What is the Law? – Romans 8:3

By sending his Son, God accomplished what the law could not. But to what does the law refer in this Romans 8:3? Law may refer to the Mosaic Law, keeping to the context of Romans 7:1-12 or as a “principle” as in 7:21 (the “sin principle”).

Torah-fingerJames Dunn and N. T. Wright argue Paul is consistently contrasting the Mosaic Law (or at least the boundary markers of the Law) in Romans 7 and it makes sense he should continue to contrast the written code (7:6) and the law of the Spirit. Although the Law promised life to those who kept it perfectly, it was powerless to deal with the real problem facing humanity, the problem of sin.

Colin Kruse argues the second view is preferable since it makes Romans 8:1 a continuation of 7:21-25. There is a principle at work in the people who desire to do what is good, but find themselves doing what they know to be wrong. The person who is in Christ is freed from the sin principle (7:25) and is not able to be punished for that sin principle because it has been fulfilled by Christ.

A problem is Paul’s description of the Law as weak (ἀσθενέω, v. 3). The verb refers to something that is weakened, perhaps by illness. This is often the word-group used in the Gospels for those who are healed by Jesus. But Paul uses the word for any kind of weakness or inability, including the “weak brother” in Romans 14 who is unable to eat meat due to their conscience. In chapter 7 the purpose of the Mosaic Law was to define sin so that humanity could be justly punished and know they are in need of a savior. That is not a weakness or inability, but rather the purpose for which the Law was originally designed.

In either case, this law is powerless to set people free from the power of sin which results in a downward spiral into more sin and finally in death.

2 thoughts on “What is the Law? – Romans 8:3

  1. A fact that has always been true about rules or laws is that people tend to break them. Keep in mind that the first rule broken happened in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. Another true fact to consider though is that the laws are often set in place to keep people safe at all times. However, God blessed us with the gift of autonomy- we are free of choice and granted free will. He allows us to make our own choices in every situation and circumstance that comes to be. So, if we choose to break the law knowingly then there are consequences and repercussions that we must face. Going back to Adam and Eve, their actions lead to sin infesting the earth and all the people in it. The last statement of the blog post mentions how although the law is meant to set us free it also causes people to fall even more. I am a firm believer that whenever we try to do good, that is when we are most tempted by sin. Following the laws of God especially should not put us in bondage, but it should bring us closer to Him. The closer we get to God the more the enemy plays tricks to deceit us. In the Bible Adam and Eve were one of the very few who walked alongside God in such an intimate way. Us as a people in our rightful place is not what the enemy wants. So, the more we follow the laws the more he will try and get in between our chances of growing closer to God.


  2. The law is seen as weak according to Paul because all the law does is show us our transgressions. The law only shows us what’s wrong and what’s right. I like how P long says that the law typically makes people look for what is good, but then end up finding what they are doing wrong. In my reading of Romans, I have found that in Romans 4 where we see how Moses was made righteous through his a simple act of faith. It wasn’t because Moses obeys the law but because Moses is so faithful to God and his promise. In Romans 4, we see Paul say that the law is there to show us our transgressions, but this is why our salvation depends on our faith. The law can’t save us, only through faith in Jesus can save us from our deserving death. Longenecker says “death cannot undo the salvific effect of bringing God’s love top creation in bondage, through Jesus’ death and resurrection (Longenecker 185)” the law may show us how we deserve death, but it’s Jesus died on the cross that saves us. Romans 3 plainly says that God could do what the law could not do.


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