Tag Archives: holy spirit

Romans 8:26-27 – Holy Spirit Groaning

Romans 8:26–27 (ESV) — 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.


Verse 26:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.


Likewise and Weakness:

Paul transitions from the hope we have in both the “now” and “not yet”…

  • Into another positive feature of the Christian life (as opposed to our sufferings and groanings).
  • …the Spirit…


In fact, the “likewise” here is connected directly to the hope of verses 24 and 25.

  • “…in the same way [as this hope sustains us] (Doug Moo)”, Paul says, “the Spirit helps us…


So, if the hope we have in the “now” wasn’t cool enough…

  • Paul tells us the indwelling Spirit is present with us as part of this hope.


And the best part is what the Spirit is doing on our behalf.

  • Paul says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness”.


What is “our weakness”?


The things that come along with:

  • body of death” (7:24)
  • the sufferings of our present time” (8:18)
  • groan inwardly” (8:23)


The word literally refers to a physical debilitating sickness or disease – BDAG.

  • So Paul’s use here is metaphorical.
  • And he is referring to our “lack of spiritual insight” or “moral deficiency” – BDAG.


So our weakness is this:

  • Because of our “lack of spiritual insight”…
  • Because of our “moral deficiency”…
  • We don’t pray “as we ought”.


What does Paul mean that we don’t pray “as we ought”?

  • Moo says Paul is referring to content not style.
  • Schreiner agrees.


In other words…

  • The problem here is not that we aren’t articulate enough…
  • Or don’t use enough Christianese…
  • Or don’t pray in a British accent.


The problem is that the things we actually pray for…

  • Are apparently, more often than not, outside of God’s will.


So the question is what are the right things to pray for – what is the right content?

  • Generally speaking, the things that God wills.
  • “What Paul apparently has in mind is that inability to discern clearly God’s will in the many things for which we pray…” – Doug Moo.
  • Paul says as much in verse 27 – “according to the will of God”.
    • More on the 26 and 27 connection in a bit.



Spirit Intercession:

This sounds like a serious problem.

  • But this is not where Paul is headed.
  • This is not a beat down passage.


Paul has some good news.

  • Because we are in Christ and indwelled by the Spirit…
  • Paul gives us some good news that mitigates our “weakness”.


Paul says that…

  • The Spirit “intercedes” on our behalf.


In other words, due to our “weakness” and the inability it brings…

  • The Spirit intervenes for our sake.
  • The interceding or intervening of the Spirit is the “help” the Spirit brings us in our weakness.


Parsing all this out:

  • We simply have a difficult time discerning the will of God.
  • We do our best and offer up our prayer and petitions in this light.
  • However, our “weakness” means we fail to discern the will of God on a regular basis.
  • But, the Spirit does know the will of God and intercedes on our behalf.


Before we move on, we have to ask one more question.

  • Didn’t Jesus teach us how to pray?


Jesus said the following:

  • Matthew 6:9–15 (ESV) — 9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.


How do we square what Jesus teaches here with what Paul teaches?



Inexpressible Groanings:

What exactly is the nature of the Spirit’s help and interceding?

  • groaning too deep for words” – “stenagmos alaletos


Or as other translations put it:

  • “sighs to deep for words” – NRSV
  • “groans that words cannot express” – NIV
  • “inexpressible groanings” – NET
  • “unspoken groanings” – HCSB


To begin with this is not the same kind of inward groaning believers express.

  • As we observed last time, the Spirit is not a creature and not in Garden Exile.
  • Doug Moo agrees: “…the groaning of the Spirit is very different in its nature and purpose from [our] ‘groanings’” – Doug Moo.


The BDAG makes a subtle distinction between the Spirit’s groaning and our groaning that might help us here.

  • Whereas, we groan due to our circumstances – our weakness.
  • The Spirit groans out of concern for our circumstance – “expression of great concern” (BDAG).


This distinction is helpful.

  • But it doesn’t tell us what the “inexpressible groanings” of the Spirit literally are.


Tom Schreiner thinks they are perhaps our groanings which the Holy Spirit modifies or translates.

“God searches the hearts of believers and finds unutterable longings to conform their lives to the will of God. The Holy Spirit takes these groanings and presents them before God in an articulate form…the Holy Spirit translates these groanings and conforms them to God’s will” – Tom Schreiner.



Implications for Us:

This revelation from Paul about our “weakness” should serve to humble us.

Believers, “do not have an adequate grasp of what God’s will is when they pray. Because of our finiteness and fallibility we cannot perceive fully what God would desire” – Tom Schreiner.


The implication of this is simple:

  • “…we cannot presume to identify our petitions with the will of God” – Doug Moo.


So even in our prayer life…

  • We must depend upon the Holy Spirit.
  • In the midst of our weakness, we find the Spirit’s strength and intercession!
  • And this is good news!



Verse 27:

And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.


Heart Searcher:

Paul says God the Father continually searches the hearts of believers.

  • T. Wright says of Paul’s word choice for “searches”:

“The word ‘searcher’ comes from a root which suggests someone lighting a torch and going slowly round a large, dark room full of all sorts of things, looking for something in particular” – N.T. Wright.


Wright says this is both “disturbing and exciting”.

  • I think so too!


Why would the idea of God the Father doing a room-to-room search of our hearts be disturbing?

  • Short answer: He is going to find the stuff of weak creatures – sin, etc.
  • And this stuff will come under judgment.
  • Romans 2:16 (ESV) — 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.


Why would the idea of God the Father doing a room-to-room search of our hearts be exciting?

  • Because, for the believer, He will also find the stuff of those in Christ and indwelled by the Spirit.
  • And our text tells us that part of that stuff is the groanings of the Spirit.


N.T. Wright puts it like this:

“But the thing he is wanting to find above all else, and which according to Paul he ought to find in all Christians, is the sound of the spirit’s groaning” – N.T. Wright.


This is more good news for the believer!

  • God the Father, the searcher, confirms our union with Christ through the presence of an interceding Spirit groaning on our behalf.


It’s hard to find a better Trinitarian description of the Gospel than this.

“This hints at something deeper than merely prayer in the way that God wants or approves; God’s own life, love and energy are involved in the process. The Christian, precisely at the point of weakness and uncertainty, of inability and struggle, becomes the place at which the triune God is revealed in person” – N.T. Wright.



Spirit Mindset:

Paul goes on to tell us that the Father knows the “phronema” or “mindset” of the Spirit.

  • the mind of the Spirit”.


So what is the “mindset” of the Spirit?

  • the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God


The “mindset” of the Spirit…

  • Is to intercede, mediate and translate our prayers and our groanings to the Father.
  • And to do so “according to the will of God”.


In other words, the “mindset” of the Spirit is CONCERN:

  • Concern for the weakness of the believer.
  • Concern for the will of God the Father.


This is how verse 26 and verse 27 are connected and fill each other out.

  • We are weak – so the Spirit groans (show of concern) on our behalf.
  • God the Father has a will – so the Spirit intercedes for us (show of concern) according to the Father’s will.


This work of the Spirit should bring us huge comfort!

  • Why?

“We discover that God himself does not stand apart from the pain both of the world and of the church, but comes to dwell in the middle of it in the person and power of the spirit” – N.T. Wright.


And with respect to our lives:

“Believers should take tremendous encouragement that the will of God is being fulfilled in their lives despite their weakness and inability to know what to pray for. God’s will is not being frustrated because of the weakness of believers” – Tom Schreiner.


Romans 8:9-11 – We Are Sacred Space – Garden and Mountain

Romans 8:9–11 (ESV) — 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.



The “Spirit of God dwells in you”.

  • This has to be one of the most profound statements in the Bible.


As with virtually everything in Romans…

  • The implications are huge.


Paul says that the one in whom the Spirit of God dwells is:

  • (1) “Not in the flesh” – vs. 9.
  • (2) Belongs to God (by implication).
    • Because those who don’t have the Spirit do “not belong to him” – vs. 9.
  • (3) Have a body that “is dead
  • (4) Yet, in spite of this “the Spirit is life because of righteousness” for the believer – vs. 10.
  • (5) Will be given “life to your mortal bodies” – vs. 11.


We saw what the first two of these meant last week.

  • The second three are some exciting ways Paul applies the presence of the Spirit to the life of the believer.



  • The third one tells us that the believers “body is dead”.

Meaning, “…their physical bodies remain subject to death because of sin. The corruption and mortality introduced by Adam’s sin have not as yet been fully eradicated. The eschatological tension of the ‘not yet’ remains as the tragic cycle of birth, life, and death continues for the time being” – Michael Bird.


Yet, Paul’s fourth point tells us that even in the midst of this death…

  • The believer has the “no condemnation” (vs. 1) life in the Spirit – the life and peace of verse 6.


The reason the believer has this life is because the presence of the Holy Spirit demonstrates that…

  • We are in Christ and have been declared righteous – “because of righteousness”.


The fifth is the “not yet” blessing of having the Spirit of God.

  • The declaration of our righteousness in God’s law court…
  • Also means that in the future, our righteousness will be fully fleshed out…literally…in our glorified resurrected bodies!


Certainly, more can be said of these.

  • And there are also the normal “Christianeze” descriptions of this indwelling:
  • Indwelling as the power that “empowers them to live a life pleasing to God” – DPL.
  • Indwelling as the “power to make the saving events of Jesus’ life-death-resurrection present in an effective way for the believer” – DPL.


But what I want to dive deeper into Paul’s revelation that…

  • …the Spirit of God dwells in” the believer.


We’re going to do so in a little different way.

  • Specifically, we are going to tease out some Old Testament concepts.


We will see that the indwelling of the Spirit in the NT fulfills two expectations of the OT.

  • Lasting Submission
  • Lasting Sacred Space



Lasting Submission:

A constant theme in the OT is that of a heart/mind in rebellion to God.

  • Moses speaks to this as well as anybody in Deuteronomy.
  • Deuteronomy 9:24 (ESV) — 24 You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you.


An idea repeated even in the N.T.

  • Acts 7:51 (ESV) — 51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.


But along with the recognition of the problem…

  • There is an understanding of the nature of the solution.


Moses speaks of the solution this way…

  • Deuteronomy 10:16 (ESV) — 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.


This solution is a transformation of the heart/mind.

  • But how exactly is this to be accomplished?
  • How are those with believing loyalty in God to have a lasting (in a now and not yet since) submission to God from a circumcised heart/mind?


Ezekiel and Isaiah shed some light on how this would happen.

  • Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
  • Isaiah 44:3 (ESV) — 3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.


The thirsty land and the dry ground of the stubborn heart and mind…

  • Need to be permanently (or at least “now and not yet” permanently) broken up and softened.
  • The occasional softening by natural rain, and will power, doesn’t last.
  • These don’t bring lasting submission.


Lasting submission to God comes from a new heart and renewed mind.

  • It comes from the “phroneo” of the things of the Spirit that Paul speaks of in Romans 8.


And this only happens when the believer is made new by the Spirit of God.

  • “The Spirit is the power of new creation…” – DPL.


So the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the regeneration – being born again – language of the NT.

  • And it is the fulfillment of the hope for a lasting submission as expressed by Moses and others.


So when the Spirit dwells in us – regenerating our hearts/minds…

  • We enter into lasting submission to God.
  • The stubborn heart/mind is “now and not yet” vanquished forever!


There is one more cool aspect to what Paul has in mind with being dwelled by the Spirit.

  • Along with lasting submission, it brings lasting sacred space.



Lasting Sacred Space:

I’ll let Paul get us started.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19 (ESV) — 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own


This revelation of Paul is awesome.

  • We are indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
  • And thus, this means we are “a temple”.
  • “We are the place where God dwells— the same presence that filled the temple in the Old Testament” – Michael Heiser.



  • What are we to make of this?


To begin to fathom the implications of this aspect of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit…

  • We need to unpack exactly what this temple imagery represented to a first century Jew.


We are going to look at two examples.

  • Both of which deal with the idea of Sacred Space (or Cosmic Geography).
  • (1) Temple as the Sacred Space of the Garden of Eden
  • (2) Temple as the Sacred Space of a Cosmic (seen and unseen realms) Mountain



Sacred Space – Garden of Eden:

In the OT, the Temple was seen as analogous to the Garden of Eden.

  • “As the divine abode, the tabernacle/temple was also analogous to Eden” – Michael Heiser.


G.K. Beale gives a number of reasons to make this point – here are 5.

  • (1) The Garden, like the Temple, was “the place of God’s special presence where he made himself known and felt to Israel”.
  • (2) The Garden, like the Temple, had a priest (Adam) to guard and keep the sacred space.
  • (3) “The tree of life served as a model for the lampstand, which was clearly shaped as a tree, in the Temple”.
  • (4) The Garden was known as “the holy mountain of God” (Ezk. 28), just like Mount Zion – the location of the Temple in Jerusalem.


We might also recall from our lessons on Genesis 1-3…

  • That the Garden implied God’s Garden presence, blessing and life.


But Adam, the High Priest of the Garden Temple, was thrown out.

  • God’s Garden presence, blessing and life didn’t last.


And every person born since then has been born in Garden Exile.

  • Born outside of God’s Garden presence, blessing and life.
  • The Sacred Space of Eden didn’t last!


How can the Sacred Space of Eden be restored?

  • By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.


To be a “temple of the Holy Spirit” is to be, (in some sense), a new Garden.

  • The Spirit’s indwelling means (in some sense) we have returned to Eden.



Sacred Space – Cosmic Mountain:

We saw that the Garden in Eden and the Temple in Jerusalem were God’s Holy Mountains.

  • Simple enough.


But we need to know that…

  • In an ancient Jewish context, God’s Holy Mountain was the place where His divine council (1 Kings 22:19-21) met.
  • Zechariah 8:3 (ESV) — 3 Thus says the Lord: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain.


This means that the Holy Mountain was also the place from which God battled the powers of darkness.

  • The Psalmist speaks of this.
  • Psalm 48:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, 2 beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north [Zaphon], the city of the great King.
  • (Also think of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel).


We need to notice:

  • In Ugarit, “Zaphon” is the mountain from which Baal ruled – Heiser.
  • The HALOT actually uses the phrase “mountain of the gods”.


In fact, the Canaanites referred to “Zaphon” as:

  • “Baal’s ‘beautiful hill,’ his ‘inheritance,’ his ‘holy mountain,’ and a ‘lovely, mighty mountain’” – NIVZSB.


All of this means the mountain, “Zaphon”, would be where Baal held his divine council.

  • A council operating in opposition to Yahweh.


And interestingly it is “Zaphon”, Baal’s mountain…

  • That was the mountain in “the far north”.
  • But the Psalmist identifies Mount Zion, which is south, with the northern mountain “Zaphon”.


So what is going on in this text?

  • Why associate Mount Zion with a Northern mountain?
  • How does it reflect a battle against the powers of darkness?


By associating Mount Zion with “Zaphon”, the Psalmist is describing a Cosmic Mountain turf war.

  • One in which the winner is YHWH (Heiser).


It is YHWH who is:

  • The “great king” – not Baal.
  • And it His Mountain, Zion, that is “the joy of all the earth” – not “Zaphon”.


So what we have is:

  • “The psalmist is stealing glory from Baal, restoring it to the One to whom it rightfully belongs— Yahweh” – Michael Heiser.
  • And he does so by rightly subsuming and collapsing Baal’s mountain and council into Yahweh’s.
  • So Psalm 48, “deliberately argues that Yahweh is greater than Baal and that his dwelling place is greater than Baal’s” – NIVZSB.


In other words, this is a polemic turf war against Baal, his mountain and divine council.

  • Just like the ones we saw in our Joshua study.
  • Such as when God controlled the chaos of Baal’s river (the Jordan) and enabled the Israelites to pass through.


BTW – Michael Heiser makes this observation about the OT turf war:

“The New Testament portrays the Christian life— even the very Christian existence— as prompting a spiritual turf war. But we often don’t pick up on the messaging. Sacred space and realm distinction are not just Old Testament concepts” – Michael Heiser.

  • He goes on to say – “wherever believers are and gather, the spiritual ground they occupy is sanctified amid the powers of darkness” – Michael Heiser.


But, like the Garden, the Cosmic Mountain’s reign was temporary.

  • The throne room of Mount Zion’s Temple was repeatedly destroyed.
  • It didn’t last.


So how can the Sacred Space of God’s Holy Mountain be restored?

  • How about through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
  • Like “Zaphon”, we have been claimed as God’s turf – His Holy Mountain – His Sacred Space.


Isaiah knew this “lasting” Sacred Space would come:

  • Isaiah 33:20 (ESV) — 20 Behold Zion, the city of our appointed feasts! Your eyes will see Jerusalem, an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken.


Isaiah’s words express the hope for a lasting Mount Zion and Temple/tabernacle.

  • One to be fulfilled by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that Paul teaches.


And yet – even as awesome as all this is…

  • There is still a “not yet” aspect to it to be fulfilled.
  • A fulfillment that punctuates the “Lasting Sacred Space” idea.
  • Revelation 3:12 (ESV) — 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.


Romans 8:2-4 – According to the Spirit and Trinitarian Gospel

Romans 8:2–4 (ESV) — 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.



Last week we looked at the “therefore” in verse 1.

  • We saw it contained history – the man Adam, and the man Jesus with His one act.
  • We saw that it also contained theology – the application of the history; the meat on the bones of history; the thing that gave the history meaning.
  • We also briefly explored union with Christ.



In our verses today, Paul gives us more theology.

  • Specifically, the “what” that the history, the theology and union with Christ do for the believer.
  • In effect, Paul describes some of the results of our union with Christ.



Verse 2:

He sets it up in verse 2.

  • For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.


For those “in Christ Jesus”…

  • the law of the Spirit of life”…
  • Has set the believer free from “the law of sin and death”.


So what are these two “laws”?


I am with Douglas Moo on this one.

  • Paul isn’t talking about the Mosaic law in verse 2.
  • He is referring to law as a “binding authority” or “power”.


We have seen him do this before.

  • Romans 3:27 (ESV) — 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.
  • Romans 7:23 (ESV) — 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.


So the two laws are:

  • The power and authority of the Spirit of life…
  • The power and authority of sin and death.


This means what we have in Romans 8:2 is this:

  • The authority and power of the Spirit – found in Christ…
  • Has set the believer free from the authority and power of sin and death.


What does the power of sin and death bring?

  • Why would one want to be set free from it?


BTW – to tie this back to Paul’s dominion theology:

  • Where does the power and authority of the Spirit of life operate?
    • The domain of grace – “under grace”.
  • Where does the power and authority of sin and death operate?
    • The domain of sin – “under sin”.



Holy Spirit:

We have to take special notice of something hugely significant in verse 2.

  • Paul establishes the necessity of the work of the Spirit.


Doug Moo says Paul’s citation of the Spirit…

Introduces, “the Spirit as a key agent of liberation from the old realm of sin and death” – Doug Moo.


And importantly Paul also establishes cooperation between the person and work of Christ…

  • The “therefore” from 8:1…
  • And the liberating work of the Spirit…


“The Spirit’s liberating work takes place only within the situation created by Christ” – Doug Moo.

  • As Paul says, the power and authority of the Spirit sets us free in Christ.
  • The Spirit plays a role in the believer’s address change.


BTW – This should remind us of what we learned in 1 Corinthians 8:6.

  • There we saw how the Father and Son were coworkers in creation.
  • Here, Christ and the Spirit both work to provide freedom.


So, by virtue of union with Christ…

  • The power and authority of the Spirit has set us free from sin and death.



Verses 3-4:

In verses 3-4, Paul then tells us how it is the Spirit sets us free in Christ.

  • It is basically a play-by-play description of exactly how the history and theology set the believer free.
  • For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.


Before we unpack Paul’s play-by-play…

  • I want us to notice two things.


First, notice that it is all God!

  • God has done
  • Sending his own Son…He condemned sin
  • According to the Spirit


Second, notice that Paul’s play-by-play…

  • Highlights the work of all three persons of the Trinity in securing the believer’s freedom.
  • God, Son and Spirit.
  • So we see the Trinitarian Gospel.


Now, let’s unpack the details of how Father, Son and Spirit set the believer free.

  • Let’s unpack the Trinitarian Gospel.



The Father:

(1) “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh [“this-worldly orientation”], could not do.

  • As we have seen in previous lessons on the law (here the Mosaic law)…
  • It is “incapable of rescuing people from the domain of sin and death” – Doug Moo.


In fact, in the domain of “under sin” where all are “in Adam”…

  • The law actually “strengthens the power of sin” – Doug Moo.


Tom Schreiner puts it this way:

  • “Without the Spirit the law only produces death. But for those who have the Spirit the law plays a positive role” – Tom Schreiner.


Remember – the law was never the problem.

  • Paul never threw the law under the bus.
  • One’s address – under sin – and the power of sin and death is the problem.


BTW – this means that one of the many things the Gospel does is…

  • Provide the proper address, or context, for God’s law to work as intended.


So God, obviously knowing the problem that the law presents in the domain of sin…

  • Sends His Son.
  • John 3:16 (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.



The Son:

(2) “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”


When Paul says God condemned sin in Jesus’ flesh, three verses really help us get at the meaning.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) — 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
  • Galatians 3:13 (ESV) — 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
  • Romans 3:25 (ESV) — 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.


These three verses hit on various dimensions of Paul’s words.

  • The sinless Son of God took our sin upon Himself.
  • As our substitute, He became a curse “for us”.
  • The Father could then condemn and bring His judging righteousness upon our sin without killing us.
    • Because, the history and theology of the Son’s and Spirit’s work separated us from our sin.


Tom Wright puts it this way:

  • In Christ, our sin was executed – Tom Wright.
  • Sin was condemned, not Jesus – Wright.


How was it that Jesus could do this for us?


If He were a mere human being – a divinely appointed human agent – there would be some problems.

  • He would be “in Adam”, born in Garden Exile (outside of God’s Garden blessing, presence and life) and be under sin and death.
  • He would be powerless before the authority of sin and death.
  • He would be a sinner Himself…in need of a remedy.


But wouldn’t the Virgin Birth have remedied this?

  • Perhaps, if one thought, as Augustine, that the sin nature was transmitted through the “seed”.
  • But as we know, this view of the Fall is virtually non-existent now.


So, how is it that Jesus could be a human but not be in Garden Exile – subject to the domain of sin?

  • He somehow had to be share in the divine nature of the Father…
  • While at the same time taking on humanity.
  • The God-Man who came in the “likeness of sinful flesh”.


What does this phrase mean?

  • “Total identity” with – Tom Schreiner.
  • “Mere similarity” with – Tom Schreiner.


Both Schreiner, Moo, and just about all of Christendom opt for the first.

  • So Paul intends us to know that Christ did not come in “superficial or outward similarity, but inward and real participation” in our sinful flesh.


What does it mean that Christ fully participated in our sinful flesh?


I really like how Tom Schreiner answers this question.

  • It means that Jesus’ “body was not immune to the powers of the old age: sickness and death”.
  • “His body was subject to the disease, death, and weakness of the old order, yet the Son himself was not sinful, nor did he ever sin” – Tom Schreiner.
    • As Paul affirms in 2 Cor. 5:21.


But isn’t being “subject to…death” an indication of being in Adam and in Garden Exile?

“Paul is walking a fine line here. On the one hand, he wants to insist that Christ fully entered into the human condition, became ‘in-fleshed’ (in-carnis), and, as such, exposed himself to the power of sin (cf. 6:8–10). On the other hand, he must avoid suggesting that Christ so participated in this realm that he became imprisoned ‘in the flesh’ (cf. the negative use of this phrase in 7:5 and 8:8, 9) and became, thus, so subject to sin that he could be personally guilty of it” – Doug Moo.

  • Bottom line – we don’t have all the answers.


One more very important thing to notice about this “likeness of sinful flesh” language:

  • Paul certainly understands Jesus to be a man…
  • But maintains a very strong distinction between Jesus’ humanity and everyone else’s humanity.


Jesus came from the Father – as in existed with and was sent from there to us.

  • And Jesus’ flesh was “in the likeness” of ours.


If Jesus were only human, why say this?

  • It would be very awkward indeed, for example…
  • To describe Moses, a divinely appointed human agent of God, as being “the likeness of sinful flesh”.


Couple this with the association that Paul makes…

  • Between the Father and the Son in 1 Corinthians 8:6…
  • And we see yet another piece of the Trinity puzzle.


So God sent…

  • And in Christ, the believer’s sin was condemned.
  • So what about the Spirit?



The Spirit:

(3) “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.


In the interplay between God’s judging righteousness and His holiness…

  • There exists a righteous requirement…
  • One that must be met in order to enter back into His life, presence and blessing.
  • Specifically, the requirement is perfect love, obedience and righteousness – Moo.


This requirement is met in the believer – fulfilled in us – by Christ’s work on the cross.

  • And Paul links this fulfillment to the Holy Spirit.
  • This requirement is met in the context of walking not “according to the flesh”…
    • e., in rebellion to God.
  • But those who walk “according to the Spirit”.
    • Life in our new domain.


The transfer out of sin and into grace…

  • Is achieved by the work of Christ…
  • And applied by the Holy Spirit.


So why does the theology and history of the “therefore” from verse 1 bring no condemnation?

  • God’s sending…
  • And Jesus’ work on the cross…
  • Freed the sinner from the law of sin…
  • And put us under the life of the Spirit


We will dig deeper into the life of the Spirit next time.


John 21:1-14 – Spirits and Dead Men Don’t Make Breakfast



John 21:1–2 (ESV) — 1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.


The disciples seem to be in weird state of flux after Jesus’ resurrection.

  • After His resurrection, they spent eight plus days hiding out in Jerusalem.
  • And now we see at least seven of them have made their way back to Galilee.
    • We don’t know where the other four are.


What are they doing?

  • They don’t appear to be advancing the Kingdom.
  • Sadly, they kind of look like how we live our Christian lives.
  • And as profound and significant as seeing the bodily risen Jesus Christ was, there is far more to following Jesus that profound and significant experiences.
  • And they certainly would have known this too, I suspect.


It almost appears as if they decided to return back to their normal lives.

  • After all, Peter, James and John were in the fishing business together before Jesus showed up (Luke 5:10).
  • And now here they are again – fishing together.


But Matthew may shed some light on the disciples actions.

  • Matthew 26:32 (ESV) — 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”
    • Before He is arrested, Jesus tells them he will meet them in Galilee.
  • Matthew 28:7 (ESV) — 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”
    • And at the empty grave, we are told that an angel also told them about a meeting in Galilee.

So, “There is no evidence that Peter and the others had gone to Galilee in order to fish [take up fishing as a career again]. The most reasonable assumption is that they went in obedience to the Lord’s command” – D.A. Carson.


Yet, D.A. Carson points out that, “…this fishing expedition and the dialogue that ensues do not read like the lives of men on a Spirit-empowered mission. It is impossible to imagine any of this taking place in Acts, after Pentecost.”

  • I want to point this out because it highlights once again the significance of Jesus’ words in John 17 concerning the Holy Spirit.
  • John 16:7 (ESV) — 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.


In John 16, Jesus went on to list all the things the Spirit would do:

  • Convict world concerning sin (vs. 8)
  • Convict world concerning righteousness (vs. 8)
  • Convict world concerning judgment (vs. 8)
  • Guide disciples into truth (vs. 13)
  • Declare to disciples the “things that are to come” (vs. 13)
  • Glorify Jesus by declaring Jesus’ work and teaching (vs. 14)


One need only read Acts to see the impact of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the disciples and believers in general.

  • At Pentecost, the “what’s next” arrived and the world was never the same.
  • The disciples no longer had to sit around, hiding and waiting to encounter the risen Jesus.


But, oddly, we can sometimes live like the pre-Pentecost disciples.

  • It’s as if we are waiting for the “what’s next”.
  • The “what’s next” has already begun!
  • So what’s our excuse?
    •  “C’mon, son!” – Ed Lover.





John 21:3–8 (ESV) — 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.


The setting for this third bodily appearance of Jesus is a fishing trip on the Sea of Galilee.

  • They may have been waiting in obedience for the “what’s next”, but at least they weren’t lazing around.
  • And Beasley-Murray reminds us that even though Jesus had been raised, the disciples still needed to eat.


John tells us they had been fishing all night long.

  • But, they had caught nothing.
  • It was common at that time to fish at night, “That way, fish caught before daybreak could be sold fresh in the morning” – Kostenberger.
  • This scenario was very similar to an encounter they had with Jesus at the beginning of His ministry.
  • Luke 5:4–6 (ESV) — 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.


But unlike Luke 5, this time Jesus was unrecognizable on the shore, not speaking to a crowd from Peter’s boat.

  • He speaks a term of endearment to the seven disciples in the boat – “paidion” (children).
    • This would have been quite weird for a stranger.
  • The word conveys that the speaker is “on terms of fatherly intimacy w. those whom he addresses” – BDAG.
  • He then asks if they had caught any fish – “do you have any fish” (vs. 5).
  • The fishing trip then plays out like it did in Luke 5.


Interestingly, we then see an example of what we observed about Peter and John last week.

  • John as a “perceptive witness” – Bauckham.
    • He deduces the man on the shore must be Jesus – “It is the Lord” (vs. 7).
  • Peter engaging in “active service” – Richard Bauckham.
    • He “threw himself into the sea” at 100 yards out (vs. 7).
    • “In characteristic fashion, the beloved disciple displays spiritual discernment, while Peter exhibits decisive action” – Kostenberger.
    • “The beloved disciple exhibits quick insight, and Peter quick action” – D.A. Carson.
    • And then it was time to have breakfast.





John 21:9–14 (ESV) — 9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.


A quick rabbit trail – we earlier alluded to Luke 5 and the similarity between these two fishing trips.

  • However, there is at least one significant difference that John points out to us.
  • Luke tells us in Luke 5:6 that, “they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.
  • John tells us that in this post-resurrection fishing trip, “although there were so many, the net was not torn” (vs. 11).
  • Given how John writes as the “perceptive witness”, I think he wants us to see something here.
  • My best guess is that we have a foretaste of resurrection life in the Kingdom – restoration, re-creation, things put right, things not breaking.
  • And/or, “This may suggest that the gospel net will never break, that there is no limit to the number of converts it catches” – D.A. Carson.


So the disciples, the six and Peter, made it back to shore and they see that Jesus has breakfast ready to go.

  • Jesus asks Peter to finish hauling the net full of fish up onto the beach and bring some of the fish when he comes back.
  • Peter must have been a strong dude.


And as the remaining narrative unfolds, the behavior of the disciples comes off as very awkward.

  • It seems obvious that Jesus was expecting them and prepared breakfast for them.
  • Yet they appear to all be standing around dumbfounded.
  • Jesus has to speak with words what His actions already conveyed – “Come and have breakfast” (vs. 12).


Furthermore, John shares with us the strange inner dialogue the disciples were having.

  • They all knew this to be the risen Jesus.
  • They had seen Him twice before.
  • Yet, John tells us that although “They knew it was the Lord” “none of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’” (vs. 12).
  • In other words, they knew it was Jesus.
  • But they still wanted to ask if it was Jesus.
  • What is up with that?


We know that although His resurrected body looked the same, it also looked different.

  • Mary, for example, was staring right at Him and didn’t recognize Him.
    • She thought He was the gardener.

So “What is plain is that the Jesus whom they were meeting in his Easter glory was living in a different mode of existence from that of his former earthly conditions” – Beasley-Murray.


Plus we are still dealing with a huge category shift with the Jewish notions of resurrection and Messiah.

  • Something we just spent 12 weeks or so learning about.
  • These shifts probably took a while to sink in.
  • Not to mention that Jesus died.
    • And dead men don’t bodily rise from the dead and cook breakfast.


D.A Carson sums up this strange encounter as follows:

“But whether because they could see Jesus was not simply resuscitated (like Lazarus), but appeared with new powers, or because they were still grappling with the strangeness of a crucified and resurrected Messiah, or because despite the irrefutable power of the evidence presented to them resurrection itself seemed strange, they felt considerable unease—yet suppressed their question because they knew the one before them could only be Jesus” – D.A. Carson.


All of this serves as a reminder to us about progress in our understanding of Jesus.

  • It doesn’t come at once.
  • Yet, it is something that we should be constantly pursuing.


Mary Jo Sharp says this:

  • We profess to follow the greatest Teacher in the world.
  • How can we claim to follow the greatest Teacher in the world and not love to learn?


John then finishes the narrative by showing the bodily risen Jesus serving breakfast to His disciples.

  • And John, in effect says, spirits and dead men don’t make breakfast.
  • This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead” (John 21:14).
  • Jesus is not dead and He is not a spirit.
  • He is bodily raised from the dead.
  • And He is serving breakfast.