2 Oct 2018
A Commentary by John Stott
The exact meaning of verse 10 is disputed: *your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness*. Two main questions are raised. The first is: what death of the body is being referred to? Some suggest that *your body (soma)* simply means ‘you’, and that you are *dead* in the sense that you have died with Christ, as explained in 6:2ff. Ernst Kasemann, for example, goes so far as to state that ‘the only possible reference is to the death of the body of sin effected in baptism’. But the reluctance to allow ‘body’ to mean our material body is strange, especially in a context which goes on to speak of its resurrection (11), and the body can hardly be already dead since the apostle goes on to write of the need to put its misdeeds to death (13) It is, therefore, much better to understand ‘dead’ as indicating ‘mortal’, that is, subject to death and destined for it. This would fit in with Paul’s references in Romans to our ‘mortal bodies’ (e.g. 6;12; 8:11b) and elsewhere to our physical decaying and dying (e.g. 2 Cor. 4:10ff., 16). It is also true to experience. As Dr. Lloyd-Jones has put it, writing as a physician as well as a pastor: ‘The moment we enter this world and begin to live, we also begin to die. Your first breath is one of the last you will ever take!…the principle of decay, leading to death, is in every one of us.’
At the same time in the midst of our physical mortality, our *spirit is alive*, for we have been ‘quickened’ or made alive in Christ (cf. 6:11, 13, 23). What, however, is the cause of this double condition, namely a dying body and a living spirit? The answer lies in the repeated ‘because’, which attributes death to sin and life to righteousness. Since Paul has already made this attribution in his Adam-Christ parallelism in Chapter 5, he must surely be saying that our bodies become mortal because of Adam’s sin (‘to dust you will return’ Gn. 3:19), whereas our spirits are alive because of Christ’s righteousness (5:15-18, 21), that is, because of the righteous standing he has secured for us.
The ultimate destiny of our body is not death, however, but resurrection. To this further truth Paul now proceeds in verse 11. Our bodies are not yet redeemed (23), but they will be, and we are eagerly awaiting this event. How can we be so sure about it? Because of the nature of the indwelling Spirit. He is not only ‘the Spirit of life’ (2), but the Spirit of resurrection. For he is *the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead*. Therefore the God whose Spirit he is, namely *he who raised Christ from the dead, will also give life to your mortal bodies*, and will do it *through his Spirit, who lives in you* (11). We note this further unselfconscious allusion to the three persons of the Trinity – the resurrecting Father, the resurrected Son and the Spirit of resurrection. Further, Christ’s resurrection is the pledge and the pattern of ours. The same Spirit who raised him will also raise us. The same Spirit who gives life to our spirits (10) will also give life to our bodies (11).
This does not mean that our dead bodies will be revivified or resuscitated, and so restored to their present material existence, only to die again. No, resurrection includes transformation, the raising and changing of our body into a new and glorious vehicle of our personality, and its liberation from all frailty, disease, pain, decay and death. It is ‘not that the spirit is to be freed from the body – as many, under the influence of the Greek way of thinking, have held – but rather that the Spirit will give life to the body’.
‘Wonderful’ writes Bishop Handley Moule, ‘is this deep characteristic of Scripture: its gospel for the body. In Christ, the body is seen to be something far different from the mere clog, or prison, or chrysalis, of the soul. It is its destined implement, may we not say its mighty wings in prospect, for the life of glory.’ Already we express our personality through our body, especially by speech, but also by posture and gesture, by a look in our eyes or an expression on our face. We call it ‘body language’. But the language which our present body speaks is imperfect; we easily miscommunicate. Our new body will not have this limitation, however. There will be perfect correspondence between message and medium, between what we want to communicate and how we do so. The resurrection body will be the perfect vehicle of our redeemed personality.