THE LIKENESS OF SINFUL FLESH
Comments in Romans 8.3. by Professor John Murray
He is using the word “likeness” not for the purpose of suggesting any unreality in respect of our Lord’s human nature. That would contradict Paul’s express language elsewhere in this epistle and in his other epistles. He is under the necessity of using this word here because he uses the term “sinful flesh” and he could not have said that Christ was sent in “sinful flesh”. That would have contradicted the sinlessness of Jesus for which the New Testament is jealous throughout. So the question is; why did Paul use the term “sinful flesh” when it is necessary to guard so jealously the sinlessness of the Lord’s flesh? He is concerned to show that when the Father sent the Son into this world of sin, of misery, and of death, He sent Him in a manner that brought Him into the closest relation to sinful humanity that it was possible for Him to come without becoming Himself sinful. He Himself was holy and undefiled-the word “likeness” guards this truth. But He came in the same human nature. And that is the purpose of saying “sinful flesh”. No other combination of terms could have fulfilled these purposes so perfectly. There is emblazoned on the apostle’s language the great truth that when the Father sent the Son He sent Him for the deepest humiliation conceivable for Him who was the Son of God and who, in His human nature, was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). “And for sin”-this is to be construed as the purpose for which the Son was sent. It would be in accord with Scripture to regard “sin” as meaning sin-offering. But there is no good reason to inject any other thought than that when the Father sent the Son it was for the purpose of dealing with sin. Nothing should be allowed to detract from the eloquence of that simple but profound truth. For by it we are advised that the coming of the Son of God into the world had no relevance apart from the fact of sin. It was to deal with sin that He came and, in view of the preceding clause, there is distinctly suggested to us that not only did He come in a way that brought Him into the closest possible relation to sinful humanity without becoming Himself sinful but He also came into the closest relation to sin that was possible without becoming Himself sinful.