Romans 8:10, 11
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
He has said (ver. 6) that the "mind of the spirit is life." We have seen in what a large, rich sense these words are true. But it might be objected - and our special familiarity with one aspect of the meaning of "life" would lead to this - that after all, we die; that, in Solomon's language, "all things come alike to all; there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked." And at first sight this would seem to be a formidable objection. The brand of condemnation is upon us to the last: we die! Of what validity, then, is the justification through Christ? and of what reality the renewal by the Spirit? The objection is answered in these verses, in which are set forth - the persistence of death, the triumph of life.
I. THE PERSISTENCE OF DEATH. It is, indeed, true that, in spite of our justification and renewal, death seems to have dominion over us in our physical relations: "the body is dead." This needs no proving; no human fact can be more patent. We die daily, and at last yield to the final triumph of the foe. How is this reconcilable with the new life? The body is dead "because of sin," viz. the sin of the first man, our federal head. This is the sad heritage which descends to the race on account of the transgression.
1. And one main secret of the persistence of death consists in this, that mankind, in all its natural relations, is one organism. If one member suffer, the other members suffer with it. More especially do ancestral actions, entailing physical consequences, affect the condition of succeeding generations. Therefore, as above (ver. 15 of ch. 5.), "by the trespass of the one the many died." The complex unity of man's natural relations necessitated this permanent consequence to the race.
2. Yes, each one's mortality is linked on to the mortality of the race; man, by necessary natural entailment, is "born to die." But why, it may be asked, does not the individual, volitional agency by which the Christian believer is linked on to a new federation, and made partaker of the power of life, involve of equal necessity the reversal of the original cause? The answer in part is this: that, for reasons which we may or may not partially discern, in the present economy of things there is a permanence of natural causation even in spite of altered spiritual conditions. It is this principle which effectuates the ordained unity of the race, as above set forth; and the same principle involves that, not merely must each member of the race accept at birth his natural heritage, but even his own free spiritual choice and action may not, at least now, effect a change in the sequence of natural causation. This is true of such natural consequences as may have resulted from each one's individual transgressions; it is equally true of the inherited consequences of the first transgression; it is eminently true of the unique entailment of mortality.
3. And one special reason for this permanence of natural causation, in addition to the economic considerations requiring the organic unity of the race, is the necessity that man, under a process of redemptive recovery from sin, should be subjected to the chastening influence which only an experience of the evil of sin's effects can supply. Illustrate by continuance of penalty resulting from individual transgression; as, e.g., drunkenness, dishonesty. So, generally, the continuance of all the ills that flesh is heir to, on account of human sin. In this twofold sense, then, "the body is dead because of sin:" the transgression involved it as a natural consequence; also, in view of redemption, as a remedial discipline.
II. THE TRIUMPH OF LIFE. "But" - oh, what a "but" is this! - "the spirit is life because of righteousness." Observe, not living, as the body is said to be dead, i.e. not merely possessed of an attribute; but life! itself, through the inhabitation of the Spirit of God, a living power, which shall eventually penetrate with its vitality all man's psychical and even bodily nature (see Godet). All this is involved in the peculiar phraseology of the tenth verse, and is plainly set forth in the eleventh.
1. A new organic unity of the race, with its own laws of natural causation, is established in Christ. He is the second Adam, the "greater Man." And as by the "sin" of the former came death, so by the "righteousness" - the justification - which is through the latter comes life.
2. "With its own laws of natural causation:" yes; for, though we may not trace their working, they are at work, and shall eventuate in our triumph, through Christ, over even the mortality to which we now must submit. The case is complex; the two humanities are as yet commingled; the two trains of causation are jointly at work. But of the triumph of life, we have the pledge in that he was raised from the dead; himself submitted to the old law, and rose by the power of the new. "Christ the Firstfruits, afterward they that are Christ's at his coming."
3. "Afterward:" yes, when the remedial discipline shall have done its work, and from a restored world, from a renewed mankind, the curse shall be utterly removed. For this we wait, for this we work; and we do not work and wait in vain. "The Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies." Such, then, is our assurance, such is our hope. But on what is it conditioned? "If Christ be in you;" "If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you." Oh, let us hasten to him who is the Source of the new life, the Giver of the living Spirit! - T.F.L.
Parallel VersesKJV: And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.