Skip Heitzig - Romans 6-7
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Look at you all. Happy as clams. Great to have you here tonight. Glad you're with us. Turn in your Bibles please, did you bring one of these things, by the way? Good. Smart. See you're smart people. Turn in your Bible, or on your device, or grab one of the Bibles close to you, I mean, don't grab it off your neighbor's lap, but if there's a Bible in the pocket in front of you, in the seat, please feel free to use that while you're here. Turn to the book of Romans chapter 6. Romans chapter 6. Last week I wanted to go through chapter 5 and 6, didn't quite make it, left you kind of hanging on a point, and we'll pick it up in chapter 6 tonight.
Before we jump right into it, just something to make you aware of on your radar, I'm sure it already is for most of you who are informed, there is something that is going before Congress called the Equality Act. It's a very dangerous piece of legislation. It sounds very benign, sounds even noble. Who wouldn't stand for equality? But it already passed one of the sides of government and it's going to go before the Congress soon. If it passes it will allow boys to go into girl's locker rooms. It allows boys to participate in girl's sports. It will allow men to go into women's shelters, because they identify as a woman. It will allow men to get into women's prisons.
You can just imagine the havoc. And then it will force, because they want to have this in all public institutions, including schools, churches, et cetera, it will force teachers and students to pretend that somebody is a female when they're a male. So they say on one hand follow the science, but now they want you to pretend and deny the biological science because the person identifies as a particular gender. Make your voice known. Call your senators. Call the senators in Washington. Tell them you oppose it. Tell them to vote against it. If this gets passed it can force churches also to be called public institutions and they're forced to hire individuals that don't track with their standards, with their belief systems.
We are where we are. People cast their vote and this is what we have. And now it's time to, on these individual pieces of legislation, let our voice be known, as well as your voice before the Lord in prayer. Pray, and call, and let people know not for it. If you don't know much about it, study it. You can find it everywhere. You have to be purposely tuned out to not know what this is.
And, if some of you are purposely tuned out, I understand that. I always have that temptation. Just want to tune out, turn it off, not listen to anything, not engage in any platform, but we are citizens of heaven at the same time we are still citizens of the Earth. We have that responsibility. All right, got that announced. Shall we pray?
Father, we now open Your word. As we do, Father, we open our hearts to Your word. We have just sung that. We want You to speak. We want You to speak clearly. Not only that, but we want to understand plainly what You have declared, and what is inerrant, and above all time, and all cultures, and what is authoritative, that our lives might be conformed to Your will, and that we might rejoice in Your grace in all those times when we don't conform to Your will. We're so thankful for Your mercy. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Charles Hadden Spurgeon once preached a message called "Grace Abounding Over Abounding Sin." Great title. And it was a great sermon. He based it on what we read last week where, in chapter 5, verse 20, "Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more."
Then he gets into the sixth chapter, where he begs the question. He asks, like a rabbi would ask, anticipating blowback, he asks a series of questions. He says, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" If, when we sin, God pours out His grace, I'll just keep sinning and get soaked by God's grace. He answers that by saying God forbid. "We who have died to sin should not live any longer in it." When he gets down, in chapter 6, to verse 6 he says, "knowing this, our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with."
If you remember last week, we told you that Greek word is, which means to put out of business. So, effectively, God hung up a sign for the devil over your life that says out of business. You have no business here and this one is redeemed. This one belongs to Me. He's Mine. She's Mine. That's all good news. That's all wonderful to know, but we still have a battle. We kind of left off last week in Galatians 5 where Paul said, look "the flesh lusts," or wars, "against the spirit, the spirit against the flesh; these two are contrary to one another, so that you can't do the things that you would." We experience in our real life existence this inward battle.
A couple of weeks ago I was speaking at a pastor's conference down in Florida and, on one morning that I had off, I went over to one of Disney's parks, which are open by the way. It was Animal Kingdom and there was this cool lizard, in one of these little aquariums, called a skink. And a skink is a very smooth, shiny, kind of stubby lizard. Kind of cool looking.
But it reminded me of an article that I had read about a skink. You say, what are you doing reading articles about skinks? Well listen to this. They found, in Jacksonville, Florida, an unusual skink, because this skink was born with two heads, one at each end of its body. It was a two headed skink. That's unusual, right? A skink is unusual but, come on, a two-headed skink is really weird. Especially when it's at either end of its body. Now imagine being that poor little skink. You have a head at each end of your body. You want to go in one direction, that head wants to go in that direction, and the legs are just sort of uncoordinated, not knowing which way to go.
Much of our life is lived like the two-headed skink. We have an impulse to go in one direction but we have an impulse to go in the other direction, and that's why we are told to feed the spirit, because the one that you feed is the one that wins. The nature you feed is the one that is always on top. So feed the spirit, starve the flesh, rather than feed the flesh and starve the spirit. How do we do that exactly? And I said last week, we kind of left on this, I said we need a battle strategy. And there is one.
There are four things that Paul says we need to do to make this a reality. Number one, we need to reason. There are certain things we have to know, and we have to know them well, and that is one of Paul's favorite words in this section. In chapter 6, verse 3 he said, "Or do you not know," and then he tells them what they should know.
Then, verse 6, which I just read, "knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin should be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing", there's that word again, "knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him."
So there are certain things that you need to know. If you want to grow you need to know certain things, certain doctrines, certain truths. David said, "Your word I have hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You." You want to stop sinning? There are certain truths you need to hide away in your heart. You need to know. And some people will say, well, it's not about head knowledge, it's about heart knowledge. I'm kind of tired of hearing that little phrase. It's wearying, because it's misleading.
There are certain things you need in your head. It needs to be head knowledge before it can ever become, let's just call it that, heart knowledge. Before it becomes something deep in you, you have to know it. You have to realize it. Doctrine always comes before duty. Learning always comes before living. That's why Paul will often say you need to know this. You need to know that. You need to know the other thing. He is big on that.
The second step after reason is to reckon. I'm using his term. Look at verse 11. "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." That just proves that Paul was from Texas. I had an uncle who used to say that and a grandma used to say, they weren't from Texas, but they would say, I reckon that's true. I reckon. I suppose. That's what the word means.
The Greek word here is, which means to suppose, or to count on, to suppose or rely on. There are certain things that you know in your head and then you move them to the area of conviction. Where it's not just you know the facts. I mean, you really lean on those facts. You really believe those facts in the heart of hearts, in the deepest core of you. That's the idea of I reckon. Not I suppose, I reckon.
Paul really wasn't a Texan, but he was from South Cilicia so he was from, technically, the south of his region. I don't know if that has any bearing at all but, you know, I, in the past, I've often kind of made fun of Texas but the last few days I'm kind of wishing I lived in Texas, you know? You know we used to be part of Texas here? New Mexico used to be part of Texas. Do you think they'd take it back? I don't know. I don't know. Sorry about that, it's just, "Likewise also you, reckon", suppose, calculate, estimate, believe in the heart of hearts, "that you are dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The first step is theology. That's what you know. The second step is "be-ology." It's what you become based on what you know. Based on these facts, therefore, I am counting on this and that. Think of it this way. It's like somebody gives you a check and you stare at it. It's on your desk. You look at it. You think, that's a cool check. Boy, that's a lot of money there. That's great. Well, good. I'm glad you know that and I'm glad you are supposing that that is yours, but there comes a point where you need to turn it around and sign your name on it. You endorse it, and you take it to the bank, and you cash it, and you enjoy the funds that have been given to you. That's the idea of... I'm going to endorse the check that God has given. I'm going to reckon it to be. That's the second step.
The third step is to resist, for verse 12 says, "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of righteousness to sin." So we reason, we reckon, and we resist. Now the fact that Paul writes it this way, don't let that happen, don't let sin reign, shows me that we have an element of control.
You can't say, well, the devil made me do it, or that's just the way I am, or I have an Italian background, we're hot-blooded. Or I'm Irish, you know how we are. We get angry. You can't, those are excuses. Those aren't reasons. Those are just excuses. You and I, we have an element of control. It says in the book of James, chapter 4, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." It didn't just say he'll flee from you. You have to do something. You have to add your cooperation. You resist the devil and he will flee from you.
I've always loved what Martin Luther had to say about temptation. He said, you can't stop the devil from, or the birds, you can't stop birds from flying around your head but you can stop them from building a nest in your hair. So you can't stop the devil and his demons from doing what they do, but you can resist his work in your life. So you reason, you reckon, you resist.
But there is a fourth step, and that is to replace. Notice in verse 13, "don't present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members", that is your body parts, your bodily members, "as instruments of righteousness to God." This is where the battle changes, when we replace.
See up till now it's all defensive positions. It's like, well this temptation is really real. There's certain things I need to know and there are certain things I need to reckon because these things are happening to me. And to defend myself I need to know, I need to suppose, reckon, and resist. But then we turn it around. The best defense is a good offense.
This is where our weaponry becomes offensive. It's not that we just say no to the devil, we say yes to God. This is where we stop to say, no you're not going to use my hands devil. No you're not going to use my eyes and my lips. But you're saying, God I want You to use my hands and my lips and my feet. I'm presenting myself to You. That's a word Paul loved to use, by the way, and it'll derive its fullest explanation by the time we get to the 12th chapter, where he says, "I urge you to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." It's the most logical thing you could do.
In the Old Testament, think of Aaron. Aaron the high priest, when he was dedicated for his service, he went through an interesting ritual. They took blood, the blood of an animal, and they put it on his right ear, the tip of his right thumb, and the tip of his right big toe. And that interesting little ritual meant the idea of, I want to hear Your voice, I want to do Your will, I want to walk in Your will and Your ways. That's the idea. So he was presenting his members, his body parts, to God.
Likewise we do that to Him. Lord, what's the best way to fight a battle when the devil comes at you? Get engaged in God's work so you're so busy doing God's work you don't have a whole lot of time to entertain the temptation. You're so busy working for the Lord you're not thinking about all the resisting that you're doing. Got it? You've shifted the battle.
Now if you have a marginal note like I do in your Bibles, for the word instruments, does it say weapons? Mine does. It says, "for instruments," has a little one and a marginal note that says, "or weapons," because that's the literal rendering. It's a military term. Instruments is a military term for weapons. Imagine you're holding a gun and you're facing your enemy and you say to your enemy, because your shoe is untied, here hold my gun so I can tie my shoe. That's stupid. You've just presented your instrument, your weapon, to your enemy. Don't get close to your enemy with your weapon. Present your weapons to General Jesus who teaches you how to make war and win the battle, and get engaged in His work, and stay engaged in His work.
"Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments," or weapons, "of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law but under grace." Just make a mental note of that verse. Keep that verse tucked away in the back of your mind, because he's going to take a diversion and get right back to it. He's going to make a parenthetical statement and then get right back to that.
I love this idea, though, of replacing behavior with other behavior, because I suppose that, especially during times of COVID like this, where we tend to spend a lot of time alone and engage in enormous amounts of self-pity, when we could be thinking, with all this spare time how could I be a blessing to somebody else and how could I be an instrument to spread God's love, God's grace, God's truth to someone who really needs to hear it? I love that thought. That's where we use calamity as opportunity, when we present ourselves to God for His use.
There's a song, I remember hearing it as a new believer, but I come to find out it was written really in 1922. It's sort of an old hymn but it gets re-released in every generation. Lauren Daigle just did a beautiful cut of it. It's, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of Earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." I think that sort of captures this idea of giving yourselves, presenting yourself, as instruments, as members for God to use.
I remember hearing a story about a little girl who was being tucked into bed at night and it was successful. The little girl went to sleep. A couple hours later mom heard a thud on her daughter's bedroom floor followed by a huge wail, a cry. She had fallen out of bed. Mom rushed in, picked up her daughter, comforted her, and tucked her back in bed, and said, sweetheart, why is it you fell out of bed? And she said, I don't know mommy but I think I stayed too close to where I got in.
I find that's our problem. We're in Christ but we stay right on the edge. We want to live on the edge, man. We want to stay close to the border. No, no. Move in closer to the heart of Christ. Get away from the borderlands. Go deep in. And the deeper you go in, you do that by presenting yourself to God. Lord I'm Yours to use.
"What then?" Verse 15. "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?" Since we're not governed by the law anymore, we're dead to that, that's over, shall we continue in sin because we're not under the law? Same idea. "Certainly not!" No way, Jose. God forbid. "Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?"
The Jewish rabbis had an idea, a saying about the law, the Torah, the commandment of God. They referred to the law as a... and a... is the Hebrew word for a fence. It's a fence that God has given us to protect us. And so, if you say, we're not under the law, you're calling for the fence to be removed, Paul. You're saying there's no protection, there's no parameters. God has given us the protection, the fence. If you take it away we're just going to perform lawlessness.
Paul says, God forbid. "Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves as slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey." Paul would say this to those who would say that. He would say, the best fence is a decision that you make that leads to a destiny that you undertake. You make a choice, you make a decision, to present yourself to God. When you do that over and over it leads to a destiny. You become a slave of that.
We understand what slavery is like, especially if you have struggled with addictions. You make a choice. Choice leads to another choice, to another choice, to another choice. Pretty soon you have something that is routinely set up. It's your go-to response. You can become addicted to a number of things. You can become addicted to your phone, as I fear so many have. If that screen isn't in front of them, anyway, I'll get off of that. What happens in any form of addiction after you make a choice, and a series of choices, those choices become easier to make, resistance becomes harder, and pretty soon you find yourself powerless.
Jesus even talked about this. He said, don't you know that whoever you commit yourself to, you become a slave of that person? That person's slaves, or that thing's slaves, you are. The idea is who is your master? Who are you serving? What is your master passion? You can tell who your master is by finding out what your master passion is. What is it you love to do more than anything else? What do you gravitate toward more than anything else? It always eventually gets down to this issue. Who owns you? Who really owns you? Who's calling the shots? You say, I am. Not a good choice. "The heart is deceitfully wicked above all else. Who can know it?"
That old little saying that's so true. Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny. So the best fence, the best parameters in your life, is to make a decision that leads to a destiny. I'm His slave. He's my Master. He calls the shots.
"But," verse 17, "God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine", or teaching, truth, "to which you were delivered. And being set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." That is, righteous living is what you lived to do. That's the idea. Righteous living. A righteous lifestyle is what you lived to do. You woke up in the morning after you were saved, Lord how can I please You today? I'm addicted to pleasing You. I'm addicted to blessing Your heart by obeying Your commands.
"I speak," verse 19, "in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness." Pretty straightforward. "For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit then did you have in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Satan always pays his slaves. He always pays his servants. If you work for him he'll never miss payday. Guarantee he'll pay up. But in contrast to that, God wants to give you a gift. Not give you what you deserve. You see, sin will pay you what you deserve. The wages of sin is death. That's what you deserve. It's only fair. Payday's here. Here you go, you get paid death. God is willing to give you what you don't deserve. "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God", what you don't deserve, "is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." The first we do deserve. The second, the gift, we don't deserve.
Now having said all that, it's one thing to know all these wonderful truths. It's one thing to say, you know what, I'm supposing that. I'm going to... that. I'm going to reckon that to be so, and I'm going to do my best to resist temptation and present myself to God. All that's great and yes we should. Those are important steps. However, don't think that this is some little formula that when you walk out of here life's now going to be perfect. You still have to live with you. Yeah, I know.
See, I still have to live with me. Wherever I go, I take myself with me. All of that baggage from the past, those habits, those things I'm used to, the way of thinking and doing that comes from the old manner of life comes with me. That battle never ends. That flesh and spirit battle in Galatians, that we talked about last week and continue to talk about this week, goes with us. But Paul wants to make a further point here. I said tuck verse 14 in your mind so go back to verse 14. It says, "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law but under grace."
Then in verse 15 to the end of the chapter he takes a little bit of a detour and gives a parenthetical statement. The parenthetical statement is over. Now he goes right back to the principle that he was getting at in chapter 6, verse 14, and that is that the law doesn't have its grip on us any longer. We're dead also to the law.
Notice, in verse 1, "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 man, she would be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so she is no adulteress, though she has married another man."
The intention of this text that I just read is not to go through marriage and divorce. Too many Christians get sidetracked, that's simply an illustration to form a point about the law in general, or law in general. Marriage is an illustration. Slavery was an illustration he just used, in the previous chapter. He uses another illustration of marriage. It's a pretty straightforward one. While a husband is alive and the gal is married to her husband, if he dies, she's free to remarry. If he's not dead but she marries somebody else, wait a minute, you just committed adultery. You can't do that, right? It's a pretty plain, straightforward analogy. Marriage binds a person.
Here's the point that Paul is making, death ends a person's responsibility to the law. Right, makes sense? Let's say somebody is speeding, let's get this illustration. You leave church tonight. You do 100 miles an hour on the freeway. You get pulled over. You get a ticket. You take your ticket but, within this week, God forbid, you die. We get a phone call. Will you do the funeral at Calvary? Sure, we'll do it. The day comes for your funeral. They wheel your casket down to the front, casket is open, people can come by, see, yup, that's you.
Let's say, I walk up and I happened to have a copy of your ticket, and I looked down at you in the casket and I go, you know what? You haven't paid your ticket. Don't think you can get out of this scot-free. You still owe this ticket. Does he owe the ticket? Why? He's dead. Exactly. Death ends moral responsibility to law. Every legal system recognizes that.
So in a marriage, if the husband dies, she's free to remarry. She's free from the law. Right? Death ends responsibility. We died in Christ. That's Paul's point. We died in Christ. We identify with Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. Just as Jesus died, He died for all who believe in Him. If you believe in Him, His death means your relationship to the law is over. That's the idea that Paul is making here. Your identification with Christ.
Now I want to unravel something, because the Bible does sort of mix its metaphors and confuse some of us. So let me explain this a little bit. Let me backtrack a little bit. When you were born into this world you were born alive, obviously. Right? Obviously, because you're here, it was a live birth, it was a successful birth. Here you are, you're all grown up. Though you were born and alive physically, you were dead spiritually the moment you were born. In conception you were already dead spiritually.
Paul says that in Ephesians 2, "And you He has made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins." You were DOA. You were dead on arrival. You were physically alive, spiritually dead. You gave your life to Christ. The moment you gave your life to Christ you were alive to God, but dead now to sin. Dead to the past life. Dead to the law. Makes sense?
Think of it this way, in 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul said, may God sanctify you completely, and may your whole body, soul, and spirit be preserved blameless. There Paul talks about the three parts of a human, body, soul, and spirit. When you were born, you were born physically, your body. You had a soul, that your consciousness, that's your ability to make decisions and to reason. That's your soul.
But your spirit was dead, dormant, because of what Adam did. By one man sin entered the world, and death through sin. Death spread to all. So you were born body, soul, and spirit. Your body was on top ruling, dictating everything. Baby says, I want this, I want that, cries for whatever need it has. That behavior persists through a lifetime until it is curbed by all sorts of social pressures, et cetera, family pressures, but your body is on top.
Your mind is under it. You have the mind of the flesh, Paul calls it, the mind of the flesh. Your spirit's dormant. As soon as you come to God, you come to Christ, you give your life to Jesus Christ, it gets flipped. Now you are as God intended. You are spirit, soul, and body. Yes you still have a body, yes you still have a soul, but now you have the mind of the spirit.
The spirit is in control even though the flesh still is around and fights the spirit and vies for the control of the mind. That's where the battlefield is fought. You're born physically alive, spiritually dead. You come to God. You are spiritually alive but you're dead to the past, dead to sin, dead to the law. That's the metaphor. I wanted to unravel that because it gets a little mystifying, you're dead to what? Alive to what?
"Do you not know brethren," verse 1, "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; if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, even though she has married another man."
The illustrations done, here's the application. "Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ", that is Jesus' death on the cross, "that you may be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God." In most legal systems there is the law of double jeopardy. You can't be tried for the same crime and sentenced for it twice. So if you died in Christ and your death sentence was on Him, you can't stand in judgment for your own sin in the future. That's the law in most systems of jurisprudence, as well as in God's. You died in Christ, you're alive because of the resurrection, that you should bear fruit to God.
"For when we were in the flesh", flesh meaning living in the old nature according to the dictates of the flesh. The old you, the old manner of life under Adam, "For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death." He's describing you before salvation. "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." The proof that you are dead to the old and alive to Christ is by the fruit, right? That's what he says here in verse 4, "that you should bear fruit to God."
Jesus, in John 15, you know, go home and read that. Don't do it now, but go home and read John 15. Write that little note, look it up later. Jesus talked about abiding in Him. That the branch abides in the vine. That the branch has a constant close living connection with the branch and, in so doing, there's fruit-bearing that takes place. He talks about bearing fruit, bearing more fruit, bearing much fruit, and that's God's intention for our lives, to bear fruit.
Jesus said, some 30, some 60, some a hundredfold. You can bear as much fruit as you want. As you want. That control is in your decision-making. It is. Of course God will add to that. He'll send trials to prune you so that you bear more fruit, but the decisions that we make on a daily basis, and the choices that we make during those trials, will determine what kind of fruit we're going to bear. But His intention is that we bear fruit to Him. I don't want to lose this. Yes he's making an analogy about being married, but just get the weight of this in verse 4. It says, "that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead." The analogy is marriage but, just for a moment, think of yourself as being married to Jesus.
So here's what I want to get at. There are lots of analogies the New Testament uses about our relationship with God, and they're put there so that we have an understanding of Him. We're called the sheep, He's called the Good Shepherd. We're called the body of Christ, Jesus is the head of the body. That's the relationship. We are called children of God. He is the Heavenly Father. All sorts of different analogies to portray the relationship, but I've got to tell you, there's none more precious then the idea of intimacy as portrayed by a marriage relationship.
We're the bride of Christ. We're married to Him. That speaks of intimacy. It speaks of the kind of intimacy that I think God wants us, not only to enjoy, but to portray. If you read Ephesians about the husband and wife, "Husbands, love your wives," "Wives submit to your husband", he talks about marriage being a horizontal microcosm of a vertical relationship we have with God. We have a relationship with God. The best portrait of that, Paul says, is in a marriage relationship on Earth.
Go read that section of Ephesians. Again, not now, but later, to get the importance of that. That intimacy and the power. A good marriage is a good witness for Christ. That's one of the thoughts that is in that passage in Ephesians.
We begin now in verse 7. We want to kind of get through this, if we can. There is a shift that takes place in verse 7, and it is noteworthy, and it's easy to spot, because Paul goes from the third person in his writing, and the second person, to the first person. He talks about I, me, my, myself. He uses personal pronouns in this section, this next section, 47 times. You are getting Paul's autobiographical sketch of his struggle with his flesh. That's why this is a very precious section. You're getting Paul's personal struggle. He confesses it plainly in this section. You might call it the struggle of a saved soul, verse 7 through the end of the chapter, the struggle of a saved soul.
I imagine coming to Christ was quite an adjustment for this Jewish rabbi named Saul of Tarsus. When he came to realize on the Damascus road who it was that was saving him, and what their relationship was to the law of Moses, and all that he had been taught under the feet of the rabbi Gamaliel in Jerusalem, and having to kind of re-educate himself for three years in Arabia. I think it was an enormous adjustment.
I've always looked at Paul's life as sort of three periods of his life. The first period was when he was a Pharisee and he was trained that way, believe that he was right before God, struggled to keep the laws of God in his own flesh. And then he came to the point of the Damascus road and the three years in Arabia, where he sort of went through the law and studied it over and over again, and understood the struggle that he had in keeping it, and framing the fleshly struggle with the Old Testament law. And then the third section of his life is the victory of walking in the spirit, even though he still had the flesh, but the victory of walking in the spirit, which will take us into chapter 8.
I kind of set that up so that you understand the honest struggle of Paul. And I do love his honesty here. I love how honest the Bible is. One of the hallmarks of the scripture, unlike most biographies, is its heroes are pictured with all of their weirdness, warts and all, goofiness and all. Yeah you get a picture of Abraham, the father of faith who decided not to believe in God and said his wife is his sister.
Aren't you glad that's in there? King David, a man after God's own heart, who commits adultery with several women. Peter, the rock, who loved Jesus with all of his heart but denied Him. Thomas, so honest, such candor, but doubted Him. There's such honesty in all the heroes of the Bible. I like that, because when I was a kid I remember, in the church I was raised in, seeing the pictures of disciples and apostles, and they always had these frisbees over their heads. These glowing frisbees. And I would say, Mom, Dad, look at, they have a frisbee over their heads. Those aren't frisbees, those are halos, because they're holy.
Well you start thinking that people like that wear frisbees, wear halos, that they're perfect. And as you start reading through the reality of the historical narrative of the scripture you realize them frisbees be broken. Those things won't fly. They're flawed. Listen to Paul. "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law said, 'You shall not covet.'" No doubt Paul would be accused of dissing the law, being critical of the law, saying it's not important, so basically you're saying that the law is no good and the law is just basically sinful? He goes, no, the law isn't sin at all. The problem is not with the law, the problem is with me.
"What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. I would not have known covetousness unless the law said, 'You shall not covet.' But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from this law sin was dead." The law stimulates my old nature. This is human nature. Any law. You see a sign, wet paint, don't touch, go up close and look, you'll see fingerprints. That's just humanity. The law stimulates some rebellion within us. He says, verse 9, "I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died."
Paul had tried to live for God as a Pharisee on his own. He thought he did pretty good, didn't he? He thought he was doing really good. In fact, when he tells his background to the Philippian church, in Philippians, I think in chapter 3, he gives his pedigree and he says, if anyone can boast, I can boast more. I was circumcised on the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin. Concerning the law, I was a Pharisee. Concerning zeal, I persecuted the church. Concerning righteousness which is from the law, I was blameless.
I was pretty good. I thought I was pretty perfect. He struggled for years. His whole life as a Talmudic student, studying the writings of Gamaliel, and the rabbis, and the law, was to keep the law, and he felt like he had done pretty well. He had struggled hard to keep it. Until he was studying the law, and in particular the Ten Commandments, one day, and he really took a long look at the 10th commandment.
You see, you can read all the other commandments and it says, you shall not murder. Well, I haven't killed anybody. You shall not steal. I really haven't stolen as an adult, much, or anything. You shall not commit adultery. Never slept with another man's wife. So you can start checking off, I've done good, I've done good, until you get to the 10th commandment. And the 10th commandment, found in Exodus chapter 20, says, "You shall not covet."
Now we're dealing with something far differently. Now we're not dealing with outward action, now we're dealing with inward attitude. Now it's not just, what have I done, but what have I wanted. And He lists seven things a person shouldn't covet. "You shall not covet your neighbor's house", you go to your neighbor's house and go, man I wish I had that house, "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife", Oh, she's so pretty. Be careful. "Nor his manservant, or maidservant, or ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's."
That's the 10th commandment, and if you break the 10th commandment it leads to breaking other commandments, because once you start wanting something it starts opening the door to further behavior. But it's not dealing with outward action, it's dealing with inward attitude. So suddenly Paul realized, man I'm in trouble. I can break God's law as soon as I open my eyes in the morning, and before I get out of bed I can covet. He said, that just wiped me out. "It slew me." I realized I prided myself in outward activity all these years, but inwardly my thought life was impure, and I realized I was guilty of breaking God's law.
So he said, "I would not have known sin unless the law said, 'You shall not covet.' But sin, taking commandment, produced to me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died." Now I believe verse 9 is Paul referring to him, during his younger years, up until the Damascus road experience, the time he spent in Arabia, going through the law, examining it, coming to the no covet clause, and then realizing, yikes, sin has just revived and I'm wiped out. I'm dead. It destroyed me. Makes sense?
"And the commandment," verse 10, "which was to bring life, I found to bring death." It's interesting in Leviticus, I forget exactly what chapter, I'm guessing around chapter 15, God says here's My laws, keep My laws, do these things, and you shall live. God is saying, here's the best way for you to live. My intention is that you live a wholesome, wonderful life, and, therefore, here is My law. But Paul said, that wasn't my experience. It didn't cause me to live, it produced death in me, because I realized I'd broken God's commandments. I've desired my neighbor's wife. I've desired my neighbor's house. I wish I had my neighbor's business and wealth, donkeys, oxen, et cetera. Wiped me out. Sin revived, I died.
"The commandment, which is to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, the commandment holy, just and good." There's nothing wrong with a commandment. It's holy. It comes from a holy God. God is saying, this is the best way for you to live. "Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that's sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin." Again that's a description of the unregenerate person.
Here's what Paul is saying in a nutshell. The problem isn't the law. The problem is Paul. The problem is me. And the law only amplifies the sin that is in me. It's in me, but now I read what the law says. It's like, you may be, like we talked about the last few weeks, you might be speeding down the freeway. There's no road signs. Suddenly somebody puts up a sign, 50 miles an hour. You say, man, I've broken that twice over, for years. Now the law amplifies, not only your behavior, but your desire in the future to keep going that high speed.
The problem isn't with the law, the problem is sin, and the problem is in us, in our flesh. "For we know," verse 14, "the law is spiritual, but I am carnal", The Greek word is, I am... ...the flesh... ...is a word that simply means I'm made of flesh. The law is spiritual but I'm made of flesh. Remember what Jesus said to His disciples? We're going to pray with you Jesus. We're going to pray, then fell asleep. Jesus said, "The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak." I am carnal. I am made of flesh. I am, by my nature, weak and unable to keep God's law.
The law shows the standard. The law shows God's requirements and, by showing God's requirements, shows how far I have come short of God's requirements. As we've told you before, the law is like a mirror. The mirror is an accurate reflection of you. We don't always like what we see when we look in the mirror but it's honest. However, though it's an honest reflection of you, it doesn't have the capacity to fix you.
The law reflects your sin. The law doesn't have the capability to fix your sin. No amount of I'm going to try, I'm going to work really hard, I'm going to make 15 New Year's resolutions that I'm going to break by January 2. If that's your life, I'm going to make these resolutions, I'm going to try really hard, you're always going to live in Romans chapter 7. You need to graduate to Romans chapter 8.
"For what I am doing," verse 15, "I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me." You know what it's like when a little boy does something wrong and you say, why did you do that? And he goes, I don't know. That's what Paul is. Paul is a little boy going, I just did something bad. I don't know why I did it. I don't know why I keep doing it. Have you ever experienced this? We all experience this. This is human experience. This is the Christian experience.
"For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. For if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me." He's not using his nature as an excuse, he's just simply saying, I make frequent, ongoing bad choices in my old nature, my flesh.
"I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 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. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"
There's a note of exhaustion in that question. It's like, I've been struggling for so long. And he cries out, who will deliver me from this old body of death? It's like he's carrying a dead corpse on his back, tied to his back, and it's decaying every day, and he's carrying it around. It smells. It's gnarly. It's raunchy. Who will deliver me? Aren't you glad the chapter doesn't end with that question? It answers the question in the very next verse, and we will end the chapter. "I thank God", who will deliver me? "I thank God", here's who will deliver him, "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."
I'm going to explain that next time, because it's a perfect porch for the house that is Romans chapter 8, the victory chapter. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." That's the next part. We'll get to it next time. We'll understand a little more. I'll kind of backtrack a little bit and get to this burst of thanksgiving from the apostle.
But I've always believed that the mind cannot retain what the seat cannot endure, and you have endured me for just over an hour, or just about an hour, because I did introductory remarks, so I don't want to keep going because then it just becomes the law of diminishing returns. Plus you have children that we have a commitment to, and teachers. By the way, thank them for doing what they do. And, by the way, thank them, not to me, but I mean to them. You do that to them when you see them. Go up to them and just give them a handshake or, excuse me, I can't say that. Give them a hug. No can't say that either. Give them a clap. Give them a high five, knuckles, whatever. I don't know what you can do. Tell them they're awesome.
And, by the way, we could always use more volunteers in the children's ministry. We have weekends where they say, you know what, we have kids that were just turned away because we don't have the volunteers to meet the requirements. So if God is saying, it's time to serve, great place to start.
Father, thank You for Your body. Thank You for Your church. Thank You for the fact that we get to come out like this and really soak in and dig in and wrestle with the text of scripture and make application. Thank You, Lord, that what the law could not do, because of the weakness of our own nature, Jesus has done. That His death, and we identify with that, means that the law has no power over us, has no dominion over us. Sin in effect has no dominion over us, even though we struggle with it. Help us, especially next week, to understand how that victory is lived out in the spirit, for we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.