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THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH

In Romans 8:2 Paul begins his explanation of why there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus: ‘because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.’

There are four key players in this verse:

'Me'.
'The law of sin and death'.
'The law of the Spirit of life'.
'Christ Jesus'.

About ‘me’ – Paul has already in Romans made our position as condemned sinners very clear:

He has testified to the common sinfulness of us all – Romans 1:18 – 3:18.
He has affirmed our inability to ever be acquitted by God on the basis of our own efforts – Romans 3:19, 20.
He has reaffirmed our past and present failure – Romans 3:23.
He has stated our inclusion in the condemnation incurred by all of Adam’s descendants – Romans 5:12 – 19.

About ‘the law of sin and death’ – this is the law, or biblical principle, that sin incurs a penalty, that sin must be punished, that demands the death of the sinner. It is God’s operating principle by which we all stand under his wrath, condemned as guilty sinners, and deserving his judgement and the imposition of sin’s just penalty. God’s justice demands that sin be punished, and God, even in his love, does not act contrary to his justice.

The wages of sin is death – Romans 6:23.
The soul that sins shall die – Ezekiel 18:20.
Death came to all men, because all sinned – Romans 5:12.

It is the principle of the Law of God, which, confronting all people, does all that Paul has described in the preceding chapters. Although in itself it is holy, just, good and spiritual it can never justify or sanctify because of our sinfulness. Rather it affirms, and makes us aware of, our condemnation and death. It is the operating principle in the dominion of darkness from which we have been rescued.
If this was the only thing that was true, if this was God’s only operating principle, we would all still be condemned.

But there is another ‘law’ in operation. There is another operating principle at work here, just as in nature there are different ‘laws’ at work – such as ‘the law of gravity’ and ‘the law of aerodynamics’. It is not that these different laws are contradictory or competitive, but that the addition of another element into the situation reveals the concurrent existence of a totally different ‘law’ and outcome.

About the ‘law of the Spirit of life’ – this is the ‘law’ or ‘principle’ of faith (Romans 3:27), it is the reign of grace (Romans 5:21). We are taught elsewhere -

That we are under the new covenant of the Spirit not the old covenant (2Corinthians 3:6-8).
That where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom (liberty) (2Corinthians 3:17).
Of the perfect 'law of liberty' or 'law that gives freedom' (James 1:25).

This principle of grace is called the 'law of the Spirit' because it is only by the operation of the Spirit of God that [1] we are convicted of sin, [2] we understand and believe the truth about Jesus Christ, [3] we are united with Christ through faith. It is the operating principle of the kingdom of God's Son.

About Christ Jesus – he is the additional factor that enables the difference.

If only the weight of an object is in play, the law of gravity draws it down. But if lift and thrust are added and sustained the object is set free from that downward pull. The law of aerodynamics has kicked in.

If the weight of our sin is the only factor, then the law of sin and death condemns and binds us. But when Jesus Christ is added, we are set free from that just condemnation.

So Paul says ‘through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death’.

We will look further at the significance of Paul’s ‘through Christ Jesus’ next week, when we look at Romans 8:3, 4.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020