condemned on ourselves, eternally, justly, in the torments of hellfire. If Jesus, God’s Son, had not been sent, our destiny would have been hell.
The law could not remove our sin and condemnation. The apostle writes: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” The law is the Ten Commandments, the holy, good, righteous will of God. The law could not do something. Could not do what? It could not do what we read in verses 1 and 2 of Romans 8. The law could not justify us. The law could not sanctify us. The law could not make us right with God. The commandment will not save us from condemnation. Will you look to the Ten Commandments to bear away your condemnation? Will you say, “The just and holy punishment of God can be removed by my obeying the Ten Commandments?” No, the law condemns you. It only shows you that you cannot rescue yourselves. It only adds to your condemnation. “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom. 3:20).
And the law could not make you holy. Holiness is not simply doing what the law says. It is not just going through the motions. But it is doing all of that in perfect love. The law cannot create love. The commandments cannot remove the dominion and the love of sin from your heart. The law cannot make you a loving person. Not because there is a defect in the law. The law of God is good—the pathway of thanks. But it was not designed to redeem sinful man because it works through the flesh. And I am a sinner. The law cannot save sinners. The law condemns sinners.
But what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did in the sending of His own Son, His divine Son, His glorious Son, the eternal Son who is united now to our flesh in the virgin, and now the Son who is the sin-bearer, in our flesh. God’s Son in the flesh, able to bear, alone able to endure, the infinite and eternal punishment that our sins deserve. He is the only One. There is no one else. There is no possibility anywhere and in anyone else to escape eternal condemnation that is due to you by your sin. You will not go to heaven, you will not live eternally, because you are a good person, because you are better than others. There is only One. Look to Jesus, only our Lord Jesus Christ, sent of the Father.
Wherefore we confess that He is very God and very man—very God by His power to conquer death, and very man that He might die for us. This is what God did. God did this freely for His own glory.
The love of God rescued us from the wrath of God due to our sins. The gospel is not that Jesus Christ put Himself between God and man, that God was intent to destroy us, but Christ put Himself in between. That is not the view of the cross. A hostile Father demented and a Son of love. No. The gospel is that God is a holy and just God who takes vengeance upon all those who do not obey the truth. And the gospel is that God, out of mere grace, sent His Son. God in love and grace gave His Son for us. God, whose holiness and justice would crush us, in love sent His Son to save us from His wrath against our sins. God put Jesus forward. God so love us that He gave His only begotten Son. God willed His eternal, uncreated Son to take on our flesh. God poured on Him the condemnation that we deserved. God did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.
When you ponder Bethlehem, when you look into Gethsemane and Golgotha and the cross, do not just ponder the love of Jesus. But ponder the love of God—that rather than that we should perish, He gave His Son to endure the sinner’s death. The work of Jesus is the work of God. Behold the wondrous, holy, just, merciful, amazing love of God!
The glory, then, of salvation is God’s. “Glory to God in the highest,” is what the angels sang on the night of His birth. That does not fit well today. Our God is God. There is no other Savior. Look only unto Him and be saved. Muslim, Hindu, American secularism, modern Christianity with all of its tomfoolery—there is no salvation in them. Salvation belongs to our God, to this God of the Holy Scriptures, the one, true, living God, the God of power and of grace.
Do you know Him? Do you worship at His feet? He is the God who sent His eternal, uncreated Son into the world as the God-man. He alone is the only Savior. He is risen and exalted at God’s right hand, and ruling over all things. He and He alone saves!
Not Hindu, not Allah, not the American dream that worships this life, not man, not the Constitution. This is His word: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Believe in Christ…or perish. There is no salvation in any other than in our Lord Jesus Christ. You will not be saved by the sincerity of your convictions in a false religion. Only by faith, God’s gift, in God’s Son Jesus Christ, is there salvation. All who will not submit to that word will perish.
Today is the global situation—the religion of man. Every religion, it is said, will get you to heaven. Just do not be exclusive, we are told. Muslim, Hindu, Jew, and every brand of Christ-denying Christian theology is accepted. But it will not work. If you do not know God in Jesus Christ, you will perish.
The most loving thing that the Christian church can do is to preach and to tell and to live the blessed gospel; to lay down our lives for the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no other cleansing agent to clean your conscience. There is no other shield to protect you from the condemnation that your sin deserves. There is no other argument. There is no other plea. There is only One who can cleanse; there is only One shield against the wrath of God; there is only One argument—Jesus died for me. For God sent His Son to condemn my sin, that I might belong to Him forever.
This is salvation: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us pray.
Father, Thy Word shall stand. And now, by the Spirit of Christ, draw unto Thyself Thy children and grant that blessed peace that our sins are forgiven in Him. Amen.