Tonight we’re going to continue our look at some of the great doctrines of Scripture. And we’ve sort of entered into a prolonged examination into the doctrine of sanctification.
Now in talking about this idea of sanctification – and we’ve been defining it for weeks – we’re really talking about progressive spiritual development. And the heart of it all is in John 17:17, where Jesus said, “Sanctify them by Thy truth; Thy Word is truth.”
Sanctification is separation from sin. There is an initial separation at salvation, and then there’s an ongoing increasing separation through all of our Christian experience. This is the work of the Word of God. It is the Word that sanctifies.
The psalmist said, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin.” It is the Word that purifies. You are clean by the Word which is spoken to you. And so it is that the Word is the sanctifying agent.
Now, there are a lot of different terms that are used in the Scripture to describe the Word. It is called Scripture; it is called the testimony of God, the statutes of God, the ordinances of God, the commandments of God. It is even, in the Psalms, called the fear of the Lord because the Bible is a manual on worshiping God. Sometimes it is called the precepts of the Lord. But the Word is essentially the reflection of God’s nature and character.
What God has said, what God has revealed, and what God has commanded us, in His Word, is a direct reflection of Him. It is His will because He cannot will any other thing than that which is a perfect reflection of His perfection and His holiness. It us His command because He cannot do less than demand what pleases Him. And what pleases Him is absolute righteousness.
So, when you think about the Bible, when you think about the Word of God, you’re really simply identifying that which is the expression of the nature of God. It is the pure expression of His character, and it is the true expression of His will. And He cannot do less than command it or mandate it because He cannot settle for anything less than a perfect reflection of His own perfect holiness which would be a demand for perfect holiness.
So, when you become a believer and the process of sanctification begins, it is nothing other than conformity to the revealed will of God in Scripture. The Bible then lays out for us what it is that we are to become. You remember in 1 John it says, “If you say you abide in Christ, you ought to walk as He walked.” Well, of course, Jesus walked in perfect obedience to the Father. He said, “I only do what the Father tells Me to do. I only do what the Father commands Me to do. I only do what I see the Father doing. I work alongside My Father. I only do what pleases the Father.” And He said, “I only do what glorifies the Father,” and He was the illustration of perfect obedience and therefore perfect sanctification.
For us, then, to grow spiritually, for us to progress in our sanctification, we have to bring our lives into complete conformity to the will of God, which is revealed in the Word of God, which is the Law of God. The spiritual and moral Law of God.
Now, with that in mind, I want you to open to Romans chapter 6 and 7, and I want to bounce off of a statement in chapter 6, and we’ll look into chapter 7. In Romans 6, which we’ve already gone through in the last couple of weeks, we considered several very significant truths. We have died to sin, which is the subject that takes up the first part of the chapter.
And then we came to verse 14, and Paul makes a very amazing statement. Romans 6:14. After having said, “Sin shall not be master over you,” which sums up the first part of the chapter, he then makes this amazing statement, “For you are not under law but under grace.”
What do you mean we are not under law? This verse has become a sort of an open door for all kinds of misdeeds and misbehavior. This statement, “You are not under law,” has been misinterpreted to free people from any obligation to the revealed Law of God. Is that what he is saying? What in fact does Paul mean when he makes that statement, you are not under law but under grace? Does that mean we no longer have to live our lives according to God’s revealed law?
We now are under such grace that we’re right back kind of where we started just before chapter 6. Are we to sin that grace may abound since grace abounds all the more where sin abounds? If we’re under grace, does this mean we’re free to live any way we want without any thought of conformity to the Law of God? What is Paul saying, “You’re not under law”?
Well, the very fact that he writes this poses a very profound question because any knowledgeable person who knew the Word of God would know how important the Law of God is. And let me draw your attention back to some of the things I referred to in the Psalms. Go back to Psalm 19. And we only need to look at a couple of the Psalms to get the picture very clearly here. If you go back to Psalm 19, we are told in verse 7, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they produce comprehensive righteousness.”
Now, what we’re told here is that you have to have the Law of the Lord to convert the soul. You have to have the Law of the Lord or, as it’s called here, the testimony, which is the same thing, the Scripture. You have to have the testimony of the Lord to make the simple wise. You must have the Word of God, called precepts, to bring joy to the heart, to enlighten the eyes, to provide an enduring source of purification and to produce comprehensive righteousness. That is why “the words of God, the Law of the Lord, are more desirable than gold” – verse 10 – “yes than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.” The Law of the Lord is absolutely critical for conversion and for making one wise and producing true joy and enlightenment and becoming an enduring source of truth that perpetually cleanses and produces comprehensive righteousness. “It is the Word of God that warns the servant of God,” verse 11. It is the Word of God that rewards the servant of God, “In keeping of the Word of God, keeping of the Law of God, there is great reward.” It is the truth of God that helps us discern our errors, keeping us back from presumptuous sins. No wonder he closes by saying, “Let the words of my mouth, the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” What he means by that is since the Word does all of this, may it be the constant preoccupation of my meditation and my conversation.
Now, go to Psalm 119. And Psalm 119 really is the extension of Psalm 19 - a lot longer, as you well know, 176 verses. But just to touch the issue here, verse 1 begins this way, “How blessed are those whose way is blameless” – or another way to say that is – “who walk in the Law of the Lord and observe His testimonies with all their heart.”
You’ll notice down in verse 16, “I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your Word.” Verse 17, “Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your Word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Thy Law” – Thy Word, Thy statutes, Thy Law, Thy testimonies – all referring to the same thing.
If you were to look a little bit further, into verse – well, let’s not cover all of them, how about verse 71 or 70? He says, “I delight in Thy Law” – or Your Law – “I delight in Your Law.” Verse 72, “The Law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Verse 97, “Oh how I love Thy Law!” Verse 113, “But I love Thy Law.” Verse 136, “My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Thy Law.” How precious, how important to the psalmist is the Law of God. Verse 142, “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Thy Law is truth.” Well, verse 165, “Thos who love Thy Law have great peace.” Verse 174, “Thy law is my delight.”
Now, here is a believer, here is a psalmist who from the very depths of his heart is pouring out his love for the Law of God. He observes it, he keeps it, he obeys it, he longs for it, he delights in it, he loves it, he weeps over those who do not know it and do not obey it and treat it with scorn. Now this is consistent with what God has said about His Law. Deuteronomy 27:26, “Cursed be he who confirms not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’” They all agreed that to obey the Law was to be blessed, and to disobey it was to be cursed.
In Ecclesiastes 12:13, the sum of wisdom, “Fear God and keep His commandments” – this is the whole duty of man. God has revealed His Law, which is His will, so that we can obey it, which brings honor to Him and blessing to us.
In the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, we read in verse 1, “This is the commandment, the statutes, the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you’re going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I commanded you all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.” Here is the promise of blessing for obedience to the will and the Word and the Law of God.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might. And these words, which I’m commanding you today, shall be on your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your sons and talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and as frontals on your forehead. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” You should have the Law of God everywhere, all the time.
The Jews understood the centrality, the critical importance of obedience to the Law of God, for the honor of God, and for their own salvation and blessing. In fact, I love the little line that’s tucked into the forty-second chapter of Isaiah, verse 21, “The Lord was pleased for His righteousness’ sake to make the Law great and glorious.” The Law of God is great. The Law of God is glorious.
In fact, the – anybody who knew the Old Testament would know that it was laid out for them as central to all of life. We should know that. If we read the last command of the last book in the order of our Bibles – Malachi 4:4 – “Remember the Law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him.” Remember the Law.
Well, the obvious result of this is there’s going to be a high regard for the Law. We know that. We consider the gospels that we’re studying, the Gospel of Luke and how highly the people regarded the Law, and especially the Pharisees and the scribes were so careful in the way they treated the Law – at least externally.
And it’s in that kind of environment that we have to look at a statement by Paul, “You are not under law,” and ask the question what is he saying here? What is he saying? Is it that in the New Testament this greatness and glory of the Law is somehow diminished? Now that we are in Christ and under grace, are we free to ignore the Law? I think you would assume that in many churches, where the Word of God is not taught, where the Law of God is not lifted up, where the passages of the Bible that command us and mandate us and put us under the divine authority of God to conduct our lives in a certain way are not taught and not explained. I think there are a lot of people running around and professing Christendom who think that they just needed to invite Jesus in their life and now they’re free to go on living whatever way they want to live because grace covers everything.
But the New Testament doesn’t at all lower the standard. In fact, it was Jesus Himself who said, “Not one jot or tittle shall in any wise pass from this Law.” God cannot alter the Law, nor can He alter the importance of the Law, because that is a reflection of who He is. It’s the New Testament – Hebrews 2:2 that says the Law is the word spoken by angels – holy angels – again as coming from God. Acts 7:53, he calls it the Law received by disposition of angels. Acts 7:38 calls it the living oracles; that is they have permanent life.
Galatians 4:4 says even Jesus was made under the Law; that is He was responsible to perfectly keep the Law. Matthew 5:17 and 18 says He came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill the Law.
So, what is Paul saying here? Is he saying that that is all past? No. Look at Romans 7, verse 12, “So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” And it can’t be anything but that because it’s a reflection of God.
In verse 14 he adds, “The Law is spiritual.” There’s nothing wrong with the Law; it is holy, righteous, good; it is permanent; it is spiritual. Verse 22, he says, “I joyfully concur with the Law of God in the inner man.” Nothing has changed. Again Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:8 and says, “The Law is good.” John actually defines any sin as a transgression of the Law, 1 John 3:4. Any sin is a transgression of the Law.
So, what are we learning here? In fact, back in chapter 3, it strikes me, in verse 31, that this question has come up before. If God is going to justify the ungodly, if God is going to make righteous and cover with righteousness those who are confessed sinners, verse 31, “Do we then nullify the Law” – if God does his saving through faith, does that make the Law void?
So, this question has come up before with Paul, as He’s arguing the case for justification and asking, “Does justification void the Law since it’s by faith?” And now, talking about sanctification, if we’re no longer under the Law, have we just voided the Law – not this time in the name of faith, but this time in the name of grace. Which then poses the question, “What is the believer’s relationship to the Law?” and Romans 7 really gives us a full answer to that. Chapter 6, as we remember, from verses 15 to 23, addresses it in one sense, that we are not under the Law as a dominating master, but under grace, which we’re all grateful for, for when law is our dominating master, it will destroy us. It will render us guilty before God and bring us to damnation. We are under grace as an operative principle through the work of Christ and our faith in Him.
“We have a new relationship to sin,” he goes on to say in verses 15 to 23. We used to be the slaves of sin, now we’re the slaves of righteousness. So, in that sense he is saying, “Our relation to the Law before we were saved was one of condemnation; our relationship to the Law now is one of obedience. We used to be the slaves of sin, living lies that endlessly violated the Law; we’ve now become slaves of righteousness. We live lives of obedience to the Law.” That’s what being a slave of righteousness means. Because the only way we know what is righteous is by revelation of God in His Law.
So, we know we have a new relationship to the Law. Before, we lived in violation of it; now we live in submission to it. But what about that statement “you’re not under law?” How far can we push that? That’s a very important question for us to answer. And let’s look at the answer that really unfolds at the beginning of chapter 7.
Four things I want you to think about in the little time we have tonight. The four-fold pattern here: there is an axiom, and then an analogy, and then an application, and then an affirmation. We’re just going to go through the first six verses, and then we’ll continue through this chapter until we finish in a couple of weeks.
The axiom – here it comes – the axiom is in verse 1, “Or do you not know, brethren, (for I am speaking to those who know the Law), that the Law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?” This is an affectionate statement in that he uses “brethren” here, indicating his sensitivity to a subject that could be filled with a lot of emotion. He’s being tender in trying to move them along graciously. But he does point up the difficulty of being ignorant on the issue, “Do you not know” – or literally – “Or are you ignorant, brethren, (I’m speaking to those who know the Law).” He’s talking to people who understand the priority of the Law, who have an Old Testament mentality, or who’ve even, in a Gentile environment, heard the apostle Paul talk about the role that the Law plays. “But people who know the priority of the Law, I’m speaking to you, and I’m answering the question of what is your relationship to the Law. I’m speaking to those of you who know the Law. And you know this, that the Law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives. Anybody who knows law knows that. The Law is binding only as long as somebody lives; when you’re dead, the Law has no power over you.”
I mean that is the nature of law; it’s sort of an obvious statement. It’s why I call it an axiom; it’s a self-evident truth. The Law doesn’t apply to dead people; it applies only to living people; it’s axiomatic. A person is subject to the Law only as long as he is alive. Anyone knows the Law is intended for the benefit of earthly man and binds only the living. We have these endless trials of murderers, but we don’t try anybody who was killed by the police. Once they’re dead, there’s no trial because the Law can’t be brought to bear on the dead. A simple thought, but file it in your mind. The axiom that begins to answer our question is this: the Law only has jurisdiction over a person when that person is alive.
Then he takes an analogy to try to kind of explain that a little bit. For example, let’s just pick one law: the law of marriage. “The married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband.” This is a very simple analogy to help us understand the axiom that the Law only applies when people are alive.
So, let’s take a married woman – hupandros, interesting Greek word. Hupandros means under a man, which emphasizes the role that women play in submission to their husbands. She is “subject to” a man – that’s the word for being married. And by that, she is bound by law – dedetai. It’s a perfect tense; she is an ongoing relationship of legal binding to her husband. This is seen here as a permanent bond, and there is no release. This is what the law says: she is bound by law to her husband while he is living. Now, this has found its way into the marriage ceremony where we hear people say that they will be faithful to their covenant until – what? – death do us part. That’s the key thought. Marriage is for life. One man, one woman for life. That is what marriage is; that is what the covenant of marriage is, and the law is binding. If her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning her husband. How free is she? She’s completely free, totally free, absolutely free.
Paul even talks about a widow being free to marry in the Lord in 1 Corinthians chapter 7. She is as free as if she was never married. There are no residual obligations to dead people; you’re free – completely free. There is no further obligation. That’s why Paul, in 1 Timothy 5:14, says, “I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; some have already turned aside to follow Satan.”
If you’re young and you’re widowed, find a husband to care for you and protect you and stay home and raise your children, etcetera, and don’t get caught in the trap of running around loose in society with all the bad things that can happen to a woman in that kind of situation. The point here is that, look, death ends the law that binds two people permanently together in marriage. Everybody understands this; this is a very simple analogy.
The key thought comes in verse 2, “bound by law to her husband.” And then, “released from the law concerning her husband.” Life and covenant and marriage until death; after that, there’s no binding at all. That’s all it’s trying to say. It’s not trying to give us a complete understanding of marriage-remarriage, nothing about divorce. That isn’t the point. This isn’t the text where you go to get your picture of what God tolerates in terms of marriage and divorce, and there aren’t any exception clauses. This is simple. The law binds a man to a woman for life, and when death comes, it’s over. Death ends the rule of Law; that’s what it’s saying. The axiom is the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives; marriage is simply an analogy by which you can see that.
Now, what about the application? Look at verse 4, ‘Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law.” Wow, that is really an important statement. The “therefore” is therefore the transition, and that’s the connector, “My brethren, you also were made to die to the Law.” You used to have a contract; you used to have a covenant; you used to be bound to the Law; you used to have this obligation to which you were mandated to bring about fulfillment. But that’s changed. You also were made to die to the Law. Literally, you were put to death. You were killed in regard to the Law. It’s a violent phrase, a violent word used actually to recall even the violent death of Jesus Christ. And it is in the grammatical form of a past historic event, “You were put to death.” Wow. The Law has no more tyranny over you. The Law has no more power over you. The curse of the Law has ended because it cannot make any claim on you if you’re dead; it ceases to have any authority, in one sense, in your life.
Well, how are we to understand this? Only in this sense: the Law as a condemning power – the Law as a condemning power. It is not to say that you no longer have any interest – interest or obligation – in the Law as a moral responsibility, but as a condemning power it has no authority over you. See, all the Law can do is kill you. But once you have died, it has no more power. Now, it’s going to do that to everyone. Either you’re going to die under the condemnation of the Law yourself, or - a much better alternative - Christ is going to die under the condemnation of the Law for you, and you therefore in Him.
Go back to verse 4 and that’s exactly what it says, “My brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ.” “You were made dead,” it says in the original. “You were killed; you were put to death.” You didn’t put yourself to death; you were put to death by the marvelous miracle of being in Christ in His execution. The offering of the body of Christ on the cross was your death and my death, the death of all who would ever or will ever believe.
That’s why Hebrews 10:10 says, “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” In that one offering, when He took the full fury of the Law for us, we were delivered from the Law as a source of condemnation. And this is what we learned back in chapter 6. Go back to verse 4. Now you remember this. Verse 3 says, “We’ve been baptized or immersed into His death. We’ve been buried with Him through baptism into death in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we, too, might walk in newness of life. We’ve become united with Him in the likeness of His death and will be certainly in the likeness of His resurrection. Our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, for he who has died is free from sin. We are free from the tyranny of sin.” It no longer is our master, and that’s what verse 14 says, “Sin is not your master, and neither is law able to condemn you.”
Now, this is the stuff that’s at the very heart of understanding the Christian gospel. We can’t be justified by the Law because we can’t keep the Law. The Law is holy, just, and good; the Law is perfect; the Law has a right to set the standard; the Law has a right to hold every human to the standard; and the Law has a right to punish every violation of the standard because that’s consistent with God’s absolute holiness. God cannot overlook any sin; He cannot overlook any iniquity. And I remind you, every sin ever committed by every person who has ever lived will be punished. Everyone. All of yours, and all of everybody else’s. Either that punishment falls upon the sinner, or it falls upon the substitute. For us who put our trust in Christ, we are placed into Christ in His own death. And Jesus, in death, satisfies the Law. The Law demands death; Jesus dies the death the Law demands, pays the penalty in full, and so we are no longer under the Law in terms of its condemnation.
Look at it this way; He redeemed us not from the moral element of the Law, but from the curse of the Law by being made a curse for us - Galatians 3:10 to 13. By His blood, by His flesh, by His cross, by the body of His flesh - all equivalent statements all throughout the epistles of Paul here, “Through the body of Christ we have been delivered from the penalty of the Law, from the condemnation, the damnation, the just punishment of the Law.” The Law can’t make you holy; the Law can’t be kept. Therefore it cannot be a means of salvation. It is only a means of initially condemnation. But Christ has taken that punishment for us.
Listen to Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” He says, “If righteousness could come through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” So, we’re back to this great truth that’s at the heart of the Christian faith.
But let’s go back to our text, verse 4, “So, since you were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.”
There was a sense in which we were married to the Law. That’s the analogy. That is we were bound to the Law, bound to the obligation the Law demanded from us, bound to maintain the Law, to keep the Law, and we would be judged on our faithfulness to the Law. But when we died in Christ, the law has no longer any hold on us. It cannot condemn us; it has been satisfied; the punishment has been rendered in full. And we now have a whole new covenant relationship.
We have a new husband, if you want to use the analogy. We have been joined to someone else, “even to Him who was raised from the dead.” We are united with Christ in His death, in His burial, and in His resurrection. We now share, as we read earlier in chapter 6, in His resurrection life. We now walk, as I read a moment ago, in newness of life. We are no longer slaves to sin; we are freed from sin’s dominion; it is no longer master over us. “We are no longer slaves of sin, but we are servants of righteousness resulting in sanctification” - chapter 6, verse 19. We used to be slaves of sin, free from righteousness; now we are free from sin, slaves of righteousness. So, we live this new life; we have a new marriage. In this sense and this sense alone, the Law lays no claim to us. This is the greatness and the glory of our salvation.
Now, that’s a far cry from saying we have no obligation to keep the Law. Because if you look back for a moment at verse 4, you will find this, that “we have now been joined to another, even Christ who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God,” which is another way of saying, “In order that we might now do something we never could do, when we were bound by the Law, and that is obey the Law.” When we were bound by the Law, when we lived under the Law – under its tyranny; under its authority, its demands, its commands, its mandates – but unable to obey it and therefore under its condemnation, the one thing we could not do was bear any fruit to God. That’s a strange thing, isn’t it? The Law was given then to condemn us. The Law was given to cause our sin to be revealed.
If you look at chapter 7, verse 9, he says, “I was once alive apart from the Law.” When I didn’t know the Law, I was really living. “When the commandment came, all of a sudden sin became alive and I died.”
What He means by that is as long as I didn’t know the Law of God, I had no real definition of sin, but when the Law arrived and I understood it, then sin was everywhere alive and I saw myself for what I really was: dead man. Sin deceived me and destroyed me.
So, when you’re in covenant with the Law, you’re in a situation of condemnation and death, and you cannot bear fruit unto God. By the deeds of the Law, no flesh is justified. They that are in the flesh cannot please God. There is nothing in us that is good or can be good, but all of a sudden now, by faith in Christ, we have a whole new Master – it’s Christ Himself; we have a whole new life – resurrection life; we have a whole new capacity; we can bear fruit unto God.
Philippians 1:11 says that we are “filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” We are filled with the very righteousness that is defined and described in the Law of God. It’s just a total, absolute reversal of our former condition. We can now – Colossians 1:10 - “bear fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who qualified us to share in the inheritance of Light.”
So, what we’re saying is this, that justification does not lead to sin; it leads to holiness; it leads to a new kind of slavery. You’re not justified and given saving grace in order that you can run amok so that grace may abound; it doesn’t happen; it can’t happen because you are transformed. Your old life is dead; you have risen to a new kind of life, and you now love holiness. You are no longer under the tyranny of the Law, but you can now do for the first time what you never could do in the past, and that is you can obey the Law and bear fruit unto God.
You could say this: that because you died in Christ and the tyranny of the Law is broken, you now live in Christ and for the first time can fulfill the Law.
Notice verse 5, where Paul extends his explanation of this, “While we were in the flesh” – that is in our former life, when we were bound by the Law, we were in the flesh – “the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.” All that ever happened to you before you came to Christ was that you were living under the Law, but you couldn’t obey the Law. All the Law did was arouse your sinful passions. The Law stimulates sin. That’s what Paul said, as I read it earlier in chapter 7, verse 9. Once you come across the Law of God, it just exacerbates your sin. It’s almost like finding out what sin is so that you can do it since you can’t restrain yourself.
The Law – all the Law of God does is stir up sin. All the Law of God does is exacerbates sin. You have such sinful impulses; it’s like putting a sign out in front of your children that says, “Don’t touch this.” They probably wouldn’t if the sign wasn’t there. But if the sign is there, you can be certain they will touch it. Along comes the glory of the gospel justification. Justification doesn’t lead to more sin that grace may abound; quite the contrary. Because you’ve died, you have a whole new life that loves righteousness and holiness an expresses its freedom in obedience, not disobedience. You now have a capability to keep the Law for the first time ever and to bear fruit unto God.
What does justification – the great doctrine Paul’s talking about – produce? It produces holiness and righteousness and fruitfulness – the very opposite of what you used to live in when, by sinful passion, aroused by the Law, you were simply bearing fruit for death. But verse 6, “Now we have been released from the Law” - we’re getting to the main idea here – “released from the Law in terms of its condemnation because we have died to that by which we were bound” – now here’s the key – “so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” That’s the heart of everything. The Law is still holy; it is just and good.
In the past, when we were bound to the Law, we tried to serve in what Paul calls the oldness of the letter. When we were in the flesh, when we were dominated by sinful passion, aroused by the Law, when the members of our body were producing only fruit unto death, we were trying to serve by the letter of the Law. We were trying to crank out some kind of religious moral behavior. It was just superficial; it was just on the top, on the surface; it was just by the letter of the Law.
And this is the final point; this is the affirmation. Paul says, “This is it.” And it’s personal here. “Now that we have been released from the Law, we no longer function the way we used to; we no longer serve in the oldness of the letter” – doulos – we’re no longer slaves bound only to the superficial. “But” – I love this – “we serve in the newness of the Spirit.” Same Law, but for the first time we can do it from the heart in the newness of the Spirit, from deep within a transformed heart. This isn’t new; this is simply new covenant theology.
And if I take you back to a couple of familiar passages, you’ll see that. Jeremiah 31. Jeremiah 31 is the great new covenant section of Scripture. But look – Jeremiah 31 – just one verse - I’ll read it to you; you don’t have to look it up – verse 33 – “This is the covenant I’ll make with the house of Israel after those days” – the new covenant – “I will put My Law within them and on their heart I will write it.” That’s what it means to be saved. It doesn’t mean that you’re free from the Law; it means that you are no longer under the condemnation of the Law; you’re not longer stuck being bound to the Law and guilty of its violation and only capable of serving the letter of the Law – that is the specific aspect of the Law. You now have the Law of God inside of you; on your heart it is written.
Or Ezekiel 36 which is the other critical Old Testament and new covenant text. In verse 25 of Ezekiel 36, he says, “I will sprinkle clean water on you; you will be clean.” This is the Lord God speaking. “I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and all your idols. I will give you a new heart, put a new spirit within you; remove the heart of stone from your flesh, give you a heart of flesh; put My Spirit within you, cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My Law” – My ordinances.
And do you remember the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 3, who says that the Law – the letter of the Law – what? – kills; the spirit of the Law gives life?
So, what is the believer’s relationship to the Law? We’re not under law; we’re under grace in terms of the lost condemnation. The Law cannot condemn us. We are no longer alive to the Law in the sense that we have any covenant with the Law that binds us to suffer the consequence of violating it. We have died. The Law has done its deed to us; justice has been rendered; the Law has been satisfied. The Law, remember, is holy, just, and good. It has been satisfied. It had a right to call for our death. We died in Christ. We are now free from that relationship, married to another, namely to Christ. We now are no longer under condemnation by the Law, but we are still under obligation to the Law, and for the first time not trying to keep it in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the Spirit that comes from a transformed heart.
The word “newness” is kainos, new in quality – not neos, new in chronology. And so, we can say with David, “Oh, how I love Your Law.
We can say with the apostle Paul, “The Law is holy; the commandment is holy, righteous, and good, and spiritual.”
To be free from the Law is to be free from its penalty, not free from its morality, its spirituality, its holiness, its righteousness, nor its goodness. The Law is still binding on us, and sanctification comes as we hear, understand, obey the Law.
Any believer who doesn’t know the Law of God, doesn’t know the Word of God, is seriously hindered in that sanctification process. We can now, for the first time since our salvation, serve the Law of God and therefore serve God Himself, for the Law is a reflection of God. We can serve from the heart in the newness of Spirit and produce fruit that pleases God. We serve not because the Law is our master and we have to or be damned, but we can’t; we serve, and we can, because Christ is our husband, and we have the power by the Spirit within us to do what we love to do and what we know please the One we love.
“And we know we’ve come to know Him,” says John, “if for the first time, from the heart” – 1 John 2:3 – “we keep His commandments.” Everything has changed. God’s Law – still holy, righteous, good – that Law will catapult people, as it always has, and will continue to do into an eternal hell because they deserve its punishment for violating it. Or that Law will be the delight and the joy of the believer’s life; we, having been delivered from its condemnation, seek to honor its reflection of our own God, the God we love. Well, more to say in chapter 7 next time. It gets richer as you go.
Father, we’re thankful tonight that we’ve been able to look into Your Law and say with the psalmist, “O how I love Your Law.” These are just basic, simple, foundational understandings, but so important for us. And for many of us, through the years, these are well-known truths. How important they are for those that are new in the faith or those that have been unclear or untaught.
We thank You for the greatness of our salvation and the full deliverance that is provided for us in Christ, deliverance from the Law. We thank You at the same time that we’ve been delivered from the threat that it holds over the sinner, we have not been delivered from its goodness, its righteousness, its holiness, its spirituality, its blessings, its potential for fruitfulness, but rather we have been placed in a position by Your grace to be free from punishment by the Law and free to fulfill it by Your Spirit.
We desire to be obedient and thereby to grow in sanctification, to follow the path of Christ, consistently being made more and more like Him who perfectly obeys You. That is our desire. Sanctify us by Your Word, and may we be useful to You in bringing honor to Christ, we pray in His name, amen.
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