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Query for the Month

of November 1998

Next up-date: December 1st 1998 (God willing).

 


Query:

Romans 7:14-21
"For we know that the law is spiritual
[or of heaven]: but I am carnal [of this earth], sold under sin. For [or because] that which I do, I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I [my behaviour proves it to me!]."

"If then I do that which I would not [willingly do], 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 [or principle], that, when I would do good, evil is present with me."

 

Response:

This is a large question for it is at the heart of Christianity, but I will endeavour to answer it in a few words. Obviously, there will be much that is not covered, but hopefully the essence of the answer will be here.

Chapter seven of the Letter to the Roman Christians is full of contrasts and needs to be read in conjunction with chapters six and eight. The man concerned (most think that Paul is writing of his own experience) appears to have:-

knowledge - verse 1

conviction - verse 4

repentance - verse 6

confession - verse 21

consecration - verse 22

BUT HE ADMITS THAT HE HAS NO POWER!!! verse 18

 

The chapter starts with a metaphor regarding a woman and her husbands. Verses 1-3.

In the story she has two, and the emphasis is that she cannot have them at the same time without being labeled an adulteress by the Law of God (the Ten Commandments).

This principle also applies to lovers. To have a husband and a lover at the same time is condemned. But she may be married to two different husbands one after the other and be free from the condemnation of that Law.

1 Corinthians 7:39.
"The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord".

Thus the pattern is set. We cannot be married to our sinful nature (the old husband, Romans 6:6) and Christ (the new Husband, Isaiah 54:5) AT THE SAME TIME. Nor can we entertain a love of sin while married to one or the other without occurring condemnation.

The two husbands:-

Romans 6:5-6
"For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin".

Isaiah 54:4-5
"Fear not; for you shall not be ashamed: neither be you confounded; for you shall not be put to shame: for you shall forget the shame of your youth, and shall not remember the reproach of your widowhood any more. For your Maker is your husband; the LORD of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall He be called".

Special attention is drawn to the fact that each husband has a law, or principle, which allows him to control the actions of his wife. One is called the "law of sin and death", while the other is known as "the law of the Spirit of life". Chapter 8:2. In the case of the first husband, this is most often done through the use of force, but the second Husband uses only love and persuasion.

Sin is described in other places in the Bible as spiritual adultery (e.g. James 4:4), therefore anyone who indulges in it, comes under the condemnation of the Law and requires forgiveness and cleansing when repentant. Because sin is often committed while in ignorance of its nature, a knowledge of the sin is required for confession of it, and this is the work of the Spirit. Leviticus 4:1-2. John 16:8.

However, the person in Romans seven is well aware of the fact that he is sinning. He describes his actions very dramatically and comes to the realisation that his life is hopeless because he cannot control it. Sin is controlling him. "What I hate, that I do". Verse 15.

But he also comes to the conclusion that he cannot do anything about it, for IN him "dwells NO good thing", not even Christ. Verse 18. This understanding, and this condition, is just what the Spirit of God has been aiming for! At this time He can only work for a hopeless person! If the confessor is a "pharisee" his prayer gets no further than his lips. If, on the other hand, the confessor is a "publican", then the prayer is lifted up to God and is answered. Luke 18:9-14.

Verse 4 illustrates the remedy available for those who would like to be married to Christ, but who already have an evil husband and who know it. We must become "virgin"!! This means that a new life must come into existence, for the old one cannot be called "virgin" because we are all born in sin, i.e. "married" to the old sinmaster within.

Psalm 51:5
"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me".

But Paul wrote in another letter:-

2 Corinthians 11:2
"For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one Husband, that I may present you as a chaste
[pure and blameless] virgin to Christ".

The remedy requires death!

Romans 7:4
"Wherefore, my brethren, you also are become dead to the law
[of the old husband] by the body of Christ; that you should be married to Another [as a virgin], even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit [pure children, or, good deeds] to God".

The death of the sinner is required and this also ensures the death of the "old man". Both die together at the cross, but only one is resurrected to the new life.

Romans 6:6
"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin, for he that is dead is freed from sin".

Galatians 2:20
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me".

There is a death and a resurrection of a new life, but only "in Christ". If this is done in the right way, the "sinner" dies and the "Christian" is resurrected, which gets around the problem very neatly. In this way the individual is delivered from the law of the old husband, in which he or she had been held in death. Romans 7:6. Nothing of the old life survives, for in Christ we are a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17
"Therefore if any man
[or woman] be in Christ, he [or she] is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new [by an act of creation]".

But what about our body? Surely that survives the change? We have just read, "nevertheless I live", and this is the answer. We do live in the same body that we had before becoming a Christian, but now it does not have any power over us. It is the same body that Jesus lived in perfectly. The text goes to say, "Yet not I, but Christ lives in me". Therefore Jesus now lives the same life He lived on earth, only now it is IN ME!!! That's what the next few words say. "The life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God". Notice it is not, "by faith in...", but, "by THE faith OF..."

Romans 8:9-10
"But you are not in the
[power of the] flesh, but in the [power of the] Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man [or woman] have not the Spirit of Christ, he [or she] is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin [but don't worry, you will get a new one at the resurrection]; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness".

We are to look to Jesus. If we take His advice (given through the Spirit), and trust Him, He will take the responsibility of making us clear before the Law. As a faithful Witness, He will tell us of our failings, but not to condemn us. It will be in sympathy, that we may learn obedience as He did. Hebrews 5:8-9.

It is in this way that we are made capable of serving in the "newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter". Verse 6. We place ourselves in the hands of a Creator God and allow Him to make a new person who "lives" in Him, and He in us. With Him as our "Husband" we have all the power of the universe at our disposal for He owns it. He will not allow His "wife" to go without for a second.

1 Corinthians 10:13
"There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God
[the new Husband] is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it".

"Common to man". The flesh is just the same in a converted person that it is in a sinner, but the difference is that now it has no power, since the man or woman yields to the Spirit, who controls the flesh for us.

Now we have a choice - a choice of sinning or not sinning!!

Romans 6:8-14
"Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him".

"Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over Him, for in that He died, He died to sin once: but in that He lives, He lives to God, likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin [once], but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord".

"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body [after that], that you should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield you [for this is your choice] your members [or bodily parts] as instruments of unrighteousness to sin: but yield yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God, for sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law [of the old husband], but under grace [the gift of the new Husband]".

That person (the Christian) has power, and no condemnation!

Romans 8:1-2
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death".

Matthew 28:18-20
"And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, 'All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth. Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world'. Amen".

When we now come to the throne of grace for forgiveness, it will not be to say, "I couldn't help it", but, "I did it in ignorance".

OR, "I did it because I wanted to, but now I'm sorry!"

There will be no attempt to say that we "fell" into sin, rather the confession will be direct and accurate, "I chose to do it", "I rejected Your way out".

It is this person who receives forgiveness and cleansing.

Conclusion:

Paul is describing in this chapter the experience of one, who, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, has found out that he cannot do good now matter how hard he tries. He does say that that is way he is and it cannot be changed, and give up, but pleads with the Creator God to make him over. Verse 24. He now asks for "deliverance", not forgiveness, and this is what he receives. Then he thanks God for the gift of marriage to Jesus Christ, for "to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be". Romans 8:6.

Then it is true, as it is written, that

"... as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God". Romans 8:14. Click here for a plain account of how this works,

Therefore, as this chapter shows very clearly, the ability to perform or not to perform the good deeds which we desire, tells us whether or not we are Christians.

By our fruit we shall know ourselves.

Do we through the Spirit have control over sin, or does it control us?
That is the
question!

To see these chapters in diagram form, click here.


 

Spiritual Dictionary.

The man of Romans 7:

This chapter shows us very clearly that the ability to perform or not to perform the good deeds which we desire, tells us whether or not we are Christians.

By our fruit we shall know ourselves.

Do we have control over sin, or does it control us? That is the question!


Next thought. To be discussed from December 1st 1998.

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