Romans 8:3 – How God’s Son Condemned Sin in the Flesh
“For what was impossible for the Law in that it was weak through the flesh, God having sent his own Son in a form of the flesh of sin — even an offering for sin — condemned sin in the flesh, but according to spirit.” — Romans 8:3, Diaglott
The King James Version of this text is frequently misconstrued by some. It reads: “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,” etc. Some, who have a theory to support, would have us understand this: that since God sent his Son in the sinful likeness of flesh, then Jesus took a sinful nature and was with us under the same condemnation. That this is not the teaching of the apostle Paul should be obvious to every intelligent and candid reader. The imperfections of mind and body, now so common to our race, are the direct traces and marks of either personal or inherited sin. We know that Jesus had neither. In him was no sin, therefore no evidence or marks of it. — Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22.
The likeness of sinful flesh simply means that he suffered as though he were a bond-servant under condemnation of sin as the rest of mankind. (1 Peter 2:21-24; Philippians 2:7,8; Romans 8:21) Jesus experienced the woes and sufferings of humanity without sharing in the imperfections and sins. He suffered for and with those around him. He made use of his own vitality, as given to him by God (John 6:57), in healing their diseases. Doubtless, on many occasions, it might have been recorded, as in Mark 5:30; Luke 6:19 and 8:46, that the power or virtue that healed the sick “went out of him.” (Matthew 8:17) It is the most refined and perfect organisms that can suffer most.
To appreciate the drift and force of the apostle’s teaching in this passage, we must remember that he is explaining the value and use of the Law given to Israel, through Moses, and its relationship to the dedicated sons of God. He handles it fully, for he writes to those who know the Law. — Romans 7:1.
Glancing back we find his argument to be that the slightest command of God is a Law for those to whom it is applied. The smallest violation of Law is sin; the wages of the smallest sin is death — the extinction of existence. (Romans 6:23) Therefore, it will be seen, that to be disobedient in the smallest degree meant a corruption from perfect obedience to God’s Law, which meant sin and its punishment. Hence only one man — Adam — was tried, and that on only one point of Law. When he disobeyed in a very small thing – his was not a flagrant sin – he was a violator of Law — a sinner — under condemnation of death. All his offspring would, of course, partake of his condemnation and degradation of flesh, resulting in death. — Romans 1:28-31; 5:18.
“It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” — Hebrews 10:4.
Starting with Abel, faithful men of God offered lambs, bulls, and goats as sacrifices to Jehovah (Yahweh). They did this because of they realized that they could not make themselves perfect. They evidently understood that they needed an atoning sacrifice to God because of their sin. They knew that they needed a clearing from condemnation and punishment. But mankind did not fully understand the depth of his own degradation. They did not realize that their very nature was now sinful. (Romans 1:28; Ephesians 2:3) Jehovah therefore desired to teach man a lesson regarding sin. Man had to be shown by a demonstration that it was impossible for any imperfect being to keep a perfect law. He gave Israel a typical “Day of Atonement,” and a typical justification from Adamic sin. But these typical sacrifices for sin could never take away sin. Moses delivered this law to them at Sinai. It was declared that “whoever does these things will live.” If they could have kept that law, by reason of their obedience they would live and never die. — Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:12; Leviticus 18:5; Hebrews 10:1-3.
“All that Jehoah has spoken we will do.” — Exodus 19:7,8.
Alas, for poor humanity’s self-confidence. That which they thought would be a means of gaining life, was found to emphatically condemn all under it to death, as transgressors unworthy of life. (Romans 7:10-13) As throughout the Jewish Age, hundreds and thousands attempted to keep the commandment “which was ordained to life,” but were unable. (Romans 7:10) For them, it proved either one of two things: either that fallen humanity was as God claimed, unable to help himself back to perfection, or else that the Law given was too severe. Paul’s argument is that the Law was not too severe. He claims that the Law is holy — the commandments of Jehovah are holy, and just, and good for man. He tells us that the trouble is that man is imperfect — depraved — sold under sin — in slavery to sin — in bondage to corruption — made this way because of the first man’s sin. — Romans 7:12-18; 8:21.
“If a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.” — Galatians 3:21b.
The question was, then: Would God modify his just, holy and good law, so that a certain amount of sin could be excused and so that he could allow those who are imperfect to live? We answer: No! Such a law would have been a violation by God of his own law. It would have been imperfect. Such a law would justify sin instead of justifying the sinner from the sin. Therefore Paul argues that if a law could have been given which would have given life back to humans, then undoubtedly God would have provided man with that law, and not have sent his Son to be our ransom and the satisfaction for our sins. But God is the author of only right and perfect laws. He cannot look upon sin with any degree of approval. (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 5:4) Hence the law remains, and will to all eternity — “The soul that sins, it will die.” — Ezekiel 18:4.
“Did that which is good become a cause of death for me? No, never! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” — Romans 8:13.
There have been and still are many who try to justify themselves, to make themselves righteous. These believe they can escape God’s condemnation through Adam by keeping laws. Indeed, from the human standpoint these may be excellent people. They therefore often seem to feel that their depravity is not so very great. However, this could lead them to believe that the law must be too severe. Nevertheless, Jehovah has given proof of the justness of his Law. The possibility that a perfect man could keep the law has been demonstrated. This was all part of Jehovah’s plan. Hence, when Jesus came to redeem mankind, he was tempted in all points — by the world, the flesh and the devil. (Hebrews 4:15) He was born under the same law which had been condemning others for over 1400 years. The fact that he as a man — a perfect man — did keep the perfect law, is a part of the proof Jehovah offers us that the law was not too severe, but the fault had been that all were under the curse — imperfect — and therefore could not keep it.
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law.” — Galatians 2:16.
Jesus’ life, instead of proving that the law is imperfect, and that, therefore, God should cast it aside, proved the very opposite — it set the seal or mark of approval and righteousness to the law, and of condemnation to the race of sinners. Jesus not only sanctioned the law and met its requirements by his own obedience to it, but more, he met its requirements upon the condemned race by giving himself (as a spotless human being) a ransom for them. Thus he purchased the Law’s claims upon the entire race. And it is elsewhere declared to be his plan — in due time to assume control of his “purchased possession,” and to subdue and restore whosoever will of the race to the original perfection. Then mankind, being perfect, will be able to keep God’s perfect law perfectly, and have a right to continued life as a result. When Jesus will have done this, he will deliver up the kingdom (dominion) to God his Father. — 1 Corinthians 15:24.
“He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.” — Romans 8:3b,4.
Note the fullness and power of the apostle’s words in Romans 8:3: “For what was impossible for the Law [to do for us, that is, give us a right to life] in that it was weak through the flesh [it was powerless due to the weakness and imperfection of our sin-stricken flesh],” God accomplished in another way. Did Jehovah have to give another law, an imperfect law, to accomplish his purpose? No, but on the contrary, he proved his law given to be just and holy by sending his Son in a human form — the same form as that of the sinners who had been condemned — a second Adam. Jesus not only proved the law to be just and good, but then, by offering his flesh FOR our sins, condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us [who accept of his sacrifice for our sins], who do not walk according to [not in pursuit of] the flesh, but according to [in pursuit of] the spirit [meaning or intent] of the law.
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