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He Condemned Sin in the Flesh: The Law and Union with Christ

Camden Bucey speaks at our 2019 Theology Conference held at Hope OPC in Grayslake, Illinois. The theme of the conference is “The Law Is Spiritual,” which is a phrase that comes from Romans 7:14. This is a verse that has been a perennial challenge for interpreters. What does it mean for the law to be “spiritual”? In this opening lecture, Dr. Bucey offers several exegetical, hermeneutical, and biblical-theological suggestions for approaching this difficult verse and its immediate context, namely Romans 7. This is a sketch of what could be developed in due course.

There is a typological and eschatological difference post-Pentecost. This is a fundamental point of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. There is deep congruence between Galatians’ structure and that of Romans. It is interesting to compare the flow of Paul’s argument in Galatians with that of Romans. If that is true, you should be able to look to one letter for assistance when the other is particularly difficult to understand. Romans 7 is one of those chapters, particularly with regard to the so-called “schizophrenic I.”[1] When Paul uses the first-person singular pronoun, what does he mean?

The ancient church held the view that Paul was referring to himself when he was an unbeliever. The Augustinian and Reformational tradition viewed it as the struggle of a believer battling with indwelling sin in this age. Others have argued for a redemptive-historical view that Paul describes life under the Old Covenant.

We will consider consider the hypothesis that Romans 7:14a is explained in part by Galatians 3:19 and Galatians 3:22–24 sheds light on Romans 7:14b. The struggle of Romans 7 is that of the earthly/dust (χοϊκός) man (1 Corinthians 15:47–48). The law originates from heaven and guides us as a pedagogue unto the precipice just as Moses brought the people to the Jordan. But to cross over into the promised land, we need the man of heaven, the life-giving Spirit. Once there, we can offer the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5), which was the goal of the law in the first place (Romans 8:4).

[1] See Dennis Johnson’s chapter in Resurrection and Eschatology: Essays in Honor of Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.


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