Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Romans 8:11 and Mortal Bodies (Reply to John)

My remarks below demonstrate why I say Romans 8:10-11 does not teach the future resurrection of the physical body. While I believe certain believers will be raised from the dead with physical bodies, I don't think Jesus was raised with a physical body nor will God's anointed sons and daughters be resurrected with physical bodies.

The text reads in the NASB:

"If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."

These apostolic words seem to cap a discussion that is found in Romans 6:2ff in which Paul talks about a figurative death "with reference to sin" (THi hAMARTIA). Since Christians have experienced this death vis-a-vis sin, the apostle reasons that believers should no longer conduct their lives according to the sinful flesh:

"Seeing that we died with reference to sin, how shall we keep on living any longer in it?" (Rom 6:2 NWT)

Paul also writes that God "impaled" (SUNESTAURWQH) the "old man" in order that our "sinful body" (TO SWMA THS hAMARTIAS) might be rendered inoperative (no longer remain captive to sin). See Romans 6:6

Paul then familiarly writes:

"for he who hath died hath been set free from the sin" (YLT). The NWT says "acquitted from sin."

This text obviously refers to the here-and-now from a strict contextual standpoint, although it can evidently apply in a principled way to the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.

Those interested in pursuing this topic further may also wish to read Romans 6 & 7 in their entirety. But let me now cut to the chase.

Paul's words at Romans 8:10-11 (NASB) are again as
follows:

"If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."

Notice that in the cotext of these verses, Paul has been dealing with the ongoing death of the body (Romans 7:24). The SWMA is still sinful, even though Christians have undergone a figurative death with reference to sin and then been raised by
Christ (Ephesians 2:1-7). Therefore Paul writes that the body undergoing death needs to be rescued. God through Christ obviously provides the way out for those who exercise faith in the Son (Romans 7:25). But notice that the apostle proclaims himself a slave to "sin's law" with his flesh (THi SARKI). So we can still legitimately ask how Paul's "mortal [sinful] body" can be quickened in the here-and-now? That is, how can Paul and others avoid living in harmony with the sinful flesh and stop the ongoing death of the body? Paul's answer (in Romans 8:11)is the indwelling spirit of God. Franz J. Leenhardt explicates Romans 8:11 this way:

"The apostle believed in a present participation in those revivifying forces which broke into the history of the world with the advent of Jesus Christ; the power of God is now active in the believer who yields to that action. In particular the doctrine of the Spirit included the assurance and the present experience of the power of God; on this point Paul shares a very widespread tradition. Hence the allusion here [in Rom 8:11] is to the vivifying energy of the Spirit, who liberates from the tyranny of sin, according to the framework of ideas already sketched out in [Rom] 6:12-23" (The Epistle to the Romans. London: Lutterworth Press, 1961. Page 209-10).

2 comments:

John said...

Edgar:

It seems that the future tense in Romans 8:11 is not receiving its due attention. A present application seems untenable in light of it..

Regards,
John

Edgar Foster said...

John,

You make a good point about the future tense, but I think the interpretation proposed in my blog entry better accounts for the context and overall teaching of Paul. See Romans 7:24-25; 2 Cor 5:1-2. Compare Romans 8:13: "For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live" (KJV). This passage could account for the future tense in 8:11.

We must also keep in mind that the future tense has different functions or Aktionsarten. As Richard Young writes: "However, not all future tenses describe events that will take place in the future" (Intermediate New Testament Greek, 117).