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Christians and the Law

Romans  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  37:22
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In case you've been asleep for the last few months, we have a State election coming up. And the fun and games have started already, and you know, then it all boils down to it, this election, just like the last one, will be all about one thing. How to make VIC a better place. Law and Order. Education. Health. Everything needs fixing. And whoever you listen to, all of them will promise to fix it. Because all of 'em reckon the way to make VIC a better place is to have the right policies. To spend more money. To build more schools. To make stricter laws.
But in the end, they can change all the laws they want and make them as tough as they like, and it won't be a solution to the real problem. That people are greedy. That people are jealous. That people are selfish. People, by nature, are full of self-interest. That people are dishonest. That people are sexually immoral. That people in high places will take any opportunity they can for corruption. And no matter how many new laws you have, none of those things will change. The Law can't change you.
When it comes to the Christian life, it's much the same. Don't rely even 1 per cent on the Law to change you: cry daily for the gracious work of the indwelling Spirit of God. Paul writes to ensure we grasp that it was never the purpose of the Law to make bad people good; only the gospel can ever do that. And a church that does not understand this will not persevere in living under grace and in harmony.

1. Where are we up to:

In chapter 6, Paul dealt with the view which says that because we are saved by what God has done, it matters little what we do. In fact, we have a free license to do all we please because God is gracious. Which Paul has said. No. You are dead to sin, so live for God.
But in chapter 7, Paul deals with the view that says, "yes, we are indeed saved by what God has done, but we must also live under His Law." It says we can become holy and pleasing to God by obeying laws. It measures spirituality by a list of dos and don'ts. It believes that the Law can change you.
To which Paul says No. You have failed to understand God's laws. More than that, Paul wants us to be free from the kind of heartache this type of living produces. So in Romans 7, he teaches us three lessons, which, if understood and applied, will deliver us from legalism.

2. The Authority of the Law (7:1-6):

So precisely what authority does the Law have in the Christian life? Paul answers this question in verses 1-6. In typical Paul style, he states his point in verse 1 and then illustrates this to help us see what he is getting at.
Romans 7:1–6 ESV
1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
Paul's point is that the Law of Moses has no authority over a person when they die. He then takes one part of the Law of Moses, the seventh commandment, and shows that death ends the woman's obligation to her husband. Death ends the Law that governs her marriage relationship and frees her to enter another marriage relationship.
Then in verses 4-6, Paul applies this to us and tells us that Christians have a new relationship with the Law because of their union with Jesus. So in verse 4, he says
Romans 7:4 ESV
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
Christians' die to the Law.' So in a narrow sense, the Jewish believer was released from the obligation to keep the Law of Moses, including food laws, male circumcision, the Passover and other festivals. But in a more profound sense, it means that all believers have been released from the Law's authority.
God did this through the body of Christ. God did this, so Jesus' death ends our relationship with the Law and makes it possible to have a relationship with Him. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, this new marriage will last forever. God's goal was for you to bear fruit for God.
Then quite logically, Paul says
Romans 7:6 ESV
6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
The Law has no authority over a dead person. We have been released from the Law. Released that we might serve God.
The Christian life is not one of independence and rebellion; we saw that in chapter 6, but nor is it one of law keeping. It is a life of serving Christ and others. But legalists spend so much of their time picking faults with others to be much used to God. We need to understand that we are released from such lifestyles to be living sacrifices for Him that died for us. We are to serve in the new way of the Spirit, chapter 8

2. The Ministry of the Law (7:7-13):

Given that Paul seems to have said so many negative things about the Law, we've got to wonder if he is rejecting it altogether. But for Paul, the Law has an essential and practical function.
Romans 7:7 ESV
7 What then shall we say? That the law is 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 covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
and Romans 3:20 read
Romans 3:20 ESV
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
What is the Law's function? First, it is really good at showing you when you have got it wrong. The Law exposes sin, shines the light of God's truth on sin, unmasks sin, strips off the deceptive veneer, and shows it up for its ugly rebellion. Example: Part 1.
But is that all?
Romans 7:8–9 ESV
8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.
There is something in human nature that wants to rebel whenever a law is given. Wet Paint Illustration. But why? Because
Romans 8:7 ESV
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
Our sinful nature does not want to submit to God's Law. Christians who try to live by rules and regulations soon discover that their legalistic system only arouses more sin and creates more problems.
Then in verse 9, Paul draws a cartoon, telling a story with a few brushstrokes. A man sits in a room tied to a sleeping monster called 'sin'. In a precarious sense, he is 'alive' while the monster dozes. But then 'the commandment' enters the room and shouts to the man that he must kill the monster' sin'. What happens? Surprise, the monster wakes and doesn't want to be killed! If it's your life or mine, says the monster, that's an easy choice. And so the man dies, killed by his own monster, awakened by the Law.
This is not the first time we've heard this from Paul.
Galatians 3:21 ESV
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.
The Law cannot give us life. It can only show us our sins and convict us as guilty and worthy of condemnation.
Romans 7:10–11 ESV
10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
People who seek to live by the Law do that, thinking it will bring them life, but it has the opposite effect. That is why legalistic churches and Christians never grow; they live by laws that are killing them. We need to live by the Holy Spirit if we want to grow. We must live by His power rather than by the Law and its inability to give life.
So here is Paul's argument: 1: There is nothing wrong with the Law. In fact, it is Holy. 2: But the Law reveals sin, arouses sin, and then sin destroys us. 3: See how sinful sin is when it can take something as good as the Law to produce such tragic results.
Romans 7:12–13 ESV
12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
The problem is not with the Law but with our sinful natures. This then prepares the way for Paul's third lesson for us.

3. The Inability of the Law (7:14-25):

Example: Part 2. It's kind of like that with the Law. It shows us when we go wrong but doesn't offer a solution. It cannot transform our old nature, but it simply reveals how sinful it is.
In verses, 15-21 Paul tells us that by Himself he could not obey God's Law and evil was still there when he did. No matter what he did, it was always tainted by sin. He had to admit that, at his best, he was an unprofitable servant.
The problem we faced in chapter six was "how do I stop doing wrong?" The problem here is, "how can I ever do good?" The legalist says, "Obey God's Law, and you will be good and have a good life". But we have already learnt the Law only reveals, arouses and shows us how sinful sin is. Therefore, I can't do good by trying to obey the Law, for I can never consistently follow it. My sinful nature won't allow it. So, the legalist is wrong: the Law cannot enable us to do good.
Indeed legalist thinking tends to:
1. Make us proud of our achievements. Given that the Law reveals failure, people living under the Law tend to be quick to point out how well they are doing to divert attention from their failures.
2. Make us critical of others. Because our failures make us insecure, legalists seek security by creating insecurity in others through criticism.
3. Make us reluctant to admit our own failures. Legalists hedge about their failures and mistakes. Only reluctantly accepting them, if they ever do. . They never really say 'Sorry".because, in their minds, the Law law stands over them in judgment.
4. Encourges depression, discouragement, and defeat. When our societies, families, or personal lives fail, one of our first thoughts is to create new "laws." We have all experienced times when we tried to stop sinning. Example. So we set our minds on not sinning, and for a time, we succeed but then it falls apart. It is a fruitless and hopeless cycle.
Romans 7:14–15 ESV
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
Why? Because we have tried to overcome our sinful nature with the Law, and the Law cannot deliver us from it. Instead of helping us, the Law acts like a magnet, drawing out all kinds of sin. No wonder those of us in this situation become tired, discouraged and eventually give up.
Is there any hope? Of course.
Romans 7:25 ESV
25 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 law of sin.
Through our union with Jesus Christ by faith, we are delivered. Because we are united to Jesus, we are dead to the Law and no longer under its authority. But alive to God and able to draw upon the Holy Spirit as we await our resurrection bodies when the battle with sin's presence finally ends. Our old nature knows no law, and our new nature in Jesus needs no Law.
It is essential to read on into chapter 8, where Paul says that 'what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the flesh, God did …'. One of the things chapter 7 does for us is to press home forcibly the fact that the Law alone cannot do us any good. The Law cannot forgive sin and cannot empower us to resist sin. But Chapter 8 explains the work of the Holy Spirit in overcoming the bad and producing the good.
Heavenly Father, thank you for delivering me from the Law I could not keep, the Law that had already condemned me to death. Thank you for allowing your Son, Jesus Christ, to fulfil the Law's demands for me so that I might be free to live by the Spirit. And thank you for the strength of your Spirit by which I persevere in the daily struggle against sin. Thank you for rescuing me from the body of death to which I was bound. Amen.
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