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Romans 8:3-4 KJV

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

What is the righteousness which is of the Law, and how is it related to the Law of Moses?

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"The righteousness of the Law" here (Romans 8:3-4) are those things that the Law has deemed equitable and right for a person to do, as opposed to the "righteousness which is of the Law" in Romans 10:5 which has specific reference to equity of character.

In Romans 10 Paul is declaring that if you intend to obtain equity of character (justification) through the Law then you are required to keep it all. Christ is declared to be the culmination (desired end, the point aimed at) of the Law for this righteousness: Christ has that equitable character which the Law was given to produce.

The righteousness of the Law in Romans 8 is translated as the "righteous requirement of the Law" or as the "requirement of the Law" in many translations (ESV, NASB, for example) and has to do with equity of deed (works) not equity of character (justification). Paul links equity of deed to mindfulness of Spirit and inequity of deed to mindfulness of Flesh. Therefore we have, "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:8) because the fleshly mind is not and cannot be subject to the Law of God but is, rather, at enmity (Romans 8:7).

For an example of how Jesus taught this distinction look to the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:27-28). You have heard it said "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (deed) but I say "If you look at a woman lustfully you have committed adultery already" (character).

The Law works on deeds, which are forged by character. Since the deeds of a sinful character can never live up to what God has required in the Law we have: "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh , God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us , who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Romans 8:3-4

Those who are in Christ have the mind of Christ and the spirit of Christ and can, through minding the Spirit, accomplish the righteousness that the Law requires. The Law demands "No adultery". The righteous requirement of the Law is a character devoid of lust. That is why we need a savior.

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Romans 8:3,4:KJV For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Paraphrase

For what the law could not do because of the weakness of will power of the human body to resist sin, God sent his own Son in a human body, to subdue the sin in it and make it powerless. This is He did so that the righteous requirements of the law could be met in us, through His authority as a High Priest, who already chose in our mind to be righteous instead of being selfish.

How Christ saved us from our sins:

The Promise

John 1:29 NASB The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

John 4:42 NASB They said to the woman, "We now believe not only because of your words; we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man truly is the Savior of the world."

The Problem

Romans 7:14 NASB For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

21I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

The Fulfillment

1 John 1:9 NASB 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

How it relates to the Law of Moses

The righteous requirements of the law are taught in the Law of Moses, but the law there is the form given to Israel. Other nations formed their own codes using their conscience.

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In broad terms it seems that in the earlier chapters of Romans Paul is concerned with "justification" (forensic righteousness) while here in Romans 6-8 he is concerned with with "sanctification" (practical righteousness). I think it can be useful to view his polemic as describing two systems designed to produce practical righteousness. Verbally he is drawing a diagram like the one in the image below of how these systems are designed and comparing and contrasting them to show that the new one is the only one that works:

Two different systems compared in a diagram

He vividly describes how the system based on Torah and the flesh fails because of "Mr. Sin" who undermines it resulting in the principle of "sin generates death" (Romans 7) and then he describes the new system based on faith and the spirit resulting in the principle of "the breath of life" (Romans 8:1-11).

Paul is quick to point out that the problem with the first system is not the law but rather "Mr. Sin":

Rom 7:7  What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.  Rom 7:8  But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.  Rom 7:9  For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.  Rom 7:10  And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.  Rom 7:11  For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.  Rom 7:12  Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.  Rom 7:13  Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.  Rom 7:14  For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.  Rom 7:15  For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.  Rom 7:16  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.  Rom 7:17  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  Rom 7:18  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.  Rom 7:19  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  Rom 7:20  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  Rom 7:21  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.  Rom 7:22  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:  Rom 7:23  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  Rom 7:24  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  Rom 7:25  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

So in system one the law, commandeered by Mr. Sin produces death. But in system two, the breath of life (God's spirit) indwells and commandeers the believer and produces righteousness and life:

Rom 8:1  There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  Rom 8:2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.  Rom 8:3  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:  Rom 8:4  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  Rom 8:5  For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  Rom 8:6  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Rom 8:7  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  Rom 8:8  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.  Rom 8:9  But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.  Rom 8:10  And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  Rom 8:11  But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

When in English translations Paul speaks of "the law of the Spirit of life" he is actually alluding to the "principle of the breath of life" described in Genesis 2:7:

Gen_2:7  And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

This principle that the breath brings life is evident throughout scripture. I'll just note one example in addition to the making of Adam:

Joh_6:63  It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

And when Paul speaks of the "righteousness of the law" he is alluding to his description of the unbelieving Jew who has the commands and even agrees with their just demands but is frustrated in his attempts to realize them. Paul is saying that in the new system the ones justified by faith are indwelt by the spirit and the spirit brings about practical righteousness in the believer.

It is this "principle"/ law of "the breath of life" that brings about its own righteous demands, not by Torah but by indwelling the believer. Paul does not suggest that the "output" of the new system is Torah-fulfillment accomplished by the flesh but rather that which is produced by the spirit:

Gal 5:16  This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  Gal 5:17  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  Gal 5:18  But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.  Gal 5:19  Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,  Gal 5:20  Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,  Gal 5:21  Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.  Gal 5:22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,  Gal 5:23  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.  Gal 5:24  And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  Gal 5:25  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Gal 5:26  Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

The new system is not a repair of the old system but an entirely new design!

  • Can you explain the diagram more? It's something about air, standing for spirit? If the tank is not 'raised' the air/spirit cannot flow. Is this being 'raised' with Jesus by faith and thereby indwelt? In order for his Breath of the life to reach the depths of our being (the bottom of the tank?), we need to be somehow elevated by faith. Is the work that this down-flowing breath/spirit/air does the practical Righteousness you describe? Is the impractical righteousness just the little tube that can only get so much Spirit? Because no faith in Yeshua? pic#1 = more ability/Power to keep the Law – Jacob May 4 '18 at 21:41
  • Could you also clarify: I can agree the written Torah doesn't of its own produce righteousness without faith and Spirit, but would/could/should the Righteous result of faith and Spirit be in accord with the written Torah or not? If there's a practical discrepancy between the Law of liberty and the Law of Moses, how wide can it be before it's sinful? If it's the 'ceremonial commands' that are passed over, then I must say the Sabbath is not just ceremonial (making sure your workers and animals get to rest too) and not just for Israel (Is. 56). – Jacob May 4 '18 at 21:44
  • "If it's the 'ceremonial commands' that are passed over, then I must say the Sabbath is not just ceremonial..." There you go!!!!! – alb May 4 '18 at 23:28
  • The "law of the breath of life" is concerned with "the fruit of the spirit" which is love, joy, peace, etc. rather than days, genealogies, commandments, rituals, etc. – Ruminator May 4 '18 at 23:33
  • @Ruminator "It is this "principle"/ law of "the breath of life" that brings about its own righteous demands, not by Torah but by indwelling the believer. Paul does not suggest that the "output" of the new system is Torah-fulfillment accomplished by the flesh but rather that which is produced by the spirit" This is confusing. Are you saying that there are still law obligations for the believer? Re: the "output"; is this the output (ie fulfilled requirements of the law) already accomplished through Christ or something a believer must do? – alb May 6 '18 at 22:49
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Romans 8:3-4 KJV

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Your question of “what is the righteousness of the law” is a good one. I will do my best to answer as succinctly as I can, as this answer could be very lengthy. In short, the righteousness of the law is attempting to be holy on your own, (self righteousness) through the keeping of the Commandments and the whole Law of Moses. However, Paul tells the this is not the righteousness of God.

Per the Apostle Paul, the only spiritual function of the Law (ie, Law of Moses) is to be a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ so that we may be justified by faith (and not the works of the law - Galatians 3:24). So we see that the plan of God was that mankind would be justified by faith and not the works of the Law of Moses for as Galatians 3:21 puts it:

21 “…for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily, righteousness should have been by the law (ie, Law of Moses).

“But” Paul says, in verse 22:

22 “…the scripture has concluded all under sin that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”

To demonstrate this further, Paul states exactly what the righteousness of the law is all about:

Romans 10:5

5 For Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.

Now the point here is that NO ONE can do the things written in the Law of Moses because according to Deuteronomy 27:1; 28:1,29:29 that Israel was suppose to keep “all” that was written in the law to do them. Based on this truth, ie that NO ONE can keep ALL the law, Paul is able to state that “there is none righteous no not one.” (Romans 3:10).

Now starting in the next verse, Romans 10:6, Paul then outlines the righteousness that is without the law. Please notice these words.

6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) 7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) 8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

Verses 6-8 are direct quotes from Deuteronomy 30:

11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

In the Romans passage, Paul states that God’s righteousness (righteousness without the law) has nothing to do with attempting to keep any of the Law of Moses. Both Deuteronomy and Romans tell us that there is no law written in heaven or earth where you can go and get it, bring it back so we may “do it”. However, the “word” is close, which is the “word” of faith which Paul preaches; that if you believe on the Lord Jesus, you will be saved.

So, we see that both the Old Testament and the New Testament tell us that the righteousness of God does not come by keeping the Commandments and the Law of Moses (ie, it is not by the righteousness of the law) but rather righteousness comes by the “word” of faith. For as Philippians 3:9 and Galatians 2:21 tells us:

Philippians 3:9

9And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Galatians 2:21

21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

  • Romans 6 thru 8 is about sanctification, not justification as is evident in the verse in question since it speaks of the "walk" of the believer: "...That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit....". Your observations, while sound are about justification. – Ruminator May 27 '18 at 22:32
  • @Ruminator The whole concept of justification is tied up in the understanding of the difference between the man’s attempt to be righteous on his own (via keeping the law) vs the Righteousness of God which is by faith in Christ. The questioner specifically asked “what is the righteousness of the law”; as outlined in Romans 8:4. The righteousness of the law if fulfilled in us through faith in Christ; the b portion of the verse which you quoted, tells you salvation is by faith (via the spirit) and not by the works of the flesh (law). – alb May 28 '18 at 16:55
  • I would really like to know why this answer was voted down. – alb May 28 '18 at 16:56
  • I down voted it because as I pointed out you have successfully climbed the ladder but it is leaning against the wrong house! The issue with which the verse is concerned is not forensic justification (as in the early chapters) but, like all of chapters 6-8, with practical righteousness. – Ruminator May 28 '18 at 17:00
  • You really dismissed the answer because of arbitrary chapter designations? Sanctification is not a process, it's a gift; we are given sanctification. I encourage you to look at the usage of the words to discover that we "are" or "have been" sanctified - it's not something that occurs in the future. – alb May 28 '18 at 17:11

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