Romans 8:3 says, “For, the law being impossible in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of the flesh of sin and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” The expression “God sending His own Son in the likeness of the flesh of sin” refers to the incarnation, the first step of the process through which the Triune God has passed. Here in verse 3 the subject is not the Son of God; the subject is God. In this verse Paul does not say that the Son of God came in the likeness of the flesh of sin. Rather, he says that God sent His Son in the likeness of the flesh of sin. This means that, according to this verse, it is God who takes this action. He sent His Son through incarnation in the likeness of the flesh of sin.
Following the first step of this process, incarnation, God went on to condemn sin by crucifixion. When the Son was crucified in the form, the likeness, of the flesh of sin, God condemned sin in the flesh. Therefore, the death of the Son on the cross was God’s condemnation of sin.
The two steps of incarnation and crucifixion have an aim, revealed in verse 4: “That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to flesh, but according to spirit.” The word “that” at the beginning of this verse means “in order that,” showing the purpose of the action taken in the preceding verse. God sent His Son and condemned sin in the flesh for a particular purpose. This means that something has issued from the incarnation and crucifixion. The issue, the result, of these two steps is that the righteous requirement of the law is spontaneously fulfilled in us. There is no need for us to try to keep the requirements of the law. The fulfillment of the righteous requirements of the law is an issue of the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ. Because the incarnate Christ has been crucified on the cross, the requirements of the law can be fulfilled in us automatically.
In verse 4 Paul says that the requirements of the law are fulfilled “in us, who do not walk according to flesh, but according to spirit.” This indicates that God sent His Son and condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in a people who do not walk according to flesh, but walk according to spirit.
In eternity God intended to accomplish His purpose. We may say that God had an open highway set before Him and that He would move on this highway to fulfill His intention. However, an enemy called sin came in to block the way. Therefore, God sent His Son and condemned sin in the flesh in order to remove this obstacle from the highway. Through the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ, God condemned sin and removed it. As a result, the highway was opened again. The result, the issue, of the removing of sin and the reopening of the highway is that the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in us.
Notice that here Paul does not say that the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in the Son of God. On the contrary, he says that they are fulfilled in us, the people who have been chosen, redeemed, visited, reached, and touched by God. Those designated by the pronoun “us” in verse 4 are all very important people because the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in them. Who are these people? They are God’s chosen ones, His selected ones.
Do you realize that God has selected you? Out of the billions of people who have lived on earth from the time of Adam, God has selected you. We may use a simple illustration to help us understand God’s selection. You may go to a supermarket to shop for apples. There you may find a large pile of apples. Out of the many apples in this pile, you choose a dozen for purchase, selecting the apples you like. In a somewhat similar way, God has selected us. Instead of placing a high value on ourselves and thinking of ourselves as precious, we may despise ourselves and hate ourselves. God, however, does not hate us. In eternity He liked you and selected you. If you were to ask Him why He likes you, He may reply, “I simply like you.” We are God’s selected people. Furthermore, we are those whom He has redeemed, reached, and touched. According to the four Gospels, it is a great matter to be touched by God. Being touched by Him makes us different. I can testify that He touched me more than fifty years ago, and immediately I became a different person. We are among the “us” in verse 4; we have been touched by God.
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