“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” —Romans 8:4
There are some differing views on this passage; but rather than going through those, let me just tell you what I believe the scriptures are conveying in this First, we should understand what it isn’t saying. It’s not saying that the sacrifice of Christ needs you and me to accept this truth for the law to be completely fulfilled. To suggest that would be to suggest an incompletion or insufficiency in Christ’s finished work; and we know that “It is finished” (John 19:30) and that Jesus Christ is “the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
Realizing what it’s not, let’s look at what it means when it says that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us. I believe it means two things primarily: (1) a Manifestation of Christ’s Righteousness; and (2) the Provision for Christ’s righteousness.
1 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
As the scent of the perfume filled the room, the room was merely the vessel by which the scent was manifested to everyone there. As Christ is the perfect and sufficient fulfillment of the righteousness of the law, fulfilling the law both actively in His righteous life, and passively in His obedient and submissive death, the certainty of its truth and assuredness of its fulfillment was in His bodily resurrection after three days and nights in the earthen tomb. Likewise, as Romans 6:5 tells us that if we are in Christ by faith, we have identified with His death and burial, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection:” Following our “resurrection” by the grace of God, we walk now in newness of life (Romans 6:4), no longer serving sin (Romans 6:6); therefore, through our resurrected lives we are manifesting to the world the reality of Christ’s righteous fulfillment, completion, and satisfaction of the law. This is the reality of the regeneration that takes place in our salvation, resurrected from the dead unto life in Christ: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 10:16-17). That which was wrought in Christ has been written in our hearts and minds.
The Provision for Christ’s Righteousness. Although we have been regenerated and are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), we know from our recent studies in Romans 7:14-24 that the nature of humanity that is still present with us causes us, at times, to sin when we desire to please God; that Galatians 5:17 says that the flesh is a contrary adversary to the spiritual life. Therefore, we need supernatural provision; we need a supply of empowerment. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). The words shall supply is the same Greek word as “fulfillment” in Romans 8:4. Now, you may say, “Wait a minute Brother Jon; it’s pretty clear from the passage in Philippians 4:16-19, in its context, that Paul is speaking of material provision.”
Philippians 4:16-19 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. 17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. 19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Yes, though it is true that the Philippians supported him while he was in Thessalonica (Philippians 4:16), and that they did so again through Epaphroditus while he was in Rome (Philippians 4:18). Yet, on the surface, that’s what it says, but we have to look closer to see what God means. Actually, in Philippians 4:18, Paul uses the same Greek word translated fulfillment (Romans 8:4) and shall supply (Philippians 4:19) when he says, “I am full.” His material needs have been provided for by the Philippians so that he may be full, fulfilled, supplied with encouragement by them, comforted through them, and strengthened to carry on the work for which he was called. It is an “odour of a sweet smell” (Philippians 4:18): a manifestation of Christ’s sacrifice that fills his life, just as the sweet perfume filled the entire room when Mary anointed Jesus with that costly fragrance. When Paul tells the Philippians that God shall supply all their need, he is speaking of the supply that manifests Christ’s righteousness in them as a church of God, and in each one of them as individuals in Christ. The means by which they extended Christ’s righteousness, in this particular case, was by material provision to the apostle unto the furtherance of the Gospel, even while he was in prison; however, the supply came by the empowerment sourced in Christ’s enabling for those “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
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Read the previous article in this series, “Sin Condemned by Christ” (Romans 8:3).