Reading: Romans 7:13-8:4
Paul starts this chapter with the words There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. With that, he connects what follows with what he said at the end of chapter 7. In 7:24 he writes Wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death? And then right away, he could answer to that question: I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind, I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
He summarizes the struggle of every Christian, as he described it in chapter 7. We know the will of God, we know what is good, but we also know that we cannot keep the law of God. Every day again, we have to go to God and confess our sins and confess that we are not able to do what God’s law requires of us. Because of our disobedience and sinfulness, we deserve condemnation to eternal death. If we wouldn’t know the law of God, then we didn’t even believe that we are sinners.
If we look at the context, the entire letter of Paul to the Romans, then we see that in the first three chapters Paul explains that all mankind lies in misery, because of their sins. Those who do not know the law, do not know their miserable situation. God did reveal His law to the Israelites in the Old Testament, at Mount Sinai, so they can know what the will of God is, and how sinful they are because they do not keep the law of God. Nevertheless, there are those who believe that they can be saved by keeping the law. Paul explains that that is impossible.
There is no difference between Jew and gentile. The Jews know the law, but cannot keep the law, they deserve judgment. The Gentiles do not know the law and will be judged without the law. Both Jews and Gentiles are just as sinful and disobedient to God. The only difference is that the Jews know the law and the Gentiles don’t. But what does it matter, if the Jews, although they know the law, still cannot save themselves, because they can’t keep the law?
Or, so to say, if you are mortally wounded by sin, then the Jew would say: I can still save myself, I know how to do it, so I am not going to die; and the gentile would say: I don’t believe that my wound is mortal and I will not die. They are both fooling themselves, in different ways, but they both are going to die. What difference does it make whether you know the law or not if the law cannot save you?
But now God gives a way out. And that is the same for Jew and gentile: not through the law, but through Jesus Christ. Only through God’s grace, there is salvation. It is through faith that we accept this and are reconciled with God. We believe that we are unable to save ourselves and that Jesus Christ came to save us and to reconcile us with God. The law of God is good. But we experience that our sinful body is constantly inclined to do the opposite. Every time when I want to do right, then evil is right there. So often we look back and must say: again, I sinned. Again, I did what was wrong. And the more we get to know the will of God and understand His commandments, the more we will have to acknowledge: there is so much missing, so much in which we fail.
That struggle drives us to Christ Jesus. It is only through Christ Jesus that it is possible to escape death. Death as the punishment for our sins. It is only in Christ Jesus that there is no condemnation for those who believe in Christ Jesus. That is something totally new. That Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to pay for our sins by dying on the cross. That is something that did not come up in human minds. We humans believe that we can find the way to God. Human beings call God with many different names. Or they make their own gods. There are many religions on this earth, through which mankind think that they can find salvation. But what God tells us in the Bible is, that we cannot find salvation. We cannot do it ourselves. There is no way out of this misery if we only try to find it in ourselves. If God does not break open our closed minds and break through our blindness, then we could only cry out: Wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death? And that would be the end. But now God does come to us and breaks through all human closed mindedness and He gives the way which leads out of this misery. That is through His Spirit.
Paul summarizes our previous situation, the situation of sin and death, as the law of sin and death. The word law is used here in the meaning of for instance, the law of nature. It is a rock-solid rule which we cannot escape. Just like we cannot escape the law of gravity, so we cannot escape the law of sin and death. It is inherent in this creation that sin leads to death.
But now God Himself comes with the law of the Spirit of life, which does not put the law of sin and death aside, but is more powerful than that law: a reality and a wisdom that surpasses all the human wisdom and not one human being how wise and how good they may have been, was able to come up with this wisdom. This comes from God. It is divine wisdom and can only be made known through the Spirit. It is the law of the Spirit of life.
What is the law of the Spirit of life? In his second letter to the Corinthians, he also mentions the law of the Spirit of life. We read in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. The letter here, is the law of sin and death. Sin leads to death. But then the Spirit brings life. That is a totally different situation, a new reality. And in 2 Cor. 3:17 Paul writes, that the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. No condemnation but freedom.
This law of the Spirit of life does not put aside the law of sin and death. This law of sin and death was created by God Himself. Sin against His holy Command should be punished with eternal death. God is not now all of a sudden, after the fall, going to change the rules to make an escape possible.
Kids, when they are playing a game and it doesn’t go exactly as they intended it to go, they can have the inclination to change the rules or to cheat. But that is not what God does. Far from that. God is righteous and would never change the rules. God never changes. The law of sin and death still remains. Those who try to save themselves will die.
But the law of the Spirit of life surpasses the law of sin and death. Through the law of the Spirit of life, it is possible that we receive life, because Jesus Christ came to fulfill this law of sin and death and set us free from the power of this law of sin and death.