Archive for July, 2019

Romans 7:7-10

In Romans 7:7-10 Paul asks some clarifying questions about the law. “What then shall we say? That the law is sin?  If we follow the train of thought we can understand how someone might infer this. Paul insisted that we must die to the law if we will bear fruit to God. Someone must think, “Surely there is something wrong with the law!” He quickly answers the question:  By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” The law is like an x-ray machine; it reveals what is there but hidden. You can’t blame an x-ray for what it exposes. Neither can you blame the law for revealing the condition of our heart.

Paul describes the dynamic where the warning “Don’t do that!” may become a call to action because of our sinful, rebellious hearts. It isn’t the fault of the commandment, but it is our fault. “But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.” In American history, we know that the Prohibition Act didn’t stop drinking. In many ways it made drinking more attractive to people because of our desire to break boundaries set by the commandment. Once God draws a boundary for us, we are immediately enticed to cross that boundary – which is no fault of God or His boundary, but the fault of our sinful hearts.

The weakness of the law isn’t in the law – it is in us. Our hearts are so wicked that they can find opportunity for all manner of evil desire from something good like the law of God. Children can be innocent before they know or understand what law requires. This is what Paul refers to when he says I was alive once without the law. “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.” When we do come to know the law, the law shows us our guilt and it excites our rebellion, bringing forth more sin and death. The law amplifies the sin that we are choosing.

Sin leads us into death. Sin does this by deception. Sin deceives us:

  • Because sin falsely promises satisfaction.
  • Because sin falsely claims an adequate excuse.
  • Because sin falsely promises an escape from punishment.

The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.” It isn’t the law that deceives us, but it is sin that leads us to disobedience. Sin, when followed, leads to death – not life. One of Satan’s greatest deceptions is to get us to think of sin as something good that God wants to deprive us of. When God warns us to stay away from sin, He warns us away from something that will kill us.

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Romans 7:1-6

In Romans 7:1-6 Paul explains how the law and grace work together. Paul has already told us that we are no longer under the law, but covered by grace should we choose it. But that doesn’t mean the law goes away or is no longer important. The law that has dominion over man includes the Law of Moses, but there is a broader principle of law communicated by creation and by conscience, and these also have dominion over a man. “Or do you not know, brothers–for I am speaking to those who know the law–that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?” Paul makes the point that death ends all obligations and contracts, including the law of that day.

Paul makes his point by saying a wife is no longer bound to her husband if he dies because death ends that contract. If her husband dies, she is free from that law. “For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.” Freedom from that marriage comes with death, but not if a married person violates the bond of marriage while both are alive. “Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.”

Paul carefully explained that we died with Jesus and we also rose with Him, although Paul there only spoke of our death to sin. Now he explains that we also died to the law.“ Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” We are not free from the law so we can live unto ourselves. We are free so we can belong to Jesus and can bear fruit to God. That is the outcome of a surrendered life as a Christ Follower – we bear fruit God’s way.

Under the law, we did not bear fruit to God. Instead we bore fruit to death, because of the passion of sin within us. “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.” We only come fully to the place of bearing fruit for God when we are free from the law. “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” The law does not justify us; it does not make us right with God. The law does not sanctify us; it does not take us deeper with God and make us more holy before Him. It is only faith in Christ that will set us free and give us eternal life.

Romans 6:19-23

In Romans 6:19-23 Paul tackles the topic of how we can keep from becoming slaves to sin. Bottom line is that we need to make sure we realize that we have a new boss in terms of how we live. “I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” Paul describes a principle ingrained in human nature. Lawlessness leads to more lawlessness. Righteousness leads to holiness – which is more righteousness. This describes the dynamic power of our habits and how we move along in the direction we are pointed.

So we need to focus on building spiritual disciplines and habits that will lead us to righteousness. How we live is our choice. God doesn’t force us to be obedient, nor does He prevent us from sin. We live by choice. “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.” Paul’s point is almost humorous. When we were slaves of sin, we were free all right – free in regard to righteousness. Some freedom! Our ability to choose our own destination is what free will is all about, but unfortunately we are all guilty of making choices of sinful behavior that will carry an eternal price tag.

The reality is that our life bears fruit, be it sinful fruit or the fruit of righteousness. The outcome of that fruit is in complete contrast – 180 degrees different. “But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.” Righteousness and sin come with completely opposite outcomes. The end product of sin is death – not fun. But the end product of righteousness is everlasting life. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”

Paul boils down the truth of sin to one simple verse. When you work for sin, your wages are death. When we serve God we get no pay – but He freely gives us the best benefit package imaginable. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As believers, we have a change of ownership. The Christian must fight against even occasional sin because we need to work for and work under our new Master. It isn’t appropriate for us to work for our old master. But God gives us a choice. We can choose life, the eternal version, or we can allow our own selfish desires to lead us to sin and suffer those consequences. It’s a very clear choice that each of us have to make!

Romans 6:15-18

In Romans 6:15-18 Paul schools us more on the connection between grace and sin. Earlier in the letter to the Romans, Paul convinced us that a lifestyle of habitual sin is not compatible with one whose life is changed by grace. But what about an occasional sin here and there? If we are under grace and not law, must we be so concerned about a little sin here and there? “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” The verb tense of the ancient Greek word sin is important (it is an active tense). It indicates dabbling in sin, not the continual habitual sin. As Christ Followers, there should be no ongoing continual sin.

Whatever you present yourself to obey, you become its slave. For example, if I obey my appetite constantly, I am a slave to it. So we have a choice in our slavery: sin leading to death or obedience leading to righteousness. “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” One way or another, we will serve somebody. The option to live our life without serving either sin or obedience isn’t open to us. We formerly were slaves to sin, but Christ has set us free.

Paul puts it in the past tense because we have been freed from our slavery to sin. He also says that we have been set free by obedience from the heart. The faith is put in God’s Word, which he describes as the standard of teaching. All in all, the point is clear: “You put your faith in God and His Word, and now you are set free. Now live every day consistent with that freedom.” “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” We shift from slaves to sin and become slaves to righteousness and obedience to God.

What does it mean to be a slave? A slave was more than an employee. The noted Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest defined the ancient Greek word for a slave here by these terms:

  • One born into a condition of slavery.
  • One whose will is swallowed up in the will of another.
  • One who is bound to the master with bonds only death can break.
  • One who serves his master to the disregard of his own interests.

The following was once true in regard to our slavery to sin:

  • We were born as slaves to sin.
  • Our will was swallowed up and captive to sin within us.
  • Our bondage to sin was so strong that only death – spiritually dying with Jesus on the cross – could break the bondage.
  • We were so enslaved to sin that we served it to the disregard of our own interest, even when sin destroyed us.

Now the following is true in regard to our slavery to righteousness:

  • We are born again, now as slaves to righteousness.
  • Our will is now swallowed up in the will of God. It is His will that matters to us, not our own.
  • We are bound to Jesus with bonds that only death can break; but since He has triumphed over death and given us eternal life, those bonds will never be broken!
  • We now willingly chose to serve Jesus to the disregard of our own (selfish) interests.

Romans 6:13-14

In Romans 6:13-14 Paul reminds us that a person can be “officially” set free, yet still imprisoned. With Christ, we are completely freed from our sin. But if a person lives in prison for years, and then is set free, they often still think and act like a prisoner. The habits of freedom aren’t part of their life yet. Paul shows how to build the habits of freedom in the Christian life. “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” We’re equipped to live righteously for God, no longer slaves to sin in our lives.

Paul gives us some keys to living victoriously over sin:

  1. We must not present the parts of our body to the service of sin. We need to control the parts of our body – your ears, lips, eyes, hands, mind, and every other part, and keep it from being used for sinful behavior. The parts of our body are weapons in the battle for right living. When the parts of our body are given over to righteousness, they are weapons for good. When they are given over to sin, they are weapons for evil.
  2. We need to present ourselves in service to God. It isn’t enough to take the weapons away from the service of sin. They must then be enlisted in the service of righteousness – and, as in any warfare, the side with superior weapons usually wins. We have an obligation with our bodies, because we owe everything to the One who has given us new life.

Spurgeon said that these words give us a test, a promise, and an encouragement.

  1. It is a test of our claim to be Christians. Does anger have dominion over you? Does murmuring and complaining? Does covetousness have dominion over you? Does pride? Does laziness have dominion over you? If sin has dominion over us, we should seriously ask if we are really converted.
  2. It is a promise of victory. It doesn’t say that “sin will not be present in us,” because that will only be fulfilled when we are resurrected in glory. But it does promise that sin will not have dominion over us because of the great work Jesus did in us when we were born again.
  3. It is an encouragement for hope and strength in the battle against sin. God hasn’t condemned you under the dominion of sin – He has set you free in Jesus. This is encouragement for the Christian struggling against sin, for the new Christian, and for the backslider.

Grace is the path, the means, by which we can live in this freedom. It will never happen in a legalistic, performance oriented Christian life. It will happen as we live under grace. “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Sin no longer has any grip on us. It is grace, not the law that provides the freedom and the power to live over sin. The law used to be the way to God’s approval and eternal life. Everything changed when Jesus went to the Cross. He sets us free and equips us to live righteously before God. Once dead to sin, it is unthinkable to continue our former practice of sin. Grace not only frees us from sin, but frees us to live in harmony with God.

Romans 6:8-12

In Romans 6:8-12 Paul continues to school us on our salvation and Christ’s death on the Cross. Since we have already died to sin with Jesus, death no longer has any claim over us. The new man not only has life; he has eternal life. “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” We are set free from sin because the old man has died with Jesus on the cross. Now a new man, a free man, lives. And we live with Jesus, in heaven for eternity. It’s a once and done thing. The price for our sin never has to be paid again. “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” Death is defeated once and for all on the Cross.

The new life we are granted isn’t given so we can live for ourselves and our own selfish desires. With the new life, we should live for God. We aren’t dead to sin, free from sin, and given eternal life to live as we please, but to live to please God. “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.” When we are set free from sin, we should be focused on obedience to God and His will. Much of what God wants us to do is written in His manual for living – the Bible. We don’t have to wonder what obedience looks like. We merely need to read the Bible and we can see clearly what God’s intent is for a Christ Follower.

In the original text the word Paul tells us to use in how we see ourself in relationship to sin is the word ‘reckon’ rather than to consider ourselves dead. Reckon is an accounting word. Paul tells us to account or to reckon the old man as forever dead. God never calls us to “crucify” the old man, but instead to account him as already dead because of our identification with Jesus’ death on the cross. “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” But the opposite of being dead to sin is being alive to God through Christ. The death to sin is only one side of the equation. The old man is gone, but the new man lives on in relationship with God.

This is something that can only be said to the Christian, to the one who has had the old man crucified with Christ and has been given a new life in Jesus. Only the person set free from sin can be told, “do not let sin reign.” “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” In Jesus, we are truly set free and are offered the opportunity to obey the natural inclination of the new man – which wants to please God and honor Him. We can be victorious over sin through Christ. It’s a matter of focusing on obedience and considering things in light of God’s Word. The old man is dead, and there is new life – free from sin – in Jesus. Yet, many Christians never experience this freedom. Because of unbelief, self-reliance, or ignorance, many Christians never live in the freedom Jesus paid for on the cross. Are you living in that victory?

Romans 6:5-7

In Romans 6:5-7 Paul begins to paint a picture of what the transition to eternal life will look like for those who believe. Paul’s words around being ‘united’ expresses a close union. The phrase “exactly expresses the process by which a graft becomes united with the life of a tree… The union is of the closest sort, and life from Christ flows through to him” (Morris). This fits in with Jesus’ picture of abiding from John 15. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” his close union is both in His death and in His resurrection. God has both experiences for us.

Our participation in the death of Jesus makes our participation in His resurrection certain. We must be careful not to focus completely on the crucified life and miss the connection to the bigger picture of the resurrection. Paul reminds us that our old self was crucified with Christ. “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” The old man is the self that is patterned after Adam, the part of us that is continually in rebellion against God and His commands. It is the root of our sin problem – that we are incapable of living a life of holiness because of our sin nature.

The system of the law is unable to deal with the old man, because it can only tell the old man what the righteous standard of God is. That system condemns us, but does not help us overcome that condemnation and become a new man. The law tries to reform the old man, to get him to “turn over a new leaf.” Yet it comes up short because of who we are as humans unable to live up to God’s standards. But God’s plan for grace understands that the old man can never be reformed. He must be put to death, and for the believer the old man dies with Jesus on the cross. That’s the only way our sin problem is addressed and corrected – through the shed blood of the Savior.

In place of the old man, God makes the believer a new man – a self that is instinctively obedient and pleasing to God; this aspect of our person is that which was raised with Christ in His resurrection. Jesus makes us a new man. It is through His death that we will be set free from sin. God uses our death to the old man, the sin nature, to liberate us from sin. A dead man can no longer have authority over us. “For one who has died has been set free from sin.” Our slavery to sin can only be broken by death. Jesus made that sacrifice. He went to the cross to gain victory over sin through death and has set us free forever. That’s our only way to eternal life. That’s the only way we will experience God for eternity!

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