January 28. Romans 8:4. The Righteous Requirement of the Law, Pursuing Holiness (a warning), and “Chocolat.”

Romans 8:3-4. 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.

Why did God save us?

That’s a pretty important question isn’t it? Paul actually answers it right here in Romans 8:4 – in order that… God sent his son and condemned sin in the flesh in order that we might be holy.

Holiness is the goal of your salvation. Of your whole life really. Holiness is life. It is living. God saves us to make us holy. We are not just saved FROM something (death, hell, sin), we are saved UNTO something…holiness (like the Israelites in Exodus).

Romans 8:3-4 shows us three things that have to happen for you and me to be holy:

First, God has to completely do this work in us (God has done). We could never ever achieve holiness on our own, because the law was weakened by the flesh. That means that we, apart from God’s work in our lives, would never want to obey God’s law and thus be holy. God had to do it.

Second, the righteous requirement of the law had to be fulfilled in us (not BY us). There is no holiness without the requirement of the law being fulfilled in us. What is the requirement of the law? Love – love God, love neighbor. Because we are IN CHRIST we stand completely righteous before God as concerns the law – there is no condemnation for our lack of love.

Third, we must be led by the Spirit of God himself. Because CHRIST IS IN US by the Spirit, we now have the progressive ability by faith to obey God’s law of love and thus see the righteousness of God fulfilled in our own lives.

What do these three truths have in common? God does it all. He sent Jesus. He condemned sin in the flesh. He gave us the Spirit. Oh yeah, He IS the Spirit. The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, who did everything for us. It’s all grace.

Here’s the thing about the pursuit of holiness though – it’s a slippery slope. If you read Romans 8:4 and set out to pursue the holy and righteous requirement of the law, you will most likely fail miserably. The 2001 movie Chocolat gives us a glimpse of this. The story takes place in a small town in France. When a new comer to the town opens a chocolate shop with treats that are bit too “sexy,” the pious town mayor seeks to destroy her shop on Easter. But his pursuit of holiness doesn’t exactly go the way he planned:

What if what Romans 8:3-4 teaches us is that holiness only comes by grace? If our holiness is the righteous requirement of the law, and that requirement is love, then how do we love? Don’t we start by receiving love? That is, by receiving grace? If the righteous requirement of the law is IN us, then we have already received it by grace. Wouldn’t it make sense that it then grows IN us by that same reception of grace? If you set out to pursue holiness, aren’t you in danger of losing all your humility, becoming self-righteous, and being filled with pride (and then eating chocolate until you pass out)?

What if holiness comes from receiving grace rather than from pursuing holiness? What if it comes as we embrace humility, repentance, and the completed work of God? What if the fruit of the righteous requirement of the law only comes when we trust that it has been fulfilled in us by the Spirit?

We are under grace not law (Romans 6:14). “Under grace” means that it is faith alone that will produce this progressive sanctification of the “law IN us.” That’s “to live is Christ.”

We will feature the music of “Rivers and Robots” this week. Here’s your lunch break song and a great reminder that God does it all.

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