by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 1 Study # 3 May 29, 2007 Lincolnton, N.C.
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:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
1901 ASV Translation:
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:
4 that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
I. The Grace of God.
A. The inability of The Law.
1. It faced the problem of man's bondage to Sin and Death.
2. It was not only "weak" in the face of that problem, it exacerbated it.
3. The Law's only solution to "Sin" is to penalize it. It's only "solution" to man's bondage is to threaten him with serious loss for violating it. If the motivation for obedience does not arise to the challenge through "fear", there is nothing left for the Law to "do". Law does not generate "love" and has nothing to offer in the face of man's determination to be "free". The problem with man's determination to be "free" is that it is fundamentally both impossible and high rebellion. Creatures, by definition, are incapable of being "free" and the lust for freedom is nothing more or less than the determination to "control" when there is no wisdom or strength for such control. The subtle whisper, "ye shall be as Elohim", has found a profound home in the hearts of men who have abandoned their identity as creatures of a good God.
B. The action of the Gracious God.
1. He "condemned" Sin.
a. The word "condemned" takes on a nuanced meaning in this statement. It does not mean what it typically means. The typical meaning is to relegate someone to eternal destruction, or to judge someone of being worthy of eternal destruction. The court "condemns" an accused when it determines his guilt. It also "condemns" him when it assesses the penalty for that guilt. And its condemnation is actually put into effect when the penalty is imposed upon the guilty. So, typically, "to be condemned" means all of the three; the "judgment of guilt", the "passing of sentence", and the "execution of the sentence". But, Paul's meaning in this sentence is that God "destroyed" Sin's (some thing) ability to hold men in bondage. The closest to the typical meaning here is that God "executed a sentence against Sin that effectively destroyed it's abilities to function."
b. What Paul is declaring is that God rendered "Sin" completely ineffective. He took away its ability to bring Death upon its victims.
1) There are two parts to Sin's inability to bring Death. There is the God-part where the impetus of Justice in visiting judgment upon sinners is blunted by the redemption of Jesus Christ. If God refuses to "kill", Death cannot result from Sin's productions. But, the universe cannot continue to function with Sin producing its fruit with no judgment. So, there has to be a man-part where man takes on the characteristics of Love and ceases to permit Sin to produce. At some point, and in some way, man has to be motivated to Love instead of hate. The essential aspect of the New Covenant is God's promise to remove the old, corrupt heart and to replace it with a new heart upon which the Love of God is written. Just as a leopard cannot change its spots, man cannot change his own heart, but the man-part of the equation still must come into play. By Whoever and whatever, the Love of God must come to exist in the heart of man.
2) Paul's declaration, therefore, is not merely a matter of "vicarious atonement" by which Jesus satisfies "Justice"; it must also be a matter of "human regeneration" by which man is fundamentally altered at the heart.
a) So, we may expect that Paul addresses the actual destruction of Sin by God.
b) Because there are two aspects involved, there are two statements of divine action. He sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. He sent His own Son "for" sin.
2. He "sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh".
a. In this declaration, "sinful flesh" means "post-Genesis-three-humanity". He means that God sent His own Son "in the likeness" of a humanity that had been taken into the bondage of Sin through the deceit and unbelief of "un-love". The "difference" was that the Son was in the likeness of the humanity, but was not un-loving, deceived, or unbelieving.
b. It is clear from Romans 7:11 that "Sin" begins with "deception". This was true when it erupted in the angelic realm, and it was true when the serpent brought it into the Garden. The absolute nature of this "deception" is that "personal freedom from the impositions of others" is the highest value. That is the greatest lie of all time. The truth is that God's essential nature is that of One Who is absolutely committed to addressing each and every "imposition" that others bring to the table aslongas those impositions have possible solutions. What I mean by that is this: there is a "state" where "impositions" are impossible and, when that "state" is reached, there will be no action taken by God. And what is that "state"? It is the "condition" in which a viable personality "settles" the issue of whether, or not, the impositions of others will be embraced. If they are rejected as a "settled" decision (irrevocable commitment), a line has been crossed which makes "godliness" impossible and, thus, moves the "person" beyond the grace of God. There is no redemption for angels who have sinned for one reason: they crossed a line that makes the grace of God futile. There is only one "thing" that counteracts "Sin": love. But "love" is, essentially, one thing: the determination to sacrifice for the sake of the "beloved" up to the point of no return. As long as there is no willingness to sacrifice, "Sin" is in the driver's seat.
c. But this raises this question: Why did the Son have to become "unified" with humanity? Why could God have not simply addressed the issue as "God" without the incarnation? Because God is a "tri-unity", none of the three "persons" of the Godhead "has no need" of the other two. Because of this, all three are absolutely committed to adequately addressing what the other two bring to the table without reservation or qualification. When other "personalities" were introduced into the realm of reality by "creation", two issues arose: one was the reality that personality is not "independent" and "unneedy" -- thus creating a larger pool of "needs" coming to the table; and the other was that "created personality" is "ignorant" of the essence of "love" and has to be "brought up to speed" in the "love" department if harmony and life are to exist. This is not a problem unless "deception" arises and twists the "education" process off course and makes "love" impossible. This seems to be the background reason for the "incarnation". For mankind to be "redeemed", a new "unity of multiple-personalities" had to be created to counter the old disunity of competing personalities. Apparently, this could not be accomplished without the humiliation of the Son to the level of creature. Hebrews 2:17 claims that the only way this new unity could be created was by the incarnation.
d. Since Paul has two issues to present in order for Sin to be "destroyed", we may assume that the coming of Jesus in the likeness of sinful flesh adequately addressed one of those two issues. Since sending Jesus "for" Sin has strong overtones of the issue of "vicarious atonement" (wherein Jesus makes the redemption payment), we may assume that sending Jesus in the likeness of sinful flesh is addressing the other side of the coin. Love comes out of this reality. John boldly says that we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). He also clearly records Jesus as saying that this comes about by the declaration of God's name to those whom God gave to Him (John 17:26).