The Redemption of the Body in Romans 8
Romans chapter 8 is an interesting chapter, particularly because of the emphasis on the work of Spirit in relation to the body. At work in this chapter is the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32, which was poured out in the last days.
The promise of the Spirit, prophesied also in Ezekiel 36 and 37, is directly related to the restoration of the land to Israel to the ancient nation of Israel in the time of Christ. Chapter 37, shows us the role of the Spirit in connection with resurrection in the scene of the dry bones.
As a result of the background of Joel, much of the Spirit’s work in the New Testament involved gifts with which the church was empowered to accomplish this transformation. For this reason, Romans 8, begins with what the life which the eschatological Spirit accomplished, and was being accomplished during the pre-parousia reign of Christ. The holy Spirit’s work encompassed the approximate 40 years between the going away and return of Christ, (John 16:7).
Thus, any language we read of the Spirit in Romans 8 regarding the redemption of the body, has Joel 2:28-32 as it’s background.
Death Preceded the Redemption of the Body
Paul began his chapter 8 by saying there was no condemnation to those who were in Christ Jesus. The reason? The Spirit of life had made them free from the law of sin and death, Rom. 8:1-4. Those familiar with the “already but not yet” concept also understand that this freedom was not yet complete. In chapter 7, Paul asked who shall deliver me from the body of this death or this body of death. He spoke of his life under the law. His answer came forth in chapter 8.
“And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:11-12)
The redemption of the body is its deliverance from the power of sin. The power over the body in Romans 7:24-25 was the law of sin. Sin, however, was too formidable a foe for the Law to handle. Paul says for what the law could not do, God did.
Paul’s language is corporate. When he speaks of “those in the flesh” he is describing their covenantal relationship under the law. When he speaks of “those in the Spirit, he speaks of those who are one in the Spirit.
Body and Flesh in Romans 8
The body and flesh are equivalent states in Romans 8. Those who were in the flesh could not please God. Those who were in the body, called mortal likewise could not please God because of sin. Thus, we are not to see the individual body here, but a collective corporate body.
Flesh is a collective covenantal state in which those who did not please God found themselves. “So then those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Note, it was not one single individual in the flesh, but “those” i.e. a meaning several were in that body.
In like manner, “but you are in the Spirit” means that all believers had entered the Spirit, i.e. the body of Christ, even Christ himself. Therefore, when the text speaks of Christ in you, it is speaking of the church as a whole in the Spirit, not an individual body.
The Body Is Dead
Redemption of the body is necessary because a transformation from the body of “the flesh” to the “body of Christ involved a dying and rising process. However, it is neither physical nor the individual of which Paul’s speaks but rather the corporate collective community of believers. Those who advocate a single individual body cannot dismiss the inclusiveness of individuals, even in the corporate paradigm.
Paul says the body was dead on account of sin. That means the body was yet under the power of sin per the already but not yet. This body died because Christ was in them. It is made alive to righteousness through the Spirit. Certainly this is not a physical body that is put to death and made alive by believing in Christ.
However, it is that same body that is dead, which is raised. Since that body was dead while the church was alive, it could not be a raising of individual dead bodies. Prominent theologians recognize the harmony of Romans 8:10-11, 23, with 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thes. 4. Our point is, if resurrection in Rom. 8:10-11, is non-biological, then neither can either of the other texts be biological and future.
The Spirit and the Redemption of the body.
It is the work of the eschatological Spirit, poured out in the last days, that brought about this resurrection. The redemption of the body was accomplished through the Spirit. This work was completed before the Spirit’s work ended at Christ’s return in A.D. 70. 1 Cor. 1:7-8.