Today I received a question via email:
In a sermon on Romans 8, Dr. Wilkin refers to the word katakrima in verse 1 as having to do with slavery to sin, though the word is only used two other times in the NT (Romans 5) and does not seem to carry such a connotation, nor is there any lexical validation for such an understanding of the word. Please explain how the above definition was arrived at, as it is crucial to the understanding of the chapter. Thank you.
First, the other two uses of katakrima, in Rom 5:16, 18, also refer to slavery to sin.
Here is a very condensed quotation of what Zane Hodges says concerning Rom 5:16, 18 in his commentary on Romans:
5:16. And the free gift is not like what happened through one man who sinned. For the judgment came for one offense to produce servitude to sin. But the free gift brings release from many offenses to produce righteous action.
…the judgment of death on Adam produced for him and his race servitude to sin. This phrase translates simply the Greek eiskatakrima. The word katakrima is used here for the first time in Romans. It occurs also in v 18 and is then picked up again in the important statement of 8:1. Its treatment in the commentaries has been largely inadequate.
BDAG (p. 518) makes the important observation that “in this [word]…the use of the term ‘condemnation’ does not denote merely a pronouncement of guilt…but the adjudication of punishment.” Moulton and Milligan (pp. 327-28) long ago referred to Deissmann’s opinion (BS, pp. 264-65) that “the word must be understood technically to denote ‘a burden ensuing from a judicial pronouncement—a servitude.’”…
Without this distinction, Paul’s statement would mean that the judgment (to krima) is to judgment (eiskatakrima). That certainly seems like a useless comment. With the distinction defended by Moulton and Milligan, the statement is at once meaningful. The judgment passed on Adam led to a penalty, i.e., servitude to sin. Adam was now spiritually dead, and physically dying, and in this condition he fell under bondage to sin (to sin is added for clarity and is supported by Paul’s following discussion [vv 17-21]).
By contrast with this, however, the free gift of justification from many offenses leads to (eis, translated “to produce”) righteous action (dikaiōma). As indicated in the discussion from Moulton and Milligan, dikaiōma is the reversal of katakrima, slavery to sin…
5:18. Therefore, as through one offense judgment came to all men to produce servitude to sin, so also through one righteous action grace came for all men to produce justification sourced in life.
…In sum, Paul’s statement in this verse points to two diametrically opposite experiences traceable to two “men” whose single actions result in widely varying outcomes. On the one hand, Adam’s single offense produced universal servitude to sin. On the other hand, Christ’s righteous act on the cross is efficacious for all men so that they can now possess, by faith, righteousness sourced in life, in consequence of which they will be able to live (1:17).
Second, Moulton and Milligan is a famous Greek lexicon (dictionary). It says that katakrima means “a servitude.” Hodges gives an extended quotation from M&M in his commentary.
Third, Romans 8:1 is within the sanctification section of Romans. If Romans 8:1 is a verse about justification, then why is it in the sanctification section?
Fourth, in the majority of manuscripts (MT), Romans 8:1 ends with “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” That same expression is found in Romans 8:4. What Paul says in Romans 8:1, that there is no slavery to sin, is not true of all believers. It is only true of believers who are walking according to the Spirit.
It is certainly true that there is no condemnation for believers, those who are in Christ Jesus. That is what the Lord Jesus says in John 3:17-18; 5:24. However, the Greek word the Lord used when He spoke of condemnation was krinō (John 3:18), not katakrima. When He spoke of judgment, He used krisis (John 5:24), not katakrima.
We do not need Romans 8:1 to establish the truth that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Now if that is what Romans 8:1 meant, then that is what we should teach. However, it does not.
Romans 8:1 is consistent with what the Lord Jesus taught in John 8:30-32:
As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him,“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
We know that the freedom the Lord was speaking of in verse 32 is freedom from slavery to sin because just after this He explained, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin…Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36).
That helps explain what the Lord meant a few verses earlier in John 8:24. He said that those who do not believe in Him “will die in [their] sins.” That is, they remain slaves of sin their entire lives and carry that bondage to sin with them to the grave. Whether the Lord means that they continue to be enslaved to sin after death is not clear. What is clear is that the freedom from sin’s bondage only is possible for believers and only for those believers who abide in God’s Word, that is, those who walk according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh.
Here is what Hodges says, in part, about Romans 8:1:
The statement of this verse succinctly expresses the core of Christian victory. The manner in which this victory is achieved is the subject discussed in vv 2-13.
In referring to the issue of servitude to sin (katakrima) Paul has reference to the problem discussed in the previous chapter. But in fact the problem Paul had wrestled with in his personal life was simply a manifestation of the larger problem he had discussed in 5:12-21. Paul’s own struggles were only a manifestation of sin’s reign in the sphere of death (5:21), a reign over all men that was initiated by the disobedience of the first man, Adam…
Contrary to the widely held opinion that in 8:1 Paul is discussing the truth of justification as the removal of all condemnation, Paul’s statement has quite a different meaning. Paul is referring to the reign of sin and death that was initiated by the fall of Adam. Since Paul lives in a “body of…death,” sin reigns in his physical body. “With his flesh” Paul “serves [as a slave to] the law of sin” (see the discussion under 7:25). His problem has been “deliverance” from this servitude to sin (the translation adds to sin for clarity).
This servitude to sin, Paul declares, does not exist for those of whom two things are true. These two things are: (1) they are in Christ Jesus, and (2) they do not walk in relation to the flesh but in relation to the Spirit. Regrettably the words who do not walk in relation to the flesh but in relation to the Spirit (found in KJV, NKJV) are omitted by most modern translations (e.g., NIV, NASB, JB). This omission by modern translators is due to their reliance on a few older Greek manuscripts that differ from the Majority Text…
Being in Christ Jesus is absolutely essential to victory over sin but, as Paul’s previous discussion has shown, by itself it is not enough. The second step to victory therefore is how the Christian person walks. He must not walk in relation to the flesh but in relation to the Spirit. Here we pick up the word walk that Paul has used in 6:4…
What this actually means experientially will become clearer as Paul’s exposition proceeds.
That Romans 8:1 is dealing with sanctification, not justification, makes perfect sense in terms of the outline of the book. Romans 5-8 deals with sanctification. Romans 8:1 begins the answer to Paul’s question from the end of chapter 7, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24). The Lord Jesus Christ, through the working of the Holy Spirit, sets free from sin’s bondage all in Him who walk according to the Spirit. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).