In The Likeness

We’re continuing tonight our look through the New Testament in an attempt to understand the doctrine of the Trinity. We’re in the middle of Romans now. Much of what Paul says in this book is on the doctrine of justification and Christians should realize that the chapters are not put together haphazardly but rather throughout this book, Paul is putting together an argument. Sadly, in many of our daily readings, we can lose track of that argument. We’re not looking however to see Paul’s view on justification per se so much as his view on the Trinity in relation to the doctrine if need be. Again, Calvinists and Arminians and all others are called to battle this out amongst themselves. Tonight, we’ll be looking at Romans 8:1-4.

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

This passage is loaded with Trinitarianism. Just go through and notice how many references there are to each person of the Trinity and each is playing their own part in the role of salvation. We error in our thinking if we assume that salvation is simply the work of Christ. It is the work of all three persons together.

I love how Matthew Henry commented on the first verse. Henry said that it does not say there is no reason for condemnation. There’s plenty of reason. It does not say there is no accusation of condemnation. There’s plenty of that as well. It says there is no condemnation. We’re all deserved of confirmation. I recently heard of one theologian who said “I deserve Hell so I count as grace anything that God gives me.”

It is through the Spirit that Paul has been set free from the condemnation of the Law of death. For Paul, justification is just unthinkable without the work of the Son. What is most important for our purposes however is how this came about.

How did God do this? He sent his Son in the likeness of sinful man. Note that the Son is sent first off which would point to his pre-existence. However, he also comes in the likeness of sinful man and not in the likeness of man, which would be docetism. If you saw Christ on the street, you would think him a man like any other man, which would mean a sinner. Christ was not a man like any other man however. He was fully God and fully man and not tainted by sin. His coming was the only way that sin could be defeated.

What happens on the cross is that the wickedness of man meets the holiness of God in the person of the Son. In this clash, sin cannot overcome holiness. We see this in the ministry of Jesus in that he was never contaminated when unclean persons touched him, but rather they were made clean by his holiness. In Christ, God condemned sin as sin without condemning sinful man. That is, in Christ. All who are in Christ are set free from that condemnation. All who are not, are not.

In the spot of four verses then, we have the Trinity working together to bring about salvation. God is the judge who makes the pronouncement. Christ is the one whose action sets us free. The Spirit is the one who comes and enables that freedom. For Paul, if there is no Trinity, there is no justification.

We shall continue tomorrow.

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