Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

The Christian I (Romans 7:7-25)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

If you're able, please remain standing and let's give our attention to God's word in Romans Chapter Seven. Roman seven will continue our reading of this passage. I'm going to read from verses seven through the end of the chapter. What, then, shall we say that the law's sin? By no means. Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin, for I would not have known what it is to cove it if the law had not said you shall not cove it. But sin seizing an opportunity through the commandment produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For, apart from the loss in lies dead. I was once alive, apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me, for sin seizing an opportunity through the commandment deceived me and through it killed me. So the laws wholly and the commandment is wholly and righteous and good. Verse Thirteen. Did that which is good then bring death to me? By no means it was sin producing in producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might should be shown to be sin. And through the commandment, might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sould under sin, for I do not understand my own actions, for I do not know, for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now, if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me, for I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh, for I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want. Is what I keep on doing. For if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that, when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand, for I delight in the Law of God in my inner being, but I see in my members another law, waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death, thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the laws, and you may be seated. So this passage is not an easy one to understand, or an easy one, I'm to interpret, like most passages that we might say that of there are things in the passage that seem to resonate and be immediately clear and immediately obvious, but then there are other things that aren't that way and in particular, understanding how it all connects together is a somewhat challenging and so throughout the history of the Church there have been various interpretations of this passage. One of them, which I'm not...

...going to present to this morning, is true in a sense, and that's this interpretation, which I myself have held to until just recently, is that there is within us a battle. I'm waging a war between the flesh and the spirit, and this is a true thing. Paul Talks about this in Galatians chapter five, versus sixteen and Seventeen. He says there but I say walk by the spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh, for the desires of the flesh are against the spirit and the desires of the spirit are against the flesh, for they are opposed to each other to keep you doing from the things you want to do. So here in a passage like this, he describes the reality that we all resonate with and then, in some ways seems to also be said in Romans Chapter Seven, this reality of I want to do these things, these good things, and yet I don't do them. That war, that's there, but that's not exactly the question Paul's dealing with. In Romans seven, Paul isn't here to talk about this internal struggle that we have. He's particularly answering this objection. Is The law good? Is the Law Holy? How do we understand our death and what the law is capable of and what it's not. So this is something that perhaps we can compare and contrast these views, maybe at another time. I think we'll get a little too deep in the weeds if I try to do that all now. Plus a present what I believe the passage is saying. So I'm going to just give it a positive presentation of what is going on here in Roman seven, and then perhaps we can continue that conversation. But essentially what's going on here is Paul is doing as he's often done in the letter. He's sort of dealing with these objectors. You might imagine this. Imagine you were going to or imagine you regularly debated people on a particular point and you went out and you debated, you had on these one on one conversations. But then somebody write you a letter and says, Hey, I want to understand this issue that you often speak on, and then you decide to write them a letter. But you have all these experiences right of people objecting and uncountering and all these things that you're concerned about, and so because you can't debate it right in front of this person or because you can't have a conversation, you sort of write it all down, including these objections, these things that people say, wait a second, Paul, what about this and what about that? Well, that's what Paul's dealing with here and he's done that a few other times so far in the book. He brings here. The objection he's dealing with is, well, if all of these things you're saying about the law is true. Well then, are you calling the law bad? Are you calling the law sinful? If the law leads to death, if we are under slavery, if we're under bondage, as Paul says in Second Corinthians, that the law of the Law of Moses is a Ministry of Death and condemnation? Are you really, Paul, Paul, are you going to really say that about God's word? Are you going to say these terrible things about the word that God spoke to Moses? And it's not just about his word in general, but the word that actually promised life, not death? Well, actually both. The law, you see, promised life. It said, do these things and you will live, you'll be blessed, you will know God, you will be close to him and be in his presence. Fail at these things and you will find curse.

The law of God is good. Paul very much wants to defend against that objection, and so he says this. But he'd also says that the law is weak and unable to do something that we desperately need it to do. So let's consider these things. First, that the law is good. Paul begins this way in verse seven. What, then, shall we say that the law is. Sin Is the law of God. Sin Is the Law of God, evil, wicked, morally wrong. The answers very clearly. He says by no means, and then even shows the goodness of the law by saying what he says next. If it hadn't even been for the law, this good law, I would know what sin is. And then he gives the example of coveting. He also know that. We also know that the law of God is good, because God is good. God doesn't command evil things, more immoral things, wicked things. We also know that it is on the spirits work in us. The intention is, though, that we can bring forth the fruit of the law, or the the good fruits of obedience, would maybe be a more precise way to put it right, God cares about the law because that's what he's saving us to do. He saves us so that we can produce these things, so that we can do good works. The Bible says that these are things that God himself has prepared beforehand for his people whom he's saving. Does God care about goodness? Of course. Does God want our obedience? Absolutely. Is God's law steering us in another direction? No Way, by no means he says God's law is good, but at the same time he says it's weak. This is actually expressed most clearly in the next chapter. If you look at verse three, he says of Chapter Eight. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. The law was weakened by the flesh and couldn't do something. So God stepped in and he did something. This is what he describes in Romans Chapter Seven. Something happens. There's this working, this relationship between the sinfulness that's in us and the law that God gives that steers us towards death. That brings about curse. As I mentioned before, at a time the law promised life. If you will obey the law, you will find the verdict of righteousness, of justification, blessedness, communion with God. We know this deep down inside. You do good things and good things happen. You do bad things and bad things happen. That's the principle of the law. But in the fall, Paul says and has explained in other places, Romans five for example, in the fall that possibility of life drops away and all that remains is curse because of sin, because Adam sinned because he plunged in the entire a human race into sin and misery. Whenever we come into this, into contact with this good thing, sparks start flying. It doesn't work. Instead of good this happening, instead of righteousness happening, it fails. We fail because of sin. Paul personifieses this very...

...unvividly. In Verse Eight, he explains how this happens, he says, but sin seizing an opportunity through the commandment produced in me all kinds of covetousness, for, apart from the loss in lies dead, I was once alive, apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life, do this and you will live, proved death to me, he says, for sin seizing an opportunity through the commandment deceived me and through it killed me. You see how he separates, he makes this distinction between law and sin. It's like sit like it, you could imagine, the law is being a hammer, this thing that does good things, a tape, hammers and nails, it builds houses, things like that. Sin Grabs that hammer and starts beating people to death. The law is good. There's nothing wrong with the law. It's sin that grasps these things and steers us in the wrong direction and takes us in the wrong way. So that's why he says by no means sin is sit when sin is close at hand, the law and our obedience to it goes wrong. Now Paul, in using this word I throughout this passage, could be describing himself on this in many ways, does describe people's experience with the law in this way. They hear the law, they know the law, maybe they even love the law, and yet they don't do it. This doesn't seem to be Paul's experience. Of perhaps it could have been, but Paul, in other places tends to describe himself in other ways. He says I was great. He says I didn't have any problem obeying the law. I heard the law, I know it, I did it, I was schooled in the law with the best teachers, I studied the law, I worked hard, I was righteous beyond all of my brothers. That's how Paul describes his righteousness in comparison with the law and other places. In those other places he goes on to say, I'll add, he would give it all away and compares at all to filthy garbage, to rubbish, to disgusting things. I'm compared with the righteousness of Christ. But here it sounds different, doesn't it? Here there's this other kind of reaction that people have with the law, in which they're struggling to do it. What seems to be happening is he is taking us and having us think in this very personal way about what life in the Old Testament was like, life, as he puts it in verse six of Chapter Seven, in the old way of the written code. He's describing this economy of this this time under Moses, and he has been since the beginning. Remember when, in the early chapters, he spoke to the Jews and he said to them, you know, you have the law, you know these things, you believe that it's good, and yet you don't do them. There's this that kind of reaction that he's describing here. One kind of curious thing that leads us to think that he is speaking in kind of a corporate way, of belonging to this covenant and not necessarily of his personal experiences, is verse nine. He says, I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and died. Well, at what time was are any of US alive apart from the law, in a spiritual one on one situation with the law?...

At no time. But there is a way in which, in the Old Testament, when God gave his laws, the mosaic lots, to his people, there was a time when they didn't have that law, a time when they did and then a time when they sinned immediately after. So you remember, God brings his people out of Egypt, he takes them to Mount Sinai, he declares their law to them and then they obey it. Well, no, they don't. He brings them out of Egypt, he takes them to Mount Sinai, he declares his law and then they make a golden calf idolatry, which Paul says is coveteousness in several places throughout the New Testament. The sin that he identifies here. Paul is saying this is what happened when the Mosaic Law was given, this law that is good and holy and righteous. The people didn't become righteous. Instead, what happened? We, I, he says, sinned. He identifies his self with the people, his old the old people of the Old Testament, his people, the Jewish people, and he says this is not what happened. Whence the law was given. Sin Came Alive and we immediately disobeyed, and that happened throughout the Old Testament. The law came and instead of the people living in the land and and enjoying their time there and being filled and blessed over and over and over again on into eternity, they were kicked out of the land. God describes the the that action as vomiting. Maybe some of you have had this stomach flew lately and you remember what it's like to vomit, that expelling of things that are bad inside of you, that forceful, powerful, those muscles contracting. That is what the land did, that is what God did when he spewed his people out of the land because they were bad, because they didn't obey the law. When the law came, unrighteousness was increased, and this is what happened. This was the way of the old written code, as he calls it in verse six. That's why he says in Corinthians that it was a ministry of death and condemnation. The law is good Paul says, as a good Jewish Pharisee, the law is good, it's holy, it's righteous. He says that as a Christian, but the law, weakened by the flesh, was unable to save us. Now, why is this important? This is very important and it's very practical. Because if you imagine yourself in Rome. Okay, imagine yourself in Rome, in this mixture of Jews and gentiles, imagine that you just came, as a gentile, as a non Jew, out of paganism. Right a week ago you were worshiping trees and you were going to the temple of some goddess and doing all kinds of unspeakable things there. But now you're a Christian and somebody comes to you with the Bible and says, Look, God has given us his law. Obey these things and you will be saved. Do these righteous things and you will live. That would be pretty tempting, wouldn't it? It would be very tempting, very attractive to say here is God's law, the God who has done these things. If I obey them, I can have life. That's what the Judaizers were promising and that's what the Jews, in many ways, were resting their hope and salvation on by obeying the law. And this...

...is in some ways because of the fleshly part still in us, the trying harder, the striving. If I just perceive the depth of the law more, if I just try to do more than perhaps this will work out. But notice how Paul describes our situation under the law in this passage. And we could go to other places too, but he says we are in the flesh. Verse Fourteen, sold under Sin. He says that we are kind of crazy in a way, if I can put it that way. In Verse Fifteen, for I do not understand my own actions, for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. What but that's exactly what we do when we are under the law, he says in verse eighteen. Nothing good dwells in me. He says in Verse Eighteen, I have no ability to do the necessary and good thing that I need to do. He says in verse thirteen, my handwriting sloppy here. He says that we are captive to the law of sin. At the end of this chapter he describes himself as a wretched man in a body of death. These are his not the typical language of the Christian life. Being sold under sin, being in the flesh, having nothing good in you, having no ability to do what is necessary in what is good, being captive to the law of sin, being a wretched person, being in a body of death. This is not the resurrected life. Paul's going to describe that in Chapter Eight, which will get to next week. Their life under the law, though, is these things. Now, sure there is some good right. He says in Verse Twenty One that he wants to do what is right. He says in Verse Twenty Two that even delights in the law and is inner self. In Verse Twenty Five, he says he serves the law of God in his mind, you know, not in his actions, but at least in his mind. But that's true of many people. Even Pagan Philosophers and writers have spoken to these things and you've seen it in your own lives with people who are not Christians. Let me just read to you a couple quotes. One from hippolytis for four hundred and eighty two, four hundred six PC. He says, I believe in a play. That which is good we learn and recognize, yet practice it, not or ovid around an older contemporary of Paul. He says I see the better and a prove it, but I follow the worse. These are experiences of people who are under the law. You know it, you call it good, you see the good. Maybe you have people in your life that are like this and yet they don't do it. You might compare it to a man who is walking towards the edge of a cliff and God, in opening their conscience, opens their eyes and they see, oh, going to the Ende of that cliff is a bad thing. But what do they do? They walk right off. That's what being in the flesh does. That's what being in the sin. Sin Sees death and runs toward it, since he's curse and says that's what I want. Want. It's insane, but that's what sin loves. Sin Loves what is what a sin loves? A perversion and destruction. Not that the curse of God is evil in itself, but that's what it leads to and that's what our sin leads us to. So it's not enough to have...

...the law. It's not enough to have your eyes open, to have your your conscience softened to the things of the law. What does it require. It requires a savior who will deliver us from the body of sin, as pauls that calls it in Romans six, or the body of death, as he calls it here in Roman seven. Well, he can't quite hold himself back and he's so he he announces his joy even before he gets to the full argument, in Verse Twenty Six, thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, and then he finishes by saying so then I'm myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Well, if you're reading that straight and you haven't read Chapter Eight, you might say, well, Paul, why are you giving thanks? Everything you've set up to now has been terrible. The experience of being under the Law and knowing only our sinful reactions to it does not sound good. Indeed, the thing he says just before that is wretched man that I am. But it is in response to this question, who will deliver me to the bought? Who will deliver me from this body of death, that he can't hold himself back and he kind of foreshadows and gives the answer and he says thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. That's the answer, the answer to righteousness, to holiness, to law, oh be obedience to the law. Is Not more law, it's Jesus, it's the spirit of God working in us. And this is what he's going to say in Chapter Eight. Let me read a few verses for you. He says there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ, Jesus for the law of the spirit of life, not the law of Moses, but for the law of the spirit of life, has set you free, in Jesus Christ, from the Law of sin and death, for the law has done with the or sorry, for God has done with the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do by sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin. He condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in US, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the spirit. This is the good news, this is the great promise. So Win The objectors to the Gospel of God come to Paul and say well, Hey, second hold on, Paul. Are you saying that the law is sin? Are you saying that God is evil, that God is wicked in giving the law, he says, by no means. But the law, weakened by the flesh, is unable to produce the righteousness that God requires. But Jesus Christ, whom God has given, has fulfilled that law, has delivered you from this body of sin and body of death. And in him he has done this so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us. So, to conclude, is the law evil? Is The law sin? By no means the law is good. So Christians, study it, know it, learn it, follow it, ask God to make you strong in it, consider it often and obey it. You can think of the Law of God as these tracts that you're on this way and the direction that you go. If you stay on them, you arrive at your destination. If you fall off, it's a horrible wreck. But no train ever gets to its destination...

...by sitting on a track. It needs an injune. It needs to move and you don't move it by laying down more tracts, you move it by having an injuine, and that injuine that moves us, the injine that causes us to stay on the tracts and get to our destination. Is Indeed God himself, Father, son and spirit, who saves us in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us, so that we might do the things God has called us to do. So, if you find in yourself that struggle that Paul describes here, of those who are under the law, or if you find in yourself that struggle of the Christian who has in dwelling stin sin, still remaining and there is a war going on, the one he describes in Galatians, what shall you do? You shall go to Jesus, you shall seek his spirits, spirits work in you, you shall depend on him for everything and trust that he will do these things in you, even as he said he will, because he will. The resurrection of Jesus promises that, the work of the spirit, and you promises that. God promises that and will bring it about. So trust in him, put your faith in him. Let us pray.

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