The Gospel According To Paul…Part 5
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
Romans 7:1 to 8:21
Having had a righteousness from God imputed to us by faith apart from the Law, we now have the choice to live a life of holiness. No longer enslaved to our sin nature, we can rise above any self-destructive behavior that has caused us, and those around us, sorrow in the past. We’ve been given an eternal perspective, knowing that the best is yet to come. (2 Cor. 4:18) Free from the compulsive need to grab all we can, however we can, as long as we can, we can begin to live lives of peace and experience the joy of giving, in gratitude for all we’ve received.
Remember, our most important goal now is to prepare for the soon coming kingdom. (Phil 3:13-14) It’s time to start storing up our treasure there because that’s where we’re headed. (Matt. 6:19-21) Because we’ve been freed from bondage, all we need to do is decide to adopt an eternal perspective and start making the choices that accompany it. From then on every day brings us one day closer. To help us prepare, Paul will now take us through “Law School” as Romans 7 is sometimes called.
An Illustration From Marriage
Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.
So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:1-6)
No longer forced to live by the Law and fear the punishment due us for disobedience, we can choose to live by the Spirit and enjoy the blessings that accompany obedience. As we do, others around us will be drawn by our example, and soon we’ll be storing up treasure in Heaven.
Struggling With Sin
What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.
For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. (Romans 7:7-13)
Paul displayed a healthy dose of his towering intellect here, and if we’re not careful we’ll get lost in it. Simply put, the Law sets forth God’s standard of righteousness. It’s a pattern that we can superimpose upon our behavior to show us how well we conform. We sin by thinking that if our external actions conform then we’re righteous, because in reality our internal thoughts betray our true motives. We think that because we don’t go around murdering people, we haven’t broken the commandment. Then we discover that being angry with someone is just as bad as killing them. Same with adultery vs. lust, theft vs. coveting, and so on. So the Law, which is holy, righteous, and good reveals how utterly sinful we are and condemns us to death.
As children, we weren’t subject to the Law and had life. But as soon as we could comprehend it, the Law revealed our sinfulness and from then on we were as good as dead.
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:14-20)
In a moment of extreme candor, Paul admitted that though he tried with all his heart to avoid sinning, his sin nature always betrayed him. In other words, He wasn’t a sinner because he sinned, he sinned because he was a sinner. It was his nature to sin, and it’s ours too. Once you realize this, you’ll experience an overwhelming sense of relief because Paul wrote under the influence of the Holy Spirit. And that means that God understands this about us, and prompted Paul’s disclosure to give us peace. He knows that no matter how hard we try, we’ll fail to meet His righteous standard because we’re flawed. Our sin nature will always betray us. Knowing that is what allows Him to forgive us over and over for the same sins, every time we ask.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25)
Deep down, we all want to be good, but our flawed nature will always sabotage us. This is why only God could rescue us. Where the law is concerned, we can’t save ourselves from the penalty due us for our violations. It took the God who created us to do it. That’s the message of Law School.
Life Through the Spirit
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-5)
If we have trusted Jesus for our salvation, we can no longer be condemned when we fall short of the Law’s standards. When He paid the full penalty due us, Jesus confirmed that the Law was righteous in condemning us for our past sins. But at the same time His death relieved us of any future liability that might accrue to us as well. Since the full measure of the Law’s requirements have been met in Him, we cannot be charged. The Law of Double Jeopardy protects us. We need only confess to be forgiven. (1 John 1:9)
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8)
By comparing this passage with what Paul admitted about himself in Romans 7:14-20, we know that it’s our intent he’s speaking of here, not our actions. We all sin from time to time, and we do it on purpose. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8) One of the ways in which the sinful nature has been defined is “the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God.” How we react to our own behavior helps us see our intent. When we feel convicted by our sinful behavior and are prompted to confess and be forgiven, we’re responding to the Spirit’s divine influence, living in accordance with the Spirit.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:9-11)
If we’re saved, the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Even though our physical bodies are doomed to die because of our sins, our spirits are alive in Christ. And one day, with the same power He used to bring Jesus out of the tomb, God will bring the bodies of those who’ve died in Him out of their tombs as well, so that body and spirit may be reunited.
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:12-17)
Knowing what our destiny is, our obligation is to become in fact what we already are in faith. Think of it as being royalty in training, learning to live in the manner of the noble born. We’re above the heathen now and no longer compelled to act as they do. And even when we fall short of the standard to which we’re called, the Spirit within us reminds us that we’re not slaves living in fear of expulsion from the household, but sons and daughters of the King Himself. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12) If we have shared in the Lord’s suffering, meaning that we’ve allowed His death to pay for our sins, then we’ll share in His glory. For if we’re God’s children then we’re also God’s heirs, and along with Jesus will divide His estate.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:18-21)
It wasn’t just man who was judged at the Fall. The entire creation suffered as well. And it’s been waiting ever since for the Church to be revealed in glory. Only then can it be liberated from its bondage to decay. When we descend from heaven in the New Jerusalem, there’ll be no more mourning or death or crying or pain for us, for the old order of things will have passed away. (Rev. 21:4) And when the Redeemed of Israel march forth into the Promised Land to begin the Kingdom Age on Earth, they’ll go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before them, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Psalm 55:12) The long night of its bondage finally over, the creation itself will burst into song. We can only imagine. Selah 02-03-07