I rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure. (Psa 119:162)
Text: Romans 8:1-4
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Irresponsible, carnal, and self-righteous people do not know that they are condemned. They read this word of life from the heavenly fire, but with a cold heart. They easily comfort themselves, since they do not feel the sting of their sin, and the devil does not afflict those with dead faith. On the other hand, whoever feels that he is carnal, sold under sin, and guilty of death, so that he is silent before the accuser and condemned by his own conscience – such a person has a difficult time speaking this text with Paul. But let the Spirit teach him, and it becomes a song of praise in his heart. For those who feel no condemnation and experience no struggle of faith, there is only judgment. But for those who feel their sin and hold on to Christ alone there is “no condemnation” at all. Here you will learn to look away from yourself and everything that you are, that you do and feel, and to look to Christ alone who has condemned sin in the flesh. It no longer can condemn you or rule either in your conscience or in your life. For Christ took on our flesh, fulfilled the Law, and suffered the curse, and into Him, the very same Christ, you are baptized, you hear His voice in the Gospel, and His Body and Blood you eat in the Supper. “Saints” who trust in works and nominal Christians may be able to take comfort in their feelings, but whoever sincerely knows sin and death in himself insists on having Christ Himself, who died and rose again and is seated on the throne, ruling in the midst of the Church with Word and Sacraments.
When you yourself have nothing except what can condemn you, and yet cannot deliver yourself over to condemnation, but must find salvation for your life, then the Spirit teaches you to believe, then (as Luther says) you “go outside yourself and into Christ and are His, being baptized into Him and a partaker of His Body and Blood. Thus you get rid of your sin, your evil conscience, death and the devil, so that you can say that you are neither of death or hell. Let death first terrify my Lord Christ. Let hell swallow my Savior. If sin, law, or conscience can condemn, then let them accuse God’s Son! If they can do that, then I will let them condemn and destroy me as well. But since the Father and Christ remain alive, I remain alive as well. Since He was not conquered by sin and the devil, neither am I; for I know that as Christ is in the Father, I am in Christ”4 (Joh 14:20).
Entrust yourself to your Savior. He has finished everything, and everything is given to you in the Gospel. The main thing is to be in Christ; but what does Paul say about this? “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3:27). You don’t believe it and make objections? You say it is the world that entrusts itself to Christ in Baptism and the Supper? You are wrong. The world entrusts itself not to Christ in Word and Baptism and Supper. If we would say they entrust themselves to anything, it is not to Christ in the Means of Grace, but to the works they do. With their unbelief they reject the living Savior in the Means of Grace. But you who heartily desire Him, God’s Spirit shall teach you to believe, and see then if you are not freed from the law of sin and death!
Good Holy Spirit, help us in this most important matter. Teach us, lead us, so that Jesus is for us the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen.
Lord, on Thee alone I stay me,
Safely hide beneath Thy wing;
Death can neither hurt nor slay me,
Thy death took away his sting:
That I may in Thee have part,
Comfort, strengthen, heal my heart;
Light, and life, and love bestowing,
All from Thy free mercy flowing.
Well of life, if Thou art nigh me,
Springing deep within my heart,
When the last dread hour shall try me,
I can feel no inward smart:
If I hide myself in Thee,
Not a foe can injure me;
He shall overcome who hideth
In Thy wounds, and there abideth.
Heermann: O what precious balm and healing L 15:5-6 ELH 293:5-6 tr. R. Massie;
tune: Werde munter