St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Free at Last!

Sermon on Romans 8:1-10

Text: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

By means of the Underground Railroad, which was a network of people offering shelter and aid, a slave could escape from their masters in the South. The exact dates of its existence are not known, but it operated from the late 18th century to the Civil War. There were many dangers involved with the escape, but the thought of being freed made all the dangers worth it. Can you imagine the joy that the slave felt when they finally made it to safety? No longer were they in the control of the master. They finally were free! We, too, were being held captive, but not by a slave owner. We were held captive by Satan. Now, we have been freed. This morning, we celebrate the fact that we are FREE AT LAST. It is 1. A Freedom Accomplished By Christ and 2. A Freedom For Spirit-filled Service.

We were held captive. In verse two of our text, we read of the “law of sin and death.” We were subject to sin and, consequently, death. All human beings are born sinful, captives of sin. By nature, we are separated from God. Because we were born sinful, we were also under the control of death. Earlier in this epistle, Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death.” That death is an eternal separation from God’s love in hell. We were subject to that death, because of our sins. As the prophet Ezekiel states in 18:4, “The one who sins is the one who will die.”

But, what is sin? John writes in his first epistle (1 John 3:4), “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” Sin is, quite simply, breaking God’s law. God gave man his law to show him what he had to do to be in a perfect relationship with God. He was to keep the law perfectly, and he would be saved. However, there is one problem with this. We read in verse 3 that, “The law was powerless to do (this) because it was weakened by the flesh.” The law was not able to save anyone because each one of us has a sinful nature. We are all born sinners. We were unable to keep the law perfectly and would have remained the captives of sin and death forever.

However, we read the rest of verse 3, “What the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.” What we could not do for ourselves, God did for us. He did so by sending his Son, Jesus, into the world. The verse says that Jesus was “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Jesus was truly a human being who lived as you and I do, that is, with one important exception. He had no sin. We read of Jesus being questioned, and Jesus asked, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46) No one was able to. Even though they brought false witnesses to Jesus’ trial before the Jewish authorities, they still could find no fault with Jesus.

It is important for us to remember that Jesus was without fault as he went to the cross. Jesus did not deserve to suffer and die. Again, however, as we read in verse 3, “God (sent) his own Son . . . to be a sin offering.” The idea of a sin offering goes back to the Old Testament series of sacrifices that the people of Israel used to make. One of these sacrifices was a sin offering. The sin offering was offered for the sins of the entire nation of Israel. A perfect animal was to be used in this sacrifice. What a perfect picture of Jesus! Just as the animal to be sacrificed had to be perfect, so Jesus was perfect. Just as the sin offering was for the nation of Israel, Jesus’ sacrifice was for all nations.

How did Jesus pay for all of our sins on the cross? We read in verse 3&4, “And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us.” “He condemned sin in the sinful flesh.” Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his second epistle (2 Corinthians 5:21), “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God looked upon his Son on the cross as the worst sinner of all time. That is because Jesus took the world’s sins upon himself and, there on the cross, Jesus paid the price that we owed. Earlier, we were reminded that “The one who sins is the one who will die.” We owed death, but Jesus suffered death — separation from God — so that we might be set free from the captors of sin and death. Jesus said of himself in Mark 10:45, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus’ life was the ransom price to set us free. We are free; Free at last!

If a person risked their life to save a captive, you can be sure that the one who was set free would do anything they could for their rescuer. In some cultures, it is the practice that, if someone saved your life, you were to be their servant for the rest of your life. We have been rescued and we want to serve our Rescuer. We do not do this because of a law saying that we must, but out of a thankful heart that tells us we can never do enough to thank our Savior for all he has done for us.

However, something had to happen before I could serve my Lord from a thankful heart. We read in verses 7&8, “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” You see, by nature, we are not only born captives of sin and death. We were also hostile to God. We knew what God wanted us to do from the law written in our hearts and spelled out for us clearly in his word. We just didn’t want to do it. Our attitude was to do the exact opposite of what God wanted us to do. ‘God tells me I am to care for other people, put their needs ahead of my own. God tells me that, when someone sins against me, I am to forgive and forget.’ The sinful nature inside of us says, ‘No way! I am going to look out for myself. I’m going to do what I want to do, regardless of whom it hurts. As for forgiving other people, you have got to be kidding! If someone hurts me, I will get back at them in some way or another.’ That’s the way the sinful mind thinks, and it’s not pleasing to God at all.

However, we who have been freed from captivity want to please God. The only way to do this is discussed in verse 9, “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.” We are no longer controlled by the sinful nature, but by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in every Christian. This Holy Spirit entered our hearts through the washing of baptism and the faith that was created there. We were washed clean in baptism. Now we ask ourselves, ‘How can I show my gratitude for the freedom that Christ has given me?’ We do so by doing something we could never do before. We do those things that God tells us are pleasing to him. When God tells me, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34), my new self says, ‘I want to do that.’ When God tells me, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32), I look to his example of how he forgave my sins. I see that he fully forgave every single one of them. I know that are gone forever. Now I want to forgive in that way. This is the attitude of a thankful heart that has been moved to Spirit-filled service.

We must all admit that there are times when our sinful nature does get the upper hand and we do not express our thankfulness as we should. We become angry or we hold grudges against certain people. When we recognize that we have let the sinful nature get the upper hand, may we come to God, confessing our sins and trusting that, for Jesus’ sake, he will forgive all of our sins. We, also, look for ways to strengthen ourselves for the task that lies ahead. Through God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith and renews our zeal to serve our Savior with gladness. Then, strengthened and renewed, we go out and serve our Savior. We have been freed from a life of service to sin to a life of Spirit-filled service to our Savior.

There were several Fugitive Slave Acts that were passed into law, which allowed local governments to apprehend and extradite escaped enslaved people from within the borders of free states back to their point of origin, and to punish anyone helping the fugitives. Can you imagine a person who escaped from slavery going to the local authorities and surrendering, so that they might be returned to their owners? Of course, not! They would do all they could to keep from being enslaved again. If that is the case with earthly slavery, why would anyone who has been rescued from the captivity of sin and death willingly go back under their control? May we not do so, by willingly doing those things that are displeasing to God! May God strengthen us so that we stay as far away from them as we possibly can. Instead, may we gladly serve our Rescuer, our Redeemer. We have been freed! May we truly value that freedom! Amen.