-Nick…choice that cost a man his physical life, and him his life as he has known it.
-Email from a friend, who works at military organization in Florida…44 year old Colonel, face plastered all over the news for being caught in a sex crime sting…his life as he knows it is over…
-Circles of destruction and despair that flow out from those decisions.
-The many decisions that led up to them.
-Sin is stupid and costly and messy…it ruins lives.
-But is it inevitable?
-“yes, of course…we are sinners…we will sin.”
-Okay, agree…we are sinners and sinners sin…but is our sin inevitable…is that one, what about that one?
-Can I choose to not to…can I choose against my nature, my nurture…my culture and my conditioning to not sin?
-What does it mean for a Christian to be in Christ? What are the real implications for us?
It is an important question…it has bearing on how you think about your life and how hard you train or don’t train yourself for good choices with expectations of good outcomes…why would you train, let alone try…if you didn’t believe it mattered?
We have all known the person (or someone similar to this) who has no talent, no ability but who is sure they will be a professional someday…singer, actor, athlete…whatever.
But on the other side of the spectrum…if you are convinced you cannot do something…that there is absolutely nothing you can control that will impact the outcome…what likelihood is there that you will give concerted effort towards that outcome…zero.
If you are mostly convinced your choices don’t matter…them you will mostly not give effort towards making choices…and any failure…will confirm your suspicion…”My choices don’t matter…the outcomes are set…I will fail.”
This has bearing on how you view sin as patterns and individual choices…impacts how you view sanctification…that part of your salvation that is spread out over a lifetime.
Is sin too strong, too compelling…or is the new nature in you stronger, more compelling?
Is there really a difference between the believer and the unbeliever?…apart from some theological mumbo jumbo…maybe what happens after this life?
Is there real difference right now or not?
Let’s start with the primary source material on this subject…Please Read Romans 7:1-6 with me.
Rom. 7:1 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, 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.
This passage is fairly easy to outline…but it might take some effort to get a handle on.
Principle, illustration, application
- 1: Principle: “The law has authority over a person as long as he or she lives, but that authority ends at death.”
V.2-3: Illustration: According to the law at the time (Jewish) the wife should stay married to her husband as long as he lives. If he dies, she is free from the law of marriage and can marry again.
- 4-6: Application: Believers have died to the law through the death of Christ, they are liberated from the law and are joined in freedom to Christ.
- Principle: We had a binding relationship to the law
- Illustration: We died to the law, when we died with Christ
- Application: We are now free to be joined to another, the risen Christ
Here’s the backstory on this passage…6:15 “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”
Imagine a people who believed that their only hope to please God was to obey the law.
The very law given by God to the great liberator Moses in miraculous fashion…burning bushe, divine presence, words on stone tablets…spectacular stuff.
The Law that they were told to obey at all costs, the law that would set them apart from other nations.
The Law the Psalmist said is beautiful, wonderful…soul nourishing…to be meditated on day and night.
This law…they are now being told that they are out from under its authority.
They are being told that they are not under law but under grace.
How are they to make sense of this? Paul is trying to help them with that…and us as well.
Because, what of us?…Christians in America who often have a blending of gospel and law in our thinking about the Christian life.
We are saved by grace through faith…but we live this life (we tend to think) through human efforts.
We are not compelled to obey the law in order to become Christians…but we sure better obey it if we are to act like them…and if we don’t obey it…then we show we are not really Christians at all.
The law, obedience to rules and rituals becomes a source of shame when we fail to live up to it…and a source of pride when believe we are successful.
Both shame and pride are terrible masters and motivators in our lives.
Largely, we are just confused…what place does the law of God have in our lives?
What do we do with this?
-Legalism: a bit of grace tacked on to rule keeping
-Antinomianism: all grace, no rules
*Neither of these extremes is right.
When I first began to walk with God in College I attended some training that was very detailed, some of it good and true to the gospel…much of it turned the scriptures and the gospel into rules for everything…I mean everything.
Instead of the OT pointing forward to Christ…and the Bible being seamlessly about the gospel…it was largely portrayed as a series of character sketches…lessons to learn, rules to follow.
But God did not send his son to lead us to the law; he gave the law to lead us to his son (Piper)
Bottom line: Believers are not under the authority of the Old Testament law.
But what does that mean in practice?
Can we do whatever we want?
Is the OT worthless?
Practically speaking…Won’t this produce lawless, unloving people?
Good questions and Paul intends to address them…let’s walk through these 6 verses together.
- Principle: The law has authority over a man only as long as he lives.
*If a man commits a crime (murder) and then dies before trial…what happens to the criminal proceedings? They end.
*They don’t put the man in his casket in the courtroom and start calling witnesses…its over, he’s dead.
When there is a death in a marriage, the law that makes marriage to another wrong no longer applies.
The living spouse is released from the law of marriage and is free to marry another.
Paul’s use of the marriage analogy is illustration of his principle…its the not principle here.
At the time he wrote this Jewish men could easily divorce their wives but not the other way around
In the illustration the husband dies and the living wife is free to marry
In his application…it is the one who died who is free to marry (we died to the law)
So again…he is illustrating a point…stick with the point…Death ends the law’s authority.
Believers have died to the law through the body of Christ (his death on the cross)
So the law is not binding on us anymore the way it was.
The reason you died to law is so that you might be able to join to another…the one who was raised from the dead…Jesus.
In order that we might bear fruit to God.
Before, when we were married to law…unable to obey it but under its authority and regulations…we bore fruit for death…sin and its consequences.
The law could not save us…because we could not save ourselves.
But now we have been set free from the law so that we serve in a new way of the Spirit not in the old way of the written code.
Whew-hew? I don’t need to read, understand, memorize the Bible…or do what it says after all…what a relief…so confusing, so hard to do.
Slow down…take a knee…that is not the point.
We are not cut free from the law to float untethered from all help and guidance…
We have not gone from helplessly married to the law…to foolishly free to sin.
Remember…from last week…we are slaves to righteousness or slaves to sin.
So this week we could say it like this…no one is spiritually single…we are married to Jesus or to sin.
We are not set free from law to live lawless lives…but in order to be joined to Christ…in order to bear fruit for God.
Why was the law given?
To show us the will and ways of God…the moral code demonstrated God’s character, the ceremonial code showed the price of sin and pointed to Christ, the legal code was given to a nation lead by God so they live in civil society.
It was good…but what did the law do?
Revealed our great need…our inability to meet the standards and requirements of God.
It turned sin into transgression…what was built into our hearts…this moral code…was now written for us to see…we willfully disobeyed God.
The long history of Israel was failure.
The OT is not a series of morality tales but a long tragic prelude to the coming of Christ.
The law was always good…but it revealed our failure…it did not lead us to success.
If we could have obeyed it…both in act and intent…it would have led us to love God and love others.
Israel was to love God above all else and to reveal this great God worthy of our love to the nations who did not know him…they failed on both counts.
Now…in the death of Christ on the cross…the Christian who has placed his or her faith in Christ is dead to the law.
Why? In order to be free to live a life of slavery to sin? Of course not.
We died to law in the death of Christ in order to be free to live in union with Christ in his resurrection.
Why? So we can bear fruit for God…fruit that shows up as love…for God and others.
What did Jesus say sums up the law and the prophets?
All of the OT laws?
To love God with all of your being…love others as you love yourselves…this is the point, always has been.
Gal. 5:22…the first and main fruit of the spirit is love. (The clear evidence in Christ in me is the fruit of the Holy Spirit…love)
The goal of the law is to be fulfilled in us through Christ-loving, not law-keeping.
Here is where the gospel is set apart from human religions…
In human religions if you do the things required by them…follow the rules and the rituals…you can succeed…whether there is a real god behind those things or not.
You can accomplish human religions all by yourself…you really don’t need there to be a god.
In the Gospel…if faith in Jesus does not lead to the Holy Spirit indwelling us and changing us and empowering us…then there can be no success.
If there is no God…the gospel is going to be an epic failure.
So when Paul was no doubt asked over and over…“Won’t your gospel produce lawless, unloving people?
His response might have been…”Yes, if Christ has not risen from the dead…that would be true…But the gospel is Christ crucified, Christ risen…and since he has been raised from the dead…then no, it won’t, it doesn’t, it can’t produce lawless, unloving people.”
The gospel is built on heart change not rule keeping.
Because unless all we do is loved based…not mere law-keeping…it is not the gospel…it’s not Christ in me.
And we cannot live this kind of life (gospel life) on our own steam…not really, not fully, not for long.
What do we do with the holy, just and good law of God?
We learn it, understand it, we apply it…but we are not under it in the sense that the law is the point.
We are married to God not to the law.
John Piper says it like this…Marriage is not for the sake of the vows, the vows are for the sake of the marriage.
So are we to “keep the commandments?”
Depends on what you mean by keep? Are they binding on us in the sense that if we fail to keep them we will be cast off by God…no!
But if we mean that we look to what God has revealed in Scripture in order to know his will and ways…his great character…so that we can love him and others well…then…Yes!
All the ten commandments (except for Sabbath Keeping) are repeated in the New Testament.
Sabbath Keeping (Saturday worship) is superseded by Christ…he is our Sabbath, our rest…now we worship on the Lord’s Day (Sunday, the day of resurrection)
But this is not a NT law…it is how we as lovers of Jesus are to orient our lives…in order to maximize love for God and love for others.
Rom. 7:4 So, (so=application is coming here) my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that (purpose) you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that (purpose) we might bear fruit to God.
Did I lose you along the way? I hope not, but I would understand if I did.
Let me tell you what I just told you…hard to listen and make sense out of some of this.
- If you are a Christian…if you have placed your faith in Christ and have received the Holy Spirit…you are free now to love God and others in a way you were not before.
- You are free now from slavery to sin in a way you were not before.
- You are free from trying to obey laws, rules in order to have and maintain a relationship with God and live the life God has for you.
- You are free now to love what God loves…to value what he values…to want what he wants.
What do I do with rules in the Bible? Do I have to obey them or not?
Wrong question will often bring a wrong answer.
Right question…What do I get to do with what God has revealed about himself in his word?
“I get to align myself with that truth…I get to love God and others with that truth…I get to live as a slave to righteousness…a free man or woman because of his revealed truth.”
- 4 says that we can now bear…”Fruit to God”
Lets look at Galatians 5 it will help us understand that a bit more.
Galatians was written to address some believers who thought that you had to obey the law in order to be a good Christian.
This idea is really hard for us to shake.
Gal. 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (There it is again)
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
*Some of the people who did all this stuff…had the law…the law can’t fix the root problem, it can highlight it.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
*Fruit: singular of the Spirit is Love and its great siblings.
*Of course there is no law against these great actions and attitudes…what does he mean?
Probably that the law, unaided by the Spirit cannot accomplish these things.
But the Spirit in a person…can…and so the Spirit alone can accomplish the intent of the law…to make us into these kinds of people…this kind of fruit.
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
There is that death to sin through Christ again.
Then in 5:25-6:2…the application of this kind of life in relationship to others.
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
What do you have there?
Indicative: since we live by the Spirit (not the law, or sin)
Imperative: Let’s keep in step with the Spirit (choose to go where he leads us)
Where we he lead us?
To walk in humility with each other…not making life about us, not being combative, jealous…but expressing contented love to each other.
When someone sins against…that person is to be restored….gently…with grace and compassion (of course there are times this is not possible…but see the heart here)
This is what a Spirit-filled, Spirit-directed life looks like…it looks like humility and love.
6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
- “You are not under the law…but the Spirit”
- The fruit of living in step with the Spirit is Love.
- The outcome of a Spirit-filled life will lead to each of us looking to the interests of each others…carrying each other’s burdens.
- The outcome of this kind of life is that we will have fulfilled the law of Christ.
*The intent of the law…will be expressed through and in us…we will love God and others.
Here’s this passage personalized:
“Terry, I’m not giving you are new set of laws but I am telling you to live in the freedom available to you…you are free now to love people and not just yourself…get busy living free…take every chance you have to be free…by taking every chance you have to love the people God has given you to love…friends, family, enemies.”
You now have a new master…Christ…this master tells you that you do not have to serve (sin) self anymore…you are free to serve Christ…and your service to Christ is going to show up in loving others.
*Want to be happy (free)?…live in step with the Spirit…which will ALWAYS show up in love for others…make life about loving God by loving others
This is the fruit for God that we are to bear…love for God by loving others.
Jesus’ death on the Cross showed us this great way…
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son...Jesus bore our burden in the ultimate way.
The resurrection life of Jesus in us empowers us to live bearing one another’s burdens.