We saw last Sunday that there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). It’s important to note that God is not playing a word game in which he arbitrarily turns the guilty into not guilty. Sins are only forgiven because they were already paid for at the cross. Our union with Christ through faith means our destiny is intimately bound up with Christ, so that what happens to one is counted to the other. This is not unlike a marriage, where the assets or debts of one partner become the assets or debts of the other.
Augustine first coined the phrase later popularised as “God hates the sin but loves the sinner”1. But that’s an oversimplification. The reality is that God saves the sinner by punishing the sin. That is why there is now “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). The curse brought on by our natural union with Adam is now reversed for those who are in union with Christ. At the cross, sin – not the law, and not us – is condemned. Sin is punished in the body that once lay in the manger. Jesus has assumed full responsibility for all our failures. Our Saviour picked up the bill for our life of rebellion. The result is that we are now liberated to serve, without fear, in full assurance of faith.
Tragically, not every tradition within Christianity allows its members to enjoy the God-given privilege of assurance. Certainly no major world religion promises assurance—with the exception of biblical Christianity. Isma’ll Raji al-Faruqi, a Muslim philosopher, helpfully contrasts Islam and biblical Christianity.
“This is why for a Christian, the very fact that he is a Christian, that is to say, the very fact that he recognizes Jesus Christ as redeemer, weighs heavily in the scales. It gives him the assurance and the poise that comes from such assurance, that he is ‘saved’, already ‘passed’ deep into the second zone, and not merely lifted out of the first… Islam holds no sweet, immediate recompense to give its convert gratuitously upon conversion. On the contrary, it tells him point blank that his acceptance of Islam puts him squarely in the zero zone and lays out before him the arduous road of the Shari’ah, or Divine Law, which he has yet to tread in order to lift himself out of the zero zone by his own efforts.”2
By contrast, what an amazing and comforting solution God has provided in sending his one and only Son. We now live with the certainty that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. As one Iranian man in our church who began to grasp grace for the first time said, “It’s as if God is looking for an excuse to forgive us.” While not technically correct, he has grasped the very heart of God who wants to save his people and not condemn them.
 St Augustine’s Letter 211 (c. 424) contains the phrase Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum. It translates roughly to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins”. The phrase has become more famous as “love the sinner but hate the sin” or “hate the sin and not the sinner”, with the latter form appearing in Mahatma Gandhi’s 1929 autobiography.