Romans 8:3-4 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit… Romans 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Verse 3 and the first half of verse 4 are often quoted as proof that the Law of God given through Moses has been ‘done away with’, ‘abolished’, and ‘no longer required or applicable’ for believers in Jesus.
I touched on these verses in the study, ‘Freed from the law of Sin and Death’, Romans 8:2. However, I would like to take the time now to study in greater depth what the apostle Paul is explaining here in the next few verses of chapter 8, especially the words that are mistranslated and distorted in the English compared to the original Greek text.
Let’s start with the primary mistranslation regarding verse 4. The majority of the modern translations state, “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us…”. However, the word ‘requirement’ was never spoken by the apostle Paul! The word ‘requirement’ is NOT in the original Greek text, and it’s not in ANY translation prior to the 19th century; it has been added by contemporary “translators” to manipulate the contextual meaning of Paul’s discourse.
That portion of the verse in fact reads, “in order that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us”…
Next, we have the misconception of the English word “fulfilled”, Strong’s G4137 πληρωθῇ/plērōthē, which has been horrendously defined by mainstream theology. Additionally, this verb ‘plērōthē/fulfilled’ has grammatical components (the ‘parsing’) in the Greek, which are missed, or worse ignored, by most modern denominational teachers.
In the original Greek of this verse, plērōthē is in the ‘Aorist Tense’ and ‘Subjunctive Mood’ ~
Aorist Tense – When aorist tense is in the ‘indicative’ mood it indicates a past action. However, in other moods such as Subjunctive, it does not indicate absolute time, and often does not even indicate relative time. The word ‘aorist’ is from the Greek α-οριστος/a-oristos; ‘a’ means ‘without’, and ‘oristos’ means ‘defined boundary’. Therefore, ‘Aorist’ means ‘without boundary’. “A-orist” has no reference point, it’s indefinite. An “aorist” verb conveys something just is, as a matter of fact, without trying to define ‘when’. Even though the verb represents ‘an action’, the “A-orist” communicates the fact of the action, ‘without’ any focus on the time when the action may occur.
Tragically, many modern translators are influenced by modern Greek grammar and NOT the Koine Greek, in which the New Testament was written (or they’re doing it on purpose). Modern Greek acknowledges/uses the “Aorist”, but as ‘Past Tense’. Consequently, most modern translations of the N.T. Koine Greek into English have critical errors in grammar, because the Koine Greek aorist tense rarely indicates when an action takes place in time.
Subjunctive Mood – The subjunctive mood primarily refers to HYPOTHETICAL actions in the PRESENT or FUTURE. It can be used both in the meaning “should” and in the meaning “may“. The subjunctive mood of a verb in Koine Greek is the form generally used to express ‘potential’ or ‘possibility’. The subjunctive word in English is typically translated using the qualifying word “might“.
Therefore, the ‘Aorist-Subjunctive’ verb “fulfilled/plērōthē” in Romans 8:4, is a hypothetical possibility, contingent on other factors in order to come to fruition in the ‘present‘ or ‘future‘. This is why the verse in English will often correctly state “might be fulfilled”. The rest of the verse/sentence explains the deciding factor, which is, “in us who do not walk according to the flesh”. The ‘righteousness of the Law that might be fulfilled in us’ did not take place in the past. Just because Jesus condemned sin in the flesh (v.3), that does NOT mean that the righteousness of the Law being fulfilled in us is guaranteed; if we continue walking according to the flesh, the righteousness of the Law will NOT be fulfilled in us.
Besides the ‘Parsing’, another fact that is never taught by mainstream teachers is the true definition of plērōthē, Strong’s G4137, (especially as it pertains to Matthew 5:17, the verse that is the primary source of confusion for this word). “Fulfilled/plērōthē” as it pertains to the Laws of God, is almost always claimed by mainstream theology to mean: ‘done away with’, ‘put to an end’, ‘abolished’ or ‘concluded so no one else has to do them’. Here is what the word actually means as per Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: to carry into effect, bring to realization, realize; of matters of duty, to perform. That is the specific definition as it pertains to Romans 8:4. For a complete study on Matthew 5:17, please click this link and read the study, ‘The Law: Fulfilled or Abolished?’.
With that definition of ‘fulfilled’ in mind, how does the Romans 8:4 read?
so that the righteousness of the Law ‘might/should’ be performed/carried into effect in us who “do not walk according to the flesh”… | Romans 8:4
Therefore, if you do walk according to the flesh, you most certainly will NOT fulfill/perform/carry-into-effect the righteousness of the Law.
Why is that?
Well, the apostle Paul continued the context of his explanation into the next four verses. Should we ignore those verses? Should we create a doctrine from half of a mistranslated sentence…?
Romans 8:5-8 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
The mind that lives/walks according to the flesh is hostile to God.
The English word ‘hostile’ in the Greek is Strong’s G2189, ἔχθρα/echthra. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states this to mean: enmity.
According to Webster’s Dictionary enmity means:
- The quality of being an enemy; the opposite of friendship; ill will; hatred; unfriendly dispositions; malevolence. It expresses more than aversion and less than malice and differs from displeasure in denoting a fixed or rooted hatred, whereas displeasure is more transient.
- I will put enmity between thee and the woman, Genesis 3:15.
- The carnal mind is enmity against God, Romans 8:7.
- A state of opposition.
- The friendship of the world is enmity with God, James 4:4.
Paul stated if you set your mind to walk according to the flesh you are enemies with God. So, what parameter designates a person as one who sets their mind to walk in the flesh; what factor defines this person according to the apostle Paul?
What does the text say?
Romans 8:7-8 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law… 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
The English word ‘for’ in the Greek is the conjunction γάρ/gar, Strong’s G1063. Strong’s Concordance defines the word ‘gar’ as: for, indeed (a conjunction used to express cause, explanation, inference or continuation). Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states ‘gar’ to mean: It adduces the Cause or gives the Reason of a preceding statement or opinion; It serves to explain, make clear, illustrate, a preceding thought or word.
‘Why’ is the one who walks according to the flesh, and whose mind is set on the flesh, at enmity with God? What does the apostle Paul state is the ‘Cause’ and ‘Reason’ for that mind to be God’s enemy?
‘for’ it does not submit to God’s Law | Romans 8:7
“Not submitting to God’s Law” is the one and only reason Paul gave for how someone, everyone is the enemy of God. Therefore, “submitting to God’s Law” is the one and only deciding factor that Paul gave for how someone, everyone, “might” fulfill the righteousness of the Law. That it is what verses 4 through 8 state in context ~
- v.4 the righteousness of the Law ‘might’ be fulfilled in those who do NOT walk according to the flesh
- v.5 those who walk according to the flesh set their minds on the flesh
- v.6 to set the mind on the flesh is death
- v.7 the mind that is set on the flesh is enmity with God ‘for’ it does not submit to God’s Law
- v.8 those in the flesh (not submitting to God’s Law) cannot please God
The English word ‘submit’, or ‘subject’ in some translations, is Strong’s G5293, ὑποτάσσεται/hypotassetai. In the Greek, this word is in the Present Tense, Indicative Mood, and Middle Voice. Thayer Greek Lexicon states this word to mean: present middle (voice) – ὑποτάσσομαι; to arrange under, to subordinate; to subject, put in subjection… middle (voice) – to subject oneself, to obey; to submit to one’s control; to yield to one’s admonition or advice: absolutely, Romans 13:5; 1 Corinthians 14:34 (cf. Buttmann, § 151, 30); τινα, Luke 2:51; Luke 10:17, 20; Romans 8:7.
The ‘mainstream system’ has cherry-picked half of a sentence out of Romans 8:4, added the English word ‘requirement’ that is not in the original text, misinterpreted the definition of ‘fulfilled’, and totally ignored the context of the surrounding verses. Is that teaching the Word of God? Sacrilege…
Paul blatantly stated in his Present Tense that the person who does not submit to the Law of God, cannot please God; not submitting to the Law of God is walking according to the flesh.
Therefore, the one who does ‘not’ walk according to the flesh fulfills the righteousness of the Law, v.4, and that person is ‘not’ enemies with God, because that person submits to God’s Law, v.7; both verses are in the Present Tense!
Context, Context, Context.
Romans 8:7-8 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, because it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Now, after all that, I know what you’re thinking, ‘but we’re not saved by keeping the Law‘, and ‘no one is justified by the Law‘. I agree completely! Those thoughts and rebuttals are the ‘go-to-responses’ of the mainstream denominational mind-set; it’s how we were taught to think and respond to “the Law”.
I never stated that God’s Law justifies or saves, because it never has, and it never will; that is the disconnect.
The disconnect is this: because Paul chastised some believers who “tried to be justified” by keeping the Law, we have assumed that he’s telling everyone, everywhere that ‘keeping the Law is by default trying to be justified’; this is a ‘Straw-man argument’, and an utterly false assumption!
Please click these links and read the studies, ‘Justification vs. Righteousness‘ and ‘Salvation vs. Eternal Life‘ to understand this critical disconnect.
Final Thought: If we read all of ‘Romans’ in context, then we can see that from the beginning and throughout his letter, Paul proclaimed the same message ~
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be righteous. | Romans 2:13
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. | Romans 3:31
I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. | Romans 6:19
So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. | Romans 7:12
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being… So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind | Romans 7:22,25
He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit… For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. | Romans 8:4,7
What will you choose to submit to, your flesh, or God’s Law? Those were the only two choices that the apostle Paul gave us…
- For further study of Paul’s teachings, as well as the original Greek, see the ‘Links’ at the top of this page or blog posts at the bottom. Be like the Bereans, and test Paul’s doctrines to the “Scriptures”; look up for yourself more than 60 of the “forever verses” listed directly below. Please ‘share’ this study. Thank you for your time!