Law Compared To Grace


Mark Cowan

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.

Three laws are discussed in Romans 7-8.

There is the law of Moses, the law of sin and death, and the law of the Spirit (i.e., the gospel of Christ).

The sense in which the law of Moses was weak had been set forth in chapter seven as a backdrop to 8:1-4. The law of Moses is explicitly said not to be sinful but is said to be holy, just and good in setting forth the will of God.

Romans 7:5 shows that when the Jews were in the flesh” (i.e., indulged the desires and passions of the flesh without respect and submission to the will of God), their deeds of indulgence left them under the condemnation or sentence of spiritual death.

The law of Moses could only expose and condemn man’s sinful deeds as “exceeding sinful” but could not of itself remove the condemnation of such sin.
From that perspective, Paul cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24)

Paul showed the Jews that through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and upon our acceptance of this gift by obedience to the gospel, “the body of sin” is destroyed and we no longer live in the oppressive service of sin (Romans 6:6).

We are delivered from the law of sin and death by receiving God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ (6:23).

The Jew must not then make the mistake of returning to the law of Moses, which could only result in renewing the consciousness of sin and impending death. “But now we are delivered from the law” through the gospel of Christ (7:6).

Notice the climax to Paul’s argument:
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:1-2).

The law was “weak through the flesh” only in the sense that after making men conscious of the exceeding sinfulness of their sins in the flesh and pronouncing judgment upon their sins, it could not offer perfect forgiveness and victory over sin and death.

Since the law of Moses could not provide righteousness to sinners, “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 might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (8:3-4).

When you ponder the cross, don’t just ponder the love of Jesus rescuing us from the anger of God. Ponder the love of God rescuing us from the anger of God.

If you know Jesus, you know the Father. The heart of Jesus is the heart of the Father. Jesus is as angry at sin as the Father is. And the Father is as caring for sinners as Jesus is.

>>John 14:7-9, “‘If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.’ (8) Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ (9) Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, “Show us the Father”‘?”

So be crystal clear on this: the work of Jesus the Son of God is the work of God the Father. If you know Jesus, the Son of God, you know God the Father. If you love Jesus, the Son of God, you love God.

God did it. God condemned sin in the flesh.
And the first thing that is so relevant about that for us is that it keeps us from playing Jesus and God off against each other.
It helps us see that the Father and the Son have one heart and one mind as they take their different roles in saving us from our sin.

Jesus Christ came “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” that is, he was fully and truly man in a body of flesh with all the same desires, impulses, and temptations which are shared by all other men and which give occasion to sin. He says “likeness of sinful flesh” because he was not sinful. Jesus had no sin. His flesh was human, and it was like sinful flesh. But it was not sinful.

God’s Son thoroughly condemned and defeated sin while living in the flesh, leaving sin no quarter, no excuse, no justification, no advantage, and no victory. Therefore, those who are in Christ Jesus obtain the righteousness revealed in the law through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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