- Sermon Notes
Die to Live
November 5, 2023
Throughout these first chapters in Romans, Paul has been describing the power of the gospel. It is the answer to the sinner’s dilemma; how can an unrighteous sinner have a relationship with the holy, righteous God?
That question has been settled: By the unmerited favor of God, righteousness is given as an undeserved gift by God to those who trust in the finished work of Jesus and receive it by faith.
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? Because sin is still a destructive force wanting to work in our lives and wreak havoc.
At some point, all who have chosen to follow God, struggle with the flesh, trying very hard to uphold the law, which defines God’s standard, but to some degree, all fail.
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, we are called to grow into the image of Christ, until you later look back and say, “The things I used to do, I don’t do them no more.” This is called the process of sanctification.
We can be transformed and set free from the dominion of sin, but we need to understand who we are, and we need to understand that God supplies what we need so that we might live in victory.
Romans chapter 6, 7, and 8 are very much connected and give us some of the deepest insights on 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 who 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. Oh well, this is how it will always be. So, I will just continue living in this sin and struggle till I die.”
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, trying to with willpower change yourself to be acceptable to God.
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, 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.
Tonight, we will first focus on what you die to, and what you live for.
I. The Law Cannot Save You
- The first few verses of this chapter summarize it all. Again, he begins with the words, “Do you not know?”
- If we only knew, if we only understood, it would completely change our perspective and that’s what we need for victory.
- Here’s what we need to understand…
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 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. Remember, we are in Christ, as by the Holy Spirit we were baptized into His death.
- 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.
Illus – Having lived in Africa, we have been to a few African countries. You need nerves of steel to drive there because many times people just drive however they want. A stop sign is just a suggestion. Speed? As fast as the unroadworthy car can go. And by the way, who needs lights at night? When confronted with this, you can see the law is needed.
I am always astounded when people want to defund the police. Coming from a place where the police force has become mostly ineffective, I have seen what happens when the law is not upheld in society. Even here we are starting to see the effect of it where it was changed.
Romans 2:14-15, Even Gentiles have the work of the law written in their hearts; on their conscience.
- We do not need a law to tell us murder is wrong, stealing is wrong, or adultery is wrong. It is written on the heart. That is why everyone, sinners included, if they are brutally honest, knows what they are doing wrong and that is little by little bringing more destruction to their souls.
B. The law and the flesh don’t like each other
- The problem is that, although the flesh recognizes the law, the flesh does not like the law. Over and over Paul makes the point that the flesh and the law are at odds with each other.
Illus – Once again, we can use the example of society. When there is a law, it needs to be policed, because there are always elements that want to circumvent the law. They know the law, but it is not something they WANT to follow from the innermost part of their hearts. On the contrary, they try to find any way to get away with breaking the law. So, when those upholding the law get weaker, those breaking the law get stronger and bolder.
- It is the same concept with our will opposing the sinful flesh. That’s why every time people fail and sin, they feel more hopeless, until, eventually, they just give up.
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 an unswerving parent with rules and the flesh is like a teenager with an attitude. Our own will is like the brother of the wayward teenager, who doesn’t really have authority, trying to keep him in check. That’s a formula for disaster. The wayward one easily tells his brother, you are not the boss of me! I will do what I want!
- 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 desires.
Proverbs 9:17, “Stolen water is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
Illus – I remember when my kids were around 5/6 years old, we would tell them not to jump on the beds, because they could get hurt if they fell off. Needless to say, one evening my wife and I went out to dinner, only for the sitter to call us and say that Mecayla had gotten hurt. Like all children do, she and Jaden were jumping from one bed to the other when he slipped and jumped on her foot. Foot broken!
- 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.” He means the lust of the flesh, urges of the body.
Illus – Dieting is a good illustration. Going hungry on a diet only makes you want naughty food even more. The more you focus on having to cut out certain foods, the more you want it!
Illus – This started all the way back with EVE. God gave ONE command. Do not eat that fruit. What did she want? She could eat all the others, but as soon as there was a restriction on that one, she wanted that one. “Don’t do it.” “Maybe I should just try it and see…” She could eat from the tree of life, which would sustain her, but was focused on the forbidden fruit.
- So you have the urge to do what is right, but not enough power by your own willpower to keep the body in check.
- It is like quicksand. You know you have to get out, but the more you struggle, the deeper it seems you are going under. You need a different power to pull you out; a power from above.
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. The function of the law was not to save, but to set God’s standard. It made right and wrong clear so all knew they fell short of keeping the law and needed saving.
Romans 3:20, because by the works of the Law, no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
- There is sin, The law revealed sin, and brought it to the front. But it also made it enticing to the flesh.
- There is the flesh; which Paul says is the desire and passions of the body as opposed to God’s will. This is the part of us that finds pleasure in things simply because they are wrong, or the effect of living under the direction of the flesh.
Galatians 5:19-21, Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
- 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. This is the soul made alive to God’s law, discerning what is right and wrong.
- Let’s read through these verses again and see how all these relate to each other. (Verses 21-23)
- Paul builds the conflict to a crescendo and then says, (Verse 23), “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 body.
- “Who will set me free?” Paul asked. The law certainly can’t set us free. Our own willpower, or works, also cannot set us free.
- 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
- Going back to the first verses of this chapter, Paul says that the law no longer has jurisdiction because we have died to the law through Jesus Christ.
- This is where some people go crazy and respond, “That’s great that I’m no longer under the law, I never liked those laws anyway. Now I’m going to partee`!!”
- Paul would respond to that by saying, “You missed the point 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 Himself.” (Verse 4) You die to one, and live for the other.
- This is important because this is the insight we need in order to be victorious. You can imagine Paul saying, “Do you not know?…”
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 just released from the law is only going to allow the sinful flesh to go completely hog-wild.
Illus – Let’s say a company tells its employees that there will be no more performance appraisals, no more set work hours, no more rules, vacation whenever they want, and no repercussions if they do not work. I am sure the employees will just stay home and go on a forever vacation. The difference will be if you are the son of the owner who has taken ownership of your responsibility in the company. You are a shareholder and want to see the company thrive. Your heart is fully committed to it.
- This is what happened to us. We are dead to the law, cut off from it, but now joined to Jesus Christ, filled with His indwelling Spirit residing in us. (Verse 6)
- The Bible calls us heirs of the Father, joint heirs with the Son. To use that analogy, we are not slaves to a destructive, slavedriver, abusive company with overseers wielding whips driving us along, now we are in a new family “business.”
- 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
- Paul says in verse 4 that we’ve been released from the law and joined to another so that we might bear fruit for 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.
It is like the boyfriend/ girlfriend getting ready for a date.
- Paul uses the marriage relationship as a picture of our relationship to Christ in many places in the New Testament.
- 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 and want to take your spouse into account in every decision you make. You put heart and effort into staying close in relationship.
- I do not act lovingly towards my wife because a marriage law or license says I have to, I do it because I love her and go over and above. It is not a checklist to comply with, it is a love that drives me.
- This is a great picture of our relationship to Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15, For the love of Christ controls (urges, impels) us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
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.
- It comes back to how you see (consider yourself). If you say, I am a wretch tied to this horrible body without power to escape the lust that draws me to sin, then you stay under bondage to it. You have not been set free by the truth.
- On the contrary, you can take hold of the revelation by faith that says, I am dead to sin. The power it had over me is broken by the finished work of Christ. I now belong to Him and He empowers me to stand in victory. I am a new creation and a brand new man, I am born again. Although I still stumble, I do not fall, because He holds me, he sustains me, He works in me for His good, and His Spirit is all the while working and growing His nature in me. I can rest in His faithfulness.
- We are transformed by the love of Jesus.
Illus – Woman with the alabaster box.
Romans 7:1-25 NASB
7 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, “You shall not covet.” 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.