Spirit vs. Law

Bible Reading: Romans 8

Romans 8:3-4, “For 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, in 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.”

To run and work the law commands
Yet gives me neither feet or hands;
But better news the gospel brings:
It bids me fly and gives me wings.

Jason C. Meyer, The End of the Law

The problem with the Law, which is perfect and good in keeping with the very nature of God who has given it, is not the Law itself.  The problem with the Law is we humans have no power to keep it.  It is “weakened by the flesh” (Romans 8:3).  This truth is at the heart of Paul’s discourse in Romans chapter 7.  His own inability in the flesh to keep the law was that which drew him to such a dramatic conclusion, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death (Romans 7:24)?”

In sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, God has done for us what we could never do for ourselves.  Jesus was sent in an act of substitution to take our place, to bear the punishment we deserved.  He was condemned, so we could escape condemnation.  How amazingly gracious is God’s provision for us!  Andrew Murray has commented on this: “He is concerned to show that when the Father sent the Son into this world of sin, of misery, and of death, he sent him in a manner which brought him into the closest relation to sinful humanity that it was possible for him to come without becoming himself sinful.”  And then, of course, as a lamb unblemished and spotless, He bore sins not His own, that our sin might be exchanged our sins for His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The Spirit is able to do that which the Law could never do.  As we walk by the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit is borne in us.  Beautiful Christlike virtues replace ugly sinful vices (Galatians 5:16-26).  This supernatural change happens not as a result of a careful and laborious attempt to do better at being better, but as the Spirit mediates the presence of Christ to us, in us, and through us.  That is why walking by the Spirit is of such importance. 

It is as Kent Hughes pointed out: “The principle of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the principle of sin and death.  Thus, when we yield to the power of the Holy Spirit we are liberated.  We no longer have to sin.  Through the Holy Spirit, the virtue and perfection and power of Christ’s life is communicated to us.  We actually do the Law of God from the heart.  We love him with all our hearts, and we love our neighbors as ourselves.  This is as great a miracle as when the Spirit hovered over the face of the deep and with power materialized a new creation at the spoken word of the Father.  The Holy Spirit liberates us through Christ!”


Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s demands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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