Let's gather round the Word of God today and listen for the truth about Jesus Christ. We will investigate Romans 8:1-17, to see what insights are there given about victory in Jesus. This section is drawn from one of Paul's extended discussions, so we'll begin by surveying the material immediately preceding and following. We'll look at Romans 7:14-25 and also briefly consider 8:18-39 and then dive in at the beginning of chapter eight.
In Romans seven we have that section where it seems obedience is impossible. One does what he does not want to do. He agrees that the law is good; he wants to do right; but he does wrong. He is in a bondage. He can will to do the good but persists in doing the evil. This is not the daily experience of Paul or any other believer (as we shall see). It is the experience of a person coming to God, on the point of full conversion, but not yet delivered.
Verse 24 is the cry of this heart: "Who will set me free from the body of this death?" The battle continues between his spiritual desires and his habitual and cultivated appetite for sin. As we noticed he is on the point of victory; God has led him to understand that Jesus is the answer ("Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!") He's on the very point of victory.
On the other side of our chosen passage we have Romans 8:18-39. This section reminds us that "all things work together for good to those who love God." The discussion there is about suffering for Christ in this present world. Paul has his eye on the Great Controversy here, and so should we. He sees creation groaning, birth pains, sin impacting all. While sin and death persist we are incomplete. The Holy Spirit helps us. The eighth chpater and verse 29 says that "those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the Firstborn among many brethren."
Jesus brings us along, conforming us to His image, justifying, and finally glorifying. Jesus gives us victory. Verse 27: "But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us." No demon is able to separate us from the love or the power of God so long as we choose Jesus.
And now, Romans 8:1-4.
1 "Therefore there is now no condemnation [KATAKRIMA] for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For [GAR] the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For [GAR] 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 so that [INA] the requirement [DIKAIWMA] of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but [ALLA] according to the Spirit."
(There is a difference in verse one between versions, as some have more text in verse 1 than others, but that same portion, "who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit" is found in the fourth verse, and we will consider it there where there is no dispute over its being part of the original text. Interestingly, the earliest manuscripts we have including the reading "according to the Spirit" in 8:1 are a 9th century "correction" of Codex Sinaiticus, and of M. 630, another Vatican Library Bible. Manuscripts three centuries earlier lack the addition in vs. 1.)
Let's start with two interesting words, words the inspired writer places in intentional contrast with each other. In 8:1 you have no "condemnation" and in 8:4 "the requirement of the law" (or King James has "the righteousness of the law"). These nouns are important. The first signifies not only condemnation as we think of it today, but the application of the penalty. So if you were convicted of robbing a bank, both the declaration of your being guilty, and the 15 years you are sentenced to serve, are part of the KATAKRIMA. We get the English word "crime" from the Greek "Krima." But there is no KATAKRIMA; there is no condition or situation of judgment for whom? For those who are in Christ Jesus. So this is the negative piece. Because of Jesus it is reversed. There is no condemnation for us if we are in Him (which we'll expand on in a moment). But let's look at the word in the fourth verse, DIKAIWMA.
This word means right or just doing, doing what the law says, living out what it means. And yet it is framed in the singular as a whole. As there is no condemnation including its negative sentence, Jesus condemns sin in the flesh so that the rightness of the law is fulfilled in us. It is not just that we have been released from some charge we were guilty of, but that because of Jesus we actually do what is right, positively. The gospel is not merely the negation of a penalty, but it marks God's active creation of rightness in the world. It is not a fiction but a real story.
Let's walk through the passage. First we noticed that while there is no condemnation of believers here, the uncondemned are believers who are "in Christ Jesus." Being "in Christ," as we'll find further on, means the active presence of the Holy Spirit living in us. When we are in Jesus we are actively pursuing the presence and embracing the power of the Holy Spirit. We are not condemned in that dynamic, living situation as we are in communion with the person of the Holy Spirit, and overcoming. We are not sending sin into the heavenly sanctuary to be forgiven. The incense arising from our lives is unity, harmony, and the personal embrace of God's agenda for us. And what is His agenda for us? John mentioned it in his first epistle: "Little children, these things I write unto you that you sin not" (1 John 2:1). No sin, no condemnation. But the question for many of us is, How do I get to that? We want to avoid that sense of hopelessness and failure heard in Romans seven.
The next few verses expand exactly on the How question. The first statement is in verse two. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death." Two laws come into focus here. Better, two competing principles. See the two pairs? Sin and death is the pair encompassed in the negative principle. Life and Jesus are connected in the positive principle. Jesus came to give us life and that more fully (John 10). He is the Author of life, first in Eden then at the Cross. Even having sinned we are bought with a price, redeemed. We are not servants of sin any more. Choosing our master we also are choosing the principle of our Master. The principle of Jesus is unselfish life. The principle of Satan is selfishness and death. One gives freely; the other takes by force.
The explanation expands in verses three and four. There was something that the Law could not do. Why couldn't the Law do it? Because of the weakness of the flesh. In itself the Law has no flesh. The law governs created intelligences. Out of all the created intelligences, Which are those that have weakened flesh? Humans. We are fallen beings, damaged and impacted in consequence of the behaviors of our ancestors and of ourselves. We experience impacts some of which are hereditary, and others which we ourselves have cultivated. The Law is not the problem but weakened humanity is the problem. And so, the law can condemn us but it cannot save. It shows what is right and in showing that condemns that which is wrong.
But what the Law could not do through the weakness of impacted humanity, God did by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. Some want to say that the Father sent Jesus in some simulated, halfway-like us form of humanity. The word translated "likeness" can mean (1) somewhat like, or (2) very much like. There We have this word six times in the New Testament. In Revelation 9:7 John sees in vision locusts which look "like" horses. They are not unlike but like horses in appearance. The other five uses are by Paul. In Romans 1:23 Paul points out that the Gentiles exchange the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form (likeness) of corruptible man and of birds and animals and crawling things. That is, humans shifted from serving God to serving the creature, and spiritually shifted the object of their worship from God to created things. They became like, not unlike, the lesser.
In Romans 5:14 death affects even those who did not sin like, or in the simulitude, to the sin of Adam. Adam's sin and our own sin are entirely distinct from each other. His sin weakened us but did not relieve us of the responsibility to obey. Still, his guilt is his guilt and our guilt is our guilt. Here, Paul writes that Adam's sin and our sin are not like each other, but that all experience certain consequences because of it. In order for Paul to make clear he means "unlike" he must go out of his way to say so. For Paul, we find "like" normally carried the meaning "very much like."
In Romans 6:5 we find the word again. The KJV has, "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." You might say here that "likeness" means "similarity." Be careful. The preceding verses in context vigorously assert that when Jesus died on the Cross we died with Him. (Not that we made atonement for ourselves with Him, but that in His atoning sacrifice we truly died and are raised again.) Look at it:
Verse 6:2: "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" Catch it: "We who died." And then in 6:3: "All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death." These are all Greek Aorist verbs, viewing the action from the standpoint of something seen in the whole. It might shock us but if we have been joined to Jesus, we actually died with Him at Calvary, and rose with Him in His resurrection on the third day. Thus, "Likeness" or "similitude" here means like, not unlike.
Then there is the passage in Philippians 2:6, 7, which the NASB translates most literally, speaking of Jesus, "Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men." In 6, 7, and 8 Jesus is described as shifting from the form [MORPHE] of God to the form [MORPHE] of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness [OMOIWMATI] of men, finally dying as one of us. Could Adam die before the entrance of sin? No. Jesus took a humanity that could die to the Cross. That is our kind of humanity. In Philippians two, the word for likeness means "same as." In fact, as we have surveyed every use of this word in the New Testament, every case of use has an emphasis much more in the line of "same as" than "similar to." And so this is the word used in Romans 8:3. God "sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin" (KJV). But it is in our passage that we find the strongest evidence of all that "likeness" is best understood here as "same as."
How so? Notice, He was sent "for sin." Matthew 1:21 says the same thing. He He was to be named Jesus because He would save His people from their sins. But it is becoming fashionable in many circles to present Jesus as coming to overlook our sins, even to leave us oblivious in our sins, and to give us the kingdom even while we are following a different master than the kingdom. Look again at the text. Why did Jesus come in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin? In order that He would be able to condemn sin. Where? "in the flesh." In what flesh? In the flesh where sin was manifesting. In human flesh. In our kind of human flesh. Here then is the logically indisputable evidence that Jesus took a flesh like ours, a fallen or sinful flesh: that is the flesh that was weakened and that was the flesh that needed delivering; that was the flesh that Satan claimed he would enslave to himself but which God insisted that He would redeem to Himself. Jesus condemned sin in rebel flesh itself. He lived without sinning just exactly in the same kind of flesh you and I have. Jesus lived the righteousness of the law in human flesh.
And so look at verse four and see this. Because Jesus was successful in living without sinning in the kind of humanity you and I live in every day, the "righteousness of the law," or "the righteous requirement of the law" is to be fulfilled in us. That is, because Jesus in His living combined divinity and humanity--while living in damaged flesh He kept in communion with the Holy Spirit--He showed that humanity combined with divinity does not sin. He showed us Heaven's plan for us, that in us humanity would be combined with divinity and that our humanity would not sin.
He condemned sin in our kind of flesh so that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in our kind of flesh. Verse four says it simply, fulfilled "in us." We who what? "Who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." Think back now to the dilemma of the man of Romans seven. With his mind he serves the principle of God but with his flesh he serves the principle of sin. Who will deliver him from the bondage of that situation? Jesus. Jesus walked according to the Spirit and showed us that we may walk according to the Spirit. All this in explanation of Romans 8:1 where we read at the start that "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Now look at the section Romans 8:5-11. If you are of the flesh you set your mind on the things of the flesh but if you are according to the Spirit you set your mind on the things of the Spirit. And how will we know which way we are cleaving? Are we looking to the Word of God or the word of culture? Verse six warns that if you set your mind on the flesh the end of that is death. But if you set your mind on the Spirit now a new pair comes into sight: "life and peace."
Maybe you noticed this before and maybe you didn't. In Romans 7:14-25 there is no mention of the Holy Spirit, and the man of Romans seven is struggling between the conviction of right in his mind and the pull of his flesh. But here in Romans 8:6 we see that the mind can be set either way, on the flesh or on the Spirit. Seven tells us that the mind set on the flesh cannot obey God, and eight, that those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Now watch this. Here it comes. Verse nine: You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if what? If the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if you don't have the Spirit, you do not belong to Jesus. It's quite plain here. Being a Christian means having the Holy Spirit. And verse 10: If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Then in 11, if you have the Holy Spirit in you, God will give you life. Bottom line here: The Spirit of God is stronger than the flesh. But you must permit the Spirit of God to dwell in you. That's not quote what we see in Romans seven, but it is definitely what we see in Romans eight.
Romans 8:12-17 elaborates further. We are not under obligation to the flesh. We don't have to live according to the siren pull of the flesh. In Romans 8:13 "if you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." Christianity is not looking at a woodpile. It is chopping wood. It is not looking at a beautiful scene but creating a beautiful scene. It is changing the world rather than being changed by the world. Are you being led by the Spirit of God? Then you are a son, a daughter, of God. You have not received from God a spirit of slavery but the spirit of adoption as sons of God.
But take note as it is summed in verse 17 NASB: "And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him."
See, there is a struggling, a suffering, a resistance against the tendencies we have received and the affection for sin we have cultivated. If there is no struggle in it, you can be sure it is not Christianity. In one place Ellen White says that Christianity is "a battle and a march." But when we are in the flesh we would rather have a feast and a parade.
Let me warn you. The world is under the sway of the prince of the power of the air. It will seduce you if it can, whether by technology or bribery, or pleasure, or fear. Babylon will suck you in through a straw if you listen to its lies about Jesus and about the Christian experience. Romans eight goes on to talk about suffering, but our time has run out here and we must conclude. What then shall we say?
We looked in some depth at Romans 8:1-4 and we did so with an attention to the context of the surrounding biblical material. We learned that Jesus was made like us in order to condemn sin in flesh like ours. But there is a goal: that the righteousness of the law might be lived out in us, that what He wrought out at Calvary might be made effectual in each one of us. We are forgiven and transformed in one swoop. We are not in debt to the flesh. We died with Jesus and the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus up is asking please to live in us. When divinity and humanity are combined, God is glorified, the Great Controversy is advanced toward conclusion, and we are prepared for the intense challenges that await us just ahead. May each one here experience victory in Jesus, both today and tomorrow, and along the end-time road we warrior-march. The glory be to God.
Inchelium WA SDA 2016-01-02