Does Paul think the Law must be kept sinlessly?

From Romans 8:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 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, in 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. For 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. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 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. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

I’ll grant that Paul does not explicitly say the words, “The mind that is set on the Spirit does submit to God’s law and does please God,” but I defy anyone to argue that Paul is not implying that very thing in what he states in the paragraph quoted above.

Romans 13:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

So does the fact that we sin every day (at the very least, according to the Lord’s prayer) seem to discourage Paul from saying that we fulfill the law?

And is not faith itself an obedience that leads to further obedience? Is “the mind set on the spirit” anything other than the mind that confesses Jesus is Lord and believes that he was raised from the dead?

Then what right do we have to claim that Romans 2 is about a sinless, perfect obedience?

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

Are not the doers of the law believers? Yes that is exactly what Paul says they are:

For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

What Paul never says is that Israel has failed because no one was able to keep the Law without sinning.

3 thoughts on “Does Paul think the Law must be kept sinlessly?

  1. Mom/Ruth

    After your first citation you have this quote:

    “The mind that is set on the Spirit DOES submit to God’s law and does not please God,”

    Did you intend rather:

    “The mind that is set on the Spirit DOES submit to God’s law and DOES please God”

    Or maybe I’m confused…

  2. Pondering

    And Galatians 6:2- “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Now that’s an interesting thing for Paul to say, particularly at the end of Galatians! He seems to be answering the question, “How do we fulfill God’s moral law?” You want a law? Well, don’t go back to the types and shadows that have been fulfilled, but pursue love and abound in the fruit of the Spirit. The law isn’t against such things.


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