There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.…
The last chapter, after bringing out the insufficiency of Law to sanctify, ends by declaring the sufficiency of Christ. Through him, as our Deliverer from the body of death, we are enabled to enter upon an experience which has been rightly denominated "Paradise regained." In the first section, which we are now to consider, we have the victory set before us which the Holy Spirit secures over sin and over death.
I. THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST ESTABLISHES THE SOUL IN HOLINESS. (Vers. 1-4.) After what has been stated in ch. 7., it is seen that "there is not now any condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." The soul has died to Law in the death of Jesus Christ, and, now risen, is married to another, even the risen Christ. And this better Husband has put the soul under another and better law of life, what is called in this passage "the law of the Spirit of life," and we are enabled by Paul's statements to see how it operates. And here it is well to premise that law and Spirit are not antitheses. The Spirit has, in fact, his law of operation, and it is this we have here set before us.
1. The Spirit emancipates the soul from the law of sin. Law, that is, the Law of Moses, could never do this. It was weak through the flesh, and had not the necessary power. On the other hand, the Spirit takes Christ's life, applies it, and produces the emancipation through it. The grace of God is seen in "sending his own Son," that is, "the Son of himself;" and he made his advent "in the likeness of sinful flesh," that is, he came not as an apparition, but in a real body, yet it differed from other human bodies in that it was not "sinful flesh." And his purpose in assuming sinless flesh was that he might be "an Offering for sin" (Revised Version), and thereby might "condemn sin in the flesh." His whole life in the flesh was, indeed, a condemnation of sin; but the condemnation reached its climax when on the cross Jesus expiated human guilt. As a powerful writer has well stated the truth of the passage, "believers are made 'partakers of the Divine nature.' The nature of the Father through the Son is made known unto them - and as the rays of light which pass through a coloured medium take the hues of the medium through which they come, so the Spirit of God, coming to us through Christ incarnate, is baptized in the humanities of his Person, and hence becomes the Dispenser of the Divine mercy, as that mercy was revealed in the flesh. So that 'what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh [had no sympathetic power to touch the emotional nature], God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the Law [which requires love, but cannot produce it] might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
2. The Spirit enables the soul to fulfil the righteousness of the Law by walking, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. "The righteousness of the Law," in ver. 4, is given in the Revised Version as "the ordinance of the Law" (δικαίωμα, not δικαίοσυνη). But the idea is clear. The perfect life is the ideal of the Spirit. He accordingly comes to inspire as well as to condemn. He prompts us to "walk after the Spirit," in the spiritual path our Saviour trod, and so we find ourselves, through the appreciation of the life of Jesus, becoming progressively holy in character, approximating steadily towards the perfect righteousness which dwelt in him. It is this inspiration to holy living which defeats the law of sin. This is the real victory. Salvation is not so much from the uncomfortableness of hell, as from the greater misfortune of sin. As one has very properly said, "If my religion is to make me comfortable in spite of ill temper, and slipshod ways of business, and words that are not exactly true, - then I say deliberately, better the very fires of hell than that comfort, if they could only burn into me and through and through me a great abhorrence of all that is evil."
II. THROUGH DESTROYING SIN, THE SPIRIT DESTROYS DEATH. (Vers. 5-11.) For as long as we "mind the things of the flesh," that is, are occupied with them to the exclusion or subordination of spiritual things, we are, as "carnally minded," in a state of spiritual death. This "mind of the flesh is death" (so Revised Version). And when we analyze this death of the soul, we find it consists in at least these three things:
(1) Enmity to God (ver. 7);
(2) rebellion against his Law; and
(3) separation from him as those that are not pleasing in his sight (ver. 8). The result of such a state is misery. "Paradise lost" is the true expression for the carnal state. It is into this state of misery, then, that God's Spirit inserts himself, and proposes:
1. To destroy this spiritual death by destroying sin. The moment we become "spiritually minded," we have passed the boundary between "Paradise lost" and "Paradise regained." We find that both "life and peace" result from spiritual-mindedness. "Here," says De Rougemont, "we are in full life and in full peace; there is in some way upon the mountain of God the terrestrial paradise of faith and of hope; there is the sweet sun of Eden, there are its sweet shades, there are its limpid waters which murmur, there is its tree of life whose fruits are the envy of the angels, if they have not similar ones in abundance. No one before Jesus Christ had known the way and passed the portal of this garden of delight. The Son of God descended to the lowest parts of the earth, and taught the existence of it to his disciples. They were suddenly transported there on the Day of Pentecost by the impetuous breath of the Spirit of God."
2. The Spirit also proposes to destroy the mortality of the body by resurrection. Alas! at conversion we do not become immortal. The change of heart has doubtless its good effect on the body, but it does not replace a bad constitution by a good one, nor rehabilitate the body. The body remains dead because of sin, even when the spirit has become life because of righteousness. But the justified and sanctified spirit within man is not going to be perpetually chained to a dying body. The Spirit of God, who has effected the vital change within, is the Spirit who raised up Jesus from the dead. That resurrection of our Lord is the pledge of our bodily resurrection. God is not going to leave his work half-done. Having raised our dead hearts out of the grave of trespass and of sin, he is not going to leave us in a state of physical mortality. The Head having been raised, the members shall be also "resurrected." The cemeteries shall not be left as trophies of the king of terrors. They shall be despoiled of their prey by the quickening power of the Divine Spirit. God means to save his people out and out, body as well as soul. Thus our gospel is that of the Resurrection. The tree of life in the midst of Paradise regained shall prove victorious over our mortality, and we shall have conferred upon us in body as well as soul an immortality like our Master's.
"No longer must the mourners weep,
Nor call departed Christians dead
For death is hallowed into sleep,
And every grave becomes a bed.
Now once more
Open stands to mortal eyes;
For Christ hath risen, and man shall rise!
Now at last,
All things past,
Hope and joy and peace begin;
For Christ hath won, and man shall win!
It is not exile, rest on high;
It is not sadness, peace from strife;
To fall asleep is not to die;
To dwell with Christ is better life.
Where our banner leads us
We may safely go;
Where our Chief precedes us,
We may face the foe.
His right arm is o'er us,
He will guide us through;
Christ hath gone before us;
Christians! follow you!"
(John Mason Neale.) R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.