Living By Faith 5: Faith and the Law
Review: The Real Romans Road
Chapters 1-3 God’s Holiness Condemns Sin
4 - 5 God’s Grace Saves Sinners
6 - 8 God’s Power Sanctifies Believers
9 -11 God’s Sovereignty Over Jew and Gentile
12 - 14 God’s Glory In Believers Service
15 - 16 Epilogue
Introduction: Today we are in chapter 7 along our romans road journey. Faith and the Law. How can I as a Christian win the battle against the sin of the world if I can’t win the battles within myself?
Joke: This is one of my favorite jokes, because it has a KJV speaking Quaker, a cantankerous cow and a Baptist brother-in-law. What more could you ask for?
The Quaker and the Cow. A Farmer, who was a Quaker, had an ornery, obstinate milk cow. One cold morning, when the Quaker was in a big hurry, the cow during her milking kept purposely kicking over its milk pail. Finally, the normally quiet Quaker had enough and was ready to lose his temper. He jumped up off his stool and walked to the front of the animal, looked it square in the eyes and said, “Thou knowest that I am a peaceful Quaker and cannot strike thee, But thou dost not know that I can sell thee to my brother-in-law, who is a Baptist and he will beat the devil out of thee.”
That story in a vague, forced kind of way is an illustration of what Paul is going to tell us about the law in Romans 7. In order to understand our relationship to the law after salvation, we have to know that who we once belonged to and how we know belong to, changes everything.
Dominion until Death Romans 7:1-6
1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. 6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
Death, The Law and Freedom
These verses answer the question Paul began in Romans 6:15 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
Paul’s answer is in the form of an illustration of marriage. Something that both Jews and Gentile would easily understand. He says that a woman is bound to her husband under the law, but if the husband should die, then she would be free from that law.
Romans 7:3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
In Romans 7:4 He makes the application “ Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
The point is that we like the married woman were also bound under the law, but now we have also been made set free by death, not the death of the husband, but our own. This death, which we share spiritually with Jesus Christ as we saw in Romans 6, has freed us from the law that we could be married to another. Through our death and resurrection in Christ we are now joined to Jesus Christ and no longer bound to the law.
Verse six brings us the conclusion, Romans 7:6 6 But now we are delivered (released) from the law, that being dead (to the law) wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, (the Holy Spirit) and not in the oldness of the letter.
We are now controlled by the Holy Spirit and not by the old, written in stone, code of conduct that we couldn’t keep when it was only 10 commandments, much less the first 5 books of the Torah.
Freed To Serve
As Christians, we often have a problem with our understanding of the Law and my relationship to it. How I am supposed to deal with the law, now that I am saved. This problem goes back to our understanding of the death of our old nature, the old man as the Bible puts it. Instead of seeing that old sinful nature as dead and having a funeral and stuffed in a grave, we often keep the dead body with us. We treat that dead corpse as if it were still alive. We try to feed it, dress it up in better clothes and try to make it behave better than it used to because, after all, now we are saved.
I am often even told by well-meaning pastors or Christian family members, that now since I am saved, I have the ability to keep the law. In fact, they tell me, I must keep the law. It is my duty and responsibility to keep the law after all, “aren’t you a Christian?” If I fail in my attempts to keep the law, then it could even mean that maybe I wasn’t a Christian in the first place.
Here is the problem with that way of seeing the law. When we say things like that then We don’t really believe or fully understand that when I died to sin, I died to the law as well. The two can’t be separated. In reality the Bible says I am freed from the law, I have no business being concerned with it all.
My focus cannot be on the law but on the Lord. I’m dead to the Law so I can fully love and serve the Lord. With His shed blood and sacrificed life He fulfilled the requirements of the Law, so that when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and He came to dwell in my heart, the law, I couldn’t keep was perfectly fulfilled, in Him. The Law is a done deal to a Christian.
Paul warns the Christians in Galatia about this. Look here in Galatians 2:18-21 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Paul says we frustrate the grace of God if I try to build the things which I had already destroyed, namely keeping the law and making myself righteous. If I try to keep the law, even after salvation, then I am trying to build something that I have already destroyed by trying before I was saved. The word frustrate means to despise, reject, or bring to nothing. If I can keep the law by my righteousness after salvation, then I despise and reject the grace of God and Jesus died for nothing.
God’s Word teaches us that we cannot mix grace and law before salvation nor can we mix the two after salvation. The first truth we readily believe but the second is one of the more difficult parts of living the victorious Christian life.
The answer to the question of Can a Christian keep the law is, no! No, you can’t and no, you shouldn’t be trying. Its like giving a 3-year-old a ball peen hammer and setting them loose in bomb factory. Its not going to end well.
Illustration. – Cleansing the Corpses
In Indonesia, there are a people called the Toraja. Once a year they celebrate the dead by dig up the corpses of their relatives. They then clean them, dress them in new clothes and then take them on a parade through the village. This is all part of Ma'nene festival, which translates as 'The Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses,' and it has been held for centuries. I could show you videos or pictures but some of you might not have the stomach for it and I’d like to keep my audience in the auditorium not the restroom for the rest of the morning.
We may look at this cleansing of the corpses as morbid, unhealthy or at the least inappropriate from our culture viewpoint. I would tend to agree with you, but my point is not about our culture but about our Christianity. What we do by trying to keep the law after we are saved is far worse spiritually than parading with a long dead relative. The Toraja know they are walking with the dead, but if we are trying to keep the law then we don’t realize that we are the walking dead. Put that old dead, chained to the law, nature back in the grave and walk in the Spirit as those now free to serve Jesus Christ.
Why is it so easy for us to return to the law and so hard to let our old nature stay buried? Because sin is as tricky today as it was in the Garden of Eden. Sin takes something good and desirable and uses it to bring back the corruption of the dead and then kill our the joy of our Christian life.
Sin the Slayer - Romans 7:7 -13
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. 9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. 12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
Sin, The Law and Defeat
Now Paul deals with the question that would naturally arise in the minds of the Roman Christians and also in ours as we hear this today. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin?” If I died to the law and in trying to keep the law after I’m saved is wrong, then doesn’t that mean the law is sinful?
In answer, Paul again uses the double negative, God forbid, by no means, absolutely not. Paul says the problem is not with the law but with their understanding of the purpose of the law. The law, Paul says, was created by God for a purpose. It is when we try and use the law incorrectly that we run into problems.
The Law was created by God and placed in every human heart for the purpose of convicting our hearts of sin and our guilt before God.
Romans 7:7. “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”
The Law has other purposes, but they are all related back to this overall purpose of guilt and sin. Look at them with me…
The law is to correct the lawless. 1 Timothy 1:8-10 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; 9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;
To bring us to Christ. Galatians 3:24-25 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
Once the law has accomplished its purpose in us, we are done with it. It no longer has a purpose in us as children of God. Its purpose in society, its purpose in sinners and its purpose in showing us the righteousness of God still remains but in us, if we now try to keep it, then sin will use keeping the law as bait to trap me.
Sin is dead without the law. Romans 7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. (lust, wrong desires) For without the law sin was dead.
Paul states that at conversion he was free from the law. “I was alive without the law once but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”
When the commandment, the law or any commandment, came back into his life then sin revived and he died. He became a member of the walking dead, carting around his old dead body.
This then brings up the next question, why does God allow this? Romans 7:13 Was then that which is good made death unto me?
Once again, he answers in the strongest language, No, God forbid. This is allowed not so you will remain in a constant state of corruption and defeat, but, Paul goes on (here is the reason) but sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.”
He says no God allows this to happen, not so you will keep being defeated by sin but that we through that defeat, might see sin as powerful as it really is. It happens so that I will understand that I cannot keep the law, that I should not try to keep the law, for Christ already did that. And to use Paul’s phrase, God forbid that I would try and do what Christ has already done! That’s not faith, that’s faithless.
Quote: Watchman Nee, “The Normal Christian Life” – “God knows who I am; He knows that from head to foot I am full of sin; He knows that I am weakness incarnate; that I can do nothing. The trouble is that I do not know it. I admit that all men are sinners and that therefore I am a sinner; but I imagine that I am not such a hopeless sinner as some. God must bring us all to the place where we see that we are utterly weak and helpless. While we say so, we do not wholly believe it, and God has to do something to convince us of the fact.”
Surrender Brings Victory
Whether it is the Ten Commandments or my own set of laws like, pray, go to church, don't get angry, read the Bible. All these are laws that cause sin to revive and that is the trap. 1 Corinthians 15:56 says, “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
When I try to keep the law in my strength then I am making sin stronger in my life. That is the truth of 1 Corinthians 15:56, the strength of sin is the law.
When the commandment comes, that sin that I died to when I was saved, becomes stronger, it revives and now I die. Why does God allows such a thing? I truly am trying to be a good Christian. I am trying to do what Christians should do. I am trying to defeat the bad habits, sinful thoughts and fatal flaws that I might glorify God. The problem is in the “I am”. I have not yet learned how powerful sin is and how weak I am. I’m trying to so hard to live the Christian life by will power, discipline, and determination, that I forget it must be “Christ in me, the hope of glory” and nothing of myself. God allows sin to bring me to a place of defeat, that I might surrender, not to sin but all of myself to Him.
Illustration. Watchman Nee and the drowning student.
I was once staying in a place in China with some twenty other brothers. There was inadequate provision for bathing in the home where we stayed, so we went for a daily plunge in the river. On one occasion a brother had cramp in one leg, and I suddenly saw he was sinking fast, so I motioned to another brother, who was an expert swimmer, to hasten to his rescue. But to my astonishment he made no move. So I grew desperate and called out: Don’t you see the man is drowning?’ and the other brothers, about as agitated as I was, shouted vigorously too. But our good swimmer still did not move. Calm and collected, he remained just where he was, apparently postponing the unwelcome task. Meantime the voice of the poor drowning brother grew fainter and his efforts feebler. In my heart I said: I hate that man! Think of his letting a brother drown before his very eyes and not going to the rescue!’ But when the man was actually sinking, with a few swift strokes the swimmer was at his side, and both were safely ashore. When I got an opportunity I aired my views. I have never seen any Christian who loved his life quite as much as you do’, I said. Think of the distress you would have saved that brother if you had considered yourself a little less and him a little more.’ But the swimmer knew his business better than I did. Had I gone earlier’, he said, he would have clutched me so fast that both of us would have gone under. A drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself.’
Nee goes on, “Do you see it? When we give up the case, then God will take it up. He is waiting until we are at an end of our resources and can do nothing more for ourselves.”
Giving up and surrendering to the One who has the strength I don’t, bring us to our last point, Christ the Conqueror.
Christ the Conqueror - Romans 7:14-25
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Flesh, The Law and Deliverance
Do you hear the struggle, the battle that is raging within Paul as he wrote this passage? Every tense used in this section of the scripture is the present tense. “I am carnal. “That which I do.” “In my flesh dwelleth no good thing.”
I once had a college professor say that Romans 7 was about salvation, that Paul was looking back and reviewing the conviction he felt before he was saved by faith. But you know better, don’t you?
Because you have seen that Romans 3 was about sin and our guilt, Romans 4 and 5 about salvation through faith and Romans 6 about victory over Sin. So why would Paul suddenly go back to the time when he was lost? No, the situation Paul is describing was the struggle he fought as a saved, justified, redeemed Child of God.
Paul puts it this way. He says there are two parts of himself, his true self, his reborn soul, the inner man but there is also the flesh, his physical body, the outward man. In his inward man, the true part of himself, he wants to serve God, but in his outward man, his flesh he cannot. Romans 7:15-17 15
For that which I (his true, saved self) do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do, that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me (the flesh the physical outer man.)
This battle is fierce, intense and the outcome is always the same, the flesh wins every time. Romans 7:18-20 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil, which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do, that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
These two parts of Paul, his inner soul and his outer flesh, are constantly in battle and Paul says he always loses the battle and is brought into captivity to the law of sin, which is in his body. Romans 7: 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
Paul says I keep doing battle with the law and I keep losing. The law of sin in my members is too strong for the law of my mind which loves the law of God. He is made a prisoner and brought back to the stocks in the chains of sin and the law.
The result is that Paul cries out in his defeat in, Romans 7:24 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
And in that cry is the surrender of his own power, his surrender of the law of his mind, even his surrender of the law of God. He surrenders the battle fought in his own strength, cries out and God answers his cry in vs 25 Romans 7:25 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Paul gives up trying in his own power to please God by keeping the law, he cries out from what he now knows is a body of death that has left him a wretched man and God hears and delivers him from the body of death, that old nature he wouldn’t leave in the grave.
Listen to what Paul is saying…
The War Is Already Won
Do you recognize that we are fighting the same battles as Paul? Do you also see that just like Paul, we are being defeated? And we are being defeated because we are fighting to win a war that Jesus has already won and that I could never win.
You’ve probably heard the story that preachers often tell, about a man who said that his struggle with sin was like two dogs, one black and one white, dogs that were constantly at each other’s throats. He asks his audience, “Do you know which one will win?” Then he replies, “The one I feed.” Now that’s a great illustration about sin and allowing it to have power in our life, but it is exactly the wrong illustration here, you know why, because the fight, between those two dogs, is already over. Instead of trying not to feed one of the dogs, you need to take a rolled-up newspaper, whack them both on their hind quarters and yell, “Get out of here.”
When it comes to the Christian and the law, quit fighting, there shouldn’t be a battle anymore because Christ won this war!
Paul again warns the Galatians of trying to win what Jesus has already won in Galatians 3:10-13 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith…
We must see that this battle as one we can’t win and shouldn’t even fight.
Galatians 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us…
Like Paul we must admit defeat, surrender our own strength and cry out for deliverance from this wretched body of death. We must cry out to the only one who has conquered sin, death and the grave. The one who has already claimed the victory. I must cry out for Jesus, my savior, my deliverer.
The final conclusion to Paul’s question back in Romans 6:15 about sin, grace and the law is found not in chapter 7 but in chapter 8.
Scripture: Romans 8:1-4 1 There is therefore now no (self) condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
We must come to that place of wretchedness and defeat or we will never have victory and joy in our Christian life, never escape our own self condemnation for not being a good enough Christian. We must come face to face with our own body of death, cry out for Jesus and find joy in being face to face with our Lord and Savior.
God doesn’t need our abilities or talents. He needs our brokenness and defeat. He needs us surrendered to Him, without strength in ourselves, realizing the battle of sin and the law has already been won by Jesus Christ.
Don't let your Christian experience be wretched. Let Jesus do in your day to day life what he has already done in your eternal life. He fulfilled the law, now let him give you a fulfilled life.
Quit trying to be a good Christian, Jesus has made you righteous by washing you in his blood. You can’t get any better than that.
Quit trying to keep the law. Jesus did for you what you could never do before or after salvation. The only thing you need to do every day is to surrender to Him. Every day walk with Jesus and learn joy, lean on him and grow strong, trust in Him and find courage, call out to Him and find deliverance.
Once in the book of John, they asked Jesus, “What must we do to do the work the works of God?” His answer says it all then and now, “Believe, on him who he hath sent.” That is what I must do in my struggle with sin and the law. It always comes down to walking in faith, living by faith. Just believe in Jesus and what he has already done.