"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32

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Monday, November 28, 2011

A Study in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans – “On the Road of Righteousness” Chapter Seven:

~~ By James Fire

Chapter Seven: An ‘Illegal’ Bride –

In medieval courts and Roman Catholic tribunals of that day, sometimes the practice of exhuming a corpse would be enacted for the purpose of trying them in said courts and tribunals with the intent of convicting them of crimes post-mortem, and then sentencing punitive actions upon them. If such a practice wasn’t such a travesty, it would almost be comedic!

However, here in vs. 1 of this Chapter in Romans, we read Paul’s words about how the Law has no dominion over the dead; their life is over and the appointment with death is met and followed by the judgment (Heb. 9:27):

Rom 7:1
Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?


At such a point, the Law no longer holds sway over the departed in the sense of enlightening a person to their own sinful state and revealing the need for repentance; rather it is used for the sake of prosecution and condemnation in judgment in the realm of eternity ‘future’.~*Once dead, the remedial influence of the Law is no longer valid; likewise Paul uses the analogy of marriage to demonstrate this point:

Rom 7:2-3
For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.

So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.


Just as it’s perfectly acceptable and proper for a woman to have another husband, if her first husband is dead, so likewise is it acceptable and proper that once we are married to the LORD Jesus Christ as His bride (Rev. 21: 9), we may validly consider ourselves to be perfectly dead indeed to the Law. Paul expresses this idea of Christ being the husband to the church elsewhere in his epistles too:

2 Cor 11:2
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

Eph 5:31-32
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church
.


Just as husband and wife become one flesh through the marriage covenant, so likewise any that are baptized into the body of Christ through the new covenant (testament) are joined to the LORD in spirit; for the two become one:

1 Cor 6:16-17
What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit
.


Thus the body of Christ and all the individual saints that comprise it, becomes by the Spirit of the LORD, the bride of Christ, no longer bound under the Law, no longer helplessly restrained by the flesh and its sinful tendencies; and for all eternity, joined to the LORD Jesus, forsaking all others (false Jesus’ and false gospels, false hopes in this fallen world, etc.), and keeping their relationship with Him simple, pure and uncorrupted (see 2 Cor. 11: 3-4; Gal. 1: 6-9).

Marriage is an institution that is bound and certified by the law (of the land, but primarily the Law of God that instituted such in the Garden of Eden), but the law makes a poor means of marital relationship. This is why so many Christians who are caught up in legalism have a cold, almost business-like relationship with the LORD!

What He desires of course, is a love relationship, based on the yearning and devotion, commitment and adoration of both marriage partners in a mutual bond of true holiness, purity, commotment and agape love and not the letter of the Law; therefore we are in a sense, with tongue in cheek – an ‘illegal’ bride, one that is not according to the Law but according to grace.

In the book of Revelation, the LORD rebukes the church of Ephesus for leaving her first love; interesting what the name “Ephesus” itself intimates:

The Berean Bible Study Group – A Letter To Ephesus: Chapter 2:1-7

Meaning of the name ‘Ephesus’: “Evidence of the Greek word Ἔφεσος (Ephesos) has only been found in reference to the city and church of that name. Whatever other meaning it may have had has been lost in antiquity. However, Christian tradition indicates that it meant darling or chosen. Strong's indicates that it may have also meant permitted. The word itself may have been derived from the Greek word ephoros, meaning overseer. Ephesus was a major religious center and the home of the first and largest Christian church in Asia. It certainly represented the origins of the church in the eyes of any who would have received this letter. For that reason, we will go with the traditional meaning of ‘darling’.”

So while Ephesus lost her first love, she is still considered the LORD’s darling, and speaks of the LORD Jesus everlasting and unconditional love and devotion; however this doesn’t at all mean, that Ephesus or any church is beyond being chastened, for the LORD chastens those whom He loves (Heb. 12: 6).

Rom 7:4
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God
.


So rather than a ‘marriage’ to the Law, we are dead to such “through the body of Christ” that is, the church (see Eph. 5:24; Col. 1:18; side note: there are hyper-dispensationalists that make a distinction between the church and the body of Christ, but such a distinction is unwarranted as these terms are used interchangeably in these and other Scriptures).

Thus, even though we are now “married to another” that is, Christ – we are not adulterers because we are dead to the Law.

HOWEVER: Today more than ever, spiritual adultery is rampant in the church, this body that was intended to remain a “chaste virgin” (2 Cor. 11:2)! Christians are involved in practices that are actually occultic – everything from yoga (no, it is not just physical exercise), to contemplative prayer, to actually engaging explicitly in Eastern meditative practices by name (which is what contemplative prayer really is), to spiritual ‘gifts’ that are not of the Spirit of God, but satanic in origin; Christians dabble with horoscopes, astrology, psychic readings, etc. but “just for fun” when such practices are expressly forbidden in the counsels of Scripture! Today’s emergent apostasy is a hodge-podge of do-it-yourself-religion that harks back to the existential philosophy of “if it feels good, do it.” – Regardless of what the Scriptures say about it!

On the issue of the occult and spiritual seduction through ‘gifts’ particularly in the Charismatic movement, please consider the following by Sandy Simpson of Deception in the Church (DITC) Ministries:

The Vineyard, the Charismatic Church and the Cults

Aside from this, the love for the things of the world and ‘going native’ rather than remaining “pilgrims and strangers, abstaining from the things of the flesh that war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11), Christians have adopted the world’s customs of sensuality both in clothing, mannerisms and in lifestyle. They’ve been lured by the enchantment of materialism and ease, and seldom engage in any spiritual interaction with the LORD in prayer and personal Bible reading; if they do, its the sort of interaction as mentioned above – or entrapped in the bonds of legalism (See also: 2 Cor. 6: 14-18; 1 John 2: 15-17; Rev. 2: 20-23).

How it pains our LORD’s heart, Who only seeks out the simplicity of love and devoted fellowship with His bride, when He sees such corruption, and complication burdening His body, the church. May we be encouraged to repent of any such things, and return to our First and Best love, wholly given over to our Creator and Redeemer, the Lover of our souls!

Just as a marriage will bring about children, that is the fruit of the womb, so too will our marriage to Christ Jesus, our Bridegroom bring forth the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5: 22-23); the Spirit of grace indeed brings eternal life, but the law of sin can only bring death (Rom. 8:2) and the Holy Law of God can only work condemnation upon sinners. Strangely bizarre I think that so many Christians want to put themselves back under the Law when it cannot produce any fruit to the glory of God!

Rom 7:5
For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death
.


Comparing vs. 5 with vs. 4 is most revealing, and will produce some profitable insights for those who will meditate upon them, and observe the contrasts between the two. “Motions of sin” is translated also as “the impulses of sin” and this word “motions” can mean “suffering, pain, something to be endured; to undergo some influence, whether good or bad” and it’s the same word used in Heb. 2:9 in “suffering for death”.

The same idea conveyed here in vs. 5 is also seen in Romans 6:23a. Consider the deadliness of sin and how it mars and ruins the soul!

Rom 7:6-7
But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet
.


Here we see another example of contrast between the oldness of the letter, that is, the Law and the newness of the Spirit, which brings life. 2 Cor. 3: 6 as well as Romans 2: 29 elaborate on this:

2 Cor 3:6
Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life
.

Dr. Scofield provides some interesting insights here:

Romans 2:29; 2 Corinthians 3:6. “‘The letter’ is a Paulinism for the law, as ‘spirit’ in these passages is his word for the relationships and powers of new life in Christ Jesus. In 2 Cor. chapter 3 a series is presented of contrast of law with ‘spirit,’ of the old covenant and the new. The contrast is not between two methods of interpretation, literal, and spiritual, but between two methods of divine dealing: one through the law, the other through the Holy Spirit.”

There are some who, in a sense disdain the Law, and are smug about it, declaring that “we are under grace now” as if there was something wrong with the Law. Yet the Law of God simply declares things like “You shall not kill (murder)” and “you shall not steal” – who would have a problem with these, except murderers and thieves?

Those who would obey the Law in form, by external observation and not obedient from the heart and fulfilling the Law in the intents and motives of the heart (an impossibility for sinners like us) are invalid as far as righteousness is concerned from God’s Holy point of view, and this was the very reason why the LORD Jesus slammed the Pharisees and Sadducees at every turn (consider Matthew Chapter 23 for instance). Such legalists and devotees of religion are following the “oldness of the letter” that only “kills.”
They cannot experience the vibrant, effervescent, joyous life in Christ, which is “newness in spirit” that “gives life (abundantly)” and born not of the will of man, but of God (John 1:13); just as God breathed into lifeless dust and created a living soul in Adam, so too, He breathes His Spirit into dead, barren spirits and raises them to potent life brimming over eternally!

As stated in vs. 7 here, we are aware of sin because of the Law, both observed in Scripture as well as written on our hearts, or that is, conscience; together with the Holy Spirit we are convicted of sin, even as unbelievers upon whom God works, Who would lead them (and ourselves as necessary) to confession (1 John 1:9) and repentance (Acts 26:20).

Rom 7:8
But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead
.


Two words to examine here are “occasion” and “concupiscence” –

Occasion (aphorme in the Greek): “a starting point, a base of operations in war; it is used of the Law providing sin a base of operations for its attack upon the soul (Rom. 7:8, 11). Christian freedom is not to provide (“provision”) a base of operations for the flesh as in Gal. 5:13.”

Concupiscence (epithumia in the Greek): “a longing, especially for that which is forbidden, desire, lust; an irrational longing for pleasure, ‘unbridled lust’ in the sense of a very strong desire, whether for good – which would not be forbidden – (as in Lk. 22: 15; Phil. 1: 23; 1 Th. 2:17) or evil (Rom. 7:8; Col. 3:5; 1 Th. 4:5)

In Romans 6:12 the injunction against letting sin reign in our moral body to obey the ‘lust’ thereof, refers to those evil desire which are ready to express themselves in bodily activity. They are equally the lusts of the flesh as in Romans 13:14; Gal. 5:16, 24; Eph. 2:3 2 Pet. 2:18; 1 Jn. 2:16, a phrase that describes the emotions of the soul, the natural tendency towards things evil.

Such lusts are not necessarily base and immoral, they may be refined in character but are evil IF inconsistent* with the will of God.”

Looking at the book of Hebrews we read:

Hebr 12:1
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us
,


*Note that in this verse there is that which is clearly and blatantly “sin” but also “weight[s]” that weigh and slow us down, preventing our running in the race of our Christian exercise in life and ministry with greater efficiency and effectiveness. Such weights and things that are not perhaps sinful in themselves but become sinful in that they inhibit God’s will in our lives.

For example, I love reading novels, and would voraciously devour them from some of my favorite authors (and admittedly, being secular writers, they would sometimes write about things that are objectionable to the Christian). Yet when the LORD was calling me to greater study of the Word, and in committing more time towards this ministry of TTUF, it required more research in non-fiction books as well as online time on various sites.

Aside from financing novelists that would at times write on offensive topics and acts, devoting time towards reading these, inhibited what God would have me do for TTUF. So, is reading novels a sin? No, not necessarily, but for me, these ‘weights’ were preventing me from accomplishing what the LORD would have me do, so I laid down these things so that I might ‘run the race’ better.

Rom 7:9-11
For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.

From Dr. Scofield:
“The passage (vs 7-25) is autobiographical. Paul's religious experience was in three strongly marked phases:
“(1) He was a godly Jew under the law. That the passage does not refer to that period is clear from his own explicit statements elsewhere. At that time he held himself to be "blameless" as concerned the law Philippians 3:6. He had "lived in all good conscience" Acts 23:1.

“(2) With his conversion came new light upon the law itself. He now perceived it to be "spiritual" (Romans 7:14). He now saw that, so far from having kept it, he was condemned by it. He had supposed himself to be "alive," but now the commandment really "came" (Romans 7:9) and he "died." Just when the apostle passed through the experience of Romans 7:7-25 we are not told. Perhaps during the days of physical blindness at Damascus, Acts 9:9; perhaps in Arabia, Galatians 1:17.
“It is the experience of a renewed man, under the law, and still ignorant of the delivering power of the Holy Spirit, Romans 8:2.

“(3) With the great revelations afterward embodied in Galatians and Romans, the apostle's experience entered it third phase. He now knew himself to be "dead to the law by the body of Christ," and, in the power of the indwelling Spirit, "free from the law of sin and death" Romans 8:2 while "the righteousness of the law" was wrought in him (not by him) while he walked after the Spirit Romans 8:4, Romans 7 is the record of past conflicts and defeats experience as a renewed man under law.”

And from Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible we have these insights:

A paraphrase based on the Greek in verse 9:
“‘For I was alive without the law once’” q. d. Take me, if you please for an instance. Before I knew the law aright, and understood the Divine and spiritual meaning of it, or whilst the law stood afar off, and was not brought home to my conscience, I was alive, that is, in my own conceit; I thought myself in as good a condition as any man living, my conscience never gave me any trouble. So it was with me once or heretofore when I was a Pharisee or in an unregenerate state. But when the commandment came; i.e. its sinfulness and guilt appeared, and I had a lively sense thereof imprinted upon my soul; or my corruption began to gather head and seemed, as it were, to receive new vigor and life. ‘And I died’; i.e. in my own opinion and feeling, I felt my conscience deadly wounded. I was convinced I was in a state of death and damnation. I lost the confidence I formerly had of my good estate.

Verse 10: ‘And the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.’ So it came to pas that the commandment which was ordained to be a rule of life, and if I could have kept it, a means of life also (Ch. 10:5; Gal. 3:12) I found it to be to me (through my corruption and transgression) an occasion of death; it bound me over to punishment; and so by accident it tendeth towards death…”

Rom 7:12-14
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin
.


And therein lies the problem of our own perdition! That this death which plagues us not only at the hour of our demise, but in every aspect of this diminishing life and works its ruin because of the sinfulness of our own hearts. The revelation of this deplorable condition is the result of the Law which is “holy, and just and good” and (by contrast) shows us our sinful nature for what it is: a carnal (unspiritual) nature that is “sold under sin” or that is, being “delivered and transported as merchandise or specifically as slaves (“sold” pripasko in the Greek) into sin”.

See also Romans 5: 20-21 and Galatians 3:21.

Here Paul allows us an ‘inside look’ into the inner turmoil he struggled with, and indeed one that every born again believer struggles with: this war of the Spirit and the flesh (Gal. 5:17; the duality of natures both Divine by spiritual rebirth in Christ, and depraved by natural birth in Adam). The Christian need not live a life of defeat by sin (though too often and too readily we may surrender to such) but even the victorious Christian (such as Paul himself!) is never without this struggle!

(We will always have this war on our hands until the redemption of our bodies (See: Rom. 8:23) where we shall inherit glorified, incorruptible, sinless bodies that we will don for eternity by the grace of God!)

This is why Paul stated elsewhere:

1 Cor 9:27
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway
.


Paul isn’t speaking of the sort of practice of monastic orders that would literally beat and torture their own bodies, thinking that this would somehow mortify the flesh and produce holy results; rather, when speaking of his “body” he is referring to “the flesh” or the fallen sinful nature that caters to the body appetites and leads to acts of sin, and he brings such into subjection, certainly not by his own power or determination, but in faith by the Spirit of God.

Our sinful flesh is like a wild, vicious, voracious dog that wants its own way, regardless of what damage is incurred to our spiritual life or even that of others. Paul states here that he, in effect, keeps this wild dog on its leash, subjected and kept under control (of the Spirit!).

Now sometimes you and I let this dog off its leash, and it has a hay day of partaking of sin, and this is why too many Christians suffer defeat, because once loosed, they don’t know how to get this savage beast back under control. The answer is found abundantly throughout Scripture, as well as here in this chapter, in verse 25 and previously in vs. 4 and 6.

Rom 7:15-20
For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me
.


Note that Paul distinguishes between the “I” in verse 17 and “sin” or that sinful nature of the flesh (vs. 18) that dwells in him and commits such acts; these are the things that the “I” of Paul, hates. This is the battle between the new man and the old, that which is born of God’s nature and that which is born of Adam’s nature. John expresses this as well in his epistle:

1 John 3:9
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God
.


That which is born of God, does not “commit” sin, that is, does not tarry upon, dwell in, practice in a continual sense of committing sin because the new nature either in this life or in the commencement of the next, overcomes the old nature. The new nature itself born of God, cannot sin (though the old nature certainly can, and does).
This is why those who are born of God and have acquired the new nature will manifest (the fruit of) righteousness in their lives (Read 1 John 3: 4 – 10 to see this in context).

One would think that the self-esteem gospel would have had the wind knocked out of its sails early on in its infancy because Paul himself declares that in himself – his flesh – there dwells “NO GOOD THING”. In his own nature, there was nothing to esteem of value, to venerate as noble and good and admirable. Paul was stating the same thing as our LORD did in the Beattitudes:

Matt 5:3
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
.


Those who are spiritually bankrupt, poverty stricken, entirely deficient of any spiritual value whatsoever! What then is there to esteem about oneself?? Rather, let our focus be upon the LORD Jesus and consider His value, His veneration and holy nobility, goodness and admirable qualities, and the truth of the matter, which is that He willingly died for us out of His own heart of goodness, love, compassion and tender mercies!

I don’t know about you, but I find it of far greater potency and much deeper satisfaction to know the love of Christ for me, rather than any ‘love’ for myself I could ever dredge up! The rest of this portion of Scripture from Romans (vs. 18 – 20) should be ample enough evidence to prove that there is nothing in us worthy of any esteem whatsoever.

Verse 19 speaks of the spiritual bondage to sin that Paul laments over; other verses that speak on this are as follows: Prov. 5:22; John 8:34; Rom. 6: 16; 2 Tim. 2:26; 2 Pet. 2: 19. The only liberation from such bondage is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the new life He imparts upon salvation.

Rom 7:21-23
I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

For I delight in the law of God after 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
.


Two laws are in operation here: the law of sin which is in our members (bodies) and the law of God which operates in the mind or inward man. The inward man is no match by itself to combat the law of sin which brings us into captivity. We need the Life-generating power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ’s atonement and propitiation and resurrection power to defeat this law of sin, and we can and will and do, by faith acquire this victory!
An acronym that came to mind some years ago was A.V.R.A.S. or Absolute Victory (in life) Requires Absolute Surrender (to Christ).


Such victory is proportional to the degree of surrender, so that the more one is surrendered (or yielded; see Romans 6: 13 – 19) to the LORD, the greater the victory in life that will be experienced.
What is commonly known as ‘Spiritual Warfare’ (Use the TTUF search engine and type this phrase and enter; you will find an ample number of articles on this subject) has the significant aspect of spiritual integrity and holiness, which the enemy will endeavor to compromise at any cost in order to see the saint fallen from this state, and back into bondage to sin.

This is why a walk of holiness, a life of obedience and keeping our hearts and minds (2 Cor. 10:4) steadfastly upon Christ is crucial for such victory, yet always and ever by the power of Christ Jesus Himself; simply yield in surrender to Him and such is obtainable.


Rom 7:24-25
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this 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
.


When we stumble and fall into sin – and we will (1 John 1:8), let us recognize the flesh for what it is, confess and repent of such, but not spend any time living in the ‘condo’s’ (condemnation) and allow the enemy to beat and bludgeon us further with overmuch guilt to the point that we walk away from the LORD.

Rather, let us remember to keep short accounts with God, confess our sin and failings at once, and simply accept by faith that as we have confessed our sins, “He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

The flesh will never know holiness while we remain on this earth; the new man will never know separation from God in communion (but separated in fellowship if we live with unconfessed sin in our lives). The law of sin will always operate in our flesh, just as the law of God will affect our spiritual lives. This is why the crucifixion (by identifying with Jesus Christ and His cross, by faith) of the flesh is the only remedy to diminish the influence (“motions”) of sin in our lives (Gal. 2:20 once again!).

In the next study, Paul will wrap up the doctrinal truths regarding the second aspect of salvation (sanctification) in Chapter Eight and begin to address some of the aspects of the third part of salvation (glorification).

The book of Romans is sometimes compared to a temple with its many chambers and rooms of deep theological and doctrinal truths; in this analogy, Chapter Eight is seen the highest spires and towers of that temple as the heights of its glories are unmatched anywhere else in the epistle, or much of the New Testament for that matter!

For this and many other reasons, I am most excited to venture into this chapter and plumb its depths and feast on its riches of spiritual provender! I hope to see you soon as we continue to walk On the Road of Righteousness!

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