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Romans (Series 2)

Life and Death

Romans7:1 - 8:17

Lesson audio

Paul now enters on a very personal exploration of sin, death and the law. Notice how often “I” or “we” appears in this section of Scripture.

Dead to the Law

Romans 7:1-6 NIV

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? (2) 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. (3) 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. (4) 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. (5) For when we were controlled by the sinful nature,[1] the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. (6) 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.

Alive to the Law

Why do we have criminal law in this country? Is it not so that we control the behavior of people who should know better anyway? Just like small children, who need an enforced set of rules, would-be criminals have the law.

Law, by its very existence, implies the existence of sin in the objects of the law. We have laws against burglary because there are burglars. When we catch and convict them, we send them to prison – to force them to obey rules. Free men have choices; prisoners don’t. That’s the nature of law.

Law also requires atonement; for example, swindlers are usually required to pay back that which they have swindled – and more. Just like the Old Testament Law, modern law exacts a price.

This thus implies that if you are under a law – or need to be – then you are one who must be controlled by it. So how do you get out from under the law?

Death by identification

One good way to get out of our prisons – is to die there. Whether by execution or natural causes, prison and law lose their authority when a man dies. Similarly, as we saw in our last lesson, we have an opportunity to “die” – by identification. The method is simple:

  • Christ’s death pays the atonement price of God’s Law.
  • We accept that death (identification) when we claim him as Lord.
  • Thus, the Law’s demands upon us are satisfied – and we are released from the prison of Law.
Results

So what effect does this have on the Christian?

  • There is not really a change in character, at least immediately. The change is in the direction.
  • There is a great victory in the Christian’s life when he accepts the Lord, a victory won at the Cross. But that doesn’t mean the war is over.
  • The key to maintaining that victory is this: you go from an external control (rules and regulations) to an internal, Spirit led life. The law is a schoolmaster; but you’ve now graduated.

Sin Within

Romans 7:7-24 NIV 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."[2] (8) But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. (9) Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. (10) I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. (11) For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. (12) So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. (13) 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. (14) We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. (15) I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (16) And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. (17) As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. (18) I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[3] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (19) 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. (20) 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. (21) So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. (22) For in my inner being I delight in God's law; (23) 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. (24) What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Three states of man

It’s easier if you look at it this way: there are three possible states for man:

  • Man without the Law is spiritually dead – and doesn’t know it. You can guess where that leads.
  • Man with the Law is also spiritually dead, but knows it. This life comes with the continual problems of temptation, and eventually leads to judgment.
  • Then there is the man who is spiritually dead to the Law because he’s alive in Christ.

Curing the first brings a knowledge of sin; curing the second a knowledge of life.

Sin living in me

Note the pronoun: me. This is Paul at his most personal.

We now must consider the phenomenon of “forbidden fruit.” Man is a rebellious creature – a sinner by nature. If you make something illegal, you increase the temptation to do it. Why is this so?

Because sin is in control of your life. Paul expresses this in a number of ways:

  • One is bad habits. I’ve never met a chocolate chip cookie I didn’t like. Have you ever noticed how these habits always seem to get their way?
  • A second is that “evil is always right there with me.” People picture this as Satan on one shoulder. We just don’t seem to be able to get away from whatever sin besets us.
  • Possibly most important: we ask ourselves, “Why do I keep doing this?” It’s the sin living in you.
Sin and the law

So here we have it: when I sin, I recognize it. I thereby condemn myself and confirm that God’s law is right. Think about that; our guilt is God’s proof of righteousness.

I want to do what’s right – honest! I make New Year’s resolutions, promises to myself and others, write myself reminders – and it seems just like “autopilot on” when the same sins keep coming up. Again, this shows the righteousness of God lit by the sinfulness of man.

Most important: all the laws in the world won’t help me being a prisoner of sin; in fact, they just make it worse. Buying another diet book doesn’t make you skinny.

So – what can we do about it?

Spirit Led Life

No condemnation

Romans 7:25-8:4 NIV 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. (8:1) Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,[1] (2) because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (3) For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature,[2] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.[3] And so he condemned sin in sinful man,[4] (4) 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.

You can see what is done here:

  • You exchanged life under the Law, with all its problems with sin, for life in the Spirit.
  • You did this because of the sacrifice of Christ at the Cross. Without it, this goes nowhere.

Does this mean that sin is no longer sinful? No indeed; the existence of the Atonement means that it is needed. The Cross condemns sin by its very existence. So sin is still with us, and still condemned.

Live according to the spirit

Romans 8:5-8 NIV 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. (6) The mind of sinful man[5] is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; (7) the sinful mind[6] is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. (8) Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

The contrast is unmistakable. The sinful nature leads to natural desires – and giving in to them. The Spirit filled life desires what the Spirit desires.

Now, before you get too far with this, note that Paul is talking to Christians – not seekers. This is a choice the Christian has to make. Note carefully:

  • It’s a choice of how you life, not just what you think.
  • The sinful nature cannot be successful in God’s law – it’s going to result in eternal death.
  • The Spirit filled nature brings life and peace – a good test for those who are wondering just where they fit in this.

The results of this choice are shown, ultimately, at the Resurrection.

Obligation

Romans 8:9-17 NIV 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. (10) But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (11) 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. (12) Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. (13) 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, (14) because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (15) For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.[7] And by him we cry, "Abba,[8] Father." (16) The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. (17) 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.

There is something profound in this section. This entire lesson comes down to whether or not you are in the family of God. If you are, there is a “family obligation” to do things the way the family does – that is to say, God’s way. That obligation is to “put to death the misdeeds of the body” – that is, the sinful nature. In short, we have work to do. With God’s help the sinful nature can be overcome. For some this is a short process; for others, a long one. But it is the normal result of leading a Spirit filled life.

So it is no surprise, therefore, to learn that one way we know that we are indeed the children of God – and therefore to be resurrected on the last day – is because the Spirit is our “seal” or deposit, guaranteeing that we are indeed God’s children.

Indeed, Paul goes so far as to tell us that we are not just adopted sons but co-heirs with Jesus. So it is not just resurrection we will share, but the glory of God – IF. If we share in His sufferings too. Of that, more next week.

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