Christ's Sinful Flesh Vs. Our Carnal Nature--Part 3
Our last two posts dealt with the climax of Paul's flesh versus Spirit conflict in the profound announcement that Christ took the very fleshly nature with which we are all born, but united that flesh to God by His own pre- incarnate choice. Thus he restored that flesh as a temple of the Holy Spirit.
He declared this as He began His ministry at the temple, which He announced it was His purpose to cleanse, by driving out the buyers and sellers. And the reality of His condemning "sin in the flesh" was announced as He declared:
Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up (Jn 1:19).
Paul begins his letter to the Romans by announcing the reality that Christ's physical nature was "the seed of David according to the flesh." But he also speaks of His spiritual nature "according to the Spirit" (Rom 1:3-4).
In the preceding two posts Paul first testifies to his own inability to defeat sin, according to his flesh and exclaims" "Who shall deliver me from this body of death"? (Rom 7:25) He then immediately declares the answer: "I think God by Jesus Christ our Lord." Having declared that "the law of the Spirit of life hath made me free from the law of sin and death," he then provides the key to the divine provision of victory:
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.
Examination of the flesh versus Spirit theme,implicit- ly introduced in 1:3-4 but explicitly in 5:12-21 and intensified in Chapters 6 & 7, leave little doubt that the flesh in which Christ came "to condemn sin" was the same flesh we inherit at birth.
But there is a difference. We are carnal, since we are born with our body temples disconnected from immediate direction of the Spirit, by Adam's choice to surrender his dominion to the deceiver.
Christ took the same sinful nature, but was born of the Spirit so that the flesh was restored as temple of the Spirit. Thus, Christ was never carnal and thus never had carnal thoughts.
Paul gives two reasons why Christ came in sinful flesh: to "condemn sin in the flesh (8:3)and, "That the right- eousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (8:4).
Thus the purpose of condemning sin in our "sinful flesh" was so He might offer us the Spiritual nature He developed in that nature. Paul then more fully explains the theolog- ical meaning of being "after the flesh" in contrast to being "after the Spirit":
8:5-7 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 spiritu- ally minded [is] life and peace. Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
He later changes the expression to: "in the flesh" in contrast to "in the Spirit," without change in meaning:
8:8-9 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 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.
Thus "after" or "in the flesh" means, in bondage under the reign of sin and death because powerless to resist fleshly impulses. And "after" or "in the Spirit" means to be freed from bondage to the flesh by "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [Who has] made [us] free from the law of sin and death (8:2).
8:10-11 And if Christ [be] in you, the body [is] dead because of sin; but the Spirit [is] life because of righteousness. 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 intermixes present spiritual resurrection from death to sin with future literal, physical resurrection. For the promise to Abraham to be fulfilled to all his seed involves eternal life in the earth made new. This was a focus in 5:12-21, where the reign of sin and death versus the reign grace and life is speci- fically introduced--"shall reign in life" & "shall many be made righteous" (5:17 & 19). This future focus begins in verse 9 ("shall be saved from wrath").
Paul here continues the flesh versus Spirit theme:
8:12-13 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.
We must choose between fruit of the flesh in "sin and death" and dpresent death to the "deeds of the body" so we can live.
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.
Again, contrast is made between the first birth to bondage of the flesh and the second birth--here adoption--as Sons of God via the second Adam. As Christ was born of the Spirit and was ever directed by the Spirit, so all His adopted children "are led by the Spirit."
8:16-17 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with [him], that we may be also glorified together.
Thus again, sonship and inheritance of the promises to Abraham focuses upon the resurrection, which is meant by "glorified together." And "suffer with Him" has a broader meaning, but specifically refers to death to the old man-- the flesh, a very painful process. But the ultimate result will be the transformation of the flesh itself--which will no longer reign and enforce sin and death:
8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Here again, present suffering with Christ in facing and overcoming temptation by the Spirit (see Heb 2:10 & 5:8), ultimately results in the translation/resurrection glory.
8:19-21 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected [the same] in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
The hope here for which the "creature waits" refers to the bodily resurrection at "the manifestation of the sons of God," when "this mortal [puts] on immortality" (1 Coe 15:54):
8:22-23 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only [they], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, [to wit], the redemption of our body.
Thus, the flesh (creature) itself and all of creation groan and travail under the burden of sin, along with ourselves. All wait for the "redemption of our body," at which time the bondage of sin will be forever over.
8:24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
There are many correlations between Romans 5 and Romans 8, of which I have noted only a few. But this passage is anticipated in 5:1-2:
Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By Whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Notice the three dimentsions: past, present, and future: Past justification that continues in the present, where we have continued access to "this grace wherein we stand." And we rejoice "in hope of [the future] glory of God" as we are forever freed from the presence and temptations of the "old man," whose flesh is finally purified and resurrected to immortal life.
8:25 But if we hope for that we see not, [then] do we with patience wait for [it].
We would not need hope if we already possessed immortal bodies. But it is by hope that we are saved (8:24), thus is is important that we wait patiently for that proclamation:
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments and the faith of Jesus (Rev 14:12).
Meanwhile, no matter how weak in the flesh, we need not fear; for all who choose to "walk after the Spirit" are assured that He will see them through the waiting period.
8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that search- eth the hearts knoweth what [is] the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to [the will of] God.
Since it is the will of God that we be saved, we can be assured that under the Spirit's guidance we will win the ultimate victory that will permit the flesh itself, which is also in bon- dage, to be rescued from sin and raised to immortality.
Post #18 will continue assurance in the flesh versus Spirit conflict under the heading: Predestined to be Conformed.
A. Leroy Moore