The Christian and the Law
Illustration: Thelma and Victor Hayes struck it rich. In August of 2005, the Canadian couple won more than $7 million in the lottery.
There are a few additional facts that make the story interesting.
At the time they won, the Hayes' had been married 63 years, and both of them were 89-years-old.
During a televised interview, Thelma and Victor were asked the typical question, "What are you going to do with the money?" The couple responded that, at this stage in life, they were unlikely to become "giddy high spenders." In fact, they intended to remain in the retirement home where they lived.
While her husband planned on buying a Lincoln Town Car,
Thelma's personal shopping list contained only one item. She told reporters, "I'm getting a new pair of nylons."
Thelma's response was widely reported as at least comical, if not foolish. How could someone win a fortune and change nothing but her nylons? In the same way, how can those who have won the spiritual grand prize not live in a way that is consistent with being a new creation in Christ? John Beukema, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania; source: "Jackpot Winners to Splurge on Nylons, Car," MSNBC.com (8-6-05)
Our reminder: the primary focus of Romans 6/7 is - how can we live our lives here on earth in a manner that approximates our righteous standing before God in heaven? So the real issue in these chapters is Change or how to move from where we are to where we ought to be.
Paul now specifically addresses the believer’s relationship to the Law in 7:1-6. This section concludes the second question, Should we sin with impunity given that grace presently rules over us rather than Law (6:15-7:6)?
- The law has claim on a person only so long as he lives 1-3
- This claim is connected to Paul’s main arguments regarding sanctification
Paul has argued extensively that we are dead to sin and alive to Christ. Because law “increases” sin (5:20), he now takes up our relationship to law. He argues that we are also released from the law so that we can be joined to Christ. Some believe that because there is no definite article in v 1 (“law”) that the reference is to law in general or secular law rather than the Mosaic law. However, context seems to argue for Mosaic law.
It seems that as he discusses our relationship to the law in chapter 7, he echoes the same points he made in chapter 6 regarding our relationship to sin. For instance, we died to sin (6:18); we are put to death to the law (7:4).
So now, he picks up the claim of 6:14-15 that we are no longer “under the law” and expands it in 7:1-6. In fact, the whole point is that the law is powerless when it comes to justification and sanctification (summarized in Romans 8:3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh).
- The statement that death dissolves our obligation to the law is a matter of common sense 1
By use of the phrase “do you not know” coupled with “I am speaking to those who know the law”, he is really saying, “This is a truism everyone is familiar with.” He doesn’t have to argue the point.
- Marriage serves as an illustration of the principle that the law masters us only while we live 2-3
When your spouse dies, you are “free from the law that brands a second marriage as adulterous” (Moo 410).
In other words, the principle is that while both spouses are living, they are obligated to remain married. This is God’s design for marriage. To divorce and remarry is to be guilty of immorality.
Now obviously, the situation where one spouse commits fornication is not in view in this text. That case is addressed by the Lord in Matthew 19 where he grants permission for divorce and remarriage. But what if one;s spouse dies? Is the remaining spouse free to remarry? The answer is “yes.” The death of the spouse releases the remaining spouse from the marriage “law”.
And this points to the principle that as long as we are living, we are under the law; but when we die we are released from the law.
Now, to the main point…
- Because death frees one from the law and because believers died with Christ, they are set free from the law so that they can be united with Christ 4
The marriage illustration is the backdrop to v 4 (but it doesn’t walk on all fours). “Therefore” (w[ste()…
1. As the death of the husband frees the wife from the law of marriage, so the death of Christ (and our dying with Him) frees the believer from the Law.
Class question: just what does it mean to “die to the law”? Quick brief answers.
Nearly everyone agrees that it means that we are no longer condemned by the law (8:1). But the main focus seems to be that we are delivered from the power of the law to stimulate sinful conduct (see v 5-6) - Galatians 2:19 "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.
2. Now believers have been legitimately remarried to Christ. The phrase “so that you might be joined to another” is literally something like “ unto the fact of (εἰς plus aorist infinitive) you being to another…” The next phrase then identifies this other person as Christ. This is a permanent arrangement with no possibility of divorce!
3. Further, this freedom from the law and remarriage is not an end in itself. This is not navel gazing time. This liberty does not cause inactivity or a permanent honeymoon. God has a purpose in all this as seen by the last phrase (“in order that” - ina). God expects his new bride to “bear fruit.” Literally it is to carry produce (karpo fore,w). Thus the idea is pretty simple – genuine religion is evidenced by life. This concept was previously taught by Jesus in the parable of the sower, Luke 8:15 "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.
So, to the larger point of these chapters, this eliminates any notion about liberty in Christ being a license to sin!
4. Perhaps most striking to me is the little words “for God”. I take this as a dative of advantage. This tells me that the bigger purpose of our being set free from the Law, being married to Christ, and living a life of good works, is always and only for God’s glory. Do you live with the big goal in mind?
We are now ready to add another tool to our Toolkit for Lasting Change:
Tool #10 - Know this: Genuine faith has tangible evidences, 7:4 Do this: If evidences are hard to spot, get worried and get going. Because believers are vitally connected to the life giving source, God expects his new bride to bear fruit. And genuine believers do bear fruit. If you can’t find any fruit, check for life! Pop open the defibrillator. Making godly lifestyle choices is the only acceptable and reasonable response to being released from the Law.
For open discussion or small buzz groups: Without defining fruit bearing any more specifically than tangible evidences of genuine faith, what do you think are some of those tangible evidences? Be careful with this one!
Or ask the class: We need to apply this tool to specific issues that are common struggles for Christians. The specific area I would propose today Lack of Prayer. So, now what? How can we apply the tool, “If evidences are hard to spot, get worried and get going”, to this situation?”
Reminder: the common “First Steps for Change” to be applied to all situations are:
- What have I done or not done? (Be specific)
- What does God say? (Bible)
- Is this sin? (If so, seek forgiveness and make restitution when possible.)
4. What must I do? (Be specific)
Points I would mention (along with appropriate Scripture) if not brought up by class members would be:
I fear that we know very little about what may be the most rudimentary element underlying change. When you think about what it really takes to live out the imperatives we have encountered, I think you might agree with me that there is one needed quality – self control. The lack of self discipline might be the common element in all of our failures to change. This is not directly stated in Romans 6-7. However, the basic theme of either sin or God being our master suggests this. God both is and must become our master! This assumes the whole notion of self control.
Of course self control is almost a superhuman task. Consider the sobering situation as it pertains to controlling our tongue. James 3:6 ¶ And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.
So what do we do? The reality is that self control is impossible apart from an ongoing relationship with the Holy Spirit.
This is made clear in Galatians 5:19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 ¶ If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
And yet, even though self-control is produced by the Holy Spirit ( “of” the Spirit is subjective genitive = produced by), it is also our responsibility. Note the preceding directive to “walk by the Spirit so that you will not carry out the desire of he flesh.” (Galatians 5:16). The fits with 2 Peter 1:5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
- This new found freedom opens up the possibility of a new and dynamic life 5-6
1. In v 5, a contrast is drawn between the pre-conversion experience when were married to the Law and now. Then we lived for our own glory. Then we produced fruit (same word) for death (also dative of advantage). Wow! Most of us don’t like to admit this.
2. We also see that this life style was fueled by our sinful passions. What we have here is an explanation of how all this happened: We were in the flesh; as such we had sinful passions; these sinful passions “energized” our bodily members; and, the point of connection, these sinful passions existed because of the law (dia + genitive).
3. V 6 offers a contrast to v 5 – “but now”. Because of our death with Christ, we are released from this law which inflames or sinful passions.
4. And here is the great result (w[ste). A good translation of the middle of v 6 is, “resulting in the fact that we serve as slaves in the newness of spirit and not oldness of the letter.” Probably the “spirit” refers to the Holy Spirit and the “letter” refers to the law. The concept is the same as 2 Corinthians 3:6 who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Illustration: In our family carpet cleaning business we offered a special service for removing pet urine odors. To show potential customers their need for the service, I would darken the room and then turn on a powerful black light. The black light caused urine crystals to glow brightly.
To the horror of the homeowner every drop and dribble could be seen, not only on the carpet, but usually on walls, drapes, furniture, and even on lamp shades. One homeowner begged me to shut off the light: "I can't bear to see anymore. I don't care what it costs. Please clean it up!" Another woman said, "I'll never be comfortable in my home again."
The offense was there all the time, but it was invisible until the right light exposed it. It would have been cruel to show customers the extent of their problem and then say, "Too bad for you" and walk away. I brought the light so that they might desperately want my cleaning services.
In the same way, God shines the light of his commandments not just to make us feel guilty and leave us that way. He has a cleaning service to offer salvation through Jesus Christ. Submitted by Stephen Kingsley, Craigmont, Idaho
??? Give some thought to how you would define genuine spirituality.
And our ongoing assignment: Chose one personal specific issue/area that you want to change. Then work out how to use this week’s tool to help bring about change with the chosen issue. (This will be the issue/area that you will focus on for the duration of the class unless you arrive at the point of making satisfactory progress on the issue. If so, then tackle another issue.)”
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2017. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.