Romans 8:3
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
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(3) How was I freed? Thus. Precisely on that very point where the law of Moses showed its impotence—viz., in the attempt to get rid of sin, which it failed to do because of the counteracting influence of the flesh—precisely on this very point God interposed by sending His Son in a body of flesh similar to that in which sin resides, and as an offering to expiate human sin, and so dethroned and got rid of sin in the flesh which He had assumed. The flesh, the scene of its former triumphs, became now the scene of its defeat and expulsion.

What the law could not do.—Literally, the impossible thing of the Lawi.e., “that which was impossible to the Law.” The construction is what is called a nominativus pendens. The phrase thus inserted at the beginning of the sentence characterises what follows. God did what the Law could not do—viz., condemned sin.

In that it was weak through the flesh.—There was one constant impediment in the way of the success of the Law, that it had to be carried out by human agents, beset by human frailty, a frailty naturally consequent upon that physical organisation with which man is endowed. Temptation and sin have their roots in the physical part of human nature, and they were too strong for the purely moral influence of the Law. The Law was limited in its operations by them, and failed to overcome them.

In the likeness of sinful fleshi.e., in the flesh, but not in sinful flesh. With a human body which was so far like the physical organisation of the rest of mankind, but yet which was not in Him, as in other men, the seat of sin; at once like and unlike.

And for sin.—This is the phrase which is used constantly in the LXX. (“more than fifty times in the Book of Leviticus alone”—Vaughan) for the “sin-offering.” The essence of the original sin-offering was that it was accepted by an act of grace on the part of God, instead of the personal punishment of the offender. The exact nature of this “instead” appears to be left an open question in Scripture, and its further definition—if it is to be defined—belongs to the sphere of dogmatics rather than of exegesis. It must only be remembered that St. Paul uses, in regard to the sacrifice of Christ, similar language to that which is used in the Old Testament of this particular class of sacrifice, the sin-offering.

Condemned sin.—The meaning of this expression is brought out by the context. It is that which the Law was hindered from doing by the hold which sin had upon the flesh. That hold is made to cease through the participation of the believer in the death of Christ. Sin is, as it were, brought into court, and the cause given against it. It loses all its rights and claims over its victim. It is dispossessed as one who is dispossessed of a property.

In the flesh.—In that same sphere, the flesh, in which sin had hitherto had the mastery, it now stood condemned and worsted; it was unable to exercise its old sway any longer.



Romans 8:3

In the first verse of this chapter we read that ‘There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.’ The reason of that is, that they are set free from the terrible sequence of cause and effect which constitutes ‘the law of sin and death’; and the reason why they are freed from that awful sequence by the power of Christ is, because He has ‘condemned sin in the flesh.’ The occurrence of the two words ‘condemnation’ {Romans 8:1} and ‘condemned’ {Romans 8:3} should be noted. Sin is personified as dwelling in the flesh, which expression here means, not merely the body, but unregenerate human nature. He has made his fortress there, and rules over it all. The strong man keeps his house and his goods are in peace. He laughs to scorn the attempts of laws and moralities of all sorts to cast him out. His dominion is death to the human nature over which he tyrannises. Condemnation is inevitable to the men over whom he rules. They or he must perish. If he escape they die. If he could be slain they might live. Christ comes, condemns the tyrant, and casts him out. So, he being condemned, we are acquitted; and he being slain there is no death for us. Let us try to elucidate a little further this great metaphor by just pondering the two points prominent in it-Sin tyrannising over human nature and resisting all attempts to overcome it, and Christ’s condemnation and casting out of the tyrant.

I. Sin tyrannising over human nature, and resisting all attempts to overcome it.

Paul is generalising his own experience when he speaks of the condemnation of an intrusive alien force that holds unregenerate human nature in bondage. He is writing a page of his own autobiography, and he is sure that all the rest of us have like pages in ours. Heart answereth unto heart as in a mirror. If each man is a unity, the poison must run through all his veins and affect his whole nature. Will, understanding, heart, must all be affected and each in its own way by the intruder; and if men are a collective whole, each man’s experience is repeated in his brother’s.

The Apostle is equally transcribing his own experience when in the text he sadly admits the futility of all efforts to shake the dominion of sin. He has found in his own case that even the loftiest revelation in the Mosaic law utterly fails in the attempt to condemn sin. This is true not only in regard to the Mosaic law but in regard to the law of conscience, and to moral teachings of any kind. It is obvious that all such laws do condemn sin in the sense that they solemnly declare God’s judgment about it, and His sentence on it; but in the sense of real condemnation, or casting out, and depriving sin of its power, they all are impotent. The law may deter from overt acts or lead to isolated acts of obedience; it may stir up antagonism to sin’s tyranny, but after that it has no more that it can do. It cannot give the purity which it proclaims to be necessary, nor create the obedience which it enjoins. Its thunders roll terrors, and no fruitful rain follows them to soften the barren soil. There always remains an unbridged gulf between the man and the law.

And this is what Paul points to in saying that it ‘was weak through the flesh.’ It is good in itself, but it has to work through the sinful nature. The only powers to which it can appeal are those which are already in rebellion. A discrowned king whose only forces to conquer his rebellious subjects are the rebels themselves, is not likely to regain his crown. Because law brings no new element into our humanity, its appeal to our humanity has little more effect than that of the wind whistling through an archway. It appeals to conscience and reason by a plain declaration of what is right; to will and understanding by an exhibition of authority; to fears and prudence by plainly setting forth consequences. But what is to be done with men who know what is right but have no wish to do it, who believe that they ought but will not, who know the consequences but ‘choose rather the pleasures of sin for a season,’ and shuffle the future out of their minds altogether? This is the essential weakness of all law. The tyrant is not afraid so long as there is no one threatening his reign, but the unarmed herald of a discrowned king. His citadel will not surrender to the blast of the trumpet blown from Sinai.

II. Christ’s condemnation and casting out of the tyrant.

The Apostle points to a triple condemnation.

‘In the likeness of sinful flesh,’ Jesus condemns sin by His own perfect life. That phrase, ‘the likeness of the flesh of sin,’ implies the real humanity of Jesus, and His perfect sinlessness; and suggests the first way in which He condemns sin in the flesh. In His life He repeats the law in a higher fashion. What the one spoke in words the other realised in ‘loveliness of perfect deeds’; and all men own that example is the mightiest preacher of righteousness, and that active goodness draws to itself reverence and sways men to imitate. But that life lived in human nature gives a new hope of the possibilities of that nature even in us. The dream of perfect beauty ‘in the flesh’ has been realised. What the Man Christ Jesus was, He was that we may become. In the very flesh in which the tyrant rules, Jesus shows the possibility and the loveliness of a holy life.

But this, much as it is, is not all. There is another way in which Christ condemns sin in the flesh, and that is by His perfect sacrifice. To this also Paul points in the phrase, ‘the flesh of sin.’ The example of which we have been speaking is much, but it is weak for the very same reason for which law is weak-that it operates only through our nature as it is; and that is not enough. Sin’s hold on man is twofold-one that it has perverted his relation to God, and another that it has corrupted his nature. Hence there is in him a sense of separation from God and a sense of guilt. Both of these not only lead to misery, but positively tend to strengthen the dominion of sin. The leader of the mutineers keeps them true to him by reminding them that the mutiny laws decree death without mercy. Guilt felt may drive to desperation and hopeless continuance in wrong. The cry, ‘I am so bad that it is useless to try to be better,’ is often heard. Guilt stifled leads to hardening of heart, and sometimes to desire and riot. Guilt slurred over by some easy process of absolution may lead to further sin. Similarly separation from God is the root of all evil, and thoughts of Him as hard and an enemy, always lead to sin. So if the power of sin in the past must be cancelled, the sense of guilt must be removed, and the wall of partition between man and God thrown down. What can law answer to such a demand? It is silent; it can only say, ‘What is written is written.’ It has no word to speak that promises ‘the blotting out of the handwriting that is against us’; and through its silence one can hear the mocking laugh of the tyrant that keeps his castle.

But Christ has come ‘for sin’; that is to say His Incarnation and Death had relation to, and had it for their object to remove, human sin. He comes to blot out the evil, to bring God’s pardon. The recognition of His sacrifice supplies the adequate motive to copy His example, and they who see in His death God’s sacrifice for man’s sin, cannot but yield themselves to Him, and find in obedience a delight. Love kindled at His love makes likeness and transmutes the outward law into an inward ‘spirit of life in Christ Jesus.’

Still another way by which God ‘condemns sin in the flesh’ is pointed to by the remaining phrase of our text, ‘sending His own Son.’ In the beginning of this epistle Jesus is spoken of as ‘being declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness’; and we must connect that saying with our text, and so think of Christ’s bestowal of His perfect gift to humanity of the Spirit which sanctifies as being part of His condemnation of sin in the flesh. Into the very region where the tyrant rules, the Son of God communicates a new nature which constitutes a real new power. The Spirit operates on all our faculties, and redeems them from the bondage of corruption. All the springs in the land are poisoned; but a new one, limpid and pure, is opened. By the entrance of the Spirit of holiness into a human spirit, the usurper is driven from the central fortress: and though he may linger in the outworks and keep up a guerilla warfare, that is all that he can do. We never truly apprehend Christ’s gift to man until we recognise that He not merely ‘died for our sins,’ but lives to impart the principle of holiness in the gift of His Spirit. The dominion of that imparted Spirit is gradual and progressive. The Canaanite may still be in the land, but a growing power, working in and through us, is warring against all in us that still owns allegiance to that alien power, and there can be no end to the victorious struggle until the whole body, soul, and spirit, be wholly under the influence of the Spirit that dwelleth in us, and nothing shall hurt or destroy in what shall then be all God’s holy mountain.

Such is, in the most general terms, the statement of what Christ does ‘for us’; and the question comes to be the all-important one for each, Do I let Him do it for me? Remember the alternative. There must either be condemnation for us, or for the sin that dwelleth in us. There is no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus, because there is condemnation for the sin that dwells in them. It must he slain, or it will slay us. It must be cast out, or it will cast us out from God. It must be separated from us, or it will separate us from Him. We need not be condemned, but if it be not condemned, then we shall be.Romans 8:3-4. For what the law could not do Το γαρ αδυνατον του νομου, what was impossible to the Mosaic law, whether moral or ceremonial; that is, that freedom from the guilt and power of sin, and from spiritual and eternal death, which it could not minister; in that it was weak through the flesh — Through the depravity and infirmity of our fallen nature, which it was incapable of remedying or conquering. “The law was not weak or defective in itself. Its moral precepts were a perfect rule of duty, and its sanctions were sufficiently powerful to enforce obedience in those who were able to obey. But it was weak through the depravity of men’s nature, which it had neither power to remedy nor to pardon; and so could not destroy sin in men’s flesh. These defects of law are all remedied in the gospel; wherein pardon is promised to encourage the sinner to repent, and the assistance of the Spirit of God is offered, to enable him to believe and obey.” — Macknight. Accordingly it follows, God, — (Supply δυνατον εποιησε, hath made feasible, or hath done, namely, what the law could not do;) sending his own Son Ιδιον υιον, his proper Son, his Son in a sense in which no creature is or can be his son; in the likeness of sinful flesh — Christ’s flesh was as real as ours, but it was like sinful flesh, in being exposed to pain, misery, and death: and for sin — The expression, περι αμαρτιας, here rendered, for sin, appears, from Hebrews 10:18, to be an elliptical phrase for προσφορα περι αμαρτιας, an offering for sin. The Son of God was sent in the likeness, both of sinful flesh, and of a sin-offering. He was like the old sin-offerings in this, that whereas they sanctified to the purifying of the flesh, he, by making a real atonement for sin, sanctifieth to the purifying of the spirit. Condemned sin in the flesh — That Isaiah , 1 st, Manifested its infinite evil, by enduring extreme sufferings, to render the pardon of it consistent with the justice and holiness of God, and the authority of his law. 2d, Gave sentence that its guilt should be cancelled, its power destroyed, and believers wholly delivered from it. And, 3d, Procured for them that deliverance. The sins of men, being imputed to, or laid on Christ, Isaiah 53:6, by his free consent, (he being our surety,) were condemned and punished in his flesh; and no such remarkable condemnation of sin was ever effected before, or will be again, unless in the condemnation of the finally impenitent to everlasting misery. But the apostle here seems rather to speak of the condemnation of sin, not in the flesh which Christ assumed for us, but in our persons, or in us while we are in the flesh. Now in this sense, it must be acknowledged, it was condemned in some measure under the law, as well as under the gospel; “for under the law there were many pious and holy men; but sin was condemned in their flesh, not by any power inherent in, or derived from, the law: their sanctification came from the grace of the gospel, preached to them in the covenant with Abraham, Galatians 3:8, darkly set forth in the types of the law.” That the righteousness of the law — The holiness it requires, described Romans 8:5-11, might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit — Who are guided in our intentions and affections, words and actions, not by our animal appetites and passions, or by corrupt nature, but by the Word and Spirit of God. Love to God and man is the principal thing enjoined in the moral law, and is accounted by God the fulfilling of that law, Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8. It must be observed, however, that “the righteousness of the law to be fulfilled in us, through the condemnation of sin in the flesh, and through our not walking according to the flesh, is not perfect obedience to [the moral law, or] any law whatever; [except that of faith and love;] for that is not attainable in the present life: but it is such a degree of faith and holiness, as believers may attain through the influence of the Spirit. And being the righteousness required in the gracious new covenant, made with mankind after the fall, and fully published in the gospel, that covenant, and the gospel in which it is published, are fitly called the law of faith, Romans 3:27; and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:2; and the law of Christ, Galatians 6:2; and the law of liberty, James 1:25; and the law foretold to go forth out of Zion, Isaiah 2:3; and the law for which the isles, or Gentiles, were to wait, Isaiah 42:4.” — Macknight. From this place Paul describes primarily the state of believers, and that of unbelievers, only to illustrate this. 8:1-9 Believers may be chastened of the Lord, but will not be condemned with the world. By their union with Christ through faith, they are thus secured. What is the principle of their walk; the flesh or the Spirit, the old or the new nature, corruption or grace? For which of these do we make provision, by which are we governed? The unrenewed will is unable to keep any commandment fully. And the law, besides outward duties, requires inward obedience. God showed abhorrence of sin by the sufferings of his Son in the flesh, that the believer's person might be pardoned and justified. Thus satisfaction was made to Divine justice, and the way of salvation opened for the sinner. By the Spirit the law of love is written upon the heart, and though the righteousness of the law is not fulfilled by us, yet, blessed be God, it is fulfilled in us; there is that in all true believers, which answers the intention of the law. The favour of God, the welfare of the soul, the concerns of eternity, are the things of the Spirit, which those that are after the Spirit do mind. Which way do our thoughts move with most pleasure? Which way go our plans and contrivances? Are we most wise for the world, or for our souls? Those that live in pleasure are dead, 1Ti 5:6. A sanctified soul is a living soul; and that life is peace. The carnal mind is not only an enemy to God, but enmity itself. The carnal man may, by the power of Divine grace, be made subject to the law of God, but the carnal mind never can; that must be broken and driven out. We may know our real state and character by inquiring whether we have the Spirit of God and Christ, or not, ver. 9. Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. Having the Spirit of Christ, means having a turn of mind in some degree like the mind that was in Christ Jesus, and is to be shown by a life and conversation suitable to his precepts and example.For what the law could not do - The Law of God, the moral law. It could not free from sin and condemnation. This the apostle had fully shown in Romans 7.

In that - Because.

It was weak - It was feeble and inefficacious. It could not accomplish it.

Through the flesh - In consequence of the strength of sin, and of the evil and corrupt desires of the unrenewed heart. The fault was not in the Law, which was good Romans 7:12, but it was owing to the strength of the natural passions and the sinfulness of the unrenewed heart; see Romans 7:7-11, where this influence is fully explained.

God, sending his own Son - That is, God did, or accomplished, that, by sending his Son, which the Law could not do. The word did, or accomplished, it is necessary to understand here, in order to complete the sense.In the likeness of sinful flesh - That is, he so far resembled sinful flesh that he partook of flesh, or the nature of man, but without any of its sinful propensities or desires. It was not human nature; not, as the Docetae taught, human nature in appearance only; but it was human nature Without any of its corruptions.

And for sin - Margin, "By a sacrifice for sin." The expression evidently means, by an Offering for sin, or that he was given as a Sacrifice on account of sin. His being given had respect to sin.Condemned sin in the flesh - The flesh is regarded as the source of sin; Note, Romans 7:18. The flesh being the seat and origin of transgression, the atoning sacrifice was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, that thus he might meet sin, as it were, on its own ground, and destroy it. He may be said to have condemned sin in this manner,

(1) Because the fact that he was given for it, and died on its account, was a condemnation of it. If sin had been approved by God he would not have made an atonement to secure its destruction. The depth and intensity of the woes of Christ on its account show the degree of abhorrence with which it is regarded by God.

(2) the word "condemn" may be used in the sense of destroying, overcoming, or subduing; 2 Peter 2:6, "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow." In this sense the sacrifice of Christ has no; only condemned sin as being evil, but has weakened its power and destroyed its influence, and will finally annihilate its existence in all who are saved by that death.

(By the sacrifice of Christ, God indeed showed his abhorrence of sin, and secured its final overthrow. It is not, however, of the sanctifying influence of this sacrifice, that the apostle seems here to speak, but of its justifying power. The sense, therefore, is that God passed a judicial sentence on sin, in the person of Christ, on account of which, that has been effected which the Law could not effect, (justification namely). Sin being condemned in the human nature of Christ, cannot be condemned and punished in the persons of those represented by him. They must be justified.

This view gives consistency to the whole passage, from the first verse to the fourth inclusive. The apostle clearly begins with the subject of justification, when, in the first verse, he affirms, that to them who are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. If the question be put, Why is this? the second verse gives for answer, that believers are delivered from the Law as a covenant of works. (See the foregoing supplementary note). If the question again be put, Whence this deliverance? the third verse points to the sacrifice of Christ, which, the fourth verse assures us, was offered with the very design "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us." This clause, according to the principle of interpretation laid down above, does not relate to the believer's obedience to the righteous requirements of the Law. The apostle has in view a more immediate design of the sacrifice of Christ. The right or demand of the Law δικαίωμα dikaiōma was satisfaction to its injured honor. Its penalty must be borne, as well as its precept obeyed. The sacrifice of Christ answered every claim. And as believers are one with him, the righteousness of the Law has been "fulfilled in them."

The whole passage is thus consistently explained of justification.)

3, 4. For what the law could not do, &c.—a difficult and much controverted verse. But it is clearly, we think, the law's inability to free us from the dominion of sin that the apostle has in view; as has partly appeared already (see on [2221]Ro 8:2), and will more fully appear presently. The law could irritate our sinful nature into more virulent action, as we have seen in Ro 7:5, but it could not secure its own fulfilment. How that is accomplished comes now to be shown.

in that it was weak through the flesh—that is, having to address itself to us through a corrupt nature, too strong to be influenced by mere commands and threatenings.

God, &c.—The sentence is somewhat imperfect in its structure, which occasions a certain obscurity. The meaning is, that whereas the law was powerless to secure its own fulfilment for the reason given, God took the method now to be described for attaining that end.

sending—"having sent"

his own Son—This and similar expressions plainly imply that Christ was God's "OWN Son" before He was sent—that is, in His own proper Person, and independently of His mission and appearance in the flesh (see on [2222]Ro 8:32 and [2223]Ga 4:4); and if so, He not only has the very nature of God, even as a son of his father, but is essentially of the Father, though in a sense too mysterious for any language of ours properly to define (see on the first through fourth chapters). And this peculiar relationship is put forward here to enhance the greatness and define the nature of the relief provided, as coming from beyond the precincts of sinful humanity altogether, yea, immediately from the Godhead itself.

in the likeness of sinful flesh—literally, "of the flesh of sin"; a very remarkable and pregnant expression. He was made in the reality of our flesh, but only in the likeness of its sinful condition. He took our nature as it is in us, compassed with infirmities, with nothing to distinguish Him as man from sinful men, save that He was without sin. Nor does this mean that He took our nature with all its properties save one; for sin is no property of humanity at all, but only the disordered state of our souls, as the fallen family of Adam; a disorder affecting, indeed, and overspreading our entire nature, but still purely our own.

and for sin—literally, "and about sin"; that is, "on the business of sin." The expression is purposely a general one, because the design was not to speak of Christ's mission to atone for sin, but in virtue of that atonement to destroy its dominion and extirpate it altogether from believers. We think it wrong, therefore, to render the words (as in the Margin) "by a sacrifice for sin" (suggested by the language of the Septuagint and approved by Calvin, &c.); for this sense is too definite, and makes the idea of expiation more prominent than it is.

condemned sin—"condemned it to lose its power over men" [Beza, Bengel, Fraser, Meyer, Tholuck, Philippi, Alford]. In this glorious sense our Lord says of His approaching death (Joh 12:31), "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out," and again (see on [2224]Joh 16:11), "When He (the Spirit) shall come, He shall convince the world of … judgment, because the prince of this world is judged," that is, condemned to let go his hold of men, who, through the Cross, shall be emancipated into the liberty and power to be holy.

in the flesh—that is, in human nature, henceforth set free from the grasp of sin.

In this verse is a further proof of the main proposition in Romans 8:1. There are two things in sin that may endanger us as to condemnation, the power and the guilt of it. As to the freeing us from the former, viz. the power of sin, of that he had spoken in the foregoing verse; as to taking away the guilt of sin, of that he speaks in this verse.

For what the law could not do: by the law here he means the moral law, the righteousness whereof is to be fulfilled in us, Romans 8:4. What is it the law cannot do? There are several answers; but this is principally meant, it cannot justify us before God. It can condemn us, but it cannot exempt us from condemnation: see Acts 13:38,39 Ga 3:21 Hebrews 7:18,19.

In that it was weak through the flesh: by flesh, as before, we must understand the corrupt nature; that is, every man since the fall. This is that which puts a weakness and inability upon the law. The impotency of the law is not from itself, but from the condition of the subject with whom it hath to do. The law is weak to us, because we are weak to it: the sun cannot give light to a blind eye, not from any impotency in itself, but merely from the incapacity of the subject it shines upon.

God sending his own Son: to justify and save fallen man, was impossible for the law to do; therefore God will find out another way, that shall do it effectually. What his own law cannot do, his own Son can; and therefore him he will send.

In the likeness of sinful flesh; i.e. such flesh as sin hath made now to be subject to many infirmities and weaknesses. Flesh in this clause carries quite another sense than it did in the first verse; and in the former part of this verse, than it doth in the following verse; there it is taken morally for the corrupt nature of man, here physically for the human nature of Christ. The word likeness is to be linked, not with flesh, but with sinful flesh; he had true and real flesh, but he had only the appearance and likeness of sinful flesh: see 2 Corinthians 5:21 Hebrews 4:15 7:26 1 Peter 1:19.

And for sin; either this clause is to be joined to what goes before, and then the sense is, that God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, that he might take away sin. Or else it is joined to what follows, and then there is an ellipsis in it; something is cut off, or left out, which must be understood. The margin of our common Bibles insert the word sacrifice: q.d. By a sacrifice for sin, or by a sin-offering, he condemned sin. &c. This ellipsis is usual in Scripture. Isaiah 53:10, When thou shalt make his soul sin; that is, (as our translation renders it), an offering for sin.

Ezekiel 45:19, The priest shall take of the blood of the sin; we read it, of the sin-offering. See the like in Hosea 4:8 2 Corinthians 5:21 Hebrews 10:6.

Condemned sin in the flesh; the Syriac reads it, in his flesh. The meaning is, that God severely punished sin, and inflicted the curse and penalty of it, that was due to us, in and upon the person of his own Son; God laid on him the iniquities of us all, and he bore them in his body upon a tree: see Galatians 3:13 1 Peter 2:24. For what the law could not do,.... This is not to be understood of "the law of the mind", in opposition to "the law of sin", which indeed is very feeble and impotent; man had a power originally of obeying the divine commands, but through sin he has lost his strength and power; and even a renewed mind cannot perform what it would, which is owing to the flesh, or corrupt nature; it has strong desires after holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God; but these desires cannot be fulfilled by it, and indeed without Christ it can do no good thing: nor is the ceremonial law intended, though this is weak, and there are many things it could not do; it could not expiate and atone for sin; nor remove the guilt of it, nor cleanse from the filth of it: But the moral law is here designed; this, though it can, and does accuse of sin, can convince of it, can curse, condemn, and condemn to death for it; yet it could not condemn sin itself, which is only abolished by Christ; it cannot restrain from sin, nor change a sinful nature, nor sanctify an impure heart; nor free from the guilt of sin, nor comfort a distressed mind under a sense of it, it cannot subject persons, or bring them to before God, or give life, or save from death; the reason is,

in that, or because

it was weak through the flesh. The weakness of the law is total and universal, it has no strength at all; though not original and natural, but accidental; it is owing to the flesh, or the corrupt nature of man: or rather the weakness is in sinful men, and not in the law; and the sense is this, that human nature is so weakened by sin, that it is incapable of fulfilling the law; the weakness of the law is not from itself, but from man: to this agrees what the Jewish writers (u) say,

"there is not a word in the law "weak", or broken; wherefore when thou considerest and observest it, that thou dost not find it strong, as an hammer that breaks the rocks, , "but if weak, it is of thyself".''

To which may be added that usual saying of theirs, , "there is no strength but the law" (w); unless the apostle can be thought to oppose this notion of theirs. Wherefore because of the weakness of the law, or of human nature to fulfil it,

God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. The person sending is God, who gave the law weakened by the flesh, against whom we have sinned: and who is righteous, pure, and holy: which considerations enhance his grace and goodness, in the mission of Christ. This must be understood of God the Father, who is here manifestly distinguished from the Son; and who is God, but not solely, or to the exclusion of the Son and Spirit; and who sent Christ, though not singly, for the "Lord God and his Spirit sent" him, Isaiah 48:16; though as it is most agreeable for a father to send his son, this is generally ascribed to him; and he being the first person in the Godhead, is the first in order of working, and so in redemption. The person sent is his own Son; not by creation, as angels and men are; nor by adoption, as saints are; nor is he called so, on account of his incarnation, resurrection, or mediatorship, for he was the Son of God antecedent to either of them; but his own proper Son, and not in any metaphorical sense; a Son of the same nature with him, begotten of him, and his Son in that nature in which he is God. The act of sending, does not suppose inequality of nature; for though he that is sent is not greater, yet as great as he that sends; two equals, by agreement, may send each other; a divine person may assume an office, and under that consideration be sent, without supposing inferiority of nature, as in the case of the Holy Spirit; and an inferiority as to office, is allowed in the case of the Son; God sent his Son under the character of a servant, to do work: nor does this act imply change of place; there is indeed a "terminus a quo", from whence he was sent, from heaven, from his Father there; and there is a "terminus ad quem", to which he was sent into this world; but then this coming of his from heaven to earth, was not by local motion, but by assumption of nature; nor was it out of any disrespect to his Son, but out of love to us, that he sent him; nor was he sent against his will; he showed no reluctance at the proposal to him in the council of peace, but the utmost willingness; nor any at his coming into the world: nor at the work itself, which he entered upon, and went through with the greatest eagerness and cheerfulness: nor does it suppose him whilst sent, and here on earth, to be in a state of absence and separation from his Father; he was still in his bosom, yet in heaven, and his Father always with him: but it supposes that he existed before he was sent; that he was a person, and distinct from the Father, or he could not be sent by him; that he had authority from him, considered in his office capacity: in a word, this sending of the Son, designs the manifestation of him in human nature; as appears from the form and manner in which he was sent, "in the likeness of sinful flesh"; which expresses the reality of his incarnation, of his having a true real human nature; for flesh is not to be taken strictly for a part of the body, nor for the whole body only, but for the whole human nature, soul and body; which though it looked like a sinful nature, yet was not sinful: the likeness of it denotes the outward appearance of Christ in it; who was born of a sinful woman; was subject to the infirmities of human nature, which though not sinful, are the effects of sin; was reckoned among transgressors, was traduced as one himself by men, and treated as such by the justice of God; he having all the sins of his people on him, for which he was answerable: "and" hence God, "for sin, condemned sin in the flesh"; not the law, which was weak through the flesh; nor sinners, who broke the law; but sin itself, the transgression of the law, all kind of sin, and all that is in it the act of condemning it, does not design God's disapproving of it, and judging it to be evil; this he could not but do, as being contrary to his nature, an act of hostility against him, a breach of his law, and what brings ruin upon his creatures; and this he would have done, if Christ had never suffered in the flesh; and he has taken other methods, both among his own people and the world, to show his dislike of sin: nor does this act intend the destruction of the power and dominion of sin, in regeneration; this is the work of the Spirit, and is done in our flesh, and not in the flesh of Christ; but it is to be understood of the condemnation and punishment of sin, in the person of Christ: sin was laid on him by the Father, and he voluntarily took it upon himself; justice finding it there, charges him with it, demands satisfaction, and condemns him for it; and hereby sin was expiated, the pardon of it procured, and it was, entirely done away: now this is said to be done "for sin"; some join the phrase with the former part of the text, either with the word "sending", and take the sense to be, that God sent his Son for, or on the account of sin, to take it away, and save his people from it; or "with sinful flesh", which was taken from a sinful person; but it stands best as it does in our version, and may be rendered "of sin"; for God condemned sin of sin in Christ, that is, by the vengeance he took of it, in the strictness of his justice, through the sufferings of his Son, he showed sin to be exceeding sinful indeed; or rather "by sin"; that is, by an offering for sin, so the word is used in Hebrews 10:6; and answers to in Psalm 40:6, by being made which, sin was condemned "in the flesh" of Christ, who was put to death in the flesh, "for" the sins of his people, and bore all the punishment due unto them: from hence we learn the evil of sin, the strictness of justice, and the grace of the Redeemer.

(u) Zohar in Lev. fol. 3. 2. (w) Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 4. 4. & 9. 4.

{4} For what the law {f} could not do, in that it was weak through the {g} flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of {h} sinful flesh, and for {i} sin, {k} condemned sin in the flesh:

(4) He does not use an argument here, but expounds the mystery of sanctification, which is imputed to us: because, he says, the power of the law was not such (and that by reason of the corruption of our nature) that it could make man pure and perfect, and because it rather kindled the flame of sin than put it out and extinguish it, therefore God clothed his Son with flesh just like our sinful flesh, in which he utterly abolished our corruption, that being accounted thoroughly pure and without fault in him, apprehended and laid hold of by faith, we might be found to fully have the singular perfection which the law requires, and therefore that there might be no condemnation in us.

(f) Which is not the fault of the law, but is due to our fault.

(g) In man when he is not born again, whose disease the law could point out, but it could not heal it.

(h) Of man's nature which is corrupt through sin, until Christ sanctified it.

(i) To abolish sin in our flesh.

(k) Showed that sin has no right to be in us.

Romans 8:3. An illustration justifying the ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἠλευθ. κ.τ.λ., just asserted, by a description of the powerfully effective actual arrangement, which God has made for the accomplishment of what to the law was impossible.

τὸ γὰρ ἀδύνατον τοῦ νόμου is an absolute nominative, prefixing a judgment on the following κατέκρινε κ.τ.λ. “For the impossible thing of the law

God condemned,” etc. That is, God condemned sin in the flesh, which was a thing of impossibility on the part of the law. See Krüger, § 57. 10, 12. Comp. also Hebrews 8:1, and on Luke 21:6; Wis 16:17; Kühner, II. 1, p. 42. It could only be accusative, if we should assume a general verb (like ἐποίησε) out of what follows, which would, however, be an arbitrary course (in opposition to the view of Erasmus, Luther, and others). The prefixing τ. γ. ἀδύν. τ. ν. has rhetorical emphasis, in contrast with the ἐν Χ. . in Romans 8:2. Comp. Dissen, ad Pind. Pyth. iv. 152. On the genitive, comp. Epist. ad Diogn. 9 : τὸ ἀδύνατον τῆς ἡμετέρας φύσεως, what our nature could not do. By a harsh hyperbaton Th. Schott takes a sense out of the passage, which it does not bear: because the impotence of the law became still weaker through the flesh. Erroneous is also Hofmann’s view: “the impotence of the law lay or consisted therein, that it was weak through the flesh.” The abstract sense of “powerlesness,” or incapacity, is not borne by τὸ ἀδύνατον at all; but it indicates that which the subject (here the νόμος) is not in a position for, what is impossible to it. See especially Plat. Hipp. maj. p. 295 E; comp. Romans 9:22; Xen. Hist. i. 4. 6 : ἀπὸ τοῦ τῆς πόλεως δυνατοῦ, i.e. from what the city is in a position to tender. Moreover, since the words taken independently, with Hofmann, would only contain a preparatory thought for what follows, Paul would not have had asyndetically ὁ Θεός, but must have proceeded by a marking of the contrast, consequently with ὁ δὲ Θεός; so that these words, down to κατὰ πνεῦμα in Romans 8:4, would still have been in connection with γάρ. And even apart from this, the supplying of the substantive verb would at most only have been indicated for the reader in the event of the proposition having been a general one with ἐστί understood, and consequently if ἀσθενεῖ, and not ἨΣΘΈΝΕΙ, were read.

ἘΝ ᾯ ἨΣΘ. ΔΙᾺ Τ. ΣΑΡΚ.] because it was weak (unable to condemn sin) through the flesh, as is described in chap. 7. On ἐν ᾧ, comp. 1 Corinthians 4:4; John 16:30; Winer, p. 362 [E. T. 484]. It is our causal in that; διὰ τ. σαρκ. is the cause bringing about the ἠσθένει: through the reacting influence of the flesh, Romans 7:18 ff.

ὁ Θεὸς τὸν ἑαυτοῦ κ.τ.λ.] God has, by the fact that He sent His own Son in the likeness (see on Romans 1:23) of sinful flesh, and on account of sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that is, “God has deposed sin from its rule in the σάρξ (its previous sphere of power), thereby that He sent His own Son into the world in a phenomenal existence similar to the sinful corporeo-psychical human nature.”

The participle ΠΈΜΨΑς is not an act that preceded the κατέκρινε (Hofmann, referring it to the supernatural birth); on the contrary, God has effected the ΚΑΤΆΚΡΙΣΙς in and with the having sent the Son. Respecting this use of the aorist participle, comp. on Acts 1:24; Ephesians 1:5; Romans 4:20.

ἑαυτοῦ] strengthens the relation to ἘΝ ὉΜ. ς. ἉΜ., and so enhances the extraordinary and energetic character of the remedial measure adopted by God. Comp. Romans 8:32. We may add, that in the case of ἙΑΥΤΟῦ, as in that of ΠΈΜΨΑς (comp. Galatians 4:4) and ἘΝ ὉΜ. ς. ἉΜ. (comp. Php 2:7), the conception of the pre-existence and metaphysical Sonship of Christ is to be recognised (in opposition to Hofmann); so that the previous ΜΟΡΦῊ ΘΕΟῦ forms the background, although, in that case, the supernatural generation is by no means a necessary presupposition (comp. on Romans 1:3 f.). See generally, Ernesti, Urspr. d. Sünde, I. p. 235 ff.; Weiss, bibl. Theol. p. 317.

ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας] in the likeness of sinful flesh; ἁμαρτ. is the genitive of quality, as in Romans 6:6. He might indeed have come ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ, Php 2:6. But no: God so sent His own Son, that He appeared in a form of existence which resembled the fleshly human nature affected by sin. The ἐν indicates in what material mode of appearance God caused His sent Son to emerge. He came in flesh (1 John 4:2), and was manifested in flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). Yet He appeared not in sinful flesh, which is otherwise the bodily phenomenal nature of all men. Moreover, His appearance was neither merely bodily, without the ψυχή (Zeller), which, on the contrary, necessarily belongs to the idea of the σάρξ; nor docetic (Krehl; comp. Baur’s Gesch. d. 3. erst. Jahrh. p. 310), which latter error was already advanced by Marcion; but it consisted of the general bodily material of humanity, to which, however, in so far as the latter was of sinful quality, it was not equalized, but—because without that quality—only conformed. Comp. Php 2:7; Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 4:15. The contrast presupposed in the specially chosen expression is not the heavenly spirit-nature of Christ (Pfleiderer)—to which the mere ἐν σαρκί, or ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπου, as in Php 2:7, would have corresponded—but rather holy unsinfulness.

The following κ. περὶ ἁμαρτ. adds to the How of the sending (ἐν ὁμ. σαρκ. ἁμαρτ.) the Wherefore. The emphasis is accordingly on περί: and for sin, on account of sin,—which is to be left in its generality; for the following κατέκρινε κ.τ.λ. brings out something special, which God has done with reference to the ἁμαρτία by the fact that He sent Christ περὶ ἁμαρτίας. We are therefore neither to refer περὶ ἁμαρτ., which affirms by what the sending of the Son was occasioned, exclusively to the expiation (Origen, Calvin, Melancthon, and many others, including Koppe, Böhme, Usteri; comp. Baumgarten-Crusius), in which case θυσίαν (Leviticus 7:37 al.; Psalm 40:6; Hebrews 10:6; Hebrews 10:18) was supplied; nor, with Theophylact, Castalio, and others, also Maier and Bisping, exclusively to the destruction and doing away of sin. It contains rather the whole category of the relations in which the sending of Christ was appointed to stand to human sin, which included therefore its expiation as well as the breaking of its power. The latter, however, is thereupon brought into prominence, out of that general category, by κατέκρινε κ.τ.λ. as the element specially coming into view. Hilgenfeld, in his Zeitschr. 1871, p. 186 f., erroneously, as regards both the language and the thought (since Christ was the real atoning sacrifice, Romans 3:25), makes καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτ., which latter he takes in the sense of sin-offering, also to depend on ἐν ὁμοιώματι.

κατέκρινε τ. ἁμ.] This condemnation of sin (the latter conceived as principle and power) is that which was impossible on the part of the law, owing to the hindrance of the flesh. It is erroneous, therefore, to take it as: “He exhibited sin as worthy of condemnation” (Erasmus, de Dieu, Eckermann), and: “He punished sin” (Castalio, Pareus, Carpzov, and others, including Koppe, Rückert, Usteri; comp. Olshausen, and Köstlin in the Jahrb. f. Deutsche Theol. 1856, p. 115). Impossible to the law was only such a condemnation of sin, as should depose the latter from the sway which it had hitherto maintained; consequently: He made sin forfeit its dominion. This de facto judicial condemnation (a sense which, though with different modifications in the analysis of the idea conveyed by κατέκρ., is retained by Irenaeus, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Valla, Beza, Piscator, Estius, Bengel, Reiche, Köllner, Winzer, Fritzsche, Baur, Krehl, de Wette, Maier, Umbreit, Ewald, and others) is designated by κατέκρινε, without our modifying its verbal meaning into interfecit (Grotius, Reiche, Glöckler, and others), in connection with which Fritzsche finds this death of the ἁμαρτία presented as mors imaginaria, contained in the physical death of Christ. Various expositors, and even Philippi, mix up the here foreign idea of atonement (“to blot out by atoning”); comp. also Tholuck and Hofmann. The expression ΚΑΤΈΚΡΙΝΕ is purposely chosen in reference to κατάκριμα in Romans 8:1, but denotes the actual condemnation, which consisted in the dominion of the ἁμαρτία being done away,—its power was lost, and therewith God’s sentence was pronounced upon it, as it were the staff broken over it. Comp. on John 16:11; and see Hofmann’s Schriftb. II. 1, p. 355, and Th. Schott, p. 286. Yet Hofmann now discovers God’s actual condemnation of sin (“the actual declaration that it is contrary to what is on His part rightful, that it should have man like a bond-serf under its control”) in the emancipation of those who are under sin by bestowal of the Spirit,—a view by which what follows is anticipated, and that which is the divine aim of the κατέκρινε is included in the notion of it.

Observe further the thrice-repeated ἁμαρτία; the last alone, however, which personifies sin as a power, has the article.

ἘΝ Τῇ ΣΑΡΚΊ] belongs to ΚΑΤΈΚΡ., not to ΤῊΥ ἉΜ. (Bengel, Ernesti, Michaelis, Cramer, Rosenmüller, and Hofmann), because it is not said ΤῊΝ ἘΝ Τ. ς., and because this more precise definition, to complete the notion of the object, would be self-evident and unimportant. But God condemned sin in the flesh: for, by the fact that God’s own Son (over whom, withal, sin could have no power) appeared in the flesh, and indeed περὶ ἁμαρτίας, sin has lost its dominion in the substantial human nature (hitherto ruled over by it). The Lord’s appearance in flesh, namely, was at once, even in itself, for sin the actual loss of its dominion as a principle; and the aim of that appearance, περὶ ἁμαρτίας, which was attained through the death of Christ, brought upon sin that loss with respect to its totality. Thus, by the two facts, God has actually deprived it of its power in the human σάρξ; and this phenomenal nature of man, therefore, has ceased to be its domain. Hofmann, without reason, objects that Τ. ἉΜΑΡΤ. must in that case have stood before κατέκρινε. The main emphasis, in fact, lies on ΚΑΤΈΚΡΙΝΕ Τ. ἉΜΑΡΤ., to which then ἘΝ Τ. ΣΑΡΚΊ is added, with the further emphasis of a reference to the causal connection. Many others take ἘΥ Τ. ΣΑΡΚΊ as meaning the body of Christ; holding that in this body put to death sin has been put to death at the same time (Origen, Beza, Grotius, Reiche, Usteri, Olshausen, Maier, Bisping, and others); or that the punishment of sin has been accomplished on His body (Heumann, Michaelis, Koppe, and Flatt). But against this it may be urged, that plainly ἐυ τ. σαρκί corresponds deliberately to the previous ΔΙᾺ Τ. ΣΑΡΚΌς; there must have been ΑὐΤΟῦ used along with it. Comp. Baur, neutest. Theol. p. 160 f.Romans 8:3. He now explains how this was done. It was not done by the law: that is the first point. If τὸ ἀδύνατον is active (= “the inability” of the law) we must suppose that Paul meant to finish the sentence, “was overcome,” or “was removed” by God. If it is passive (= “that which is impossible” for the law), we must suppose he meant to finish it, “was achieved” or “accomplished” by God. There is really no way of deciding whether ἀδύνατον is active or passive, and the anacoluthon makes it impossible to tell what construction Paul had in his mind, i.e., whether ἀδύνατον is nominative or accusative. For the best examination of the grammar see S. and H. ἐν ᾧ probably refers to ἀδύνατον: the point at which the law was impotent, in which it was weak through the flesh. This is better than to render ἐν ᾧ “in that,” or “because”. For the meaning cf. Romans 7:18. What the law could not do, God did by sending τὸν ἑαυτοῦ υἱὸν His own Son. With the coming of so great a Person, uniquely related to God (for this is implied both here and in Romans 8:32, as contrasted with Romans 8:14), a new saving power entered the world. God sent His Son ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας. The connection implies that sending Him thus was in some way related to the end to be secured. But what do the words mean? ὁμοίωμα occurs in Romans 1:23; Romans 5:14; Romans 6:5, and also in Php 2:7. This last passage, in which Christ is described as ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος, is the one which is most akin to Romans 8:3, and most easily illustrates it. There must have been a reason why Paul wrote in Philippians ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθ. γενόμενος instead of ἄνθρωπος γενόμενος, and it may well have been the same reason which made him write here ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας instead of ἐν σαρκὶ ἁμαρτὶας. He wishes to indicate not that Christ was not really man, or that His flesh was not really what in us is σάρξ ἁμαρτίας, but that what for ordinary men is their natural condition is for this Person only an assumed condition (Holtzmann, N.T. Theol., ii., 74). But the emphasis in ὁμοίωμα is on Christ’s likeness to us, not His unlikeness; “flesh of sin” is one idea to the Apostle, and what he means by it is that God sent His Son in that nature which in us is identified with sin. This was the “form” (and “form” rather than “likeness” is what ὁμοίωμα signifies) in which Christ appeared among men. It does not prejudice Christ’s sinlessness, which is a fixed point with the Apostle ab initio; and if any one says that it involves a contradiction to maintain that Christ was sinless, and that He came in a nature which in us is identified with sin, it may be pointed out that this identification does not belong to the essence of our nature, but to its corruption, and that the uniform teaching of the N.T. is that Christ is one with us—short of sin. The likeness and the limitation of it (though the former is the point here urged) are equally essential in the Redeemer. But God sent His Son not only ἐν ὁμ. σ. . but καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας. These words indicate the aim of the mission. Christ was sent in our nature “in connection with sin”. The R.V. renders “as an offering for sin”. This is legitimate, for περὶ ἁμαρτίας is used both in the LXX (Leviticus 4:33 and passim, Psalm 40:6, 2 Chronicles 29:24) and in the N.T. (Hebrews 10:6; Hebrews 10:8) in the sense of “sin-offering” (usually answering to Heb. חַטָּאת, but in Isaiah 53:10 to אָשָׁם); but it is not formally necessary. But when the question is asked, In what sense did God send His Son “in connection with sin”? there is only one answer possible. He sent Him to expiate sin by His sacrificial death. This is the centre and foundation of Paul’s gospel (Romans 3:25 ff.), and to ignore it here is really to assume that he used the words καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας (which have at least sacrificial associations) either with no meaning in particular, or with a meaning alien to his constant and dearest thoughts. Weiss says it is impossible to think here of expiating sin, because only the removal of the power of sin belongs to the context. But we cannot thus set the end against the means; the Apostle’s doctrine is that the power of sin cannot be broken except by expiating it, and that is the very thing he teaches here. This fixes the meaning and the reference of κατέκρινεν. It is sometimes interpreted as if Christ were the subject: “Christ by His sinless life in our nature condemned sin in that nature,” i.e., showed that it was not inevitable, and in so doing gave us hope; and this sense of “condemned” is supported by reference to Matthew 12:41 f. But the true argument (especially according to the analogy of that passage) would rather be, “Christ by His sinless life in our nature condemned our sinful lives, and left us inexcusable and without hope”. The truth is, we get on to a wrong track if we ignore the force of περὶ ἁμαρτίας, or fail to see that God, not Christ, is the subject of κατέκρινεν. God’s condemnation of sin is expressed in His sending His Son in our nature, and in such a connection with sin that He died for it—i.e., took its condemnation upon Himself. Christ’s death exhibits God’s condemnation of sin in the flesh. ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ is to be construed with κατέκρινεν: the flesh—that in which sin had reigned—was also that in Which God’s condemnation of sin was executed. But Paul does not mean that by His sinless life in our nature Christ had broken the power of sin at one point for the human race; he means that in the death of His own Son, who had come in our nature to make atonement for sin, God had pronounced the doom of sin, and brought its claims and its authority over man to an end. This is the only interpretation which does not introduce elements quite alien to the Apostle’s mode of thought.3. what the law could not do] Lit. the Impossible of the Law. What was this? The answer lies in Romans 8:4. The Law could not procure the “fulfilment” of its own “legal claim;” could not make its subjects “live after the Spirit.” This was beyond its power, as it was never within its scope: it had to prescribe duty, not to supply motive.—Here, obviously, the Law is the Moral Code; just alluded to as inseparably connected with sin and death in its effects (apart from Redemption) on fallen man.

in that it was weak] Better, in which it was weak. It was “weak” (i.e. “powerless,” in fact,) “in its impossibility” (see last note); in the direction, in the matter, of producing holiness of soul.

through the flesh] The construction is instrumental; the flesh was, as it were, the instrument by which sin made the Law powerless to sanctify.—Observe how St Paul here again (as in Romans 7:7, &c.) guards the honour of the Law; laying the whole blame of the failure on the subject with which it deals.—On “the flesh” see below, on Romans 8:4.

God] Not in antithesis to “the Law,” which, equally with grace, is from Him. The antithesis to the Law here is the whole idea of the Gift and Work of His Son.

his own Son] So Romans 8:32; though the Gr. is not precisely identical. In both places the emphasis is on the Divine nearness and dearness between the Giver and the Given One. The best commentary is such passages as John 1:1; John 1:18; Colossians 1:13-20; Hebrews 1:1-4.

in the likeness of sinful flesh] Lit. in the likeness of the flesh of sin; i.e. of the flesh which is, in us, inseparably connected with sin. The Apostle is careful not to say “in sinful flesh;” for “in Him was no sin” as to His whole sacred being. But neither does he say “the likeness of flesh,” which might seem to mean that the flesh was unreal. The Eternal Son took real “flesh,” (John 1:14; Romans 9:5; Colossians 1:22; &c., &c.;) and it was “like” to our “flesh of sin” in that it was liable to all such needs and infirmities as, not sinful in themselves, are to us occasions of sinning. He felt the strain of those conditions which, in us, lead to sin. See Hebrews 4:15.—This is kept in view here (by the phrase “flesh of sin”) because the victory over sin in its own stronghold is in question.

and for sin] The Gr. preposition is one specially used in sacrificial connexions in LXX. Sin-offerings are frequently there called “for-sins,” (to translate literally). So in the quotation Hebrews 10:8.—We are prepared for a sacrificial phrase here, not only by the idea of Substitution so often before us in the previous chapters, but by the explicit passage Romans 3:25.

condemned sin] i.e. in act: He did judgment upon it. Perhaps the ideas of disgrace and deposition are both in the phrase: the sacrifice of the Incarnate Son both exposed the malignity of sin and procured the breaking of its power. But the idea of executed penalty is at least the leading one: Christ as the Sin-offering bore “the curse;” (see Galatians 3:13;) sin, in His blessed humanity, (representing our “flesh of sin,”) was punished; and this, (as is immediately shewn,) with a view to our deliverance from the power of sin, both by bringing to new light the love and loveliness of God, and by meriting the gift of the Holy Ghost to make the sight effectual. (See ch. Romans 5:1; Romans 5:5.)

in the flesh] i.e. in our flesh as represented by the flesh of Christ; our sinful by His sinless flesh.—Meyer and others take the words as = “in humanity in its material aspect.” But through this passage the idea of the flesh is an idea connected with evil: even the Lord’s flesh is “in the likeness of the flesh of sin;” and St Paul goes on at once to the hopeless antagonism of the flesh and the Spirit. It seems consistent then to refer the word here, in some sense, to the unregenerate state and element in man; to man, in fact, as unregenerate. On man as such the doom of sin behoved to fall: but in his place it was borne by his Representative, who, to do so, behoved to come “in the flesh;” “in the likeness of sinful flesh;” with that about Him, as part of His being, which in us is unregenerate and calls for doom. Thus the idea is of substitutionary penalty; fallen man’s sinfulness was punished, but in the incarnate Manhood of the Son.Romans 8:3. Τὸ) This word has the force of an adjective [or epithet], to be simply explained thus: God has accomplished the condemnation of sin, which was beyond the power of the law; God condemned sin in the flesh (a thing which the law could not do, namely, condemn sin, while the sinner is saved). Τὸ ἀδύνατον, what was impossible, has an active signification in this passage; and the paraphrase of Luther is according to the meaning of the apostle.—See Wolfii Cur. on this place.—τοῦ νόμου) of the law, not only ceremonial, but also moral; for if the moral law were without this impossible [impossibility of condemning sin, yet saving the sinner], there would have been no need that the Son of God should have been sent. Furthermore, the word impossible, a privation [of something once held], supposes that the thing was previously possessed: formerly the law was able to afford righteousness and life, ch. Romans 7:10. Hence it is that man so willingly follows the traces of that first path even after the fall.—ἑαυτοῦ) ἴδιον, Romans 8:32. His own, over whom sin and death had no power.—πέμψας, sending) This word denotes a sort of separation, as it were, or estrangement of the Son from the Father, that He might be the Mediator.—ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας, in the likeness of the flesh of sin [sinful flesh]) The construction is with κατέκρινε, condemned [not as Engl. Vers. His own Song of Solomon in the likeness of sinful flesh]. We, along with our flesh, utterly tainted as it was with sin, ought to have been consigned to death; but God, in the likeness of that flesh (for justice required the likeness), that is, in the flesh of His own Son, which was real and at the same time holy, and (that too) for sin, condemned that sin (which was) in (our) flesh,[86] that we might be made free; ἐν [before ὉΜΟΙΏΜΑΤΙ] is construed with condemned, compare by, ch. Romans 7:4 [Dead by (διὰ) the body of Christ].—ΠΕΡῚ ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑς ΤῊΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑΝ, for sin, sin) The substantive is here repeated, as in Luke 11:17, note, when the house is divided, the house falls. But the figure ploce[87] is here added, as is indicated by the use of the article only in the latter place [on the second employment of the word ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑ]. These two terms mutually refer to one another, as do the words the likeness of flesh and flesh, περὶ, for: περὶ ἁμαρτίας is equivalent to a noun, as in Psalms 40 (39):6; Hebrews 10:6; Hebrews 10:8. But here, in the epistle to the Romans, I explain it thus: God condemned sin on this account, because it is sin. Sin was condemned as sin. So sin is put twice in the same signification (not in a double signification as happens in an antanaclasis), but the article τὴν adds an epitasis.[88]—ΚΑΤΈΚΡΙΝΕ, condemned) took away, finished, put an end to, destroyed all its strength, deprived sin of its power (compare the word impossible above [What the law was powerless to do, God had power to do, and deprived the law and sin of their power]—sin which was laid on the Son of God. For the execution of the sentence also follows the condemnation of sin. It is the opposite of the expression to justify, Romans 8:1; ch. Romans 5:18, and 2 Corinthians 3:9.

[86] God condemned that sin, which was in our flesh, in the likeness of that sinful flesh, [i.e. in His incarnate Son,] and that too, for sin.

[87] See Appendix. The same word repeated, once expressing the simple idea of the word, next expressing an attribute of it.

[88] See Appendix. Epitasis, when to a word, which has been previously used, there is added, on its being used again, some word augmenting its force.Verse 3. - For what the Law could not do (this is certainly what is meant by τὸ ἀδύνατον τοῦ νόμου), in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in likeness of flesh of sin, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. The Law could not deliver from the domination of sin; it was weak for such a purpose (cf. Hebrews 7:18, 19) but this not through any defect in itself but as having to work through our sinful flesh which refused obedience. And it was not the office of law to regenerate; it could only command and threaten. Hence the deliverance came, and could only come, from God himself (and this in accordance with the grand idea of the whole Epistle, expressed by the phrase, "the righteousness of God"); and so he sent his own Son (i.e. his Son essentially - in a sense in which none of us can be called sons, himself Divine. The whole drift of the passage, as well as ἑαυτοῦ, requires this conception); and he sent him into the very sphere of things that required redemption, that by actual participation in it he might personally redeem it; for he sent him in likeness of our "flesh of sin." It is not said in flesh of sin; for that might imply sin in Christ's individual humanity: but, on the other hand, "in likeness" (ἐν ὁμοιώματι) does not imply docetism, as though Christ's humanity were not real; for stress is evidently laid on the fact that it was in our actual human flesh that he "condemned" sin. The phrase appears to mean the same as what is expressed in Hebrews 2:17 and Hebrews 4:15: Ὤφειλε κατὰ πάντα τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ὁμοιωθῆναι, and Πεπειραμένον κατὰ πὰντα κααθ ὁμοιότητα χαρὶς ἁμαρτίας. The addition of περὶ ἀμαρτίας "adds to the how the wherefore" (Meyer). Both this and the preceding expression are most naturally and intelligibly connected with τέμψας; not, as some say, with κατέκρινε. Περὶ comes suitably after the former verb, as denoting the occasion and purpose of the sending (cf. προσένεγκε περὶ τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ, Luke 5:14). In Hebrews 10:8 (quoting from Psalm 40:7 in the LXX.) we find θυσίαν καὶ προσφορὰν καὶ ὁλοκαυτώματα καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας, where the expression signifies offerings for sin; and in Hebrews 10:18 we have προσφορὰ περὶ ἁμαρτίας. The correspondence of phrase here suggests decidedly the idea of the purpose of atonement being intended to be expressed by it, though it does not follow that περὶ ἁμαρτίας is used here substantively as it seems to be in Hebrews 10:8. But in what sense are we to understand condemned (κατέκρινε) sin? We observe first that the verb appears to be suggested by κατάκριμα in ver. 1, the connection being that formerly sin condemned us, but now sin itself has been condemned; that is (as Meyer expresses it), deposed from its rule in the flesh - "jure sue dejectum" (Calvin). (Perhaps similarly, John 16:11, ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου κέκριται.) One view of the force of κατέκρινε (found in Origen, and taken by Erasmus and others), that it denotes the punishment of sin endured by Christ vicariously on the cross, is not only not obvious, but inconsistent also with τὸ ἀδύνετον τοῦ νόμου preceding; for what the Law could not do, was not to punish sin, but to deliver from it. Nor is there, further, anything in the language used to confine the condemnation of sin, in whatever sense intended, to the atonement made for it on the cross itself. It was in the whole mission of the Saviour (expressed by πέμψας) that sin was "condemned;" and the idea may include his triumph over it in his human life no less than the penalty paid for it on the cross in behalf of man. "In the flesh" (connected with condemned, not with sin) does not mean Christ's own flesh, but human nature generally. He represented man, having become for our sake the Soul of man; and we share his triumph over sin, made in our very human flesh, when we are baptized into his death, and become thereupon partakers of his resurrection. This idea, ever present to St. Paul's mind, is expressed in the next verse, where our own appropriation of the condemnation of sin in Christ is declared. What the law could not do (τὸ ἀδύνατον τοῦ νόμου)

Lit., the impossible (thing) of the law. An absolute nominative in apposition with the divine act - condemned sin. God condemned sin which condemnation was an impossible thing on the part of the law. The words stand first in the Greek order for emphasis.

In the likeness of sinful flesh

Lit., of the flesh of sin. The choice of words is especially noteworthy. Paul does not say simply, "He came in flesh" (1 John 4:2; 1 Timothy 3:16), for this would not have expressed the bond between Christ's manhood and sin. Not in the flesh of sin, which would have represented Him as partaking of sin. Not in the likeness of flesh, since He was really and entirely human; but, in the likeness of the flesh of sin: really human, conformed in appearance to the flesh whose characteristic is sin, yet sinless. "Christ appeared in a body which was like that of other men in so far as it consisted of flesh, and was unlike in so far as the flesh was not flesh of sin" (Dickson).

For sin (περὶ ἁμαρτίας)

The preposition expresses the whole relation of the mission of Christ to sin. The special relation is stated in condemned. For sin - to atone, to destroy, to save and sanctify its victims.


Deposed from its dominion, a thing impossible to the law, which could pronounce judgment and inflict penalty, but not dethrone. Christ's holy character was a condemnation of unholiness. Construe in the flesh with condemned.

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