The Good News - Home
By David A. DePra
In Romans 6, Paul describes both the finality of, and the basis of victory, over the power of sin through our death and resurrection in Christ. But in Romans 7, he describes the struggle to LIVE IT OUT.
Despite the claims of some people, Paul is not describing only his past in Romans 7. Paul is not saying, "I used to struggle with the flesh, and with sin, but now I don't anymore." No. Paul is describing what is possible for any born again believer. This is not to say that we will not grow to overcome sin on many levels. But in this physical life, the battle to live out the finished work of Jesus will never be over.
I say this because I have met people who say they never sin. Yep, I sure have. They claim that if victory in Christ is real, then it ought to mean that we never sin. (One wonders how the Spirit of Truth could be in a person whose says they have no sin. See I John 1:10) In Truth, a Christian is supposed to stand by faith EVEN when we sin. That, according to Paul, IS VICTORY.
Married to Another
Know you not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman which has an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he lives; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that you should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
Romans 7 does not begin with an extensive teaching on the subject of divorce and remarriage. This is not the context. Rather, Paul is simply using marriage as an analogy for our relationship with God’s law. He tells us that normally a woman is bound for life to her husband. But just as a woman is bound for life to her husband, so are we bound to the law as our husband -- as long as we are alive in Adam. But Paul's point is that we are no longer alive in Adam. Rather, the good news is that in Christ we are dead to the law -- we HAVE died, and therefore our marriage to the law is broken. Thus, we are free to marry ANOTHER -- Christ Himself.
Can we see this? Paul wants us to know that through our death in Christ we are as freed from the law as a wife is freed from her marriage if her husband dies. Paul even says that we are free to, "marry another," and, "bring forth fruit unto God."
Now, if you read this passage, you cannot possibly emerge thinking that a Christian is still married to the law. Indeed, we see a complete severing of that relationship – so drastic that Paul is able to use this analogy of the death of a spouse. Paul says that our marriage to the law is completely SEVERED by death. We are, in fact, married to ANOTHER, namely Jesus Christ. And now we can bear fruit unto God.
In fact, Paul goes so far as to say that if you and I were not completely freed from the law through the death of Christ, then our marriage to Christ is like adultery -- for we are still married to the law. But no. We are dead to the law. We are married to another, Jesus Christ.
This analogy between a marriage broken by death, and our relationship to the law broken by death in Christ, is a wonderful picture. Yet how many of us continue to try to live as if we are still married to the law! -- it is as senseless as it would be to try to live in a marriage relationship with a spouse that has died!
No. We are so free that we can marry ANOTHER -- Jesus Christ -- and bear fruit unto God! Indeed, this shows that before our marriage to the law was severed by death, that we could NOT bear fruit unto God. No. Under the law fruit unto God is impossible. Only if we are married to another -- to Christ -- is fruit unto God possible. This is exactly what Paul is trying to tell us in these verses.
Now, if you get nothing else out of this verse, please note this: Being set free from the law and married to Christ does NOT result in a life of license and sin. Anyone who thinks that this would be the case ought to go back and read chapter 6 – Paul goes through that whole objection. He says, "God forbid!"
But even here in chapter 7, Paul tells us that being freed from the law won’t result in a life of sin. Why does it not result in sin? Because even though we are freed from the law, we are MARRIED TO ANOTHER, Jesus Christ. We will bear fruit unto God. Thus, rather than result in a life of sin, being freed from the law frees us to greater possibilities for holiness and obedience.
What? Do we think that being married to Christ is going to be LESS of a holy life than that which was possible under the law? Hardly. The fruit we bear unto God is going to include good works and holiness.
But wait. If you read on to the next verse, Paul says that when we were under the law, we brought forth fruit unto DEATH. This ought to settle it for the legalists -- if they would just READ and BELIEVE. There is NO Godly fruit that can come from being under the law. Thus, it is not a question of whether being set free from the law will result in sin. NOT being set free from the law is sin and death! Why can't people see that? Our marriage to the law must be broken by the death of Christ so that we can marry Christ -- and then Godly fruit is possible.
If we are ONE with Christ -- married to Him through death and resurrection -- we are set free from our first husband, the law. We ARE married to another. But being married to Christ means holiness, obedience, and glory to God. It means that we will bear fruit to God!
Paul says is that we are, "dead to the law through the body of Christ." We are dead to our old husband. This is because we died in Christ. Yes, Christ bore all sin in His body on the Cross, (see I Peter 2:24) and accordingly, bore all judgment for sin. But as we saw in Romans 6, in a very real sense, WE DIED IN HIM. Our OLD MAN OF SIN is dead in Christ. Thus, when the law comes to us with it’s demands, and with it’s penalty upon us for falling short, it finds a dead person. A dead person cannot be condemned anymore. The penalty is paid in Christ.
But on the positive side, when the law comes to us with it's demands, the law does find Christ in us -- and Christ in us is the fulfillment of the just requirement of the law. We are new creatures IN HIM.
Clearly, because we are new creations in Christ, we are no longer of the creation to which the law applies. We will see later that this doesn’t mean we sin. No. In fact, we become the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ! But the law cannot accomplish this. It can be accomplished only through death and resurrection.
Having just said that being married to Christ will result in our, "bringing forth fruit unto God," Paul hearkens back to life under the law. He says that under the law, "the motions of sins did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death."
For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
Thus, we have a contrast: Under the law, we bring forth fruit unto death. In Christ, we bring forth fruit unto God.
FRUIT is the end of a growth process. If you want to live UNDER THE LAW the fruit will be death. This will be the case even if you think you are the most obedient person in the world. Why? Because the best being under the law can produce, rather than righteousness, is SELF-righteousness. And self-righteousness is DEATH.
Have we recognized that self-righteousness is SIN -- one of the worst sins of all? Sure. That is because it is a substitute -- through unbelief -- for the righteousness of God through Christ.
Those who are, "under the law," obey God -- but not because they trust in Christ -- but because they don't. They don't trust Christ to be their righteousness, and so they seek to maintain their own through law-keeping. This is unbelief, and the fruit will always be death -- self-righteousness being the core problem.
Herein we see the definition of LEGALISM -- a more modern term for what Paul calls, "being under the law." Legalism is me using my obedience to God to make myself right with God -- to make myself righteous. Notice that the obedience isn't the problem. It's the faith I put in it -- the faith I put in MYSELF. THAT is the problem. The solution to legalism is to repent of the unbelief behind it and to begin believing and walking in Christ.
There are generally two types of people who live in legalism. First, there are those who are always trying to be righteous through law-keeping, but failing. But instead of turning to Christ by faith, they just keep trying harder -- and usually they live in constant defeat and condemnation. In time, they may doubt that Christianity is the Truth. They may use their own failures as supposed evidence that Christianity does not work. But the problem is that they are trying to live in Christ on a completely wrong basis. They are trying to push into the Truth by living in error. It won't work. I think there are more people like this than we think.
The second type of person is one that is trying to be righteous through law-keeping, and have themselves convinced that they have succeeded. These are the Pharisees among us. In one sense of the word, this condition is worse than that of a person who lives in defeat. At least the defeated person is seeing the Truth about themselves -- they are seeing they CANNOT keep the law. But the Pharisee doesn't see that, and usually it is because they have somewhere hardened their heart.
And yet if you examine both of these types of people -- the defeated, and the Pharisee -- you will find that they are both guilty of the very SAME unbelief. They are both SELF-righteous. The defeated are frustrated in their attempt to be righteous. The Pharisee is satisfied. But they are both under the law -- trying to make themselves righteous by works. They are simply blind in differing ways.
Self-righteousness is DEATH. Have we realized that? Sure. For if have not come to terms with the finished work of Christ for sin, then sin -- or "the motions of sins" -- must be dealt with. Sin isn't going to go away. We MUST deal with it. And HOW we deal with it will be either life or death to us. If we deal with it by trying to make ourselves righteous through works, then death will be the result. But if we let our sin drive us to the grace of God in Christ, there will be LIFE.
So, Paul tells us that the solution to being under the law is to be set free from it through DEATH IN CHRIST, and to be married to ANOTHER, namely HIM. Sure. The only solution is death and resurrection. The solution is to become a new creation in Christ Jesus.
The Problem: Death
In the final analysis, the problem with the human race -- the problem with those in Adam -- is that we are DEAD. This is the core problem, and all sin emerges from it -- spiritually dead have an heredity of SIN. So the problem with spiritually dead people is found in what they ARE, not merely in what they DO. Thus, you cannot fix their nature by requiring that those people keep LAWS. No. Dead people cannot gender in themselves life through good works. Rather, the only solution is for them to take their place in the death of Christ, and to be raised as new creations.
But God did give His law for a purpose. If not because He thought we could keep it, then why? Well, if you do give dead sinners LAW, that law will SHOW THEM THEY ARE SINNERS. This is exactly what Paul says that the law of God DOES -- it shows spiritually dead people that they ARE dead. But all unto a greater purpose -- the law was given to show us that our only hope was LIFE through the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Now we know that what things
whatsoever the law says, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the
prophets. (Rom 3:19-21)
If I face the law of God and am honest, the law will shut me up with regards to my own righteousness through works. Rather, it will show me as hopelessly guilty before God. But that is good news because it will likewise point me to the righteousness found APART from the law -- in Christ Jesus.
Note the futility of trying to find LIFE through the keeping of the very law that God gave to show us that we are DEAD! You cannot prop up a corpse through law-keeping. Rather, you expose the corpse AS a corpse -- because the corpse will continually fail to keep that law. Then, once you realize that you ARE DEAD, you will come -- not to the law -- but to Christ. You will come to Christ for LIFE.
It is amazing how many professing Christians cannot see this Truth. Have we realized that this IS the gospel of grace? Yet, despite the continual teaching of the Bible on this matter, Christians continue to live under the law, married to the law, and continue to try to maintain their righteousness -- which equals trying to maintain your SALVATION -- through works.
The Motions of Sins
Well, back to our passage. In the above passage, Paul says that, "the motions of sins," were BY the law. What does that term mean?
The word, "motions," means, "passions, feelings, power." So, in other words, Paul is saying that the dynamic of sin – and all that it does in us – is AMPLIFIED, that is, pointed out, by the law. But surely we know that Paul is not saying that the law MAKES us sinners – that is, he isn’t saying that the law causes us to sin, or injected us with the sin nature. No. So what is he getting at?
When any person tries to make themselves righteous by obeying the law, then, by definition, they KNOW the law. They are looking at the law. But what will happen in that case is that the law will be like a magnifying glass -- making bigger every sin we have. In other words, the law will amplify and define sin in us, and exact holy judgment. This will, to us, be like sin coming alive all the more in us -- we will begin to see things in ourselves that we never knew were there. This is how the law works -- it exposes us and shows the, "motions of sins." And in doing that, it leaves us buried in condemnation.
But it doesn't end there. The greatest, "motion of sin," is often what we DO about our sin -- that is, if we don't turn to Christ. Once the law exposes our sins, and shows us to be an even greater sinner than we imagined, often what we do is try to fix the problem, either through MORE law-keeping, or perhaps by just giving up and living in despair. Both are SIN -- they are unbelief. None of this would happen if we weren't trying to live UNDER THE LAW. Thus, this is why Paul says that the motions of sins are BY THE LAW. It is as if the law sets in motion this unending cycle of works, sin, unbelief, works, sin, and unbelief, etc. The more the law is applied, the more it sets sin in motion -- the more it demands that we DO SOMETHING WITH OUR SIN. And if we don't turn to Christ, anything else we do IS SIN -- it is of unbelief.
Can we see that this trap is really the mercy of God? That His law is absolutely geared to giving us no place to hide? -- so that we will finally turn to Christ! The law of God is like a big LIGHT. The moment I turn and face God's law, it is like a big light being shined on a bunch of bugs and critters that were in darkness -- they all get in motion and try to hide! But you see, if I do try to hide, rather than turn to Christ, then the sin that has been set in motion is unbelief! But if I do turn to Christ, then I will be set free, and married to another -- Jesus Himself.
So according the Paul, the law actually genders the, "motions of sins." That is because the more I am exposed to the law, the more I will squirm – the more I will feel naked, and condemned, and have to do something about sin. The law will be like a microscope, or that which sensitizes me, TO SIN. And if I am unsaved, and am not yet turning to Christ, what I will do about it is try to cover my nakedness and compensate for my sin. This, in turn, IS SIN – and just makes things all the worse.
To see a clear picture of this, all we need to do is go back to Adam just after his sin. God created him, "naked and unashamed" – fully dependent, but fully completed by God – to the point where he was not conscious of his nakedness. But once he declared his independence from God, he was still naked, but then, "ashamed." That is because without God he was incomplete. Adam responded by trying to cover his nakedness with fig leaves. This is a picture of man trying to fix himself and deal with sin – outside of Jesus Christ. He is naked, but forever trying to sew together some gimmick that will cover himself and make himself presentable, if not to God, then to himself.
To try to fix sin without Christ IS SIN. But we don’t usually think we are guilty of this, especially as Christians. But anything short of resting in faith in the finality of the Cross is equal to trying to use fig leaves to compensate for my nakedness. Some of us use religion. Some of us use works. Others have emotional gimmicks, and yet others, intellectual devices – all geared to trying to cover what God wants to EXPOSE.
Where the law comes in is right at that point – the law exposes and exposes me as a dead and naked sinner. The law, if you will, peels off the fig leaves, and will even show me that it was sin to use them. But if I remain UNDER THE LAW, the more the law exposes me as hopeless, the more I will try to cover what the law exposes – using some gimmick. Usually hidden from me in all of this is the reality of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Until I see that Truth, and embrace Christ, I will continue to live in this irresolvable cycle, bringing forth fruit unto death.
Faith in Christ
Paul takes for granted that a Christians does NOT want to sin. In Romans 7, he says that about himself. But then he tells us he DOES sin. The context is what we need to do in that case. What do we do, even as Christians, when the law of God exposes us as hopeless?
The answer he gives begins, "But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." In effect, Paul goes right back to Romans 6, and wants his reader to realize the finality of the Cross. Unless we start there, we can't get far.
And yet do we really see what Paul is telling us, and what he is NOT telling us? Unless we do, we will miss the whole point. Is Paul saying, "The solution to the motions of sins -- the solution to the power of sin -- is law-keeping?" Nope. In fact, that is exactly what he wants us to understand is NOT the solution. Rather, Paul says, "The solution to realize you are FREED from the law, but alive to God."
The Christian is, "married to another," and brings forth fruit unto God. This includes obedience to God's law. But the important thing to see is this: Christians are not to try to make themselves righteous, or maintain their righteousness, through obedience. Rather, we are to obey God knowing that in Christ we are already as righteous as we are ever going to be.
This is the righteousness that is by FAITH. If it is real, it is not going to result in sin. It will actually result in wanting to obey God all the more.
Here we find a great principle that governs everything we have been seeing to this point. That principle is this: All obedience in the Christian life is supposed to be the OUTCOME of being rightly related to Christ by faith. Contrast this over an against the error of trying to BECOME rightly related to Christ by obedience.
Real faith in Christ always results in CHRIST IN US -- and Christ in us IS our righteousness. (see I Cor. 1:30) And Christ in us will tend towards OBEDIENCE. We will obey God, not to make ourselves right with Him, but as the result of BEING RIGHT with Him. In short, you cannot fall in love with Christ -- be married to Him -- and end up wanting to sin. No. You will want to obey.
The reason Christian people have such a difficult time understanding these things is because we have not been taught the meaning of true conversion, or really, even the true meaning of Christianity. Christianity is CHRIST IN US. Once I understand this, the whole issue of law-keeping falls into place.
Christ IS our life. We have been born again FROM ABOVE. This means that there is LIFE IN US that we weren't born into this world WITH. And since we came to have that new life through repenting of sin, we aren't going to emerge from repentance from sin WANTING to sin.
But you see, if I think Christianity is nothing but a list of teachings to believe in, or a list of laws to keep, this won't make any sense to me. But no. Christianity is CHRIST IN US -- it is a matter of being raised WITH CHRIST.
As Paul said to the Galatians, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace." (Gal. 5:4) In other words, if we do not live by faith -- if we do not live in the power of Christ -- we may as well not have Christ in us. He will be of, "no effect," to us. It is entirely possible to be set free from the power of sin, but through unbelief, to live IN sin. You can bring yourself back into bondage.
I am not talking about losing your salvation. I am talking about being saved, but for Christ to have, "no effect," for us as to LIVING in our freedom from the power of sin, and in freedom from condemnation FOR sin. Over and over in the epistles, we are exhorted to, "put on," the new man, and to, "put off," the old man. It is possible to BE a new man in Christ, but to neglect to put HIM ON. It is possible to be planted in Christ, as we saw in Romans 6, but to neglect to yield your members to God as one who IS alive from the dead.
The Conviction of the Law
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
Paul has just told us that the law points out sin, indeed, if you get under the law, you will actually be buried beneath the hopelessness of your condition. So he wants to make sure we don’t think that the law is a bad thing, or that the law is sin. No. Rather, the law is holy, just, and good. And yet that is precisely WHY the law slays us. When we stand face to face with the law of God, we are shown to be unholy, unjust, and bad.
Paul is saying that the law DEFINES sin – not only verbally, but the law of God points it out in US. Indeed, the law digs into us and AMPLIFIES our sin. And since there is really no end to the depth of our sin, if we are under the law, the law just digs deeper and deeper – exposing us as hopeless. If we don’t turn to grace there is no resolution to this, and really, as Paul is pointing out, we will be shown places in ourselves that we could not have imagined.
Of course, the whole point here is NOT that the law MAKES us sinners. But the law shows us as the sinners we are through natural birth. But since we don’t realize what we are, when the law shows us, it is new, and alarming to US. And yet the good news is that God has known all of this from the start, and yet sent Christ.
Paul clearly says that rather than the law being sin, the law made him to know his own sin. The law brings definition to sin – but not just, "out here," on paper – rather the law absolutely exposes the sin in each one of us. That is why Paul says, "Sin took occasion by the commandment." In other words, the commandment was the occasion – was as a big light shining upon Paul – that exposed in him all kinds of evil. In that sense, had there never been a law given by God, sin would be dead – it would not have occasion to be defined and pointed out.
So here we begin to see the purpose of the law of God. The law cannot save us – but the law shows us we need to be saved solely BY GRACE. The law was not given because God actually expected us to be able to make ourselves righteous by it – rather, the law was given to show us that save the grace of God we can never be righteous. The law remains, and will evermore be, the written manifestation of the righteousness of God. It will never be abolished or watered-down. But again – that is precisely why we must be saved by grace through faith.
Slain by the Law
For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
Paul continues his theme on the purpose of the law. Here we see that as a natural man – as someone who was a Jew trying to keep the law – Paul thought that he was alive, well, and doing quite fine as it pertained to righteousness. Is this not how we think of ourselves BEFORE God convicts us? Sure. Without the conviction of the Holy Spirit – and sometimes this conviction comes through the law of God – we will think we are alive. But once we stand before the holiness of God, and before the righteousness demanded by the law – we are at once shown to be dead. We will, at that point, see that we never were alive – but it took the law of God through the conviction of the Holy Spirit to wake us up to this fact.
Now, what we see here is that even though the law shows us condemned without Christ – this is really ILLUMINATION. The law is exposing to us the TRUTH – about ourselves, and about Jesus. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, the law is a schoolmaster to LEAD US TO CHRIST. That is God’s purpose for the law, even if it is not man’s purpose. Men use the law to defeat God’s purpose, but God’s purpose stands.
Now note an important distinction: There are some that teach that when Paul says that the law is a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ – they teach that it is by our keeping of the law that we eventually come to Christ for salvation. But this is really the opposite of the Truth. It is not by our keeping of the law that we are led to Christ – rather, it is by the fact that we fail to keep the law that we are led to Christ. This is Paul’s whole point – the law points out sin and slays us as sinners. THEN we know to come to Christ, because we know grace is our only hope. In short, the law illuminates us to our true condition, for the purpose of leading us to Jesus Christ, that we might be saved by grace through faith.
The Law is Good
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
Paul wants his readers to understand that he is not saying that the law is bad. Or that we can ignore obedience, holiness, and submission to God. Rather, his whole point is that the law is holy, just, and good – that is exactly WHY the law condemns us, and exactly WHY we cannot hope to keep it. So, in short, Paul is saying the law is the righteousness of God in written form. But we are NOT righteous. Thus, "by the commandment, sin might be shown to be exceedingly sinful." Again – all unto the purpose of pointing us to the living righteousness found only through CHRIST IN US.
We will see later, in chapter 8, that while we cannot keep the perfect law, Christ died that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, and that CHRIST IN US is the very embodiment of righteousness.
The Normal Christian Life
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
It is amazing that people can read this passage and think that Paul is talking about himself BEFORE he was saved. As mentioned before, I have even heard some professing Christians claim that if we are born again, we have no sin, no sin nature, and are completely sanctified as to experience and practice. But if this is true, than it is possible to be as sinless as Jesus was sinless, and to live without ever sinning again. Is that YOUR experience? Do you actually think you never sin? It sure wasn’t Paul’s experience. And it isn’t what the Bible ever teaches as possible during this life.
The fact is, a Christian has TWO natures – two laws of nature. We always will as long as we have physical bodies, and live within a fallen creation. You have the treasure, Jesus Christ, but IN an earthen vessel. This is why Paul talks about putting ON the new man, and putting OFF the old man. That is why he says to walk in the Spirit so that you won’t satisfy the lusts of the flesh. None of that would make sense if we didn’t have the possibility or presence of the sin nature.
But the POWER of the old man is broken through the Cross. Romans 6 tells us that we are completely crucified and risen with Christ – we are new creations in Christ Jesus. But in Romans 6, Paul also tells us, "let not sin reign in your mortal body." Well, there would be no need for him to say, "Let not…," if it wasn’t possible to LET. In other words, through the Redemption we are absolutely set free from the POWER of the old nature. But we are not set free from the PRESENCE or the POSSIBILITY of sin. That is why John says, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the Truth is not in us."
If you have been born again, you have received a LIFE that is totally contrary to the life you received through natural birth. You are NOT a rehabilitated OLD creation – no, you are a completely NEW creation. But the reason it doesn’t seem like it is because the residual patterns, and the presence, of the old creation, remains. The new creation is spiritual and within. The Christian life is a matter of bringing that old under the power of the new – it is a matter of the kingdom of God within us coming to govern that old kingdom in us.
But you see, because the life we receive through the new birth is contrary, indeed FOREIGN, to what we are used to, we won’t understand it. We won’t even sense it at first, because we will continue to be buried beneath our emotions and intellect. And yet the Spirit within is NOT emotions and NOT brains. It is Christ Himself.
A born again person is born again from the inside out. The seat of the new birth is that our spirit is made one with the Spirit of God – through the Holy Spirit we are made ONE with Christ. This is salvation, and the basis of our new identity in Christ. But the rest of us must be brought under the control or government of the new life. This is sanctification – and even though CHRIST IN US is everything we need to be brought on into sanctification – this is merely potential. We must go on through faith and obedience if we are to actually experience sanctification. And in addition, as we grow in Christ, the new life within, that was once foreign to us, will come to be normal for us. Hopefully, the old law of sin and death will become more and more foreign.
But this growth process does take time and warfare. This is why it is entirely possible to be saved, but to have all kinds of struggles and warfare over sin. In fact, the struggle may be evidence that you are saved, rather than evidence you are not. It takes TWO natures to make for warfare, and therefore, if you are not having any warfare in this area, something is missing – either you are not saved, or you are saved, but you have relinquished the battle. The flesh and the Devil never stop making war against the Spirit. So if warfare has ceased, this is a red flag, for the Bible says, "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. "(Gal 5:17) Isn’t this exactly what Paul is teaching in Romans 7? So we see that a war in this area is not only normal, but can be evidence that you are making progress.
Now, certainly warfare as a thing unto itself isn’t the goal. Rather, everything Paul is describing in Romans 7 is supposed to be UNTO victory. On the heels of the Truth of Romans 6 – which is the finality of the Redemption – Paul is digressing in Romans 7 to show that it is normal to LIVE OUT that finality. But nevertheless, he says, that victory is assured through faith in the finality of the Cross.
Above, Paul says that he often has the WILL TO DO, but cannot DO. And he says that often he has the WILL TO STOP DOING, but cannot stop. According to Paul, this is evidence of TWO LAWS. One the one hand, his WILL TO OBEY is evidence of the Holy Spirit, his new birth, and a witness that he agrees with the holy law of God. But on the other hand, there is another law – the law of sin and death. This law – and it is really a NATURE – stands at odds with his desire to obey God.
It is important to realize that in Romans 7 and 8, when Paul talks about the two laws, he is really making reference to our TWO NATURES. There is the law of the old nature – the way it operates, it’s characteristics, and functionality. But there is the law of the new nature. These two natures, or forces that comprise us when we are saved, oppose each other IN US. It was that way for Paul. He said, "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members."
You will notice that Paul says, "I see another law at work in my members." So he isn’t simply talking about theology here. He is talking about a nature or a law that is operative IN HIM when it comes to sin. The core of it is the sin nature, but Paul is describing a law that is at work WHEN he sins. In fact, this, "law of sin," is CONTRARY to the law of God, and certainly to the Holy Spirit.
What is Paul talking about? Well, he is talking about how the flesh, or old nature, operates when the law exposes it. Notice – this is not about how we respond in faith to Christ. No. Rather, the law of sin and death is how the flesh – apart from Christ – operates when the law shows us to be hopeless sinners. We try to hide. We try to cover our nakedness. We try to rationalize, or make excuses, or make promises to do better. Sure. Once the law corners us as sinners, the, "the law of sin and death," brings exactly what the term indicates: Death – and all of those ploys I just mentioned are the fruits of death, not of LIFE.
The law of sin and death is what we are left with pertaining to our sin if we don’t believe and rest in the finality of the Cross. The law of sin and death is really what operates in our flesh, according to natural means, when our sin is exposed. We are like a ping pong ball, going back and forth between sin and death, sin and death, etc. There is no finality, because the only finality is found at the Cross. The law of sin and death will operate in us, and really bring us to a hopeless sense over our sin unless we do as Paul did – by pass it by putting faith in Christ.
Victory in Christ Jesus
Do you feel continually hopeless over certain sins in your life? Do you feel like you will never be able to get free? Or that there must be something wrong with you – as a Christian – because you continue to sin, or because you continue to be dragged down into despair by your failures? If this is true about you, then you are NOT believing – and the result is that you are under the law – the law of sin and death has you controlled. Paul’s answer is simply this:
O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Christ in us NOW delivers us from, "the body of this death," and from the law of sin and death. But we must believe. We must WALK IN THE SPIRIT OF LIFE, and put OFF the body of sin and death. As always, without faith we aren’t going to get very far.
So again we see
that the key to victory over the power of sin is not to turn in upon sin and try
to make it go away. No. The key is to turn to Christ and walk in the
power of His resurrection. As Paul says in Galatians, "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and
you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that
you cannot do the things that ye would." (Gal 5:16-17)
But you and I will never turn to Christ and walk in the Spirit if we don't BELIEVE and rest in the finality of the Cross. If you don't believe you are free from the power of sin, you won't walk in the power of the resurrection.
And what is it that hinders our faith? Well, our failures. Our sin. It is ironic that the very thing over which Christ has victory is the very thing we allow to keep us from victory. We won't believe we have victory until we see ourselves living it. This is blindness. It doesn't work that way. But if we believe we WILL live it.
Paul has already told us that despite the fact that we ARE free, that there is going to be an ongoing process, and in that process we will often FAIL. But his entire point is that our failures do not negate the VICTORY of Jesus! The victory of Christ is not contingent upon our obedience! If we continue to trust in what Christ has done, and stop trusting in what WE can do, or don't do, the power of His resurrection in us cannot fail.
But if we continue to bounce back and forth, based on OUR works, then we are, whether we realize it or not, UNDER THE LAW. And this will bring forth fruit unto death.
Paul says NO. This is not victory. Then he repeats to us the key. He admits, "I am a wretched man. Who will deliver me from this terrible thing that I am in my flesh? Jesus Christ has delivered me! Therefore, even though I continue to serve the nature of sin with my flesh -- I serve the law of God with my mind, heart, and intent. THAT is victory. THAT is faith."
When we read Romans 6-8, we are reading MORE than just a description of a LEGAL reality. We are NOT new creations merely from a legal point of view. Christianity is a LIVING reality in Christ Jesus. We are been born anew from above and have been given the very life of Christ in us. Paul is trying to tell us what that is, why that is, and how to live in it.
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