The Law Of The Spirit Brings Life
Re-Translated In January 2000
1. As I stated last week, they say that it is the latter half of chapter seven which develops and lays out the meaning of "when we used to live in the flesh" from chapter seven and verse five and it is chapter eight that develops and gives the reasoning behind chapter seven and verse six. Last time we read chapter seven together. For this week and for several weeks, I would like us to read chapter eight carefully. By doing this, I would like us to be able to state with Paul, "But, now we have become as dead persons to the law which used to bind us and we are set free from the law. The result of that is not the old way of living in obedience to the letter, but serving in a new way of life where one follows 'the Spirit,'" (verse six).
Therefore, Now [One] Is Not Condemned In Sin
2. Let's begin by reading verses one and two. "Therefore, now the person joined to Christ Jesus is not condemned in sin because the law of the Spirit which brings life through Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death," (verses one and two).
3. We read up to verse two last week. Now then, aren't there many people who sense that "Something awkward is going on here?" As we read from this eighth chapter we may not notice it but as we continue reading from chapter seven, the continuity of the flow somehow is not right. "Therefore, ... ?" Why is there a "therefore" here in the text? Just before that the text said: "In this way I myself serve the law of God with the heart but with my flesh I am serving the law of sin." In chapter seven and verse seven Paul uses the word "I" for the miserable condition of the person living according to the flesh and he uses his own experiences as a platform to speak upon. Then, it is chapter seven and verse twenty-five where he concludes that miserable condition in just a brief phrase. Since the word "therefore" appears in continuation to that, what words should a person expect after that? The phrase "[one] is not condemned in sin" doesn't line up right, does it? Instead the flow of the speech would be more natural by saying, "Therefore, ... you will be condemned in sin."
4. Let's go back a bit to chapter seven. If I summed up what Paul said in a brief word, it would "the dichotomy of the will and conduct or a division between desires and actions." I believe this is a problem everyone is familiar with. "I know good does not live inside me, that is, in my flesh. [I know this] because I have a will to do good, but I cannot practice it," (7:18). There are many people who sympathize with these words. Why is this so? It is because, as Paul says, good does not dwell [in humanity], sin does, and because sin is in control. Some time ago a [humorous] song1 that joked, "It's so dumb, but I am never done doing it," was popular. When sung in jest, it was fun and fine. But, if taken in the context that there will be a later judgment, it isn't a laughing matter. If a person spends his or her entire life in a continuously losing battle [against sin] as written in chapter seven, a future [judgment] seems [certain]. The phrase, "Therefore, you will be condemned in sin" should appear in the text quite naturally as we might expect. The conviction of sin by God means death. Being judged and discarded by God means losing God for ever and being destroyed.
5. But upon entering chapter eight, Paul says, "Therefore, [one] is not condemned in sin." How did his proper logic turn over on its head? Isn't it odd? But, then there is a short phrase in verse one that catches our eye. It is the phrase "the person joined to Christ Jesus." In the original document, it is just four words. This short phrase overturns the natural conclusion of "[one] is condemned in sin."
6. Actually, chapter eight thus begins with the words "one is not condemned by sin" and ends in the following words from verse thirty-eight and following: "I am convinced completely. Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor things that rule, nor things present, nor things future, nor things with power, nor things [or persons] in high places or in low places, nor any other kind of created entity can separate us from the love of God shown by our Lord Christ Jesus." This is what not being condemned in sin means. The key to understanding this is the phrase before it, "the person joined to Christ Jesus."
7. Why is one not condemned in sin? Why did his conclusion flip upside down? Paul expresses in verse two what is brought about by "being joined to Christ Jesus" as follows: "It is because the law of the Spirit which brings life through Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death." What in the world is Paul trying to say through these words?
8. "The law of sin and death" -- If I recall correctly in chapter seven which we already read, "the law of sin and death," which controls the fleshly person, was delineated. It was so to speak a kind of plot from a theatrical drama in which the characters of the stage are set. The characters are "the I," "Sin," and "the Law." The main character of the play is "the I." The enemy is "Sin." "The Law" demands that "the I" not be controlled by "Sin," but [the law] provides no assistance for ["the I."] It only convicts a person controlled by "Sin" as guilty. Sin puts "the I of my actions" which is called "the bodily members" under the law of sin and also it makes a prisoner of "the I of my will" which is called "the inner man." It's catch twenty-two, just utter defeat. Death is the conclusion of this losing battle. Hell is [its future]. If the characters of the stage were only these three and if "the I" were the main character of the play, there would be no other developments [in the plot]. This very scenario indeed in which no other developments are possible is truly "the law of sin and death." The person in the flesh is only moving a little here and a little there on a stage where the conclusion to the story is already set.2 Such is the life of the person in the flesh.
9. But, Paul says: "It is because the law of the Spirit which brings life through Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death." The scenario changes, which had seemed impossible for us to do anything. Rather than the characters of the stage changing, or rather than the main character changing, the plot changes. The old plot is annulled [and withdrawn] by a new one. There is no need any longer to keep moving the story along about heading for death. "It is because the law of the Spirit which brings life through Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death."
10. According to this new scenario, a person will not be separated from God by sin and go to [his or her] death, but will come to life joined to God through Jesus Christ. This does not come from the law, but rather comes from the Holy Spirit; for, "the I" is not the main character in the drama, but "God" himself is. Therefore, Paul tells us in verse three what God has done on our behalf. [He tells us it] because he is clarifying "the law of the Spirit which brings life through Jesus Christ," [that it is] based on the actions of God.
Sin In The Flesh Was Judged
11. Next, please look at verse three. "What the law could not accomplish for the weakness of the flesh God did. In other words, he sent into this world his son in the same form as sinful flesh [yet without sin] in order to take away sin and then he judged sin in the flesh as sin," (verse three).
12. Paul said, "we know the law is a spiritual thing," (7:14). Being spiritual means that it is not something from a human being but is from God. It ought not to be a thing of evil but a thing of goodness. Its requirements were not supposed to have the purpose of leading [people] to death but to life. But, a problem lies with humanity. The weakness of the flesh lies in [man and woman]. The law which thrusts its requirements [at us] and which pronounces [our] sin is powerless with respect to humanity with its weakness of the flesh. The law could not bring life. On the contrary, it strengthened the power of sin and solidified its control.
13. However, God did not just give us the letter of the law. God loved the world. God gave his own son to the world. Paul dared to express it like this in the text: "(God) sent into the world ... his son." Paul is trying to tell us about what God accomplished because only the actions of God truly save a person. The person of Jesus was not merely an illustrious character who pointed out God. If that was all, what was manifested in Jesus would only be the actions of a man and would not be the actions of God. Without divine activity, there is no salvation. A person's actions cannot save him or her. So, what did God do for us? First of all, God "sent his son into the world in the same form as sinful flesh." Then in addition, he "judged sin as sin." It goes without saying, but the first part is what the Christmas story is telling us and the other part the Good Friday and Easter Sunday story tells us.
14. The son of God became man. This is an astonishing mystery. The eternal One came into a finite world. The holy One came into a sinful world. The One who is God became flesh. It is with caution that Paul ventures to use the expression "in the same form as sinful flesh." The Lord Jesus became a human being exactly like us. It was not a false likeness at all. He became flesh just as we are flesh. Just as we encounter temptation, the Lord Jesus also encountered temptation. He experienced tests just like us. However, he was not sinful. He was not controlled by sin. In another epistle Paul called him "a person without any relationship to sin," (Second Corinthians 5:21). Of course, he is thinking the same thing here as well. We should think that the expression "in the same form as sinful flesh" represents all of that.
15. He walked before God as a human being no different from us. He did not sin, but walked before God as one of us sinful human beings. Truly as our representative, he lived in the presence of God. At the end of his life was a cross. As a person cursed by God, he died. Even more than just being judged and killed by the Roman and Jewish authorities, he finished his life on earth as a man condemned as a criminal by God.
16. But, strictly speaking, the one capitally punished there was not "Jesus the sinner." The Lord Jesus was not punished as a person controlled by sin because he had never been under sin's control. Therefore, we know that it was not "Jesus the man under the rule of sin," who was punished by God, but "the sin itself ruling over humanity" which was punished. That's clear from the fact the Lord Jesus did not just die on the cross and that's it, but he was raised from the dead. Sin was dealt with and Jesus was resurrected. This is what Paul is saying in "he judged sin in the flesh as sin." Why did God judge sin itself as sin? He did it to judge sin and to save the sinner.
17. Therefore, the person who is joined to Christ Jesus is no longer condemned in sin as a sinner because he or she has been made into a person whose very own sins have already been dealt with in Christ. Because of this, the person who is joined to Christ Jesus is not separated from God by sin and heading for death, but is heading for eternal life connected to God through Jesus Christ. This indeed is precisely "the law of the Spirit which brings life through Christ Jesus." Based on being set free from "the law of sin and death" through this means, we have the conclusion given in verse one, "Therefore, now, the person who is joined to Christ Jesus is not condemned in sin."
To Fulfill The Requirements Of The Law
18. Well, actually in the original text, verse three is not an independent sentence all by itself but is linked to verse four. God had a purpose in when he judged sin as sin, took away the sins of the sinner, and set [us] free from the law of sin and death. "It was so that the requirements of the law would be fulfilled in us who follow the Spirit and not the flesh," (verse four).
19. The declaration of the scriptures that "the person who is joined to Christ Jesus is not condemned in sin" also means that we shouldn't live vainly in fear of being condemned in sin. We shouldn't be spurred on by a fear of being condemned in our sins, or be persons who try to fulfill the requirements of the righteousness of the law out of such fear. Because [if we did that], that would be nothing more than walking according to the flesh. Therefore, a person must first be set free from the law.
20. But our being set free from the law does not mean an annulment of the law itself. What has been said here has nothing to do with a self-indulgent lifestyle based on so-called legal nihilism and antinomianism. The reason Christ took on the form of flesh and sin was judged as sin by his flesh was not so that we just wouldn't be condemned as sinners. It was so that the requirements of the law would be fulfilled in us. It was so that what the law could not accomplish because of its powerlessness, which originally ought to have led to life, might come to fulfillment. But, like I already stated, it was not fulfilled by human power. It is entirely a work that God does for us. It is the Holy Spirit which God gives as a gift who cleanses a person, gives life, and makes a person obedient to the will of God. After Christmas and Easter comes Pentecost. Therefore, Paul does not just say, "It was so that the requirements of the law would be fulfilled." He says, "It was so that the requirements of the law would be fulfilled in us who follow the Spirit and not the flesh." The important thing is to walk following the Spirit and not in the flesh. To walk in the Spirit "the I" must be a servant and not a master. "The I" should not be the subject [of the sentences] like in most of the sentences in chapter seven but "the Holy Spirit should be the subject like in many of the sentences in chapter eight. The place of the main character [in the drama] of our lives must be surrendered to God. [We must be surrendered to God] because if it is the work of God to deal with sin as sin and to remove it, then it is also the work of God to lead us so that the requirements of the law are fulfilled in us.
1 The song is called "Sudara-bushi." It's a kind of joke song sung by a well-known comedian. The phrase quoted above can simply be translated as "I know it's wrong but I can't quit!" The expression does not sound serious but kind of funny.
2 The word "set" here is linguistically linked to the word "condemned, judged" used through out this message.