In 5:20 Paul has proclaimed that God multiplies Grace where sin increases so he knows people will wonder whether this means that sin does not matter in the Christian life. After all, since sin makes grace more abundant why not continue in sin? It seems that Paul had been accused of teaching this false doctrine, called antinomianism. This word is from two Greek words meanings against (anti) nomos (the law). They believed that Christians are freed by grace from the necessity of obeying the Mosaic law. It is their belief that there are no moral laws God expects Christians to obey. They have taken a Biblical teaching that is, Christians are not required to observe the Old Testament law as a means of salvation and twisted it to mean Christians do not have to obey the law at all. To silence his accusers, Paul shows in chapter six that a believer who continues in sin would be denying his or her own identity in Christ. The thought of a believer living in sin in order to take advantage of grace was abhorrent to Paul. The reason believers should not live in sin is that they have died to sin. Paul makes it clear that our new relationship to sin is possible because of our vital connection with the death of Jesus. To be dead to sin does not mean to be entirely insensitive to sin and temptation. We as believers are still involved in a battle with sin. But, Christians no longer have to live as hapless slaves to sin. In Christ we can choose not to sin.
Water baptism is a symbol of the spiritual union of Christ and the believer. When a person trusts Christ, they are incorporated into, united to, Jesus Christ which means being united to His death. His death becomes our death. But baptism has no value apart from faith. The believer’s power over sin and the ability to lead a new life stem from Identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. From God’s perspective, Jesus’ death to sin is ours as well. His rising to new life means that we also begin to lead a new life and in the future our bodies will also be raised. Having died and been raised with Christ, believers should live a new kind of life. Our old selves are not a nature that we possess or just one part of who we are. It reflects who we were in Adam. All human beings were born in Adam. As heirs of the sin and death that he introduced into the world, we were slaves to the power of sin. The old has been put to death by Jesus dying on the cross and being raised from the dead. Simply put, a believer is not the same person he or she was before conversion. A believer is a new creation in Christ. There are two reasons for crucifying the old. First is that the body of sin must be done away with. And second is that we should no longer be slaves to sin. Believers are new people who are no longer enslaved to the old sinful nature. In Jesus Christ we have been set free from the power of sin that ruled our former lives.
Believing that we will live with Christ introduces a new idea. Christians must not only know that they have died to sin and have been made alive with Christ, they must also believe it. Believers are already raised with Christ spiritually, but eventually we will also be raised bodily with Him at the time of His coming glory. Christ died for sin once and for all. He is now alive and sitting at the right hand of God. Jesus was never under sin’s power in the way that we are because He had no sin nature from Adam and He never succumbed to temptation. However, when He became human Jesus entered the arena where sin holds sway, and He was truly vulnerable to sin. And, since believers have died with Christ and have also been raised with Him, Paul now urges Christians to consider themselves dead to sin. This does not mean we will not sin. It means that we are free and able to resist it because of the power of Christ in us. Now sin has no right to reign so Paul admonishes the believer not to obey it. While verse 12 has the whole body in view, verse 13 focuses on the individual parts of the body, like the hands or the mouth. Believers are not to present parts of their bodies as a means of sinning. In other words; do not use your hands to steal or your tongue to lie. Instead believers are called to use their bodies as instruments of righteousness for the glory of God.
Believers no longer live under the requirements of the law, meaning that with the Messiah’s coming the era governed by the law of Moses came to an end. Now we live under the freedom of God’s grace. The Mosaic law was an external law which served to reveal sin that is prevalent in human hearts. God’s Grace places the believer in Christ and the Holy Spirit in the believer. The law was the governing power of the old covenant. Jesus is the governing power of the new covenant. Paul points out that we become slaves to whatever we choose to obey. Everyone is a slave to something…person, possession, or activity. But a Christian should be a slave only to God’s righteousness. In the first part of Romans, Paul uses the Greek word for righteousness in a judicial sense referring to the activity of God to set people in a right relationship with Himself or, to the righteous standing that believers enjoy as a result of Christ’s work. Here Paul uses the same word as it is often used in the Old Testament, meaning the right behavior that God demands fromHis people. Paul speaks of believers being slaves to righteous living. Being a slave in the ancient world meant being owned by a master. Whether slaves obeyed or not, did not change their status as slaves. It would however affect their relationship with their master.
Paul used the Greek word “sarx”, meaning human nature or flesh, to refer to the frailty and proneness to sin that characterizes humans. Paul uses the illustration of slavery to show the relationship of the human nature to sin. He also spoke of the freedom from the obligation to do right, in other words being free from righteousness. Either Paul means that unbelievers feel no obligation to obey God or, they are unable to do so. This freedom that they boast of actually makes them slaves to sin. The child of God who lives in sin, lives in the sphere of death with the ultimate result being physical death. Throughout chapters 5-8 Paul uses death to describe the eternal consequences of sin. This goes all the way back to God’s warning to Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:17). This is not primarily physical death. Instead it denotes separation from true fellowship with God that if not reversed through faith in Jesus Christ, will last forever.
Both Jewish Christians and many of the Gentile Christians were familiar with the law. Jews were taught the law of Moses from birth. Many of the Gentiles in the church in Rome had been God-Fearers, Gentiles who were interested in Judaism, and they attended the synagogue regularly. Now Paul is teaching that the law only applies while a person is living. In verses 2-3 Paul makes two basic points. Death can release a person from obligation to the law and freedom from one relationship can allow a person to establish a new one. Christians have died to the law so they are no longer bound to it. Paul often refers to the law of Moses as representing the old addage of sin and death, but through Union with Christ in His death, believers are set free. For Paul, being in the flesh means being dominated by sin and it’s hostility to God. He also reminds his readers that when we are in rebellion against God, His commands spark in us a desire to do the exact opposite of what He commands. When he speaks of the letter of the law he is referring to the letters that were literally engraved in the stone tablets using individual letters.
From verses 7-25 Paul explains how God’s law is good in order to guard against any notion that it is evil in and of itself. Sin can exist without the law although it may be dormant. Without standards of right and wrong there can be no judgement of what is sin and what is not. By expressing God’s demands, the commandments stimulate rebellion in sinful human beings and the commandments of God become an occasion for sin to accomplish its deadly purpose. The law of Moses did not solve Israel’s sin problem but exposed and exacerbated it. This is always the effect that God’s law, by itself, has on sinful human beings. With the law we have a greater accountability to God, which brings the power of sin to life and the result is greater judgement. The Old Testament promised a blessed and secure life to those who obeyed the law. But humans inherit from Adam a strong tendency to sin. So when God’s commands come to us, we do not naturally obey them, but resist and disobey them. Instead of bringing life, the law only confirms and exposes our lost and helpless condition. We need a change of heart that the law cannot provide. The root of our struggles is that sin lives in us. Paul has experienced a divide between his will and his actions. He has struggled, as many of us do, and sin is so invasive that it affects the whole person, especially in our interactions in the physical world.
Chapter eight concluded the argument from chapters 5-7 that neither sin nor the law can keep believers from having eternal life. Paul can triumphantly proclaim that those who belong to Jesus Christ need not fear that they will be condemned for their sins. Now Paul depicts the freedom of living in the Spirit. There is no condemnation because we are no longer under the law but empowered by the Holy Spirit to live for and in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is a power that frees the believer from the power of sin that leads to death. The law could pronounce judgement on sin but it could not do anything about sin itself. Jesus identified with sinful people so that He could be their representative and redeem them. Jesus did not inherit a sinful nature from Adam like we did. Paul reminds his readers that Christ was the sin offering that brought forgiveness and turned away God’s wrath. God condemned sin in Christ, our substitute, so that we could escape condemnation. Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the law for us.
When sin controls us we know death, but when the Spirit controls us we know life and peace. The choice is ours. Unbelievers still live under the dominion of Adam’s sinful nature, while the Spirit opposes sin and brings life in Christ. Death is the consequence of sin and those who consistently yield to it will suffer spiritual death and eternal condemnation. But the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and makes it possible for them to turn away from sin. The result is eternal life with the Lord. In the Old Testament the phrase children of God referred to Israel, the people God called His own. Paul uses it to remind believers that they enjoy an intimate relationship with God and that they will inherit many of the promises and blessings given to Israel. Christians are no longer minors or slaves but mature children with full rights. Being led by the Spirit is virtually synonymous with walking according to the Spirit. Walking highlights the active participation and effort of the believer. Being led underscores the passive side, the submissive dependence of the believer in themSpirit.
Believers are the sons of God because they have received the spirit of adoption. In ancient Rome an adopted son would possess all the rights of a son born into a family. Christians have been adopted into God’s family, receiving an eternal inheritance. And because we have been adopted we can call God abba, or daddy. It is used in an intimate family context. Jesus used this word to address God the Father, and now all those who become children of God through Jesus have the privilege of addressing God in the same way. Jesus is heir to all of God’s promises and as those who belong to Jesus, we share in that glorious inheritance. But, just as it was for Jesus, our path is also marked by suffering. We experience the difficulties that come from trying to live righteously in a world dominated by sin. When Paul speaks of all creation he means animals, plants, and the earth itself. Everything was tainted by that first sin. And just as the entire world was harmed by Adam’s fall into sin, it will share in the blessings that God has promised His people. Creation awaits the coming glory because it also will be delivered. Even we believers groan in waiting because we are expressing a longing for God’s deliverance from the difficulties and oppression of this life. However, we also have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of what awaits us in the future glory. Although we have already been adopted by God as His children, the full rights of that adoption, our inheritance, are not ours yet. We live in the tension between already and not yet. Jesus has already come and defeated sin, death, and evil, but He has not yet returned in glory to cast evil into the lake of fire once and for all.
Verse 26 offers the contrast between our ability to know how to pray and the effective prayer of the Spirit Himself. The emphasis is that the Spirit Himself prays for us. He intercedes on our behalf before the throne of God. But His intercession cannot be uttered. When we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit is interceding for us before God. Paul tells us that all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose. All circumstances work together, the good and the bad which means the believer will be conformed to Jesus now and will reign with Him latter. Those who love God are in fact those who are called by Him. Our love is our response to the Holy Spirit working in us. We are called according to His purpose. In other words, God does everything, including redemption, in order to accomplish His overarching plan. Verses 29-30 are challenging and I will write on the subject of election on Thursday, our free day. What shall we say to these things?! These things refer to God’s purpose and Paul follows this up with a rhetorical question. Since God has done the greatest thing, giving his one and only Son, will He not freely give us all things? And if God, the supreme judge justifies, then who is going to successfully bring a charge against us. If no one can successfully oppose us, charge us, or condemn us with regard to our personal relationship with God, then it follows that no one can separate us from Christ’s love for us either. Paul says that the trials and difficulties listed in verse 35 not only do not separate us from God’s love, but they make us more than conquerors by forcing us to depend even more on God. When we look at verses 38-39 Paul is clear. NOTHING can separate believers from God’s love. Paul struggles for words to describe the absolute certainty of God’s love for believers. If God the uncreated one, is for us, and no created thing can separate us, then our security in Him is absolute.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W