The Man in Romans 7

The Man in Romans 7

In order to rightly understand what Paul taught in the latter part of Romans 7, we need to understand how he described two groups of people earlier in this epistle.

In Rom 3 & 4, Paul is teaching his kinsmen of the flesh why being Jewish is not enough, how children of promise are true Jews. In Rom 5:1-5 he is teaching – again – how those Jewish Christians were reconciled to God: righteous in faith, rejoicing in Christ and our afflictions, grounded in love, and possessed by the Holy Spirit.

In what follows in chapter 5 is an ongoing contrast between unconverted Jews and converted Jews, with an abbreviated history of sin – contrasting the first and last Adams. Throughout this chapter, the redeemed are described as righteous, justified, full of grace, saved from wrath, reconciled to God, having eternal life. The unconverted are described as helpless, ungodly, enemies of God, dead in sin, under judgment, condemned. Quite a difference – worth noting.

Chapter 6 is a continuation of Paul’s argument from the previous chapters, where he encourages the redeemed Jews (this is still his primary audience) are exhorted to walk in grace, not sin. These people are called dead to sin, joined with Christ, crucified with Christ, free from sin, alive to God, under grace, slaves of obedience and righteousness. He tells them – and us – not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies, for, he says, “sin will not rule over you because you are not under law but under grace.” (vs 14) We have new fruit resulting in sanctification and eternal life; we have a new master, grace – no longer slaves to master sin.

The unconverted man in Romans 6 has everything in common with his counterpart in chapter 5; he is in bondage and domination of sin, a slave to sin, ruled by death, obedient to sin, unrighteous, and ruled by sin; under law. This man is obedient to sin, under law not grace, a slave to sin – leading to death, weak in the flesh, morally impure, lawless, producing the fruit of death. Sin is his master, not grace.

The contrast between the unconverted sinner and the redeemed sinner is striking and it’s consistent: the one man is fleshly and full of sin, under the law and breaking the law; the other man is full of the Holy Spirit, rejoicing in all things, dead to sin and the law, producing good fruit unto eternal life.

A couple of observations: contextually, Paul has been describing his kinsmen of the flesh. The man in Romans 7 is a Jew, even though all people can identify with the spiritual struggle portrayed. The pious Jew  would see God’s law, instructions, Scriptures as good and holy even while he would be unable to comply with them.

When we then read about the man in Romans 7:13-24, who does he sound like? Let’s look at a list:

vs 13: dead, sinful

vs 14: of flesh, sold into sin’s power

vs 15 & 16: double minded

vs 17: full of sin

vs 18: no ability to do good

vs 19 -21: captive to evil

vs 22: he agrees, he knows the law of God is good

vs 23: he is a prisoner of sin

vs 24: he is a wretched man

While you and I see some of our Christian life in what Paul wrote about in this passage, it’s clear that this man has nothing in common with the redeemed man Paul described in chapter 5 & 6; but he has everything in common with the unconverted man in those chapters.  The context of the epistle indicates Paul is describing a Jew, not a Gentile, and a Jew that is struggling under a law he knows is good but without the ability to obey from the heart and produce good fruit unto eternal life. The man in Romans 7 does not have the Holy Spirit, but he is of the flesh, captive to evil, a slave to sin, producing fruit unto death.

The change to present tense does not mandate the view that Paul has changed course and began talking about himself as a Christian. It may very well be nothing more than a literary device to make the plight of the man all the more gripping. He is in a very dangerous condition! Present tense does not mandate the view that this man is Paul as a Christian. The description of the man and the larger context of the epistle provide a more sure guide to interpret this passage.

As with all Scripture, we learn from this passage. But we have no more reason to insert ourselves into this passage than we do with Jeremiah 29:11.

Better Than Moses

Better than Moses, Matt 5:17ff

You can listen to this sermon here. 

The Sermon on the Mount covers chapters 5 – 7 in Matthew’s gospel. The context is shortly after His temptation and the very beginning of His public ministry. Large crowds had begun to follow Him. Matthew 5:1-2 When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. Then He began to teach them. “Disciples” in this setting refers to the large crowds that followed Jesus from time to time; these people were not His 12 that we read of later.

After telling them about the characteristics of the people in His kingdom (the beatitudes, salt and light, city on a hill), Jesus abruptly shifts gears. He begins to transition into His main point: He is not just a prophet, He is greater than the greatest prophet YHWH had ever raised up. Here’s how He is compared in Hebrews 3:5-6 Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said in the future. But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope. To be that household mean we are sons. Paul tells us we are no longer servants but sons of God; and since we are sons, we are heirs (Gal 4:7). What a contrast! Moses is described as faithful servant; Jesus is termed the faithful Son over the household of God. And we are sons of God through faith in Christ. This is the hinge-point of the Sermon on the Mount: Jesus unveiling Himself to pious Jews who desired to see the Messiah.

Matthew 5:17-20 (HCSB) “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The Christian’s True Sabbath

Had the blessing of preaching at Grace Pointe Baptist in Edmond this morning.

Preached on the Christian’s True Sabbath – the Christ who promises true rest to all the Father has given Him. Those who hold to a weekly Sabbath instead strike me as people who sit in the sun and admire a flashlight,

Grace Pointe is a wonderful fellowship where some of the saints make comments or ask questions during the sermon. I like this model!

You can listen to this message here: https://app.box.com/file/327497674962

God’s Moral Law

This post is a quiz! Most Christians acknowledge a moral law at work in all men, seeing this in myriad places vU2zJin Scripture – most explicitly, perhaps, in Romans 2: For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.

Here’s the quiz: Where is the moral law defined in Scripture and when was it given to man? Please reason your answer to this two-part question with the Word of God. The goal here is to stir our thinking and draw us to Scriptures, not relying solely on what men have taught us.

I’ll tell you what think after some of you answer. Have fun!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks to all who participated! It’s not likely what you will read next will satisfy everyone, but please read carefully and seek to understand what is written.

One of the problems we must all acknowledge is that the Bible does not provide a definition of “God’s Moral Law”, nor does it use that term in describing it. This is where many presuppositions come into play.

Three statements for your consideration: 1) There is a moral law from God that has been written on every soul, leaving no person with an excuse to claim he did not know. 2.) This moral law was given to man at the Fall, not at Creation. 3.) This moral law shines through the Decalogue, is not defined nor contained in the Decalogue.

As for the first point, I think the citation from Romans 2, above, proves that well enough. Those who want to argue against this point will have to be very calm and biblical to be heard. As for the second point, consider the biblical record: before the Fall, Adam and Eve had fellowship with God and knew the goodness of God. It was not until after Adam sinned that they had knowledge of both good and evil (Gen 3:7 and 22). As Paul wrote in Romans 7, knowledge of the law (here, he is talking about the Decalogue, which applied the Moral Law to the Hebrews) brings knowledge of sin. Adam knew not sin until he sinned. Since he sinned, he had need of the Moral Law. God wrote His Moral Law on Adam’s soul and Eve’s when He banished them from the Garden.

Thirdly, the Moral Law of God shines through the Decalogue, which applies that Law to the Hebrews, wrapping it in ceremonial language that applies to them alone. If one looks at the biblical context and direct biblical commentary about the Decalogue, there is no reason to claim those “tablets of testimony” as binding on all men everywhere. The 17th century theologian John Owen observed this in his Works, 22:215:

The nature of the decalogue, and the distinction of its precepts from all commands, ceremonial or political, comes now under consideration. The whole decalogue, I acknowledge, as given on mount Sinai to the Israelites, had a political use, as being made the principal instrument or rule of the polity and government of their nation, as peculiarly under the rule of God. It had a place also in that economy or dispensation of the covenant which that church was then brought under; wherein, by God’s dealing with them and instructing of them, they were taught to look out after a further and greater good in the promise than they were yet come to the enjoyment of. Hence the Decalogue itself, in that dispensation of it, was a schoolmaster unto Christ. 

But in itself, and materially considered, it was wholly, and in all the preceptive parts of it, absolutely moral. Some, indeed, of the precepts of it, as the first, fourth, and fifth, have either prefaces, enlargements, or additions, which belonged peculiarly to the then present and future state of that church in the land of Canaan; but these especial applications of it unto them change not the nature of its commands or precepts, which are all moral, and, as far as they are esteemed to belong to the Decalogue, are unquestionably acknowledged so to be.

I share Owen’s basic point, but differ in some details. What we see in Exodus 20 is not equal to the moral law, but communicates that law in the context of the covenant God made with Israel. I think there are “prefaces, enlargements, or additions, which belonged peculiarly to” Israel in the 2nd through 5th and the 10th  words of the tablets. Read what is recorded in Ex 20 and compare it to Deut 5 and ask yourself if what Owen and I say is true. Then realize that God’s Moral Law must be discerned by careful reading, studying and prayer. Failure to do this has caused many to blithely assume the Decalogue is equal to God’s Moral Law (something first proposed by a Roman Catholic in the 12th century). The difficulty in interpreting and applying the Decalogue as God’s Moral Law can be seen in the last 1,000 years of church history.

If there is interest, I would be willing to post a four page article I wrote last year as a result of studying this question in context of how the 1689 London Baptist Confession addresses it.

CARM Takes on Matthew Vines

CARMIf you are not familiar with Matthew Vines, he is a pro homosexual activist who spoke at College Hill United Methodist Church in Kansas. During that speech, Mr. Vines advocated that the Bible does not condemn same sex monogamous relationships. Mr. Vines went to great lengths to redefine the very meaning of scripture as he attempted to explain what God actually meant, by his own assessment, when He inspired the writers of the Bible to pen the words we read today. Unlike many who have taken Christians to task on this issue, Mr. Vines presents himself as a kind and polite person, one with whom you would like to sit down and have a conversation with. He does not attempt to make the vitriolic speech that many who have advocated “gay rights” have used. His demeanor makes his redefining of scripture more acceptable in the eyes of those who have not made the effort to understand what God has truly said on the matter of homosexuality. As a result, Mr. Vines, and the views he espouses, are more easily received, even by those to claim to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Last year I posted an article titled “Christians Are We Ready” where I referenced a series of audio messages prepared by Dr. James White addressing this very speech by Matthew Vines. I continue to heartily recommend those messages to every Christian as they directly dismantle the very arguments made by Mr. Vines. Now I would like to refer our readers to yet another resource that will further equip us. CARM has prepared a section on their apologetics site that continues to expound on this issue. Homosexuality is one of the defining arguments of our day. Christians must be prepared to answer the challenges presented by those who would promote their belief that sexual immorality is acceptable in the eyes of God. Therefore, I ask you to visit the following link at CARM and become equipped to answer when people ask you why you believe homosexuality is a sin. Let us be fully prepared, not so we can prove ourselves morally better, but so that we can graciously and compassionately warn those of the judgment to come for their sin, and that there is yet salvation in Jesus Christ.

http://carm.org/matthew-vines

Happy Thanksgiving

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 100”

As we begin this day of Thanksgiving, as we prepare meals for our friends and loved ones, as we speak of how thankful we are for the things, events and people in our lives, let us not forget to give thanks to God. Let us praise His holy name as our Creator and Sustainer. Let us be thankful for His giving us life and breath, for even allowing the very molecules that make us up to be held together. Let us praise God as the eternal Lawgiver and Judge. May we thank Him for being the very definition of righteousness, for instilling in us the conscience which holds us accountable before Him. And may we thank Him for His justice, that no deed done in darkness will ever go unpunished.

As we enjoy this Thanksgiving day, let us proclaim the goodness of God and His sovereignty. That God is in complete control of all circumstances, good and bad, righteous and evil, and is using them according to His good purposes and for His glory. May we bow in humble adoration that, in that sovereignty, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, to take on humanity, live a life of moral perfection in thought, word and deed, and to die a propitiatory death on the cross so that sinners might be saved. May we thank God that, despite there being no good thing in us, He reached down out of eternity, regenerated our hearts through the preaching of the gospel, and caused us to repent and place our faith in the Savior. May we thank God alone for giving us a new birth and making us a new creation.

As we speak to others about this Thanksgiving holiday, let us proclaim to them the true source of our thanks. May we share with them the glorious gospel of grace so that they too may repent and trust in Christ and that they may give thanks to God alone for their salvation. May we give them real reason to be thankful.

On this day of November 22, 2012, we the writers of Defending Contending wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and ask you to thank the Lord for all He has done for you and to praise His holy name.