Released by Death
Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
Father, we pray for Your wisdom. We ask, God, that You would instruct us, Lord; instruct us in righteousness, that we’d walk in truth and holiness. Lord, ultimately that You would be glorified; that You would be exalted in this world. Lord, if that’s to happen, even though the heavens declare Your glory, and the earth shows forth Your handiwork; if You are to be glorified and magnified among men, then it’s to be in our lives. And so God glorify Yourself in us. Transform us more and more into the image of Your Son. Make us more like Jesus. That’s what we want, Lord; we want to be more like You. So that when we are at work, or in our neighborhood, or wherever we might be, Lord, that we would represent You well; that we’d honor You with our conduct, Lord. And Lord, even in just saying that, we know, we recognize that there have been times, there may have even been times recently, maybe just even in the last few days where we’ve not honored You in our conduct. So we just confess God, we confess our sin to You, knowing that You are faithful and just to forgive us, and to cleanse us. And so we pray that You would continue to cleanse us by the washing of the water of Your word. Sanctify us by Your truth, Your word is truth. And we pray that You, by Your Spirit today, would teach us through Your word, for we ask it in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” We saw that very early on in the book of Romans; Romans, chapter 1, verse 18. His righteous judgment rightly rests upon those who practice such things, practice ungodliness and unrighteousness. So that those individuals who practice, perpetually practice such things are worthy of death. Now the hedonist, justly, is condemned. The person who openly walks in unrighteousness; their life is very well seen in their unrighteous deeds. And we look around the world, there are many people who walk after unrighteousness. And we can identify the things in them that the Bible describes as “the works of the flesh, which are evident,” Galatians, chapter 5. But we have no need to really go in depth on those things, because we want to see better things in our lives. But the hedonist walks openly in rebellion against God, and he will die, she will die for their unrighteousness, for their hedonism.
But not only the hedonist, we also saw in chapter 2 that humanity is inexcusable, whoever they are that judges. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of judgment. That is oftentimes what those who come from some sort of religious background, whatever it may be; they might be into Islam, or Buddhism, or they may be a part of one of the cults that identify themselves as Christian, those that knock on our doors from time-to-time. They may be of one of these cults, and it’s so easy when we are in some sort of religious sort of lifestyle, some sort of church-ish thing, that we begin to look at the world through the lens of our own self-righteousness, and we look out at people and we say, “Well all of those people are justly going to hell. But not us, because we keep some sort of rule or ethic.” And so he says in Romans, chapter 2, verse 1, that “you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are that judges.” The moralist will not escape the judgment of God; we saw there in chapter 2. Although they may not practice, openly practice the exact same sinful actions that the hedonist might, their guilt is still there. They are still guilty in their impenitence; in their lack of repentance, unwillingness to turn to God; they are still guilty before Him. And so they are inexcusable; and Romans, chapter 2, verse 5 says that “they are storing up for themselves wrath for the day of wrath.” These are not pretty pictures. When you read about those sorts of things, you get a picture, or I do, of a storehouse of God’s wrath. That’s not a pretty picture. And if you want to look at what wrath looks like, just read the book of Revelation. You don’t even need to do an in depth study on it. Read the book of Revelation, and you begin to see what the wrath of God looks like. Or read Genesis, chapter 6, and look at the flood upon humanity. Or read Genesis, chapter 19, and look at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Or read Joshua, chapter 7, and the destruction of Jericho. And as you look at these different things, you see just little pictures of the wrath of God, and then you read in Romans, chapter 2, verse 5, those who walk in such things are storing up for themselves, “treasuring up for themselves wrath for the day of wrath.” That’s not a pretty picture. We wouldn’t want the wrath of God to come upon anybody; or we shouldn’t.
So, the hedonist, the moralist, they are both justly condemned; but what about the truly, truly religious? Those who, as we looked at in Romans, chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3, they were of the seed of Abraham, a man who’s called righteous by God, a friend of God. What about those who are in that self-righteous religious position? Well, although they may be confident in themselves, they are “a guide to the blind, they are a light to those that are in darkness, an instructor to the foolish, a teacher of babes.” They know the truth but they “dishonor God by breaking the law.” And we come to the conclusion, as we saw in Romans, chapter 3, that “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none who understands; there are none that seek after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one.”
So, in those first three chapters of Romans, Paul zeroes in on these three segments of humanity. And all of humanity, all of the seven billion plus people who represent humankind on the face of the earth today, they all fall into one of these three categories – the hedonist, who openly walks in sin, practicing it, loving their sin. And then the moralist, who condemns the hedonist because they don’t do the things that the hedonist does, but they still judge them in their heart, clearly showing that there is a Judge in heaven, because they represent that judgment in their own hearts. But they think on, and take pleasure in the very same things that the hedonist is doing, but maybe not in an open sort of way. And then the self-righteous religious person. This represents all of humanity. Every segment of humanity is in this somewhere. And most of humanity is somewhere in the self-righteous religious category, actually. It’s actually the minority of humanity that’s walking in open practice of sin, and loving their sin very publically. Most of humanity falls into the self-righteous religious class. And Paul shows that we are all guilty before God, and all worthy of judgment, because we all have fallen short of the glory of God.
You see the standard is not your neighbor’s righteousness. The standard is not how good or bad someone down the street keeps the law; and you say, “Well, I’m better than them.” We can always find someone we’re better than, can’t we? It’s not very hard. And even if you’re really having a hard time, you can always, you know, go down to the lowest common denominator and say, “Well I’m better than Hitler.” I mean, everybody, you know; we could at least come in there. “I’m not as bad as Dahmer.” You know. What ever it may be. You can always find someone worse off. You can always find someone that seems to be more righteous too.
But the standard is not the righteousness of man; the standard is the righteousness of God. So we have all fallen short; we have all come short of the glory of God. And the illustration is often used, not because it’s wonderful, but because it’s effective, it’s as if God’s righteous standard and position was the Hawaiian Islands, and I said to you, “All right, you can take as long a running start as you can, and you run and jump off the Oceanside Pier, and let’s see how far you get.” You’re never going to reach it; never going to be able to attain, by your own skill or ability, the righteousness of God. So we all fall short; we all come short. Now, some of you may get further than others; some of you may create a bigger splash than others. But we’re not going to get there by our own strength. And that’s the purpose, as we’ve already considered, that’s the purpose of the law. “By the law comes the knowledge of sin,” Romans, chapter 3, verse 20. So, it is in the law that it is revealed that we are unrighteous. Because what the law does is it reveals righteousness. So it shows what righteousness looks like, and when we look at us on the backdrop of that, we never measure up. I remember when I was buying a diamond ring for my wife, before she was my wife. I’m looking for a diamond, an engagement ring, and you go to the store, the jewelry store; I had a friend whose parents owned a jewelry store, and so I went there. And they’re very, very nice, and they start to break out these diamonds. And as I was there, this guy walks in, and he’s got this case, and he’s just in normal street clothes, and they go, “Oh!! What a great thing!! Our diamond dealer just walked through the door.” And he’s got a gun in his back, and he’s walking around with tens of thousands of dollars of diamonds in this briefcase. He opens up this briefcase, and it’s full of just little envelopes. And he starts opening these things up and showing them to me, and some of them, they’re just awesome. And you’re looking and you go, “Oh wow!! This one looks really, really nice.” And, you know, they’re talking about the clarity and the colors, and you guys know all the “C”s of diamond buying. And I just go, “Wow!! This is neat.” You know. “It’s amazing.” And so we’re… “Well, tell me about this one right here.”
“Well, here’s the cost of this one. Here’s the color of this one.” And then they take it, and it looks so beautiful on the black piece of felt, or whatever it was, the velvet that they put there. And then they take it and they put it on a piece of white paper. And you realize it’s not quite as white as it looked. When it was on the black backdrop it looked really, really great. And then you put it on a piece of white paper and you go, “Wow! That kind of yellow. Let’s look for a different one.”
“Okay. Let’s do that!” The diamond dealer’s going, “Yes!! Let’s look for a different one.” Because you know… The yellow ones are cheaper.
The law is that white backdrop. You know, you look at us. “We’re righteous. We go to church. We tithe. We serve.” Whatever it may be. Look at us on the back of the black backdrop of humanity; we look really, really good; really good. But if you take us, and you put us with Christ as the backdrop, all of a sudden things are different, aren’t they? And so the desperate plight of all humanity.
Thankfully the story doesn’t end there; this gospel of grace. I rejoice often that the story doesn’t end there. We were dead in trespasses and sins, lost, with no hope, headed toward a frightful judgment. Scriptures describe that judgment, and it’s terrible. And then we read Romans, chapter 3; you can turn there is you like. Romans 3:21, “But now.” “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed,” comes on the scene, “being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His…” What? “…by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Righteousness, apart from the works of the law, by faith in Jesus Christ, because of grace through redemption, the redemption of Jesus Christ. Notice it says “the redemption of Jesus Christ.” There’s only one, the direct object there – the redemption of Jesus Christ. What does grace mean? Grace means that God did what we could never do. He did what we could never do. And so it’s right to even sing, “Oh the wonder of it all.” Oh the wonder of it all. Grace means that He did what we could never do. We are justified freely by His grace, through faith. And we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. “We have access by that faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Having been justified by the sacrifice that He offered there on Calvary’s Cross; we have been rescued from the wrath of God. Romans 5:9 says we’ve been rescued from that wrath. We are no longer under the wrath of Romans, chapter 1, verse 18 that is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” That wrath that is stored up for the day of wrath, Romans 2, verse 5. We’ve been rescued from that, pulled from the fires of that wrath, by His rich and abounding mercy and love. He has poured it out upon us, He has demonstrated it for us in the crucifixion, there. Romans chapter 5, verse 8, “He demonstrates His love towards us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He’s made us alive together with Him by grace. Ephesians, chapter 2 says this justification by grace is something that only God could do; only He could affect this. And so we want to, or we should want to grow in that grace continually. And in the ages to come, Ephesians, chapter 2, verse 7 says in the ages to come He’s going to be revealing to us the greatness, the riches of grace. It’s going to take all eternity for us to comprehend the riches of God’s grace. We don’t even begin to scratch the surface of it here and now on earth. You cannot fathom the depths of the grace of God.
The problem is that having been made positionally righteous, we’re seated in Christ, in heavenly places, Paul says in the book of Ephesians. So, we are positionally right with God. We’re in a right standing with God. The problem is we still think, speak, and act unrighteously. Can I get an “Amen?” Anybody say, “Yeah, that’s true. I still find myself in that place?” Every Christian, if we’re honest, will confess that this is our experience. We still fall short of the glory of God. Now, I know, I’ve met some people, godly people, love the Lord, go to church, worship Jesus, serve Jesus; they say, “Christians do not sin. I don’t sin.” That’s what they say.
And they take that from 1 John, chapter 3, verse 9, where it says, “One who is born of God does not sin.” The problem is they’re not looking at the real weight of what is being said there. Because when it says, “does not sin,” it’s the present active indicative in the Greek, and it means perpetually practice sin. That’s true; Christians do not perpetually practice sin. They can’t live their entire life walking in sin. But in the same book, just a couple chapters before that, the author of that same letter, John says, “If you say that you have no sin, you’re a liar.” So, how do you divorce those two? I don’t know, but I’ve had some interesting discussions with people who believe that – Christians do not sin. Now if that’s the case, I’m not a Christian. Because I’ll just be honest with you guys, I fall short of God’s glory – regularly. Ask my wife. She probably won’t tell you, because she’s very nice. But your spouse knows what others may not. But you can’t hide it from your spouse. We still fall short of God’s glory. I believe God gives us a spouse just for that purpose, in a lot of ways, a sanctifying spouse. That’s what it is, I mean. Right? God places you in this relationship… You love your spouse; you love your wife, and yet God uses that tool of your spouse to transform you. And if you fight against it, you have an unpleasant marriage. Seriously. So we want to grow in Christ.
The temptation, because we have received such grace from God, as sinners before salvation, the temptation is to think that it is okay to continue to walk in sin as saints. But there’s something that has taken place. There’s a transformation that has taken place. We saw in Romans, chapter 5, verse 20 that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound;” so the temptation is to think, “Well if grace came in abundance when I was walking in the abundance of sin, then it might be okay for me to continue to walk in that way and receive the abundance of grace.”
But Paul has been answering those questions, and showing that, no, that’s not the case. God has taken us from those things. He says, “May it never be. God forbid.” May it never be that we fall into that pattern of thinking that says, “Well it’s okay for me to continue to walk in this, because God is gracious.”
Yes, He is gracious. But He wants that we would represent Him well as ambassadors of Christ here in this world. That we’d walk in a way that is glorifying to Him. May it never be, but some do. And for those who do, Paul reminds us that we have died to sin, there in Romans, chapter 6, in the first section. We’ve died to sin, that we should no longer live in it. Our old nature has been crucified with Christ, so that we can now walk in righteousness. Through the new birth, through that baptism experience, we’ve been transformed; and so we’re free from sin. We don’t have to walk in those things any longer. We’re no longer under the dominion of sin; we’re now under grace. We’re no longer under the judgment of God’s law; we’re under grace. But the concept of the release from being under the law causes huge questions. And Paul addressed those questions in the second half of chapter 6, where he says, “Well shall we sin because we’re no longer under the law?” If I’ve been released from the law, and I’ve got Diplomatic Immunity, if you will, then that means that I can do whatever I want. I can speed through this life and do whatever I want because I’ve got immunity, because of the grace of Christ. But may it never be. God forbid. Certainly not, says Paul, in response to that question. Why? Because we are ambassadors of Christ. We represent the King of kings, who is righteous. We represent His kingdom, which is a righteous kingdom. And so, as representatives of Him, and as representatives of His kingdom, we want to shine His lights in a world in which there is immense darkness. And this is exactly what Jesus says to us in the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the light to the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.” Nor do we place a light under a bushel. Oh no. I’m gonna let it shine. Right? Any of you ever sing that in children’s ministry before? If you haven’t, you should sign up for children’s ministry; it’s a good song. Kids love that song. Perpetual practice of sin hides the light. It hides the light. May it never be so. May we be that city set on a hill that cannot easily be hid.
And so as we come here to Romans, chapter 7, Paul is going to return to the concept that he left off with at the end of Romans, chapter 6, verse 14. You see, what we looked at last week in Romans, chapter 6, the second half, verses 15 through 23, is kind of like a digression. Paul is known, in his letters, for his digressions. Some of them last chapters. When we were going through 1 Corinthians you may remember that Paul had like a four chapter digression. It was like big parentheses, and then he comes back to what he was talking about. The reason for that, and we should recognize this, is that the First Century culture, and just about every other culture in the world, other than cultures in the Western World, post Gutenberg Press, have been oral-driven cultures. Paul’s letters were written by a scribe; he would dictate these things. So he’s speaking these things, and so the concept of orality comes in to all of this. Orality, not morality. Orality; and that speaks of the fact that these people, they would speak these things; these were teachings, these were lessons, things that he is saying, and someone is writing this down as a letter. And so, you may know, and I sometimes do this, you know, I digress. But the problem is, a lot of times, we’re not as good as Paul was at this, so our digressions can go on, and then we never come back to our main point. Paul always comes back to his main point. Which is good.
So, in chapter 6, verse 14, we read this: “For sin shall not have dominion over you.” Why? “For you are not under the law but under grace.” In the preceding verses after that, verses 15 through 23, he talked about what it meant to be “not under the law, but under grace.” Now he’s going to explain how it is that this comes about. So you can read Romans 6, verse 14 right in to chapter 7, verse 1. Let’s do that; look at it with me again: “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law but under grace. Or do you not know, brethren,” 7, verse 1, “(for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?” How is it possible that we can move from being under the law to being under grace. You see, the law is a covenant relationship. We are in covenant through the law. Now Paul, notice he says there, parenthetically, “I speak to those who know the law.” So he is, in one way, very specifically speaking to those who know the law, which would be his Jewish brothers and sisters who would read this. Now, how many of you here this morning have Jewish heritage? Raise your hand if you do. Very few. So you see? Very, very few. We’re a bunch of Gentiles – Gentile pigs. [laughter] And so we don’t necessarily come under the covenant of the Mosaic Law given there in Exodus 20, at Mt. Sinai. In Exodus, chapter 19, the descendants of Abraham, the Jewish people, they covenanted with God under the Law. Three times they said, “All that You have said, we will do, and be obedient.” They made a covenant with God, by their words. They entered into that covenant. And then it was sealed with blood; it was sealed by a sacrifice. So they’re making vows: “All that You have said, we will do, and be obedient.” How many of you entered into a covenant by a vow; a marriage covenant? How many of you? So you’re making a vow, before witnesses. All of the heavenly hosts are witnesses of that vow there in Exodus, chapter 19, as the nation of Israel entered into covenant with God under the law. So specifically, Paul is speaking to the covenanted people of God under the law. However, all of us, through God’s creative work, He has created us in His image and imprinted us with His conscience, we all are, in a sense, under the law of God. Maybe not necessarily under the Mosaic Law, we’re still under the law of God. So this does apply to us Gentile pigs. So we should read this carefully, and understand it and comprehend it.
So you are not under the law but under the grace. “Or do you now know, brethren, that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?” The law has dominion over a man as long as he lives. Now this is the third time in this section of scripture that Paul says, “Or do you not know; don’t you know this?” The implication is: you should know this; this is something we should comprehend; we should grasp this. Romans 6, verse 14, Paul proclaimed that we are no longer under the law; he’s now going to fully explain how it is that we can be released from that. How can we be set free from that? The law, in this section of scripture, is the prime focus. And in Romans, chapter 7, verses 1 through 12, the word law or commandment is used 18 times. So in 14 verses, 18 times God refers to, through the apostle Paul, law or commandment. It’s in every verse of this section. Law, law, law, law, law, commandment. So that should clue us in to the fact that this is the theme of the section – the law. So Paul has said, in Romans 6, verse 14, you’re no longer under the law, now he’s going to explain. How is that possible? Because if you know anything of a covenant, made by vows before a witness, sealed with a sacrifice, it is a binding covenant. Now that covenant can be broken; someone can break covenant. And a person who transgresses the law, breaks covenant. But they can never be released from that covenant. The covenant is to be binding. So if we’re under this covenant relationship, under the law, how can it be possible that we could be released from that covenant? Imagine saying to a judge, “Judge, I just decided that the law didn’t apply to me, that I had to drive 65 miles per hour on the interstate. I just determined, it doesn’t apply to me. Yes, I recognize I broke your law, your covenant; but I recognize also that I’m just no longer under that. I just decided I’m not under that.” What is the judge going to say? After he laughs, he’s going to throw the book at you. You’re under the law, as a citizen of this nation; you’re under the law. You can’t just get out from under that. Now, of course, we saw in Romans, chapter 4, verse 15, “where there is no law, there is no transgression.” But the law has been given, and under it transgression or sin abounds. So there is an abundance of transgression and sin under the law. How can one be released from abiding under the law? Now, as I mentioned last week in talking about this, it’s not that we are released from the law in that we have no duty to follow it any longer; we’re released from the judgment of the law, the penalty of the law, being transgressed, is no longer over us because we’re in Christ and in grace. But the law has dominion over a man, Paul says, as long as he lives. And so then Paul goes on to illustrate this in verses 2 and 3. The law has dominion over someone as long as he lives. Simply put, and we really don’t have to spend much time on this concept, the law only has rule, authority, and jurisdiction over us if you’re alive. You know, if you walk out on to your big parcel of private property, lets say you’ve got thousands of acres of private property, and you walk out there and you find a dead body on your private property. You call the police and say, “Listen, this guy’s trespassing and I want you to arrest him and get him off my private property.”
“Why is he dead on your property? I don’t think we’re going to get mad at him, we want to talk with you.”
But this dead individual on your private property, what are you going to do to him? Take him to court and say, “Judge, he’s on private property. I want you to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.”
“He’s dead!! What am I going to do?”
So, it makes perfect sense. The law has dominion over someone as long as he’s alive; but if he dies, law doesn’t have dominion. So then Paul illustrates this concept. Now this is something that his Jewish readers would understand perfectly; because they understand the Jewish law, they understand that rule of the law. But he’s writing to a church that’s predominately Gentile, non-Jews. And so he illustrates. And the illustration that he uses is masterful, because it’s an illustration that is cross-culturally recognized, because he talks about marriage. It’s not just a Jewish concept. Look at verses 2 and 3. “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he is alive. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.” Makes sense. Yea, okay, we got that. Just about every single culture can comprehend this. Why? Marriage was instituted by God, in the Garden of Eden, with the first humans; and that spread, that concept of marriage had spread to all humanity. So every culture you go to has some form of this idea of marriage. So the woman who is bound by the law to her husband, is bound as long as he lives. He dies, she’s released. “So if,” verse 3, “while her husband lives, she marries another,” what’s she going to be called? An adulteress. Her husband’s still alive, she marries another; she’s an adulteress. “But, if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress, though she’s married another man.” Makes sense? Pretty simple.
Verse 4, “Therefore,” so now he applies the illustration. Gave the illustration, cross-culturally recognized – marriage is binding as long as the two are alive, one of the them dies, no longer bound by the marriage relationship. “Therefore, my brethren.” Now notice that; he’s speaking to who? “My brethren.” Now he uses that word, my brethren, many times in this book, the book of Romans. He started the book by calling them his brothers, back in Romans, chapter 1, verse 13. He’s not used it since, because he was talking about justification. He was talking about the entrance of sinners into salvation. And if you’re a sinner, and you’ve not come into salvation, you’re not one of the brethren; you’re not part of the body of Christ. But as soon as you’re in Christ, now he begins to use these words again. Romans, chapter 7, he opened it with “My brethren.” So now, once again, he’s speaking to those who are within the body of Christ, speaking to Christians, he says, “Therefore;” because of this illustration, “my brethren,” the church, “you also have become dead to the law.” How? “…through the body of Christ.” You’ve died to the law through the body of Christ. “…that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead.” Who’s that? Jesus. “…to Him who was raised from the dead, so that we should bear fruit to God.” So the simple illustration is given in verses 2 and 3; now he applies it for us, so that we’d comprehend, “What exactly are you talking about, Paul?”
So we have become dead to the law, Romans 6, verse 14: “you are not under the law, brethren.” How is it that that could be possible? Because we are in a covenant relationship with the law, we’re covenanted with the law. And so it’s as if you’re married to the law. How do you get out of that, and be married to another? Because Paul uses the wording, “we are the bride of Christ,” in the book of Ephesians, and elsewhere; so, we are married to Christ. How do we get out of this relationship with the law? And remember, he’s speaking in earthly terms that we can comprehend. He says, “Okay, we’re married to the law. How do we get rid of that covenant, so that we can be married to another and still maintain righteousness in the middle of it? How could that be a righteous good thing?” Well someone has to die in that covenanted relationship. And it’s not the law, because the law is holy, just, and good. It’s not as if the law is a bad husband. If you will, using the illustration, the law is Mr. Perfect. Mr. Perfect. How many of you, when you got married, thought you were marrying Mr. Perfect? I tricked my wife. [laughter] The law is Mr. Perfect. He cooks, he cleans, he organizes, he fixes the car, he does everything; everything perfectly; towels are always perfectly straight, the toilet paper’s always the perfect right way (over the top, indeed, just by the way), all the cans in the cupboard, the labels are turned just perfectly, everything done perfectly. That’s the law. It’s Mr. Perfect. The problem is, he requires perfection. “How come you didn’t put that can in that cupboard the right way?” Mr. Perfect’s really hard to live with. You may want Mr. Perfect, but let me tell you something, he’s really hard to live with. Because nothing’s ever right. He’s holy, he’s just, he’s good, he’s perfect. Perfect. Your girlfriends ask you, “How is he?”
“He’s perfect. It’s terrible. He never yells at me. He never gets mad at me. I get frustrated with him; it’s terrible. Can’t do anything.” He’s perfect. That’s the law. So, he’s not going to die. He’s not done anything wrong. In fact, on the point of him not dying, Jesus said, in Matthew, chapter 5, verse 18, “Assuredly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle will pass away from all the law until it’s all fulfilled.” So the law is never going to pass away, as Jesus says it. So, he’s not going to die. Someone’s got to die to get out of this covenanted relationship.
So we saw, Romans, chapter 6, verse 3, because Paul says here in chapter 7, verse 4, “we are dead to the law through the body of Christ.” So Romans, chapter 6, verse 3 again, “Do you not know that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?” So, as many of us as were born again, by the Spirit of God, “that which is born of flesh is flesh, that which is born of Spirit is spirit,” Jesus says to Nicodemus in John, chapter 3. So we were born of the Spirit of God, that’s a baptism spiritually, which is symbolized by the physical mode of baptism, “so as many of you as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death. Therefore we are buried with Him in baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life. For,” verse 5, Romans 6, “if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” So, in Christ, we’ve died to the law, which we were married to, covenanted with. The law is not going to pass away, but we die in Christ with Him. And He takes the full punishment of God’s law and judgment for our sin upon Himself.
Now, why did this happen? Why did we die with Christ? “So that,” verse 4 of Romans, chapter 7 again, “so that we may be married to another.” So that we could be released to be married to Him…” To who? “…to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.” So, we are buried with Him, with Jesus, in baptism; we rise with Him; we are covenanted now with Jesus. Essentially, although we’re never told in the Bible to say a sinner’s prayer; I know a lot of people really exalt that; you have to say The Sinners Prayer, you’ve got to seal the deal and say the sinners prayer. That may be well and good, but the reality is that “when we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus,” Romans, chapter 10, which we’ll see in a number of weeks; when we’re confessing Him as Lord and Christ, we’re entering into a covenant relationship with Him; the witness of the Holy Spirit is bearing witness to this. And so we’re dying to the law, which we were married to, to be married to another; now we enter into a covenanted relationship with Jesus. We’re attached to Him now. Now, let me just tell you, He is Mr. Perfect, too, also. But He’s also gracious; He’s gracious.
Now all of this so that we should bear fruit to God. Well that begs the question: What does it mean to “bear fruit to God?” Because that sounds like just one of those flowery spiritual things that Christians say. Doesn’t it? I mean, “I’m bearing fruit to God.”
And people go, “Wow! That’s amazing. What exactly is that?”
Seriously! There are just some things that we say that even we go, “I have no idea.”
We look around, “I don’t know what that means. I haven’t a clue.”
So, what does it mean to “bear fruit to God?” Well, let me just give you some passages of scripture that talk about fruit in the New Testament. Romans 6:22 says, we bring forth the “fruit of holiness;” Romans 6:22 – the “fruit of holiness.” You know where I’m going, Galatians chapter 5, verses 22 and 23, which we have the “fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, self-control, those sort of things. So, Romans 6:22; Galatians 5:22 and 23, the fruit of the Spirit; Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 9. Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 9; it talks about the fruit of the Spirit in “goodness and righteousness; the fruit of the Spirit in goodness and righteousness. So doing things that are good, doing things that are right before God. That’s fruit, bearing fruit to Him. Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 11 talks about the “fruit of righteousness.” Now how does God bring forth the fruit of righteousness in our life? By His chastening, “whom the Lord loves he chastens.” The chastening of the Lord is to bring forth fruit of righteousness. Any of you been chastened by Jesus? To bring forth fruit to righteousness. Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 15 talks about the fruit of praise; Hebrews 13:15 – the fruit of praise. Jesus tells us in John, chapter 15, verse 16, that true disciples bring forth fruit that remains. In Matthew, chapter 7, verse 20, He tells us that true disciples bring forth fruit that glorifies Him, brings praise and glory to Him. So those are some of the things about fruit, in the scriptures, that are to be borne in our lives, produced in our lives unto God. This ultimately is by His Spirit working in us.
There are, however, hindrances to fruit bearing. There are very clear hindrances to fruit bearing. And the first thing that comes to my mind, in contemplating that, is the parable of the sower, in Matthew, chapter 13: And the sower went forth to sow seed; and some seed fell upon, you remember the four different soils – there’s rocky soil, and there’s soil with thorns, and so forth; and some fell by the wayside, and some fell on good soil, and it came forth and produced fruit; some 60- and 100-fold, and so forth. But there are, in that passage, hindrance to fruit bearing; things like the cares of this world; things like a shallow reception of God’s word. Only, James talks about this, only allowing God’s word to kind of just penetrate skin deep; looking in the mirror of God’s word and walking away and forgetting what kind of person you are, instead of allowing it to transform your life. Jesus says, “Blessed are you if you not only hear His words, but do them.” So if we only have a shallow reception of God’s word in our lives, we will not bear fruit to God. So the cares of this world; a shallow reception of God’s word; those things will hinder fruit bearing. Another thing that will hinder the bearing of fruit, in the parable of the sower, is “birds came and took the seed away.” The enemy, our adversary, the devil, he can hinder fruit bearing in our lives, by temptation, or buffeting, or whatever it may be. Now the Bible says, “Resist him! Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you, and the enemy will flee from you.” So we have the information on how to resist him, that we would bear fruit.
Romans 7, verse 5, back to the text. “For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.” So, in chapter 7, verse 4, he said we want to bear fruit to God – fruit of righteousness, fruit of holiness, and goodness, the fruit of the Spirit. We want to produce these things in our lives, have them be produced in our lives, for the glory of God, to Him. Not just for us, so people will go, “Wow. You’re so good.” No!. It’s so we can point people to Jesus, because they’re going to “see your good works,” Matthew, chapter 5, and do what? “Glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
So, here in chapter 7, verse 5, he says, “Well, in the past, when you were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by law, they were at work in your members.” We talked about last week, our members are any faculty that is under our control – our mind, our body. “…in our members to bear fruit to death.” Now we’re going to look at this more fully in the next section, next week; my plan was to go through verse 12 this morning, and as I studied this text this last week, I just went, “There’s no way. Too ambitious.” But we’ll look at this more fully in our study next time. But, be that as it may, when we were in the flesh… Now, in this text, I’m reading from the New King James Version, it is in the past tense – “when we were in the flesh.” Now the Greek is not in the past tense, the Greek is in the imperfect. Now that may not make a lot of sense. I want to try to explain it in a way that will make sense. The concept is not that, “Hey, this is what it was long ago, and you’re never in that; no longer ever in that again.” The idea of the imperfect is that, “while we were in the flesh.” The implication is that you can still walk in the flesh now. The exhortation is going to come, in Romans, chapter 8, “do not walk after the flesh, but walk after the Spirit.” And in Christ we have the ability to do that. That which we did not have when we were married to the law; we did not have the Spirit of God indwelling us. Jesus, in that baptism experience of His disciples, in John, chapter 20; He breathes of them and says, “Receive thee the Holy Spirit.” He said in John, chapter 16, “The Spirit of God is in you, He shall be in you.” And so we have the Spirit of God, as Christians, in us. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians, chapter 3 and again in chapter 6, “we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.” So God’s Spirit is in us; so we can walk after the Spirit. But that’s where we’re going in Romans, chapter 8. We’ll get there. This is a tough text here. That’s the glory. “All things work together for good to those that are in Christ.” You know. “There is therefore no condemnation…” We’ll get there…in a month. We have to wade through this first.
So, when we were in the flesh, or while we walked in the flesh… While we walked in the flesh, the law, Paul says, “inflames the indwelling passions of sin.” Now, in Romans, chapter 5, at the end of the chapter we talked about Adam’s Bomb. Remember that? “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and death spread to all humanity, for all sinned.” So we have, resident within us, in this nature, this, which 1 Corinthians 15 says is corrupted, this corrupted body, there’s sin resident within – indwelling sin. And we saw, a couple of weeks ago, that that sin resident in us, has desires, sinful desires, passions for things that are against God. So Paul says here, “when we are walking in the flesh, the sinful passions,” indwelling passions of sin, “which were aroused by the law.” So the law ignites those sinful passions. Let me put it in a, kind of an illustrative sort of idea: In physics, there’s the concept of potential energy. Have you guys ever heard of potential energy? A bucket of gasoline has potential energy in it. A rock, a big boulder sitting on top of a hill, has potential energy in it. But it needs some force to act upon it to turn it into kinetic energy; that now it’s moving, now it’s got that inertia. So here’s that bucket of gasoline, and by itself just sitting there, it’s inert, it’s not doing anything. But there’s a way in which you can release; and guys love the release of EXPLOSION. I wanted to be a pyrotechnician all growing up; that’s what I wanted, to blow things up!! I go to the air show, and they do that wall of fire, and I’m like, “Oh yeah!!” So, yes!! [breathes] Get it out. O, sinful passions! All right – gasoline. Come back, come back. Gasoline – potential energy.
Indwelling sin, in me, in you, it has potential energy. And the law is like the igniter!! And that law somehow, in some way, because of sinful passions, it stirs us to sin. It makes us want to… The sign says, I’ve used this before, the sign says: WET PAINT, DON’T TOUCH. What do we want to do? [pop] “Whatever you do, don’t touch that button.” Right? It’s like, it’s just, it inflames it. So, there is indwelling sin in us. We’re going to be released from this when we’re glorified to be with Christ. But it’s there; and the law in some way, it like ignites that, it turns that potential energy into the kinetic energy of our sinful actions. And so he says that right here. So the sinful passions, they’re aroused or they’re unlocked by; that word aroused there or inflamed, it really means to be set free or to be stirred up by the law at work in our members, our faculties, whatever’s under our control, and those things, they bring forth fruit to death. So, in the past we walked in the flesh; or maybe in your Christian life you found yourself walking in the flesh; and in that condition, God‘s law, when we’re presented with it, it acts upon our hearts, our conscience; His law is presented to us and ignites sinful desires. James tells us, the apostle James, in James, chapter 1, verses 14 and 15, that “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires, he’s enticed. And then that desire, when it is conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is fully grown, it brings forth death.” So, Paul says there that the sinful desires, the passions of sin, they’re aroused by the law in our members, our faculties, and then we end up doing things that are sinful, and they bring forth death. Now, he’s speaking to believers; remember the context was my brethren, my brethren. So, believers, followers of Jesus Christ, have been justified by Jesus, their hope, absolute certainty is eternal life with Christ. So, the death that he is speaking of here is not necessarily an eternal death, or a punishment or a judgment of the second death. But there is a death that can take place in the life of the believer. We talked about this previously; the death of a witness, the death of joy, many other deaths come in the life of the Christian, the death of the fruit of the Spirit, come by walking in the flesh, and fulfilling the desires of the flesh, which are sinful; it leads to death.
Now, of course, the question comes up, and it came up last Sunday night; if you don’t know, on Sunday nights, one of the things that we do is people can text their questions in, and at the end of the service, we do kind of a Q and A on those questions. And so one of the questions came in, and it had to do; actually two questions came in, and they both had to do with the concept of “What about eternal security then? Are you saying that a person can continue to walk in sin and they’ll be okay?” Well, yes and no. And the reason I say, “Yes and no,” is this: that, as I mentioned previously in 1 John, chapter 3, verse 9, a Christian, a person who has been born of God, does not walk in perpetual practice of sin. If they are walking in sin, and you’re a Christian, you will sense the convicting work of the Spirit of God. If however, you meet a person who goes to church, and they maybe even serve at a church, and they say, “Well I have no conviction of sin. I’ve been doing this thing my whole life. Yeah, the Bible says I’m not supposed to be living with my girlfriend and sleeping around, but, you know, I don’t think there’s any problem with it.” You have no conviction of sin, you meet somebody that doesn’t have any conviction of sin, preach the gospel to them; even if they say they’re a Christian, preach the gospel to them. They need the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do believe that we are eternally secure in Christ, as we abide in Him. We are eternally secure in Him, and He has placed us in Him by the Spirit of God, and “His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” But we’re eternally secure in Him. I do not think that we are eternally secure in sin. There is a difference.
For while we walked in the flesh, we walked in sin leading to death, verse 6, “But now,” another but now of the scriptures. We love the buts of the Bible. “But now we have been delivered from the law,” we were married to the law, we’ve been set free by death in Christ, having died to what we were held by, “so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not of the oldness of the letter.” We’ve been set free from the control of sin, and we now can walk in the newness of the Spirit because we are set free from the flesh, and set free from the judgment of God’s law. We have been set free, and if anyone, “whom the Son sets free, is free indeed.”
Well the question then comes: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin?” I mean, if we have to be set free from it, if we have to die to it, is there something wrong with the law? Well I intended to go there this week, but I ran out of time.
Let’s stand together.
Next week, Romans 7 – “The good things that I want to do, I don’t do; the bad things I don’t want to do, that I practice. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” This is not a theoretical concept that Paul is presenting. This is, I believe, a very real turmoil that the apostle Paul went through in his life as a Christian. We want to get to: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” But we have to go through the next section. I encourage you to read ahead.
Father, thank You for Your word. Thank you that it is true that whom You set free is free indeed. Help us to walk in that freedom in a way that brings glory to You, honors You. Father, we thank You. We thank You that You’re doing a work in us, Your church, and You want to work through us, Your church, that we would bring glory to You. So God enable us by Your Spirit to do that, to walk in things that honor You, to walk in things that ultimately bring great joy and satisfaction to us. We ask this in Jesus name. Amen.