Tom Holland: Justified from Sin

Sin is the personification of evil, Satan [foonote p. 229 says, “‘Sin’ takes on a malevolent life of its own, exercising power over persos and communities. It is almost as though by ‘sin’ Paul is referring to what some other parts of the Bible meant by ‘Satan’.”], the husband of the body of Sin. Because this covenant relationship exists, man cannot enter into a relationship with Christ; instead, he belongs to Sin. Such a relationship with Christ, whilst the former union exists, is impossible. It would involve God himself in an act of spiritual adultery. However, if death were to annul the relationship - either the death of Sin, or the death of the unbelieving community - then the remaining partner would be ‘justified’ in remarrying. In other words, if it is possible for man really to share in the death of Christ to Sin, then in that representative death the covenant is annulled. Sin can then lay no charge at the church’s door; she is justified from Sin, and free to marry Christ. Thus, to be justified from Sin fits naturally into the same model that I have argued for earlier. It is the release (justified from) from the covenant that man is in with Satan. . . .

Because man is bound up in the relationship that has been created through Adam’s disobedience, he is estranged from God. He is more than that. He is bound up in the same sort of relationship that he was called to have with God, but this time it is with Satan. He is in a covenant relationship that the God who is a covenant God has to recognise. For Him to do other, and to rescue man without any regard to the relationship that man has freely entered into, would lay Him open to the charge of adultery, taking another “man’s” wife. This is the point of Romans 7:1-6.

So how can this relationship be ended? How can Christ justly take the church as his bride? Only if death ends the former relationship. Romans 5 has made it clear that God has treated man with the very dignity that his decision necessitated. One man’s disobedience made many people sinners. That relationship was acknowledged and respected. But now the last Adam has rendered obedience for his people. He has died in their place. His death has terminated the covenant and those who call on the name of the Lord can be saved. They are freely transferred from one ownership to another, and the former husband can not make the charge of adultery, for death - Christ’s death - has ended the covenant.

Holland, Tom. Contours of Pauline Theology. London, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2004. 229, 230

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