Sinful Flesh Vs. Carnal Nature--Part 2

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In Post #13 we examined the first of a two phase climax to the reign of sin and death relating to our inheritance of the flesh--the "reign of sin and death." This post will examine the more sensitive, second phase which corresponds to the repeated focus in 5:12-21 on the "much more" "abounding" "grace of God, and the gift of His grace" in the reign of Christ.

Key verses from that passage will introduce Paul's cli- mactic explanation in 8:3 of what makes the triumphant reign of grace possible:

5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

It is here evident that the reign of death began with Adam. The question debated for centuries is whether or not his sin was divinely imputed on all mankind. The preceding verses deny divine imputation in two ways:

5:12-13 Wherefore as by one man's sin, death entered into the world and death by sin, so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (For un- til the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

Paul first identifies the cause of universal sin: "death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." He then declares that "sin is not imputed where there is no law. In the context of several prior verses it is clear that this means God holds no one accountable for sin unless he is accountable for choosing to sin against known law.

That sin is not divinely imputed where there is not law, removes the argument of divine universally imputation of sin as countered by universal divine imputed righteous- ness. Moreover, several verses in this passage place the imputation of righteousness in the future--which verse 18 fits perfectly when the inserted words are removed:

5:17-19 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

So then, as through one offense (it was) toward all men to condemnation, so also by one accomplished right- eousness towards all men to justification of life. (Green's Greek translation)

For as by one man's disobedience many were made sin- ners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Note the future tenses in the grace clauses in Verses 17 & 19. Moreover, the "much more" is limited "they who receive abund- ance of grace and of the gift of righteousness."

5:20-21 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Meanwhile, all of chapters 6 and 7 continue the theme here introduced of the conflict between the reign of the flesh and that of the Spirit, which climaxes in:

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death. I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord (7:24-25).

"The body of this death" refers to the flesh inherited from Adam. Deliverance is "through Jesus Christ," the second Adam:

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (8:2).

In the latter verses of Chapter 7 Paul's focus was upon "the law of sin and death." Here the focus shifts to a focus on "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus."

Thus, we have two reigns and two laws governing those reigns. No wonder in chapter 5 Paul emphasized "much more" in referring to the power of grace over sin. For "the law of the Spirit" makes us "free from the law of sin and death."

But on what basis can "the law of the Spirit" free those who have chosen to sin and are slaves to sin, doomed to die? Paul here presents the most astounding answer. Be- cause of the hopelessness of the entire race, God Himself chose to take that flesh which had for thousands of years reigned over every son of Adam for the purpose of breaking that reign and becoming a second Adam to restore the reign of righteousness not only in the hearts of believers, but over the entire world"--thus the future tenses in Chapter 5.

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:

If conflict over 5:18 has produced a storm, this passage has produced a tornado, as a result of very different understandings. We will consider the theo- logical meaning in post #15, but here let us note that this passage continues the flesh versus Spirit theme that persists and intensifies.

Paul has just dramatized his own inability to break the "reign of sin" via his own hereditary nature of flesh--which reproduces only after its own sinful kind.

In this extended context Paul declares that God sent "His own Son in the likeness of [the] sinful flesh" Paul has just described for the purpose of destroying its reign by condemning "sin in the flesh:

8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be ful- filled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

By His incarnation Christ broke the enslaving reign of sin in the flesh, making it possible "that the right- eousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh" but choose to enter into Christ by faith and thus be free to walk "after the Spirit."

Paul then again declares the mutually exclusive nature of the two reigns:

8:5-8 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded [is] death; but to be spiritually minded [is] life and peace. Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not sub- ject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

But, in this triumphant chapter the spot light quickly shifts back to focus on victory through Christ via the Spirit.

8:9-10 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ [be] in you, the body [is] dead because of sin; but the Spirit [is] life because of righteousness.

When we "reckon [ourselves] dead indeed unto sin" and "receive abundance of grace and of the gift of His right- eousness" (5:17) as mediated by the Holy Spirit, we are set free to "walk in the Spirit" (8:1-2).

But note the two-fold condition: Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ remain in bondage; while only as we die to the impulses of the body will Christ be in us. Freedom from the reign of sin and death is guaran- teed only on this condition.

8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Paul will come back to this promise of transformation of our bodies (see 1 Cor 15:51-56) a few verses later. This relates to the future tense used in 5:12-21 for the "reign in life by one, Jesus Christ" (5;17). For it looks forward to the full establishment of the second Adam's kingdom in the earth made new.

Meantime, Paul again emphasizes the need to repudiate the authority of the flesh and live by "mortify[ing] the deeds of the body":

8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

Chapter 6 has focused upon baptism, with death, burial, and resurrection in the Spirit as the basis for enter- ing the reign of grace. This same transition has been presented in 3:21 to 5:21 with the analogy of justi- fication. Chapter 8 introduces yet another analogy to symbolize transfer from the reign of sin and death to that of grace and righteousness leading to eternal life:

8:14-15 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

Adoption as sons. Only sons are "in Christ" as the new head of the human race. Paul thus uses many analogies to express different facets of the same truth. He portrays entry into Christ by: justification, by the new birth, adop- tion. All these are analogies also portray transfer from slavery in the reign of sin and death as a result of inher- iting the nature of the first Adam by the natural birth, to the reign of freedom in the second Adam, in Whom we inherit all the promises of grace and life.

Post #15 will deal with theological issues involved in the nature of Christ.