With Dale Ratzlaff
We continue our study in Romans 8:1-4.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 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, 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 is a Bible text that everyone should have memorized. Context, as always, is important to our understanding. In Romans 7 Paul has shown that when we focus on our own behavior as measured by the law, the law actually arouses sin. The law is not evil but it is weak, too week to develop righteousness within us. Near the end of Romans 7, still looking at his own behavior, Paul cries out.
Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin (Rom. 7:24-25).
It is in this context that Paul states, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Why is there no condemnation? “Because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free form the law of sin and death”. There is much to consider here. “Condemnation” includes a verdict, a judgment or sentence, and it also includes the execution of that verdict. It is a legal term. But, praise God, if we are “in Christ”, there is NOW no condemnation, no execution. Notice next that there are two laws at work. The “law of the Spirit”, which we will explore in more depth as we work our way through chapter 8, and the “law of sin and death”, which was the focus of Chapter 7. The law of the Spirit is so effective in developing righteousness that no other law is needed. As we go through chapter 8, we will notice that Paul does not record even one admonition telling us what we should be doing. Rather, he shows that walking in tune with the Spirit leads to righteousness. The law of the Spirit has truly set us free. “Set free” is aorist indicating a dramatic one-time event when we were born again by the Spirit.
Often we at Life Assurance Ministries are accused of being antinomian—against the law. If one reads our material using the method of “a little here and a little there”, some could reach this conclusion. However, we are not opposed to the law per say; rather, we are opposed to the wrong use of the law and recognize that the old covenant law has been superseded by the law of the Spirit, the law of Christ.
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, 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.
Here we see the ineffectiveness of the law. No matter how often we read the law, gaze into the law, meditate upon the law, or even memorize the law, it is not able to bring about lasting change. But Christ came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” and made an offering for sin that condemned sin in the flesh. Why—and here is the major insight of this section—“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”.
The phrase, “in the likeness of sinful flesh”, has caused some to conclude that Christ actually came in “sinful flesh” with all the inherited tendencies to evil. In fact, one Christian teacher in the denomination in which I used to serve concluded that if Christ did not have exactly the same sinful nature we have, He could not be our Savior. This interpretation was necessary as it fit into the church’s paradigm of perfection—being able to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator before the Second Coming. Acceptance before God in the end times, they said, was measured by one’s sanctified life. However, if Paul wanted to state that Christ had our nature, he would have just said He came “in” sinful nature. The thrust of this statement is Christ’s offering for sin. Paul teaches that Christ’s flesh was both real and sinless.
For the Christian, the law of the Spirit is superior to the old law. The Spirit is able to give us direction in life and ever points us to Christ who is the source of our life. As one commentator states, “Moses’ law has right, but not might. Sin’s law has might but not right. The law of the Spirit has both right and might”
Paul’s goal in Romans 7 was to keep the law, yet focusing on his behavior as measured by the law only aroused his sin. Now, in Romans 8, when he walks by the spirit, that same goal—obedience to God’s moral principles—is achieved. Here is a different way of reaching the same goal.
We may wonder how Christ’s “offering for sin” condemned sin in the flesh and resulted in the requirement of the law being fulfilled in us. “Being fulfilled” is aorist subjective passive. I believe this statement primarily refers to the righteousness “in Christ” that we receive the moment we believe and will be fully realized at the Second Coming. However, the context suggests that when we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives He will enable us to achieve a level of obedience here and now not possible under the instruction of the law.
Behind this wonderful statement we see the truths of substitution—He did it for me—(it receiving the righteousness of God) and representation—I did it in him. Now find a third—sanctification by the Spirit—He does it in us. Because we are now “in Christ” His victory is our victory. Yes more than that, now the Holy Spirit enables us to live the obedient life. This will be an ongoing process as we yield our lives more and more to the power and direction of the Holy Spirit.
For the Christian there is now no condemnation. This is true today, and will be true in the future. Why? Because Christ’s death set us free from the reach of the law, and the death sentence of the law. Therefore, we are done with the old law as a means of achieving righteousness. Now we are “in Christ” and the Holy Spirit is mightily at work in our lives to do what we could not do. Now we no longer walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Father, I am thankful you condemned sin in the flesh so that I might live the obedient life, walking with you in the Spirit.
In Jesus name.