IN CHRIST THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION BUT FREEDOM TO LIVE A
NEW LIFE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS BY THE POWER OF HIS SPIRIT
Frank Thielman: The solution to the plight of the wretched human Paul depicted in 7:7–25 comes with the work of Christ and the indwelling Spirit. Christ’s incarnation and death punished sin and thereby ended the desperate plight of sin, sin’s use of the law, and death described in 7:7–25. Christ’s incarnation and death also marked the new age of the Spirit. The Spirit now dwells within believers, enabling them to please God in the present and, in the future, to live with Christ in the presence of God.
Thomas Schreiner: As Paul’s own history demonstrates, the law doesn’t break the power of sin but paradoxically exacerbates it. God’s saving promises to his people have not become a reality via the law. God’s promises are now being fulfilled through Jesus Christ. He is the one who liberates his people and accomplishes what was promised in the OT Scriptures. The gift of the Spirit demonstrates that the covenant promises are now being realized, since the Spirit is the gift of the new age. In chapter 8 Paul relays the means by which the power of sin is broken. The solution lies in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s work on the cross provides the basis for delivering believers from condemnation, while the Holy Spirit supplies the power for conquering sin so that the law can now be kept (8:1–4), though such obedience is flawed and imperfect in this present evil age.
Michael Bird: The discourse of Romans 8, as Fitzmyer observes, is “a certain peak in Paul’s whole discussion” because it seeks to bring out the reality of the new age and of the new life that believers can now share in union with Christ and through his Spirit. Romans 8:1-17 in particular involves rehashing some earlier themes from 5:1-11 and 6:1-23 about our righteous standing before God, the beginnings of moral transformation, and our spiritual vivification. For the most part, however, Paul’s argument here is breaking new ground in Romans as it centers on how to live a life pleasing to God, a life that is lived in accordance with the Spirit rather than in accordance with the flesh.
I. (:1-2) TRUE LIBERATION –
IN CHRIST, WE ARE NO LONGER CONDEMNED BUT FREED BY CHRIST’S LIFE-GIVING SPIRIT
A. (:1) No Condemnation
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
John Murray: “Condemnation” is the opposite of justification (cf. 5:16; 8:34) and justification implies the absence of condemnation. . . The word “condemnation” here can scarcely be interpreted apart from the immediately succeeding context in which it appears and so we must look for the specific complexion given to the word by this context to which it is so closely related. In this context, as will be shown later, the apostle is not dealing with justification and the expiatory aspect of Christ’s work but with sanctification and with what God has done in Christ to deliver us from the power of sin. Hence what is thrust into the foreground in the terms “no condemnation” is not only freedom from the guilt but also freedom from the enslaving power of sin. If this appears to be a strange notion in connection with “condemnation” we shall have to wait for a vindication of this concept in the exposition of the verses which follow. If, however, this view of “condemnation” is adopted, then this verse, as inference, can be connected with what immediately precedes, either restrictedly (7:25) or more inclusively (6:1 – 7:25). The latter alternative is preferable, as will appear later on.
Frank Thielman: “In Christ Jesus” (ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ) describes the realm in which believers live, the realm in which people experience “justification” and “redemption” (3:24), where they are dead to sin and alive to God (6:11), and where they receive God’s free gift of life rather than sin’s wages of death (6:23). These eschatological blessings have broken into the present, as the term “now” (νῦν) demonstrates (cf. 7:6).
B. (:2) Freedom from Bondage
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus
has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
Frank Thielman: Paul now supplies the reason why (γάρ) God releases those who are in Christ Jesus from punishment. The phrase “in Christ Jesus” (ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ) could modify “life” (ζωῆς) and refer to the life that people have who are united with Christ (Tyndale, Luther, KJV, RSV, NRSV, NAB, CEB). If Paul had intended “in Christ Jesus” to modify “life,” however, he would probably have made this clear with an article in front of the phrase (τῆς ζωῆς τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ) as he does when he speaks in 3:24 of “the deliverance that is in Christ Jesus” (τῆς ἀπολυτρώσεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησου). The phrase, then, probably modifies the verb and speaks of the means by which “the law of the Spirit of life” has freed individuals from “the law of sin and death” (NIV, REB, ESV). God freed them from sin and death by means of Christ Jesus, or as 8:3 will explain more specifically, through his incarnation and death. . .
“The law of the Spirit of life,” then, is the power of God’s Spirit that enables believers to break free from sin’s use of the law for its own deadly purposes (cf. 7:5, 8–11) and experience eternal life (6:22).
This “law of the Spirit of life” liberates the believer from “the law of sin and death.” The meaning of “the law of sin and death” is clear from Paul’s discussion of the law in 7:1–25. There, sin used the law to multiply itself and keep the “fleshy” human being in bondage to itself and on the path to death. Now Paul announces the good news of God’s remedy to this terrible plight. God’s Spirit, by means of Christ Jesus, has broken the stranglehold that sin had on the law and, through the law, on the sin-prone self. The language of liberation recalls Paul’s use of slave imagery in the previous argument for the plight of human beings under the power of sin (6:16, 18, 20, 22; 7:14, 23). The Spirit has now freed them from this bondage and given them life (cf. 6:22–23).
John Murray: It is eminently appropriate that the Holy Spirit should be designated as the Spirit of life because the power he exercises is unto life as distinguished from the power of sin which is unto death. “The law of the Spirit of life” is, therefore, the power of the Holy Spirit operative in us to make us free from the power of sin which is unto death. This deliverance from the power of sin is correlative with that enunciated by the apostle in 6:2–14. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (cf. vs. 9) and it is only in Christ Jesus that the Spirit’s power is operative unto life.
II. (:3) TOTAL DELIVERANCE –
GOD SENT HIS OWN SON TO DO WHAT THE LAW COULD NOT
A. Inability of the Law
“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh,”
B. Intervention of God’s Son
“God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin,”
John Murray: There does not appear to be good warrant for supposing, as has been done by many interpreters, that the reference is to the expiatory action of God in the sacrifice of Christ. While it is true that the work of Christ in reference to sin was expiatory and in that respect involved for him the vicarious endurance of the condemnation due to sin, yet that expiatory accomplishment is not defined in terms of the condemnation of sin. Furthermore, as we found already, the governing thought of this passage is concerned with deliverance from the law of sin and death and, therefore, from sin as a ruling and regulating power. Hence we are compelled to look in some other direction to see if there is any respect in which we might conceive of God as condemning sin in a way that is relevant to the governing thought of the passage. . . Since then judicial language is applied to the destruction of the power of the world and of the prince of darkness and since the term “condemnation” is used here respecting the work of Christ, there is warrant for the conclusion that the condemning of sin in the flesh refers to the judicial judgment which was executed upon the power of sin in the cross of Christ. God executed this judgment and overthrew the power of sin; he not only declared sin to be what it was but pronounced and executed judgment upon it. Furthermore, it is this constitutive meaning of condemnation that provides the proper contrast to what the law could not do. In the barely declarative sense the law could condemn sin; this is one of its chief functions. But the law cannot execute judgment upon sin so as to destroy its power. As the apostle had shown repeatedly in the preceding chapter, the law, rather than depriving sin of its power, only provides the occasion for the more violent exercise of its power. To execute judgment upon sin to the destruction of its power the law is impotent. This is exactly what God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin. Hence when both the negative and the positive elements of the text are analyzed they mutually support each other in pointing to the interpretation presented.
Michael Bird: the “sending” of the Son is implicit to Jesus’ preexistence and incarnation. Jesus comes from the Father to earth by taking on “flesh,” which naturally suggests that the Son moves from one state (i.e., preexistence) to another state that he did not previously possess (i.e., “flesh”). In any case, the purpose of that sending is chiefly redemptive as the Son comes to redeem and restore the covenant people and to include the Gentiles in the patriarchal promises (see Rom 8:32; 15:8; Gal 3:14; 4:4-5). . .
“in the likeness of sinful flesh” — The issue here is that Paul does not want to say that God sent Jesus in sinful flesh, since that would imply that the enfleshing of the Son took on the sinful condition, which itself needs deliverance. What Paul wants to say is that Jesus’ humanity was the same as ours and yet not totally like ours to the point that he was tainted with sin. Jesus was just like us in possessing human flesh, and yet totally unlike us by not participating in a sinful nature. It may be more appropriate, therefore, to translate the phrase along the lines of God sending Jesus in the “same body as humans, who are controlled by sin” (CEB; cf. NJB).
C. Indictment on Sin
“He condemned sin in the flesh,”
III. (:4) TRANSFORMED LIVES –
GOD’S INTENT IS TO HAVE US LIVE RIGHTEOUS LIVES THROUGH THE POWER OF HIS SPIRIT
A. Purpose of Christ’s Sacrifice
“in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us,”
Frank Thielman: Paul does not imply, however, that this happens perfectly in the present. His purpose clause describes an ethical trajectory that ends at the resurrection when those whom God has united with Christ’s death in the present will also be fully united with his resurrection. Now that God has broken the power of sin, as Paul described it in 7:7–25, believers begin to fulfill the law in the present. That fulfillment will not happen, however, until God gives life to the mortal bodies that continue to affect the present existence of believers (8:10–11).
Douglas Moo: The purpose of this work of God in Christ is spelled out in verse 4. The NIV translation is misleading. Paul does not claim that the “righteous requirements of the law” are fulfilled in us; he says that “the righteous requirement of the law was fulfilled in us” (the Greek word dikaioma is singular). The difference may not be great if Paul is thinking of the way that the Spirit enables Christians to obey the commandments of the law. But the singular word, along with the passive form of “fulfill,” suggests a different idea: God in Christ has fulfilled the entirety of the law’s demand on our behalf.
Michael Gorman: The purpose of the Messiah’s death, then, was not merely forgiveness but also empowerment and transformation (cf., again, 2 Cor 5:21), which is what the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah had promised for God’s people. There has been restoration to life, a resurrection or revivification from the dead (cf. Eph 2:1–10), as prefigured by Abraham (ch. 4). The righteousness/justice that humanity failed to embody (e.g., 1:18–32; 3:9–20) can now be enacted—is now being enacted.
B. Potential for Transformed Living
- Not Walking in the Flesh
“who do not walk according to the flesh,”
- But Walking in the Spirit
“but according to the Spirit.”
John Toews: The old power structure of the flesh/Sin has been displaced by the new power structure of the Spirit, which is the Spirit of Christ (vv. 2, 9). Followers of Jesus walking in the power field of the Spirit fulfill the law. The fulfillment of the just requirement of the law is not the goal of Christian doing, but its basis and context. The law is not fulfilled because it has been internalized (Jer. 31 is not the background), but because the Spirit has been internalized. The Spirit now lives where Sin once lived. Therefore, the law is fulfilled.