For what the law could not do - The law could not pardon; the law could not sanctify; the law could not dispense with its own requisitions; it is the rule of righteousness, and therefore must condemn unrighteousness. This is its unalterable nature. Had there been perfect obedience to its dictates, instead of condemning, it would have applauded and rewarded; but as the flesh, the carnal and rebellious principle, had prevailed, and transgression had taken place, it was rendered weak, inefficient to undo this word of the flesh, and bring the sinner into a state of pardon and acceptance with God.
God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh - Did that which the law could not do; i.e. purchased pardon for the sinner, and brought every believer into the favor of God. And this is effected by the incarnation of Christ: He, in whom dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily, took upon him the likeness of sinful flesh, that is, a human body like ours, but not sinful as ours; and for sin, και περι ἁμαρτιας, and as a Sacrifice for Sin, (this is the sense of the word in a multitude of places), condemned sin in the flesh - condemned that to death and destruction which had condemned us to both.
Condemned sin in the flesh - The design and object of the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ was to condemn sin, to have it executed and destroyed; not to tolerate it as some think, or to render it subservient to the purposes of his grace, as others; but to annihilate its power, guilt, and being in the soul of a believer.
For what the law could not do - The Law of God, the moral law. It could not free from sin and condemnation. This the apostle had fully shown in Romans 7:12, but it was owing to the strength of the natural passions and the sinfulness of the unrenewed heart; see Romans 7:7-11, where this influence is fully explained.
God, sending his own Son - That is, God did, or accomplished, that, by sending his Son, which the Law could not do. The word did, or accomplished, it is necessary to understand here, in order to complete the sense.
d In the likeness of sinful flesh - That is, he so far resembled sinful flesh that he partook of flesh, or the nature of man, but without any of its sinful propensities or desires. It was not human nature; not, as the Docetae taught, human nature in appearance only; but it was human nature Without any of its corruptions.
And for sin - Margin, “By a sacrifice for sin.” The expression evidently means, by an Offering for sin, or that he was given as a Sacrifice on account of sin. His being given had respect to sin.
d Condemned sin in the flesh - The flesh is regarded as the source of sin; Note, Romans 7:18. The flesh being the seat and origin of transgression, the atoning sacrifice was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, that thus he might meet sin, as it were, on its own ground, and destroy it. He may be said to have condemned sin in this manner,
(1) Because the fact that he was given for it, and died on its account, was a condemnation of it. If sin had been approved by God he would not have made an atonement to secure its destruction. The depth and intensity of the woes of Christ on its account show the degree of abhorrence with which it is regarded by God.
(2) the word “condemn” may be used in the sense of destroying, overcoming, or subduing; 2 Peter 2:6, “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow.” In this sense the sacrifice of Christ has no; only condemned sin as being evil, but has weakened its power and destroyed its influence, and will finally annihilate its existence in all who are saved by that death.
(By the sacrifice of Christ, God indeed showed his abhorrence of sin, and secured its final overthrow. It is not, however, of the sanctifying influence of this sacrifice, that the apostle seems here to speak, but of its justifying power. The sense, therefore, is that God passed a judicial sentence on sin, in the person of Christ, on account of which, that has been effected which the Law could not effect, (justification namely). Sin being condemned in the human nature of Christ, cannot be condemned and punished in the persons of those represented by him. They must be justified.
This view gives consistency to the whole passage, from the first verse to the fourth inclusive. The apostle clearly begins with the subject of justification, when, in the first verse, he affirms, that to them who are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. If the question be put, Why is this? the second verse gives for answer, that believers are delivered from the Law as a covenant of works. (See the foregoing supplementary note). If the question again be put, Whence this deliverance? the third verse points to the sacrifice of Christ, which, the fourth verse assures us, was offered with the very design “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” This clause, according to the principle of interpretation laid down above, does not relate to the believer‘s obedience to the righteous requirements of the Law. The apostle has in view a more immediate design of the sacrifice of Christ. The right or demand of the Law δικαίωμα dikaiōmawas satisfaction to its injured honor. Its penalty must be borne, as well as its precept obeyed. The sacrifice of Christ answered every claim. And as believers are one with him, the righteousness of the Law has been “fulfilled in them.”
The whole passage is thus consistently explained of justification.)
In the Word of God the honest seeker for truth will find the rule for genuine sanctification. The apostle says: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.... 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; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 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 subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 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” (Romans 8:1-9). FW 97.2Read in context »
Is there not occasion for humility? Is there not need of feeling our utter dependence upon Christ every day and hour? ... He took on Him our nature, and became sin for us, that we might have “remission of sins that are past” (Romans 3:25), and through His divine strength and grace might fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. Whoever takes the position that it makes no difference whether or not we keep the commandments of God is not acquainted with Christ. Jesus says, “I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:10), and those who follow Jesus will do as He has done.... TMK 125.3Read in context »
Not without hindrance was the Commander of heaven to win the souls of men to His kingdom. From the time when He was a babe in Bethlehem, He was continually assailed by the evil one. The image of God was manifest in Christ, and in the councils of Satan it was determined that He should be overcome. No human being had come into the world and escaped the power of the deceiver. The forces of the confederacy of evil were set upon His track to engage in warfare against Him, and if possible to prevail over Him. DA 116.1
At the Saviour's baptism, Satan was among the witnesses. He saw the Father's glory overshadowing His Son. He heard the voice of Jehovah testifying to the divinity of Jesus. Ever since Adam's sin, the human race had been cut off from direct communion with God; the intercourse between heaven and earth had been through Christ; but now that Jesus had come “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3), the Father Himself spoke. He had before communicated with humanity through Christ; now He communicated with humanity in Christ. Satan had hoped that God's abhorrence of evil would bring an eternal separation between heaven and earth. But now it was manifest that the connection between God and man had been restored. DA 116.2
Satan saw that he must either conquer or be conquered. The issues of the conflict involved too much to be entrusted to his confederate angels. He must personally conduct the warfare. All the energies of apostasy were rallied against the Son of God. Christ was made the mark of every weapon of hell. DA 116.3Read in context »
Those who had been bitten by the serpents might have delayed to look. They might have questioned how there could be efficacy in that brazen symbol. They might have demanded a scientific explanation. But no explanation was given. They must accept the word of God to them through Moses. To refuse to look was to perish. DA 175.1
Not through controversy and discussion is the soul enlightened. We must look and live. Nicodemus received the lesson, and carried it with him. He searched the Scriptures in a new way, not for the discussion of a theory, but in order to receive life for the soul. He began to see the kingdom of heaven as he submitted himself to the leading of the Holy Spirit. DA 175.2
There are thousands today who need to learn the same truth that was taught to Nicodemus by the uplifted serpent. They depend on their obedience to the law of God to commend them to His favor. When they are bidden to look to Jesus, and believe that He saves them solely through His grace, they exclaim, “How can these things be?” DA 175.3Read in context »