Introduction: We stressed last week that the primary focus of baptism is union with Christ in His death and resurrection. We have been baptized into that death (Romans 6:3); buried with Him in that death (Romans 6:4) and even “crucified” with Him (Romans 6:6) so that we are no longer slaves to sin, but live a new life in the power of His resurrection! May these Bible notes on this new life in Romans 6-7 be a great encouragement this week.
Monday: read Romans 6:5-11. We as a western society unfamiliar with crucifixion have sanitized it, choosing to wear crosses as pieces of jewelry and liable therefore to forget how shocking our being crucified with Christ would be to the ear and imagination of 1st century Romans. But that is what Paul says happens to all Christians by virtue of the work of the Holy Spirit leading up to and including their conversion: we in our old bondage to sin have indeed been crucified with Christ, and therefore divorced forever from that old, domineering sin nature which used to rule us. That “old man” of reigning sin has been dealt a death blow so that now our struggle with sin is with it as a present defeated foe, but never again as our lord and master.
But let’s go further in thinking of this new beginning and new relationship with God brought on by our dying and rising with Jesus. This picture of crucifixion, as Dr. Joseph Pipa reminds us, is a picture of regeneration! Through this death of our old hearts of stone and the plucking out of our old eyes of sinful blindness, we have been given a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) and eyes to see Christ by faith.
Meditate and Pray: What a paradox! By dying with Christ we actually find new life! Isn’t this what George Matheson is getting at in hymn # 708 verse 4?
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
Tuesday: read Romans 6:12-23. As spiritually dead ones without Christ and without hope until His mercy finds us, our change of status wrought by the Spirit of God joins us to Christ in His death and resurrection. But the Spirit does more. He also profoundly changes our nature. We are given a new, obedient heart (Romans 6:17); a new loving master (Romans 6:15-19), and a new life of spiritual fruit that abides – instead of the death which was the fruit of our lives before (Romans 6:20-21). The joyful reality now is that we live under the reign of God’s free grace, and inherit the free gift of eternal life – instead of earning the desolating, impoverishing wages of sin, which is death (Romans 6:23)!
Meditate and Pray: May God give us grace to hold on by faith to these great facts of our new position in Christ, especially when in our struggle with sin (see Romans 7:14-25), we are tempted to despair of ever progressing in holiness. Our future success over sin’s remaining power is guaranteed because of the foundation which God has laid for us in the facts of our deliverance from the reign of sin! No longer are we obligated to respond to that ‘Old Man,’ our sin nature!
Weds/Thurs/Fri: read Romans 7:1-11. Paul launches into a different perspective on our new life in Christ at the beginning of Romans 7. He is really returning to his answer to the libertines who would pervert grace into a license for sin in Romans 6:14-15. He also knows that the legalists who read his letter, and see where the Apostle declares that believers are “not under law but under grace,” would accuse him of encouraging such licentiousness! We can hear their accusations that Paul is against the law of God (see for example Acts 21:28), just as we can hear the antinomians twisting Paul’s words as their justification for sin! To both groups – to the legalist who would use God’s law as a false ‘legal righteousness,’ and to the antinomian who uses grace as an excuse for sin – Paul says, “God forbid!”
First, in Romans 7:1-4: Are Christians obligated to keep the law as their own saving righteousness? In his answer Paul illustrates how Jesus once and for all breaks our ties to such a religion of dead works. We were once married to the law of God: a husband known for his perfect legal righteousness. The way of living in such a marriage always required utter and complete obedience to the law to attain eternal life. But there was never any hope that we could attain eternal life this way. Though sin indeed promises us that there is hope in our moral self-improvement and in the merit of our own good works, such a promise is a deception as Romans 7:11 makes clear. That hope died in the Garden of Eden when we fell with Adam in his first sin. Now marriage to the law as our saving righteousness is a vain marriage in which every interaction with our “good husband the law” (Romans 7:12) only enflames our lust, as our sinful nature deceives us into believing that we can both continue in sin and yet still be saved by our works! Sin always reassures us that the balance in the end will fall in our favor! 49 percent of enjoying the lusts and sins in this life now, with assurance of salvation later when our good works will “squeak us through the pearly gates” with their 51% success rate!
But God’s verdict is the same as it was for Adam and Eve: “The soul that sins (even just once) will die”! Where then is our hope? It is in only the godly sentence of death by which we die to the law as our former husband. The death sentence in the Old Testament was to be applied in cases of adultery. We as sinners indeed have committed adultery against God and His law. We therefore must die. But the glorious good news is that, in dying to our legal husband (because of our sin and through no fault of the law), we are now raised up through the life-giving power of the Cross to be married afresh to a new Husband, the Lord Jesus Christ! The result is glorious freedom from the condemnation of the law, and the promise of a new life of fruitful living by faith. Isn’t that what Paul says in Romans 7:4-6?
“Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”
Meditate and Pray: Let us love and sing and wonder, with great joy in the realization that we can be married to our Savior forever, serving in the freedom and joy of His Spirit, and not in the dead works of our former way of life, using hymn # 172:
Let us love and sing and wonder,
Let us praise the Savior’s Name!
He has hushed the law’s loud thunder,
He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame.
He has washed us with His blood,
He has brought us nigh to God.
Let us love the Lord Who bought us,
Pitied us when enemies,
Called us by His grace, and taught us,
Gave us ears and gave us eyes:
He has washed us with His blood,
He presents our souls to God.
Let us sing, though fierce temptation
Threaten hard to bear us down!
For the Lord, our strong Salvation,
Holds in view the conqueror’s crown:
He Who washed us with His blood
Soon will bring us home to God.
Let us wonder; grace and justice
Join and point to mercy’s store;
When through grace in Christ our trust is,
Justice smiles and asks no more:
He Who washed us with His blood
Has secured our way to God.
Sat/Sun: read Romans 7:7-11 and 2 Corinthians 11:3. The first key to enduring spiritual warfare and finding peace in the midst of temptation is to realize the deceitful nature of the evil which seeks to assail us. The Evil One’s recipe for temptation has always been the same: first deceit, then sin. When Eve sinned in Genesis 3:1-5, it was because she had first been beguiled by Satan. It was that lying serpent who first distorted and misrepresented the divine commandment, contradicted God’s death penalty for disobedience (“You shall not die”) and actually misused the command of God to insinuate doubts about God’s goodness (“For God knows that when you eat of the fruit your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…”). This is exactly what Paul says happens to us too when evil uses the command to deceive us in Romans 7:11. Who do you think is behind such a deceitful use of the law?
Meditate and Pray: While we must never blame the Devil to excuse our giving into temptation, let us thank God for accurately diagnosing for us where the deceitfulness of sin comes from. We know who to blame and we know who to hate! Let us enter, therefore, into the light of this portion of God’s Word, which causes Satan to flee by exposing his deceitfulness. We can therefore face our fierce accuser in the Name of the One who is the “Way, the Truth and the Life.” See hymn # 507:
Approach, my soul, the mercy-seat
Where Jesus answers prayer;
There humbly fall before His feet,
For none can perish there.
Bowed down beneath a load of sin,
By Satan sorely pressed,
By wars without and fears within,
I come to Thee for rest.
Be Thou my Shield and Hiding-place,
That, sheltered near Thy side,
I may my fierce Accuser face
And tell him Thou hast died.