God Did Not Leave Us Stranded
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 8:2 (Holman) . . .because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has
set you free from the law of sin and of death.
This verse tells us why “no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). “Law” here refers to an influence that operates with regularity. The word is used in much the same way as when we use the phrase “Laws of nature” to denote processes by which events invariably follow each other.
What is true in the physical realm is true in the spiritual. Certain “laws” are in operation, working with regularity. This verse presents us with three such laws.
One, “the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus”. The Holy Spirit can bring spiritual life to sinners on the basis of what Christ has done in our behalf.
Two, “the law of sin and of death”. We all find ourselves under this law by nature, by choice, and by habit. It essentially means those who remain unforgiven in sin will experience everlasting death.
Three, the law of predominance. The “Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus” is stronger than “the law of sin and of death.” People, by nature under the law of sin and death, are lost, headed for perdition. They need a stronger law to intervene.
Let me illustrate this from nature. It is a law of nature that apples belong on apple trees. This is where they stay, until another law (of gravity) overcomes the original law, thereby forcing the apples to the ground.
Our only hope for overcoming the Law of sin and death is to have it overruled by the stronger Law of the Spirit. Fortunately, the Gospel provides a conquering power that overcomes lostness. The omnipotence of God can overcome the Law of sin and death. The same Holy Spirit that was in Christ can come live in us. Why is this true?
Romans 8:3 What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God
did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in flesh like
ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering,. . .
The coming of the Holy Spirit to bring us His law of life is not because of our keeping the Law of God. The Law, though holy, just, and good, could never make us right with God. It has no live-giving powers and cannot pardon.
This is not to say something is wrong with the law. The defect is in us. The problem is; the law has to work through sinful human nature and is thus rendered ineffective. “The finest pill in the world is useless if the patient is not able to swallow it” (Whiteley). The law is weak through the flesh because we are corrupt.
Salvation by works or personal merit is impossible. Fortunately, God did not leave us stranded. He did something. He intervened on our behalf. Rather than condemn us, He “condemned sin in the flesh”. In Christ’s own body God sentenced and doomed sin. Adopted sons of God could not earn salvation. Only God’s “own” Son, the One like Him by nature, holy, sinless, and undefiled, could do what was necessary.
Jesus entered our realm. He was sinless, but became one of us. God took on Himself the likeness of sinful flesh. He entered the only race in which sin exists. Our flesh is Satan’s territory, the domain of sin. God invaded Satan’s stronghold.
The condemnation that should have come on us came on our sin instead. Since God condemned sin in Christ Jesus (verse 3), there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus (verse 1).
The whole weight of Divine vengeance fell on Jesus. The punishment deserved by us was borne by Jesus. It was not the exact punishment we would have received, but was nevertheless the equivalent. The blow of justice would have annihilated any other human being. Even Christ, God of true God, died under its weight. But He was able to march on through death and come forth alive again.
Death could not hold Jesus the first time. It has never tripped Him a second time. Jesus has left death and sin behind forever. In this process, He has been deemed our representative.
Jesus is our “sin offering”. He came to be our sacrifice for sin, to offer Himself as payment for the debt we owe due to our sin. He took upon Himself our nature in order to bear its guilt. “What was ours Christ took as His own, that He might transfer His own to us; for He took our curse, and has freely granted us His blessing” (Calvin).
The alternatives are obvious: either our sin must be renounced and condemned, or we shall be condemned. Believers are not condemned, because God reckons their sins as having been condemned in Jesus.
Romans 8:4a In order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in
us. . .
The moment a person believes in Jesus, God reckons all the demands of the Law have been satisfied with regard to that individual. Whatever the Law could possibly demand of us, Christ fulfilled for us.
Paul was careful to say the law’s requirement is accomplished “in” us, not “by” us. Christ in us fulfills all the intentions of the Law. Our only hope for righteousness is to confess we have none of our own and then to come seeking Christ’s. The moment Christ is received, the claims of the Law have been satisfied.
The Law can only make two demands on us: obedience and punishment for disobedience. Christ met both demands. He obeyed perfectly, and then bore the punishment for sin. What He has done is credited to the account of believers. Jesus stands as the representative of all believers.
His obedience is accepted as being ours also. “Through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19b). The punishment He bore is counted as ours also. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).
God cannot pretend the Law never existed, but He could let its claims be satisfied in a substitute for sinners. This is exactly what He chose to do. Saints of God, keep your eyes fastened immovably upon Christ. He is your only hope.
We must learn; salvation is entirely of God. Till we fully realize this, we can have no assurance regarding our salvation.
Romans 8:4b . . .who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the
This refers to all Christians. Believers “do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” “Walk” denotes the overall tenor of one’s life. It refers to the general direction in which one’s life is headed.
We do not walk according to the flesh. This means we do not seek to save ourselves through works. To walk according to the flesh means having a concept of salvation totally contrary to what the New Testament presents. It means placing trust in one’s own merit.
The believer renounces any such notion and focuses hope solely on the Holy Spirit. We know our only chance for salvation is to receive what the Holy Spirit has to offer us through what Jesus Christ did for us.
Thus a question. Where are we looking for our salvation? Do we intend to be saved by our own works, or are we looking beyond us to the Holy Spirit?
We must take our eyes off us, and quit trying to earn salvation. We must flee to Jesus as beggars and by faith accept what Jesus did with our sin at the cross. We must renounce our sins as condemned in order that God might not condemn us.
If God did not spare His own Son, we can be sure He will not spare an unrepentant sinner. He spared not His son; neither will He spare His enemies. However, He will spare those who receive what Christ has done in their stead.