The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. So says Paul in Romans 8:2, but what exactly does he mean?

The apostle here is using “law” to mean “principle.” Without Christ, there is a principle in all people that leads inevitably to sin and death. For Paul that principle was a fallen nature, that is, the seeds of corruption which, if left unchecked by God, lead inevitably to total corruption. All such sin justly earns God’s condemnation.

The new covenant means that Christians are no longer dominated by that principle. There is another for them, and it leads to real life.

Paul knew that a problem faced the church in Rome, and it was a problem of Christian racism. Jewish Christians looked down on Gentile Christians as second-class citizens, and Gentile Christians looked down on Jewish Christians as just plain weird. Each group belittled the other. Each group believed in their innate superiority.

So, Paul wrote a 16-page letter (7,111 Greek words) that addressed that problem and changed history in the process. His argument was simple: everyone, both Jewish Christian and Gentile Christian, is saved by God’s undeserved favor, and Christ’s merits and grace guarantee the total transformation for all Christians. Therefore, this Christian racism must go.

Paul said, “Live your life in gratitude to God as a living sacrifice . . . and let each person consider the other as better than themselves.”

When a person is not “in Christ”, there is another principle. It is the principle of being “in Adam.” The result is a downward spiral of sin. The seeds of corruption inherited in Adam putrefy over time. Without God’s grace that depravity, like spiritual cancer, destroys everything.

If Christ had left you alone in Adam, could you say, “I am inherently better than other people”? Or could you promise, “Even if all fall away, I will not”? Are their no skeletons in your closet?

I cannot begin to say any of those things, and neither can you. We all at one time stood before God condemned in our own sin. It is God’s grace alone and nothing else that has won our salvation.

Paul’s vision for the Roman Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, was of a group who understood their own sin and then found unity in the glories of Christ as their one solution.

God’s mercy in Christ produces a debt we owe to God to be different. It is a debt because of grace; it will change the way we look at the world. It will change the way we look at the sins of others.

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