This is very much how I see this verse, do you agree with what John Piper says in What the Law Could Not Do, God Did, Sending Christ?
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Verse 1 declares that in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation. God does not condemn us for our sins if we are in Christ Jesus. Jesus is a safe place from the hurricane of God’s holy and just wrath . . .
Let’s draw out some of the wonders in these statements. First, “God condemned sin in the flesh.” Notice three wonderful things about what this statement says.
Sin Has Been Condemned, not Merely Shown to Be Condemnable
First, sin has already been condemned. What does that mean? It does not mean that sin has been criticized and called condemnable as when we say, President Bush “condemned” the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. We know it does not mean this because this is something the law could do and did do quite well. The law criticized sin and called it condemnable. The law says, for example, “You shall not covet” (Exodus 20:17). And the law pronounces punishments on law breakers (Deuteronomy 28:15). So the law clearly “condemned” sin in this sense.
But Romans 8:3 says, “What the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did.” So God did something more than merely criticize sin and call it condemnable. What then does Paul mean when he says, “God condemned sin in the flesh”? He means that in Jesus’ flesh in his suffering and dying body on the cross God executed a final sentence of condemnation on the sin of everyone who is in Christ. In other words, “God condemned sin” means God found sin guilty and sentenced sin to be finally punished and carried out the penalty of suffering in the death of his Son . . .
He says “likeness of sinful flesh” because he was not sinful. Jesus had no sin. His flesh was human, and it was like sinful flesh. But it was not sinful. So how could God condemn sin in his flesh? There was none there to condemn. The clearest answer is given in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” There it is. Paul says it as clearly as it can be said: “He knew no sin.” Jesus never sinned. Of all the people who have ever lived, Jesus is the only one who did not deserve to die. Jesus is the only person who ever lived who did not deserve to suffer. But he died and he suffered.
So the question is: Whose sin was condemned when Jesus’ flesh was tortured and killed? God condemned sin in the flesh of his completely innocent Son. Whose sin? The answer is given clearly.
- Romans 4:25: “He . . . was delivered over because of our transgressions.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:3: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”
- Galatians 1:4: “[He] gave Himself for our sins.”
- 1 Peter 2:24: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”
- 1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous.
- Isaiah 53:5-6: “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.”
The answer is that our sin was condemned in the suffering and death of Christ, not His. He had none . . .
And now we know why the death of Jesus Christ takes away all my condemnation. Because when he died God was condemning sin, sentencing it, and punishing it completely and fully and finally for all God’s elect all who are in Christ by faith. Therefore it was my sin that was being condemned and sentenced and punished completely and fully and finally when Christ died. And if my sin was punished there finally and fully, I will not be punished for it again.
Brothers and sisters, there is no other cleansing agent in all the universe that can clean your conscience, besides this one. There is no other shield that can protect you from the white hot wrath of God, besides this shield. There is no other argument that will hold up in the final courtroom of heaven than this argument: Christ died for my sins. Christ bore my condemnation. Christ absorbed all the divine wrath that would and should have come on me . . .
That’s the second wonderful thing about this statement that “God condemned sin in the flesh.” The first is that sin has already been condemned, sentenced, punished, executed in Jesus. The second is that Jesus had no sin to condemn. It was ours that was punished. “[God] made Him who knew no sin to besin on our behalf” . . .
The third wonderful thing about this statement is that God did it. “God condemned sin in the flesh.” Two things are powerfully relevant for us here . . .
The text says and the whole Bible is built on this view that God did this.
“Sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God!] condemned sin in the flesh.” Jesus did not put himself forward between God and man; God put Jesus forward between God and man (Romans 3:25). God “sent His own Son.” God saw to it that the eternal, uncreated Son of God took on “the likeness of sinful flesh.” God poured out his wrath on the Son as the condemnation and punishment of our sins. Jesus didn’t butt in to save us from God. God sent him in to save us from God. God himself saved us from the wrath of God.
When you ponder the cross, don’t just ponder the love of Jesus rescuing us from the anger of God. Ponder the love of God rescuing us from the anger of God. If you know Jesus, you know the Father. The heart of Jesus is the heart of the Father. Jesus is as angry at sin as the Father is. And the Father is as caring for sinners as Jesus is . . .
God did it. God condemned sin in the flesh. And the first thing that is so relevant about that for us is that it keeps us from playing Jesus and God off against each other. It helps us see that the Father and the Son have one heart and one mind as they take their different roles in saving us from our sin . . .
But this is what Paul is saying here in Romans 8:3. God the one and only Creator of the universe sent his Son (his pre-existing, divine, eternal Son) in human flesh to bear the outpouring of his wrath in condemnation on sin. THAT is who God is. If you say, “God did not do that,” then t
he God you worship is not God . .
The true and only God sent this divine Person into the world and in his flesh condemned sin sentenced it, punished it, executed it. Yours and mine. And everyone’s, who by faith are in Jesus Christ . . .
God did it. God condemned sin in the flesh of his own Son. There is no other cleansing for the conscience. No other protection from wrath.No other argument in the last judgment. Let’s believe it, bank on it, live it, and sing it.
My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device nor creed;
I trust the ever living One,
His wounds for me shall plead.
I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that he died for me.
Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul, I come to him,
He’ll never cast me out.
My heart is leaning on the Word,
The written Word of God,
Salvation by my Savior’s name,
Salvation through his blood.
My great Physician heals the sick,
The lost he came to save;
For me his precious blood he shed,
For me his life he gave.
UPDATE: For a continuing discussion on this subject, please see my latest post “Did God Kill Jesus? Am I Really Alone?”