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I've long desired to break-through to an understanding of Romans 8:10, particularly the following emboldened concept:

Romans 8:10 (KJV)

And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Romans 8:10 (ESV)

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Romans 8:10 (NET)

But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness.

(Translator's note for the NET reads: Grk "the Spirit is life.")

I am also aware of the different readings that both the NIV and NASB give.

My specific desire is to understand how, or in what way, does the concept of "righteousness" cause the Spirit to be "life"?

Perhaps some more clarifying questions would be:

1.) Is "because of" the best translation of the preposition διὰ in this instance (e.g. the interlinear at www.biblehub.com reads "on account of")?

2.) Is the use of πνεῦμα meant to refer to the divine Spirit of God (as the article τὸ seems to suggest), or to the redeemed human spirit (as the NASB reading seems to indicate)?

  • The context qualifies this question. The preceding and following verses, but also the chapters 1-8: 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Ro 8:9–11, ESV) – Perry Webb May 8 '18 at 7:22
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Three things in this verse need to be identified (1) What is this ‘death’ – literal or spiritual? (2) What ‘Spirit’ is being spoken of? (3) What is this ‘righteousness’? Only then should it become clear what ‘because of’ means.

(1) The verse says ‘…the body is dead because of sin’ yet this cannot be literal death as chapter 8 addresses living Christians who are being urged to appreciate the enormity of what it is to be found ‘in Christ Jesus’ (verse 1). This is made clear by Paul’s further explanation to Christians in Philippi. He speaks of the loss of all things in this world as worth it if he can have “the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3: 8-9).

People who are ‘found in him’ used to have a body that was spiritually dead even while physically alive, but now they have received new life in Christ – spiritual life. In Romans 8:10 Paul contrasts this spiritual deadness (caused by indwelling sin) with the spiritual life given by (or through) the now indwelling Spirit.

(2) What Spirit is this? Back to Romans, but chapter 6 where Christians are buried with Christ ‘through baptism into death’ in order to live a new life (vs 4). Verse 6 explains, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” This is not speaking of literally dying, but of dying spiritually to the slave-master, Sin. And that is why chapter 8 begins with explaining the connection of such a miracle to the Spirit – “Therefore, there I now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

It’s clear from what Paul says that there is only a spirit of death in sinful humanity. Our spirit is corrupted and decaying, leading to physical death (“for the wages of sin is death” – 6:23) yet when the Holy Spirit performs his miracle of grace in bringing a dying sinner to new life in Christ, it is because the Holy Spirit now lives in the believer. That is why vs 4 contrasts living with the sinful nature to Christians living according to the Spirit. That is why vss 9 and 11 can speak of the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God without contradiction. It is this same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead that now lives in believers, giving “life to their mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (vs 11). Note – HIS Spirit, not our spirit.

(3) This leads to the point of your question. Now having identified what kind of death is meant, and who this Spirit is, what is this concept of righteousness? It cannot be our own righteousness for we have none! We are all unrighteous, our sin even causing our righteous acts to appear as filthy rags in God’s pure sight (Isaiah 64:6): “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But verses 21 to 22 make the link: “But now a righteousness from God apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.” It comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

Back to Philippians 3 where verse 9 confirms this. When we gain Christ (by faith in him), we are “found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” The righteousness of Christ is imputed to sinners who have faith in him! The indwelling Holy Spirit causes this to happen, granting spiritual newness of life.

That is why Romans 8:14-16 sums this amazing truth up by saying that those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, and by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” See the contrast between our spirit and God’s Spirit?

“Because of” is entirely fitting in vs 10, given that another contrast is made – “your body is dead because of sin” and, “your spirit is alive because of righteousness”. Once we grasp that we are spiritually dead and physically dying because of sin, yet the Holy Spirit brings our spirit to life due to the righteousness of Christ being imputed to us, then verse 10 becomes an amazing truth for Christians to hold on to, with rejoicing, for it is all of faith, to the glory of God. The redeemed human spirit is transformed by the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit who now lives in the new child of God. Unrighteousness brings only death. The imputed righteousness of Christ brings only life – real life now, and eternal life in the glory to come.

  • Up-voted. Except to note that your term 'the righteousness of Christ' is never found in scripture and to encourage you to consider why it is never found in scripture. – Nigel J May 11 '18 at 16:11
  • Thank-you, Nigel. I'm intrigued to check out that point about 'the righteousness of Christ' and will spend some time studying that. – Anne May 16 '18 at 10:32
  • I wish you well in your venture. – Nigel J May 16 '18 at 12:00
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In his very fine Pillar NT Commentary on Romans, Colin Kruse asserts with respect to Rom. 8:10:

The decision concerning whether (human) spirit or (the Holy) Spirit is intended in the statement ‘the spirit/Spirit is alive/life’ depends in turn upon whether or not it is justified to render the noun ‘life’ that the apostle employs here as ‘alive’, and so this matter needs to be addressed first. The noun ‘life’ occurs thirty-seven times in Paul’s letters, and on every occasion the NIV translates it as ‘life’. Elsewhere when the apostle wants to speak of people being ‘alive’, he does not use the noun ‘life’ but one form or another of either the verb ‘to be alive’ or the verb ‘to make alive’. It is preferable, therefore, to stay with the literal translation, ‘the Spirit is life’, in 8:10 (as does the NRSV) or as ‘the Spirit gives life’ (as here in the NIV). Copyright 2012 Colin G. Kruse.

This seems sound to me, and Kruse goes on to suggest that the Spirit gives life because of the righteousness of God in the giving of the Gospel. Alternatively, I would suggest Paul is speaking about the two different animating principles that can be at work within us, either of which we may yield to:

9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Rom. 8:9-10, NKJV)

If Christ is in us (through His Spirit) then the old man is dead but the Spirit has become our life because of the righteousness which has been imputed to us.

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One of the keys to understanding Romans 6-8 is Paul's personification of sin. I like to make that clearer to the reader by rendering "sin" as "Mr. Sin":

Rom 7:13  Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But [Mr.] sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that [Mr.] sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants] Τὸ οὖν ἀγαθὸν ἐμοὶ ἐγένετο θάνατος; μὴ γένοιτο· ἀλλὰ ἡ ἁμαρτία, ἵνα φανῇ ἁμαρτία διὰ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ μοι κατεργαζομένη θάνατον· ἵνα γένηται καθ' ὑπερβολὴν ἁμαρτωλὸς ἡ ἁμαρτία διὰ τῆς ἐντολῆς.

Paul describes how Mr. Sin used the law in Paul's life (as in the life of everyone under the law, IE: the Jews) to slay him:

Rom 7:9  For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, [Mr.] 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 [Mr.] sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.

That is, when Paul was confronted with the command "do not covet" the urges in his body in conflict with the command prevailed and he collapsed as a mortally wounded soldier.

NOTE: "Mr. Sin" is also known in Paul's writings as "the mind of the flesh" and seems to refer to cravings given a dark element through "the knowledge of good and evil".

In our verse, Paul Christ answers to Mr. Sin and is essentially referred to as "Mr. Righteousness". As Mr. Sin dwelt within the sinner, Christ, Mr. Righteousness indwells the saint:

KJV Romans 8:10 And if [or rather, since] Christ be in you, the body is dead because of [Mr.] sin; but the Spirit is life because of [Mr.] righteousness.

Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants] εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν, τὸ μὲν σῶμα νεκρὸν διὰ ἁμαρτίαν, τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ζωὴ διὰ δικαιοσύνην.

Paul uses an amazingly subtle method of personification that even the scholars have heretofore missed in his unorthodox spelling of διὰ. According to Thayer's (apparently quoting Strong?):

διά ("written δἰ before a vowel, except in proper names and 2 Corinthians 5:7; Romans 8:10"

http://biblehub.com/thayers/1223.htm

So Paul is most certainly personifying sin and since Christ is juxtaposed against it I believe we are justified in read it "Mr. Righteousness".

So what is he saying? Mr. Sin killed the flesh by commandeering the commandment but Mr. Righteousness (Christ) gave the saint "the breath of life" which is now the life by which the believer lives and produces good fruit. And Mr. Sin has received a death sentence:

KJV Rom 8:1  There is therefore now no condemnation [death sentence] 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 [breath] 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 [gave a death sentence to Mr.] 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 [by the breath of life aka the spirit], the body is dead because of [Mr.] sin; but the Spirit [breath] is life because of [Mr.] righteousness.  Rom 8:11  But if the Spirit [breath] of him [God] 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 [breath] that dwelleth in you.

This verse from John seems to have some overlap with Paul:

YLT Joh 6:63  the spirit it is that is giving life; the flesh doth not profit anything; the sayings that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life;

Update

A few more relevant verses from Paul:

1Co 1:30  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 

Gal_2:20  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Col_3:4  When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

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Romans 8:10 (KJV):

10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

To be able to properly answer your question of “how does the concept of ‘righteousness’ cause the Spirit to be ‘life’ in Romans 8:10?”, we must first look to the lead-in context back in Chapter 7. We need to understand the contrast between the “flesh” and the “spirit”.

Romans 7:4-6 (KJV):

4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. 6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

In verse 4, Paul states that we have become dead to the law (Law of Moses) because of the sacrifice of Christ. This is important in answering your question because it shows that Christ’s sacrifice was effective to destroy that law’s hold on us, in that we have become “dead to the law”; the law has no effect on us any longer. This truth then allows the Spirit of God to work in our lives.

In verses 5-6, Paul starts a contrast between the flesh (ie, living by our own will and power) and the spirit. He says that while we walked according to our own flesh (and apart from Christ’s sacrifice) the law was applicable to our lives and the result was death since we could not attain righteousness on our own. As long as the law lives and we are attempting to fulfill its requirements by our own works, then we are spiritually dead since our sin prevents us from keeping the law perfectly.

He also goes on to say in verse 6 that we have been delivered from the law that we should now serve in “newness” of the Spirit and not of the “oldness” of the letter (ie, Law of Moses).

In chapter 8, Paul then goes on to tell us that we who now live by faith, trusting in the sacrifice of Christ to cover our sin, have made the journey from death to life because we have also made the related journey from trusting our own flesh to trusting the Spirit of God.

Romans 8:1-2 (KJV):

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Here, Paul states that there is no condemnation of the law (since we are now dead to the law through the sacrifice of Christ) to those who have left off trusting in our own flesh (sinful will) and who are now trusting Christ by faith (who walk “after the Spirit”)

Verse 2 states that the “law of the Spirit of the life in Christ” has freed me from the law of sin and death. The term “law” in the phrase “law of Spirit of the life in Christ” is not the law as in the Law of Moses. It means more of a figurative principal. That spiritual principal of trusting in Christ instead of my own will has freed me from the bondage of literally having to keep the Law of Moses which brings with it sin and death.

Romans 8:3-4 (KJV):

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

V3: Because of sin, the law could not produce in us the righteousness of God because it was weak due to our own sinful flesh (we desire to do good but are unable to fulfill it – Romans 7:14-23). However, Christ came to condemn sin in His flesh that the righteousness of law might be fulfilled in us who are not walking after the flesh (ie, trusting in our own sinful and corrupt works) but are now walking (trusting) in the Spirit ie, trusting in Christ alone.

Romans 8:5-9 (KJV):

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. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 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.

Here in these verses Paul continues to contrast the flesh (living by our will to work our own righteousness) verses the Spirit (righteousness obtained through Christ). Notice that to be carnally/fleshly minded is death while to be spiritually minded is life.

Now here comes your key verse.

10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

This is the resurrection from the dead! If the Spirit of Christ is in us (those that have repented from their own dead works of righteousness – Hebrews 6:1 – and are now trusting in Christ) our body is now dead because of sin which is metaphor for the fact that we are now crucified with Christ; we partake of His death. However, because we have the Spirit of God in us, we are raised to newness of life again because Christ has fulfilled the law and has given (imputed) us His righteousness!

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