A slap in the face from Romans 8

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I have not been Greeking at all lately and have fallen back profusely on my Romans class. I had wanted to forgo class this evening after it has been put on hold for almost 2 months, if not more. I had to literally force myself to go for class today. I am so very thankful that I did.

I am in a juncture of life where I keep telling myself, "I know" but yet it didn't help me feel better. (If you have been following my daily posts, you might have noticed that I have been brooding a lot lately.) I am again humbled because just an hour ago, you can say that I got a slap in the face: I don't know a lot of things.

It was an awakening for me, and I would like to put down in words what I have just learnt.

Romans 8:1-4 (ESV)
1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

A lot of time was spent just on the first 3 verses of Romans 8. The most important to me was the discussion on "in the likeness of sinful flesh". What does it mean by it and why did Paul go the roundabout way with words and not stick to just "in flesh" as used by John in the gospel? In our discussion, questions began to arise: does Jesus have the tendency to sin? If not, then why was he tempted, as it would not serve any purpose for tempting him? We all agree that Jesus is sinless, without sin, but can He sin, only that He chose not to?

Our conclusion after much discussion and not without a few words and warning from our lecturer can be summarised as follows:

Jesus is without sin, not only that He did not sin but more comprehensively, He is without sin

Histrorically, the church sustains that Jesus cannot sin; not as in the ontological sense but in the moral sense. He is holy and He just cannot sin, it is against His nature.

Having said that however, He came into our sinful world which is in the fallen state, hence Paul's usage of "in the likeness of sinful flesh". In short, we can say that Jesus is without sin in a sinful world. He suffers the infirmities that we do but is without sin. It is important to note that Jesus is a divine person with a human nature rather than human person with a divine nature.

That however, did not take away the pain of temptation. The force of sin is suffering. In being tempted, He is not pulled into the proclivity to sin but into the pain of doing what is right. For example, a good man whose nature does not allow him to lie may be tempted to in order to safe his dying son. Being a good man, he, though tempted, could not lie even for the sake of saving his son and as a result, suffers. Sinful people would have it easier (at least in the present time). So in that sense, we too suffer because we imitate Christ in not giving in to sin. As such, the message in Hebrews 4:14-16 rings so true, "14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

And all these points to 8:2, "For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death," which in turn confirms 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

How beautiful the Word of God,
Much sweeter than honey from the honey comb.
And how perfect the Word of God,
It revives the soul, driving a needy soul home.
Thank you, Abba Father.

Picture by Benjamin Earwicker

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