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Romans 7:1-8:2

The Law of the Spirit of Life

  • Rich Jones
  • Weekend Messages
  • December 6, 2014

In Romans 7, Paul describes what happens when the flesh is under the Law, but then in Romans 8, Paul describes what happens when the flesh is under the Spirit and that’s a completely different thing altogether. Here’s the main difference; when a person lives under the law, their flesh wants to rebel against it. But when a person lives under the Spirit, they’re not like a teenager with an attitude, they are like a bride in love with her husband. It’s all about what kind of relationship you have.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Transcription
  • Scripture

The Law of the Spirit of Life

Romans 7:1- 8:2

Throughout these first chapters in Romans Paul has been describing the power of the gospel. He’s not ashamed of the gospel because it’s God’s answer to a sinful world. God can take a sinner and make him righteous in one verse, 1 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

That’s an amazing truth that has everything to do with our standing before God. He takes all the sin that was in our account and places it in Christ’s account, He then takes the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus’ account and places that in our account. That’s the power of the gospel. We can now have a relationship to God because He has adopted us as His son or daughter because of what Christ has done for us on the cross.

The gospel is God’s answer to the sinner’s dilemma; how can an unrighteous sinner have a relationship with the holy, righteous God? …But every sinner has another dilemma; how do we have victory over this sinful flesh that we still live in?

In other words, it’s wonderful and amazing that our sins are forgiven, but how do we have victory so that sin does not master over us?

And while we’re on the topic, what is the realistic goal here? Does God expect that we’ll be perfect and never sin? While it’s true that no one is perfect, it’s equally true that anyone can have integrity, anyone can have godly character. We can be victorious, sin does not have to master over us, but we need to understand who we are and we need to understand that God supplies what we need that we might live in victory.

Romans chapter 7 and chapter 8 are very much connected together and give us some of the deepest insights in how to live our faith in everyday life and live victoriously.

Probably the most famous part of chapter 7 is where Paul describes the inner conflict inside a person that wants to do good, but is unable to do it. “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I’m doing the very thing I hate… For the good that I wish, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.”

Many people read that and say, “Wow, that’s me. I can completely relate to that.” But Paul is not describing the way God wants us to live in our relationship to Him, he is describing what it’s like to live under the law.

His point is that God doesn’t want us to live that way, He has a better answer. Here’s where Paul is going with this; the problem is what to do about this flesh of ours. We are born with it and we’re going to die with it, but it doesn’t mean it has to ruin our lives and destroy us.

In Romans chapter 7 Paul describes what happens when the flesh is under the Law and we’ll look at that as we go through it verse by verse, but then in Romans chapter 8 Paul describes what happens when the flesh is under the Spirit and that’s a completely different thing altogether.

Here’s the main difference; when a person lives under the law, their flesh wants to rebel from it and they’re like a teenager with an attitude constantly resisting their parents’ rules. But when a person lives under the Spirit, they’re not like a teenager with an attitude, they are like a bride in love with her husband. It’s all about what kind of relationship you have.

I.      The Law is No Help at All

A.     The law no longer has jurisdiction 

  • Paul uses marriage as an illustration of the jurisdiction of the law. It has authority over a person as long as he lives.
  • If a woman is married, she is bound by law to her husband while he is living, if that husband dies, she is released from the law and is free to marry another.
  • His point is that the law no longer has jurisdiction over us, because we were made to die to the law through the body of Christ.
  • And it’s a good thing that the law no longer has jurisdiction over us, because it didn’t work out so well. It was no help at all.
  • Having said that, it is important to understand that the law is good. Verse 12 – the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
  • Paul is talking about the Jewish law in that verse, but even most nonbelievers understand the importance of having the rule of law. Without it society would turn into anarchy and ultimately devolve into violence.

Romans 2:14-15 Even Gentiles have the work of the law written in their hearts; on their conscience.

Illus - Imagine if there were no driving laws. Chaos would rule; like when I was in Africa and was asked to drive a group of pastors to a meeting. Not good.

B.     The law and the flesh don’t like each other

  • Over and over Paul makes the point that the flesh and the law are at odds with each other.

Romans 8:7, The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

  • The relationship between the law and the flesh is like this; the law is like a bossy parent and the flesh is like a teenager with an attitude. That’s a formula for disaster.
  • In fact, Paul goes on to say that the law actually makes the flesh worse - verse 5, “sinful passions are aroused by the law.” Verse 9, “when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died.”
  • How does that happen? The law makes something wrong, but the very fact that it’s wrong only makes it sweeter to the flesh and creates more sinful desire.

Proverbs 9:17, “Stolen water is sweet; and bread eat in secret is pleasant.”

  • Paul makes that clear in verses 7 and 8, “I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin produced in me coveting of every kind.”

Illus - Dieting is a good illustration. Going hungry on a diet only makes you want naughty food even more.

Illus – Gayle Irwin once shared that when his kids were young he and his wife went out for dinner and left the kids with the sitter. As he was about to leave, he didn’t know why he said it because he never said it before, but he told their kids not to put beans in their nostrils. They spent the night in the emergency room.

C.      This makes for a wretched life

  • In the last section of this chapter, Paul describes the conflict between the flesh and the law in some very famous verses.
  • We need to step back a bit and understand the different things that are at play in this chapter.
  • There is the law; which Paul says is holy and righteous and good, though it is weak - it has no power to help me at all.
  • There is the flesh; which Paul says is the desire and passions of the body. This is the part of us that finds pleasure out of things simply because they are wrong.
  • There is the mind; this is the part of us that agrees that the law is good and wishes to do good and joyfully concurs with the law of God in the inner man.
  • Let’s read through these verses again and see how all these relate to each other. (Verses 21-25)
  • Paul builds the conflict to a crescendo and then says, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” In other words, the problem is the body of this death that is waging war against the law of the mind and making him a prisoner of the law of sin in his members, his body.
  • “Who will set me free?” Paul asked. The law certainly can’t set us free. It’s too weak.

Illus - The law is like being in school and having a substitute teacher that everyone takes advantage of. My heart goes out to the substitute teachers of the world. They have to have one of the most difficult jobs in the school district. 

  • Who will set me free? Paul gives the answer – we are set free through Jesus Christ our Lord! This is the answer we need to understand and take hold of.

II.      You’ve Been Joined to Another

A.      Serve in the newness of the Spirit

  • In Romans 6:14-15 Paul said, “Sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!”
  • In chapter 7 Paul pounds that point home. We haven’t been released from the law so we could live lawlessly.
  • If the law was unable to control the sinful flesh, then being released from the law is only going to allow the sinful flesh to go completely hogwild.

Illus - A teenager struggling with his parents rules is a good illustration. Several times we heard from one of our teenagers, “When I’m 18 – I’m outta here.” We always had the same response… 

Illus - We can relate to that, because many of us did the same thing ourselves; me included. I was released from the law of my parents and the sinful flesh took full advantage of the opportunity. But I didn’t like the person I was becoming. I went back to church and I went back to my relationship with God. I wasn’t changed in a day, the process still continues.

  • We were released from the law so we could be joined to another, to Jesus Christ Himself, and be filled by the Holy Spirit. (Verse 6)
  • Paul says we are now to serve in the newness of the Spirit, not in the oldness of the letter. A key to victory is knowing that we serve our Lord and Master; we’ve been joined to Him who raised us from the dead.

B.       Bear fruit to God

Illus - If our relationship under the law was like a teenager constantly resisting their parents’ rules, but when a person lives under the Spirit, they are like a bride in love with her husband. It’s all about the relationship.

  • Paul uses the marriage relationship as a picture of our relationship to Christ in many places in the New Testament...

Ephesians 5:25, 32, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her… This mystery is great; but I’m speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

  • One thing is certain about marriage; it changes you forever! You are not your own. You think about your spouse before you make plans. You have to take your spouse into account in every decision you make. You put heart and effort in staying close in relationship.
  • A marriage relationship God’s way is a huge blessing and it’s a great picture of our relationship to Christ.

Illus - Paul’s analogy- we were married to the law that never lifted a finger to help, but praise God we died to that and are now in a loving, kind relationship.

Title: The Law of the Spirit of Life

Text: Romans 7:1-8:2

Date: December 7, 2014

The Book of Romans, the title of our message, “The Law of the Spirit of Life”. Alright, here we are in the Book of Romans, one of the most significant books in the New Testament, and chapter 6, 7 and 8 are particularly important. We are, right now, really in some of the deepest, richest insights that God has for us in regards to our relationship to Him. Remember in the first chapters of Romans that Paul has been describing the power of the Gospel. He says, “I’m not ashamed of the Gospel, because it’s God’s answer to a sinful world.” God knows what’s happening in this world and He has an answer. The Gospel can take a sinner and make that sinner righteous in one verse. Remember, first Corinthians 5:21. “He made Him, who knew no sin,” that’s Christ, “to become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

This is an amazing, amazing truth that has everything to do with our standing before God. He takes the sin that was in our account—this is the Gospel, right—He takes the sin that was in our account and He places that into the account of Christ. Then, He takes the righteousness of God in Christ—Jesus—and places that in our account. That’s the power of the Gospel, and because of it, we have a relationship to God where He says that we are now adopted as sons and daughters. God has adopted you as son or daughter.

See, the Gospel is God’s answer to the sinner’s dilemma. What is the sinner’s dilemma? How can an unrighteous sinner have a relationship to the holy and righteous God? That’s the Gospel. That’s the amazing truth that Paul says he’s not ashamed of. But, the sinner has another dilemma. That dilemma is this: how do we have victory over this sinful flesh of ours? Real, practical truth. How do we really live that out? See, it’s a wonderful and amazing thing that our sins are forgiven, but how do we have victory so that sin does not master over us in how we live our lives every day?

Now, while we’re on the topic, let’s ask this question: what is the realistic goal here? What does God expect from us? It’s a truth that no one is perfect. That is a truth. But, it is equally true that anyone can have integrity. Anyone can have godly character. In other words, we can be victorious. Sin does not have to master over us. But, we need to understand some things. We need to take hold of some things. We need to understand that God supplies all that we need for that victory. Romans chapter 7 and chapter 8—very connected together and give us some of the deepest insights into how to live this life in faith and in victory. That’s the point.

Probably the most famous part of chapter 7 is where Paul describes this inner conflict that happens inside of a person that wants to do good, but isn’t able to do it. The verses go like this. “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. For the good that I wish I’d do, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.” Some people hear that and they say, “Wow! That’s me. I can completely relate to that. It’s amazing that God has verses that are just so me.” Many people say that. But, the point is that God doesn’t want us to live that way. He has a better answer. Here’s where Paul is going with this. The problem is this flesh of ours. What do we do with this sinful flesh of ours? We were born with it, we’re going to die with it, but that doesn’t mean it has to ruin us. It doesn’t mean it has to destroy us. It doesn’t mean it has to master us.

In Romans chapter 7 Paul is describing what happens when that sinful flesh is under the Law. We’re going to look at that, we’re going to go through it verse by verse and see it. But, then in chapter 8 he describes what happens when the flesh is under the spirit, and that’s a whole different thing altogether. Here’s the main difference: when a person lives under the Law, the sinful flesh wants to rebel from it. They’re like a teenager with an attitude—constantly resisting their parents’ rules. A great picture for us, we get it. But, when a person lives under the spirit, they’re not like a teenager with an attitude—they’re like a bride in love with their husband. Oh, it’s a whole different thing. It’s a beautiful picture for us to understand; that it’s all about the nature of the relationship.

Alright, now let’s read through Romans chapter 7 and really understand the insight that Paul has for us in this chapter. Let me just kind of say this in advance: when you read through Romans chapter 7, we are in the meat of the Word here. This is really the meat of the Gospel. This is the meat of a really awesome book. But, let me just tell you, the meat is cut very thick. I want us to understand that there’s some really great things here. We’re going to make it into a great meal that would apply to us very powerfully. Let’s go through it verse by verse and understand it.

Chapter 7:1. “Do you not know, brother—for I am speaking to those who know the Law—that the Law has jurisdiction, it has authority, it is over a person as long as that person lives? Do you not know that?” He says. Then, he uses an illustration to help us to see it. He uses marriage. He says, “A married woman is bound by Law to her husband while he is living, but if the husband dies she is released from the Law concerning the husband.” A great picture for us. We get it. Husband and wife—bound by Law—husband dies, she’s released, she’s free to marry someone else. So, then he says, “If, while the husband is living, she’s joined to another man, she’s called an adulteress. But, if her husband dies, she’s free from the Law so that she’s not an adulteress, though she’s married or joined to another man. Therefore, my brethren,” and he’s applying it now, “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead that we might bear fruit for God.” See, in verse 4, he applies it.

Now, he’s using the marriage illustration, but he kind of shifts a little bit there, because he starts out by saying, “You know, the marriage jurisdiction, and if the husband dies, the wife’s been released.” But, then he applies it to us in that we’re the wife and we die, and by we dying, we’re released from the marriage. So, here’s the problem—she’s dead. Well, yeah, but that’s the Gospel. She’s also raised from the dead, because she’s in Christ. This is the really powerful picture for us to understand the spiritual nature of it. I think it’s sometimes hard for guys to relate to, “Hey, we’re supposed to compare ourselves to the woman and the bride here. I’m a guy.” I know, but stretch a little bit here. Work with Paul, because this is a great picture. In verses 1-4, he’s really made the entire point, and then in the rest of the chapter he explains it.

So, we go on. Verse 5. “For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we now serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. What shall we say, then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! God forbid! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law. For I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” But what did the sinful flesh do in response to the Law? He explains, verse 8, “But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law, but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death in me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death in me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by affecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.”

And here are the famous verses. “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, I am doing the very thing I hate. If I’m doing the very thing I do not wish to do, I am agreeing with the Law, confessing that it is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” The answer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then, on the one hand, I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other hand, with my flesh I am serving the law of sin and death.”

Alright, two verses in chapter 8. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

I. The Law is No Help at All

That is a great, great chapter. It’s very thick with great theological truths for us. Some of these people look at that and say, “That’s just too thick. It’s just too deep. I’m not going to get it.” No, it’s straightforward. Paul wants us to understand it because it is so practical. It’s so important for everyday life. What do we do with this flesh of ours? How do we have real victory? Practical? Let’s be real. Practical victory. Well for one thing, he starts out for us to help us to see it is this. He says, “Look, I want you to be clear. The law is no help at all. Let’s just start with this point. I want you to get this so clearly.” That’s why he starts out with the words, “Do you not know?

A. The law no longer has jurisdiction

You’ve got to know this. It’s really important.” If we knew, if we understood, it would change our perspective. That’s what we need for victory. Here’s what we’ve got to see. He says, “Look, the law no longer has jurisdiction—no longer has authority.” It’s important to understand that. He uses marriage as an illustration of the jurisdiction. It’s got authority as long as the person is alive. If a woman is married, she’s bound by law to her husband while the husband is living. If that husband dies, she’s released from the law and is free to marry another. His point: the law no longer has jurisdiction because we were made to die to it. We die to that husband, the law, through the body of Christ. And it’s a good thing that the law no longer has jurisdiction over us, because it didn’t work out so well. “It was no help at all,” Paul says.

Now, having said that, he wants to also make it clear to us that the law is good. The law is holy. So, don’t misunderstand. The law is good; the law is holy and righteous. Now, he’s talking about the Jewish law there, but even non-believers understand the importance of having rule of law. We’ve got to have laws. We’ve got to have rules; we’ve got to have some construct so society can work. Otherwise, it turns into anarchy and it devolves into violence. Kill or be killed is the rule of the day then. Everyone understands that. Rules are good. The law is good. We need it. In fact, in Romans chapter 2, just turn there if you wouldn’t mind, it’s just a couple of pages to the left. Romans 2:14 and 2:15. It’s so clear there. He says, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, then these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law which is written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.” So, he says, “Look, the law is good. You’ve got to have law.”

Maybe an illustration might be this: imagine that there were no driving laws. No laws, no lights, no stripes or lines in the road, no signs or anything, no speed limits. Now, there’s a part of us that says, “Okay, that’d be cool. No speed limits? I can go as fast as I want. That’d be awesome. No lights? I think it’d be pretty cool.” Reminds me of this last week, we were taking care of our grandson, Ethan, he’s two and a half, and he was on my back, and somewhere he’s picking up this red light, green light thing, but he’s got it all confused. You know, he’s two, and he says, “Green means stop! Red means go!” I’m thinking, “Boy, he’d better work this out before he turns sixteen. This is going to be bad.” We need rules. Have you ever driven in a place where there are no rules, where there are no laws in regards to driving? I have, yeah. It’s called Africa. I remember being in Kampala, in Uganda. And I remember thinking, “This is an absolute anarchy. This is a mess, that’s what this is.” It’s every man for himself. Let me tell you what happens when it’s every man for himself. You go nowhere. Everybody is wedging and trying to clamor and push and the rule is, whoever gets their nose in first, they’re the one that gets to go next. Everybody is pushing and shoving with their cars. Here’s the deal: no one’s going anywhere. It’s totally jammed up, it’s stopped. It takes you an hour to get anywhere.

Reminds me of when I was in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. So, huge city, like seven to eight million. I was in this compound with a group of pastors, maybe six or eight pastors, and we were waiting to go to this big outreach event. We were waiting for a call to let us know that, “Yeah, you can come now.” I guess in Africa the pastor doesn’t come until the crowd is big enough. How’s that for something? So, we’re there waiting, it’s like 7:30 or 8 at night. We get the call, “Okay, come on!” So, they start piling in this car that they had arranged that turned out to be something that looked to me like a World War II surplus jeep. You know, kind of an extended jeep that will hold seven or eight people. So, they’re all packing in there. One of the pastors comes up to me and he says, “There’s too many of us, so we took the driver out. We know that you’re from America, so you know how to drive, so you’re driving.” Oh, this is going to be great.

So, I get into this WWII surplus thing, the lights are barely flickering, and you’ve got to pump the brakes to get them to do anything, you turn the wheel halfway before it responds at all… you know, this is craziness. People just do whatever they want. People just walk across the street anywhere they want. This is a city of like seven or eight million people. This is craziness. So, I’m driving; we go down this corner, and that corner, and this corner, and then I see this old woman trying to cross the street with a bag, and I can see her. The lights are so deem, I just see her come in the headlights, and of course I start pumping the brake and I jam this way. And she sees me and she turns that same way I just turned, so I’ve got to crank the other way. Then she sees that and she turns the other way. Then I crank again and I just miss her. There were some of her threads on the bumper. Just missed her. All the pastors in the back, screaming. Like, “Aaah!” I pull over and say, “Guys, this is craziness. I can’t drive in this.” And they said, “You’re the only driver. Keep going.”

So, we start going a little further, and I said, “I smell smoke. Does anybody smell smoke?” “No, we don’t smell smoke.” “I’m telling you, I smell smoke.” We drive a little further. “I smell smoke.” “We don’t smell smoke.” Then I started seeing smoke. The reason I smelled it was because it was right next to me. The fuse box was on fire. So, we pull up, shut it off, put the fire out. What had happened was that somebody had taken a fuse that was burned out, wrapped it with aluminum foil and stuck it back up there. “Guys, I am done. This is craziness.” I never did make it to the thing.

B. The law and the flesh don’t like each other

The point is: we’ve got to have rules. Anarchy will reign if you don’t have some rules. It’s good. But here’s what he wants us to understand. The problem is how the flesh reacts. The law and the flesh don’t like each other. That’s what he wants us to understand. Over and over, Paul makes this point: the flesh and the law are at odds.

He makes this point really well in Romans 8:7. He says, “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God. It does not subject itself to the law of God; it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” So, the relationship between the flesh and the law is like this: the law is like a bossy parent and the flesh is like a teenager with an attitude. If you’ve got a teenager with an attitude, that’s got a bossy parent, I’m telling you, this is a formula for disaster. It’s not going to work. In fact, Paul goes on to say that the law actually makes the flesh worse. Verse 5: “Sinful passions are aroused by the law.” Verse 9: “When the commandment came, sin became alive and I died.” How does that happen? What are the inner workings of that? What are the dynamics of that? It’s this: the law makes something wrong, but the very fact that it’s wrong makes it even more desirable to the sinful flesh. It even makes it sweeter.

That’s why God puts His finger on it perfectly. In Proverbs 9:17, “Stolen water is sweet; bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” In other words, the very fact that it’s stolen makes it sweeter. The very fact that it’s done in secret makes it more exhilarating. There’s something more exciting about the fact that it’s wrong. That is the nature of the sinful flesh, right there. Paul makes that so clear in verses 7-8. He says, “I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘you shall not covet’.” So, the law said: don’t covet. But then the sinful flesh responded to that and produced in me coveting of every kind. That’s the nature of this flesh of ours. An illustration? Dieting. If you’ve ever been on a diet, you know exactly what I’m saying. Going hungry on a diet actually makes you want naughty food even more. Isn’t that true?

Gayle Erwin, who some of you might remember, he spoke in our church a few years ago, once shared that when his kids were young, he and his wife were going out to dinner, and so they got a sitter. As he’s about to leave, he says to the kids from the door—and he said later, “I don’t know why I said it, because I had never said it before. I blurted it out.”—he says, “Kids, whatever you do, don’t put beans up your nose.” They spent the night in the emergency room later, because the very idea—“Don’t put the beans up your nose!”—the flesh arose. “We’ve got to put beans up our nose.” “That’s the nature,” he says, “of the sinful flesh.” In other words, he says, “I want you to understand how the flesh responds to the law because of this. It makes for a wretched life.”

C. This makes for a wretched life

Paul describes in these last sections the conflict between the flesh and the law. Very famous verses. Let’s step back, just a bit, and understand the interplay of what’s happening in these verses. You have the law. Paul says that’s holy and righteous and good, but it’s weak. It has no power to help at all; it’s bossy, but it’s weak. Can’t help. Then, you have the flesh. Paul says this is the desire and passions of the body; this is the part of us that finds pleasure out of things simply because they are wrong. But then there’s the mind. This is the part of us that agrees with the law, that it’s good, and wishes to do good, and joyfully concurs with the law of God in the inner man. There’s a part that says, “I want to do good. I really desire to do good.” Reminds me of when our kids were young and then they grew up. There’s a phenomenon that we observed that I kind of was surprised about. You have to see kids grow up and then become adults to really get this phenomenon.

So, many of you know our story. We adopted two, and one of them was adopted from a home for emotionally troubled kids. So, he came with some issues and he struggled against authority. He chafed at authority and he resisted authority and at every turn he wanted to argue with authority. I remember one time him saying, “When I grow up and have kids, I’m not going to treat my kids this way.” I said, “Really? What are you going to do with your kids?” “I’m going to let my kids do whatever they want!” I said, “Really? I want to be there to see that. Because that’ll make me feel oh-so-good.”

You know what’s interesting? So, later, he grows up, becomes an adult, and I hear him talking to his friends. Can I believe these words are coming out of his mouth? He says, “Well, that’s not how I was raised. I was raised that right is right and good and integrity…” and I thought, “Is this the same kid that resisted me at every turn? And now look what you say.” That reminds you of the verse that says, “Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he’s old, he won’t depart from it.” Yeah, when he’s old, because in the middle, there’s a part where he does turn away from it. See, here’s the nature he wants us to understand. You have the law; you have the flesh, this part of us that wants.

Let’s read verses 21 again and a few more verses to see the interplay of this. “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind.” There’s a law in my body? Yeah, it’s called the law of sin and death. The law in his mind is where he agrees with that which is good. “It makes me a prisoner of the law of sin in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” See, Paul builds the conflict to a crescendo. He builds the conflict and brings it to a crescendo where he says, “Wretched man that I am! This is terrible. Who will set me free from the body of this death?” The problem is this sinful nature, this flesh nature that wages war against the law of the mind, making it a prisoner. “Who will set me free?” Paul says. Well, he wants to make it clear. “The law is not going to set you free. The law is not able to help. It’s too weak. It just tells you what to do; it’s too weak to help you.”

A picture that I was thinking of might be this. Imagine: you remember when you were in school and your teacher was sick and they sent in a substitute teacher? Did you feel bad for that substitute teacher? Because everybody treated the substitute teacher terribly. I mean, she’s there, and she’s trying to implement the rules, “Don’t do that! I said sit down. Would you do your work? I said sit down!” and no one’s listening to her. So, she’s got the rules, she’s got the laws, but no one helps her. If you’re a substitute teacher, my heart goes out to you. As I was there, I watched those guys do that to her. I was an angel, I want to be clear.

He says, “Who will set me free? The law is not going to help. Who is going to set me free from this? This is a wretched thing. Who’s going to set me free? This is no way to live.” The answer? We’re set free through Jesus Christ, our Lord. But he explains how. This is why we need it. This is why we need to understand it. He says, “Listen, you’ve been joined to another.”

II. You’ve Been Joined to Another

Going back to the first verses of the chapter, Paul says, “The law no longer has jurisdiction, because we’ve died to the law of the Christ.” Now, some people, when they hear that—that’s when some people go crazy. They say, “We’re not under the law anymore? That’s great! That’s great that we’re no longer under the law. I never liked those laws to begin with. Let’s partaaay!” You know how Paul would respond to that? Paul would say, “Wait a minute. You missed the entire point. You missed it entirely. You didn’t die to the law so you could party in the flesh. You died to the law so you could be joined to a new husband; to Jesus Christ, our Lord. Jesus Christ himself,” verse 4.

This is important to understand because it is the nature of our victory. That’s why Paul says, “Do you not know? You need to know this.” That’s why he says, “Listen, you died to the law—the old husband, the bossy husband that didn’t do anything. You died to that, that you might be joined to another—so that you might serve in the newness of the Spirit.” Key word: serve. When you think of the word ‘serve’, you have to say, “Serve what? Serve whom?” Serve the Lord. His Master. But he’s kind, because you’re doing it in the newness of the Spirit.

A. Serve in the newness of the spirit

See in Romans 6, just one chapter back, in verses 14-15, Paul says, “Listen, sin shall not be the master.” Let me be clear. “Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under the law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? God forbid it!” Then, in chapter 7, Paul just pounds that point home. We haven’t been released from the law so that we could live lawlessly. If the law was unable to control the sinful flesh, then being released from the law is only going to allow the sinful flesh to go completely hog-wild. That’s not the answer. A teenager struggling with his parents’ rules is a great illustration for that. As you know, we raised five. There was a phrase we heard several times in those years, and if you’ve ever raised kids, maybe you heard this phrase. It goes like this. “When I’m eighteen, I’m out of here.” Anybody ever hear that? We were ready. We knew they were going to say that. Like, bring it on. We are ready for that phrase. Anytime they said, “When I’m eighteen, I’m out of here,” our response was always the same. “You know, you say that like it’s a threat, but in reality, my friend, that is a promise. Because, when you turn eighteen with that attitude, you are out of here.”

Here’s the point. We can get it. We can relate to it, because we did the same thing. We can relate because we did it ourselves. Me too. I was released from my parents’ law and my flesh responded, “Yes! Let’s party!” My sinful flesh took full advantage of the opportunity. But, here’s the deal: I didn’t like who I was becoming. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the person I saw in the mirror. I saw integrity slipping away; saw character falling off the cliff. There’s a part of us—there’s a part of me—I concur with good. I want good. I couldn’t stand it. I didn’t like looking in the mirror and seeing that person. What am I going to do? I’ve been responding like a teenager in rebellion. But I’m lost. Now what? There’s where the Lord gives the Gospel; the answer. The Lord pursued, knocking on the door of my heart. “Listen, you’ve got it all wrong. Would you stop responding like a rebellious teenager? I’m not your bossy parent. Don’t you see how much I love you; what I’ve done for you? I bought you—paid the price for all your sins. I made a way for you to have a relationship. Would you stop this? You got it wrong. I’m not your bossy parent. I’m the one who loves you.” It changed everything. I’m back to church. I’d been gone for years. I loved going back. My relationship to the Lord renewed. I didn’t change in a day; the process is still going on. But the change—the insight—to understand…

B. Bear fruit to God

See, we’ve been released from the law so that we could be joined to another, to Jesus Christ himself, and filled with the Holy Spirit, so that we could serve in the newness of life of the Spirit, not in the oldness of the letter.” This is the key. We’ve been joined to Him. And then he says, “So that you can bear fruit in your life—bear fruit to God.” Which means you have meaning—significance. Your life is about something. You have purpose and direction. To live in the flesh and to let the flesh go crazy only results in emptiness, lost-ness, a void of meaning, a void of direction. God says, “I want more than that for you. Don’t you see the value that I have given you? Bear fruit to God. You’ve been released from the law. Stop rebelling like you’re still under it. The law was weak. It had no power to reign in the sinful flesh, but you’ve been released from that. You’ve now been joined with Christ, filling you with the Spirit, winning you with His love. It’s a completely different relationship.

You see, if our relationship under the law was like a teenager constantly resisting the parents’ rules, a person who lives under the Spirit is like a bride in love with her husband. It’s a completely different relationship. Paul uses the marriage relationship as a picture of our relationship to Christ in many places in the Scriptures. One of those powerful places is Ephesians 5:25 and Ephesians 5:32. He says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” He loved so much, He gave himself up. Oh, if you could only see the vastness of love—the height, the depth, the breadth, the width of it. He says, “This is a great mystery, but I’m speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”

Now, one thing is for certain about marriage: it changes you forever. You’re not your own. You think about your spouse before you make plans. You have to take your spouse into account in every decision you make. You put your heart and effort in staying close in the relationship. See, a marriage relationship—God’s way—is a huge blessing. It’s a great picture of our relationship to Christ. Paul’s analogy: we were married to the law, but it was bossy, and cold, never lifted a finger to help, but we died to that so that we could be joined to Him who loves us, who cares for us, nurtures and builds, and says, “Come on to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and you will find rest for your soul, for my burden is easy. My yoke is light.” God loved the world so much, that He gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him, will not perish? The reason why they don’t perish is because they are no longer condemned by the law, but have everlasting life because you’ve been made new in Christ, and you have now the Spirit of the living God, that you might bear fruit unto Him, and your life might mean that which is far greater than it ever meant before.

 

Romans 7:1-8:2    NASB

Chapter 7

1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.

4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
 
7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "Youshall notcovet." 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.
 
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

 

21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Chapter 8

1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

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