These are words that we probably hear often while watching our favorite courtroom drama.
But these are the most precious words ever for anyone who has put faith in Christ. The words “no condemnation” mean just that. Christ has taken our guilty verdict upon Himself. Anyone who is familiar with Ray Comfort’s YouTube videos has heard him tell people on the street that we are all like people standing in a courtroom, guilty of a crime, but if someone came and paid our fine we would be free to go. What Jesus did for us was to set us free by paying our fine. Our sin renders all of us a “guilty” verdict. But God had a plan.
John MacArthur’s commentary says of the word “condemnation”:
“Only occurring three times in the New Testament, all in Romans, “condemnation” is used exclusively in judicial settings as the opposite of justification. It refers to a verdict of guilty and the penalty that verdict demands. No sin a believer can commit– past, present, or future–, can be held against him, since the penalty was paid by Christ and righteousness was imputed to the believer. And no sin will ever reverse this divine legal decision.”
When we put faith in Jesus, He takes our punishment so that we can go free. And He DID take our punishment. On a cross. Brutally, but beautifully. This was the great exchange. Our sin for His righteousness. Some of the most beautiful words ever written that describe what Christ did in this mysterious reciprocation come from an epistle from one of the early church fathers, known simply as “The Epistle to Diognetus”, an ancient writing, not discovered until the 15th century. Pastor Timothy Mikenzie says of the letter, “Although the author and its intended recipient are unknown, modern scholarship sets the possible date of its writing from 150 to 225.” Here is what it says,
“And when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred,
nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us,
but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us,
He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities,
He gave His own Son as a ransom for us,
the holy One for transgressors,
the blameless One for the wicked,
the righteous One for the unrighteous,
the incorruptible One for the corruptible,
the immortal One for them that are mortal.
For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness?
By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God?
O sweet exchange!
O unsearchable operation!
O benefits surpassing all expectation!
that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One,
and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!“
Outside of scripture, this is possibly the most beautiful and impactful thing I have ever read!
I had not heard of this early church writing until I saw Heather Payne live in concert once, and she told the audience the story. Then she sang this song that she wrote after her husband, a pastor, had told her about this moving second century epistle. Listen here:
This marvelous plan of God to purchase our righteousness through His Son taking our penalty should drive us all to our knees. That HE, the perfect sinless Lamb of God, would lower Himself to die for WE who are so completely wretched and undeserving of such kindness. Such mercy. 1 John 3:1 tells us, “Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are!”
“This is one of the most beautiful texts in Scripture for the assurance of salvation. The threat of condemnation is removed forever if we are in Christ Jesus.”
–R.C. Sproul. Romans – An Expositional Commentary (Kindle Locations 4177-4178). Ligonier Ministries, Inc. – USA.
Let those of us who have been beneficiaries of this great exchange never take the price paid for granted. It was the most costly purchase in history.