Thoughts on Romans 8:1-4 – there is no condemnation

Let me spare a few thoughts on the above passage. These little essays are not intended to indoctrinate, but to challenge to critical thinking. Whether I am right or not is not important.

Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh…

We saw previously that Chapter 7 deals with the Jewish people that struggled under the law with sin. From the depth of degradation there was a cry of desparation:

Rom . 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

The solution is presented in 8:1. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But what does it mean to be in him? The bringer of the new covenant is symbolically presented here as the sphere of existance, and those who have the Spirit rightfully exist within that sphere. Let us remember, that the terminology Paul uses is not Jewish, but Greek – communicating to them in their own language, the technique he learned from Hillel. Paul talks about being in Adam, the first man, that is, belonging to his race, being his descendant, inheriting his characteristics. Those in Christ belong to the race of the new man, and they are characterised by having the Spirit of God acting as an internal force driving them to obey.

Having the Spirit means there is no condemnation. Condemnation only came because of failure. However, let us not forget that repentance always brought forgiveness. Only repentance, nothing else, was required for forgiveness. The sacrifices – sin is costly, isn’t it? – were only the public testimony about the forgiveness that took place, and were only required in the presence of the Temple. If you don’t believe it, go, read what Jesus says about the publican and the Pharisee praying in the Temple, or the parable of the father whose son takes his inheritance and spends it all in faraway lands, but repents in his depravity and returns. Repentance comes first, retribution and sacrifices come only later. But genuine repentance already guarantees forgiveness. Without such repentance forgiveness is not impossible.

In v.2 two aspect of the law is mentioned. Are there two laws? Oh, no. But the law put into the heart by God through the Spirit is referred to as the law of the Spirit of life, that is, the law in the heart empowered by the Spirit brings life. The law given on tablets of stones brought death, for it was powerless to stop sin, it could only regulate it, condemn it. The law under the old covenant was external, it was the duty of the individual to internalise it, but there was no internal force given by God that drove them to obey.

Let us not forget that the biblical language is not all-inclusive. There is a lot of exaggeration. So is the reference to the law of sin and death. Such language shall not be understood literally, otherwise the Tanakh (i.e. OT) is lying every single time it mentions the righteous.

We read that the law could not produce righteousness. No law can ever produce it. The purpose of the law is not that. It is no more than a measuring rod, a standard against which one is measured. Righteousness comes from within. One keeps the law not that he may become righteous by obeying it, but because he is righteous in his heart.

So how is the law weakened? Can the law be weakened by the flesh? Oh, not. The law is only a list of do’s and don’ts, it cannot be weakened, nor strengthened. But its influence can be weakened or strengthened.

Rom. 3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold {or establish, strengthen} the law.

The quest is, do we make the law unnecessary by faith? The answer is no. By faith we strengthen it, that is, strengthen its influence. One more proof that the law was not meant to be abolished.

So what is this faith Paul talks about? Did faith in those days meant the same as today? Remember, Paul is trying to convey Jewish ideas to Greek audience.

Deut. 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful [LXX: pistos] God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations

1Cor. 4:2 Here, moreover, it is required of stewards, that they be found faithful [Gk. pistos].

1Cor. 7:25 Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who has obtained mercy from the Lord to be trustworthy [Gk. pistos].

1Thess. 5:24 Faithful [Gk. pistos] is he who calls you, who will also do it.

Acts 3:16 And his name, by faith {Gk. te pistei} in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith {Gk. he pistis} which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

In the above we find the adjectival and noun forms of the same Greek term. The meaning is “trustworthy”, “faithful”. The Greek term translated as faith is pisteuo, which is derived from pistis. You can see that these terms are related, and they express the very same idea: being trustworthy, being faithful. They don’t directly refer to belief.

In the Hebrew the situation is the same. God is said to be faithful – the same term applied to people. God is faithful, trustworthy. Those who are called by His name shall have the same attributes. It is not about head knowledge, but about character, the reference is to conduct. Knowledge can help to develop character, but it is the character that counts.

Therefore, those who walk by faith, that is, who are trustworthy or faithful, uphold or strengthen the influence of the law. The disobedient weaken it.

Sonship is mentioned above. It is not about being a biological son. God doesn’t have one, as He has no sperm count. But it is about representation, reflection. The son is one who is righteous, and thus represents God, shines forth His righteous nature. In the Tanakh (i.e. OT) the Jewish people were called God’s son, just as Solomon also was. The one, who is as devoted to obeying God as Jesus was, is rightly called a son. No wonder that the believers are referred to as sons in the NT. Empowered by the Spirit they lived faithfully, and through their lives they revealed God to others.


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