Day 296 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Romans.
Romans 7 – Paul makes a comparison between Believers who have “died to the law” through Jesus’ death and a married couple. While wife and husband both live, their marriage vows are binding. But at death there is release from that binding relationship. Just so, before receiving the gospel, we are “married” to sin because we have broken God’s law and are chained to its verdict and mastery. Our desires are stirred up by the law. We “bear fruit for death.” But through faith we died to sin and we now “belong to another,” the One who rose, the One who makes us “bear fruit for God.”
This is the Jesus whom the gospel proclaims. He releases us from captivity to what could only condemn us, as “the new way of the Spirit” sets about its lifelong and life-changing activity. We have “died to that which held us captive.” We are free.
In 7:7–25 Paul deals with the third of three possible distortions of gospel teaching (see also 6:1–14 and 6:15–7:6). Someone might charge that “the law is sin,” since it condemns and even arouses sinful passions. No, the law is God’s gracious way of revealing to us our flaws. Paul uses the example of coveting, the one commandment in the Ten Commandments that addresses only the heart. Our sin takes God’s good command and produces in us the desire to do what God says not to do. It’s like the boy whose mother says, “Stay out of the cookie jar!” All the boy can think of is cookies.
Paul describes a time “when the commandment came,” which was when he became aware of his condemnation under the law. He thought he would find life through his obedience to the law, but no; sin was revealed by the commandment, and his self-sufficiency was dashed. Above all this, God’s law, His written command as found in all the Old Testament, remains “holy and righteous and good.” The law is not our problem; we are! This is the sad truth that the gospel mercifully addresses.
Paul continues to commend God’s good and perfect written Word. It is sin, not God’s holy law, that brings death. God’s word of conviction makes that painfully transparent. Various theories try to account for just who the “I” is in these verses. Some see here an unconverted person (for example, a conscientious Pharisee, such as Paul once was, trying perfectly to honor the law). Some think Paul is focusing more abstractly on how the law does its work, and is not concerned with whether a converted or an unconverted person is in view. Many believe these verses describe the struggle of believers, even under grace, as we find that we often act against our own beliefs and will. Each of these struggles confirms the goodness of the law and the persistence of sin’s effects. We must always acknowledge that, although the gospel has brought Jesus’ goodness into our lives already, we are not yet perfected in Him. There remains still a despicable presence of sin in our actions despite our cleansed status through faith in Jesus.
Whichever interpretation we take, this passage drives home the profound and perplexing disorder that sin introduces into the human mind, a disorder that can be healed only by the even more profound grace of God in the gospel.
Even amid the working of divine grace, there is moral and spiritual struggle. The drive to do evil lurks alongside the will “to do right” and the inward delight in God’s law. This is not a pleasant state, and it arouses a cry for deliverance. Paul expresses gratitude to God, whose work in Jesus is complete, but Paul also notes again the moral struggle amid which the gospel message sustains God’s people.
The struggle against sin is perplexing and, at times, overwhelming. We feel, as Paul puts it, “wretched”. Yet with Paul, as we groan and cry out, “Who will deliver me?” we take refuge in the gospel of grace: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Note that when Paul deals with the struggle, He does not take us to return to the law. No, He leads us deeper into God’s grace.
How does grace bring you through your struggle with sin?
Romans 8 – Having corrected mistaken impressions about the law and how the gospel relates to it (chapters 6–7), Paul explains how there is “now no condemnation” for Believers “in Christ Jesus.” Christians are “set free” from sin’s guilt and power by the work of the Holy Spirit as He imparts spiritual life. Neither the law nor human obedience could confer this life. Only the Son by His coming could, and did.
By Jesus’ finished work, what the law calls for—living in harmony with God and His will—can actually take place through the work of God’s Spirit. But we all face a stark either/or: either we are oriented toward “the flesh” (the human inclination to sin), which leads to death; or the Spirit reorients us, so that our present possession and final destiny are “life and peace.” Without the Spirit, we “cannot please God.”
Believers live “in the Spirit” rather than “in the flesh.” Physically speaking, in this life our bodies are mortal and sin is present. But God’s “righteousness” through the gospel (Romans 1:16–17) means (among much else) that the Spirit brings life. The Spirit who raised Jesus transforms Believers’ everyday lives as He “dwells” among God’s people and in their personal spheres. As in chapter 6, Paul teaches that the very resurrection life of Jesus dwells in those who have been united to this risen Lord.
Paul discusses the payoff and implications of the Spirit’s presence. Before we received the gospel, we could not do God’s will freely nor please Him fully. But now, through the Spirit, Believers have new affections and can turn their back on sinful behavior (for a description of “deeds of the body,” see Galatians 5:19–21). God’s Spirit leads, grants a new status in God’s sight, and prompts an outcry that is quite the opposite of the cry of “Wretched man!” in 7:24: Believers, instead, call out, “Abba! Father!”
God is not their stern judge but their confidant and helper as He makes them His children by adoption. There is an inward sense of sonship. There is the promise of present and future inheritance—on the condition that we receive the cross that the gospel calls for as well as the crown that it promises. The way of the cross is the only path to the glory awaiting “fellow heirs with Christ.” The gospel means strength for trials, not escape from them.
Through it all, however, we remain confident that we are God’s own children. By grace, through faith, Jesus is our elder brother and we are heirs of God.
Glory awaits the Believer in Jesus, but “this present time” brings “sufferings” in abundance. All creation is “groaning” in anticipation of the “freedom” from “bondage” and “corruption” that God promises (see Genesis 3:16–19). Believers groan, too, as their full salvation lies in the future, which calls for patience, a fruit the Spirit gives (see Galatians 5:22–23).
We see in these verses that one day God is going to renovate and restore not only our souls, and not only our physical bodies, but the entire cosmos. All will be put right. Eden will be restored. This globe will become what it was always meant to be.
The whole array of gospel benefits are glimpsed here: the Spirit’s intercession (verse 26), combined with God’s omniscience (verse 27), God’s omnipotence in and over “all things” (verse 28), and the full, unbroken succession of God’s savings acts so that Believers are assured of their eternal security, and consequently can “be conformed” to the image of God’s Son (verses 29–30). Our salvation is utterly secure: those whom God has foreknown before the dawn of time will one day be glorified.
We could not be more secure. Reflecting on this, our hearts are calmed as we give glory to God for the utter stability of our deliverance.
Paul extolls the glories of “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” No one can frustrate God’s purposes. Since He gave Jesus (the ultimate treasure of heaven) for us, we can be assured that His care and all His promises stand firm for our present time and for eternity. Any accuser—Satan, circumstances, sins—shrivels in stature alongside the risen Jesus who is interceding for us at God’s right hand. Paul makes the testimony of the psalmist His own. “In all these things” that could seem to defeat God’s people, God and His people remain united and inseparable, now and forever.
How does to complete security of your salvation give you peace today?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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