NT Wright, once again, explicates the “shape of justification” ( Paul and the Faithfulness of God) , setting it interestingly in the context of Paul’s doctrine of election, reshaped by the work of the Spirit. That perhaps another day. For now, an observation on Wright’s comments on the opening verses of Romans 8. (He argues that chapter 8 completes themes about judgment by works introduced in chapter 2; again, another day).

He links the terms “condemnation/condemn” ( katakrima in 8:1 and katakrinen in 8:3; cf. 8:34) with the “righteous requirement” ( dikaioma , 8:4) and suggests: “The two terms katakrima and dikaioma are opposites, corresponding to krithesontai and dikaiothesontai in 2:12-13: on the one hand, the negative verdict and the consequent punishment . . . and on the other the positive verdict and the consequent resurrection life.” That dikaioma /verdict is fulfilled, Paul continues, is those who walk by the Spirit (939).

Unpacking this a bit, we may ask, What happens to condemned sin (8:3)? It’s not simply declared to be in the wrong; it is defeated by the offering for sin in the flesh of Jesus. That enacted verdict in the cross is worked out as the conquest of Sin and Death by the Spirit. But if the two are opposites, then the ” dikaioma ” is also a verdict worked out in a life according to the Spirit.

In chapter 2, the condemnation/judgment-of-righteousness refer to a final judgment, a verdict with the consequence of life or death. When Paul uses the similar dual terms in chapter 8, now to refer to the present experience of justification, Wright suggests, the terms have the same significance.

In short, Wright’s comments support the notion that condemnation/justification in Romans 8 refers to a “deliverdict,” a liberating verdict that judges Sin to death and frees us to walk in righteousness.

One detail tells against this, or at least is a complication: What’s fulfilled in those who walk by the Spirit is not just a dikaioma but specifically the dikaioma tou nomou . The genitive phrase accounts for the normal translation of dikaioma not as a verdict but as a set of moral demands: Because Sin is condemned and defeated on the cross, the demands of the law can be fulfilled, but they are fulfilled only among those who live by the Spirit.

Perhaps, though, Wright’s notion that dikaioma is the opposite of condemnation can be rescued when we link it to the failure of the law in verse 3. Because of flesh, Torah could not rescue from the living death described in chapter 7; God had to act directly, and He does by sending the Son so that Sin can be judged on the cross. That judgment on Sin is also a decision regarding the weakness of Torah, a weakness worked out and manifest in those who live by the Spirit and not by the flesh. We’re again back in Romans 2: Those who are naturally without Torah do the things of Torah as they walk by the Spirit who has written the law on the heart. The faithfulness of the Spirit-led followers of Jesus is a continuing verdict against Torah.

Perhaps. But perhaps nomos in verse 4 reaches back not to verse 3 but to verse 2, where Paul speaks, electrifyingly, about the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ.” By that law, we are liberated from the law of Sin and Death, which is perhaps a reference to Torah after it has been coopted by flesh. When Sin is condemned/defeated on the cross, the judgment of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ is worked out in those who walk by the Spirit.

Neither of these solutions is entirely convincing. Still, Wright’s suggestion that we read katakrima and dikaioma as opposites is tantalizing.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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