The Fulfillment Of The Law’s Dikaio̅ma: Another Look At Romans 8:1-4 -- By: Kevin W. Mcfadden

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 52:3 (Sep 2009)
Article: The Fulfillment Of The Law’s Dikaio̅ma: Another Look At Romans 8:1-4
Author: Kevin W. Mcfadden


The Fulfillment Of The Law’s Dikaio̅ma: Another Look At Romans 8:1-4

Kevin W. Mcfadden*

* Kevin McFadden is a Ph.D. student in New Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He resides at 321 S. Peterson Ave., Louisville, KY 40206.

Among the majority of scholars who work on “Paul and the Law,” there is an assumed interpretation of Rom 8:4a today—Paul refers to the new Christian obedience that fulfills the “righteous requirement” of the law.1 Many recent commentators have argued for this reading as well.2 Historically, however, the majority of Protestant interpreters have read the verse as a reference to Christ’s obedience which fulfills the law’s requirement,3 primarily because

of an objection to the Christian obedience interpretation: Since Christians do not perfectly fulfill the law, Paul must be referring to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. My article will answer this objection after arguing that the context of 8:4a strongly favors the Christian obedience interpretation. It will also observe, however, that a corrected reading of 8:4a does not support a shift in certain aspects of the Protestant understanding of Paul’s soteriology as some interpreters now claim.4 I shall begin, then, with an argument for the Christian obedience reading of Rom 8:4a followed by a discussion of the nature of Christian obedience in 8:1-4.

I. Christian Obedience In Romans 8:4a

How is the “righteous requirement of the law” fulfilled in us? To answer this question, we must first step back and ask “what is τὸ δικαίωμα τοῦ νόμου?” All scholars argue for some variation of the definition “righteous ordinance.”5 But this definition may be further subdivided: First, there is the righteous ordinance that decrees punishment as in 1:32, that is, the decree that “those who practice such things are worthy of death.”6 Second, there are the righteous ordinances that decree the law’s requirements as in

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