In Christ’s own description of the sheep and goats before His throne of judgment in today’s text, and in Paul’s words from our epistle lesson that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” we have the plain teaching of the Bible that we are accountable to God.
This is the terrifying preaching of the law. God is utterly seriously about every word He says.
But there is another teaching of the Bible about which God is equally serious. It is the teaching of the gospel, the good news that Christ has kept the law in our place and suffered the penalty for every sin in our stead. So Paul says in Romans 8: “So then, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
You will notice in the account of the sheep and the goats that the Judge does not ask the righteous about any of their failures, nor does He ask any of the wicked about their so-called “good deeds.” That is because the failures of the righteous (the believers) can no longer be found. They are washed away in the blood of Christ. On the other hand, the so-called “good deeds” of the wicked (the unbelievers) are not good at all, for they do not flow from faith in Christ. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”
So Paul is able to say: “So then, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Amid our struggles with sin we need to be reminded that there is no condemnation, no punishment for those who are in Christ Jesus. Certainly, a stubborn living in sin, a high-handed refusal to repent drives out faith, invites the Holy Spirit to leave and sadly surrenders to the dark side.
But by faith in our Savior we live in the fresh air of forgiveness and freedom.
In this new and free land of the Spirit, husbands love their wives in the details, and wives show the respect that builds up their husbands into the servant leaders they need to be. In this new and free land of the Spirit, parents tend to their children’s souls and not just their bodies – and children get new attitudes. In this new and free land of the Spirit, we breathe the air of real love for each other, of glad service, cheerful giving, daily prayer and a hunger to know more about God from the Scriptures. In this new and free land of the Spirit, we keep company with Jesus – and life’s burdens are lightened, life’s joys are deepened, and all of life itself is new each morning.
In that old land of bondage it was said: “To run and work the law commands, yet gives me neither feet nor hands.”
But in this new and free land of the Spirit, it is sung: “But better news the gospel brings; it bids me fly, and gives me wings.”