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Archive for March, 2008

“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.” Romans 7:6

 

IN chapter seven of Romans Paul teaches the believer’s deliverance from the law, and the effect of the law experimentally upon the awakened child of God. The believer’s relationship to the law, and his lawful deliverance from it in Christ, is a subject which many fail to comprehend clearly and yet it is of such vital importance, being so central to the work of Christ in saving His people.

In order to be delivered from sin and its consequence – death – we must also be delivered from the “strength of sin” – which is the law (1 Corinthians 15:6). It is our deliverance from the law by the death of Christ which Paul, having begun to set before us in chapter 6 now expands upon in chapter 7. In Romans 6 Paul considers the believer’s death and resurrection with Christ, the consequence of which is that, having had his old man crucified with Christ and being risen with Christ the other side of death, he is no longer under the law, but under grace (Romans 6:14).

At the beginning of chapter 7 Paul develops this truth further through the use of an analogy with marriage. Having died to our old husband, the law, Paul shows that we are now married to another, even Jesus Christ, that we “should bring forth fruit unto God” Romans 7:4. He then demonstrates the inability of the law to bring forth any fruit other than that unto death in the believer, and the believer’s absolute need of deliverance from its rule and dominion. In so doing Paul magnifies the law as being good and just in itself, but shows that the fault lies not in the law but in the fallen flesh of mankind – in the sin that dwells within us. Hence the apostle presents the reason why we need to be delivered from the law – that whenever the flesh is placed under the rule of the law the result is simply that sin is “revived” (Romans 7:9) and the flesh brings forth “fruit unto death” (7:5). But praise God that Christ has delivered us from the law (7:6), that He has delivered us “from the body of this death” (7:24), and to what end? That we should “serve in newness of the spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter”, that we “should bring forth fruit unto God” – yes fruit! Fruit that lasts, fruit that is of the Spirit, fruit that is pleasing unto God, fruit that the law could never envision (Romans 6:21), but which the Gospel actually brings forth! (Romans 6:22)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

“Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:11

Yes, Paul rejoiced in his deliverance from the law in Christ for by such a deliverance he came to know peace with God knowing that “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). He knew deliverance from the dominion of sin, being under grace, and became a recipient of that gift of God, eternal life, springing from that “fruit unto holiness” which God wrought by His Spirit. But can you rejoice in this? Has God delivered you from the dominion of sin and the strength of sin? Have you been brought to tread the pathway of Paul through chapter 7, discovering the depths of your own depravity in the flesh when the law of God was applied to your conscience, condemning your every attempt to keep it?

Have you been brought to cry out with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death”?

If you have – and every true child of God will – then you’ll find the answer in one place, and one place only… in the death of Christ and His deliverance of His people from all that condemned them. Do you know that deliverance, or do you find yourself still striving to keep a law you can never keep? Still seeking approval before God by something you do?

Many never know this deliverance from legal bondage – and many a ‘teacher’ gladly keeps God’s people under what they call a ‘rule of life’ but which God calls “the ministration of condemnation” (2 Corinthians 3:9). Despite the clarity of God’s word in the seventh chapter of Romans confusion abounds amongst many professing Christians regarding their position with regard to the law. So in order to expound this subject more fully we shall deal with a number of the questions which commonly arise with regard to this.

Many modern, so-called ‘Reformed’, writers teach a lot about the law being the believer’s ‘rule of life’ and the emphasis of their teaching is very much on “doing”, on the practical duties of the believer’s walk – one example being the following, which paraphrases what some have to say about the subject.

“I’m going to discipline myself to godliness. I’m going to work at it. I’m going to engage in sustained daily effort in doing God’s will and obeying God’s requirements. I’m going to deny self and crucify self every day. I’m going to put to death the old life patterns of the old man. I’m going to say ‘no’ to self and say ‘yes’ to Christ every day. As I do these things I will be developing godly habits. I will not give up but I will persist in doing right. I will do what the Scriptures say regardless of how I feel. I will live a commandment-motivated life of holiness oriented towards godliness.”

The modern ‘Reformed’ position claims that salvation is all of grace (without works or law) but when it comes to ‘sanctification’ – by which they mean the believer’s walk – the tendency is to bring in the law (as with the above quote – which gives a good illustration of the thinking).

So let us consider some questions which I have been asked before regarding this…

1. Firstly, what is the actual place for the law as given in Exodus 20 for the true New Testament believer?

2. Secondly, in Ephesians 5 and 6 Paul exhorts believers to good Christian conduct. But in Ephesians 6:1-3 he says: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” Why does Paul make a direct appeal to the Law (Exodus 20:12) as he now writes in the New Testament times? What’s more, a number of these children could well be believers.

3. And thirdly, the works of the law are essentially “doing” things, and whilst it may be understood that these works are not meritorious as far as salvation is concerned, nevertheless allied to 2) above, when we come to the last part of nearly all of Paul’s epistles we find a whole catalogue of commandments (or precepts). If the believer is bound by these precepts, then is there not a sense in which his rule of conduct is the precept? If so, how does this differ to the law as a rule of life? A particular reference might be 1 Thessalonians 5: “Rejoice evermore, Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings” … and so on.

In answering these questions let’s make some brief comments to begin with… Yes, the teaching that ‘the law is the believer’s rule of life’ is predominant amongst those who call themselves ‘Reformed’. It is the ‘third use’ of the law, they say. However the Reformers themselves had differing understandings of the law, for example Luther’s teaching is quite different to Calvin’s on this (in many ways Luther being clearer on such matters than Calvin), so we have to ask what gives these modern men the right to take the title ‘Reformed’ to themselves? As a title it doesn’t even give a clear idea of their teaching as the Reformers had a wide range of different ideas about various things – so ‘which’ Reformer are they following? If their teaching be examined it is more akin to the Puritans than the Reformers, and even then only a certain section of the Puritans who were themselves diverse in their teaching.

Consider the paraphrase given above. Whilst some of the sentiments are in the right place it nevertheless should remind us of the self-confident promise of obedience which the children of Israel made in Exodus 24:3 “All the words which the LORD hath said will we do”. Well, how long did that promise last? Whilst Moses was still in the mount they rose up to play and fell into all manner of sin…

…and that’s the whole point of the law. It finds out man’s sin – it brings it to the surface. For “By the law is the knowledge of sin” Romans 3:20. Not the knowledge of righteousness, note, but the knowledge of sin. The law was given to show man his sin, to expose it, to bring him in guilty before God. And it didn’t take long with the children of Israel.

Frankly, would not any true child of God shudder to utter words such as “I will do what the Scriptures say… I will live a commandment-motivated life… I’m going to discipline myself to godliness” with such self confidence? Why? Because they know from bitter experience that they can’t last but one hour in such a pathway! As soon as they proudly say “All the words which the LORD hath said I will do” they fall into sin in an instant, and their very words condemn them. For sin isn’t just what is done outwardly, but it is all the inward thoughts, motives, desires and feelings which we can hide from others but which are painfully apparent to ourselves when God the Holy Spirit makes us aware of what is within, taking the veil away from our heart and eyes (2 Corinthians 3:14-18). In our ignorance and the darkness and deadness of the flesh we might not have known these things, but a quickened child of God knows what proceeds from his heart and he finds the law to be a killing letter and nothing more. Oh, yes, it might prescribe conduct which is excellent, and for that he loves it, but he finds no ability in himself to keep it – as we see in Romans 7 – hence he cries out for One to deliver him from this body of sin and death… and in the Gospel he finds such a Deliverer!

But, as mentioned in the questions presented above, what might we make of the precepts and exhortations which are to be found in the New Testament…? Does their existence not argue for a continuation of the law in some fashion? The simple answer is No. Why not? Because the law is more than simply precepts. The fact that both law and gospel may have precepts does not mean that they are essentially similar, but in ‘different packaging’. They are, in fact, diametrically opposed both in nature and character. Their whole principles are totally diverse, so that Gospel precepts are on a completely different footing and basis to those found in the law.

The law is founded entirely upon the basis of works, with a motivation of self righteousness and fear of the law’s penalty, making demands of man regarding what he must do. Whereas the Gospel reveals God’s grace to man and is characterised by faith and love – which is the believer’s motivation towards obedience to Christ, as led by the Spirit, outworking that which God has wrought in the heart – because the Gospel declares what God has done and what God does – for, and in, His people.

The law says ‘do and live’. The Gospel says ‘live and do’. Man can’t do under the law, so he dies. But man is made alive by the Gospel so he ‘does’. The Gospel does not do away with all ‘doing’ but it makes men alive and gives them not only the ability to do but also the will (for it is God who worketh in us “both to will and to do of His good pleasure” Philippians 2:13), so that anything it exhorts, it also provides grace and ability to do, hence Christ’s yoke is no burden and His commandments are not grievous. It is by the Gospel, as delivered from the law, that fruit is brought “forth unto God” (Romans 7:4.)

But, these modern ‘Reformed’ scholars tell us, that that’s the whole point. Christ gives us life in the Gospel and then sends us back to Moses to ‘sanctify’ us, as we now have the ability to do what Moses commanded in the law. But in this they greatly err (What! Is Christ subservient to Moses?). Yes, they err, because the law is not simply a set of precepts, or exhortations, similar to those found in the New Testament epistles which we can now ‘set ourselves to doing’. The law is law! A law is a set of commandments with penalties attached on failure of doing. If you go back to the commandment “Thou shalt not covet”, then when you do covet, you will find yourself back under its penalty. “But”, some say, “its penalty has been met in Christ, so we are freed from its curse”. Yes, we are, but that is because we are also freed from its precept – we are “dead to the law”, “not under the law”, “delivered from the law”. As far as the law is concerned we are dead men, whom it can no longer penalise, but whom it can also no longer command.

Law is law – it stands as a whole. You can’t separate the penalty from the commandments. They are forever joined together. If we have been freed from the one then we must have also been freed from the other. Likewise if we put ourselves back under the one (the commandment) then we also put ourselves back under the other when we fail to keep the commandment, hence the curse is back upon us. When Galatians tells us that Christ has freed us from the curse of the law it does not mean that the curse has been ‘detached’ from the law – it means we are freed from the law entirely, both curse and commandment.

So, to return to our questions…

1. What place does the law as given in Exodus 20 have for the believer?

The law stands as that which once condemned the believer, from which he has been forever delivered. It gave him a knowledge of sin, whilst also demonstrating the holiness and goodness of God. It demonstrates to him the justice of God and points in measure to the Gospel and what Christ did in delivering him from the law’s penalty. But as to his actual relationship to the law now, the believer is dead to it. It has exacted its penalty upon him, in Christ, and with Christ he has died. The law has no more to say to a dead man (which the believer is in the sight of the law, though now risen and alive in Christ, the other side of death). It is neither his rule, nor his guide. It cannot be used as ‘guidance’ for it is still law – to take its commands, but ignore its penalty is to use it unlawfully, not knowing what one says or affirms, for the law is not made for a righteous man, which is what the believer is in Christ. See 1 Timothy 15-11. We simply can’t get past passages such as Galatians 2:19, 2 Corinthians 3, Romans 6:14, Romans 7:1-6 and so on, in relation to this. The common ‘Reformed’ arguments about these passages either referring only to justification (and not sanctification), or referring to the ‘judicial’ or ‘ceremonial’ parts of the law, and not the Ten Commandments, are, to be plain, just sheer sophistry. They don’t hold water. They make a mockery of these texts which are plain, simple English stating plain truth – we are dead to the law, that we might serve God (now, in our walk, in what many call our ‘sanctification’). We cannot serve God whilst still alive to the law, whatever the legalist might argue. The fact is that all who go to the law in their self-will break it continually, and they can only have any sense of having kept it if their eyes are blinded to their real state, and the totally depravity of their hearts. Hence they demean God’s holy law by bringing it down to their own meagre, sinful, fleshly level. Not only that but they treat it unlawfully by using it as ‘advice’, severing it from its curse, and dividing it into three by rejecting the ceremonial and judicial ‘parts’ and retaining what they call the ‘moral’ part – the Ten Commandments. This is not to use the law lawfully, but is to treat it with contempt, to be ‘anti-law’, or against the law, hence this is Antinomianism, properly so called.

However, the law is part of the overall teaching of scripture, and in the sense that all scripture is profitable to us in various ways it therefore still has its use. But scripture must be divided rightly, and not all scripture applies to all men at all times. Few ‘Reformed’ writers would claim that the dietary laws of the Old Testament apply to New Testament believers – they have no problem whatsoever in seeing that (yet the fact is that the Bible never divides the Ten Commandments from the rest of the law, including the ‘judicial’ and ‘ceremonial’ aspects – the whole stands as one – the Law of Moses – and we are either under all of it, or under none of it – indeed the Gentiles were never under the law in the sense that the Jew was, and yet were, and are still accountable to God as shown in Romans 2). These writers also clearly see that the Old Testament priesthood and sacrificial system has gone. Is all that teaching regarding those things in the Old Testament of no use to us now then? No, it is of much use as it sets forth the Gospel in type and figure. So, too, does Exodus 20, in that it shows forth God’s holiness and justice, it gives a knowledge of sin (most especially when applied by the Spirit as Paul found in Romans 7, when “the commandment came”), it shows what Christ delivered us from. But we, being delivered, are now no more under those Ten Commandments than we are under the dietary or judicial parts of the law. They have no power to condemn us. For “who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Romans 8:33-34.

2. Why does Paul make a direct appeal to the Law in Ephesians 6?

Regarding our second question consider Ephesians 6. Yes, Paul refers here to Exodus 20:12, and in fact elsewhere in the New Testament a number of the other commandments are quoted. I think we can make some conclusions from this. First of all, we might ask that given that the New Testament does in fact quote most of the commandments why do most ‘Reformed’ writers have such a problem with those who might state that the Gospel, not the law, is the believer’s ‘rule of life’? Why do they not just agree with that statement, given that nine of the commandments can be found recorded in the New Testament also? Why not? Because deep down they have a legal spirit which gravitates towards law and not Gospel (and in addition they also cling to the Sabbath commandment which is not repeated as such in the New Testament). The fact is, we can only conclude, that they don’t really rejoice in the deliverance we have from the law, because the law has not really been applied to their conscience before being brought to Christ, hence they don’t know the liberty of the child of God in Christ. Those who know what it is to be slain by the law are glad to be freed from it.

But why does the New Testament repeat these commands in various places then (for example Romans 13:8-10)? Well, there is a difference between ‘right and wrong’ and law. The law as stated before is law – it has commandments with penalties attached, which cannot be divorced from it. However right and wrong exist apart from law, because ‘right’ concerns the very character of God with whom we have to do, who is just, holy and righteous. It is wrong to worship other gods, whether the law says it or not. Before the law was ever given at Sinai, it was still wrong to worship idols. Thus our deliverance from the law does not make us free to serve idols – no, it delivers us from a law which dictates one thing, but actually causes us to do the opposite. Our nature in the flesh, when commanded not to do something ends up doing the opposite, and the law then condemns us. That is the nature of the law and the effect it has upon our flesh, so we need to be delivered from it.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that it is still right to worship the one true God, and it is right, whilst in this world, for example, to honour our parents. (Nevertheless such a command, and in fact several of the ten commandments, tend to regard our conduct whilst in this world – whereas when we enter heaven they won’t have the same role, as there we won’t be given in marriage and we won’t have children, for example. So such commands are types and shadows in that they point us to what is spiritual, that we are God’s children, that we are Christ’s bride and so on). Hence Paul, in context, refers back to the commandments because what they say is still “holy”, “just” and “good” (Romans 7:12) and as believers we certainly don’t seek to break them. No, through the Gospel we actually fulfill them, because the Gospel gives us faith, which works by love, and love is the fulfilling of the law. It is in this context that Paul quotes most of the commandments in Romans 13 – not to enforce the commandments, or to put the believer back under them, but to illustrate that the love wrought by God through the Gospel actually fulfills the law.

Nevertheless, despite there being exhortations and precepts in the New Testament there is a world of difference between the exhortatory nature of the epistles, and the cold, commanding, nature of the law. So… to address our third question…

3. When we come to the last part of nearly all of Paul’s epistles we find a whole catalogue of commandments (or precepts). If the believer is bound by these precepts, then is there not a sense in which his rule of conduct is the precept? If so, how does this differ to the law as a rule of life?

In the epistles there are many exhortations and precepts. However there is a great difference between the nature of these -and the context in which they are given – and the law. Whereas the law uttered a commandment and exacted a penalty of death if broken, the gospel presents a message of life and then encourages and exhorts the believer with that life to walk in a way which is in accord with his natural desire and inclination in the new man. The new man of grace knows to do right, he loves to do right, he loves to follow the Lord and show love to the brethren. The exhortations in the epistles simply address this new man of grace and encourage him in such a pathway, and exhort to mortify the flesh, for the flesh always wars against the Spirit. As with Christ’s commandments -His yoke – such exhortations are not grievous, they are not a burden, but are gladly taken up by the child of God. As the Gospel is not ‘Antinomian’ (against the law), some of these exhortations will be in accord with that set forth in the law, and that love encouraged and exhorted in the Gospel will in fact fulfill the law, because as the faith of the believer is drawn out, that faith worketh by love (Galatians 5:6) and love fulfills the law (not by looking to the law, but by just living out that life of faith and love, doing what is natural to it, as exhorted in the epistles).

We must keep in mind the difference between the earthly man in the flesh, and the new, heavenly man of grace in the Spirit. As believers we were once entirely in the flesh, the offspring of Adam, dead in trespasses and sin, but now those of us who believe have been crucified with Christ, and have risen again from the dead, having a new life in Him, being His offspring, of the Last Adam, the Second Man – the heavenly man. The law respected earthly man in the flesh and his conduct in this world. The Gospel brings men into newness of life in Christ and it respects their heavenly nature in Him, their walk in the Spirit and their being led out of this world unto the new heaven and new earth. Hence the Gospel regards heavenly things, not earthly things (Colossians 3). Indeed we are spoken of as being seated in heavenly places now (Ephesians 2:6). Then what does a command not to covet our neighbour’s house or wife have to do with that? What does a command to keep the sabbath day holy have to do with a realm where we dwell in righteousness in an endless day, an eternal sabbath? How could such a command be broken in such a state and in such a realm? (In reality the command is broken spiritually now by ceasing to rest in Christ alone and returning to work at keeping the law…)

So, the Gospel, rightly seen, respects our new man of grace who is heavenly. It tells us to reckon ourselves dead to this world, to mortify the deeds of the flesh. We are to think of ourselves in Christ in heaven, as citizens of heaven (* see note), to have our gaze set there, not on earthly things. Whereas to use the law as a rule of life is to be taken up with earthly things. It is to be earthly minded – but Christ has brought us into newness of life, in His Gospel! Yes, the Gospel has exhortations, for we are still in this world, and we do still have the flesh. But the exhortations are always given in a context. What is that context? In the Doctrine of Christ – the Gospel. They follow on from the doctrinal parts of the epistles which set forth Christ and His work. Only after having set the believer’s gaze upon Christ do the apostles then exhort the new man of grace to follow Christ by walking in various ways. This is very different to the law, which has nothing to do with faith, for the “law is not of faith” and which simply says “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not”. The Gospel first declares Christ, conveys life, and then directs that life. For we walk not by sight (looking upon earthly things) but by faith (looking unto heavenly things).

Certainly the Gospel precepts respect our conduct and could therefore be described as a rule of conduct – in fact the Gospel as a whole will govern our conduct. We could even say that the whole word of God is a rule of conduct (because ultimately Christ is our ‘rule of life’, as set forth in the Gospel, and as set forth in all the scriptures, for He is our life [see also Galatians 6:13-16 for mention of ‘this rule’]). But to say that the law, in particular, is our rule of life is to go to that very part of the word of God which would condemn us – how foolish! (2 Corinthians 3). But, yes, the Gospel precepts do direct us, because the Spirit does not work in a vacuum. Galatians 5 tells us that if we are led by the Spirit we are not under the law. But the Spirit does not direct us apart from the word of God – He uses that word and applies it to us on a daily basis. Rather than having us mechanically going to a fixed set of rules (such as the ten commandments) seeking to obey them by our own will-power, the believer is directed by the Spirit in a living way and given grace to walk in that way. The believer submissively follows the Spirit’s leading, and each day the Spirit leads him in the scriptures, applying one passage one day, another passage another day and directing his pathway in a living way, appropriate for the time and circumstance he finds himself in.

Ultimately this is a pathway of faith – Faith which works by love. This is the nature of the Gospel and the pathway in which the believer walks. It is very different to a pathway of works, or of a legalistic mind.

However, it is not good enough to simply say “the gospel is my rule of life, not the law”, because many bring a legal spirit into the gospel. They simply turn Gospel precepts into legal commands, strive to perform them in their own strength (and hence ignore the leadings of the Spirit and ultimately grieve Him), and effectively condemn others if they don’t walk as the Gospel directs. But we are not to use the Gospel in such a judgmental fashion, nor are we to set to follow its precepts in our own strength. We must never lose sight of the fact that the Gospel is on an entirely different principle to the law – it is about faith! And this faith is not of ourselves “it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). For “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). Neither must we lose sight of the central truth of the Gospel to which such God-given faith is directed – “Christ and Him crucified”. Only when the eye of faith is continually set upon Christ, does a sheep then follow its Shepherd. And when exhorted to look to Him alone, the exhortations to mortify the deeds of the flesh, or control the tongue, or flee fornication, or rejoice evermore, are gladly received and performed.

We made mention of 1 Thessalonians 5: “rejoice evermore”, “pray without ceasing”, “in every thing give thanks”. Well, such exhortations demonstrate what we have just been considering. The believer, whose eye is set upon Christ, will gladly “rejoice evermore” for he sees Christ, his reason for rejoicing, he will gladly “pray without ceasing” for he is looking to Christ from whence his help comes, he will happily “give thanks”, for he sees the One to whom he is thankful, he will “despise not prophesyings” for he loves to hear of Christ, and he will “grieve not the Spirit” for the Spirit leads him to Christ whom he loves and to whom he gladly goes.

So, in summary: the law is about works and respects this world. But the Gospel is about faith, concerning Christ, and respects the world to come. The just shall live by faith, and the precepts of the Gospel are not grievous to faith, because faith works by love, and as James rightly tells us (James 1:17), faith without works is dead, being in reality a mere profession of faith, but true, living faith always produces fruit, it always produces the works of faith, as led by the Spirit. For “If ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” Galatians 5:18.

(* Someone had the following to say on this subject which is worth repeating here: “I remember reading of a believer being accused of depreciating the law because he maintained that he was not under it. His reply was that the law of, say Australia, was a good law, and just, but he was not under it because he was a citizen of England. Likewise he acknowledged that the Siniatic law was a good law, and just, but he was not under it as he was a citizen of Zion.”)

 

–ooOOoo–

 

But let us consider some further questions which may arise on this matter.

What, for example, does Paul mean when he says in Romans 7:22 “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man” and also in Romans 7:25 “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”?

Why did he say that with his mind he served the law of God? If the law has nothing to do with the believer, then why did Paul “delight in the law of God after the inward man”?

Well, firstly it must be noted that these verses come at the end of Romans 7 and they must be read in the context of the whole chapter. The context, as we’ve seen, being that Paul is demonstrating that we are “dead to the law by the body of Christ” (Romans 7:4) that we should be married to another – even to Christ – that we should bring forth fruit unto God. Clearly we could not bring forth fruit unto God until we died to our old ‘husband’, the law.

In expounding that truth Paul seeks to show just why we needed to be delivered from the law. He goes on throughout the chapter to show the effects that the law had upon his flesh. He demonstrates that the “motions of sin, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death”. Thus, whilst the law demanded that which was good, nevertheless, because of our sinful flesh it actually caused us to sin and bring forth fruit unto death.

But does that mean that the law is bad? That it is flawed, or sinful? No! As we noted, Paul goes on to show that the fault lies not with the law itself but with our sinful flesh. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid.”….”Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good”. No, the law itself is good. The fault lies with sin in our flesh… “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” (Romans 7:13). Hence the need is not for the law itself to be abrogated, for the law itself is good, but for us to be delivered from the law, because the fault lies in us, in our sinful flesh – therefore we need to have died to the law.

So, having demonstrated in verses 4-6 that we have died to the law, that we might be married to Christ to bring forth fruit, Paul then shows that this was necessary, not because the law itself was a bad thing, but because the effect it had upon our flesh was to bring forth sin unto death. Paul shows the law itself to be good. But from v14-21 Paul shows the effect that the law has upon him as a believer. Whilst he has a new man of grace which wishes to serve God, nevertheless he still has the flesh which sins, so he finds that though he wishes to do good, the effect of the commandment when it comes to him is to cause him to sin (v19). Verses 22 and 25 simply reinforce the contrast between the desire of Paul in the new man of grace (to serve God and walk righteously) and the outworking of sin in his flesh under the commandments of the law. Paul delights in the law of God after the inward man (of course he does – the law is good, in that what it commands is good, and the inward man loves what is good), but there is another law in his members, in his flesh, which causes him to sin (v23). Verse 25 shows that his mind would serve the law of God, it would do what it demands because the law is ‘holy’, ‘just’ and ‘good’, but the flesh serves the law of sin.

We see the contrast here between what is served. The one is the law of sin, the other is the law of God. What Paul is showing is that his mind does not serve sin. It serves God. In that the law of God teaches against sin his mind as a believer must agree with the law of God. But this is not because he is under the law, serving it as his rule of life, but because he is under grace, with the Gospel as his rule of life. Gospel, or evangelical, righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the law (Matthew 5:19) and hence the law is fulfilled by one who walks in the Gospel, by grace (Romans 8:4).

So does the statement in Romans 7:25 that Paul with the mind serves the law of God mean that the law is his rule of life? No, it cannot, because Paul has clearly shown in 7:4-6 that he has been delivered from the law, and that he has a new ‘husband’. Then why does he state in verse 25 that his mind serves it? Simply to show that the law itself (in terms of what it commands) is not the problem, but his flesh is. Whilst in the flesh (which we still have until we enter heaven’s glory) the law will always have the same effect on it, so that whilst our believing mind might say that the law is good and we would wish to walk accordingly, our flesh rebels and causes us to fall into sin and under the law’s condemnation. Our only hope is to be delivered from this body of death and to be delivered from the law. And that is just what Christ in the Gospel does – He delivers us, from sin, from death and from the law.

In Romans chapter 7 Paul is showing that we are dead to the law, we are delivered from it, but not because the law itself is bad, but because the flesh is sinful. Thus he shows that the law is good, just and holy, and that he delights in the law of God after the inward man. But such delighting in the truth of it, in the righteousness of it, does not in any way alter the fact that Paul needed to be delivered from its bondage – he needed to be married to another, even to Christ, he needed to be delivered from the rule of the law and brought into union with Christ, and under His rule, whom he now serves, not in the letter (as under the law), but in the Spirit (as in the Gospel). “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”. Romans 8:3-4. It is our being delivered from the law by having died to it in Christ that causes us to fulfill the law. We walk in a way which brings forth righteous conduct which fulfills what the law requires, but not by the law, by being under its rule, but by the Spirit, by being under Christ’s yoke in the Gospel, by walking by faith – for faith works by love, and love is the fulfilling of the law.

(And whilst Paul may indeed have delighted in the law of God after the inward man, he certainly delighted much more in the Gospel as is abundantly evident elsewhere – for example, Romans 1:16-17, 8:12-18, 8:38-39, 12:33 etc – for the Gospel concerns heavenly things, not earthly; the glory in the Gospel far exceeds the glory seen in the law as Paul clearly demonstrates in 2 Corinthians 3, and the Gospel actually fulfilled all that which the law could only demand, and far, far, more than that!)

But, it may be asked, does not the Christ Himself uphold the law? For example in Matthew 5:17-19 Jesus states “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Hear Christ says that “whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Do and teach what? Does not the whole context contrast “the prophets”, i.e the law as given by Moses?

Here we have a passage commonly used by those who would put the believer back under the law. So let us consider this question. Does Christ uphold the law? Certainly Christ upholds the law! He was made under it, He magnified it and made it honourable. And so would we – the fact that we are delivered from the law by death does not in any way alter the law, abrogate the law, or take away from it. The law continues to stand in all its glory, rectitude, immutability and justice. All that it commands is unalterable. But, praise God, all that it commands has been answered and fulfilled in the death of Christ for us, who believe on Him. It is our having died in Christ to the law that delivers us from its rule. Christ never destroyed the law nor altered the law, but that does not mean that the believer remains under it. No, Christ fulfilled the law, He answered its every charge against us, and legally delivered us from it. In the Gospel all has been fulfilled. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” Romans 10:4.

In Christ the believer is delivered from the law, from its curse, and from its commandment and is brought into the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2) which made him free from the law of sin and death. The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, by which the believer walks in the Gospel (which is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus), causes him to fulfill the righteousness of the law (Romans 8:4) and hence he does not seek to break the commandments, but does them and indeed he teaches them. But the fact that he does and teaches them does not mean that he does what the commandments of the law demand by the law, nor does it mean that he teaches the law to be the believer’s rule of life. No, it means that he does what the law demands, only by walking in the Gospel and Gospel righteousness – by the Spirit – for the Gospel brings in an everlasting righteousness of a character and nature far exceeding anything that the law ever demanded or required. Gospel, or evangelical, righteousness is not ‘less than’ nor contrary to the law, but it exceeds what the law demands, hence any under the Gospel as their ‘rule of life’ will do what the law demands, not by the law, but by the Spirit through the Gospel. Believers love the law of God for they see the holiness, justice and goodness of God in it, and they see the perfect fulfillment of it in Christ. They “delight in the law of God after the inward man” for they know it is good, but they rejoice much more that Christ has delivered them “from this body of death” (Romans 7:24) to walk no more after the flesh, as under the law, but after the Spirit, as under the Gospel – the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Believers don’t cease to do what the law commands, for the Gospel causes them to walk in a way which fulfills the law, and neither do they cease to teach the law but they do teach the right use of the law. They teach that “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20) and that by “the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified” in God’s sight. They teach that the commandment of the law is right, that the “law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just and good” (Romans 7:12), but they also teach that sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceives us and slays us (Romans 7:11), and that in order to keep the commandments, to fulfill the law, we must be delivered from it (Romans 7:6) and delivered from this body of death (7:24), that we must become dead to the law that we might bring forth fruit unto God (7:4). Believers know, from bitter experience, like Paul in Romans 7, that whilst under the law, whilst bound by it, whilst alive to it in any way, shape, or form, their flesh will simply bring forth sin, their members will bring forth fruit unto death (7:5). But they see in the Gospel a deliverance from sin, from the flesh, from the law and its rule and condemnation – they see a deliverance in Christ, who died for them, and in whom they died, and in whom they rise again having the Spirit of life in Him. This brings forth fruit unto God, this fulfills the righteousness of the law (Romans 8:4), and nothing else can.

The believer is dead to the law that he might live unto God (Galatians 2:19). He walks under a new rule, the rule of a new creation in Christ, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. This causes him to walk in Evangelical righteousness which far exceeds that demanded by the law. It is this righteousness which Christ expounds in Matthew 5-7 where He continually contrasts what the law says (not what the scribes said about the law, notice, but what the law actually says) with what He says in the Gospel – “But I say unto you…” Yes, the Gospel brings in a righteousness which not only fulfills the law’s demands, but far exceeds it, hence Christ can say in Matthew 5:20 “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kindom of heaven.” Under the Gospel Christ’s sheep have such a righteousness – Gospel righteousness, evangelical righteousness, the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ, which soars above anything the law ever demanded (* see note below). But also, unlike the law, this isn’t a righteousness demanded of men which they cannot perform, but a righteousness wrought by God – the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ – and given to men by God, by His grace! It is this righteousness which God both imputes to His people and brings forth in them by His Spirit as they walk by faith looking unto Jesus their Saviour. It is called the “righteousness of faith”, not the righteousness of the law (Romans 10:5-6) and such righteousness is seen by confession of the Lord Jesus and belief in the heart that God raised Him from the dead. Such faith is a believing unto righteousness and a confessing unto salvation (10:10). “For the just shall live by faith” – dead to the law, but alive unto God and married to Christ, “even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” And it is this very righteousness of God which is revealed in the Gospel and which gives the Gospel its power to save…

… “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

Amen.

(* It is a failure to recognise the distinction between the righteousness of God as revealed in the Gospel and the righteousness of the law, which characterises the thinking of many who fail to see the truth of the believer’s deliverance from the law. Some theologians speak of the Ten Commandments as being a ‘transcript of the Divine nature’. Some even go as far as to describe it as ‘the express image of God’s person’. Yet scripture never refers to the law in this way – in fact it is Christ who is referred to as the express image of God’s person in Hebrews 1:3. However to those who consider that the Mosaic law is a transcript of the Divine nature they can not envision deliverance from the law because they have essentially made the law itself synonymous with God Himself – which scripture never does [yes, the law reveals God’s holiness and justice, but the full revelation of God’s righteousness and His character is found in Christ in the Gospel]. But the law to these people is everywhere, it is inescapable. Hence even the other side of death, in heavenly glory they can only see the believer as still bound by the law, for he is still under God’s authority. Yet scripture actually teaches a distinction between the righteousness of the law, which was given for earthly man whilst in this world, and the righteousness of God as revealed by the faith of Christ in the Gospel, which concerns the new man of grace in Christ – a heavenly righteousness for a heavenly kingdom. The believer is delivered from the law but has the righteousness of God in Christ. He is under the law of faith, the law of Christ, the law of liberty and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. What laws are these? They are those laws which in the New Covenant God puts in the mind of His people and writes upon their hearts (Hebrews 8:10). They are, indeed, the Gospel, which gives faith, love, liberty and everlasting life in Christ Jesus to all those chosen in Him unto salvation.)

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“Why…?” Colossians 2:20

“The just shall live by faith” Hebrews 10:38

“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9

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