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More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #3 “The Spirit of Life” Romans 8:3-4

30 Aug

Romans 8:3-4 (ESV)
3  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
4  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

Romans 8 is a chapter that rings with Christian assurance. One can be confident of his salvation in Christ, provided he does not pursue the life of the “flesh;” rather, he walks after the leading of the Spirit (vv. 1-4), Whose guidance is effected through the Scriptures He inspired (Eph. 5:18; cf. Col. 3:16; Gal. 5:16; Eph. 6:17).

The leading of that holy revelation generates “life and peace” (vs. 6). Our confidence is grounded in the fact that the indwelling Spirit eventually will be instrumental in effecting life for our mortal bodies by means of the bodily resurrection from the dead (vv. 11, 23). By the leading of the Spirit we may be assured of our status as “sons of God” (vs. 14).

Moreover, the Spirit Himself bears witness with the Christian’s personal spirit, confirming our child-father relationship with God (vs. 16). Our knowledge of the indwelling Spirit, which relationship is a “first-fruits” of that yet promised, enables us to cope with “the sufferings of this present time,” and so to live in hope of the glory that is to come (vv. 18-25).

A cursory reading of the first twenty-five verses of this remarkable chapter clearly reveals the role of the Holy Spirit in this marvelous reliance the child of God may entertain relative to his future destiny. In this section alone, the third Person of the Godhead is alluded to no less than fourteen times.

Paul’s words about the Law being unable to produce righteousness because of the weakness of the flesh ( Rom. 8:3) should not be interpreted as if he thought little of the Law. On the contrary, he took seriously the high calling and expectations that God revealed through Moses. In fact, walking “according to the Spirit” ( 8:4 ) involves the fulfillment of these expectations. That’s why Paul urged believers to:

  • Turn from evil to good ( Rom. 12:2 , 9 ).
  • Seek love ( 1 Cor. 13 ).
  • Not misuse liberty ( Gal. 5:13–16 ).
  • Choose to do good toward all people ( Gal. 6:10 ).
  • Live with a new, godly lifestyle ( Eph. 2:1–3 ; 4:1–3 ).
  • Learn how to serve others in humility, with love ( Phil. 2:1–7 ).
  • Undo patterns of sin within ourselves ( Col. 3:5–11 ).
  • Develop godly contentment with what we have ( 1 Tim. 6:6–11 ).

This is life in the Spirit—a lifelong adventure of reclaiming what God intended for us from the beginning (Eph. 5:8–10).

8:3 The law could pronounce judgment on sin, but the law could not do anything about sin itself. It had no power to put sin to death in a person’s life. God accomplished what the law could not do by sending His own Son. Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh: Jesus, as God, took on our human nature, a nature that was susceptible to temptation. Although He was tempted, He never gave in. He never sinned.

The Law cannot condemn you (v. 3).

Why? Because Christ has already suffered that condemnation for you on the cross. The Law could not save; it can only condemn. But God sent His Son to save us and do what the Law could not do. Jesus did not come as an angel; He came as a man. He did not come “in sinful flesh,” for that would have made Him a sinner. He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, as a man. He bore our sins in His body on the cross.

The “law of double jeopardy” states that a man cannot be tried twice for the same crime. Since Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins, and since you are “in Christ,” God will not condemn you.

What the law was powerless to do.NIV Freedom over sin never can be obtained by obedience to the law. The law cannot help us because it was weakened by the sinful nature.NIV But what the law can’t do, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man.NIV Jesus Christ was a “likeness” of us. This likeness (homoious) was not merely an appearance; he was completely human (John 1:14), with the same desires that yield to sin, yet he never sinned (see 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-16). Christ took on humanity in order to be our sin offering.NIV Because Christ was sinless, his death passed the “death sentence” on sin for all of us, setting us free from sin’s power over us: he condemned sin in the flesh.nrsv Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice (“sin offering”) for our sins.

Grace was given that the law might be fulfilled. Augustine.

In Old Testament times, animal sacrifices were continually offered at the temple. These animals brought to the altar had two important characteristics: they were alive, and they were “without law.” The sacrifices showed the Israelites the seriousness of sin: innocent blood had to be shed before sins could be pardoned (see Leviticus 17:11). But animal blood could not really remove sin (Hebrews 10:4); and the forgiveness provided by those sacrifices, in legal terms, was more like a stay of execution than a pardon. Those animal sacrifices could only point to Jesus’ sacrifice that paid the penalty for all sin. Jesus’ life was identical with ours, yet unstained by sin. So he could serve as the flawless sacrifice for our sins. In him, our pardon is complete. The tables are turned so that not only is there “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” but also the very sin that guaranteed our condemnation is itself condemned by Christ’s sacrifice.

8:4 The purpose of the coming of Christ was that the law might be fulfilled. The believer gains the righteous standard of the law—love ( 13:8–10 )—not by means of the law but by being in Christ and walking according to the Spirit. [1]

The Law cannot control you (v. 4).

The believer lives a righteous life, not in the power of the Law, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Law does not have the power to produce holiness; it can only reveal and condemn sin. But the indwelling Holy Spirit enables you to walk in obedience to God’s will. The righteousness that God demands in His Law is fulfilled in you through the Spirit’s power. In the Holy Spirit, you have life and liberty (Rom. 8:2) and “the pursuit of happiness” (Rom. 8:4).

The legalist tries to obey God in his own strength and fails to measure up to the righteousness that God demands. The Spirit-led Christian, as he yields to the Lord, experiences the sanctifying work of the Spirit in his life. “For it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). It is this fact that leads to the second freedom we enjoy as Christians.

8:4 The righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us.NIV The requirement of the law is holiness (see Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7); but the law is powerless to make us holy because of our innate sinfulness. Only through Christ’s death and the resulting freedom from sin can we no longer live according to the sinful nature but according to the SpiritNIV and thus fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us become holy. The Holy Spirit provides the power internally to help us do what the law required of us externally. The word translated live (peripatousin) means “walking” and suggests the entire course of one’s life. Walking conveys the idea of action, daily behavior, and moral direction.

It is the Spirit who produces “fruit” in us; only in this way can we fulfill the requirements of the law. But Paul has already made it clear that the law is powerless to save. So why do its requirements still need to be met? The law is God’s law and was never meant to be cast aside. Paul makes a distinction between two kinds of obedience to the law. He speaks against the obedience to the law that stays merely at the level of the flesh (such as being circumcised because the law required it) and the obedience that depends on God’s Holy Spirit. Only the latter fulfills the law. When we live according to the Spirit, we actually do meet the requirements of the law. Or, as Paul puts it, the requirements of the law are met in us.NIV

The Route to Freedom—Substitution

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, (8:3)

This verse is perhaps the most definitive and succinct statement of the substitutionary atonement to be found in Scripture. It expresses the heart of the gospel message, the wondrous truth that Jesus Christ paid the penalty on behalf of every person who would turn from sin and trust in Him as Lord and Savior.

As in the previous verse, the conjunction for carries the meaning of because and gives an explanation for what has just been stated. Believers are set free from the law of sin and death and are made alive by the law of the Spirit of life because of what Jesus Christ has done for them.

The Law can provoke sin in men and condemn them for it, but it cannot save them from its penalty. “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse,” Paul explained to the Galatians, “for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law to perform them’” (Gal 3:10). Later in that same chapter he says: “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law” (3:21). God’s holy law can only set forth the standards of His righteousness and show men how utterly incapable they are in themselves of fulfilling those standards.

Paul has already explained that “this commandment [i.e., the law, v. 9], which was to result in life [if obeyed], proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me” (Rom. 7:10-11). When God created man, sin had no place in His creation. But when man fell, the alien power of sin corrupted his very being and condemned him to death, both physical and spiritual. The whole human race was placed under the curse of God. Sin consigned fallen mankind to a divine debtor’s prison, as it were, and the law became his jailer. The law given as the standard for living under divine blessing and joy, became a killer.

Although it is “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12), the Law could not save men from sin because it was weak … through the flesh. The sinful corruption of the flesh made the Law powerless to save men. The law cannot make men righteous but can only expose their unrighteousness and condemn them for it. The law cannot make men perfect but can only reveal their great imperfection. As Paul explained in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia, through Jesus Christ “forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).

During His incarnation, Jesus was the embodiment of the law of Moses. He alone of all men who have ever lived or will ever live perfectly fulfilled the law of God. “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets,” He said; “I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). During one of His discourses in the Temple, Jesus exposed the sinfulness of the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees, who, by their failure to throw stones at the woman taken in adultery, admitted they were not without sin (John 8:7-9). Later on that same occasion Jesus challenged His enemies to convict Him of any sin, and no one could do so or even tried (v. 46).

Some people, including many professing Christians, believe that they can achieve moral and spiritual perfection by living up to God’s standards by their own power. But James reminds us that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). In other words, even a single sin, no matter how small and no matter when committed, is sufficient to disqualify a person for heaven.

On one occasion a young man came to Jesus and said to Him,

“Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property. (Matt. 19:16-22)

This man was extremely religious. But he demonstrated that, despite his diligence in obeying the commandments, he failed to keep the two greatest commandments—to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to “‘love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40).

The young man who came to Jesus was self-centered, selfish, and materialistic. His love for himself surpassed his love for God and for his fellow man. Consequently, his meticulous religious living counted for absolutely nothing before God.

God’s law commands righteousness, but it cannot provide the means to achieve that righteousness. Therefore, what the law was unable to do for fallen man, God Himself did. The law can condemn the sinner, but only God can condemn and destroy sin, and that is what He has done on behalf of those who trust in His Son—by His coming to earth in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin.

Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh” (John 6:51). In His incarnation Jesus was completely a man, fully incarnated. But He was only in the likeness of, in the outward appearance of, sinful flesh. Although Paul does not here specifically mention Jesus’ sinlessness, his phrasing carefully guards that profound truth.

Jesus was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). If He had not been both fully human and fully sinless, He could not have offered an acceptable sacrifice to God for the sins of the world. If Jesus had not Himself been without sin, He not only could not have made a sacrifice for fallen mankind but would have needed to have a sacrifice made on His own behalf. Jesus resisted every temptation of Satan and denied sin any part in His earthly life. Sin was compelled to yield its supremacy in the flesh to the Victor, whereby Jesus Christ became sovereign over sin and its consequence, death.

Those who trust in Christ not only are saved from the penalty of sin but also are able for the first time to fulfill God’s righteous standards. The flesh of a believer is still weak and subject to sin, but the inner person is remade in the image of Christ and has the power through His Spirit to resist and overcome sin. No Christian will be perfected during his earthly life, but he has no excuse for sinning, because he has God’s own power to resist sin. John assures believers that “greater is He [the Holy Spirit] who is in you than he [Satan] who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). As Paul has already declared, “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life,” that is, be kept saved and protected from sin’s domination (Rom. 5:10).

Speaking of His impending crucifixion, Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out” (John 12:31). In other words, by His death on the cross Christ condemned and conquered both sin and Satan. He bore the fury of God’s wrath on all sin, and in doing so broke sin’s power over those whose trust is in His giving of Himself as an offering for sin on their behalf. By trusting in Jesus Christ, those who formerly were children of Satan become children of God, those who were targets of God’s wrath become recipients of His grace. On the cross Jesus broke sin’s power and assigned sin to its final destruction. God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ was “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28).

Jesus’ teaching, miracles, and sinless life were of great importance in His earthly ministry. But His supreme purpose in coming to earth was to be an offering for sin. Without the sacrifice of Himself for the sins of the world, everything else Jesus did would have left men in their sins, still separated from God.

To teach that men can live a good life by following Jesus’ example is patronizing foolishness. To try to follow Jesus’ perfect example without having His own life and Spirit within us is even more impossible and frustrating than trying to fulfill the Mosaic law. Jesus’ example cannot save us but instead further demonstrates the impossibility of saving ourselves by our own efforts at righteousness.

The only hope men have for salvation from their sin is in their trust in the offering for sin that Christ Himself made at Calvary. And when He became that offering, He took upon Himself the penalty of death for the sins of all mankind. In his commentary on Romans, the nineteenth-century Scottish evangelist Robert Haldane wrote, “We see the Father assume the place of judge against His Son, in order to become the Father of those who were His enemies. The Father condemns the Son of His love, that He may absolve the children of wrath” (Exposition of Romans, p. 324).

Jesus Christ condemned sin in the flesh. Whereas sin once condemned the believer, now Christ his Savior condemns sin, delivering the believer from sin’s power and penalty. The law condemns sin in the sense of exposing it for what it really is and in the sense of declaring its penalty of death. But the law is unable to condemn sin in the sense of delivering a sinner from his sinfulness or in the sense of overpowering sin and consigning it to its ultimate destruction. Only the Lord Jesus Christ was able to do that, and it is that amazing truth that inspired Paul to exult, “‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55-57).

The prophet Isaiah eloquently predicted the sacrifice of the incarnate Christ, saying,

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being tell 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. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? (Isa. 53:4-8)

(8:2-4) Holy Spirit—Life—Believer: the Spirit gives life. The term “the law of the Spirit of life” means two things. It means…

  • the law of the Holy Spirit.
  • the Spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus.

Within the universe there is a law so important that it has become the law of the Holy Spirit. It is called “the law of the Spirit of life.” What is meant by this law? Very simply, life is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone. Whatever life is—energy, being, spirit, love, joy, peace—it is all in Jesus Christ and nowhere else. Within Christ, within His very being is the Spirit of life, the very energy and being of life. This fact is important, so important that God has written it into the laws of the universe. It is titled “the law of the Spirit of life,” which is in Christ Jesus and in Him alone. The Spirit of life for which we long and ache is available in Christ Jesus.

Now for the critical question. How does the Spirit give life? How does a person go about securing “the Spirit of life” so that he may not die but live forever?

  1. The Spirit gives life by freeing the believer from sin and death, that is, from the “law of sin and death.” The “law of sin and death” simply means the rule and reign of death. Every man dies: death rules and reigns over every man. But the Spirit of God frees a man from the rule and reign of death. This is natural and understandable; it is common sense, for it is a rule of the universe. If a person has the Spirit of life, then he naturally does not have the spirit of sin and death. He is not sinning and dying; he is living righteously and eternally.

This is exactly what the Spirit of life does for the believer:

  • He frees the believer from sin and death: from the law or the energy and the power of sin and death.
  • He frees the believer to live righteously and eternally: to live in the Spirit of life or in the energy and power of life.

Stated another way, the Spirit of life frees the believer from both sin and death. The Holy Spirit frees the believer to live as Christ lived, to actually live out the life which Christ lived. The active energy of life, the dynamic force and being of life—all that is in Christ Jesus—is given to the believer. The believer actually lives in Christ Jesus. And the Spirit of life which is in Christ frees the believer from the fate (law) of sin and death. This simply means that the believer lives in a consciousness of being free. He breathes and senses a depth of life, a richness, a fulness of life that is indescribable.

He lives with power—power over the pressure and strain, impediments and bondages of life—even the bondages of sin and death. He lives now and shall live forever. He senses this and knows this. Life to him is a spirit, a breath, a consciousness of being set free through Christ. Even when he sins and guilt sets in, there is a tug, a power (Holy Spirit) that draws him back to God. He asks forgiveness and removal of the guilt (1 John 1:9), and immediately upon asking, the same power (the Holy Spirit) instills an instantaneous assurance of cleansing.

The spirit of life, the consciousness of living instantaneously takes up its abode within him once again. He feels free again, and he feels full of life in all its liberating power and freedom. He bubbles over with all the depth of the richness and fulness of life itself. He is full of the “Spirit of life.” Life itself becomes once again a spirit, a consciousness of living. He lives now and forever.

  1. The Spirit gives life by doing what the law could not do. The law could not make man righteous because man’s flesh is too weak to keep the law. No man has ever been able to keep the law of God, not to perfection or even close to perfection. All flesh has miserably failed—come far short of God’s glory and law. Consequently, all flesh dies physically and spiritually. Therefore, righteousness and life just cannot come by the law. But what the law could not do, the Spirit is able to do. He can provide righteousness and life.
  2. The Spirit gives life by Christ condemning sin in the flesh.
  3. The Spirit gives life by Christ providing righteousness for us. He provides righteousness for those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. This is a most marvelous statement, a glorious truth.
  4. The Spirit “fulfills righteousness in us.” He credits righteousness as being in us. When?
  • When we believe that Jesus Christ is our righteousness, the sinless and perfect Son of God.
  • When we believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior, the One who died for

When we believe in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God fulfills righteousness in us; that is, He takes the righteousness of Jesus Christ (which is the righteousness of the law) and credits it to us. He actually places within us the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. He places the Divine nature (righteousness) of God in us (2 Peter 1:4).

It is critical to see this fact, for the Spirit fulfills righteousness in us, not by us. We do not and cannot even come close to keeping the law perfectly, but Christ did. If His righteousness cannot be credited and fulfilled in us, then we are hopeless and doomed.

 

The point is this: the Spirit gives life to men, but He gives life only to those who forsake the flesh and walk after the Spirit. The spiritual man, the man who walks after the Spirit, loves Christ and wants to honor Christ in all that he does. Therefore, he strives to follow Christ and His example. Such love and honor of Christ pleases God to no end, for God loves His Son with a perfect love. He loves His Son so much that He will take whatever honor a man gives His Son and match it for the man. Whatever recognition and honor a man heaps upon Christ, God matches it for the man.

  • If a man trusts Christ for righteousness, then God gives that man righteousnesss.
  • If a man trusts Christ for meaning, purpose, and significance, then God gives the man meaning, purpose, and significance.
  • If a man trusts Christ to lead him through some trial or need, then God leads him through the trial or need.
  • If a man trusts Christ for healing, then God gives the man healing.

Whatever the man sows in Christ, he reaps: God matches it. Whatever a man measures out to Christ, the same is measured back to the man: God matches it. In fact, Scripture says that God will even go beyond and do much more than we ask or think (cp. Ephes. 3:20).

Therefore, the man who walks after the “Spirit of life” which is in Christ Jesus is given the Spirit of life. The Holy Spirit fulfills and credits him with the righteousness of the law, with the right to live eternally.

God’s law commands righteousness, but it cannot provide the means to achieve that righteousness. Therefore, what the law was unable to do for fallen man, God Himself did. The law can condemn the sinner, but only God can condemn and destroy sin, and that is what He has done on behalf of those who trust in His Son—by His coming to earth in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin.

Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh” (John 6:51). In His incarnation Jesus was completely a man, fully incarnated. But He was only in the likeness of, in the outward appearance of, sinful flesh. Although Paul does not here specifically mention Jesus’ sinlessness, his phrasing carefully guards that profound truth.

Jesus was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). If He had not been both fully human and fully sinless, He could not have offered an acceptable sacrifice to God for the sins of the world. If Jesus had not Himself been without sin, He not only could not have made a sacrifice for fallen mankind but would have needed to have a sacrifice made on His own behalf. Jesus resisted every temptation of Satan and denied sin any part in His earthly life. Sin was compelled to yield its supremacy in the flesh to the Victor, whereby Jesus Christ became sovereign over sin and its consequence, death.

Those who trust in Christ not only are saved from the penalty of sin but also are able for the first time to fulfill God’s righteous standards. The flesh of a believer is still weak and subject to sin, but the inner person is remade in the image of Christ and has the power through His Spirit to resist and overcome sin. No Christian will be perfected during his earthly life, but he has no excuse for sinning, because he has God’s own power to resist sin. John assures believers that “greater is He [the Holy Spirit] who is in you than he [Satan] who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). As Paul has already declared, “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life,” that is, be kept saved and protected from sin’s domination (Rom. 5:10).

Speaking of His impending crucifixion, Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out” (John 12:31). In other words, by His death on the cross Christ condemned and conquered both sin and Satan. He bore the fury of God’s wrath on all sin, and in doing so broke sin’s power over those whose trust is in His giving of Himself as an offering for sin on their behalf. By trusting in Jesus Christ, those who formerly were children of Satan become children of God, those who were targets of God’s wrath become recipients of His grace. On the cross Jesus broke sin’s power and assigned sin to its final destruction. God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ was “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28).

Jesus’ teaching, miracles, and sinless life were of great importance in His earthly ministry. But His supreme purpose in coming to earth was to be an offering for sin. Without the sacrifice of Himself for the sins of the world, everything else Jesus did would have left men in their sins, still separated from God.

To teach that men can live a good life by following Jesus’ example is patronizing foolishness. To try to follow Jesus’ perfect example without having His own life and Spirit within us is even more impossible and frustrating than trying to fulfill the Mosaic law. Jesus’ example cannot save us but instead further demonstrates the impossibility of saving ourselves by our own efforts at righteousness.

The only hope men have for salvation from their sin is in their trust in the offering for sin that Christ Himself made at Calvary. And when He became that offering, He took upon Himself the penalty of death for the sins of all mankind. In his commentary on Romans, the nineteenth-century Scottish evangelist Robert Haldane wrote, “We see the Father assume the place of judge against His Son, in order to become the Father of those who were His enemies. The Father condemns the Son of His love, that He may absolve the children of wrath” (Exposition of Romans, p. 324).

Jesus Christ condemned sin in the flesh. Whereas sin once condemned the believer, now Christ his Savior condemns sin, delivering the believer from sin’s power and penalty. The law condemns sin in the sense of exposing it for what it really is and in the sense of declaring its penalty of death. But the law is unable to condemn sin in the sense of delivering a sinner from his sinfulness or in the sense of overpowering sin and consigning it to its ultimate destruction. Only the Lord Jesus Christ was able to do that, and it is that amazing truth that inspired Paul to exult, “‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55-57).

The prophet Isaiah eloquently predicted the sacrifice of the incarnate Christ, saying,

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being tell 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. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? (Isa. 53:4-8)

The Result of Freedom—Sanctification

in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (8:4)

The believer’s freedom from sin results in his present as well as in his ultimate sanctification. The true Christian has both the desire and the divinely-imparted ability to live righteously while he is still on earth. Because God sent His own Son to redeem mankind by providing the only sacrifice that can condemn and remove their sin (v. 3), the requirement of the Law is able to be fulfilled in us, that is, in believers.

Paul obviously is not speaking here of the justifying work of salvation but of its sanctifying work, its being lived out in the believer’s earthly life. Apart from the working of the Holy Spirit through the life of a redeemed person, human efforts at righteousness are as contaminated and useless as filthy garments (Isa. 64:6). But because the Christian has been cleansed of sin and been given God’s own divine nature within him, he now longs for and is able to live a life of holiness.

God does not free men from their sin in order for them to do as they please but to do as He pleases. God does not redeem men in order that they may continue sinning but in order that they may begin to live righteously by having the requirement of the Law … fulfilled in them. Because they are no longer under law but are now under grace, some  Christians claim that it makes little difference what they do, because just as nothing they could have done could have saved them, so nothing they now do can cause them to lose their salvation. But the Holy Spirit could never prompt a Christian to make such a foolish and ungodly statement. The spiritual Christian knows that God’s law is holy, righteous, and good (Rom. 7:12) and that he has been saved in order to have that divine holiness, righteousness, and goodness fulfilled in him. And that is his desire. He has holy longings.

The phrase who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit is not an admonition but a statement of fact that applies to all believers. As Paul explains several verses later, no person who belongs to Christ is without the indwelling Holy Spirit (v. 9).

Being indwelt by the Spirit is not a mark of special maturity or spirituality but the mark of every true Christian, without exception. In its figurative sense, to walk refers to an habitual way or bent of life, to a life-style. Luke describes Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, as being “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Paul counseled the Ephesian believers to walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind” (Eph. 4:17). John declares that, “if we walk in the light as [God] Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Paul asserts that a true believer—whether young or old, immature or mature, well taught or poorly taught—does not walk according to the flesh. Just as categorically he declares that a true believer does walk according to the Spirit. There are no exceptions. Because every true believer is indwelt by the Spirit, every true believer will produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Jesus made clear “that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). At the end of that first chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commanded, “You are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48).

Nothing is dearer to God’s heart than the moral and spiritual excellence of those He has created in His own image—and nothing is dearer to them. He does not want them to have only imputed righteousness but practical righteousness as well. And that also is what they want. It is practical righteousness about which Paul speaks here, just as he does in the opening words of his letter to the church at Ephesus: “[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (Eph. 1:4).

It is God’s great desire that believers live out the perfect righteousness that He reckons to them when they are saved—that they live like His children and no longer like the children of the world and of Satan. Positional righteousness is to be reflected in practical righteousness. Christ does not want a bride who is only positionally righteous but one who is actually righteous, just as He Himself is righteous. And through His indwelling Spirit, He gives believers that desire.

The purpose of the gospel is not to make men happy but to make them holy. As the Beatitudes make clear, genuine happiness comes to those who belong to Christ and are obedient to His will. But true happiness comes only from holiness. God promises happiness, but He demands holiness, without which “no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

In his book entitled God’s Righteous Kingdom, Walter J. Chantry writes, When preachers speak as if God’s chief desire is for men to be happy, then multitudes with problems flock to Jesus. Those who have ill-health, marital troubles, financial frustration, and loneliness look to our Lord for the desires of their hearts. Each
conceives of joy as being found in health, peace, prosperity or companionship. But in search of illusive happiness they are not savingly joined to Jesus Christ. Unless men will be holy, God is determined that they shall be forever miserable and damned.  (Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 1980, p. 67)

Righteousness is the very heart of salvation. It is for righteousness that God saves those who trust in His Son. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel,” Paul declared at the beginning of the Roman epistle, “for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith’” (Rom. 1:16-17). Peter admonishes believers, “Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Pet. 1:15). Practical righteousness leads believers “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires
and to live sensibly righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12; cf. Gal. 5:24-25). As Augustine observed many centuries ago, grace was given for one reason, that the law might be fulfilled.

When a sinner leaves the courts of God and has received a pardon for sin by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, the work of God in his life has just begun. As the believer leaves the courtroom, as it were, God hands him the code of life and says, “Now you have in you My Spirit, whose power will enable you to fulfill My law’s otherwise impossible demands.”

Scripture is clear that, in some mystical way known only to God, a person begins to walk by the Spirit the moment he believes. But, on the other hand, he is also admonished to walk by the Spirit as he lives out his earthly life under the lordship of Christ and in the power of the Spirit. As with salvation itself, walking
by the Spirit comes first of all by God’s sovereign work in the believer’s heart, but it also involves the exercise of the believer’s will. Romans 8:4 is speaking of the first, whereas Galatians 5:25 (“let us … walk by the Spirit”) is speaking of the second.

As far as a Christian’s life is concerned, everything that is a spiritual reality is also a spiritual responsibility. A genuine Christian will commune with his heavenly Father in prayer, but he also has the responsibility to pray. A Christian is taught by the Holy Spirit, but he is also obligated to seek the Spirit’s guidance and help. The Holy Spirit will produce spiritual fruit in a believer’s life, but the believer is also admonished to bear fruit. Those truths are part of the amazing and seemingly paradoxical tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s will.

Although man’s mind is incapable of understanding such mysteries, the believer accepts them because they are clearly taught in God’s Word.

We know little of the relationship between God and Adam before the Fall, except that it was direct and intimate. The Lord had given but one command, a command that was given for Adam and Eve’s own good and that was easily obeyed. Until that one command was transgressed, they lived naturally in the perfect will of God. Doing His will was part of their very being.

The believer’s relationship to God is much like that. Although Christians are drawn back to the old ways by the fleshly remnants of their life before salvation, their new being makes obedience to God the “natural” thing to do.

The Christian’s obligations to God are not another form of legalism. The person who is genuinely saved has a new and divine nature that is, by definition, attuned to God’s will. When he lives by his new nature in the power of the Spirit, his desire is God’s desire, and no compulsion is involved. But because the believer is still clothed in the old self, he sometimes resists God’s will. It is only when he goes against God’s will and against his own new nature that the divine commands and standards seem burdensome. On the other hand, the faithful child
of God who is obedient from the heart can always say with the psalmist, “O how I love Thy law!” (Ps. 119:97).

Christ condemned sin in the flesh by three acts.

  1. Christ pointed to sin and condemned it as being evil. The very fact that He never sinned points out that sin is contrary to God and to God’s nature. Christ rejected sin, and by rejecting it He showed that it was evil, that it was not to be touched. He condemned it as evil and unworthy of God and man.
  2. Christ secured righteousness for all men. When He came into the world, He came with the same flesh that all men are born with—the same flesh with all its desires, passions, and potential for evil. However, He never sinned, not once. Therefore, He secured a perfect righteousness; and because His righteousness is perfect and ideal, it becomes the model and pattern for all men. It stands for and covers the unrighteousness of all men. His perfect righteousness overcomes sin and its penalty—it condemns sin. It is to be noted that He condemned sin “through the flesh”; therefore, all flesh finds its perfection and ideal in His righteousness and perfection. All flesh finds its power to condemn sin “in Christ,” in His ideal righteousness.
  3. Christ allowed the law of sin and death to be enacted upon Him instead of upon the sinner. Man has sinned, so the natural consequence is corruption and death. However, Christ approached God and made two requests. First, He asked God to accept His Ideal righteousness for the unrighteousness of man. Second, He asked God to lay man’s sin and death upon Himself. He asked God to let Him bear the law of sin and death for man and to experience hell for man. He asked God to let Him condemn sin and death “in His own body upon the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). He was the perfect, ideal Man. Therefore, He could bear all the violations of the law and all the experiences of death for all men. God so purposed, and God bore the awful price of having to condemn sin and death in the death of His very own Son. Sin and its power have been made powerless. Death has been conquered (1 Cor. 15:1-58, esp. 1 Cor. 15:54-57), and he who had the power of death has been destroyed, that is, Satan.

[1]Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. 1999. Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary . T. Nelson Publishers: Nashville

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 30, 2021 in Romans

 

One response to “More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #3 “The Spirit of Life” Romans 8:3-4

  1. rickey1858

    August 31, 2021 at 12:49 am

    I can’t imagine the amount of study that it takes to put this together but I’m sure glad that you do it. I guess I will always be lacking in being the Christian I want to be but reading your material makes me want to continue working at it. Thank you!

    Like

     

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