THE LETTER OF PAUL TO THE ROMANS
The Way Not to Experience Godís Righteousness
Todayís lesson falls in the overall outline of Romans in the following way:
Theme: The Faithfulness and Righteousness of God (1:16-17)
I. The Need for God's Righteousness (1:18-3:20)
(1) Or do you not know, brethren, for I am speaking to those who know the Law, that the Law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? (2) For the married woman is bound by Law to her husband while her husband is living, but if her husband dies, she is released from the Law concerning the husband. (3) So then if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she is called an adulteress, but if her husband dies she is not an adulteress even though she is joined to another man. (4) Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law by the body of Christ that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead so that we might bear fruit for Christ. (5) For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death; (6) But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
In chapter 7 Paul makes one more gigantic effort to do away with a life of legalism. Not only will he show how inconsistent it is for the Christian to live a legalistic life; he will also show the devastating effects of living life under the Law, under any law.
In chapter 6 we saw that grace is more than just simply God pronouncing us "just" because of Christ's death on the cross. We saw that because Jesus has placed His Spirit in us, we are now ONE with Christ. We are so ONE with Christ, that what happened to Him also happened to us. For example, since He died, we too have died. Since He has risen from the dead, we too have risen from the dead. In Romans 6 this dying and rising applied especially to sin. Because Christ died, we too diedóto sin and to our sin nature. Because Christ rose, we too have risenóto God and to our new divine nature.
In Romans 7 Paul now applies the death of Christ and to the Christian to another area of our livesóto our relationship with the Law, especially the Law of Moses, but also to any other human-made Law. According to verse 1 how long does the Law have jurisdiction over people? Although Paul does not come right out and say it, by asking this question in verse 1, when does Paul claim that the Law no longer has jurisdiction over a person? In other words, when do people have to stop obeying laws?
Now Paul is going to use a specific example of the Law to show how death changes everything with respect to the Law. According to v. 2 how long is a woman bound to her husband? According to v. 2 when is she no longer bound to a husband?
Before we start getting all crazy about what this passage teaches about divorce, remember that this is not the only passage in the Bible which speaks about divorce. Other passages need to be consulted BEFORE you draw up a definite doctrine of adultery and its relationship to divorce.
In other words death is what changes the relationship of a person to the Law. My dad, though he was a good man continually broke the speed-limit laws. He was not going to drive 55 mph out on the deserted roads of West Texas. Every now and then he got speeding tickets because he refused to obey these specific laws. Now that he is dead, though, he does not care one rip about the speed limit laws of W. Texas. Death does that to a person. It radically alters the relationship of a person to the Law by annihilating that relationship.
In verses 4-6 Paul now shows how this symbol of marriage and death relates to the Christian. Although he does not come out and say it, Paul implies that originally we were married to the Law. Just like the woman in v. 2 was married to one man, so we too were marriedóto the Law. Just like the situation in v. 2, death has entered into our situation. According to Paul in v. 4, who has died so that our relationship with the Law is altered? How have we died?
Paul just threw us a little curve here. You would have thought that he would have said the Law died just like the husband died in v. 2. Paul though is not going to treat the Law that way. As a result, he tinkers with the metaphor and makes it so that we die, not the Law.
In verses 5 and 6 Paul leaves the symbol of marriage and speaks in general terms about the effects of the Law upon us before our break-up with the Law and about the effects of our relationship with Christ. According to v. 5 "when we were in the ______________, the __________ ____________, which were aroused by the __________ were at work in the members of our _____________ to bear fruit for _______________" (7:5).
Below is a table (are you surprised) which contrasts the arena of Law with the arena of Grace.
When you read v. 5 you see, that Paul is linking the Law with the flesh, sinful passions, body, and death. The new spiritual nature is not attracted to the Law; our old Adamic nature is!
According to v. 6 now that death has freed us from the Law, "we serve in ___________ of the ____________." In other words, the new life of the Spirit is made possible only after our ties with the Law have been severed. Since only death can sever our relationship with the Law, it was necessary that we died with Christ to sever that relationship.
(7) What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "You shall not covet?" (8) But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. (9) And I was once alive apart from the Law but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died, (10) and this commandment which was to result in life proved to result in death for me; (11) for sin taking opportunity through the commandment deceived me, and through it killed me. (12) So then the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good."
From all that Paul has said, you could almost come away with the conclusion that the OT Law was bad. Some early Christians even claimed this to be true. They actually said that a lesser god different from the God of the NT gave us the OT Law. Paul though is going to show that the problem was not with the Law but with something else. In v. 7 how does Paul respond to the question: "Is the Law sin (that is, sinful)?"
According to Paul in v. 7 what was one of the benefits of the Law coming into the world?
At the end of v. 7 Paul cites a specific example of how the Law benefited us? What is the specific example he cites?
According to v. 8 what did sinóyour sin natureódo once it heard the command "Do not covet?"
The idea behind "sin taking opportunity" is that of an army trying to establish a beachhead. Although we knew we had the men to defeat Hitler's Germany in WW2, we were stymied in our efforts until we could establish a beach head on the continent. D-Day was important primarily because it established that beach head, a base of operations from which we could then launch the rest of the invasion. The same holds here. Our sinful nature needs a beach head, a base of operations from which to launch its attack against us. According to Paul that base of operations, that beach head is the Law and its specific commands.
Verses 9 - 11 again show the kind of affect the Law has upon a person. Our sinful natures are like gasoline and the Law is like fire. As long as you keep the 2 separate, nothing bad happens. Once though they come into contact with each other, you have a terrible explosion. (Notice again that it is our sinful natureónot our spiritual natureówhich is attracted to the Law! That's the reason Christians are not to live lives led by the Law; the Law taps into their sinful natures, not their new spiritual natures.)
According to v. 9 what was true of Paul before he came into contact with the Law? What happened to Paul after he came into contact with the Law?
According to v. 10 what was supposed to be the result of people coming into contact with the Law? Yet what did result?
According to v. 11 what then is the real problem? Our sinful natures or the Law?
What conclusion does Paul in v. 12 draw about the Law and the specific commandments in the Law?