Sometimes we can read a very familiar passage of Scripture and be struck by it in a fresh way. It leaves us feeling as if we had never really understood the verse after all. Recently that pleasant experience happened to me in preparation for a class on the book of Romans. The verse in question is Romans 8:3, where Paul says, For 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.
To start with, God wrote up a good law, but there was something that law couldn’t accomplish. It failed on account of weak human flesh. The greatest lawyer in the world could draw up a fair contract, but if one party it is a lying thief with no conscience, it won’t work.
The perfect law of God irritates man because it exposes weaknesses. It shows us who we really are and shines a spotlight on our sin. This doesn’t however compromise the integrity of the law, or the faithfulness of God to hold up his end of the bargain.
For the law to work as God intended it to, he needed a perfect human example to carry out all that it commanded. He needed to show in real life what it looks like to fulfill every command perfectly and with the right attitude.
By sending his own son, he became the God-man able live up to the perfect standard of the law. As a man he was “in the likeness of sinful flesh” but as God, he was incapable of sinning. He was the perfect man in the sense that he never sinned, but also because he fulfills every command and demand of God.