Romans 8:1-4

Romans 8:1-4 April 2, 2005

The following notes repeat a number of things from previous posts on this site.

How does Romans 8 fit into the overall flow of Romans? First, Paul has announced the gospel of God?s righteousness, revealed from faith to faith (1:16-17). God?s righteousness involves His faithfulness to His promises to Israel, His promise to bless the nations through Abraham and his seed. Righteousness also means something like ?right order,?Eand describes God?s commitment to establishing right order in His creation. Thus, righteousness is (in Isaiah, eg) often virtually equivalent to ?salvation.?E For God to bring ?righteousness?Emeans that He comes in judgment to scatter the wicked and all His enemies, to deliver His chosen ones from their enemies, and to establish harmony and right order in creation. The good news has to do with God?s commitment to Israel, and more broadly with His commitment to bring His creation to its proper goal. As Steven Westerholm puts it: Paul believes, with the OT, that creation is good, but that sin makes it impossible for that goodness to be manifest. God is determined to make His goodness manifest by rescuing His good creation from tyranny of Sin and Death.

As Romans develops, however, Paul shows that there is an obstacle to the fulfillment of these promises: The general obstacle of human sin, and the more specific obstacle of Israel?s sin; instead of leading the Gentiles to worship Yahweh, Israel causes Yahweh?s name to be blasphemed among the nations. Unless the curse on Israel is broken through, unless there is a true seed of Abraham, there is no hope of blessing flowing out to the Gentiles.

Romans 8 brings these themes to a climax. In stark contrast to the world Paul describes in Romans 1, a world under wrath, full of idolatry and sin, Romans 8 describes the effects of God?s action in the Son and Spirit, His action to restore creation and humanity, His righteous restoration of the world, His manifestation of His own infinite goodness.

The nearer context has to do with the role of the Law/Torah in redemptive history. The sequence from Romans 4-8 is similar to the sequence in Galatians 3-4. Abraham was justified by faith and not by the works of the law (in any sense of that disputed phrase). Why then was the law added? Paul says in Galatians that the Law was added because of transgressions. In Romans, especially chapter 7, Paul argues emphatically that the law cannot bring life. Because of Sin and the dominance of Flesh, the man who receives the Law is radically divided, schizophrenic, in a state of living death, torn apart between his inward desire to obey God and his total inability to do so. In Romans 7, Paul, as a representative Torah-loving Israelite, is on the rack, stretched out and desperate for deliverance. Romans 8 describes the deliverance. What the Law is incapable of doing ?Etransforming flesh into Spirit, overcoming the reign of Sin and Death that is the effect of God?s condemnation ?EGod does in the Son and Spirit.

ROMANS 8:1-4
The ?therefore?Eat the beginning of the chapter raises some difficulties. How does the announcement of verse 1 follow from what Paul says in chapter 7? Obviously, the ?no condemnation?Eis not grounded I Paul?s bondage to sin. Paul does treat sinners as, in some sense, victims of Sin and Death, but this is not the basis for deliverance from condemnation. Rather, the ?therefore?Eseems to reach back to 7:6. As Schreiner has noted, 7:6 sets out the themes of chapters 7-8. 7:7ff develops the ?bondage of the law,?Ewhile chapter 8 develops the service of the Spirit.

8:1 does follow from the end of chapter 7, however. (Again, I?m reliant on Shreiner?s comments here.) At the end of ch 7, Paul is looking forward to a deliverance from the power of sin and death that holds him. His wretchedness is not relieved by the law, but only made worse. But he hopes for a deliverance, one that he characterizes as a future deliverance: ?Who will set me free from the body of this death??E(v. 24). The statement in 8:1, however, is about a ?now,?Eand v. 2 makes it clear that what happens ?now?Eis the ?setting free?Ethat Paul said he was hoping for in the future. The word for ?set free?Ein 7:24 is not the same as in 8:2, but the notion is the same: Both speak of liberation from death, of rescue and deliverance. 8:2 seems clearly to be referring back to the hope of 7:24, but announcing that the future hope of deliverance is now in effect. For those who are in Christ Jesus, deliverance is realized; there is now a rescue, now a new exodus.

What is extremely curious and interesting here is that the future deliverance that is now realized for those who are in Christ Jesus by baptism is the ground on which Paul announces that there is no condemnation. Note the sequence in 8:1-2: There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus because the law of the Spirit of life has liberated you from the law of sin and death. There is a present deliverance, the breaking in of a future deliverance in the now; and because of this deliverance, this future deliverance made present, there is no condemnation for those in Christ. In short, the ?no condemnation?Eis declared in view of future deliverance now made present.

There is yet a closer link between the deliverance and the declaration of ?no condemnation.?E The word for ?condemnation?Eis KATAKRIMA, a word used in legal contexts to refer to a verdict of guilty. In courtroom settings, to ?condemn?Emeans to ?pass a guilty verdict.?E And the word has that connotation here. It is a forensic term. But what Paul is talking about is not merely a forensic declaration, a verdict of not guilty. The sequence of Paul?s discussion makes that impossible. To verse 1 we can pose the question, Why is there no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? And verse 2 answers, Because the Spirit has delivered from sin and death. The deliverance from the power of sin through the Spirit is the ground for the verdict of no condemnation. The ?no condemnation?Eis not just a declaration about the status of those who are in Christ; it is also a declaration of their deliverance from Sin and Death.

Paul goes on to emphasize that those who have been liberated from Sin and Death through the Spirit do what the Law requires, and are not only righteous in status, but also actually perform righteousness. The declaration of ?no condemnation?Ethus embraces not only the status of the person, but is a declaration that describes or effects the liberation from Sin and the power to walk in newness of life. This has important implications for how we are understanding justification in Paul?s thought. Condemnation, KATAKRIMA, is the opposite of justification, and a declaration of ?no condemnation?Eis essentially a declaration of ?justified.?E But the declaration of ?justification?Ehere is grounded in a future deliverance from Sin and Death that has been made a present reality in Christ Jesus. We might say that the justification implied in v 1 is a declaration not only of status but of deliverance (as in Rom 6:7), that it is a declaration that effects a deliverance and doesn?t merely affect the status of the person who is justified.

Lest this view be taken as outside the bounds of Reformed orthodoxy, I refer you to some quotations from John Murray?s commentary on Romans, posted on this site on October 25, 2004.

The liberation language of v. 2 is once again language of exodus. The Spirit sets free form bondage to sin and death. But the specific language of v. not only opposes Spirit/life to Sin/Death, but opposes the ?law?Eof the Spirit of life to the ?law?Eof sin and death. Do we have here an example of Paul using ?nomos?E(law) in a sense other than ?Torah?E Or can some sense be made of the idea of a ?Torah of Spirit and Life?Eas opposed to a ?Torah of Sin and Death.?E Unapologetically, perhaps insanely clinging to my assumption that for Paul ?nomos?Emeans ?Torah,?EI suggest the latter (as
do Schreiner and Wright). We have already encountered a ?divided law?Ein Romans 7, the division between the ?different law?Eand the ?law of sin.?E There, I took the ?law of sin?Eas shorthand for the Mosaic system insofar as it was coopted by Sin and Death and used to kill rather than give life. Sin and Death hijacked the law, and turned it into its opposite. This would mean then that the ?law of the Spirit of life?Ethat sets free is the Torah and its system now operating in the sphere of the Spirit. For those who are in the Spirit, Torah has the power (as Psalm 19 already recognized) to convert the soul, to make wise the simple. Through the Spirit, the ?righteousness?Eof the Torah is being fulfilled among those who are not under Torah.

Verse 3 is full of cool stuff. The main point, of course, is that the Law was undermined and made ineffective because of flesh, a shorthand way of talking about men and women under the reign of Sin and Death that characterized the OC. Made ineffective by flesh, by Sin, the Law cannot give the life it promises. But God did what the Law could not do, and He does it through the condemnation of sin on the cross and the consequent gift of the Spirit.

In order to deal with flesh, and the reign of Sin, God sent His Son in the ?likeness?Eof sinful flesh, so that the judgment against Sin could be carried out in the Son. The ?likeness?Ehas occasioned some problems because it appears to qualify the real humanity of Jesus. But that?s not the point. ?Likeness?Ecan mean ?identity?E(Schreiner), so that the point is that Jesus participated fully in the cursed world of the OC, and that He came under the law. Perhaps too ?likeness?Eis a way of reminding us that though Jesus came in sinful flesh, came with ?dilapidated humanity?Eas one of my seminary professors put it, He was not a sinner. But it was necessary for Jesus to come in sinful flesh in order to accomplish what needed to be accomplished. Had the Son come in some other way, He could not be the one who received the condemnation for sin. He has to identify with us in our slavery to Sin and Death if the condemnation of Sin is going to be carried out in Him.

As many commentators have suggest, the phrase ?for sin?Erefers specifically to the sin offering (Leviticus 4). By presenting Jesus as a sin offering, God ?condemned sin in the flesh,?EPaul says. God carried out the sentence against Sin and Death by making Jesus a sin offering that received the sentence of Sin and Death. This verse also connects back to the argument of ch 7. Throughout ch 7, Paul argues that the Law is good, and that the ?I?Emight agree with the Law in the inner man. The force of the argument is to indict Sin as the culprit, as the one who keeps the ?I?Efrom doing what he desires to do. The purpose of giving the law, in fact, is to show that Sin can even coopt something that is holy, righteous, and good. The history of Israel and the law is designed to show Sin to be utterly sinful. And this sets up for what Paul says in 8:3: Sin stands condemned because of what it did to the Law, through the law, by effecting death through what is good. Chapter 7, then, can be seen as part of Paul?s prosecutorial case against Sin; and in 8:3, Paul says that the Judge who does right has carried out a righteous sentence against Sin. Sin deserves to be condemned.

Paul?s language of ?condemnation?Eis judicial. God is acting as judge, and refuses to condemn those who are in Christ. And He can rightly do this because He has carried out the penalty against Sin and Death on Jesus the Sin Offering.

If the ?for?Eat the beginning of v. 2 is ?because, on account of,?Ethen we have this sequence: There is no condemnation now because the Spirit has liberated us from the law of sin and death. That is, the liberation from the power of sin and death is the basis for the verdict. This is certainly a possible construction, but it implies that the justification ?Eno condemnation ?Eis grounded in something God has done for us rather than in something that God has done outside us. It seems best to take ?gar?E(for) as epexegetical, which means that the liberation from the law of Sin and Death is equivalent to the ?no condemnation.?E There is no condemnation IN THAT God has liberated from the Law of Sin and Death. The whole scenario is forensic, but it is not limited to the passing of a verdict. The choices before the interpreter seem obvious: Either the declaration of no condemnation is founded on the liberation that God performs; or, the condemnation is the same as the liberation that God performs. On either scenario, it is clear that Paul is using ?justification?Eterminology in a different sense here than is done in Protestant dogmatics.

Condemnation and justification are clearly contrasted in the two other occurrences of ?condemnation?Ein the NT (5:16, 18). In that passage, ?condemnation?Eincludes not only the verdict of ?guilty?Eor the declaration ?dying you shall die?Ebut the carrying out of that verdict in the actual sentence of death. This is evident from the parallels running through the passage:

by the transgression of the one the many died (v 15)
the judgment arose from one [transgression] to condemnation (v 16)
if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one (v 17)
as through one transgression to condemnation to all men (v 18)
through the one man?s disobedience the many were made sinners (v 19)

The result of Adam?s sin can be described as ?death?Eor ?the reign of death?Eor ?being made sinners?EOR ?condemnation.?E Adam?s sin did not just result in God saying ?you are guilty?Ebut resulted in God bringing the punishment of death. That IS the condemnation from which those who are transferred to Christ are liberated. Conversely, in Romans 5, justification must be the reversal of condemnation in both senses. This is why Paul describes justification in 5:18 as ?justification to life.?E It is the opposite of condemnation to death.

The result of the condemnation of sin in the flesh, and of God doing what the Law could not do, is not the removal of the Law from consideration. Rather, through the work of Jesus, what the law aimed at is actually done: the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us. This doesn?t mean that we are still under the law; and it doesn?t refer directly to specific commandments of the law. But the law aimed at a certain kind of life, a certain way of life, a certain kind of person. That is now being carried out among those who have received the Spirit of God. Paul elsewhere talks about love being the fulfillment of the law. Those who live in love, who have the love of God poured out in them by the Spirit who is Love, are doing what the law aimed at. Alternatively, one could say that the law aimed at Christ, and now that the Spirit dwells in us, we are fulfilling the law in the sense of being Christlike, being truly human. Though some commentators see verse 4 as purely forensic, it is clear that Paul is talking about the actual behavior of Christians. He talks about their ?walk?Eby the Spirit, and not about the imputation of the righteousness of Jesus to them.

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