Confidence In God

Grace For The Journey

In today’s blog we come to Romans 8:26-30.  This is a text that contains verses that are greatly debated in theological circles.  The major reason for this, as with the majority of theological debates, is that man wants God to fit within his own theological system. Passages of Scripture are then interpreted in light of the logic of that theological system rather than in careful consideration of its grammatical and historical context in order to know God as He reveals Himself whether He fits our system or not.

The truth is that there are many things that we simply do not understand about God.  Not only is God not fully comprehensible to finite man by virtue of God’s infinite nature, but additionally, God has only given us a limited revelation of Himself.  Moses recognized this in Deuteronomy 29:29 when he said, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”  Paul also recognized this and exclaimed in Romans 11;33-34, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” 

We also must keep this in mind as we study this passage this morning.  There are concepts within it that are hard, if not impossible, for us to fully comprehend.  We are bound in the box of the physical world of matter, space and time.  God is not, so we must be very careful not to place upon Him the same limits that apply to us.  If what God reveals about Himself does not seem logical to us, then the error lies in our logic. Remember, the validity of logical conclusions can only be as good as the validity of the observations and suppositions that lead to the conclusion.  We err when we demand that God ‘s nature and behavior must fit within the dictates of our own observations, experiences and values.  We must take God for what He reveals Himself to be, not what we want Him to be.

In the chapters leading up to Romans 8, Paul has set forth clear displays of God’s character and His response to mankind.  In the first three chapters Paul has proven that all men are guilty before God and justly deserving of His holy wrath. In the last half of Chapter 3, Paul explains that the only way for a man to be justified before God is through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, who paid the redemption price for man by atoning for sin on the cross of Calvary.  The nature of such saving faith is demonstrated in Chapter 4 by the example of Abraham who “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”  In chapters 5, 6, and 7, Paul has explained some of the ramifications and benefits of being justified by faith.  The believer has been radically changed having been “crucified with Christ” and receiving a new nature. Sin is no longer the Christian’s master and the bondage of the law has also been broken. However, the believer will struggle with sin because he remains in an earthly body that has not yet experienced the fullness of the redemption that is to come.  We no longer have to sin, but we will do so because of our present weaknesses until we receive our resurrection bodies.

In Chapter 8, Paul starts dealing with the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer.  Those who are in Christ Jesus are no longer under God’s condemnation, and the Holy Spirit, who indwells them, has begun the process of sanctification.  The Christian is to no longer have his mind set on the flesh, but rather in living according to the Spirit he is “putting to death the deeds of the flesh.”  As joint heirs with Christ, true Christians will
inherit the kingdom of God with Him.  Those are wonderful promises concerning our future destiny. We suffer in the present because of the world’s hatred of Christ as well as from the consequences of our own sin, the sin of others and the curse of sin upon the world.  All of creation is anxiously longing for “the revealing of the sons of God” when the curse upon it will be lifted.  Believer’s eagerly await the same event when we will receive our full adoption as God’s children by receiving our resurrection bodies and being with Christ for eternity.  That is the Christian’s great hope.  That is the context of Romans 8:26-30 where we find that  . . .

Paul lays a

Solid foundation

For our hope,

For it is in

God Himself.  

God, through the

Ministry of

The Holy Spirit,

Is intimately involved

With His people.  

He is sovereign,

And will always

Fulfill His promises.

The Spirit’s Intercession.

The first basis of our hope comes from God’s intimate involvement with us.  He cares about us so much that He has given the Holy Spirit a special ministry of intercession on our behalf.  The Spirit’s intercession is always perfect because there is perfect communication between God the Spirit and God the Father, and He always intercedes according to the will of God.

His Help: The suffering that we endure in this life lets us know that we are weak.  It is difficult enough to face persecution, but even more so to do so with a godly attitude that would include loving them and praying for those who persecute us and despitefully use us (Matthew 5:44).  We need the Spirit’s help to do that.  

It gets frustrating living in a sin fallen world.  

We long to be in a better place.

We need the Spirit’s help in

Being content in the present

While looking forward to the future.  

God has work for us to do

While we are still on this earth.  

The Spirit helps us to accomplish that.

And then we all must also acknowledge, just as Paul did in Romans 7, that we personally struggle against sin in our own lives.  We need the Spirit’s help in “putting to death the deeds of the flesh” and walking in holiness.  What a comfort to know that the Holy Spirit is present to help in each of all these areas.

Verse 26 also tells us of a specific weakness related to the above, “We do not know how to pray as we should.”  

In the midst of suffering in this life

And facing its many problems,

We often find ourselves uncertain

About how to pay about

The things we are facing.

This could be from a lack of knowledge about either the nature of God or how He would desire us to acts, or it could occur when our emotions overwhelm us at times.

Let me give you a couple of examples.  When the Twin Towers were destroyed, I admit that I sat watching in disbelief.  I could write you a theological treatise on things to pray for in a disaster, but what was I to pray specifically when there were thousands and thousands of individuals directly involved in that disaster, not to mention all of its ramifications to the rest of our nation and around the world.  My emotions were shocked.  

It was a great comfort to know that the

Holy Spirit was interceding right then.

Or, to make this more personal, how do you pray when you face some personal distress?  Would you know the proper prayer to make in these situations?  You are told you have cancer. Your child has just been killed in a car accident.  Your unmarried daughter is pregnant.  You come home and find that a lot of your furniture is missing and there is a note pinned to the wall that reveals your spouse has just left you for someone else.  You have just retired, and your spouse is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Each of these are real situations

In which we would find it

Difficult, if not impossible,

To know how to pray.  

We are weak, but

The Spirit helps us.

His Intercession: It is a great comfort to know that God is so intimately involved with us that not only is He aware of the situation we are facing, but God the Holy Spirit is interceding with God the Father even as we face it.  Our text says that “The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”  “Intercession” is to “accost with entreaty.”  It is a word describing rescue by one who pleads on behalf of someone who is in trouble.  The Holy Spirit does this on our behalf to God the Father
with “groanings that cannot be uttered.”

Amazingly, some Charismatics interpret this as “ecstatic utterances of glossolaly” or “speaking in tongues,” despite the fact that it is the Holy Spirit that is doing the groaning, and not the person, and the fact that these “groanings” are “too deep for words” that they “cannot be uttered.”  It should also be pointed out here as a footnote that prayer always has a rational content.  Paul states in 1 Corinthians 14:15 that he prayed with both with the Spirit and with the mind.  This is not one or the other, but both at the same time.  When we cannot express ourselves rationally, it is at that point the Spirit intercedes for us.

Since the Spirit’s groanings cannot be uttered, we cannot know what this would sound like.  What we do know is that it is communication of intercession on our behalf by God the Spirit to God the Father.  One member of the triune Godhead is communicating to another member of the Godhead in a way that we do not understand.

His Knowledge: Verse 27 tells that this is perfect communication and perfect intercession.  The one who “searches the hearts” is God the Father. Jeremiah 11:20 and 17:10 tells us that it is the Lord of hosts that searches and tests the heart and mind, because, as Hebrews 4:13 tells us, “All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  In this verse, we find that God the Father knows the mind of the Spirit.  1 Corinthians 2:11 tells us that the opposite is also true, “For who among men knows the [thoughts] of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.”  This means there is perfect communication between the Father and the Spirit.  There is no interference in the transmission of their communication.  There are no misunderstandings.  They understand each other perfectly.

An additional confidence we have in the Spirit’s intercession is that He intercedes for us in perfect accord with the will of God.  When we pray, we often have our prayers mixed with our own desires that may be in conflict with God’s will.  In fact, remember that a major purpose of our praying is to align ourselves with God’s will.  He already knows our minds and hearts, so our prayers are not giving Him information that He does not already know.  We pray so that we will know and understand God’s will, not to persuade Him to do our will.  We often do not know how to properly pray as we should, but the Spirit intercedes for us in perfect harmony with God’s will.

The Spirit’s intercession gives us great comfort and confidence in God’s care for us.  If He is that intimately involved in knowing our needs through the Holy Spirit’s communication, then we can be confident of the same level of care to make sure that all of His promises to us will be fulfilled.

God’s Omnipotence.

Another source of confidence for us that God will fulfill all His promises is His omnipotence in the affairs of our lives.  The religions of the world; including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, the various forms of Paganism, etc., have no confidence in their god or gods.  They do not know if he, she, or they are even paying attention to them, much less intervene on their behalf.  The same is true of many Christian cults and sects.  They do not have a personal relationship with God, and so do not have confidence in His care of them.  But we do have a personal relationship with our Creator through our redemption in Christ Jesus.  We have been given promises which assure us of His personal involvement with us, and that He does intervene in our lives.

Paul expressed this in verse 28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

How do we know this?  First, because history records it.  God has revealed Himself throughout the Scriptures as One who takes action to ensure that every one of His promises will be kept.  Second, we know it by our own experiences.  They began with God’s gracious actions that brought us to Himself.  They continue in the present with His gracious leading and intervention in our lives.  They continue throughout the future culminating in our final redemption and His taking us to heaven to be with Him forever.

His Action: The God of the Bible is a God of action.  The work He is doing is detailed in this verse is His “causing all things to work together for good.”  There has been a lot of spilt ink trying to explain exactly what is meant by this phrase.  Most of the interpretations are slight variations on the same theme, but there are few out there that forget the context and remove the personal nature of this promise to Christians.  While we would agree that God in His sovereign omnipotence controls all things, the context here is the personal encouragement that comes to believers in knowing God’s personal
care for them in their present sufferings.  There are many tough things the believer must face in this present life.  They cause us to long even more for our final redemption, but until that comes, we take great comfort in the intercession of the Holy Spirit and our heavenly Father’s response in working all the things that happen to us together for good.  That is, for both our good and His glory.

The foundation of the claim here is that God knows what is best for you individually as well as what is best for everyone else both individually and collectively.  That in itself is a proclamation of God’s omniscience – knowing all things.  We are often clueless about what is best for ourselves, much less what is best for others.  It is easy to make a decision between good and bad, but what about when it is between good, better and best?  Which option is the best?  And just because I think it is best for me, that doesn’t mean that it is the best choice, because it will affect others, and that must also be taken into consideration.  We face those decisions daily.  What specific chore should I do and in what order?  What books should I read, and in what order should I read them?  I know I need to study the Bible, but should I be studying Genesis or Revelation at the present time?  You would drive yourself into a white jacket with long sleeves that tie in the back if you thought about this too long.  Instead, we can rest in God’s guidance of us because He does know what is best.

God knows all things, so nothing ever catches Him by surprise.  He is also all powerful, so no matter what the circumstances, He can bring everything together to produce good, even from bad things.

Now at this point you say, “Whoa, Pastor Terry!”  For all of us are aware of evil things that happen.  This world is filled with sin.  God can’t use the sinful actions of people to produce good, can He?  The answer is yes.  God can produce good even from the actions of evil people who hate and sin against Him.

Paul has already told us in this chapter that we Christians will face tough things in our lives we do not like.  None of us get excited about suffering from sin, whether it is our own, someone else’s or the general curse the world is under because of sin.  We all properly seek to avoid it if possible.  Yet, God knows just what needs to be brought into our lives in order to produce the character of Jesus Christ within us.  That is why Paul said earlier in Romans 5 that he would exult in tribulations.  God used those tough things to produce in him perseverance, proven character and a hope firmly based in the love of God demonstrated for all time and eternity in Jesus Christ dying as the substitute payment for our sins.  James 1:2-4 says basically the same thing, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have [its] perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.?

Even when we fail the testing of our faith, God can use that for our good.  How?  Because it brings us back to confessing our sins to Him.  He then forgives us and cleanses us.  We then learn to pass the test the next time, and we help others avoid the same pitfalls.  As Paul said back in 6:1, may it never be that we would sin with the idea that it would cause God’s grace to increase, yet God’s grace does abound to cover our sin (5:20).  He is so powerful that He can work even our sin together for good in the process of maturing us.  This should not surprise us, for we do it with our own children. When they err in the behavior or attitudes, we correct and discipline them which results in their developing a better character as they mature.

But let’s take this one step further.  What about actions that can only be described in terms of utter evil.  What about WWII and the holocaust?  What about the destruction of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11?  Can God cause even such acts of evil to work together for good?  Again, the answer is yes.  The persecution against the Jews in Europe during WW II and the years immediately following resulted in the formation of the nation of Israel.  This fulfilled ancient prophecies.  Many Jews found that Jesus Christ was Messiah in the midst of the persecution.  Many mission efforts to the Jews began as a result of that war.  In addition, WW II also resulted in the largest missionary effort that has every occurred.  In particular, thousands of American soldiers went back to places they had fought during the war in order to fight a different battle.  This one against the forces of darkness by bringing the light of the gospel to millions that had never before heard it.

The attacks on America by Islamic terrorists on 9/11 brought about a spiritual openness in the city that was not thought possible.  It caused an increased desire for God throughout our nation.  How many thousands have been saved or restored to active service for the Lord as a result of those attacks will only be known in heaven.  In addition, it tore off the mask of Islam, and even though the media and many of our government leaders refuse to acknowledge the utter evil of that religion, many Christians have been awakened to the need of bringing the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those entrapped in the worship of the false and evil god, Allah.

The Benefactors:

Yes, God can cause all things, included acts of pure evil, to work together for good in accomplishing His purpose for those who belong to Him.  That is an important point to remember.  This promise is not universal in nature.  It is specifically related “to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Who are the “those who love God?”  Who are “those who are called according to His purpose?”  They are the elect that have come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul will explain more about this idea of being called in verse 30.  These are the same people that verse 26 says the
Spirit is helping in their weaknesses.  These are those that verse 17 says are joint heirs with Christ.  They are living according to the Spirit (verse 13).  They are in Christ Jesus and therefore without condemnation from God (verse 1).

Paul has already pointed out that people do not seek God on their own (3:11).  No one loves God except as a response to the love He has already shown us in Christ Jesus (1 John 4:19).  When a person does love God, it is demonstrated in their desire and effort to keep His commandments (John 14:21,23; 1 John 5:2-3), which includes loving other people (1 John 4:20).  The promise that all things will work together for good only belongs to true believers.  They will receive a benefit even when bad things happen, and when they suffer.  Believers have a reason for hope.  For the unbeliever, and those with false professions of faith, all things do not work together for good.  They will suffer from evil and sin without benefit.  They have no reason for hope, and for them to hope for something better is ultimately foolish, for without Christ, their eternal destiny is the wrath of God.

Only a being that is omnipotent could make a claim such as this, for it demands the ability to overcome any event that occurs.  It demands a power that can never be overwhelmed.  Any power less than that is subject to something else thwarting its effort and making the claim false.  Only God Himself can cause all things to work together for good for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.

God’s Sovereignty.

This power of God is part of what makes Him sovereign, and that sovereignty is another source of comfort to the believer.  Paul explains in verses 29,30, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”  I will devote a whole study to this passage tomorrow, and we will be
dealing with the sovereignty of God for the next couple of days.  That should help us grasp at least a basic understanding of the deep theological concepts here.  But for this morning, I only want to bring out the general point of these verses.  Even when I face difficult circumstances in life, I can trust the promises of my heavenly Father.  He will complete the work He has begun in me.  There will be a day that every true Christian will stand before Him in a glorified state as a joint heir with Christ.  His sovereignty guarantees it. Let’s look at the words Paul uses to drive this truth home.

Foreknowledge is the Greek word for experiential knowledge with the prefix for “before” attached to it.  God has experiential knowledge of us before we are born.  I believe that God exists outside the time box that we are in.  Foreknowledge is knowing things or events before they exist or happen.  In Greek, the term for “foreknowledge” is “prognosis,” which expresses the idea of knowing reality before it is real and events before they occur. In Christian theology, “foreknowledge” refers to the all-knowing, omniscient nature of God whereby He knows reality before it is real, all things and events before they happen, and all people before they exist.

Both Old and New Testaments speak of God’s foreknowledge . Nothing in the future is hidden from God’s eyes (Isaiah 41:23; 42:9; 44:6-7; 46:10).  God sees our lives, our bodies, and our days even before we are conceived: Psalm 139:15-16 declare, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

  • God promised to bless future peoples through Abraham – Genesis 12:3. 
  • God told Moses what would happen with Pharaoh – Exodus 3:19.
  • Through God’s foreknowledge, the prophets spoke of a coming Messiah – Isaiah 9:1-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6.
  • Through Daniel, God made known the future rise and fall of kingdoms – Daniel 2:31-45; 7).
  • In many New Testament passages, Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s ministry and in the formation of the church – Matthew 1:22; 4:14; 8:17; John 12:38-41; Acts 2:17-21; 3:22-25; Galatians 3:8; Hebrews 5:6; 1 Peter 1:10-12.

The apostle Peter teaches that God had foreknowledge of His Son’s sacrificial death long before Jesus died (1 Peter 1:20); see also Revelation 13:8).  Jesus’ death on the cross was part of God’s eternal plan of salvation before the creation of the world.  On the day of Pentecost, Peter condemns those who put Christ to death but at the same time points to the sovereignty of God: they had been given free rein to do as they wished with Christ because of “God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23). Although evil rulers had conspired to kill the Lord Jesus, His death had been decided by God beforehand (Acts 4:28).

The Bible teaches that God’s children were chosen beforehand, and God’s foreknowledge was involved.  The elect are those, “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Peter 1:2).  And Romans 8:29 says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

But God’s choice of the elect was not simply based on His foreknowledge of events; it was based on His good pleasure: Ephesians 1:4-5 tells us, “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.  In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.”  In Romans 11:2, divine foreknowledge suggests an eternal connection between God and His chosen or “foreknown” people because of His loving faithfulness: “God has not rejected his people whom He foreknew.”

The foreknowledge of God is far more than His ability to “see the future;” His foreknowledge is a true “knowing” of what will come to pass, based on His free choice. He decrees what will come to pass.  In other words, foreknowledge is not just intellectual; it is personal and relational.  Foreknowledge is equivalent to foreordination in that God ordains, or orders, all that will be.

I do not understand exactly how God had foreknowledge of me, but I am comfortable with simply accepting that in some way He did.  Because I know that God is beyond my full comprehension, I can accept His revelation of Himself simply as it is given without it forcing Him to fit into my theology.

Predestined means to foreordain” or “to appoint beforehand.”  This is God’s gracious decision which appoints for the elect their goal.  Included in that goal is adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5) and obtaining the inheritance (Ephesians 1:11), as well the goal here of being conformed to the image of Christ.

Purpose: A purpose of salvation is being “conformed into the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.”  This is, of course, the ultimate goal of the Christian that will take place in fulness when we are in heaven and receive our resurrection bodies.  We will then be like Jesus, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).  God’s sovereignty gives us confidence in the present for it makes our future hope for this sure.  God will be glorified. What He has done in raising Jesus from the dead, He will also do for those of us who are joint heirs with Christ.

But in the present, we are in the process of becoming more like Christ.  As time passes in this present life, we should become greater reflections of Jesus Christ.  In the present, we “lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,” and being “renewed in the spirit of [our] mind,” we “put on the new self, which in [the likeness of] God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:22-23).  As 2 Corinthians 3:18, states it, “we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.”

The idea of being Called here is the effectual call of God that brings a person to Jesus Christ.  There is the general call of God to the world to repent and partake of the offer of salvation, but the context here is specific to those who are Christians.  This is the drawing of the Father spoken about in John 6:44 when Jesus said, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Those God called, He also Justified.  We have spoken about justification many times already in our study of Romans.  This is God’s judicial declaration of “not guilty” on the person who has placed their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ for salvation from their sins.

Those God has justified, He has also Glorified.  This refers to when we will receive our inheritance and be changed into the glorified state we will have in heaven, including having our resurrected bodies.  Paul uses the past tense here in demonstration of the absolute confidence we have that God will fulfill His promises to us.  We can speak of a future event as having already taken place because God’s sovereignty makes is certain.

Again, we will look at verses 29 and 30 in depth next tomorrow, but for today, if you are a Christian, be at peace and rest in the confidence that comes because God is sovereign.  His promises are certain.  That is a comfort to every believer.  You have the responsibility of telling others how they can also have peace with God and hope for the future.

But God’s promises are not comforting to sinners, for they are still under God’s condemnation and wrath.  If you are reading this today and do not have confidence that if you died today you would go to heaven, then please talk with someone who has accepted Jesus as their Savior and has a growing relationship with Him.  You can have your sins forgiven in Jesus Christ and then have that confidence.  Don’t leave and risk a Christless eternity.  Get right with God today.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Awaiting Our Final Redemption

Grace For The Journey

Anticipation.  At times this is not such a good word if you waiting for something to happen that you know you will not enjoy, like a trip to the dentist.  At other times it is a wonderful word that describes the mixture of hope, joy, and pleasure usually stirred with a bit of anxiety and sometimes even a little frustration as you await some good event to take place.  Children anticipate the coming of their birthday and Christmas because of all the special attention they will receive.  Teens anticipate becoming adults even though all of its freedoms are also bound by new responsibilities.  An engaged couple anticipate the celebration of their wedding day along with the beginning of their married lives together.  There is the anticipation of the arrival of a new baby.  Young adults anticipate the starting of their careers and middle age folks start dreaming about what it will be like to retire. 

There is one more major event that we need to anticipate, though whether that will be considered something to look forward to or something to dread will depend on the individual’s relationship to God.  

We all need to anticipate

The passing from

This life into the next.

For the true Christian, that is an event that can be anticipated with joy, as Paul states in our text for study this morning.  We can anticipate that with anxious longing as we wait eagerly to pass from this life and be with Jesus.  For the person who does not know Jesus Christ as their Savior, death is a dreaded enemy.  For those who do dread death, I hope to help you understand today how you can anticipate it positively instead.

We will be studying Romans 8, verse 18-25 this morning.  From these verses we learn several important and necessary truths . . .

The Suffering of the Present.

The idea of suffering that Paul presents in verse 18 was introduced in what he had said in verse 17 about being joint heirs with Christ and therefore suffering with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.  I gave a brief explanation of this in yesterday’s blog.  Today, I want to expand more on both the idea of suffering in the present and the blessing of glory that is to come.

Our being joint heirs is seen in our present reality of suffering with Christ.  By that, Paul is referring to the persecution that comes against all who strive to live godly in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12).  The more we become like Jesus, the more the world will hate us because it hates Him (John 15:20).  Jesus specifically told us in Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when [men] cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.  Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  While such suffering of persecution is not something we anticipate with joy, yet is it something that can be positive in our lives, for that very suffering because of our identification with Jesus is assurance of our also being glorified with Him.

That is the great hope of the Christian. It is that hope that drives the Christian on in their battle against their own sin as well as the temptations and persecution of the world.  All who have this hope of being glorified with Jesus purify themselves (1 John 3:3).

There is another aspect to this suffering than just direct persecution by the ungodly.  There is also the suffering that we endure simply because we continue to live in a sin cursed world after our salvation.  The Scriptures tell us in no uncertain terms that Jesus Christ left the glories of heaven in order to come to earth as a man as part of the plan for our redemption (Philippians 2:5ff).  I don’t think there is any way that we can fully comprehend the full extent of what that meant in terms of leaving the glories of heaven in order to dwell with man.


Perhaps the best we can do to get a bit of the idea is for someone who has been living in one of these Christian retirement communities where all the neighbors are mature Christians who love the Lord and each other, and place that person in a federal prison among the general population of inmates – thieves, swindlers, rapists, murderers, etc.  I think you can understand that there is a suffering that will take place simply because of the change of environment.

Being justified by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the true Christian is made an alien and stranger to this world (1 Peter 2:11).  We are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17) whose citizenship is now in heaven (Philippians 3:20), but we remain here for the present.  Like Lot, who felt “his righteous soul tormented day by day by the lawless deeds” of the people of Sodom, so we too feel our souls tormented by the unrighteousness of those around us.  Can any of us watch the evening news without feeling disturbed, troubled, and even offended in your soul by the reports of unrighteous acts that come pouring out?  Don’t you long for it to be different?

Let’s make this more personal.  How do you feel when the guy living next door decides to let the whole neighborhood listen to his favorite music, whether they like it or not?  More than a little annoyed, perhaps?  How do you feel when not only are you cut off while driving, but the fellow also sideswipes you and speeds off?  I would guess you would be a little more than just annoyed.  What about when someone publicly lies and slanders someone you know and love?  Righteous indignation would be appropriate.  Or how about if you came home and not only was your house robbed, but it was trashed as well?  Or even worse, what if someone abused a child you knew or even your own? Your soul would be vexed at the sin that is all around and which is personally affecting you and those you love.

You must also add to this your struggle against your own sin.  It troubles the Christian deeply to still have to deal with their own sin.  It is upsetting enough to have to deal with the effect of our own sin upon our own lives, but it is tormenting to see those we love hurt by our sin.  Our souls are vexed and we yearn to be changed.  Paul’s expression of this in Romans 7:14-25 matches the heart of every believer.  We cry out longing for the day in which we will be free from this body of sin that we are still in.  We desire to be in a place where sin no longer exists.

In verse 18 Paul considers all the suffering that we endure in this life with the glory that is to come in the future for the Christian, and concludes that there is no comparison to be made.  It is not that Paul is insensitive to suffering, either his own or that of others. Rather, it is that what is to come is so wonderful that what we endure at present, though difficult at the moment, is not to be compared.  The sorrow of the present will be turned to great joy in the future.

In John 16:20-22, Jesus comforted His disciples with this same thought as they considered Jesus’ soon departure from them. Jesus said to them, “Verily, verily, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy.  Whenever a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world.  Therefore you too now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you.”

When a woman is in labor, the time is filled with anguish.  Yet, no matter how difficult and painful it was for her to deliver, when that baby is placed in her arms, her heart is filled with joy.  (If that was not true, none of us would have siblings).  So, it is with the present sorrows and suffering.  They will give way to something better in the future.

Let me add here that the present suffering is not without benefit.  Remember what James 1 and Romans 5 says about the trials we have in this life.  God uses them to mature us.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond al comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 

The suffering we endure here reminds us

That this world is not our final home.  

We are awaiting the glory that is

To be revealed to us which is so

Far better than the present

That they cannot be compared.

The Glory to be Revealed.

What is the glory to be revealed to us?  It is what we will receive as heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ (8:17).  We will be part of God’s eternal kingdom.  Remember what Matthew 25:34 tells us that Jesus will say to those that belong to Him, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  The glory that belongs to the kingdom of God is the glory that will be revealed to us.

What is that glory?  All the glory of both the Millennial Kingdom and heaven.  During the Millennial Kingdom, Jesus will reign on the throne of David in Jerusalem (Isaiah 24:23). All the nations will be subject to Him (Zechariah 14).  There will be a perfect government.  Nature will also be restored and function in a way that we would find unbelievable at present.  Amos 9:13 describes that time saying, “’Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘When the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine, and all the hills will be dissolved.”  Can you imagine a harvest so plentiful that you can’t finish picking it all before your starting to replant.  That also tells us that the seasons will be different from what we experience now.  Harvest time will merge with planting time without the harsh deadness of winter in between.  The current curse on the earth will also be lifted for Isaiah 55:13 tells us, “Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up; and instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up; and it will be a memorial to the Lord, for an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.”  Weeds and thorns will be replaced by good plants during the Millennium.

After the Millennium, the present heavens and earth will be destroyed and a new heaven and earth will be created.  It will be even better.  We can hardly begin to imagine what that would be like, for there will no longer be any curse and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there.  The glory of God will illumine everything, so there will no longer be any night or even the need for a lamp.  If that is but a very brief description, what must the splendor of this glory actually be!  It is no wonder that both we and creation long for this.

The Longing of Creation.

In verses 19-22, Paul describes the “anxious longing” of the creation which “waits eagerly” for this to occur.  “Anxious longing” is a “strained expectancy.”  It is the idea of stretching your neck and craning your head as you look eagerly and patiently wait for something to happen.  That is the sort of anxious longing while eagerly waiting a groom would have at his wedding while looking for his bride to make her entrance.  Paul tells us that creation has that kind of longing for the sons of God to be revealed.

The revelation of the sons of God will occur at the beginning of the Millennium when the
judgement of the “sheep and goats” will occur (Matthew 25:32ff).  The sheep, which are the people that belong to Him, will be invited into His kingdom.  The goats, those people who have not followed Him, will be cast away to eternal damnation.  At present, it is not revealed who the sons of God are.  There are many people who profess faith in Jesus Christ, but there are tares among the wheat of the church (Matthew 13:38).  There are wolves among the sheep (Acts 20:29), and those who are self-deceived about their true relationship to the Lord (Matthew 7:22-23).  I think we will be surprised on that day to find who really does belong to the Lord and who does not.  Some we did not expect will
enter God’s kingdom, and some we expected to enter will be cast away.

Creation here refers to the animals, plants, the earth, and the heavenly bodies.  It does not refer to people since believers are mentioned separately and the ungodly would not be anxious to have their judgment come upon them.  In that same vein, it does not refer to Satan and the demons because they do not want the sons of God to be revealed; and it does not refer to the good Angels because they are not corrupted.  It is an amazing thing to consider that nonrational creation longs for the coming of the Millennial kingdom and the consummation of the ages.

Some might wonder about how nonrational creation could have longings, but the idea of attributing human characteristics to creation occurs commonly in both Biblical and non-biblical literature.  While we may not understand how the rocks, plants, seas, and sky that make up creation could have desires, in some way they do.

In verse 20, Paul tells us that the curse that creation is under did not come by its own will, but by was placed upon it. It was subjugated to futility by God.  Creation is unable to fulfill its original purposes.  Some might object that it is unfair to curse creation when it was Adam that sinned, yet it must be remembered that the earth was placed under Adam’s dominion (Genesis 1;28), so Adam’s sin also affected what he held dominion over.  God had used creation as the means to provide for Adam’s physical needs.  Prior to his fall into sin, gathering food was not a difficult task.  But as a result of his sin, God cursed creation as part of the curse upon Adam.  Genesis3:17-19 records, “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you,’ saying, ‘You shall not eat from it;’ cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.  Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Many environmentalists become extreme in their position because they forget that the creation is also cursed.  It is proper that man takes proper care of our environment, for God has given to man that responsibility, and he will be held accountable for his stewardship.  Man has often abused nature instead of taking care of it, and it is good for organizations and government to oppose such abuse and seek to give it reasonable protection and even restore it.  That is also a proper Christian response for that is the proper stewardship of the earth that belongs to man.

However, it is sheer foolishness to think that you will restore nature simply by keeping man out.  In fact, it often takes man’s intervention to restore an environment.  Creation is under the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  Things go from a state of high energy to low energy, from order to disorder.  Things decay even without man.  Natural disasters – earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, and fires can quickly devastate even large areas.  Man cannot control such disasters, but he can help minimize the damage of some of them and he can help restore devastated areas.

Some environmentalists have gone to the extreme of worshiping nature instead of the God that created it.  Some have even become what can only be called anti-human, their own existence excepted of course.  Their evolutionary beliefs have led them to think that nature will somehow improve if man is kept from interfering with it.  But the actual record of nature is the opposite.  It is decaying.  It is declining.  The fossil record proves that countless species of animals and plants have become extinct without man causing it.  Man can strip mine, but only nature can cause the climate changes that have resulted in the desertification of Northern Africa and the basin and range system of the American west.

Nature longs to be restored to what it was in the Garden of Eden, but its hope is not in the plans of environmentalists, no matter how helpful they may want to be.  The hope of nature to be free of its current slavery to corruption is the freedom it will receive when the glory of the children of God is revealed.  Only then will the curse be lifted and it will be cared for by those who are following God’s original plans to rule over the earth instead of just exploit it.

At the present time the whole of creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth.  Paul does not say who or when the world will be made new.  He only alludes to the fact that it will be by using the analogy of being in the pains of childbirth.  It is painful now, but new life is coming.  The Apostle Peter tells us that a day will come when the present heavens and earth will be destroyed by fire which will melt even the elements, but then a new heaven and earth will be created (2 Peter 3:10-13).  The Apostle John speaks briefly of the same event in Revelation 21:1 saying, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.”

The Longing of Christians.

Christians have a similar longing as creation.  Verse 23 tells us that already having the first fruits of the Holy Spirit, we long for the completion of our redemption.  We have been redeemed from the curse of sin by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit has already regenerated us to new spiritual life.  He now lives within us and is changing us through the process of sanctification.  But the more we are changed, the more we long for our final redemption when we will receive the final aspects of our adoption as sons when our bodies are also redeemed.  These bodies of sin, not just our unredeemed flesh, but the corruption that remains in our minds and emotions, will one be day done away with and we will receive resurrection bodies and minds and emotions that will no longer have any bent to sin.

Paul also describes this longing in 2 Corinthians 5:4 saying, “For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”  Creation longs for the complete removal of Adam’s curse, and so do we.  That is our great hope.

The Nature of Hope.

In verse 24, Paul explains the nature of hope, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees?”  Biblical hope is not a wish, but a confident assurance based in God’s promises.  We have not experienced the complete fulfilment of these promises yet.  That is the simple reality. They are still in the future, which is why they are still a hope, and not something we can presently enjoy.  But we are confident that they will be kept. That is the nature of hope because that is the nature of our faith.  The definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 explains this, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.”

The Perseverance of Hope.

This assurance and conviction causes us to persevere in our hope.  Paul explains in verse 25, “But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”  If hope was based only on what we can presently experience, then it would
have no relationship to the future.  It would be the confidence that a skeptic has, which is based only in himself.  Our confidence is based in someone far greater than we.  Our hope is not irrational, for the evidence of God keeping His many promises is recorded throughout the pages of the Bible.  In addition, though we have not yet received the fullness of our redemption, we have experienced many aspects of it.  We know that we have already been radically changed by something outside of ourselves.  It is reasonable to believe that the one that raised Jesus Christ from the dead will also be able to fulfill His promises of redemption to us.  We have been forgiven our sins through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  We are joint heirs with Christ and we will receive a resurrection body that is like His.  Therefore, we persevere in the present life while longing for God’s promises to be fulfilled in the future.

The reality of our hope manifests itself in our present life in how we live, for as 1 John 3:3 states, “And everyone who has this hope [fixed] on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  I pray that the evidence of your hope of final redemption is also being
manifested in your present life.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Awaiting Final Redemption

Grace For The Journey

Anticipation.  At times this is not such a good word if you waiting for something to happen that you know you will not enjoy, like a trip to the dentist.  At other times it is a wonderful word that describes the mixture of hope, joy, and pleasure usually stirred with a bit of anxiety and sometimes even a little frustration as you await some good event to take place.  Children anticipate the coming of their birthday and Christmas because of all the special attention they will receive.  Teens anticipate becoming adults even though all of its freedoms are also bound by new responsibilities.  An engaged couple anticipate the celebration of their wedding day along with the beginning of their married lives together.  There is the anticipation of the arrival of a new baby.  Young adults anticipate the starting of their careers and middle age folks start dreaming about what it will be like to retire. 

There is one more major event that we need to anticipate, though whether that will be considered something to look forward to or something to dread will depend on the individual’s relationship to God.  

We all need to anticipate

The passing from

This life into the next.

For the true Christian, that is an event that can be anticipated with joy, as Paul states in our text for study this morning.  We can anticipate that with anxious longing as we wait eagerly to pass from this life and be with Jesus.  For the person who does not know Jesus Christ as their Savior, death is a dreaded enemy.  For those who do dread death, I hope to help you understand today how you can anticipate it positively instead.

We will be studying Romans 8, verse 18-25 this morning.  From these verses we learn several important and necessary truths . . .

The Suffering of the Present.

The idea of suffering that Paul presents in verse 18 was introduced in what he had said in verse 17 about being joint heirs with Christ and therefore suffering with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.  I gave a brief explanation of this in yesterday’s blog.  Today, I want to expand more on both the idea of suffering in the present and the blessing of glory that is to come.

Our being joint heirs is seen in our present reality of suffering with Christ.  By that, Paul is referring to the persecution that comes against all who strive to live godly in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12).  The more we become like Jesus, the more the world will hate us because it hates Him (John 15:20).  Jesus specifically told us in Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when [men] cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.  Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  While such suffering of persecution is not something we anticipate with joy, yet is it something that can be positive in our lives, for that very suffering because of our identification with Jesus is assurance of our also being glorified with Him.

That is the great hope of the Christian. It is that hope that drives the Christian on in their battle against their own sin as well as the temptations and persecution of the world.  All who have this hope of being glorified with Jesus purify themselves (1 John 3:3).

There is another aspect to this suffering than just direct persecution by the ungodly.  There is also the suffering that we endure simply because we continue to live in a sin cursed world after our salvation.  The Scriptures tell us in no uncertain terms that Jesus Christ left the glories of heaven in order to come to earth as a man as part of the plan for our redemption (Philippians 2:5ff).  I don’t think there is any way that we can fully comprehend the full extent of what that meant in terms of leaving the glories of heaven in order to dwell with man.


Perhaps the best we can do to get a bit of the idea is for someone who has been living in one of these Christian retirement communities where all the neighbors are mature Christians who love the Lord and each other, and place that person in a federal prison among the general population of inmates – thieves, swindlers, rapists, murderers, etc.  I think you can understand that there is a suffering that will take place simply because of the change of environment.

Being justified by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the true Christian is made an alien and stranger to this world (1 Peter 2:11).  We are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17) whose citizenship is now in heaven (Philippians 3:20), but we remain here for the present.  Like Lot, who felt “his righteous soul tormented day by day by the lawless deeds” of the people of Sodom, so we too feel our souls tormented by the unrighteousness of those around us.  Can any of us watch the evening news without feeling disturbed, troubled, and even offended in your soul by the reports of unrighteous acts that come pouring out?  Don’t you long for it to be different?

Let’s make this more personal.  How do you feel when the guy living next door decides to let the whole neighborhood listen to his favorite music, whether they like it or not?  More than a little annoyed, perhaps?  How do you feel when not only are you cut off while driving, but the fellow also sideswipes you and speeds off?  I would guess you would be a little more than just annoyed.  What about when someone publicly lies and slanders someone you know and love?  Righteous indignation would be appropriate.  Or how about if you came home and not only was your house robbed, but it was trashed as well?  Or even worse, what if someone abused a child you knew or even your own? Your soul would be vexed at the sin that is all around and which is personally affecting you and those you love.

You must also add to this your struggle against your own sin.  It troubles the Christian deeply to still have to deal with their own sin.  It is upsetting enough to have to deal with the effect of our own sin upon our own lives, but it is tormenting to see those we love hurt by our sin.  Our souls are vexed and we yearn to be changed.  Paul’s expression of this in Romans 7:14-25 matches the heart of every believer.  We cry out longing for the day in which we will be free from this body of sin that we are still in.  We desire to be in a place where sin no longer exists.

In verse 18 Paul considers all the suffering that we endure in this life with the glory that is to come in the future for the Christian, and concludes that there is no comparison to be made.  It is not that Paul is insensitive to suffering, either his own or that of others. Rather, it is that what is to come is so wonderful that what we endure at present, though difficult at the moment, is not to be compared.  The sorrow of the present will be turned to great joy in the future.

In John 16:20-22, Jesus comforted His disciples with this same thought as they considered Jesus’ soon departure from them. Jesus said to them, “Verily, verily, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy.  Whenever a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world.  Therefore you too now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you.”

When a woman is in labor, the time is filled with anguish.  Yet, no matter how difficult and painful it was for her to deliver, when that baby is placed in her arms, her heart is filled with joy.  (If that was not true, none of us would have siblings).  So, it is with the present sorrows and suffering.  They will give way to something better in the future.

Let me add here that the present suffering is not without benefit.  Remember what James 1 and Romans 5 says about the trials we have in this life.  God uses them to mature us.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond al comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 

The suffering we endure here reminds us

That this world is not our final home.  

We are awaiting the glory that is

To be revealed to us which is so

Far better than the present

That they cannot be compared.

The Glory to be Revealed.

What is the glory to be revealed to us?  It is what we will receive as heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ (8:17).  We will be part of God’s eternal kingdom.  Remember what Matthew 25:34 tells us that Jesus will say to those that belong to Him, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  The glory that belongs to the kingdom of God is the glory that will be revealed to us.

What is that glory?  All the glory of both the Millennial Kingdom and heaven.  During the Millennial Kingdom, Jesus will reign on the throne of David in Jerusalem (Isaiah 24:23). All the nations will be subject to Him (Zechariah 14).  There will be a perfect government.  Nature will also be restored and function in a way that we would find unbelievable at present.  Amos 9:13 describes that time saying, “’Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘When the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine, and all the hills will be dissolved.”  Can you imagine a harvest so plentiful that you can’t finish picking it all before your starting to replant.  That also tells us that the seasons will be different from what we experience now.  Harvest time will merge with planting time without the harsh deadness of winter in between.  The current curse on the earth will also be lifted for Isaiah 55:13 tells us, “Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up; and instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up; and it will be a memorial to the Lord, for an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.”  Weeds and thorns will be replaced by good plants during the Millennium.

After the Millennium, the present heavens and earth will be destroyed and a new heaven and earth will be created.  It will be even better.  We can hardly begin to imagine what that would be like, for there will no longer be any curse and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there.  The glory of God will illumine everything, so there will no longer be any night or even the need for a lamp.  If that is but a very brief description, what must the splendor of this glory actually be!  It is no wonder that both we and creation long for this.

The Longing of Creation.

In verses 19-22, Paul describes the “anxious longing” of the creation which “waits eagerly” for this to occur.  “Anxious longing” is a “strained expectancy.”  It is the idea of stretching your neck and craning your head as you look eagerly and patiently wait for something to happen.  That is the sort of anxious longing while eagerly waiting a groom would have at his wedding while looking for his bride to make her entrance.  Paul tells us that creation has that kind of longing for the sons of God to be revealed.

The revelation of the sons of God will occur at the beginning of the Millennium when the judgement of the “sheep and goats” will occur (Matthew 25:32ff).  The sheep, which are the people that belong to Him, will be invited into His kingdom.  The goats, those people who have not followed Him, will be cast away to eternal damnation.  At present, it is not revealed who the sons of God are.  There are many people who profess faith in Jesus Christ, but there are tares among the wheat of the church (Matthew 13:38).  There are wolves among the sheep (Acts 20:29), and those who are self-deceived about their true relationship to the Lord (Matthew 7:22-23).  I think we will be surprised on that day to find who really does belong to the Lord and who does not.  Some we did not expect will enter God’s kingdom, and some we expected to enter will be cast away.

Creation here refers to the animals, plants, the earth, and the heavenly bodies.  It does not refer to people since believers are mentioned separately and the ungodly would not be anxious to have their judgment come upon them.  In that same vein, it does not refer to Satan and the demons because they do not want the sons of God to be revealed; and it does not refer to the good Angels because they are not corrupted.  It is an amazing thing to consider that nonrational creation longs for the coming of the Millennial kingdom and the consummation of the ages.

Some might wonder about how nonrational creation could have longings, but the idea of attributing human characteristics to creation occurs commonly in both Biblical and non-biblical literature.  While we may not understand how the rocks, plants, seas, and sky that make up creation could have desires, in some way they do.

In verse 20, Paul tells us that the curse that creation is under did not come by its own will, but by was placed upon it. It was subjugated to futility by God.  Creation is unable to fulfill its original purposes.  Some might object that it is unfair to curse creation when it was Adam that sinned, yet it must be remembered that the earth was placed under Adam’s dominion (Genesis 1;28), so Adam’s sin also affected what he held dominion over.  God had used creation as the means to provide for Adam’s physical needs.  Prior to his fall into sin, gathering food was not a difficult task.  But as a result of his sin, God cursed creation as part of the curse upon Adam.  Genesis3:17-19 records, “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you,’ saying, ‘You shall not eat from it;’ cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.  Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Many environmentalists become extreme in their position because they forget that the creation is also cursed.  It is proper that man takes proper care of our environment, for God has given to man that responsibility, and he will be held accountable for his stewardship.  Man has often abused nature instead of taking care of it, and it is good for organizations and government to oppose such abuse and seek to give it reasonable protection and even restore it.  That is also a proper Christian response for that is the proper stewardship of the earth that belongs to man.

However, it is sheer foolishness to think that you will restore nature simply by keeping man out.  In fact, it often takes man’s intervention to restore an environment.  Creation is under the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  Things go from a state of high energy to low energy, from order to disorder.  Things decay even without man.  Natural disasters – earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, and fires can quickly devastate even large areas.  Man cannot control such disasters, but he can help minimize the damage of some of them and he can help restore devastated areas.

Some environmentalists have gone to the extreme of worshiping nature instead of the God that created it.  Some have even become what can only be called anti-human, their own existence excepted of course.  Their evolutionary beliefs have led them to think that nature will somehow improve if man is kept from interfering with it.  But the actual record of nature is the opposite.  It is decaying.  It is declining.  The fossil record proves that countless species of animals and plants have become extinct without man causing it.  Man can strip mine, but only nature can cause the climate changes that have resulted in the desertification of Northern Africa and the basin and range system of the American west.

Nature longs to be restored to what it was in the Garden of Eden, but its hope is not in the plans of environmentalists, no matter how helpful they may want to be.  The hope of nature to be free of its current slavery to corruption is the freedom it will receive when the glory of the children of God is revealed.  Only then will the curse be lifted and it will be cared for by those who are following God’s original plans to rule over the earth instead of just exploit it.

At the present time the whole of creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth.  Paul does not say who or when the world will be made new.  He only alludes to the fact that it will be by using the analogy of being in the pains of childbirth.  It is painful now, but new life is coming.  The Apostle Peter tells us that a day will come when the present heavens and earth will be destroyed by fire which will melt even the elements, but then a new heaven and earth will be created (2 Peter 3:10-13).  The Apostle John speaks briefly of the same event in Revelation 21:1 saying, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.”

The Longing of Christians.

Christians have a similar longing as creation.  Verse 23 tells us that already having the first fruits of the Holy Spirit, we long for the completion of our redemption.  We have been redeemed from the curse of sin by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit has already regenerated us to new spiritual life.  He now lives within us and is changing us through the process of sanctification.  But the more we are changed, the more we long for our final redemption when we will receive the final aspects of our adoption as sons when our bodies are also redeemed.  These bodies of sin, not just our unredeemed flesh, but the corruption that remains in our minds and emotions, will one be day done away with and we will receive resurrection bodies and minds and emotions that will no longer have any bent to sin.

Paul also describes this longing in 2 Corinthians 5:4 saying, “For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”  Creation longs for the complete removal of Adam’s curse, and so do we.  That is our great hope.

The Nature of Hope.

In verse 24, Paul explains the nature of hope, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees?”  Biblical hope is not a wish, but a confident assurance based in God’s promises.  We have not experienced the complete fulfilment of these promises yet.  That is the simple reality. They are still in the future, which is why they are still a hope, and not something we can presently enjoy.  But we are confident that they will be kept. That is the nature of hope because that is the nature of our faith.  The definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 explains this, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not
seen.”

The Perseverance of Hope.

This assurance and conviction causes us to persevere in our hope.  Paul explains in verse 25, “But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”  If hope was based only on what we can presently experience, then it would have no relationship to the future.  It would be the confidence that a skeptic has, which is based only in himself.  Our confidence is based in someone far greater than we.  Our hope is not irrational, for the evidence of God keeping His many promises is recorded throughout the pages of the Bible.  In addition, though we have not yet received the fullness of our redemption, we have experienced many aspects of it.  We know that we have already been radically changed by something outside of ourselves.  It is reasonable to believe that the one that raised Jesus Christ from the dead will also be able to fulfill His promises of redemption to us.  We have been forgiven our sins through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  We are joint heirs with Christ and we will receive a resurrection body that is like His.  Therefore, we persevere in the present life while longing for God’s promises to be fulfilled in the future.

The reality of our hope manifests itself in our present life in how we live, for as 1 John 3:3 states, “And everyone who has this hope [fixed] on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  I pray that the evidence of your hope of final redemption is also being manifested in your present life.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Living In The Flesh Verses Living In The Spirit

Grace For The Journey

Today we are again in Romans 8.  We will be looking at verse 12-17 where Paul contrasts living in the flesh and its results with living by the Spirit and its results.  Paul begins this section by explaining the believer’s relationship to the flesh.

Living In The Flesh.

The Believer’s Relationship To The Flesh.

Verse 12 states, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.”  As we have seen over the last several days in our study of Romans, the person who is justified by faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ has no obligation to the flesh. We have no debt to the flesh.  We have no duty to the flesh.  It has no right to compel us to do its bidding.

Paul has explained the reason for this in chapters 6 and 7.  In chapter6, verse 6 he said, “Our old self was crucified with Christ so that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”  God and His righteousness are our new masters.  Sin has no right to tell us what to do.  Christ has broken the law’s jurisdiction over us and joined us to Himself (7:1,4) so that we are released from the law and serving it in the oldness of the letter and are now bound to Him and serving in the newness of the Spirit (7:6).  This is important, for though the law is holy, righteous and good (7:12), it was used by our old sinful natures to produce in us more sin.  The result had been our conviction of and condemnation for sin. But the believer has been changed.

Yes, as Romans 7:14-25 points out, Christians still struggle against the sin that still exists within what Paul refers to as the “flesh,” that part of us that remains corrupt while awaiting final redemption when we go to heaven.  Yet, the believer has a new nature that is in conflict with this flesh and he fights against it.  The unregenerate cannot do that for they are slaves to sin.  Even their best efforts to do good fall short and are filthy before our holy God.  They cannot “joyfully concur with the law in the inner man” (7:22).  The true Christian does do this for he recognizes the spiritual nature of the law, and even though it reminds him of his continual failure to live in perfect holiness, he now strives to fulfill the law out of his love for God.  Though the body of flesh still struggles with sin, the Christian’s mind is set on “serving the law of God” (7:25).

The true Christian is justified by his faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so he is no longer under God’s condemnation (8:1).  His sins are forgiven, and He is clothed with the righteousness of Christ.  As wonderful as that is, if we were left in our flesh to battle sin by ourselves in this life, we would have very miserable lives.  We, like Paul in 7:24, would be continually crying out to be “freed from the body of this death.”  God gave us something additional so that we can win in our battle against the flesh.  The Holy Spirit sets us “free from the law of sin and of death” (8:2).  Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit we are enabled to fight against the flesh and win.  We will not have complete victory in this life because at times we will try to do things in our own power instead of His, but through the Holy Spirit are lives should be marked by less sin and more holiness.  The Holy Spirit also enables us to fulfill the righteous duties God has revealed to us in His word (8:4).

The true Christian has the Holy Spirit dwelling within them (8:11) as part of the new covenant.  Non-Christians and those with false professions of faith do not.  As I pointed out from verse 9 yesterday, either you have the Holy Spirit and you belong to Christ, or you don’t and you are not a Christian.  Anyone who teaches that the Holy Spirit comes upon the Christian as a separate act sometime subsequent to salvation is teaching a false doctrine.  1 Corinthians 12:13 even makes it clear that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit comes upon the believer at salvation, otherwise they are not part of Christ’s body.

The true evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence in a person is seen in the fruit of the Spirit which Paul lists in Galatians5:22-23, “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.”  How is that fruit generated in the Christian?  It arises from the mind-set of the individual, which in turn reveals the true spiritual nature of the person.  The mind set on the flesh is death, for it is hostile to God (8:6,7).  The mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace.  The importance of having a proper mind-set in order to live for Christ and evidence true salvation cannot be stressed enough.  That is why Paul stresses it again here in verse 12.

Again, as Romans 7:14-25 explains, the Christian is in a struggle against the flesh.  It is a battle that he will lose at times, but the primary reason for defeat is what he has set his mind on.  If he sets it on the flesh, then he will obey sin, and it will be his master.  If he sets it on the Spirit, then he will obey righteousness, and it will be his master (6:16).  The problem we often have is that at times we think or feel like we have no choice but to sin.  That is simply not true, but it is the reality of how we think and feel at times.

We have God’s promise that He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able, but with the temptation, He is faithful to provide a way of escape that we may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).  We succumb to the temptation because it is attractive to our flesh, which includes our corrupt thoughts and our pride (1 John 2:15-16), and so we consider it and yield to it if our mind set is to fulfill the flesh’s desires.  But as Paul says here in 8:12, the Christian has no obligation to the flesh.  We do not have to give in to it.  We do not have to live according to it.  That is a key element that makes the true believer different from the person who has a false profession of faith.  The true Christian will stumble in sin and fall at times, but he is not characterized by catering to his sinful flesh (8:5), and even when he does fall, it is contrary to his true desires (7:23,25).  The false Christian is characterized by catering to their flesh.  They may make effort to do some good things, but they are not done for the glory of God.  Their mind set and life is actually one in which they are living according to the flesh.

Evidence of Living in the Flesh – Galatians 5:19-21.

What is the evidence of living in the flesh?  I spoke about this briefly yesterday and pointed out Galatians 5:1-21, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions dissensions, heresies,  envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.”  This cannot be considered a comprehensive list for Paul adds on a qualifier at the end, “and the like,” that tells us there are more things that could be listed.  This is rather a sample of areas where the flesh leads.  But let’s take a closer look at this list and see what they reveal to us about those that live according to the flesh.

Sexual Immorality.

This refers to all sexual sins.  Those who live in the flesh view their sexuality as something that must be fulfilled, which is not true.  It is reserved for marriage only.  They also approach it as getting pleasure for themselves rather than God’s design which is for it to occur only within marriage as an act of vulnerability, intimacy and giving of yourself to your spouse.

Impurity

This is moral impurity, dirty. It is the mind set of fornication. It would include pornography, lewdness, and obscene jokes.  It differs from “porneia” only in that this is mental rather than physical.  It is the filthy mind that could lead to immoral actions if the opportunity arises.

Sensuality.

This is lasciviousness, being unbridled in lust, without restraint.  It is shameless conduct.  It seeks to satisfy the flesh by doing whatever feels good regardless of its impropriety or offense to others.

Idolatry.

This is worshiping a false god.  Those living according to the flesh do not want to know the true God because that would make them uncomfortable, to say the least, in their sin.  They make up a god for themselves that will either accept them or which they can appease in some way.

Sorcery.

This is “magical arts” of potions, etc.  We get our word, “pharmacy,” from it.  These are drugs.  Those who live according to the flesh are quick to use drugs if they will give the desired effect.  We live in a society that has latched onto this in a big way in both street drugs and prescription drugs.  I am not referring to taking medications for genuine medical health reasons, but taking drugs because they make you feel a certain way. The mind that is set on the flesh wants to only experience good emotions, so if drugs will give you those, or help you escape bad emotions, then that is great.  The truth is that God has given us the capacity for both positive and negative emotions.  The negative emotions are valuable tools in the process of maturing us into godliness (James 1, Romans 5).  We should work through them, not escape them.  There are also those drugs given because it is easier to do than have the self-control necessary to avoid something, often diet related, that gives you a problem, including eating too much food.  There are also the drugs given to control people.  I am thinking especially of the many, many children that are on now on behavior modification drugs. So much of it could be avoided with proper diet and discipline in the home, but it is easier for the parent to give their child a couple of pills.  That is living in the selfishness of flesh instead of doing what is best.

Enmities.

This is hatred, active hostility toward others. It is the opposite of love. When you live in the flesh you see other people as competition that must be crushed, or as enemies that must be subjugated.  This is the mental and emotional driving force that will express itself in several of the characteristics that follow.

Strife.

This involves contention, quarrels, and fighting.  It is the outward expression of enmity, it is the hatred put into action.  Arguing has a basis in logic and exchange of ideas.  Strife has no such basis.  Its only goal is to conquer and subject.  It becomes adversarial even over minor issues and resorts to yelling, berating, and name calling in order to get its way.

Jealousy.

This is ambition to equal or surpass others.  Those living in the flesh cannot be content when someone else has something they do not, so the effort is made to get the same or surpass. While this may be expressed in the materialism of effort to “try and keep of with the Joneses.”  The root is the idea that you are the equal or better of everyone else, so it is also expressed in areas of honor, prestige, or position.

Outbursts of Anger.

This refers to uncontrolled temper, fits of rage or anger that boils up and over.  The mind-set of the flesh has little or no self-control and so the enmity that is present will erupt when something blocks you from getting what you want.  This may explode in a violent rage of words or physical force, or it may remain relatively calm, but the effort will be made to destroy the opposition.

Disputes.

Mercenary, selfish ambition, to court by any means to gain for self or cause.  It is used of those electioneering, and it leads to strife & disputes.  Those who live according to the flesh seek to use other people for their own purposes.

Dissensions.

This means, “to stand apart,” and refers to those will not work as part of the team.  The mind-set on the flesh cannot humble itself to subject itself to the will of others unless they can gain something for themselves through it.  If you don’t play their way, they will take their ball and go home.  Dissension leads to the next character.

Factions.

This refers to divisions or sects based on people choosing to group together with those who share their opinion.  The mind-set on the flesh is more interested in finding other who will agree than in searching out the truth.  It can also refer to social groups that form that then exclude others.  We usually refer to these as cliques.  They evidence minds set on the flesh for they are the opposite of the love Jesus told us we were to have for one another.

Envying.

This is resentment of others because they have prospered in some way more than you. Those who live in the flesh can only see life through their narrow little window, so they cannot rejoice when others do better or get ahead of them.  Among people who want to think themselves to be spiritual, but they really are not, this manifests itself in being envious of those who have more prominent spiritual gifts or a larger ministry.  And yes, I have seen it among men who call themselves pastors.

Drunkenness.

Being intoxicated.  The Bible says in Proverbs 31:6-7, “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart.  Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”  Hopelessness and misery belong to those who walk in the flesh, and that is why they seek refuge in a bottle.  They want to escape their problems, but they are still their waiting when they sober up.

Carousing.

This refers to the riotous, noisy parties that result from drunkenness.  The inhibitions are gone so the flesh is free to satisfy itself.  There is a line of defense that is now used that argues a person is not responsible for their actions when they are drunk, as if the alcohol was the culprit.  The truth is that the alcohol simply pulled back the normal covering of restraint to reveal the debauchery that really exists in that person’s heart. They live according to the flesh.

The essence of all the deeds of the flesh is a selfishness that wants the world to work according to what you think is best for yourself, and so you labor at making it work that way.  The truth, God and other people are not really important in the quest.  You are the most important entity in the universe, so the goal is to satisfy the cravings of your body, please your thoughts and emotions and build up your ego.  Obviously, that is against God’s declaration that you are just a creature made for the glorification of Him.  God is the most important entity in the universe, not you.

Results of Living in the Flesh.

Paul gives the results of living in the flesh in verse 13, “Or if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  Paul’s point here is simply this . . .

Genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

Results in some very significant

Changes in the individual.

Yes, the Christian will still struggle against sin, but he will no longer be characterized by it, for the true Christian is no longer obligated to the flesh and so no longer lives according to it.  The true Christian lives according to the Spirit and is putting to death the deeds of the flesh.  How you actually live reflects whether your mind is on the Spirit or the flesh.  If it is characterized by the flesh, then your profession of faith is false.  You are believing something other than the gospel.  You do not have the Spirit of Christ, therefore you do not belong to Him and you must die.

Living in the Spirit.

Living in the Spirit is radically different

Than living according to the flesh.

Paul explains this in verse 13 . . .

Its Effect On The Flesh.

Living according to the Spirit has a direct effect upon your flesh.  Paul had said back
in verse 8 that “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”  But the opposite is also true.  Galatians 5:16 tells us that if you “walk by the Spirit, you will not carry out the deeds of the flesh; for the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”

Notice that those living in the Spirit are “putting to death the deeds of the body.”  This is not something that is immediately accomplished, but something that is on-going.  This is what Paul is referring to when he calls on believers in Colossians 3:5 to “mortify,” or “put to death” the members of your earthly body.  True Christians are characterized by their struggle against the sins of the flesh.  The Christian will lapse into doing the deeds of
the flesh on occasion, but those deeds do not characterize them.

What does it mean to be “putting to death the deeds of the body?”  It means that the longer they walk in the Spirit, the less they will give into the deeds of the flesh.  The process is the same as breaking an old habit and developing a new one, except we also have the power of the Holy Spirit to help us in this process.  How do you break an old, bad habit?  First, you recognize and acknowledge that it is something that you do not want to continue to do.  Next, you ask the Lord’s forgiveness and His power in stop doing it.  You put that desire to death.  Then, you replace that bad habit with a new habit that is good.  Do that for a long time and it becomes your normal way of life.

When opportunity comes along to do your old habit, you remind yourself that you no longer want to do that and so refrain from doing it.  Instead, you practice the new habit you want to establish.  The Christian can call on the Lord for help in this.  This can be done with any deed of flesh.  For example: Let’s say a sinful habit you have had in living in the flesh is anger.  Something happens, you get angry and you lose your temper. How is that changed?  First, you recognize it is not a godly response. James 1:19-20
states, “Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”  Colossians 3:8 tells us to “put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”

I ask the Lord to convict me when I am in danger of asserting my own desire and will instead of seeking His.  If I find myself losing my temper, I stop, ask God’s forgiveness, and apologize to the individual.  I then surrender anew to the Holy Spirit and seek His power to replace this sinful habit with a new one that is good.  The Holy Spirit will lead me to think biblically – I remind myself that with humility of mind, I am to consider others as more important than myself – Philippians 2:3, and so as the Lord’s bondservant I “must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).  Proverbs has several verses that apply . . .

Proverbs 14:29 says, “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts foll.”

Proverbs 15:1 states, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger pacifies contention”

The Holy Spirit has brought these truths to mind when I am in danger of giving into my flesh, and then I step forward in faith to do them and leave the results in God’s hands.  If I strive to control the results, then I am stepping back out in the flesh and taking what belongs to God.

The Bible teaches that there are four benefits of living in the Spirit . . .

1) Being Led By The Spirit And Being Able To Be A Part Of God’s Family.

The benefit of living in the Spirit is in verse 14, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”  When we follow the leading of the Spirit of God, we give evidence that we do indeed belong to Him and that we are sons of God.  We entered into this relationship when we received Christ as our savior.  The Bible tells us in John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become children of God, [even] to those who believe in His name.”  This was a thrilling concept for John, the Apostle.  He marvels about it in 1 John 3:1, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.”

And indeed, all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  Those who are not Christians can claim God as their Creator, for such He is, but they cannot claim Him as Father, for they do not have such a relationship with Him.

2) Having Confidence Before God.

Being children of God gives us a confidence in coming before Him.  Paul says in verse 15, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba!  Father!’”  We are God’s bondservants, but that does not mean we have the fearful relationship to Him that a slave would have.  We had that fear before being justified by faith in Christ, and it was a proper fear because we were under His condemnation.  But there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1).  

Instead, we have the spirit of adoption by which we not only can approach  God as our Father, but as the Bible says here, it is “Abba!  Father!”  This is not a formal relationship, but the rather the intimacy of loving relationship between parent and child.  “Abba” is the equivalent of us saying, “daddy.”

We have a great confidence in coming before God

Because of this intimacy of relationship

That is birthed and saturated with His great love.

And please understand that adoption is a greater love, for it chooses to give to one that is not naturally a member of the family.  It is normal and natural to love the child of your own flesh, but it is extraordinary to extend that love to a child who is of someone else’s flesh.

3) Having The Spirit’s Witness.

We have additional confidence before God because, as verse 16 states, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”  Admittedly, this is subjective, but it is that inner knowledge that God’s people have within them that they are right with God and belong to Him.  It gives us assurance of our relationship to Him and our salvation, and by it we have confidence to go to God with our troubles, trials, and fears as well as our joys and triumphs.

The two other witnesses to our salvation are: 1) A changed life that reflects we are no longer walking in the flesh, but in the Spirit. 2) The witness of the Word of God to the truth and our commitment to believe and trust God’s promises.  When the devil accuses us of our sinfulness and the assurance based on our changed life is lost, we fall back to the witness of the Spirit with our spirit and then to the ground of truth in the promises of God’s Word.

4) Being Fellow Heirs with Christ.

In verse 17, Paul explains an additional blessing of being adopted sons of God, “And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”  As God’s children, we are His heirs and therefore fellow heirs with Christ.  We will hear those blessed words as we enter heaven, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).  We will be part of God’s
eternal kingdom.

Have you considered the magnitude of being “fellow heirs with Christ?”  This is slightly different than our normal concept of inheritance, for when we inherit from a relative’s estate, we only receive a portion of the total estate as designated in the will.  Often this means selling off the estates assets so that it can be divided.  But, as a fellow heir there is no division of this estate, but we all become fellow owners with Christ of heaven. That is why true Christians are heavenly minded.  If you are going to be inheriting heaven, who can be that excited about amassing an earthly estate which will all burn anyway?

Our being joint heirs is seen in our present reality of “suffering” with Christ.  By that, Paul is referring to the persecution that comes against all who strive to live godly in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12).  The more we become like Jesus, the more the world will hate us because it hates Him (Matthew 5:10-12; John 15:20).  But that very suffering because of our identification with Jesus is assurance of our also being glorified with Him.

This the great hope of the Christian.  

It is that hope that drives the Christian

On in their battle against their own sin

As well as the temptations

And persecution of the world.

All who have this hope of being

Glorified with Jesus purify themselves

(1John 3:3).

What is your hope?  What marks your life?  Are you living according to the flesh?  Then be warned that you are bringing God’s wrath and condemnation upon yourself.  You do not have to continue to live that way.  You can find forgiveness for your sins in Jesus Christ and a new way of life through the Holy Spirit.

Are you living by the Spirit?  Then rejoice in your hope and continue putting to death the deeds of the flesh so that you might be further conformed to the image of our wonderful Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

The Christian, The Law, And Sin

Grace For The Journey

This morning we are going to continue in our study of Romans 7.  This is a passage in which we must be very careful to pay close attention to Paul’s line of reasoning, otherwise we can quickly become confused and then come to conclusions opposite of what Paul is saying.  People often interpret Scripture passages according to their preconceived theology rather than according to the context of the passage.  This is a section of Scripture in which that has often happens. We must be careful not to fall into the same trap.

We will be looking at verses 14-25 for our study today.  Some have taken this passage to be a continuation of Paul talking about his experiences prior to salvation.  Paul had been speaking from that viewpoint in verses 7-13.  However, there are three major problems with that understanding . . .

1) Paul had been talking in past tense in verses 7-13.  He was looking back at what he had experienced.  Starting in verse 14, Paul speaks in the present tense. He is talking about what he is currently experiencing.  Paul had been Saul the self-righteous Pharisee.  The Law had brought him to a knowledge of and conviction that he had sinned and violated God’s commandments.  The sin that dwelled in him even perverted God’s good law to make it an opportunity to deceive him and bring more sin and his death.  But he was no longer Saul, the self-righteous Pharisee. He was now Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ.  So, if Paul is speaking in the present tense, he is speaking from his current position as someone saved from his sin through being justified by his faith in person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

2) There are several statements Paul makes about himself in this section that can only be true of Christians.  Paul asserted very strongly back in chapter 3 that no one who is unregenerate, that is, unsaved, are righteous, understand, seek after God or do good (3:10-12).  Yet, in this section Paul says that he hates sin (verse 15), desires to do good (verses 18,21), concurs with the law of God in the inner man (verse 22), gives thanks to God through Jesus Christ (verse 25) and serves the law of God with his mind (verse 25).  These characteristics are not true of the unbeliever.  Those without Jesus Christ hate God’s truth and righteousness and always find ways to disobey it either by direct rebellion against it or perverting it into a system of their own making.

3) A large part of the reason that people want to say that Paul is speaking here from the position of an unbeliever is because of Paul’s many statement about how much power sin is having in his life.  If what Paul has said in the previous passages is true about having died to the law and being freed from sin so that it is no longer our master, then why would Paul be having such a struggle with sin?

That is a good question and one that Paul knows that he must answer.  That is the very purpose of this passage.  Those who assert that Paul is speaking as an unbeliever here must still answer that same question in their own lives.  Why is it that they still struggle with sin in their own lives?  They profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but they live in the same way Paul describes here about his own struggle with sin.

There are those that believe that they can mature to such a point in their own life that they no longer sin.  Some believe they have even achieved such a level in their own lives.  A pastor friend of mine heard one of the chapels speakers claims such a thing in the seminary he attended.  They are the ones that are most adamant that Paul is speaking as an unbeliever here in Romans 7:14-25.

Such people do not like what Paul says here about the purpose of the law and his own struggle with sin, but they have an even more serious problem with 1 John 1:8 & 10 which destroys any claim to be sinless.  The Apostle John wrote this letter to Christians, and yet to them he says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (verse 8).  He then adds that “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”  The reality is that Christians will continue to sin. That is why 1 John 1:9 is so precious to believers.  It says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  You and I need to confess our sins and gain Christ’s forgiveness and cleansing from the sins that we do after we become Christians.  The person that claims to be without sin, or that they no longer sin has fooled themselves, and they do not belong to Christ.  They are not among those justified by faith in Christ, but rather among those who think themselves justified by keeping their own standards of conduct.  They have not kept God’s standards.

Why can I say that with such confidence?  Because “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (3:20). That is precisely Paul’s point here in chapter 7.  It was through the knowledge of the Law that Paul came to realize that he was a sinner in need of a Savior that will justify them before God.  It is through the knowledge of the law that a Christian continues to know that they cannot walk with God and please Him except through the power of the Holy Spirit working in their lives.  Christians are still in need of a savior that will change them and conform them to the image of Jesus Christ.  No one can live the Christian life by their own power, including the Apostle Paul.

As we have already seen in our study of Chapter 6 and the first part of chapter 7, the person who is justified from their sin by faith in Jesus Christ has a changed relationship to the law and sin.  We have been crucified with Christ (6:6).  We have been freed from sin (6:18), and it is no longer our master (6:14). We have died to the Law, and it no longer has jurisdiction over us (7:1,6). Yet, the Law still has an effect upon the believer, and sin still has power in the believers’ life. Why?

The preceding sections of Scripture were dealing with sin and the law in relationship with our guilt before God.  We were born dead in our trespasses and sin because of the sin nature we inherited from Adam (Ephesians 2:1; Romans 5:12).  The Law revealed God’s standards of righteousness and in so doing exposed our sinfulness and the just reason for God’s condemnation.  Jesus Christ paid the penalty of that sin so that through faith in Him we could be justified and be declared “not guilty” in God’s courtroom.  In addition, we were clothed with the righteousness of Jesus so that we are now judicially righteous before God.  Justification is the first step in our sanctification. We are set apart unto God because we are freed from sin.

While justification is a judicial act that occurs at a point in time, sanctification is a process that starts at a point in time when the believer is justified, will continue through the believer’s life as they are conformed to the image of Christ, but will not be completed until they receive their resurrection body.  So while the guilt and condemnation of sin has been taken care of by Christ having satisfied the demands of the law on our behalf, we will still have to deal with the reality of sin in our lives until we are completely sanctified.  Paul had been dealing with the sin and law in terms of justification only, but now he is also dealing with them in terms of the process of sanctification which is the major subject of the rest of the book of Romans.  We were condemned by God for our unrighteousness, but we were justified by Christ and judicially clothed with His righteousness, and through the Holy Spirit we are being made practically righteous in our character and actions.

When we were justified through faith in Christ there were also some other significant things that took place. First, our old self or old man was crucified with Christ. This was that part of us that we had received from Adam that was bound in sin and in rebellion against God. We were also given a new nature that has the ability and desire to seek God and do good. We are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).  What we were has passed away and now we are something different.  However, in being something different internally, we have not yet been changed externally.

For example, Paul stated back in 6:6 that “our old self was crucified with Christ that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”  Paul does not say here that our body of sin is done away with.  We still have that body of sin, though now it is in the process of being changed, and it will be done away with in the future when we receive our resurrection bodies. We should no longer be slaves of sin, but we will be so whenever we obey sin instead of our new master. 

Paul refers throughout this passage to this “body of sin” or the “flesh.”  This principle of sin that still indwells the believer has been referred to by people by many different terms, but whatever terms are applied to it, it is important to understand that it is that part of us that we are still waiting to have changed and which will be changed when we receive our resurrection bodies.  It is also important to note that this is not the physical flesh itself in the sense that was taken by some Greek philosophers and later by gnostic heretics who taught that what was physical was evil, but what was spiritual was good. Scripture does not teach this type of dualism.  What is physical is neither good nor evil.  The physical is neutral in and of itself.  It is how the living being housed in that physical entity responds and uses that body which will determines whether it does something good or evil.

I realize this is sounding a bit philosophical, but the point here is simply that what makes you a living being is much more than what makes up your physical body.  We live in a society that tends to forget that truth and views the world in terms of materialism.  Such things as the mind, emotions, soul, and spirit as seen as only functions of the body, but that is not true.  Humans are not just some more advanced form of animal life.  It is materialistic belief that causes psychology to continue to fail and end up promoting ungodliness instead of righteousness.  This is the underlying belief that is pushing our society into accepting as normal what God says are abominations – adultery, sexual perversions of all kinds, abortion, euthanasia, etc.  Every human is made in the image of God and therefore of infinite greater value than any animal.  Every human has a soul that will exist eternally and will be judged by our holy and righteous Creator.  Humans are much more than just another form of animal life.

The immaterial part of you is housed in a vessel of flesh and bone, but what is really you will continue to exist long after this physical body has died and rotted away.  As Christians, we long for that final step of sanctification in which our redeemed souls will be joined with redeemed resurrection bodies to dwell with the Lord Jesus Christ eternally.  Paul will talk about this in Romans 8.  The present reality for every Christian is that they are a redeemed being residing in unredeemed bodies with corrupt minds and emotions.  That is why Paul will call on us in Romans 12 to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  The mind in turn will change the emotions while directing the body in what it should do.

What then is the believer’s relationship to the law and sin?  Paul starts off with defining another attribute of the law.  Remember that he had already said back in verse 12 that “the Law is holy, and the commandments are holy, righteous and good.”  Now he adds that “the Law is spiritual. The law is not only directed to the actions of our physical being, but it is also directed to what is spiritual in nature.  This is that immaterial part of us which includes our hearts and minds.  The law will also expose the sinfulness of
our thoughts and emotions.

Consider just the law which is known as the Great Commandment from Deuteronomy 6:6. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”  That is a commandment that is directed to the immaterial part of you. When Paul considered this nature of the law, that it was spiritual in nature, he also realized that even as a believer, there was still a nature of flesh within him.  There was still a part of him that was carnal, and to the degree that he gave in to what he calls here his flesh, he was still sold into bondage of sin.  Recall that in 6:16 Paul had said that you are the slaves of the one you present yourself to for obedience.

What Paul expresses from verse 15 through verse 23 is an explanation of this conflict that he finds himself in with sin.  It is a conflict that he is made aware of because he does have God’s standards of righteousness in the law.  He is no longer under the law’s condemnation, but the law is still holy, righteous, good and spiritual because it reveals God’s standards.  God’s Word can divide between even the soul and spirit, which we cannot do.  The law reveals to Paul and every other Christian that we are in need of a power beyond ourselves in order to deal with this principle of sin, this body of sin, this flesh, that we still exist in.  Through this conflict we understand our need and utter dependency upon the Holy Spirit and the process of sanctification which Paul starts explaining in chapter 8.

Every Christian can identify with Paul’s lament here in verse 15, “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I [would] like to [do,] but I am doing the very thing I hate.”  The word “understand” here is usually translated as “know.”  Paul does not use this word in the sense of not comprehending what he is doing, but rather in the sense that he does not acknowledge a friendly acquaintance with it.  He does not recognize or approve of it.  Every Christian will find themselves at times doing the very thing they do not approve of instead of what they would like to practice.  Paul uses an even stronger term at the end of the verse saying he finds himself doing what he hates.  Only the Christian can employ such a strong term as “hate,” or “despise” toward sin.  The non-Christian may not like some of the consequences of sin that affect them, but they do not hate it.  For example, the sinner may not approve of adultery that would hurt themselves or their friends, but they do not hate it.  If they did hate it, they would not approve of it being presented positively in their entertainment choices – movies, TV, books, and songs.

The Christian loves God and so increasingly loves what God loves and hates what God hates.  The Christian’s struggle is that they will find themselves doing the very thing they hate.  But, as Paul points out in verse 16, the fact that they do hate what they are doing shows their agreement with the law and acknowledgment that it is good.  The Christian is not bound by the law or condemned by the law, but they are in agreement with the law that it is good.

What then is the origin of doing the very thing you hate?  Paul states in verse 17 that he was no longer the one doing it, but rather sin which indwelt him.  Was this Paul’s way of escaping personal responsibility for his actions?  No.  Paul consistently challenges believers to take responsibility for themselves and set aside sin and obey righteousness.  He did that back in chapter 6.  What Paul is explaining is why Christians still struggle with sin.  Paul expands in verse 18-20 saying, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good [is] not.  For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.  But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”

The law exposed Paul’s deepest thoughts and revealed to him that there was nothing good that dwelt in him.  Paul is quick to qualify his statement that he is referring to his flesh lest someone take this to be a universal statement.  There were actually many good things that indwelt Paul including the Holy Spirit.  Paul states in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that the Christian’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in them.  But as Paul states here, there was nothing good in his flesh.  Again, the idea of “flesh” here is not the physical body itself, but all that part of us that is yet to be changed and transformed. That would include the corrupt areas of our minds and emotions as well as our physical body.  What is still corrupt does not contain anything good.

That which has been changed expresses itself in the desire to do good even if the actions themselves do not measure up to the standard.  No Christian is any different than Paul in this matter.  We often find ourselves failing do the good things we desire to do and instead doing the very evil that is against our desire.  Paul says again in verse 20 that this is no longer you, but the sin which dwells in you.  You have become a new person through faith in Christ, but there is still this left over corrupt part of us in which sin still dwells.

Theologians often refer to this as a residual sin nature.  Our own doctrinal statement says, “We believe that every saved person possesses two natures, with provision made for victory of the new nature over the old nature through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and that all claims to the eradication of the old nature in this life are unscriptural.”  This does not mean that we believe Christians are schizophrenic, nor does it deny that our old self was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6).  It does mean that we recognize and believe what Paul is expressing here in Romans 7.  We received a new nature when we were justified by faith in Christ.  This new nature is radically different from what we were because it desires to seek God and do good, but we also still have a corrupt part of us in which sin still dwells.  The desires of this still corrupt part of us are sinful and in direct opposition to what we have become in Christ. Though we dwell in this corrupt flesh, neither it nor the actions it prompts are reflections of who we really are, because we are something new in Christ.  

Paul explains further in verses 21-23, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good.  For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”  Notice the contrasting laws that are affecting Paul.  Paul agrees with the law of God because he is a genuinely changed person in Christ.  The word “concur” means “to joyfully agree with or to delight in.”  The non-Christian rejects God’s law.  Paul then refers to this joyful agreement with God’s law as the law of his mind.  But there is a different law that is affecting him that is in the members of his body.  Paul calls this the law of sin and it battles against the law of his mind and makes him a prisoner.

In verse 24 Paul cries out for deliverance, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will set me free from the body of this death?”  Every Christian feels that way at times.  The law continues to drive me to cry out to God.  That is the purpose of the law.  How can I escape the wretchedness of my sin which the holy, good, righteous, and spiritual law of God continual exposes in my life?

The answer is of course in verse 25. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”  We give thanks to God because through the Lord Jesus Christ He sets us free from the body of this death.  How?  Through justification by faith in Him who has redeemed us from the curse of the law and given us a new nature by which our minds are set on serving the law of God.  The person that we really are desires to live according to God’s direction.  The non-Christian rejects God’s law.  The Christian still has an enemy within our flesh that pushes us to sin.  But even when we give into sin, we can take comfort that God has changed us as evidenced by our desires for Him and against the very sin that we commit.  The Christian also takes comfort in our hope for the future in being completely changed had having this body of sin done away with so that we will no longer struggle with sin.  That is something that each of us should be looking forward to with great anticipation.

There is one more source of comfort for the Christian as he battles sin within his life, and that is the ministry of the Holy Spirit who helps us in this struggle.  We are not left on our own.  We will begin our study of the Holy Spirit’s work and sanctification next week as we start our examination of Romans 8.

The law of God exposes the sinfulness of Christians and non-Christians.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

No Longer Condemned

Grace For The Journey

  This morning we come to a wonderful section in the book of Romans.  Paul will still be dealing with many of the same issues we have been looking at in the past several weeks, but as we come to Chapter 8, Paul states the result of being justified by faith in Jesus Christ in emphatically clear terms, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Those are words that would have sent shock waves through the hearts and minds of both his Jewish and Gentile readers. Both groups had been spending their lives trying to somehow avoid God’s wrath and never being sure they could, but now Paul is stating with absolute confidence that those who were in Christ Jesus were no longer under God’s condemnation.

The Gentiles would have come from pagan backgrounds in which they were always striving to appease the gods in some way so as to avoid their wrath.  But no matter how much they worked at their religion, they could never be sure that they had succeeded in appeasing their god.  Paul’s opening arguments in chapters 1 & 2 would have further destroyed any hope they had in their own efforts because he explained that not only was their only one God who had created them and to whom they were responsible, but that they had disobeyed this God and His wrath did abide upon them.  Even those who thought themselves to be moral found themselves condemned by their own consciences for they not only failed to live up to God’s standards, they failed to live up to their own (see Romans 1:18-2:16).

The Jews did not fare any better. Though they had the law of God, they did not follow it. Even the Pharisees who had twisted the law around to the point that they claimed to obey it would still find themselves condemned by it.  They could not live up to God’s perfect standards, and also found themselves under God’s wrath (See Romans 2:17-3:20).

Paul explained in chapter 3 that the only way for a person to be made right before our holy Creator was to be made judicially righteous through something God would have to do.  God’s means of doing that was through Jesus Christ being our substitute payment for the penalty of our sins and then rising from the dead so that we could be justified by faith in Him.  Again, justification is the judicial action of God by which He declares us “not guilty” for our sins because the price for them has been paid by Jesus Christ.  It is also God’s action by which He imputes or attributes the righteousness that belongs to Jesus Christ to us.

Paul explained the nature of this faith that brings justification in Romans 4 by pointing out the example of Abraham who “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3).  In chapter 5 Paul explained some of the ramifications of being justified by faith including having peace with God and gaining a new nature to replace the old sinful one we had received by inheritance from Adam.  There have been radical changes made in the believer.  His old self was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6) and he has been freed from the law’s condemnation.  He has been changed and has a new master.

Whereas before he had no ability to do anything except sin, even his efforts to do righteousness was filthy before our Holy God, now, he could obey God and do what is righteous.  And though, as we saw in our study of Romans 7, the believer is still going to struggle with sin, this radical change in the believer causes him to want to obey God and fight against the sin that is still within him.

The one who has placed their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ is not immediately made sinless.  In fact, as long as the Christian is alive in this body of flesh, they will have a conflict with sin.  1 John 1:8-10 makes that same point even saying that the person who says they have no sin does not have the truth in them.  They are liars. Yet, even with this continuing struggle with sin in their lives, the Christian is no longer condemned by God.  That is a radical and wonderful truth that makes Biblical Christianity different from every religion.  I do not strive to obey God and walk in holiness in order to avoid God’s judgement.  Jesus Christ has already been judged for my sin and I have been declared “not guilty” in God’s court.  I strive to obey God and walk in holiness because I love God.

Now let’s look at Romans 8 and learn . . .

Why We Are No Longer Under Condemnation?

Verse 1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  The idea of “condemnation” in verse one is that there is no judgement, verdict or sentence against the person who is in Jesus Christ.  There is no penalty for them to pay.  Paul is again using legal terminology and the picture is one of being in God’s court room.  In this example, the case has been presented, but there is no decision by the judge against the defendant.  But notice that there is a qualification.  The person that is not condemned is the one who is in Christ Jesus.

Recall from chapter1:18 that God’s wrath is “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” and from chapter 3 verse 10 that “there are none righteous, not even one.”  Every human is under God’s sentence of judgement against them except those who are ‘in Christ Jesus.”  Your lineage, social status, personal moral character, and religious endeavors do not matter in God’s courtroom, because no one meets God’s perfect standards. 

  • Your inheritance from your parents is that of a sinner tracing all the way back to Adam.  
  • Your social status on earth has no bearing on your relationship to God.  You are simply one of His creatures.
  • Your claim to own anything does not hold in His court, because He is the one that owns it all, you are a steward that must give an account to Him of how you have used what He has entrusted to you.
  • Your moral standards do not meet His of perfect holiness.
  • Your religious endeavors are not only filthy rags before Him (Isaiah 64:6), but are actually self-deceptive, because no one seeks God unless He first draws (Romans 3:11; John 6:44).

To be “in Christ Jesus” means to be someone who has been made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22, 26).  To use the language of Romans 6, this is the person who has been “united with” Jesus “in the likeness of His death.”  Recall that Romans 6 speaks of our identification with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection through baptism.  Baptism is a ritual that pictures a spiritual reality.  We go under the water in
identification with Jesus’ death and burial and the crucifixion of our old self with Him.  We are raised up from the water in identification with Jesus’ resurrection and our being raised to newness of life in Him.  This is not an intellectual assent to Biblical facts about Jesus, but a spiritual relationship in which I am united with Christ and the Holy Spirit dwells within me.  As 1 John 5:12 puts it, “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.  These things I have written to you who
believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”

There is no condemnation remaining on those who are “in Christ Jesus.”  They have received the promise of John 3:16 that “. . . God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  As John 3:18 adds, “He who believes in Him is not judged.”  But please note that John 3:18-19continues, “He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the judgement, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.”  There is no condemnation for those “in Christ Jesus,” but those who are not in Jesus Christ remain under God’ sentence of eternal damnation.

How Is It That The Christian Is Freed From God’s Condemnation?  

As verse 2 points out, there is a different law that is now at work in the believer.  It is “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”  

This is the new covenant that brings about

My justification through faith in Jesus Christ

And then places God’s law within my heart,

So that my desire to obey Him is from my heart

And soul out of love for Him, and not from an

External effort to appease Him and His wrath.

This “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” breaks my bondage to “the law of sin and of death.”  Many commentators want to leave this as another statement about justification, but I think it also goes on to sanctification because this phrase goes back to 7:24 which says, “Who will set me free from the body of this death.”  Do you see that?  “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.”  I have been justified from by sin through faith in Jesus Christ.  I no longer stand condemned in God’s court.  However, I know that I still struggle with sin.  As I examine God’s law, I continually see my failure to live according to it even though it is my great desire to show my love for God by obeying Him (cf. John 14:21, 23).  This is part of the New Covenant of having the law written upon our hearts and minds (see Hebrews 10:16). The Holy Spirit indwells us, as Paul points out in verse 11 (see also John 7: 38-39; 14:17).  It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the Christian is to battle this residual sin nature that is still within us.  We cannot overcome this sin on our own as Romans 7:14-25 explains.  We overcome it only through the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”

As Paul explains in verse 3, the law itself was too weak to change us.  Our sin nature was too strong and all the law did was to excite our sinful flesh to more sin.  The law exposed our sin, convicted us, condemned us, and killed us (See Romans 7:7-11).  Even for the Christian, the law continues to expose our sinfulness.  We agree with the law and concur that it is holy, righteous, good, and spiritual; but it causes us to cry out for help to overcome our exposed sinfulness.  The law cannot bring about holiness in either the non-believer or the believer.  Only God could do that, and He did.

God did it by sending Jesus Christ to meet the requirements of the law and bring about our justification through faith in Him.  Though Jesus is holy and infinite as the second person of the eternal Godhead, He humbled Himself and came to Earth in the likeness of finite sinful man.  Then, after living a sinless life, He offered Himself as the payment of sin and died in His flesh.  When He did, God brought His judgement sentence to bear against sin.  The same word for “condemn” is used here at the end of verse 3 as was used in verse 1.  The condemnation that used to fall upon the sinner has fallen upon sin itself.  Though we cannot at this time understand the fulness of the passage, we know from Revelation 20:14, that at the final judgement, the condemnation of sin, which is death, along with Hades, are thrown into the eternal lake of fire.  

Jesus’ atonement for sin fulfills the law’s demands, and also enables the believer to obey God.  The NKJV translation of this verse brings out this idea a little better., “That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” The word translated here as “righteous requirements” refers to the “concrete expressions of righteousness” that exist in the law.  The “us” that can fulfill the law are those that walk according to the Spirit of God and not according to the flesh.

From this verse through verse 11 Paul contrasts the difference between the true Christian and the unbeliever in terms of their relationship to the Holy Spirt and ability to subject themselves to the law of God.  The idea of “walk according to” refers to the manner in which a person lives and conducts themselves.  Those that live their lives according to the desires of their flesh cannot do the righteous deeds God desires for us to do.  Those that conduct themselves according to the leading of the Holy Spirit can do the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10), which should be true of every Christian.

Notice the conflict that exists

Between

The flesh and the Spirit.

They are opposite each other.  In verse 5, Paul notes that those living according to the flesh do so because their minds are set on the things of the flesh.  What is most important to such a person is the cravings of their body, the pleasing of their mind, and the satisfying of their ego (See 1 John 2:15).  Those who conduct themselves according to the Holy Spirit do so because their minds are set on the Spirit.  

What is most important

To such a person is

Knowing and pleasing God.

What Are Consequences To These Two Different Mindsets?

Paul points this out in verse 6 . . .

Those who have a mind set on the flesh will find it will result in death.  Those who have a mind set on the Spirit will have life and peace.  1 John 2:15,16 explains, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that [is] in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”  The flesh and all that the flesh would desire is of temporal value. It declines . . . It decays . . . It dies. The world and all that is in it is passing away. 

But that which is according to the Holy Spirit is of eternal value.  It never declines . . . never decays . . . or never dies.  What is according to the Spirit will last forever and so will the one whose lives according to the Spirit.  They have life and peace.  They are in harmony with God instead of conflict.

The flesh and the Spirit are in conflict with each other.  Paul says in verse 7 that the “mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God.”  There is enmity, hatred between the two. That is why the person who lives according to their flesh cannot please God.  They will not subject themselves to the law of God.  They do not desire to do what God says or to please Him in how they live. 

As Paul pointed out back in chapter 3, the person who is apart from Christ is not righteous, does not do righteousness, and does not seek God.  Paul also contrasted the flesh and Spirit in Galatians 5:16-24.  In that passage he also delineated the differences in the actions of the flesh in contrast to those by the Spirit, and so it a passage we need to look at, “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 to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,  envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told [you] in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.  And those [who] [are] Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

How do you know if someone is walking according to the flesh or according to the Spirit?  Look at the conduct of their lives and it becomes very evident.  You cannot walk by the Spirit and at the same time carry out the deeds of the flesh.  The reverse is also true as Paul points out here in Romans 8:8, Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” 

What is the nature of a Christian?  Verse 9 tells us – They are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.  The Spirit of God indwells them, and if that is not true, then they are not Christians.

Notice the exchange of terms for the Holy Spirit in this verse.

  • He is the Spirit of God.
  • He is also the Spirit of Christ.
  • The Holy Spirit is the third member of the triune Godhead.

Each member of the Godhead is distinct, yet each member is also fully God.  The Holy Spirit is not some impersonal force as many cults claim, including Jehovah’ Witnesses.

  • The Holy Spirit is called “God” (Acts 5:3-4).
  • He performs the work of God including the work of creation (Genesis 1:2), giving life (Job 33:4), sanctifies people from their sin (1 Corinthians 6:11), knows the mind of man and God (1 Corinthians 2:11; Romans 8:26-27), reveals the words of God to men (2 Peter 1:21), raised Jesus from the dead (1 Peter 3:18).
  • The Holy Spirit has a multiple ministry to believers including regenerating them (John 3:6), baptizing them into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13;), sealing them (Ephesians 4:30), filling them (Ephesians 5:18) and teaching them (John 14:26; 1 John 2:27;).  
  • He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement (John 16:8).
  • Other attributes of the Holy Spirit’s personality include His being grieved (Isaiah 64:10; Ephesians 4:30), blasphemed (Matthew 12:31), lied to (Acts 5:3), and insulted (Hebrews 12:29).

None of those things can be done to an impersonal force.

Another important point to note from this verse is that anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him.  There is a common charismatic teaching that splits salvation into two parts.  First you are saved, and then sometime later you get the Holy Spirit which is then manifested by speaking in tongues.  Simply put, that is a false doctrine.  The Bible very plainly teaches that if you do not have the Holy Spirit, then you are not a Christian.  In addition, you are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ at the moment of salvation (I Corinthians 12:13), not some time afterward.  And finally, speaking in tongues is not the sign of receiving the Holy Spirit.  1 Corinthians 12 makes it clear that any of the many spiritual gifts is evidence of having the Holy Spirit, and Galatians 5:22-23 make it clear that the evidence of being controlled by the Holy Spirit is bearing His fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

In verses 10,11 Paul comments again about the difference the Holy Spirit makes in the life of the believer.

Every Christian will still struggle against the residual sin nature within his flesh, but since Christ is in the believer, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit of the believer is alive because of righteousness.  As Paul stated back in chapter 7 that the law of sin still residing in the believer’s members wages war against the law of the mind. Our bodies still bear the scars of this war including physical death, yet even in the midst of this conflict our renewed inner being is now alive in Christ.  We were once dead in trespasses and sin, but now we have been made alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5).  The battle against sin demonstrates the reality of the new life that we have for prior to salvation, there was no conflict with sin for it was our undisputed master.  Now there is a new master and by yielding to the Holy Spirit, we can obey righteousness instead of sin.

In addition . . .

We Have A Hope For The Future That Is Even Better.

Though the Christian should improve in his walk of holiness in this life as he gets older, the reality is that we will not reach perfection in this life, and the more righteous we live, the more ugly our remaining sin will seem to us.  But we have a promise for the future (1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Revelation 21:4-5) that there will be a day in which this body of sin will be done away with and we will receive new resurrection bodies in which there will be no corruption.  We will no longer sin.

The proof of the promise is in the Holy Spirit’s raising Jesus Christ from the dead, for He is the same Spirit that indwells the Christian.  His promises to give life to our mortal bodies is proven in His having already done that for Jesus Christ.  I am looking forward to that.  I trust that you are too.  There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.  We are justified through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  We are declared “not guilty” in God’s courtroom.  Though we are Christians, we still struggle against sin, but we are being sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives at present even while we are looking forward to the completion of our sanctification and the fulfilment of all His promises when we receive our resurrection bodies.  Bodies in which we will no longer have to struggle against sin.  Bodies that will be like that of Jesus Christ.  True Christians have a right relationship with God.  He holds no judgements against us.

But this is only true for those who are in Jesus Christ.

If you do not have the Son of God in your life, then you are still under His condemnation.  Talk with someone today so that you too can know the forgiveness of your sins and can also praise God that you are also no longer condemned.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

The Law And Sin

Grace For The Journey

In today’s blog we will look into a section of Romans that can quickly become confusing if you are not diligent to carefully follow Paul’s line of reasoning within its context.  Too many people end up confused or end up with theological error because they try to understand a verse or a short passage as if it was independent of its context.  The same rules of interpretation apply to the Bible that apply to any other book.  You must understand the theme of the book and the theme of the chapter in order to properly interpret the paragraph you are studying.

The theme of the book of Romans

Is the righteousness of God

Revealed through His justification

Of sinners who place their faith

In the person and work

Of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul lays the foundation of this theme in the first three chapters by showing that God is righteous in His wrath upon man because all men are unrighteous.  No man seeks God on his own.  No man does good when examined by God’s perfect standards.  Paul then declares the Good News that God has provided a means by which man can be declared righteous through the justification that comes by faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ.  Sinners who believe in the person and work of Jesus are declared “not guilty” in God’s court because Jesus has already paid the penalty of their sin.  In addition, the righteousness of Jesus is imputed to them so that they may stand before God in a righteous state.  In chapter 4, Paul sets forth Abraham as the example of this type of faith that results in justification.

In chapter 5, Paul begins to explain the ramifications of being justified by faith including having peace with God and a confidence to face any circumstance of life because God has proven His great love for man when Jesus died on behalf of sinners.  That love can never be legitimately questioned, and that gives me a foundation of hope for the future that is not a wish, but a confident assurance in God’s promises.  Therefore, I can persevere even through the difficult things of life, and God matures me in the process.  I become more like Jesus.

We had inherited at birth a sin nature from Adam that was incapable of doing good before God, but through faith in Christ we are given a new nature that can do what is right.  Therefore, we are to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God.  As Paul asserts in chapter 6, the person that we were died with Christ and we were raised to newness of life in His resurrection.  Baptism is our physical identification with this spiritual reality.  Sin is no longer our master, so we no longer have to obey it.  God is our new master, and we should obey righteousness.

In chapter 7 Paul expands on the law and the changed relationship that believers have to it.  It must be remembered that Paul is writing to a mixture of Jews and Gentiles.  Note in 7:1 that Paul states that he is “speaking to those who know the law.”  These Jews will need to understand this change in relationship to the Law if they are to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ and how God wants them to now live.  In doing this Paul will not only explain the changed relationship the believer has with the law, but also the relationship between the law and sin, and the continuing struggle the believer will have with sin.  We will be discussing that struggle tomorrow.

In verses 1-6, which we studied yesterday, Paul demonstrates that the law no longer has  jurisdiction over the one who is justified by faith in Jesus Christ.  Why?  Because the believer has died to the law in Christ, and the law only has jurisdiction over those that are alive.  Verse 6 of chapter 7 declares, “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 the next section, which is our passage for study this morning, Paul begins his explanation of the relationship of people to the law and sin.  In verses 7-13 Paul deals with unbelievers as he recounts the effect of the law and sin in his own life prior to conversion.  In verses 14-25 Paul explains his continuing struggle with sin as a believer.

Consider what God’s Word teaches us about this important truth . . .

The Question.

Paul begins this section in verse 7 by responding to a question he knew would be in the minds of some of those reading his letter. “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be!”  The question is based on an idea that Paul had dealt with briefly in the previous passage, but it is an idea that often occurs to those with carnal minds.  In verse 5, Paul had said that his sinful passions were aroused by the law.  If the law becomes an occasion for more sin, then perhaps the law is itself sinful.  Paul’s response is emphatic and direct no.  By no means is the law sinful.

Paul will spend the next 7 verses explaining his own experience with the law prior to salvation and demonstrate by it that the law is holy, righteous, and good.  The fact that his own sinful desires would pervert the purpose of the law to work evil in his life does not mean that the law is evil.  It only reveals the depth of evil that existed in his heart.  An occasion for sin and a cause of sin are two different things.

The Law’s Revelation Of Sin.

Paul first tells the effect of the Law in his own life prior to being saved, “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.’”  In contrast against the assertion that the law was sinful, Paul states it was the Law that revealed his sin to him.  This is a good thing.  Paul does not say he was not a sinner prior to the law, but rather that he would not have known he was a sinner except that the law exposed his sin.  Keep in mind throughout this passage that Paul is speaking to Jews who know the law about his own experience with the law.  In doing so you must also remember that Paul had been a Pharisee and his understanding of the law would have been from that perspective.  In Philippians 3:6 Paul says that he had been such a zealous Pharisee that “as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”  Paul had been Saul the Pharisee, and from that position of self-righteousness had kept the law.  The Pharisees had developed a system that interpreted the law in such a way that a man who was diligent could think he was righteous.  But when the Holy Spirit started working on Saul’s heart to convict him of sin, righteousness, and judgement, just as Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do (John 16:8-11), Paul understood the law in a new light.

Notice the specific sin that Paul says he had come to know through the law –  Coveting.  It is not that Paul had not known that coveting had been included as the last in the list of the Ten Commandments.  Like the rich young ruler in Matthew 19, Saul the Pharisee had done a so well at keeping the outward precepts of the law that he thought himself blameless before the law. However, the law is not just about outward actions.  It also includes matters of the heart.  Coveting is the only sin among the Ten Commandments that is strictly internal in nature.

It is the strong desire or craving to have what you do not have instead of being content with what God has given you.  It is primarily a sin of rebellion against God’s will.  When coveting becomes expressed outwardly, it will result in stealing, or dishonoring parents, or adultery, or lying or anger even to the point of murder.  Saul had done well at holding his desires in check so that he did not act upon them, but the Law eventually destroyed his self-righteousness when he had to face the truth of the commandment to not covet.

The Law neither caused Saul to covet, nor did it make coveting sinful.  The Law is the revelation of God’s standards by which He will judge man.  When Saul was coveting before knowing the Law, he was already sinning and breaking God’s standards.  Ignorance of the law does not exempt you from the law or its consequences.

A few years ago a friend of mine received a ticket for making a left turn at an intersection where it was illegal to do so.  The fact that he did not notice the “No Left” turn sign did not exempt him from the consequences of not following its instructions. The officer, who he had turned left in front of, still gave him the ticket and he had to pay the fine.  

Ignorance of the law

Is not an excuse

For not obeying it.

The Law simply revealed God’s standards to Saul.  The Holy Spirit then used the law to bring him to the conviction that he was guilty before God for breaking those commands.

There are many today who are like Saul was then in regards to coveting.  They do not regard the desire to do evil as sin unless the action is taken to try to fulfill the desire.  They still want to reduce the Law of God down to some list of specific actions by which they can justify themselves by avoiding what is prohibited and doing what is commanded.  They, like Saul, often claim to be well versed in the law of God, but in truth they remain ignorant of it.  The law encompasses the inward thoughts and desires as well as the outward actions.  That is why Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 was so hard on the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus revealed that the sin was in the thoughts and desires that existed before any action was taken.  Jesus equated hatred with murder (Matthew 5:22) and lust with adultery (5:28).  In addition, righteous actions have their foundation in a righteous desire.  Promises are kept as a matter of integrity before God (5:33-37).  Righteous acts and prayer are done to please God and talk with Him and not for the purpose of impressing people (6:1-18).  God and His kingdom are sought instead of one’s own wealth and kingdom (6:19-34).  Evil actions are always the result of evil that is already in the heart.  Jesus told this to His disciples in Matthew 15:18 when explained to them that “the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.”

The Law had exposed Saul the Pharisee’s sinful heart.  It was that conviction that opened the way for him to repent and come to Christ in faith and be regenerated into the Apostle Paul.

Sin’s Use Of The Law.

In verses 8-11, Paul explains how his sin nature had perverted the law and made it an opportunity for increased sin, “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; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me.”

Taking Opportunity.

The law commanded him not to covet, but the sin nature that resided in him rebelled against that command to produce in him all manner of coveting.  I pointed out this principle yesterday.  We are all familiar with this idea.  You give your children instructions and at times they seem to respond like you just gave them new ideas of how to disobey you.  You see the sign that says, “Do Not Touch, Wet Paint,” and suddenly there arises within you a desire to touch it.  You would not have considered touching it until you saw the sign.  Whatever the speed limit is set at, your desire is to go a little faster.  If it is 40, you want to do 45-50; If it is 55 you want to go 60-65; If it is 65 you want to go 70-75.  That is what Paul is talking about here in saying that sin takes opportunity through the commandment.  Sin prods the unregenerate to rebel against the commandment given.

In Paul’s case, the particular commandment was to not covet.  Sin in him rebelled against the commandment and produced in him coveting of all kinds.  The problem is sin, not the law.

Sin’s Relationship to the Law.

Paul says at the end of verse 8, “for apart from the Law sin [is] dead.”  Some have taken this to mean that sin only exists where there is law.  The context here is clear that Paul does not mean that, otherwise Paul would have to conclude that the law is sinful since it produces sin.  But Paul is adamant that the law is holy, righteous, and good.  He does not blame the law for sin, but rather blames sin for using the law as an occasion for sin.

The idea here is that sin becomes excited by the law.  Without the law, sin is dead in the sense of being inactive.  It is already in control, and there is nothing for it to rise up and rebel against.  As soon as the law comes sin becomes excited to rebel against the rules and be in charge again.

For example, all of us must eat in order to live.  At times you may eat too much or the wrong thing and gain more weight than is healthy for you.  The result is that you decide that you need to go on a diet and loose the weight.  What suddenly happens to your desires as soon as you restrict yourself and go on a diet?  You suddenly find that you have strong cravings for foods that you had not given much thought to before.  The rules that restrict your diet arouse the sin within and make it alive and active.

Some have taken this thought and advocate from it this idea that you cannot legislate morality. While it is true that unregenerate man will rebel against the laws given, that does not mean you can solve the problem by refusing to make laws that will define the moral standards.  You do not make a person moral by refusing to define immoral behavior.  That is an idea rooted in thinking the law itself is evil, therefore where there are no laws there is no evil.  That is a fallacy.  It was not the law that produced Paul’s coveting.  It was sin that took opportunity from the law given to produce sin against that very law.

Those that advocate the idea that you cannot legislate morality need to face the fact that every society legislates their moral standards.  The only real question is whose morality will be adopted into law as a means of defining the moral standards of that society.

There has been a great effort by homosexuals and other sexual deviants to remove the laws against their behaviors from the codes that govern our society.  In doing so they hope to gain acceptance by society.  However, removing those laws will not make them moral.  God has already defined the standards of morality and man cannot change them.  He can only redefine them in terms acceptable to himself, but which will leave him condemned before God.  The Pharisees had done that, but in the end it left them with a false sense of security that they were favorable to God when they were actually under His wrath for their actual unrighteousness.

Self-Righteousness, The Law, and Sin.

In verse 9 Paul states that he was once alive apart from the Law, but that when the commandment came, sin became alive and he died.  When Paul was self-righteous Saul the Pharisee, he thought himself as being alive unto God and even zealous for what he thought was God’s work.  At that time Paul thought he was keeping God’s law and was therefore pleasing to God.

There are many who live like this today.  They think they are doing a great job of obeying God and therefore have achieved righteousness before Him.  This is common among religions and cults that have defined salvation in terms of a works-based righteousness.  This would include Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, as well as the many smaller religions and cults.  It is also common among professing evangelicals who have traded God’s standards for their own set of rules and regulations.  Legalism quickly puffs up with pride and ignores God’s actual standards of holy living.  However, when the sinner comes face to face with God’s actual law it strips him of self-righteousness and false hope because it reveals the sin that is actually there.  In addition, as Paul has already said in verse 8, sin uses the commandment as an opportunity to produce even more sin.  The sinner is condemned even more, and the wages of sin is death.

The commandments promised life to those who would obey.  God says in Leviticus 18:4-5. “You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the Lord your God.  So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord.”  What was missed by the Pharisees and is still missed by so many today is that . . .

Included among the statutes and judgements of the Lord

Aare loving Him with all their heart,

Soul and strength (Deuteronomy 6:4)

And to circumcise their hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16)

And walk with Him by faith (Proverbs 3:5;

Habbakuk 2:4) as Abraham had done.

Sin’s Deception.

Paul states in verse 11 that “sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived [him], and through it killed [him].”  That is the nature of sin.  It is deceptive.  The commandments that self-righteous Saul the Pharisee thought would bring him life proved instead to be the source of his death.  The commandments not only revealed his sinfulness to him, but they also aroused the sin nature within him resulting in even more sin and they killed him.  Instead of living in a righteous relationship with God, his unrighteousness separated him from God.  That is spiritual death.

How deceitful can sin be?  The false teachers Jesus condemns in Matthew actually thought they were busy in the Lord’s service making prophecy, casting out demons and doing many miracles in the Lord’s name.  Their sin deceived them into not only thinking they were acceptable to God, but actually doing many wonderful things in His name.  The truth is that they were those who practiced lawlessness.  They were not true followers of God.  They were in fact practitioners of sin and followers of their own doctrines.

The Nature of the Law.

Paul does not find any of this as a negative reflection on the law.  In fact, in verse 12 he declares that this working of the law is good.  “So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”  There is nothing sinful in the law.  Paul uses both the term “law” and “commandments” to emphasize his declaration.  The law as a whole and in each of its individual precepts are holy.  They are in opposition to
whatever is sinful.  Even though sin sought to use it as an occasion for its own purposes, the fact remains that the law still accomplished its purpose in declaring God’s righteous standards.  Paul says that the commandments are just.  There is nothing deceptive in them.  They are in perfect conformity to the character of God and reveal the righteous standards of God.  The commandments are also good for they arise from the character of God and direct people to reflect that character.  Every commandment of God, if followed, will promote the glory of God and benefit those who keep them.  The fact that people do not obey God and will rebel against His law is not a reflection of God’s commandments, but rather a reflection of the sinfulness of man.  The commandments are also good because they revealed to Paul his own sinfulness and therefore his need for a righteousness that was apart from the law.

The Sinfulness of Sin.

Paul says in verse 13, “Therefore did that which is good become [a cause of] death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.”  Paul finds no fault with the law.  The fault lies with sin. Sin was the cause of his death, his spiritual separation from God.  God’s commandments reveal the utter sinfulness of sin in that sin will seek to even use that which is good for evil purposes.  Sin is so evil that it can twist and distort the very law that was to bring life into a condemnation of death.

Those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are still in the relationship to the law and sin that Paul describes here.  They have no hope in themselves or in the law, for man cannot be justified by the law (Romans 3:20).  The only means of salvation from sin is through being justified by faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus  Christ.  Talk with myself or one of our church leaders today if you do not yet know if you will suffer His wrath for eternity or be with Him in heaven.  We greatly desire for you to know the forgiveness of sin that we have received through Jesus.

Those who are justified by faith in Jesus Christ have a different relationship to sin and the law.  As we will see next week, Christians still struggle with sin, but we are no longer under its mastery or its condemnation.  Thus the challenge for all Christians is to live according to what we are now in Christ and not in the slavery to sin of what we used to be.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Released from the Law

Grace For The Journey

   We will be studying Romans 7 verses 1-6 in today’s blog.   Let me briefly remind you of the context of this passage. 

The book of Romans is Paul’s

Presentation of the Gospel message

To the believers in Rome who were

A mixture of both Jews and Greeks.

  • Paul begins his presentation in chapters 1-3 by demonstrating man’s need of the gospel concluding in 3:10.

That verse says, “There are none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.”  Man is condemned under God’s wrath because of his sin and therefore in desperate need of salvation, but . . .

Man has no means within himself by

Which he can gain that salvation from sin.

Paul presents the Gospel itself in chapter 3 by telling the good news that . . .

Man can be justified from his sin

Through faith in the person and

Work of the Lord Jesus Christ

Who lived a sinless life and

Then paid the penalty of sin

On our behalf and

Then rose from the dead.

This idea of being justified by faith apart from works seemed radically new even though it is a concept that actually comes from the Old Testament.  

  • Paul spends chapters 4-7 explaining salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

In Chapter 4 Paul uses Abraham as the example of the faith that results in justification.  In Chapter 5 Paul explains some of the benefits of being justified by faith including having peace with God and an ability to face any circumstances of life with joy because of the absolute assurance of God’s love for us as demonstrated in Jesus Christ dying for us while we were yet sinners.  Another benefit is that though we were born with Adam’s sin nature, we gain a new nature through faith in Jesus Christ.

The radical nature of this change is explained by Paul in Chapter 6 through the meaning of the ritual of baptism.  In water baptism by immersion, the believer identifies himself with Jesus Christ and the new nature he has received.   As the believer goes under the water they identify with Jesus Christ’s death and burial.  This signifies the death of their old self.  As they are raised out of the water they identify with Jesus’ resurrection.  This signifies their being raised to newness of life (6:4).  This being so, we are to consider ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God.  This is another benefit.  Sin is no longer our master for we have gained a new master, Jesus Christ, so Paul calls on us to quit obeying sin as if it was our master and instead present ourselves slaves of righteousness.

Paul continues here in Romans 7 in explaining . . .

The new standing we have because of

Being justified by faith in Jesus Christ.  

He also explains both our relationship

With the law and the conflict we

Continue to have with sin.

We will be looking at that in depth when we get to verse 14 in a couple of days. 

Paul says in Romans 7:1-6, “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?  For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband.  So then if, while her husband is living, she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man.  Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.  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.  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.”

From these verses we learn about . . .

The Jurisdiction of the Law – Verse 1.

In verse 1 Paul explains the jurisdiction of the law.  Now we, as Gentiles, might wonder why Paul is giving so much attention to the law if we, being justified by faith, are no longer under it.  We must remember that Paul is writing to Jews.  They had grown up with the highest respect for God’s law.  Notice Paul’s parenthetical statement that he is “speaking to those who know the law.”  They took to heart that the Law was from God and represented the revelation of His will for them.  They also took seriously the many warnings in the Mosaic law about the curses that would come upon them if they did not obey it (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28).  They needed to have a thorough explanation of how the Gospel affects the law and why.  Paul’s opening phrase, “Do you not know, brethren” is a gentle, rhetorical question that is designed to challenge them to think through this issue with someone who is one of them.

The simple principle is that the law only has jurisdiction over those who are alive.  If a person is dead, the law has no power over him.  Consider the homicide bombers attacking Israel or the terrorists that have attacked our country.  The police have been able to figure out who they were, but there is nothing that can be done to them because they are already dead.  Some have suggested gathering whatever pieces of their bodies could be found and burying them with a pig since that would desecrate them according to Islam and prevent them from sharing in the resurrection, but the truth is that once a person has died you can do whatever you want to the body and it does not affect the person who once inhabited that body.  Even estate laws cannot affect the person who is dead, only the heirs.  The law only has power over a person while they are alive.

The Analogy – Verses 2-3.

In verses 2 and 3 Paul brings up an analogy to illustrate the point.  Marriage only lasts as long as both partners are alive.  That is why in the marriage vows it is “until death do us part.”  If a woman starts living with another man while her husband is alive, she is an adulteress.  The same is true for a man that lives with another woman while his wife is still alive.  If your spouse dies before you, then you become single again.  You are no
longer married.  You might choose to remain single for a variety of reasons including respect for the memory of your spouse, but you are free to marry someone else in all holiness.  In 1 Timothy 5:14 Paul even tells younger widows that he wants them “to get married, bear children, keep house, [and] give the enemy no occasion for reproach.”

Now some have gone to this passage to support their position of no divorce or no remarriage under any circumstances.  That is not what Paul is stating here, for Paul is not in any way referring to divorce, remarriage, or even separation.  He is simply using this as an analogy to illustrate his point about the jurisdiction of the law only applying to the living.  We will come back to this later in our study and talk about separation, divorce, and remarriage.

Released by Christ – Verse 4.

In verse 4 Paul applies this principle to the believer’s relationship to the law, “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.” 

Died to the Law.  The believer has died to the law through the body of Christ.  This is one of the wonderful aspects about being justified by faith.  Recall what I said yesterday about justification.  It has a two-fold nature)

1) Justification is the judicial action of God who accepts the death of Jesus Christ as the substitute payment for your sin so that you stand acquitted of your transgressions of God’s standards.  

2) It then attributes to the sinner the righteous standing of Christ.  When Jesus died on the cross for our sin, the requirements of the Law were met and we died with Him to the Law.  We are acquitted of our transgressions against the law.  We are no longer under its condemnation and penalty.  When Jesus was raised from the dead, we were raised to newness of life.  Our relationship to the law was changed according to the principle that Paul stated in verse 1.  The law only has jurisdiction over those who are alive, but we have died to the law.  It no longer has jurisdiction over us.

Note here that the text states, “you also were made to die to the Law.”  This is an aorist passive verb meaning that this is something that happened to you and not something you did yourself.  

You did not make yourself die to the Law

For you could not do that even if you wanted to.  

The law applies to all who are in sin and

You were in bondage to sin and

Could not overcome it by will or effort.  

Jesus took care of our sin problem

Through His atonement and put us

To death concerning the Law when

We were justified by our faith in Him.

Joined to Christ.  This was not done so that we could be autonomous to do whatever we wanted.  I pointed this out yesterday.  Here Paul brings out the same idea in stating that we were made to die to the law “so that we might be joined to another” whom He then states specifically is “Him who was raised from the dead.”  That is Jesus Christ. To use the analogy Paul used in verses 3 & 4.  We had been married to the law, but Jesus put the Law to death concerning us so that we are now married to Him.

To Bear Fruit.  Paul points out that another purpose of our being made to die to the law is that, “we might bear fruit for God.”  What fruit?  Well, certainly the fruit of the Spirit given in Galatians 5:22-23, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  But that is fruit related to the Holy Spirit changing your character, and He changes your character so that you might bring glory to God through your life.  That includes both your words and your actions.  Recall Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:16 that you are to “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  Paul said in Ephesians 2:10 that we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul said that God, “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  Paul said in Ephesians 1:4 that God, “Chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”

You cannot get around the fact

That the reason that we are saved

Is for God’s own purposes

In having us bring glory

To His name through

Our becoming holy

In our manner of life

And serving Him.  

We do not do

Good works

To get saved.  

We do good works

Because

We are saved.

John MacArthur gives a good quote from theologian Charles Hodge on this issue.  It is worth repeating here too, “As far as we are concerned, redemption is in order to produce holiness.  We are delivered from the law, that we may be united to Christ; and we are united to Christ, that we may bring forth fruit unto God” . . . “As deliverance from the penalty of the law is in order to [produce] holiness, it is vain to expect that deliverance, except with a view to the end for which it is granted.”

We should be praying for one another, as Paul did for the Philippians, that we should be, “filled with the fruit of righteousness which [comes] through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

The Weakness of the Law – Verse 5.

Verse 5 says, “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.”  Paul uses the phrase “were in the flesh” to refer to the time before we were justified by faith in Christ.  We were spiritually dead then and therefore controlled by our carnal nature.

Though the law is holy, righteous, and good,

As Paul states in verse 12,

The actual effect of the law upon

The non-Christian is condemnation.  

Why?

Because the law does not restrain sin.  

It only sets the standards which

Reveal the sin that is there.

The sinful nature that resides in the unregenerate heart is at its base proud and rebellious.  The result is that when law is given, the sinful passion of rebellion takes the commandments given as just another opportunity to disobey.  That is what Paul describes here.  The sinful passion within those who are in the flesh is actually aroused by the Law to rebel against it resulting in the accomplishing of sin.  And the wages of sin is death, as Paul has already pointed out in 6:23.

All of us are familiar with this idea.  How often is it that when you give your children instructions, it is like you suddenly gave them new ideas of how to disobey you.  Every parent has times like that with their child.  It is that desire that suddenly arises when you see a sign that says, “Do Not Touch, Wet Paint.”  The sign is there to protect you from getting paint on you, but as soon as you see it, there is a sudden urge to touch something you would not have even thought about touching otherwise.  Or how about speed limits?  No matter what the speed limit is set at, the average speed will be slightly higher.  When the speed limit on the interstate was 55 MPH, people were happily speeding along at 60-65 MPH.  Now that the limit is 70 MPH, people are happily speeding along at 75-80 MPH.

Released to Serve – Verse 6..

We were under the law and in bondage to sin, but Christ has released from that.  Verse 6 states, “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.”  Again, Paul goes back to his premise of verse 1.  The law only has jurisdiction over those who are alive.  Since we who were at one time bound by the Law have been made to die to the Law through being justified by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, then the law no longer has jurisdiction over us.  We are released from the Law.

Paul points out that this is for the specific purpose of serving the Lord in the newness of the Spirit.  

Salvation from sin does not make us

Autonomous to do whatever we want.

 Freedom from the law does not mean

That you can now do what the law forbids

Or ignore what the law commands.

Note the contrast Paul makes here between serving in the newness of the Spirit and the oldness of the letter.

The idea of serving here is not that of a hired servant who can leave his employer if he does not like the working conditions or pay.  The term here is from “douleuo” which applies to a slave.  Prior to faith in Christ, we were under bondage to the law.  We have been released from that bondage to serve a new master, Jesus Christ.

Our old master was a taskmaster

Whose dictates we could not meet

Because we did not have the ability.

The Law revealed God’s standard, and that is good.  The problem is that our bondage to our sin prevented us from keeping any of those standards.  Try as we might, we would fail.  All our righteous deeds were as filthy rags before our holy God.  We remained condemned.

Being justified by faith in Christ, we have a new master who has given us new ability.

The Law still reveals God’s standards,

But it no longer condemns us.

First, we have been made righteous through Christ so that the law can longer condemn us.  Second, through the power of the Holy Spirit we can now serve the Lord according to those standards.

It is no longer a gritting of our teeth and steeling of our will to keep the law in order to win God’s favor.  We no longer approach God’s law as a taskmaster who continually beats us down.  It is no longer a high wall that we continually crash into because we cannot scale it.  We no longer exam the minutia of the law like a lawyer trying to find the loopholes that would get our case thrown out of court.

Instead . . .

We already have God’s favor because of Jesus Christ.  

God’s law is no longer a taskmaster,

But a friend who helps us on our way.  

It is a high wall that has already been scaled,

So that we are on the other side.  

We do not keep the law because we have too,

But because we want to out of our love

For our Savior who has even

Empowered us to be able to do it.

Any concern we have about the minutia of the law is only because we desire to better please our Lord.  We now serve the Lord in the newness of the Holy Spirit and no longer in the oldness of the letter.

The following is a poor analogy in some ways, but perhaps it will help you at least understand the difference between obedience out of duty and obedience out of love.  When your children are young, you set the standards for their life and enforce them with discipline. Children are naturally rebellious, but you have a responsibility to teaching them to conform to the standards you have established for your home.  To the children, the rules are unfair and you are cruel for enforcing them.  They do not understand that you do it because you love them.  As you continue to raise those same children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they grow in so many ways including their understanding of your love for them and their own love for you.  By the time they are adolescents, their living according to the standards of your family should no longer be marked by obedience because they have to, but rather by submission because they want to do so out of their love and respect for you.  

The Christian no longer obeys the Lord

Because they are forced to do so,

But rather they submit themselves

To do His will out of their own love for Him.

The Christian has died to the law and now serves the Lord in the newness of the Spirit. This is one of the wonderful benefits Christians have because of being justified by faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Whose Slave Are You?

Grace For The Journey

  

The year is 1849.  The place is the state of Virginia.  You are 24 years old.  Your father was born in the country now called Angola.  He was captured during a battle with another tribe and then subsequently sold to slavers and eventually ending up in Virginia. Your mother was born in the land called the Congo, but she was captured in a raid on her village and also subsequently sold to slavers and eventually also end up in Virginia. All you have ever known is slavery, but your parents have talked about what it was like to be free and you know it is something that you want for yourself.

Your master is an adventurer and upon hearing about the discovery of gold in California, he takes you along with the rest of his family.  It does not work out like he had hoped, and lacking money, he sells you to another family.  Your former master had been harsh and demanding.  Your new master is kind and gentle.  A month after being sold, while doing an errand for your new master, you meet your old master in the store, and he starts telling you what he wants you to do and that he expects it to be done promptly.  He even threatens to whip you if you do not obey immediately.  What will you do?  That will depend on who you believe your master to be.  Is it this fellow who has always told you what to do, or is it the man who sent you on the errand that morning?

Ten years later, your new master has proven to be a wonderful man.  He has taught you to read and trained you in both trade and living skills.  Out of his own generosity he has also set you free.  You are no longer his slave, though you remain with him and his family as a servant because they have been so kind to you.  When they travel back to the East Coast, you go with them with the hope that perhaps you will have opportunity to see your parents and siblings and free them from slavery.  The opportunity finally comes make it back to Virginia.  You see your family for the first time in over a decade, but you also see your former master, who immediately picks up where he left off and starts telling you what he wants you to do and that he expects to be obeyed immediately or he will have you whipped.  What will you do?  Again, it depends on who you believe is your master.

In Romans 6 we find that Paul uses this analogy of slave and master to describe the relationship of man and sin.  The Christian has a new master, but the question remains of who the Christian will obey?  The new master or the old master?

Today we will be looking at Romans 6:12-23.  At this point in the book of Romans, Paul has presented the Gospel message and is dealing with the consequences of being justified by God’s grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In the first three chapters Paul explained the relationship the natural man has with God.  God and man are separated because God is holy and righteous, and man is ungodly and unrighteous.  Man cannot bridge that gap by any means of his own.  Man’s best effort not only falls short of God’s standard, but in reality no man actually even seeks God on his own (Romans3:11-12).  Even man’s best religious efforts distort God’s image into one of man’s own creation.  What the religion requires is not what God has said, but what men have decided for themselves would appease God. Religion exchanges the true God for one of man’s own making.  Therefore, God’s wrath properly abides on man, and without divine intervention, man is condemned to God’s wrath being upon him throughout eternity.

Romans 1,2, and 3 prove that for anyone to talk about having a positive relationship with God apart from Jesus Christ is foolishness, for apart from being justified by Jesus Christ, man is eternally condemned by God the Father.  In the last part of Romans 3 through chapter 7, Paul is dealing with being justified from our sin through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ and its consequences.  Paul presents Abraham in Romans 4 as the example this faith which can justify.  It is through Jesus Christ and only Him that man is brought into a right relationship with God the Father.  Justification comes as a gift of God’s grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus and apart from any work of man (Romans 3:24).

It is important that we understand justification.  Justification is . . .

The judicial action of God who accepts

The death of Jesus Christ as

The substitute payment for your sin

So that you stand acquitted of

Your transgressions of God’s standards.

It then attributes to the sinner

The righteous standing of Christ.

These are the two sides of justification.  As J.I. Packer explains, “On the one hand, justification] means the pardon, remission, and nonimputation of all sins, reconciliation to God, and the end of His enmity and wrath (Acts 13:39; Romans 4:6-7; 5:9; 2 Corinthians 5:19).  On the other hand, it means the bestowal of a righteous man’s status and a title to all the blessings promised to the just.”

 However, please note that this is not sanctification.  Justification is your legal standing as righteous before God, not your actions of living a righteous life.  Justification makes sanctification possible and should result in righteous living, but justification and sanctification are different things.  Paul will deal with the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification in our life in chapter 8.

There are consequences of being justified by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Paul points out in chapter 5 that the first consequence is having peace with God.  This is a peace that gives a hope that cannot be diminished, for it is based in the love of God which was proven for all time and eternity when Jesus Christ died for us while we were yet sinners.  I have a confident assurance as I face the future because God’s promises are true and He will keep them.  I can joyfully face any circumstance for I am assured that God is at work maturing me and making me more like Christ.

In chapter 6, Paul points out another great benefit of being justified by faith in Jesus Christ. I had inherited a sin nature from Adam that condemned me, but in Jesus Christ I have been changed.  Paul uses the analogy of baptism to explain the nature of this great change.  Before being justified by Christ I was controlled by sin.  I lived in it, and all that I did manifested it, but the person I was then was crucified with Christ, so that I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live, I live by faith in Jesus (Galatians 2:20).

I detailed the meaning of baptism as an identification of the believer with Jesus Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.  The believer identifies with Jesus death and burial as he goes under the water, and with His resurrection to newness of life as he comes up out of the water.  Jesus commanded His followers to be baptized in the Great Commission (Matthew 29:19-20).  It is a public identification with Him.  Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”  There is serious reason to question the salvation of someone who professes faith in Jesus Christ, yet refuses to identify with Him in water baptism.  

Paul’s point in Romans 6 concerns how a Christian should live.  Paul does not want anyone to think that it is proper for a Christian to continue in sinful living.  Some had developed the misguided idea that their sin would cause God to be glorified because His grace would then have to increase to cover the sin.  The Christian should not continue in sin because it is contrary to the new nature that a Christian receives upon faith in Jesus Christ.  We are to consider ourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).

The problem of the Christian sinning is not a lack of power or ability.  I know that each of us feels at times that we have no choice but to sin.  We feel like we lack the power and ability to resist the temptations that come upon us.  Admittedly, it is a tough battle at times.  We will see the depth of this battle in chapter 7 in a couple of weeks.  We face the cravings of not only our own flesh for what is sinful, but we also have the enticements of the world and the schemes of the devil to satisfy our pride and desire for pleasure in ways that are not pleasing to God.  But regardless of what we may feel, we must come to grips with the fact that what we have become in Christ has given us new abilities that we did not posses before.  We can resist the temptations of our flesh, the world, and the devil.  As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.”

Please note that 1 John 1:8-10 points out the fact that as Christians we will still sin.  It also points how to deal with that sin once it occurs through confession.  Having the ability to resist does not mean that we always will resist.  We must learn to deal with our tendency to sin and overcome it.  How can the Christian overcome temptations?  By going back to basic facts in remembering what we were saved from, what we were saved to, and then obeying our true master.

As Paul points out here in Romans6:12-14, we are no longer to let sin reign in our bodies to obey its desires.  Why?  Because we have come under God’s grace in Jesus Christ and have died to sin (verse 2).  We were saved from sin and should quit living in its corpse.  We must no longer give in to our sinful desires but instead consciously present ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness, for that is what we were saved to.  We are saved from sin to righteousness.  That takes forethought and action of the will.  It is often, if not usually, a failure at this level that leads us to stumble into sin.  We have not prepared ourselves to stand against it. Instead we set ourselves up to fall.  In Romans13:14 Paul tells us to, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to [its] lusts,” yet that is exactly what we often do.  We make provision to fulfill the lusts of our flesh, to seek pleasure and feed our pride.  We present ourselves to the world and the devil as instruments of unrighteousness.

For example, and this one comes to my mind because I gained a few pounds the last couple of weeks, if you struggle with glutony, then a buffet is not a wise place to go. Yet, as my kids would point out at times, every time we stopped at a buffet there were always people there that should not have been there.  Their girth and the great piles of food on their plates made their temptation to gluttony obvious.  They were feeding
their lusts.

Another example.  If you struggle with pornography, and that is an increasing problem in our society, then you have to take steps to protect yourself.  You cannot purchase pornography if you refuse to go to any place that sells it.   Tragically, many pastors have been falling to pornography on the internet.  You have to take the steps to protect yourself.  Get a filter for your computer that will not allow access to those sites.  Set up your e-mail to filter out the solicitations for it.  Keep your computer in a place where other people can walk by at anytime and see what you are doing.  Have others hold you accountable.  You may even have to take even more drastic measure to avoid those temptations.  I heard about one man that purposely drove out of his way to avoid shops and billboards he did not want to see.  Others have moved away from areas in order to protect themselves and those they loved.  Is that drastic?  Perhaps, but remember what Jesus said in Matthew 18:8-9, “And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire.  And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell.”  The temptation to sin should be taken seriously.

The idea of “instrument” here is “being a tool or a weapon.”  It is not just that we let sin get an upper hand on us and we stumble into sin with the temptation, but we become tools of sin that affect the lives of others too.   Some examples: A) We allow ourselves to get angry and then spread that anger to others who in turn spread it to still others.  Consider how many people drive and then our own reactions;  B) Some, having become numbed to the immorality of our society, go on their merry way watching and talking about movies and television shows that are anything but pleasing to God.  They encourage others to join them in what is an affront to our holy God; C) In pursuit of the so called “American Dream,” we get others to join us in the rat race of coveting the materialism of our society.  We spend more time talking about the stuff we want to get rather than in the things of the Lord – what we are learning about Him, how He is using us, and how we can reach the lost around us; D) Instead of talking to someone directly about something that bothers us, we talk to other people and involve them in our gossip. They in turn share the tidbits of poison with still others.  The list can go on and on can’t it?

Instead of wallowing in sin ourselves and being tools used by Satan to cause others to stumble into sin, we should be those who are pursuing holiness ourselves and be tools in God’s hand to encourage others to do the same.  The Christian should be an instrument of righteousness, not a tool of unrighteousness.

Starting in verse 15 Paul addresses a problem that is still common today.  Paul has just stated that we are no longer under the Law, but under grace.  There are those that take this to mean that the Christian has no relationship at all to God’s law because they are under His grace.  They end up in an antinomian position that does not recognize sin.  They believe they can do whatever they feel like doing because God’s grace will cover it all.  Paul’s answer to this is as strong as it can be.  May it never be!

The Christian is no longer under the law in several senses.  Jesus Christ has paid the penalty of the Law on our behalf so the Christian is no longer under the Law’s condemnation and penalty.  Jesus is the propitiation who has already satisfied God’s wrath, so the Christian does not have to keep the law in order to appease God.   Christians have the Holy Spirit within them to teach and guide them in righteousness, so the Law is no longer the sole source of God’s standard of righteousness.  And finally, the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to the Christian as part of being justified by faith, so the Christian does not have to keep the law in order to be righteous before God.  However, none of this means that the Christian is free to do whatever they want, nor does it mean that the Christian is not still subject to law.

Paul says in Galatians 6:3 that we are to, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”  James 2:8 tells us that we should be “fulfilling the royal law,” which he defines from Scripture as “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” which Paul says is a fulfillment of the whole Law (Galatians 5:14).  Jesus has given us commandments which He not only expects us to keep, but also to teach others.  That is part of the Great Commission – “teaching them to observe all that I command you” (Matthew 28:20).  The Christian is not under the Law as the non-Christian is, but neither is the Christian antinomian (i.e. without law).  The Christian is still subject to the commands of God for they still reveal God’s standards of righteous living that He expects His followers to keep.

Paul’s use of slavery as an analogy here brings out this point of our obligation to keep God’s commands to live in righteous.  Prior to becoming a Christian we were enslaved to sin.  It was our master.  After becoming a Christian we have a new master.  But as Paul points out in verse 16, saying you have a new master is of little value if you keep obeying the old one.  For all practical purposes, the claim is not true.  To go back to the story I began the story with, if you started obeying your former master then you have enslaved yourself to him and have lost your freedom.  And as bad as slavery in America could be, it was good compared to slavery to sin.

Those who claim to be Christians, but remain enslaved to their sin only show that they have not yet switched masters.  Obedience to sin results in death.  Obedience to the Gospel results in righteousness.  Paul commends the Romans in verse 17,18 that though they had been slaves of sin, they had become obedient to the teaching they had received. This teaching was the obedience of faith (cf. Romans 1:5; 16:26) of believing God and following Him.  This was the faith that Abraham demonstrated and that the Romans were also now exhibiting.  It is this obedience of faith that has freed them from sin and made them slaves of righteousness.

There are many today that do not like to have the words “obedience” and “faith” in the same sentence because they do not think the two can be used together, but Paul did not think so.  True faith always takes action (cf. Romans 4: James 2:14ff).  If it does not, then it is merely intellectual assent which leaves the person still enslaved to their sin.

Note that Paul says that they became slaves of righteousness.  This is an aorist passive form of the verb “douloo.”  They did not make themselves slaves, they were made slaves, and slave is the proper term.  Slaves do not choose for themselves what they will or will not do.  Their will becomes subservient to that of their master.  They do whatever their master chooses for them to do.  God’s grace frees the believer from sin, but that does not mean in any way they are now autonomous in the universe to do whatever they want.  They are no longer under sin’s bondage and they can now obey God.  That is the purpose of their redemption.

As Paul points out in verse 19, when a person is in bondage to sin, their practice is to present themselves as slaves to impurity and lawlessness resulting in further lawlessness.  They do what they want when they want.  They yield themselves to the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and pride.  When that bondage of sin is broken through faith in Jesus Christ, then the practice of life is also to change.  The Christian is to now consciously present themselves (“your members” here refers to the different aspects of who you are) as slaves to righteousness.  The result of this is sanctification which is a life which is increasingly set apart from the world to God.

Those who are slaves of sin are free from righteousness (verse 20).  They have no ability to do anything righteous because even their attempts to do so are as filthy rags before our holy God.  The contrast between the Christian and the non-Christian should be greatest at this point.  One is a slave of righteousness and the other is the exact opposite, a slave to sin.  Paul contrasts the results of these in verses 21 and 22 pointing out somewhat sarcastically that what they thought was beneficial when they were enslaved to sin, they now understand to be things for which they are now ashamed. Those who become Christians later in life usually understand this very well.  They very things they once sought after as great things to do or achieve, then now find to be shameful.  The final outcome of sin is death.

If you are freed from sin, then you are enslaved to God.  There is no middle ground here.  Paul equates being a slave of righteousness to being a slave of God for doing God’s will is to do righteousness.  The result of this is sanctification.  You become more righteous and less sinful.  The final outcome of this is eternal life.

Paul concludes in verse 23, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  The Christian should not continue in sin because it is the very opposite of why a Christian is saved and what he is supposed to be.  Those who continue in sin earn for themselves death.  This is not a reference to just physical death, but also spiritual death of being eternally separated from God.  God has given to the Christian eternal life as a free gift.  No one deserves it . . . No one earns it . . . It comes solely by God grace through Jesus Christ.  And as I have pointed out before, eternal life is not about the length of existence, for the wicked will also exist eternally.
Eternal life is a reference to that existence being in the glorious presence of God forever.

If you profess to be a Christian, then take sin seriously.  Too many think they have their fire insurance policy and so will escape hell even though they continue to live as slaves of sin.  They have fooled themselves.  Sin is still their master and the wages of sin is death.  The true Christian will still stumble into sin, but he will also confess that sin for he knows it is wrong and it is against his desire to obey his true master, God, in righteousness.

Who is your master?  Who do you obey?

If you have not yet placed your faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are a sinner who is still earning the wages of death.  But you do not have to stay in that condition.  You can switch masters.  You can receive God’s gift of eternal life today.  Talk to someone about this today and let them introduce you to Jesus Christ and His forgiveness of your sin.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Living The Resurrected Life

Grace For The Journey

From my viewpoint, one of the great tragedies of American Christianity is that so many who profess themselves to be Christians do not seem to have even a basic understanding of what it means to be a Christian.  For many, they are “Christians” only in the general cultural context that they were born in America and are not pagans, Islamic or Hindu.  Others were born to parents that professed to be “Christians,” and they would go to a “Christian” church of some sort at least once in awhile even if only at Christmas and Easter.  Others are very active in their churches and may even be very conscientious about fulfilling their religious duties.  However, in all reality they live in utter defeat when it comes to actually following Christ.  Why?  Because they are not following Christ but the religious system they been taught.  And take heed, this can be as true for someone raised in a Fundamental or Baptist Church as in the Catholic church.

The issue of

True Christianity

Is

Jesus Christ Himself.

I think I am on safe ground to assert that most people who call themselves Christians do so on religious grounds and not because of any actual personal relationship they have with the Lord Jesus.  Then there are the many that have been marketed a fire insurance policy to escape Hell or they have had Jesus sold to them as a means to a better life here on earth.  Tragically they have never read the policy or had the instruction manual explained to them.  Because of that, the vast majority live without the real benefits of being a Christian.  Their lives are marked by many things other than the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – Galatians 5:22-23).  Many will find in the end that they will not even escape the fires of Hell, because they have held to false beliefs about Jesus, who He is, what He has done, and what it means to believe or have faith in Him.

What does the Bible say about all this?  What is the purpose of salvation?
What are we saved from?  Paul addresses these questions clearly in Romans 6 as he continues to deal with the ramifications of being justified before God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Remember . . .

That Paul has been showing

That the Gospel message is

About the righteousness of God

Demonstrated in calling

A people to Himself

Based in His own

Justification of them through

Faith in Jesus Christ.

Man does not meet God’s perfect standard nor can he earn the favor of God
through his own efforts, all of which are filthy before the Holy One that created us.  Paul has demonstrated this in Chapters 1-3.  Every single person is naturally unrighteous before God.  The ungodliness of the immoral is obvious, but the outwardly moral are also ungodly demonstrated by their hypocritical criticism of others while they are condemned by their own conscience for failing to do what they know is right.  Religious people demonstrate their unrighteousness by failing to keeping their own religious standards.  There are none who are righteous.  There are none who even seek for God. Man cannot be made right with God by his own works.  God’s righteousness is demonstrated in that out of His great love He Himself provided the means to redeem man from sin and save people from His wrath through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ who paid the penalty of our sin on the cross that we could be made right with God.  Jesus Christ is the just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Him.  The nature of this kind of faith is demonstrated by Abraham, which Paul points out in Chapter 4.

There are many ramifications

Of being justified by faith.

We have already looked as some of them in chapter 5 among which are having peace with God, being able to exult in God and our hope in Him which even allows us to exult in the tribulations we face because of the foundation of God’s love demonstrated in Jesus Christ.  I can never question God’s love for me because He has already proven it in Jesus dying for my sin even while I was still a sinner.  Because I know I am loved, I will always have hope, a confident assurance in Him and His promises for the future.  Because I have hope, I can persevere in trials and mature in my character becoming what God wants me to be.  James 1:2-4 says essentially the same thing, “I can consider it all joy when I face trials in this life because I know that God will make me more like Jesus Christ through them.”

Though I am condemned both through my sin nature inherited from Adam and from my confirmation of that with my own sin, through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, my guilt is taken away, and I am given a new nature that no longer has to sin.  This is the context of Romans 6.

The common, but incorrect, view of Christianity is that it is about saving people from Hell.  Yes, salvation in Christ does include escape from God’s wrath which includes Hell, but that is only a side benefit to the main issue.  If you reject the main issue, then you cannot enjoy the side benefits.

If you want the benefits of marriage, you have to get married.  You cannot have one without the other.  Those that try to get the benefits without getting married only end up with heartache and tragedy because the foundation necessary for the building of the benefits is never laid, therefore the house crumbles when tested.  Marriage is about a lifelong commitment to love your spouse by giving of yourself to them for their benefit.

Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is about an eternal relationship with Him in which He redeems you from your sin, gives you a new nature, and changes you to be like Him.  If that is not what is taking place, then you have a counterfeit ticket and your destination will be Hell, not Heaven.

Notice the question that Paul is answering in verse 1 as he begins this passage, “What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?”  There were those who wrongly concluded that God’s righteousness is demonstrated in His forgiving sin through faith in Christ, then why not just continue in sin and let God’s glory be manifested in His grace which abounds all the more where sin increases (5:20).  While there are few that actively sin with the perverse idea that in doing so they can bring greater glory to God because His grace to cover it will be even greater, there are many that do live that way for all practical purposes.  They do not consider their sin to be any big deal.  Why be concerned about it if God’s grace will be greater and will cover it?  Why bother to pursue holiness?  Why not enjoy the things of this world and what God will give us in the next too?

Paul’s answer is strong as he can make it in verse 2, “May it never be!”  The reason is that such is contrary to who we are in Christ.  The faith that brings salvation in Jesus Christ is not an intellectual exercise, but one by which we enter into a new relationship with God.  We are radically changed by it.  As Paul puts in verse 2, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”  

That is as strong a statement as you can make.

You are no longer what you were.  

The concept here is extremely radical.  

What you were is dead, why then

Would you want to keep living as

A dead man in sin when you can

Now live as a new man in Christ.

This would be like someone who escaped from the Taliban in Afghanistan and came here, rejected Islam, became an American citizen, yet continued to wear a burqa if a woman, or refused to shave their beard if a man, for fear of the Taliban.  The change that is made in us when we come to Christ is more radical than when a refugee from a communist country or other dictatorial regime becomes an American citizen.

Starting in verse 3, Paul uses baptism as the illustration of the radical change made in us.  In doing this, Paul also teaches about what Christian baptism actually is.  This is important for us since this is a doctrine that is horribly perverted by the Roman Catholic church and many other denominations.  Let me digress here a bit so that you will understand what Paul means when he is talking about baptism here.

 History of Christian Baptism.

Christian baptism arose from Jewish baptism rituals. Levitical law demanded that unclean things, including humans, were to be washed for ceremonial cleaning.  Leviticus 15:13 even speaks of the person bathing in “running” water.”  Jewish proselyte baptism was a sign that the convert had changed from a Gentile to a Jewish orientation of following the God and laws of Israel.  The baptism of repentance practiced by John and Jesus was symbolic of the cleansing away of sin.  The baptism itself did not take away sins, but it symbolized the righteousness and cleansing given to the individual as they confessed their sins and placed their trust in God alone.

Christian baptism arose out of these as an identification with Jesus Christ who cleanses us from our sin.  This is also in keeping with the very meaning of the word “baptize.”

Meaning of Baptism

Our word, “baptize,” is a transliteration of the Greek word, which means to “dip” or “immerse,” and is in fact translated that way in John 13:26 and Revelation 19:13.  The baptized object becomes identified with whatever it is “dipped” or “immersed” into.  For example, a piece of cloth “immersed” into indelible dye will always be identified with that dye.  When the Bible teaches that the Christian is baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27), it is showing that the Christian is spiritually identified with Christ in death (Galatians 2:20), burial (Colossians 2:12), and resurrection (Colossians 2:12; 3:1).  The word is also sometimes used in the sense of “washing” with water.  Christian baptism also includes the idea of spiritual cleansing or forgiveness of sins (Acts 2”38; 22:16, cf. Titus 3:5).  The spiritual, inward, and personal change experienced by the believer in Christ is
pictured in a physical, outward, and public way through water baptism.

Mode of Baptism

There are three different modes of baptism that are practiced in Christian churches, but only full immersion is in keeping with the meaning of the word and the historical practice of the church.  The Roman Catholic Church, as well as most of the mainline denominations, currently practice sprinkling as the method of baptism, and a few churches practice “pouring,” which is in reality just sprinkling with a lot more water. While the mode of Baptism is not critical, it is important that we should do our best to follow the examples given in Scripture and use the method that most clearly illustrates the meaning and purpose of the ritual.

To “baptize” something was to immerse it.   When Jesus was baptized by John, He went up from the water (Matthew 3:16).  We also find that John would baptize in a place where there was “much water there” (John 3:23).  John would not need “much water” and Jesus would not have to “come up from” the water if sprinkling or pouring was used. The practice of the early church was immersion.  When Philip baptized the Ethiopian in Acts 3:36-38, they stopped the chariot when they came to some water and went down “into” the water.  There is no Biblical text that even suggests another method was practiced.

Historically, the Christian church practiced only the mode of full immersion until the Middle Ages.  While there is evidence for Baptism by pouring being used in the second century, that was only done when water was scarce.  The Roman Catholic church did not recognize other forms of baptism except immersion until 1311.  The Lutheran and Reformed churches inherited the form of sprinkling from the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of England (Anglican/Episcopal) did not begin sprinkling until 1645.  The case for sprinkling is weak – it goes against the meaning of the word and the obvious examples of Scripture and church history.

There is also the symbolism involved.  Catholic Theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) said, “In immersion the setting forth of the burial of Christ is more plainly expressed, in which this manner of baptizing is more commendable.”  We agree.  We practice baptism by full immersion here at First Baptist Butler, MO because it best fits the meaning of the word, the historical practice of Jesus and the early church, and best fits the symbolism involved.

Purpose of Baptism

It is also important to understand the purpose of baptism. The Bible is clear on the issue, but theologies developed by men who seek to overturn the Scriptures have confused many.  In Roman Catholicism, and in some other Christian religions, baptism is the means by which the individual is cleansed from Adam’s sin.  That is why they baptize infants.  However, there is nothing in Scripture to even suggest this idea, much less teach it.  This practice sprang up from the idea that the ritual of baptism itself is a means of gaining God’s grace.  However, the only means by which we can be cleansed from our sins is through being justified by faith in the precious blood of Jesus Christ shed as the atonement for our sins (Ephesians 1:7). He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6).  Those who do not have the Son do not have the life, and those that do have the Son have the life (1 John 5:11,12).  That has been the thrust of Paul’s message here in Romans 1-5.

Other groups have taken this same idea and teach that unless you are baptized, you cannot be saved.  They cite 1 Peter 3:21 as Biblical support, “And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  Peter makes a similar statement in Acts 3:37 in response to the people asking what they should do in response to his sermon that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was risen from the dead, “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”  While it may appear at first glance that baptism is necessary for salvation, even in both of these passages it is not baptism itself, but what it represents that saves – belief and identification with the resurrected Christ.  The Bible is clear in many places that no act of righteousness which you can do can save you from your sin.  For example, Titus 3:5-7 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to [the] hope of eternal life.”

A person should not be baptized as an effort to gain or to keep salvation.  Water baptism does not save!  Salvation is completely by grace through faith in Christ as Savior (Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9) and not by good works including water baptism. Baptism should be a result of salvation.  Note the order in Acts 8:12, “when they believed, . . . they were baptized” (see also Acts 16:31,33, 18:8).

Baptism for it is important, and there should be serious questioning of the salvation of a person that refuses to be baptized. In the New Testament we consistently find that those who come to believe in Jesus are baptized. However, baptism does not save or add to salvation. That is not its purpose.

Among those holding to reformed or covenant theology, there is the idea that baptism brings a child into the covenant relationship the parents have with Christ. For these groups, baptism is essentially the New Testament replacement of the Old Testament ritual of circumcision among the Jews. That is an interesting concept, but not one that can be demonstrated by Scripture. That is not the purpose of baptism.

The purpose of baptism is to identify the individual with Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Here we come back to Romans 6. Paul presents baptism as an outward ritual of something that reflects an inward reality.  Romans 6:3-5 says, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?  Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have become united with [Him] in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also [in the likeness] of His resurrection.”

Baptism is a public profession of a person’s faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior. They are proclaiming that they have turned their back on their former life of sin and have begun to walk in a new life of righteousness for God. That is why we encourage those that are going to be baptized to also give their testimony of salvation. Going down into the water is identification with His death and burial and represents the death of their old self.  Coming up out of the water is identification with His resurrection and their being raised to walk in newness of life.

Paul expands on this idea of newness of life in verses 6-12 with a practical conclusion and admonition in verse 12-14.  Paul says in verses 6-7, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with [Him,] that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”

Why should the Christian take sin seriously, and to eschew it – to use an old word for abhor and flee from it?  

Because through our faith

In Jesus Christ

We have been changed.

When Jesus died, He not only paid the penalty of my sin, but He also put to death my old self, that sinful nature I inherited from Adam.  It had been my master, but now I am free of it.  The nature of my identification with Christ is so complete that Paul expresses here that I have been freed from sin because I have died with Christ.  It is an axiomatic statement that those who are dead no longer sin, but that is applied to me while I am still alive for that is the application of my identification with Christ’s death.  My old self was crucified with Jesus so that sin in my life would be done away with and I would no longer be sin’s slave.  To continue to live in sin is to live as the dead man I was, not as the new man I am.  Paul speaks further of this in verse 8-11, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.  For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

My identification with Jesus also gives me positive hope in a new life in Christ.  When Jesus rose from the dead, He conquered death.  It no longer has any power over Him. Jesus will never die again.  Death is the result of sin, and Jesus died to pay the penalty of our sin once for all.  God accepted the payment and raised Jesus back to life demonstrating His victory over sin and death.  Jesus lives to God.

Our identification with Jesus is to be such that we also consider ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God.  This spiritual reality is something that we are to live out in the here and now. This does not come automatically.  Paul uses the word “consider” here because this is something we have to think through and apply in daily life.  As each decision comes up, as each temptation is faced, I must think back to the reality of who I am now in Jesus Christ.  Whereas I was a slave to sin, I must remember that it is no longer my master and I do not have to obey it.  Whereas I was controlled by the inherited sin nature of my old self, I must remember that my old self is dead and I am now to live in the new self of a nature identified with Jesus Christ.

Christians take sin seriously because of who they have become in Jesus Christ.  Paul expands on this further in verses 12-14 with a practical admonition. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin [as] instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.”

Paul’s is clear here.  The one who has faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ is radically changed.  If the Christian sins, it is because they are living as if the old sinful self were still in control.  That may be due to ignorance or stumbling, but in either case, it is not living in the benefits we have in Jesus Christ.  Remember I said earlier that if you want the benefits, you must have the main issue settled first.  Many professing Christians live in sin because they have not been changed and their old sinful self is still who they are and sin is their master.  Their profession is false.

This issue of identification with Christ is the major difference between the Christian and those who are not true Christians.  Sin is the master of non-Christian, for the old sinful self is still alive.  The will of those who are in Adam is bent only toward sin.  The Christian will still sin (1 John 1:8-10), but the old self has died with Christ and along with it the mastery of sin.  Those in Christ have a new self that is alive and can obey God and walk in righteousness.

What is your own attitude toward sin? It is very revealing about where you really are spiritually.  The true Christian struggles against sin.  The non-Christian does not. The Christian finds that it is now against his very nature.  The sinful things this world offers have less and less attraction.  Sin bothers the Christian and he desires to change and be different.  Like the teenager who begins setting aside childish things in order to enter the world of adult responsibilities, the Christian increasingly sets aside the fleeting
sinful pleasures of the world in order to pursue the greater satisfaction of a life pleasing to God.

As a conclusion, let me make some closing comments about baptism, for we take seriously this important ordinance in which the individual identifies themselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Why should a Christian be baptized and what are the Biblical requirements?

Motive for Christian Baptism

Why should a Christian desire to be baptized?  True Christians have a genuine love for Christ which motivates them to obey their Lord’s commandments (1 John 4:19, cf. John 14:21, “He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is who loves Me,“).  Christians should be baptized as an act of obedience to express the reality of their love for Christ (Matthew 28:19, cf. John 14:15). Jesus’ own baptism “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15-16) gives an example of obedience for the believer to follow in Christian baptism.

Christian baptism is like a soldier who puts on his uniform, not to become a soldier, but because he is a soldier and wants to publicly identify himself as a soldier.  In Christian baptism the believer publicly identifies himself with Christ and His people (cf. Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

Let me add here that this is also really the first step in identifying with Jesus Christ. Baptism is a serious matter and should not be done without great consideration of its meaning and your commitment to live for Jesus Christ.  At the same time, there is also solid reason to question the validity of the profession of faith of someone who has not been baptized.  Frankly, those who are afraid to obey the Lord and identify themselves as belonging to Him in baptism, should be even more afraid of falsely professing themselves to be Christians to others.  The only condemnations we find Jesus made on people during His earthly ministry were on those who claimed to show others the way to God yet refused to obey God themselves (Matthew 23).  Those who are not baptized should be even more afraid of partaking in Communion since Paul specifically warns that those who partake of it in an unworthy manner bring condemnation upon themselves (1 Corinthians 11:27,28).  To want to identify with Jesus in the Lord’s Supper and yet refuse to identify with Him in baptism is inconsistent at best, and a reason for God’s condemnation at worst.

What then are the Requirements for Christian Baptism?

The New Testament teaches that only true believers in Christ should be baptized.  First, Jesus’ command in the great commission is to baptize people after they have become disciples (Matthew 28:19).  Second, baptism is reserved for believers because only believers have been spiritually baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body”).  In the book of Acts, people expressed repentance or faith and received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized (Acts 2:38,41; 8:12; 10:47-48; 16:31-33; 18:8).  Spiritual baptism must be a reality through trusting Christ as personal Savior before water baptism can have its true scriptural meaning for a person.  A person baptized before salvation becomes just a wet unsaved person instead of a dry one.

This means that baptism should be limited to people who are old enough to know Jesus as their personal Lord and savior.  This excludes infants since they cannot understand these things.  In addition, the Bible does not give even one clear example of infant baptism.

While an infant cannot believe, a small child can.  Jesus Himself spoke of “these little ones who believe in me” (Matthew 18:6).  If a child gives clear testimony of saving faith in Jesus Christ and shows a basic understanding of Christian baptism, then such a child is eligible for baptism, just as an adult would be.

The principle to remember is that genuine belief in Jesus must precede Christian baptism if it is to be scriptural and meaningful, and those who have genuine faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ are to identify themselves with His death, burial and resurrection through baptism into His name.

Have you been Scripturally baptized for the right reasons?  Then rejoice in what Jesus has done for you and pursue living for Him with all your heart.  Sin is not your master, Jesus is.

Do you profess faith in Jesus Christ for salvation from your sin that separates you from God?  Then you need to be baptized.  Talk with me or one of our church leaders after the service so that we can arrange that for you.

Are you still living according to your sinful nature inherited from Adam?  Are you still estranged from God by your sin?  There is forgiveness and a new nature awaiting you in Christ.  Talk with me or one of our church leaders and let us show you how you can become a new creature by faith in Jesus.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry