Search:

RSS Feed

Part 32

22 Sep 2021

Peace From the Wrath of God Through Three Deaths

Part 3: Death to the Law - Romans 7

Chapter seven of Romans begins with a big statement, one that we really need to get a grasp of and apply to our lives as followers of Jesus. Paul states;

“…the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives.”

Romans 7:1

Read that again… and again… go on read it a third time.

The law is binding on a person only as long as he lives. Death brings an end to a persons obligation to the law.

Now, before we go on to draw the obvious conclusion from what this statement clearly means in light of what we have already seen in chapters five and six, let’s put to bed an important question here, what does Paul mean in this context by ‘the law’.

There are some very notable teachers who, in my opinion, mistakenly argue that Paul is referring to the law only in a general sense and not in the sense of the Mosaic Law. They would argue that this is the reason that Paul uses the illustration of marriage (7:2-4), because it is generic and is shared across cultures and so would find a connection point with as many people as possible.

As I look at this passage, it seems abundantly clear that Paul is not referring to a generic set of laws shared by all cultures, law in the general sense, but is in fact referring to the Mosaic Law in a very specific sense.

I draw this conclusion on three points of evidence. Firstly, because Paul opens his argument by addressing brothers who know the law. If Paul was only speaking in a general sense, he would have no need to single out ‘brothers who know the law’, he would simply make his argument knowing that all who read and hear would understand that they were being addressed by Paul.

The fact that he specifies that he is addressing brothers who know the law sits in contradistinction from those who are not brothers, and do not know the law. In light of this it makes no sense that Paul is addressing a general audience while singling out a specific group of people possessed of a specific set of knowledge. It makes far more sense that Paul is addressing his brothers from a Jewish background, who have a knowledge of the Mosaic Law, as apposed to Gentile believers who are unlikely (or at least less likely) to have such knowledge.

Secondly, Paul refers to the law as the ‘old written code’ (7:6) which is universally used by him throughout his writings to refer to the ten commandments and the Mosaic Law as a whole.

Thirdly, in verse 7 Paul uses an example of this law to which he refers in order to illustrate his point, that example being ‘You shall not covet’. Clearly this is a quotation from the ten commandments, the old code written on tablets of stone.

On the strength of these three lines of evidence I would argue that it makes no sense to see Paul’s use of law here as being generic. It makes far better sense to conclude that Paul has in mind here the Mosaic Law. It seems to me that not only does the evidence support this conclusion, but that only with the Mosaic Law in view can we make sense of the rest of the context of the passage.

So, with that being the case, Paul opens this section of his thought by stating that the Mosaic Law is only binding on a person so long as they are alive. Given the fact of Jesus death, and that we have been united with Christ in His death (6:3-5), and as such are to consider ourselves as dead, the obvious conclusion is that Paul is drumming home the point that we have died in Christ, and so the Mosaic Law is no longer binding upon us. Because we have died, we are no longer under the Mosaic Law.

“Likewise my brothers, you have also died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another…” - 7:4

This is such an important point to understand. The believers relationship to the Mosaic Law is not a peripheral point but one that is central to the Gospel. As we shall see even in the small sample cited in this work, a great deal of ink has been spilled in the New Testament addressing this very issue.

Given that Paul is writing this passage to Jewish believers, as has been argued, then why am I as a Gentile addressing the issue of whether or not we are under the Mosaic Law? The Gentiles have never been under the Mosaic Law, so what’s the issue here?

Well, while it is true that Gentiles have never been under the Mosaic Law, the Mosaic Covenant having been made between the Israelites and God at Mt Sinai and providing a clear delineating marker between Jew and Gentile, there are some who teach that, upon coming to Christ, the Spirit of God makes it possible for Jews and Gentiles to keep the Mosaic Law. So, in effect, what these folk are teaching is that upon conversion to Christ, Gentiles are brought under the Mosaic Law, and now the Spirit of God makes it possible for us to keep the Mosaic Law. For these teachers then, the Mosaic Law is still in effect, both Jewish and Gentile believers being bound by and under the Law of Moses.

It is for this reason that I am addressing the issue as a Gentile believer in Christ, as I believe that the Scripture is abundantly clear that, upon coming to faith in christ, neither Jewish nor Gentile believers are bound by or under the Mosaic Law in any way, shape, or form.

We who believe have been included in the death of Christ. We have been united with Him in death, baptised into His death. His death is our death. The law is only binding upon a person so long as they are alive. We have been united with Christ in His death and so are considered to have died with Him. Because we are considered to have died with Christ, we have died to the law, the Mosaic Law is no longer binding upon those who are in Christ.

“But now we are released form the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” - 7:6

It seems to me that Paul couldn’t be more clear. Those who are in Christ are no longer under the law. The Mosaic Law is no longer binding upon those who are in Christ.

This concept is not an obscure point that I have gleaned from my particular reading of Romans chapters 5-7, it is a central theme of the Gospel to which Paul returns repeatedly throughout his writings.

Take for example Galatians 3:19-27.

“Why then the law?, It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made… Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ.”

If you read the above passage alongside Romans chapter 7 I’m sure you will see the striking similarity between the two. But notice the logic of what Paul is saying here. 

Firstly, the law was added ‘until’ (Galatians 3:19, 23). The word ‘until’ implies a point at which the Mosaic Law terminates, a point at which the law of Moses will have fulfilled its purpose and so will be replaced and no longer apply. What is that termination point? “Until the offspring should come to whom the promise has been made”. And who is this offspring? Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul is here teaching that the Mosaic Law was added because of transgression but will come to an end with Christ.

Secondly, “For if a law had been given that could produce life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law” vs.21.

Notice the implication of what Paul argues. He is telling us that the Mosaic Law produces neither life nor righteousness. So what does the Mosaic Law produce? It produces death.

“The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.”

Romans 7:10

The fact that the Mosaic Law doesn’t produce life but instead produces death is key to Romans 7. The reason it doesn’t produce life is because the law doesn’t produce righteousness, instead it produces the knowledge of sin.

For Paul, the law is intimately related to sin, not that the law is sin (7:7) but the law was added on account of sin, it brings a knowledge of sin, our sinful passions are aroused by the Mosaic Law, the two act in tandem bear fruit for death (7:5).

The Mosaic Law does not produce life or righteousness, instead it produces a knowledge of sin, and through that sin, death.

But Christ is the end of the law for righteousness (Romans 10:4).

In the Gospel of Christ, God’s righteousness is revealed (Romans 1:17), a righteousness that is apart from the law (3:21-22). It is a righteousness that is apart from works (4:6), and is instead a righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, a righteousness that is imputed to us through faith in Christ.

It is for this reason that Paul states in Romans 7:4 that it is our death to the law through the body of Christ that makes it possible for us to bear fruit for God. Or to put it another way, so long as we are bound under the Mosaic Law we cannot bear fruit for God in this life. Why not? Because the fruit we are to bear in this life is the fruit of righteousness, and as we have seen, the Mosaic Law does not produce righteousness, it produces knowledge of sin and death. 

Compare the fruit mentioned in Romans 7:4 and 7:5. It is only in our death to the Mosaic Law and our belonging, not to the guardian (as Paul puts it in Galatians 3:24-25) but in belonging to another, the offspring to whom the promise has been made; Christ. So long as we are in the flesh, the law and sin work in us to bear fruit for death.

Because believers are in Christ, we are included in His death. Because we have died with Christ we are free from the Mosaic Law, or as Paul puts it in chapter seven of Romans, we have “died to the law” (vs 4), we are “released from the law” (vs 6), “having died to that which held us captive” (vs 6), and are “no longer under the written code” (vs 6).

Paul is emphatic here and throughout his writing that neither Jewish nor Gentile disciples of Jesus are under the Mosaic Law.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of our debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Colossians 2:13-14

Paul here is saying that both the record of our debt on account of sin, as well as their legal demands have been put to death, set aside, and nailed to the cross in Christ. The law then, comes to an end at the cross.

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

Ephesians 2:14-6

It is the Mosaic Law that was the source of ‘the dividing wall of hostility’ between Jew and Gentile. If the Mosaic Law was still in effect, if believers were still bound by it or under the Law of Moses in any way, Gentiles could not be included in the people of God. They would have to convert to Judaism.

It is only on the basis of the Mosaic Law coming to an end, having been abolished, that Gentiles can be included, grafted into the people of God.

The Mosaic Law is dead, and those who are in Christ are dead to it.

It is however, not simply the Mosaic Law that has been abolished, done away with, and set aside, it is the Mosaic Covenant in its entirety.

“But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates over is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says 

‘Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord. I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people… For I will be merciful towards their iniquities and I will remember their sins no more.’

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away”

Hebrews 8:6-13

In Hebrews it is abundantly clear. In Christ a new covenant has been established, and the New Covenant in Christ renders the old Mosaic Covenant obsolete.

The argument laid out here in Hebrews chapter 8 builds on what has gone before in chapter 7, namely that Jesus has been appointed as a new High Priest, not after the order of Aaron, as stipulated by the Mosaic Covenant, but after the order of Melchizedek.

The fact that a) there is a new High Priest, and b) that this High Priest comes from the line of Judah not Levi, as per the Mosaic Covenant, serves as evidence that the Mosaic Covenant has served its purpose, and as such, has come to an end, being superseded by a new covenant made in the blood of Christ.

“Now, if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the alter. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.’ On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect), but on the other hand a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God… This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

Hebrews 7:11-22

If the Mosaic Covenant and its laws have not come to an end, then Jesus cannot be our Great High Priest because the Mosaic Covenant stipulates that all priests must come from the line of Aaron, which Jesus does not.

The fact that there is now a High Priest who is not from the line of Aaron but from the line of Judah is evidence that the Mosaic Covenant and its laws have come to an end. A new and better covenant has been established in Christ.

Also, did you notice the first section I have underlined in the above passage? ‘For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well’. There has been a change in priesthood as Jesus has become our High Priest, a High Priest not after the Old Covenant pattern of the Levitical Priesthood, but after the order of Melchizedek. New priesthood equals new law. By virtue of the fact that there is a new law, the old law, the Mosaic Law is done away with; it is now rendered obsolete.

The Mosaic Covenant and its laws made nothing perfect. But think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. If in deed, as Jesus states, we are to be perfect, and the Mosaic Law makes nothing perfect, then it simply follows that we cannot be made perfect by the Mosaic Law. There must be some other mechanism, some better covenant, some better law by which comes perfection.

Because this is the case, the Mosaic Covenant, its priesthood, and its law have all been rendered obsolete, they have been abolished and replaced with a better covenant through which God has introduced a better hope in Christ whose righteous perfection is credited to us through faith.

It is utterly in keeping with all that I have argued for thus far, that Paul makes his most damning statements with regards to the Mosaic Law. In 2 Corinthians 3:3-11 Paul says this;

“And so you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ towards God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?

For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.”

These are strong words with powerful implications. Let’s start with the easier stuff.

Paul refers to himself as a minister of a new covenant. The old covenant is obviously the Mosaic Covenant written in letters on stone, of which Moses was a minister, and the new covenant not of the letter but of the Spirit of which Paul is a minister is the New Covenant in Christ.

The Mosaic Covenant from the time that Moses received it was being brought to an end (2 Cor 3:7), but the New Covenant in Christ is permanent (vs11).

Because the Mosaic Covenant has an end, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all (vs10). It has been surpassed by the surpassing riches of the glory of Christ and the New Covenant that has been established through Him (vs10).

Now to the hard stuff.

Paul makes the statement in verse 6 that ‘the letter kills’. Here he means the letter of the law, the law written in letters on tablets of stone. Here again Paul is making it abundantly cleat that the Mosaic Law brings death, just as he does in Romans 7.

However, Paul goes even further referring to the Mosaic Law as ‘the ministry of death’.

If the Mosaic Law is binding on believers, if we who are in Christ are in any way under the Mosaic Law, then we are bound under the ministry of death.

The Mosaic Law cannot bring life to us. Instead it binds everything under it to death. If we are still bound by the Mosaic Law in any way shape or form, then we cannot receive new life through Christ, we can only ever be bound under the ministry of death because the Mosaic Law kills.

Paul clearly contrasts here the Mosaic Law and the Spirit of God. The Mosaic Law kills, but the Spirit of the living God brings life. We who are in Christ have received life precisely because we are no longer under the ministry of death the Mosaic Law.

Compare 2 Corinthians 3:6-7 with Romans 7:4-10. See how these passages sit so closely together. See how Paul is driving home the same foundational idea to the believers in Rome as he was to the Church at Corinth. This idea that I am hammering away at is not a peripheral issue, it is central to our understanding of the Gospel. As we have discovered to this point, there is a great deal at stake if we get this wrong.

Paul takes this argument another step further for the Corinthians. In verse 9 he contrasts the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant in Christ in this way.

“For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.”

I want you to se the enormity of what Paul is telling us, the sheer magnitude and significance of it.

The Mosaic Covenant in its entirety, including its laws, are here referred to as ‘the ministry of condemnation’. Now compare that statement with Paul’s statement in Romans 8:1-2.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ from the law of sin and death.”

If believers are bound by the Mosaic Law in any way, then we are still under the ministry of condemnation. If we are still under the ministry of condemnation then the wonderful riches of God’s grace revealed to us in Romans 8 are not true and do not belong to us.

It is precisely because we have died with Christ, died to sin, and died to the Mosaic Law that we are set free, free from God’s condemnation and wrath. On this basis then, Paul can say with confidence that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There is no more condemnation because we have died to the ministry of condemnation, the Mosaic Law, the ministry of death.

Let me pan out for a moment so we can get a clearer view of what has been accomplished in Christ.

The Mosaic Law was always meant to be temporary. We see that in the Old Covenant promises of God that He would make a new covenant with His people, one not written on tablets of stone as He did with the Mosaic, but one written on the hearts of His people (Jer 31:31-34). We also see the temporary nature of the Mosaic Covenant through the use of words like ‘until’.

The Mosaic Covenant has found its end, its telos, its purpose, and goal in Christ. Christ has fulfilled the demands of the Mosaic Law in His perfect sinless life. He never broke the law and so committed no sin, thus fulfilling the Mosaic Law in this negative sense. He also lived out His life actively in keeping with the commands of the Mosaic Law, thus fulfilling the law in this positive sense. However, He also fulfilled the demands of the Mosaic Law in standing as the atoning sacrifice made for sin demanded by the Law.

With Christ’s perfect life, the work of fulfilling the Old Covenant is complete, and in His sacrificial death, the atonement for sin required by the Mosaic Covenant has been offered.

Because of these two aspects of Christ’s life and death, the Mosaic Covenant reaches its climax, its crescendo, its fulfilment and completion in Christ.

In Christ, a new covenant is established. There has been a change of covenant from the Old (Mosaic) to the New (in Christ), a change in priesthood from the Aaronic Priesthood of the Mosaic Covenant, to the High Priesthood of Christ under the New. There has been a change in the sacrificial system from the sacrificing of bulls and goats etc, which is brought to an end with the offering of Christ the Passover Lamb, to the offering of living sacrifices as set out in Romans 12:1-2.

With the change in covenant there comes a change in priesthood, a change in sacrificial system, and thus, necessarily, a change in the law (Hebrews 7:12).

As we have seen repeatedly in this instalment, we are no longer under the Mosaic Law, the law of the letter which brings condemnation and death, but under the law of the Spirit which brings righteousness and life.

We have died to the Mosaic Covenant and its laws, and have been set free to live under the New Covenant in Christ to live under the Law of Christ.

This is the clear teaching of Paul throughout his writings, and it can again be seen clearly in 1 Corinthians 9:20-21.

“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.”

This passage is most often quoted in relation to evangelism. Paul is here speaking of his evangelistic fervour and the method that he employs in order to gain a hearing for the Gospel. However, there are clear implications for what Paul is stating here.

Paul is making a clear distinction between how he approaches evangelism to Jewish hearers of the Gospel (vs 20) and how he approaches Gentile hearers of the Gospel (vs 21). But note that in verse 20 in speaking with regards to his evangelism to the Jews, those who are under the law of Moses, Paul specifically states that he himself is not under the law, the law of Moses.

Notice also that he makes a clear statement in verse 21 that although he is not under the law of Moses, he is under the law of Christ.

Paul here makes a clear distinction between the law under which the Jews are bound, which can be nothing other than the law of Moses, a law that he categorically states that he is free from, and the law of Christ. The law of Christ and the law of Moses are not the same thing.

Being in Christ, the follower of Jesus has died to the law of Moses, and so is not bound by it in any way. In dying with Christ, the believer dies to the law and is translated into an entirely new state of affairs, a new covenant with a new High Priest, and a new set of laws. This new law (which, once again, is not the law of Moses) is that which Paul in Romans 8:2 calls ‘the law of the Spirit of life’, and here in 1 Corinthians 9:21 calls ‘the law of Christ’. 

Let me be absolutely clear, as I believe that Paul is clear, the law of Moses is not the law of Christ. While they may share similarities in certain points, they are not one and the same. 

The Mosaic Covenant with its law produces death, it is dead because it has been fulfilled in and through Christ. The Mosaic Law has been abolished, has been rendered obsolete, and has no glory what so ever, whereas the New Covenant in Christ brings life, is of surpassing glory, and is permanent.

If the Mosaic Covenant is done away with in Christ, does that mean that the Gospel is in violation of the Mosaic covenant? Absolutely not. The Mosaic Covenant is perfectly fulfilled in Christ. He lived His life in perfect observance of the Mosaic Covenant and He died in accordance with the Mosaic Covenant as the atoning sacrifice for sin.

The sacrifices and offerings of the Mosaic Covenant clearly teach us that sin brings death, it should in fact bring our death, however, in the sacrificial system our sins, and the death that comes as the wages of sin, is placed upon the animal being sacrificed. Christ fulfils this role perfectly, taking upon Himself our guilt, sin, and shame, and the due punishment that we deserve on account of sin. However, because Christ dies as our substitute, it is as though we have died. His death is counted as our death. His death is credited to our account so it is as though we have in fact died.

In our death with Christ, it is as though we have paid the requirement of the Mosaic Covenant, and so, our salvation is totally in keeping with and in fulfilment of the Mosaic Covenant, not in contradiction of it (Romans 3:31). However, upon our death in keeping with the Mosaic Covenant, we are set free from any further obligation to that covenant, and translated into an entirely new state of affairs under the New Covenant in Christ.

Imagine that you are in a prison cell. The walls are made of stone, however, there is a sliding door made of iron bars that occupies the space where the fourth wall would be. The door is still subject to the laws of engineering, it does its part in supporting the structure just as the other walls do, however, once you walk through that door and step outside, your new location, your new position outside of the prison is not subject to the laws of engineering. You are outside of the prison and stand under the clear blue sky of an open heaven.

The prison is the law, the Gospel the door. The Gospel does not violate the law, it serves in fulfilment of the obligations of the law. However, once you step through the door of the Gospel, the law that once kept us bound and in captivity no longer applies. We have a totally new position not as slaves but as sons and daughters of the living God through faith in Christ.

In speaking on this topic over the years I have, on occasion, been accused of preaching antinomianism, the view that the Gospel is against law, or that there is now no law for those in Christ. Let me state categorically that I am not an antinomian. I am simply teaching what the Bible clearly states, that we have been united with Christ in His death, and as a result have died to the Mosaic Law. It is on the basis of our death to the ministry of death and condemnation that we are now free from condemnation and set free for life in the Spirit.

Those who were once under the Mosaic Covenant have been set free from their captivity under the Mosaic Law, and Gentiles have been set free from their alienation from God, from the hostility that comes with the distinctions brought about by the Mosaic Covenant with the Jews, and have now been grafted into the people of God with believing Jews.

The Jew is set free from the Mosaic Covenant in its entirety and brought into one new man with us Gentiles through the body of Christ, in whom we have died and in whom we shall all be made alive together with Him.

Neither Jew nor Gentile believers are bound by or under the Mosaic Covenant with its law in any way shape or form. Instead we are included in a new covenant in Christ, under the High Priesthood of Christ, and under the law of Christ.

No antinomianism here.

In wrongly being accused of being an antinomian some have asserted that this teaching is dangerous because it might give the impression to some that, because we are not under the law of Moses, we can carry on sinning and live however we want. God in His grace will forgive us.

To this charge I ask this question. Have you ever wondered why the Apostle Paul addresses this question twice in Romans chapter 6, first in verse 1, then again in verse 15? Could it be that Paul was well aware that preaching freedom from the law and life under God’s grace in Christ could open the door to this conclusion, a conclusion that Paul wanted to head off quickly and emphatically?

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it this way;

“If your preaching of the Gospel of God’s free grace in Jesus Christ does not provoke the charge from some of antinomianism, you’re not preaching the Gospel of the free grace of God in Jesus Christ.”

I figure that if I am mistakenly accused of antinomianism then I am in good company. However, I respond to the charge in the same way that the Apostle does, ‘By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

To continue in sin with an attitude of licence is to live out of the flesh, it is to pursue the  things of the flesh.

Paul tells us that this way lies death (Romans 8:3)

Those who are in Christ are no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit (8:9). Any who are in Christ have the Spirit of God dwelling in them. This is obvious since you cannot be in Christ unless you are born again.

Those who are born again, and as such have the Spirit, belong to Christ (8:9), are the sons of God, and will, as a result, be led by the Spirit of God (8:14). Those who are led by the Spirit do not set their minds on the things of the flesh but set their minds on the things of the Spirit (8:5).

As such, those who are in Christ will not continue to live as they formerly lived in the pursuit of the passions of their flesh, but will walk according to the Spirit (8:3-4).

“How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Answer, we cannot, not simply that we should not, but we cannot. We have been set free from our bondage to sin through our inclusion in the death of Christ. We have now received the Spirit of Christ, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinth 3:17), and whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36).

Those who pursue the things of the flesh do not belong to God (8:9-10). This doesn’t mean that believers will not be tempted and even fall into sin as a result of that temptation. We who are in Christ are not perfect but are being perfected in the Perfect One (something, if you recall, the Mosaic Law cannot do). However, our flesh has been condemned in Christ. We are not condemned (Romans 8:1) but our flesh stands condemned in Christ (8:2-3).

While we wrestle in this life against the flesh and its deeds by the power of the Spirit that dwells in us, the Spirit by which we have been made more than conquerers in Christ Jesus, we do so knowing that there is coming a day when we will finally be free of the flesh, our old sin nature, and live everlasting lives free, not only from the power of sin, but also from the presence of sin in the presence of our God and Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the presence of all those who call on His name.


Part 31

15 Sep 2021

Peace From the Wrath of God Through Three Deaths. Romans 5-7. Part 2: The Second Death. “We have been buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.... continue reading...


Part 30

08 Sep 2021

Peace From the Wrath of God Through Three Deaths. Romans 5-7. Part 1: The First Death. The topic of God's wrath is not a popular one in modern Christian circles. I remember while I was studying in Oxford there was a controversy surrounding the contemporary hymn ‘In Christ Alone’... continue reading...


Part 29

01 Sep 2021

Romans 1:16-2:10. There is a day of wrath coming. How easy it is to forget this fact. In the seemingly endless flow of minute, hour, day, week, month, year, decade, rinse and repeat, we can, all too quickly, forget that time is not moving in an endless cycle, nor is it a great stream in whose flow we are momentarily caught and carried along for a stretch before being cast up on the river bank, a desiccated piece of driftwood, the flotsam and jetsam of a life fleeting and meaningless.... continue reading...


Part 28

25 Aug 2021

The Obedience of Faith (Romans 1:5, 16:26). Well, my reading has brought me at last to the book of Romans. This, I’m sure, will be fertile soil for my thinking with regards to the question of what is ‘the flesh’ and how do we put it to death.... continue reading...


Part 27

25 Aug 2021

The Time to Resist is Now. Dear friends. The world in which we live today is dominated by a spirit of fear. Wherever we turn, we are bombarded with images and news feeds full of war, famine, and pestilence.... continue reading...


Part 26

11 Aug 2021

John 12. John 12 is a passage to which I find myself returning again and again. As I read it here as part of my reflections for this current project, I’m reminded of the fact that, so often in our reading of Scripture, we have a terrible tendency to miss who Jesus is, who He is presenting Himself to be through Scripture.... continue reading...


Part 25

04 Aug 2021

John 6:22-71. It’s the day after the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus and His disciples have crossed over to the other side of the sea from where that great miracle of multiplication was performed.... continue reading...


Part 24

28 Jul 2021

John 1:4-18. As we come out of those incredible opening stanzas of John 1:1-3 with all that they imply, we come full noise into hot theological water, very deep stuff indeed, which will require a good deal of thinking through, so, here goes…... continue reading...


Part 23

21 Jul 2021

John 1:1-3. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. and without him was not anything made that was made.... continue reading...



Reasoned | Creative | Compelling
Web design by Shard Software