Romans Chapter 7
What About the Law?
- The Believer's Release from the Law (Rom_7:1-6)
- The Believer's Respect for the Law (Rom_7:7)
- The Believer's Revelation Through the Law (Rom_7:8-13)
- The Believer's Relationship to the Law (Rom_7:14-25)
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, told his students, "Often when didactic speech fails to enlighten our hearers we may make them see our meaning by opening a window and letting in the pleasant light of analogy." The ministry of the Lord Jesus was liberally sprinkled with apt illustrations which arrested the attention of His hearers and drove the message home to their hearts, but the apostle Paul didn't use many windows! Therefore, his illustration of the woman whose husband died is particularly welcome, even though his application is somewhat convoluted.
In the previous chapter we noted that the striking phrase "we died to sin" was the center of the apostle's argument, but now we are introduced to the added fact that we "have become dead to the law."
The Believer's Release from the Law
In Paul's teaching there is a clear connection between "the law" and sin. He told the Roman believers, "Sin shall not have dominion over you for you are not under law but under grace" (Rom_6:14). The person living "under law" is dominated by sin; therefore, if there is to be any realistic release from sin, there must be a corresponding release from the law. That this is all part of the divine provision Paul now seeks to explain through his rare illustration.
Assuming that the Roman believers, both Jew and Greek, were familiar with the law—presumably the Mosaic Law—Paul reminds them that the law has jurisdiction over a man only during his lifetime. For instance, in the marriage contract a wife is required to be faithful to her husband all his life. If she fails in this regard, she is called an adulteress, but as soon as her husband dies, she is free to remarry without there being any suggestion of impropriety. She is "released from the law of her husband."
Paul's application of the illustration is not altogether straightforward, but his obvious point is that, in the same way a widow is no longer under any legal obligation to her late husband, so the believer who was formerly married to the law is under no obligation to the law as a means of justification once the law dies. The problem with Paul's illustration is that the picture does not fit, because in real life the law does not die but the believer dies to the law. His point is clear nevertheless.
Those people who see their hope of being justified centered in their relationship to the law do not have happy marriages to the law. Married as they are to a law which is perfect, inflexible, demanding, and all-encompassing, they are soon driven to despair by their own incapability, in the same way that tender young brides have been known to be destroyed by domineering husbands whose rectitude was matched only by their insensitivity. Paul outlined something of the pressures experienced by the brides of the law when he wrote, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal_3:10).
If we may take the marriage analogy a little further, we can imagine what it must be like for a bride to be confronted each day by a husband who has a list of things which must be done thoroughly and perfectly. She must continue to do them; she must not only think about doing them but actually perform them. No half measures will be tolerated; no concessions to weakness will be made. There will be no excuses, no explanations will be asked for or given, and failure in every case will result in the unfortunate bride being cursed for her ineptitude and incompetence. To add insult to injury, the enraged husband will then proceed to live in total inflexible adherence to his own impossible demands, humiliating the bride even more.
It is no surprise when the frustrated bride, living under such pressure, lashes out in anger and fear—or as Paul says, "The passions of sins which [are] aroused by the law… bear fruit to death" (Rom_7:5). This does not mean that Mr. Law is breaking his own rules or encouraging his wife to engage in lawless activity. On the contrary, his exemplary behavior is a witness to the perfection of his own demands but also to the imperfection of her abilities. The resultant breakdown of relationship reaches its culmination when upon the death of Mr. Law the bride breathes more sighs of relief than she sheds tears of remorse. No longer must she embark each morning on an impossible task, knowing full well that she must face each evening the inevitable condemnation of Mr. Perfection. She is free!
No doubt in the church at Rome there were many people who had endeavored to keep the demands of the law, seeking thereby to earn the blessing of God. Yet they were conscious that if their blessing depended on their meticulous fulfillment, their failure promised their ultimate condemnation. Through the presentation of the gospel, however, they had learned that through the death and Resurrection of Christ they had been forgiven and reconciled to God, and, at the same time, "by the body of Christ" (Rom_7:4) they had been released from the law as a means of reconciliation. Like the bereaved bride of the illustration, they had greeted this death with more relief than grief. In fact, they had rejoiced in their liberty to the extent they had used it to be "married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead" (Rom_7:4).
Warming to his theme of marriage as an example, Paul goes on to talk about the "fruit" of the union between the believer and the risen Lord. The previous marriage had been "childless" because of the impotence of the law to reproduce anything but the "fruit to death" (Rom_7:5) in a person devoid of the life of God. In complete contrast, the new marriage between the living Lord and the loving disciple has the glorious potential of bearing "fruit to God" (Rom_7:4). In much the same way that grandparents keenly await the arrival of grandchildren who are the product of the blended lives of their child and spouse, so the Father awaits the reproduction of a new quality of life in the believer which is the result of the life of the risen Lord being blended with that of the believer.
Another stark contrast is seen in the attitude of the believer when compared to that of the person living under the law. Life under the law is a never-ending list of rules and regulations which produce a never-ending stream of fears and frustrations. But marriage to Christ is a relationship of love which freely submits and obeys with delight. The former attitude, described by Paul as "oldness of the letter" (Rom_7:6), is often cold and resentful; the latter, which he calls "newness of the Spirit," is fresh and spontaneous.
Any parent of a teenage boy will remember the days when rules and regulations about scrubbing teeth, combing hair, and washing necks were in force. No doubt they will also recall the remarkable day when, instead of dragging the reluctant adolescent to the scene of ablution, they found that a transformation of attitude had taken place which required new rules limiting the amount of time he could spend in the bathroom. Where once it was a battle to apply a comb to the hair, now it was a battle to be able to afford the exotic shampoos necessary for a young man who was in love for the first time. That is the difference between oldness of letter and newness of Spirit!
The Believer's Revelation Through the Law
In addition to revealing the presence of sin in his life, Paul shows how the law exacerbated indwelling sin and gave him the inestimable gift of seeing himself in reality.
For centuries, considerable debate has gone on concerning the exact time in Paul's experience to which he is referring. His testimony is that at one point in his life he was "alive" because he was not living under the restraints of the law, but this state of affairs came to an abrupt end when he became answerable to the law. Everything changed and he died. One possible explanation is that Paul was referring to the blissful experience of his youth before his bar mitzvah. Prior to becoming a "son of the law," he lived happily in his ignorance both of the demands of the law and the sin within the heart of man. But when he became a responsible member of Jewish society and an earnest seeker after righteousness through the law, he found that the law, instead of leading him to life as promised, was taking him deeper into death.
The age-old statement concerning the law, "This do and you shall live," shows that "life" is available only when the "doing" is being done. Paul found the doing of the law more than he was capable of performing, and so, instead of raising him to the exhilarating experience of the presence of God, it took him farther down the road to despair and dismay. The more he longed for perfection, the more he lacked in performance, and the more sinful he recognized himself to be, the more "holy and just and good" the law became in his eyes.
Perhaps one of humanity's greatest needs is to recognize that sin is "exceedingly sinful." Paul sees the law as particularly helpful in this regard, because sin took something as wholesome and perfect as the law and made it the means for sin to become rampant. What could be more beautiful than the possibility of human relationships of the highest order and what better way of protecting and promoting these relationships than through instructions to honor father and mother, to abstain from adultery, to refrain from misleading through lies, and to respect other people's dignity by rejoicing in what they have rather than lusting for it ourselves? But it is in the area of human relationships that sin is seen in its worst form as lying and cheating, fornicating and killing, robbing and destroying, and it is through the pure law of God that this sin is brought out into the open. Such is the nature of sin, whether in the heart of the unredeemed or in the life of the believer.
The Believer's Relationship to the Law
Before looking into the remaining verses of this chapter, it should be pointed out that considerable disagreement exists between Bible students as to the application of this passage. If Paul is referring to his pre-Christian experience, then, of course, the passage is applicable to unbelievers. But if he is relating his struggles after his conversion to Christ, then what he has to say relates to believers. This writer takes the view that Paul is relating the struggles he had with the law of God before he knew Christ and which he continues to have since coming into an experience of the risen Lord. Without going into the pros and cons of the differing positions, none of which is totally conclusive, it should be clear that all earnest people, whether regenerate or unregenerate, find that there has been no final resolution of their intrinsic sinfulness. This is particularly true of those who have so despaired of their sin that they have turned in repentance and faith to Christ and found forgiveness in Him. This state of being forgiven has motivated them to great aspirations after holiness of life. But as many have found to their sorrow, the closer they come to the light the more the cracks and flaws show. One hymn writer expressed the thought beautifully: "Those who fain would serve Thee best, Are conscious most of wrong within."
It is not uncommon for believers to be unsure about their relationship to the law. On the one hand, they have learned that they have died to the law, that they are not under law but under grace and that they should live as free people. On the other hand, they hear Paul extoling the virtues of the law, calling it "holy, just, and good" and describing it as "spiritual," and they feel a little uneasy about disregarding it all together. The dilemma should be resolved when we remember that God's law reflects the purity of His character and outlines the standards of behavior that He regards as normative. The flaw of the law is that it cannot bring anyone to regeneration, and to die to the law means to die to all efforts to be justified by keeping it. This does not mean, however, that the law is any less true or that God regards it as less important. It still reflects God's nature and continues to outline His standards and, therefore, is relevant to the believer.
The believer who holds the law of God in high regard will, like Paul, find himself in something of a battle. One part of him will give assent to the goodness of the law, but another part of him will rebel against it. In response to the principles of God outlined in the law, one part of the believer will aspire to great deeds, but another part will pull him back from achieving them. Challenged by the law to be done with lesser things, the believer may resolve to change his ways only to find that, like the dog which returns to its vomit, he goes back to do again the things he loathes. Paul, in three great cycles, establishes this to be his own experience and draws some important conclusions. First, the law is good; second, he is bad. (To use the words of the Lord Jesus, he finds that "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.") Third, he attributes his failure to the presence of sin dwelling in his members.
Stated in the simplest terms, Paul is describing the sad experience of many a person who believes that the principle "thou shalt not commit adultery" is "holy and just and good" but still has a terrible struggle with adulterous thoughts. Or the person who firmly believes that "thou shalt not covet" is a "spiritual" statement and agrees with it wholeheartedly but has great feelings of resentment toward the person appointed to the position she wanted for her husband (and herself!). They both "delight in the law of God according to the inward man," but, unfortunately, they are discovering that the law which could not bring anyone justification cannot bring anyone sanctification either. The law pointed out sin in the unbeliever to bring them to repentance, and it goes on pointing out "sin that dwells" in the believer in order that they may look for ongoing deliverance.
Paul was certainly longing for some kind of release from what he called "the law of sin which is in my members" (Rom_7:23). He said:
O wretched man that I am! Who will
deliver me from this body of death? 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. (Rom_7:24-25)
The picture of the battle of the soul is clearly sketched by Paul as he carefully chooses words with military connotations. He describes sin as "warring" against the law of his mind with the result that he is brought into "captivity." It is fitting that he continues the theme by using the expression commonly employed by soldiers wounded in battle and in need of help when he writes, "Who will deliver me?" No doubt he feels that he has been badly wounded in his struggle against sin and desperately needs help. The phrase "body of death" in verse Rom_7:24 is clearly related to "the body of sin" (Rom_6:6) and does not mean that the body is dead any more than the earlier phrase meant the body was sinful. His meaning is that the body, through its susceptibility to the power of sin, can be the instrument of sinful acts which lead eventually to death, and such is his burden that he longs to be released from the bondage. Some commentators, like Calvin, interpreted this to mean a desire to die and be through with sin once and for all, but this hardly seems to fit in with the next things Paul teaches. It would be wiser to see Paul's heartfelt cry as a longing for a fuller life rather than for a quicker death.
His response to his own query is as powerful as it is brief. "Thank God," he says, "through Jesus Christ" deliverance from the ongoing power of sin will be experienced. Without amplifying this electrifying statement, which he will deal with in the next chapter, Paul tempers his exultant cry of promised victory with a balanced reminder: the war is not over and the battle will continue, but with the certainty of victory instead of the inevitability of defeat. The ongoing conflict will feature a mind that serves the law of God and the flesh that serves the law of sin. Without the intervention of the living Christ through His Spirit in the life of the believer, it would be "no contest." But through His power, the law which was powerless can be fulfilled as the power of sin is conquered from day to day.
Romans Chapter 6
Should Saints Sin?
- Saints' Relationship to Sin (Rom_6:1-7)
- Saints' Relationship to Christ (Rom_6:8-10)
- Saints' Relationship to Temptation (Rom_6:11-14)
- Saints' Relationship to Righteousness (Rom_6:15-23)
Richard Lovelace was right when he wrote in his book Dynamics of Spiritual Life: "Three aberrations from the biblical teaching on justification—cheap grace, legalism, and moralism—still dominate the church today." Moralism is the approach to Christianity that concentrates on the teaching of Christ as moral imperative to be addressed to society without adequate emphasis on the necessity for repentance and faith leading to justification. On the other hand, there are churches that have adopted "legalism" as their approach to Christian experience. Based on a deep commitment to justification by faith and a serious attempt to live as if justified and conscious of the danger of spiritual infiltration or infection, considerable effort has gone into the manufacture of disciplines, rules, and regulations designed to isolate the believer from all that would hinder or mar his spiritual progress. Unfortunately, the emphasis has often switched from Christ to the rules and from the enjoyment of life in Him to a debilitating experience under the load of auxiliary matters the believer is called to shoulder. "Cheap grace," the term coined by the German pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, refers to the sad attitude, displayed in varying degrees of openness, which says, in effect, "I've been forgiven and I will go on being forgiven whatever I do, so I can do whatever I wish." Paul appears to be addressing this type of thinking.
Saints' Relationship to Christ
Paul starts his explanation of the believer's death to sin by reminding him of the historical facts of Christ's earthly experience, namely, His death, burial, and Resurrection. Then Paul shows that through baptism the believer is united to Christ and, therefore, is a participant in the experience of Christ. Thus the believer through baptism has died, been buried, and raised again "with Him."
Strange as this may sound to modern ears, there was no problem in understanding this teaching among the people Paul was addressing in Rome. The Jews among them were thoroughly familiar with the rite of baptism through which Gentile proselytes were required to pass before they could be regarded as members of the Jewish fraternity. The initiates were carefully prepared for baptism, then undressed completely and placed in water so that every part of their body was in contact with the water. Then they were required to make confession of their faith in Christ. After receiving instruction from those chosen to officiate at the ceremony, they emerged from the water "new men" in the eyes of the Jewish people. So great was their transformation that everything related to their former life was regarded as an irrelevance and a totally new start was in order. Some rabbis even taught that the new life was so radical that even former family relationships no longer existed and the proselytes were free to marry their own sister or mother if they wished. In the modern church, understanding of the rite of baptism has gone through many changes and has been the subject of numerous debates. But it should be remembered that for the early Christians who came from either a Jewish background or involvement with pagan religions which had their own initiation ceremonies, the act of baptism was a serious step taken by a convinced adult to declare his allegiance to Christ whatever the cost and, also, to announce the termination of his old life and the initiation of the new.
As Christian theology has developed, one section of the church has seen baptism as a sacrament while a second section regards it as a symbol. For the former group baptism conveys grace to the baptized person. Taken to its extreme, this approach can obviate the necessity for repentance and faith and elevate baptism to the lofty status of the means of salvation. On the other hand, those who regard baptism as a symbol of spiritual reality may decide that as rites are relatively unimportant when compared to reality, the rite can be dispensed with without losing any spiritual benefit. This position has been adopted by such groups as the Salvation Army. In their book The Water That Divides Bridges and Phypers make the helpful comment, "To the New Testament writers there is no problem. Baptism is integral to the salvation process, of value in itself, bringing with it the full blessing of God. Now, of course, faith saves and in asserting that baptism is a sacrament as well as a symbol, there is no suggestion that Christians should return to the crudely superstitious position of the Middle Ages."
In apostolic times, baptism was administered immediately on confession of faith in Christ. But in later years the practice was modified for various reasons. According to the Didache, a second-century document of early church procedures, the believers were required to "rehearse" their understanding of basic Christian truths before being baptized "in living water." They were also told, "If you have not living water, baptize in other water; and, if thou canst not in cold, in warm. If you have neither, pour water thrice on the head in the Name… ." Apart from showing how far modern baptism may have moved from the rugged days of cold running water to warm, placid fonts or baptistries, this excerpt also shows that the normal procedure in the early days was for the believers to be immersed. This would be not only a sacrament whereby the believers entered into the merits of their faith relationship with the living Christ but also a striking symbol of the significance of that relationship. As they stepped into the water, they demonstrated the fact that they were "in Christ"; as they were immersed, they showed they were "buried with Him"; and as they emerged from the water, they graphically portrayed their understanding of being "raised with Him" before walking from the site of their baptism and showing they were baptized to "walk in newness of life" (Rom_6:4).
Having established the reality of being identified with Christ in death and Resurrection through baptism, Paul proceeds to show the significance of Christ's death, and accordingly, the significance of our relationship to Him.
The key expression in this section is "He died to sin once for all." In Paul's thinking we are related to Christ, through baptism, and in that relationship we are in some way sharing in His death and Resurrection. If in His death He died to sin, then we, in Him, died to sin. Therefore, the simplest way to understand what it means to have "died to sin" is to find out what it means that "He died to sin once for all."
When Christ entered the world He came from the glory of heaven sinless, spotless, undefiled, and separate from sin. Immediately upon entering human society, He was confronted on every hand by sin's power and presence. For thirty-three years He lived among the carnage and wreckage of sin. When He went to the Cross, He assumed our sin and bore the wrath of God against our sin; in fact, the apostle says that the Father "made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us" (2Co_5:20). Having come from an environment where sinlessness was normative to a situation where sin is pervasive, and having taken on His sinless self the load of a race's sin, it comes as no surprise to us that He cried exultantly from the Cross at the end of His ministry, "Finished!" and promptly bowed His head and dismissed His spirit. It was all over for Him. The nightmare of sin, the horrors of death and hell, the pernicious tyranny of sin's hold on people had been dealt with, and He could go to the grave anticipating His Resurrection with joy and delight.
In the same way, believers, united to Christ, can exult in the fact that all that must be done about their sin has been done in Christ. They, too, can cry "finished" and breathe a sigh of relief because for them the nightmare of unanswered sin is over and the tyranny of unconquerable sin is broken. But in the same way that Christ did not stay dead but rose to a newness of life to be lived unto the Father, we are raised too! While He was in His body, the Son had an obligation to deal with the sin problem, but when, after death, He arose, having finished with sin, His total concentration was once more upon the Father. In the same way, believers who were previously preoccupied with the remorseless grip of sin on their lives can now concentrate on what they have and who they are in Christ and, accordingly, live new lives.
Paul, who was never less than practical even when at his most theological, outlined three specific results of this divine transaction on our behalf. He said, "Our old man was crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer serve sin."
Some people have assumed that the "old man" is the sinful nature which, because the Bible says it has been crucified, must be dead and, therefore, no longer operative. When confronted with the obvious unpalatable truth that "it may be dead but it won't lie down," they have tried to make their theology fit their experience or vice versa by many unsatisfactory methods which have produced either nervous breakdowns or blatant hypocrisy. We should not assume that the "old man" is anything more than "the man of old" or the pre-regenerate person. A friend of mine always refers to his life as A.D. and B.C. B.C. is the "old man"; A.D. is the regenerate man raised in Christ. The person you were "before Christ" has been judged, condemned, sentenced, executed, buried, and finished with forever. The new man lives.
But, in addition, there has been a powerful impact on the "body of sin" which Paul says in verse Rom_6:6 has been "done away with." Some commentators translate "body" as "mass" and agree with Calvin that "man, when left to his own nature is a mass of sin." Others see no necessity to regard "body" as anything other than the human body which, while not sinful of itself, is very clearly the instrument of sin. Paul states that this body which is so susceptible to sin's domination before union with Christ has, through Him, been placed in a position where this domination might no longer be the norm.
This leads to the third practical fact, namely, that believers "should no longer serve sin" (Rom_6:6). Now that the "man of old" has been dealt with in Christ and the new man has, accordingly, been shown that the sin which previously controlled his physical body has been dealt with, he should recognize that he is no longer at the mercy of sin, or, literally, "a slave of sin." In fact, he has been "freed from sin" or "justified from sin." As we have seen previously, "justification" has a legal connotation. But in this context Paul appears to be broadening the use of the word. In the same way that a man who has been exonerated in a court of law has the freedom to walk out of court and take a cab to his home, so the "justified" believer, in addition to his technical justification, has the practical freedom to walk away from the dominating power of sin in his life. To begin to understand this is to see how far those who believe they are saved to live as they wish have strayed from the truth of the all-encompassing gospel.
Saints' Relationship to Temptation
In all honesty we have to admit that Paul, so far, has probably raised more questions than he has answered, and this commentator concedes that he has done little to help! But all is not lost, as this section clearly shows.
In the light of all that has been said, the apostle now applies the truth by outlining a path of action that believers must take. The operative words are: "reckon," "let," and "present."
First the believer must do some reckoning. We have already been introduced to this word and seen that it means to "place to someone's account." The Greek word is related to logos, which means, among other things, "reason." Paul requires believers to reason through what he has been teaching concerning the believer's relationship to sin and to Christ and then to place to their own account or apply to their own lives that which they have intellectually grasped. He stipulates two things: first, that we are "dead to sin," and, second, that we are "alive to God" but only "in Christ Jesus."
When Neil Armstrong stepped out of "Eagle" onto the moon's surface on July 20, 1969, and said, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," he entered an environment in which it was impossible for him to survive apart from his space suit and its support systems. But because of the capabilities of his unnatural environment—the space suit—and his identification with it, he was able to regard himself as dead to his inhospitable surroundings and alive to his experience of walking around the moon. So the believer must understand that "in Christ" he is no longer totally at the mercy of the inhospitable environment of sin but is alive to all the power and life of God Himself.
When this is appreciated, the believer must make some decisions to "let not sin reign in your mortal body" (Rom_6:12). There is nothing very mysterious about this instruction. It means saying "no" in no uncertain terms! Whenever a believer "obeys" the passions of his body and succumbs to temptation, he sins, but he is not obliged to succumb and he does not have to sin. The old Puritans used to say, "God does not take away our ability to sin; He gives us the power not to sin." If television sets were made without on/off switches and we were chained to our seats in front of them and our eyes were held open by mechanical means, we would have no option but to watch everything on the screen. But we all have the option to watch or not to watch. It requires a choice to turn off the set. "In Christ" we have been given the "off" switch—the ability to say "no" and the instructions to do it.
Paul becomes even more specific when he gives instructions concerning individual members of the body. We sin when we "yield" or "present" our tongue to say the wrong word, our hand when we take something that does not belong to us, our sexual organs when we commit adultery, our minds when we harbor uncharitable thoughts. When we take sin seriously, we begin to see how sin cannot operate in our bodies without our giving over a particular member of the body for a specific sin. If the believer is adequately aware of this, he can begin to say "no" to a temptation, not only in a general sense but in the very specific sense of refusing to present the member necessary for the committing of sin. It is important to recognize that Paul gives both a positive and a negative side of this action. When we refuse to present the member as an instrument of unrighteousness, we may feel that we are left in a vacuum, so we need to remember to present the newly redundant member to an action that will further the work of God. When my tongue is required by the old sinful propensity within to engage in critical conversation half the battle is won when I refuse to participate, but the other half is won when I take the opportunity to say something helpful and positive instead.
This way the apostle says, "Sin shall not 'lord it over' you," because believers are living in the benevolent atmosphere of the grace of God, which, in addition to bringing justification from sin, also brings to the sinner the means of no longer sinning.
When as a young teenager I was drafted into the Royal Marines during the Korean War, I came under the control of a particularly imposing regimental sergeant major, who strode around the barracks leaving a train of tough men quaking in their boots. I didn't realize how dominant this man had become in my life until the day I was released from the Marines. Clutching my papers in one hand, I was luxuriating in my new-found freedom to the extent of putting the other hand in my pocket, slouching a little, and whistling—sins so heinous that if they had been observed by the R.S.M., they would have landed me in all kinds of trouble! Then I saw him striding toward me. On an impulse I sprang into the posture of a Marine until I realized that I had died to him—he and I no longer had a relationship. He was not dead, and neither was I, but as far as his domination of my life was concerned, it was all a matter of history. So I did some reckoning, decided not to yield to his tyranny, and demonstrated it by refusing to yield my arms to swinging high and my feet to marching as if on parade, and my back to ramrod stiffness. Instead I presented my feet, hands, back to my new-found freedom as a former Marine—and he couldn't do a thing about it!
Saints' Relationship to Righteousness
People from a Jewish background who held the law in high esteem were particularly nervous about Paul's insistence that "by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified" (Gal_2:16). They believed that Paul's teaching that people cannot fulfill the law for justification would encourage them to disregard the law, to claim to be justified by faith, and then because they accepted no law to embark on a life of lawlessness and sinfulness. To this Paul gives another vehement response and proceeds to show that, far from being lawless, justified believers who were formerly nothing more than "servants of sin" become the "servants of righteousness." He makes the obvious, but no less powerful point, that "to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves" (Rom_6:16). Those who revered the law and failed, as did everyone, to keep it, were in their breaking of the law exhibiting their "slavery" to sin. But those who through the grace of God had become united with Christ had been made "free from sin" and had traded their slavery to sin for a slavery to Christ and the righteousness for which He stands.
Bruce paraphrases Paul's thought as follows: "A slave's former owner has no more authority over him if he becomes someone else's property. This is what has happened to you. You have passed from the service of sin into the service of God: your business now is to do what God desires not what sin dictates."
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