“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, IF INDEED THE SPIRIT OF GOD DWELLS IN YOU. Now IF ANYONE DOES NOT HAVE THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST, he is not His. 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. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For IF YOU LIVE ACCORDING TO THE FLESH you will die; but IF BY THE SPIRIT YOU PUT TO DEATH THE DEEDS OF THE BODY, you will live” (Romans 8:9-13, NKJV).
Today I’m dealing with Paul’s letter to the Romans, Romans chapter 8 as quoted above. I’m still working through Schreiner’s book on “The Race Set Before Us,” so this post will involve another one of Schreiner’s exegetical “blunders.” Regarding the above passage, Schreiner writes,
“Paul clearly addresses his warning to believers, for he assumes for the sake of his argument that his readers concur that his suppositions of Romans 8:9-11 are true of them. Therefore, he appeals to his readers as ‘brothers and sisters’(v.12). His conditional warning of verse 13 SUGGESTS NOTHING ABOUT POSSIBILITY OR PROBABILITY OF FULFILLING EITHER SUPPOSITION. Paul includes his warning for one fundamental purpose, namely, TO URGE US TO RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO LIVE ACCORDING TO THE WAY OF THE FLESH NOW AND DIE IN THE LAST DAY, AND INSTEAD, through the Spirit, TO DIE TO ONE’S DESIRES NOW IN ORDER THAT IN THE DAY TO COME WE MIGHT ATTAIN LIFE” (Thomas Schreiner, “The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001, page 175).
The first phrase capitalized above in Schreiner’s quote is that Romans 8:13 “suggests nothing about POSSIBILITY of PROBABILITY of fulfilling either supposition.” Before I attack Schreiner, let’s get some definitions going:
(1) “possibility”-- 1 : the condition or fact of being possible
(2) “possible”-- 1 a : being within the limits of ability, capacity, or realization
(3) “probability”-- 3 : likely to be or become true or real
So when Schreiner says that Paul mentions nothing about “possibility” or “probability,” he’s saying that Paul doesn’t render judgment on the believers (probability); but neither does he suggest that they have the ability to “walk after the flesh,” one of the conditions of Romans 8:13. Instead, what function does Schreiner believe Romans 8:13 plays? In his mind, it is just a HYPOTHETICAL warning: “Paul includes his warning for one fundamental purpose...to urge us to resist the temptation to live according to the way of the flesh...and instead, through the Spirit, to die to one’s desires now in order that in the day to come we might attain life.”
Schreiner would agree with the words of Goodwin regarding the first-class condition: “When the [condition]...SIMPLY STATES a present or past...supposition, implying nothing as to the fulfilment [sic] of the condition, it takes a present or past tense of the indicative with ‘ei’.”
According to Goodwin, “nothing as to the fulfilment of the condition” is present in the “if” clause (“if you live according to the flesh,” for example). However, A.T. Robertson disagrees:
“This condition POINTEDLY IMPLIES the fulfilment of the condition. It is the CONDITION OF ACTUALITY, REALITY, Wirklichkeit, and not mere ‘possibility” (A.T. Robertson, “A Grammar of the Greek New Testament In Light of Historical Research,” Fourth Edition. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934, page 1006).
A.T. Robertson, a Baptist, would disagree with our Baptist friend, Thomas Schreiner here. Notice that Robertson labels this condition a “condition of actuality,” distinguishing it from “mere possibility.” Robertson would disagree with Schreiner and say that Paul’s warning in Romans 8:13, that “if you live according to the flesh you will die,” is a CONDITION OF ACTUALITY: a person who has the Spirit within can succumb to sin and live a sinful lifestyle. Paul’s warning is not hypothetical—as if to say, “well, technically you can live in sin...but, you won’t.” Paul doesn’t declare judgment on the Roman congregation, but makes it clear that “two realities,” not “a reality and a hypothetical possibility” lie before them: they can walk after the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, and live eternally, or they can walk after the flesh and live according to the deeds of the body...and perish eternally.
We understand why Schreiner gives his “hypothetical warning” view of Romans 8:13 when he goes into further analysis of this verse:
“...the warning is a significant means that God uses, through His Spirit, TO SECURE HIS PROMISED SALVATION IN US” (“The Race Set Before Us,” page 176).
As you can see, Schreiner’s presupposition crawls in again. The warnings never contain a serious caution of punishment—instead, they serve to “encourage” us, to push us forward in perseverance. I would say that the warnings do so, but they also caution us of eternal punishment if we fail to persevere. As I stated in a recent post, God did not warn Adam and Eve for the sake of motivating them to obey Him; He also cautioned them about REAL ACTUAL CONSEQUENCES for their disobedience. And Schreiner seems to assume that the consequences for disobedience are not possible for the believer.
Last but not least, notice what he says about this condition of Romans 8:13:
“The first-class condition (“if you live according to the flesh you will die”, example mine) in the Greek New Testament functions to express an assumption for the sake of the argument being made. IT SAYS NOTHING ABOUT ITS LIKELIHOOD OF FAILURE OR SUCCESS” (footnote, page 173).
Notice that no “likelihood of failure or success” is mentioned in the above condition. But what Schreiner fails to see is, that if the likelihood of failure is not mentioned, then NEITHER IS THE LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS mentioned either!! This means, then, that Schreiner’s supposed assumption of God “encouraging us” to persevere cannot be completely believed as he espouses it. We’ve already seen in other texts that Schreiner immediately dispels the actual choice of being saved and living in sin; however, when it gets to warnings like that of Romans 8:13, God seems to always be “assuring us” that we can persevere to the end, and God is ALWAYS motivating us to do so. But why is it that Schreiner claims to be neutral in the warnings, but still affirms the same conclusion as John MacArthur—that salvation cannot be thrown away?