For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by our sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the sinful man, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to our sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
This is a beautiful description of the good news in Jesus Christ. Paul says the Law is powerless to produce righteousness. It cannot do it. It cannot make us good — no way. It can demand and demand and demand, but it cannot enable and it never will. This, by the way, is why nagging somebody never helps. Nagging is a form of law, and God will not let the Law nag us because it doesn’t help. It only makes it worse. If you try to nag your husband or wife or child, you will find that the same thing happens there. Nagging only makes them worse. Why? The reason, Paul says, is because the Law only stirs up the power of sin. It releases this force, this beast within us, this powerful engine that takes over and carries us where we don’t want to go. That is why nagging, or any form of the Law, will never work. It is not because there is anything wrong with what is being said — it is because of the weakness of the flesh that it cannot work. Paul says in First Corinthians 15, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law,” (1 Corinthians 15:56). The Law keeps sin going, it stirs it up.
To break through this vicious circle, Paul says, God sent forth his own son. There is a beautiful tenderness about this. He sent “his own Son.” He did not send an angel, he did not send a man — he sent his own Son as a man, in the likeness of sinful flesh. Notice that. He did not send him just in the likeness of flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh. Jesus had a real body, a body like yours and mine. Since sin has been done in the body, it has to be judged and broken in the body. Therefore, Jesus had a body. But it was not just a body of sinful flesh, it was the likeness of sinful flesh. It was like our sinful bodies, in that it was subject to infirmities (Jesus was weak and tired and hungry and weary), but there was no sin in him. Paul preserves that very carefully here.
In that body of flesh, without sin, he became sin. As we read here, he was offered as an offering for sin. And in the mystery of the cross, which we can never, never understand, no matter how long we live, somehow the Lord Jesus, at the hour of darkness, gathered up all the sins of the world, all the terrible, evil, foul, awful injustice, crime, and misery that we have seen throughout history, from every person, gathered it into himself, and brought it to an end by dying. The good news is that somehow, by faith in him, we get involved in that death.
Father, thank you that the way out of my struggle with sin is not by forcing myself to be different, but by seeing that I already am different. I have been cleansed and purified and made whole in Jesus Christ. He is my life, and I belong to him and always will. Help me to believe it and to act that way.
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Are our lives being sculpted by the power of God’s amazing grace? Do we live as ones liberated from the dead works of performance and demand? Is this freedom evident in our relationships with others? Are we responding with awe and gratitude to both the mystery and reality of God’s gift in His Son?