Monday, January 17, 2011
In Search Of Truth, Romans 6:19-7:6
Paul has been using the metaphor of slave and master to describe the human relationship to sin and the believer's relationship to righteousness. But it's not a perfect metaphor, and Paul acknowledges this in verse 19. By nature, we have a hard time understanding spiritual realities. Because of the fall, we are no longer naturally given to pursuing God and engaging in spiritual life. Doing so now means relying on metaphors and comparisons that are ultimately a bit clumsy and imperfect at best. But Paul did not view this as a reason not to pursue deeper understanding.
So although the metaphor is imperfect, given the freedom we have in Christ compared to the slavery of sin, Paul says to offer ourselves as willing "slaves" to righteousness. Serving sin was a downward spiral, but serving righteousness (the standards of living established by God) results in being set apart by God and used for his purposes. (The meaning of "sanctification".) (v.19)
Paul pauses for a moment to further compare the end result of these two paths in front of us. Before someone becomes a believer, they are enslaved to sin, ultimately controlled by its agenda. They are also free from the call of righteousness, which certainly brings about change and challenges to life.(v.20) But what does someone in this situation, who is following their own natural desires, ultimately gain? Death. "Thanatos" (Greek for "death") as used here refers to an eternal state of death. Complete separation from God and the infinite blessings of being in his presence, as well as the absence of the common good things God allows us to experience in this life. (v.21)
By contrast, being "enslaved to God" and freed from the downward spiral of our sin results in being set apart for the special purposes of God (sanctification) and ultimately, eternal life. The Greek word for life here is "Zoe" and refers, in this context, to the highest and best life that Jesus has and that he offers to those who place their trust in him. The highest and best that the infinite God of the universe has to offer, is being held out in front of us to accept!(v.22)
Sometimes, as holidays like Christmas or other big events we enjoy come to an end, we feel let down in some way, either because the time is now over, or because it didn't live up to our expectations. We have a built in desire for emotional fulfillment and sensory pleasure that doesn't end or become boring. We live our lives chasing after it in our relationships, recreation and work. But it never lasts. By living in sin, always aiming to please ourselves, we earn death as payment. What Christ offers as a gift is complete and consuming pleasure and fulfillment that never fades and never comes to an end! (v.23)
But how does it make sense that just because we believe in and are "identified" with Christ, we are no longer accountable for failing to obey God's laws? Where else do we see anything like this idea? Paul points out that the law has no jurisdiction over those who are dead. We don't jail wanted criminals when they are found dead. There's no point. They are beyond the law now. (7:1)
Paul uses the example of a woman whose husband dies. She can marry another man without sinning, because her husband is removed from the context of the marriage laws by his death. (v.2-3)
You'll remember that believers have been "baptized into" (identified with) the death of Jesus. (6:3) As believers, our original nature is now dead and we have been joined to Jesus and his resurrection. We are no longer under ANY of the laws presented in the Old Testament, and have been set free with a new life, in order to "produce fruit" for God. (7:4)
In the "flesh" (the natural tendencies and fallen, corrupt nature we're born with), the laws of God, like "forbidden fruit", stimulated our tendency to sin, resulting in a path diverging from God and leading to eternal death.(7:5)
Believers, through their "death" with Christ, have been released from the jurisdiction of the old law, living now to serve in "the Spirit", rather than the written laws of the Old Testament. (7:6)
We'll learn more about what it means to live and serve "in the Spirit" in chapter 8!
Next Week- So is the Law good, or bad?
Coffee House Question- When was the last time you were disappointed to see something end, or were let down because it didn't meat your expectations?