Romans 8:4 – Imputed Righteousness?

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TryingToLearn

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm looking for any commentary (preferably modern) that takes Romans 8:4 as referring to imputed righteousness rather than spirit-wrought obedience. The only commentary I know of which does so is Doug Moo, and so I'm trying to figure out if anyone else follows him, because it seems that everyone else is against him on this. In my own opinion, I think Moo is correct, but I would like to see more arguments in favor of his position than the ones he sets forth in his commentary.

For me, I think the decisive factor is the fact that Romans 8:3-4 appears to be a commentary on Galatians 4:4-5, which I take of speaking of the fulfilling of the law by Christ, the New Adam/Israel (FF Bruce and Longnecker pick up on this). It is therefore likely that Romans also speaks of the fulfilling of the law by Christ since the two parallel passages are speaking on the same subject matter and therefore illuminate one another. This manner of interpreting scripture with scripture is the strongest argument for me, yet I have never actually seen it used to support the Romans 8:4 imputed righteousness interpretation. Are there any other commentaries that add arguments in favor of this interpretation? Thanks!
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Not modern, but Calvin takes the view that it refers to justification in the forensic sense.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
I'm looking for any commentary (preferably modern) that takes Romans 8:4 as referring to imputed righteousness rather than spirit-wrought obedience.

Hi Brandon,

There's nothing modern about Charles Hodge. Hodge is my favorite commentator on Romans. I am drawn, again and again, to the scientific precision of Hodge, both in his thinking and the design of Romans.

From
Charles Hodge's commentary
on Romans​

Hodge says that everything depends on the interpretation of Verse 3. If you take it as speaking of sanctification, then the same must be true of verse 4. And vice versa.

Romans 8:4
Verse 4. That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, &c. This verse expresses the design of God in sending his Son, and in condemning sin in the flesh. He did thus condemn it, ἵνα, in order that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled. The meaning, therefore, of this passage is determined by the view taken of ver. 3. If that verse means, that God, by sending his Son, destroyed sin in us, then of course this verse must mean, ‘He destroyed sin, in order that we should fulfil the law;’ i.e. that we should be holy. But if ver. 3 is understood of the sacrificial death of Christ, and of the condemnation of sin in him as the substitute of sinners, then this verse must be understood of justification, and not of sanctification. He condemned sin, in order that the demands of the law might be satisfied. This is the view of the passage given even by the majority of the early Fathers, and by almost all evangelical interpreters, including the Reformers. “Qui intelligunt Spiritu Christi renovatos legem implere, commentum a sensu Pauli penitus alienum afferunt; neque enim eo usque proficiunt fideles, quamdia peregrinantur in mundo, ut justificatio legis in illis plena sit, vel integra. Ergo hoc ad veniam referre necesse est; quia, dum nobis accepta fertur Christi obedientia, legi satisfactum est, ut pro justis censeamur.” That this is the true meaning of the passage appears not only from the connection and the course of the argument, but also from the following considerations:

1. It is consistent with the strict and natural meaning of the words. The word δικαίωμα, here used, means, first, something righteous, and then, second, something declared to be righteous and obligatory, an ordinance or precept; and, third, a righteous decision, a just judgment, as when in Rom. 1:29, the heathen are said to know the δικαίωμα, the righteous judgment of God; and, fourth, the act of declaring righteous, justification. In this sense δικαίωμα is antithetical to κατάκριμα. The δικαίωμα τοῦ νόμου, therefore, may mean, the righteous requirement of the law, that which satisfies its demands. In strict accordance therefore with the sense of the words, we may explain the passage to mean, ‘that the demands of the law might be satisfied in us.’ That is, that we might be justified. Christ was condemned, that to us there might be no condemnation. He was made sin, that we might be made righteousness, 2 Cor. 5:21. Or, if we take δικαίωμα in the sense of (Rechtfertigungsurtheil) a declaration of righteousness, an act of justification, the same idea is expressed: ‘Sin was condemned in Christ, in order that the sentence of justification might be fulfilled, or carried into effect in us.’ This is the explanation which Eckermann, Köllner, Philippi, and other modern interpreters adopt.

2. The analogy of Scripture. To make this passage teach the doctrine of subjective justification, that we are freed from condemnation or delivered from the law by our inward sanctification, is to contradict the plain teaching of the Bible, and the whole drift and argument of this epistle.

3. The concluding clause of the verse, (who walk not after the flesh, &c.) demands the interpretation given above. In the other view of the passage, the latter clause is altogether unnecessary. Why should Paul say, that Christ died in order that they should be holy who are holy, i.e. those who walk not after the flesh? On the other hand, the second clause of the verse is specially pertinent, if the first treats of justification. The benefits of Christ’s death are experienced only by those who walk not after the flesh. The gospel is not antinomian. Those only are justified who are also sanctified. Holiness is the fruit and evidence of reconciliation with God. There is no condemnation to those who walk after the Spirit; and the righteousness of the law is fulfilled by those who walk after the Spirit. In both cases, the latter clause is designed to describe the class of persons who are entitled to appropriate to themselves the promise of justification in Christ. 4. Finally, as intimated in the above quotation from Calvin, it is not true that the righteousness of the law, in the sense of complete obedience, is fulfilled in believers. The interpretation which makes the apostle say, that we are delivered from the law by the work of Christ, in order that the complete obedience which the law demands might be rendered by us, supposes what all Scripture and experience contradicts. For an exposition of the last clause of the verse, see ver. 1.
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Romans 8:1–11
--
DOCTRINE

1. As the former part of this chapter is an inference from the previous discussion, and presents a summary of the great truths already taught, we find here united the leading doctrines of the first portion of the epistle. For example, justification is by faith, ver. 1; believers are not under the law, ver. 2; the law is insufficient for our justification; God has accomplished that object by the sacrifice of his Son, vs. 3, 4; and this blessing is never disconnected with a holy life, ver. 4.

2. The final salvation of those who are really united to Christ, and who show the reality of their union by good works, is secure. This is the doctrine of the whole chapter. This section contains two of the apostle’s arguments in its support. 1. They are free from the law which condemned them to death, vs. 2–4. 2. They are partakers of that Spirit which is the author and earnest of eternal life, vs. 5–11.

3. Jesus Christ is truly divine. He is “God’s own Son,” i.e. partaker of his nature. The Holy Ghost is his Spirit, and he dwells in all believers, vs. 3, 11.

4. Jesus Christ is truly a man. He came in the likeness of men, ver. 3.

5. Christ was a sacrifice for sin, and his sufferings were penal, i.e. they were judicially inflicted in support of the law. ‘God punished sin in him,’ ver. 3.

6. The justification of believers involves a fulfilling of the law; its demands are not set aside, ver. 4.

7. Everything in the Bible is opposed to antinomianism. Paul teaches that justification and sanctification cannot be disjoined. No one is, or can be in the favour of God, who lives after the flesh, vs. 5–11.

8. The necessity of holiness arises out of the very nature of things. Sin is death, whereas holiness is life and peace. God has made the connection between sin and misery, holiness and happiness, necessary and immutable, ver. 6. The fact that holy men suffer, and that even the perfect Saviour was a man of sorrows, is not inconsistent with this doctrine. Such sufferings never proceed from holiness. On the contrary, the Divine Spirit was, and is a wellspring within of joy and peace, to all who are sanctified. In itself considered, therefore, moral purity is essentially connected with happiness, as cause and effect.

9. All unrenewed men, that is, all “who are in the flesh,” are at once the enemies of God, and the objects of his displeasure. Their habitual and characteristic state of mind, that state which every man has who is not “in the Spirit,” is enmity to God, and consequently is the object of his disapprobation, vs. 6, 8.

10. The Holy Ghost is the source of all good in man. Those who are destitute of his influences, are not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; for no man can call Jesus Lord, that is, can really recognise his authority, but by the Holy Ghost, vs. 5–8.

11. Death, and the other evils to which believers are exposed, are on account of sin, ver. 10. They are no longer, however, the evidences of God’s displeasure, but of his parental love, Heb. 12:6.

12. The redemption of Christ extends to the bodies as well as the souls of his people, ver. 11
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Hello Brandon,

I suppose the simplest argument in favor of imputed righteousness would be the plain meaning of the text:

"That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom 8:4).

The "Spirit-wrought obedience" you mention, that is, the progressive sanctification He works in us, does not fulfill the righteousness required by the Law, which is a perfect – an absolute – righteousness. Only the person who walks "after the Spirit", that is, in Christ, is able to walk in the glorious God-pleasing righteousness of the man Christ Jesus.
 

TryingToLearn

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello Brandon,

I suppose the simplest argument in favor of imputed righteousness would be the plain meaning of the text:

"That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom 8:4).

The "Spirit-wrought obedience" you mention, that is, the progressive sanctification He works in us, does not fulfill the righteousness required by the Law, which is a perfect – an absolute – righteousness. Only the person who walks "after the Spirit", that is, in Christ, is able to walk in the glorious God-pleasing righteousness of the man Christ Jesus.
This just isn't a good argument because the spirit-wrought obedience interpretation isn't saying that one fulfills the law perfectly in order to be justified, but one fulfills the law truly in sanctification. It is the same thought as Romans 13:8, "he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law". No one argues this must refer to Christ since the law demands perfect obedience and must therefore only refer to Christ, because we understand this refers to fulfilling of the law truly, yet not perfectly.
 

En Kristo

Puritan Board Freshman
Brandon,

The following doesn't directly respond to the original post. However, I find it very useful to understand imputation not as a transfer of righteousness from Christ to us, but rather as "the great marriage swap" between Jesus and his bride, the church. Here is an excerpt from a teaching series by Dr. Micheal Reeves that you can find at Ligonier.org. The teaching series is entitled Reformation Truths. I highly recommend it.

You're born of Adam. So we were born sharing his doomed status and his sinful inclination. Meaning, it's not enough for us to have our sinful acts expunged, first to be given a boost to do better. No. We must be born again. We must, as we were born of Adam, united to him, sharing Adam's status, Adam's inclination, we must be born again of Christ and share his status and his inclinations. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.

It's far better than having a few sins washed away. Those who are reborn in Christ, and so united to him, can cry with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me - (Gal 3:20) - And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” For if we have been united to him, we've been united to him in his death. We've been crucified and condemned in him. We've endured the punishment for it all, in him. More, we also share the vindication he received in his resurrection, on the third day he was raised again, raised to life, and declared righteous, 1 Tim 3:16, accepted Rom 4:25. United to him then, we share his life and righteousness. That's how we can be justified, through this union with Christ.

Now, the idea that believers could be united with Christ was quickly attacked by Roman Catholic theologians as a flimsy, legal fiction. And certainly, it can seem rather questionable. As a young Christian I can remember puzzling over, how can my sins be transferred to him because sin isn't something that I can pass around the room. Sin is not a thing that works like that. How can that sin/righteousness joyful exchange work?

In fact, New Testament scholar, Nicholas Thomas Wright (known as N.T. Wright or Tom Wright) argues along very much those lines against what we have been seeing of justification by imputed righteousness through faith alone. Tom Wright (What St. Paul Really Said) argues, “If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Here's his point: “...righteousness is not an object, substance or a gas which could be passed across the courtroom.”

Very convincing illustration.

But, if Christ takes our sin and we take his righteousness because we're united, all those difficulties go away. This is how Calvin would argue, Calvin said, “We do not contemplate Christ outside ourselves, from afar, in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us, but because we put on Christ and are ingrafted into his body. In short, because he deigns to make us one with him.” If Christ and the believer are made one, then that sin/righteousness exchange is entirely unobjectionable. It is as unobjectionable as what happens in a marriage when a man and a woman become one flesh. In a marriage, a husband shares all that he has with his wife, and she shares all she has with him. It is as if a rich husband, at his own cost, were to pay off all of his wife's debt and then share with her all of his enormous wealth.
 
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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Hello Brandon,

Do you believe our imperfect fulfilling of the law in progressive sanctification has merit in God’s eyes? That our flawed sanctification warrants saying that in ourselves we have fulfilled the law?

When Galatians 5:14 says, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”, do you honestly think our polluted mixed-motive obedience (even though born of a heartfelt obedience to our Lord) actually fulfils Rom 8:4’s “the righteousness of the law”?

This only has been fulfilled by One, who said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matt 5:17).

Our sanctification, although a necessary fruit of our justification – i.e., showing the validity thereof – is not even faintly “the righteousness of the law”. Only one righteousness qualifies: that of Him, the man, Christ Jesus, and in whom we are. It is only in Him that our feeble law-keeping has the status of its being “fulfilled in us”.

His law-keeping righteousness – not as God, before the incarnation, but as a law-keeping human – has a righteousness absolutely unique, for it is the glorious righteousness of God manifest in the flesh. All his short human life Jesus exhibited, as a human, what godly – divine – holiness looked like. In the flesh He fulfilled the law with an infinitely holy perfection. It is this human perfection of the God-man that we are robed in, which allows it to be said of us, “the righteousness of the law [is] fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
 
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ryanpresnell

Puritan Board Freshman
This just isn't a good argument because the spirit-wrought obedience interpretation isn't saying that one fulfills the law perfectly in order to be justified, but one fulfills the law truly in sanctification. It is the same thought as Romans 13:8, "he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law". No one argues this must refer to Christ since the law demands perfect obedience and must therefore only refer to Christ, because we understand this refers to fulfilling of the law truly, yet not perfectly.
Brandon,
If I read your response correctly, it seems that, on this “Spirit-wrought obedience” position, fulfilling the law “truly” “in sanctification” is different that fulfilling the law “truly” for one’s justification. I’m struggling to understand what you mean by “fulfilling… the law truly” if you do not mean fulfilling the law perfectly. James 2:10 allows no such distinction in a justificatory sense (fulfilling the law proper), although I doubt that this would be disputed. It then seems arbitrary to create a distinction between fulfilling the law generally versus doing so “in sanctification” and then to further reduce “fulfill[ing] the law” to less than perfection. The burden of proof lies on the one holding this “Spirit-wrought obedience” position both to prove that the distinction exists and that “truly” following the law “in sanctification” is not doing so perfectly. Regarding Romans 13:8, I agree with Calvin that Paul is speaking hypothetically rather than actually:
But some are here impeded, and they cannot well extricate themselves from this difficulty, — that Paul teaches us that the law is fulfilled when we love our neighbor, for no mention is here made of what is due to God, which ought not by any means to have been omitted. But Paul refers not to the whole law, but speaks only of what the law requires from us as to our neighbor. And it is doubtless true, that the whole law is fulfilled when we love our neighbors; for true love towards man does not flow except from the love of God, and it is its evidence, and as it were its effects. But Paul records here only the precepts of the second table, and of these only he speaks, as though he had said, — “He who loves his neighbor as himself, performs his duty towards the whole world.” Puerile then is the gloss of the Sophists, who attempt to elicit from this passage what may favor justification by works: for Paul declares not what men do or do not, but he speaks hypothetically of that which you will find nowhere accomplished. And when we say, that men are not justified by works, we deny not that the keeping of the law is true righteousness: but as no one performs it, and never has performed it, we say, that all are excluded from it, and that hence the only refuge is in the grace of Christ.
 

TryingToLearn

Puritan Board Freshman
Brandon,
If I read your response correctly, it seems that, on this “Spirit-wrought obedience” position, fulfilling the law “truly” “in sanctification” is different that fulfilling the law “truly” for one’s justification. I’m struggling to understand what you mean by “fulfilling… the law truly” if you do not mean fulfilling the law perfectly. James 2:10 allows no such distinction in a justificatory sense (fulfilling the law proper), although I doubt that this would be disputed. It then seems arbitrary to create a distinction between fulfilling the law generally versus doing so “in sanctification” and then to further reduce “fulfill[ing] the law” to less than perfection. The burden of proof lies on the one holding this “Spirit-wrought obedience” position both to prove that the distinction exists and that “truly” following the law “in sanctification” is not doing so perfectly. Regarding Romans 13:8, I agree with Calvin that Paul is speaking hypothetically rather than actually:
Thanks for the question. To clarify, when I say the law is fulfilled "truly" by love, I refer to the same thing I believe Romans 13:8 speaks of via the common interpretation (i.e. that love is what the law most essentially demands and Christians are enabled to love through the Spirit). Of course, I would agree that nobody fulfills the law perfectly and thus there can be no distinction **in a justificatory sense** as you say, but that is exactly why it isn't a good argument to use in Romans 8:4 since the very question is whether Paul speaks of fulfilling the law in a justificatory sense or not. It is circular to do so.
 

ryanpresnell

Puritan Board Freshman
Brandon,
Thanks for your gracious response.
Thanks for the question. To clarify, when I say the law is fulfilled "truly" by love, I refer to the same thing I believe Romans 13:8 speaks of via the common interpretation (i.e. that love is what the law most essentially demands and Christians are enabled to love through the Spirit).
I'm not qualified by any means to judge what the most common interpretation of the passage is. With that being said, I think my authority is on par with almost any you may be able to bring up. However, I don't think we should base our interpretations of Romans 13:8 solely on the basis of authority. I certainly agree that:

1. Love is what the law most essentially demands, and that
2. Christians are enabled to love through the Spirit.

It doesn't follow from these propositions, however, that Christians are enabled to fulfill the law by the Spirit. This seems to be assumed rather than argued for, which then apparently necessitates the distinction between fulfilling the law versus "fulfilling" the law "in sanctification". However, at best, it's extremely uncertain that Romans 13:8 teaches that Christians can actually rather than hypothetically fulfill the law. Consider Romans 10:5, which uses a similar participial construction to employ a statement which is hypothetical for men but has only been realized in Christ:

ὁ... ἀγαπῶν (the one loving)
ὁ ποιήσας (the one having done [these things])

Consequently, I think it remains to be proven first that Romans 13:8 is actually offering fulfillment of the law as something that can be feasibly done by Christians.
Of course, I would agree that nobody fulfills the law perfectly and thus there can be no distinction **in a justificatory sense** as you say, but that is exactly why it isn't a good argument to use in Romans 8:4 since the very question is whether Paul speaks of fulfilling the law in a justificatory sense or not. It is circular to do so.
I agree with the entirety of this statement, which is why I did not use James 2:10 in this manner. Maybe I did not articulate my thoughts properly- and if this is the case, I apologize. Basically, my point is that I only acknowledge one sense in which one may "fulfill" the law. I think that adding the qualifier "in justification/ in a justificatory sense" is redundant because there is only one meaningful way to fulfil the law. I assumed (and you confirmed) that we both agree that on this general meaning of fulfillment of the law, the standard is perfection (James 2:10). There is no scripture that I'm aware of that teaches that the law may be fulfilled by imperfect obedience (edit: in any sense whatsoever). In light of this, there is no need for a distinction and it's counterintuitive to say that a fallen sinner could fulfill the law in any meaningful sense. I don't think it's a good interpretive principle to create unnecessary counterintuitive distinctions in order to force a certain interpretation. So, in order for this position to hold up to any scrutiny, I think you need to prove that:

1. There is a distinction between fulfilling the law generally and a secondary sense of fulfilling the law during sanctification, and that
2. This secondary sense of fulfilling the law does not require perfect obedience.

Otherwise, I think there are some issues with the interpetive methods used to arrive at this position.

Blessings,
 

TryingToLearn

Puritan Board Freshman
Brandon,
Thanks for your gracious response.

I'm not qualified by any means to judge what the most common interpretation of the passage is. With that being said, I think my authority is on par with almost any you may be able to bring up. However, I don't think we should base our interpretations of Romans 13:8 solely on the basis of authority. I certainly agree that:

1. Love is what the law most essentially demands, and that
2. Christians are enabled to love through the Spirit.

It doesn't follow from these propositions, however, that Christians are enabled to fulfill the law by the Spirit. This seems to be assumed rather than argued for, which then apparently necessitates the distinction between fulfilling the law versus "fulfilling" the law "in sanctification". However, at best, it's extremely uncertain that Romans 13:8 teaches that Christians can actually rather than hypothetically fulfill the law. Consider Romans 10:5, which uses a similar participial construction to employ a statement which is hypothetical for men but has only been realized in Christ:

ὁ... ἀγαπῶν (the one loving)
ὁ ποιήσας (the one having done [these things])

Consequently, I think it remains to be proven first that Romans 13:8 is actually offering fulfillment of the law as something that can be feasibly done by Christians.

I agree with the entirety of this statement, which is why I did not use James 2:10 in this manner. Maybe I did not articulate my thoughts properly- and if this is the case, I apologize. Basically, my point is that I only acknowledge one sense in which one may "fulfill" the law. I think that adding the qualifier "in justification/ in a justificatory sense" is redundant because there is only one meaningful way to fulfil the law. I assumed (and you confirmed) that we both agree that on this general meaning of fulfillment of the law, the standard is perfection (James 2:10). There is no scripture that I'm aware of that teaches that the law may be fulfilled by imperfect obedience (edit: in any sense whatsoever). In light of this, there is no need for a distinction and it's counterintuitive to say that a fallen sinner could fulfill the law in any meaningful sense. I don't think it's a good interpretive principle to create unnecessary counterintuitive distinctions in order to force a certain interpretation. So, in order for this position to hold up to any scrutiny, I think you need to prove that:

1. There is a distinction between fulfilling the law generally and a secondary sense of fulfilling the law during sanctification, and that
2. This secondary sense of fulfilling the law does not require perfect obedience.

Otherwise, I think there are some issues with the interpetive methods used to arrive at this position.

Blessings,
Quickly regarding the end of your post:

1. There is a distinction between fulfilling the law generally and a secondary sense of fulfilling the law during sanctification, and that

I am simply following the interpretation followed by people such as Francis Turretin that sees Romans 13:8 as speaking of sincere ("true") obedience, that is still imperfect. Love is the fulfillment of the law. Unbelievers have an inability to love in any true sense. When we are regenerated, we can love truly, albeit imperfectly. See Turretin:
 

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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Hello Brandon – you said, “it isn't a good argument to use in Romans 8:4 since the very question is whether Paul speaks of fulfilling the law in a justificatory sense or not. It is circular to do so.”

It is not a “circular argument” if both meanings are understood as being spoken of by Paul:

“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”​

On the one hand, the phrase “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” signifies a sanctified walk, while on the other hand it cannot be only a sanctified walk apart from justification, as “after the Spirit” must include that which the Spirit has wrought in the believer, namely union with Christ, and in this union clothed in His righteousness. Both meanings are spoken of.

In exegeting a passage it is best to keep it as simple and clear as possible – formulating the meaning in your own words – foregoing the often complex statements of others, although it is legitimate to use them.
 

TryingToLearn

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello Brandon – you said, “it isn't a good argument to use in Romans 8:4 since the very question is whether Paul speaks of fulfilling the law in a justificatory sense or not. It is circular to do so.”

It is not a “circular argument” if both meanings are understood as being spoken of by Paul:

“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”​

On the one hand, the phrase “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” signifies a sanctified walk, while on the other hand it cannot be only a sanctified walk apart from justification, as “after the Spirit” must include that which the Spirit has wrought in the believer, namely union with Christ, and in this union clothed in His righteousness. Both meanings are spoken of.

In exegeting a passage it is best to keep it as simple and clear as possible – formulating the meaning in your own words – foregoing the often complex statements of others, although it is legitimate to use them.
My point was that arguing that "that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us" must be speaking of Christ's imputed righteousness because the law requires perfect righteousness is circular because it assumes what it is trying to prove (that "the righteous requirement of the law" refers to doing the law perfectly for justification). I agree with your interpretation of 8:4. The first part speaks of imputation, and the second of sanctification, but this must be established upon other grounds.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Brandon,

In the wording of Rom 8:4 it is to be understood “by good and necessary consequence” (cf. WCF 1.6), that imputed justification must be included in what is spoken of, and not a thing that must be further proven, as there is no fulfilling of the law apart from it.

As noted by William Cunningham (reflecting on the WCF), “we are bound to receive as true, on God’s authority, not only what is ‘expressly set down in Scripture,’ but also what, ‘by good and necessary consequences, may be deduced from Scripture.” (The Reformers & the Theology of the Reformation, Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 2000, p. 526)

Despite your insisting it is circular reasoning, it remains that by GNC it is inherent in the phrase. Your reading, i.e., comprehension, of “the righteousness of the law” here is lacking, and thus you must add from elsewhere what is already present.

The margin note at 8:4 in the Geneva Bible spells it out nicely, “The very substance of the law of God might be fulfilled, or that same which the law requireth, that we may be found just before God: for if with our justification there be joined that sanctification which is imputed to us, we are just, according to the perfect form which the Lord requireth.”

_______


You enquired concerning modern commentators on Romans; here are excerpts from William Hendriksen’s commentary (with remarks from me in blue) :

Romans 8:3, 4. For what the law could not do, because it was weak through the flesh, God did: 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 [understanding this righteous requirement or demand is key] might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

a. For what the law could not do, because it was weak through the flesh, God did.

The word “For” indicates that what, according to verses 3, 4, God accomplished by sending his Son into the world, is the basis of the believer’s freedom (verse 2). The law was unable to provide this basis. That, however, was not the law’s fault. Sinful human nature (“the flesh,” see p. 217) was to blame. It was that which made perfect obedience impossible. Does this mean, then, that sinners are never going to be saved, and that God’s plan, made before the founding of the world (Eph. 1:4), is not going to be carried out? It does not, for—O glorious divine love!—what the law was unable to accomplish God accomplished! It was he who, by sending into the world his own Son to die for sinners, satisfied the demands of justice, thereby setting sinners free and flooding their hearts with love for God and a desire to do his will out of gratitude. [emphasis added]

e. He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.

That righteous requirement* [see footnote] is clearly indicated in such passages as Lev. 19:18b; Deut. 6:5; Mic. 6:8; Matt. 22:35–40 (cf. Mark 12:28–34; Luke 10:25–28). See also Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42; Rom. 13:9.

It was in Christ’s “flesh,” his human nature, that God condemned and punished the sins of his people. It was in his people’s place that Jesus bore God’s wrath. See Isa. 53:4–6, 8, 11b; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 1:29; 10:11, 15; Rom. 5:6–9, 18, 19; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13. The purpose and result of Christ’s work of redemption was that his people, by means of the operation of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and lives, should strive, are striving, to fulfil the law’s righteous requirement. Out of gratitude for, and in response to, the outpouring of God’s love, they now love God and their neighbor. [emphasis added]

* Though the basic notion of justice or rightness is never absent, the various shades of meaning the word δικαίωμα has in the New Testament can be summarized as follows:

a. righteous demand, requirement (Luke 1:6; Rom. 2:26; 8:4)
b. righteous deed or act (Rom. 5:18; Rev. 15:4; 19:8)
c. judicial ordinance, decree, sentence (Rom. 1:32)
d. justifying sentence, justification (Rom. 5:16)
e. regulation (Heb. 9:1, 10).​

The righteous requirement or demand of the law was that its violation required justice, and its keeping required perfect obedience. These were necessary for His people’s redemption. Christ fulfilled both of these. You can see in WH’s remarks above that he focused first on the forensic aspects, punishment for violation, and perfect obedience, and that this work of redemption gave the redeemed the heartfelt incentive to strive to fulfil the law’s righteous requirement – knowing that they couldn’t do it perfectly, but that even that lack was covered.

In sum: Rom 8:4, if “righteous requirement” is fully understood, then both the work of justification and sanctification are the subjects of this verse. There is no need to "prove" or "establish" this from other sources. To deduce from good and necessary consequences sufficiently establishes it.
 

TryingToLearn

Puritan Board Freshman
Brandon,

In the wording of Rom 8:4 it is to be understood “by good and necessary consequence” (cf. WCF 1.6), that imputed justification must be included in what is spoken of, and not a thing that must be further proven, as there is no fulfilling of the law apart from it.

As noted by William Cunningham (reflecting on the WCF), “we are bound to receive as true, on God’s authority, not only what is ‘expressly set down in Scripture,’ but also what, ‘by good and necessary consequences, may be deduced from Scripture.” (The Reformers & the Theology of the Reformation, Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 2000, p. 526)

Despite your insisting it is circular reasoning, it remains that by GNC it is inherent in the phrase. Your reading, i.e., comprehension, of “the righteousness of the law” here is lacking, and thus you must add from elsewhere what is already present.

The margin note at 8:4 in the Geneva Bible spells it out nicely, “The very substance of the law of God might be fulfilled, or that same which the law requireth, that we may be found just before God: for if with our justification there be joined that sanctification which is imputed to us, we are just, according to the perfect form which the Lord requireth.”

_______


You enquired concerning modern commentators on Romans; here are excerpts from William Hendriksen’s commentary (with remarks from me in blue) :

Romans 8:3, 4. For what the law could not do, because it was weak through the flesh, God did: 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 [understanding this righteous requirement or demand is key] might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
a. For what the law could not do, because it was weak through the flesh, God did.
The word “For” indicates that what, according to verses 3, 4, God accomplished by sending his Son into the world, is the basis of the believer’s freedom (verse 2). The law was unable to provide this basis. That, however, was not the law’s fault. Sinful human nature (“the flesh,” see p. 217) was to blame. It was that which made perfect obedience impossible. Does this mean, then, that sinners are never going to be saved, and that God’s plan, made before the founding of the world (Eph. 1:4), is not going to be carried out? It does not, for—O glorious divine love!—what the law was unable to accomplish God accomplished! It was he who, by sending into the world his own Son to die for sinners, satisfied the demands of justice, thereby setting sinners free and flooding their hearts with love for God and a desire to do his will out of gratitude. [emphasis added]​
e. He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.
That righteous requirement* [see footnote] is clearly indicated in such passages as Lev. 19:18b; Deut. 6:5; Mic. 6:8; Matt. 22:35–40 (cf. Mark 12:28–34; Luke 10:25–28). See also Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42; Rom. 13:9.​
It was in Christ’s “flesh,” his human nature, that God condemned and punished the sins of his people. It was in his people’s place that Jesus bore God’s wrath. See Isa. 53:4–6, 8, 11b; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 1:29; 10:11, 15; Rom. 5:6–9, 18, 19; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13. The purpose and result of Christ’s work of redemption was that his people, by means of the operation of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and lives, should strive, are striving, to fulfil the law’s righteous requirement. Out of gratitude for, and in response to, the outpouring of God’s love, they now love God and their neighbor. [emphasis added]​
* Though the basic notion of justice or rightness is never absent, the various shades of meaning the word δικαίωμα has in the New Testament can be summarized as follows:​
a. righteous demand, requirement (Luke 1:6; Rom. 2:26; 8:4)​
b. righteous deed or act (Rom. 5:18; Rev. 15:4; 19:8)​
c. judicial ordinance, decree, sentence (Rom. 1:32)​
d. justifying sentence, justification (Rom. 5:16)​
e. regulation (Heb. 9:1, 10).​

The righteous requirement or demand of the law was that its violation required justice, and its keeping required perfect obedience. These were necessary for His people’s redemption. Christ fulfilled both of these. You can see in WH’s remarks above that he focused first on the forensic aspects, punishment for violation, and perfect obedience, and that this work of redemption gave the redeemed the heartfelt incentive to strive to fulfil the law’s righteous requirement – knowing that they couldn’t do it perfectly, but that even that lack was covered.

In sum: Rom 8:4, if “righteous requirement” is fully understood, then both the work of justification and sanctification are the subjects of this verse. There is no need to "prove" or "establish" this from other sources. To deduce from good and necessary consequences sufficiently establishes it.
In order to argue for the imputed righteousness meaning of 8:4 solely using good and necessary consequence, it must be proven that 8:4 **cannot** be referring to the same thing as 13:8. That's a huge burden of proof. In order to make that argument, you must prove that it is absolutely impossible for 8:4 to be saying, "Christ condemned sin in the flesh so that we might now be able to obey His commands".
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
This is really “a tempest in a teapot”, Brandon – especially as we both agree on the final interpretation of the verse. The reason I’ve belabored it is that exegesis focuses on precision, accuracy, and substance – and a minor miss in the near can in the long run go far off, as is the case with a bullet.

Folks looking in can weigh for themselves what is sound. Thanks for the discussion.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
It's strange to me that this is being taken as either a verse about justification or sanctification. I see it more (in a Covenant sense) as being one of position.

Paul's paradigm in the Scriptures is typically to remind men that they are no longer in Adam (sin, death, darkness) but are now in Christ (Spirit, life, light).

This reminds me of the Marrow of Modern Divinity where the preacher has to constantly get nomist, antinomisista, and neophyte to understand what it means to be in the Covenant of Grace.

Paul has just concluded a passage about how he still sees in himself a law (of the flesh) warring against his members. The passage here contrasts the mind set on the flesh which cannot set itself on the things of God (in the flesh, in Adam) with the person set free in Christ. The point of 8:3 is certainly that Christ has fulfilled the demands of the Law in His death and resurrection but he has also judged sin and power itself on the Cross so that it no longer has power over us. Christ "condemned sin in the flesh" I take as both one of guilt and power.

It's not really a question of whether this is about justification or sanctification but what Christ has done in securing us in Him. Yes, He has justified us and, in Him, He has broken the power of sin (the flesh) to enslave us. We are no longer in the flesh but in Christ and this is then the basis for how we think about obedience to Christ and how we put sin to death (the flesh) and live to Christ.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Hello Rich,

Were you to say, "It's not ultimately a question of whether this is about justification or sanctification but what Christ has done in securing us in Him", I would concur; as I wrote on post #4: "Only the person who walks 'after the Spirit', that is, in Christ, is able to walk in the glorious God-pleasing righteousness of the man Christ Jesus."

But it is in significant part about "the righteousness of the law being fulfilled in us", is it not, exegetically speaking?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Hello Rich,

Were you to say, "It's not ultimately a question of whether this is about justification or sanctification but what Christ has done in securing us in Him", I would concur; as I wrote on post #4: "Only the person who walks 'after the Spirit', that is, in Christ, is able to walk in the glorious God-pleasing righteousness of the man Christ Jesus."

But it is in significant part about "the righteousness of the law being fulfilled in us", is it not, exegetically speaking?
Yes, that makes sense.
 
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