As he begins the seventh chapter, Paul is continuing with the theme of the believer’s liberty in Christ.  Freedom from slavery to sin, and a newfound service to righteousness, which is genuine freedom, was his emphasis in the last several verses of chapter 6.  The same argument continues, as he asks the Roman believers whether they know that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives.

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This is an easily understood postulate.  As long as a man is alive, he is under the jurisdiction of the law of the domain in which he lives.  His property, his person, and his family are both guarded and ruled by the law of the community and nation.  Perhaps somewhat closer to Paul’s point, he is also under the authority of God’s law so long as he lives.  Paul addresses these words to a people who know the law of God.  Of course, the Jewish believers in the Roman church would have been well acquainted with the Mosaic law, and through their teaching and influence the Gentiles probably had a good grasp of it as well.  So the apostle is not writing to uninformed and religiously illiterate heathens, but to a church that has at least some knowledge and understanding of the Old Testament law.

 

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It is all summed up in the great statement with which the apostle concludes this 6th chapter:  “The wages of sin is death.”  Sin may look like an abundance of fun and pleasure to the untutored eye, but that is taking a very narrow and short-term view.  He who looks wisely at sin sees not just the present pleasure which it seductively promises, but sees what its final wage is.  When payday comes, he knows that the wages that sin will pay is death.  All who remain in a state of sin and condemnation will have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.  Sin is alienation from God, Who is life, and therefore can result in nothing but death.  This is why sin ought to be hated passionately by every rational human soul, and fought against with might and main, and above all, deliverance from its power and penalty sought through faith in Jesus Christ.

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This is the gift of God, which is set in contrast against the wages of sin.  Those who follow sin, and remain in bondage to it, inevitably end in death and everlasting punishment.  But those who confess and forsake their sins, and seek for justification through the grace of Christ alone, find that God has a gift even for the ungodliest wretch on the face of the earth who turns unto Him.  That gift is eternal life in the presence of God, pleasures at His right hand for evermore.  He will guide us with His counsel, and afterwards receive us to glory.  He will cause us to inherit all things, He being our God, and we His children.  We will have our portion in the new heaven and the new earth, and live in the unfading light of the new Jerusalem, which descendeth out of heaven from our God.  And all of this is through Jesus Christ our Lord.  He is the One Who made eternal life a reality for His people, by humbling Himself, and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  Without His incarnation, His holy life and sacrificial death, His glorious resurrection and efficacious intercession, eternal life would be an impossibility even for the most virtuous human being.  We must never forget that our salvation rests entirely upon the work which He accomplished, and while living in this remembrance, we will joyfully submit to His lordship, and live a life filled with gratitude to Him for having given us this unspeakable gift of eternal life.

The case of the believer is a happy one.  He is still in a yoke of service, but the yoke of his Master is easy, and His burden is light.  He has freed us from the intolerable burden of sin, which was crushing us into the dust of death and destruction.  He has broken the yoke of sin and Satan from off our necks, and made us go upright.  We find that the greatest liberty imaginable is to walk in the light of Christ’s countenance, enjoying the liberty wherewith He has made us free.  Truly, it is a service, but it is a wonderful service in which to be.  No matter what He requires of us, the advantages and benefits of His service make it more than worthwhile.

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Living in the service of God also bears fruit, but not that poisonous fruit of which we must be ashamed, because it leads to death.  Rather, our fruit is unto holiness, because that is what the living water welling up within us produces.  God chose us in Christ that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, and He will see to it that this purpose is accomplished, to the degree that He thinks best.  Without holiness no man shall see God, and therefore it is plain that every genuine child of God bears the fruit of holiness in his life.  Those who do produce this fruit, according to the power of the Spirit working within them, ultimately and inevitably obtain the goal that they are seeking, which is everlasting life.

 

Paul even goes so far in the next verse as to say that there was a certain freedom in our former life, a freedom from righteousness.  We were not conscious of any obligation to live a life pleasing and honoring to God, but essentially ignored his claims, and busied ourselves with serving our own carnal ends.  This is the life of an unbeliever in a nutshell.  He considers himself to be at liberty, because he is not bound down (as he thinks of it) by the onerous commandments of God, which keep him from enjoying so many pleasures the world has to offer.  But, of course, once he is saved and becomes a Christian, he realizes that in truth he was a slave of corruption, and was headed for destruction, which Paul will make quite clear in the succeeding verse.

He does so by demanding of them what fruit they had in those things whereof they are now ashamed.  Yes, they doubtless had good times, pleasures, and enjoyments, but they were delights of a sinful kind, and never gave the soul any permanent satisfaction, but only a thirst for more of the same.  There was no fruit involved in that lifestyle which yielded anything that we can boast of.  Quite the contrary, Paul states it as a matter to be taken for granted that they are ashamed of the deeds they committed in that past life of service to sin.  It is very disconcerting to see avowed Christians who speak without a blush of their days of vice and uncleanness.  If a man is not ashamed of his behavior in the days during which he lived as a slave of sin, then has any transformation really occurred in him at all?

Paul assigns as a chief reason why we ought to be ashamed of those things, that the end of them is death.  A life spent in service to sin brings not just death to the body, but eternal destruction to body and soul in hell.  Every person who lives for things which result in so terrible and tragic an end ought to be highly ashamed of himself.  If we are not, it is evident that we have not yet recognized fully the pernicious nature of sin, and its destructive tendencies.  We should never be proud of practicing deeds which are death, not to the body only, but also to the soul.

 

Loving Children More Than God

The priest Eli seems to have been a godly man himself, yet he brought ruin upon his household for one simple, and all-to-common reason: he honored his sons above God.

There are many within the Christian church who commit the same sin.  Some prefer their children above the church, while others abandon principles of biblical morality when their offspring go into sin.  As the case of Eli shows, this is a very serious matter, and we cannot honor God when we compromise His word in order to approve our children.

It is interesting and a little baffling that Paul says he is speaking after the manner of men because of the infirmity of their flesh.  The most plausible explanation I can render for this saying, is that Paul is saying something akin to what our Lord Jesus declared to Nicodemus in John 3:12, when He said, “If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I speak unto you of heavenly things?”  In other words, our Lord adopted earthly similes and metaphors to explain the great doctrine of regeneration, rather than speak of them according to their true heavenly nature, so that they could be understood.  This may suffice to explain what Paul means by his statement, for he has been comparing a spiritual reality to the earthly comparison of freedom and slavery.  At any rate, I confess it to be the only sensible explanation I can see to this statement.

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Afterwards, he proceeds to elaborate upon the same truth he has been explaining in the past several verses.  It is essentially another encouragement to walk in the liberty of Christ, which engenders true holiness, and to no longer live as those who are enslaved to the power of sin.  This was the case of the Romans, as indeed of all, outside of Christ.  Their members, all the faculties of their being, were in bondage to the power of sin, and thus they used their bodies and their minds to serve sinful ends.  Being enslaved to unclean passions, they lived in uncleanness, and their members were servants of iniquity unto iniquity.  This phrase “iniquity unto iniquity” is also somewhat peculiar, and corresponds to its antonym in the final clause of the verse, “righteousness unto holiness.”  I suspect that the apostle merely doubled these words to show that, just as iniquity once possessed a complete stranglehold over our members, so now righteousness and holiness are to be the dominating factors in our lives.  Nor should we suspect that this great transition will happen smoothly, or automatically.  Although it is certain that our regeneration is a work entirely of God’s power, as regards the process of conversion, we are very much active.  There is a conscious decision, determination, and effort in the Christian to separate himself from sin and yield his members as servants of righteousness unto holiness.  But it also must be added that it is a reality in the life of every true Christian, while the thing itself may be absent in those who are mere professors of religion.  If a man still yields his members as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, it matters not what he may profess with his lips, he is still in the same bondage in which he walked before he ever manifested any interest in Christianity.

Transubstantiation

This is the next in my series on the necessity of the Reformation.  The Mass is at the center of the Roman Catholic religion, but it is perverts the gospel and destroys the efficacy of the cross-work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, it was a primary reason why a Reformation was necessary in 1517, and why gospel believers must not unite with Rome to this hour.

Central to the Mass if the concept of transubstantiation, in which the elements of the Lord’s Table are allegedly transformed into the literal body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ.  This message demonstrates biblically that this teaching has no foundation whatever in scripture, but is actually contradicted even by the accounts of the institution of the Supper themselves.