The Law in the New Testament – Pauline Epistles Part 2
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. NASB
Romans 8:1 – 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. NASB
Notice here the “therefore” of chapter 8 verse 1. Here Paul refers to the entire scope of all that he has explained thus far in Romans, and not just the immediate preceding verses. This is the crescendo of the symphony of Gospel truths that has been laid out before us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Chapters 1 thru 3 layout the condemnation of the whole world before God because of sin, and that sin is clear because of the holiness of God’s Law. And then in chapter 3 verse 21 and following Paul argues that “justification” has been affected by the manifestation of “the righteousness of God,” and that righteousness is a “gift by His grace,” because of the sacrifice of “Jesus Christ,” which is received “by faith.” Then in chapter 4 he makes the point that if righteousness is by believing and not by works, then the circumcised and the uncircumcised can be “justified” in only one way which is apart from human works and comes only as a gift of grace to those who have faith in Christ. This is the meaning of the Law and Gospel contrast. Then in chapter 5 he argues that in the same way that “sin entered the world through the disobedience of one man Adam,” and we have all sinned in the likeness of Adam, that all who are “in Christ” shall be “made righteous through the obedience of the One” man Jesus. Through Him “grace reigns” and brings “eternal life” in Christ. In chapter 6 Paul reasons therefore that the OLD self has “died with Christ” so that we now live in “newness of life,” for we are “not under Law but under grace,” and been given the free gift of eternal life, “for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And even though our mortal body with its imperfect sinful nature is still “weak” according to the perfect standard of the Law, and this causes a huge struggle for our sanctification between the Law and the weakness of the flesh, as chapter 7 exposes, we see in this our great need of the deliverer from sin and death, namely Jesus Christ the Savior. Here then Paul draws the great conclusion of all that has been said in Romans 8:1. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Charles Hodge explains, “Since men, being sinners, cannot be justified by works ; since by the obedience of one man, Jesus Christ, the many are made righteous; and since through him, and not through the law, deliverance from the subjective power of sin is effected, therefore it follows that there is no condemnation to those who are in him…. Those who are in Christ are not just presently not condemned, but placed beyond the reach of condemnation permanently, they shall never be condemned, because Christ has procured for them eternal life, and they shall “never be separated from His love” chapter 8:39.” Paul then explains why it is that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ.
Romans 8:2-4 – 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 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, 4 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. NASB
Paul now explains the great reality of the massive transition that has come in the Gospel age. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” That is the NEW principle in the Gospel of the justification and regeneration of “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” has delivered us from the OLD principle of sin resulting in death made crystal clear by the holy standard of the Law. Now here is good news, we have been “set free” from the “law of sin and death” by what Christ has already done. He explains the NEW and OLD contrast by saying that “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.” Because the flesh is so weak and cannot obey the Law which results in death, God cancelled out by “sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin” and thus He condemned and punished sin in Christ. This glorious work that Jesus has done already has resulted in a NEW effectual life principle, “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” And this new result shows forth the power of the Gospel that Jesus has accomplished in those who have been delivered by Him. Paul explains “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.” The meaning here is that since the “requirement of the Law” has been fulfilled in Christ, and we have received Him by faith and are now under grace by the Spirit, the result is a sanctified life. Again Charles Hodge explains, “Sin was condemned in Christ, in order that the sentence of justification might be fulfilled, or carried into effect in us….The Gospel is not antinomian. Those that are justified are sanctified. Holiness is the fruit and evidence of reconciliation with God.”
See here Paul again describing the OLD ineffectual way of the Law compared to the NEW effectual way of the Spirit. And this is his purpose in all that follows in chapter 8. He labors to describe the NEW effectual way of the Spirit in contrast to the flesh. Those who have been delivered by Christ into this NEW life principle have their “minds set on the things of the Spirit,” and the result is “life and peace.” In contrast, those who are not in Christ have their “minds set on the things of the flesh,” and they are “hostile toward God” and “not able to subject themselves to the Law of God, cannot please God,” and the result is “death.”
Romans 8:5-11 – 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. NASB
Even better, those who are in Christ have the indwelling presence of the Spirit and they are “alive because of righteousness.” And this state of being “alive” gives them the great hope of glorification, that is, that Christ will “give life to our mortal bodies through the Spirit.”
Romans 8:9-11 – 11 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you. NASB
These Gospel promises were never heard of in the OLD Covenant age of the Law, but have now come to light in the NEW age of the Gospel. See here the effectual power of life in the Spirit, causing our progressive sanctification, and resulting in our glorification, the very resurrection of our mortal bodies. Life and immortality have come to us in the Gospel because of the great things that God has done in Christ. Paul then reasons if these indicatives of our NEW position in Christ are true, then we must see how this demands the imperative of our zealous obedience because of the newness of life that we live in, driven by the power of the indwelling Spirit. This he says is our “obligation,” to the Spirit and “not to the flesh.”
Romans 8:12-13 – 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh, 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. NASB
In the rest of chapter 8, Paul goes onto to describe some of the great promises we possess because of our eternal position in Christ. He says we are “sons led by the Spirit” (v-14), and that the Spirit helps and aids us in our struggle until we enter into glory (v-18-27), that “God causes all things to work together for our good because we have being foreknown, predestined, called and justified” (v-28-30), and all of this because “God is the One who justifies” us and will ultimately glorify us (v-30-34). Then He sums up chapter 8 with much assurance as He describes our eternal security in God’s love because of God’s eternal purpose to save us which He has already fully accomplished in Christ, and that nothing “will be able separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v- 39).
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