Saviour of the World
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 9 — Redeemed from the Law of Sin

When the Bible writers wrote the Scriptures, they did not include any chapter or verse divisions.  These were added in the fifteenth century to make Bible reading easier.  But sometimes, in order to get the correct meaning of the text, it is advisable to ignore either the chapter or the verse division.  This is true when we come to study Romans 8, especially verses 1-4:

Romans 8:1-4
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Notice that chapter 8 begins, “Therefore there is....”  This is telling us that the first verse of chapter 8 is really the conclusion of what Paul has been saying at the end of chapter 7.  It really belongs with chapter 7.

In the last chapter, we established the fact that the inner turmoil described in Romans 7:15-24 is referring to a born-again Christian who sincerely and honestly wants to do what is right as defined by the law of God.  We found that the sinful nature prevents this from happening, since it is dominated by the law of sin which the believer is unable to overcome in his or her own strength.  Paul sums up this struggle between the converted mind and the unconvertible flesh in verse 25:

Romans 7:25b
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

This is the context, then, for the first verse of chapter 8:

Romans 8:1-4
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus....

Incidentally, this is all that Paul wrote in verse 1.  The King James Version, as well as the New King James Version, adds the following statement, “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”  But this last phrase is not found in any of the older manuscripts.  It is a later addition by those who were copying the Scriptures and should be ignored.  Yes, Paul did write that phrase in verse 4, but it does not belong to verse 1, for in that context it contradicts Paul’s whole message of justification by faith alone.

When Paul wrote, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” what did he mean?

In the light of Romans 7:25, he means that a Christian who is struggling with the flesh and experiencing defeat does not stand condemned before God.

“How can this be?” you say.  This can be true because, unlike us human beings, God does not judge us by our outward performance, but by the intent of the heart or mind:

1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  [KEY PTS.]
Jeremiah 17:10
“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”  [KEY PTS.]
Romans 8:27
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  [KEY PTS.]

In the four gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — you will discover that, again and again, Jesus judged the Jews of His day by what they were thinking rather than by what they were saying or doing.  God does not judge our Christian experience by our performance, but by what our minds are preoccupied with.  Since we humans cannot read minds, we must leave judging each other to God, who will judge us by our motives on judgment day:

1 Corinthians 4:5
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.  At that time each will receive their praise from God.

That’s why the apostle Paul warns believers to stop judging each other:

Romans 14:10
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister?  Or why do you treat them with contempt?  For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

Twice in Romans 7, Paul states that he finds himself doing those very things that he doesn’t really want to do.  And, he says, when that happens, “it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me”:

Romans 7:17, 20
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  ...Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

By this he means the converted mind is not responsible for the failure to live the good life, since its desire, as well as its choice, is to do what is good:

Romans 7:18
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

It is the sinful nature that must take the blame — the flesh which is dominated by the law of sin and which brings the mind into captivity to sin:

Romans 7:21-23
So I find this law at work:  Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

Clearly, the man of Romans 7 has no cherished sins even though he is struggling and being defeated by besetting sins.  A cherished sin is one your mind refuses to give up, while a besetting sin is one your converted mind has relinquished, but which still has a hold on you.  Today, a besetting sin is commonly referred to as a compulsion, something we all struggle with.

Remember, it is the converted mind that Christ saves and will take to heaven, along with a glorified body which He will give us at His second coming; our sinful natures are not redeemable and will be destroyed.  Paul makes this clear:

1 Corinthians 15:50-54
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen, I tell you a mystery:  We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:  “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”   [KEY PTS.]
Philippians 3:20-21
But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.   [KEY PTS.]

If we have the mind of Christ, a mind emptied of self, then we are safe to be saved because that is what we will take to heaven.

Philippians 2:5
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus....

But if the sinful flesh is so strong and so unchangeable, is there no hope for Christians?  Must those who long to live the victorious life, who are struggling with the flesh, who hate the evil they are doing, and who delight in the law of God and want very much to live a life pleasing to God — must they simply give up?  Is there a solution to this problem?

Paul answers with a definite Yes!

Romans 7:25a
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Thank God that Jesus Christ is not only our Saviour from the guilt and punishment of sin, but that He also came to this world to save us from the power and slavery of sin!

When we first became Christians, our main concern was to be saved from our sins (plural) because we realized that these sins condemned us and would deprive us of life and heaven.  But after being a Christian for some time, we discovered that sin is more than an act, it is also a force, a principle, a power that resides in our sinful natures and which we are unable to conquer, in and of ourselves, try as we may.  This is the experience Paul describes in Romans 7:15-24 (see previous chapter).

We believers can thank God that the blood of Christ forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness:

1 John 1:7, 9
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  ...If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

But if we are truly converted and appreciate Christ, we want more than forgiveness from sin, wonderful as this is.  We want victory over sin.  Not in order to be justified or to make it to heaven; that is already ours in Christ:

Romans 8:1
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus....

Rather, we want victory over sin because we want to glorify God while we are waiting patiently for the blessed hope, the appearing of our Lord and Saviour:

Titus 2:11-14
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

The big question is this:  “Is total victory over the flesh possible this side of eternity?”

Many Adventists today say, “not possible.”  And their proof is the challenge:  “Show me someone who has done it.”  I call this salvation based on human experience rather than salvation by faith in God’s Word.  This mindset is the influence of the scientific method creeping into the church — a method that rejects anything that is supernatural.

My response to those who must have empirical evidence before they can believe is this:  “What would you have done if you were in Noah’s or Abraham’s shoes?  Noah had never experienced rain; Abraham had no scientific evidence that a woman could have a child after passing the age of childbearing.  In fact, he had evidence that such a thing could not happen.  Yet both men took God at His Word, and their histories are recorded for our benefit.  Here’s what true faith involves:

Romans 4:16-18
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring — not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham.  He is the father of us all.  As it is written:  “I have made you a father of many nations.”  He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed — the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.  Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Because we live in a scientific age that largely accepts only what can be demonstrated in the laboratory, even Christians — even many Seventh-day Adventist Christians — find it difficult to believe that total victory over the power of sin in the flesh is possible this side of eternity.  But what answer does the apostle Paul give to this question in Romans 8?  Does Paul believe that total victory over the flesh is possible in this life?  The answer is a definite YES!

In Romans 8, Paul has some wonderful, encouraging good news for us who long for victory over our sinful flesh.  He assures us that victory over the power of sin is possible and that the source of that victory is none other than “the law of the Spirit who gives life in Christ Jesus” (verse 2).  Paul expounds this glorious truth of victory over the sinful flesh in the first half of chapter 8.  He says that in Christ we have salvation full and complete.  Just as we once came to Him for forgiveness and justification, so also we must now come to Him for power to overcome the flesh and for grace to live the sanctified life.  Paul says:

Philippians 4:13
I can do all this through him [Christ Jesus] who gives me strength.

“Not I, but Christ” is the gospel formula for experiencing both justification as well as sanctification.

With this in mind, let’s now proceed to examine carefully what Paul is saying about Christ’s victory over the sinful flesh in Romans 8:2-4.

In verse 2, the apostle Paul states a fact.  He says:

Romans 8:2
...because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you [and all mankind]free from the law of sin and death.

This became reality in Christ some 2,000 years ago, when, as the second Adam, He redeemed all humanity by His death.  Paul is not referring here to the Christian’s subjective experience, but to an objective fact that actually took place at the cross.  He uses the Greek aorist (past) tense — the tense which means that something occurred once and for all in the past.

All through His earthly life, two forces struggled within Christ’s humanity, trying to dominate Him — the law of the Spirit of life versus the law of sin and death.  Please notice, both of these forces are described as a law, that is, a constant force or principle.  And the good news is that, in Christ’s humanity, the law of the Spirit of life defeated and overcame the law of sin and death — and finally condemned it on the cross!  This proves that the power of the Holy Spirit is far superior than all the power that the devil can muster through the sinful flesh.  This is a vital part of the incredible good news of the gospel that is often ignored.

Those who insist that we cannot totally overcome the sinful flesh — even by the power of the indwelling Spirit — are not only undermining God’s power, they have also failed to understand the full implication of what Paul says:

Romans 1:16 [Emphasis Added]
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes:  first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

The secret of victory for the Christian is stated in this fact:

Romans 8:2
...because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Every believer is conscious of an inner influence or impulse moving him or her to do wrong.  This is the law of sin which produces death, because death is always the consequence of sin:

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But in the believer this law of sin is to be replaced by a new, vitalizing force, “the law of the Spirit” (verse 2), which gives spiritual life:

Romans 8:11
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.  [KEY PTS.]

In other words, the indwelling Holy Spirit moves us constantly to do the right thing.  But more than that, the Spirit actually provides the power and strength we need to do it!  He is not only an influence; He is a positive force, enabling us to live righteously.

What a wonderful exchange!  Not I, but Christ.  By applying the truth of the cross daily to our lives...

Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Galatians 5:24
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

...we surrender to the cross the inner influence toward sin.  And, in exchange, we receive a living Person to control our lives, One who will guide us and empower us!

In verse 3, the apostle explains what happened to make all this possible.  He says:

Romans 8:3
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh [the law of sin], God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh....  [KEY PTS.]

The moral law of God was incapable of producing righteousness in sinful flesh.  But what the moral law could not accomplish, God accomplished in Christ’s humanity — a humanity which was identical to our sinful humanity.

Some insist, however, that when Christ clothed Himself with humanity at the incarnation, He was exempt from the “law of sin” with which we are born:

Romans 8:2
...because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

They argue that Paul says God sent His Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh ” (verse 3, emphasis supplied), and that the word “likeness” does not mean “identical.”  They argue that Christ’s humanity was like ours in that He experienced fatigue, hunger, aging, etc., but that it was unlike ours when it came to possessing a sinful nature dominated by the law of sin.  If He had a sinful nature, just like ours, they insist, He Himself would be a sinner in need of a Saviour.

If you look at a Greek lexicon, however, you will find that the Greek word translated “likeness” has different shades of meaning and, therefore, can be used in more than one way.  For example, according to A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament by Arndt and Gingrich, this Greek word may also be translated as “make like,” “compare,” “likeness,” “copy,” “form,” “similar to,” etc.

How can we understand, then, exactly what Paul had in mind when he used this word in Romans 8:3?  The only way to know is by looking at the context, the setting, in which he uses it.  The whole issue Paul has been addressing in the last half of Romans 7 and the first half of chapter 8 is the issue of the law, or principle, of sin that resides in the Christian’s human nature.  He says that we cannot, of ourselves, overcome this law of sin in our lives.  But Christ “condemned sin in the flesh” when He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3).  The phrase “sin in the flesh,” (NKJV) or “sin in sinful man” (NIV), is synonymous with “the law of sin and death” (verse 2) as well as with “sin dwelling in me”:

Romans 7:17, 20
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  ...Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

The context clearly indicates that Christ condemned sin in the very same human nature that you and I possess — a human nature in which the “law of sin” resides.*

Furthermore, the word “sin” in Romans 8:3, is singular (not sins) and, therefore, could not be referring to our many sins which Christ bore on the cross, but to “the law of sin” which Christ also condemned by His death on the cross.  It was because this “law of sin” was executed on the cross in Christ’s humanity, that Paul could declare in Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” even though the sinful human nature of the believer is still serving the law of sin.

As we saw earlier, Romans 5:12-21 makes it clear that, when Christ redeemed humanity as the second Adam, He could do so lawfully only by assuming our corporate sinful humanity as we know it.

Romans 5:12-21
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned — To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.  Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin:  The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.  The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

But this did not make Him a sinner because that humanity was not His by native right.  He assumed our sinful humanity in order to redeem us totally from every aspect of sin.  This is why the New Testament writers always add a qualifier when they speak of Christ’s humanity.  Thus Christ was “made flesh,” He was “made sin,” He was “made of a woman,” etc.:

John 1:14 [Emphasis Added]
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
2 Corinthians 5:21 [Emphasis Added]
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Galatians 4:4 [Emphasis Added]
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law....

The word made [or its equivalent] in these texts means He was made to be something that, in and of Himself, He was not.  This is why Paul says that God sent Christ “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3, emphasis supplied) in order that He might first overcome sin by His life, and then condemn that law of sin on the cross by His death.

Had Christ consented to any of the desires of that sinful nature He assumed, even by a thought (the consent of the mind), He would indeed have become a sinner in need of a Saviour.  But by His perfect life and His sacrificial death, He became our perfect Saviour and gave us everlasting hope, not only from our many sins which condemn us but also from the law of sin and death which disqualifies us from heaven and makes holy living impossible, in and of ourselves.

The result of this glorious truth is that the righteousness of the law, which we are incapable of attaining in our own strength, is now possible for us who walk in the Spirit, as Christ did when He was on this earth:

Romans 8:4
...in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

In verses 5-17, Paul proceeds to explain what walking in the Spirit actually involves.  He says that this is the secret to holy living that God has prepared for those who have accepted Christ as their Saviour:

Romans 8:5-17
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.  The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.  And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.  But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.  Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation — but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  1The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

All this is wonderful news.  But we must be very clear on one point:  As long as we are depending on our performance, even in the slightest way, for our assurance of salvation, the Holy Spirit will not reproduce in us the victorious life of Christ.

Why is this so?

Because, in the first place, the Holy Spirit is not a co-redeemer with Christ.  His function in the plan of salvation is to communicate to us the perfect salvation God has already obtained for all men in Christ.  The Holy Spirit is the active agent in the plan of salvation, but only Christ is the redeemer.

Second, for the Holy Spirit to produce righteousness in us, in order to save or justify us, He would have to contradict the gospel which already has justified all who believe in Christ:

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ....

The Godhead does not contradict itself.  In other words, if we are not resting in Christ and His perfect salvation which He obtained for us some 2,000 years ago, we are not safe for victory and, therefore, cannot experience it.

We cannot be justified by faith alone in the righteousness of Christ, we cannot admit that there is nothing good in us and that we are 100 percent sinners, and then turn around and try to add our own good works to that perfect righteousness we received in Christ.  This is what the Galatian Christians were attempting to do:

Galatians 3:3
Are you so foolish?  After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?

Paul warned them:

Galatians 5:4-5
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.

We must constantly keep in mind that we are justified by faith alone in the righteousness of Christ and by nothing else.  Sanctification, holy living, is the fruit of that justification.  As long as we fail to understand, or as long as we are unwilling to accept, this fundamental truth of the gospel, the Holy Spirit cannot manifest the power of God to overcome our sinful flesh.

This is one of the major reasons Christians today are such poor witnesses to the world when it comes to manifesting the power of the gospel over sinful flesh.  This is why so many who live in so-called Christian countries have turned their backs on Christianity.  Understanding and accepting the truth of justification by faith alone is the crying need of Christians today.  Without it, the Church will fail to experience the victorious life that Christ is longing to bestow upon His believers through the power of the indwelling Spirit.  And what the Church does not experience, she cannot witness to.

We can be set free from our egocentric preoccupation with our own personal salvation only when we understand and accept justification by faith alone — set free so that the Holy Spirit may take over and lighten this earth with the glory of Jesus Christ.  I believe this was God’s purpose some one hundred years ago when He brought this most precious message to the Adventist Church.  Thank God, He has not abandoned His purpose; He still longs to make it a reality today.  So let’s stop slinging mud at each other over this issue of the human nature of Christ.  In Christian love, let’s study this subject prayerfully, putting aside our preconceived ideas and earnestly seeking truth as did our pioneers in the formative years of this church.  The result will be that:

Romans 8:4
...the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Key Points in Chapter 9
• Redeemed from the Law of Sin •
  1. The inner turmoil described in Romans 7:13-24 (see Chapter 8) is referring to a born-again Christian who sincerely wants to do what is right.  The sinful nature, however, prevents this from happening because it is dominated by the law of sin which the believer is unable to overcome in his or her own strength.

  2. In spite of this, Paul says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  A Christian who is struggling with the flesh and experiencing defeat does not stand condemned before God.

  3. This is true because, unlike human beings, God does not judge us by our outward performance, but by the intent of the heart or mind (see 1 Samuel 16:7; Jeremiah 17:10; Romans 8:27).

  4. The converted mind is not responsible for the failure to live the good life, since its desire, as well as its choice, is to do what is good.  It is the sinful nature that must take the blame — the flesh which is dominated by the law of sin and which brings the mind into captivity to sin.

  5. It is the converted mind that Christ saves and will take to heaven, along with a glorified body which He will give us at the second coming.  Our sinful natures are not redeemable and will be destroyed (see 1 Corinthians 15:50-54; Philippians 3:20-21).

  6. If the sinful flesh is so strong and so unchangeable, is there no hope for Christians?  Must those who long to live a victorious life, who are struggling with the flesh, and who hate the evil they are doing — must they simply give up?  Is there a solution to this problem?  Thank God that Jesus Christ is not only our Saviour from the guilt and punishment of sin, but that He also came to this world to save us from the power and slavery of sin!

  7. If we are truly converted, we want more than forgiveness from sin; we want victory over sin — not in order to be justified or to make it to heaven; that is already ours in Christ.  Rather, we want victory over sin because we want to glorify God while we are patiently waiting for Jesus to return.  Is total victory over the flesh possible this side of eternity?

  8. Paul assures us in Romans 8 that victory over the power of sin is possible and that the source of that victory is none other than “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (verse 2).  In Christ, we have salvation full and complete.  Just as we once came to Him for forgiveness and justification, so also we must now come to Him for power to overcome the flesh and for grace to live the sanctified life.  “Not I, but Christ” is the gospel formula for experiencing both sanctification as well as justification.

  9. When Paul says, “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2), he is not referring to the Christian’s subjective experience, but to an objective fact that actually took place at the cross.  All through His earthly life, two forces struggled within Christ’s humanity, each trying to dominate Him — the law of the Spirit of life versus the law of sin and death.  The good news is that, in Christ’s humanity, the law of the Spirit of life defeated and overcame the law of sin and death — and finally condemned it on the cross.  This proves that the power of the Holy Spirit is far superior than all the power the devil can muster through the sinful flesh.

  10. Every believer is conscious of an inner influence moving him or her to do wrong.  This is the law of sin.  But in the believer this law of sin is to be replaced by a new, vitalizing force, the law of the Spirit which gives spiritual life (see Romans 8:11).  The indwelling Spirit moves us constantly to do the right thing.  But more than that, the Spirit actually provides the power and strength we need to do it!  He is not only an influence; He is a positive force, enabling us to live righteously.

  11. Some insist that, when Christ clothed Himself with humanity, He was exempt from the “law of sin” with which we are born.  They argue that Paul says God sent His son “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3, emphasis supplied), and that the word “likeness” does not mean identical.  They believe that Christ’s humanity was like ours in that He became tired, hungry, etc., but that He was unlike us when it came to possessing a sinful nature dominated by the law of sin.

  12. The context of Romans 8:3 clearly indicates that Christ condemned sin in the very same human nature that you and I possess — a nature in which the “law of sin” resides.

  13. When Christ redeemed humanity as the second Adam, He could do so lawfully only by assuming our corporate sinful humanity as we know it.  But this did not make Him a sinner.  That humanity was not His by native right; He only assumed it in order to redeem us totally from every aspect of sin.  This is why the New Testament writers always add a qualifier when they speak of Christ’s humanity.

  14. God sent Christ “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3) in order that He might first overcome sin by His life, and then condemn that law of sin on the cross by His death.

  15. The righteousness of the law, which we are incapable of attaining in our own strength, is now possible for us who walk in the Spirit as Christ did when He was on this earth.  This is the secret to holy living that God has prepared for those who have accepted Christ as their Saviour.

  16. We are justified by faith alone in the righteousness of Christ and by nothing else.  Sanctification, holy living, is the fruit of that justification.
* A number of reliable Bible scholars have understood Paul’s use of the word likeness in this way.  Please note that, in the quotations given below, the italicized words indicate where the author used the actual Greek words appearing in the New Testament text.

   For it was to be right in sin̻s own realm that the Son was to bring sin to judgment, overcome it, and take away its power.  It is therefore important that with Christ it is actually a matter of sinful flesh....  Christ’s carnal nature was not unreality, but simple, tangible fact.  He shared all our conditions.  He was under the same powers of destruction.  Out of the flesh arose for Him the same temptations as for us.  But in all this He was master of sin (Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans, pp. 312, 315).

   By sinful flesh Paul clearly meant ...fallen human nature.  But why did he say in likeness of sinful flesh rather than just in sinful flesh?  At any rate, five alternative solutions to this problem have to be considered [solutions ii and v are the two taught within conservative Christianity and will be quoted here]:
   (ii) That he introduced likeness in order to avoid implying that the Son of God assumed fallen human nature, the sense being:  like our fallen flesh, because flesh, but only like, and not identical with, it, because unfallen.  This, though it is the traditional solution, is open to the general theological objection that it was not unfallen, but fallen, human nature which needed redeeming.
   (v) That the intention behind the use of likeness here was to take account of the fact that the Son of God was not, in being sent by His Father, changed into a man, but rather assumed human nature while still remaining Himself.  On this view, the word likeness does have its sense of “likeness”; but the intention is not in any way to call in question or to water down the reality of Christ’s sinful flesh, but to draw attention to the fact that, while the Son of God truly assumed sinful flesh, He never became sinful flesh and nothing more, nor even sinful flesh indwelt by the Holy Spirit and nothing more, but always remained Himself (i.e., the son of God)....
   We conclude that (v) is to be accepted as the most probable explanation of Paul’s use of likeness here, and understand Paul’s thought to be that the Son of God assumed the selfsame fallen human nature that is ours, but that in His case that fallen human nature was never the whole of Him — He never ceased to be the eternal Son of God.
   But if we recognize that Paul believed it was fallen human nature which the Son of God assumed, we shall probably be inclined to see here also a reference to the unintermittent warfare of His whole earthly life by which He forced our rebellious nature to render a perfect obedience to God.
   Those who believe that it was fallen human nature which was assumed have even more cause than had the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism to see the whole of Christ’s life before His actual ministry and death was not just a standing where unfallen Adam had stood without yielding to the temptation to which Adam succumbed, but a matter of starting from where we start, subjected to all the evil pressures which we inerit, andusing the altogether unpromising and unsuitable material of our corrupt nature to work out a perfect sinless obedience (C.E.B. Cranfield, The International Critical Commentary, “Romans,” 1:379-383, 1982 edition).

   Here, however, the fundamental thought is added that God achieved his purpose for man not by scrapping the first effort and starting again, but by working through man in his fallenness, letting sin and death exhaust themselves in this man’s flesh, and remaking him beyond death as a progenitor and enabler of a life according to the Spirit.  Hence whatever the precise force of the likeness, it must include the thought of Jesus’ complete identification with sinful flesh (cf. NJB: “the same human nature as any sinner”).
   God sent his Son to deal with sin, or more precisely “sin in the flesh.”  Since it is through the flesh, through man as he belongs to and is determined by this age, that sin exerts its power (7:5, 14, 17, 18), it is in the flesh that the power has to be combatted and broken.  Hence the importance of being able to affirm Christ’s complete oneness with humankind’s sinful flesh.  For Paul the breaking of that power was achieved by Christ’s death as a sacrifice whereby God condemned that sinful flesh.  In the two phrases “for sin” and “condemned” lies the key to Paul̻s soteriology....  The logic of Paul’s thought here is that sinful flesh could not be healed or redeemed, only destroyed....  God did not redeem flesh by an act of incarnation; he destroyed flesh by an act of condemnation (James Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary, 38a:420-440).
[Return to Chapter 11]
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