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The Two Choices of Man

by Ian McPherson

The book of Romans points out the fact that without Christ, man is justly condemned to death. Romans 6:23 says "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.". Sin is man's problem. It was introduced to humanity through Adam. From that time all men have suffered its consequences (death) "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" --- Romans 5:12.

Mankind was not able to undo the consequences of Adam's sin. The billions of dead bodies that have returned to the dust, bear witness of the horrendous consequences of his being cast out of the garden of Eden away from the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). Even worse than this, none since Adam (except for Jesus Christ) have been able to overcome the temptation to sin, and thus they fall into condemnation when they sin (Rom 3:23).

This article is about the two laws mentioned in Romans 8:1-2 --- "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. {2} For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." . Here we see a clear paradox. The Law of sin and death and the Law of the spirit of life. These two are mutually exclusive. Every accountable person is subject to one or the other. He is either condemned by the law of sin and death, or justified by the law of the Spirit of life. He either walks after the spirit or after the flesh. Let us consider each of these laws. "THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH" This is not a specific law but rather a principle, which was inherent in the law introduced in the garden of Eden to Adam and Eve. "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." ---- Genesis 2:16-17 (c/f Genesis 2:2-3). This was a direct law with no facility to pardon the law breaker. Adam and Eve both yielded to temptation and ate the forbidden fruit. (Genesis 3:1-6). Through the transgression of God's law, they lost their garden paradise, their spiritual union with God, access to the tree of life, and they introduced humanity to the grave.

The law of sin and death is simply this: "If you sin you die"!! It did not go out of vogue with casting out of Adam and Eve from the Garden. Even though no one after Adam and Eve transgressed the exact same law, (i.e. ate the forbidden fruit) death still reigned, and sin still existed. "For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come." --- Romans 5:13-14 This shows that those people who lived between Adam and the Law of Moses were condemned by the same principle as Adam and Eve. The Law was different, but the consequences for breaking it was the same. Adam's sin therefore stood as a type of example for all humanity's transgression.

Ezekiel 18:4 makes it clear that the law of sin and death went beyond Sinai, and even beyond the Jewish race to all mankind. "Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die." The "death" here is obviously spiritual death (separation of the soul from God). This happens the moment that man sins, and it brings about man's just condemnation.

The Law of Moses was given to clearly define the principle of the Law of sin and death. Although the Law was just, and good, no one was able to keep it (except Christ). Therefore it brought about condemnation through the knowledge of sin "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." --- Romans 3:20. The transgressor of the law of sin and death stands openly and justly condemned. When he realizes his sin he feel guilty, but like Adam and Eve, has nowhere to hide. The Law of Moses did provide animal sacrifices for sin, but these were insufficient and could not provide forgiveness. Hebrews 10:1-4 points out that these were merely a shadow of the true sacrifice, and not the real thing. They could not make the worshippers perfect, and they could not take away sin. The Law of Moses clearly exposed a person to his sins, and revealed the justice of God in condemning the sinner, but did not provide complete atonement for that sin. The book of Romans points out that both the Jew and Gentile were justly condemned by the law of sin and death. The Gentiles, were not under the Law of Moses, but they were not without law. They had "The truth of God" revealed to them through the creation and natural laws (Romans 1:20-25). In addition to this, the observant Gentile could witness God's dealings with the Israelite nation who had the Law of Moses. Romans 2:14-15 says "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)". Thus, all men, whether Jew or gentile came under the condemnation of the "law of sin and death.

THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE. This is another term for the gospel. This law did not come into existence until Jesus, the perfect sacrifice was offered for the sin of all humanity. In living the law perfectly Jesus did away with the curse of the Law (Gal 3:13-14) and brought salvation to those who had lived faithfully under the Old Testament, giving power (efficacy) to the blood of bulls and goats that were offered. At Christ's death, the Law of Moses was abolished and replaced with the Gospel. This was a completely different type of law to the Law of Moses. It was designed to reconcile man to God rather that to reveal his just condemnation. It is "good news" in every respect. It brings life (spiritual life) to dead souls (John 6:63). It is called "The law of faith" (Romans 3:27) because it makes it possible to procure justification through faith as opposed to the impossibility of procuring justification through works of the Law. It is called the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) because it was given by Christ and not by Moses; "The perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25) because it sets man free instead of keeping him in bondage. It is also called "The Word of God" (1 Thess. 2:13) because it is a message from God who is its source. It is called "The doctrine of Christ" (2 John 9) because it is the body of teaching revealed by Christ, through the Spirit. It is called "The faith" (Jude 3) because it is a system of faith as opposed to a law system. It is also called "The New Testament" or "Covenant" (2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 8:6-8), because it is a binding agreement between God and man.

The Law of the Spirit of life is different in every degree to the law of Sin and Death. One brings death, the other life. One saves, the other condemns. One keeps man in bondage, the other frees man from the bondage of sin. The reason that there is no condemnation for those freed by the law of the Spirit of life is because Christ died and condemned sin in the flesh. The verse following the text makes this clear. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:" (Romans 8:3). Since the cross there are no longer "two laws" as when the Jews and Gentiles lived under two different economies. The Old Law of Moses that divided the Jew from the Gentile has been abolished. The New Covenant which unites the Jew and Gentile in one body has been established (Ephesians 2:14-15). The New has replaced the Old (Hebrews 8:6-7; 10:7-8). All men whether saved or lost are under the law of Christ. Notice John 12:48 --- "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." All men regardless of race, creed or color will stand before the judgment of Christ to answer to him. The standard of judgment will be the gospel. "In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel." --- Romans 2:16

If the Law of the Spirit of life is not obeyed then it it becomes our judge (John 12:48, Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Thess. 1:8-9). Yet if it is obeyed it becomes our justification. "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you." (Romans 6:16-17). We can clearly see by this that unrepentant man is still rightfully condemned by the law of sin and death. God still says if you sin you die. Romans 6:23 makes this clear. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

In the text (Romans 8:1-32) we can see that the dividing line between the lost and saved is being "in Christ". If we are "in Christ" there is "no condemnation". The sinner gets "into Christ" through baptism. "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." ---- Galatians 3:26-27.

The gospel then, is "the law of the Spirit of life". Those who obey it in baptism can enjoy the complete forgiveness of sins Acts 2:38 --- "Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

The crown of life awaits those who have lived it faithfully (Revelation 2:10), because the blood of Christ will cleanse those who walk in the light from all sin (1 John 1:7). However those who do not obey the gospel are still lost in sin. There is no hope of their salvation because they have not contacted the blood of Christ.


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