‘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. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.’ Romans 8:1-11
It is one of the most well-used sayings in preaching but that doesn’t make it any less true or useful: “When you see a ‘Therefore’ in the Bible you should always ask what is it there for!” At the start of today’s Epistle reading, one of the best loved and most precious passages that ever came from St Paul’s pen, it is a specially important question because the verse marks the turning point of the whole letter. In Romans Paul sets out what the Christian Gospel is all about. He does it so that there can be no doubt in the minds of the Christians in Rome or anywhere else that he has spent his life sharing the authentic Good News of Jesus Christ, the news of God’s love for a lost, sin-scarred world and His unshakeable determination to bring back home, for time and eternity, who will come to Christ.
He has set out the mess of the world, and the unpalatable reality of the judgement of a Holy God on the sin of mankind. In the news at the moment there is a blame game going on. One group of people blaming another group of people, whether a nation, a political group, an economic system or any other human invention for what’s wrong with the world. It was exactly the same in Paul’s day with the great dividing line in his experience being between Jews and Gentiles. Paul tells us the true diagnosis is that we’re in this together. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It would be very convenient if we could find someone else to blame but it isn’t true.
If the bad news is that our sin separates us from God the good news is that God was not content to leave it like that. The story of the Old Testament is one of failure and faithfulness: God’s faithfulness and mankind’s failure. The Jewish nation could not keep the Law that embodied God’s standards any more effectively than any other nation but, throughout the Bible’s pages, gently but firmly, graciously and patiently, God goes on sowing the seed that it is faith that matters: taking God at his word and acting on it. That’s what Abraham did says Paul in Romans 4 and now, that offer of free and full forgiveness is open to the whole world in Jesus Christ. “God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
So, as St John tells us in his Gospel, we get right with God by believing INTO Jesus: trusting him for forgiveness and life. It gets better! The message of Pentecost is that when we become Christians God himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit, takes up residence in our lives so we can change to be the people God wants us to be.
Sometimes, when we look at ourselves, we are forced to ask “So why isn’t the change more evident? Why am I not more like Christ? Do you find yourself asking that, I certainly do. The encouragement is that so did St Paul. He has been sharing in that wrestling in Romans 7 and he longs for more of the freedom that the death and resurrection of Christ brings. That’s where we welcome Romans 8 verse 1.
Forgiven and Free
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”
It’s not a statement about my feelings it’s an assurance of God’s life-giving verdict. If be have believed into Jesus then we are covered by his great victory.
“The law of the Spirit of Life set be free from the law of sin and death.”
Here we come to the title at the top of this sermon. “Turn it on!” I do hope you are familiar with Fawlty Towers. It is one of my all-time comedy favourites. In our house we often say that there is a line from a Fawlty Towers script to suit almost every occasion! In the episode entitled “Communication Problems” Mrs Richards, superbly played by Joan Sanderson, is a hard of hearing hotel guest who refuses to tun on her hearing aid “Because it wears the batteries out.” She has the equipment but she doesn’t turn it on. Basil screams in exasperation “TURN IT ON”
Don’t push the illustration too far but the New Testament has so many exhortations to us as Christians to DO SOMETHING. Often we feel we can’t or we’ve tried before and failed miserably. The Holy Spirit is the person and power of Almighty God, the power that raised Jesus from the dead, so changing a few lifelong habits in our lives to make us more like Jesus shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The question is “Am I prepared to allow him to do that.” I know the Holy Spirit is a person not a thing but it is as if there is a voice from heaven shouting, or perhaps whispering in that patient, still, small voice Elijah heard” “Turn it on!”
The Very Revd Robert Key